“Lesson 1: The Missionary Purpose,” Missionary Preparation Teacher Manual (2014)
“Lesson 1,” Missionary Preparation
Preach My Gospel teaches that a missionary’s purpose is to “invite others to come unto Christ by helping them receive the restored gospel through faith in Jesus Christ and His Atonement, repentance, baptism, receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost, and enduring to the end” (Preach My Gospel, 1). Elder Neil L. Andersen of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles said, “Your mission will be a sacred opportunity to bring others to Christ and help prepare for the Second Coming of the Savior” (“Preparing the World for the Second Coming,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2011, 50). This course can help prepare your students to participate in the sacred opportunity of missionary work.
Ask students to identify activities and tasks that missionaries regularly perform, and list them on the board. (Responses might include tracting, studying, teaching, praying, and serving.)
Invite a student to read the text in the “Your Purpose” box on page 1 of Preach My Gospel. (Since this is the first class meeting, many students may not have a copy of Preach My Gospel with them, so you may need to distribute photocopies of this and other relevant pages.)
Next, invite students to compare the missionary purpose statement with the list of tasks on the board, and ask:
How does understanding the missionary purpose statement broaden your understanding of what missionaries do? How does this purpose give meaning to the tasks missionaries perform?
Which parts of this purpose statement identify the responsibility of the missionary, and which parts identify the responsibility of the investigator?
How might making this purpose statement the guiding principle in your work make you a more effective missionary? (The purpose statement gives direction to the work a missionary does. It helps missionaries focus less on performing tasks and more on fulfilling their true purpose.)
To help class members better understand the purpose of missionary work, invite them to turn to page 2 of Preach My Gospel, and then ask a student to read aloud the final paragraph, beginning with “You are called.”
As a class, discuss the following questions:
According to this paragraph, what must a person do to come to the Savior?
According to this paragraph, what does a missionary do to help others come unto Jesus Christ?
Provide each student with a copy of the handout “Our Missionary Purpose.” The handout contains a portion of an address given by Elder D. Todd Christofferson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. Arrange students into small groups, or invite them to form their own. Ask the groups to read the handout together and discuss the questions at the end.
After students have had sufficient time to study and discuss Elder Christofferson’s remarks, call on several students to share their answers to the discussion questions. Then ask the following:
How can you begin to focus on the missionary purpose statement? (Responses might include any of the following: students might choose to memorize it, they might write it down and put it where they can see it every day, they might pray for help to better understand it, or they might look for elements of this purpose as part of their scripture study.)
Have a student read aloud the following quote from Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles:
“We do not preach and teach in order to ‘bring people into the Church’ or to increase the membership of the Church. We do not preach and teach just to persuade people to live better lives . … We invite all to come unto Christ by repentance and baptism and confirmation in order to open the doors of the celestial kingdom to the sons and daughters of God [see D&C 76: 51–52]. No one else can do this” (“The Purpose of Missionary Work,” missionary satellite broadcast, Apr. 1995).
Why is it important to remember that preaching the gospel is about something far greater than merely helping someone become a member of the Church? (See also 3 Nephi 11:33–34.)
What thoughts do you have as you consider that you will help “open the doors of the celestial kingdom” to those you will teach?
Invite students to consider how they might apply the missionary purpose in their lives, and ask them to consider whether their personal motivations for serving a mission match the missionary purpose statement found in Preach My Gospel. Ask students to take a moment to write down on a sheet of paper or in a study journal what specific actions they might take to bring their reasons for serving a mission better in line with this purpose statement.
Explain to the class that the Savior declared that one of the primary purposes of the Book of Mormon is to “bring to light my gospel [and] the true points of my doctrine” (D&C 10:62). Christ’s doctrine includes the commandment that all mankind believe in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, repent of sin, be baptized, and receive the Spirit (see 3 Nephi 11:32). Write the following on the board:
Divide the class into three groups. Ask one group to study 2 Nephi 31:2, 10–21; ask the second group to study 3 Nephi 11:31–41; and ask the third group to study 3 Nephi 27:13–22. Ask each group to read their verses and identify what is required of those who seek to follow Jesus Christ. You might encourage students to highlight or mark in their scriptures specific truths about the doctrine and gospel of Jesus Christ.
After students have had a few minutes to review these passages, ask them to list under each reference on the board specific actions that are required of followers of Jesus Christ.
Then ask questions like the following:
If someone were to ask you if Mormons believed in Jesus Christ, how would these three scripture passages on the board help you answer the question?
In your own words, how would you explain the doctrine or gospel of Jesus Christ to someone who does not know what it is?
Some people may ask you why missionaries are preaching to people who already believe in Jesus Christ. How does the doctrine of Christ, as outlined in these scriptures on the board, help you answer that question?
As students respond, make sure they understand that the doctrine of Christ consists of (1) what Jesus Christ has done and continues to do to draw us unto the Father (see Alma 33:22; D&C 76:40–42) and (2) what we must do to access the blessings of the Atonement of Jesus Christ, including having faith, repenting, being baptized, receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost, and enduring to the end (see 3 Nephi 27:16–21).
Refer students back to the missionary purpose statement on the board and ask:
How is the doctrine of Christ related to the purpose of missionary work?
As students discuss this question, they are likely to express the following truth: Missionaries fulfill their purpose by helping investigators accept the doctrine of Christ, develop faith, repent, be baptized, receive the gift of the Holy Ghost, and endure to the end.
To deepen students’ understanding that investigators must act on the doctrine of Christ to receive the restored gospel, have students turn to page 5 in Preach My Gospel, and ask a student to read aloud the first two paragraphs in the section titled “The Gospel of Jesus Christ.” Then ask questions like the following to help your students see why it is important for investigators to act in faith:
What evidence could a missionary look for to determine whether an investigator is exercising faith in Jesus Christ and His Atonement, repenting, and preparing to receive the covenant of baptism?
After students respond, explain that missionaries are often concerned with saying and doing the right thing. However, more important than what missionaries say and do is that investigators act in faith on what they are taught. One of the most important skills a missionary can develop is to discern by the Spirit whether an investigator is truly acting in faith and becoming converted.
What evidence could a missionary look for to determine whether the Holy Ghost was present during a lesson and being felt by an investigator?
What can prospective missionaries do to better understand and apply the doctrine of Christ? (Answers might include any of the following: pray in faith for greater understanding, study in the scriptures specific aspects of the doctrine of Christ such as the Atonement of Jesus Christ and the first principles and ordinances of the gospel, talk with others about what they have done to increase their faith in Jesus Christ, study the sacrament prayers for greater understanding of baptismal covenants, and so on.)
After showing the video, ask questions like the following to help students explain what the missionaries did to fulfill their purpose:
What did these missionaries do to help the Robles family grow in faith? (Answers might include the following: they encouraged them to pray about the Book of Mormon, answered their questions, taught them why it is important to obey the commandments, committed them to obey the commandments, helped them receive the ordinance of baptism, made sure the ward was involved in their lives, and pointed them to the temple.)
Why are both teaching investigators and inviting them to come unto Christ important aspects of what missionaries do?
What evidence did you see that the faith of the Robles family members increased and that they felt more in tune with the Spirit of Christ?
Give your students several minutes to study the section titled “Helping Others Make Commitments: The Door to Faith and Repentance” in Preach My Gospel, page 8. Then assign students to pair up and take turns sharing how they feel about inviting others to keep commitments. What fears or concerns do they have? What helps them to have confidence that they will be able to do it? Then ask the following questions:
How could understanding the doctrine of Christ help you invite investigators to make commitments?
Why did Elder Jeffrey R. Holland say that a missionary should be “devastated” when people do not follow through on a commitment to read or pray about the Book of Mormon?
Invite the class to imagine how it might feel to help people make changes and be baptized. Ask if any of them have helped a friend or family member to come unto Christ, and invite them to share how it felt to assist in that process.
Discuss how missionaries have the authority to teach Heavenly Father’s children the gospel and to help them receive the ordinances that will allow them to enjoy the blessings of the Atonement. Display the following statements, and ask a student to read them aloud to the class:
“After all that has been said, the greatest and most important duty is to preach the Gospel” (Joseph Smith, quoted in Preach My Gospel, 12).
“Teaching the gospel is more important than other good deeds. You are in the greatest work in the world, and nothing in this world can compare to it. Building homes and bridges is nothing. Building worlds is nothing compared to the lives you are building. The saving of mortal lives isn’t any important accomplishment as compared to what you are doing. You might go out here to one of these cemeteries and raise the dead, even a thousand or ten thousand of them, and you haven’t done anything compared to what you are doing when you are saving people” (The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball , 547).
Ask your students if a few of them would share why they think preaching the gospel is the most important duty that we have. Make sure students understand that by preaching the gospel, we help others access the blessings of the Atonement.
Ask a student to read aloud Doctrine and Covenants 18:10, 15–16 while the class follows along, looking for the blessings that come to those who preach the gospel and to those who accept the gospel. Then ask:
What are some of the blessings that come to those who preach the gospel and to those who are taught the gospel?
Explain that missionary work can also be challenging. Have a student read the following quote from Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles:
“I am convinced that missionary work is not easy because salvation is not a cheap experience. Salvation never was easy. We are the Church of Jesus Christ, this is the truth, and He is our Great Eternal Head. How could we believe it would be easy for us when it was never, ever easy for Him? It seems to me that missionaries and mission leaders have to spend at least a few moments in Gethsemane. Missionaries and mission leaders have to take at least a step or two toward the summit of Calvary.
“… I believe that missionaries and investigators, to come to the truth, to come to salvation, to know something of this price that has been paid, will have to pay a token of that same price” (“Missionary Work and the Atonement,” Ensign, Mar. 2001, 15).
How will this perspective on missionary work help you when you experience challenges as a missionary?
As you end class, consider giving students a few minutes to write down what they have learned about the relationship between missionary work and the doctrine of Christ. Encourage students to set a goal of what they might do to better understand the doctrine of Christ as they prepare for their missions. Ask students if any of them would like to share their testimonies with the class. Express your testimony that if students will learn and act on the doctrine of Christ, they will be more successful missionaries.
Explain to students that effective preparation for a full-time mission requires effort outside of the classroom. Therefore, at the conclusion of each lesson, you will provide suggested activities designed to help them become more prepared to serve a mission. To help students to begin now to participate in the Lord’s work, challenge them to do one or more of the following:
Using social media, share with others why you are excited to serve a mission and what you are doing to prepare.
Watch a few of the videos found on the Hastening the Work of Salvation section of LDS.org and write down in a study journal the feelings you have as you consider your opportunity to participate in the work of salvation.
Invite a friend to attend this missionary preparation class with you. (You might extend this invitation to students at the end of each class period.)
Invite a nonmember or less-active member friend to be taught the missionary lessons.