Tuesday, February 3, 2009

The Face of Mormon Missionary Work: M. Russell Ballard's Role in the Inoculation and Inculcation of LDS Missionaries

Whenever the Church holds a press conference or gives an interview on missionary work the person they have turned to to make the announcement has been M. Russell Ballard. Since the death of Spencer W. Kimball during the last three decades the greatest inoculator and inculcator for LDS missionary work in my own opinion is M. Russell Ballard.

M. Russell Ballard has served for well over twenty-five years on the Executive Missionary Committee of the LDS Church and has been involved in missionary work directly for over thirty years. As a result of his service he has refined the daily missionary program from the forms used by the tens of thousands of LDS missionaries under three different missionary programs from the Rainbow Discussions to the Preach My Gospel manual used today. There is no official aspect of missionary work in the LDS Church that he hasn't been a decision-maker or made some kind of pronouncement on the topic.

When you think of LDS missionary work certain names come to mind like Wilford Woodruff, John Taylor, Brigham Young, J. Golden Kimball, B.H. Roberts, Joseph F. Smith, LeGrand Richards, Richard L. Evans, Spencer W. Kimball, and Ezra Taft Benson. All great men who have passed on. Today the single name that comes to mind when the words missionary work are said is M. Russell Ballard. The current generation of missionaries weren't even born when Spencer W. Kimball was alive and were babies when Ezra Taft Benson flooded the earth with the Book of Mormon. Even Gordon B. Hinckley will soon be forgotten.

Russell Ballard has outlived four church presidents and directed the missionary work through all of their administrative tenures on the Church's Executive Missionary Committee. He is the man behind the programs and discussions. There is no aspect of missionary work that he hasn't had some influence on due to his stewardship or his pronouncements on this committee. During thirty years or three decades Russ Ballard has participated in shaping missionary directives, goals, and programs at the doctrinal and program levels for leaders, members, and missionaries. He is one of the few apostles to even serve a full-time proselyting mission, been a mission president, served as a President of the Quorum of Seventy and headed the missionary committee as an apostle. Even though he only got up to his sophomore year at the University of Utah, if an advanced degree could be given out on the missionary topic then he should be given an honorary doctorate Dr. M. Russell Ballard.

Inoculation is usually defined as placing something in a person such as a vaccination but according to Wikipedia inoculation can also be defined as "the placement of something to where it will grow or reproduce . . .to safeguard as if by inoculation, to introduce an idea or attitude into someone's mind." Merriam Webster defines inoculation as "to introduce something into the mind of." The most quoted scripture is Moses 1:39 by all the general authorities of the LDS Church and the motivating factor for M. Russell Ballard which is "to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man." That is the driving cause behind his desire to preach and discuss missionary work.

The Free Dictionary defines inculcation as the process to "To impress (something) upon the mind of another by frequent instruction or repetition; instill." For more three decades Elder M. Russell Ballard has been keeping missionary work on the minds of the Latter-day Saints. He has refined his approach through practical application and constant study and research. He uses the pulpit and public settings to constantly reflect on the process and ways of improving it. I have visited him privately on a few occasions and attended mission reunions every minute is spent on discussing the work. It is his consuming passion and mission and one in which he is suited.

In my own personal life he has helped me develop my ideas about how to do missionary work. As my mission president in the Canada Toronto Mission he would address the missionaries by saying "Many of you don't have a testimony of missionary work or of the gospel but for now you can lean on my testimony until you get one of your own." He would give us instructions and tips for doing the work as he encouraged us to pray for a testimony of the work and the gospel. All of us gained a testimony of the importance of missionary work. He has influenced me to compile missionary books and post hundreds of items on the subject. I have posted at least a dozen posts on various Ballard-generated techniques from asking the Golden Questions to harvesting the Lord's way to the lacing together program to tracting by the Spirit. Most things I learned about missionary work I learned from M. Russell Ballard. At lot of the things from convert check lists to raising the bar have been evolving from his time as mission president. This blog is a tribute to his inculcating me. Most things I know about missionary work I learned at his feet.

Being the grandson of apostles on both sides of his family M. Russell Ballard traces his matriarchal line through Hyrum Mack Smith to Joseph F. Smith and finally to Hyrum Smith and on his patriarchal line to Melvin J. Ballard, one of the great mission presidents of the early twentieth century. He is a well-read student of his forebears and has modernized their approaches to missionary work. He has both grandfathers' pictures on their walls and all of their combined writings in bound leather in his possession. He follows in their footsteps in finding ways of spreading the gospel and bringing men and women to Christ. I can say that he is a credit to his family.

He expressed his gratitude to his grandfather in the April 1986 General Conference:

My brothers and sisters, it is difficult to express my feelings as I read of the early beginnings of missionary work in South America. I am deeply touched to realize that for nearly eight months my grandfather walked the streets of Buenos Aires giving out two hundred to five hundred handbills every day but Sunday, inviting the people to learn the message of the Restoration.

The work among the native Argentines was very difficult. Only one was baptized during the first eight months. On 4 July 1926, Grandfather said:

“The work of the Lord will grow slowly for a time here just as an oak grows slowly from an acorn. It will not shoot up in a day as does the sunflower that grows quickly and then dies. But thousands will join the Church here. It will be divided into more than one mission and will be one of the strongest in the Church. The work here is the smallest that it will ever be. The day will come when the Lamanites in this land will be given a chance. The South American Mission will be a power in the Church.” (Vernon Sharp diary, in Melvin J. Ballard, p. 84.)

Sixty years later, the Church in South America has 30 missions, with 5,140 full-time missionaries, of which approximately 60 percent are natives of South America. One hundred eighty-six stakes cover the land, with 2,148 wards and branches dotting the countryside. Approximately 776,000 members of the Church are an evidence of the fulfillment of the dedicatory prayer.

At the regional conference last month in Montevideo, President and Sister J. Thomas Fyans and I met with 3,350 Saints. President and Sister Helio R. Camargo and I met with more than 3,100 Saints in Bogota, Colombia, the following Sunday. The work is prospering in this part of the Lord’s vineyard.

The effective work of the General Authorities of the past and of those of today is evidenced in the faithful lives of the Saints. Thousands of missionaries have served with distinction. Dedicated men and women are leading the Church in their own countries in a magnificent way. It is a joy to see second- and third-generation members living worthy to be leaders in South America.

M. Russell Ballard during the past thirty years has been a charismatic leader who preaches with a fiery and dynamic presence. He looks like an apostle. When he was not even a general authority every one of us missionary boys knew that he would one day sit in the highest circle of the Church.

Most of us have experience with his forceful speaking style. When he can be seen poking his finger to emphasize a point when speaking from the pulpit at conference on missionary work. I can recall in a one-on-one setting his taking his finger and tapping you in the sternum as an attention getter as he stared in to your eyes and would say "Do you understand elder what I am saying." When his finger goes in to action that is his mental tool for inoculating the listener. He really takes it very seriously and really wants the listener to wake up and do some missionary work.

Russ Ballard exudes a presence like an Oral Roberts or a Billy Graham. He grabs your attention and tells you straight just how to go about doing missionary work. When he speaks he mesmerizes you and motivates you. He would wind us up as missionaries and we would go out and work hard for about four or five weeks of the six weeks between zone conferences. He does the same thing when speaking in general conference which is about six months to a year between his missionary messages. I am sure he still wishes that "I wish I had a magic wand that I could wave over you (the members) so you would wake up to your responsibility." The numbers which have been static actually support the need for inculcation. If he didn't constantly hammer the subject we would lose our momentum. I am concerned that there will be a vacuum when he dies unless David Bednar or some other apostle takes up the cause.

Russ is a great defender of the LDS faith and stumps the world delivering the message that Mormons are Christians. He recently represented the church with President Dieter F. Uchtdorf at Barack Obama's presidential inauguration. He is held in high regard by the First Presidency and his fellow members of the Quorum of the Twelve and can represent our message as a first-class messenger.

During the course of the last twenty-five years he has presented numerous talks with practical suggestions on how to do missionary work and ways to be better prepared as missionaries. Each year he speaks to the mission presidents' seminars and travels worldwide addressing missionaries and mission presidents. He continually addresses the members on the subject at general conferences and in his writings. He goes throughout the nation with Elder Quentin L. Cook and Elder Earl Tingey talking with media about the church answering their questions officially. He is over both missionary work and public affairs or media. Over the course of time in his assignments he has given literally hundreds if not thousands of addresses numbering thousands of pages of text on missionary subjects.

Let us trace his unfolding ideas on the subject that have inoculated us with the concept then inculcated us to reinforce the subject. In his case repetition has been the key to keep our attention focused on the subject.

In 1976 in his first address as a general authority he began the inoculation process by saying:

Based on my experience, I believe that if the Saints and missionaries are to build up the Church at the much faster rate that President Kimball has called for, we must all strive to prepare ourselves to become better gospel teachers. I often see the great joy that comes into the life of the new member of the Church when he is baptized. At each baptismal service I am reminded of the tremendous amount of individual preparation that is required by both member and missionary to bring about the conversion of one soul.

I have asked myself, “What can we as parents and leaders do to more effectively teach our youth how to defend the principles of righteousness?”

Better training and preparation seem to me to be the best answer. Realizing that I would need all the help I could get to give my first conference talk, I went to my wonderful missionaries and asked them to help me by answering a few questions about their pre-mission preparation. I think we may learn something from their answers.

My first question was, “What could you have done to better prepare yourself before your mission?”

My missionaries responded with comments like these: “I could have really read and studied the scriptures,” “paid more attention in seminary and other Church classes,” “learned how to pray and relate to the Lord,” “started much earlier to build my testimony.”

May I suggest to all of the youth of the Church that I believe you can come into the mission field loaded with knowledge about the eternal truths of the gospel—knowing for yourself that Jesus is the Christ, and that His church has been restored to the earth through a living prophet, and that the Book of Mormon is the word of God.

He has never stopped trying to give practical applications in how to do the work. People today still talk about his most pivotal talk involving members. In Write Down A Date in the October 1984 conference he called for members to actually do something more than think about missionary work:
I am aware that most members of the Church understand that they should take an active part in proclaiming the gospel. Some have been quite successful, but others have not yet tried. I believe that far too many Church members do not understand the underlying doctrine that governs our Heavenly Father’s work. . . .

May I suggest a simple way in which each one of us can exercise our faith and start our personal missionary service. Write down a date in the near future on which you will have someone ready to be taught the gospel. Do not worry that you do not have someone already in mind. Let the Lord help you as you pray diligently for guidance. Fast and pray, seeking guidance and direction from our Heavenly Father.

Many, if not all, of you will have special spiritual experiences as the Lord inspires you. I know from my own personal and family missionary experience that the Lord will enlighten your mind. He will sharpen your vision of this work by bringing names of nonmembers to your mind that you have never before regarded as potential members of the Church. As you continue, you will be blessed to know what you should say and how you should approach each person.

Brothers and sisters, you will notice that I did not suggest that you write down a name, but rather that you write down a specific date. The key to our success will be to ask for divine guidance that we might be directed to those who will accept the gospel. . . .

Please do not wait for anyone but the Lord to help you. He will help you. Our individual efforts can produce a great increase in building the kingdom of God. If just 30 percent of the active adult members of the Church would follow this simple procedure at least once each year, we would add 200,000 additional converts to those we are already baptizing. Compounded, this would mean in ten years an increase of at least 5.4 million more converts than we would have had at our present level of member effort. If 100 percent of the active adults would participate, we would soon start to see that every living soul can receive the message.

May God bless all of us that we will have the courage to commit ourselves to a specific date for having someone ready to hear the gospel message. Then may we proceed to call upon the Lord to guide our efforts so that thousands of our Heavenly Father’s children will receive the gospel of Jesus Christ. May we all look upon this not as a duty but rather as a great privilege.
In October 2000 conference Elder Ballard instructed leaders and members:

Bishops, for you to accomplish what the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve are asking, your ward council needs to capture this vision and work more closely together in doing God’s great work of bringing to pass the immortality and eternal life of all of His children. Imagine the power that would come if every member of the Church would reach out to help all members and investigators enjoy the companionship of the Spirit. Let all of us work harder to see that the presence of the Spirit is in all of our meetings to bring about deeper spiritual conversion. This will especially require ward councils to assist the bishoprics in improving reverence in our sacrament meetings and in better teaching of the gospel of Jesus Christ in all of our church meetings.

All of us should constantly think about the Savior giving His life for us. We must never forget that He suffered rejection, humiliation, unspeakable agony, and eventually death in order to save you and me and the whole world from sin. Can any one of us go before Him in some future day and say that we didn’t share the gospel with others and help others come to the missionaries because we were too busy or too shy, or for any other reason?

This is God’s work. He wants us to participate with Him and His Beloved Son in bringing the gospel into the lives of all of His children. The Lord has promised us that our joy will be great if we bring just one soul unto Him (see D&C 18:15–16). Let us exercise greater faith and work together, members and missionaries, to bring many more souls unto Him. Let every family in the Church include as part of their daily family prayers a plea with the Lord to go before your family members and help them to find someone prepared to receive the message of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ.

Now is the time for members of the Church to be more bold in reaching out to others, helping them to know the Church is true. Now is the time to sustain by our actions what President Gordon B. Hinckley is asking us to do.

In October 2002 conference he spoke directly to young men of the Aaronic Priesthood asking for their help in missionary work:
We need much more help. And so, as the people of Ammon looked to their sons for reinforcement in the war against the Lamanites, we look to you, my young brethren of the Aaronic Priesthood. We need you. Like Helaman’s 2,000 stripling warriors, you also are the spirit sons of God, and you too can be endowed with power to build up and defend His kingdom. We need you to make sacred covenants, just as they did. We need you to be meticulously obedient and faithful, just as they were.

What we need now is the greatest generation of missionaries in the history of the Church. We need worthy, qualified, spiritually energized missionaries who, like Helaman’s 2,000 stripling warriors, are “exceedingly valiant for courage, and also for strength and activity” and who are “true at all times in whatsoever thing they [are] entrusted” (Alma 53:20).

Listen to those words, my young brethren: valiant, courage, strength, active, true. We don’t need spiritually weak and semicommitted young men. We don’t need you to just fill a position; we need your whole heart and soul. We need vibrant, thinking, passionate missionaries who know how to listen to and respond to the whisperings of the Holy Spirit. This isn’t a time for spiritual weaklings. We cannot send you on a mission to be reactivated, reformed, or to receive a testimony. We just don’t have time for that. We need you to be filled with “faith, hope, charity and love, with an eye single to the glory of God” (D&C 4:5).

In 2003 April conference he gave three things members could do to be better member missionaries:

Viewed from that eternal perspective, what we are to do seems so simple and clear, but I know that member missionary work can be challenging and sometimes frightening. Please allow me to suggest three simple things that we can do to assist in this divinely commissioned responsibility.

First, we should exercise our faith and pray individually and as families, asking for help in finding ways to share the restored gospel of Jesus Christ. Ask the Lord to open the way. Prayerfully set a date with your family to have someone in your home for the missionaries to teach. Remember, brothers and sisters, this is the Lord’s Church. Let Him guide you through constant prayer. With a prayer in your heart, talk to everyone you can. Don’t prejudge. Don’t withhold the good news from anyone. Talk to everyone, and trust in the promised power of the Spirit to give you the words you should say. Let them make the decision to accept or reject your invitation. Over time, the Lord will put into your path those who are seeking the truth. He is the Good Shepherd. He knows His sheep, and they will know His voice, spoken through you, and they will follow Him (see John 10).

President Gordon B. Hinckley said, “It will be a great day when our people not only pray for the missionaries throughout the world, but ask the Lord to help them to assist the missionaries who are laboring in their own ward” (“Missionary Service,” First Worldwide Leadership Training Meeting, Jan. 2003, 19).

Second, leaders must lead by example. The Spirit will prompt and guide you in finding those interested in our message. Your personal worthiness will give you the courage and the spiritual power to inspire your members to actively help the missionaries.

Some years ago a faithful convert, Brother George McLaughlin, was called to preside over a small branch of 20 members in Farmingdale, Maine. He was a humble man, driving a milk delivery truck for a living. Through his fasting and earnest prayer, the Spirit taught him what he and the members of his branch needed to do to help the Church grow in their area. Through his great faith, constant prayer, and powerful example, he taught his members how to share the gospel. It’s a marvelous story, one of the great missionary stories of this dispensation. In just one year, there were 450 convert baptisms in the branch. The next year there were an additional 200 converts. President McLaughlin indicated: “My job as branch president was to teach [the new converts] how to be Mormons. I had to teach them how to give talks and lessons in church. I had to teach them how to teach the gospel to their children. I trained the new members to become strong members.” Pretty simple.

Just five years later, the Augusta Maine Stake was organized. Much of the leadership of that new stake came from those converts in the Farmingdale Branch. Now we might ask why there was such great success in those days, and the answer may be because of the urgent need to strengthen the Church. Let me assure you that that same urgency in all units of the Church is every bit as critical today as it was then.

The First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles have made it clear that missionary work is to be centered in the ward. Stake presidents and bishops have the responsibility and accountability to help members find the pure in heart and prepare them for baptism and for a life of service within their wards and stakes. President Hinckley has also said, “I would like to suggest that every bishop in the Church give as a motto to his people, ‘Let’s all work to grow the ward’ ” (“Find the Lambs, Feed the Sheep,” Ensign, May 1999, 106; Liahona, July 1999, 120).

One bishop in the state of Washington has prayerfully followed that counsel. This is what he is doing. Through priesthood and auxiliary leaders, the ward council coordinates missionary work in the ward. Missionaries are invited to ward council meetings to discuss their work. Members are assigned to attend investigator visits with the missionaries. Members and missionaries also visit less-active and part-member families together. Last year this ward baptized and confirmed 46 new members, and retention of those members is very high. Those who come into the Church or who return to activity in this ward already have friends because the priesthood and auxiliaries are involved in the conversion process by direction of the bishop through the ward council (see “Ward Council Is Secret of Centralia Ward Success,” Church News, 1 Feb. 2003, 5).

Bishops, engage the whole ward in proclaiming the gospel. You will see that the Lord will bless you and your members with many more converts and many more who will return to full activity. Missionary work should not only be on the ward council agendas but also on elders quorum; Relief Society; and other quorum, group, and auxiliary agendas. Emphasis should be placed on baptizing and retaining in activity fathers and mothers along with their children. Thus the missionary work of priesthood and auxiliary leaders should be coordinated by the ward mission leader and the bishop through the ward council. And by doing so, converts will be fully active members in their wards.

Right now, members have a special opportunity to share the gospel by using the Finding Faith in Christ DVD that was enclosed with your April 2003 Ensign magazine. Invite your neighbors and friends to spend an evening with you during the Easter season, sharing together the life, ministry, and glorious Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. It may also be appropriate to have the missionaries attend with you and teach how the Lord has restored His Church through the Prophet Joseph Smith.

Third, member missionary work does not require the development of strategies or gimmicks. It does require faith—real faith and trust in the Lord. It also requires genuine love. The first great commandment is to “love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. … The second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself” (Matt. 22:37, 39).

So let the power of love guide us in sharing the gospel with family members, friends, neighbors, business associates, and any other people we encounter as we go through life. Most everyone wants to enjoy peace and happiness. That is a natural human desire. People want to find answers to the problems they face. This is increasingly true in the world we now live in.

Professional advancement, increased income, bigger homes, or newer cars and recreational equipment do not bring lasting peace and happiness. Happiness comes from understanding God and knowing that He has a plan for our eternal joy and peace. Happiness comes from knowing and loving the Savior and living our lives in accordance with His teachings. Happiness comes from strong family and Church relationships based on gospel values.

Some members say, “I’m afraid to share the gospel because I might offend someone.” Experience has shown that people are not offended when the sharing is motivated by the spirit of love and concern. How could anyone be offended when we say something like this: “I love the way my church helps me” and then add whatever the Spirit directs. It’s when we appear only to be fulfilling an assignment and we fail to express real interest and love that we offend others. Don’t ever forget, brothers and sisters, that you and I have in our possession the very points of doctrine that will bring people to the Lord. The restored gospel of Jesus Christ has within it the power to bring deep and abiding happiness to the human soul—something that will be valued and cherished for the rest of time and for all eternity. We are not just trying to get people to join our Church; we are sharing with them the fulness of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ. But as powerful as our message is, it cannot be imposed or forced upon people. It can only be shared—heart to heart, soul to soul, spirit to spirit—by being good neighbors and by caring and showing love. We need to be watchful for one another and reach out to one another. And as we do so, we will radiate the gospel in our own lives, and it will radiate to the people the blessings the gospel has to offer.

Let us follow the admonition of the Prophet Joseph Smith, “After all that has been said, [our] greatest and most important duty is to preach the Gospel” (History of the Church, 2:478).

We can and we must do better, brothers and sisters. I pray that the Lord will grant to each one of us the faith and courage to increase our participation in supporting our full-time missionaries in sharing the restored gospel with all of God’s children throughout the world.
In October 2004 conference he said we should not only have a testimony of the work but we should share it with as many as we come in to contact with:

Members and missionaries in our day can have the experience of converting others by living our lives as best we can and being prepared “to stand as witnesses of God at all times and in all things, and in all places” (Mosiah 18:9). A friend recently told me about being on a 90-minute bus ride in Brazil. He felt impressed to go to the back of the bus to speak to the young people who had been serving as guides for his group of businessmen. An associate of his father followed him to the back of the bus and heard his testimony of the truthfulness of the restored gospel. This man later said, “When I heard your testimony, I had the distinct feeling go through my whole body that these things were true.” He and his wife will soon be baptized.

The missionaries are now preparing to teach the lessons, not as memorized dialogue or a rote presentation; but rather, they will outline gospel principles in an organized way, calling upon the Spirit to direct how they communicate gospel truth to investigators, spirit to spirit and heart to heart. Brothers and sisters, join together with the missionaries in sharing your precious testimony every day, witnessing at every opportunity the glorious message of the Restoration.
In April 2005 conference he asked leaders to call one more missionary from every ward and branch in the church:
Now we have a special request for you bishops and branch presidents. We are aware that you already know those who have cleared the bar and are preparing to accept mission calls during this year. What we are asking leaders in every unit to do is to counsel together with parents and pray to find at least one more young man, above those already committed, who can be called to serve. If the over 26,000 wards and branches in the Church will send all of those whom they are already planning to send into the mission field plus one more, the ranks of our full-time missionaries will swell and we will move much closer to our divine mandate to take the gospel to every nation, kindred, tongue, and people. Of course, these missionaries need to be worthy, faithful, healthy, and fully committed. Perhaps this one more may not be ready right now. So we ask parents and stake and ward council members to rely upon the discerning power of the Holy Spirit to know whom you can help to be ready for a call this year.
In the April 2006 conference he discussed how we could increase converts by creating a gospel-sharing home. He suggested if we really lived our religion people would want to know about it:

But quite frankly, what they need now is more people to teach. Experience has shown that the best teaching situations develop when our members participate in the finding and teaching process. This is nothing new—you’ve heard it before. Some of you may even feel guilty that you are not giving much help to the missionaries.

Today I invite you to relax and set aside your concerns and focus instead on your love for the Lord, your testimony of His eternal reality, and your gratitude for all He has done for you. If you are truly motivated by love and testimony and gratitude, you will quite naturally do all that you can to assist the Lord in “[bringing] to pass the immortality and eternal life” (Moses 1:39) of our Father’s children. In fact, it would be impossible to keep you from doing it.

The Savior Himself showed us the way when He invited His disciples to “come and see … where he dwelt, and [they] abode with him that day” (John 1:39). Why do you suppose He did that? The scriptural record does not explain His reasoning, but I am confident that it had nothing to do with comfort or convenience. As always, He was teaching. And what better way to teach His followers than to invite them to visit with Him so they could see and experience His magnificent message firsthand.

Similarly, our homes can be gospel-sharing homes as people we know and love come into our homes and experience the gospel firsthand in both word and action. We can share the gospel without holding a formal discussion. Our families can be our lesson, and the spirit that emanates from our homes can be our message.

Having a gospel-sharing home will not only be a blessing for those we bring into our homes but for those who live within it. By living in a gospel-sharing home, our testimonies become stronger and our understanding of the gospel improves. The Doctrine and Covenants teaches that we can be forgiven of our sins when we help someone else repent (see D&C 62:3). We find joy in helping others come unto Christ and feel the redemptive power of His love (see D&C 18:14–16). Our families are blessed as the testimonies and faith of both parents and children increase.

In gospel-sharing homes we pray for guidance for ourselves, and we pray for the physical and spiritual well-being of others. We pray for the people the missionaries are teaching, for our acquaintances, and for those not of our faith. In the gospel-sharing homes of Alma’s time, the people would “join in fasting and mighty prayer in behalf of the welfare of the souls of those who knew not God” (Alma 6:6).

Creating a gospel-sharing home is the easiest and most effective way that we can share the gospel with others.
In March 2007 in a special missionary edition of the New Era he counsels all young men and young women on how to be better missionaries:

Missionaries need to understand the doctrine, and they need to know how to share it. You can’t take water out of an empty bucket. When missionaries know the gospel and how to teach it, they don’t want to do anything else. They know they can teach anybody, anywhere, anytime, under any circumstances, using their own words accompanied by the power of the Spirit. They have self-confidence and inner strength. There’s great power in that kind of preparation.

For this reason, I encourage every young man and every young woman to get acquainted with Preach My Gospel. Young people have the obligation to enlighten themselves, to understand for themselves the doctrines of the Restoration. That preparation is every bit as important for a girl as it is for a boy. Whether the young woman gets married or serves a full-time mission, the gospel has to operate in her life.

Youth ought to get acquainted with what goes on in missionary work. They would find it helpful, if possible, to assist the missionaries and get a feel for the work.

In December 2007 at commencement at BYU-Hawaii he even suggests we use technology by posting blogs about missionary work and other gospel topics to inculcate others with our message:

There are conversations going on about the Church constantly. Those conversations will continue whether or not we choose to participate in them. But we cannot stand on the sidelines while others, including our critics, attempt to define what the Church teaches. While some conversations have audiences in the thousands or even millions, most are much, much smaller. But all conversations have an impact on those who participate in them. Perceptions of the Church are established one conversation at a time.

The challenge is that there are too many people participating in conversations about the Church for our Church personnel to converse with and respond to individually. We cannot answer every question, satisfy every inquiry, and respond to every inaccuracy that exists. We need to remember that there is a difference between interest and mere curiosity. Sometimes people just want to know what the Church is. And some who seek answers want them to come directly from a member of the Church. They appreciate one-on-one conversation.

All of you know that members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are reminded and encouraged continually to share the gospel with others. The Church is always looking for the most effective ways to declare its message. Preaching the gospel of the Restoration has always been special to me. I loved being a missionary in England. I loved being a mission president in Canada. And I love my present calling, which allows me opportunities to share the message of the Restoration of the gospel to the world and to testify that God the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ, appeared to the Prophet Joseph Smith in 1820. Through Joseph, the gospel that Jesus established in New Testament times was brought back. It had been lost with the deaths of the Apostles of old. I can share with the world the knowledge that priesthood authority, the doctrine, and the ordinances of the New Testament Church are once again on the earth. This is the most important work that we can participate in.

In January 2008 Elder Ballard spoke of the value of serving a mission:

“Generally, young people who come back from their missions have changed in many significant ways,” says Elder M. Russell Ballard, one of the Church’s Twelve Apostles.

“They have spent up to two years helping others, thinking outside of themselves, studying scripture, learning a new language in many cases, finding out about new cultures and having experiences that make them more responsible, more caring and thoughtful human beings.”

He also believes that missionary experience focuses and enhances the way a person approaches life’s challenges and opportunities.

"Perhaps the most important education a young person can get is in the mission field. They learn to present themselves and to speak and relate to others. When they go home they take these and other skills and attributes with them, which help them move forward in their careers, their personal and family relationships and in their service in the Church and the community."

There are currently some 53,000 full-time missionaries serving in over 150 countries. That means that around 25,000 missionaries return to their homes each year, where they learn to serve in various positions in their congregations, often becoming teachers and leaders.

"Missionary service across our Church leads to a highly religiously educated membership, and forms the backbone of future volunteer Church leadership and service at every level," Elder Ballard said.

On the 25th June 2008 Elder Ballard stood in front of a statue of Samuel Smith at the Missionary Training Center in Provo, Utah to represent the Church and announce the calling of the one millionth LDS missionary. It is interesting that President Monson chose him to make the presentation:

“It is not possible to pinpoint exactly who the millionth missionary is,” said Elder M. Russell Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles during a news conference while at the Missionary Training Center for orientation sessions with 118 new mission presidents today. “We do know that young men and women, senior sisters and couples have volunteered to serve at their own or family expense in spreading this message to 145 nations and territories.”

Emphasizing the importance of understanding the mosaic of missionaries this milestone represents, Elder Ballard spoke of the unique traits that make each of these million missionaries special.

“A young Peruvian sister grilled hamburgers at a street cart to finance her mission in her home country,” he said. “A young elder from India served in Toronto, Canada, and a retired couple left children and grandchildren to help dig clean water wells in West Africa. Missionaries serve where they are assigned, not knowing beforehand where in the world that may be.”

In fact, the work these volunteer missionaries perform is as diverse as the missionaries themselves. On any given day missionaries are working on everything from humanitarian projects and helping others trace their genealogy in family history centers to public affairs efforts and teaching the restored gospel of Jesus Christ.

“From personal experience I can tell you that they study, they pray, they worry intensely about each child of God and especially the souls of those they are able to teach,” said Elder Ballard. “They face rejection and sometimes verbal abuse. But they soldier on. They serve, they help others and they go the extra mile to lift and bless people in all walks of life and in all human conditions.”

At today’s press conference, Elder Ballard stood among missionaries he said exemplified the missionary spirit. They included a native African couple from Kenya called to preside over a mission in Nigeria; a pair of young sister missionaries, one from South Korea and one from Mexico, serving on Temple Square in downtown Salt Lake City; a senior couple from Utah serving a humanitarian mission that takes them all over the world helping to provide clean water to many communities; and a pair of young men, one from Brazil and one from Idaho, who just entered the Missionary Training Center in preparation to serve in Japan.

In July 2008 at the BYU Management Society meeting in Washington D. C. he expanded his support for the new media by giving specific suggestions on how to use the New Media to preach to others:

So let me pose a question. What are you prepared to do about it? If you are a member of the Church, what is your responsibility during this period of unusual attention and debate?Interest has continued at a high level and probably will for some time. If a national conversation is going on about the Church, are you going to be an active participant or a silent observer?

Church leaders must not be reluctant to participate in public discussion. Where appropriate, we will engage with the media whether it’s the traditional, mainstream media or the new media of the Internet. But Church leaders can’t do it all, especially at the grass-roots, community level. While we do speak authoritatively for the Church, we look to our responsible and faithful members to engage personally with blogs, to write thoughtful, online letters to news organizations, and to act in other ways to correct the record with their own opinions.

Ralph Mecham served in the British Mission when I did and is here tonight. Last December he sent a wonderful six-page response to the inflammatory falsehoods spewed by Lawrence O'Donnell on the December 9th McLaughlin Group telecast. In clear and precise terms, Ralph, who recently retired as Director of the Administrative Office of the United States Courts, refuted each false statement and then concluded: "Such bigotry and bias ill-becomes a would-be journalist . . . who makes false charges without doing any research."

However, I emphasize that it is not always about correcting misinformation. Sometimes it is about getting solid information and ideas out there in the first place. Share your experiences – those from your own life – that show how your values and your faith intersect. It doesn’t matter whether that’s face to face with another person, or whether you do it by participating from your own blog or contributing to someone else’s blog. The most important thing is that you let people know that you are a Latter-day Saint, and that your behavior and attitude always reflect the high standards of the Church and what is expected as a follower of the Lord Jesus Christ. Of course, you will be speaking as an individual member and not as an official representative of the Church.

Clearly, in this context I am not talking about declaring your testimony of faith in the traditional sense. Naturally, you can and should do that where the setting is appropriate and the audience is receptive, such as a church meeting. Rather, I am talking about taking part in everyday conversations in an unforced way, where your values and your religious beliefs will arise naturally. No one likes to have religion thrust down their throats. Instead, allow people to see how your beliefs lift and shape your life for the better. How does the gospel help you as a parent engage with your teens? How do your values encourage you to participate in civic affairs? How has your experience as a home or visiting teacher enlarged your compassion or care for the sick and needy? How has your Church life helped you to avoid such things as pornography and immorality? How have family councils or home evenings helped you resolve differences of opinion with members of your family? How has your experience in speaking in church helped you address large public groups? Where did you learn to respect and not to criticize other faiths? And so on.

In many of these conversations, you will be sharing common ground with people who will relate to your values. And as people sense that common ground, your relationship with them and their respect for you and for your faith will be enhanced. Even people who may disagree with you philosophically will often accept you more readily for your candid, honest and open observations about how your faith impacts your life. I have a great belief in the basic fairness of most all people. They respect honesty, not timidity. They relate to sincerity, not to pretended piety.

In his October 2008 conference talk he summarized the Church's success in missionary work that has taken place since President Kimball's time until the present day and in which he has been involved in the background:

President Spencer W. Kimball asked members of the Church to lengthen their stride in spreading the gospel and sharing gospel truth. He asked every stake in the world to increase the number of missionaries, and he led the Church into using media to help convey our message to hundreds of millions of people throughout the earth.

During his 12 years as President of the Church, nearly 200,000 missionaries served full-time missions. Worldwide Church membership almost doubled, and the number of stakes nearly tripled. Missionary work was opened or reopened in many countries, and the miracle of conversion was happening in many lands despite every adversarial attempt to thwart the Lord’s work or discourage the Lord’s workers.

A little more than two decades have passed since the end of President Kimball’s mortal ministry. During that period of time we have experienced unprecedented prominence in the worldwide community of faith. Probably not coincidentally, we have also experienced unprecedented ideological attacks on our people, our history, and our doctrine through the media.

And yet the Church continues to grow. Membership has more than doubled again—from 5.9 million in 1985 to more than 13 million today. And last year the one millionth missionary to serve during this dispensation was called.

Now, my brothers and sisters, my purpose in this brief review of Joseph’s prophetic vision of the destiny of this Church and its literal fulfillment through the decades is to remind us of this simple truth:

“The works, and the designs, and the purposes of God cannot be frustrated, neither can they come to naught.

“For God doth not walk in crooked paths, … neither doth he vary from that which he hath said, therefore his paths are straight, and his course is one eternal round.

“Remember … that it is not the work of God that is frustrated, but the work of men” (D&C 3:1–3).

God has spoken through His prophet and announced to the world that “the Standard of Truth has been erected” and that “no unhallowed hand can stop the work from progressing.” That is undeniably and indisputably true. We have seen it for ourselves, in decade after decade, from the time of the Prophet Joseph Smith to the time of President Thomas S. Monson. Persecutions have raged. Calumny and lies and misrepresentation have attempted to defame. But in every decade from the time of the Restoration forward, the truth of God has gone “forth boldly, nobly, and independent.” The little Church that started in 1830 with just a handful of members has now grown to more than 13 million Latter-day Saints in many different nations around the world, and we are well on our way to penetrating every continent, visiting every clime, sweeping every country, and sounding in every ear.

I don't know who will take up the cause when he is gone in a few years but for now the most prolific inoculator and inculcator of Mormon missionary work is without a doubt M. Russell Ballard. Not everyone likes his forceful direct style but just about everyone of us that served under him love the man. I would rather have a straight shooter like Russ Ballard. I always think of Revelation 3:15 about being hot or cold. Russ Ballard is one hot dude when it comes to missionary work. His enthusiasm either causes you to act or react. He has influenced a generation of members more than any other apostle or prophet since Spencer W. Kimball.


Anonymous said...

desejo lhe fazer uma pergunta de curiosidade particular, o acaso você está no Brasil e esteve na cidade de João Pessoa PB, em missão?

Anonymous said...

se puder responder, serei grata
my e-mail dhaycaminha@hotmail.com

desculpe o transtorno!