Monday, September 8, 2008

Restoration Mission

On Sunday 7 September 2008 I went to stake conference two of the speakers were Shauna and Stephen Lowell McConkie. Brother McConkie is the youngest son of Bruce R. McConkie. He declared at the beginning of his talk that his mission is a "Restoration Mission."

His wife set his talk up by telling how she and her husband were called by Thomas S. Monson in the fall of 2007 when he was a counselor in the First Presidency. When they were set apart in the spring of 2008 they were told in the blessing that they should consider their missionaries like members of their family. They were to treat the missionaries as if they were their own children. She said that she had a son serving in the England and that they had sent six of their children on mission. She talked about her new GPS device and how it helps keep them on track when they get off course. She shared the death of her oldest son by cancer and felt he was helping them on their mission today from the spirit world. She said that she had children in five time zones and considered her deceased son in one of them. She shared a story from Boyd K. Packer from a 2003 BYU Devotional:

A Broken Bird

Now, the last thing I want to talk to you about: a broken bird.

Over the years, as a diversion, I have carved wooden birds. Sometimes it would take a year to complete one. I would get specimens and measure the feathers and study the colors and then carve them. I would carve a setting for them. It was very restful. Sometimes when I would get unsettled, my wife would say, "Why don't you go carve a bird!" It was a very calming thing in my life.

Elder A. Theodore Tuttle and I were going into town one day. I had one of the carvings. I was taking it in to show someone. We had put it on the backseat. At an intersection, he slammed on the brakes, and the carving tipped upside down on the floor and broke to pieces. He pulled over to the side and looked at it. He was devastated. I was not.

Without thinking, I said, "Forget it. I made it. I can fix it." And I did. I made it stronger than it was. I improved it a bit.

Now, who made you? Who is your Creator? There is not anything about your life that gets bent or broken that He cannot fix and will fix. You have to decide. If some of you have made mistakes and you think you are broken and cannot be put together, you do not know the doctrine of the Church. You do not know what the Atonement was about and who the Lord is and what a power He is in your life.

This is His Church. We are His servants. We who hold the priesthood have His authority and power. We can perform miracles. We do not talk about them. Most of those miracles have to do with healing the body. The greater miracles are the miracles of spiritual growth and healing in the lives of every one of us.

So if you are on the wrong path, then you must decide. You have the agency. You have the promptings of the Holy Ghost to guide you. There is that great truth that the gospel is a gospel of repentance. Repentance is like a mathematical equation. Repentance leads to forgiveness.

Her husband followed her at the pulpit and declared that his mission and his missionaries were Restoration missionaries. He said that in the fourteen stakes in his mission that there were 4.2 million members. His missionaries were here to help us to do our missionary work. Every man, woman, and child in the Mission was responsible for 4,000 people who were not members of the church.

He said that Joseph Smith was the revealer in the Latter-days of Jesus Christ. He said that the Book of Mormon contained thousands of references to Christ. He and his missionaries were instructed in Preach My Gospel manual to mark down every scripture they could find. Since his first two months in his mission he has purchased a one dollar Book of Mormon and marked it in blue. He felt he had missed a few references so he got a second one and marked it in red of all the ones he missed. He counted them at the top of each chapter. When he was done tabulating them he counted 8,106 times when Christ was mentioned in some way. (He later said when I went up on the stand to verify the numbers for this post that one missionary has found over 7,000 sources). He testified that the New Testament was the best account of what the Savior said or did. The Book of Mormon tells us the why in more detail.

Early in his talk he gave us a "key" from the New Testament. He read to us about Christ's resurrection from Luke 24. He told how Mary and other women found he wasn't in the tomb but was risen. He told how Peter was called but could not find him. Then he described the two men on the road to Emmaus who met Jesus and how he accompanied them until finally they realized it was Christ at which time he disappeared.

The key that he shared is found in verse 33:

33 And they rose up the same hour, and returned to Jerusalem, and found the eleven gathered together, and them that were with them,

McConkie speculated that all the spirits that were to come in to the world were those gathered with the eleven Apostles (Thomas was not there)or "them that were with them." I spoke with my wife after as we traveled home who felt that she would have watched Christ while he ministered on the earth when she was in the spirit world. I didn't get the same feeling at the time but Brother McConkie's point was that all of us now shared in his ministry because we are witnesses of Him.

After the mission I questioned President McConkie as to whether this was a platform of his individual mission or if this was a church-wide practice. He says that if you read Preach My Gospel it clearly instructs mission presidents of the restoration theme for all Preach My Gospel missions in the church.

I went back to the Preach My Gospel manual to see where he took that idea from and found on the first page the commission to missionaries which is entitled "Your Commission to Teach the Restored Gospel of Jesus Christ."

I quote from the manual:

You are surrounded by people. You pass them on the street, visit them in their homes,and travel among them. All of them are children of God, your brothers and sisters. God loves them just as He loves you. Many of these people are searching for purpose in life. They are concerned for their families. They need the sense of belonging that comes from the knowledge that they are children of God, members of His eternal family. They want to feel secure in a world of changing values. They want “peace in this world, and eternal life in the world to come” (D&C 59:23), but they are “kept from the truth because they know not where to find it” (D&C 123:12).

The gospel of Jesus Christ as restored through the Prophet Joseph Smith will bless their families, meet their spiritual needs, and help them fulfill their deepest desires. Although they may not know why, they need relief from feelings of guilt that come from mistakes and sins. They need to experience the joy of redemption by receiving forgiveness of their sins and enjoying the gift of the Holy Ghost.

As an authorized representative of Jesus Christ, you can teach people with power and authority that “redemption cometh in and through the Holy Messiah,” and that no one “can dwell in the presence of God, save it be through the merits, and mercy, and grace of the Holy Messiah”(2 Nephi 2:6, 8). As people come to accept the restored gospel of Jesus Christ and receive the ordinances of baptism and confirmation by priesthood authority, they can be assured that they “are not cast off forever” (Book of Mormon, Title Page).

As your understanding of the Atonement of Jesus Christ grows, your desire to share the gospel will increase. You will feel, as Lehi did, the “great . . . importance to make these things known unto the inhabitants of the earth” (2 Nephi 2:8).

President Ezra Taft Benson taught: “We are commanded by God to take this gospel to all the world. That is the cause that must unite us today. Only the gospel will save the world from the calamity of its own self-destruction. Only the gospel will unite men of all races and nationalities in peace. Only the gospel will bring joy, happiness, and salvation to the human family” (The Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson [1988], 167).

You are called to represent Jesus Christ in helping people become clean from their sins. You do this by inviting them to come unto Jesus Christ and become converted to His restored gospel. To come to the Savior they must have faith in Him unto repentance—making the necessary changes to bring their life into agreement with His teachings. You can help people develop such faith by teaching them the restored gospel by the Spirit and inviting them to commit to live according to its teachings. Keeping this commitment prepares them for the covenants of baptism and confirmation and the precious gift of the Holy Ghost. They are to put off the “natural man” and become a Saint “through the atonement of Christ the Lord” (Mosiah 3:19).

Even though I have read Preach My Gospel a couple of times I never really picked up on the outlined sequence to realize emphasis was being placed in a step by step process. I could see looking at the manual why he interprets his mission as a Restoration Mission. I think his linking of Christ to Joseph Smith as revealer makes some sense on further reflection.

I can honestly say that when I listened to Stephen McConkie I had a flash back to the times I enjoyed listening to his father. His father would be proud of him he is a chip off the block. He has the McConkie demeanor and style a lot like his brothers. I expect to see great things happen in this mission and for him to accomplish more than the previous mission president who baptized 116 a record number of people. As long as he remembers to put the Christ at the pinnacle of the Restoration he shouldn't have too much trouble bringing women and men to Christ.

They sure could use some new members in the stake that was the lowest attendance I ever witnessed including the Imperial Valley California stake conferences. Imperial Valley is reputed to be one of the smallest stakes in the LDS Church but it drew a larger attendance than I saw present. In fact it was the first time I was able to walk in to a conference and sit on the second row in the pews an hour before starting. I wish President McConkie good luck in filling the pews. My family might assist by bring in our customary two or three over the next few years which is less than one thousandth of what McConkie is asking us to do.

1 comment:

S.Faux said...

Thanks, Dr. B:

For some reason, this is one of my favorites of your posts. It is full of inspiring and instructive information. It was a joy to read and to think about.