President's Pen 4-11-16 (Fisher's of Men)

As missionaries in the Texas Houston South Mission, we know our 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. We do this through our constant efforts to find, teach, invite, retain, and activate God’s children; we love it, we live it, and we do it! We begin with the “End in Mind”, and see God’s children as he does. We are Disciples of Jesus Christ and the best missionaries in the world!

Dear Elders & Sisters,

In our mission purpose statement there is a verb that defines much of our success: invite.  We succeed when we invite and then we let agency take it's course.  Without an invitation to act, nothing happens and no progress is made. The Savior's invitation to the fisherman on the Sea of Galillee was simple, "Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men" (Matt 4:19).  Peter and Andrew accepted this invitation and "straightway left their nets, and followed him."  There was no force, no coercion, no bribe, just a simple invitation to follow the Son of God and they didn't hesitate to accept.  

We too extend the invitation for all to follow the Savior.  You have become the "fishers of men" as described by the Savior to these early apostles.  The invitations you extend become a witness that you understand your purpose and your desire to see God's children reunited with Him and His Son.  In every interaction you should invite all to come unto Christ and to be reconciled to him.  Without this invitation you take upon yourself the agency of others who might otherwise accept the gospel if the opportunity to learn was simply extended.  This is why Jacob and and his brethren magnified their office, "laboring with our might their blood might not come upon our garments." (Jacob 1:19) Direct, simple, and clear invitations are what we must extend if we are to fulfill our purpose.

Of all invitations we extend, the one that matters most is, "Will you follow the example of Jesus Christ, by being baptized by someone holding the priesthood authority of God?"  This invitation is why you serve missions, why you set goals and plan, work with members, study the doctrine, improve your teaching skills, and extend all other invitations.  We desire God's children to have faith in the Savior and His Atonement, to repent, to receive a remission of theirs sins through baptism, to have the Holy Ghost guide and bless them, and endure to the end.  The significance of this invitation has eternal consequences and you should ask it at every opportunity.   

The Savior himself extends this invitation as we read in 3 Nephi 27:20, "Now this is the commandment: Repent, all ye ends of the earth, and come unto me and be baptized in my name, that ye may be sanctified by the reception of the Holy Ghost, that ye may stand spotless before me at the last day."  As his representatives you are called to extend this invitation often and powerfully.  There can be no fear in your voice, no doubt in your mind, no hesitation in your heart, we are to invite all to follow the Savior.  

Unfortunately, many missionaries forget this central purpose and shrink.  Fear generally is the cause.  Fear that it's too soon, fear that they don't know enough, fear of rejection, fear that you've just met them, fear that they won't want you back, fear in all its varieties can keep up from being the bold disciples we should be.  The antidote to fear is faith and not just simple faith, but faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and His Atonement, by which men and women can do things that they can't do on their own.  Faith in the Savior is why and how you can be bold and clear.

How can you fulfill your purpose to invite?  May I suggest that you must first come to recognize the "why" behind our purpose.  If you don't see every person on the street in baptism white, you'll walk past them with out thinking twice.  You'll go through the motions, but not realize that baptism is the only way they can return to live with God.  When you have this vision, your fear will be gone, your faith in the Savior will lead the way, and you'll do all you can to invite with power and authority.  

Where does it begin?  People have to know your purpose and they have to know it from the minute they meet you.  "Hi, I'm Elder/Sister and we're your missionaries.  Our message is about the Savior Jesus Christ and how we can follow him.  One of the wayswe follow Him is by being baptized as he was, by someone like John the Baptist, who held God's authority.  As missionaries we teach how you can become clean, forgiven of sins, and feel of God's love by doing what the Savior has taught us to do.  We teach how you can repent and have burdens lifted from your life, and just like the Savior, we invite all to be baptized in His name.  Is that something that you would want, to feel clean and connected to God?  Can we come by for a 15 minute visit tonight to tell you more about it?  Do you have time now? Is there someone you know who wants to feel the same?"  You get the idea, but people have to know why you're here.  It's not simply to make friends, share some good thoughts, and to share your love; they need to be baptized and you and your companion are the only two people on the planet in your area that can extend this invitation.

Where else does this happen?  Goal setting and planning for one.  In addition to this, when you begin to teach you should hit on your purpose every time.  "Brother/Sister, we love being with you and as we get to know you and your family better we will share truths with you that will change your life.  In our brief lesson with you today we will help you come to know of God's love for you, how He feels about families, how He teaches families through prophets, and how the Savior is at the center of our message.  We'll share with you how the Savior's original Church has been restored to the earth and that God's power and voice is with us today.  We will invite you to follow the Savior and be baptized by someone that is authorized to do so.  As we teach you these truths, we will help you feel and recognize the Spirit, who will speak to your heart and mind, feelings of peace and love, and thoughts of clarity and truth.  We desire your happiness and what we will teach you will connect you to heaven and put you on the path to God's presence."  Elders & Sisters, they have to know why you're here.  Don't hide it, come right out and tell them, they need to know that your purpose is to have them receive saving ordinances so they can return to God.  You set the tone, no fear, only faith.

When should you do this?  As you teach the message of the restoration you have to make it clear that with the death of the Savior and His apostles the authority to baptize was no longer on the earth.  While men wanted to find God, his authority was no longer to be found.   The great apostasy is what caused confusion, countless number of churches, and the spread of false doctrine throughout the world.  With Joseph Smith's humble prayer, the First Vision, and the appearance of heavenly messengers, the authority was restored to the earth and men could be baptized with the proper authority.  You have to help them understand this and this is why we extend the baptism invitation in the Restoration lesson and why we should do it each and every time.  

May I suggest a couple of approaches you might consider as you extend this important invitation.  After teaching the great apostasy and subsequent restoration of God's authority on the earth, you boldly and directly invite…

1 - "Now that you know that God's authority to baptize is once again on the earth, will you follow the example of Jesus Christ, by being baptized by someone holding the priesthood authority of God?"

If the answer is yes, set a date (4-6 weeks out), and promise them you'll be at their side at every step.  What if the answer is no? Awesome, it gives you a chance to find out why. Don't be frustrated by being told know it gives you an opportunity to ask inspired questions.  So here's a follow up question you might consider…  "Can you share with me why you don't desire to be baptized by someone holding the proper authority?"  Typical answers include: too soon, don't know enough, already been baptized, I belong to another church, etc…  This gives you the opportunity for approach two…

2 - "We understand that we just met, that you have questions and that there is still much to learn, as your missionaries, we can help you understand why the baptism we offer is different, we can help resolve your concerns, and you can come to know for yourself that God's church has been restored to the earth.   When you pray and come to know that what we have taught you is true, will you then follow the example of Jesus Christ, by being baptized by someone holding the priesthood authority of God?"

If yes, set a date, and let them know you'll be at their side every step of the way.  What if the answer is no again?  Well, this is when you let the Spirit guide you…  You might say something like, "Our purpose is to help people come unto Christ and we can help you come to know more about how we follow His example.  We extend you the invitation to be baptized as we know it is the only way we can be made clean and return to live with God.  We have additional lessons that we can teach you if you have a desire to act and learn more about the truths we teach.  Would you like to learn more?  If yes, proceed, if no, thank them and move on.  

Not all hearts are prepared and that's ok.  If we've taught clearly, raised a warning voice, and helped them understand what we are offering, you should feel good about your efforts.  The point is you must ask the question and they need to know your purpose.  We are not asking people to join the Church, we are asking people to follow the Savior to receive a remission of sins.  The fellowship in the Church is a great blessing, but this is not our ultimate goal.  Our goal is for people to feel clean, know how to maintain a remission of sins, and progress towards all saving ordinances.  

As missionaries in the Texas Houston South Mission, we understand our purpose and we have no fear.  We have faith in the Savior and we will invite all to receive a remission of sins through baptism.  You need to role-play this, prepare for objections, help resolve concerns, and help them understand why this is so important.  It's ok if you're rejected and told no, it gives you an opportunity to find out why and ask the next inspired question.  I need your commitment that you'll become bold like the Apostle Peter and fear no man.  The reason you find new investigators, have member present lessons, and invite them to church all leads to this goal.  Embrace it, love it, and then help connect them to heaven.  

Thanks for your great efforts, the Lord is preparing hearts and minds and we must invite with faith, power and authority.  We love you!!!

Mission Update

We had an awesome week as a mission and so far this month we have had 19 souls baptized to receive a remission of their sins!  We are richly blessed as so many of you are diligently working to invite all to come unto Christ.  We need to help these new converts stay and you need to make sure you have a plan to attend the temple with them.  Make sure they all have a friend, an assignment, and continue to nurture them through the new member lessons.  Keep up the great work, we love you!

President Hall