A Divine Mandate
President Dallin H Oaks gave an excellent talk about sharing the gospel in October 2016 and he began by saying:
“Nearing the end of His earthly ministry, our Savior, Jesus Christ, commanded His disciples: “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations” (Matthew 28:19) and “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature” (Mark 16:15). All Christians are under these commands to share the gospel with everyone. Many call this the “great commission.””
All of us, especially those that renew sacred covenants in the name of Christ, are all commissioned to share the gospel with our fellow man. We must do it – it is not an option. We read this in many places in the scriptures but one example is Mosiah 18:9, where the new converts were taught…:
“…to stand as witnesses of God at all times and in all things, and in all places that ye may be in, even until death, that ye may be redeemed of God, and be numbered with those of the first resurrection, that ye may have eternal life…”
Elder Oaks went on further about us recognising our responsibility:
“Latter-day Saints are surely among those most committed to this great responsibility. We should be because we know that God loves all of His children and that in these last days He has restored vital additional knowledge and power to bless all of them.”
We all know this. We are encouraged generally on a weekly basis to engage in missionary work. It is linked with one of our Europe Area Goals (which are still in force this year). It has been a part of Christ’s Church since He walked the Earth and it forever will be. On top of this, when we depart from this life, we will still be expected to share the Gospel with those who did not receive it. In D&C 138:30-31 we read an account by President Joseph F. Smith of this commission:
“But behold, from among the righteous, he organized his forces and appointed messengers, clothed with power and authority, and commissioned them to go forth and carry the light of the gospel to them that were in darkness, even to all the spirits of men; and thus was the gospel preached to the dead. And the chosen messengers went forth to declare the acceptable day of the Lord and proclaim liberty to the captives who were bound, even unto all who would repent of their sins and receive the gospel.”
Missionary work, or the work of salvation, is an eternal principle. Does this make it any easier? Of course not. I, personally, did not find sharing the gospel easily.
What Can Help Us?
This is the first key to sharing the Gospel – having a desire to share it. We can pray for charity. Elder Oaks also shares three things that we all can do to help in this great work of salvation:
“First, we can all pray for desire to help with this vital part of the work of salvation. All efforts begin with desire.”
I am going to take a guess here – I may be wrong – but I do not think that every person has an innate desire to share the gospel. If you do not think this is the case, then I will admit to this. Sharing the gospel is something that comes naturally to some, not others. However, we can all develop desire. We read in Proverbs 10:24:
“…the desire of the righteous shall be granted.”
That is our first invite – to pray for a desire to help in this vital work. This works – if we consistently pray with the energy of our heart, then we will be blessed with the desire. Elder Oaks continued with his suggestions:
“Second, we can keep the commandments ourselves. Faithful, obedient members are the most persuasive witnesses of the truth and value of the restored gospel. Even more important, faithful members will always have the Savior’s Spirit to be with them to guide them as they seek to participate in the great work of sharing the restored gospel of Jesus Christ.”
Throughout the scriptures we read of incredible missionaries. One such missionary was Ammon – a classic example. He decided, along with his brothers to go on a mission to the Lamanites, a group of people that were known to attack and even kill Nephites on sight. He went to a civilisation of Lamanites led by a man called King Lamoni and became his servant. We know the story – it’s a favourite with young boys like my son – Ammon ends up protecting the king’s sheep by chopping off arms and these arms are brought before King Lamoni as a sign of Ammon’s power. We will start to analyse here: what is first interesting is the diligence of Ammon. After defending the king’s flocks he could be forgiven for going before the king to let him know, or at least having a rest. However we hear he went straight away to prepare the king’s chariots. We read:
“Now when king Lamoni heard that Ammon was preparing his horses and his chariots he was more astonished, because of the faithfulness of Ammon, saying: Surely there has not been any servant among all my servants that has been so faithful as this man; for even he doth remember all my commandments to execute them. Now I surely know that this is the Great Spirit, and I would desire him that he come in unto me, but I durst not.”
We find that Ammon was not only exactly obedient to his God but also to the man who had earthly leadership over him. This obedience was impressive to Lamoni, to the point he was amazed by it. However, the most important evidence of the need to be obedient to commandments comes next. Ammon enters and is greeted by a stunned Lamoni. There is silence for an hour – I could be silent for ten seconds and it would become slightly awkward. There was silence for an hour! Then, we see the blessing of Ammon’s obedience for his missionary work:
“And it came to pass that Ammon, being filled with the Spirit of God, therefore he perceived the thoughts of the king. And he said unto him: Is it because thou hast heard that I defended thy servants and thy flocks, and slew seven of their brethren with the sling and with the sword, and smote off the arms of others, in order to defend thy flocks and thy servants; behold, is it this that causeth thy marvelings?”
Ammon was attuned to the voice of the Spirit, because of his obedience. We too, once we receive the desire to engage in missionary work, can be lifted and supported in this by simply keeping all the commandments. We will be given in the exact moment what to say. Finally, Elder Oaks shares as his final suggestion to all:
“Third, we can pray for inspiration on what we can do in our individual circumstances to share the gospel with others. This is different than praying for the missionaries or praying for what others can do. We should pray for what we can do personally. When we pray, we should remember that prayers for this kind of inspiration will be answered if accompanied by a commitment—something the scriptures call “real intent” or “full purpose of heart.” Pray with a commitment to act upon the inspiration you receive, promising the Lord that if He will inspire you to speak to someone about the gospel, you will do it.”
This is probably the scariest part. I can testify that this works. If you want to prove me wrong, then try it. I had an experience when 14 years old. I was invited by our leaders to sincerely pray for missionary opportunities. I had never really done this so I tried it. In the space of the following four days, I had three opportunities to share the Gospel with people I hadn’t before. I was so freaked out that I stopped praying for the opportunities! This was an important lesson for me – prayer works. Now, I am not saying that opportunities will come instantly. Also, I sincerely doubt that if we pray for missionary opportunities then we magically receive more chances to share. Often, we will simply be more aware of those opportunities because we are looking out more for them.
To finish, I will share some great ‘top tips’ again given in Elder Oaks’s inspired message:
- Listen to people’s discussion – if someone starts talking to you about a seriously ill relative, or a death in the family – sharing about the Book of Mormon (whilst we understand how this may link) may not link to a non-member
- Share the Gospel – not the Mormon Church. We are commissioned to preach the Gospel of Christ – once someone can receive the witness of the truthfulness of the Gospel, a testimony of the Church will follow
- Do not just be willing to share with your friends. Obviously they should be someone we can share with – however we can share the Gospel with anyone – Elder Oaks stated: Clayton M. Christensen, who has impressive experience as a member missionary, states that “over the past twenty years, we have observed no correlation between the depth of a relationship and the probability that a person will be interested in learning about the gospel
- Use Social Media – honestly, it is such an easy thing to do. Whatever platform you use, commit to share something at least weekly about the Gospel – people do notice and they respect it. You never know when you share something whose heart it may touch.
A Successful Missionary
We can all become a successful missionary. What does a successful missionary look like? Elder Oaks said:
“We will come to understand that success in sharing the gospel is inviting people with love and genuine intent to help them, no matter what their response.”