Once again, tremendous resources for this lesson are found in every one of the reliable Teachings of the Presidents of the Church:... (the old Priesthood/Relief Society manuals). Every one of these manuals contain chapters on missionary work. In Joseph Smith, chapter 12, for Brigham Young, chapter 33, John Taylor, Chapter 8, for Wilford Woodruff, chapter 9, for Joseph F. Smith, Chapter 9, for Heber J. Grant, Chapter 9, for David O. McKay, chapter 6, for Spencer W. Kimball, chapter 24, and for Harold B. Lee, chapter 17. These can all be found by going to the new “lds.org” then click on “Go to Classic LDS.org” (lower left corner), then click on “Gospel Library” then “Lessons” then “Melchizedek Priesthood and Relief Society.” The manuals are all found at the bottom of this page.
The new website for the Church “lds.org” is wonderful. On the first page, there is a link in the upper right-hand corner, “Search all LDS.org” which, if you type in “missionary work” has terrific results. The third one is “Quotes: Missionary Work.” These quotes also lead to some truly outstanding talks on the subject.
One of the very best things a teacher could do is follow the suggestion listed at the bottom of p. 189.
The Lord’s Church Is a Missionary Church
President John Taylor discussed the title to this section:
We are here for a certain purpose; the world was organized for a certain purpose; … the gospel has been introduced for a certain purpose in the different ages of time, and among the different peoples to whom it has been revealed and communicated, and we, today, are in subjection to the general rule. The Lord has led us along…and the first thing he did with us … was to send his gospel, having revealed it first to Joseph Smith, and he, being authorized by the Almighty, and having received his appointment through the holy priesthood that exists in the heavens, and with that appointment authority to confer it upon others, did confer it upon others, and they in turn upon others, and hence the gospel was sent to us in the various nations where we resided.
Now then, the Lord has been desirous, in this age, as he has in other ages, to gather to himself a people who would do his will, keep his commandments, listen to his counsel and carry out his behests (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: John Taylor, 68-9).
For President McKay, as with most of us, the title to this section was very personal:
Both of President David O. McKay’s parents were converts to the Church, the result of proselyting efforts by missionaries called to labor in Great Britain.
In 1953, on a tour of Europe, President McKay visited the humble Scotland home of his father’s childhood. President McKay’s son Llewelyn, who accompanied him on the trip, recorded the experience as follows:
“[As we approached the home], the sun broke through the clouds and smiled at us as though he were reflecting the joy and happiness in father’s heart. As we all gathered in front of the home, tears came to father’s eyes as he looked through the door. ‘If it had not been for two missionaries knocking on this door about 1850, I shouldn’t be here today!’ ” (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: David O. McKay, 49)
The first question in this section is, “In what ways is missionary work part of God’s plan for His children?” (p. 189).
President Kimball gives a sobering thought concerning this question:
Let us assume for a moment that the roles were reversed—that you were not a member of the Church but that your present nonmember neighbor was a Latter-day Saint. Would you want him or her to share the gospel with you? Would you then rejoice in the new truths you had learned? Would your love and respect increase for your neighbor who had shared these truths with you? Of course, the answer to all of these questions would be: Yes! (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Spencer W. Kimball, 261).
In this section we read:
After Jesus was resurrected, He sent Apostles to preach the gospel to the Gentiles. He commanded the Apostles, “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature” (Mark 16:15) (p. 189).
It may be interesting to note that, in addition to the reference in Mark, at the end of every one of the Gospels, as well as in the account of the Ascension recorded in Acts, the same charge was given by the Savior as follows:
And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth.
Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: (Matthew 28:18-19).
…and thus it behoved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day:
And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem (Luke 24:46-47).
So when they had dined, Jesus saith to Simon Peter, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me more than these? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him,
Feed my lambs.
He saith to him again the second time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? He saith unto him,
Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my sheep.
He saith unto him the third time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? Peter was grieved because he said unto him the third time, Lovest thou me? And he said unto him, Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee. Jesus saith unto him, Feed my sheep (John 21:15-17)
...ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judæa, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth (Acts 1:8)
After quoting Matthew 28:19-20, President McKay proclaimed:
Such was the admonition given to the early twelve. Such is the admonition given to people in this age…
If I were to couch in definite terms two of the most potent convictions in the hearts of the Latter-day Saints, I would name: First, an abiding assurance that the gospel, as taught by the Redeemer when he lived among men and which was later modified, changed and corrupted by men, has been restored by the Redeemer in its purity and fulness; and second, following naturally the first, a conviction in the heart of every member of this Church that the responsibility rests upon the membership of the Church to preach the restored gospel to every nation, kindred, tongue and people (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: David O. McKay, 51-2).
President Kimball further explained:
The day for carrying the gospel to ever more places and people is here and now. We must come to think of our obligation to share the message rather than of our own convenience. Calls from the Lord are seldom convenient. The time is here when sacrifice must become an even more important element in the Church. We must increase our devotion so that we can do the work the Lord has for us to do. … The parting words of the Master to His Apostles just before His Ascension were, “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Spencer W. Kimball, 261).
In this section, we read:
Latter-day Saint missionaries go at their own expense to all parts of the world to preach the gospel message (p. 191).
People say: “We cannot understand the strength of ‘Mormonism,’ we cannot understand why [thousands of] young men and young women at one time, at their own expense or at the expense of their families, will go into the world, giving their time without money and without price, to proclaim the gospel, losing their wages, paying their own way, to proclaim your faith.” Every Latter-day Saint can understand it. They understand it because those young men and those young women who go out to proclaim the gospel, live it; they in very deed are fulfilling the requirements laid down by the Savior “to love the Lord our God with all our heart, mind, might and strength,” and the next great commandment, “to love our neighbor as ourselves (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Heber J. Grant, 85-6).
The Gospel Will Be Preached to All the World
Joseph Smith clarified:
The servants of God will not have gone over the nations of the Gentiles, with a warning voice, until the destroying angel will commence to waste the inhabitants of the earth, and as the prophet hath said, ‘It shall be a vexation to hear the report.’ [See Isaiah 28:19.] I speak thus because I feel for my fellow men; I do it in the name of the Lord, being moved upon by the Holy Spirit. Oh, that I could snatch them from the vortex of misery, into which I behold them plunging themselves, by their sins; that I might be enabled by the warning voice, to be an instrument of bringing them to unfeigned repentance, that they might have faith to stand in the evil day! (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith, 152).
Brigham Young also elucidated:
The Elders have also preached through the different nations of Europe so far as they were allowed to do so. In some countries the law would not permit them; but the Lord will yet revolutionize those nations until the door will be opened and the Gospel will be preached to all (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Brigham Young, 244).
President Wilford Woodruff added:
We have preached the Gospel to every nation, kindred, tongue, and people, as far as the Lord has opened doors for us and we have had the privilege of going. Still the world to-day is full of people who have not heard the Gospel of Jesus Christ… Only think that by embracing the Gospel of Christ we can become heirs of God and joint heirs with Jesus Christ, that we can have part in the first resurrection, and come forth out of our graves and be clothed with glory, immortality, and eternal lives, and pass into the presence of God and the Lamb and dwell with them eternally in the heavens! Who comprehends this? Do the inhabitants of the earth? They do not (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Wilford Woodruff, 94).
A great statement regarding the importance of this missionary work comes from President Hinckley:
If the world is going to be saved, we have to do it. There is no escaping from that. NO other people in the history of the world have received the kind of mandate that we have received. We are responsible for all who have lived upon the earth… We are responsible for all who now liver upon the earth, and that involves our missionary work. And we are going to be responsible for all who will yet live upon the earth (Mission Presidents’ Seminar, 25 June, 1999).
Missionary Work Is Important
Joseph Smith confirmed the title of this section:
After all that has been said, the greatest and most important duty is to preach the Gospel (History of the Church, 2:478).
Brigham Young stated:
Our Father in Heaven, Jesus, our Elder Brother and the Savior of the world, and the whole heavens, are calling upon this people to prepare to save the nations of the earth… (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Brigham Young, 243).
John Taylor proclaimed:
Our duty is to preach the Gospel to all men. … And we are doing this in spite of the opposition of men, and in the name of God we will do it (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: John Taylor, 71).
President Heber J. Grant further declared:
The missionary work of the Latter-day Saints is the greatest of all the great works in all the world (We Believe, 570).
President George Albert Smith also said:
My understanding is that the most important mission that I have in this life is: first to keep the commandments of God…and next, to teach them to my Father’s children who do not understand them (We Believe, 570).
President Spencer W. Kimball acknowledged:
There isn’t anything else more important than taking the gospel to the world (We Believe, 570).
President Ezra Taft Benson agreed:
I know, my brethren and sisters, that the sweetest work in all the world is the work in which we are engaged in helping to save and exalt the souls of the children of men. There isn’t anything so important, so precious, so enjoyable, so soul-satisfying (We Believe, 570).
The book We Believe, edited by Rulon T. Burton, is a wonderful compilation of quotes from prophets for any library. Amazon has great prices for used copies.
In the day which many of us lived, President Kimball challenged us about the importance of missionary work in a classic First Presidency Message entitled, “When the World Will Be Converted.” The whole talk is well worth reading. In that talk he stated:
If there were no converts, the Church would shrivel and die on the vine. But perhaps the greatest reason for missionary work is to give the world its chance to hear and accept the gospel. The scriptures are replete with commands and promises and calls and rewards for teaching the gospel. I use the word command deliberately for it seems to be an insistent directive from which we, singly and collectively, cannot escape (Ensign, Oct. 1974, 3).
President Kimball added his testimony:
This is the work of the Lord. We are on his errand. He has commanded us specifically, and yet we are unknown among many people of the world. It is time to gird up our loins and go forward with new dedication to this great work. We covenanted, you and I, to do it. May we all say with that young man, found in the temple by his anxious parents, sitting in the midst of the doctors, “I must be about my Father’s business” (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Spencer W. Kimball, 269).
In this section we read:
Many of our brothers and sisters on earth are blinded by false teachings and “are only kept from the truth because they know not where to find it” (D&C 123:12). Through missionary work we can bring them the truth (p. 192).
Joseph Smith taught:
…as you see the great extent of the power and dominion of the prince of darkness, and realize how vast the numbers are who are crowding the road to death without ever giving heed to the cheering sound of the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith, 151).
President McKay added:
The world is hungry to hear the truth as never before in its history. We have it. Are we equal to the task—to the responsibility God has placed upon us?
Every member of the Church should be converted and have a knowledge of the gospel, including a knowledge of the scriptures. How wonderful it would be if every member of the Church could, as Peter of old, “sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you. …” (1 Pet. 3:15.) (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: David O. McKay, 51-2).
One of the very best talks I have ever found on practical ways to overcome fear of doing missionary work is, “I’m Afraid to Talk to My Neighbor about the Church Because…” by Carol Wagner Tuttle in Ensign, March 1988, p. 30.
The chapter in Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Heber J. Grant is entitled, “The Joy of Missionary Work.” President Grant elaborated:
…there is no other labor in all the world that brings to a human heart, judging from my own personal experience, more joy, peace and serenity than proclaiming the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.
I feel sorry for the man or the woman who has never experienced the sweet joy which comes to the missionary who proclaims the gospel of Jesus Christ, who brings honest souls to a knowledge of the truth, and who hears the expressions of gratitude and thanksgiving that come from the hearts of those who have been brought by his labor to a comprehension of life eternal (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Heber J. Grant, 86-7).
Missionary work is important enough that it will be one of Satan’s primary goals to stop it. Joseph Smith proclaimed:
The world is full of darkness. Sin and wickedness is overwhelming the world as the waters cover the great deep. The devil rules over the world in a great measure. The world will war against you; the devil will, earth will, and hell will. But … you must preach the Gospel, do your duty, and the Lord will stand by you. Earth and hell shall not prevail against you (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith, 153).
The last sentence of this section reads, “As we teach the gospel to our brothers and sisters, we are preparing the way for the Second Coming of the Savior (p. 192). The Encyclopedia of Mormonism adds a second witness:
The fundamental purpose of the restoration is to prepare the Church and the world to receive their King, the Lord Jesus Christ (p. 1219).
We Should All Be Missionaries
Chapter 6 in Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: David O. McKay is appropriately titled “Every Member a Missionary.” This is appropriate not only because he coined this tremendously popular phrase, but it also aptly fits the title of this section. There he stated:
Every member is a missionary. He or she has the responsibility of bringing somebody: a mother, a father, a neighbor, a fellow worker, an associate, somebody in touch with the messengers of the gospel. If every member will carry that responsibility and if the arrangement to have that mother or that father or somebody meet the authorized representatives of the Church, no power on earth can stop this church from growing. And personal contact is what will influence those investigators. That personal contact, the nature of it, its effect depends upon you. And that’s one thing that I wish to emphasize. There’s one responsibility which no man can evade, that’s the responsibility of personal influence. … It’s what you are, not what you pretend to be that will bring people to investigate.
Every member of the Church should be a missionary. He is probably not authorized to go from house to house, but he is authorized, by virtue of his membership, to set a proper example as a good neighbor (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: David O. McKay, 53).
President Kimball also coined a terrifically popular phrase concerning missionary work which is used in the heading of the chapter on missionary work in the manual with his teachings. He declared:
We must lengthen our stride in sharing the gospel with others (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Spencer W. Kimball, 258).
President Kimball continued:
Brethren and sisters, I wonder if we are doing all we can. Are we complacent in our assignment to teach the gospel to others? Are we prepared to lengthen our stride? To enlarge our vision?
We must not falter nor weary in well-doing. We must lengthen our stride. Not only is our own eternal welfare at stake, but also the eternal welfare of many of our brothers and sisters who are not now members of this, the true Church. I thrill to the words of the Prophet Joseph Smith in a letter that he sent to the Church from Nauvoo on September 6, 1842: “Shall we not go on in so great a cause? Go forward. … Courage … and on, on to the victory!” (D&C 128:22) (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Spencer W. Kimball, 261).
President Kimball then addressed the idea in the title of this section:
I wish we could more effectively and faithfully establish in the hearts of all members of the Church the understanding that if a person is old enough to be a member, he is old enough to be a missionary; and he doesn’t need to be set apart especially for that calling. Every member has the obligation and the calling to take the gospel to those around him. We want every man, woman, and child to assume his rightful responsibility. It is very important. For this is the message of the gospel: We receive blessings from the gospel, and then we go out and share those blessings with others.
Now, we are a busy people; but the Lord did not say, “If it is convenient for you, would you consider preaching the gospel.” He has said, “Let every man learn his duty” (D&C 107:99) and “Behold … it becometh every man who hath been warned to warn his neighbor.” (D&C 88:81)
We must remember that God is our ally in this. He is our help. He will open the way, for he gave the commandment (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Spencer W. Kimball, 260-1).
Brigham Young had much earlier exclaimed:
…there is neither man or woman in this Church who is not on a mission. That mission will last as long as they live, and it is to do good, to promote righteousness, to teach the principles of truth, and to prevail upon themselves and everybody around them to live those principles that they may obtain eternal life (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Brigham Young, 244
From Favorite Quotations from the Collection of Thomas S. Monson comes the following:
Missionary work is the lifeblood of the Kingdom. When the blood stops flowing, the Kingdom stops growing (Spencer W. Kimball).
Amazon also has great prices for used copies of this book.
Even earlier, from the list of “Additional Scriptures” the Lord declared:
…it becometh every man who hath been warned to warn his neighbor (D&C 88:81).
So the first calling of every member baptized is to be a missionary.
President Wilford Woodruff explained:
…we should be diligent and faithful in offering this great salvation unto the children of men, and in building up Zion and the kingdom of our God.
However insignificant this people may be in the eyes of the world, the God of heaven holds us responsible for preaching this Gospel to every nation under heaven, and we have it to do or we will be damned. We cannot avoid this. Why? Because, as Paul says: “Woe is unto me, if I preach not the Gospel.” [1 Corinthians 9:16.] There is but one Gospel; never has been but one, and never will be; and Paul says: “But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other Gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed.” [Galatians 1:8]
There never was a set of men since God made the world under a stronger responsibility to warn this generation, to lift up our voices long and loud, day and night as far as we have the opportunity and declare the words of God unto this generation. We are required to do this. This is our calling. It is our duty. It is our business.
I have waded swamps and swum rivers, and have asked my bread from door to door; and have devoted nearly fifty years to this work. And why? Was there gold enough in California to have hired me to do it? No, verily; and what I have done and what my brethren have done, we have done because we were commanded of God. And this is the position we occupy today. We have preached and labored at home and abroad, and we intend to continue our labors, by the help of God, as long as we can have liberty to do it.
I think, many times, that we, as elders of Israel and as Latter-day Saints, come far short of realizing our position before the Lord. The work required at our hands is great and mighty; it is the work of Almighty God. We are held responsible for presenting the gospel of Christ to all the nations of the earth. … We are held responsible for all this… (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Wilford Woodruff, 92).
President Grant also clarified this scripture:
We should remember that the Lord has told us that it is our duty to warn our neighbors and to preach this Gospel—that duty is upon all of us—we should be missionaries.
Let us all realize that this work belongs to each and every one of us, and let us do all in our power for its advancement (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Heber J. Grant, 86).
In this section we read:
We have been told by a prophet that we should show our neighbors that we love them before we warn them (p. 192).
President Grant taught:
I believe that every Latter-day Saint who has received a testimony of the divinity of the work in which we are engaged has [the] same feeling that Alma had—a desire that all the world might hear the testimony of the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ [see Alma 29:1-9]. When men and women receive a testimony of the divine mission of the Prophet Joseph Smith, they are anxious that all the world should have that same knowledge and faith. They are anxious that the gospel should go to every honest soul (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Heber J. Grant, 86).
President Lee also added:
Now, keep in mind that all of us are our Father’s children, whether presently members of the Church or not. It is these others of our Father’s children about whom we must be much concerned. They are just as dear to Him as those who are presently members of the Church (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Harold B. Lee, 156).
President Kimball encouraged:
Our neighbors must experience our genuine friendship and fellowship. We want members to entreat neighbors, not to scold them or scare them (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Spencer W. Kimball, 262).
In conference, Elder M. Russell Ballard stated:
Nearly 25 years ago, the First Presidency declared: “Our message … is one of special love and concern for the eternal welfare of all men and women, regardless of religious belief, race, or nationality, knowing that we are truly brothers and sisters because we are sons and daughters of the same Eternal Father” (First Presidency statement, 15 Feb. 1978) (Ensign, Nov 2001, 35).
In this section, suggestion # 1 for “ways we can share the gospel” is, “We can show friends and others the joy we experience from living the truths of the gospel. In this way we will be a light to the world (see Matthew 5:16)” (p. 193).
President Woodruff reiterated:
It should be the aim of all the members of the Church to carry out practically in their lives the principles of the Gospel. In no way can we better convince the world of their truth than in showing in our acts and dealings with one another and with mankind the elevating effect they have upon us. We make high professions, and there should be such a high standard of purity of life among us as to correspond with these professions (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Wilford Woodruff, 96).
President Kimball also stated:
No greater service can be given to the missionary calling of this Church than to be exemplary in positive Christian virtues in our lives.
What every member ought to do, by good example and by bearing testimony, is to portray to nonmembers the joys of gospel living and understanding and thus help to bring them to the stage where they will accept more formal teaching (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Spencer W. Kimball, 262).
President Lee added:
The best way in the world to make men interested in the gospel is to live the ideals and the standards which we expect of those who profess membership in the Church. That is the first thing that strikes home to a stranger. How do we, who profess to be members, deport ourselves as members of the Church? …
… No man or woman can teach the gospel if he doesn’t live it. The first act to qualify yourself to be a missionary is to live the principles which you teach.
Any Latter-day Saint in Church circles, in military service, in social life, or in the business community is looked upon not just as an individual, but as the visible Church today. Someone has said: “Be careful how you act, because you may be the only Standard Church Works some people may ever read.” The Lord here warns us that the standard of living in the Church must be visibly higher than the standard of living in the world (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Harold B. Lee, 161-2).
President Lee then told a terrific story about example:
I was over in Seoul in Korea recently , and one of the finest men we have over in that country is a man by the name of Dr. Ho Jik Kim. He is … an advisor to the Korean government. He is a leader of one of the educational institutions there, and around him he has gathered now thirty-four converts, many of them well-educated. We talked with him for some two hours, trying to lay a foundation that might establish itself into a beginning of missionary activities in the land of Korea. He told us about his conversion. “The thing that attracted me to the church,” he explained, “was when I was invited into the homes of two Latter-day Saint men who were on the faculty of Cornell University. … The thing that I was most impressed by was the kind of home life they had. I never had been in homes where there was such a sweet relationship between husband and wife, and father and mother and children. I had seen them engage in family prayer. I was so impressed that I began to inquire about this religion of theirs. And one night after I had studied for a long time and had become convinced about the desirability of belonging to such a company, I knew first I must get a testimony. I went down on my knees and prayed nearly all night long and I received a testimony of the divinity of this work.” But remember it all started because of the excellent example of a family that lived the kind of home life that the gospel expects of true Latter-day Saints (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Harold B. Lee, 162).
Concerning our neighbors, in a wonderful conference talk, Elder M. Russell Ballard implored:
Occasionally I hear of members offending those of other faiths by overlooking them and leaving them out. This can occur especially in communities where our members are the majority. I have heard about narrow-minded parents who tell children that they cannot play with a particular child in the neighborhood simply because his or her family does not belong to our Church. This kind of behavior is not in keeping with the teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ. I cannot comprehend why any member of our Church would allow these kinds of things to happen. I have been a member of this Church my entire life. I have been a full-time missionary, twice a bishop, a mission president, a Seventy, and now an Apostle. I have never taught—nor have I ever heard taught—a doctrine of exclusion. I have never heard the members of this Church urged to be anything but loving, kind, tolerant, and benevolent to our friends and neighbors of other faiths (Ensign, Nov 2001, 35) .
In this section, suggestion # 3 for “ways we can share the gospel” is, “We can explain the gospel to nonmember friends and others” (p. 193).Contention has no place in this process. Joseph Smith explained:
Let the Elders be exceedingly careful about unnecessarily disturbing and harrowing up the feelings of the people. Remember that your business is to preach the Gospel in all humility and meekness, and warn sinners to repent and come to Christ. Avoid contentions and vain disputes with men of corrupt minds, who do not desire to know the truth. Remember that ‘it is a day of warning, and not a day of many words.’ If they receive not your testimony in one place, flee to another, remembering to cast no reflections, nor throw out any bitter sayings. If you do your duty, it will be just as well with you, as though all men embraced the Gospel” (History of the Church, 1:468).
Brigham Young also warned:
I had only traveled a short time to testify to the people, before I learned this one fact, that you might prove doctrine from the Bible till doomsday, and it would merely convince a people, but would not convert them. You might read the Bible from Genesis to Revelation, and prove every iota that you advance, and that alone would have no converting influence upon the people.
Nothing short of a testimony by the power of the Holy Ghost would bring light and knowledge to them—bring them in their hearts to repentance. Nothing short of that would ever do. You have frequently heard me say that I would rather hear an Elder, either here or in the world, speak only five words accompanied by the power of God, and they would do more good than to hear long sermons without the Spirit. That is true, and we know it (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Brigham Young, 146).
President Joseph F. Smith felt the same:
It is to be earnestly recommended that elders abroad on missions, as indeed Latter-day Saints in general, avoid contentious argument and debate regarding doctrinal subjects. The truth of the gospel does not depend for its demonstration on heated discussion; the message of truth is most effectively delivered when expressed in words of simplicity and sympathy.
… A testimony of the truth is more than a mere assent of the mind, it is a conviction of the heart, a knowledge that fills the whole soul of its recipient (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Joseph F. Smith, 82).
Concerning the title of this section, in conference Sister Silvia H. Allred, First Counselor in the Relief Society General Presidency (also the mother-in-law to one of our missionaries) gave excellent advice:
You might be asking yourself: How can I assist in missionary work? In what ways can I participate? There are two fundamental truths to keep in mind as you embark on the work. First, have a clear understanding that God loves all His children and desires their salvation. Second, our message of Christ and His restored gospel is the most important gift you have to give.
Then, be more specific in your missionary efforts. Let me suggest some ideas. You might find two or three that work for you:
Invite family and friends to listen to the missionaries or to attend our Church meetings and activities.
Accompany the missionaries to investigators’ homes, or invite the missionaries to teach nonmembers in your home.
Invite people to a family home evening in your home.
Invite people to a family history center, or help them do family history research.
Give referrals to the missionaries. Members can be the greatest and best source of referrals.
Share your beliefs and testimony with nonmember friends and family.
Seek for opportunities to reach out to others.
Extend friendship to investigators and new converts.
Give your best efforts to finding those who are seeking the truth (Ensign, Nov. 2008, 10–12).
In conference, Elder Jeffrey R. Holland gave excellent advice about doing missionary work:
We can also pray daily for our own personal missionary experiences... Pray that they will find you! And then be alert…
…even more important than speaking is listening… Reach out sincerely. Ask these friends what matters most to them. What do they cherish, and what do they hold dear? And then listen. If the setting is right you might ask what their fears are, what they yearn for, or what they feel is missing in their lives. I promise you that something in what they say will always highlight a truth of the gospel about which you can bear testimony and about which you can then offer more (Ensign, May 2001, 14).
Sister Marjorie Hinckley, wife of President Hinckley, told of an experience of sharing the gospel when she and her husband traveled with President and Sister Harold B. Lee:
We were in England one Sunday. It had been a full day: two sessions of a conference and a fireside at night. When we got back to the hotel about 9:30, we were bone-weary and hungry. We went into the hotel dining room to get a little something to eat. The day was over—we could relax. At least, that is what I thought. The next thing I knew, the waitress had her pencil poised to write down our order. President Lee looked up at her and said, ‘What church do you belong to?’ The day was not over for him. He had embarked on a proselyting exercise. Before the meal was over he had learned all about this young woman. She had lost her husband and was lonely and afraid. She had promised to see the missionaries and learn more. It was a beautiful thing to see the president of the Church practice what he had been preaching all that day. When the waitress (a woman of perhaps thirty-five) learned that the man she was talking with was the president, the prophet, seer, and revelator of the Church of Jesus Christ, she could not believe that such a person would stoop to making conversation with such a one as she. She was greatly moved (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Harold B. Lee, 153).
From the life of President Kimball comes another example:
During a trip to Quito, Ecuador, as a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, Elder Spencer W. Kimball was at a hotel restaurant with a group that included four young missionaries. “He commented to the others that their waiter was a fine-looking young man and would make a good missionary for the Church. Elder Kimball ordered bread and milk, then asked the waiter if he had any children at home. ‘One son,’ the waiter answered. ‘Bread and milk will make him healthy,’ Elder Kimball said, ‘but he will be even healthier if you will feed him the food these young men have to give.’ The waiter looked puzzled. Then Elder Kimball explained that the young men were missionaries who had the gospel of Jesus Christ to teach. The waiter expressed interest in having the missionaries teach him” (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Spencer W. Kimball, 258).
In this section, suggestion # 4 for “ways we can share the gospel” is, “We can invite friends who are interested in learning more about the gospel into our homes to be taught by the missionaries. If our nonmember friends live too far away, we can request that missionaries in their areas visit them” (p. 193). In my opinion, this # 4 is one of the very most important concepts in this whole lesson, the idea that members and missionaries must work together for the Church to succeed in this critical role of missionary work. President Kimball declared:
Member-missionary work is the key to the future growth of the Church.
The real goal for effective proselyting is that the members do the finding and the full-time missionaries do the teaching. … When members do the finding they have a personal interest in fellowshipping, there are fewer investigators lost before baptism, and those who are baptized tend to remain active.
Our goal should be to identify as soon as possible which of our Father’s children are spiritually prepared to proceed all the way to baptism into the kingdom. One of the best ways to find out is to expose your friends, relatives, neighbors, and acquaintances to the full-time missionaries as soon as possible (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Spencer W. Kimball, 262-3).
In 1999 President Gordon B. Hinckley arranged a most remarkable satellite broadcasts from the Salt Lake Tabernacle. He spoke to full time missionaries and stake missionaries (now organized as ward missionaries) as well as all priesthood leaders in wards/branches and stakes/districts all around the world. President Hinckley drew the title of the broadcast, “Find the Lambs, Feed the Sheep” from John 21:15-17. Excerpts are as follows:
Last year there were approximately 300,000 convert baptisms throughout the Church. This is tremendously significant. This is the equivalent of 120 new stakes of 2,500 members each. Think of that: 120 new stakes in a single year! It is wonderful. But it is not enough. I am not being unrealistic when I say that with concerted effort, with recognition of the duty which falls upon each of us as members of the Church, and with sincere prayer to the Lord for help, we could double that number.
The big initial task is first to find interested investigators. So many of us look upon missionary work as simply tracting. Everyone who is familiar with this work knows there is a better way. That way is through the members of the Church. Whenever there is a member who introduces an investigator, there is an immediate support system. The member bears testimony of the truth of the work. He is anxious for the happiness of his investigator friend. He becomes excited as that friend makes progress in learning the gospel.
The full-time missionaries may do the actual teaching, but the member, wherever possible, will back up that teaching with the offering of his home to carry on this missionary service. He will bear sincere testimony of the divinity of the work. He will be there to answer questions when the missionaries are not around. He will be a friend to the convert who is making a big and often difficult change (Ensign, May 1999, 104).
Then President Hinckley issued the following challenge:
Now, my brethren and sisters, we can let the missionaries try to do it alone, or we can help them. If they do it alone, they will knock on doors day after day and the harvest will be meager. Or as members we can assist them in finding and teaching investigators (Ensign, May 1999, 104).
President Hinckley concluded with his testimony:
Before the Church was organized, there was missionary work. It has continued ever since, notwithstanding the difficulties of many of the seasons through which our people have passed. Let us, every one, resolve within ourselves to arise to a new opportunity, a new sense of responsibility, a new shouldering of obligation to assist our Father in Heaven in His glorious work of bringing to pass the immortality and eternal life of His sons and daughters throughout the earth (Ensign, May 1999, 104).
Concerning fellowshipping, President Kimball added to the above:
When we baptize somebody it is a crime to let them just slide slowly back out of the Church and out of the gospel because of a lack of fellowship. Fellowshipping is an important responsibility.
We should be able to fellowship everybody that comes in. That is the reason we want the members to do the missionary work as well as to get help from the missionaries. We want the people … to go out and do this work because they are still the neighbors after the person is baptized. They can still fellowship them; they can still call for them and take them to priesthood meeting; they can still encourage them and help them in their home evenings and so on.
This, then, is another way in which all members of the Church can be actively and constantly engaged in missionary service—by fellowshipping, befriending, and encouraging the new members of the Church (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Spencer W. Kimball, 264).
In the conclusion of the talk by President Hinckley, he was quoting from Moses 1:39. Added to this is a marvelous scripture, with which there would be a wonderful discussion, is Alma 29:9 (the last half):
…yea, and this is my glory, that perhaps I may be an instrument in the hands of God to bring some soul to repentance; and this is my joy (Alma 29:9).
President Woodruff explained the value of this scripture:
You give unto any soul the principles of life and salvation and administer these ordinances to him, and you become an instrument in the hands of God in the salvation of that soul. There is nothing given to the children of men that is equal to it (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Wilford Woodruff, 94).
In this section, suggestion # 5 for “ways we can share the gospel” is, “We can teach our children the importance of sharing the gospel, and we can prepare them spiritually and financially to go on missions” (p. 193).
President Kimball gave good counsel concerning this:
The minute they [your sons] come into your arms, you begin to teach them. They hear your prayers, night and morning. They hear you pray to the Lord to help to open the doors of all the nations. They hear about missionary work. They hear you pray for your bishops and your mission presidents and all others who are serving you, and it just grows into their consciousness gradually.
Nearly every time I see a little boy, I say, “You will make a great missionary, won’t you?” You plant into his mind a seed. It is just like plants and other vegetation. It grows and grows, and if a father and a mother talk to their little boys … about going on a mission—when they are infants, almost—that little seed will grow and grow.
It is well for parents to start preparing their sons to save money early in their lives. Let them have the spirit of saving. Let them also have the spirit of studying and praying about the gospel, of seeing for themselves how the gospel works in their own lives and in the lives of those around them. Let them have the spirit of service throughout their growing years and the experience of helping others discuss the joys of the gospel message in their lives. Let them use their seminary and institute classes and experiences as a training ground for acquiring spiritual knowledge of great value to themselves and others. Let them prepare by keeping their lives clean and worthy and by wanting with all their heart to help the Lord take the gospel to those who are ready for it.
I hope that every family will hold home evening every Monday night without fail. Missionary work will be one of the strong points that will be brought before it (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Spencer W. Kimball, 267).
In a First Presidency message, President Hinckley also plead:
We ask that parents begin early to train their children. Where there is family prayer, where there are family home evenings, where there is scripture reading, where the father and mother are active in the Church and speak with enthusiasm concerning the Church and the gospel, the children in such homes become imbued in a natural way with a desire to teach the gospel to others. There is usually a tradition of missionary work in such homes. Savings accounts are set up while children are small. Boys grow up with a natural expectation that they will be called to serve as missionaries for the Church. A mission becomes as much a part of a boy’s program for life as is an education (Ensign, Oct. 1987, 2).
The second half of # 5 reads, “We can also prepare ourselves to serve full-time missions in our senior years” (p. 193).
Concerning this, President Kimball taught:
If health and other conditions permit, parents can look to the day when they, too, may serve a mission.
We have rather forgotten, we older people, who have been retired and who have found an easy place to go with our camping outfit and with our other opportunities. We have found an easy way to satisfy our own thoughts and our own consciences that the work must go on—we will send our boys, we say.
All of us have this responsibility. Not all of us are able, but many, many of us are.
We could use hundreds of couples, older people like some of you folks, whose families are reared, who have retired in their business, who are able to go … to teach the gospel. We could use hundreds of couples. You just go and talk to your bishop—that is all you need to do. Tell him, “We are ready to go, if you can use us.” I think you will probably get a call (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Spencer W. Kimball, 268-9).
From the same First Presidency message quoted earlier, President Hinckley also requested:
Along with the need for young elders and sisters, there is a growing need for couples in the mission field. Older married couples are doing a wonderful work in the missions. Many more are needed. Particularly we need those with foreign language abilities. They can serve in many responsibilities under the direction of sensitive and considerate mission presidents (Ensign, Oct. 1987, 2).
Elder Jeffrey R. Holland added:
Many more of us can prepare for senior missionary service when that time in our life comes. As the senior couples at the MTC in Provo have said on a poster, “Let’s lengthen our shuffle!” I just returned from a long trip which took me to half a dozen missions. Everywhere I went during those weeks, I found senior couples giving the most remarkable and rewarding leadership imaginable, providing stability, maturity, and experience that no 19-year-old or 21-year-old could possibly be expected to provide (Ensign, May 2001, 14).
In this section we read:
Our Heavenly Father will help us be effective missionaries when we have the desire to share the gospel and pray for guidance. He will help us find ways to share the gospel with those around us.
Think about people you can share the gospel with. Decide how you will do so. Consider setting a goal to share the gospel with these people by a certain date (p. 194).
President Woodruff explained:
It does not make any difference what age a man is in preaching the gospel, whether he be twenty-five, ninety, or five hundred years of age, if he is only inspired by the Spirit and power of God (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Wilford Woodruff, 98).
President Lee also added:
…it is the responsibility of all of us to be aware of our obligation to bear witness of the divine mission of the Lord wherever we have the opportunity. If we apply ourselves there are many opportunities to teach the gospel, day by day and hour by hour, wherever we may be. If we have lived for it, if we have prepared for it and if we seek it, the guiding Spirit will give us the ability to teach. Remember, words are just words, in teaching the gospel, unless they are accompanied by the Spirit of the Lord.
We should accept every opportunity to bring the knowledge of the gospel to others—to our inactive Church member associates, to our nonmember friends in college, military service, and business, to our neighbors and friends (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Harold B. Lee, 154).
President Kimball also stated:
I feel the Lord has placed, in a very natural way within our circles of friends and acquaintances, many persons who are ready to enter into his Church. We ask that you prayerfully identify those persons and then ask the Lord’s assistance in helping you introduce them to the gospel (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Spencer W. Kimball, 262).
Fear is often one of the reasons many of us do not do missionary work. It may be important to discuss the following scripture from the list of “Additional Scriptures”:
But with some I am not well pleased, for they will not open their mouths, but they hide the talent which I have given unto them, because of the fear of man. Wo unto such, for mine anger is kindled against them.
And it shall come to pass, if they are not more faithful unto me, it shall be taken away, even that which they have (D&C 60:2-3).
From Favorite Quotations from the Collection of Thomas S. Monson comes the following:
There never was a set of men, since God made the world, under a stronger responsibility to warn this generation. We are required to do this. This is our calling. It is our duty. It is our business (Wilford Woodruff).
In the above scripture, the Lord declared that we may lose our testimonies if we do not overcome fear and become missionaries. President Kimball warned:
Sometimes we forget that it is better to risk a little ruffling in the relationship of a friend than it is to deprive him of eternal life by keeping silent (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Spencer W. Kimball, 263).
In conference, a wonderful story was told by Elder Robert C. Oaks, of the Presidency of the Seventy:
Why don’t we do better in providing referrals? It is not laziness, because Latter-day Saints are not lazy people. I believe that the fear of rejection or the fear of hurting a friendship are the more common restraints to sharing the gospel.
But are these fears valid? When you extend to a friend an invitation to meet with the missionaries, you are offering to share something that is most valuable and cherished. Is that offensive? Sister Oaks and I have not found this to be the case. In fact, we have found that when we offer to share the gospel, friendships are strengthened, even though the friends may not embrace the gospel message.
Consider that you are invited to a friend’s house for breakfast. On the table you see a large pitcher of freshly squeezed orange juice from which your host fills his glass. But he offers you none. Finally, you ask, “Could I have a glass of orange juice?”
He replies, “Oh, I am sorry. I was afraid you might not like orange juice, and I didn’t want to offend you by offering you something you didn’t desire.”
Now, that sounds absurd, but it is not too different from the way we hesitate to offer up something far sweeter than orange juice. I have often worried how I would answer some friend about my hesitancy when I meet him beyond the veil (Ensign, Nov. 2000, 81).
One of our personal favorite ways of starting “gospel conversations” with friends, relatives, or complete strangers is, “One of the things I really like about my Church is…”
President Kimball’’s counsel may be appropriate here:
Don’t wait for long fellowshipping nor for the precise, perfect moment. What you need to do is find out if they are the elect. “[My] elect hear my voice and harden not their hearts.” (D&C 29:7) If they hear and have hearts open to the gospel, it will be evident immediately. If they won’t listen and their hearts are hardened with skepticism or negative comments, they are not ready. In this case, keep loving them and fellowshipping them and wait for the next opportunity to find out if they are ready. You will not lose their friendship. They will still respect you.
Of course, there are discouragements, but nothing is ever lost. No one ever loses a friend just because he doesn’t want to continue with the visits from the missionaries. The member can continue the association with no threat to his friendship or special relationship with that family. Sometimes it takes more time for some to come into the Church than for others. The member should continue to fellowship and try again at a later date for conversion. Don’t be discouraged just because of a temporary lack of progress. There are hundreds of stories about the value of perseverance in missionary service (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Spencer W. Kimball, 263-4).
The Lord Promises Us Blessings for Doing Missionary Work
President McKay elaborated on the title of this section:
If you will have your testimonies strengthened, to have it revealed to you now individually that Christ is aiding you in your work, guiding his Church, well the best way to do that is … doing your duty, … attending to missionary work (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: David O. McKay, 57).
President Kimball added:
Sharing the gospel brings peace and joy into our own lives, enlarges our own hearts and souls in behalf of others, increases our own faith, strengthens our own relationship with the Lord, and increases our own understanding of gospel truths.
The Lord has promised great blessings to us in proportion to how well we share the gospel. We will receive help from the other side of the veil as the spiritual miracles occur. The Lord has told us that our sins will be forgiven more readily as we bring souls unto Christ and remain steadfast in bearing testimony to the world, and surely every one of us is looking for additional help in being forgiven of our sins. (See D&C 84:61.) In one of the greatest of missionary scriptures, section 4 of the Doctrine and Covenants, we are told that if we serve the Lord in missionary service “with all [our] heart, might, mind, and strength,” then we may “stand blameless before God at the last day” (verse 2) (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Spencer W. Kimball, 259).
A great scripture to add to D&C 84:61 in the above quote is the following:
Let him know, that he which converteth the sinner from the error of his way shall save a soul from death, and shall hide a multitude of sins (James 5:20).
D&C 18:15-16 is quoted in this section. Concerning this scripture, President Grant taught:
The saving of souls, including our own soul, is the one great labor of all others that is most valuable and important, and that will bring to us the blessings of our Father and the good will of our Lord and Master, Jesus Christ.
We know that the first and most important duty for us is to love the Lord our God with all our heart, might, mind and strength; and second to that is love for our fellowmen. No people in all the world in proportion to their numbers, are giving such evidence of a love for their fellowmen, and a desire for their welfare, as are the Latter-day Saints. Our missionary work proclaims to all the world our willingness to make financial sacrifice and to labor with no hope of earthly reward, for the salvation of the souls of the children of our Father in heaven
…when we stop to reflect upon the revelation given to the Prophet Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery, in which the Lord says [then quotes D&C 18:15-16]; then we will begin to realize and comprehend and understand the magnitude of this work (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Heber J. Grant, 85-7).
Concerning the same scripture, President Kimball also added:
If one labors all his days and brings in save it be one soul! What joy! One soul! How precious! Oh, that God would give us that kind of love for souls! (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Spencer W. Kimball, 261).
An important concept in doing missionary work is the fact that sometimes you may never know in this earthly life what good is being done. President Lee taught this idea:
You’ll remember [Elder Charles A. Callis] told us about one time going up into Montana to visit a man who had filled a mission over in Ireland. After searching for this man, who was now an old, old man, he introduced himself and said, “Are you the missionary who labored in Ireland some years ago?” And the man said yes. “Well,” he said, “are you the man who when giving your farewell address in the mission field declared that you guessed you had been a failure for the three years that you had been over there because you had only been able to baptize one dirty little Irish kid? Did you say that?” “Yes, I remember that I did say that.” Brother Callis said, “Well, I would like to introduce myself. I’m Charles A. Callis of the Council of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I’m that dirty little Irish kid that you baptized while you were a missionary in Ireland.” One soul who became an apostle of the Church and Kingdom of God (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Harold B. Lee, 156).
Elder Eyring told a similar story:
A family moved into a house near us. The home was new, so I was part of the crew of Latter-day Saints who spent a number of nights putting in landscaping. I remember the last night, standing next to the husband of the family as we finished. He surveyed our work and said to us standing nearby, “This is the third yard you Mormons have put in for us, and I think this is the best.” And then he quietly but firmly told me of the great satisfaction he got from membership in his own church, a conversation we had often in the years he lived there.
In all that time, the acts of kindness extended to him and his family never ceased because the neighbors really came to love them. One evening, I came home to see a truck in his driveway. I had been told they were moving to another state. I approached to see if I could help. I didn’t recognize the man I saw loading household things into the truck. He said quietly as I drew near, “Hello, Brother Eyring.” I hadn’t recognized him because he was the son, now grown older, who had lived there, married, and moved away. And because of the love of many for him, he was now a baptized member of the Church. I don’t know the end of that story because it will have no end. But I know that it begins with love (Ensign, Nov 1998, 32).