Time has come to raise missionary standards

Effectiveness will increase among those called to go

The mission of the Church is to save souls, said President Gordon B. Hinckley as the concluding speaker of the priesthood leadership training broadcast. "It is to find and teach . . . to baptize . . . to strengthen and nurture. . . . There is no greater work. There is no more important work. There is no more compelling work than this which the God of Heaven has given us responsibility for accomplishing."

In his comments, President Hinckley emphasized all aspects of missionary work.

"The time has come when we must raise the standards of those who are called to serve as ambassadors of the Lord Jesus Christ to the world," he said, noting that the work is rigorous and that not everyone meets the Lord's qualifications. (See Doctrine and Covenants 4:5-6.)

"Missionary work is not a rite of passage. . . . I am confident that raising the bar on eligibility will cause our young people, particularly our young men, to practice self-discipline, to live above the low standards of the world, to avoid transgression. . . . We will not knowingly send young men to reform them. If their lives need reforming that must happen well before they go. That may take time.

"Good physical and mental health is vital. . . . Whatever ailment or physical or mental shortcoming a missionary has when he comes into the field, only becomes aggravated under the stress of the work.

"There are other areas where those with serious limitations may work and have a satisfying experience. And the Lord will bless them for what they are able to do."

This position may appear "unreasonable and harsh to many parents," he said. "We feel that we must bring back into focus the real purpose of missionary work and the need for certain qualifications in order to accomplish that purpose. . . . It will increase the effectiveness of those who qualify to go.

"We need missionaries, but they must be capable of doing the work. They must be spiritually sensitive to do that which is expected of them, which is essentially a spiritual work. They must be morally worthy. . . . There should be an eagerness and a desire to serve the Lord. . . . There must be health and strength, both physical and mental, for the work is demanding.

"We are not asking for perfection," President Hinckley said. "We must be careful that we do not go to extremes."

President Hinckley then turned his attention to the "how-tos" of missionary work.

"Missionary work is more than two young men giving a memorized presentation to investigators. . . . It is a four-fold endeavor that concerns the missionaries, . . . ward members, bishops, the ward leader, and the entire Church organization.

"This four-fold effort includes: (1) finding investigators; (2) teaching by the Spirit; (3) baptizing worthy converts; and, (4) strengthening new and less-active members.

"Whose responsibility is it to find investigators for the missionaries to teach? It is the responsibility of everyone in the Church. . . . Missionary service will be on the agenda of each meeting.

"Let us cultivate within our people a constant awareness of opportunities to reach out to others.

"Where there is enthusiasm for converts, there will be results. Where the members have confidence in the missionaries, they will work to find investigators for them to teach.

"A greater enthusiasm for missionary work will strengthen the entire ward.

"It will be a great day when our people not only pray for the missionaries throughout the world, but will ask the Lord to help them to assist the missionaries who are laboring in their own ward."

Concerning the need to teach by the Spirit, President Hinckley said that, "If missionaries will cultivate the Spirit of the Lord and live worthy of it, they will be guided to say those things and teach in such a way as to respond to the needs of those they teach."

The baptismal service for the worthy convert should be a wonderful occasion, President Hinckley continued.

"Friends and family should be invited to attend. . . . It should be a very sacred and impressive experience.

Concerning the need to strengthen new members, President Hinckley said, "Each new convert needs someone who is always near, of whom he can ask questions in confidence.

"Every convert needs a friend to steady him when doubts arise, as they inevitably will.

"Glorious is this work," said President Hinckley in conclusion. "It will bless the life of every man, woman, boy and girl who embraces it."

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