I will focus my remarks on our responsibility as members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and as disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ to share the precious truths of the Gospel with all whom we come in contact with on a daily basis.
President Spencer W. Kimball said: “No person who has been converted to the gospel should shirk his responsibility to teach the truth to others. This is our privilege. This is our duty. This is a command from the Lord.” (Spencer W. Kimball, “It Becometh Every Man”, Ensign, Oct. 1977, 3) President Heber J. Grant said:
The first great commandment was to love the Lord our God with all our hearts, might, mind and strength; and the second was like unto it, to love our neighbor as ourselves. And the best way in the world to show our love for our neighbor is to go forth and proclaim the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ, of which he has given us an absolute knowledge concerning its divinity” (Conference Report, April 1927, p. 176).
In Doctrine and Covenants 88:81 we are taught, “. . . it becometh every man who hath been warned to warn his neighbor.” Therefore, every member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is responsible to bear witness of the truths that they have been given. Each of us have neighbors, friends, relatives, co-workers, or classmates, and it is our responsibility to pass the precious truths of the Gospel on to them, both by example and by precept.
In Conference of April 1959 when President David O. Mckay made the statement “Every member a missionary!”, it was more than just an ordinary statement. It was a directive to every member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to get busy doing the work of our Heavenly Father by spreading the truths of this glorious Gospel to the regions beyond. When Christ said to His disciples in Mark 16:15, “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature”, He was not saying to His disciples that this is something that you can think about doing, or something that you might want to do, but rather this was a mandate – marching orders from the Commander in Chief. There was no time for deliberation, debate, argument or discussion. He was clearly instructing His disciples that this was something that they MUST do. And, as members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and as disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ, that same mandate – those same marching orders, are given to us at this very hour.
President George Albert Smith said: “Begin on the man who lives next door by inspiring confidence in him, by inspiring love in him for you because of your righteousness, and your missionary work has already begun” (CR, October 1916, pp. 50-51). It does not matter if we wear the black name tag or not. As members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints we are all mandated to send forth His glorious light into the world of darkness. Some of us may never have the opportunity to serve a full-time mission for the Church, or find ourselves as members of the Church serving in a foreign land, but that does not exclude us from doing the work that our Heavenly Father has commanded us to do. Our mission field is found right in our own back yards. We have an awesome responsibility to share the Gospel with all whom we come in contact with – family members, friends, coworkers, neighbors, and classmates. President Spencer W. Kimball said: “If we do not do our duty in regard to missionary service, then I am convinced that God will hold us responsible for the people we might have saved had we done our duty” (Ensign, October 1977, p. 5). Elder Bruce R. McConkie said:
In the day of wickedness just preceding our Lord’s return there is to be a great harvest of souls. We live in that day, the day when the harvest is ripe. We have deluded ourselves long enough with the thought that this is a day of gleaning only. This is not a day of gleaning, but of harvest . . . Now this work is going to succeed. This is absolutely guaranteed, it is the eternal decree of the Lord.
Perhaps the greatest reason for missionary work is to give the world its chance to hear and accept the Gospel. The Lord has indicated that we can expect His power to be with us when we proclaim His Word. He indicates one way this power is to be used when He said:
. . . 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: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen (Matthew 28:18-20).
The Lord has also indicated that He will not only open the necessary doors for missionary work, but He will accompany those who embark in this service. Earlier in this dispensation He made the following promise to the President of the Council of the Twelve, and this same principle applies to all who are in His service today. In Doctrine and Covenants 112:19 we read: “Wherefore, whithersoever they shall send you, go ye, and I will be with you; and in whatsoever place ye shall proclaim my name an effectual door shall be opened unto you, that they may receive my word.” If missionary work is indeed the Lord’s work, which it is, and if it is to go forth by His power, which it will, then why should we, as members of His True Church, fear or hesitate in taking the message of the Gospel to others? We are reminded in Matthew 5:14-16,
Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.
The message that we bring is a message of love, hope, peace and joy. In John 3:16-17 we read, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.” The message that we bring to the world is one that testifies of the fact that God still loves the world and that He has spoken yet again as an indication of that Divine love. He has restored precious truths lost over the centuries of Christian persecution, dark ages, and years of confusion – truths that are essential to our peace and happiness – truths so essential to our eternal salvation that our loving Heavenly Father has restored them in their fullness. As missionaries, we testify of a restoration that is so miraculous that only the hand of God could be its author – so miraculous in fact, that it can only be fully understood and believed by those who understand the power of God and His love for all mankind.
What is the purpose of missionary work? Alexander B. Morrison sums it up this way,
The very purpose of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints [is] to invite, encourage, and assist all of God’s children, both living and dead, to come to Christ, “and lay hold upon every good gift” (Moroni 10:30), that “ye may receive a remission of your sins, and be filled with the Holy Ghost, that ye may be numbered with my people who are of the house of Israel” (3 Nephi 30:2). That is why we do missionary work.
President Gordon B. Hinckley further clarified the purpose of missionary work when he said, “The work of the missionary is everlasting in its consequences. Acceptance of the gospel at the hands of a true and dedicated teacher affects not only the recipient, but also generations who are to come after the recipient” (Ensign, May 1983, p. 85).
Missionary work affords us the opportunity to manifest our love of the Savior, who has commanded us to “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.” (Mark 16:15) It also affords us the opportunity to express our love to all humanity. It affords us the opportunity to testify of Jesus Christ, the Son of the Living God, the Redeemer of the World as well as an opportunity to build our faith in Christ and to teach His saving and comforting doctrine. In Doctrine and Covenants 14:3 we read, “Behold, the field is white already to harvest; therefore, who desireth to reap, let him thrust in his sickle with his might, and reap while the day lasts, that he may treasure up for his soul everlasting salvation in the kingdom of God.”
Elder L. Tom Perry said:
More blessings come to us in going forth to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ, and laboring for the salvation of the souls of men, than can possibly come to us by merely having a knowledge of the truth of our religion, and then remaining at home to mingle and labor in the ordinary affairs of life, and accumulate the wealth of this world that perishes with the using” (Ensign, May 1984, p. 80).
President Spencer W. Kimball assured us that “We are the messengers, and we have the acceptable message.” And President John Taylor said: “When men go forth in the name of Israel’s God, there is no power on earth that can overturn the truths they advocate” (JD, 12:396).
Now may I take just a couple of minutes to mention a few things that I feel are key elements in becoming faithful and successful missionaries:
1. Be a student of the Word. Spend time studying the scriptures every day. It is through the study of the scriptures that we come to have a intimate relationship with our Savior. We learn the principles and doctrines of His precious truths. As we learn, we should develop the desire to want to share these truths with others. Truth is meant to be shared not kept to ourselves.
2. Be diligent and watchful. “ . . . be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear” (1 Peter 3:15). Look for opportunities to share the Gospel and then when those opportunities arise don’t be afraid to open your mouth. Again I say, truth is meant to be shared, not kept to ourselves.
3. Believe in the message that you are bringing. Have a strong testimony of the truthfulness of the Gospel. Know why you believe the things that you do and then be willing to boldly share that testimony with others.
4. Be prayerful. Prayer changes things. Even when it seems that no one wants to hear what you have to say, it is amazing how many doors are opened as a result of earnest prayer.
5. Be of good cheer. Know that whom the Lord sends to do His work, He also prepares. He will never leave you alone to fend for yourself. He is always there to lead and to guide. Therefore, make sure that you approach missionary work with the right spirit and the right attitude. Go forth, not with the attitude that you are going to change the world in a day, but with the attitude that you can and will make a difference in the world today.
May I conclude my remarks by quoting a small portion of a message by President Spencer W. Kimball titled “It Becometh Every Man”. I believe what President Kimball had to say provides an excellent summary for all of those things which have been said. He said:
Our role as missionaries is not primarily to convince people of the truthfulness of the gospel. If the Lord were primarily interested in convincing people of the divine nature of this work, He could, and perhaps would, demonstrate His powers in such a way that large numbers of people could know the truth in a relatively brief period of time. He could speak if He chose, and all the people on earth could hear in their own language. Or He could emblazon His words in the sky, where all could read or see them. But if those persons thus convinced did not really change their lives for the better, repent of their sins, and turn to Him in righteousness, they would be worse off than before and would be more insensitive to the whisperings of the Holy Spirit.
No, the Lord is not primarily interested in having His children only convinced of His work. He would like them to be converted to the gospel. Truly converted persons change their old sinful ways and turn to a new life in Christ; there is truly a “converting” or a changing in their lives. As the apostle Paul put it anciently—
“Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new” (2 Corinthians 5:17).
As missionaries, members are vital and necessary parts of the conversion process. Sometimes in our discussions of missionary work we state that a missionary “converts” so many persons. Actually, the missionary does not convert anyone; the Holy Ghost does the converting. The power of conversion is directly associated with the Holy Ghost, for no person can be truly converted and know that Jesus is the Christ save by the power of the Holy Ghost.
As a vital link in the conversion process, we should bear our testimonies that the gospel is true; our testimonies may well be the spark that ignites the conversion process. Consequently, we have a double responsibility: we must testify of the things we know, feel, and have felt, and we must live so the Holy Ghost can be with us and convey our words in power to the heart of the investigator.
(First Presidency Message “It Becometh Every Man“, Spencer W. Kimball, Ensign, Oct. 1977, 3)
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. In one of the greatest 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.” (Doctrine and Covenants 4:2). And further, the Lord says:
And if it so be that you should labor all your days in crying repentance unto this people, and bring, save it be one soul unto me, how great shall be your joy with him in the kingdom of my Father! And now, if your joy will be great with one soul that you have brought unto me into the kingdom of my Father, how great will be your joy if you should bring many souls unto me! (Doctrine and Covenants 18:15-16)
The best way to get people interested in the Gospel is to live the ideas and standards 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, represent ourselves as members of the Church? None of us can effectively teach the Gospel if we do not live it. The first act to qualify yourself to be a missionary is to live the principles you teach. Christ said, “Therefore, hold up your light that it may shine unto the world. Behold I am the light which ye shall hold up—that which ye have seen me do. Behold ye see that I have prayed unto the Father, and ye all have witnessed.” (3 Nephi 18:24) Our task is to “hold up” to the world that which Christ has done for man: the atonement, the example that He set, and the teachings that He has given us personally and through His prophets, ancient and modern. The Savior also counseled us: “Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.” (Matthew 5:14 – 16) Someone has wisely said: “Be careful how you act, because you may be the only Standard Church Works some people may ever read.”
It is the responsibility of all of us to be aware of our obligation to bear witness of the truthfulness of the Gospel of Jesus Christ wherever we have the opportunity. If we will apply ourselves, we will find that there are many opportunities to teach the Gospel, day to day, hour by hour, wherever we may be. If we have lived it, if we have prepared for it and if we seek it, the Holy Spirit will guide us and give us the ability to teach. Always remember, words are just words, in teaching the Gospel, unless they are accompanied by the Spirit of the Lord. Our responsibility is to bring the world the message of truth, to show the world that within the teachings of the Gospel of Jesus Christ are to be found the answers to every problem that humanity encounters. We should avail ourselves of every opportunity to bring the knowledge of the Gospel to others—to our inactive Church member associates, to our nonmember family members, to our nonmember friends in college, military service, and business, to our neighbors and friends, classmates and co-workers. Of a certainty, the Gospel of Jesus Christ is the brightest light and the only hope for this darkened world in which we live. “Wherefore, as Nephi teaches, “we must press forward with a steadfastness in Christ, having a perfect brightness of hope, and a love of God and of all men” (2 Nephi 31:20).
I close with my testimony that I know that there is no greater work on this earth than missionary work. I testify to you of the blessings that it brings. I further testify to you that I know that this Church is true and I know that the Gospel of Jesus Christ is true. Matthew 9:37-38, “Then saith he unto his disciples, The harvest truly is plenteous, but the labourers are few; Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he will send forth labourers into his harvest.” I know that He will because this is His work and His work MUST be fulfilled. That we may always be found faithful soldiers in our Savior’s Army, always ready on the alert to serve wherever we may be called to proclaim His truth is my humble prayer. In the name of our Lord and Savior Jesus the Christ. Amen.
Keith Lionel Brown is a convert to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He was baptized on 10 March 1998 in Reykjavik, Iceland while serving on active duty in the United States Navy in Keflavic, Iceland. He is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of “Morsels Of Bread.”