President's Pen 4-16-18 (Make Ye Disciples)

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 that teach repentance and baptize converts and the best missionaries in the world!

 Dear Elders & Sisters,

I love ya! Thanks for your urgency and love for the Savior.  You are among the best that have ever walked the earth, you are disciples of Christ who have been called to Houston to bless God’s children.  Remember how much the Lord loves His missionaries and you succeed everyday as you are obedient, worthy, and give your best effort to invite and help all come unto Christ!

In our October zone conference of last year, we shared the scriptures we find in Matthew 28:19-20 “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.”  This amazing teaching from the Savior is our missionary purpose and the charge we’ve been given as we have come to minister among the people of Houston.

As we discussed at our conference, it is important to look at the footnote of verse 19 to better understand what we are truly called to do… It says, that we are to, “Go ye therefore and preach to, make disciples of (meaning to make Christians in all nations), baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.” We are called to make disciples! This clarification is an important reminder to not simply teach, but to make disciples of those we share the gospel with, and it should permeate everything we do. 

In our mission experience, I have observed missionaries who have come to understand the difference between baptizing and baptizing converts.  These missionaries, while urgent about finding, teaching repentance, inviting, and helping people to the waters of baptism, understand that we are to build the kingdom of God, strengthen wards/branches, and help people truly change and become like the Savior.  To that end, they have recognized that teaching the gospel is not a series of checklists or things an investigator has done, but they are more truly concerned with who the investigator has become. 

A missionary who is focused on making disciples understands that discipleship comes through not only what we hear, but more so through what we experience and feel.  Discipleship comes through a desire to learn, improve, and become a student of the gospel and a great missionary helps an investigator through this process.  To this end, a missionary will do whatever it takes to help the investigator immerse themselves in the gospel, just as much as we hope they will immerse themselves in the waters of baptism.  They will do whatever is required to help the investigator have an experience and connect them to heaven.  They desire and believe with all their hearts that the Holy Ghost will witness to the hearts and minds of their investigators that what they have been taught and what they feel is true.

Here are a few things I have seen great missionaries do as they make disciples of their investigators…

There can be no greater understanding than to know we are truly sons and daughters of God.  Why does this matter?  In the Bible Dictionary (pg. 707) it states, “As soon as we learn the true relationship in which we stand before God (namely God is our Father, and we are His children), then at once prayer becomes natural and instinctive on our part. Many of the so called difficulties about prayer arise from forgetting this relationship.” A missionary who understands this important truth, not only for themselves, but for their investigators, will spend as much time as needed teaching our divine relationship to the Father and the importance of prayer.  A missionary who will take the time to make sure an investigator is truly praying, asking about their experience, how they feel, how prayer is answered, and that God is always listening, will be in the process of making a disciple.  On the other hand, if prayer is seen as a checklist, as something an investigator has to do to be baptized, we will have fallen short of our call to make disciples.  A great missionary will testify of prayer, teach it, model it, and go back to it again and again until the investigator understands who they are and how prayer will open the windows of heaven for them.  Prayer is a firm foundation for lasting discipleship.  

A missionary’s testimony and the Book of Mormon are the most powerful resources to bring the power of the Holy Ghost.  In the process of making disciples, a great missionary will teach from the Book of Mormon, testify of it, read from it, and help an investigator personally connect to it.  Converts who have come to love, study, and read daily from the Book of Mormon live in gratitude for the missionaries that taught them to do so.  A missionary who is making disciples reads the Book of Mormon with them, finds passages that are specific to the investigators needs, involves members to read with them, asks about their experience, and their feelings as they read it.   Great missionaries know that it will fill an investigator with the Spirit, testify of Christ, witness that Joseph Smith is God’s prophet, and that this is God’s kingdom on the earth.  If a missionary sees reading the Book of Mormon as a checklist of things that must be done before baptism, true conversion is weakened, the keystone of our religion becomes an afterthought, and discipleship is not their goal.  A great missionary not only loves the Book of Mormon and reads from it daily, but does everything in their power to help their investigators do so as well.  The Book of Mormon is a firm foundation for lasting discipleship.

Partaking of the sacrament is the most important thing we do all week.  Repentance is our desire, covenants are renewed, the Savior’s Atonement is in our hearts and on our minds, the Spirit is promised to be our constant companion.  A great missionary understands that making a true disciple will require faithful Sabbath day observance, and specifically the importance of being at sacrament meeting.  To this end, great missionaries will move heaven and earth to help an investigator attend church each week.  They will teach and testify of the Sabbath day, the blessings of it, and the reasons why we would never want to miss it.  They invite boldly, they involve members, they give tours (physically/virtually), they follow up, they notify the ward council, and they help overcome obstacles.  Missionaries who know how hard it is for investigators to take this leap of faith don’t leave this invitation to chance and never do it as passing thought as they’re walking out the door.  A great missionary has come to love and understand why the sacrament is vitally important to them, they then help an investigator come to know this for themselves.  Church attendance and partaking of the sacrament is a firm foundation for lasting discipleship.

My dear elders and sisters, we are to make disciples of those we love and teach.  We ourselves need to be disciples of Jesus Christ who have personally come to understand and know how our mighty prayer, Book of Mormon study, and sacrament meeting attendance will keep us on the path of discipleship.  A missionary who hasn’t gained a personal witness of these firm foundations will struggle to invite boldly and testify from their heart that these heavenly principles will bless those they teach.   A missionary who is focused on a checklist towards baptism versus repentance and heavenly connections will miss out on the blessing of making disciples of those we have been called to serve.  I invite you today to reflect on your own discipleship and what you are doing to help make disciples of others.  Are you event and checklist focused? Are you number focused or activity driven? Do you spend the kind of time that is needed to teach prayer, the blessing of the Book of Mormon, and why sacrament meeting is so important? I invite you to slow down to speed up.  Teaching is not going to lead to discipleship alone, it must come from the experience of acting in faith and showing our investigators how to do so.

As Mormon taught, “Behold, I am a disciple of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. I have been called of him to declare his word among his people, that they might have everlasting life.”  Elders & Sisters, your sacred calling as disciples of Christ is to help all receive the blessing of eternal life.   Begin with the end in mind and remember that we teach repentance and baptize converts who will also be prepared to receive the blessings of the temple, to be endowed and sealed for the eternities.  I invite us all to make disciples of those we have been called to serve and to become even greater disciples of the Master we serve.  In the Savior’s name, I know this is true! Love ya!

President Hall