My heart is full knowing that so many youth and Young Single Adults responded to our challenge to become part of the 4600 missionaries. My gratitude goes to the parents of these missionaries. Thank you for raising them in the gospel and entrusting them to the Lord for two years or eighteen months as they serve in the mission field. I am also inspired by the many who have answered the call to serve without strong support in the home. These dear youth are amazing!
The “I WILL GO, I WILL SERVE” campaign of the area presidency to raise 4600 missionaries was a resounding success. In May 2021, after all foreign missionaries were sent home due to the pandemic, we responded by inviting the rising generation of Filipino Latter-day Saints to go and serve. We set 4600 missionary applications as our goal by December 2022. So far, we have 3,695 missionaries serving in the field, and we are anticipating more by the end of the year.
Although the missionary workforce was reduced by half due to the pandemic, the number of baptisms increased to almost double the pre-pandemic level. Aside from actual baptisms, the finding efforts and the number of lessons taught also increased.
This 4600 missionary miracle is due in large part to the invitation extended by President Russell M. Nelson and his wife, Sister Wendy W. Nelson, in the worldwide youth devotional held in June 3, 2018. The prophet invited all the youth in the Church to “enlist in the youth battalion of the Lord” and take part in “the greatest challenge, the greatest cause, and the greatest work on earth.”
As I travel around the Philippines, I am deeply impressed by the strength of the Church and the faith of Filipino Latter-day Saints. To all priesthood leaders, thank you for your tireless service in the Church. We also thank organization leaders for your inspired leadership of leading many young women and young men choose to go on a mission.
But the influence of a righteous church leader is only one half of the equation. A gospel-centered home, established by righteous parents, is the best place for the rising generation to start developing their testimonies. In D&C 68:25, the Lord has commanded parents to teach their children, “to understand the doctrine of repentance, faith in Christ the Son of the living God, and of baptism and the gift of the Holy Ghost by the laying on of the hands…” .
Fine examples of this are Christopher and Melita Baliton from Asingan, Pangasinan, parents of seven. They joined the Church in 2012 with their three oldest children and the four younger ones were baptized when they reached 8 years of age. They were sealed for time and all eternity in the Manila Temple in 2013.
Recently, I had the opportunity to visit the home of the beautiful Baliton family and learned that Brother Christopher passed away in 2020. The responsibility to continue the family food cart business fell on the shoulders of Sister Melita, with the help of her children, especially Christian Adam, the third child.
When Adam expressed his desire to serve a mission and become one of the 4600, he was concerned about leaving because he knew his mother relied on him as the runner and delivery boy of their food cart business. We felt Melita’s great faith as she said to “I assured him that we will be alright, his other siblings will be there to help me.”.
Sister Baliton also said it was the wish of her departed husband that Adam would serve a mission. She also said, “Aside from helping our brothers and sisters who do not know about the true gospel of Jesus Christ, I really want Elder Baliton’s example to influence his younger siblings so they too will become full-time missionaries.” Elder Baliton is now faithfully serving in the Philippines Iloilo Mission and we enjoyed the pleasure of meeting him personally during our mission visit.
Thank you to all parents in the Church for preparing your children to join the youth battalion of the Lord. Like the mothers of the 2,000 stripling warriors, may we always teach our children not to doubt the Lord so they will go forth and serve.
Parents and church leaders play an important part in molding our children and youth to become valiant missionaries.
Missionaries sacrifice a lot when they serve. Education and careers are put on hold, they miss their family and friends, and some even experience major trials and challenges. Some sacrifices are not as dramatic, but still very meaningful. Let me share the story of Sister Kyla Erin de Dios from Mintal, Davao.
Sister de Dios is 19 years old. I first met her back in February 2022, and since I am Korean, she shared that she was a hard-core BTS fan. She became a BTS army in 2017, because the words of their songs inspired, motivated, and comforted her. She even had a twitter account with over 2,000 followers dedicated just to support BTS.
When I met her again recently, I mentioned BTS but Sister Kyla reacted differently. She said she has been preparing for a mission and has joined the Lord’s battalion, she is no longer a BTS army, but will soon be in the Lord’s army. She has submitted her mission papers and is excitedly waiting for her mission call.
What caused her mighty change of heart? The catalyst that jumpstarted her preparation was her FSY experience. In her own words, “I have always wanted to become a Servant of the Lord, ever since I was in primary. I realized how turning away from worldly things truly blesses you spiritually. At FSY I learned to ‘Focus on what you are building, not what you are leaving behind.’ As we start to focus on building our relationship with the Lord, by reading the scriptures and keeping the commandments, we are becoming the Lord’s battalion. We will become well prepared for the Lord’s battle.”
Sister de Dios still loves BTS, but she loves the Lord more. My dear young brothers and sisters, is there anything in your life that you are prioritizing over your relationship with the Lord? I urge you to examine your priorities and make sure that you are focusing on the things that matter most, on the things that have eternal significance.
I close my message with the words of our dear prophet, President Russell M. Nelson:
“My dear extraordinary youth, you were sent to earth at this precise time — this most crucial time in the history of the world — to help gather Israel…There is nothing happening on this earth right now that is more important than that. … This is the mission for which you were sent to earth. I invite you to stand with the youth from all around the world and experience the thrill of being a member of the Lord’s youth battalion.”