Using the Atonement in Missionary Work

Contributed By By R. Scott Lloyd, Church News staff writer

  • 29 January 2014

Elder Gregory A. Schwitzer addresses the 2014 Seminar for New MTC Presidents and Visitors’ Center Directors on the topic of the Atonement.  Photo by R. Scott Lloyd.

Article Highlights

  • Both the missionary and the investigator need to use the Atonement.
  • Convincing investigators theologically is not enough; the investigators also need to have a desire to change their behavior.
  • Investigators can learn from the examples of the missionaries who have used the Atonement.

It is important to understand how missionaries access the Atonement of Christ and how it affects the lives of people with whom the missionaries work: investigators and less-active and even active members, said Elder Gregory A. Schwitzer of the Seventy in his address at the January 15 session of the 2014 Seminar for New MTC Presidents and Visitors’ Center Directors.

Citing Alma 42:13, 24, Elder Schwitzer said, “Repentance must take place not only in a missionary but in the investigator. Now, of course, one part of the Atonement is given to us by pure grace. That is our ability to be resurrected. But to access the second, avoidance of spiritual death, a person must repent. That’s why in Doctrine and Covenants 20:37, where it talks about the requirements for baptism, it says they must come forth with a broken heart and a contrite spirit, which is a way of saying they must come forth repenting, and then they qualify for the blessings of repentance.”

Reading from Mosiah 28 with the missionary couples, Elder Schwitzer noted that the sons of Mosiah were desirous that salvation should be declared to everyone, “for they could not bear that any human soul should perish; yea, even the very thoughts that any soul should endure endless torment did cause them to quake and tremble” (verse 3).

Elder Schwitzer said that in zone conferences he has asked missionaries whether they have ever quaked and trembled for the people in the mission to which they have been assigned.

“The desire to help other people and to change their lives is one of the wonderful blessings,” he said.

It is important for missionaries to understand that if they only convince people to join the Church by teaching them theologically “that we’re right and someone else is wrong,” they have not accomplished what they were sent out to do. Rather, they must engender in those they teach a desire to change their behavior, to be better.

“That’s where the missionary plays such a critical role in the Atonement,” he said. “For as the Atonement affected the missionary’s life, the investigator or the inactive member sees it and says, ‘I want that for myself.’”

He said that as a mission president in Russia, he talked to many people who had joined the Church and who said they were attracted by the light in the missionaries’ eyes and the glow around them and wanted to be like them.

“How did it happen? It was because the missionary repented; the missionaries cleaned up their own lives; the missionaries changed their own souls. And as a result, they drew others to them.”