There’s a humorous, oft-told report of a sign reading “Missionaries Only!” being posted on a large playing field at the Provo Missionary Training Center.
One morning, folks arriving at the MTC discovered a new sign had been posted: “Every Member a Missionary!”
The “rogue” sign was intended to be playful — but it also contained an essential, divinely taught truth. We are all missionaries. All who have accepted the gospel, been baptized and taken upon themselves Christ’s name have been extended a sacred charge of sharing God’s teachings with others.
The Savior instructed His original apostles: “Go 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 alway, even unto the end of the world” (Matthew 28: 19-20).
Peter would also learn that he demonstrated his love for the Lord by feeding “His sheep,” by caring for others and teaching them the words of God. Such duties remain with today’s latter-day prophets as they travel the world witnessing of Christ and caring for the members of the Church in their own lands.
But the Savior’s impassioned charge to “feed [His] sheep” is not, of course, directed only to ordained apostles.
“[Jesus Christ] was also talking to every person who has been blessed to hear the gospel and is a member of His Church,” said Elder M. Russell Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles in a talk at the April 2003 general conference. “In revelation to the Prophet Joseph Smith, the Lord puts it in very simple terms: ‘It becometh every man who hath been warned to warn his neighbor’ ” (Doctrine and Covenants 88:81).
The apostle added the Church’s worldwide missionary corps has been challenged to increase its spiritual maturity and standards of worthiness and preparation. “Raising the bar” places every elder and sister called to full-time missionary service in a better position to receive inspiration and guidance as they share the gospel in their respective assignments.
“But as we raise the level of expectation for the performance of our missionaries, we must also raise the level of expectation for the performance of all of the members of the Church in fulfilling our missionary duties,” he said. “We need your help, brothers and sisters, to support and assist our missionaries in finding and baptizing many more of our Heavenly Father’s children. We need you to watch over, protect, and inspire the missionaries, who are servants of the Lord.
“If the standard is to be raised, it is raised for all of us. We must be more faithful. We must be more spiritually in tune. We must prepare ourselves to assist the missionaries in finding those of our Heavenly Father’s children who will embrace the message of the Restoration.”
It was President Gordon B. Hinckley who taught in a 2003 worldwide leadership training meeting: “It will be a great day when our people not only pray for the missionaries throughout the world, but ask the Lord to help them to assist the missionaries who are laboring in their own ward.”
Elder Ballard said member-missionaries are not marketing a product. “We’re not selling anything.” Instead, it’s vital that members understand that when they seek out and share the gospel with others, they are bringing safety to all who seek truth.
The Lord does not attach conditions on who can share His gospel. All are invited to join the happy work of bringing others to Christ.
Recently, a little boy joined his family on a Sunday afternoon excursion to Temple Square with several visiting relatives who are not members. The group wandered about the temple grounds, conversed with the sister missionaries and enjoyed exhibits at the visitors centers.
Later, on the drive home, the little boy told his visiting relatives that he always had fun being at Temple Square because it made him feel close to Jesus and his family. At that moment he realized he was doing missionary work. He wasn’t wearing a black missionary badge. He didn’t have a missionary companion. But he was undoubtedly a missionary — a member missionary.
The missionary-minded Apostle Paul taught young Timothy, “Be thou an example of the believers.” Paul’s words apply equally to members of the restored Church.
“Each member can be an example of the believers,” said President Russell M. Nelson, president of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles in his October 2010 general conference address. “As followers of Jesus Christ, each of you can live in accord with His teachings. You can have ‘a pure heart and clean hands’; you can have ‘the image of God engraven upon your [countenance].’ Your good works will be evident to others. The light of the Lord can beam from your eyes.
“With that radiance, you had better prepare for questions. The Apostle Peter so counseled, ‘Be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you.’ ”
The Book of Mormon is the member-missionary’s wisest and most reliable and effective missionary companion. It is the primary resource any member should utilize when sharing the gospel with a neighbor, a relative, a close friend or even a complete stranger.
“Explain that it is not a novel or a history book,” said President Nelson. “It is another testament of Jesus Christ. Its very purpose is ‘to the convincing of the Jew and Gentile that Jesus is the Christ, the Eternal God, manifesting himself unto all nations.’ There is a power in this book that can touch the hearts and lift the lives of honest seekers of truth.”
Members can also open up their homes to the missionaries. Homes remain, perhaps, the most comfortable venue for friends and acquaintances to meet with missionaries. And don’t overlook opportunities to share the gospel online.
“Now in this day of the Internet, there are new and exciting ways you can do missionary work,” said President Nelson. “You can invite friends and neighbors to visit the new Mormon.org website. If you have blogs and online social networks, you could link your sites to Mormon.org. And there you can create your own personal profile. Each profile includes an expression of belief, an experience and a testimony.”