What is your reaction to hearing the words "hastening the work?" Do you retreat (maybe just inwardedly)? Or do you think, "Sweet, I love sharing the gospel!" If you are the former, please don’t discount my talk as I will discuss more than missionary work.
For now, take a moment to ponder the great missionaries you know from ancient times to modern day:
- Do you think of Paul (previously known as Saul) who, as we learn in Acts 9:1-6, kicked against the pricks only to hear the voice of the Lord calling him to repentance? Immediately, he left what he was doing and served faithfully from that day forward. Much of the New Testament talks about his missionary experiences.
- Do you think of Alma and the sons of Mosiah (including Ammon, Aaron, Omner, and Himni) from the Book of Mormon who also repented of their sins to be instrumental in converting thousands of Lamanites of the wicked traditions of their fathers?
- Do you think of the Anti Nephi-Lehis who would rather lose their lives than sin?
- Do you think of Wilford Woodruff who brought many to the gospel in this last dispensation?
- Do you think of a close friend or family member who is not afraid to bring up the gospel when directed by the spirit?
Now consider what these individuals or groups of individuals have in common. Let me propose a missionary cycle for hastening the work based on the above examples: (1) they prepared themselves and were converted, (2) they were courageous enough to share the gospel, and (3) they reflected on their experiences which further converted them to the gospel.
Preparing to Share the Gospel
So how do we adequately prepare to share the gospel? Let me explain using rock climbing as an example:
Rock climbing can be an exhilarating and fulfilling endeavor when done correctly. Time and time again in my youth, I would scale the mountain walls completely relying on the rope and my belayer if I fell. Even recently, Amy and I have enjoyed climbing together until something round got in the way. Sometimes, the routes were very difficult, laden with overhangs, which required strength beyond what I sometimes had. In fact, at times, moving up required completely letting go of some holds to get to the next good hold. From below, you may hear what seem to be encouraging words, "Hang in there!" However, for any of you who have experienced the thrill of rock climbing, hanging there is anything but helpful. At least for me, my arms begin to shake, my strength seems to falter, and my mind becomes uneasy. Next thing I know, I lose my grip and my belayer catches me as I fall.
Through trials and challenges, we are frequently told to "hang in there"; however, Kevin W. Pearson of the Quorum of the Seventy stated in the past general conference, "Let me be clear: to ‘hang in there’ is not a principle of the gospel. Enduring to the end means constantly coming unto Christ and being perfected in Him…Enduring to the end is a hallmark of true discipleship and is essential to eternal life."
What are we "holding" that is preventing us from enduring to the end? What spiritual jumps do we need to make to get back on the path and endure to the end? What ways are we just hanging there? Is it scripture study, prayer, family home evening, church attendance, temple attendance, or sharing the gospel? From my own experiences, I know that moving forward with the principles of the gospel will make life more joyous and help us become better disciples of Jesus Christ. Occasionally, we fall, but just like with the belayer, if we are tethered to Christ when our strength falters he will buoy us up.
Therefore, let’s us do the things that will tether us to Christ. As Ezra Taft Benson has stated, "yesterday’s meal is not enough to sustain today’s needs. So also an infrequent reading of ‘the most correct of any book on earth,’ as Joseph Smith called it, is not enough." (History of the Church, 4:461.). I would also substitute infrequent prayer, infrequent family home evening, infrequent church attendance, infrequent temple attendance, and infrequent sharing of the gospel is not enough.
When sharing the gospel, we can take to heart the teaching found in D&C 38:30 that if we are prepared we should not fear. People who want the light of Christ will gravitate to you if you have the light of Christ.
Sharing the Gospel
According to IBM, "every day, we create 2.5 quintillion bytes of data (this is equivalent to 2.5 million 1 TB hard drives) — so much that 90% of the data in the world today has been created in the last two years alone. This data comes from everywhere: sensors used to gather climate information, posts to social media sites, digital pictures and videos, purchase transaction records, and cell phone GPS signals to name a few." Let us help our friends filter through all this data to find the information that is most important for their salvation.
Let us not be too caught up in our own lives and our own digital world that we are unwilling to share the gospel. Neal A. Maxwell, an apostle of this dispensation, when referring to the tugs and pulls of the world said, "Mark it down, brothers and sisters, people too caught up in themselves will inevitably let other people down!"
Sharing the gospel can be scary. From personal experience, I have been scared to share the gospel with my friends. My dissertation advisor would always ask me questions about the church, so I decided to invite him to learn more. He declined. I invited my good Baptist friend to hear what we believe about the gospel and was turned down because he feared it would hurt our relationship. I invited an agnostic friend of mine to listen to the gospel and he accepted only to get through the first two lessons and say, "The terrestrial kingdom sounds perfect for me!" Indeed it was scary but each opportunity seemed to relieve a burden that I didn’t even know was there.
Boyd K. Packer said back in 2004, "the study of the doctrines of the gospel will improve behavior quicker than a study of behavior will improve behavior." Therefore, let us encourage our friends to study the doctrines of the gospel as found in scriptures and modern-day revelation. According to Ezra Taft Benson, "We learn much about how to do missionary work. And more than anywhere else, we see in the Book of Mormon the dangers of materialism and setting our hearts on the things of the world…I have a conviction: The more we teach and preach from the Book of Mormon, the more we shall please the Lord and the greater will be our power of speaking. By so doing, we shall greatly increase our converts, both within the Church and among those we proselyte…Our commission then is to teach the principles of the gospel which are in the Bible and the Book of Mormon."
As a reminder, our responsibility isn’t to convert or baptize rather our responsibility is to invite and teach. We can invite others to listen to the missionaries when they ask us questions. We can invite others to come listen to us give talks in church. We can invite others to ward activities. We can invite others to family home evening. Ultimately, our invitation is to invite people to come to Christ.
Wilford Woodruff once said, "When you go into a neighborhood to preach the Gospel, never attempt to tear down a man’s house, so to speak, before you build him a better one; never, in fact, attack anyone’s religion, wherever you go. Be willing to let every man enjoy his own religion. It is his right to do that. If he does not accept your testimony with regard to the Gospel of Christ, that is his affair, and not yours. Do not spend your time in pulling down other sects and parties. We haven’t time to do that. It is never right to do that."
The spirit will tell you who to share the gospel with. If a name has come to mind while you have attended sacrament meeting, I invite you to extend an invitation to them to learn more.
Reflection on Sharing the Gospel
Despite our attempts to share the gospel, many may reject our invitation. We cannot be discouraged, instead we should do as Neal A. Maxwell said, "We can respond to irritation with a smile instead of scowl, or by giving warm praise instead of icy indifference. By our being understanding instead of abrupt, others, in turn, may decide to hold on a little longer rather than to give way. Love, patience, and meekness can be just as contagious as rudeness and crudeness."
We can remember that it wasn’t easy for those before us:
- Many of the original apostles became martyrs.
- Ammon’s brethren were imprisoned for teaching the gospel.
- Early latter-day saints suffered trials beyond comprehension.
- Finally, Jesus Christ "descended below all things" (D&C 88:6-7) so that we would have someone who we could go to in any time of trial.
Rather than getting discouraged, we would do good to remember the advice found in D&C 122:7: "And if thou shouldst be cast into the pit, or into the hands of murderers, and the sentence of death passed upon thee; if thou be cast into the deep; if the billowing surge conspire against thee; if fierce winds become thine enemy; if the heavens gather blackness, and all the elements combine to hedge up the way; and above all, if the very jaws of hell shall gape open the mouth wide after thee, know thou, my son, that all these things shall give thee experience, and shall be for thy good." I hope we can all have that perspective.
Finally, I remind you of the scripture in D&C 18: 13-16 of what we will experience through successful missionary experiences: "And how great is his joy in the soul that repenteth!…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!"