Obedience and personal righteousness for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ full-time missionaries are critical in fulfilling their great responsibilities, meriting divine companionship and establishing a life-long patterns, taught Elder Ulisses Soares in a March 18 missionary devotional.
“Personal righteousness is one of the most important qualifications to represent the Savior before the world,” said the member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. “It also qualifies us to have the companionship of the Spirit of the Lord with us.”
The scriptures provide examples of righteous people who were able to accomplish great things in life, including walking with God, he said. He cited Doctrine and Covenants 64:34 — “Behold, the Lord requireth the heart and a willing mind; and the willing and obedient shall eat the good of the land of Zion in these last days.”
Added Elder Soares: “If you obey with a willing heart, you will be demonstrating to the Lord your willingness to follow Him, your love for Him and for our Heavenly Father. Your spiritual progress will be broader. You will come to know the Savior, and this will make all the difference in your mission and in your life.”
Elder Soares and his wife, Sister Rosana Soares, spoke in the March 18 devotional streamed worldwide via the missionaries’ online portal. Elder W. Mark Bassett, a General Authority Seventy and an assistant executive director in the Missionary Department, conducted the devotional, welcoming participants and introducing the Soareses.
Sister Soares: Application of obedience
Prior to her husband’s message, Sister Soares taught that obedience is an aid to help those with questions, doubts or struggles.
She quoted President Boyd K. Packer, the late president of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles: “‘Obey’ is a four-letter word,” he wrote. “It is the most protecting word, the most revealing word. You obey, and you cannot go wrong. You will be provided for. It is not always easy to obey, but it is wise and right to obey.”
Sister Soares said the formula of obedience applies to any gospel principle, such as fasting and fast offerings, ministering, accepting calls, and listening to the guidance given by the First Presidency. “We must remember that many questions will only have satisfactory answers if we base them on faith. Obedience and faith go hand in hand.”
Recalling her husband’s emphasis of Doctrine and Covenants 82:10 — “I, the Lord, am bound when you do what I say; but when you do not what I say, ye have no promise” — Sister Soares bore witness of its truth from many experiences, even when waiting for answers for a long time.
“Our Heavenly Father knows what we need and when we need it,” she said. “And I know that sometimes we have to change our expectations, be patient and have more hope and faith. … We may not have all the answers right now, but one day we will. We call it ‘living by faith.’ ”
She concluded: “This gospel is perfect in every sense. We are so blessed to have prophets, seers and revelators in our days. Jesus Christ is our advocate with the Father. Knowing this, I have the desire in my heart to obey and follow Him because I love Him.”
‘A special light within them’
Elder Soares opened his remarks by recalling the conversion of his family when he was 5 years old. “Every time the missionaries would teach my family, I could feel something different. It was such a special and strong warm feeling that I did not want those missionaries to conclude their visit,” he said.
“Today I know what it was. Those missionaries had a special light within them; they had the Spirit of the Lord as their companion. That Spirit made such an impression on my parents’ hearts that it helped them to decide to really search for the truth and receive their own answer. After they received that answer, they decided to completely change their life and accept the true gospel of Jesus Christ.”
He reviewed the legacy of faith set by his parents, up to his father passing away when the two were serving as missionaries in the São Paulo Brazil Temple.
“All of this started with those two humble missionaries who carried with them a special light,” said Elder Soares, choking back his emotions. “When I look back and see all that has happened in my life since my parents’ conversion, I wonder whether those two missionaries ever imagined the impact they would have on the Soares family when they taught them the gospel.”
Reflecting on what caused those missionaries to have such “a strong light and sweet spirit within them,” the Apostle shared one fundamental impression — the importance of obedience and personal righteousness.
Missionaries are called by a prophet of God and set apart to represent the Lord by inviting others to come unto the Savior and accept 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.
“We are promised the companionship of the Spirit in order to accomplish this great endeavor, so long as we are worthy of it,” Elder Soares said. “Having the Spirit with us is not something automatic that comes with a call to serve.”
Elder Soares listed principles of obedience and personal righteousness as outlined in “Missionary Standards for Disciples of Jesus Christ” and “Preach My Gospel” as well as numerous scriptures and statements from President Russell M. Nelson.
Commitment to obedience
Elder Soares reminded the elders and sisters of their pre-mission commitment of obedience and worthiness they made to interviewing leaders, and consequently to the Lord. And he cited “Preach My Gospel”: “Obedience is the first law of heaven. It is an act of faith. You may sometimes be required to do things you do not completely understand. As you obey, you increase in faith, knowledge, wisdom, testimony, protection, and freedom. Strive to be obedient to the Lord, the living prophet, and your mission president.”
He underscored promised blessings for those who are obedient. “If we choose not to be obedient, we will not be able to represent the Savior accordingly, nor will we have the Spirit of the Lord with us. Remember that Spirit I felt when the missionaries came into my home? In order to be a positive influence in the lives of individuals you teach, you must have the Spirit of the Lord with you.”
Emphasizing that Jesus Christ is the perfect example of faithfulness and obedience, Elder Soares reminded missionaries that one’s unworthiness may compromise the ability to reflect the Savior in words, actions and guiding influence of the Spirit of the Lord. He encouraged any dwelling upon past unrighteous and unresolved actions to pursue repentance through appropriate leaders.
“Missionaries are expected to be righteous, clean and spiritually pure,” he said. “Those who possess these attributes are confident that they can be guided by the Holy Ghost. These were the gifts those two missionaries who taught my family had. That is why I felt something special in their presence. They truly had a special light.”
Obedience is not only important during mission service but throughout life, he said. “Obedience underlies our life decisions and allows God to open the heavens to shower His blessings upon us during our mortal existence and through eternity. Our obedience is a sign of our love, friendship and discipleship to the Savior who we represent as missionaries. Obedience to the commandments leads to blessings from God and shows our love for Him and for His Son Jesus Christ.”
Elder Soares concluded with an invitation and a blessing: “I invite you to enjoy these blessings on your missions, beginning right now. I promise you that your life will be different. You shall enjoy feelings of peace and love for all of Heavenly Father’s children, and you will have the capacity to transform their lives for all eternity.”
In addition to his testimony of the Father and the Son, Elder Soares pronounced an apostolic blessing on his listeners “that you may have the power and the courage to obey the Lord’s commandments as revealed through His prophets and leaders. I bless you with the ability to allow the Savior to direct your missions through the Holy Spirit as you choose to obey His commandments. If you do so, I promise that you will enjoy the blessings that are in store from the hands of the Lord during and after your mission.”