“11: How Do I Help People Make and Keep Commitments?” Preach My Gospel: A Guide to Missionary Service (2018), 197–204
“11 Keep Commitments,” Preach My Gospel, 197–204
As a missionary, you desire the salvation of souls (see Mosiah 28:3). You know that people can come unto Christ and be saved only on conditions of repentance (see Doctrine and Covenants 18:10–16). One way to fulfill your desires is to cry repentance (see Alma 5:49; Doctrine and Covenants 15:6; 16:6) and boldly invite people to exercise faith unto repentance, to be baptized by water and the Spirit, and to endure faithfully to the end (see 3 Nephi 27:16–20; Mormon 7:10).
Commitment is an essential part of repentance. It is the act of obligating oneself to a course of action and then diligently following through on that decision. When people are genuinely committed, they have real intent, meaning that they fully intend to do what they have committed to do. They make an unwavering and earnest decision to change. They become devoted to Christ and dedicate themselves to His gospel. Keeping their commitment is how they “truly manifest by their works that they have received of the Spirit of Christ unto the remission of their sins” (Doctrine and Covenants 20:37). When you ask for commitments as part of your teaching, you are inviting people to repent.
Commitment is also an essential part of making and keeping covenants. Elder Jeffrey R. Holland taught: “When you teach [people] to keep their commitments, you are teaching them to become covenant-keepers” (“Making and Keeping Covenants,” missionary satellite broadcast, April 25, 1997). People who keep commitments before baptism are more likely to make and keep covenants after baptism. Making and keeping covenants is an essential part of the gospel of Jesus Christ and God’s plan for His children.
One of the best ways to help people make and keep commitments is to extend an invitation. Extending and following up on invitations is vital because:
People become converted as they live the principles they learn (see John 7:17) and feel the Spirit confirm that what they are doing is pleasing to their Father in Heaven.
Repentance and change will help people conquer challenges, rid themselves of shame and guilt, and experience the peace and joy of God’s forgiveness.
Keeping commitments prepares people to make and keep sacred covenants.
You can show your love for the people and your faith in God’s promises by following up to help them repent and keep their commitments.
The commitments required for baptism are listed in the first four lessons. The commitments related to spiritual progress after baptism and confirmation are listed in lesson 5. Be constantly aware of the need to invite people to do things that will strengthen their faith in Christ. Remember the following principles:
Every finding opportunity—with members, referrals, or personal contacting—should lead to an invitation to act, usually to learn more about the message of the Restoration.
Rarely, if ever, should you talk to people or teach them without extending an invitation to do something that will strengthen their faith in Christ.
Focus on one or more invitations when you teach. If you do not invite people to make commitments, you are not asking them to repent and come to Christ.
As you prepare in companion study to teach a lesson, consider the needs and progress of each person and include one or more invitations in your lesson plan.
During a lesson you may be inspired to extend invitations other than those you planned. Always invite people to repent.
Be bold and confident as you invite people to make commitments (see Alma 38:12). Boldness shows your faith that obedience to the Lord’s commandments brings blessings.
People will not likely change unless they are invited to do so.
An invitation often takes the form of a “will you” question, which requires a yes or no response. Invitations should be specific, direct, and clear. They invite or lead people to decide on a course of action. They require them to make a commitment and to exercise active faith in the principles you have taught them.
Following are some examples of good invitations, followed by the beginning of a promise and testimony:
Will you pray and ask God whether Joseph Smith was a prophet? I know that as you pray God will … I know that Joseph Smith was a prophet …
Will you attend church with us this Sunday at 9:00 a.m.? If you do, you will … I know that Christ’s Church has been restored …
Will you begin now to live the law of chastity as we have explained it? Living this law will … As a servant of the Lord I testify that living a chaste life …
Will you invite [name] before Friday to meet with us and begin learning about the gospel? The Spirit will help you … Sharing the gospel will bless your life …
May we come to your home and tell you more about how God has called a prophet in our day as He did in ancient times? Increased purpose, direction, and peace will come into your life as you come to understand … I testify that God has again called …
People need a reason to change their thoughts and actions. Promised blessings often provide powerful motivation to obey God. When the Lord gives a commandment, He often promises blessings for keeping that commandment (see Doctrine and Covenants 130:20–21). As you prepare people to obey a specific commandment, teach them that:
Living the commandments shows love for God and His Son.
They demonstrate their trust in God as they obey His commandments.
In return, they will receive blessings that He has promised, including the greatest of all blessings, that of eternal life and exaltation for those who keep all His commandments.
As you testify of a commandment, talk about the blessings you have received from living that commandment. Promise those whom you teach that they can enjoy similar blessings.
As people strive to keep a commitment, ask them to talk about the blessings that Heavenly Father has given them. Assure them that even though difficulties will enter their lives, His blessings will continue as they obey His will.
A testimony is a spiritual witness and assurance given by the Holy Ghost. To bear testimony is to give a simple, direct declaration of belief—a feeling, an assurance, a conviction of gospel truth. Sharing your testimony often is one of the most powerful ways of inviting the Spirit and helping others feel the Spirit. It adds a current, personal witness to the truths you have taught from the scriptures. An effective missionary teaches, testifies, and invites others to do things that build faith in Jesus Christ. This includes making promises that come from living true principles. For example, a missionary might say, “I know as you keep the Sabbath day holy, you will find more peace in your heart.”
For your testimony to have convincing power, you must be sincere. Powerful testimony is not dependent on eloquence or the volume of your voice but on the conviction of your heart. Strive daily to strengthen your understanding and conviction of the doctrine and principles you are to teach. Bear testimony often to seal the truth of the principles or doctrine you are teaching. As often as possible, teach, then testify, and testify as you teach.
Your testimony may be as simple as “Jesus Christ is the Son of God” or “I have learned for myself that the Book of Mormon is true.” You may also share a brief experience about how you gained this knowledge. Bear testimony several times in each lesson, not just at the end. Bear testimony that what your companion has taught is from God. Bear testimony that the principle you are going to teach will bless the person’s life if he or she will follow it. Talk about how living a principle has blessed your life.
People may sometimes intellectually question what you teach, but it is difficult to question a sincere, heartfelt testimony. When you testify, pray that those you are teaching will feel the confirming witness of the Holy Ghost. When you testify, you help create an environment for people to feel the Holy Ghost confirming your witness of the truth. This prepares them to accept the invitations you will extend.
Brigham Young was not baptized into The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints during the first year of his learning about the restored gospel. But of his conversion he said: “If all the talent, tact, wisdom, and refinement of the world had been sent to me with the Book of Mormon, and had declared, in the most exalted of earthly eloquence, the truth of it, undertaking to prove it by learning and worldly wisdom, they would have been to me like smoke which arises only to vanish away. But when I saw a man without eloquence or talents for public speaking, who could only say, ‘I know by the power of the Holy Ghost that the Book of Mormon is true, that Joseph Smith is a Prophet of the Lord,’ the Holy Ghost proceeding from that individual illuminated my understanding, and a light, glory, and immortality were before me. I was encircled by them, filled with them, and I knew for myself that the testimony of the man was true” (in Journal of Discourses, 1:90).
Extending an invitation without following up is like beginning a journey without finishing it or buying a ticket to a concert without going into the theater. Without the completed action, the commitment is hollow.
Change can be hard. Your role is to help strengthen people in their resolve to change. You should do all you can to help people keep their commitments.
Genuine repentance is best demonstrated by righteous actions over a period of time, especially for commandments such as chastity, the Word of Wisdom, and tithing. As you and ward leaders work with people to help them keep their commitments, show understanding. Be patient but persistent. You have not finished your ministry until people are living these commitments, or in other words, until they have repented (see 3 Nephi 18:32). Sometimes several visits may be necessary for you to help people develop strong enough faith in a principle to lead to repentance.
Following up begins when you first visit and teach people:
Have them record their commitment, perhaps on their phone or calendar or on something you leave with them, such as a card with your names and phone number.
Make sure people know that you or member friends will make brief contact with them daily between teaching appointments. Determine which method of communication they would prefer (brief visit, phone call, text message, email, social media message, and so on). Explain that your purpose in following up is to support and help them. Give them an idea of what you will do when you make contact each day. Be respectful of people’s time and wishes.
Make daily contact positive and comfortable to encourage and uplift those you teach.
Record specific notes to follow up tomorrow on every invitation you have extended today.
Make frequent contact, daily if possible, to find out how people are progressing with their commitments, answer questions, help them overcome challenges, teach additional lessons, read together from the Book of Mormon, share passages of scripture, introduce them to members, or share relevant Church media. As you contact and visit people often, you will strengthen the spiritual feelings they felt as you taught them the message of the Restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ. This sustaining influence of the Spirit is vital. There may be times when you call the people you are teaching to remind and encourage them to keep a commitment.
Help people identify the blessings they have received as they have kept their commitments. Especially help them describe their feelings as the Spirit has testified of the truthfulness of the message.
Compliment and encourage people who are succeeding in keeping commitments. The people you are teaching are changing their lives. They have a lot to learn and to do. Sincerely and frequently praise them. Express your gratitude for their progress and your confidence that they can succeed. Encourage them whenever you are with them.
Express concern and disappointment when people fail to keep their commitments and thus fail to experience the blessings.
When you write home, ask your family members how they have been blessed by obeying a specific commandment (for example, tithing).
Write how you feel about extending invitations. Are you bold or timid? Are you confident that people will be blessed, or do you have doubts? Are you consistent, patient, and helpful as you make daily contact? Do the people know you love them? How can you correct any weakness you identify in your invitations?
Review your lesson plans for each lesson. Do you include specific invitations? Does your lesson plan lead clearly to invitations to act?
From your planning tools, make a list of people you have contacted in the past two days, including those you are teaching and members. For each person, write the commitment or commitments they made and other invitations you could have or should have extended. Discuss why you were able to obtain commitments from some of these people and what prevented you from obtaining commitments from others. What will you do to follow up on these invitations?
Look at your planning tools, and write the names of specific people you will teach in the next day or two. Consider which commandment or commandments listed in lessons 4 and 5 you will invite them to live. Discuss how you will extend the invitation and the specific blessings you will promise for obedience.
Consider showing the Teaching Record to the people you are teaching to let them know what will be expected. If appropriate, share a copy with them.
Review your notes for the past three days to see if you have written your assignments to follow up on every invitation you have extended.
Discuss effective and creative ideas for daily contact with people you are teaching. How have missionaries worked with members effectively? What printed or digital media are useful? What can you do when people are not home or are too busy to see you?
Discuss specific concerns of some of the people you are currently teaching. What are the nature of these concerns? What can the missionaries do to resolve the concerns?
When possible, accompany missionaries as they teach. Help them focus on helping people make and keep commitments.
Encourage priesthood leaders, auxiliary leaders, and members to actively participate in making daily contact with those you are teaching.
Be an example of extending invitations in your missionary efforts and with the missionaries you serve.