During a time of transition in missionary work, the most important things about preaching the gospel “have not changed and will not change,” said Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles while offering an introductory message during the 2017 Seminar for New Mission Presidents.
Speaking to 127 new mission presidents and companions on Sunday, June 25, Elder Oaks said they had been blessed to partake of the sacrament. “I think it appropriate on this Sabbath to speak of two truths about the ordinance of the sacrament that have been on my mind recently,” he said.
The first truth, he explained, is what Latter-day Saints do when they partake of the sacrament. “Of course, we partake of the bread and the water as symbols of the body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ,” he said. “But many who do this may not be conscious that in this ordinance what we take into our mouths is not as important as what we do in our minds.
“As we partake of the symbols of the pierced body and the shed blood of our Savior, we should be doing much more than putting bread and water in our mouths. In the ordinance of the sacrament, our minds should be concentrating on the meaning of His atoning sacrifice and we should be remembering the Lord and consciously renewing our covenants with Him.”
Elder Oaks said his second thought about the sacrament concerns the nature of the broken bread of which Church members partake.
Referencing Christian churches that participate in communion — in many cases partaking of identical wafers or crackers, Elder Oaks said Latter-day Saints partake of bread that has been broken in their presence.
“Because it is broken and torn, each piece of bread is unique, just as the individuals who partake of it are unique,” he said. “We all have different sins to repent of. We all have different needs to be strengthened through the Atonement of the Lord Jesus Christ whom we remember in this ordinance. Strive to think of His sacrifice as specific and unique to you.”
Members should be grateful for the ordinance of the sacrament, which is the central act of the Sabbath day, a source of great spiritual power, he said.
Elder Oaks, chairman of the Missionary Executive Council, said the members of the council requested his remarks be an introduction to the teachings in the seminar for new mission presidents.
“The most important thing I can say to you by way of introduction is that we are in an unusual and extremely important transition in our missionary work in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints,” he said.
This transition is due to several reasons:
1. Convert baptisms have plateaued. “We must find new ways to do missionary work that will bring the increases in missionary baptisms of which we are capable.”
2. Significant advancements in technology can accelerate the work, “but we haven’t yet learned to use them effectively.” These technological advances “are begging to be used in the work of the Lord and we are overdue in finding ways this can be done to advance the effectiveness of our missionary work.”
3. There is a need to protect our youth from “the powerful worldly influences that detract from their spiritual preparation and from their missionary effectiveness.” The rising generation is subject to increasing temptations and distractions — including technological distractions, decreased opportunities for youth to learn how to work and family disunity.
4. The greatly increased diversity in mission circumstances is a final example of new complications in the supervising, calling, training and oversight of missionaries, he said. The Church now has 422 missions that encompass more than 160 countries.
“Fortunately, the most important things about preaching the gospel have not changed and will not change,” said Elder Oaks. “Concentrate your attention and your efforts on those eternal fundamentals. … These are what you should do in your personal learning, your teaching of missionaries, your own testimonies and your administration.”
Some of those eternal fundamentals include:
1. Preach My Gospel remains the fundamental and essential handbook for preaching the gospel and leading our missionaries.
2. Most fundamental to sharing the gospel is our knowledge of Jesus Christ. “Our most important possession is our testimony of the Risen Lord and His central role in the plan of salvation and in His restored gospel. This is the unique truth we seek to share with others.”
3. The Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ, will always be central and vital to our message and our methods. “Teach missionaries how to learn its truths, how to ponder and pray over them, how to testify of them, and how to use the Book of Mormon in all of their teaching efforts.”
4. Caring for your missionaries is fundamental to the dual roles of preaching the gospel in a world that needs its principles and teaching and training the rising generation of Church leaders for the future.
5. Proclaiming the gospel is a teaching effort, so the principles of teaching will always be fundamental.
6. Teaching by the Spirit will always be an eternal fundamental of sharing the great truths of the restored gospel. “Essential to teaching by the Spirit is to maintain the worthiness and obedience necessary to have the companionship of the Spirit by which we teach.”
7. Finally, there is an urgency to find people to teach. “The major deficiency in our current missionary work is the shortage of persons for our missionaries to teach — persons who are sincerely seeking additional truth to guide their lives.”
Teach your missionaries how to find, how to plan to find and how to encourage others to find, he said. “Nothing happens in our missionary work until we find someone for our missionaries to teach.”
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