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Chapter 1: What is My Purpose as a Missionary?

By Eric Johnson

Sections from the original from the LDS Church manual Preach My Gospel are boldfaced. My comments follow.

The gospel of Jesus Christ as restored through the Prophet Joseph Smith will bless their families, meet their spiritual needs, and help them fulfill their deepest desires. Although they may not know why, they need relief from feelings of guilt that come from mistakes and sins. They need to experience the joy of redemption by receiving forgiveness of their sins and enjoying the gift of the Holy Ghost…. You are called to represent Jesus Christ in helping people become clean from their sins. You do this by inviting them to come unto Jesus Christ and become converted to His restored gospel. To come to the Savior they must have faith in Him unto repentance—making the necessary changes to bring their life into agreement with His teachings.

This paragraph says that it is possible to get “relief” from sin. It says that they need to “experience the joy of redemption by receiving forgiveness of their sins.” Unfortunately in Mormonism, there is no “relief” from sins nor is it ever possible that a person could ever experience true forgiveness.

First of all, how could there be any “relief” from sins when a Mormon can never know if he or she is forgiven? It’s an endless process in the sense that the Latter-day Saint is required to keep working hard in an attempt to somehow attain the unattainable. Some Mormons say that’s what repentance is for. According to D&C 1:32:

Nevertheless, he that repents and does the commandments of the Lord shall be forgiven (Doctrine and Covenants 1:32).

The church manual Gospel Principles states, “To make our repentance complete we must keep the commandments of the Lord (see D&C 1:32)” (p. 111). Twelfth President Spencer W. Kimball put it this way:

In his preface to modern revelation, the Lord outlined what is one of the most difficult requirements in true repentance. For some it is the hardest part of repentance, because it puts one on guard for the remainder of his life. The Lord says: “… I the Lord cannot look upon sin with the least degree of allowance; Neverthe­less, he that repents and does the commandments of the Lord shall be forgiven.” (D&C 1:31–32. Italics added.) This scripture is most precise. First, one repents. Having gained that ground he then must live the commandments of the Lord to retain his vantage point. This is necessary to secure complete forgiveness (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Spencer W. Kimball, 2006, p. 43. Ellipsis and italics in original).

Thus, according to LDS scripture, a manual, and an LDS general authority, repentance is only efficacious when obedience follows. If the “repentant” Mormon returns to that sin, condemnation awaits. As  D&C 82:7 states,

And now, verily I say unto you, I, the Lord, will not lay any sin to your charge; go your ways and sin no more; but unto that soul who sinneth shall the former sins return, saith the Lord your God.

Utilizing that verse, eleventh President Harold B. Lee stated,

The miracle of forgiveness is available to all of those who turn from their evil doings and return no more, because the Lord has said in a revelation to us in our day: “Go your ways and sin no more; but unto that soul who sinneth [meaning again] shall the former sins return, saith the Lord your God” (D&C 82:7). Have that in mind, all of you who may be troubled with a burden of sin (The Teachings of Harold B. Lee, p. 120. Brackets in original).

Kimball also said,

We can hardly be too forceful in reminding people that they can­not sin and be forgiven and then sin again and again and expect repeated forgiveness. The Lord anticipated the weakness of man which would return him to his transgression, and he gave this rev­elation in warning: And now, verily I say unto you, I, the Lord, will not lay any sin to your charge; go your ways and sin no more; but unto that soul who sinneth shall the former sins return, saith the Lord your God. (D&C 82:7.) (The Miracle of Forgiveness, p. 360. See also Gospel Principles, 2009, p. 231).

He also wrote,

This progress toward eternal life is a matter of achieving perfec­tion. Living all the commandments guarantees total forgiveness of sins and assures one of exaltation through that perfection which comes by complying with the formula the Lord gave us.” (The Miracle of Forgiveness, pp. 208-209. See also church manual The Life and Teachings of Jesus and His Apostles, 1979, p. 386).

A popular church manual used a quote from Kimball to make the point:

But President Kimball warned: “Even though forgiveness is so abundantly promised there is no promise nor indication of for­giveness to any soul who does not totally repent. … We can hardly be too forceful in reminding people that they cannot sin and be forgiven and then sin again and again and expect repeated for­giveness” (The Miracle of Forgiveness, 353, 360). Those who receive forgiveness and then repeat the sin are held accountable for their former sins (see D&C 82:7; Ether 2:15) (Gospel Principles, 2009, p. 231).

And an older discussion tactic in an LDS Church Publication advised, “In order to remain forgiven we must never commit the sin again” (Mormon Missionary Discussion F, Uniform System for Teach­ing Families. 1981, p. 36).

I ask, what type of “relief” could ever be anticipated when it is understood that forgiveness is just a sin away? There is no joy of redemption in Mormonism.

The Power and Authority of Your Calling

Missionaries are to go “in the power of the ordination wherewith [they have] been ordained, proclaiming glad tidings of great joy, even the everlasting gospel” (D&C 79:1). You have authority to preach the gospel. If you hold the priesthood, you have the authority to administer the ordinances thereof. As you prayerfully and worthily exercise that authority, you will receive spiritual power, which is evidence of the reality of your call. Do not be afraid or shy about fulfilling this commission. Just as the sons of Mosiah, you are to teach with the power and authority of God (see Alma 17:2–3).

When you were set apart by priesthood authority, you received the right and privilege to represent the Lord. You received a ministerial certificate that verifies that authority to the world. President Spencer W. Kimball said: “The setting apart may be taken literally; it is a setting apart from sin, apart from the carnal; apart from everything which is crude, low, vicious, cheap, or vulgar; set apart from the world to a higher plane of thought and activity. The blessing is conditional upon faithful performance” (The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, ed. Edward L. Kimball [1982], 478).

According to Mormonism, those who have been ordained to what is known as the Aaronic and Melchizedek priesthoods have authority, as Gospel Principles explains,

We must have priesthood authority to act in the name of God when performing the sacred ordinances of the gospel, such as baptism, confirmation, administration of the sacrament, and temple marriage. If a man does not have the priesthood, even though he may be sincere, the Lord will not recognize ordinances he performs. (p. 67)

If there was no proper authority after the apostles until the time of Joseph Smith, then there must not have been the proper authority on earth to hold the priesthood. This is the reason why Mormonism teaches that the priesthood from biblical times needed to be restored. President Wilford Woodruff taught,

No man has authority from God to administer to the children of men the ordinances of life and salvation [except] by the power of the Holy Priesthood. The power of that Priesthood is with the Latter-day Saints (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Wilford Woodruff, p. 39).

Contrary to LDS teaching, the Bible shows that neither the Aaronic nor the Melchizedek priesthoods are available for believers today. The Aaronic priesthood was for the priests of the biblical temple, as defined in the books of Moses known as the Pentateuch. The New Testament shows no need for such a priesthood for Christian believers. As far as the Melchizedek priesthood, BYU professor Charles R. Harrell sees the traditional LDS interpretation as an argument from silence by pointing out how

Hebrews speaks of Christ being a “priest after the order of Melchizedek” (Heb. 5:6–10), but gives no indication that any of Jesus’s disciples possessed this priesthood. There is no concept in Hebrews of a general order of the priesthood called the Melchizedek Priesthood. Christ alone is extolled as a priest in the “similitude of Melchizedek” (Heb. 7:15). Drawing on contemporary speculations regarding the king-priest Melchizedek, the writer of Hebrews explains that Melchizedek, as a type of Christ, had “neither beginning of days, nor end of life; but made like unto the Son of God; abideth a priest continually” (Heb. 7:3) (“This is My Doctrine,” p. 376).

As for the authority of the believers, 1 Peter 2:9 says they are part of “a chosen generation” and “a royal priesthood.” The Christian is given the right to be called a child of God. Indeed, when speaking of believers, 1 John 3:2 says that “now are we the sons of God.” First John 5:5 adds that only those who believe “that Jesus is the Son of God” have overcome the world. They, then, are the ones who have been given divine authority.

Along with your authority comes a responsibility to live worthy of your calling. As the Lord’s representative, you are to be “an example of the believers” (1 Timothy 4:12). Strive to live according to God’s commandments and keep the covenants you made in the temple; know the scriptures; be courteous, on time, and dependable; follow missionary standards of conduct, dress, and grooming; love the people with whom you serve and work. Honor Christ’s name by your actions.

How many missionaries who are reading this manual fully understand how much they struggle with sin and really don’t believe they are “an example to the believers”? Probably most. In Mormonism, appearances matter, even though all humans (even Paul in Romans 7) struggle with sin! I realize that many missionaries are heroes—both to those at home, including their family and friends as well as to the people they serve. But these young people have to know that they are not “living worthy of (their) calling” in the context of Mormonism. Sexual thoughts and fantasies, anger with their companion or mission president, and frustrations that come naturally by being away from home certainly has to take its toll. Many missionaries return home after serving for 18 months to two years completely worn out, in a spiritual sense, and perhaps even doubting their faith.

The gospel of Jesus Christ defines both your message and your purpose; that is, it provides both the “what” and the “why” of missionary work. The Savior defined His gospel to include some very vital and basic doctrines. He came into the world to do His Father’s will, and His Father sent Him into the world to be lifted up on the cross. By His Atonement and Resurrection, all men will be lifted up to stand before Christ to be judged of their works, whether they be good or evil. Those who exercise faith in Christ, repent of their sins, and are baptized in Christ’s name can be sanctified by the Holy Ghost. If they endure to the end, they will stand spotless before Christ at the last day and will enter into the rest of the Lord. Christ will hold them guiltless before the Father. He will be their Mediator and Advocate. Those who do not endure in faithfulness to the end will be “cast into the fire … because of the justice of the Father.” (See 3 Nephi 27:13–22; compare 2 Nephi 31:10–21; 3 Nephi 11:31–41; D&C 76:40–42, 50–53.)

There are differences between general and individual salvation. In Mormonism, the “Atonement and Resurrection” provides all people the possibility of entering into any one of the three levels of heaven. Exaltation, or eternal life, is the entrance into the celestial kingdom. The only way to get to the celestial kingdom is through complete obedience and “endur(ing) to the end.” According to this, those who don’t “endure in faithfulness to the end” are “cast into the fire.” I have asked many Latter-day Saints about how they are doing with obedience to the Mormon gospel. Continually I hear “I’m trying,” “I’m doing my best,” and “I repent.” Each of those responses shows that the person is not successfully in this impossible goal of “enduring to the end.” As the church manual puts it, “The time to fulfill the requirements for exaltation is now (see Alma 34:32–34)” (Gospel Principles, 2009, p. 277).  Another manual explains,

Eternal life is living with Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ in the celestial kingdom. This blessing—which is also called exaltation— comes only to those who keep the commandments and make the necessary covenants (Preparing for Exaltation Teacher’s Manual, 1998, p. 4).

If you’re not doing what you’re supposed to do now, then what makes you think you will be successful later in life?

The purpose of the gospel is to cleanse people of their sins so they can receive the Savior’s mercy at the day of judgment.

According to President Ezra Taft Benson, a person must “merit” God’s mercy. He said, “Our agreement to keep all the commandments is our covenant with God. Only as we do this may we deserve His blessings and merit His mercy” (The Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson, p. 442). The only way to merit this mercy is to keep all covenants. Seventy Robert C. Gay told a General Conference audience:

This is the exchange the Savior is asking of us: we are to give up all our sins, big or small, for the Father’s reward of eternal life. We are to forget self-justifying stories, excuses, rationalizations, defense mechanisms, procrastinations, appearances, personal pride, judgmental thoughts, and doing things our way. We are to separate ourselves from all worldliness and take upon us the image of God in our countenances (“What Shall a Man Give in Exchange for His Soul?” Ensign (Conference Edition), November 2012, p. 35).

Seventy Allan F. Packer said,

Qualifying for exaltation is like entering another country. We must each obtain our spiritual passport. We do not set the requirements, but, individually, we must meet all of them. The plan of salvation contains all of the doctrines, laws, commandments, and ordinances needed for all to qualify for exaltation. Then, “through the Atonement of [Jesus] Christ, all mankind may be saved.” The Church helps but cannot do it for us. Qualifying for exaltation becomes a quest of a lifetime (Allan F. Packer, “The Book,” Ensign (Conference Edition), November 2014, p. 99. Italics and brackets in original).

And Seventy Kevin W. Pearson explained,

Enduring to the end is a hallmark of true discipleship and is essential to eternal life. But when trials and challenges come our way, we are often told to simply “hang in there.” Let me be clear: to “hang in there” is not a principle of the gospel. Enduring to the end means constantly coming unto Christ and being perfected in Him. If enduring to the end is essential to eternal life, why do we struggle to be faithful? We struggle when we are caught between competing priorities. Casual obedience and lukewarm commitment weaken faith. Enduring to the end requires total commitment to the Savior and to our covenants (“Stay by the Tree,” Ensign (Conference Edition), May 2015, p. 114).

Which Latter-day Saint (including these general authorities) are truly “enduring to the end”?

Therefore, the focus of this book and, more important, the work you do each day is to invite others to come unto Christ by helping them receive the restored gospel through faith in Jesus Christ and His Atonement, repentance, baptism, receiving the Holy Ghost, and enduring to the end.

General and individual salvation are mingled together in the above sentence, so unless you understand what Mormonism teaches on these topics, it is likely you won’t understand what is meant.

Individuals and families begin to follow Christ as they exercise faith in Him and repent of their sins. They receive a remission of sins through baptism and by receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost from one who has authority from God to perform these ordinances. They then endure to the end, or, in other words, they continue throughout their lives in exercising faith in Jesus Christ, repenting, and renewing the covenants they have made. These are not just steps that they experience once in their lives; rather, when repeated throughout life these principles become an increasingly rewarding pattern of living. In fact, it is the only way of living that will bring peace of conscience and enable Heavenly Father’s children to return to live in His presence.

Let’s just unpack the meaning of the word “repents” in the paragraph above. D&C 58:43 says,

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.

According to a church manual describing the word “forsaketh” in D&C 93, this means to “repent of, gives up and never does again” (Doctrine and Covenants and Church History Seminary Student Guide, 2001, p. 106). A church manual meant for teenaged boys says,

Put up the wordstrip, “Abandon our sins.” Ask the young men what it means to abandon our sins. Help the young men understand that a truly repentant person will not repeat his sin (Aaronic Priesthood Manual 1, 2002, p. 83)

Another manual states,

Our sincere sorrow should lead us to forsake (stop) our sins. If we have stolen something, we will steal no more. If we have lied, we will lie no more. If we have committed adultery, we will stop. The Lord revealed to the Prophet Joseph Smith, “By this ye may know if a man repenteth of his sins—behold, he will confess them and forsake them” (D&C 58:43) (Gospel Principles, 2009, p. 110. Parentheses in original).

A church manual states,

D&C 58:42–43. The Lord Promises Complete Forgiveness to Those Who Truly Repent. The Lord forgives those who truly repent of their sins. This blessing comes through the Atonement of Christ, who “suffered … for all, that they might not suffer if they would repent” (D&C 19:16). The Lord promises that He will no more remember the sins of those who repent (see Ezekiel 18:21– 22). Repentance, however, requires that we forsake and turn completely from our sins and confess them (Doctrine and Covenants Student Manual Religion 324 and 325, 2001, p. 120).

President Spencer W. Kimball had much to say about this topic. For instance, he said,

There is one crucial test of repentance. This is abandonment of the sin (The Miracle of Forgiveness, p. 163. See also Doctrines of the Gospel Student Manual: Religion 231 and 232, p. 40. See also Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Spencer W. Kimball, p. 39).

He also said,

Desire Is Not Sufficient. In other words, it is not real repentance until one has abandoned the error of his way and started on a new path. Someone has said that there is only one way to quit a bad habit and that is to stop. The saving power does not extend to him who merely wants to change his life. True repentance prods one to action (The Miracle of Forgiveness, p. 163).

This, he claimed, is something that can’t take place after death:

Christ became perfect through overcoming. Only as we overcome shall we become perfect and move toward godhood. As I have indicated previously, the time to do this is now, in mortality (The Miracle of Forgiveness, p. 210)

Referring to “incomplete repentance,” Kimball wrote,

That armor is incomplete without steadfast effort to live God’s commandments. Without such effort repentance too is incomplete. And incomplete repentance never brought complete forgiveness” (The Miracle of Forgiveness, p. 212).

He also said,

Little reward can be expected for a tiny effort to repent, for the Lord has said that it must be a total repentance “with all his heart” and the error must be forsaken fully and wholly, mentally as well as physically (The Miracle of Forgiveness, p. 333).

Someone may complain that I am taking Kimball out of context. Yet The Miracle of Forgiveness has been recommended twice at General Conference.  Seventy Richard L. Evans stated,

Many of you would be familiar with President Spencer Kimball’s wonderful work on the miracle of forgiveness. I witness to you that God is a loving Father who will forgive and help us find peace and self-respect as we repent and show our sincerity by the lives we live. And there is nothing he asks of us that we cannot do; there is no requirement we cannot keep-if we are willing, if we want to. Repentance is a miracle, if it is sincere (Conference Reports, April 1970, p. 16).

Apostle Richard G. Scott stated,

If available, hold up a copy of The Miracle of Forgiveness, and tell students that reading it has helped many people feel the merciful forgiveness of the Lord (Presidents of the Church Teacher Manual Religion 345, 2005, p. 172).

According to Mormonism as explained by Kimball, complete obedience has to be accomplished in this lifetime. By repenting over and over again, a person is merely admitting that he or she is not doing what was originally commanded. This is not true repentance.

Obedience to Jesus Christ is a lifelong commitment. Through exercising faith, repenting, being baptized and committing to serve Christ, and then receiving the Holy Ghost, we can experience healing, forgiveness of sins, and complete conversion to the Savior and His gospel.

Based on Kimball’s explanations above, how can this be? Can a Mormon ever really experience true forgiveness of sins? Quoting an LDS scripture, President Harold B. Lee explained,

The miracle of forgiveness is available to all of those who turn from their evil doings and return no more, because the Lord has said in a revelation to us in our day: “Go your ways and sin no more; but unto that soul who sinneth [meaning again] shall the former sins return, saith the Lord your God” (D&C 82:7). Have that in mind, all of you who may be troubled with a burden of sin (The Teachings of Harold B. Lee, p. 120. Brackets in original).

Going back to Kimball, there is no hope that a person could ever attain total forgiveness:

This progress toward eternal life is a matter of achieving perfection. Living all the commandments guarantees total forgiveness of sins and assures one of exaltation through that perfection which comes by complying with the formula the Lord gave us (The Miracle of Forgiveness, pp. 208-209. See also church manual The Life and Teachings of Jesus and His Apostles, 1979, p. 386).

He said, “And incomplete repentance never brought complete forgiveness” (The Miracle of Forgiveness, p. 212). This is certainly serious business, as Kimball stated,

We can hardly be too forceful in reminding people that they cannot sin and be forgiven and then sin again and again and expect repeated forgiveness. The Lord anticipated the weakness of man which would return him to his transgression, and he gave this revelation in warning: And now, verily I say unto you, I, the Lord, will not lay any sin to your charge; go your ways and sin no more; but unto that soul who sinneth shall the former sins return, saith the Lord your God. (D&C 82:7.) (The Miracle of Forgiveness, p. 360. See also Gospel Principles, 2009, p. 231).

He also explained,

Your Heavenly Father has promised forgiveness upon total repentance and meeting all the requirements, but that forgiveness is not granted merely for the asking. There must be works—many works—and an all-out, total surrender, with a great humility and “a broken heart and a contrite spirit.” It depends upon you whether or not you are forgiven, and when. It could he weeks, it could he years, it could be centuries before that happy day when you have the positive assurance that the Lord has forgiven you. That depends on your humility your sincerity, your works, your attitudes (The Miracle of Forgiveness, pp. 324-325).

It is possible in Mormonism to know you have complete forgiveness, but this would require complete obedience and never sinning again. Again, I ask, which Latter-day Saint has the assurance of the celestial kingdom?

The Message of the Restoration: The Foundation of Faith

Make sure that everyone you teach clearly understands the following:

  • God is our literal Father in Heaven.

God the Father according to Mormonism contradicts John 4:24, which says God is “spirit” and that He must be worshiped in spirit and in truth.

He loves us.

Christians believe that God loves people. The apostle John said this in a number of ways. In Mormonism, God loves a person…as long as they are obedient. When they are not obedient, including rejecting Mormonism, they will be assigned to a glory lesser than what was intended (the Celestial Kingdom) and be required to forever miss what God intended people to have, godhood.

Every person on earth is a child of God and a member of God’s family.

According to the Bible, a person is not naturally a child of God. A person becomes a child of God through belief. John 1:12, “But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.”

Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is our Savior and Redeemer.

In Mormonism, Jesus is the first born spirit child of God the Father and Heavenly Mother. As far as being a “Savior,” I ask Mormons, “How is Jesus your Savior and Redeemer?” In Mormonism, Jesus merely paves the way (through the Atonement) for people to receive a resurrection. It is then up to the individual to earn exaltation through obedience. Jesus can’t help in this aspect, so how could He really be known as a “Savior and Redeemer.”

  • Our loving Father in Heaven reached out to His children throughout biblical history by revealing His gospel to prophets. Sadly, many people rejected that gospel; even some of those who accepted it changed gospel doctrines and ordinances and fell into unbelief and apostasy.

Mormonism is based on the “Great Apostasy,” with the belief that all authority was lost soon after the death of the apostles. This goes against Jesus’s own words who said in Matthew 28:19-20 that His presence would never leave the earth.

  • Our Father in Heaven sent His Beloved Son, Jesus Christ, to earth. He performed miracles and taught His gospel. He accomplished the Atonement and was resurrected.

This Atonement is different from the atonement of the Bible.

  • Beginning with the First Vision, God has again reached out in love to His children.

There are many problems with the First Vision. I recommend doing more research on this topic.

 He restored the gospel of Jesus Christ and His priesthood authority

We have also written plenty on this topic. Check out these articles:

and organized His Church on the earth through the Prophet Joseph Smith.

Here are 10 reasons why Joseph Smith should not be considered a true prophet of God.

The Book of Mormon is convincing evidence of this Restoration.

The Book of Mormon has a number of many problems. Consider the articles found here.

As you help investigators see the pattern of apostasy and restoration, they will be prepared to understand the great need for the latter-day Restoration. They will see the need to accept the restored gospel, receive the ordinances of salvation by the authority of the restored priesthood, and follow the way to eternal life. Help people recognize that the Church is not just another religion, nor is it an American church. Rather, it is a restoration of the “fulness of [the] gospel” (D&C 1:23), the same as was revealed and taught from the beginning.

The Gospel has always been plain. There was no need of “restoration.” Mormonism is not the fullness of the gospel because its teachings deny or distort the teachings as found in the Bible.

The Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ is convincing evidence that Joseph Smith was a prophet and that the gospel of Jesus Christ has been restored. It is the keystone of our religion, the most powerful resource for teaching this message. Some important truths restored through Joseph Smith include the knowledge that God is our Father and that we are His spirit children, that we lived with Him before birth, and that families can live together forever in God’s presence through Christ’s Atonement by obeying the laws and ordinances of the gospel.

Joseph Smith said, “I told the brethren that the Book of Mormon was the most correct of any book on earth, and the keystone of our religion, and a man would get nearer to God by abiding by its precepts, than by any other book” (History of the Church 4:461. See also Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 194). Yet what are those precepts? Where in the Book of Mormon are the following discussed:

  • Temple work?
  • Baptism for entrance into the celestial kingdom?
  • The very existence of a “celestial/terrestrial/telestial” kingdom(s)?
  • Tithing?
  • God having once been a man?
  • God having a body of flesh and bones?
  • Needing the Aaronic or Melchizedek priesthoods?
  • Baptism for the dead being an important work?

Actually, the Book of Mormon’s teachings appear to be more contradictory than sympathetic to the unique teachings of Mormonism

The Book of Mormon is evidence of the love of God for His children. It shows that God speaks to His children. As you teach and testify, invite people to read the Book of Mormon and pray about its message. Each person you teach must decide whether to accept the Book of Mormon as revelation from God.

What if the Book of Mormon is nothing more than just a fictional book? What if the events in this book never took place? If that’s the case, should it really be considered a “revelation from God”?

Trust the remarkable promise in Moroni 10:3–5. Do all you can to persuade people to read the book, understand it, and ask God sincerely whether it is true. The witness of the Holy Ghost becomes the cornerstone of their faith that Christ has restored His Church. Help those you teach to receive that spiritual confirmation.

On this topic, I recommend Praying about the Book of Mormon – Is it biblical?

A Successful Missionary

Your success as a missionary is measured primarily by your commitment to find, teach, baptize, and confirm people and to help them become faithful members of the Church who enjoy the presence of the Holy Ghost.

In other words, making converts to the LDS Church is all about the numbers. A missionary is judged by how many converts he convinces to get baptized and confirmed.

Avoid comparing yourself to other missionaries and measuring the outward results of your efforts against theirs.

Yet what will the missionaries do? Of course, they compare. While the manual says not to do this, this is the standard by how successful a missionary is considered to be. When the missionary returns home, everyone wants to know, “How many converts did you have?” I am sure the number gets inflated by some who want to impress friends, family, and even potential spouses.

Remember that people have agency to choose whether to accept your message. Your responsibility is to teach clearly and powerfully so they can make a correct choice. Some may not accept your message even when they have received a spiritual witness that it is true. You will be saddened because you love them and desire their salvation. You should not, however, become discouraged; discouragement will weaken your faith. If you lower your expectations, your effectiveness will decrease, your desire will weaken, and you will have greater difficulty following the Spirit.

The thing is, many missionaries do compare themselves to other missionaries.

You can know you have been a successful missionary when you:

  • Feel the Spirit testify to people through you.

For a teenager, how is he or she supposed to “feel the Spirit”? Is this supposed to be an emotional feeling? An audible voice? I am sure many missionaries are trying to figure this out while they are on the mission field.

  • Love people and desire their salvation.

This would be the right attitude to have. Do all missionaries have this attitude?

  • Obey with exactness.

Here we go. Not just “obey.” But “obey with exactness.” Perfect. Conformed. Cookie cutter.

  • Live so that you can receive and know how to follow the Spirit, who will show you where to go, what to do, and what to say.

“Where to go, what to do, and what to say” based on the instructions given in this LDS manual.

  • Develop Christlike attributes.
  • Work effectively every day, do your very best to bring souls to Christ, and seek earnestly to learn and improve.
  • Help build up the Church (the ward) wherever you are assigned to work.
  • Warn people of the consequences of sin. Invite them to make and keep commitments.
  • Teach and serve other missionaries.
  • Go about doing good and serving people at every opportunity, whether or not they accept your message.

When you have done your very best, you may still experience disappointments, but you will not be disappointed in yourself. You can feel certain that the Lord is pleased when you feel the Spirit working through you.

Generally, these instructions are not bad or wrong. However, this is a lot for an 18-year-old to live up to. The expectations everyone has may be difficult to meet. I wonder how many young people get burned out on their religion because they’re not ready for all of this.

  • Your purpose is to invite others to come unto Christ by helping them receive the restored gospel through faith in Jesus Christ and His Atonement, repentance, baptism, receiving the Holy Ghost, and enduring to the end.
  • The restored gospel of Jesus Christ is the only way by which we can find eternal happiness.

Here’s a reminder that anyone outside the LDS Church cannot “find eternal happiness.” There is only one way to God, and that’s through the church. My prayer is that missionaries have a chance sometime during their mission to run into a Christian believer who asks a few key questions and gives the missionary a chance to think outside the box.

I was looking at Facebook posts today and ran into this from Micah Wilder, who about a decade ago came into a relationship with Jesus Christ while he was serving a mission in Florida. Here is what a Christian pastor challenged him to do:

I challenge you to read the Bible like a child. I promise that if you do, God will open your eyes, change your life, and show you for the first time what the true Gospel of Jesus Christ really is.

Micah responds,

I did read, and God did open my eyes to the glorious Gospel of Jesus Christ. The salvation that God has given through Christ Jesus has come to define every part of me and gives meaning to every aspect of my life. The love of God has pierced my heart in a life-changing way and for that, I thank God.

My friend Dave will never forget an encounter he had at a restaurant with a Christian while he and his missionary companion were preparing an investigator for his baptism. This Christian (Dick Baer) approached the table and asked several questions. Dave became very irritated and, as he told me, he had to hold himself back from punching Dick. However, what Dick said in just a few minutes ended up causing the investigator to back out of the baptism; Dick’s words caused Dave great angst until the day he left Mormonism soon after he returned from his mission.  A few years later, Dave gave his life to Christ. Dave eventually got back into touch with Dick and today they are Facebook buddies. While Dave’s family members remain staunchly LDS and, for the most part, have cut him out of their activities (including holidays), Dave counts their rejection of him as gain so that he might know Christ. He is forever grateful somebody took the time to share the truth with him, even when he was the one wearing the white shirt and name badge.

If you are a Christian believer, being prepared to challenge the missionaries is vital. What could you say the next time they come to your door?

  • Your calling gives you authority; keeping your covenants gives you power.

How many missionaries think their priesthood authority and the name badge makes them invincible. Yet how many realize they’re not keeping the covenants they make?

  • The fulness of the gospel of Jesus Christ was restored through the Prophet Joseph Smith. The Book of Mormon is evidence that Joseph Smith was a prophet.

Joseph Smith is the centerpiece of this religion. Without him, there is no religion. To have a “restoration,” we need a “total apostasy.” There is no evidence that there was a “Great Apostasy.” As far as the Book of Mormon, how is this evidence that Smith was a prophet? Actually, as I pointed out earlier, the basic doctrines of Mormonism (more than one God in existence, salvation can take place after death, the preexistence, the necessity of temple work, etc.) cannot be supported by the Book of Mormon. For this, the Doctrine and Covenants and the Pearl of Great Price are necessary.

  • You help people live the gospel by inviting them to make and keep commitments.

The question I ask the missionary is “are you keeping the covenants you make?” If you’re not, why are you being commanded to invite others to make these same commitments when they’re assured of certain failure? I am reminded of Matthew 23:15:

Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye compass sea and land to make one proselyte, and when he is made, ye make him twofold more the child of hell than yourselves.

Missionary, are you guilty of hypocrisy?

  • You show your love for the Lord and gratitude for His Atonement by bringing souls unto Him.

This is an interesting point when, earlier, the manual said that the missionaries are not supposed to compare themselves and their results with others. A statement like this seems to say that, if you love God, then you should have results to back this up. If the results are not in, then one must wonder how much he or she really loves God.

  • You are successful when you are obedient, live righteously, and do your best in helping others live the gospel.

Let’s say someone does his best but isn’t “obedient” or “living righteously.” Now what does he do?

Missionary Work

Following are statements made by Presidents of the Church in this dispensation.

President Joseph Smith (1830–1844)

“After all that has been said, the greatest and most important duty is to preach the Gospel” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, sel. Joseph Fielding Smith [1976], 113).

I’ll only list some of the quotes, but notice: It’s the “duty” for the missionary to “preach the Gospel.” I have heard this word typically used when I have asked missionaries why they serve a mission. “Duty,” I have been told. Rarely do I hear missionaries say because they serve out of their love for people. I find this to be an interesting motive to go on a mission.

President Brigham Young (1847–1877)

“There is neither man or woman in this Church who is not on a mission. That mission will last as long as they live, and it is to do good, to promote righteousness, to teach the principles of truth, and to prevail upon themselves and everybody around them to live those principles that they may obtain eternal life” (Discourses of Brigham Young, sel. John A. Widtsoe [1954], 322).

According to Young, everyone is a missionary, not just those serving for 2 years. What is the Mormon gospel? Living the principles as defined in Mormonism.

President John Taylor (1880–1887)

“Our duty is to preach the gospel to all men. … This is what God expects of us” (The Gospel Kingdom, sel. G. Homer Durham [1943], 234–35).

God apparently “expects” Mormons to preach the gospel. It’s a “duty.” Again, I see nothing about preaching the gospel out of our love to share truth with others.

President Heber J. Grant (1918–1945)

“We as a people have one supreme thing to do, and that is to call upon the world to repent of sin, to come to God. And it is our duty above all others to go forth and proclaim the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ, the restoration again to the earth of the plan of life and salvation. … We have in very deed the pearl of great price. We have that which is of more value than all the wealth and the scientific information which the world possesses. We have the plan of life and salvation. … The best way in the world to show our love for our neighbor is to go forth and proclaim the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ, of which he has given us an absolute knowledge concerning its divinity” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1927, 175–76).

Once more, this is a “duty.” I do appreciate the second part of the quote where he says that sharing something so important is loving one’s neighbor.

President George Albert Smith (1945–1951)

“That is your mission, my brethren and sisters of the Church, that is your responsibility. Freely you have received and our Heavenly Father will expect you freely to share with His other sons and daughters these glorious truths” (Sharing the Gospel with Others, sel. Preston Nibley [1948], 213).

“We will attain our exaltation in the Celestial Kingdom only on the condition that we share with our Father’s other children the blessings of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and observe the commandments that will enrich our lives here and hereafter” (Sharing the Gospel with Others, 190).

Check out these quotes. It’s our “responsibility” because “our exaltation in the Celestial Kingdom” is at stake. So we must witness as well as “observe the commandments” to meet the requirements God has placed upon us. This seems to take away sharing the gospel message based more out of love for others. It seems like we’re supposed to do this because our eternal destiny is at stake!

President David O. McKay (1951–1970)

“Every member … a missionary!” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1959, 122).

Yet how many times have I spoken to Mormons who are not willing to share their gospel with me personally but try to get me signed up with missionaries? How many times have I been handing out information about Mormonism but nobody will come up to me to share their beliefs with me? Typically, I get ignored, with nobody attempting to share their truth with me. If I’m misguided, someone needs to help me. This is not just the duty of the missionaries.

“True Christianity is love in action. There is no better way to manifest love for God than to show an unselfish love for your fellow men. This is the spirit of missionary work” (Gospel Ideals [1954], 129).

President Joseph Fielding Smith (1970–1972)

“We have heard that we are all missionaries. Every member … is or ought to be a missionary; … as members of the Church, having pledged ourselves to the advancement of the gospel of Jesus Christ we become missionaries. That is part of the responsibility of every member of the Church” (Take Heed to Yourselves [1971], 27–28).

President Ezra Taft Benson (1985–1994)

“We must share the gospel with others. That is our responsibility—every member a missionary. That is the call of prophets of God. …

“… Member-missionary work is one of the great keys to the individual growth of our members. It is my conviction that member-missionary work will raise the spirituality in any ward where applied” (Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson, 208–9).

Again, Mormons are called to “manifest love for God” by sharing truth. Why then do so many Mormons walk by me and not at least make an attempt to engage? I am not a threatening presence on the street. If I am misguided, please, Latter-day Saint, please show me why.

President Gordon B. Hinckley (1995–2008)

“We are here to assist our Father in His work and His glory, ‘to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man’ (Moses 1:39). Your obligation is as serious in your sphere of responsibility as is my obligation in my sphere” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1995, 94; or Ensign, May 1995, 71).

“Let there be cultivated an awareness in every member’s heart of his own potential for bringing others to a knowledge of the truth. Let him work at it. Let him pray with great earnestness about it” (“Find the Lambs, Feed the Sheep,” Ensign, May 1999, 106).

Obligation? When I share my faith, I don’t want to feel like it’s an obligation but rather an opportunity provided me by God. Please don’t get wrong, for I believe many Latter-day Saints share their faith out of concern and love for others. I just find that many others seem to consider sharing their faith a duty and this attitude seems to come across in some of these statements made by their leaders.


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