Now is the time the Lord is hastening His work of Salvation and the effort includes every Latter-day Saint — not just the missionaries, Church leaders say.
The Lord’s work of salvation “is rescuing and reactivation and missionary work; it is temple and family history work, ordinances and gospel teaching,” said Elder Paul B. Pieper of the Seventy and Executive Director of the Priesthood Department.
Elder Pieper participated in a Church News roundtable discussion on Dec. 18 with other General Authorities, who each spoke about how the Lord is hastening His work.
Participating in the roundtable discussion were Elder Enrique R. Falabella of the Seventy who is working with the Church’s Perpetual Education Fund, Elder Paul V. Johnson of the Seventy and Commissioner of Church Education, Elder Allan F. Packer of the Seventy and Executive Director of the Family History Department, Elder Anthony D. Perkins of the Seventy and Executive Director of the Communication Services Committee, Elder William R. Walker of the Seventy and Executive Director of the Temple Department, and Elder W. Craig Zwick of the Seventy and Assistant Executive Director of the Missionary Department.
All agreed that the Church is making history by sending out record numbers of young missionaries, asking families to help prepare them for service and engaging other Latter-day Saints in helping the missionaries find success.
“We are shaping the future of what the Church will be, of what people will be, of what families will be,” said Elder Packer.
The roundtable discussion came six months after Church leaders participated in a worldwide missionary broadcast, titled “Work of Salvation,” and asked Latter-day Saints to take a more active role in member missionary work.
During the broadcast, President Thomas S. Monson said: “Now is the time for members and missionaries to come together, to work together, to labor in the Lord’s vineyard to bring souls unto Him.”
Elder Zwick — quoting the scripture passage “they awoke unto God,” found in Alma 5:7 — called the June 23 leadership training broadcast “an awakening.”
President Monson, President Boyd K. Packer of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and other Church leaders addressed the meeting, which was part of the 2013 Seminar for New Mission Presidents. In addition to the 178 new mission presidents and their wives (including 58 couples assigned to newly created missions) were ward and stake council members and their spouses, full-time missionaries and other interested Church members. It was the first time that any portion of a seminar for new mission presidents was “broadcast to the world.”
“It was really a time when we brought members and missionaries together in a way symbolically that we haven’t done in the past,” Elder Pieper said. “I think that was a very, very important step.”
Another noteworthy change that is hastening the work is newly created mission leadership councils with “sister training leaders” — a newly created leadership role for sister missionaries, who participate in all missions throughout the world.
“You have a young woman who is on a bishop’s youth council and then she goes off on her mission and she is part of a mission leadership council and she comes home and at some point she becomes part of a ward council,” said Elder Perkins. “To me, it is terrific.”
Elder Perkins also noted that young women who do not choose full-time missionary service also have an important part to play in the work of salvation and have many opportunities for Church leadership and growth.
Elder Walker said many Latter-day Saints think “the message of hastening the work of salvation is missionary work, period. It isn’t.”
Family history and temple work, he said, are important parts of the work of salvation.
Elder Packer called it wonderful that many missionaries now have the opportunity to participate in family history work.
Elder Falabella said, “Family history work and missionary work are the same — missionary work, both of them.”
It is important to rescue people on both sides of the veil, he added.
“There has been this renewed focus of temple and family history work being one work with two parts,” said Elder Packer. “The youth are getting more and more involved in finding and then actually doing the ordinances for the ancestors they have found.”
Elder Zwick said the Church’s ability to expand missionary training centers — and open a new MTC in Mexico — is a miracle. In addition, missionaries are beginning to use technology and other means to reach people in different ways than in the past. This includes on-line proselytizing and even a few missions now testing the use of mobile devices.
Elder Pieper noted that missionaries are having success because they are well prepared.
Elder Johnson said he visited many high school seminaries last spring and was astounded at how many high school seniors already had their mission calls. The need for students to prepare for missionary service earlier than in the past “changed the whole feeling of their seminary classes. … They are very, very focused and very interested.”
Elder Johnson said seminary teachers report the seminary program has been impacted by the Church’s youth curriculum, Come, Follow Me.
Elder Pieper pointed out that the Come, Follow Me website averages 1.2 million visits a month, with 1 million video views and 725,000 unique visitors.
“It is moving forward,” he said of the new curriculum. “The biggest challenge we see is there are people who want to teach lessons and not people.”
Adults need to step back and let the youth engage, he said.
Elder Johnson said the youth are capable of much more than adults think they are.
“The students have expected to participate in seminary classes because that is what they do on Sunday,” he said.
The result has been wonderful, he said. “I have heard this comment from teachers: ‘It has never been easier to teach seminary.’”
Seminary teachers also report their students are actively engaged in family history work, Elder Johnson said.
“The youth still are coming to the temple in great numbers to do baptisms for the dead,” said Elder Walker. “It is wonderful to see many groups now bringing their own names.”
The youth are “balancing both paths and finding and performing” the ordinances, said Elder Packer.
Elder Walker observed that because young women and young men are entering the mission field at a younger age, they are also participating in the temple endowment for the first time at a younger age.
Some worried that might create problems, he said. But 18-year-old young men and 19-year-old young women are coming to the temple prepared to make covenants. “It hasn’t been a problem. It has been universally reported as a wonderful thing,” he declared. “It is very positive.”
One of the important things that is coming out of these efforts is a greater focus on the family coming together as one, said Elder Packer.
“The new MTC is the home. The new family history library is the home. The new Sunday School class is the home. The results are nothing short of miracles.”
Elder Zwick said the number of missionaries in the field, including the number of senior missionaries, continues to increase.
There are now almost 83,000 full-time missionaries in the field. Another 12,000 have calls and are awaiting their entry to the MTC.
Elder Perkins said it is impossible not to see the hand of the Lord in what has happened.
The Perpetual Education Fund “will help returned missionaries to be self-reliant and they will be able to provide for themselves and their families spiritually and temporally,” said Elder Falabella.
They will be prepared both spiritually and physically, he said.
The future is bright for the Church, he added. It will come with the “ability, commitment and effort” of the members.
“We have gotten through the hastening part of this,” added Elder Pieper. “Now we are to the work part of this. There is a lot of work to be done.”?[email protected]