President Oaks on what sets the Church — and missionaries — apart

While all members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints bear Christ’s name, missionaries of the Church bear His name in an especially visible way.

In a sacrament meeting address to missionaries of the Salt Lake Temple Square Mission on Feb. 28, President Dallin H. Oaks and his wife, Sister Kristen Oaks, spoke on what sets the Church apart from other Christian churches and what doctrines help missionaries teach with the Spirit.

“The great privilege of missionary work is to do something for the sons and daughters of our Heavenly Father in a small measure similar to what our Savior did for us — something for someone they cannot do for themselves.”

As servants of Jesus Christ, missionaries offer all they can offer, doing so without any selfish reason and no expectation to be paid or thanked for their work.

‘The only true and living Church’

In a revelation given to the Prophet Joseph Smith, the Lord referred to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as “the only true and living church upon the face of the whole earth, with which I, the Lord, am well pleased” (Doctrine and Covenants 1:30). 

As a result, Latter-day Saints often refer to the Church as the only true church. Sometimes it might be done in a way that gives offense to people who belong to other churches or subscribe to other philosophies — ways that might imply arrogance, a “holier than thou” attitude, a monopoly on truth that excludes other faiths and philosophies, or suggestions that Latter-day Saints are better than others.

“We should try to avoid all of those ideas because none of them is true,” President Oaks said. “God has not taught us anything that should cause us to feel arrogant or superior to other people.”

Three features make The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints “the only true and living church upon the face of the whole earth”: the fulness of His doctrine, the power of His priesthood and a unique testimony of Jesus Christ.

Statuary outside newly constructed Latter-day Saint meetinghouse and visitor center at Priesthood Restoration Site depicts the visits of resurrected beings John the Baptist, left, and Peter, James and John, right, to Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery.
Statuary outside newly constructed Latter-day Saint meetinghouse and visitor center at Priesthood Restoration Site depicts the visits of resurrected beings John the Baptist, left, and Peter, James and John, right, to Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery. Credit: R. Scott Lloyd, Church News

The doctrine of the restored gospel is “comprehensive, universal, merciful and true,” President Oaks said. “Following the necessary experience of mortal life, all sons and daughters of God will be resurrected and go to a kingdom of glory more wonderful than any mortals can comprehend.” This occurs because of God’s great love for His children and is made possible through the Atonement and Resurrection of Christ.

The scriptures have taught repeatedly of the necessity of priesthood authority, which has been restored to the Church in the latter days.

Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have a unique testimony of Christ because of the “revealed truth about the nature of God and our relationship to Him,” President Oaks said. “This is the key to everything else.”

This unique testimony of Jesus Christ causes Church members to affirm that Jesus Christ is the Only Begotten Son of God the Eternal Father. His atoning sacrifice makes it possible for each person to return to the presence of Heavenly Father through obedience to the laws and ordinances of the gospel. 

“This is the central message of the prophets of all ages,” President Oaks said.

Revelation

Fundamental to the work as servants of the Lord is revelation and inspiration. The process of revelation was outlined in Doctrine and Covenants 9, in which the Lord teaches Oliver Cowdery, “Behold, I say unto you, that you must study it out in your mind; then you must ask me if it be right, and if it is right I will cause that your bosom shall burn within you; therefore, you shall feel that it is right” (Doctrine and Covenants 9:8).

“Note that the Lord refers to this key communication as a ‘feeling that is right,’” President Oaks said. “The answer to the prayer for a confirming revelation is a feeling.”

There is some confusion about what a “burning in the bosom” means. For some, this feels like the burning produced by combustion. For most people, and for President Oaks, “the ‘burning’ promised in this scripture is a feeling of warmth-like comfort and serenity and peace.”

‘Always have His Spirit to be with us’

President Oaks posed the question, “What do we do to ensure that we will always have the Spirit to be with us?”

The Lord directed His Church to “meet together often to partake of bread and wine in remembrance of the Lord Jesus [Christ]” (Doctrine and Covenants 20:75). After the three covenants in the sacrament prayers is the promise “that they may always have his Spirit to be with them” (Doctrine and Covenants 20:77).

“To have the continuous companionship of the Holy Ghost is the most precious possession we can have in mortality,” President Oaks said. “To possess that gift, we must always be worthy, and we cannot do that without regularly and appropriately partaking of the sacrament.”

President Dallin H. Oaks and Sister Kristen Oaks pose for a photo following their sacrament meeting remarks to missionaries of the Salt Lake Temple Square Mission on Feb. 28, 2021.
President Dallin H. Oaks and Sister Kristen Oaks pose for a photo following their sacrament meeting remarks to missionaries of the Salt Lake Temple Square Mission on Feb. 28, 2021. Credit: President Russell M. Larsen

Before renewing covenants by partaking of the sacrament, one should repent and come to this sacred ordinance with a broken heart and a contrite spirit.

“When we renew our baptism covenants in this way, the Lord renews the cleansing effect of our baptism,” President Oaks said. “In this way we are made clean and can always have His Spirit to be with us.”

Set apart

Missionaries should never take their setting apart for granted.

President Oaks shared a few excerpts from a letter of a non-Church member who has interacted with missionaries at a Church history site for many years. This person has become convinced that “being ‘set apart’ is much more than just a procedure or a designation. It is very much a state of being … tangible, and yet, somehow intangible.”

The letter writer has noticed a difference in past missionaries who have returned to this Church history site. “They are no less nice or good, and it is great to see them again, but something is missing,” they wrote. “They are no longer ‘set apart,’ and it always makes me a little sad. They are back in the world with all its challenges and distractions.”

Visitors and missionaries gather on Temple Square in Salt Lake City, Monday, July 11, 2016. Free guided tours of Temple Square and the Conference Center in downtown Salt Lake City are available from 9 a.m.-9 p.m.
Visitors and missionaries gather on Temple Square in Salt Lake City, Monday, July 11, 2016. Free guided tours of Temple Square and the Conference Center in downtown Salt Lake City are available from 9 a.m.-9 p.m. Credit: Hans Koepsell, Deseret News

President Oaks told the missionaries, “Remember, you are ‘set apart’ from worldly things to give your full-time devotion, thoughts and activities to the work of the Lord.”

In her remarks, Sister Oaks spoke on her hope that the missionaries would gain a testimony of and love for Heavenly Father and His Son, Jesus Christ, as well as a love for the scriptures. 

“There is great power in the Book of Mormon and the standard works,” she said. Missionaries can draw on the words of Christ to instruct and lead them, and the scriptures will provide comfort, protection and revelation.

Sister Oaks encouraged the missionaries to love their companions because it’s impossible to preach the gospel when they feel contention. “It can be a great blessing to have association with those very different from ourselves and learn to communicate and serve together,” she said.

Said President Oaks: “Sister Oaks and I see many of you on the streets during our walks. We love you and pray for you in your sacred service.”