Doctrine & Covenants/Church History
Lesson 41
“Every Member a Missionary”


Lesson Highlights

A study of this lesson inspire us to participate in taking the gospel to all the world and to strengthen new converts.

Scripture references for study:  D&C 1:4–5, 30; 65; 88:81; 109:72–74; Our Heritage, pages 116–17, 124–25.
    Note: Underlined scripture references have been hyperlinked to the LDS Scriptures at LDS.org and will open in a new window.

Lesson 41 Handout (PDF)


Out of Obscurity

I was approaching the end of my two years as a missionary early in the spring of 1973. We had been out doing missionary work with one of the members of the ward in Manhattan, Kansas. We had stopped for a bite to eat before heading back to our apartment for the evening. Our discussion centered around missionary work and how it was expanding throughout the world. In my youthful enthusiasm I expressed to this local member how the work seemed to be at a point where the growth of the Church was about to explode. Being a few years older than myself and having more perspective than I, this good brother explained that the growth of new converts has always been remarkable. In fact, we were both correct. From the earliest days of the Church, to 1973, to the present, the Church has continued to grow at a remarkable pace. Should this be a surprise?

In 1992, U.S. News & World Report published an article about the Church. The editors wrote:  "Today the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints . . . is one of the the world's . . . fastest-growing religious movements. Since World War II, its ranks have quadrupled to more than 8.3 million members worldwide. With 4.5 million U.S. members, Mormons already outnumber Presbyterians and Episcopalians combined. If current trends hold, by some estimates they will number 250 million worldwide by 2080 and surpass all but the Roman Catholic Church among Christian bodies. With such strong sustained growth, says Rodney Stark, professor of sociology and religion at the University of Washington, Mormonism 'stands on the threshold of becoming the first major faith to appear on Earth since the prophet Muhammed rode out of the desert." (U.S. News & World Report, Sep 28 1992)

It is exciting to see this kind of reporting from the mainstream media. Newsweek did a similar article in 2001. The growth of the Church should not be a surprise to the student of the scriptures.

I suspect that when the boy Joseph walked out of the Sacred Grove in 1820 he had no idea of the floodgates that were about to open. Over time, he began to catch the vision. A few weeks prior to his death, the Prophet stated:  "I calculate to be one of the instruments of setting up the kingdom of Daniel by the word of the Lord, and I intend to lay a foundation that will revolutionize the whole world" (HC, 6:365). Through the Prophet Joseph Smith, the Lord initiated this great work that has now expanded to a significant portion of the world.

We live in an age when we measure things by numbers. We turn on the news to learn about the growth of the stock market. We check the Internet for the latest statistics on a favorite sports team. We are amazed when the figures come out each year and we learn about the wealth of the richest people in the world. As members of the Church, we are excited to see figures on the annual growth of the Church. We stand in awe when we realize that at present more converts are baptized into the Church in one year than the total Church membership after 80 years of missionary work.


The Call To Missionary Work

In December 1832, the Lord gave the Prophet Joseph Smith this commandment: "It becometh every man who hath been warned to warn his neighbor." (D&C 88:81)

The call for missionaries began shortly after the organization of the Church in 1830. In June 1830, the Prophet's brother, Samuel Smith was set apart to take a missionary journey east. He took with him several copies of the Book of Mormon and began to share its message. He returned home discouraged, thinking that he had not been successful. However, he left a Book of Mormon with a Methodist minister by the name of John P. Greene. He had also sold a copy of the book to Phineas Howe Young. These two books were read by members of the Young and Kimball families.

Every prophet in this dispensation has continued to emphasize the missionary work begun by Joseph Smith.  Consider the statements from several of the prophets:

The missionary work has spread throughout the world in a remarkable way. Though early missionary work was confined to the United States and Canada, it quickly spread overseas when Heber C. Kimball was called to preside over the British Mission in 1837. From that time on, the work has continued to spread throughout the world.

In April 1971, I received a letter signed by President Joseph Fielding Smith. In part, it said:  "You are hereby called to be a missionary of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to labor in the Oklahoma Mission." What an exciting thing to be called by a prophet of God to preach the everlasting gospel, just as Samuel Smith, Parley Pratt, Heber Kimball, Wilford Woodruff, and others. The receipt of this letter began for me a remarkable two year journey of sharing the gospel with the good people of Oklahoma, Missouri, and Kansas. Nothing can compare with that experience. How blessed I have felt when I have had subsequent communication with those whom I had the privilege of teaching the gospel and to learn of the blessings that have come into their lives.


Every Member A Missionary

In 1923, Elder David O. McKay was called to preach over the European Mission. While there he encouraged the European Saints to share the gospel with their neighbors and used the motto, "Every Member A Missionary."  That motto became a part of President McKay's teachings while serving as President of the Church. As noted in the above quotations by latter-day prophets, all those who have received the gospel have a responsibility to share the gospel. President McKay's slogan sums it up perfectly.

WHAT CAN WE DO AS MEMBERS TO BE INVOLVED IN THE GREAT MISSIONARY WORK?


Nurturing New Converts

As a missionary, I quickly learned that the missionaries cannot be the instruments for nurturing new converts. Missionaries are frequently transferred to new areas and eventually return home. There are those that I had the opportunity to teach and baptize from which I have never heard. I often wonder how many are still active. It is the responsibility of the local ward and branch membership to put their arms around these new converts and make them a part of the Church family.

I recall sitting in our stake center in April 1997, at the General Priesthood Session, listening to President Hinckley speak with great passion about our responsibilities in working with new members of the Church. It was one of those times when the spirit whispered to me that this was indeed a prophet of God and that this was an important message. President Hinckley:

This responsibility is part of our missionary responsibility. The reason for doing missionary work is to bring individuals back to our Heavenly Father. What good is that effort if we are only adding numbers to the roll? Missionary work does not stop at baptism. Maybe it never stops. We need to continue the effort of teaching and fellowshiping with every new convert until they are firmly rooted in the soil of testimony.

WHAT SPECIFIC THINGS CAN WE DO TO NURTURE NEW CONVERTS?


Gospel Doctrine Notebook

Record your thoughts on missionary service. What is your role in this great work? How can you contribute in a more significant way?


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