Chapter 2: Personal Worthiness

Missionary Preparation Student Manual, (2005), 13–20


Introduction

One of the crowning blessings of your life will be to go to the temple of the Lord and receive your temple endowment. This endowment gives you spiritual knowledge and power that will help you better serve the Lord and eventually qualify you to enter His kingdom. Because of the knowledge, power, and strength gained in the temple, prospective missionaries generally have the opportunity to go to the temple and receive their temple endowment prior to their missionary service. To do the Lord’s work as a missionary and to enter His holy house requires a high degree of personal worthiness.

Going to the temple for your personal endowment is an integral part of your mission preparation.

Doctrines and Principles to Understand

  • Personal worthiness is necessary to accomplish missionary work.

  • Personal worthiness allows prospective missionaries to obtain temple blessings.

  • Repentance is a cleansing process that allows us to become worthy.

Supporting Scriptures and Statements

Personal worthiness is necessary to accomplish missionary work.

Missionaries must be pure in order to have the spirit necessary to represent the Lord. Personal purity includes clean thoughts, moral cleanliness, adhering to gospel principles, and keeping the commandments. The demands of missionary service require spiritual fortitude. Priesthood leaders help prospective missionaries prepare for this demanding work by helping them repent and become worthy to serve as full-time missionaries.

Elder Charles Didier of the Presidency of the Seventy reflected on what prospective missionaries need to understand about worthiness to be prepared to serve the Lord: “I wish we could teach the youth how to avoid the need for major repentance. Prevention is better than redemption. We need to teach them to have a spirit of love for the Lord and His commandments. If they have that, we don’t need to establish barriers where we tell them, ‘If you go over that, you cannot serve’” (in “Teaching from the Heart,” Ensign, June 2004, 10).

When asked what potential missionaries should focus on being or becoming, Elder Richard G. Scott of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles answered: “Worthy—so that the Spirit can guide them.” He also said:

“They need to stay as far away from the boundaries of sin as they can. That gives them the greatest happiness as they’re preparing. It assures them the greatest capacity to be led by the Spirit and to be the examples they need to be in the mission field.

“Almost any young person can recite the ‘Rs’ of repentance or some other way of describing it. What they really need to do, though, is understand the gravity with which the Lord views some transgressions and not commit them” (in “Teaching from the Heart,” Ensign, June 2004, 9–10).

President Gordon B. Hinckley described a standard of worthiness that missionaries must attain:

“This work is rigorous. … It demands clean hands and a pure heart. …

“What a solemn and serious undertaking this work is. It demands that those who serve as missionaries be worthy in every respect. We simply cannot permit those who have not qualified themselves as to worthiness to go into the world to speak the glad tidings of the gospel.

“I am confident that raising the bar on eligibility will cause our young people, particularly our young men, to practice self-discipline, to live above the low standards of the world, to avoid transgression and take the high road in all their activities. We will not knowingly send young men to reform them. If their lives need reforming, that must happen well before they go. …

“… We need missionaries, but they must be capable of doing the work. They must be spiritually sensitive to do that which is expected of them, which is essentially a spiritual work. They must be morally worthy in every respect, having kept themselves clean from the evils of the world. If there have been offenses, there must have been adequate repentance. …

“We are not asking for perfection. The work of the Lord is done by ordinary people who work in an extraordinary way. The Lord magnifies those who put forth the effort. Nowhere is this more evident than in missionary service. … With small means the Lord accomplishes His marvelous work” (“Missionary Service,” First Worldwide Leadership Training Meeting, Jan. 2003, 17–18).

“This work is rigorous. … It demands clean hands and a pure heart. …

President Hinckley warned against pornography: “There is an ever-growing plague of pornography swirling about us. The producers and purveyors of smut are assiduously working a mine that yields them many millions in profit. Some of their products are artfully beguiling. They are designed to titillate and stimulate the baser instincts. Many a man who has partaken of forbidden fruit and then discovered that he has … lost his self-respect … has come to realize that the booby-trapped jungle trail he has followed began with the reading or viewing of pornographic material. Some who would not think of taking a sip of liquor or of smoking a cigarette, have rationalized indulgence in pornography. Such have warped values totally unbecoming one who has been ordained to the priesthood of God” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1983, 66; or Ensign, Nov. 1983, 45).

What standards of worthiness and testimony must prospective missionaries live?

  • Have faith in and a testimony of Heavenly Father, His Son, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost.

  • Have a testimony of the Atonement of Jesus Christ and His role as the Savior.

  • Have a testimony of the Prophet Joseph Smith and the Restoration of the gospel.

  • Sustain the Church authorities.

  • Keep the law of chastity. This includes avoiding pornography in any form.

  • Keep the covenants made at baptism and elsewhere.

  • Attend all their Church meetings.

  • Be honest in their dealings with others.

  • Pay a full tithing.

  • Keep the Word of Wisdom.

  • Repent and confess their sins. Confess serious sins to priesthood leaders.

Personal worthiness allows prospective missionaries to obtain temple blessings.

President Howard W. Hunter taught the importance of the temple blessings in relation to the mission call: “Let us prepare every missionary to go to the temple worthily and to make that experience an even greater highlight than receiving the mission call” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1994, 118; or Ensign, Nov. 1994, 88).

Why is the temple experience so important to a missionary? Temple blessings bring power to worthy missionaries. The blessings obtained in the house of the Lord come to those who are worthy. The required standards of worthiness will increase spirituality and enhance each missionary’s ability to teach the restored gospel to others.

A missionary endowed in the temple is entitled to additional power. This power comes through the greater understanding of Heavenly Father’s plan, the covenants, and the blessings obtained only in the temple.

Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles taught that temple work “can be an anchor in daily life, a source of guidance, protection, security, peace, and revelation” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1992, 123; or Ensign, May 1992, 88).

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles explained why missionaries need temple ordinances in order to successfully preach the restored gospel:

“It is so important for you to understand that going to the temple for your own endowment … [is] an integral part of your mission preparation. … [You should] understand the significance of those temple covenants [and] the inextricable link between your endowment and your missionary success. Indeed, the very word endowment conveys the essence of that vital link. An endowment is a gift.

“You cannot do this work alone. We have to have heaven’s help, we have to have the ‘gifts’ of God. … This work is so serious and the adversary’s opposition to it so great that we need every divine power to enhance our effort and move the Church steadily forward” (“Making and Keeping Covenants” [missionary satellite broadcast, Apr. 25, 1997]).

“We need every divine power to enhance our effort and move the Church steadily forward.”

Elder Bruce R. McConkie, who was a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, explained how temple blessings qualify one to go forth and preach the restored gospel: “The apostles—or any ministers or missionaries in any age—are not fully qualified to go forth, preach the gospel, and build up the kingdom, unless they have the gift of the Holy Ghost and also are endowed with power from on high, meaning [they] have received certain knowledge, powers, and special blessings, normally given only in the Lord’s Temple” (Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, 3 vols. [1966–73], 1:859).

President Joseph Fielding Smith explained why temple blessings are needed before entering the mission field: “Do you understand why our missionaries go to the temple before they are set apart for their mission fields? This is a requirement made of them … [where there is access to a temple] because the Lord has said it should be done. He called all the missionaries to Kirtland in the early day of the Church to receive endowments in the temple erected there. He said this was so that they could go out with greater power from on high and with greater protection” (Doctrines of Salvation, comp. Bruce R. McConkie, 3 vols. [1954–56], 2:255).

Elder David B. Haight, who was a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, described the blessings of receiving the temple endowment: “The environment in the temple is intended to provide the worthy member of the Church with the power of enlightenment, of testimony, and of understanding. The temple endowment gives knowledge that, when acted upon, provides strength and conviction of truth” (A Light unto the World [1997], 49).

While serving as a member of the Seventy, Elder Jack H. Goaslind Jr. spoke of the relationship of the endowment to missionary service: “By obeying the commandments and fulfilling these covenants, we are sanctified, purified, and born of the Spirit. We become vessels worthy of receiving the Holy Spirit and the accompanying gifts of the Spirit that must attend this work if we are to succeed” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1983, 47–48; or Ensign, Nov. 1983, 33).

Elder Richard G. Scott spoke of the purpose of the temple recommend interview: “Before entering the temple, you will be interviewed by your bishop and stake president for your temple recommend. Be honest and candid with them. That interview is not a test to be passed but an important step to confirm that you have the maturity and spirituality to receive the supernal ordinances and make and keep the edifying covenants offered in the house of the Lord. Personal worthiness is an essential requirement to enjoy the blessings of the temple. Anyone foolish enough to enter the temple unworthily will receive condemnation” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1999, 31; or Ensign, May 1999, 25).

Elder David B. Haight taught, “When we present our recommend to the attendant at the temple, we reaffirm our worthiness to enter the temple” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1992, 19; or Ensign, May 1992, 15).

Repentance is a cleansing process that allows us to become worthy.

There is a strong correlation between personal worthiness and success in the mission field. Prospective missionaries must properly repent of past sins before entering the mission field.

Repentance is a principle that will bless the lives of missionaries and investigators who exercise faith in Jesus Christ, repent of their sins, and accept the principles and ordinances of the gospel.

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland wrote of the vital need to understand that true faith in Christ leads us to repent of our sins: “We learn above all else [from the experience of Alma the Younger] that Christ is the power behind all repentance. … Alma had been touched by the teaching of his father, but it is particularly important that the prophecy he remembered was one regarding ‘the coming of one Jesus Christ, a Son of God, to atone for the sins of the world.’ (Alma 36:17.) That is the name and that is the message that every person must hear. … Whatever other prayers we offer, whatever other needs we have, all somehow depends on that plea: ‘O Jesus, thou Son of God, have mercy on me.’ He is prepared to provide that mercy. He paid with his very life in order to give it” (However Long and Hard the Road [1985], 85).

Elder Glenn L. Pace of the Seventy focused on the importance of clearing up unresolved transgressions prior to serving a mission:“The strongest counsel I can give a prospective missionary is to stay worthy. The second strongest counsel is to get yourself worthy before you enter the MTC. Make certain you are honest with your local priesthood leaders. …

“There is a common feeling among the youth that the only real discomfort or penalty for serious transgression is the pain and embarrassment attendant with confessing the transgression to their bishop. This is only the beginning. One cannot immediately have the Holy Ghost as a constant companion by walking into the bishop’s office, confessing a sin, and walking out again. None of us believe in deathbed repentance. Why do so many of us accept ‘mission bed’ repentance. It matters little that a prospective missionary learns his or her [lessons] well … , gaining a person’s trust, and all the other techniques. They are hollow without the Spirit. … Without the Spirit, you shall not teach” (“Why?” [devotional address at Ricks College, Sept. 24, 1991], 2–4).

The best time to clear up any unresolved transgressions is before your mission.

“The strongest counsel I can give a prospective missionary is to stay worthy.”

Elder Richard G. Scott counseled those who have fully repented but continue to feel weighed down because of those sins:

“If you have repented from serious transgression and mistakenly believe that you will always be a second-class citizen in the kingdom of God, learn that is not true. The Savior said:

“‘Behold, he who has repented of his sins, the same is forgiven, and I, the Lord, remember them no more.

“‘By this ye may know if a man repenteth of his sins—behold, he will confess them and forsake them’ [D&C 58:42–43]” (in Conference Report, Oct. 2000, 33; or Ensign, Nov. 2000, 26).

President Boyd K. Packer, Acting President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, described the cleansing power of repentance: “The discouraging idea that a mistake (or even a series of them) makes it everlastingly too late, does not come from the Lord. He has said that if we will repent, not only will He forgive us our transgressions, but He will forget them and remember our sins no more (see Isaiah 43:25; Hebrews 8:12; 10:17; Alma 36:19; D&C 58:42). Repentance is like soap; it can wash sin away. Ground-in dirt may take the strong detergent of discipline to get the stains out, but out they will come” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1989, 72; or Ensign, May 1989, 59).

The Lord will forgive us if we repent.

President N. Eldon Tanner, who was a counselor in the First Presidency, explained why missionaries must be worthy and clean: “Prospective missionaries should realize that the Lord wants somebody in whom he can place every confidence, one who is clean and worthy in every way to represent him in the mission field. If you are not worthy, don’t accept a call, don’t lie to get there, but through repentance prepare yourself to go. It is so much better to wait a year or so than to go unworthily. Have the courage and manhood, stamina and determination to face the facts, to tell the truth, to prepare yourselves in every way to do what the Lord would want you to do” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1976, 67; or Ensign, May 1976, 44).

Points to Ponder

  • Why do you feel it is important to receive a temple endowment prior to serving a mission?

  • What is wrong with thinking it is okay to sin now and repent later?

  • Why do those who have sincere faith in Jesus Christ desire to repent of their sins?

  • Why do you feel it is important to confess serious sins to priesthood leaders as well as to the Lord?

Suggested Assignments

  • Memorize Doctrine and Covenants 58:42–43 and 121:45–46.

  • Examine your personal worthiness for serving a mission. If there are problem areas, determine what needs to be done and then follow through.

  • Write in your study journal your understanding of why those who have sincere faith in Jesus Christ will repent of their sins, be baptized, and receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. Why would this relationship be important for missionaries to understand in their personal lives? Why must they be able to clearly teach this truth?

Recommended Additional Reading

    True to the Faith: A Gospel Reference

  • “Chastity” (pp. 29–33)

  • “Repentance” (pp. 132–35)

Notes and Impressions