Sunday, May 13, 2012

Marching with the Army of Helaman

We are as the army of Helaman.
We have been taught in our youth.
And we will be the Lord’s missionaries
To bring the world his truth.
-- from “We’ll Bring the World His Truth: Army of Helaman,” Children’s Songbook of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, words and music by Janice Kapp Perry

Here’s a delicious irony: our mission call is to serve as military relations specialists and our first day in the Church’s Missionary Training Center (MTC) in Provo, Utah found us among 2,500 nineteen and twentysomething-year old missionaries, as well as a few other retired couples like us, singing enthusiastically about being “as the army of Helaman”.
Helaman was a first century B.C. Mesoamerican army general during a period of savage wars and insurrection. The Book of Mormon relates how he took command of 2,000 young men, sons of conscientious objector parents, who volunteered to go to war in defense of their nation. These “stripling warriors” were “exceedingly valiant for courage…strength and activity” and “were men of truth and soberness”

who earned such a degree of God’s protection through many fierce battles with their enemies that not one of them fell in the conflict. The account of the “sons of Helaman” is rendered in a song for children and is a beloved and popular metaphor for missionary and other Christian service in the Mormon church.

With Elders Su'filo and Blatter

From all over the world, but predominantly the United States, these newly-minted young men and women missionaries have descended on Provo for a crash course in language, communications, and spiritual training before taking up the work in their assigned areas, before “going out into the field” as they say. For many, this is their first time away from home, and home is often thousands of miles away. The contrast between their youthful innocence and mature spiritual strength is compelling. These are the very best of the best and at the same time the “weak and simple”, tasked with proclaiming the gospel “unto the ends of the world.” [2]  Perhaps their most defining characteristic is their faith in Jesus Christ which is inexorable and inspiring.
The Colonel and I are but small cogs in this highly oiled and incredibly efficient MTC machine. Meetings start and end on time. Meal service is punctual; the food simple, plentiful, and nutritious. Our Comfort Inn-style room is on the third floor of one of nineteen buildings that make up this city-within-a-city, with a stunning view to the east of the towering Wasatch Mountains and the Provo Temple. Tomorrow morning before breakfast I’ll enjoy a brisk 5K run on one of the high-quality treadmills on our floor's exercise room. 

Military Relations
 training in Salt Lake City
Even though we are but two humble missionaries just passing through, somehow we still feel important to the work. Everyone we’ve met, from the MTC security officer, to the desk workers, to the other senior couples and volunteers, have been unfailingly welcoming and friendly. We have been thanked for our willingness to serve the Lord more times in the last 24 hours than I can count.

The spiritual drink is not taken here by sipping from a gentle gurgling fountain, it is gulping from a firehose. Tomorrow morning we begin our crash course in earnest.
May God bless you ‘til we meet again.

[1] Alma 53:20-23
[2] Doctrine & Covenants 1:23 -- That the fulness of my gospel might be proclaimed by the weak and the simple unto the ends of the world, and before kings and rulers.

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