Chapter 21: The Latter-Day Miracle of Missionary Work

Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Gordon B. Hinckley, 2016

During 2017, LDS members will be studying the latest manual published by their church, Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Gordon B. Hinckley. We will evaluate this book regularly, chapter by chapter, by showing interesting quotes and providing an Evangelical Christian take on this manual. The quotes from Hinckley are in bold, with my comments following. If you would like to see the church manual online, go here. Latter-day Saints study this material on the second and third Sundays of each month (thus, chapters 1-2 are January, chapter 3-4 are February, etc.)

Teachings of Gordon B. Hinckley

We are to reach out to the world in missionary service, teaching all who will listen.

We have a divine mandate to carry the gospel to every nation, kindred, tongue, and people. We have a charge to teach and baptize in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. Said the resurrected Savior, “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature” [Mark 16:15]. We are engaged in a great and consuming crusade for truth and goodness.

Before the Church was organized, there was missionary work. It has continued ever since, notwithstanding the difficulties of many of the seasons through which our people have passed. Let us, every one, resolve within ourselves to arise to a new opportunity, a new sense of responsibility, a new shouldering of obligation to assist our Father in Heaven in His glorious work of bringing to pass the immortality and eternal life of His sons and daughters throughout the earth.

I’m all for missions. Unfortunately, Mormon missionaries bring a gospel that is contrary to the teachings of the Bible. They have been indoctrinated with the teachings of the LDS Church and are commissioned to tell people how they can become immortal. Even though I disagree with them, I love Mormon missionaries and have spoken with many. I like to ask questions and engage them in their thinking skills. The following article will help you come up with questions you can ask the Mormon missionaries the next time they come to your home. Click here.

Let us as Latter-day Saints reach out to others not of our faith. Let us never act in a spirit of arrogance or with a holier-than-thou attitude. Rather, may we show love and respect and helpfulness toward them. We are greatly misunderstood, and I fear that much of it is of our own making. We can be more tolerant, more neighborly, more friendly, more of an example than we have been in the past. Let us teach our children to treat others with friendship, respect, love, and admiration. That will yield a far better result than will an attitude of egotism. …

I would like to take Hinckley’s words and aim them back upon those Christians who think being rude or disrespectful to the missionaries is the preferred way to treat others. Hinckley is right, nobody needs to be arrogant—this is difficult because, sometimes, the more we know, the more prideful we can become. Let’s not be “holier-than-thou” but, rather, show love and respect to missionaries. Would it be OK to invite them to sit down and talk? To ask them questions? To ask if they would like something to drink and maybe even something to eat? How about a little hospitality? The answers to each of these questions is “absolutely,” and I encourage the Christian reader to be kind the next time a Mormon missionary knocks on the door.

Let us reach out to the world in our missionary service, teaching all who will listen concerning the restoration of the gospel, speaking without fear but also without self-righteousness, of the First Vision, testifying of the Book of Mormon and of the restoration of the priesthood. Let us, my brothers and sisters, get on our knees and pray for the opportunity to bring others into the joy of the gospel.

At the same time, I would ask that missionaries—some as young as 18 who have never lived away from home—have open minds and consider the evidence that may (at the surface, anyway) contradict these foundational Mormon issues. I doubt the leaders at the Missionary Training Center spend a lot of time telling the missionaries about some of the problematic issues with the First Vision, Book of Mormon, or the priesthood authority, making them critically analyze the discrepancies. Perhaps they should, as now-Apostle Jeffery R. Holland did when he was a mission president in California, provide copies of a book like Answering Mormons’ Questions to the missionaries who are on the field so they can hear how the “other side” might deal with controversial issues. I have spoken to many missionaries who have never heard of the Gospel Topics Essays or any information that was critical to the church’s view on things. Why not provide both sides and allow them to come to their own conclusions?

It is a marvelous and wonderful thing that thousands are touched by the miracle of the Holy Spirit, that they believe and accept and become members. They are baptized. Their lives are forever touched for good. Miracles occur. A seed of faith comes into their hearts. It enlarges as they learn. And they accept principle upon principle, until they have every one of the marvelous blessings that come to those who walk with faith in this, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Of course, this is all said with the presupposition that Mormonism is true. It could be debated that “their lives are forever touched for good,” just as if giving someone arsenic will provide them a life of health and prosperity.

So many of us look upon missionary work as simply tracting. Everyone who is familiar with this work knows there is a better way. That way is through the members of the Church. Whenever there is a member who introduces an investigator, there is an immediate support system. The member bears testimony of the truth of the work. He is anxious for the happiness of his investigator friend. He becomes excited as that friend makes progress in learning the gospel.

So often I have had average LDS laypeople unable to engage in matters of truth. “You ought to have the missionaries come,” they say. Such advice comes from First Counselor Henry B. Eyring who said,

The duty to warn our neighbor falls on all of us who accepted the covenant of baptism. We are to talk with nonmember friends and relatives about the gospel. Our purpose is to invite them to be taught by the full-time missionaries, who are called and set apart to teach (“Let us Raise Our Voice of Warning,” Ensign, January 2009, pp. 5-6).

In Christianity, I believe that lay members should not have to depend on others to do the work of evangelism. Good pastors will want to equip their parishioners so they can evangelize others without having undue dependence on the clergy or missionaries.

The full-time missionaries may do the actual teaching, but the member, wherever possible, will back up that teaching with the offering of his home to carry on this missionary service. He will bear sincere testimony of the divinity of the work. He will be there to answer questions when the missionaries are not around. He will be a friend to the convert who is making a big and often difficult change.

Again, there seems to be to much dependence on the missionaries in Mormonism to do the crux of the evangelistic work. Why shouldn’t the average member be able to adequately share his or her faith?

The gospel is nothing to be ashamed of. It is something to be proud of. “Be not thou therefore ashamed of the testimony of our Lord,” wrote Paul to Timothy (2 Tim. 1:8). Opportunities for sharing the gospel are everywhere. …

I agree. Paul said in Romans 1:16, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.” Yes, opportunities for sharing the gospel are everywhere, as Hinckley said. So when I share the Gospel at a temple open house, Temple Square, the Mormon Miracle Pageant, or other places, why do Mormons sometimes ask, “Isn’t there something better that you could be doing?” There is no wasted time when I go out to share the truth.

… My brethren and sisters, we can let the missionaries try to do it alone, or we can help them. If they do it alone, they will knock on doors day after day and the harvest will be meager. Or as members we can assist them in finding and teaching investigators. …

So the laity apparently are responsible for bringing people to the missionaries’ attention. In Christian evangelism circles, we have a term called “fry your own fish.” This means the individual evangelist needs to go out and find prospective converts and then share the Gospel. Other Christians coming along should know the unspoken rule of not interrupting, only interceding when the first evangelist requests help. It seems to be different in Mormonism.

There needs to be an infusion of enthusiasm at every level in the Church. Let this subject [of missionary work] be dealt with occasionally in sacrament meeting. Let it be discussed by the priesthood and the Relief Society in their weekly meetings. Let the Young Men and the Young Women talk about and plan ways to help in this most important undertaking. Let even the Primary children think of ways to assist. Many a parent has come into the Church because of a child who was invited to Primary. …

I have no problem with Mormons who want to share their faith, even if I disagree with the crux of their message. They are free to tell others and, if they really believe it, should do so. In the same way, Christians also need to be challenged to do this. If what a person believes is true, telling others ought to be a priority. And when we disagree, let’s compare our gospels and determine which one’s version of the gospel contains the qualities of truth. Joseph Smith said, “One of the grand fundamental principles of ‘Mormonism’ is to receive truth, let it come from whence it may” (History of the Church, 5:499).

I agree with second President Brigham Young who said,

Our doctrine and practice is, and I have made it mine through life—to receive truth no matter where it comes from” (Discourses of Brigham Young, p. 11).

On page 126 he also stated,

Take up the Bible, compare the religion of the Latter-day Saints with it, and see if it will stand the test.

We must raise the bar on the worthiness and qualifications of those who go into the world as ambassadors of the Lord Jesus Christ.

The world today needs the power of pure testimony. It needs the gospel of Jesus Christ, and if the world is to hear that gospel, there must be messengers to teach it.

I would agree that the world needs the “gospel of Jesus Christ.” Unfortunately, I just don’t think the Gospel of truth can be found in Mormonism.

We ask that parents begin early to train their children [for missionary service]. Where there is family prayer, where there are family home evenings, where there is scripture reading, where the father and mother are active in the Church and speak with enthusiasm concerning the Church and the gospel, the children in such homes become imbued in a natural way with a desire to teach the gospel to others. There is usually a tradition of missionary work in such homes. Savings accounts are set up while children are small. Boys grow up with a natural expectation that they will be called to serve as missionaries for the Church. A mission becomes as much a part of a boy’s program for life as is an education.

In Mormonism, the “mission” becomes the priority, especially for the young men. There is a pressure for many LDS young people to go. If they don’t, there is a stigma attached. Returned missionaries are given a special honor and are desired as mates when they come home. The church puts the idea of a mission at the forefront of the LDS education, beginning in Primary.

At the fall General Conference in 2012, the church lowered the missionary age for males (from 19 to 18) and females (from 20 to 19). The church missionary force practically doubled overnight. Today there are about 80,000 missionaries who go all over the world to share the LDS gospel. I have no evidence to back me up, but I believe that the vast majority grew up in the LDS Church and are fulfilling their “duty.” I wonder how many missionaries go more out of this expected sense of duty rather than a love for the people to whom they take the Mormon gospel. Of course, the missionaries don’t get to choose which people group they will spend 18 months to two years with. Instead, the church chooses for them.

Missionary work is essentially a priesthood responsibility. As such, our young men must carry the major burden. This is their responsibility and their obligation.

Young [men], I hope all of you are pointed in the direction of missionary service. I cannot promise you fun. I cannot promise you ease and comfort. I cannot promise you freedom from discouragement, from fear, from downright misery at times. But I can promise you that you will grow as you have never grown in a similar period during your entire lives. I can promise you a happiness that will be unique and wonderful and lasting. I can promise you that you will reevaluate your lives, that you will establish new priorities, that you will live closer to the Lord, that prayer will become a real and wonderful experience, that you will walk with faith in the outcome of the good things you do.

We need some young women [to serve missions]. They perform a remarkable work. They can get in homes where the elders cannot. …

[However], … young women should not feel that they have a duty comparable to that of young men. Some of them will very much wish to go. If so, they should counsel with their bishop as well as their parents. … To the sisters I say that you will be as highly respected, you will be considered as being as much in the line of duty, your efforts will be as acceptable to the Lord and to the Church whether you go on a mission or do not go on a mission.

Hinckley gave these words before the missionary age was lowered. Again, I have no statistics to support me, but I believe the major reason why there are 80,000 missionaries today (instead of 55,000) is that more females have entered the field. In earlier days, more females who were 19 or 20 seemed to get married, oftentimes to the 21-year-old returned missionaries. Now more females are going than ever before. I have found that many sisters are serving in visitors’ centers, open house events, areas around Temple Square, and other places that are contained. Perhaps this is because more visitors are less likely to argue with young women who can have a more calming effect. If we are going to generalize, males are not as mature as females in their late teens, yet the gals have to wait for an extra year while their male counterparts are able to go directly after high school. But, as Hinckley mentioned, the missionary force depends on the young men who can go more places (even the inner city) than the young ladies.

Along with the need for young elders and sisters, there is a growing need for couples in the mission field. Older married couples are doing a wonderful work in the missions. Many more are needed. Particularly we need those with foreign language abilities. They can serve in many responsibilities under the direction of sensitive and considerate mission presidents.

I have never had older couples knock on my door, but I do see them at visitors’ centers and other places where tourists go.

As we introduce others to the gospel, the Spirit of the Lord helps overcome differences between us.

Because we have all come of the same parentage [as children of God], we respond to the same truth.

This is a reference to the preexistence, something that Christians deny for biblical reasons. For more information on this doctrine, go here.

The fact that one’s skin may be of a slightly different color, that one’s eyes may have a slightly different set, that one may wear a different type of clothing does not in any sense make of him or her a different kind of individual. Men and women the world over respond to the same stimuli in essentially the same way. They seek warmth when they are cold; they know the same kinds of pain; they experience sadness, and they know joy. …

When differences—either with our neighbors or in other cultures—seem to stand as hurdles as we seek to share the gospel, quiet courtesy usually removes these hurdles. As we keep the Lord’s commandment to introduce others to the gospel, I testify that the Spirit of the Lord helps overcome the differences between him who is teaching and him who is being taught. The Lord made the process clear when he said, “Wherefore, he that preacheth [by the Spirit] and he that receiveth [by the Spirit], understand one another, and both are edified and rejoice together.” (D&C 50:22.)

Just to be clear, this wasn’t always so. Before June 1978, for instance, those with black skin were not allowed to hold the priesthood. This meant that those with black skin were not allowed to go to the temple and practice the same ordinances as those with white skin. For more, click here.

As we go forward in faith, the Lord will bless our efforts to introduce others to the gospel.

Truly we are engaged in a marvelous work and a wonder. … The God of heaven has brought to pass this latter-day miracle, and what we have seen is but a foretaste of greater things yet to come. The work will be accomplished by humble men and women, young and old.

The work will succeed because it is the Lord who has promised:

“And whoso receiveth you, there I will be also, for I will go before your face. I will be on your right hand and on your left, and my Spirit shall be in your hearts, and mine angels round about you, to bear you up.” (D&C 84:88.)

With our charge divinely given, with blessings divinely promised, let us go forward in faith. As we do so, the Lord will bless our efforts. Let us do our part in sharing the gospel with those around us, by example first and then by inspired precept.

The stone cut out of the mountains without hands will continue to roll forth until it has filled the whole earth. (See Dan. 2.) I give you my witness of this truth and of the truth that each of us can help in ways that are appropriate to our circumstances if we will seek our Father in Heaven’s guidance and inspiration. This is God’s work that we do, and with his blessing we shall not fail.

The question that prospective converts must ask themselves is this: “Is what the Mormon missionaries tell me is true?” If it is, then Mormonism ought to be followed at all costs. If it is not, then this religion should be rejected. To those who are Mormons, I say, let’s sit together and share our reasons for why we believe. Let’s focus more on the truth than just arguing and winning points. If we allow truth to be the main objective rather than being “right,” we can accomplish much.

To read other reviews of the Gordon B. Hinckley manual, click here.