News of the Church

By Adam C. Olson, Church Magazines


New Program, Preach My Gospel, 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.

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

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

Growing Church a “Wonderful Challenge” for Physical Facilities Department

Missionary work has been described as a “marvelous work,” and with the truly marvelous number of new members finding the gospel comes the challenging work of housing the new and expanding stakes and districts of the Church.

The day President Gordon B. Hinckley greeted the public as President of the Church, he noted some of the challenges posed by an ever-growing church. “The most serious challenge we face, and the most wonderful challenge, is the challenge that comes of growth. Accommodating the tremendous growth of the Church presents many problems and entails the construction of houses of worship and other facilities—but what a remarkable and wonderful challenge that is” (quoted in Jay M. Todd, “President Gordon B. Hinckley: Fifteenth President of the Church,” Ensign, Apr. 1995, 6).

With that same optimistic attitude, the Church’s Physical Facilities Department has endeavored to keep up with the demand for new meetinghouses. In a general conference address last November, President Hinckley said: “We now have, at some stage, 451 meetinghouses of various sizes under construction in many parts of the earth. This tremendous building program is phenomenal. I know of nothing to equal it” (“Condition of the Church,” Ensign, Nov. 2004, 4). Approximately 300 new meetinghouses are built worldwide each year, with 150 existing meetinghouses receiving additions. Two-thirds of the construction is taking place outside of the United States.

The Church has had many years of experience and has developed proven processes when it comes to constructing meetinghouses. “Out of that vast experience,” President Hinckley said, “we are producing better buildings than have ever previously been constructed in the Church” (Ensign, Nov. 2004, 4).

Before a meetinghouse is built, the Physical Facilities Department evaluates whether there are other options for the ward or branch, such as sharing a building with a nearby ward or branch, adjusting meeting schedules to accommodate more wards or branches in a building, or expanding existing meetinghouses. If it is determined that a new meetinghouse is needed, a request is made and prioritized based on other requests and available resources. Once a request is approved, it is added to a plan for proposed projects and sent to the Church Appropriations Committee for review. If the plan is approved, the meetinghouse is designed, built, and dedicated.

Often the Church uses standard plans to cut costs and increase efficiency when building, provide support to Church programs, and present the desired image to the surrounding community. “Our structures are beautiful,” President Hinckley said. “They add to the ambience of any community in which they stand. They are well maintained. … They combine beauty with great utility. If they look much the same, it is because that is intended. By following tried and tested patterns we save millions of dollars while meeting the needs of our people” (Ensign, Nov. 2004, 4).

In many cases the biggest challenge in constructing a meetinghouse is purchasing a site for the building. In some areas with large populations, land is scarce and often expensive. This issue has led to a few temples, such as Manhattan New York and Hong Kong China, being built out of existing buildings owned by the Church. In areas such as these, multistory designs are often used in building meetinghouses.

In the past a large challenge for members came from having to provide a large portion of the funds for the buildings themselves. Now, members are not asked to sacrifice their money for the buildings, but they are asked to give of their time to help care for and clean the houses of worship. Although this does help the Church financially, it also helps provide a sense of ownership and respect for the members who attend there.

Another challenge comes from the misunderstandings some have about the Church. Occasionally opposition from the community occurs when a new building is announced. The Church works to resolve these concerns whenever possible. It is not uncommon to see divine intervention on behalf of the Lord’s Church.

As the Church continues to grow in membership, the work of building houses for the Lord will carry on because they are the places where the gospel is taught, sacred covenants are entered into, and lives are changed.

“It is true that the sun never sets on this work of the Lord as it is touching the lives of people across the earth,” President Hinckley said in a November 2003 general conference address. “Our work knows no boundaries. Under the providence of the Lord it will continue. Those nations now closed to us will someday be open. That is my faith. That is my belief. That is my testimony” (“The State of the Church,” Ensign, Nov. 2003, 7).

The first institute building in the Caribbean, dedicated last November, was one of more than 400 Church buildings in development during 2004. (Photograph by Adam C. Olson.)

The Santo Domingo Dominican Republic Temple, dedicated in 2000, stands out as a beautiful landmark in the busy city. “Our structures are beautiful,” President Hinckley has said. “They add to the ambience of any community in which they stand.” (Photograph by Adam C. Olson.)

General Young Women Meeting Broadcast Available

The General Young Women Meeting will be held March 26, 2005, at the Conference Center in Salt Lake City. This year’s theme is “A Great and Marvelous Work.”

The program will be broadcast that day at 6:00 p.m. MST and rebroadcast at 8:00 p.m. MST on the Church satellite system to the United States, Canada, the Caribbean, Mexico, Central America, Brazil, parts of Uruguay, and other parts of South America.

Rebroadcast times for other areas of the Church are the following Saturday or Sunday at various times.

The program will be broadcast in Armenian, Bislama, Bulgarian, Cambodian, Cantonese, Cebuano, Czech, Danish, Dutch, English (also closed-captioned), Estonian, Fijian, Finnish, French, German, Greek, Guarani, Haitian, Hmong, Hungarian, Icelandic, Indonesian, Italian, Japanese, Kiribati, Korean, Laotian, Latvian, Lithuanian, Mandarin, Marshallese, Mongolian, Navajo, Norwegian, Pohnpeian, Polish, Portuguese, Romanian, Russian, Samoan, Spanish, Swedish, Tagalog, Tahitian, Thai, Tongan, Ukrainian, and Vietnamese. Not all languages are offered in every area.

A live audio stream of the broadcast will be available online in various languages. Go to www.lds.org/broadcast for changes and updates. On March 28, audio streams will be available in most of the languages listed above in the broadcast archive.

A DVD recording of the event will be made available a few months after the broadcast and will be available in the following languages in addition to the languages listed above: Albanian, Chuukese, Croatian, Malagasy, and Swahili.

Changes in broadcast times and the availability of languages are possible. For the most up-to-date information, contact your local leaders.

Youth Devotional Broadcast Set

Elder David E. Sorensen of the Presidency of the Seventy will speak to the youth of the Church at a Church Educational System devotional broadcast, to be held March 6, 2005, in the Marriott Center in Provo, Utah. It will be broadcast live in English, French, Portuguese, and Spanish.

The devotional will be interpreted in other languages and broadcast one week later, on March 13. The languages will include Armenian, Bulgarian, Cambodian, Cantonese, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, German, Hungarian, Indonesian, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Mandarin, Marshallese, Mongolian, Norwegian, Russian, Samoan, Swedish, Tagalog, Thai, Tongan, Ukrainian, and Vietnamese.

Check with local leaders for broadcast times.

In the News

Church Opens First Bishops’ Storehouses in Central America

In August 2004, the Church opened Central America’s first bishops’ storehouses, with facilities in Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras to help bishops and branch presidents provide food for those in need.

The storehouses will make available basic commodities such as beans, corn flour, wheat flour, oats, oil, powdered milk, rice, salt, sugar, and soy protein. They will be operated completely by volunteers.

The storehouses, requested by the Area Presidency, will help reduce the cost of meeting welfare needs in the area because commodities can now be bought in bulk.

Leaders emphasized at an open house that the welfare program is to support life, not a lifestyle. Those receiving help will do so under conditions set by the bishop or branch president, who asks the member to provide service in return whenever possible.

Deadly Typhoon Affects Church Members in Japan

Last year’s typhoon season proved deadly for Japan. Typhoon Tokage, which means lizard in Japanese, was the tenth this year. Usually only three storms make landfall in a typhoon season. Tokage, the last storm to hit, was the worst single storm since 1979. The death toll reached 78, more than a dozen others were reported missing, and hundreds more were injured. In total about 170 people were killed during the 2004 typhoon season.

Typhoon Tokage hit Japan on October 20, 2004, unleashing high winds and heavy rains that created monstrous waves and hundreds of mudslides in the country. It struck all three of Japan’s main islands before moving east into the Pacific Ocean, where it was downgraded to a tropical storm.

Much of Japan was shut down in time to prepare for the storm. Some workers were sent home early, public schools were closed, and local bus, train, and air transportation stopped. More than 927 flights were canceled, 265,000 homes were without power, and almost 10,000 people had to evacuate their homes.

Members of the Toyooka Branch, Fukuchiyama Japan District, were severely affected by the typhoon. It flooded the homes of 32 members, the missionaries’ residence, and also the branch’s meetinghouse. Members from around the area traveled many hours over flooded, damaged roads to provide humanitarian aid to Church members, their friends, and other neighbors.

More than 40,000 homes were flooded by Tokage, and more than 2,706 were seriously damaged or destroyed, according to Japan’s Fire and Disaster Management Agency. The number of deaths and homes destroyed by landslides is high because mountains cover more than 70 percent of Japan. Many homes are built at the bottom of steep slopes.

On the following Sunday, members of the Toyooka Branch gathered in the upper story of the meetinghouse for sacrament meeting. “Truly, our bodies were tired and worn, but through that one-hour, irregular meeting, each member received spiritual nourishment,” branch president Yoshihiro Furutani said. On that day attendance was high and has continued to climb ever since.

Church News contributed to this article.

Japanese members helping to clean up in the wake of Typhoon Tokage are identified by their “Helping Hands” vests. (Photograph courtesy of Church News.)

Additional Sharing Time Ideas, March 2005

The following are additional ideas Primary leaders may use with the Sharing Time printed in the March 2005 Liahona. For the lesson, instructions, and activity that correspond with these ideas, see “Jesus Christ Is My Savior” on pages F4 and F5 of the children’s section in this issue.

1. Post the sixth article of faith [A of F 1:6], and recite it with the children. Explain the meaning of Primitive Church (the Church of Jesus Christ when He was on the earth). Help the children memorize the sixth article of faith (see Teaching, No Greater Call [1999], 171–72). On one side of the board post pictures such as the following from the Gospel Art Picture Kit: 205 (Boy Jesus in the Temple), 208 (John the Baptist Baptizing Jesus), 213 (Jesus Healing the Blind), 225 (The Last Supper), 235 (Go Ye Therefore), 601 (Baptism), 604 (Passing the Sacrament), 609 (Young Couple Going to the Temple), 612 (Missionaries Teach the Gospel of Jesus Christ), and 613 (Administering to the Sick). On the other side of the board post picture 211 (Christ Ordaining the Apostles). Teach the children that Christ organized His Church when He was on the earth and gave the Apostles of His day the authority (“keys of the kingdom,” or priesthood keys) to lead. Read and discuss Matt. 16:18–19. Post a picture of the current First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. Read D&C 107:18 aloud, and teach the children that prophets and apostles are given the same authority (keys) today. Prepare five key-shaped papers with one of the following scripture references on each of them: (1) D&C 20:72–74; (2) Matt. 4:23; (3) Luke 2:46–49; (4) D&C 84:64–70; (5) Matt. 28:19–20. Divide into five groups, and give one key to each group. Have the children look up the scriptures and decide which priesthood duties are described. Compare how the duties were similar and/or different in Christ’s time compared to today. Emphasize that the principles were the same then as they are today. Have each group choose from the board pictures that illustrate the priesthood duty, both from the time of Christ and from the Church today. Have each group report to the Primary and post their pictures.

2. Class Presentation: In advance, ask several children to come to Primary prepared to share a story of one of the witnesses of Christ’s Resurrection (see below). Review in your own words the story of the death of Christ using Gospel Art Picture Kit pictures 230 (The Crucifixion), 231 (Burial of Jesus), and 232 (Jesus’s Tomb). Ask the children to reflect on how Jesus’s family and friends must have felt when He died. Tell them that we have invited some of those “friends” to share with us the joy they felt when they knew Christ had been resurrected. Using name tags, ask the children to share the stories of the following people who saw Christ after His Resurrection: Mary Magdalene (see John 20:11–18), Peter and John (see John 20:2–10), Cleopas (see Luke 24:13–32), the disciples (see Luke 24:33–53; John 20:19–22), Thomas (see John 20:24–29), and the Nephites (see 3 Ne. 11:8–17). After the children have told their stories, remove their name tags, change their order, and have them read one-line clues to the other children to guess whom they represented (for example, “I did not believe that Jesus had risen from the dead until I saw Him with my own eyes. Who am I?” or “I am an Apostle who ran with Peter to the empty tomb. Who am I?”). Sing a song or hymn about Easter. Teach the principle of resurrection with the glove and hand imagery (see Primary 1 manual, lesson 45, enrichment activity 2). If there is time and with the approval of the Primary presidency, invite someone who has had a death in the family to share his or her testimony of the Resurrection. Remind the children that Easter is a celebration of gratitude for the blessings of the Atonement and Resurrection.