Mission leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints can bestow two special gifts upon missionaries — “to fully understand their purpose as missionaries and to learn how to plan to achieve this purpose,” said Elder Quentin L. Cook on June 25.
“These gifts will not only bless them during their mission but will also bless them throughout their lives long after they have completed a mission under your leadership,” said Elder Cook of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. “These gifts will make them better husbands and wives, parents, neighbors, Church leaders, employers, employees, and people.”
Speaking to 164 couples attending the 2019 New Mission Leadership Seminar held at the Provo Missionary Training Center, Elder Cook addressed the topic, “Purpose and Planning.”
He asked mission leaders to be patient with missionaries as they learn how to take advantage of these two gifts. “Like a child who is learning to walk, a young person who is learning how to play soccer, or another person who is learning to play a musical instrument, it will take time to learn how to use these gifts naturally,” he said. “Please remember that learning includes practicing and failing and practicing again.”
Know Your Purpose
One of the greatest gifts mission leaders can give their missionaries “is the gift of knowing their purpose and acting upon that purpose,” he said.
“Individuals who know their purpose in whatever they are doing, including missionary work, are able to decide what should take priority in their lives at a specific time to accomplish their purpose.”
The missionary purpose as set forth in “Preach My Gospel” is to “invite others to come unto Christ by helping them receive the restored gospel through faith in Jesus Christ and His Atonement, repentance, baptism, receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost, and enduring to the end,” he said.
“As you help your missionaries feel passionate about their purpose as emissaries of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they will be inspired, uplifted, and motivated to accomplish the work to gather Israel. The Resurrected Savior told His faithful followers that they were sent to “make disciples” of all nations through finding, teaching, and baptizing.”
The earliest reference to the central aspect of the missionary purpose, the doctrine of Christ, is found in the book of Moses, he said. “You will recall that when Adam and Eve offered sacrifice as they had been commanded, an angel of the Lord appeared unto them and taught them, 'Wherefore, thou shalt do all that thou doest in the name of the Son, and thou shalt repent and call upon God in the name of the Son forevermore. And in that day the Holy Ghost fell upon Adam. . . . And thus the Gospel began to be preached. . . . And thus all things were confirmed unto Adam, by an holy ordinance'” (Moses 5:8–9, 58–59).
The next major announcement of the missionary purpose is found in the Book of Mormon, approximately 550 years before the birth of Jesus Christ. In 2 Nephi 31, the Lord teaches “repentance and baptism by water; and then cometh a remission of ... sins by fire and by the Holy Ghost.”
There are five points of the doctrine of Christ mentioned in these verses, which are an essential part of the missionary purpose:
- Having faith in Christ
- Being baptized
- Receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost
- Enduring to the end
The Church was organized April 6, 1830. Six months later four revelations relating to missionary work were received, said Elder Cook. One of these, section 31, is one of the first comprehensive missionary sections in the Doctrine and Covenants.
Section 31 contains the following four messages that are of particular significance for you mission leaders here today.
- “Lift up your heart and rejoice, for the hour of your mission is come” (Doctrine and Covenants 31:3).
- “You shall declare the things which have been revealed to my servant, Joseph Smith, Jun.” (Doctrine and Covenants 31:4).
- “I [the Savior] will open the hearts of the people, and they will receive you. And I [the Savior] will establish a church by your hand” (Doctrine and Covenants 31:7).
- “[I]t shall be given you by the Comforter what you shall do and whither you shall go” (Doctrine and Covenant 31:11).
The Lord, through His prophets and Apostles and His own voice, continues to declare the missionary purpose, said Elder Cook.
“In missions that understand their purpose, I have found that missionaries, members and missions are blessed and the Church is strengthened. I invite you to thoroughly immerse your mission with the grand and glorious purpose to ‘make disciples’ by finding, teaching, baptizing, and confirming people who have fulfilled the requirements of baptism as found in Doctrine and Covenants 20:37.”
Planning and Goals
The second gift you will offer your missionaries is teaching them how to plan, set goals, and follow through with their plans to achieve their righteous goals, said Elder Cook.
“Many young people struggle to understand the importance of this remarkable gift and to use it for their benefit. However, as your missionaries learn why this gift is important to them and the people they meet and as they practice and learn how to plan and set righteous goals, they will embrace planning, setting goals, and following through on their plans to fulfill their missionary purpose.”
Those who learn to plan and set proper goals will achieve more in their lives, he added. “No matter what they choose to do in life, they will do better at it if they learn to plan, set goals, and follow through.”
From time to time, instead of focusing missionaries on building wards and branches through real growth, some mission leaders focused exclusively on baptism numbers, he said.
“They often mistook planning and goal setting as a business approach or a source of inappropriate pressure. Please understand that proper planning and appropriate goal setting are essential for helping to establish the Church through real growth. It would be fair to say that where there is no vision, no goals and no accountability, there is usually very little success or growth,” said Elder Cook.
"A united effort and focus where missionary planning and goal setting align with ward or branch planning and goal setting can be very helpful to accomplish the work of gathering Israel," said Elder Cook.
“We need to follow the Spirit and focus on individual people instead of baptism numbers.”
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Elder Cook further commented, “Please remember that missions baptize—not individual missionaries. Make sure that those who find, those who teach, and those who baptize a convert share the experience together. Consider focusing on the person baptized instead of the missionary who actually performed the baptism.”
The ultimate objective of planning and setting goals is to “make disciples” — that is, to have consecrated converts who make and keep sacred covenants beginning with a baptismal covenant leading to temple covenants, he said.
“Baptisms that don’t ‘make disciples,’ don’t establish the Church with strong units, and don’t lead to the temple will not accomplish Father in Heaven’s purposes for His children.”
The Commitment to Stay Active in the Church
Missionary work has its greatest effect as people make and keep the commitment to stay active in the Church all the days of their lives, Elder Cook said. “It is not enough for people to simply come into the Church. They must come to stay. All of your teaching and invitations must be directed toward this end.”
The gift of eternal life is the greatest gift of all the gifts of God, concluded Elder Cook. “His other gifts include the two you can share with your missionaries—the gift of knowing and acting upon their purpose and the gift of planning and setting goals to accomplish that purpose. …
“I testify, as it states in 'Preach My Gospel,' that “God’s whole purpose — His work and His glory — is to enable each of us to enjoy all His blessings.”