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Elder Christofferson teaches 3 fundamental roles of the Spirit ‘in the great work of salvation and exaltation’

PROVO, Utah — In his message shared Saturday, June 25, at the 2022 Seminar for New Mission Leaders, Elder D. Todd Christofferson echoed a simple, profound truth taught in “Preach My Gospel”: The power of the Holy Ghost is central to conversion.

A member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, Elder Christofferson recently tested positive for COVID-19 and was unable to attend the seminar in person. His associate in the Twelve, Elder Gary E. Stevenson, reported that Elder Christofferson was recovering at home.

In a recorded message, Elder Christofferson taught three fundamental roles of the Spirit “in the great work of salvation and exaltation.”

1. The role of the Holy Ghost in teaching

“Preach My Gospel” counsels missionaries to “rely on the Spirit rather than your own talents and abilities.” 

“Trust the Spirit to guide you in every aspect of your work. The Prophet Joseph Smith taught that the Spirit is basic to teaching and preaching: ‘No man can preach the gospel without the Holy Ghost.’”

Meanwhile, the newly released manual “Teaching in the Savior’s Way” includes additional insight on teaching by the Spirit:

“As you teach the gospel of Jesus Christ, you can have the Holy Ghost with you to guide you and to testify of the truth to the minds and hearts of those you teach (see Doctrine and Covenants 8:2). You are not alone when you teach, for ‘it is not ye that speak, but the Holy Ghost’ (Mark 13:11).

“The Holy Ghost is the true teacher. No mortal teacher, no matter how skilled or experienced, can replace His role in witnessing of truth, testifying of Christ and changing hearts. But all teachers can be instruments in helping God’s children learn by the Spirit.”

Read more talk summaries and see photos from the 2022 Seminar for New Mission Leaders here

Missionaries, added Elder Christofferson, must be willing to adjust gospel teaching to respond to the needs of those they teach. He again cited direction from “Teaching in the Savior’s Way”:

“In addition to the spiritual guidance you sought as you prepared to teach, seek also the Spirit’s guidance while you’re teaching. Try to be aware of the needs, the questions and the interests of learners. 

“The Holy Ghost can help you discern how a learner is receiving or understanding something you’ve taught. He may prompt you, at times, to alter your plans. For example, you might be impressed to spend more time than you had intended on a topic or to leave some discussions for later in favor of something that’s more important to learners now.”

Teaching for understanding, asking questions and listening are invaluable in helping missionaries open their minds and hearts to the inspiration of the Holy Ghost.

“All of this, of course, assumes a Christlike love for those we teach,” said Elder Christofferson. “It is crucial that a missionary cares about those he or she seeks to teach. Missionaries should make the effort to get to know them — learn about them, understand what they hope for and worry about, what questions they have. It takes more than sympathy, or even empathy. It takes charity, the pure love of Christ.”

Never forget, even the most excellent teaching by the most capable and loving of missionaries is of little effort unless the Holy Spirit speaks to the heart of the hearer.

New mission leaders participate in the 2022 Seminar for New Mission Leaders at the Provo Missionary Training Center on June 25, 2022.

New mission leaders participate in the 2022 Seminar for New Mission Leaders at the Provo Missionary Training Center on June 25, 2022.

Credit: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

2. The role of the Holy Ghost in conversion

Conversion begins with the witness of the Spirit that the gospel of Jesus Christ is true, said Elder Christofferson. 

As Alma once described in Alma 32:28, the word of God is like a seed that can swell within the heart, enlarging the soul of all who are open to the Spirit of the Lord.

“Alma further explains that if one continues to nurture the seed — by living in harmony with the word — faith will lead to knowledge and then greater faith and greater knowledge in a virtuous cycle until one’s knowledge is perfect. 

“This is one way to define conversion.”

The missionary’s task, therefore, is to help others be taught by the Holy Ghost.

“We ourselves can’t give what the Holy Ghost gives, but we can invite, encourage, inspire and teach people to seek that spiritual witness directly,” said Elder Christofferson. “The Spirit will testify and then lead them to nourish the seed, that is, to obey the word in their own life.”

Never discount the role of the Book of Mormon in conversion, he added, because it draws forth the witness of the Holy Ghost. As stated in Chapter 5 of “Preach My Gospel”:

“The Book of Mormon is powerful evidence of the divinity of Christ. It is also proof of the Restoration through the Prophet Joseph Smith. An essential part of conversion is receiving a witness from the Holy Ghost that the Book of Mormon is true.”

Elder Christofferson shared his own experience of visiting the Sacred Grove at age 16 to seek confirmation of the First Vision and the prophetic role of Joseph Smith. He did not receive a response and he wondered if he had done something wrong.

In the weeks that followed, he continued to pray and read the Book of Mormon. Then one afternoon, without warning, the Holy Spirit came upon him.

“In a communication of pure intelligence — as the Prophet Joseph Smith referred to it — the Holy Spirit revealed to my spirit, without words, that the Book of Mormon is the word of God, translated by the gift and power of God by the man called of God as a Prophet to do so and to establish The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the kingdom of God on the earth.”

Mission presidents and their wives listen to messages shared at the 2022 Seminar for New Mission Leaders in the Provo Missionary Training Center.

Mission presidents and their wives listen to messages shared at the 2022 Seminar for New Mission Leaders in the Provo Missionary Training Center.

Credit: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

3. The role of the Holy Ghost in discipleship

Deepening the lifelong conversion of missionaries is a key priority for Church leaders such as Elder Christofferson. It is hoped that missionaries will have experiences that increase their faith in Christ and then return home to move forward as lifelong disciples, becoming leaders in their families, communities and in the Church.

It is troubling when a returned missionary adopts patterns and habits inconsistent with life on the covenant path.

Gratefully, such reversals occur in a minority of cases. The vast majority of returned missionaries continue in the path of discipleship, especially as they marry and begin to raise families.

Still, asked Elder Christofferson, “why should there be more than a mere handful, if any, who fall away?”

The scriptures teach that conversion to the gospel and its covenants must penetrate a person’s heart, becoming part of his or her very being. One’s life must center in and reflect the Savior. 

“Each time we partake of the emblems of His flesh and blood, we remember and commit to that full measure of discipleship,” he said. “Our resolve is strengthened and enabled by His Spirit, the Holy Spirit, which He promises will always be with us.”

Elder Christofferson challenged the mission leaders to teach their missionaries to seek more than a “transactional relationship” with the Father and the Son — something more than, “I’ll do this, and then You do that.” Instead, missionaries should seek a personal relationship with Deity that will sustain them and empower them to bring souls to Christ.

“Missionaries are among those select laborers that the Lord of the vineyard has called into His service,” he said. “He labors with them and He is very hands-on. They are companions not only of the apostles, but of the Lord Himself, who is the Father’s first and foremost Servant in the vineyard.”

Missionaries can counsel with the Father in Christ’s name. They can emulate the attributes and character of Christ. “Plead with them to let God and Christ into their life, every aspect of their life, by receiving the Holy Ghost.”

A full-time mission will likely not result in a “fullness of conversion.” For some, it will be a beginning. For others, a deepening of their conversion to Christ.

“For all, however, the mission experience should produce sufficient fruits of conversion that they will hunger and thirst for more in all the years that follow,” he said.

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