News of the Church

By Adam C. Olson, Church Magazines


New Preach My Gospel Program Being Launched in Missions Worldwide

After Church leaders first talked about raising “the bar that is the standard for missionary service” in general conference of October 2002, heavy emphasis was placed on sending out more young men and women who are better prepared and more capable of teaching by the Spirit.

The results of that effort have made possible Preach My Gospel, a recently released manual that introduces significant changes to the missionary program in the way missionaries will teach, plan, and work.

Preach My Gospel is intended to help you be a better-prepared, more spiritually mature missionary,” wrote the First Presidency in an introductory message to the manual. “We challenge you to rise to a new sense of commitment to assist our Father in Heaven in His glorious work.”

“We are hopeful that by adopting the Preach My Gospel plan, the Spirit will be felt and will dictate the conversation between the missionaries and their investigators,” said President Gordon B. Hinckley upon introducing the new program to missions around the world by satellite in October 2004. “This program will require greater effort on the part of the missionaries. It will require much of prayer and much of study.”

“This is a major change in direction,” President Boyd K. Packer, Acting President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, told mission presidents at the 2004 Seminar for New Mission Presidents. “We know it is the right direction. Where it will lead is on the right course.”

The program, which has been successfully piloted in 14 missions around the world, is being implemented in each of the Church’s 338 missions. The centerpiece of the program, the Preach My Gospel manual, which includes new missionary lessons and changes to how lessons are taught, has arrived in all missions across the world. Spanish and Portuguese editions were scheduled to be released by the end of 2004, with most other language editions scheduled to be available during the first half of 2005.

While introducing the new program at the seminar for mission presidents, Elder M. Russell Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles explained why the changes were necessary. “Missionaries have to be prepared spiritually today in order to go into a world that has become as difficult as the one we are now living in. They must be powerful gospel teachers. They must know the doctrine.”

Raising the standards for missionary service was an important step, but in addition to having “raised the bar,” Elder Ballard said, “we have worked very hard in preparing materials that we hope will make a significant difference in preparing missionaries to find, teach, baptize, and retain more of our Father in Heaven’s children.”

A New Guide

Among the most significant of the changes to the missionary program are modifications to the missionary discussions and discussions for new members and planning materials for missionaries.

The former Missionary Guide, discussions, discussions for new members, and the missionary gospel study program—a combined total of about 676 pages—have been replaced by a single publication of about 230 pages called Preach My Gospel. It addresses topics such as learning what a missionary’s purpose is, studying effectively and preparing to teach, recognizing and understanding the Spirit, understanding the role of the Book of Mormon, developing Christlike attributes, learning another language, using time wisely, finding people to teach, improving teaching skills, helping people make and keep commitments, preparing people for baptism and confirmation, and working with stake and ward leaders.

“This manual is a guide to what a missionary needs to know and to become in order to be a teacher prepared to declare the message of the Restoration to the people of the world,” said Elder Ballard.

Teaching, Conversion, and Retention

The program inseparably ties together teaching, conversion, and retention. It integrates the efforts of Church members and missionaries in all important elements of missionary work.

“If there is better teaching in the conversion process, there will be greater retention of those who are baptized,” President Hinckley said.

At the heart of Preach My Gospel are the new missionary lessons. Missionaries will no longer memorize and teach six discussions for investigators and six discussions for new members. Instead they will study and learn the doctrines and principles in five basic lessons and create and present individualized lessons as needed for each investigator or new convert. Each lesson focuses on preparing investigators to meet the scriptural requirements for baptism found in Doctrine and Covenants 20:37 [D&C 20:37].

Missionaries can no longer simply read or recite a standard presentation. The doctrine “has to be understood by the missionaries so that they can teach,” said Elder Quentin L. Cook, executive director of the Missionary Department. It is based on the scriptural injunction to “seek not to declare my word, but first seek to obtain my word, and then shall your tongue be loosed; then, if you desire, you shall have my Spirit and my word, yea, the power of God unto the convincing of men” (D&C 11:21).

The new materials are also more member-friendly. Church members can cooperate more freely with missionaries as their friends and acquaintances are being taught. Members should feel more comfortable in giving referrals and in having missionaries come into their homes to teach people with whom they wish to share the gospel. There should also be greater cooperation between missionaries and wards and stakes in finding, teaching, and fellowshipping investigators and in retaining new converts.

Planning

Aside from the new lessons, some of the most important aspects of missionary work taught in the new manual are goal setting, planning, and accountability in using time wisely.

“When you set a goal, an objective,” said Elder Richard G. Scott of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, “and begin to work to it, then the Spirit comes in and gives guidance.”

To this end, the previous one-page weekly planner has been replaced by a six-week planner. The booklet includes planning guidelines, ideas for finding new investigators, weekly goals, and a daily plan that provides space for backup plans and notes.

Aside from a two- to three-hour weekly planning session, companionships will spend a half hour each evening planning for the next day and a short time reviewing those plans each morning before going to work. The planner, in conjunction with information from the area book, will give missionary companionships tools to help them plan their time and record important information about the people they are teaching.

“When a missionary … has the Spirit of the Lord with him … the investigator feels something,” said Elder Ballard. “That’s what Preach My Gospel is designed to do, to prepare the missionaries with that kind of power. … In some parts of the world there are those who just simply are not interested in religion. We have to help people understand the message of the Restoration to penetrate through that. … The only way that that is going to happen is to prepare the missionaries as never before.”

Teaching by the Spirit

The lessons found in Preach My Gospel require missionaries to “treasure up in [their] minds continually the words of life, and it shall be given [them] in the very hour that portion that shall be meted unto every man” (D&C 84:85). Missionaries must now study and learn and teach the gospel by the Spirit.

“When I was a missionary some 70 years ago,” observed President Gordon B. Hinckley in a missionary satellite broadcast on October 15, 2004, “we had no proselyting program. Missionaries would decide each morning what tract they would use for the day and then go out and knock on doors. Remarkably, interested investigators were found and taught.

“Years later, when I had responsibility for the missionary program, under the direction of the First Presidency and Twelve, the first unified plan was introduced and used. The effects were wonderful, but the plan through the years grew into a procedure where memorization was the principal endeavor. The lessons were given in a rote manner from memory. Missionaries were more prone to rely on their memories than on the Spirit of the Lord.”

During the first Worldwide Leadership Training Meeting on January 11, 2003, President Hinckley warned against ignoring the guidance of the Spirit in missionary teaching.

“For many years now we’ve had a standard set of missionary lessons. Great good has come of this. The missionaries have never lacked for something to teach in a systematic way. But unfortunately this method in all too many cases has resulted in a memorized presentation lacking in spirit and personal conviction.”

He then quoted Doctrine and Covenants 46:2 [D&C 46:2]: “But notwithstanding those things which are written, it always has been given to the elders of my church from the beginning, and ever shall be, to conduct all meetings as they are directed and guided by the Holy Spirit.”

President Hinckley promised: “If this principle is observed … there will come a new force into their teaching. … Let the missionaries shake loose from their memorized lessons. Let them speak with great conviction prompted by the Spirit of the Lord.”

The lessons in Preach My Gospel are at the same time a return to the unscripted preaching of early Church missionaries and a step forward, providing missionaries with greater support materials that have been developed based on many years of experience.

[photo] Using the flexible lessons found in Preach My Gospel, missionaries will give messages tailored to the individual. (Photograph by Adam C. Olson.)

[photo] The Preach My Gospel manual takes the place of the Missionary Guide, previous discussions, discussions for new members, and the Missionary Gospel Study Program.

Church Growing in More than 160 Countries

In 2004, worldwide Church membership reached 12 million, the Church was ranked among the fastest-growing churches in the United States, and Mexico became the first nation outside of the U.S. to top one million members. Brazil is projected to surpass one million members during 2007.

Growth outside of the United States continues to surpass growth within the U.S. More than half of all Church members live outside the United States. Members of the Church are found in more than 160 countries and territories, speaking more than 178 languages.

The accompanying map shows membership distribution around the world.

Countries with Highest Church Membership

1. United States

5,503,192

2. Mexico*

980,053

3. Brazil

866,988

4. Chile

530,739

5. Philippines

526,178

6. Peru

384,663

7. Argentina

330,349

8. Guatemala

192,207

9. Canada

166,442

10. Ecuador

161,396

Based on 2003 year-end totals.

* Mexico surpassed the one million mark after these figures were compiled.

Countries with Highest Percentages of Church Membership*

1. Tonga

46.0

(1 out of 2)

2. Samoa

34.0

(1 out of 3)

3. American Samoa

19.1

(1 out of 5)

4. Kiribati

10.0

(1 out of 10)

5. French Polynesia

7.8

(1 out of 13)

6. Chile

3.4

(1 out of 30)

7. Uruguay

2.4

(1 out of 42)

8. New Zealand

2.3

(1 out of 43)

9. Honduras

1.6

(1 out of 62)

10. Bolivia

1.5

(1 out of 64)

Based on 2003 year-end totals.

* Minimum 10,000 members. Four countries have higher percentages but fewer than 10,000 members: Niue (13.0), Marshall Islands (6.8), Cook Islands (6.5), and Micronesia (3.2).

Languages Most Frequently Spoken by Church Members

1. English

5,828,000

2. Spanish

3,681,000

3. Portuguese

907,000

4. Tagalog (Philippines)

165,000

5. Cebuano (Philippines)

126,000

6. Japanese

117,000

7. Ilokano (Philippines)

109,000

8. Samoan

102,000

9. Tongan

76,000

10. Korean

75,000

Estimates based on 2003 year-end data.

Church Preparing Film for Prophet’s 200th Birthday

Journeying down a narrow, tree-lined road just off a traffic-packed street in Provo, Utah, one can find a little piece of 19th-century New York. It is a little settlement where the men still wear beards and suspenders and the women wear ringlets and carry parasols. But this small town is a little different from the real 1820 version—it also has high-tech cameras, state-of-the-art sound and lighting equipment, and a director yelling, “Cut!”

It is the set for the new Church-produced motion picture Joseph Smith: Prophet of the Restoration. The film will premiere in the 500-seat Legacy Theater in the Joseph Smith Memorial Building in December 2005, marking the 200th anniversary of the Prophet’s birth, on December 23, 1805. The new film will replace The Testaments of One Fold and One Shepherd, currently playing in the Legacy Theater.

The one-hour film will “testify of Joseph Smith’s sacred calling,” says Elder Donald L. Hallstrom of the Quorum of the Seventy and executive director of the Church Audiovisual Department. “[Joseph Smith] is so foundational to the Church. We want to honor his legacy and [the Church] can in a way no one else could. The 200th anniversary [of his birth] is a good time to do it.” The film, he says, will “capture the majesty of the Prophet.”

To make sure the script is accurate, it has been historically researched, examined by the Church’s Correlation Department, and reviewed by several members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and by the First Presidency. “A film does not get much better than its script,” producer Ron Munns says. “Doctrinally it is sound; historically it is accurate. Hopefully people will learn some things and feel some things.”

The film spans Joseph Smith’s life, so four actors were cast to portray him. There is a young Joseph, a 14-year-old Joseph, a 17-year-old Joseph, and a mature Joseph, Elder Hallstrom says. On the last week of filming in October 2004, the actor portraying 17-year-old Joseph, 19-year-old Dustin Harding, got a day off from his new calling as a full-time missionary for the Church. He was needed to complete a few scenes that could not be finished before he was to report to the Missionary Training Center in Provo. He is now serving in New Hampshire, near the Prophet Joseph’s birthplace.

While shooting, the cast and crew have felt a unique and special spirit, Brother Munns says. Every actor and crew member working on the film is an active member of the Church. They begin every day with prayer, knowing that they can make this film better than any Hollywood production because “they know that the Spirit can expand their talents, efforts, and abilities.”

And once the film is complete, members and those of other faiths will be able to feel the Spirit as they watch how the Prophet Joseph became an instrument in the Lord’s hands.

[photo] Cast and crew members prepare to film a scene for the Church film Joseph Smith: Prophet of the Restoration. (Photograph by Shanna Butler.)

New BYU Web Site Aids Scripture Study

If you aren’t as familiar with the scriptures as you would like to be, a new Web site may be the perfect tool for you to use in your personal study or lesson preparation. The site, scriptures.byu.edu, links individual scripture references to every general conference address in which they have been quoted.

The concept came from two Brigham Young University professors, one with a passion to learn more about the scriptures, the other with the technical know-how to make the site work. Richard Galbraith, a professor in the School of Family Life, and Stephen Liddle, professor of accountancy and information services and eBusiness director, have been working on the site, which puts the words of modern-day prophets next to the words of the scriptures.

The site is easy to use. For example, to learn more about 1 Nephi 1:1 [1 Ne. 1:1], you can click on the Book of Mormon tab, then open up 1 Nephi, then chapter one. You will find that the verse has been quoted 31 times in general conference addresses, with the references listed in order from the oldest to the most recent. When a reference is selected, the site links the visitor to the general conference address that refers to the scripture on www.lds.org. The site can also be searched by speaker, date, and citation frequency.

The site includes a database of 347 speakers and general conference addresses since 1942. Talks delivered before 1971 are not available online, so for these references the page number is given in the Improvement Era where they were originally published.

“If you need some insights on the scriptures, the General Authorities have thought about them and have beautiful insights. They are all seeing the same jewel—just different facets of it,” Brother Galbraith says.

2005 Church Pageant Schedule

Pageant

Location

Dates

Jesus the Christ

Mesa, Arizona

March 17–19 (Spanish); March 22–26 (English)

Mormon Miracle

Manti, Utah

June 16–18, 21–25

America’s Witness for Christ

Palmyra, New York

July 8–9, 12–16

New pageant

Nauvoo, Illinois

July 8–August 3

And It Came to Pass

Oakland, California

July 19–23, 26–30

Castle Valley

Castle Dale, Utah

July 28–30, August 2–6

Martin Harris: The Man Who Knew

Clarkston, Utah

August 5–6, 9–13, 16–19

All pageants are free of charge, but the Clarkston and Oakland pageants require tickets. Details about the Nauvoo pageant have not yet been announced. For more information on any of these pageants, call 1-801-240-7800 or visit www.lds.org and click on “Other Resources,” then “Places to Visit.”

[photo] Pioneer children kneel to pray in this production of the Castle Valley Pageant, held in Castle Dale, Utah. (Photograph by Jed A. Clark.)

Comment

Social Issues

Thank you for the excellent articles you have recently published on social issues. Your willingness to address these issues is commended. I am particularly referring to “Raising a Child with a Disability” by Marleen S. Williams (October 2004). As the parent of a disabled child, I can identify with all of the points she so clearly makes.

I would also like to thank you for the September 2004 article, “Compassion for Those Who Struggle.” What a sensitive topic, one that should not be swept under the table but met openly with compassion. These articles and others reaffirm my understanding of Heavenly Father’s love for all of us. Ruth M. Workman, Lake Herman Ward, Napa California Stake

Ensign Pronunciation

I work in the Ogden Distribution Center, and we carry the Ensign magazine for sale. People so often call it the Ensun that I would encourage you to put the correct pronunciation in the front of the magazine again. Linda Pfaff, Riverdale Third Ward, Riverdale Utah Stake

Editor’s note: Sister Pfaff is correct. The name of this magazine is pronounced en-sine, not en-sun or en-zine.

Disabilities

I just finished reading the article “Raising a Child with a Disability” in the October 2004 issue, and I can’t begin to tell you how wonderful it was. I have an autistic child, and often I feel so alone. It was helpful to read about the struggles others have had and to know that I am not alone. Many times my faith has kept me going when things have been tough. I am so grateful you chose to include this article, and I hope it helps parents of disabled children know what special spirits they have been entrusted with. Thank you. Danielle Masters, Cleveland First Ward, Cleveland Ohio Stake

We All Struggle

The article “Compassion for Those Who Struggle” in the September 2004 issue has helped me to understand the challenge of one who is tempted by same-sex attraction. I have been upset by recent articles in national magazines that mentioned the struggles of Latter-day Saints who face this particular challenge. Some of those articles have implied that the individual’s membership in the Church is the root cause for his or her damaged self-worth.

How enlightening and how encouraging it is to read of Church members who are faced with this challenge but are willing to choose the higher path and live the gospel faithfully. I do not personally know any individuals with this challenge, but I felt that this article was universal to all of us because we all deal with weaknesses and we all need to feel the compassion of those around us. Alice Quan, Victoria First (English) Branch, Hong Kong International District

A Sense of Heritage

As a new sister missionary, my life is busy and full of learning, but when we received the October 2004 Ensign from the mission office I wanted to find time to read it. Finally, one night before bedtime I opened it and turned the pages until I came to the story “You Taught Me,” by Vinita R. Greer. I paused to read this article, and you can imagine my surprise when I came across “Steeleville, Illinois.” That is my hometown! A smile came to my face and warmth to my heart.

As a convert to the Church, I have often felt that I have no heritage—I am the only member in my family. But Sister Greer’s story of her introduction to the Church in my hometown gave me that sense of heritage. Our branch is small but powerful, and that great spirit Sister Greer felt is still there in the Steeleville Branch. I’m proud to be from that small town with the big spirit. Sister Amy Gooden, California Long Beach Mission