The Divine Relationship between Missionary Work and the Spirit of Elijah
Contributed By By Jason Swensen, Church News staff writer
At the 2013 seminar for new mission presidents, Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve taught of the divine relationship between missionary work and the Spirit of Elijah. He called attention to teachings from Joseph Smith that the “greatest and most important duty” is to preach the gospel and that “the greatest responsibility in this world that God has laid upon us is to seek after our dead.”
Some, said Elder Bednar, may wonder how both preaching the gospel and seeking after one’s dead can simultaneously be the greatest duties and responsibilities God has placed upon His children.
Elder Bednar explained: “My purpose is to suggest that these teachings highlight the unity and oneness of the latter-day work of salvation. Missionary work and family history and temple work are complementary and interrelated aspects of one great work, ‘that in the dispensation of the fulness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him’ ” (Ephesians 1:10).
Preaching the gospel and seeking after one’s dead, Elder Bednar added, are two divinely appointed responsibilities that relate both to one’s heart and to priesthood ordinances. “The essence of the Lord’s work is changing, turning, and purifying hearts through covenants and ordinances performed by proper priesthood authority.”
The Lord’s purpose for missionary work is to invite all to come unto Christ, receive the blessings of the gospel, and endure to the end.
“We do not share the gospel merely to increase the numerical size and strength of the latter-day Church. Rather, we seek to fulfill the divinely appointed responsibility to proclaim the reality of the Father’s plan of happiness, the divinity of His Only Begotten Son, Jesus Christ, and the efficacy of the Savior’s atoning sacrifice. Inviting all to ‘come unto Christ’ (see Moroni 10:30–33), experiencing the ‘mighty change of heart’ (see Alma 5:12–14), and offering the ordinances of salvation to individuals in mortality not yet under covenant are the fundamental objectives of preaching the gospel.”
Enabling the exaltation of both the living and the dead is the Lord’s purpose for building temples and performing vicarious ordinances, Elder Bednar explained. “We do not worship in holy temples solely to have a memorable individual or family experience. Rather, we seek to fulfill the divinely appointed responsibility to offer the ordinances of salvation and exaltation to the entire human family.”
Priesthood ordinances, he declared, are the pathway to the power of godliness.
The Book of Mormon, in combination with the Spirit of the Lord, is the greatest single tool God has given to convert the world. It is essential to bringing souls to the Savior.
“The Book of Mormon is another testament of Jesus Christ—a vital confirming witness of the divinity of the Redeemer in a world that grows ever more secular and cynical. Hearts are changed as individuals read and study the Book of Mormon and pray with real intent to learn of the truthfulness of the book.”
The Spirit of Elijah, meanwhile, is a manifestation of the Holy Ghost bearing witness of the divine nature of the family. This divine influence bears powerful witness of the Father’s plan of happiness and inspires people to search out their ancestors and family members, both past and present.
“The Spirit of Elijah affects people both inside and outside of the Church and causes hearts to turn to the fathers,” Elder Bednar said.
Enabling the exaltation of both the living and the dead is the Lord’s purpose for building temples and performing vicarious ordinances, he emphasized. “We do not worship in holy temples solely to have a memorable individual or family experience. Rather, we seek to fulfill the divinely appointed responsibility to offer the ordinances of salvation and exaltation to the entire human family.”
During his address to the mission presidents, Elder Bednar included a variety of video clips that demonstrated the impact that family history and temple work are having in the lives of members, including many missionaries.
Following one clip portraying a convert who was introduced to the Church through family history work, Elder Bednar declared, “The time has come for us to capitalize more effectively on the potent combination of the mighty change of heart, made possible primarily by the spiritual power of the Book of Mormon, and the turning of hearts to the fathers, accomplished through the Spirit of Elijah.”
Elder Bednar identified four principles about the spiritual power that results from changing hearts and turning hearts.
1. Hearts and conversion. Turning to the fathers awakens and prepares a heart for the mighty change.
2. Hearts and retention. Turning to the fathers sustains and strengthens hearts that have experienced the mighty change.
3. Hearts and reactivation. Turning to the fathers softens a heart that has become hardened after experiencing the mighty change.
4. Hearts and valiant missionaries. A missionary who has experienced both the mighty change and the turning of the heart will be a more converted, consecrated, and valiant servant.
Elder Bednar testified: “A yearning for connection to our past can prepare an individual to receive the virtue of the word of God and fortify his or her faith. A heart turning to the fathers uniquely helps an individual withstand the influence of the adversary and strengthen conversion.”