Elder Andersen: The urgency of finding people to teach

Teaching the gospel of Jesus Christ is a sacred charge that cannot be dismissed or diminished, said Elder Neil L. Andersen of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles on June 25.

“The Lord has laid before us an enormous challenge, ‘Go ye … and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost’ (Matthew 28:19),” he said. “‘Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature,’ (Mark 16:15) ‘for ye shall … [witness of] me … unto the uttermost part of the earth,’ (Acts 1:8).”

Speaking during the 2017 Seminar for New Mission Presidents, Elder Andersen addressed the topic “The Urgency of Finding People to Teach.”

Elder Andersen began his remarks by sharing three fundamental beliefs.

First, “there are today, people in every country, every city, among every race and culture ready to accept the restored gospel.”

Second, “almost all missionaries come into the mission with the flame of faith aglow, believing there are people being prepared — who will listen, increase their faith in Christ, repent, be baptized, receive the Holy Ghost, and endure to the end.”

Finally, for most missionaries, finding is the most difficult part of the work.

“Missionaries come into the mission with willing spirits and great hope. They eagerly begin by talking with members about referrals, stopping people on the street, visiting houses, speaking to people they meet. They pray and they work, but in some places they see few positive results. … Without spiritual support and direction, the task can seem overwhelming, and their faith can easily be diminished.”

Elder Andersen shared the experience of President Gordon B. Hinckley, who wrote his father as a discouraged young missionary. “Bryant Hinckley sent a reply that was brief and to the point: ‘Dear Gordon, I have your recent letter. I have only one suggestion: forget yourself and go to work.’”

There is an urgent need to strengthen missionaries’ ability to find people to teach, said Elder Andersen. “Technology cannot and never will replace the importance of the Spirit in finding, warning, testifying, and teaching.”

Technology, however, can help us in our divine commission, he said.

“Only a few years ago, family history was done by a few enthusiasts who rigorously searched in libraries, government records, microfilm, even cemeteries for information to identify and document family ancestors,” said Elder Andersen. “Most in the Church, while wanting to participate, stayed on the sidelines. Technology opened a new world to the Church, and hundreds of thousands more, even younger children, are now able to find and prepare names for the temple. We are following a similar pattern with missionary work.”

In many countries, missionaries can spend hours going from door to door in the hope of finding a few people willing to listen to their message, he said. “Not wanting to oversimplify, imagine if the missionaries could go directly to those who are more eagerly seeking light and truth.”

In the future, technology will help missionaries more effectively find the honest in heart, not only in the United States, but throughout the world, he said. “The technology is coming of age, but will be stronger in the years ahead.”

Finding those who will hear the message of the restored gospel is a daily tutorial in the exercise of faith, Elder Andersen said.

“The Apostle Paul said, ‘Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen’ (Hebrews 11:1),” said Elder Andersen.

“You can envision a missionary awakening and kneeling in prayer: ‘Heavenly Father, it is a new day. Please help me, Father, to once again be an instrument in Thy hands. I promise to be humble and eager to follow the promptings that are given me, and pray that Thou would put those we can teach into our path,’ ” he explained.

These are the things “hoped for,” the substance of faith, Elder Andersen said. Then, with diligence, the missionary reaches out to those in his or her path.

“Missionaries feel the Lord directing him or her, as they find those who will formally listen to the message,” he said. “And though many reject their efforts, they have the daily opportunity, with just a few words, to assure those in their path that God is our Father, and that His Son, Jesus Christ, is central to their finding happiness.

“For some, the missionary’s very presence becomes a warning voice. Missionaries feel the Savior’s approval for their devoted work, and great spiritual satisfaction settles upon their souls. This is the ‘evidence of things not seen,’ and day by day, month by month, this hope and evidence build upon each other, and faith grows and matures. Missionaries learn to trust in the Lord and become His disciples.”

Faith is a real power, Elder Andersen said. “Faith can cause things to happen that need to happen. It can bring someone who would not normally listen to the missionaries to awaken to God.”

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