The Doctrine and Covenants contains revelations from the Lord to certain Church members, through the Prophet Joseph Smith, commanding the members to declare repentance and gather His elect. The Church grew rapidly as missionaries were called by the Prophet Joseph Smith and became instruments in the Lord’s hands. Church members today receive blessings from missionary work when they recognize and fulfill their responsibility to assist in sharing the gospel.
Display the following statement by President Gordon B. Hinckley (1910–2008), and invite a student to read it aloud:
“Missionary work is the lifeblood of the Church. It is the principal means by which it grows. It is because of this service that the Church has reached its present size” (“Missionary Service,” First Worldwide Leadership Training Meeting, Jan. 11, 2003, 17).
In your opinion, in what ways can missionary work be considered the “lifeblood of the Church”?
Explain that early in the Restoration, individuals often asked the Prophet to seek revelations in their behalf to help them know how they might contribute to the Lord’s work. Sometimes these revelations were received for a single individual and sometimes for multiple individuals. Explain that Doctrine and Covenants 33 is an example of a revelation received in behalf of two individuals: Ezra Thayer (or Thayre) and Northrop Sweet.
Invite a few students to take turns reading aloud from Doctrine and Covenants 33:2–7. Ask the class to follow along, looking for words, phrases, or symbols the Lord used that apply to our role in missionary work and that emphasize the importance of declaring the gospel in the latter days.
What symbols did the Lord use? (As students respond, you may want to write their answers on the board.)
How do these symbols illustrate our role in missionary work and emphasize the importance of declaring the gospel?
Invite students to carefully study verse 6 and identify what is accomplished as we declare the gospel to others. Then ask them to state in their own words what they found. (Students may use different words, but they should identify the following principle: As we declare the gospel of Jesus Christ to others, we help to gather the Lord’s elect. You may want to relate that following this revelation, Ezra Thayer “filled his barn” with people to hear Joseph Smith and others preach the gospel [Documents, Volume 1: July 1828–June 1831, vol. 1 of the Documents series of The Joseph Smith Papers (2013), 206].)
Share with students the following definition of the gathering of Israel by Elder Bruce R. McConkie (1915–85) of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles:
“The gathering of Israel consists in believing and accepting and living in harmony with all that the Lord once offered his ancient chosen people. … It consists of believing the gospel, joining the Church, and coming into the kingdom” (A New Witness for the Articles of Faith , 515).
Invite a student to read aloud the following account about some of the first missionaries called following the organization of the Church. Ask the class to listen for how these early missionaries succeeded in gathering some of the Lord’s elect.
“[In the fall of 1830], the Lord revealed to Joseph Smith that Oliver Cowdery, Peter Whitmer Jr., Parley P. Pratt, and Ziba Peterson were to ‘go unto the Lamanites and preach my gospel unto them’ (D&C 28:8; 30:5–6; 32:1–3). These missionaries traveled some 1,500 miles, preaching briefly among various Indian tribes. … However, the missionaries’ greatest success came when they stopped in the area of Kirtland, Ohio. There they baptized about 130 converts, principally from among the Reformed Baptist congregation of Sidney Rigdon, thus opening what would become a gathering place for hundreds of Church members the following year. The missionaries also found some converts among the settlers in Jackson County, Missouri, where the city of Zion would later be established” (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith , 150; see also Richard Dilworth Rust, “A Mission to the Lamanites: D&C 28, 30, 32,” Revelations in Context series, Feb. 22, 2013, history.lds.org).
Explain that these conversions in northern Ohio more than doubled Church membership at that time.
Ask students to read Doctrine and Covenants 29:4–7 silently, looking for a description of “the Lord’s elect.”
How did the Savior describe His elect?
Explain to students that the work of the first missionaries serving outside of North America includes a dramatic example of how the Lord uses His servants to gather His elect. Invite a student to read the following summary aloud. Ask the class to follow along and listen for the Prophet Joseph Smith’s counsel to Elder Heber C. Kimball (1801–1868).
“Heber C. Kimball, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve, recalled: ‘About the first day of June 1837, the Prophet Joseph came to me, while I was seated in … the Temple, in Kirtland, and whispering to me, said, “Brother Heber, the Spirit of the Lord has whispered to me, ‘Let my servant Heber go to England and proclaim my gospel and open the door of salvation to that nation.’”’ Elder Kimball was overwhelmed by the thought of such an undertaking: ‘I felt myself one of the very weakest of God’s servants. I asked Joseph what I should say when I got there; he told me to go to the Lord and He would guide me, and speak through me by the same spirit that [directed] him.’
“The Prophet also extended calls to Orson Hyde, Willard Richards, and Joseph Fielding in Kirtland, and to Isaac Russell, John Snyder, and John Goodson in Toronto, Canada. These brethren were to join Elder Kimball on his mission to England. Gathering in New York City, they sailed on the ship Garrick for Great Britain on July 1, 1837. This first mission outside of North America brought some 2,000 converts into the Church during the missionaries’ first year in England. Elder Kimball wrote joyfully to the Prophet: ‘Glory to God, Joseph, the Lord is with us among the nations!’
“A second apostolic mission to Britain, involving most members of the Twelve under the leadership of Brigham Young, was directed by the Prophet from Nauvoo. Leaving in the fall of 1839, the Twelve arrived in England in 1840. There they began a labor that by 1841 would bring over 6,000 converts into the Church” (Teachings: Joseph Smith, 327, 329).
What counsel did Heber C. Kimball receive from the Prophet Joseph Smith?
Describe a time when you experienced the Lord’s help in your efforts to share the gospel.
Explain that the Doctrine and Covenants repeatedly reminds Church members of the responsibility and blessings of participating in missionary work. Our responsibility to share the gospel with others is a recurring pattern and theme in the revelations recorded in the Doctrine and Covenants. Learning to recognize patterns and themes enables readers to better feast upon the words of Christ (see David A. Bednar, “A Reservoir of Living Water” [Brigham Young University fireside, Feb. 4, 2007], speeches.byu.edu).
Invite students to silently read Doctrine and Covenants 88:81 and then summarize in their own words how it applies to current Church members. (One response students might give is that all who have accepted the gospel of Jesus Christ have a duty to share it with others.)
Display the following chart, or copy it on the board. Divide the class into three groups, and assign each group one of the scripture passages. Ask students to read their assigned passages and look for the responsibilities and promised blessings of sharing the gospel.
After sufficient time, invite students to share their findings with the class.
Display the following statement by Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, and invite a student to read it aloud. Ask the class to listen for Elder Bednar’s description of our individual responsibility to share the gospel.
“Devoted disciples of Jesus Christ always have been and always will be valiant missionaries. A missionary is a follower of Christ who testifies of Him as the Redeemer and proclaims the truths of His gospel.
“The Church of Jesus Christ always has been and always will be a missionary church. The individual members of the Savior’s Church have accepted the solemn obligation to assist in fulfilling the divine commission given by the Lord to His Apostles, as recorded in the New Testament:
“‘Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen’ (Matthew 28:19–20).
“Latter-day Saints take seriously this responsibility to teach all people in all nations about the Lord Jesus Christ and His restored gospel. …
“Indeed, we feel a solemn responsibility to carry this message to every nation, kindred, tongue, and people” (“Come and See,” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2014, 107).
Why should members of the Savior’s Church view missionary work as a solemn obligation?
Display the following statement by Elder L. Tom Perry of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, and invite a student to read it aloud. Ask the class to follow along and ponder why they might want to consider becoming more diligent in sharing the gospel.
“The gospel is centered on the Atonement of our Lord and Savior. The Atonement provides the power to wash away sins, to heal, and to grant eternal life. All the imponderable blessings of the Atonement can be given only to those who live the principles and receive the ordinances of the gospel—faith in Jesus Christ, repentance, baptism, receiving the Holy Ghost, and enduring to the end. Our great missionary message to the world is that all mankind is invited to be rescued and to enter the fold of the Good Shepherd, even Jesus Christ.
“Our missionary message is strengthened by the knowledge of the Restoration. We know that God speaks to His prophets today, just as He did anciently. We also know that His gospel is administered with the power and authority of the restored priesthood. No other message has such great eternal significance to everyone living on the earth today” (“Bring Souls unto Me,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2009, 110–11).
Why do you think each of us should become more diligent in sharing the gospel? (Answers should include the following: When we share the gospel with others, we offer them access to the blessings of the Atonement of Jesus Christ.)
Invite students to study Doctrine and Covenants 34:5–6; 39:20–23, looking for another important reason why the Lord has commanded us to share the message of the gospel with others. (Students may use different words, but they should identify the following truth: As we share the gospel message with others, we help them prepare for the Second Coming of Jesus Christ.)
How does understanding the eternal significance of the gospel help motivate you to share it with those not of our faith?
Describe an experience you have had with sharing the message of the gospel with others.
Give students a few minutes to ponder and write down what they can do to participate in sharing the gospel. For example, they could write the name of someone they know who is not currently a member of the Church and commit to share the gospel with that person. Invite a few students to share what they plan to do. Encourage students to act on any impressions they have received and to pray daily for an opportunity to share the gospel with others.