Following a period of dramatic changes in the number of missionaries serving in the world, the Church now seeks improved focus on the doctrinal purpose of missionary work: teaching repentance and baptizing converts to the gospel of Jesus Christ.
That was the concluding message delivered by Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles at the Jan. 20 Worldwide Missionary Broadcast.
The meeting, which originated in the Conference Center Theater, was translated and broadcast to the Church's 75,000 full-time missionaries serving across the globe.
The essential doctrine of Christ, he said, was described by the Savior Himself:
“And this is my doctrine, and it is the doctrine which the Father hath given unto me; and I bear record of the Father, and the Father beareth record of me, and the Holy Ghost beareth record of the Father and me; and I bear record that the Father commandeth all men, everywhere, to repent and believe in me.
“And whoso believeth in me, and is baptized, the same shall be saved; and they are they who shall inherit the kingdom of God” (3 Nephi 11:32-33).
Such sacred words confirm that the doctrine of Christ is that “we must repent and be baptized and receive the gift of the Holy Ghost and endure to the end in order to be saved in the celestial kingdom of our God. Missionaries are called to teach that doctrine.”
Elder Oaks added that it is essential that missionaries know who they are and what they are called to do. Understanding these two things offers the “big picture” and the basis to understand everything else about being a missionary.
“Who are you? You are sons and daughters of God! Everything else you and I are is subordinate to that. Think of it! We are royalty — the sons and daughters of God!”
And what are missionaries called to do?
“You are not called to preach what is politically correct or personally comfortable,” he said. “You are not called to invite people to join a social club whose rules are made by its members. You are called to testify of Jesus Christ and to invite people to do what He has required to come unto Him and walk the path He has defined by His doctrine to reach exaltation in the celestial kingdom.”
In time, young missionaries will better understand the unique opportunities and responsibilities of their calling. They will come to realize how important their service as a full-time missionary is for the Lord’s work and for their personal lives. “I urge you to pray to understand and to have strength to act upon that importance so that in time to come you will not look back on your missionary service with the regret that comes from dishonor or even from opportunities lost and blessings postponed,” he said. “Pray that with the help of our Savior you will act so that you can look back on your missionary service with the sweet recollections that come from being faithful and true.”
Elder Oaks taught that it is critical that missionaries understand the role of Christ’s Atonement in their lives and in the lives of those they teach. The Savior came to redeem men “from their sins” upon the “conditions of repentance” (Helaman 5:11).
“When a person has gone through the repentance process, the Savior does more than cleanse that person from sin. He also gives him or her new strength. That strengthening is essential for us to realize the purpose of the cleansing, which is to return to our Heavenly Father.”
Missionaries, he added, do not preach and teach in order to bring people into the Church or to increase Church membership. They do not find and teach just to persuade people to live better lives. They offer something more.
“The fundamental purpose of our missionary work is to teach the word of God that men and women cannot be saved in the highest degree of glory, the celestial kingdom, without faith in the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ, and that the only way to lay claim to the ultimate merits of that Atonement is to follow the commands of its author: repent and be baptized and receive the Gift of the Holy Ghost and the ordinances of the temple and endure to the end. Those who do this can be exalted in the celestial kingdom.”
No one else can do this, declared Elder Oaks. Other churches cannot do it. Good Christian living cannot do it. Good faith, good desires and good reasoning cannot do it.
“Only a man or woman teaching the fulness of the gospel with priesthood authority can teach this, and only a man exercising the priesthood of God can administer a baptism that will satisfy the divine decree: ‘Except a man be born of water of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God’ ” (John 3:5). When missionaries connect their investigators to the Book of Mormon, they are giving them a “secure resource” to grow and go forward, with their families, to qualify for all of the blessings of the restored gospel.
“The conversion we seek is not just an event that precedes baptism but a process that follows baptism and continues throughout our lives,” he said. “You should, therefore, teach your investigators to study so they can be nourished by the good word of God. Teach them to pray so they can be inspired by the Holy Ghost. Teach them to pay their tithing so they can enjoy the blessings promised for obedience to the important principle of the gospel. Teach them to attend Church each Sabbath so they can partake of the sacrament and be renewed in the cleansing effect of their baptism and enjoy fulfillment of the Savior’s promise that the Spirit of the Lord will always be with them.”
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