With over 85,000 missionaries serving in countries across the globe, it comes as no surprise parents are looking for ways to help their children “catch the wave” of missionary work.
One parent, who just happens to be a seminary teacher and author, realized there was a gap between Primary children and missionary-themed resources. So Benjamin Hyrum White decided to do something about it, releasing his new book I Hope They Call Me on a Mission last month.
“I realized the absence of children’s books about missionary work. I had already written to the Young Men and Women of the Church with my first book 10 Questions to Answer While Preparing for a Mission and felt I could talk about missions with the Primary aged children since I had four of them myself,” White said.
I Hope They Call Me on a Mission is a charmingly illustrated picture book aimed at teaching children what it is like to be a missionary, from riding a bike to studying the gospel to having a companion. With everything a missionary does, there are ideas of things children can do now to help prepare.
The effort is important to White, who served in the Colorado Denver North Mission from July 1997 to 1999, “because the message of the restored gospel has changed my life. My conversion to the Savior has come as I have experienced the power of His Atonement. When I felt him change and cleanse my soul, my desire for everyone to have that same powerful feeling was overwhelmingly increased.”
White also discussed the impact missionary work has had on his family.
“My mother-in-law Sandi Christensen is also a convert to the Church and marrying her daughter was the best choice I have made in this life. The blessings of living a Christ-like life are unmatched by anything this world has to offer. That is why I want to share it with everyone!”
In 2013, the Church released a new youth curriculum, Come Follow Me, designed to focus on doctrinal topics and help the students become teachers. While the curriculum is an amazing tool for Young Men and Young Women, there is still work to be done, especially when it comes to Primary-aged children.
“I think we continue to do better and better at helping the youth prepare for full time missions. With the Come Follow Me curriculum at Church and the new seminary requirements to read the entire book of scripture each year, we are doing well as a Church with trying to help parents. But the most critical place to prepare is in the home,” said White.
With numerous challenges facing missionary work, including “inviting people to not only get baptized but to become converted,” White hopes his books help start some important conversations in families about what it means to be a missionary and how the Lord would have us complete His work.
“They can use these books as a springboard in Family Home Evening to share missionary experiences, both the good and the bad. Having a realistic expectation of the mundane and miraculous that will happen can go a long way in helping a child truly understand what missionary work is all about. I hope a book like this can help a parent share their own conversion story with their children and strengthen faith in the Savior.”
White also feels strongly about encouraging young men of the Church serving missions if they are able to.
“I feel that our latter-day prophets have been very clear that every worthy, able young man should serve a full time mission. That message has been repeated by every prophet for 40 years since President Spencer W. Kimball in 1974. Therefore, I hope a young man will not pray to ask God if he should serve a mission. The revelation from the Lord is a resounding YES! If he does so, he opens himself up for the possibility to be deceived by saying, “God told me not to serve a mission.” Instead, the prayer he can offer is one where he expresses his fears or inadequacies to the Lord and asks “Help me to want to serve.” God can answer that prayer because He will make much more of a young man than he ever thought possible.”
When asked what one of the best moments from his mission was, White shared a story of someone he taught.
“One of my favorite memories from my mission was teaching a man named James Grahm in Grand Junction Colorado. He was living with a woman who was a former member of the Church and he tried to intimidate us by bringing home his 12 pack of Coors Light every time we came to eat dinner at his house. We had a standing appointment once a week to eat dinner and teach him the gospel. He was a Mack truck diesel mechanic and he taught me about 350 big block engines and I taught him about the mercy of the Savior. My favorite moment with him and his girlfriend was when we finished a lesson and they asked us to sing a hymn before we left. I still remember the look on his face as Elder Fischer and I sang “I Feel My Savior’s Love” and “I am a Child of God” in their home. The Spirit was felt and hearts were softened. He never got baptized while I was there but I know we made a difference in his life. I have often wondered how he is doing now and if our presence in his home helped turn his life around.”
If you are interested in purchasing I Hope They Call Me on a Mission by White, with illustrations by Corey Egbert, you can click on the photo below. 10 Questions to Answer While Preparing for a Mission can be purchased here, and you can learn about all of White’s books at his website.