The doctrinal purpose of missionary work across the globe remains teaching repentance and baptizing converts to the gospel of Jesus Christ.
That was the central message shared on Jan. 14 by Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles in his concluding remarks at the 2016 Seminar for Missionary Training Center Presidents and Directors of Visitors’ Center and Historic Sites.
Recent years have marked a historic period of greatly increased missionary numbers, including a significant increase of sister missionaries, he said. To accommodate such numbers, much focus has been placed on strengthening the missionaries and assisting in efforts to reactivate members and strengthen local units.
“We are not reducing our efforts on these vital aspects of missionary work,” he said. “But these worthwhile endeavors must not divert us from the fundamental duty we have to teach repentance and baptize converts.”
The newly called MTC presidents and their companions, he said, are charged with sacred responsibilities “to both teach and save.”
“Help the missionaries make the transition from home to the mission field. Help them gain a vision of their calling as servants of the Lord.”
He said it is also essential that MTC presidents focus their efforts on ecclesiastical matters. He counseld them to instill confidence in the missionaries, teach the doctrine of Christ and help the missionaries understand the central purpose of their work: to teach repentance and baptize converts.
In his counsel to the newly called directors of the Church visitors’ centers and historic sites, Elder Oaks noted that such facilities can make a great difference in local member-missionary work.
“Through your love, you can create a warmth at the visitors’ center that is a magnet for visitors,” he said. “When missionaries feel this love, they radiate love to the [center] guests.”
Elder Oaks then posed the question: “Why do we serve?”
There are many motives for service, he said. Some serve for selfish reasons, or they desire praise and earthly rewards. Other are “good soldiers” — prompted by a sense of duty or loyalty to family and tradition.
Still others enlist their faith in God as they serve. They hope for an eternal reward. But the “highest reason” for service, said Elder Oaks, “is service for the love of God and the love of His children.”
Such high standards of service are commanded in the 4th Section of the Doctrine and Covenants, verse 2: “Therefore, O ye that embark in the service of God, see that ye serve him with all your heart, might, mind and strength, that ye may stand blameless before God at the last day.”
The scriptures, he added, declare that Jesus Christ is the Light and Life of the world.
Christ’s light “is the true light.” Such light of truth quickens understanding and is given to every man and woman to know good and evil. The Light of Christ also “illuminates the path we should walk to return to the presence of God, the Father.”
The Savior is “the Life of the world” because of His unique position in what the scriptures call “the great and eternal plan of deliverance from death.”
One comes to the Father through the life-giving mission of the Son, taught Elder Oaks. Through the Atonement, all mankind will overcome physical death and will be resurrected. And, again through His Atonement, men and women, through repentance, can overcome the spiritual death that is a consequence of sin. Many in the world carry heavy burdens, he noted. Some deal with physical or mental illness. Others are weighed down by sin or addictions. The Savior offers relief from all such burdens.
Christ’s Atonement, he added, “is powerful enough to pay the price for sin — but also to heal everyone with afflictions.” Its redeeming benefits are available to all “with a broken heart and a contrite spirit.”
One testimony of Christ, he concluded, cannot by grounded in the wisdom of the world or the philosophies of men — however traditional or respected they may be. “Our testimony of Jesus Christ is based on the revelations of God to His prophets and to us individually.”
And what does this testimony of Christ cause one to affirm?
“Jesus Christ is the Only Begotten Son of God the Eternal Father. He is the Creator. Through His incomparable mortal ministry He is our Teacher. Because of His resurrection all who have ever lived will be raised from the dead. He is the Savior whose atoning sacrifice opens the door for us to be forgiven of our personal sins so that we can be cleansed to return to the presence of God our Eternal Father.”
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