Some counsel that I gave my missionary daughter tonight that I thought might be of value to others.
Missionary service is too often evaluated solely by the “measurables.” Missionaries report the number of hours spent proselytizing, hours spent in service, the number of discussions taught or the number of baptismal commitments made. All of those things are centrally important to missionary work, and we measure them for good reasons.
But I think it is the little stuff that makes an even bigger difference.
Sure, the big stuff–the amazing conversions, facing down persecution, baptisms, families going to the temple–is what floats to the surface. It is measurable, memorable, and is what everyone wants to hear about in your homecoming talk. But the real value of a dedicated missionary–or any dedicated disciple–is found in the immeasurable moments of service that might never be recorded by anyone. It’s what people will see and remember about you, even if they never talk to you.
It’s in the impression that you make in the few seconds before a door is slammed.
It’s the child who sees your service and thinks, “I want to be like that.”
It’s the young man who looks at you and realizes that you are the type of person he would strive to be worthy of, and so he changes his behavior so that he will be ready when someone like you comes along.
It’s the person in the corner of the chapel that is touched by your testimony and is strengthened enough to hold on to her own testimony for one more day.
It is in the balm of your smile that eases the heartache of a passer-by.
It’s the meaningless gesture that means the world to someone else.
In my family, all of this Mormonism stuff got started not with a dramatic conversion on the road to Damascus, but because my father remembered his dad saying in passing that he had met a couple of Mormons and liked them. I won’t pretend that our family has changed the world, but I like to think that a fair amount of good has come as the result of that fleeting impression left by someone who had no idea what he was doing.
Obviously, it is hard to prepare for such moments, but not impossible. The trick is to ensure at the beginning of each day, we are prepared spiritually in such a way that we can continue adding up those millions of unmeasured moments. Don’t worry about the “doing.” Worry about the worthiness. If that is in place, the moments will take care of themselves.
I firmly believe that the most frequent and important service we provide to others will be invisible to us. It will come as a natural consequence of living quiet lives of devoted discipleship. It will not be dramatic in the moment, but it will have immeasurable and eternal consequences.