Teaching should precede baptizing

"Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.

"Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you."

Teaching should precede baptizing, President Thomas S. Monson emphasized as he quoted these scriptures found in Matthew 28:19-20 in the Mission Presidents Seminar on June 24.

President Thomas S. Monson
President Thomas S. Monson Credit: Photo by Stuart Johnson

"Chaos results when we baptize without teaching," said President Monson, first counselor in the First Presidency. "We have baptisms, but we don't have converts, and every president of the Church has extended the plea: Teach, that people may be converted, and then baptized and confirmed members of the Church. I thought it significant, too, that the Lord added, even after the word baptize, 'teaching them to observe all things' whatsoever the Lord hath commanded you."

Noting that joy comes to those who bring souls unto Christ, he said the Lord has given mission presidents and missionaries a promise recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 84:88.

"What more could He give you?" he asked. "He'll go before you; he'll be on your right hand and your left hand, and His angels round about you to bear you up."

President Monson said that while a mission president in Canada, he would look at well-worn shoes of missionaries, thinking, "Ours is the responsibility not only to guide their feet but also to effectively climb with them, rung by rung, the ladder to missionary success."

To the assembled new mission presidents, he said, "You are the model to follow. You are the teacher. You are the exemplar, and you cannot shirk that responsibility."

He spoke of the effort to obtain referrals and gave advice on how to make it function effectively. "There are categories of people and there are circumstances of people that make them an ideal field from whom our referrals can come," he suggested. "For example, the gospel can most effectively be taught where we have a core of active members."

He said some people are more ready than others to be introduced to the gospel. "Wherever there's been a death in the family, they've asked the question asked by Job: 'If a man die, shall he live again?' You've got the answer, and the members can provide the answer, and that's the person who's ready to learn."

Other people, he said, who may be especially ready to hear the gospel are those who have welcomed a new arrival into their home. He said parents of newborns may wonder "Where did he come from? Why is she here?"

"We have the answers to those questions," he said.

Another category of people who may be ready for the gospel are parents who have trouble with their teenage children, he said. "That's universal. And you have the answers. You have the activity program of the youth of the Church, friends to accompany them, events to attend, sociability, seminary, institute and all that goes with it."

President Monson recommended that missionaries "work in an area and not just work through it" and said he told missionaries "Be yourself, be your best self." He told of one elder from Montana in his mission who established an immediate rapport with a contact by showing him a picture of his bay mare back home. The man was interested and invited the elders in. Eventually he and his extended family all joined the Church.