Sunday, October 7, 2007

Preaching the First Principles of the Gospel

Twenty-two-year-old Harold B. Lee, seated to the right of mission president John M. Knight, served as president of the Denver Conference of the Western States Mission

We may know all about the philosophy of the ages and the history of the nations of the earth; we may study the wisdom and knowledge of man and get all the information that we can acquire in a lifetime of research and study, but all of it put together will never qualify any one to become a minister of the gospel unless he has the knowledge and spirit of the first principles of the gospel of Jesus Christ. (Joseph F. Smith, Conference Report, April 1915, p. 138).

It is advisable that the Elders, when preaching to the world, should confine themselves as much as practicable to the first principles and leading doctrines of the Church. Such subjects as. . .the second advent of Christ, the resurrection, the millennial reign, the nature of the Godhead, etc., although interesting and important matters in their place to those concerned, are sadly out of place when unnecessarily dragged before the attention of a mixed audience, who more particularly need establishing in those principles and doctrines which pertain to their immediate salvation and present requirements.

There are many subjects that can be advantageously discussed privately which it would be unwise to dilate upon publicly, except when circumstances render it specially advisable. When an enquirer after truth clearly understands and embraces the first principles of the Gospel, he is then prepared for a consideration of those which are more advanced. But to crowd upon him matter for which he is unprepared is like attempting to erect walls and compartments of a building which has no sure foundation upon which to rest them. (George Q. Cannon, Millennial Star, 24 [12 April 1862]: 234).

It is not uncommon for Elders to say, 'If I could have a mission, and be sent among strangers, I could speak to them, because they have not been instructed in the way of life and salvation; I could lay before them the principles of the Gospel, which have been taught to me, without that diffidence of feeling, and fear, which I experience while speaking to my brethren.' It is very true that the first principles of the Gospel taught by the Elders of this Church are easy to be understood, compared with what it is to preach them to our families, or to our neighborhood, and to govern and control ourselves by the principles of righteousness which the Gospel inculcates. Again, to gather the Saints, to preach the Gospel to the world, and convince them of the truth, are much easier tasks than to convince men that you can master yourself, and practice the moral principles inculcated by your religion. That is a small portion of the duty required of you in order to obtain crowns of glory, immortality, and eternal lives. (Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses, London: Latter-day Saints Book Depot, 1855-1886, 1:47).

Missionaries are sent forth to preach and teach the first principles of the gospel, Christ and him crucified, and practically nothing more in the way of theological doctrine. They are not commissioned to expound their own views on the intricate questions of theology, nor to mystify their hearers with a show of profound learning.

Teachers they are and must be, if they meet in any degree the responsibilities of their high calling; but they should teach as nearly as they can after the manner of the Master, seeking to lead by love for their fellows, by simple explanation and persuasion; not trying to convince by force. (Joseph F. Smith, "To Elders Going on Missions," The Elders Manual, Independence, Missouri: Zion's Printing and Publishing Co., 1918, p. 9).

Some of those you teach will lack the faith to keep commitments, others will face opposition, and others will not always accept everything you share. They must make their own choices, but you will want to do all you can to answer their questions, help them resolve their concerns, and overcome opposition.

Sometimes people’s concerns are like an iceberg. Only a small portion is visible above the surface. These concerns can be complex and difficult to resolve. For this reason you need to follow the Spirit and respond in a manner best suited to the situation. Pray for the gift of discernment and follow your impressions. Heavenly Father knows the hearts and experiences of all people (the complete iceberg) and will help you know what is best for each person.

When you help others resolve their concerns, first seek to understand their concerns by asking questions and listening. Rely on the Spirit to help you know how to help them resolve their concerns. For example, you might use a scripture to address a concern about the need for baptism, or you might share a testimony of the Prophet Joseph Smith.

Often concerns are more social than doctrinal. For example the investigator might fear oppositions from family members if they join the Church. Or they might fear rejection from their friends at work. Whatever the concern may be, your investigators may have past experiences or other influences that are part of the concern that you do not understand. In many cases, members may be able to help you understand and help with this concern.

How you approach an investigator’s concerns will depend on the nature of that concern. Determine whether the concern has come up because the person does not have a spiritual confirmation of the truth of the Restoration or whether the person does not want to commit to living a true principle. Understanding the source of the problem in this way helps you know whether to focus on testimony or commitment. (Preach my Gospel: A guide to missionary service. Salt Lake City: Intellectual Reserve, 2004, p. 187

I am not surprised that comparatively few people join the Church from among the large number on whom the missionaries call. There’s no faith. On the other hand, I am amazed that so many do. It is a marvelous and wonderful thing that thousands are touched by the miracle of the Holy Spirit, that they believe and accept and become members. They are baptized. Their lives are forever touched for good. Miracles occur. A seed of faith comes into their hearts. It enlarges as they learn. And they accept principle upon principle, until they have every one of the marvelous blessings that come to those who walk with faith in this, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

It is faith that is the converter. It is faith that is the teacher.

Thus it has been from the beginning.

...Faith? There can be no doubt about it. When doubts arose, when tragedies struck, the quiet voice of faith was heard in the stillness of the night as certain and reassuring as was the place of the polar star in the heavens above.

It was this mysterious and wonderful manifestation of faith that brought reassurance, that spoke with certainty, that came as a gift from God concerning this great latter-day work. Countless, literally countless, are the stories of its expression in the pioneer period of the Church. But it does not stop there.

As it was then, so it is today. This precious and marvelous gift of faith, this gift from God our Eternal Father, is still the strength of this work and the quiet vibrancy of its message. Faith underlies it all. Faith is the substance of it all. Whether it be going into the mission field, living the Word of Wisdom, paying one’s tithing, it is all the same. It is the faith within us that is evidenced in all we do.

Our critics cannot understand it. Because they do not understand, they attack. A quiet inquiry, an anxious desire to grasp the principle behind the result, could bring greater understanding and appreciation.

I was asked at a news conference on one occasion how we get men to leave their vocations, to leave home, and serve the Church.

I responded that we simply ask them, and we know what their answer will be.

What a marvelous and wonderful thing it is, this powerful conviction that says the Church is true. It is God’s holy work. He overrules in the things of His kingdom and in the lives of His sons and daughters. This is the reason for the growth of the Church. The strength of this cause and kingdom is not found in its temporal assets, impressive as they may be. It is found in the hearts of its people. That is why it is successful. That is why it is strong and growing. That is why it is able to accomplish the wonderful things that it does. It all comes of the gift of faith, bestowed by the Almighty upon His children who doubt not and fear not, but go forward.

I sat in a meeting in Aruba the other evening. I dare say that most of those who hear me do not know where Aruba is or that there is even such a place. It is an island off the coast of Venezuela. It is a protectorate of the Netherlands. It is an inconspicuous place in this vast world. There were about 180 in the meeting. On the front row were eight missionaries: six elders and two sisters. The congregation consisted of men and women, boys and girls of various racial strains. A little English was spoken, much of Spanish, and some expressions of other languages. As I looked into the faces of that congregation, I thought of the faith there represented. They love this Church. They appreciate all that it does. They stand and testify of the reality of God the Eternal Father and of His Resurrected Beloved Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. They testify of the Prophet Joseph Smith and of the Book of Mormon.

They serve where they are called to serve. They are men and women of faith who have embraced the true and living gospel of the Master, and in their midst are these eight missionaries. I am sure that it is a lonely place for them. But they are doing what they have been asked to do because of their faith. The two young women are beautiful and happy. As I looked at them, I said to myself, Eighteen months is a long time to be in this faraway place. But they do not complain. They speak of the great experience they are having and of the wonderful people they meet. Shining through all of their service is the reassuring faith that the work in which they are engaged is true and that the service they are giving is given unto God.

It is so with our missionaries wherever they might serve, whether it be right here in Salt Lake City or in Mongolia. They go and serve with faith in their hearts. It is a phenomenon of great power that quietly whispers, “This cause is true, and to you there is an obligation to serve it regardless of the cost.”

Again, people cannot understand it, these thousands of bright and able young men and women who forgo social life, leave school, and selflessly go wherever they are sent to teach the gospel. They go by the power of faith, and they teach by the power of faith, planting a seed of faith here and another there which grow and mature into converts of strength and capacity.

Faith is the basis of testimony. Faith underlies loyalty to the Church. Faith represents sacrifice, gladly given in moving forward the work of the Lord.
The Lord has commanded us to take upon ourselves “the shield of faith wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked” (D&C 27:17). (Gordon B. Hinckley, “The Miracle of Faith,” Liahona, [July 2001]: 82-84).

How does the faith required as the first principle in the plan of salvation or gospel come? Let Paul answer: "So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God." (Romans 10:17.) It is not the letter then that bringeth faith, but hearing the word of God dispensed by a living oracle or minister of God, clothed upon with power from on high. It is not a recorded gospel, but the preached word which emanates with power from a man of God inspired by the Holy Ghost. (John Taylor, Gospel Kingdom, Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1943, p. 332).

Our challenge is to teach the need of faith. We don’t go into the mission field with tangible, concrete evidence that Joseph Smith was instructed by heavenly visitors. If everything could be proven by positive evidence there would be no need for faith. If the element of faith is taken out of the gospel, the plan is destroyed. Faith becomes the bridge by which the unbeliever can cross over and become a believer. Your challenge is to teach faith. There will be times in your teaching when your eyes will meet the eyes of your investigator. In this moment of interest you will say to him, I know this is the truth.” Your testimony will pierce him like an arrow, just as your hearts have been pierced, not by tangible evidence, but bridged by faith. (Howard W. Hunter, The Teachings of Howard W. Hunter, ed. Clyde J. Williams, Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1997, p. 250).

Consider how missionaries help investigators to learn by faith. Making and keeping spiritual commitments, such as studying and praying about the Book of Mormon, attending Church meetings, and keeping the commandments, require an investigator to
exercise faith and to act. One of the fundamental roles of a missionary is to help an investigator make and honor commitments—to act and learn by faith. Teaching, exhorting, and explaining, as important as they are, can never convey to an investigator a witness of the truthfulness of the restored gospel. Only as an investigator’s faith initiates action and opens the pathway to the heart can the Holy Ghost deliver a confirming witness. Missionaries obviously must learn to teach by the power of the Spirit. Of equal importance, however, is the responsibility missionaries have to help investigators learn by faith. (David A. Bednar, "Seek Learning by Faith: An Evening with David A. Bednar," Address to CES Religious Educators, 3 February 2006, p. 3).

An elder has no business to undertake to preach mysteries in any part of the world, for God has commanded us all to preach nothing but the first principles unto the world. Neither has any elder any authority to preach any mysterious thing to any branch of the Church unless he has a direct commandment from God to do so. Let the matter of grand councils in heaven, and the making of Gods, worlds, and devils entirely alone, for you are not called to teach any such doctrine--for neither are you nor the people are capacitated to understand any such principles--less so to teach them. For when God commands men to teach such principles the Saints will receive them.

Therefore, beware what you teach! For the mysteries of God are not given to all men; and unto those to whom they are given they are placed under restrictions to impart only such as God will command them, and the residue is to be kept in a faithful breast, otherwise he will be brought under condemnation. By this, God will prove his faithful servants, who will be called and numbered with the chosen.

And as to the celestial glory, all will enter in and possess that kingdom that obey the gospel, and continue in faith in the Lord unto the end of his days.

Now, therefore, I say unto you, you must cease preaching the miraculous things, and let the mysteries alone until by and by.

Preach faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, repentance, and baptism by the remission of sins; the laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost; teaching the necessity of strict obedience unto these principles; reasoning out of the scriptures; proving them unto the people. Cease your schisms and division, and your contentions. [Hyrum Smith Letter Written to the Saints in Hancock County, Illinois, 15 March 1844 quoted in Church News, [6 December 1950]: 16).

Consider how missionaries help investigators to learn by faith. Making and keeping spiritual commitments, such as studying and praying about the Book of Mormon, attending Church meetings, and keeping the commandments, require an investigator to exercise faith and to act. One of the fundamental roles of a missionary is to help an investigator make and honor commitments—-to act and learn by faith. Teaching, exhorting, and explaining, as important as they are, can never convey to an investigator a witness of the truthfulness of the restored gospel. Only as an investigator’s faith initiates action and opens the pathway to the heart can the Holy Ghost deliver a confirming witness. Missionaries obviously must learn to teach by the power of the Spirit. Of equal importance, however, is the responsibility missionaries have to help investigators learn by faith. (David A. Bednar, “Seek Learning by Faith,” CES Religious Educators' Address , Jordan Institute of Religion, 3 February 2006).

Obtain a personal conviction that the Church of Jesus Christ has been restored to the earth and that His doctrines are true. There are different paths to that treasured gift. They begin with your sincere desire to know. The flickering flame of faith can die if you do not nurture it. But that tiny flame can grow into a brilliant, unquenchable fire through sincere prayer and consistent study of the Book of Mormon and other scriptures. Such faith will be sustained as you apply the principles you learn. . . .Be one of the army of remarkable, well-prepared, devoted missionaries. (Richard G. Scott, “Realize Your Potential,” Ensign, [November 2003]: 43 quoted in New Era [March 2007]: 24).

Missionary success depends on your level of spirituality. Our assignment as missionaries is to plant faith and testimony in the hearts of other people. Some of you will be greatly successful and I will tell you why. You have been set apart as a personal representative of the Lord to teach his children in the mission field. I don’t know a higher calling that could come to any person. You are set apart from all worldly things, worldly influences and thoughts, to a higher plateau—-a spiritual plateau where you can live, think, act, and portray the gospel to others. When you can do this and leave all worldly influences behind you and live on the new higher plateau, you will be successful. (Howard W. Hunter, The Teachings of Howard W. Hunter, ed. Clyde J. Williams, Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1997, p. 250).

It is not unusual to have a missionary say, “How can I bear testimony until I get one? How can I testify that God lives, that Jesus is the Christ, and that the gospel is true? If I do not have such a testimony, would that not be dishonest?”

Oh, if I could teach you this one principle: a testimony is to be found in the bearing of it!

Somewhere in your quest for spiritual knowledge, there is that “leap of faith,” as the philosophers call it. It is the moment when you have gone to the edge of the light and stepped into the darkness to discover that the way is lighted ahead for just a footstep or two. “The spirit of man is,” as the scripture says, indeed “the candle of the Lord” (Proverbs 20:27).

It is one thing to receive a witness from what you have read or what another has said; and that is a necessary beginning. It is quite another to have the Spirit confirm to you in your bosom that what you have testified is true. Can you not see that it will be supplied as you share it? As you give that which you have, there is a replacement, with increase!

To speak out is the test of your faith.

Bear testimony of the things that you hope are true, as an act of faith. It is something of an experiment, like the experiment that the prophet Alma proposed to his followers. We begin with faith—not with a perfect knowledge of things. That sermon in the 32nd chapter of Alma is one of the greatest messages in holy writ, for it is addressed to the beginner, to the humble seeker. And it holds a key to a witness of the truth.

The Spirit and testimony of Christ will come to you for the most part when, and remain with you only if, you share it. In that process is the very essence of the gospel.

Is not this a perfect demonstration of Christianity? You cannot find it, nor keep it, nor enlarge it unless and until you are willing to share it. It is by giving it away freely that it becomes yours. (Boyd K. Packer, “The Quest for Spiritual Knowledge,” New Era, [January 2007]: 6).

The privileges of those who dwell here are greater than the privileges of those who are abroad. When your duties call you into foreign lands, and you there exhaust your stock of knowledge and wisdom, and you are not in possession of the keys to obtain that instruction which you desire, it is because you are far from the right fountain—far from the body, where all the members are in lively operation--where the eye can see, the ear hear, the nose smell, and the mouth speak, and so forth. When your face is turned from the body, let mysteries alone, for this is the only place for you to be corrected, if wrong. Preach the simple, unadorned truth; work out your salvation with diligence, and do that which will guarantee you a warranted deed, an undeniable title to eternal lives.

If you feel to pray in you, pray; and if you feel the spirit of preaching in you, preach; call in your brethren, and read the Bible, the Book of Mormon, the Book of Covenants, and the other revelations of God to them; and talk over the things contained in those books, and deal them out to your brethren and neighbors; pray with them, and teach them how to control themselves, and let your teachings be sustained by your own example. Teach your families how to control themselves; teach them good and wholesome doctrine, and practice the same in your own lives. This is the place for you to become polished shafts in the quiver of the Almighty. (Brigham Young, Conference Report, 9 April 1852).

I rejoice in the education of the youth of Zion, because I realize that the educated man, the man filled with knowledge and information, who has become well posted—-that such a man going out into the world to preach the gospel is polished shaft, and that he can do more good than a man who lacks this knowledge, other things being equal. But I want to say that the young man going out with all the knowledge he might possess, unless he has the Spirit of God, will be outstripped by the boy going out who “don’t know nothing no how about nobody,” (Heber J. Grant, Salt Lake Stake Conference, 8 December 1895).

Our missionaries, young men and women and older couples, are workers for world peace. . . . By inviting all to repent and come unto Christ, [they] are working for peace in this world by changing the hearts and behavior of individual men and women. (Dallin H. Oaks, Ensign, [May 1990]: 73).

Amid all the revolutions that are taking place among the nations, the elders will ever pursue an undeviating course in being subject to the government wherever they may be, and sustain the same by all their precepts to the Saints, having nothing to do with political questions which engender strife, remembering that the weapons of their warfare are not carnal but spiritual, and that the Gospel which they preach is not of man but from heaven; and if they persecute you beyond measure I one city, country, or kingdom, leave the testimony which Jesus has given for a witness unto your father in heaven, that you are free from their blood, and flee to other cities, countries, or kingdoms where they will receive you and believe your testimony. (Brigham Young, Fifth General Epistle of the Presidency of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to Saints Scattered throughout the Earth, 7 April 1851 quoted in The Mind and Will of the Lord—Brigham Young, compiled and edited by Harold W. Pease. Springville, UT.: Bonneville Books, 1998, p. 55).

Our elders are instructed here, and they are taught from their childhood up, that they are not to go out and make war upon the religious organizations of the world when they are called to go out to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ, but to go and bear with them the message which has been given to us through the instrumentality of the Prophet Joseph, in this latter dispensation, whereby men may learn the truth, if they will. (Joseph F. Smith, Gospel Doctrine, 13th ed. Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1968, p. 357).

Let all the Elders who have been sent forth on missions to foreign lands, magnify their high and holy calling, in word and deed, and be an example unto all men. Teach the first principles of the gospel; and so far as men shall believe your testimony, administer the first ordinances of life and salvation; and when they want to know more, send them home, tell them that Zion is the place for them to receive those teachings which you have not time to teach, and which do not belong to your mission. Do not undertake to teach the mysteries of exaltation and powers of the worlds to come, and of eternal lives, unless you want to lose all the little claim to eternal life which you may have. (Brigham Young, Heber C. Kimball, Willard Richards [The First Presidency], comp. by James R. Clark, Messages of the First Presidency of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 6 vols. Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1965-1975, 2:117).

Oh, ye elders of Israel, hearken to my voice; and when you are sent into the world to preach, tell those things you are sent to tell; preach and cry aloud, "Repent ye, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand; repent and believe the gospel." Declare the first principles, and let mysteries alone, lest ye be overthrown. Never meddle with the visions of beasts and subjects you do not understand. Elder Brown, when you go to Palmyra, say nothing about the four beasts, but preach those things the Lord has told you to preach about--repentance and baptism for the remission of sins. (Joseph Smith, Jr., History of the Church, Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1978, 5:344).

Our mission has principally been to preach the first principles of the gospel, calling upon men everywhere to believe in the Lord God of heaven, he that created the heavens and the earth, the seas, and the fountains of waters; to believe in his Son, Jesus Christ, repenting of their sins, to be baptized for the remission of the same; and then we have promised them the Holy Ghost. In doing this the Lord has stood by us, sustaining those principles that we have advanced; and when we have ministered unto men the ordinances of the gospel; they have received for themselves the witness of the Spirit, even the Holy Ghost, making known to them for a surety that the principles that the principles that they had received were from God. (John Taylor, The Gospel Kingdom, sel. G. Homer Durham, Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1943, p. 223).

Repentance is a spiritual process that involves humility, confession, restitution, and turning away from the sin. It is a permanent change of thoughts and actions. Ideally, repenting of a specific sin should be necessary only once. However, if the sin is repeated, repentance is available as a means of healing (see Mosiah 26:30; Moroni 6:8; D&C 1:31-32).

Repentance may involve an emotional and physical process. People must stop ongoing, ingrained ways of inappropriate acting. Undesirable actions must be replaced with healthy and appropriate behaviors.

Thus, both repentance and recovery may take time. Sometimes converts, even with the best of intentions, give in to temptation as they progress toward greater self-discipline. In such cases new converts work with their priesthood leaders, not with missionaries, as they seek to overcome temptation and fully repent.

Through baptism and confirmation people receive the gift of the Holy Ghost, which will strengthen their ability to overcome these challenges. But baptism and confirmation may not fully do away with the emotional and physical urges that go along with these behaviors. Even though a person may have some initial success, further emotional healing may be necessary to completely repent and recover. (Preach my Gospel: A guide to missionary service. Salt Lake City: Intellectual Reserve, 2004, pp 187-188).

As a missionary you desire the salvation of souls (see Mosiah 28:3). You know that people can come unto Christ and be saved only on conditions of repentance (see D&C 18:10-16). One way to fulfill your desires is to cry repentance (see Alma 5:49; D&C 15:6; 16:6) and boldly invite people to exercise faith unto repentance, to be baptized by water and the Spirit, and to endure to the end (see 3 Nephi 27:16-20; Mormon 7:10).

Commitment is an essential part of repentance. It is the act of obligating oneself to a course of action and then diligently following through on that decision. When people are genuinely committed, they have real intent, meaning that they fully intend to do what they have committed to do. They make an unwaveringly and earnest decision to change. They become devoted to Christ and dedicate themselves to His gospel. Keeping their commitment is how they “truly manifest by their works that they have received the Spirit of Christ unto the remission of their sins” (D&C 2):37). When you ask for commitments as part of your teaching, you are inviting the investigator to repent. (Preach my Gospel: A guide to missionary service. Salt Lake City: Intellectual Reserve, 2004, p. 195).

Extending an invitation without following up is like beginning a journey without finishing it or buying a ticket to a concert without going into the theater. Without the completed action, the commitment is hollow.

Change can be hard. Your role is to help strengthen people in their resolve to change. You should do all you can to help people keep their commitments.

Genuine repentance is best demonstrated by righteous actions over a period of time, especially for commandments such as chastity, the Word of Wisdom, and tithing. As you and ward leaders work with people to help them keep their commitments, show understanding. Be patient but persistent. You have not finished your ministry until people are living these commitments, or in other words, until they have repented (see 3 Nephi 18:32). Sometimes several visits may be necessary for you to help people develop strong enough faith in a principle to lead to repentance. (Preach my Gospel: A guide to missionary service. Salt Lake City: Intellectual Reserve, 2004, p. 200).

According to one study, 75 percent of adult converts in North America had to give up at least one of these substances mentioned in the Word of Wisdom--tobacco, alcohol, coffee, or tea--and 31 percent had to give up smoking, a very addictive habit. The study also showed that almost all converts—over 90 percent—had a very high desire to avoid these substances after their baptism. third to one half of them reported that they had experienced 'occasional,' 'frequent,' or 'complete' lapses into their abstinence. (Dallin H. Oaks, "The Role of Members in Conversion." Ensign, [March 2003]: ).

No man who breaks the Word of Wisdom can gain the same amount of knowledge and intelligence in this world as the man who obeys that law. I don't care who he is or where he comes from, his mind will not be as clear, and he cannot advance as far and as rapidly and retain his power as much as he would if he obeyed the Word of Wisdom. (Heber J. Grant, Conference Report, April 1925).

People need a reason to change their thoughts and actions. Promised blessings often provide powerful motivation to obey God. When the Lord gives a commandment, He often promises blessings for keeping that commandment (see D&C 130:20-21). As you prepare people to obey a specific commandment, teach them that:

· Living the commandments shows love for God and His Son.

· They demonstrate their trust in God as they obey His commandments.

· In return, they will receive blessings that He has promised.

As you testify of a commandment, talk about the blessings you have received from living that commandment. Promise those whom you teach that they can enjoy similar blessings.

As people strive to keep a commitment, ask them to talk about the blessings that Heavenly Father has given them. Assure them that even though difficulties will enter their lives, His blessings will continue as they obey His will. (Preach my Gospel: A guide to missionary service. Salt Lake City: Intellectual Reserve, 2004, pp. 197-198).

The Spirit is manifested strongly as the sacred ordinances of baptism and confirmation are performed. The baptismal service and subsequent confirmation should be spiritual highlights for new converts. You and the ward mission leader should do everything you can to ensure that the baptismal service is organized, inspiring, and memorable. These services should strengthen the new converts in their commitment to remain active. (Preach my Gospel: A guide to missionary service. Salt Lake City: Intellectual Reserve, 2004, p. 208).

Who should be baptized? The answer would seem easy. Should we not baptize all those who want to or are willing to be baptized? The answer is not that simple. It is a great responsibility to bring someone into this Church who has not been adequately taught and who has not received of the Spirit so that through baptism they may become a new person through repentance. Moroni gave a solemn warning about this in Mormon 9:29: 'See that you are not baptized unworthily...'Some of our young missionaries are so hungry for baptisms they may urge people to be baptized before their investigators understand what they are baptized for. Peter said,'Repent and be baptized.'(Acts 2:38.) We must be certain the repentance process is at work. Investigators have a responsibility on their own as they hear the message of the restored gospel, but what I wish to emphasize today is our responsibility to them because it is under the authority of the priesthood that they are baptized and come into the Church. (James E. Faust, Mission Presidents’ Seminar, Church News, 29 June 1996).

Every time you bring a convert into this Church you bless a life. Not one life, if he or she remains faithful, but many lives. For that which you do becomes the work of generations yet to come. All of us here are the fruits of missionary work—-our fathers, our grandfathers, our great-grandfathers who accepted the testimony of missionaries and came into the Church. We are the beneficiaries. I never look at missionaries that I do not feel inclined to say, you never can foretell the consequences of what you do in this service. (Gordon B. Hinckley, Hong Kong Missionary Meeting, 25 May 1996).

Nobody gains when there is baptism without retention. The missionary loses, and while the Church gains statistically, the membership suffers, really, and the enthusiasm of the convert turns to ashes, (Gordon B. Hinckley, Church News, 4 July 1998).

A person receives the ordinance of confirmation after he or she has been baptized (see D&C 20:41). A new convert is considered a member of the Church after the ordinances of baptism and confirmation are performed (see John 3:5; D&C 33:11). New converts are confirmed in a sacrament meeting of the ward where they reside, not at the baptismal service. The bishop is responsible for seeing that confirmation occurs as soon as reasonable after baptism. The bishop or one of his counselors participates in the confirmation. The bishop may invite missionary elders who helped teach the convert to participate in the confirmation. Work closely with the bishop and the ward mission leader to make sure this essential ordinance is performed. (Preach my Gospel: A guide to missionary service. Salt Lake City: Intellectual Reserve, 2004, p. 210).

When converts are baptized and confirmed, they make sacred promises to obey and serve God and others for the rest of their lives. They become candidates for salvation in the celestial kingdom. To receive the promised blessings, they must endure to the end with faith in Jesus Christ. Church members are essential in helping new converts remain active and faithful.

President Gordon B. Hinckley said: “There is absolutely no point in doing missionary work unless we hold on to the fruits of that effort. The two must be inseparable. . .

Every convert is a great and serious responsibility” (“Find the Lambs, Feed the Sheep,” Ensign,, May 1999, 108). (Preach my Gospel: A guide to missionary service. Salt Lake City: Intellectual Reserve, 2004, p. 213).