Sunday, October 7, 2007
European Missionaries 1922--President David O. McKay 1st row second person on left Elder Ezra Taft Benson 1st row last person right
Get the Spirit of God before you go on your missions or anywhere else. Get the spirit of revelation with you. And when you get that you are safe, and you will do exactly what the Lord wants you to do. (Wilford Woodruff, Conference Report, April 1898, p. 31).
In the missionary training centers, we teach the missionaries that they must have faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. They are taught that they need to develop genuinely warm, personal, caring relationships with those whom they meet. They must learn to listen with understanding and to show sincere sensitivity to the interests and concerns of those they teach. As missionaries teach the doctrines, they need to find out what their contacts think and feel so they can clarify misunderstandings, ease doubts, resolve concerns, and provide encouragement. The warm, sincere spirit of the missionaries is essential to help nonmembers feel and recognize the Spirit of the Lord, because the Spirit is the power that leads to conversion. (M. Russell Ballard, “The Hand of Fellowship,” Ensign, [November 1988]: 28).
I speak to the young men, and what I say to them on these points will suit the old men as well. Seek for the Spirit of God, and when you rise to proclaim the words of life and salvation, let them be accompanied by that Spirit. If you rise devoid of that Spirit, it will be far better for you to sit down, although in doing so you may be mortified and your vanity wounded; but, brethren, sit down rather than attempt to address a congregation without this Spirit. Have it with you constantly that its influence may, in all your preaching, accompany the words you utter that they may prove beneficial and saving. I know that the man who cultivates the Spirit of God is the most calculated to do good and to move forward this work. (George Q. Cannon, Millennial Star, 26 [31 December 1863]: 113-114).
As a missionary, you have a great responsibility to teach from the heart and by the Spirit. The First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles stated: “Our purpose is to teach the message of the restored gospel in such a way as to allow the Spirit to direct both the missionaries and those being taught. It is essential to learn the concepts of the [lessons], but these should not be taught by rote presentation. He should not give a memorized recitation, but speak from the heart in his own terms. He may depart from the order of the lesions, giving that which he is inspired to do, according to the interest and needs of the investigator. Speaking out of his own conviction and in his own words he should bear testimony of the truth of his teachings” (“Statement on Missionary Work,” First Presidency letter, 11 Dec 2002). (Preach my Gospel: A guide to missionary service. Salt Lake City: Intellectual Reserve, 2004, p. 29).
I tell the missionaries when they go out into the field that they will never raise their voices to testify that Jesus is the Redeemer of the world, and that Joseph Smith was His Prophet, and that the Book of Mormon is true, without the Lord causing their bosoms to burn within them; and if they will bear their testimonies, with the Spirit of the Lord accompanying it, so that their words are not as sounding brass and tinkling cymbal, the words will pierce the hearts of the honest, and they can all be instruments to bring people into the Church. (LeGrand Richards, “Be a Missionary,” New Era, [May 1980]: 33).
I have a great deal more confidence in men who rise here feeling their weakness and inability, than I have in those who feel that they are well informed and capable of teaching anything and everything. Why? Because when men trust to themselves they trust in a broken reed; and when they trust in the Lord they will never fail....The Lord is over all, He watches over His people, and if these brethren will continue to trust in God,... His Spirit will rest upon them, enlighten their minds, enlarge their capacities and give to them wisdom and intelligence in time of need. They need not be under any apprehension with regard to the wisdom of the world; for there is no wisdom in the world equal to that which the Lord gives to His Saints; and as long as these brethren keep from evil, live their religion, and cleave to the Lord by keeping His commandments, there is no fear as to the results; and this will apply to all the Saints as well as to these brethren. (John Taylor, Deseret News: Semi-Weekly, [15 June 1867]: 2).
One of the indispensable qualifications of the elders who go out into the world to preach is humility, meekness and love unfeigned, for the well-being and the salvation of the human family, and the desire to establish peace and righteousness in the earth among men. We can not preach the gospel of Christ without this spirit of humility, meekness, faith in God and reliance upon his promises and word to us. You may learn all the wisdom of men, but that will not qualify you to do these things like the humble, guiding influence of the Spirit of God will. “Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall.” [Proverbs 16:18.]
It is necessary for the elders who go out into the world to preach to study the spirit of the gospel, which is the spirit of humility, the spirit of meekness and of true devotion to whatever purpose you set your hand or your mind to do. If it is to preach the gospel, we should devote ourselves to the duties of that ministry, and we ought to strive with the utmost of our ability to qualify ourselves to perform that specific labor, and the way to do it is to live so that the spirit of God will have communion and be present with us to direct us in every moment and hour of our ministry, night and day. (Joseph F. Smith, Gospel Doctrine, 5th ed. Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1939, p. 356).
Now, finally, this one thing that seems to me to be as important or more important than all others:
“And the Spirit shall be given unto you by the prayer of faith; and if ye receive not the Spirit ye shall not teach.” [D&C 42:14.]
Now we can give you the tools in this missionary plan for presenting and studying the gospel; it is all there. But unless the missionary applies himself to diligent prayer, he will never get the Spirit, by which he can preach the gospel. That is what Nephi meant [when he] said:
“And now I, Nephi, cannot write all the things which were taught among my people; neither am I mighty in writing, like unto speaking; for when a man speaketh by the power of the Holy Ghost the power of the Holy Ghost carrieth it unto the hearts of the children of men.” (2 Nephi 33:1.)
... When you have the Spirit and you are listening to and guided by and impressed with a spirit of discernment, which every one of you called into His service has the right to enjoy, then you can know and be guided by and your words accompanied with the power of the Holy Ghost, without which no one will ever be an effective teacher of the gospel of Jesus Christ. (Harold B. Lee, Brigham Young University stake conference missionary session, 19 October 1957, Historical Department Archives, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 5-6).
Preach My Gospel contains chapters that give extremely valuable information on how to recognize and understand the guidance of the Holy Spirit. There are scriptures on how to effectively study and how to refine personal teaching skills. One chapter explains why the Book of Mormon is the keystone of our religion, how it can answer profound questions of the soul, how it can build faith and help others draw closer to God. Additional instruction shows how the Book of Mormon is a tangible resource that an individual can use to confirm the truthfulness of our message. A missionary is taught how to seek Christ-like attributes such as hope, charity, and love, for love is the foundation of all meaningful missionary service. Excellent suggestions are given for learning a mission language. Clear, effective planning tools are provided to help a missionary use time more wisely. Proven methods are shared to identify and prepare individuals to teach.
Practical guidance is given to help individuals make and keep commitments that lead to baptism, confirmation, and retention. This guide contains tools to integrate the efforts of full-time missionaries, stake and ward leaders, and members. With that help, more new members can make a more secure transition into the family of the Church. There is greater assurance that those who, through baptism and confirmation, take upon themselves the name of Jesus Christ and commit to obey His commandments will receive His promised blessings throughout life.
Using the inspired content of Preach My Gospel, many missionaries have made dramatic improvements in their capacity to teach with conviction and to invite the confirming witness of the Holy Ghost. Recently I asked two assistants to a mission president to share the vision of Joseph Smith while I acted as the investigator. I planned to vigorously challenge them to see how they would respond. Yet the sincerity of their message, the purity of their intent, the skill with which it was delivered, even in a practice session, was so compelling that I could not do it. (Richard G. Scott, “The Power of Preach My Gospel,” Ensign, [May 2005]: 29).
No man is able to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ of himself; for the things of God knoweth no man but by the Spirit of God which is in him [see 1 Corinthians 2:11]. For any man to attempt to preach the word of the Lord by his own wisdom and knowledge, independent of inspiration, is simply mockery. No man can preach God and godliness and the truth as it is in Christ Jesus except he be inspired by the Holy Spirit. The disciples in ancient time walked and conversed with the Savior during His mission among the children of men, and yet...they were commanded to tarry in Jerusalem and to go not out to preach until they were endowed with power from on high; in other words, until the Holy Spirit should be poured out upon them by which their minds would be quickened, their understandings enlarged, the testimony of Jesus Christ planted in their hearts, that they might bear that testimony to those unto whom they should come. (Joseph F. Smith “Discourse by President Joseph F. Smith,” Millennial Star, [19 Sept. 1895]: 593).
My purpose is to teach you through doctrine and scripture why it is that we do things as we do. I will give some direction and suggestions as to how we can do things better in order that each member of the Church will be thoroughly converted and never will fall away.
Joseph Smith said: “You might as well baptize a bag of sand as a man, if not done in view of the remission of sins and getting of the Holy Ghost. Baptism by water is but half a baptism, and is good for nothing without the other half—that is, the baptism of the Holy Ghost” (History of the Church, 5:499).
To prepare people for baptism without teaching about the gift of the Holy Ghost is like a sacrament meeting where only the bread is blessed and passed. They would receive but half.
We will discuss linking baptism in an absolutely tight relationship to confirmation and the conferring of the gift of the Holy Ghost. All I say is evident and outlined in section 20 of the Doctrine and Covenants (see vv. 41–43, 45, 68). There are also some other references where this message is affirmed (see Acts 8:12, 14–17; D&C 33:11, 15; 36:2; 39:23; 49:13–14; 55:1; 68:25; 76:51–52; Articles of Faith 1:4).
Joseph Smith said, “The baptism of water, without the baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost attending it, is of no use; they are necessarily and inseparably connected” (History of the Church, 6:316). (Boyd K. Packer, The Gift of the Holy Ghost: What Every Member Should Know,” Liahona [August 2006]:18; Mission Presidents’ Seminar, Provo, Utah, 24 June 2003).
Essential to keeping new members from falling away are renewed and revitalized stake missions. Well-trained stake missionaries play an important role in finding investigators so that our full-time missionaries are productively using their time in teaching and helping curb the dropout rate of investigators during the discussions and of new converts after baptism.
Helping new members become fully integrated into the Church requires a joint effort among full-time missionaries, stake missionaries, and ward leaders. Full-time missionaries continue to help new converts for a few weeks after baptism—until the converts have become acquainted with ward leaders and begin to participate fully in the ward. Stake missionaries fellowship new members and teach them the fellowshipping lessons. The ward mission leader ensures that home teachers are assigned and fully involved in this fellowshipping process.
This process may be likened to a three-link chain. The full-time missionary teaches, the stake missionary assists in the conversion process, and the home teacher sees that the new member becomes firmly and fully established in the faith. The stake missionary is the gold link in that chain. (David B. Haight, “‘Accomplishing the Mission of the Church’,” Ensign, [September 1987]: 73–77).
Go forth and preach the Gospel, gain an experience, learn wisdom, and walk humbly before your God, that you may receive the Holy Ghost to guide and direct you, and teach you all things past, present, and to come. (Brigham Young, Discourses of Brigham Young, John A. Widtsoe, sel., Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1941, pp. 322).
Everything that missionaries are to know and to do is to bring their investigators to understand both baptism and confirmation. Then the investigators have their agency. Consider these simple words:
“Wherefore, now after I have spoken these words, if ye cannot understand them it will be because ye ask not, neither do ye knock; wherefore, ye are not brought into the light, but must perish in the dark.
“For behold, again I say unto you that if ye will enter in by the way, and receive the Holy Ghost, it will show unto you all things what ye should do.
“Behold, this is the doctrine of Christ, and there will be no more doctrine given until after he shall manifest himself unto you in the flesh” (2 Nephi 32:4–6). (Boyd K. Packer, The Gift of the Holy Ghost: What Every Member Should Know,” Liahona [August 2006]:20; Mission Presidents’ Seminary, Provo, Utah, 24 June 2003).
When parents are teaching their children and when missionaries are teaching investigators, preparing them for baptism by water, they must also think of the gift of the Holy Ghost—baptism by fire. Think of it as one sentence. First comes the baptism of water and then the baptism of fire.
Someone may ask the missionaries, “How are things going?” or “Are you teaching anyone?”
The missionaries automatically answer, “Yes, we have a family preparing for baptism and confirmation, for receiving the Holy Ghost.”
Or a father and mother might say to a child, “When you are eight years old, you will be ready to be baptized and receive the Holy Ghost.”
I repeat, to be baptized and to receive the Holy Ghost—link those two together. The spiritual flame in some is easily quenched by the world around them. Yet others live so as to be strengthened and nurtured by the Lord. They not only overcome the temptations of the world, but their unquenchable spirit also enriches the lives of others around them. (Boyd K. Packer, The Gift of the Holy Ghost: What Every Member Should Know,” Liahona [August 2006]:19; Mission Presidents’ Seminary, Provo, Utah, 24 June 2003).
Two missionaries who were aflame spiritually had spent an active day establishing a branch of the Church in a remote village. At 5:30 that morning, they had taught a family before the husband left for the fields. Later they had struggled to plaster their adobe walls to keep out blood-sucking insects. During the week they had laid a small cement floor and had hung a five-gallon can with a shower head to keep clean. They had begun a sanitation facility and put new gravel and sand in their water filter. For part of the day they had worked beside men in the fields to later teach them. They were exhausted and ready for welcome rest.
There came an anxious knock at the crude wooden door. A small girl was crying. She had been running and was gasping for air. They struggled to piece together her message, delivered amid sobs in a torrent of words. Her father had suffered a severe head injury while riding his donkey in the darkness. She knew he would die unless the elders saved his life. Men of the village were at that moment carrying him to the missionaries.
The seriousness of their desperate situation began to engulf them. They were in a village with no doctors or medical facilities. There were no telephones. The only means of communication was a rough road up a riverbed, and they had no vehicle.
The people of the valley trusted them. The missionaries were not trained in medicine. They did not know how to care for a serious head wound, but they knew someone who did. They knelt in prayer and explained their problem to an understanding Father in Heaven. They pled for guidance, realizing that they could not save a life without His help.
They felt impressed that the wound should be cleansed, closed, and the man given a blessing. One companion asked, “How will he stand the pain? How can we cleanse the wound and bless him while he is in such suffering?”
They knelt again and explained to their Father, “We have no medicine. We have no anesthetic. Please help us to know what to do. Please bless him, Father.”
As they arose, friends arrived with the injured man. Even in the subdued candlelight, they could see he had been severely hurt. He was suffering greatly. As they began to cleanse the wound, a very unusual thing occurred. He fell asleep. Carefully, anxiously, they finished the cleansing, closed the wound, and provided a makeshift bandage. As they laid their hands on his head to bless him, he awoke peacefully. Their prayer had been answered, and his life saved. The trust of the people increased, and a branch of the Church flourished.
The missionaries were able to save a life because they trusted the Lord. They knew how to pray with faith for help with a problem they could not resolve themselves. Because they were obedient to the Lord, the Lord trusted them and answered their prayer. They had learned how to recognize the answer when it came as a quiet prompting of the Spirit. You have that same help available to you if you live for it.
The Savior said: “And whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, which is right, believing that ye shall receive, behold it shall be given unto you” (3 Nephi 18:20).
I know that each one of you faces overwhelming challenges. Sometimes they are so concentrated, so unrelenting, that you may feel they are beyond your capacity to control.
Don’t face the world alone. “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding” (Proverbs 3:5). (Richard G. Scott, “Don’t Face the World Alone,” New Era, [February 2007]: 3-4; From “Trust in the Lord,” Ensign, May 1989).
It is necessary for the missionaries who go out into the world to study the spirit of the gospel, which is the spirit of humility, the spirit of meekness and of true devotion. . . Live so that the Spirit of God will have communion and be present with you to direct you in every moment and hour of our ministry, night and day. (Joseph F. Smith, Conference Report, April 1915, p. 138).
Now you must understand that baptism by water, as the Prophet Joseph Smith said plainly, is but half a baptism. Paul, when they had not received the Holy Ghost, started over again (see Acts 19:2–7).
You can receive this great blessing—to become familiar with the still, small voice and learn that this voice will tell you all things that you must do. The word we use to describe this communication is promptings, the way we feel. These promptings can come many times, through many experiences. That is the voice of the Lord speaking.
Nephi explained that angels speak by the power of the Holy Ghost, and you can speak with the tongue of angels, which simply means that you can speak with the power of the Holy Ghost. It will be quiet. It will be invisible. There will not be a dove. There will not be cloven tongues of fire. But the power will be there.
Missionaries sometimes think they are only to do half the work; they are to teach and then baptize by water, and that concludes their work. In many cases the other half, the teaching about the baptism of fire, never really gets done. Put the two together so that you almost forbid yourself to say “baptism” without saying “confirmation”—that is baptism of the water and confirmation and the conferring of the gift of the Holy Ghost. Get that idea in your mind with those two fixed together so tightly that, as one, it becomes part of you. Then we will not have the first half done, as is often the case at present, and the other half left undone.
Remember what Joseph Smith said: “You might as well baptize a bag of sand as a man, if not done in view of the remission of sins and getting of the Holy Ghost. Baptism by water is but half a baptism, and is good for nothing without the other half—that is, the baptism of the Holy Ghost.”
Missionaries—and parents as well—are to teach both halves: “Baptism by immersion for the remission of sins [and the] Laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost” (Articles of Faith 1:4). Make it one sentence. Fix it in the front of your minds so that when you say one, you say the other, and when you think one, you think the other. Then you will begin to feel and understand, and the promptings will come. (Boyd K. Packer, The Gift of the Holy Ghost: What Every Member Should Know,” Liahona [August 2006]:21; Mission Presidents’ Seminar, Provo, Utah, 24 June 2003).
As the Lord’s servant, you are to do His work in His way and by His power. Some missionaries feel confident that they know how to be successful. Others lack such confidence. Remember, however, that your confidence and faith should be in Christ, not in yourself. Rely on the Spirit rather than your own talents and abilities. Trust the Spirit to guide you in every aspect of your work. The Prophet Joseph Smith taught that the Spirit is basic to teaching and preaching:
“No man can preach the Gospel without the Holy Ghost” (History of the Church, 2:477).
“Some few were called and ordained by the Spirit of revelation and prophecy, and began to preach as the Spirit gave them utterance, and though weak, yet were they
strengthened by the power of God” (History of the Church, 4:538).
“Joseph Smith] proceeded to give instructions to the Elders respecting preaching the Gospel, and pressed upon them the necessity of getting the Spirit, so that they might preach with the Holy Ghost sent down from Heaven” (History of the Church, 4:13). (Preach my Gospel: A guide to missionary service. Salt Lake City: Intellectual Reserve, 2004, pp. 97-98).
No matter how gifted we may be, or how choice our language, it is the spirit of our Father that reaches the heart and brings conviction of the divinity of this work. (George Albert Smith, Conference Report, October 1904, p. 66).
Every Latter-day Saint is entitled to the Spirit of God, which is better than any human teacher. This Spirit should be with us on all occasions, at home or abroad. Wherever we go, in whatever labor we engage, whether it be for our own benefit or in behalf of the Kingdom of God, this Spirit will be with us, if we are true and faithful. If we mingle among the corrupt and the wicked, on a mission of salvation, we are entitled to have this Spirit with us, so that we may not be corrupted. So long as a Latter-day Saint lives so that he does not grieve that Spirit, he is entitled to it at all times and under all circumstances, and when he possesses it, he will not entertain error, he will not be intemperate, he will not become angry, warlike and belligerent; but he will be peaceable, laboring for the salvation of those whom he may meet and who need salvation. (Francis M. Lyman, Manti, Utah, 19 May 1889).
It is true we are commanded to teach and preach by the aid of the Spirit of the Lord, instead of taking thought beforehand what we should say, but this command was never designed to be so perverted as to encourage men in the fallacious expectation that the Lord would do all for them, and speak through them, without any effort or preparation on their own part. The faithful servants of the Lord, in this dispensation, have the same promise extended to them which was given to the ancient Apostles and disciples viz. that the Spirit shall bring to their remembrance all things that are necessary for them to utter when they stand up in advocacy and defense of the Gospel (See John 14:26). But, if their minds are vacant and have never been stored with the principles of the Gospel and general, useful knowledge, there would be nothing for the Spirit of the Lord to operate upon; and, as it would be impossible for any being to bring to their remembrance that which they never knew, they would be very likely to be extremely disappointed in the aid which they expected to receive. It is the duty of the Elders to constantly study the revelations which the Lord has given to his children in all ages, and to make themselves thoroughly familiar with all the doctrines and principles of the Church, and to store their minds with all the direct or indirect proofs, whether from sacred or profane history of the truths they are advocating (See D&C 88:7-80, 118). Then, they may with confidence, ask and expect the Spirit of the Lord to aid them in selecting and bringing forth, from the storehouse of the mind, those truths which are best adapted to the wants and circumstances of the people they are addressing. (George Q. Cannon, Millennial Star, 25 [26 September 1863]: 618).
When he who has the authority preaches the gospel, he promises, in the name of Jesus Christ, to all that believe and obey, that the Holy Ghost will be given them. By virtue of this promise, all such can know for themselves, whether it is of God, or whether it is of man. If an unauthorized man goes forth, pretending to proclaim this same gospel, and it matters not how able and talented he may be, his doctrine can be detected, because the promises which were to follow the believers in Christ are not realized, the Holy Ghost which imparts its gifts unto men [is] not received, and hence the fallacy of the doctrines of men is exposed, so that none need be deceived. (Wilford Woodruff, The Discourses of Wilford Woodruff, sel. G. Homer Durham Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1946, pp. 135-136).
Some of us are naturally reserved and timid about bearing our testimony with words. Perhaps we should not be so timid. The Doctrine and Covenants tells us, “But with some I am not well pleased, for they will not open their mouths, but they hide the talent which I have given unto them, because of the fear of man” (D&C 60:2). When we do bear testimony, we should testify with a spirit of humility. Section 38 of the Doctrine and Covenants reminds us, “And let your preaching be the warning voice, every man to his neighbor, in mildness and in meekness” (D&C 38:41).
Perhaps we do not always remember that it is the power of the Spirit that carries our testimony into the hearts of others. Our testimony is our own. It cannot be challenged by someone else. It is personal and real to us. But it is the Holy Spirit that gives a similar witness to another.
Robert L. Marchant told the story about when he was a young missionary in the Mexican Mission. He and his companion were new in the mission field and were not known by all of the missionaries. One day they were in their missionary quarters when sister missionaries came by tracting. The young elders, without disclosing their identity, invited the sister missionaries in and began a gospel conversation with them. The sisters did not recognize the elders. The sisters were not well versed in the doctrine, and the two elders who were hiding their identity soon had them tied in doctrinal knots. With a feeling of frustration, one of the sister missionaries began to cry, and as she did, she bore her testimony simply, powerfully, and beautifully. Elder Marchant and his companion were stricken in their hearts and were ashamed of themselves because the simple testimony of these sister missionaries came through and penetrated their hearts. (James E. Faust, “The Importance of Bearing Testimony,” Ensign, [March 1997]: 2).
I remember the story of one of our LDS chaplains, a man of great faith, devotion, and courage. For a year or more he had been in the central highlands of South Vietnam during the war there....
He was not always a member of this Church. As a boy in the southern U.S. he grew up in a religious home where the Bible was read and where the family attended the little church of the community. He desired the gift of the Holy Ghost of which he had read in the scriptures but was told that it was not available. The desire never left him. He grew to manhood. He served in the U.S. Army. He searched but never found the thing he most wanted. Between military enlistments, he became a prison guard. While sitting in the gun tower of a California prison, he meditated on his own deficiencies and prayed to the Lord that he might receive the Holy Ghost and satisfy the hunger which he felt in his soul. That hunger had not been fully satisfied with sermons to which he had listened.
One day two young men knocked at his door. His wife invited them to return when her husband would be at home. These two young men taught that family by the Holy Spirit and they were baptized. I have heard this man testify to the effect that as he was taught by the power of the Holy Spirit, he was edified and rejoiced with those who taught him. Out of that marvelous beginning, with the gift of the Holy Ghost, came a shedding forth of light and truth that gave peace to the dying, comfort to the bereaved, blessings to the wounded, courage to the timid, and faith to those who had scoffed. (Gordon B. Hinckley, “Words of the Prophet: The Gift of the Holy Ghost,” New Era, [January 2005]: 5).
You must have it [Holy Ghost] all the time—on Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, and every day through the week, and from year to year, from the time you leave home until you return; so that when you come back, you may not be afraid if the Lord Almighty should come into the midst of the Saints and reveal all the acts and doings and designs of your hearts in your missions; but be found clean like a piece of white paper. That is the way for the Elders to live in their ministry at home and abroad. (Brigham Young, Special Elders Conference, 28 August 1852 quoted in The Mind and Will of the Lord, Brigham Young, compiled by Harold W. Pease, Springville, UT.: Bonneville Books, 1998, p. 89).
Unless you have the Holy Ghost with you when you go out to preach the Gospel, you cannot do your duty; but when you have that you are safe, go where you will, and your words will have their effect in the hearts of the honest and meek of the earth. (Wilford Woodruff, Conference Report, April 1898, p. 32).
The importance of living close to the Spirit is hard to express in words. But the longer I live, the more I know that the Spirit will direct us, teach us, and whisper to us, telling us what we ought to do as parents, neighbors, friends, and teachers.
I visited a stake in Florida years ago. Even though all of the neighborhoods in this stake were filled with people who weren’t members of the Church, the stake was having very few baptisms. So we taught the principle of living close to the Spirit and responding to its promptings, especially in missionary work. I encouraged the members to write down a date in the near future on which they would have someone ready to be taught the gospel. I told them not to worry if they did not have someone already in mind. I did not suggest that they write down a name, but rather that they write down a specific date. The key to their success would be to ask for divine guidance in being directed to those who would accept the gospel. I believe if each one of us would set a definite date at least once each year to have an individual or family ready to be taught the gospel, we would have wonderful success. I explained to the stake president that this would work only if he got involved.
He didn’t do anything for six months. Then he wrote me a letter: “I cannot sleep nights because I keep hearing your voice echoing in my ears: ‘It will work if you will set the example.” So I just want you to know our family set a date; and our children joined us in family prayer and fasting as we prayed for help.”
The stake president was an attorney, and soon after his family had fasted and prayed for help, a young couple visited his office seeking a divorce.
“I had the most startling spiritual experience I had had for some time,” the stake president wrote. “I looked that young couple in the eyes and told them: “You don’t need a divorce. What you need is the gospel of Jesus Christ.
“Now,” he continued, “I’ll tell you what’ll do. I’m so sure that the gospel of Jesus Christ will help your marriage that if you will follow a few steps that I will recommend to you, if I am not right and you still want to have a divorce, I will take care of your divorce, and will not charge you one penny.’
“I couldn’t believe what I was saying!”
He made an appointment with the missionaries to come to his home. The husband and wife were taught the discussions. The Spirit of the Lord was there and touched their hearts. They joined the Church. That stake president and his family got so excited about following spiritual promptings in sharing the gospel that they brought into the Church no fewer than three families every year. Eventually, he was called to preside over one of our missions.
My own family had a similar experience just as we were about to come home from our mission in Canada. One day I walked into the mission home and called the family together.
“I need your help,” I said.
Three of our five daughters were with us and one of our two sons. One daughter said,
“What have you done now, Dad?”
“Well, we’ve got to find another family to bring into the Church,” I said.
“But, Father,” they said, “we’ve talked to everybody who lives around the mission home, and we talked to our friends at school. How in the world are we going to do this?”
“I don’t know, but we all know that it is the Lord’s Church,” I said. “We know that, don’t we.”
“We all have faith, don’t we?”
“So why don’t we start praying about it, and then let’s just talk to everybody and let Heavenly Father guide us to one more family before we leave in July.” This was in April.
My daughter Stacey, who was in high school, came home during the week and said,
“Daddy, we have someone to teach.” I asked her to tell me about it. She said, “I was walking down the hall in school today, and one of my school friends came up to me and said, “Stacey, I’ve been watching you for more than two years. You’re different. I’ve concluded that what makes you different must be your church, and I would like to know if I could go to your church with you on Sunday.”
Stacey’s friend came to church with us. Later, her sister and her brother also came. Her mother and father were separated and contemplating divorce, but they came to the mission home to learn about the Church and to give approval for their children to be taught. They joined the Church because Stacey was willing to call upon the Lord, listen to the Spirit, and respond.
Another example is that of a letter I received from a lady. The letter was quite startling in content. It said, “ Dear Brother Ballard. I hate to tell you this, but you are a false prophet. I did what you told us to do, and we had no success.
Therefore, you should not be teaching the people to do this.” She really got after me. It was not a gentle letter.
I have learned when I receive a letter like that not to answer it for a couple of days so I can think it through a little better. The thought came to me: “I am not going to answer the letter in writing; I am going to call her on the telephone and talk to her.”
So, I tracked her down and got her on the phone. “Hello,” I said, “this is Elder Ballard.”
She said, “Who?”
I said, “This is Elder Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. I am calling you about your letter.” There was dead silent for a moment. I repeated, “I am calling to apologize to you. I am terribly sorry that you have had such an unfortunate experience in attempting to do missionary work by setting a date. I am asking you if you will forgive me.”
She said, “Oh, certainly.”
I said, “Would you also be kind enough to answer one question?” She responded that she would if she could.
“Will you tell me who you talked to during the time that you were fasting and praying to find somebody for the missionaries to teach?”
I asked. “Are you still there?”
“Yes, I am.”
I said, “Will you tell me?”
She said, “Well, to be honest with you, we didn’t do that.”
I responded, “In other words, what you thought I said was all you had to do was pray and fast and then in some miraculous way people were going to be put in your pathway?”
Calling her by name, I inquired, “Would you do me a favor?” Would you set another date, only this time will you talk to the parlor?” Everywhere you go, will you open your mouth and let the Lord help you be successful with this effort? She was a good sport and said she would.
Less than a month later I received another letter telling me that the missionaries were teaching in their home a family she had met at the grocery store.
Nephi taught clearly that the Holy Ghost is the “gift of God unto all those who diligently seek him” and that “he that diligently seeketh shall find” (1 Nephi 10:17, 19). The stunning reality is that we control how close we are to the Lord. We determine just how clear and readily available promptings from the Holy Ghost will be. We determine this by our actions, by our attitudes, by the choices we make, by the things we watch and wear and listen to and read, and by how consistently and sincerely we invite the Spirit into our lives. These are the things that enable us to maintain powerful, enduring links in our gospel chain. (M. Russell Ballard, When Thou Art Converted [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 2001], pp. 77-81).
It is important for a teacher or a missionary or a parent to know that the Holy Ghost can work through the Light of Christ. A teacher of gospel truths is not planting something foreign or even new into an adult or a child. Rather, the missionary or teacher is making contact with the Spirit of Christ already there. The gospel will have a familiar “ring” to them. Then the teaching will come “to the convincing of [those who will listen] that Jesus is the Christ, the Eternal God, manifesting himself unto all nations” (Book of Mormon title page). (Boyd K. Packer, “The Light of Christ: What Everyone Called to Preach the Gospel, Teach the Gospel, or Live the Gospel Should Know,” Mission Presidents’ Seminar, 22 June 2004).
It does not make any difference what age a man is in preaching the gospel, whether he be twenty-five, ninety, or five hundred years of age, if he is only inspired by the Spirit and power of God. (Wilford Woodruff, The Discourses of Wilford Woodruff, sel. G. Homer Durham Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1946, p. 275).
I came to a better understanding of what it means to have the light of the gospel of Jesus Christ as our companion and guide when I was assigned to supervise Church work in the southeastern part of the United States. In that capacity I had the great opportunity to meet with missionaries in zone conferences. After one such zone conference in the South Carolina Columbia Mission, an elder wrote to me about an experience he and his companion had. I suppose this is not unlike experiences many missionary companionships have shared:
“We were working in the poorer section of a town without much success,” the companion recounted. “The last family on the street invited us into their home. It was a run-down house with a wooden porch that had a few boards missing from it, hard wooden floors, a pot-bellied stove for warmth, and two bedrooms where a father and mother and five children slept on homemade cots. In general it was a place I had only read about in such novels as Huckleberry Finn, by Mark Twain.
“It was a hot, sultry afternoon, and it was time to head back to our apartments for dinner and then go on exchanges with ward members in the evening,” the missionary continued. “I was thinking more about the evening’s coming activities than I was about this family. After all, we had been in dozens of such homes with no apparent success.
“At the conclusion of the discussion with the family I was surprised that we were invited back for a visit a few nights later. As my companion and I were walking down the street after our meeting, he indicated how strong he felt about the family and expressed his confidence that we could baptize them. Those words stuck with me until our next meeting with the family, when I made sure that I was more spiritually in tune than I had been at the first meeting. Within a month, the family was living the Word of Wisdom and paying their tithing. My companion and I baptized and confirmed them.”
This young missionary reminded me that the only thing that matters is the testimony that Jesus is the Christ, the son of the living God, that He is the source of all light, that by His light we can walk fearlessly with head held high and bring souls home to God—including our own. That’s why we do what we do. That’s why we have the Church. That’s why we have wards, stakes, and missions. We have them for only one purpose, when all is said and done, and God has stated what that purpose is: “This is my work and my glory—to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man” (Moses 1:39). (M. Russell Ballard, (M. Russell Ballard, When Thou Art Converted, [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 2001], pp. 26-27).
In the remotest parts of the earth where the Elders have gone they have gone accompanied by the Spirit of God. They have not gone because they were educated in theological seminaries, or colleges, or universities. They have been taken from the shoemaker’s bench, from the blacksmith’s forge, from the plow, from the merchant’s desk; and from every avocation of life, as God has called them, just as it was in ancient days, when they left their fishermen’s nets, at the call of the Savior, to preach the Gospel. (George Q. Cannon, Salt Lake Stake Conference, 4 September 1892).
Let me offer a word of caution. . . .I think if we are not careful, . . . we may begin to try to counterfeit the true influence of the Spirit of the Lord by unworthy and manipulative means. I get concerned when it appears that strong emotion or free-flowing tears are equated with the presence of the Spirit. Certainly the Spirit of the Lord can bring strong emotional feelings, including tears, but that outward manifestation ought not to be confused with the presence of the Spirit itself. (Howard W. Hunter, The Teachings of Howard W. Hunter, ed. Clyde J. Williams, Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1997, p. 184).
Baptism by the water is but half a baptism, and is good for nothing without the other half—that is, the baptism of the Holy Ghost. (Joseph Smith, Jr. History of the Church 5:499).
Revelation and spiritual experiences are sacred. They should be kept private and discussed only in appropriate situations. As a missionary, you may be more aware of spiritual experiences than you have been earlier in your life. Resist the temptation to talk freely about these experiences.
President Boyd K. Packer counseled: “I have learned that strong, impressive spiritual experiences do not come to us very frequently. And when they do, they are generally for our own edification, instruction, or correction. Unless we are called by proper authority to do so, they do not position us to counsel or to correct others.
“I have come to believe also that it is not wise to continually talk of unusual spiritual experiences. They are to be guarded with care and shared only when the Spirit itself prompts you to use them to the blessing of others” (Ensign,, Jan. 1983, 53). (Preach my Gospel: A guide to missionary service. Salt Lake City: Intellectual Reserve, 2004, p. 99).
An elder of Israel may preach the principles of the gospel, from first to last, as they are taught to him, to a congregation ignorant of them; but if he does not do it under the influence of the Spirit of the Lord, he cannot enlighten that congregation on those principles; it is impossible. (Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses, London: Latter-day Saints Book Depot, 1855-1886, 1:3).
The gifts of the Spirit are special spiritual blessings that the Lord gives to worthy individuals for their own benefit and for their use in blessing others. For example, missionaries who must learn a new language may receive the gift of tongues to give them divine help in learning a language. Several gifts of the Spirit are described in Moroni 10:8-18; Doctrine and Covenant 46:11-33; and 1 Corinthians 12:1-12. These are only some examples of the many gifts of the Spirit. The Lord may bless you in other ways depending on your faithfulness, your needs, and the needs of those you serve. You should desire spiritual gifts and earnestly seek for them (see D&C 46:8; 1 Corinthians 12:31; 14:1, 12). These gifts come by prayer, faith, and works, according to God’s will (see D&C 63:9-12; 84:64-73). (Preach my Gospel: A guide to missionary service. Salt Lake City: Intellectual Reserve, 2004, p. 91).
If worthy, we are entitled to receive revelations for ourselves, parents for their children, and members of the Church in their callings. But the right of revelation for others does not extend beyond our own stewardships. (James E. Faust, “Communion with the Holy Spirit,“ Ensign, [March 2002]: 4).
Your own personal testimony is the strongest arrow in your quiver. I have often related that in the early days of the missionary work in Brazil, where we now have over half a million members of the Church, we did not have the Book of Mormon, the Pearl of Great Price, or the Doctrine and Covenants translated into the Portuguese language. All we had were the Bible, a few tracts, our personal testimonies concerning the Restoration of the gospel and the Joseph Smith story, and our testimony of the living prophet. The harvest was not great. However, some of those who were baptized have for three generations remained faithful because they were touched by the powerful testimonies of humble missionaries almost 60 years ago. Now, you cannot be responsible for whether or not those you teach will accept your testimony and join the Church. Do not feel that you must obtain a quota of baptisms to be successful. An old saying teaches that you can count the number of seeds in a single apple, but you can’t count the number of apples in a single seed. The harvest is the Lord’s. Your responsibility is to thrust in the sickle. The Doctrine and Covenants clearly records what is required of those who enter into the waters of baptism:
“All those who humble themselves before God, and desire to be baptized, and come forth with broken hearts and contrite spirits, and witness before the church that they have truly repented of all their sins, and are willing to take upon them the name of Jesus Christ, having a determination to serve him to the end, and truly manifest by their works that they have received of the Spirit of Christ unto the remission of their sins, shall be received by baptism into his church.”
If you have the Holy Spirit resting upon you, and you speak by that Spirit the words of the Lord as contained in the Holy Scriptures and as outlined by his living
prophets, God will ratify your message in the hearts of those who are hearing you. (James E. Faust, Conference Report, April 1996).
It is the power of God that is going to convert the world, and nothing but the power of God. (Hyrum Smith, History of the Church, Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1978, 6:320).
In answer to the question, “How do we recognize the promptings of the Spirit?” President Gordon B. Hinckley read Moroni 7:13,16-17 and then said: “That’s the test, when all is said and done. Does it persuade one to do good, to rise, to stand tall, to do the right thing, to be kind to be generous? Then it is of the Spirit of God...
“If it invites to do good, it is of God. If it inviteth to do evil, it is of the devil. . . . And if you are doing the right thing and if you are living the right way, you will know in your heart what the Spirit is saying to you.
“You recognize the promptings of the Spirit by the fruits of the Spirit—that which enlighteneth, that which buildeth up, that which is positive and affirmative and uplifting and leads us to better thoughts and better words and better deeds is of the Spirit of God” (Teachings of Gordon B. Hinckley, 260-61).
God answers your prayers through personal inspiration and revelation. Through the Holy Ghost He will guide you in your finding efforts, as you teach the restored gospel, and as you strengthen less-active members and new converts. Your task is to live worthily, pray fervently, and learn to recognize and follow courageously the Spirit’s guidance. (Preach my Gospel: A guide to missionary service. Salt Lake City: Intellectual Reserve, 2004, p. 97).
The availability of inspiration—each of us, if we live for it, if we cultivate it, can have it. I love these great words of revelation, these words of promise: “God shall give unto you knowledge by his Holy Spirit, yea, by the unspeakable gift of the Holy Ghost” (D&C 121:26). What a precious gift to bring home—the assurance, the certainty that if we live for it, we have available to us that which comes by the power of the Holy Spirit. (Gordon B. Hinckley, “The Gifts to Bring Home from the Mission Field,” New Era [March 2007]: 4).
You can teach in the Lord’s way only by the power of the Spirit, and you receive the Spirit though the prayer of faith. The Lord said, “And the Spirit shall be given unto you by the prayer of faith; and if ye receive not the Spirit ye shall not teach” (D&C 42:14). As you pray for help in your teaching, the power of the Holy Ghost will carry your teachings “unto the hearts of the children of men” (2 Nephi 33:1). (Preach my Gospel: A guide to missionary service. Salt Lake City: Intellectual Reserve, 2004, p. 93).
Seek to strengthen your faith that God is preparing His children to receive the message of the Restoration. As you do all you can under the guidance of the Holy Ghost to find people to teach, the Lord will place such people in your path.
There are many honorable ways to find those being prepared for the restored gospel. You need to do all you can to be placed in the path of those who are being prepared. Missionaries have found that the following ideas have helped them find people to teach through their own efforts. The list also serves as a starting point for you in thinking of other honorable ways to find people to teach.
Work with the bishop and ward council to identify and contact people who have recently had a baby, moved to the area, or experienced a death in the family.
· Look for opportunities to offer simple service.
· Teach members—including active and less-active members, recent converts, and part-member families—the message of the Restoration. Ask them to introduce you to people you can teach.
· Arrange to hold member firesides to which they can bring their friends or in which you can teach the gospel and ask for referrals.
· Offer to teach people how to hold family home evening.
· Offer to take those you meet on a tour of the local meetinghouse.
· Offer to arrange a meeting with the bishop.
· Invite people to visit www.mormon.org.
· Organize a scripture study class.
· Teach English as a second language.
· Invite people of the appropriate age to attend seminary or institute.
· Go from home to home or talk to people on the streets.
· Use pass-along cards, DVDs, videos, and brochures.
· Seek referrals from current investigators, former investigators, less-active members, prospective elders, and everyone you meet.
· Coordinate closely with the Church’s local public affairs representatives for opportunities to get articles published in a local newspaper about your missionary service.
· Invite people to Church meetings, activities, and open houses.
· Invite people to baptismal services. These provide an excellent introduction to the Church and afford good opportunities for investigators to feel the influence of the Spirit. (Preach my Gospel: A guide to missionary service. Salt Lake City: Intellectual Reserve, 2004, p. 167).
How can we stand in the place and stead of Christ, teaching, ministering, and doing what he wants done? There is only one answer. He must tell us what to do. We must operate by revelation. We must have the Spirit. The Holy Ghost must be our companion.
Since we cannot do the will of him who sent us unless he directs us, and since that direction is given by the Spirit, it follows that we cannot succeed as missionaries unless we are guided by the Spirit. Above all things, missionaries need the Spirit of the Lord to guide them in their work. (Bruce R. McConkie, Harvester, [South American Mission Publication] February 1962, p. 6).
In the missionary training centers, we teach the missionaries that they must have faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. They are taught that they need to develop genuinely warm, personal, caring relationships with those whom they meet. They must learn to listen with understanding and to show sincere sensitivity to the interests and concerns of those they teach. As missionaries teach the doctrines, they need to find out what their contacts think and feel so they can clarify misunderstandings, ease doubts, resolve concerns, and provide encouragement. The warm, sincere spirit of the missionaries is essential to help nonmembers feel and recognize the Spirit of the Lord, because the Spirit is the power that leads to conversion. (M. Russell Ballard, CR O'88, Ensign, (November 1988): 28).
Jesus Christ often asked questions to help people ponder and apply principles. His questions prompted thought, soul searching, and commitment.
Good questions will help you understand interests, concerns, or questions that others have. They can enhance your teaching, invite the Spirit, and help your investigators learn.
Poor questions can intimidate, irritate, and offend investigators. They can also cause you to lose control of a teaching situation. Try asking questions that:
· Are simple and easy to understand.
· Help people think about what you are teaching.
· Help you determine how well the investigator understands what you are teaching.
· Help people apply what they learn.
As those you teach respond to these types of questions, they will feel that they can talk openly. Good questions can lead investigators to ask you questions when they don’t understand, when they have concerns, or when they want to know what to do.
Good questions can help those you teach share their feelings and by so doing discover a growing testimony. . . .
Learn to ask questions as prompted by the Spirit. The right type of question at the right time can greatly help those you teach to learn the gospel and feel the Spirit. Likewise, the wrong type of question at the wrong time can interfere with their learning. Asking appropriate questions at the right time requires that you are in tune with the Spirit, that you listen to those you are teaching, and that you focus throughout the teaching experience. Effective teaching can be hard work and requires concentration and effort on the part of you and your companion. (Preach my Gospel: A guide to missionary service. Salt Lake City: Intellectual Reserve, 2004, p. 184).
I am glad you feel like taking hold in your new field with courage and determination. There is nothing like a hard field of labor to try the metal and develop the spirit and faith of a young man, provided he trusts in the Lord and does not flinch from duty. Your labors are for your own as well as for others’ good. See to it, my Son, that in your case. “One good man and the Lord Almighty are a big majority”—over all obstacles. (Joseph F. Smith, From Prophet to Son: Advice of Joseph F. Smith to His Missionary Sons, Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1981, p. 50).
No man can go out, ordained by those who have the authority, in faith and in humility to preach the principles of the everlasting Gospel, however peculiar and difficult the circumstances may be that surround him, however great the trials and the persecutions that he may have to contend with, without receiving an unction from the Holy One, that will bear testimony to him that the work in which he is engaged is of God, and that he has been called of God to declare the principles of life and salvation unto the people among whom his lot may be cast.
There is this peculiarity and influence about this work, there is the demonstration of the Holy Ghost, which descends with convincing and overwhelming power upon all those who place themselves in a position to receive it; and there is no labor under the sun, I care not what it may be, or how pleasant the circumstances that surround him, at all comparable with the labor of an Elder in his Church, who endeavors, in humility and meekness, to magnify his calling. (George Q. Cannon, Journal of Discourses, London: Latter-day Saints Book Depot, 1855-1886, 18:82-83).
From all I can read, from all I can gather from the revelations from God to man, and from the revelations of the Spirit to me, no man can successfully preach the gospel and be owned, blessed, and acknowledged by the heavens, unless he preaches by the power of God through direct revelation. (Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses, London: Latter-day Saints Book Depot, 1855-1886, 8:52-54).
I wish to say a few words to the missionaries--to those who are going abroad to preach the Gospel of Christ. I want to give you a word of exhortation and counsel, brethren: that is, whenever you are in doubt about any duty or work which you have to perform, never proceed to do anything until you go and labor in prayer and get the Holy Spirit. Wherever the Spirit dictates you to go or to do, that will be right; and by following its dictates, you will come out right.
We shall be brought to many places during our career in the ministry among the nations of the earth, where we may consider a certain course of procedure to be right; but, if we do not know, it will be better for us to go before the Lord, and ask in the faith that we may be instructed in the way of life.
I will take the liberty of saying that it is your privilege, brethren, to get the mind and will of the Lord in relation to your duties while abroad among the people; and it is also the privilege of the whole people who are called Israel to obtain the revelations of the Holy Spirit to guide them in every duty in life. Whatever position a man may stand in, it is his privilege, as a Saint of God, to enjoy this blessing; and a man who understands himself will not move without the operations of that Spirit to lead him. (Wilford Woodruff, Journal of Discourses, London: Latter-day Saints Book Depot, 1855-1886, 9 April 1857, 5:85).
If thou wilt lead a soul unto salvation...thou must commune with God. (Joseph Smith, Jr., Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1976, p. 137).
With regard to preaching, let a man present himself before the Saints, or go into the world before the nobles and great men of the earth, and let him stand up full of the Holy Ghost, full of God, and though he may use words and sentences in an awkward style, he will convince and convert more of the truth, than can the most polished orator destitute of the Holy Ghost; for that Spirit will prepare the minds of the people to receive the truth, and for that Spirit will prepare the minds of the people to receive the truth, and for the Spirit will influence the hearers so that they will feel it. (Brigham Young, Journal Of Discourses, London: Latter-day Saints Book Depot, 1855-1886, 4:21).
Now, I have listened very intently to what has been said here, what Brother Condie said and what Brother Ballard has said. All he has been trying to tell you to do is to equip yourselves better to do the work which lies ahead of you, my brothers and sisters. He wants you to lift your heads out of the book—instead of just quoting from rote, to speak by the power and the inspiration of the Holy Spirit and in so doing to speak into the hearts of the people. In this city of brotherly love, where people are so mean and unfriendly and have dogs that bark at you and all of those things, you just have to rely on the Spirit of the Lord, and you won’t have that Spirit unless you ask for it and work for it. I believe that with all my heart.
The Lord has said with reference to what Elder Ballard has just been saying:
“And ye shall go forth in the power of my Spirit.”
Do you have that? Are you going forward in the power of the Spirit of the Lord, or are you just getting up in the morning and going through the ritual of the thing?
“And ye shall go forth in the power of my Spirit, preaching my gospel, two by two, in my name.” (D&C 42:6).
Don’t you ever forget that your responsibility is to speak in the name of the Lord, my brethren and sisters. You are His representatives. The mantle of His power rests upon you. You young men, you young women, you carry something that is almost beyond you, and yet it isn’t beyond you because that power and authority has been bestowed upon you. Don’t you ever forget. And in your missionary service you are going forth in the name of the Lord, “lifting up your voices as with the sound of a trump, declaring my word like unto angels of God” (D&C 42:6). I don’t suppose you ever regard yourself as an angel, but that is what you are really, when all is said and done—like unto angels of God.
I was holding a meeting of this kind with President Henry D. Moyle in Chicago. We had two missionaries there and a great crowd of people in that hall, and went on all day. When we separated for a break, I went out and walked around in the lobby, and a fine stylish-looking woman said, “Who in the world is this group in there, all dressed in black suits?” And I said, “They are Mormon missionaries.” She said,
“They look like angels dressed in black.” Well, that is what you are. You are angels dressed in black, speaking with the power of the Almighty.
“And you shall go forth baptizing with water, saying: Repent ye, repent ye, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. . . .
“And again I say unto you, that it shall not be given to any one to go forth to preach my gospel, or to build up my church, except he be ordained by some one who has authority” (D&C 42:7, 11).
You have been ordained, and you have authority to preach the gospel.
“And the Spirit shall be given unto you by the power of faith; and if ye receive not the Spirit ye shall not teach” (D&C 42:14).
Well, my brethren and sisters, my associates in this work, except ye have the Spirit ye shall not teach. We have some lessons, yes. We have gone to extremes in making them rigid. We have to free up a little. You have to recite less and testify more.
Now, you have to pray for this. I know that you pray; of course you pray. You pray every morning. And I hope you pray during the day. But when you pray, do you really ask the Lord, as His servants, to speak thorough you, to let His power rest upon you and let the Holy Ghost bear witness to the people as you testify to them? Do you really pray that way? Have you really learned to plead with the Lord as if your life depended upon it, my brethren and sisters—your life as a missionary of the gospel of Jesus Christ. (Gordon B. Hinckley, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania Missionary Meeting, 25 October 2002 quoted in Discourses of President Gordon B. Hinckley Volume 2: 2000-2004, Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 2005, pp. 364-366).
Let the Elders who are going out from this place carry this instruction with them into the other portions of the earth. Whatever a man does, let him do it in the name of the Lord—let him work in the name of the Lord, let all his acts through life be in the name of the Lord; and if he wants light and knowledge, let him ask in that name. (Brigham Young, 9 April 1852).
Missionaries have been sent to the four corners of the earth by the Church, and they have proclaimed the gospel of Jesus Christ. Their education has been largely limited to the practical experiences of life, but they have had what is more potent in inspiring the human family, the companionship of the Holy Ghost. (George Albert Smith, Conference Report, April 1940, p. 85).
I have listened to Elders who have been sent on missions to preach the Gospel who could not express their ideas. It was an exceedingly difficult thing for them to arise and address a congregation, because they did not have the gift with them in that direction. I have seen these same men exercise faith before the Lord; call upon him in the name of Jesus, and receive the gift of utterance, which gift God has promised unto His Saints. These brethren have then been able through the power of the Lord to express themselves, to teach and instruct according to the spirit of their office and calling. (George Q. Cannon, "Our Religion Not a Sunday Religion Only," Deseret Weekly, [Saturday, 18 July 1891]: 98).
When you look upon an audience, two motives may inspire you; first, that you may speak well and make a good impression upon the audience as an orator; and next, the question will arise, what am I here for? To sow the seeds of life in the hearts of those who are in this audience; and the prayer should arise in your heart, "O Lord...may I have the power through thy Spirit to touch the hearts of these thy people. (Lorenzo Snow, Improvement Era, 3:129).
Many of you here today are either from foreign lands or the descendants of those who come from foreign lands. Many of you or your forebears have heard the gospel as it ah been taught by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints...Sometimes you have heard it on the street where there was a humble missionary, teaching what the Lord had called him to teach.
There was something that touched the hearts of those who heard. I have had experiences in the mission field. I have seen groups of people stand and listen to a humble missionary explain and encourage them to repent of their sins, and I have sometimes heard people say, "I have never before felt an influence like I felt while I hear that man talk." (George Albert Smith, Conference Report, October 1959, p. 7).
If those who are going to preach do not go with that faith that pertains to eternal life, and that spirit that is like a well of water, springing up into everlasting life, their labors will be vain. They may be the best theoretical theologians in the world--may be able to preach a Bible and a half in a sermon, to read history without a book, and understand all the dealings with men from the days of Adam till now; and without the Spirit of the living God to guide them, they will not be able to accomplish anything to their credit towards building up his kingdom. They must realize that success in preaching the gospel springs not from the wisdom of this world. They must live so as to enjoy the power of God. (Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses, London: Latter-day Saints Book Depot, 1885-1886, 8:70-71).
Every missionary whom the Lord has called would seek for qualification that will enable him to be useful. Though he is required to take no though beforehand what he shall say, yet he should be very diligent in treasuring up in his heart the word of God, and in making himself thoroughly acquainted with doctrine, with theory, with principle. When the treasury of the heart is full of good things, the Spirit of the Lord will select there from, in the very moment, what is needful for the edification of a congregation; but when the treasury is empty, there is nothing worthy of selection, the mind being barren and unfruitful in the knowledge of God. (Orson Pratt, Masterful Discourses and Writings of Orson Pratt, comp. by Nels B. Lundwall, Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1981, p. 29).
Training and experience assist in developing technique. Various missionary aids help. Yet no teacher or expert is wise enough to determine the best approach in every case. Only a superior intelligence can point the way of conversation, the type of material to use, or the subject for discussion in a talk. The effective missionary soon comes to realize the necessity for the spirit of the Lord to guide him in approaching the many personalities with whom he comes in contact, of that the things he tells them or gives them to read will indeed be pearls of great price whose value outshines all else. ("The Spirit of God," The Missionary's Handbook, Independence, Missouri: Zion's Printing and Publishing Co., 1937, p. 34).
I do not wish to understood as throwing a straw in the way of the Elders' storing their minds with all the arguments they can gather to urge in defense of their religion, nor do I wish to hinder them in the least from learning all they can with regard to religions and governments. The more knowledge the Elders have, the better.
It is well to perfectly understand the religious and governmental theories of the world; it is satisfactory: yet, in preaching the gospel, and elder who prides himself in using good sound arguments and logic is not so apt to lean on the Lord for his Spirit as are those who are not so particularly gifted in reasoning.
It is our duty, so far as we can, to gain knowledge and information pertaining to human life and the organization of the kingdoms, thrones, empires, and republics of the earth--to become well acquainted with their religions, laws, manners of administration, pursuits of life, manufactures, agriculture, arts, manners and customs, etc: but when we are possessed of all this knowledge, we need the power of God to teach the truths of the holy Gospel. I wish you to bear this truth in your memories and put it into practice. (Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses, London: Latter-day Saints Book Depot, 1855-1886, 8:52-54).
The primary principles of the gospel lead us step by step, degree by degree, up the plane, and put us in position that, if we will fully and thoroughly obey them, there is no need of offense against anyone, in any sense of the word. They teach the principles of simplicity, love, forbearance, charity, and consideration.
They inspire us with a love of our fellowmen and instruct us in the good that we do, or could do, to ourselves and others, and I understand that this is the character of the gospel. It is true, that sometimes in the heat of argument, possibly, and in a desire to carry our points in reasoning upon a subject, we may not be careful, circumspect and cautious as we sometimes should in considering the feelings of others in regard to their faith. In the sending forth of the Elders of this church in the early times, instructions were given to them that they should go among the world; that they were to preach the gospel; that they were to witness of the restoration of the same; that they were to avoid confusion and disputations; that they were to avoid giving offense in any way against their fellowmen; that they were to leave the religions of other people alone, only so far as might be necessary for the promulgation of the doctrine of the gospel, which they sometimes were required to refer by way of comparison. I believe that in too many instances we have assumed an attitude that even our own faith has not warranted, in making assaults on the teachings of others, that possibly should not be done, by being carried away by zeal, lack of wisdom, and forgetting the methods by and through which conversions were to be brought upon the children of men—viz., by explaining the principles of the gospel and bringing home to the hearts of men knowledge of those principles, showing them the spirit and means by which the Almighty works upon his sons and daughters, with words of kindness, words of reason, words of cheer, words of comfort, words of consultation and the spirit of inspiration finding its way to the hearts of men, coming through kindness, charity and consideration. (John Henry Smith, General Conference, 6 October 1887).
I would like to impress upon the minds of the brethren, that he who goes forth in the name of the Lord, trusting in Him with all his heart, will never want for wisdom to answer any question that is asked him, or to give any counsel that may be required to lead the people in the way of life and salvation, and he will never be confounded worlds without end.... Go in the name of the Lord, lean upon the Lord, and call upon the Lord fervently and without ceasing, and pay no attention to the world. You will see plenty of the world--it will be before you all the time--but if you live so as to possess the Holy Ghost you will be able to understand more in relation to it in one day than you could in a dozen days without it, and you will at once see the difference between the wisdom of men and the wisdom of God, and you can weigh things in the balance and estimate them at their true worth. (Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses, London: Latter-day Saints Book Depot, 1855-1886, 14 April 1867, 12:34).
These missionaries are now going to school to teach others, and in teaching others they themselves will be instructed, and when they rise to speak in the name of Israel's God, if they live in purity and holiness before Him, He will give them words and ideas of which they never dreamed before. I have traveled hundreds and thousands of miles to preach this gospel among all grades and conditions of men, and there is one thing that always gave me satisfaction--I never yet found a man in any part of the world who could overturn one principle that has been communicated to us; they will attempt it, but error is a very singular weapon with which to combat truth; it never can vanquish it. When men go forth in the name of Israel's God there is no power on earth that can overturn the truths they advocate...they have the light of revelation, the fire of the Holy Ghost, and the power of the priesthood with them. (John Taylor, Journal of Discourses, London: Latter-day Saints Book Depot, 1855-1886, 14 April 1867, 12:21-22).
There is a way to every human heart, and the Lord will show you that way if you will be humble, prayerful, and study His holy word. (Lorenzo Snow, Te Karere, (Samoan Mission Publication), January 1956).
We do not undertake to go out in the world and lead people back to Christ. We try to move them onward in the scale of human progress to the point where the spirit and power and gift of the Holy Ghost teaches their hearts and gives to them an undying testimony of the divinity of the work restored as it is. (Henry D. Moyle, Church News, [12 January 1963]: 14).
The longer you preach the gospel with the spirit of your calling as missionaries, the simpler the teaching becomes and the simpler the principles of the gospel become both to you and to your listeners. (Henry D. Moyle, Church News, [31 December 1960]: 25).
But let one go forth who is careful to logically prove all he says by numerous quotations from the revelations, and let another travel with him who can say, by the power of the Holy Ghost, Thus saith the Lord, and tell what the people should believe--what they should do--how they should live, and teach them to yield to the principles of salvation--though he may not be capable of producing a single logical argument--though he may tremble under a sense of his weakness, cleaving to the Lord for strength, as such men generally do, you will invariable find that the man who testifies by the power of the Holy Ghost will convince and gather many more of the honest and upright than will the merely logical reasoner. (Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses, London: Latter-day Saints Book Depot, 1855-1886, 8:52-54).
Missionaries have been called. If they go and magnify their callings, they will be filled with the testimony that has been so freely manifested during our Conference, they will be filled with the Holy Ghost, and be able to bear testimony of the truths of the Gospel. It may be apparently in weakness. They may consider it so themselves. Their language may be feeble, their words feebly uttered, their sentences broken; but, after all, it will be the power of God unto this generation.
If your missionaries will seek for the testimony of the Holy Ghost to go with you--if you will seek diligently for the power of God to accompany you, you need not be afraid of the nations; for your testimony will condemn the people who reject it, and it will save all those who receive it. (Orson Pratt, Journal of Discourses, London: Latter-day Saints Book Depot, 1855-1886, 8:48).
No man can go forth and life up his voice and declare the gospel of Jesus Christ without revelation...The Holy Ghost is not restricted to men, not to apostles or prophets; it belongs to every faithful man and woman, and to every child who is old enough to receive the gospel of Christ...The elders of Israel, when they go abroad to the nations of the earth, need the Spirit of God, to tell them to go here, or go there, that they may search out the honest in heart. (Wilford Woodruff, Discourses of Wilford Woodruff, ed. by G. Homer Durham, Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1946, pp. 53-54).
The Spirit animates our young brethren when faithfully attending to their duties while on missions, and it is this which enables them to say that the time so spent has been the happiest of their lives.
This enables our elders, many of whom are to a great degree destitute of education, to stand before the learned, wise and noble, and the divines of the day, and declare the principles of the Gospel of Jesus. Who could do this under such circumstances without the Spirit of the Lord? (Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses, London: Latter-day Saints Book Depot, 1855-1886, 13:211).
The Spirit of the Lord accompanies the elders. God blesses those who go forth to preach this gospel. If this gospel were not the truth, honest, prayerful, diligent, humble men would discover that fact, but I have yet to hear of one man in all the...years that this gospel has been preached, who has gone forth to proclaim it and who has been a diligent, faithful man, who has returned and announced that he has discovered that they have the gospel of Christ in some other land or some other clime. But I have heard of thousands who have studied other gospels, tens of thousands; I have known many who have been members of many different denominations, who never found peace and joy and perfect contentment until they embraced the gospel of Jesus Christ. (Heber J. Grant, Conference Report, October 1912, p. 49).
The kind of men we want as bearers of this gospel message are men who have faith in God; men who have faith in their religion; men who honor their priesthood; men in whom the people who know them have faith and in whom God has confidence, and not some poor unfortunate beings who are wanted to leave a place because they cannot live in it; but we want men full of the Holy Ghost and the power of God that they may go forth weeping, bearing precious seed and sowing the seeds of eternal life, and then returning with gladness, bringing their sheaves with them...Men who bear the words of life among the nations ought to be men of honor, integrity, virtue and purity; and this being the command of God to us, we shall try and carry it out. (John Taylor, Journal of Discourses, London: Latter-day Saints Book Depot, 1855-1886, 21:375).
We want men to preach the gospel who are honorable and upright men and full of the Holy Ghost. (John Taylor, Journal of Discourses, London: Latter-day Saints Book Depot, 1855-1886, 20:178).
If you cannot preach as nicely and smoothly as you wish, and a feeling rises that you cannot preach at all--that you had better return home, tell Satan to get behind you--that he has no power to dictate whether you preach a word or not, for you are in the Lord's service. So live that the Spirit of the Lord can instruct your minds at all times, and you can then defy the Devil and all his emissaries. If you have nothing from the Lord to present to the people, be as willing to be silent as you would to preach what might be termed a splendid discourse. (Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses, London: Latter-day Saints Book Depot, 1855-1886, 8:54-56).
It has been remarked by the President of the Church so I understand, that in the early days of the church when the Elders were proselyting in Europe, one good sermon on the principles of the Gospel would convert hundreds. Today it takes hundred of good sermons to start one person to investigate the principles of the Gospel. I have known of three thousand invitations being given out to the people of a city to attend a Latter-day Saint meeting, in a respectable hall, and only one stranger has appeared! Not very encouraging! (Brigham Young Jr., Salt Lake Tabernacle, 12 March 1893).
You must know that Lucifer will oppose you, and be prepared for his opposition. Do not be surprised. He wants you to fail. Discouragement is one of the devil’s tools. Have courage and go forward. Recognize that the gospel has been preached with some pain and sorrow from the very beginning of time. Do not expect that your experience will be otherwise. President Wilford Woodruff recounted the difficulties of early missionary work:
“In my early missions, when preaching in the Southern States—Arkansas, Tennessee, and Kentucky-—I have waded swamps and rivers and have walked seventy miles or more without eating. In those days we counted it a blessing to go into a place where there was a Latter-day Saint. I went once 150 miles to see one; and when I got there he had apostatized, and tried to kill me. Then, after traveling seventy-two miles without food, I sat down to eat my meal with a Missouri mobocrat, and he damning and cursing me all the time....In those days we might travel hundreds and hundreds of miles and you could not find a Latter-day Saint.” (James E. Faust, Conference Report, April 1996).
The most ignorant of our elders, with the Spirit and power of God upon them, can, in knowledge of scripture, lead the smartest of the Gentile priests into deep water, and dip them under, and draw them back again at their pleasure, and confound the scripture knowledge of the priest craft that is on the earth. (Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses, London: Latter-day Saints Book Depot, 1855-1886, 8:198).
I have met hundreds of men who have been sent from Zion to strengthen our hands in the old country, and I would question them when they arrived to this effect: “Brethren, are there any present who have performed a mission before.” The invariable answer has been, “No, we have never been on preaching missions before?” I passed five years in the ministry in the old world from 1862 to 1867, and the country was filled with our missionaries. Not one of those men has appeared in the years that I have been there the last time; and very rarely have I found a man who has ever been upon a mission before or had any experience in the ministry. Young men mostly—some old; but never been on missions before. This is very singular, and I cannot account for it. But I will say this: the spirit, the power, the ability, manifested by the young men who have been sent out to the nations of the earth is not inferior to that enjoyed by any that were sent from 1862 to 1867, when I was there. (Brigham Young, Jr., Salt Lake Tabernacle, 12 March 1893).
When we share the gospel with others, we unavoidably get outside of ourselves: we think and pray and work for the blessing of others, and this only further enriches and quickens us by the Holy Spirit. The list of by-products to ourselves are endless--growth in our testimonies, growth in our knowledge of the gospel, growth in our faith, more answered prayers. The eternal truth is: that which we willingly share, we keep; and that which we selfishly keep to ourselves, we lose. We care because we want all of our members everywhere to be happy. Is there any better reason? (Thomas S. Monson, "Status Report on Missionary Work," Ensign, [October 1977]: 11).
The Lord never has, nor will He require things of His children which it is impossible for them to perform. The elders of Israel who expect to go forth to preach the gospel of salvation in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among a people who are full of evil and corruption, should cultivate this spirit especially. (Lorenzo Snow, Journal of Discourses, London: Latter-day Saints Book Depot, 1855-1886, 20:192).
Go humbly and prayerfully, trusting and believing in God, and what you desire to do you will accomplish. Cease not to ask the Father what you shall do, and he will give you the Spirit. (Brigham Young, History of the Church, Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1978, 6:325).
If an Elder...is diligent in prayer, in doing the work of the Lord, striving in faith to live humbly before him, setting a proper example before his brethren and the people among whom he labors, he will find that the Lord will bear him off victorious; his power will be upon him; and when he administers in the words of life it will be by the power and wisdom of the Holy Spirit. When he administers in the ordinances of the Church, the blessings of Jehovah will follow; when he says to the sick: Be thou healed in the name of Jesus Christ, behold, it is done; when he commands, the lame will leap like a hare. The power of the Lore God of Israel will be made manifest through his faithful servants, and they have nothing to fear. (Orson Pratt, Masterful Discourses and Writings of Orson Pratt, comp. by Nels B. Lundwall, Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1981, p. 35).
And if we seek Him in the proper manner, He will give to us the revelations of his will...If it were not so, how would it be with our elders who go abroad to the nations of the earth and among people opposed to them, and who desire frequently their destruction? If they were left without this spirit of revelation which God gives to His children who seek Him in the proper manner, how would it be with them under such circumstances? Sad indeed would be their condition! We might then with fearful hearts send our Elders out to the nations of the earth to preach this Gospel. But knowing that our Father is all-powerful, that He is omnipotent and omnipresent, we can send out these young men, inexperienced though they may be, to any part of the earth, knowing that when they are in trouble they can seek God, and that He will be near to hear and answer their prayers. (Abraham H. Cannon, "Hope Amidst Persecution," Deseret Weekly [Saturday, 24 December 1892]: 3).
You have the fullest authority conferred upon you, but you need not talk about this at all. You will discover that there is not need to talk about it, the Spirit of the Lord will confirm it, and the people will feel that you bear it, and this confirmation and feeling will be your authority. (Lorenzo Snow, Improvement Era, 3:126-127).
A missionary told how he was cornered by an atheist who ridiculed many of the teachings of the scriptures. The atheist confronted our missionary before the congregation, an untrained, unschooled young man whom we had dared to send out without his having gone to a theological seminary for training and indoctrination in all the teachings of the gospel. Think what a chance we take in sending our missionaries out, unprepared except for the power of the Holy Ghost.
The atheist said, "Why, it is preposterous for you to say that you believe in a Bible that teaches about a creation when the land was together and the water was all together." Then he read to the missionary from the Book of Genesis, and continued, "Now look at the earth. Here it is divided into many parts and oceans between. How will you explain the inconsistency in this?"
Well, the missionary did not have the answer, but he bowed his head and silently prayed, "Heavenly Father, give me your Spirit to tell me what to say." Then he raised his tear-stained face, and up above the audience, at the back of the hall, he read these words: "In the days of Peleg the earth was divided." (Genesis 10:25).
Never in the world had he ever read this scripture. He did not know it was in the Bible, but he saw it there on the wall, and he was able to respond, under the inspiration of the Holy Ghost, to the atheist's question. (Harold B. Lee, Ye Are the Light of the World, Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1974, pp. 99-100).
Remember our boy from the rural community who marveled at the size of Toronto? He was short in stature, but tall in testimony. Together with his companion, he called at the home of Elmer Pollard in Oshawa, [Ontario] Canada. Feeling sorry for the young men who, during a blinding blizzard, were going from house to house, Mr. Pollard invited the missionaries into his home. They presented to him their message. He did not catch the spirit. In due time he asked that they leave and not return. His last words to the elders as they departed his front porch were spoken in derision: "You can't tell me you actually believe Joseph Smith was a prophet of God!"
The door was shut. The elders walked down the path. Our country boy spoke to his companion: "Elder, we didn't answer Mr. Pollard's question. He said we didn't believe Joseph Smith was a true prophet. Let's return and bear our testimonies to him." At first the more experienced missionary hesitated, but finally he agreed to accompany his companion. Fear struck their hearts as they approached the door from which they had been turned away. A knock, the confrontation with Mr. Pollard, an agonizing moment, then with power, a testimony borne by the Spirit: "Mr. Pollard, you said we didn't believe Joseph Smith was a prophet of God. Mr. Pollard, I testify that Joseph was a prophet. He did translate the Book of Mormon. He saw God the Father and Jesus the Son. I know it."
Mr. Pollard, now Brother Pollard, stood in a priesthood meeting some time later and declared: "That night I could not sleep. Resounding in my ears I heard the words: "Joseph Smith was a prophet of God. I know it. I know it. I know it." The next day I telephoned the missionaries. Their message, coupled with their testimonies, changed my life and the lives of my family. (Thomas S. Monson, Conference Report, October 1969, pp. 95-96).
The gift of discerning of spirits, also, is one that is of great importance to the Elders who are laboring in the ministry. We have know elders become so filled with zeal and so desirous to do good, or what they supposed to be good, that they exposed themselves to the influence of the adversary. They would be filled with a species of what has been called "wildfire", and carried away by zeal, they would go too far; they would say and do imprudent things and yet, being prompted by the purest and best motives, would feel entirely justified in their course. In the history of the Church there have been many illustrations of this. Elders can work themselves up beyond that which is proper and wise and be led to say and do many imprudent things and overstep the line of propriety. Now, the gift of discerning of spirits is necessary to keep these kind of feelings in check. (George Q. Cannon, Gospel Truth, sel. by Jerreld L. Newquist, Salt Lake City: Zion's Book Store, 1957, 2:199-200).
Now, I want to say to this congregation, to the young men of Israel, to the elders of Israel, to all our missionaries, the day has come when the God of heaven requires at my hands, as the President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, to say unto you, it is the will of God for you to take this course. Get the Spirit of God before you go on your missions or anywhere else. Get the spirit of revelation with you. And when you get that you are safe, and you will do exactly what the Lord wants you to do. I have felt strongly impressed to say that to this Conference. What can you do without revelation? We cannot do the will of God and accomplish what is required of us without it. We will make no mistakes if we pursue that course. That spirit is with the Apostles, and with the elders of Israel who are true and faithful. The rising generation should labor to obtain the Spirit of God. Get it within you and it will be a continual monitor with you. (Wilford Woodruff, Conference Report, April 1898, pp. 31-32).
In proselyting, the missionary will soon learn, if he is to be successful, that his message must be given by the power of the spirit and from a sense of personal conviction. In this manner, those who are kindred to the "message of the restoration" will feel a reaction--a spiritual response--and will actually partake of the strength which the missionary manifests which begins then to change and shape their lives, and sooner or later produces a repentance with subsequent desire to make a promise or a covenant with the Lord in the waters of baptism. The laying on of hands for the bestowal of the Holy Ghost serves to confirm unto them that these feelings of change were true and honest emotions.
It is interesting to note the power of the gospel message as it leads the sincere investigator to the light. The Prophet Joseph Smith states it this way: "Faith comes by hearing the word of God, through the testimony of the servants of God; that testimony is always attended by the Spirit of prophecy and revelation. (History of the Church Vol. 3, page 379).
Thus, by the power of faith and testimony of the converted missionary, others are led to conversion as the message reaches their souls. That is what produces the reaction or change for the better and is what the Christ meant when he said to Nicodemus, "...Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God. (Alvin R. Dyer, The Challenge, Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1962, pp. 69-71).
In the mission field some of you had to rely on the Spirit to have the words to teach what the people needed. More than once, and perhaps every day, you had the blessing that Nephi and Lehi had among the people in their mission, described in Helaman:
“And it came to pass that Nephi and Lehi did preach unto the Lamanites with such great power and authority, for they had power and authority given unto them that they might speak, and they also had what they should speak given unto them—
“Therefore they did speak unto the great astonishment of the Lamanites, to the convincing them, insomuch that there were eight thousand of the Lamanites who were in the land of Zarahemla and round about baptized unto repentance, and were convinced of the wickedness of the traditions of their fathers” (Helaman 5:18–19).
Although you may not have been blessed with so miraculous a harvest, you have been given words by the Holy Ghost when you surrendered your heart to the Lord’s service. At certain periods of your mission, such an experience came often. If you will think back on those times and ponder, you will also remember that the increase in your desire to obey the commandments came over you gradually. You felt less and less the tug of temptation. You felt more and more the desire to be obedient and to serve others. You felt a greater love for the people.
One of the effects of receiving a manifestation of the Holy Ghost repeatedly was that your nature changed. And so, from that faithful service to the Master, you had not only the witness of the Holy Ghost that Jesus is the Christ but you saw evidence in your own life that the Atonement is real. Such service, which brings the influence of the Holy Ghost, is an example of planting the seed, which Alma described:
“And now, behold, because ye have tried the experiment, and planted the seed, and it swelleth and sprouteth, and beginneth to grow, ye must needs know that the seed is good.
“And now, behold, is your knowledge perfect? Yea, your knowledge is perfect in that thing, and your faith is dormant; and this because you know, for ye know that the word hath swelled your souls, and ye also know that it hath sprouted up, that your understanding doth begin to be enlightened, and your mind doth begin to expand.
“O then, is not this real? I say unto you, Yea, because it is light; and whatsoever is light, is good, because it is discernible, therefore ye must know that it is good; and now behold, after ye have tasted this light is your knowledge perfect?
“Behold I say unto you, Nay; neither must ye lay aside your faith, for ye have only exercised your faith to plant the seed that ye might try the experiment to know if the seed was good.
“And behold, as the tree beginneth to grow, ye will say: Let us nourish it with great care, that it may get root, that it may grow up, and bring forth fruit unto us. And now behold, if ye nourish it with much care it will get root, and grow up, and bring forth fruit” (Alma 32:33–37). (Henry B. Eyring, “Gifts of the Spirit for Hard Times,” Brigham Young University CES Fireside for Young Adults, 10 September 2006).
When you are teaching investigators and preparing them for baptism by water, you must also think of the gift of the Holy Ghost—baptism by fire. Think of it as one sentence. First comes the baptism of water then the baptism of fire. (Boyd K. Packer, “The Gift of the Holy Ghost: What Every Missionary Should Know—and Every Member as Well,” New Mission Presidents’ Seminar, June 2003).
Tell the brethren to be humble and faithful and be sure to keep the Spirit of the Lord, that it will lead them aright. Be careful and not turn away the still, small voice; it will teach them what to do and where to go; it will yield the fruits of the kingdom. Tell the brethren to keep their hearts open to conviction, so that when the Holy Ghost comes to them their hearts will be ready to receive it. They can tell the Spirit of the Lord from all other spirits—-it will whisper peace and joy to their souls; it will take malice, hatred, strife and all evil from their hearts, and their whole desire will be to do good. (Joseph Smith, Juvenile Instructor, [19 July 1873]: 114).
Preaching the gospel and converting sinners unto Christ never yet depended for success upon man's learning or the music of oratory. The unlettered fishermen of Galilee, proclaiming in simple words "Christ crucified," were far more powerful in winning souls from error's ways and melting the hearts of the multitude, than all the orators have been . . .
The reason is not, as some suppose, that learning and oratory are valueless in the cause of Christ, or necessarily a hindrance, as was Saul's armor upon youthful David. The example of the eloquent and erudite Paul suffices to disprove such a fallacy. The secret is simply this: that God had chosen those humble fishermen, and not the learned orators of the age, for that especial work, and endowed them with power from on high. No man, learned or unlearned, can build up God's kingdom, except He be with him, and the Holy Ghost work through him. (Orson F. Whitney, Life of Heber C. Kimball, Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1945, p. 175).
It is necessary for us as missionaries to make up our minds to get the testimony of the spirit of God in our hearts, that we are called of God, that we have his truth, and that it is not only in the Bible, and in the Book of Mormon, and in the Doctrine and Covenants that we find it, but we find it and have it in our own hearts and in our own minds. We must learn this or we will be caught sometime off our guards and will be overcome....
The great things is to get the spirit of truth in your hearts, the Spirit of God, and a true and faithful witness and testimony in your souls that you have been called and sent forth to preach Jesus Christ and him crucified and risen from the dead, the Savior of the world, and the first fruits of the resurrection from the dead, and that Joseph Smith, the Prophet of God, was raised up in the latter days to renew the covenant of Christ's baptism and death and resurrection to the world for their salvation and deliverance from sin, and to permit them to come forth from the resurrection of the dead to a newness of life. If you do not know this, if you do not feel this in your hearts and believe it with all your souls, I would not give the snap of my finger for your ministry or missionary labors; it won't amount to the ashes of a rye straw. I don't care how well you talk the language or how pious you may be or what you may do, if you have not that spirit in your hearts and do not believe the truth yourselves, you cannot become saviors to the world.
In the first place, become convinced, if you are not already convinced, become convinced that Jesus is the Christ, that he lives and is the Redeemer of the world. Know ye that Jesus Christ himself appeared to Joseph Smith and renewed his covenant with men in the world, and Joseph Smith was the agent chosen through God which this covenant should be renewed to the world. Learn this great and glorious truth, for it is a truth, and this is the truth that you go to preach to the world. (Joseph F. Smith, "Some Essentials in Missionary Work," Improvement Era, [July 1946]: 433).
Be guided by the Spirit. I have said so many times to my Brethren that the Spirit is the most important single element in this work. With the Spirit, magnifying your call, you can do miracles for the Lord in the mission field. Without the Spirit you will never succeed regardless of your talent and ability. (Ezra Taft Benson, Mission Presidents’ Seminar, Salt Lake City, Utah, 25 June 1986).
Remember This . . . Pray with faith that your prayers will be answered. Learn to understand, recognize, and follow the promptings of the Spirit. Learn to rely on the Spirit to show you where to go, what to do, and what to say. Teach others how to recognize the Spirit. (Preach my Gospel: A guide to missionary service. Salt Lake City: Intellectual Reserve, 2004, p. 99).