“Hastening the work of salvation” — it’s more than a present-day push or a current Church catchphrase. Certainly the total is greater than the sum of its high-profile parts – such as online proselytizing, digital devices and a mushrooming missionary force – that tend to capture our attention more so than enhance our collective efforts.
One may equate the “work of salvation” as simply “missionary work.” While both state and imply “work,” consider the word in a grander, big-picture way, as it relates to God’s plan and purpose:
“For behold, this is my work and my glory — to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man” (Moses 1:39).
Indeed, the “work of salvation” does start with proclaiming — plus perfecting, redeeming and rescuing all rolled into one. That same message is conveyed in the following: “A united effort in conversion, retention and activation” — the subtitle of the Church’s new “Hastening the Work of Salvation” website partnered with the similarly titled June 23rd worldwide satellite broadcast.
In that broadcast, President Thomas S. Monson both underscored urgency and emphasized cooperative efforts.
“Now is the time for members and missionaries to come together, to work together, to labor in the Lord’s vineyard to bring souls unto Him,” President Monson said. “He has prepared the means for us to share the gospel in a multitude of ways, and He will assist us in our labors if we will act in faith to fulfill His work.”
The work is hastening, enlarging and all-encompassing. No longer do members simply pray for missionaries to find people to teach — they lead out in the finding, inviting and fellowshipping. No longer do missionaries baptize converts and simply pass them off to the wards and branches — they participate in extended retention efforts and join unit leaders and councils in reaching out to all members.
The work of salvation expands the missionary purpose (Preach My Gospel, p. 1). The following added phrase — set off in italics – isn’t in the published statement, but it’s certainly implied now: “To invite others to come unto Christ — or to come back unto Christ — by helping them receive the restored gospel through faith in Jesus Christ and His Atonement, repentance, baptism, receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost and enduring to the end.”
For full-time missionaries, “hastening the work of salvation” is being involved in the real spiritual growth of individuals, families and branches, wards and stakes — helping God’s children to their next ordinance as they progress through life and back to God’s presence.
For a nonmember, the next ordinances are obviously baptism and confirmation. For a recent convert, the next ordinance may be an Aaronic Priesthood ordination or temple baptisms for deceased ancestors. For a prospective elder, the next ordinance may be receiving the Melchizedek Priesthood. For a less-active member or part-member household, it might be a temple endowment or temple sealing.
For others, the next ordinance may be returning — after a lengthy absence — to partake of the sacrament or attend the temple.
And now, full-time missionaries are more actively involved with all of those people and all of those efforts.
Modern-day prophets have guided the Church to where members can really understand and participate in “the hastening.” Just consider:
• President Spencer W. Kimball’s vision of a blossoming, worldwide missionary force.
• President Ezra Taft Benson’s call for a greater understanding and sharing of the Book of Mormon.
• President Howard W. Hunter’s highlighting of temple worship and ordinances.
• President Gordon B. Hinckley’s lead on the global explosion of the number of temples and a focus on converts — a friend, a responsibility and the nurturing from the “good word of God” (Moroni 6:4).
• President Monson’s emphasis on merging members and missionaries in proclaiming the gospel and his lifelong example of “to the rescue.”
Still, one can’t consider the “hastening the work of salvation” without acknowledging the recent advancements, enhancements and developments. From a member-missionary work standpoint, they include:
• The lowered minimum ages of full-time missionaries to 18 years for young men and 19 for young women. The missionary force exploded by more than 22,000 missionaries alone in the first 12 months after President Monson’s October 2012 General Conference announcement; the total surpassed 82,000 this month.
• An increased missionary presence worldwide. Fifty-eight new missions were created in 2013, pushing the global total to 405. Missionary training centers were enlarged or created, including the Provo and Mexico City MTCs.
• The upsurge of full-time sister missionaries. Some missions have doubled and even tripled the number of sisters serving over the past year. The recently created role of “sister training leaders” improves the training and involvement of the sister missionaries and enhances the representation on and perspective of the mission leadership council.
• The “Hastening The Work of Salvation” broadcast and website. The June 23, 2013, satellite broadcast and accompanying website brought member leaders and missionaries together in historic fashion, uniting efforts and providing simplified, focused video and text training from the Internet site.
• Stake conference focus. The First Presidency called for the Saturday evening adult session of stake conferences to follow the “hastening” theme, and invited full-time missionaries – and beginning next year, the youth – to attend those sessions.
• The 2013 Come, Follow Me curriculum. In their Sunday lessons, the youth are more actively engaged in the planning, preparation and participation of gospel study and discussion.
• Emphasis on family history. This is not your Grandma’s genealogy any more, with indexing replacing extraction and the increased involvement of youth — sometimes as family history consultants. The spirit of Elijah can spark interest and spiritual awakening.
• Meetinghouse-based proselytizing. Besides being gathering places for LDS worship and activities, meetinghouses are used to welcome midweek visitors and serve as sites for lessons, explanatory walk-throughs and family history introductions and research.
• Online proselytizing. Started previously by a handful of test missions, online proselytizing – the use of Skype, Facebook, lds.org and mormon.org Internet features, texting, emailing and blogs – is being authorized for use by more missions. Besides enhancing proselytizing efforts with investigators and members in a missionary’s assigned area, it extends the missionary’s reach worldwide. In its first full month of online proselytizing, Arizona Phoenix Mission missionaries taught online lessons in 35 of the 50 United States and 31 different nations. In the second month, teaching by the mission not only substantially increased within those initial areas but extended to totals of 42 states and 50 countries.
• Digital devices. Gone are the days of flannel boards and flipcharts. In select North America and international missions, the Missionary Department is distributing iPads and iPhones — equipped with digital planners and digital area books and the aforementioned apps used for online proselyting. The devices allow missionaries to use the latest in mapping and GPS features, electronic versions of pamphlets, Gospel Library and other audio-visual features in teaching, and real-time updating of lessons, progress, performance goals and needs.
In his concluding address at the June 2013 new mission presidents seminar, Elder L. Tom Perry of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles said, “I can see the future unfold before us to where we will have greater opportunity to teach the gospel with the new methods, with new opportunities that we have never had.”
And he summarized his feelings of “hastening the work of salvation” this way: “This is the most remarkable era in the history of the Church. This is something that ranks with the great events that have happened in the past history, like the First Vision, like the gift of the Book of Mormon, like the Restoration of the gospel, like all of the things that build that foundation for us to go forward and teach in our Heavenly Father’s Kingdom.”