Missionary Work Broader Than Ever; Includes Before and After Baptism
Contributed By Gerry Avant, Church News editor
“As the Lord’s missionaries, we must feel the same urgency to help retain new converts and reactivate those who have fallen away as we do to bring into the waters of baptism those who have never had the gospel.” —Elder David F. Evans of the Seventy
The missionary purpose is “to invite others to come 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” (Preach My Gospel , 1).
Speaking June 22 during the 2014 Seminar for New Mission Presidents, Elder David F. Evans told new mission leaders, “If you learn nothing else in this seminar, please learn and come to understand that missionary work today includes the entire missionary purpose and is much broader and more wonderful than what you may recall as a young missionary. In the Church today, missionaries, working with members, labor for the salvation of the souls of men both before and after baptism. Today, we work with members in member missionary work. We work to retain new members and reactivate less-active members. We work to connect temple and family history work to our efforts in finding, retaining, reactivating, and enduring. And we labor diligently to increase our ability to teach the gospel of Jesus Christ in a manner that can be understood in the hearts of those we teach.”
Elder Evans, a member of the Seventy and Executive Director of the Missionary Department, spoke about baptism, receiving the Holy Ghost, and enduring to the end.
“Baptism is the gate by which one enters the Church, but it is not the end,” he said. He quoted words and phrases in Doctrine and Covenants 20:37 that serve as qualifying terms for baptism: humble, desire, broken hearts, contrite spirits, truly repented, willing, determination to serve Him to the end, and manifest by their works.
He spoke of helping new and returning members to retain and deepen their faith and keep living the gospel so that they receive the gift of the Holy Ghost and the remission of their sins. “Some who once had the gospel need to be rescued, and almost always, their families and their friends need to be taught the gospel and be baptized. We teach and help all of them; we stay with them long after their baptism or reactivation to help sustain them.
“Finally, all need help to endure to the end, including receiving their own endowment and being sealed as families. We help them because an important part of our very purpose is to invite ‘others to come unto Christ’ by helping them endure to the end.
“Our entire labor is to help our Father’s children return safely to Him as sealed eternal families. As the Lord’s missionaries, we must feel the same urgency to help retain new converts and reactivate those who have fallen away as we do to bring into the waters of baptism those who have never had the gospel. … We must remember that our work is not done until all of them—and all of us—are safely ‘gathered into’ the temples as families ‘that they are not wasted’” (see Alma 26:5).
Further, Elder Evans said, “There has never been a better time to be engaged in this work, as members and missionaries throughout the world labor together for the salvation of the souls of men.”
He spoke of President Monson's announcement during the October 2012 general conference that the missionary age would be lowered to 18 for qualified young men and 19 for young women who have a desire to serve. Elder Evans said, “The rising generation of the Church responded unlike anything I have ever experienced. Overwhelmingly, this generation said, ‘Yes, I will serve.’” On the day of the announcement, Elder Evans said, there were 58,500 missionaries. Today, there are nearly 86,000 missionaries, and the numbers continue to grow. “Because of President Monson’s announcement, the Church has fundamentally changed, and as far as we can see, there will always be more missionaries than there were before the age change. Last year at this time, 58 new missions were created. These missions were not created to handle the surge of missionaries. Rather, they were created to handle the number of missionaries who would be serving after the initial wave of missionaries comes home.”
He said it has become clear that members and missionaries must labor together in the Lord’s work.
He noted that the Lord’s Church is governed through councils at every level. “Full expression from all participants is invited in council settings, unifying the efforts of both male and female council members, and … a new leadership calling has been established in missions. “This calling is the sister training leader. … They serve as a vital part of mission leadership, and they are members of and participate in the mission leadership council. … Sisters, you are also included as a member of the mission leadership council. … Presidents, as you hold these monthly council meetings, please ensure that your wife, assistants to the president, zone leaders, and sister training leaders all participate and that the contribution of each is valued and recognized.”
Elder Evans spoke of the increasing use of technology and digital devices to help missionaries in their work. “I hope you can see that the Lord is doing more than just bringing our learning and teaching methods into the 21st century. As He has called more and younger missionaries into His service, He is providing a way for them to learn how to use technology in righteous ways that will bless their lives forever. We must not be fearful of the Internet or technology. Rather, we must, together, learn how to use these remarkable tools for the purposes the Lord provided them.”
Elder Evans added, “As we move forward into the digital age, we must remember that our message of the Savior, the Restoration, the Book of Mormon, and living prophets remains the same. We will have some new tools to be used to further His work, but we must always remember that traditional proselyting methods should not be set aside, but should continue to be a key part of missionary work.”
Elder Evans said each part of the missionary purpose is important, that no part should be given diminished emphasis. “In our purpose statement, you will see the continuing importance of doing those things that precede baptism, such as helping others have faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and His Atonement and helping others learn of the commandments and repent of their sins. All of this must be done before baptism, and when it is done well, the baptism of a truly converted son or daughter of God is one of the most joyous events in mortality.”
Elder Evans then noted that “after baptism, we must stay with the new or returning member so that we can help them keep not only the commitments that preceded baptism, but also the covenants and commandments that come with and after baptism.”
“As we work to go from where we have been in missionary service to where the Lord is taking us, we will not only have to work hard, but we must also have a greater capacity to see these young men and young women who have been called by Him the way He sees them.”
He spoke of having received that insight as a mission president in Japan when he observed missionaries arriving and departing from interviews during a winter storm; each smiled despite the discomfort brought by the weather and continued their labors.
“By a wonderful gift of the Spirit, I felt His pure love—His charity—that He has for faithful missionaries everywhere, and it changed me forever. For the first time, I understood how precious each missionary is to Him. I caught a glimpse of what Elder M. Russell Ballard has called ‘the greatest generation of missionaries’ the world has ever known. …
“Coming to understand how the Lord felt about His young servants changed everything about me as a mission president. I stopped thinking about how to manage them. I began to teach them differently. I sought to uplift and inspire instead of find fault. I began to work differently and more often with individual missionaries. I came to understand that the key to helping them become who the Lord would have them become was to help increase their desire to become a disciple of the Lord and do His work. I began to trust them more and teach them more after the patterns the Lord had set. … I came to know that I shouldn’t make additional rules, but rather that I should trust them and the Lord enough that I would teach and teach, and teach again, correct principles and the missionary rules that were already in place, and then trust them to govern themselves and follow the Spirit.”