Chapter 2: Personal Worthiness

Missionary Preparation Teacher Manual Religion 130, (2005), 11–17


Personal worthiness is essential for every person preparing to enter the temple and preparing to serve a full-time mission. Bishops and stake presidents determine worthiness. As the instructor you should not establish the exact degree of worthiness required but instead direct students with worthiness questions to their priesthood leaders.

Missionary Prayer

In this lesson you will encourage students to be obedient to the Lord’s commandments, the teachings of His prophets and apostles, and mission rules. Make sure students know that before they begin their missionary service, they should discuss with their priesthood leaders all serious, unresolved transgressions. When missionaries are worthy and obedient, they can “speak in the name of God the Lord, even the Savior of the world” (D&C 1:20).

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.

Teaching Suggestions

Personal worthiness is necessary to accomplish missionary work.

Divide students into small groups and have the groups read the statements from Elder Charles Didier, Elder Richard G. Scott, and President Gordon B. Hinckley in the student manual (see pp. 13–14). Provide students with the following questions to discuss in their groups:

  • What does it mean to be worthy to serve a mission?

  • Why is being worthy so important to missionary work?

  • What does the phrase “prevention is better than redemption” mean to a young person preparing for a mission?

  • What does Elder Didier teach should be our motivation to avoid committing sin?

  • Why do you think having the “spirit of love for the Lord and His commandments” would help keep you worthy to serve a mission?

  • How does putting off repentance damage missionary efforts?

  • How can the Lord’s missionary work be “done by ordinary people who work in an extraordinary way”? Why must they be worthy to accomplish this?

Ask students:

  • What kinds of plagues does President Hinckley say must be avoided?

Read with students President Gordon B. Hinckley’s statement on pornography in the student manual (see p. 14).

  • What other plagues could you add to this list?

  • In what ways are pornography, sharing unclean stories, and breaking the Word of Wisdom like a trap?

Have students list other plagues or traps and explain their dangers to a person’s spirituality.

  • What does it mean to keep one’s self unspotted from the world? (see James 1:27).

  • What are the blessings of allowing virtue to garnish our thoughts? (see D&C 121:45).

DVD Track 5 How can we remove the bad images that sometimes come into our minds? Read the following statement from President Boyd K. Packer, or you may choose to show DVD track 5 (0:54):

“On every computer board, in any language, there is one key that says delete. Have a ‘delete key’ in your mind. Develop your use of the delete key. If you have one of these unworthy thoughts trying to push itself into your mind, delete it!

“Now, what will that delete key be? Some little gesture that no one else would notice. I do not know what yours should be. That has to be yours. It is private. It might be, for instance, if you wear glasses, just touching your glasses. A thought comes into your mind, and you touch your glasses to delete it. No one but you will know. Or it might be any little gesture that is private to you, such as rubbing your hand. Learn to use your delete key when these thoughts, these temptations come. You can learn to delete them.

“You can learn to control your thoughts. When you do that, and as you follow the rule of obedience, you are going to be all right. You will be guided” (“Some Things Every Missionary Should Know” [seminar for new mission presidents, June 26, 2002], 16–17).

Personal worthiness allows prospective missionaries to obtain temple blessings.

Have students read Doctrine and Covenants 109:22–23, and write on the board the four blessings requested by the Prophet Joseph Smith in the dedicatory prayer of the Kirtland Temple. Discuss each of these blessings. You may wish to use the following corresponding questions:

  • What do you think it means to act in God’s name as a missionary?

  • How can God’s glory be around us in a mortal world? (see D&C 88:28–29; 93:36).

  • In what ways might angels have charge over us? (see 2 Nephi 32:3–4; D&C 13).

Have a student read Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin’s statement from the student manual regarding temple blessings (see p. 15). List additional blessings on the board.

To be successful missionaries, one needs the blessings or “gifts” only available in the temple as well as the gift of the Holy Ghost. Read with students the statements from the student manual by Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, Elder Bruce R. McConkie, and President Joseph Fielding Smith (see pp. 15–16).

  • According to these Brethren, how can the temple endowment assist a missionary in preaching the restored gospel?

  • Share with students the observation that sometimes Church members emphasize the importance of receiving a mission call over receiving our temple ordinances. Why do you think that receiving a mission call might receive greater emphasis than temple blessings?

Share the encouragement of President Howard W. Hunter, fourteenth President of the Church, from the student manual (p. 15).

  • According to Doctrine and Covenants 95:8; 105:11–12, what has the Lord designed to give the Saints in His holy temples?

  • According to the statements in the student manual by Elders David B. Haight and Jack H. Goaslind Jr. (p. 16), what are some ways one is endowed with “power from on high” from the temple? (You may wish to list student suggestions on the board and discuss them as appropriate. Caution students not to use temple language or be too specific during this brief discussion.)

  • Why are these endowments or gifts important to a missionary?

Most missionaries have the opportunity to receive their temple endowment before their mission. Elder Richard G. Scott taught:

“Personal worthiness is an essential requirement to enjoy the blessings of the temple” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1999, 31; or Ensign, May 1999, 25).

Invite students to talk about the color of clothing that is worn in the temples and why the color white is significant. Some of your students may not have been to the temple yet. For these students you may wish to read to them the following explanation and insight regarding temple clothing and discuss the questions that follow:

“When we do ordinance work in the temple we wear white clothing. This clothing is symbolic of purity and worthiness and cleanliness.

“Upon entering the temple you exchange your street clothing for the white clothing of the temple. … As you put your clothing in the locker you leave your cares and concerns and distractions there with them. You step out of this private little dressing area dressed in white and you feel a oneness and a sense of equality, for all around you are similarly dressed” (Preparing to Enter the Holy Temple [2002], 16–18).

  • How do you think removing your street clothes and replacing them with white temple clothing helps you prepare for the sacred experiences of the temple?

  • Why would preparing yourself to be worthy to worship in the temple also help you prepare to serve the Lord on a mission?

  • How might remembering that you have been to the temple and made sacred covenants bless your life as a missionary?

Invite students to read the statement from the student manual by Elder Richard G. Scott (p. 16) and think about why one must be totally honest during both the temple recommend interviews as well as the discussions with priesthood leaders regarding worthiness to serve a mission.

  • What do you think it means that the temple recommend interview is “an important step to confirm that you have the maturity and spirituality” to receive ordinances and keep covenants in the Lord’s house?

  • Why do you think personal worthiness is an essential requirement to enjoy the blessings of the temple as well as a full-time mission?

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

Explain that repentance is a positive aspect of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ and that if the students are not currently worthy, they can become so through repentance. Alma told his son “what joy, and what marvelous light” he experienced after the cleansing process of repentance (Alma 36:20).

Have students pair up and prepare a short lesson on repentance that could be taught to an investigator. Specifically focus on how the principle of faith in Christ leads one to repent of his or her sins. It may be helpful to refer to the statement from Elder Holland in the student manual (see p. 16), the following scriptures, and any other verses they find useful: Helaman 14:13; 15:7–8; 3 Nephi 12:19–20; Doctrine and Covenants 53:3. After they prepare this brief lesson, have one pair teach another pair of students. Then reverse roles. After a few minutes, allow all four students to make observations with each other about the experience. What did they do that went well and what could they have done better?

Everyone, not just those who have committed major transgressions, needs to repent as they prepare for missionary service. Have a student read aloud Doctrine and Covenants 133:16 and ask the class to explain its significance to them as future missionaries.

Share the following hypothetical case study:

Craig’s life had changed. For years he had been raised in the Church and had followed its teachings. In his midteens, however, he found himself slipping in obedience to the commandments. His actions made attending church uncomfortable. On one occasion he heard a stake leader speak of the joys of repentance and of serving a mission free from the weight of sin. His heart was touched, and he knew he had to clean up his life. He made an appointment to see his bishop.

  • What might be some of the questions on Craig’s mind while waiting to see the bishop?

  • What answers would you suggest to Craig’s questions?

Read with students the paragraphs entitled Confession under “Repentance” in True to the Faith: A Gospel Reference [2004], 134), and discuss the value of a priesthood leader in helping one repent.

Read the following statements by President Boyd K. Packer:

“God be praised for the cleansing, purifying, forgiving power of the Atonement brought by the Lord Jesus Christ, of whom I bear witness” (in Conference Report, Oct. 2000, 96; or Ensign, Nov. 2000, 74).

“Repentance, like soap, should be used frequently” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1997, 9; or Ensign, May 1997, 9).

Hold up a bar of soap.

  • How is repentance like soap?

Emphasize that when repentance is sincere, one is not only made clean from the sin but has a change of heart and nature regarding the sin repented of.

  • How do you feel when the power of the Atonement makes you spiritually clean?

  • Why is the abandonment of sin vital to repentance? (see D&C 58:43).

Your repentance will make you a personal witness of the Atonement’s power to cleanse.

  • According to the fourth article of faith, what will the sincere repentance of an investigator lead to?

Have your students consider the lives and powerful testimonies of missionaries such as the Apostle Paul, Alma the Younger, and the sons of Mosiah.

  • Why were they so persistent at teaching the gospel of repentance, even at great personal risk?

  • Why were consistently righteous men like Nephi, Abinadi, and Moroni also great teachers of the Savior’s Atonement?

Read to students the following statement from Elder Glenn L. Pace:

“A mission is not a place for sinners to repent, but for calling sinners to repentance. Missionaries are not being sent on missions to gain a testimony, but to bear their testimonies” (“Why?” [devotional address at Ricks College, Sept. 24, 1991], 3).

Ask a student to rephrase Elder Pace’s statement in his or her own words.

Read and discuss with students the remainder of Elder Pace’s statement in the student manual (p. 17).

  • According to Elder Pace, what is “a common feeling among the youth” regarding confessions just before a mission?

  • What counsel would you give to a potential missionary who is afraid to speak openly to a priesthood leader regarding his or her sins?

Help students understand that the Savior’s Atonement provides hope to those who feel they cannot be forgiven. Read Doctrine and Covenants 58:42.

  • If the Lord remembers our sins no more, why is it difficult for some people to forgive themselves?

Read Alma 36:19. Explain to your students that when we truly repent, the pain of remembering our sins can be removed. We need not feel the pain forever.

Help students understand that true peace can follow the Lord’s forgiveness. Elder F. Burton Howard of the Seventy explained:

“When you have fully repented, you feel an inner peace. You know somehow you are forgiven because the burden you have carried for so long, all of a sudden isn’t there anymore. It is gone and you know it is gone” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1983, 79; or Ensign, May 1983, 59).

DVD Track 6 DVD Track 7 Sometimes people who have sinned feel they can never really be whole again, that they are less than what they could be. Have the class refer to the statements by Elder Richard G. Scott and President Boyd K. Packer in the student manual (p. 17), or you may choose to show DVD tracks 6 (0:38) and 7 (0:42).

Caution: Remember to not become too specific in the discussion of sins or in interpreting the statements by Elder Scott and President Packer from the student manual. You should encourage students to discuss with their bishops or branch presidents detailed questions about repentance.

Explain that while repentance leads to forgiveness, some sins can disqualify a person from missionary service. For example, the Brethren have stated that prospective missionaries who have been guilty of fornication, heavy petting, other sexual perversions, drug abuse, serious violation of civil law, and other transgressions are to repent and be free from these sins for at least one year. Further, those who have been immoral with several partners or with one partner for an extended period of time in either a heterosexual or a homosexual relationship will not be considered for full-time missionary service. Encourage students who have questions to visit with their bishops or branch presidents.

Suggested Assignments for Students

  • 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?