As sons and daughters of God, we have inherited divine qualities. Our premortal experiences prepared us for mortality, where we continue to learn and grow. A mission is a wonderful opportunity to continue developing and magnifying our divine characteristics as we strive to become more like the Savior.
Jesus Christ showed us how we should live. “Behold I am the light; I have set an example for you” (3 Nephi 18:16). Living a Christlike life is the ideal we strive for (see Matthew 5:48; 3 Nephi 12:48). One of the best ways to emulate Christlike attributes is to study the Savior’s life and try to become like Him. The Christlike attributes of effective missionaries allow investigators to witness the beauty of the restored gospel in the missionaries’ lives. Investigators desire what the missionaries have and begin to thirst for the fulness of the gospel. If we are faithful, Jesus Christ will continue to magnify our talents and abilities and help us become more like Him. President Gordon B. Hinckley said, “The most persuasive gospel tract is the exemplary life of a faithful Latter-day Saint” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1982, 68; or Ensign, May 1982, 45).
“The most persuasive gospel tract is the exemplary life of a faithful Latter-day Saint.”
Doctrines and Principles to Understand
Missionaries strive to develop Christlike attributes.
Missionaries are commanded to serve God with all their “heart, might, mind and strength” (D&C 4:2).
Obedience is a vital attribute in missionary work.
Supporting Scriptures and Statements
Missionaries strive to develop Christlike attributes.
As ambassadors for the Lord Jesus Christ, missionaries should exemplify His qualities to everyone they teach. Investigators often respond positively to missionaries and members who emulate the Savior. Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles described the power of the examples of members who have Christlike attributes: “Surely there is no more powerful missionary message we can send to this world than the example of a loving and happy Latter-day Saint life. The manner and bearing, the smile and kindness of a faithful member of the Church brings a warmth and an outreach that no missionary tract or videotape can convey. People do not join the Church because of what they know. They join because of what they feel, what they see and want spiritually. Our spirit of testimony and happiness in that regard will come through to others if we let it. As the Lord said to Alma and the sons of Mosiah, ‘Go forth … that ye may show forth good examples unto them in me, and I will make an instrument of thee in my hands unto the salvation of many souls’ [Alma 17:11]” (in Conference Report, Mar.–Apr. 2001, 16; or Ensign, May 2001, 14).
Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles encouraged us to develop Christlike attributes in order to become effective missionaries: “If we are to fulfill the Lord’s command to open the windows of heaven to all of our brothers and sisters, we must prepare to teach the gospel. With study of the scriptures, fasting, and prayer, we fortify our testimonies. We cultivate Christlike attributes of ‘faith, virtue, knowledge, temperance, patience, brotherly kindness, godliness, charity, humility, [and] diligence’ [D&C 4:6]” (in Conference Report, Sept.–Oct. 1995, 102; or Ensign, Nov. 1995, 76).
Those Christlike attributes are discussed in the rest of this section.
Faith (see also chapter 10, “Faith and Conversion”)
Faith leads to knowledge and understanding. President Boyd K. Packer, Acting President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, explained:
“As you test gospel principles by believing without knowing, the Spirit will begin to teach you. Gradually your faith will be replaced with knowledge.
“You will be able to discern, or to see, with spiritual eyes” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1994, 78; or Ensign, Nov. 1994, 60).
The missionary guide Preach My Gospel explains the relationship between faith in Jesus Christ and how we live: “Faith leads to action, including repentance, obedience, and dedicated service. When you have faith in Jesus Christ, you trust the Lord enough to follow His commandments—even when you do not completely understand the reasons for them. You accomplish what the Lord wants you to accomplish. You help bring about good in your own life and the lives of others. You are able to do miracles according to the Lord’s will. Your faith will be manifest through diligence and work” (Preach My Gospel , 116).
Elder Richard G. Scott of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles emphasized the importance of faith: “The need to exercise faith in Jesus Christ is absolutely essential. It is the foundation of the plan of salvation. When that exercise of faith is coupled with sincere effort based upon a willingness to hearken to His counsel, great personal growth and blessings follow” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1993, 119; or Ensign, Nov. 1993, 87–88).
President Ezra Taft Benson described some of the attributes of virtue:
“Virtuous behavior implies that [a priesthood holder] has pure thoughts and clean actions. …
“Virtue is akin to holiness, an attribute of godliness. A priesthood holder should actively seek for that which is virtuous and lovely and not that which is debasing or sordid. Virtue will garnish his thoughts unceasingly (see D&C 121:45). How can any man indulge himself in the evils of pornography, profanity, or vulgarity and consider himself totally virtuous?” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1986, 60; or Ensign, Nov. 1986, 46).
President James E. Faust, a counselor in the First Presidency, explained: “Many people do not fully understand the meaning of virtue. One commonly understood meaning is to be chaste or morally clean, but virtue in its fuller sense encompasses all traits of righteousness that help us form our character. An old sampler found in a museum in Newfoundland, stitched in 1813, reads: ‘Virtue is the chiefest beauty of the mind, the noblest ornament of humankind. Virtue is our safeguard and our guiding star that stirs up reason when our senses err’” (“The Virtues of Righteous Daughters of God,” Ensign, May 2003, 108).
“Virtue … encompasses all traits of righteousness.”
We need balance in seeking knowledge. President Spencer W. Kimball emphasized the need to carefully choose the kind of knowledge we seek:
“The treasures of both secular and spiritual knowledge are hidden ones—but hidden from those who do not properly search and strive to find them. … Spiritual knowledge is not available merely for the asking; even prayers are not enough. It takes persistence and dedication of one’s life. The knowledge of things in secular life are of time and are limited; the knowledge of the infinite truths are of time and eternity.
“Of all treasures of knowledge, the most vital is the knowledge of God: his existence, powers, love, and promises. …
“Secular knowledge, important as it may be, can never save a soul nor open the celestial kingdom nor create a world nor make a man a god, but it can be most helpful to that man who, placing first things first, has found the way to eternal life and who can now bring into play all knowledge to be his tool and servant” (The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, ed. Edward L. Kimball , 389–91).
“Of all treasures of knowledge, the most vital is the knowledge of God.”
Elder Russell M. Nelson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles taught:
“Temperance suggests sobriety and self-restraint in action. It reminds one of covenants made. …
“Repeatedly, scriptures teach that we be ‘temperate in all things’ (1 Corinthians 9:25; Alma 7:23; 38:10; D&C 12:8). Temperance can protect each of us from the aftermath of excess” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1991, 81; or Ensign, Nov. 1991, 60).
President Ezra Taft Benson described a temperate person: “A priesthood holder is temperate. This means he is restrained in his emotions and verbal expressions. He does things in moderation and is not given to overindulgence. In a word, he has self-control. He is the master of his emotions, not the other way around” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1986, 62; or Ensign, Nov. 1986, 47).
There is a major benefit in viewing life with patience. Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin taught:
“We will have genuine joy and happiness only as we learn patience.
“Dictionaries define patience in such terms as bearing pain or sorrow calmly or without complaint; not being hasty or impetuous; being steadfast despite opposition, difficulty, or adversity. …
“… I believe that a lack of patience is a major cause of the difficulties and unhappiness in the world today. Too often, we are impatient with ourselves, with our family members and friends, and even with the Lord. We seem to demand what we want right now, regardless of whether we have earned it, whether it would be good for us, or whether it is right. …
“We should learn to be patient with ourselves. Recognizing our strengths and our weaknesses, we should strive to use good judgment in all of our choices and decisions, make good use of every opportunity, and do our best in every task we undertake. We should not be unduly discouraged nor in despair at any time when we are doing the best we can. Rather, we should be satisfied with our progress even though it may come slowly at times” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1987, 35–37; or Ensign, May 1987, 30, 32).
President Ezra Taft Benson said: “One who is kind is sympathetic and gentle with others. He is considerate of others’ feelings and courteous in his behavior. He has a helpful nature. Kindness pardons others’ weaknesses and faults. Kindness is extended to all—to the aged and the young, to animals, to those low of station as well as the high” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1986, 62; or Ensign, Nov. 1986, 47).
Elder Russell M. Nelson said:
“Simon Peter counseled us ‘to be in all holy conversation and godliness, Looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of God’ (2 Peter 3:11–12).
“‘The power of godliness is manifest’ in the ordinances of the priesthood (D&C 84:20). Godliness is not a product of perfection; it comes of concentration and consecration.
“Godliness characterizes each of you who truly loves the Lord. You are constantly mindful of the Savior’s atonement and rejoice in His unconditional love. Meanwhile you vanquish personal pride and vain ambition. You consider your accomplishments important only if they help establish His kingdom on earth” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1991, 83; or Ensign, Nov. 1991, 61).
Godliness may be described as devout conformity to the will of God. Beginning with a quotation from Moroni, President Gordon B. Hinckley said:
“‘Yea, come unto Christ, and be perfected in him, and deny yourselves of all ungodliness; and if ye shall deny yourselves of all ungodliness, and love God with all your might, mind and strength, then is his grace sufficient for you, that by his grace ye may be perfect in Christ; and if by the grace of God ye are perfect in Christ, ye can in nowise deny the power of [Christ]’ (Moroni 10:31–32). …
“… I pray that each of us will be a little more kind, a little more thoughtful, a little more courteous. I pray that we will keep our tongues in check and not let anger prompt words which we would later regret. I pray that we may have the strength and the will to turn the other cheek, to walk the extra mile in lifting up the feeble knees of those in distress. …
“May God bless you, my wonderful, faithful associates, in this great work. May His peace and His love be upon you and enshrine your lives with an essence of godliness” (in Conference Report, Oct. 2003, 109–10; or Ensign, Nov. 2003, 103).
President Ezra Taft Benson taught how charity is learned by following the Savior’s example: “The final and crowning virtue of the divine character is charity, or the pure love of Christ (see Moroni 7:47). If we would truly seek to be more like our Savior and Master, then learning to love as He loves should be our highest goal. Mormon called charity ‘the greatest of all’ (Moroni 7:46).
“The world today speaks a great deal about love, and it is sought for by many. But the pure love of Christ differs greatly from what the world thinks of love. Charity never seeks selfish gratification. The pure love of Christ seeks only the eternal growth and joy of others” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1986, 62; or Ensign, Nov. 1986, 47).
Charity must be the motive for our actions if we are to become Christlike. Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles explained: “We are challenged to move through a process of conversion toward that status and condition called eternal life. This is achieved not just by doing what is right, but by doing it for the right reason—for the pure love of Christ. The Apostle Paul illustrated this in his famous teaching about the importance of charity (see 1 Corinthians 13). The reason charity never fails and the reason charity is greater than even the most significant acts of goodness he cited is that charity, ‘the pure love of Christ’ (Moroni 7:47), is not an act but a condition or state of being. Charity is attained through a succession of acts that result in a conversion. Charity is something one becomes. Thus, as Moroni declared, ‘except men shall have charity they cannot inherit’ the place prepared for them in the mansions of the Father (Ether 12:34; italics added)” (in Conference Report, Oct. 2000, 43; or Ensign, Nov. 2000, 34).
“Jesus Christ is the perfect example of charity. In His mortal ministry, He always ‘went about doing good,’ teaching the gospel and showing tender compassion for the poor, afflicted, and distressed (see Matthew 4:23; Mark 6:6; Acts 10:38). His crowning expression of charity was His infinite Atonement. He said, ‘Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends’ (John 15:13). This was the greatest act of long-suffering, kindness, and selflessness that we will ever know. …
“As you continue to receive the Savior’s perfect love and as you demonstrate Christlike love for others, you will find that your love increases. You will experience the joy of being in the Lord’s service. The Holy Ghost will be your constant companion, guiding you in your service and in your relationships with others” (True to the Faith: A Gospel Reference , 28).
Elder Richard G. Scott taught: “Humility is essential to the acquiring of spiritual knowledge. To be humble is to be teachable. Humility permits you to be tutored by the Spirit and to be taught from sources inspired by the Lord, such as the scriptures. The seeds of personal growth and understanding germinate and flourish in the fertile soil of humility. Their fruit is spiritual knowledge to guide you here and hereafter” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1993, 118; or Ensign, Nov. 1993, 87).
As a member of the Seventy, Elder Marlin K. Jensen spoke of the relationship between humility and our submissiveness to God’s will: “True humility will inevitably lead us to say to God, ‘Thy will be done.’ And because what we are does affect what we do, our submissiveness will be reflected in our reverence, gratitude, and willingness to accept callings, counsel, and correction” (in Conference Report, Mar.–Apr. 2001, 10; or Ensign, May 2001, 10).
“Diligence is steady, consistent, earnest, and energetic effort in doing the Lord’s work. The Lord expects you to work diligently—persistently and with great effort and care. A diligent missionary works effectively and efficiently. Diligence in missionary work is an expression of your love for the Lord and His work. When you are diligent, you find joy and satisfaction in your work.
“Do many good things of your own free will (see D&C 58:27). Don’t wait for your leaders to tell you what to do. Continue until you have done all you can, even when you are tired. Focus on the most important things and avoid wasting time. Pray for guidance and strength. Plan regularly and effectively. Avoid anything that distracts your thoughts or actions” (Preach My Gospel, 121).
“Diligence in missionary work is an expression of your love for the Lord.”
President Thomas S. Monson, a counselor in the First Presidency, explained why missionaries need to work diligently:
“Missionary work is difficult. It will tax your energies. It will strain your capacity. It will demand your best effort—frequently, a second effort. Remember, the race goeth ‘not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong’ (Eccl. 9:11)—but to him who endures to the end. Determine to—
(in Conference Report, Mar.–Apr. 1979, 53; or Ensign, May 1979, 36–37).
Missionaries are commanded to serve God with all their “heart, might, mind and strength” (D&C 4:2).
Missionaries who serve God with all their “heart, might, mind and strength” (D&C 4:2) are able to give consistent, sincere, and energetic physical, mental, and spiritual effort to accomplish their purpose of inviting “others to come unto Christ by helping them receive the restored gospel through faith in Jesus Christ and His Atonement, repentance, baptism, receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost, and enduring to the end” (Preach My Gospel, 1). The diligent missionary will not waste time but considers every day an opportunity to serve the Lord.
Missionary work can be repetitive and difficult. Some days seem to bring little success, while other, more productive days make up for the difficult ones. The number of baptisms does not determine a missionary’s success. Working and serving effectively with the Spirit is essential for happiness in missionary service.
Elder Jeffrey R. Holland discussed a relationship between facing the difficulties of missionary work and remembering the Savior’s Atonement:
“Anyone who does any kind of missionary work will have occasion to ask, Why is this so hard? Why doesn’t it go better? Why can’t our success be more rapid? Why aren’t there more people joining the Church? It is the truth. We believe in angels. We trust in miracles. Why don’t people just flock to the font? Why isn’t the only risk in missionary work that of pneumonia from being soaking wet all day and all night in the baptismal font?
“You will have occasion to ask those questions. I have thought about this a great deal. I offer this as my personal feeling. I am convinced that missionary work is not easy because salvation is not a cheap experience. Salvation never was easy. We are The Church of Jesus Christ, this is the truth, and He is our Great Eternal Head. How could we believe it would be easy for us when it was never, ever easy for Him? …
“… When you struggle, when you are rejected, when you are spit upon and cast out and made a hiss and a byword, you are standing with the best life this world has ever known, the only pure and perfect life ever lived. You have reason to stand tall and be grateful that the Living Son of the Living God knows all about your sorrows and afflictions” (“Missionary Work and the Atonement,” Ensign, Mar. 2001, 14–15).
President Thomas S. Monson explained why missionary work requires using all our resources: “Missionary work is hard work. Missionary service is demanding and requires long hours of study and preparation, that the missionary himself might match the divine message he proclaims. It is a labor of love but also of sacrifice and devotion to duty” (in Conference Report, Sept.–Oct. 1995, 66; or Ensign, Nov. 1995, 49).
Obedience is a vital attribute in missionary work.
There is power that comes to obedient missionaries. Mission leaders stress the importance of keeping the commandments and mission rules. Missionaries need not be blindly obedient but rather faithfully obedient. Great peace comes through faithful obedience.
Along with the general mission rules, missionaries have the opportunity to follow specific counsel given by their leaders. President Gordon B. Hinckley gave an example of the power that comes from obeying one’s mission president:
“Years ago I was on a mission in England. I had been called to labor in the European Mission office in London under President Joseph F. Merrill of the Council of the Twelve, then president of the European Mission. One day three or four of the London papers carried reviews of a reprint of an old book, snide and ugly in tone, indicating that the book was a history of the Mormons. President Merrill said to me, ‘I want you to go down to the publisher and protest this.’ I looked at him and was about to say, ‘Surely not me.’ But I meekly said, ‘Yes, sir.’
“I do not hesitate to say that I was frightened. I went to my room and felt something as I think Moses must have felt when the Lord asked him to go and see Pharaoh. I offered a prayer. My stomach was churning as I walked over to the Goodge Street station to get the underground train to Fleet Street. I found the office of the president and presented my card to the receptionist. She took it and went into the inner office and soon returned to say that the president was too busy to see me. I replied that I had come five thousand miles and that I would wait. During the next hour she made two or three trips to his office; then finally he invited me in. I shall never forget the picture when I entered. He was smoking a long cigar with a look that seemed to say, ‘Don’t bother me.’
“I held in my hand the reviews. I do not recall what I said after that. Another power seemed to be speaking through me. At first he was defensive and even belligerent. Then he began to soften. He concluded by promising to do something. Within an hour word went out to every book dealer in England to return the books to the publisher. At great expense he printed and tipped in the front of each volume a statement to the effect that the book was not to be considered as history, but only as fiction, and that no offense was intended against the respected Mormon people. Years later he granted another favor of substantial worth to the Church, and each year until the time of his death I received a Christmas card from him.
“I came to know that when we try in faith to walk in obedience to the requests of the priesthood, the Lord opens the way, even when there appears to be no way” (“If Ye Be Willing and Obedient,” Ensign, July 1995, 4–5).
Missionaries who learn to faithfully obey are blessed with power. President Ezra Taft Benson emphasized the difference between reluctant obedience and willing obedience: “When obedience ceases to be an irritant and becomes our quest, in that moment God will endow us with power” (in Donald L. Staheli, in Conference Report, Apr. 1998, 108; or Ensign, May 1998, 82).
Elder Dennis B. Neuenschwander of the Seventy spoke of the importance of obeying mission rules: “Mission rules are important in the same way commandments are important. We all need to keep them, understanding that they give us strength, direction, and limits. The smart missionary will learn the intent of the rules and make them work for him. Your mission is a time of discipline and single-minded focus. You will be required to go without some things common to your current life-style: music, TV, videos, novels, even girls. There is nothing wrong with any of these things, … but then again, there is nothing wrong with food either, unless you are fasting, in which case even a teaspoon of water is improper” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1991, 59; or Ensign, Nov. 1991, 43).
Elder Richard G. Scott explained how personal obedience can help a missionary testify with power: “Missionaries who have paid tithing, for example, can bear witness of the promised blessings that the Lord gives for obedience. A missionary who has lived a righteous life can bear powerful witness because he has had spiritual experiences in his life. Such experiences are conditioned upon worthiness and faith in the Savior” (in “Teaching from the Heart,” Ensign, June 2004, 9).
Points to Ponder
Of the Christlike attributes discussed in this lesson, which ones do you need to concentrate on developing at this time in your life?
What do you need to do in order to improve in those Christlike attributes selected?
How do Christlike attitudes enable missionaries to more effectively teach the restored gospel?
Why are both the ability and the desire to serve diligently important for missionarywork?
How can you develop a greater ability to work hard in order to be a diligent missionary?
What are some of the blessings that result from obedience?
What is the relationship between obedience and having the Spirit?
Ponder your personal progress toward developing Christlike attributes. Select one or two areas to improve in and develop a specific plan for improvement.
Recommended Additional Reading
“Charity” (pp. 27–29)
“Faith” (pp. 54–56)
“Hope” (pp. 85–86)
“Humility” (pp. 86–87)
“Obedience” (pp. 108–9)