The Marysville Stake of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has the challenge to provide a minimum of twenty missionary discussions a week. With the I’m a Mormon campaign under way, the political spotlight about Mitt Romney and the discussion of Mormonism, one is compelled to ask – how can this be accomplished amidst so much animosity toward the Restored Gospel? This question definitely has a unique answer within the teachings, scriptures, and experience from the past. It is the hope, therefore, that we can bring about a revitalization of our own faith in the Restored Gospel of Jesus Christ. In addition, allow ourselves to become obedient servants of our Heavenly Father in reaching out with love and compassion to those of our community who are seeking to make sense of the storm we are seeing at the doorstep.
Sending of the seventy disciples
When Jesus Christ began his mortal ministry, one of the things that the New Testament mentions is the calling and sending out of the seventy disciples. Every student of the New Testament is familiar with the calling, discipleship, and interactions of Jesus and his twelve disciples. We know of Peter’s confident confession of faith, Judas of Iscariot’s betrayal, and the disciple who doubted the accounts of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Yet, many are unfamiliar with the calling and commission of the seventy disciples. We do not know who they were, but we know that Christ called for them to go out and preach.
The seventy disciples possessed the same authority that Christ had given the twelve disciples. This authority is the ability to preach the gospel, call men to repentance, to prepare the way for the coming of the Lord, and to become laborers in the field of harvest. The difference between the two sets of disciples is that the twelve were not to go into the Gentile cities or to the Samaritans. However, the seventy had the commission to go into all of the townships (See Luke 10 and Matthew 10:1, 16-17).
These seventy were heralds of salvation. They, like John the Baptist, proclaimed that the Kingdom of Heaven is now at hand. They were to preach that the Messiah has come in the flesh and to call all men to come unto Christ. Today, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has the foundation of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles, the First Quorum of the Seventy and the Second Quorum of the Seventy. While there is a question of whether there were two sets of seventy disciples or not, the importance here is the attention to what Christ commissioned them to do, what they were to preach, and in what manner they were to preach.
Today, the LDS Church has an army of full-time missionaries that have devoted two years of their lives to preaching the gospel to those who are hungering and thirsting. Yet, it is not just the full-time missionary’s job to go out and find the lost sheep of our Heavenly Father. We, as members of the Restored Gospel, have a duty and obligation to go out, minister to the needs of our fellow neighbors, and preach the gospel as well. In essence, we are just as called to serve as the full time missionaries our. We have a different calling and task.
Amidst ravenous wolves and tares
Upon calling the twelve and the seventy, Christ declares that he sends them out amidst the wolves. Christ also has used certain parables that reflect gardening principles and techniques. One such parable mentions that the tares will grow alongside the wheat until the designated time where the tares will be harvested first and prepared for condemnation while the wheat will be harvested and prepared for heavenly glory. Thinking upon these to analogies, ravenous wolves and the Tares, the truth is that we find ourselves amidst ridicule, mockery, and scorn. We should never shrink from our duty to present the gospel of Jesus Christ. Accepting and understanding the reality that our faith, our testimony, and the message we have to present is not going to be welcomed by those who are hard hearted and stiff-necked should not deter us from fulfilling our duty and obligation, it simply means that we pray from them as Christ has instructed us to.
Those who have served their missions know that missionary’s do face scorn, mockery, and ridicule throughout their laboring in the vineyard. Yet, they continue with faithful devotion to the work that they have been called to perform and do. Thus, since we know this occurs, why do we then murmur and complain that it is a hard thing to for us to accomplish? Do we not know and understand that when our Heavenly Father gives a commandment, that he is faithful and just in providing a way and means for us to fulfill that commandment? (1 Nephi 3:7)
We also know that Lehi’s dream of the Tree of Life has a large and spacious building where people gravitate to and find solace. This spacious building is the representation of the pride of the world and those who inhabit this place point out toward those who are making their way along the strait and narrow path, holding to the iron rod of truth with mocking gestures. The cause of this scorn and mockery brings shame and guilt and many let go and wander off into the mists of darkness (See 1 Nephi 8 and 1 Nephi 11).
Revitalizing our faith is the key
1. Become a person of prayer and supplication
Understanding that we are commissioned to preach the gospel and to share with our neighbors, family, and friends the message and hope of the Restored Gospel, we come to the crossroads of truth. This crossroads is the reality that many of us are stagnant in our faith. We go through the motions of being members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, but when it comes to actually obeying our Heavenly Father, we sometimes find it difficult to follow through. We are the Laman and Lemuels that murmur how hard and difficult such compliance would become in our lives. We become like the rich young ruler who hangs his head and slowly walks away. Our excuse is wrapped up in fear. However, the severity is that there are conversations going on about the Church, the history of the Church, the early leaders of the Church, and the leaders of the Church today. Whether or not we participate in these discussions, they are occurring and are occurring more frequently and fervently. Either we remain silent and let the detractors and enemies of our faith teach those around us to fear us, suspect our teachings, or make a mockery of the message we have to present, or we bring ourselves to the point of realizing that we need a personal day of Pentecost. Alternatively, there is a need to bring about a revitalization of our faith. This revitalization of our faith begins with prayer. Prayer for our families, prayer for our neighbors, prayer for our ward, prayer for our community is the first key in unlocking a revitalization of faith.
Charles Haddon Spurgeon, in a sermon he preached on April 20, 1873, had this to say:
The first cry of the people mentioned in our text (Zechariah 8:21) was, “Let us go speedily to pray before the Lord.” It is no statement of mine, suggested by unreasonable zeal, but it is the result of long-continued observation when I assert that the condition of a Church may be very accurately gauged by its Prayer Meetings. If the spirit of prayer is not with the people, the minister may preach like an angel, but he cannot expect success. If there is not the spirit of prayer in a Church there may be wealth, there may be talent, there may be a measure of effort, there may be an extensive machinery, but the Lord is not there. It is a sure evidence of the Presence of God that men pray as the rising of the thermometer is an evidence of the increase of the temperature.
Spurgeon further continues with this:
As the Nileometer measures the rising of the water in the Nile, and so foretells the amount of harvest in Egypt, so is the Prayer Meeting a “Graceometer,” that from it we may judge of the amount of Divine working among a people. If God is near a Church it must pray.
Bruce R. McConkie taught this:
There are three basic and fundamental reasons why we pray: 1) we are commanded to do so, 2) temporal and spiritual blessings follow proper prayer, and 3) Prayer is essential to salvation.
McConkie also taught that our prayers are neither selfish nor self-centered. We seek the spiritual well-being of all men. This is true when it comes to sharing the Restored Gospel of Jesus Christ in our community, and work alongside with the Full-time missionaries and meeting the command to provide twenty discussions a week.
The opening pages of the Book of Mormon have Nephi describing the events that had transpired and what had occurred. Recounting these events, Nephi shares insight that his father, Lehi, went forth and prayed unto the Lord, ye even with all his heart, in behalf of his people. Nephi, himself, sought to understand what his father taught and went before the Lord in prayer:
I, Nephi, being exceedingly young … and having great desires to know of the mysteries of God, wherefore, I did cry unto the Lord’ and behold he did visit me, and did soften my heart that I did believe all the words which had been spoken by my father … (1 Nephi 2:16).
We also read that the prayers of the faithful will be heard by our Heavenly Father (See 2 Nephi 26:15)
Thus, prayer is the foundational principle in revitalizing our faith in Heavenly Father and a means by which our testimony of Jesus Christ can be strengthened. As we strengthen ourselves through prayer, we will become mighty and bold, as we stand firm and confident in our witness of the Restored Gospel of Jesus Christ and the Atonement of Jesus Christ.
2. Become a living sacrifice
The second key point into revitalization our faith, and how it affects the manner and means by which we can stand as witnesses for Jesus Christ, is not so much of what we say about the Gospel of Jesus Christ, but in the manner in which we live out the gospel of Jesus Christ. In another way of saying, this is that it is not what we say about the Gospel and how we testify of Christ that matters, but how we allow the gospel of Jesus Christ to influence and bear fruit in our lives.
The Apostle Paul moves from a doctrinal excursion in the Roman epistle to that of Christian duty and obligation. Romans chapter twelve opens up with a very profound understanding of what a true Christian and disciple of Christ manifests in their lives.
I beseech you therefore brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And not be conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God (Romans 12:1-2).
The Psalmist records that when we meditate upon the Law of the Lord we are like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper (Psalm 1:1-3).
In the Old Testament, the children of Israel had to bring forth specific animals for different types of sacrifices. These sacrifices were presented to the High Priests so that those priests could perform the necessary sacrifices and absolve the individual of transgression. Each year, the nation would gather and one sacrifice would be made on behalf of all the people, absolving the entire nation of their sin. This required preparation, faithful duty to detail of how to properly conduct the ceremony, and the High Priest going into the Holy of Holies and presenting that most acceptable form of sacrifice. Today, we do not sacrifice animals for absolution of our transgressions, nor to make peace with our fellow neighbor. Yet, we are still compelled to make the necessary sacrifices to seek out forgiveness, service, and charity.
The restored Gospel of Jesus Christ is about service. How we esteem our families and fellow neighbors in light of the revealed truth that we all are sons and daughters of a loving Heavenly Father. Husbands serve to oversee their respective families and homes, while Mothers assist in the nurturing and care of the children. Local leaders assist in guiding members of the Church into understanding and applying the principle truths of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Twice a year, we gather to hear the Prophet and Apostles speak to us about those things that Heavenly Father would like us to hear and understand – principles that we ought to apply into our own lives.
Following the principle truths of the Restored Gospel produces the desired fruit that appeals to those who are searching for answers in their own trials and storms. In essence, we become a light that illuminates for all to see (See Matthew 5:14-15) and a guiding light for those who are seeking to navigate the jagged rocks of despair. While we may not have it all together, we allow ourselves to be used by Heavenly Father in reaching out to the lost and broken hearted of our community.
Through a sad experience, when people do not show the love of Christ, or become prejudicial in how they will serve and whom they will serve, it is not what they say that brings the sting of offense, but it is the very actions that communicate to the person they are not worth your time or consideration. When we look at the ministry of Christ, he not once turned people away. Those who were turned away from Christ were those who took offense to what he taught, took offense to what he said in response to their questions, and took offense to the things he laid claims to. The only time we ought to become an offense to another person is by answering the question – why are you so happy and pleasant? What is it that you have that I do not have? And when you answer that question humbly and honestly by sharing with them how you are blessed as a child of a Loving Heavenly Father and that you live out the principles of the Gospel as taught that they take offense to what your response is, it is because they are not in a position to understand the hope and faith that lies within you.
Therefore, the best way to become a living sacrifice that is acceptable to our Heavenly Father is to walk in humble obedience to those things he has commanded us to observe. When we do this, we are not only sowing for a bountiful harvest, receive blessings from on high, but we also are becoming a light unto those who are seeking for answers in their own lives. Yes, we are living in chaotic and volatile times, and when our actions communicate something differently than our wagging tongues, we must be mindful of that fact or reality and how offensive it is to others. Let us not cause an offense, but allow our actions match our testimony of the Atonement of Christ and the reality of the Restored Gospel.
3. Speak words of truth in love and conviction
The final thought on how we can bring about a fulfillment of having twenty missionary discussions, and maybe even more, for our full time missionaries is by speaking words of truth in love and conviction when we are about our daily duties. Reflecting upon 1 Nephi 2:13-15, the article when we speak with power and conviction, the opening paragraph shares this:
In our society today, many people take offense when someone stands and bears their testimony. Those who do bear their testimony, shrink at the offensiveness against what they hold to be true. Whether there exists disbelief within our own homes and families, or disbelief among those we interact with on a day-to-day basis, we need to understand that as long as we are rooted on the Restored Gospel of Jesus Christ, we have the ability to stand and speak with great power and conviction. Even when such conviction and testimony is not well liked, welcomed, or received.
According to Nephi, his father Lehi spoke with power, being filled with the Spirit, in a manner that caused his elder brothers frame to shake before their father. The first thing that came to mind on this is those times when my own father spoke to me in a manner that was authoritative, firm, and rather quite intimidating. Frames did shake reminded me, and some may related to this, of the resulting fear of discipline, the realization that the wrong course of action was taken, or the wrong words were used. There was no back talking when one found oneself in trouble and under the verbal lashing of a fathers tongue.
However, unlike the manner and language that stemmed from sheer frustration and anger, there is truth in how we, as Latter-day Saint Christians, can speak to our family, friends, and neighbors. This does not mean to speak in a manner that is condescending, but it means we ought to speak in truth and love with such conviction that sometimes the Holy Spirit confounds those who would otherwise speak ill will of our faith and make a mockery of our testimony.
Again, turning to the example of our Savior, when the religious leaders came to challenge Christ’s teaching, attempt to trap him with words of sophistry and philosophy, Christ recognized what they were, the intentions of their hearts, and the motives behind their questions. In doing so, Christ sometimes spoke in a manner that confounded them. Truth tends to do that.
In dealing with Anti-Mormon’s and Apostate members of the Restored Gospel, it is not so much of what I had said, but the truth and facts presented to counter their arguments that bring about a reaction of personal attacks and arrogant statements rather than cause a moment of reflection (you know, the A-Ha moment). Not that what I said convinced and convicted them, but the manner and truth in which the Holy Spirit uses to pierce through event the hardest of hearts and darkest of souls.
When we speak in truth and love, we do not compromise our testimony. We enhance it with why and how. It allows us to answer the question, even when the questioner is not truly seeking for an honest answer to their criticism. It also shows that we are not willing to back down amidst a storm of criticism. Nephi himself endured ridicule, mockery, and even physical abuse from his brothers. He constantly reminded them about the dealings and blessings they received from the Lord, and he even reminded them that in order to understand the things of God, they ought to ask God in prayer.
Today, we may have to deal with the Laman and Lemuel’s of the world, constantly reminding them that the Restored Gospel does bring peace into the hearts and lives of men. That we truly do testify of the reality and validity of the mission of Jesus Christ and the atonement provisioned to bring about the immortality and eternal life of mankind (Moses 1:39). We may even find ourselves engaged in a conversation with a Zeezrom of the world when our faith and doctrines are being misrepresented (Alma 11:21-46)
Let us not shrink from the responsibility to work in the vineyard of the Lord. As we have been counseled to open up discussions about the Restored Gospel of Jesus Christ in these last days, as the I’m a Mormon campaign is underway, let us remember the example of our Savior. We are called to work with him in sharing the Gospel message that brings to pass the immortality and eternal life of those who are broken, lost, hurting, and hungering. Like the seventy that Christ had called and empowered to prepare the cities and towns to receive him, we are also called to go out into our community and prepare our community for the coming of the Lord. Knowing that we are amidst ravenous wolves and suffocating tares, we still have the power and authority to call all men unto repentance and to bring all men unto Christ.
Through fervent prayer and supplication, we can revitalize our own faith, and learn to live by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God (Matthew 4:4) so that we can become a living sacrifice by the transforming and renewing of our mind on the laws of God. Through our example, through our testimony, and through our willingness to stand and speak with great power and conviction, we have the capacity to impact our community and work in the vineyard where the harvest becomes an abundance when the prodigals and spiritual slaves who are held in captivity come out of Egypt and journey to the land of promise. Let us, therefore, be that light which sits on a hill, drawing all men unto us, because that Light that is within us is the light of Christ that lights every man, woman, and child that comes into the world (John 1: 9).
NOTE: If you would like to know more about the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, please visit the official website about the basic teachings on the Mormon Faith. There, you can find out the basic tenets of what we believe, and read profiles of how Latter-day Saints live out their faith.