Be Sure of Your Target
On a beautiful fall day several years ago, we were driving to our cabin in scenic Bear Lake, Idaho. As we began the final stretch of our trip and turned onto the road that took us through Logan Canyon and over the mountain to the lake, I noticed a sign on the left side of the road at the mouth of the canyon. It had a picture of a moose, an elk, and a deer on it. The caption at the top read, "Be sure of your target". In other words, don't shoot a moose if you only have a license to shoot a deer.
As we continued up the canyon, we saw lots of pickup trucks pulling campers and trailers,with horses. The backs of the trucks were loaded with supplies. There were tents, folding chairs, coolers full of food, firewood and ATV's. The rear window of most cabs had a rack with rifles on it. All these images reminded me of my youth.
My dad and brothers used to go hunting every year. It’s something they looked forward to. It was fairly easy to get a deer license. It was more difficult to get an elk or moose license. The number of licenses available to hunt moose was much smaller than the number of licenses available to hunt deer. Going moose or elk hunting was a much bigger deal. I remember they had to plan way in advance and submit a request to have their name put in the hat for a drawing to see who actually got the limited licenses available. Back in those days, most of the men who submitted their name for the drawing actually went to the Division of Wildlife Resources office at 5:00 am in the morning to watch the drawing so they would know immediately if their name was drawn. It was a big event. I think my dad and brothers put a lot more thought and effort into going moose or elk hunting than they did deer hunting.
Over the years, I’ve thought about that sign occasionally. In the mission field, I find myself thinking about it as it relates to missionary work. It has many meanings.
Don’t shoot a deer if you have a license to shoot a moose. Be careful what you aim for. Know what you are looking for and don’t settle for anything less. When missionaries leave their homes and families to go preach the gospel, that’s what they should do. The goal of all missionaries is to find, teach, and baptize. It takes a lot of effort to prepare for a mission. The most important thing to prepare is a strong testimony with a lot of faith. When missionaries reach the mission field, they can get up early in the morning and go hunting investigators or they can be like the lazy hunters who just go through the motions and don’t really accomplish anything. Some hunters just want to sit around the campfire and tell stories while the avid hunters want to get up early and go out in the forest in search of their prize. They know what their target is, and they go after it.
A lot of planning and expense goes into hunting. Before going hunting, a hunter has to have a gun and ammunition and he has to know how to shoot the gun. That usually requires hours of practice at a target range perfecting his aim. Guns are expensive and it takes many hours of work to earn the money to buy one. Getting the necessary supplies needed for a hunting trip requires much planning and organizing, and it takes money to buy them. Missions are the same way. They require a lot of planning, hard work, and effort. Missionaries need to know what they want to accomplish before ever going on a mission. They need to attend church, read the scriptures, pray fervently, have a strong testimony, and exercise faith. They need to get a job and save money to pay for the time they will spend serving the Lord.
I remember my parents joining with other families when planning a hunting trip. Friends and neighbors who were also avid hunters joined together and we all gathered at the same location. It was exciting to be with other families who were looking forward to the same thing. Future missionaries need to choose friends with the same aspirations of going on a mission to spend time with. Together they can set goals and learn from each other. It’s easier to stay focused and make wise choices when others around you are doing the same thing.
The big prize when hunting is coming home with a trophy animal. The prize for a missionary is spending 18 to 24 months in the mission field, learning as much as possible from other missionaries with the same goals, converting others and helping to bring them unto Christ. Strengthening their own testimonies is an added bonus. The final goal is to get what you are after. For members of the church that is being sealed in the temple and creating eternal families.