Missionary Discussion Action Guide
By David Stewart. Copyright 2001.
Version of August 26, 2001
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Note: The quotations from the missionary discussions presented here are back-translated from Ukrainian and Polish and are not verbatim for the English originals. This is a transformative, educational, non-profit use in accordance with fair use standards of U.S. and international copyright laws. Quotes from the discussions are in italics.
Much of the foundation of obedience of the Church membership is laid in the teaching practices of individual missionary companionships. Every investigator and new member receives a "spiritual heritage" from the missionaries who teach him or her, which to a great extent can determine attitudes, beliefs, future church activity, and the consistency with which gospel principles are obeyed. The focus of this series is not simply on teaching doctrine, but on effective commitment teaching and its implications for true conversion and long-term retention. I invite active discussion and sharing of insights into how to most effectively teach each principle of the missionary discussions.
If missionaries could really convey the gospel message, "at least twice as many people would come into the Church...I hope this improvement will continue until we learn to really speak to the world." President Gordon B. Hinckley, LDS Church News, Saturday, July 4, 1998
Discussion 1 Principle 1: Our Heavenly Father's Plan
1. "Most people believe in a Supreme Being, although they call him by different names. We know that God exists. We wish to share with you our thoughts about God."
"Let us hear observe, that three things are necessary in order that any rational and intelligent being may exercise faith in God unto life and salvation. First, the idea that he actually exists. Secondly, a correct idea of his character, perfections, and attributes. Thirdly, an actual knowledge that the course of life which he is pursuing is according to His will. For without an acquaintance with these three important facts, the faith of every rational being must be imperfect and unproductive; but with this understanding it can become perfect and fruitful, abounding in righteousness, unto the praise and glory of God the Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ." Joseph Smith, Lectures on Faith, Lecture Three
Thirty years ago, we started the discussions by talking about prophets. Now, even in nominally "Christian" nations, we must first emphasize the existence of God because the world has become more wicked and atheism has become more prevalent, although the gospel has remained unchanged. Elder Jeffrey R. Holland taught,
"I testify this morning of God's limitless love for his children, of his unquenchable desire to help us heal our wounds, individually and collectively. He is our Father, and Wordsworth wrote more than he knew when he said we came to earth ‘trailing clouds of glory ... from God, who is our home’ (‘Ode: Intimations of Immortality,’ lines 64-65). But in far too many cases we find no modern belief in a Heavenly Father, and when there is a belief, it is too often an erroneous one. God is not dead, and he is not an absentee landlord. God is not uncaring, or capricious, or cantankerous. Above all, he is not some sort of divine umpire trying to call us out at third base. The first and great commandment on earth is for us to love God with all our heart, might, mind, and strength (see D&C 59:5; Matt. 22:37)." (Jeffrey R. Holland, October 1993 General Conference)
It is important for missionaries to understand the nature of atheism. As Alma points out to Zeezrom, atheism is fundamentally dishonest:
"Believest thou that there is no God? I say unto you, Nay, thou knowest that there is a God, but thou lovest that lucre more than him." Alma 11:24
Failure to acknowledge God does not occur because God is limited, but rather because of human small-mindedness in failing to recognize the miracles about them:
"Thou art able to show forth great power, which looks small unto the understanding of men." Ether 3:5
"The scriptures are laid before thee, yea, and all things denote there is a God; yea, even the earth, and all things that are upon the face of it, yea, and its motion, yea, and also all the planets which move in their regular form do witness that there is a Supreme Creator." Alma 30:44
Given so many witnesses of the Creator, the burden of proof is on those who deny God, and not on those who profess him:
"For behold, I say unto you, I know there is a God, and also that Christ shall come. And now what evidence have ye that there is no God, or that Christ cometh not? I say unto you that ye have none, save it be your word only. But, behold, I have all things as a testimony that these things are true; and ye also have all things as a testimony unto you that they are true; and will ye deny them? Believest thou that these things are true?" Alma 30:39-41
Every honest individual knows inside that there is a God. This knowledge may be lost or forgotten through disobedience, pride, and false teaching. Atheism is tremendously unscientific, as there is overwhelming evidence for the existence of God. My father once told me, "there is no greater ingratitude than to deny the existence of one's greatest benefactor."
While their numbers are relatively small, there are some outstanding members of the church who were once atheists. The great majority of those who I know were brought into the church over several years by spouses or family members in the church. A few with exceptional desire and consistent adherence to commitments have also been converted. It is completely appropriate for missionaries to meet with atheists if they have a genuine interest in the gospel message, and it is appropriate to continue teaching them if they accept the teaching points and adhere to the commitments. However, it is not likely that much real progress can be made in the discussions until the individual is able to honestly acknowledge that there is a God.
Belief in God is a long-term issue with deep roots, which can only on very rare occasions be changed by missionaries. I have seen many notes in area books written by disappointed missionaries who taught multiple discussions to individuals who did not believe in God or had other hang-ups. It inappropriate to continue with new discussions when more basic material is not accepted or when commitments are not kept. When an individual does not understand or accept a basic principle, piling on more complex teachings and commitments will not aid with acceptance of the basics. Doesn’t it seem unwise to teach the principles of eternal progression or of tithing to individuals who do not believe in God or accept Joseph Smith as a prophet?
While this practice may artificially inflate proselyting numbers on paper, it does nothing to build the Church. It multiplies doubts and creates more confusion. It ties up the time of missionaries and prevents them from meeting new contacts. The discussions are in a logical order for a reason. A correct foundation must be laid. If the foundation is not accepted or understood, one cannot continue to build upon it unless the foundation can first be repaired. Otherwise, spiritual homes will be built upon the sand.
2. "God is perfect, all-knowing, and all-powerful. He is also merciful, good, and just. We know that we can believe in God. We can love God with all of our heart."
"Find out: What constitutes faith in God for the investigators? What are their feelings about God?"
To the sectarian world, even the basic nature of God is a mystery. Many denominations preach an incomprehensible God who is everywhere and yet nowhere in particular; in whose image nothing could be created, and for whom man can be only a distant servant rather than a friend. Without understanding of God's attributes and perfections, as Joseph Smith points out, there is no means for people to develop true faith in Him.
Some individuals may say, "I already know all that" or "my church teaches that" and demonstrate boredom durign the discussions. This is a warning sign which needs to be recognized quickly. When individuals say this, it reflects that they do not truly understand what they are being taught. Instead of agreeing and hurrying along, missionaries need to understand that other churches do NOT teach this principle. It is important to realize that the God we believe in, who is at once good, merciful, and just, is very different from the being which is taught by most other churches. The ancient pagan faiths believed in Gods who were often capricious and unjust. Many Christian denominations also preach an unjust God, who they believe will save them in iniquity simply because they acknowledge their creed even with a death-bed confession after a life of sin, while condemning to eternal punishment just and honest individuals of other faiths who do their best to live righteously. As Joseph Smith said, a belief in an unjust God is worse than atheism. Many people are driven to atheism by the examples of false religions. Some good men and women of other faiths may understand this principle correctly, but to the extent that they do, it represents a divergence from the official teachings of their denominations.
"For awful is the wickedness to suppose that God saveth one child because of baptism, and the other must perish because he hath no baptism." Moroni 8:15
We come to know God by keeping his commandments:
"He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But whoso keepeth his word, in him verily is the love of God perfected: hereby know we that we are in him." 1 John 2:4-5
3. "We are children of our Heavenly Father. We were created in His image and likeness. Because He is the father of all people, we are all brothers and sisters."
The world talks a lot about loving one's neighbor, as Ezra Taft Benson said, but relatively little about loving God, whom we must love first to be of true service to our brothers and sisters. To truly love God, we must also love our fellow men.
As the Savior taught, the first greatest commandment is to love God -- not simply in word, but to truly love him with all our heart, might, mind, and strength in a manner which inspires steadfast obedience to his commandments. The second commandment, to love our neighbor as ourself, follows naturally, since we are all brothers and sisters. How much do we love God? The real test of true devotion is the way we conduct ourselves in daily life and our diligence in consistently observing the commandments.
"When ye are in the service of your fellow beings ye are only in the service of your God." Mosiah 2:17
"If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen?" 1 John 4:20
"God is no respecter of persons." Acts 10:34
"Our humanity must exceed our ethnic identity." Unknown
4. "Because God is our father, He loves us. He wants us to develop and to be happy. He wants us to become more like Him. God has a plan which will bring us happiness in this life and eternal life with Him. This plan is called the plan of salvation."
"Testify: Express your feelings about the following:
"Your faith in God, God's wisdom and love towards us.
"What does it mean to you that you are a child of God?
"The happiness which you have found by striving to grow and become more like God."
Many people say, "God is one." There is one God, and He is a God of order. Investigators must correctly understand that God has "a plan" -- not a number of plans or paths. Many people accept false philosophies such as "we have our own way to God" or "there is one God, but there are many paths." There is one plan, and one path for all people, straight and narrow though it may be. There cannot be separate, widely diverging plans for different nations or for individual people based simply on tradition or personal philosophy. Salvation is not obtained by insisting that God accept the terms of our convenience, but by learning and living the conditions the Lord has set. We can have our "own" faith, or we can find the Lord's truth.
The plan is not fulfilled by following the path of popularity or of least resistance. It takes effort. It must be a priority. Is learning and following this plan important to the investigators? What are they willing to do to find truth and live according to it? Is it a burning desire, a pursuit of convenience, or simply a curiosity?
Many churches teach that the gospel brings suffering and sorrow in this life, but an eternal reward after this life. The Savior teaches, and we teach, that the gospel brings us happiness not only in the eternal world, but in this life as well. Living the gospel is not hard when our desires are right. The Savior said, "for my yoke is easy, and my burden is light" (Matthew 11:30). The hard part is when we sin and must face the consequences, or when we try to please God and the world at the same time and serve two masters.
Personal testimony is crucial in expressing one's belief in God, in his divine character and attributes, and in the implications of God's plan for us. Effectively testifying requires more than simply making an assertion: it requires sharing personal experiences of how one gained the testimony and of the fruits one has experienced in life.
Discussion 1 Principle 1 Comments:
"You asked me to share insights about it with you, and I will share what I've heard from Elder Henry B. Eyring, in his address to Moscow Missionaries on 16th of November this year (1999). He said that sometimes missionaries forget to teach by the spirit by merely retelling the discussion texts and not meeting the real needs and worries of the investigators. He said, and showed it from his personal experience (unsuccessful experience), that when the Spirit tells you during the first discussion to recite the principle from the 6th - do it. Spirit knows better the needs of this man. Never fear to do this - he said. Just wanted to share this!"
Ivan Makarov, Moscow, Russia
Discussion 1 Principle 2: Our Savior Jesus Christ
1. "Without the help of our Heavenly Father, we would not be able to receive any benefit from the plan of salvation. In mortal life each of us sins and does not achieve perfection. Our sins make us unworthy to return to our Heavenly Father. Additionally, each of us will die at the end of this mortal life."
2. "God prepared a way to overcome sin and death so that we would be able to return to Him. The central figure in the plan of salvation is Jesus Christ."
(Read and discuss John 3:16): "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life."
"It is wonderful to think of the great love for us of our Heavenly Father!"
John 3:16 is widely cited by many Protestant churches in teaching that all that is necessary for salvation is to acknowledge Christ and express belief. Many investigators understand the scripture in this light, and it may confuse some more than it helps. If missionaries choose to use this particular scripture, it is important to ensure that investigators understand this doctrine correctly, since many other passages in both the Book of Mormon and the Bible state that we must obey God's commandments to receive salvation. Often one can avoid doctrinal hangups and lengthy explanations by using one of the scriptures in the Book of Mormon that speak even more powerfully and clearly of God's love, but also cannot be perceived to trivialize the conditions of salvation.
3. "Jesus fulfilled his part of the plan. Through his sacrifice and and resurrection, we can overcome the consequences of sin, and all people will live again after earthly death."
"Find out: Do the investigators understand that our sins do not allow us to return to God? What do they think of Jesus Christ?"
What think ye of Christ? This is one of the great questions of all time. Regardless of what we may say, investigators must understand that the true answer to this question is best demonstrated by the way we live our lives:
"Unless we do His teachings, we do not demonstrate faith in Him." Ezra Taft Benson
4. "The plan of salvation is simple and easy to understand, but to follow it, we must choose this path."
A good scripture to share here is 3 Nephi 14:13-14:
"Enter ye in at the strait gate; for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, which leadeth to destruction, and many there be who go in thereat; Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it."
It is important that individuals understand that there is one narrow path requiring obedience to return to our Heavenly Father, and not a number of different paths or a "broad path" that can save us simply because we may be nice, well-meaning people. We choose the path not simply by making a one-time decision and becoming "saved," but by entering in at the narrow gate and living obediently until the end:
"And again, I would that ye should learn that he only is saved who endureth unto the end. Even so. Amen." (D&C 53:7)
Consistent righteous living requires effort and must be our first priority.
(Read and discuss John 14:6): "Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me."
"Find Out: Have the listeners felt blessings in their life because of following the example of Christ or trying to emulate Him? What in the teachings of Christ has the greatest meaning to them?"
One can learn quite a bit about an investigator by learning which of Christ's teachings are most meaningful to him or her. Is the investigator's answer a vague generality, or is it something specific and meaningful? Is it sincere and from the heart? What is the investigator willing to do to emulate Christ? Share a few Book of Mormon scriptures with the investigator which demonstrate the teachings most meaningful to them. Then, share how (specifically) it is meaningful to you. This is a great place to build on common beliefs and strengthen the investigator's testimony at the same time.
5. "By His perfect example and His teachings, Jesus taught us how to fulfill this plan. If we have faith to do what Jesus Christ taught, we will obtain peace in this life. Additionally, we will be able to become more like Him and our Heavenly Father. We will be able to return to Them and live with Them after this life."
This section demonstrates an important point which it is helpful to emphasize: Faith, as Joseph Smith taught, is a principle of action. Faith is more than acceptance of a particular set of religious beliefs. As my father once told me, "faith is the will to do right." One who acknowledges belief and yet does not obey has no faith.
"Testify: Express your feelings about the following: The love towards people which Heavenly Father expressed in sending his Son to save the world. Your love to the Savior and your gratefulness to Him for His sacrifice. How the teachings of Christ help us to obtain peace and happiness."
Concrete examples of how one has gained personal peace by obedience to particular commandments are helpful. Always remember that the goal of teaching is not just to get the investigators to accept a certain set of beliefs or philosophies, but to help them to understand the tremendous importance of consistently keeping the commandments and to motivate them to live accordingly.
Discussion 1 Principle 3: How the Plan is Revealed
1. "Our Heavenly Father desires for all to understand the mission of Jesus Christ in that plan. He follows a simple model in revealing this plan to His children."
2. "God chooses righteous people as His witnesses. Through personal experience, they come to know of the plan and of the mission of Jesus Christ in this plan. These people are called prophets and apostles."
Scripture: Amos 3:7 "For God will do nothing, but he reveals his secrets unto his servants the prophets."
3. "God gives these prophets authority to act in His name. He commands them to teach others. They share their testimonies of Christ in two ways: first, they teach people directly. Second, they write their testimonies and truths of the gospel in books called holy scripture."
[Note: many investigators understand the word "gospel" to mean just the first four books of the New Testament describing Christ's life. It is often helpful to define "gospel" here to avoid confusion.]
4. "People listen to prophets or read their words in holy scriptures. They can know that the teachings of the prophets are true by the power of the Holy Ghost."
5. "When people know truth by the power of the Holy Ghost, servants of the Lord invite them to act in accordance with this knowledge."
"Find out: Do the investigators understand what is a prophet and how can he help us to find truth?"
"Do they understand how the Holy Ghost can help us understand the truth of the prophet's words?"
"Testify: Express your feelings about:
"Your faith, that God chooses witnesses to teach truth in its simplicity and without alteration.
"That the Holy Ghost confirmed your understanding of truth."
Most investigators can listen to this principle, nod their heads, and even verbalize some vaguely correct answers about prophets without adequately understanding the crucial points. When this principle is taught correctly, it lays a foundation for acceptance of modern prophets and of the Book of Mormon. When glazed over quickly, the investigators gain little insight.
In particular, investigators MUST understand that revelation must be an ONGOING process and that the word of God to ancient peoples as contained in the Bible, while it is very important to us, is NOT fully adequate for us today. We need a LIVING prophet today.
It is also important to reinforce that following the living prophets has never been popular or widely accepted by the world, and that the creed of apostate religions has always been to pretend to follow dead prophets while persecuting the living ones. The Pharisees of Christ's day claimed to be disciples of Abraham and Moses, while rejecting the living Christ. As Christ himself pointed out, had they actually followed and understood the teachings of Abraham and Moses, they would have accepted Christ and His apostles. Christ taught that whosoever accepts his representatives on earth accepts him, and whosoever rejects his earthly representatives rejects him also. If we think we can follow Christ without following the continued revelation through living prophets, we do not understand His teachings. We cannot truly be followers of Christ without following the teachings He gives us through His living prophet on earth today. It is very easy to acknowledge long-dead prophets in word, since they are not here to admonish us to repent. It is much more difficult to conform our lives to the Lord's teachings through modern prophets, since living prophets ask us to obey specific commandments today.
I like to use the following example: Even if a person living in the time of Noah tried to live righteously and accepted the teachings of all previous prophets, if he did not FOLLOW the words of the living prophet and board the Ark, he would have perished in the flood. Today we have many challenges and circumstances which are different from those thousands of years ago, and it is as vital for our salvation that we follow the guidance of the Lord's living prophet on the earth today as it was for individuals to follow Noah and board the Ark at the time of the Great Flood.
Clearly it is not adequate simply to acknowledge the prophet's divine calling in word: we must actually OBEY his words. We should be anxiously engaged in learning and applying the counsel of the living prophet, the Lord's mouthpiece on earth.
Discussion 1 Principle 4: The Prophet Joseph Smith: A Modern Witness of Jesus Christ
1. "God followed his model for revealing truth in our day. He chose a prophet, who learned of the Plan of Salvation firsthand. This prophet was Joseph Smith."
2. "In 1820, Joseph Smith was only fourteen years old. He was confused because of the many different teachings about religion. Churches affirmed that they taught the truth about God. But young Joseph was confused by the tremendous differences between their teachings. He described his feelings in the following words [Read Joseph Smith - History 1:8]"
This is one of the most crucial points in the first discussion. Many truth-seekers are similar to Joseph Smith in that they are confused by the abundance of churches teaching discordant principles. Have the investigators ever felt feelings similar to Joseph Smith's (i.e. confusion over the great discrepancies between the teachings of different churches, while all proclaim that they have "truth?"). Do they understand why there can only be one true church (although a variety may have some fragments of the truth?) If so, is it important to find the true church? How can we find out which it is? If the investigator has never seriously entertained these thoughts or does not seem to understand or agree with this basic logic, that is a serious warning sign. If the investigator does not or understand that there can be only one true church and that it is important for us to find that church and obey Heavenly Father's teachings, there is little point in continuing the discussions until this obstacle can be overcome.
One can tell a great deal about a person by his or her answer to these very basic questions. They are so important that I frequently used them while contacting. Many people have never considered that there should be one true church for all people, regardless of nationality or cultural differences. If they don’t accept these basic tenets, this is a good place to stop and emphasize basic doctrines, since it will be difficult to make any real progress with commitments until these points are understood and accepted.
3. "One day, Joseph read a passage in the Bible through which he learned how to overcome his uncertainty [read JS-History 1:11-12]
This is another crucial point. What does James tell us to do if we lack wisdom? To ask of God. Does the investigator understand why one's neighbor, friend, or pastor may not be an objective source of truth? Who is the source of truth? Heavenly Father. Who then can confirm truth to us? Only He can, through the Holy Ghost and through His prophets. We likewise must ask of God, or forever remain in ignorance.
4. "Joseph decided to do what the Bible said. He decided to ask God in prayer. One Spring morning he went into a nearby grove. He knelt and began to pray to God with all of his heart. He had great faith and believed that God would answer his prayer."
Again, a very key point. Joseph Smith did not pray lightmindedly. He took real effort first to study out truth by study and contemplation. When he prayed, he prayed sincerely with willingness to obey the Lord's answer to his prayer, regardless of how difficult it might be. When we pray to know truth, we must be willing to live in accordance with the answer we receive.
5. "He described what happened in his own words [read JS-History 1:16-17]
"In answer to his prayer, God the Father and Jesus Christ visited the young Joseph."
The Joseph Smith pamphlet, if understood correctly, teaches most of the points of the first three discussions. Here again is added emphasis that Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ are two separate individuals united in purpose (as the Bible also teaches in multiple passages), dispelling the notion of "Trinity."
6. "Through this and other events, Joseph Smith was called to be a prophet. He was a prophet like Moses and other Biblical prophets. They also saw God and were called to proclaim His gospel."
7. "Joseph Smith is a powerful witness of Jesus Christ because he saw and spoke with the resurrected Savior. Through him God revealed the truths of the Plan of Salvation and of the sacred mission of Jesus Christ."
It is very helpful to read D&C 5:10 here:
"This generation shall have my word through you [Joseph Smith]."
To correctly understand this principle, the investigator must have a correct understanding the points especially outlined in Discussion 1 Principle 3. Does the investigator understand why true followers of Christ can only get the Lord's word in its fullness through Joseph Smith and the living prophet today?
"Until we get involved with latter-day revelation, the process of conversion does not begin to operate in any substantial degree in the heart of an investigator. The Lord said to Joseph Smith: 'this generation shall have my word through you...'(D&C 5:10). That is his decree. They either get it through Joseph Smith or they do not get it, and our whole perspective is: Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon, the Book of Mormon and Joseph Smith." Bruce R. McConkie, Mission Presidents Seminar, June 21, 1975
"Those who have been acquainted with the Prophet Joseph, who laid the foundation of this Church and kingdom, who was an instrument in the hand of God in bringing to light the Gospel in this last dispensation, know well that every feeling of his soul, every sentiment of his mind, and every act of his life, proved that he was determined to maintain the principle of truth, even to the sacrificing of his life." Wilford Woodruff, JD 2:192
Discussion 1 Principle 5: The Book of Mormon: Another Witness of Jesus Christ
1. "As a witness of Christ, Joseph Smith received authority to teach the gospel. He also revealed other holy scriptures. He was commanded to translate the writings of ancient prophets. These writings can be found in the Book of Mormon, another witness of Jesus Christ."
2. "The Book of Mormon contains the writings of ancient prophets. The first of them, Lehi, lived in Jerusalem about 600 B.C. The Lord commanded Lehi to lead a small group to the American continent. There they founded a great civilization. God later called prophets from among these people. The Book of Mormon is a collection of their writings. It carries the name of one of these prophets."
3. "These prophets knew of the plan of salvation and of the mission of the Savior. After his resurrection, Christ showed himself to people in America. He taught them His gospel and established His Church among them."
The scripture below is very helpful to insert into the discussion. Investigators must understand that they cannot truly accept Christ without accepting the Book of Mormon, and that if they truly accept Him they will accept His words in this remarkable book. Be bold!
"And now, my beloved brethren, and also Jew, and all ye ends of the earth, hearken unto these words and believe in Christ; and if ye believe not in these words believe in Christ. And if ye shall believe in Christ ye will believe in these words, for they are the words of Christ, and he hath given them unto me; and they teach all men that they should do good. And if they are not the words of Christ, judge ye—for Christ will show unto you, with power and great glory, that they are his words, at the last day; and you and I shall stand face to face before his bar; and ye shall know that I have been commanded of him to write these things, notwithstanding my weakness." 2 Nephi 33:10-11
4. "Through the centuries the plan of salvation was accessible to people mainly through the Bible. God has now given us the Book of Mormon. It contains new witnesses of Jesus Christ [Read and discuss 2 Corinthians 13:1, beginning with the words ‘in the mouth of..’]"
The first sentence here is a point of historical discussion. While some priests and high-ranking church officials may have possessed copies of the "Bible" during the middle ages, the dominant "Christian" church did not allow common people to read it. The "Christian Church" executed many people for the "heresy" of trying to make the Bible accessible to the common man! Only within the past several hundred years has any portion of the Bible been genuinely available to a significant number of people. If investigators don’t know this, they should be told. We must be clear that the Bible does not, in itself, contain the "fulness of the gospel." It did at one time, but much has been lost or altered. The Book of Mormon, in contrast, came to us pure from the source and does contain the fullness of the gospel. As Ezra Taft Benson stated, not all scripture is equal.
"Find out: Do the investigators understand what the Book of Mormon is? Do they understand how it is another testament of Jesus Christ? Will they read the Book of Mormon?"
"Testify: Express your feelings about: The truth of the Bible. The truth of the Book of Mormon. The testimonies of Jesus Christ contained in the Book of Mormon. How the Book of Mormon has influenced your life."
Note: One must be careful here not to preach false doctrine. It is easy to say that we know that the Bible is "true." Accurately, we should follow the Article of Faith: The Bible contains the word of God, so far as it is translated correctly. This is a crucial distinction for investigators to understand.
5. "To help you read the Book of Mormon, we suggest reading a few chosen selections before our next visit. We suggest that you read the Introduction (including the testimonies and the short explanation of the plates), Moroni 10:3-5, and 3 Nephi 11."
"Will you read these selections by (date)? Will you also begin to read the Book of Mormon from the beginning?"
"Show: Show the investigators these selections in the Book of Mormon. Explain each selection briefly. Excite their interest by reading a part of the introduction to 3 Nephi 11. You can also put a bookmark in this section."
Good judgment must be used here. A number of missionaries when presenting this seem to convey that the other portions of the Book of Mormon are somehow inferior to Christ's visit to the inhabitants of the Americas. This is simply not true, and may make the investigator less inclined to read portions of the Book of Mormon which in their perception are not solely dedicated to the topic of Christ himself. Nephi, King Benjamin, Mosiah, Moroni, and other prophets talk about Christ even more than the Apostles in the New Testament. Of course we should focus on the Savior, but I feel strongly that the words of His prophets are every bit as powerful a testament of Him as the Savior's visit to the people in the Americas.
"Whether by the my voice or the voice of my servants, it is the same." Helping investigators to understand this crucial principle up front can prevent considerable difficulties down the road.
I find it more effective to recommend another section, like King Benjamin's speech (Mosiah 2-5) or Alma's discourse (Alma 5). Relying on 3 Nephi seems to be going on the defensive as if to "prove" that Latter-day Saints are really Christians. Additionally, the next three chapters (3 Nephi 12-14) are almost verbatim for chapters in the New Testament (with rather subtle changes), which for many investigators does nothing to help them develop a testimony of the Book of Mormon. There are only a few points in 3 Nephi 12-14 that investigators who have read the Bible have not heard before. A number of intelligent, well-read investigators to whom I recommended Third Nephi quickly concluded that many parts of the Book of Mormon were simply copied from the New Testament with a few minor changes. While this is not true, I can certainly see how some individuals might perceive that.
We talk a lot about the "new testimonies" of Christ in the Book of Mormon, and then recommend passages that (if the investigators continue reading) to a great extent recycle many of the "old" witnesses. Too great a reliance on Third Nephi may hurt our approach more than it helps it. Try recommending a variety of sections. Be creative.
"Find out: Do the investigators understand what is expected from them? What do they think of this commitment?"
"Moving onward: Agree with the investigators on how you can help them to fulfill this commitment to read. For example, you can visit them the following afternoon (or morning) to answer their questions. You can read and discuss several favorite selections with them at the time of an additional visit. You can arrange for a member to visit them to read with them and answer their questions. You can invite them to view an audiovisual presentation (video, etc.) on the Book of Mormon in the home of a member."
Discussion 1 Principle 6: The Holy Ghost: Witness of Truth
1. "In calling Joseph Smith and commanding him to translate the Book of Mormon, God followed the model which He established to reveal truth. God promised that the Holy Ghost will help you to know that the Book of Mormon is true."
2. "The Holy Ghost will help you to know that Joseph Smith was called of God to be a witness of Christ. When you are convinced of this, you will also know that the other things which we have said are true."
This is good teaching technique, to reaffirm that the truth of the message relates to the basic questions: was Joseph Smith a prophet of God, and is the Book of Mormon true. Once either of these questions is answered, all other questions of truthfulness are answered also.
3. "The Book of Mormon contains a promise for all those who read it. The Lord gave us this promise through Moroni, the last prophet in the Book of Mormon [Read and discuss Moroni 10:3-5].
4. "This passage explains that you can know through the Holy Ghost that the Book of Mormon is true. First, you must read it; secondly, you must contemplate that which you have read, comparing truths in the Book of Mormon with truths in the Bible; thirdly, you must pray to the Father sincerely and with faith in Christ. You have a promise that by the power of the Holy Ghost, your Father in Heaven will help you to know that this message is true."
The statement that investigators ought to compare truths in the Bible and Book of Mormon should be approached with great caution. It is difficult to fully reconcile this point with numerous other scriptures and General Authority statements. I do not doubt that we lose thousands of potential converts each year churchwide because of improper use of this phrase, and because of false missionary teachings about the Bible in general. I am confident that its intent was good, to help investigators see that the Book of Mormon and the Bible "agree." It is, however, a dangerous proposition with a high potential for abuse, since (1) the Bible is NOT fully translated correctly and does NOT contain the fulness of the gospel (while the Book of Mormon does), and (2) what the Bible actually says, in context, and how it is commonly interpreted are two very different things. Implied in this statement is that investigators use the Bible as a "standard" to determining the truth of the Book of Mormon, which is a set-up for failure since almost all apostate churches purport to show, by taking some (often poorly translated) Bible verses out of context and twisting their interpretation, that the Book of Mormon does not "agree" with the Bible. Missionaries who choose to instruct investigators to compare truths in the Book of Mormon and Bible should not be surprised if the investigator later tells them that he or she feels that the Book of Mormon conflicts with the Bible and he or she is no longer interested. Be warned. An effective missionary should never underestimate the power Satan has over people because of false interpretations of the Bible:
"Because of the many plain and precious things which have been taken out of the book [the Bible], which were plain unto the understanding of the children of men, according to the plainness which is in the Lamb of God - because of these things which are taken away out of the gospel of the Lamb, an exceedingly great many do stumble, yea, insomuch that Satan hath great power over them." 1 Nephi 13:29
"Find out: Do investigators agree that it is important to find out that the Book of Mormon is true? Do they understand how they can receive a witness from the Holy Ghost? Do they know how to recognize the influence of the Spirit? (A feeling of peace, a good feeling, and not something dramatic). Have they ever felt the influence of the Holy Ghost?
Most descriptions of the Holy Ghost are inadequate. It is a unique feeling that is not easily described. Most nonmembers think that they have felt the Holy Ghost at some time, and I’m not sure that many of them have. In reality very often people in the world, as well as many members of the church and even some missionaries, confuse the influence of the Holy Ghost with (1) their conscience or (2) their emotions. The Holy Ghost tells us the difference between true and false, not between right and wrong -- that is the function of our conscience (the Light of Christ). Most people have felt peaceful, good feelings that are not the Holy Ghost. It is important that investigators (as well as members and missionaries!) learn how to correctly distinguish these three types of feelings.
"Testify: Express your feelings about: How you gained a testimony of the truths which you teach. The promise of Moroni 10:3-5 and your personal testimony in relation to this. The power of the Book of Mormon in demonstrating that Joseph Smith was a prophet."
5. "Will you pray and ask Heavenly father if the Book of Mormon is true and if Joseph Smith was a prophet of God?"
It is vital to be confident and express the question in the affirmative. Investigators should not be asked to pray to find out IF the Book of Mormon is true, but to pray to know THAT the Book of Mormon is true and that Joseph Smith was a prophet. The first question creates doubt, while the second demonstrates conviction.
"Find out: What do the investigators think about prayer? Do they understand what is expected from them?"
"Explain: If it is appropriate, teach ’instructions on prayer’ from the brochure with instructions to help the investigators to understand the basic model for prayer."
"Moving on: Agree with the investigators on how you can help them to fulfill their commitment to pray. For example, you can pray with them every visit. Inspire them to pray as often as possible."
It is very helpful to go over the steps of prayer (using the four-step model) with the investigator(s) as follows. Who do we pray to? First we thank our Heavenly Father. Ask them to mention a few things they are thankful for. Then ask them to mention a few blessings they need in their lives. How do we close a prayer? In the name of Jesus Christ. Very good! Now it will be easy to ask the investigator to pray at the end of the discussion, since you can remind them that they have already come up with all of the elements for a prayer!
Whether the investigators pray out loud at the end of the first discussion is an important landmark. If missionaries cannot get investigators to pray at the conclusion of the first discussion, chances for a return visit and for future progress with the investigator are SIGNIFICANTLY REDUCED. When missionaries are weak or vacillating in their requests for prayer or if they do not prepare the investigators properly, relatively few investigators will pray at the end of the first discussion. When approached properly, over 80% of investigators WILL pray at the end of the first discussion. Missionaries must exude confidence and enthusiasm that the investigator can pray. The investigator may need to be prompted slightly.
"To the extent that the Lord answers your prayers and you feel that our message is true, we hope that you will desire to follow Christ and be baptized."
"Invitation: If the Spirit inspires you to do so, you can ask the investigator to accept baptism."
Very early in my mission, I did ask one person to be baptized on the first discussion and he was baptized and stayed active. In general, it is appropriate to ask for a baptismal commitment during the first discussion only under very rare circumstances. If an investigator is truly ready to accept the baptismal commitment on the first discussion, he or she will be ready to accept this commitment at the time of the second or third. When they are not, this question is very dangerous. It can scare interested, sincere, even "golden" investigators away. How would you feel if someone asked to marry you on the first date? It violates our feelings of propriety and sensibility. Even if that person happened to be "right" for you, you would certainly consider that person to be strange and scary. You might not wish to see or speak to that person again. Certainly, it is very unlikely that you would accept the proposal. Even if you accepted, it is likely that others would successfully dissuade you from following through on the basis of impropriety alone. Baptism is no less of a commitment that marriage, and a commitment of that magnitude should not be solicited in haste or without appropriate preparation.
6. "The message that we have discussed is very important. We have touched on only a few of the great and wonderful truths which God has revealed in our time. As we discussed earlier, this is the first of six discussions. They explain what God revealed through living prophets in our time. They show how you can find peace and happiness in your life."
"Explain: If it is appropriate, you can: Remind the investigators of the spiritual feelings which they have felt. Help them to understand how your message can fulfill their needs. Share with them the experiences of people whose lives were blessed by the gospel."
"The next discussion is dedicated to the mission of Jesus Christ. We will discuss what He did for us and how we can enjoy the blessings which He made possible."
"Explain: You can: Give a brief overview of the second discussion. Explain that the discussion will cover topics which the investigators will read about in the Book of Mormon."
"We can come on (date) and (time) or (date) and (time). Which is more convenient for you?
"Moving on: You can: Write the date and time of your next meeting on the brochure for the investigators. (If possible, you can set the dates of all future discussions) . Confirm the agreed meeting at the time of an additional visit in a day or two to discuss the brochure and passages read by the investigators. Use the help of a member friend or family. If possible, the discussion should be conducted at the house of a member, or a member should be present during the discussion."
Many missionaries prefer not to bring members on the first discussion unless they personally know the investigators, since the large majority of first discussions never result in a second. The high "drop-out" rate can be discouraging for the members, and when investigators are not very interested and unlikely to continue, the presence of a member is of questionable benefit. However, it is important to try to have a member present at all further formal discussions (2-6) if at all possible. This way the investigators are fellowshipped early, develop friends in the ward, and benefit from the teaching and testimony of a local member with whom they will have more long-term contact than with the missionaries. This strengthens the testimony of local members as well as their confidence to share the gospel.
Discussion 2: The Gospel of Jesus Christ
Three Correlates of Success: Are the investigators prepared for the discussion?
The second discussion contains the Baptismal Commitment, and so before starting the discussion, it is crucial to honestly assess whether the investigators are READY to accept the baptismal commitment.
Often missionaries feel considerable pressure to teach discussions to increase their proselyting "numbers." This leads to a large number of discussions being taught to investigators who are not ready. Few things harm the missionary effort as much as inappropriately teach discussions to investigators who are not adequately prepared for it! Honesty is always the best policy. The real goals, obeying the commandments, true conversion, and building the church, should always be dominant in our thinking. While putting off a discussion because an investigator is not ready may nominally decrease the number of formal discussions taught, in the long run, honesty in assessing when investigators are truly ready for discussions greatly increases the true growth of the church.
Here are three vital considerations in determining whether investigators are prepared to receive the second discussion. Each one of these factors correlates HIGHLY with success in (a) obtaining a baptismal commitment, (b) with the probability that the commitment will be carried out, and (c) with the probability that those who are baptized will remain active members of the church. The reason for their importance is simple: Each one is an important aspect of true conversion which cannot be neglected without great consequence.
1. Book of Mormon Reading
Has the investigator read a meaningful amount in the Book of Mormon? Has he or she prayed about it? Does the investigator know that the Book of Mormon is true?
If the investigator has read a meaningful amount in the Book of Mormon, he or she should be able to describe what he or she read about and discuss it. When investigators say that they have read but don't remember what they read, or when they cannot describe what they read, often they are trying to avoid the embarrassment of admitting that they didn't read . In either case, not reading and skimming a passage or two without real attention or contemplation are functionally equivalent. The investigator needs to read and contemplate the Book of Mormon seriously before missionaries should consider teaching the second discussion.
2. The One and Only True Church
Does the investigator believe that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is true? If so, does he or she believe that it is the ONLY true church, and not just "one of the true churches?" Does he or she understand how the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is different from other churches?
Too often it happens that a missionary gets to the end of the second discussion and asks for a baptismal commitment, only to get a blank look and a reply: "but I've already been baptized in my church." Once this blunder has been made, it is very hard to recover and get back on track. This should NEVER happen if the missionaries have prepared the investigators appropriately by asking the right questions (above) and anticipating and disarming these concerns ahead of time.
It is NOT appropriate to ask investigators to be baptized until they understand and accept why the true church is different from the others. One must make sure that investigators correctly understand the concept of authority from God, who has this authority, and why one must be baptized in the "one true church." This can be done as a follow-up after the first discussion or as a lead-in to the discussion on baptism (principle 5) preceding the baptismal commitment (principle 7) in the second discussion. If people aren't prepared to go on, it is best to wrap it up as smoothly as possible, re-emphasize these points later in Discussion 3 (Apostasy and Restoration), and then come back to baptism on a follow-up. It also does wonders to lay the groundwork by a proper discussion of Joseph Smith in the First Discussion (see above). After we made these changes, our success rate with the baptismal commitment in the second discussion went up dramatically and I never again heard that obnoxious line about having already been baptized when asking for a commitment. My mission president even suggested that other missionaries consider switching the order of the second and third discussions as my companions and I frequently did to lay a proper foundation before the baptismal commitment since we had so much success with it.
3. Church Attendance: Implications for Baptism and Retention
Has the investigator attended church? CHURCH ATTENDANCE BEFORE THE BAPTISMAL COMMITMENT IS VIRTUALLY A PREREQUISITE FOR A SUCCESSFUL BAPTISMAL COMMITMENT RESULTING IN LONG-TERM ACTIVITY.
Would you ask someone to marry you if you had not even been on a date? Then why do we ask investigators to join the church when they have not even attended a meeting once? Does it not seem very odd to ask for a lifetime commitment to the Church before an investigator has made the effort to attend church on a single Sunday? Predictably, in missions where this principle is not understood or practiced, retention rates are very poor.
All missionaries should be aware: If a second discussion is taught to someone who has not yet been to church, (1) the chance that the baptized commitment will be accepted and carried out is VERY LOW, and (2) the chance that the investigator will remain active, even if he or she is baptized, is also VERY LOW.
In a ward where I once lived, there were approximately twenty baptisms over a nine-month period. Many of those individuals came to church only on the Sunday they were baptized, or only once before. Not surprisingly, many also attend church only once or twice after baptism, or not at all. Only one of the fifteen individuals who was baptized still comes to church (and once or twice a month at that), in spite of very considerable efforts to fellowship all of them and make them feel comfortable. Several never even returned to church to be confirmed.
Why did these individuals go inactive? The answer is, none of them "went inactive" -- they were simply never active! You can't "go inactive" if you were never "active" at any point. These individuals were taught the discussions with a focus on "baptism" rather than on consistent weekly church attendance and long-term growth in the gospel. The missionaries who taught them focused on baptism without full emphasis on the "little things" that make baptism meaningful -- daily scripture study, weekly church attendance, and obedience to the commandments. I know, because I attended some of the discussions. They were committed to "baptism" without ever being fully committed to the Church! This is not a member failure. It is not because the members of the ward were unfriendly or failed to fellowship adequately. It is because they were not taught properly. There were serious warning signs which were not recognized.
President Hinckley has said that "it is not necessary that we should lose [any of] those who are baptized," and yet in many areas, the converts who stay active are the exception rather than the rule. If we would understand President Hinckley's counsel and obey it, we would not have dozens of missions with "revolving door" baptisms where new members go out the back door almost as fast as they come in the front. We would not have wards and branches with activity rates of 5-30%.
If investigators have not attended church before the second discussion, it is wise to give them additional opportunities to do so. This is the best policy in the long run. It is ill-advised to hurry baptism, since individuals may be baptized without being converted. True conversion cannot be rushed. A little extra time and emphasis on true conversion up front can save years of fruitless inactive visits later.
Discussion 2 Principle 1: Salvation from Physical Death
1. "Two main obstacles stand in the way of our becoming like our Heavenly Father. First, our physical bodies are imperfect and mortal. The body of our Heavenly Father is perfect and immortal. Because our bodies are mortal, each of us will die."
2. "Physical Death is the separation of the spirit from our mortal physical body. Although our spirit continues to live, our physical body dies. We cannot overcome this first obstacle - physical death."
"Find Out: Do the investigators understand what happens to our spirit and our mortal body when we die?"
3. "Jesus Christ overcame this obstacle for us. His physical death came when He died on the cross. On the third day after his death, his followers returned to the grave where they had placed his dead body. But the body was not there. Jesus had resurrected. His spirit reunited with his body in a glorified, resurrected form."
"Testify: Express your feelings about the resurrection of Christ."
4. "If death is the separation of our spirit and physical body, resurrection is the reuniting of the spirit with an immortal physical body (read and discuss Alma 11:42-43)."
"Find out: Do the investigators understand that resurrection is the reuniting of our spirit with a glorified, immortal body."
5. "Because of Jesus’ triumphal victory over physical death and His resurrection, we will all be resurrected. Resurrection is a free gift to each of us regardless of what we do in this life -- good or evil."
"Testify: Express your feelings about: The eternal nature of the spirit. Your faith that each of us, including yourself and the investigators, will literally be resurrected. Your sincere gratefulness for the atonement of Jesus Christ."
"Example: Describe physical death: Imagine that my hand represents your spirit. It is alive. It can move by itself. Imagine that this glove represents your physical body. It cannot move or act by itself. But when the spirit enters it, this physical body can move, act, and live. On earth each of us has a spirit, clothed in a physical body. At some time due to old age, illness or unfortunate event our spirit will leave the physical body. Then we say that the person has died. Death is not the end of life because the spirit continues to live. "
"Describe the resurrection: You remember that my hand represents a spirit, and the glove -- a physical body. When I separate them, the spirit will leave the physical body. The body is no longer alive. But the spirit remains alive. It awaits the resurrection in the spirit world. When the resurrection comes, the spirit unites with a perfected, immortal body, and from that time forth we will always live."
This principle is fairly self-explanatory, so my comments are minimal. It is important to help investigators understand why the resurrection is so important to our eternal progression. Trinitarian Christians generally do not understand this concept. 2 Nephi 9:6 is helpful in helping investigators understand why the resurrection is so important to helping us become more like our Heavenly Father. It is important for investigators to understand that our Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ are distinct individuals of flesh and bone, and not nebulous beings without form or substance as taught by most Trinitarian denominations.
"For as death hath passed upon all men, to fulfil the merciful plan of the great Creator, there must needs be a power of resurrection, and the resurrection must needs come unto man by reason of the fall; and the fall came by reason of transgression; and because man became fallen they were cut off from the presence of the Lord. Wherefore, it must needs be an infinite atonement—save it should be an infinite atonement this corruption could not put on incorruption. Wherefore, the first judgment which came upon man must needs have remained to an endless duration. And if so, this flesh must have laid down to rot and to crumble to its mother earth, to rise no more. O the wisdom of God, his mercy and grace! For behold, if the flesh should rise no more our spirits must become subject to that angel who fell from before the presence of the Eternal God, and became the devil, to rise no more. And our spirits must have become like unto him, and we become devils, angels to a devil, to be shut out from the presence of our God, and to remain with the father of lies, in misery, like unto himself; yea, to that being who beguiled our first parents, who transformeth himself nigh unto an angel of light, and stirreth up the children of men unto secret combinations of murder and all manner of secret works of darkness. O how great the goodness of our God, who prepareth a way for our escape from the grasp of this awful monster; yea, that monster, death and hell, which I call the death of the body, and also the death of the spirit." 2 Nephi 9:6-10
It is also helpful to emphasize the crucial nature of doing right here on earth. Without a body, our spirit is very limited. We waited through all the eternities for an opportunity to come to earth, and our future destiny throughout the eternities will depend upon our actions in this brief mortal probationary state.
Discussion 2 Principle 2: Salvation from Sin
1. "Sin is the second obstacle for us in becoming like our Father in Heaven. In accordance with the plan of salvation, each of us left the presence of our Heavenly Father to come to earth. Here we have the opportunity to develop spiritually. We develop when we learn to distinguish good from evil and choose good.
2. In the process of choosing between good and evil, we do some things that are contrary to the will of God. Conscious, voluntary action against the will of God is sin. During our life on earth, we all sin. Sin leads to loss of happiness in this life. More importantly, it makes us unclean spiritually. Nothing unclean can abide with God."
"Find out: Do the investigators understand why sin does not allow us to return to our Heavenly Father. This separation from God as a result of our sins is called spiritual death. Because of our sins, we cannot return to live with him without first receiving forgiveness and being cleansed. We cannot overcome these obstacles alone, just as we cannot conquer physical death. We would be hopeless without the help of Jesus Christ."
3. "[Read and discuss Alma 34:8-9] God sent His Beloved Son, Jesus Christ, to overcome the obstacle of sin. Through the mercy of Christ, we can be cleansed from sin. We can also live again with God. As a part of the plan of His Father, Christ paid the punishment for our sins. We receive forgiveness when we accept Christ, repent, and obey His commandments. In this way we become cleansed from our sins. We can become worthy to return to the presence of God."
"Find out: Do the investigators believe that the consequences of sin can be overcome through Christ?"
4. "Jesus's victory over physical death and sin is called the Atonement. Thanks to the atonement, we can return to God and live with Him."
Testify: Express your feelings about:
- The requirements of the Atonement
- Your gratefulness for the Savior's offering.
5. "Paying the punishment for our sins, Jesus did not take away our personal responsibility. We must fulfill certain requirements to demonstrate that we accept him and that we will obey His commandments. These requirements are called the first principles and ordinances of the gospel."
Discussion 2 Principle 3: Faith in Jesus Christ
1. "The first principle of the gospel is faith in the Lord Jesus Christ [Read and discuss Hebrews 11:6] To have faith in Christ means to unfailingly believe that He is the Son of God and Savior of the world."
2. "When we believe in Christ, we love Him. We accept his Atonement and His teachings. We do all that He commands us. We follow the example of His perfect life and believe in Him."
How do the investigators understand belief in Jesus Christ.
What do they think of Christ and His sacrifice for us.
Testify: Express your feelings about:
- Your faith in Christ.
- The love of our Heavenly Father for us.
- The blessings which faith in Christ brings.
Due to our emphasis on building on common beliefs out of desire for acceptance, at times we may mistakenly assume that members of other faiths understand the principle of Faith in Christ (and others) the same way we do because they use much of the same nomenclature. It is tempting for missionaries to speed through this principle when teaching those who consider themselves to be "Christians." Often missionaries may be prompted to hurry through this principle by verbal or non-verbal cues from investigators, who may demonstrate boredom or state that they "already know" the basics of faith. However, it is crucial that missionaries resist the temptation to gloss over the topic of faith lightly. In fact, when investigators demonstrate boredom, that is often one of the greatest indicators not that they already understand and have mastered the principle, but that they understand very little about it. When we understand true faith, it is an exciting and dynamic topic that is at the core of our religion. Every gospel blessing stems from faith. It is therefore crucial that all investigators be taught fully to develop faith and that they demonstrate both understanding and active implementation of this knowledge.
As alluded to previously, missionaries may assume that non-LDS Christians already understand a great deal about faith. Unfortunately, this assumption can only lead to disaster. The true challenge with non-LDS Christians is generally in overcoming significant misconceptions about the true nature of faith, and it is often a greater challenge to teach an accurate understanding of faith to non-LDS Christians than to non-Christians who start fresh rather than with a faulty foundation. Many Christian denominations teach that our salvation has little or nothing to do with obedience (our works); only with professed (and often insincere) belief coupled to God's mercy. It goes without saying that without an accurate understanding of the basic nature of faith, an understanding of how to develop and apply faith cannot be present.
Is faith generally present in the non-LDS Christian world? The prophet Moroni taught that faith is always accompanied by the fruits. When these things are absent, there is no faith.
Many denominations dispute the true Church on the grounds, they believe, that visions and spiritual gifts are a thing of the past. In so doing, they deny the very nature of faith, for whenever in the history of the world men have had faith, it has been attended by the gifts of God described by Moroni.
I once attended Protestant rally where one prominent American minister purported to speak in tongues. He spoke unintelligible gobbletygook, but (remarkably) could neither understand nor convey a single word in the language of the local people (Russian). I thought it was quite strange for him to pretend to "speak in tongues" glorious things that could not be comprehended, while he was simultaneously wholly dependent on a native translator to communicate the simplest thoughts to the local people. As the Lord teaches in the Doctrine and Covenants, that which does not edify is not of God.
Joseph Smith taught that faith is a principle of power. Above all, faith is the will to do right. When we are obedient, we demonstrate faith. How do we develop faith? Many believe that faith is developed by great deeds. To the contrary, it is the little things that we do every day that best reflect our true degree of faith.
Discussion 2 Principle 4: Repentance
1. "The second principle of the gospel is repentance. [Read and discuss Alma 34:17.] To the extent that our faith in Christ grows, we desire to be more like Him. We desire to repent of our sins."
2. "To repent of our sins, we acknowledge to God that we have acted wrongfully. We feel sorrow for our sins and ask God for forgiveness. We do all that we can to correct the evils caused by our actions. If we sincerely repent, we turn from our sins and do not commit them any more. We have no more desire to sin."
Find out: Do the investigators understand what constitutes true repentance and how we repent.
3. "True repentance brings us forgiveness and peace in this life. It prepares us for new life with our Father in the next life."
4. "Even when we have accepted Christ and repented for our sins, in the longer course we do not achieve perfection and sin again. If any time in the course of our lives, we do not act according to the example which Christ gave us, we must repent. We must change our attitudes and our heart. We must ardently begin the process of becoming more like Jesus Christ."
Testify: Express your feelings about -
- The peace that repentance and forgiveness bring.
- The important role of repentance in attaining happiness and salvation.
Discussion 2 Principle 5: Baptism by Immersion for the Remission of Sins
1. "Faith and repentance bring us to the next step, which is the ordinance of baptism. [Read and discuss Acts 2:38.] Jesus taught that we must be baptized by immersion for the remission of sins."
Find out: if it is necessary, help the investigators to understand that the ordinances of the gospel are holy ceremonies, for example baptism. These ceremonies are fulfilled according to God's laws. They must be performed by an individual who has proper authority from God.
2. "Through the ordinance of baptism, we make a covenant, or contract, with God. We promise that we will accept Christ, will follow Him and will keep His commandments to the end. Our Heavenly Father promises us that our sins will be forgiven if we keep our part of the covenant."
3. "Baptism by immersion is a symbol of the death, burial, and resurrection of the Savior. It represents also the end of our old life and the beginning of a new life as followers of Christ."
4. "We must accept baptism to become members of Jesus' Church and to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Baptism must be performed by members of the Church who have the priesthood and authority to perform ordinances in the name of Christ. "
- Do the investigators understand that they must be baptized to receive forgiveness and to fulfill God's plan?
- What do they think of the Savior's command to accept baptism.
Testify: Express your feelings about:
- The necessity of baptism for salvation.
- Blessings which are obtained through baptism.
Invitation: If the Spirit inspires you, this could be an appropriate moment to ask the investigators to accept baptism.
I like to emphasize that baptism without authority is not baptism. Investigators who have been baptized in other churches must understand that they are not being asked to be baptized again, but to be baptized for the first time by one having authority.
It is generally fruitless to ask individuals who have not yet attended church to be baptized. It seems odd to ask for a lifetime commitment before an individual has made the effort to attend church for a single Sunday. Predictably, in missions where this commitment is not emphasized, many individuals attend church for the first time on the Sunday they are baptized and never return.
Too often it happens that a missionary gets to the end of the second discussion and asks for a baptismal commitment, only to get a blank look and a reply: "but I've already been baptized in my church." Once this blunder has been made, it is very hard to recover and get back on track. This should NEVER happen if the missionaries have prepared the investigators appropriately by asking the right questions and anticipating and disarming these concerns ahead of time. It is not appropriate to ask people to be baptized until they understand and accept why the true church is different from the others. One must make sure that people correctly understand the concept of authority from God, who has this authority, and why one must be baptized in the "one true church." This can be done as a follow-up after the first discussion or as a lead-in to the discussion on baptism (principle 5) preceding the baptismal commitment (principle 7) in the second discussion. If people aren’t prepared to go on, it is best to wrap it up, re-emphasize these points later in Discussion 3 (Apostasy and Restoration), and then come back to baptism on a follow-up. It also does wonders to lay the ground by a proper discussion of Joseph Smith in the First Discussion (see above). After I made these changes, my success rate with the baptismal commitment in the second discussion went way up and I never again heard that obnoxious line about having already been baptized when asking for a commitment.
I learned from one of my companions who was a very effective missionary that rather than commit people to a firm date, it is often appropriate to make a list of items that must be done in preparation for baptism and agree on a tentative time table with the understanding that the ultimate baptismal date may be moved up or pushed back based on how things go with the basic commitments. It is imperative that investigators establish appropriate habits before baptism rather than after.
Core Gospel Habits
1. Daily personal and family prayer
2. Daily reading in the Book of Mormon for half an hour each day, with family if possible (Ezra Taft Benson)
3. Weekly attendance at Sunday block meetings
4. Observance of the Law of the Sabbath
5. Observing the Law of Chastity in thought, word, and deed
6. Obeying the Word of Wisdom
7. Sharing the Gospel with non-members at least weekly.
These are lifelong commitments should be firmly in place before baptism, as demonstrated by consistent observance of these for at least three weeks prior to baptism. Many studies document that it takes at least three weeks for habits to form. When individuals are baptized before consistently fulfilling these commitments for at least three weeks, there is a very high rate of inactivity and, for the few that remain active, relapse and nonperformance of these basic habits.
If the converts are not familiar with the Word of Wisdom, Law of Chastity, or Sabbath Day, now is the time to discuss those topics. Challenges in those areas can delay or prevent baptism when the investigator does not learn of those laws until the fourth discussion or later.
At each successive discussion or follow-up, we would assess with the investigators how they were doing on each of the points listed under "core commitments." This would also give us a very good idea of how the investigators are doing and what issues could be potential problems down the road. There should be very few surprises when people are taught well. Baptism is a privilege investigators can qualify for through obedience -- not an endpoint the missionaries are trying to race him or her towards. Preparation for baptism is a process that may take more or less time depending on how well commitments are kept. People feel less threatened or stressed and know that the missionaries support them and don’t want to "rush them through." Their baptisms will be more meaningful and they will be better and more active members when one focuses more on the preparation for baptism than the event itself. Much inactivity can be prevented by adequate preparation. One of the best things we did for many of our investigators was putting off baptism a little longer until they were keeping their commitments. To do otherwise gives the message that commitments are really not very important and creates member problems that will be much more difficult to address in the future.
One should never be afraid to move back a baptismal date. Missionaries don’t even need to set a date with some investigators; the big issue is that they desire to work towards baptism and realize what they must do to prepare for it. Baptism can be a great experience for investigators who are properly prepared, but like other gospel ordinances is a covenant that brings blessings only when we do our part. However, investigators need to understand also that their preparation should not be dragged out too long, since baptism is just the beginning of the path. It is not necessary to read the whole Book of Mormon cover to cover beforehand, but rather simply to establish regular habits which will help them to live righteously after baptism.
Investigators committed to baptism should get some fun lesson material too -- a visit on temples (with photos) can be enjoyable in helping investigators to set their horizons on their ultimate goal.
Discussion 2 Principle 6: The Gift of the Holy Ghost
1. "Jesus taught that we must be baptized of water and of the Spirit. In this way, we are spiritually reborn. We begin a new spiritual life as followers of Christ. This new life begins when we receive the Holy Ghost."
Find out: What does it mean for the investigators to begin a new life as disciples of Christ.
2. "[Read and discuss 3 Nephi 27:20]. The Holy Ghost has a sanctifying and cleansing influence on us. Jesus called the receipt of the Holy Ghost "baptism by fire." We are cleansed from our sins as though by fire. Our sins our forgiven. "
3. "After your baptism, a priest having authority will lay hands on your head and confer the gift of the Holy Ghost. He will also confirm you a member of the Church of Jesus Christ. This means that you can enjoy the constant companionship of the Holy Ghost as long as you are worthy."
4. "Those who receive the gift of the Holy Ghost can enjoy His companionship throughout one's entire life, if they are worthy of it. The Holy Ghost testifies of Christ and helps us to know truth. It gives us strength and helps us to do good. It comforts us in troubles and in trials. The Gift of the Holy Ghost is truly one of the most precious gifts of our Heavenly Father."
- Do the investigators understand the mission of Jesus Christ?
- Do they understand what blessings the Holy Ghost can bring into their lives?
- Have they begun to feel the influence of the Holy Ghost?
Testify: Express your feelings about:
- The joy that feeling the influence of the Holy Ghost brings you.
- The witnesses of truth that you have received from the Holy Ghost
- Your surety that the investigators can receive the same witness.
The gift of the Holy Ghost is often misunderstood. Can members of other chuches receive manifestations of the Holy Spirit? They can, but very rarely. In the Doctrine and Covenants, the Lord tells us that he is "withholding his Spirit" from the inhabitants of the earth. He speaks of the "gross darkness" covering the earth and the minds of the people. He states that there are "none that doeth good" except those that come unto Him in His church. Can such individuals be visited by the Holy Ghost? On very exceptional occasions, yes, as when taught by missionaries. But, in daily life, very infrequently. In the Book of Mormon, even Moroni cites the absence of miracles among the unbelievers in the latter days as evidence both of the lack of the Holy Ghost, and even of the lack of true faith in general.
The divine feeling which can guide members of other faiths is generally not the Holy Ghost, but the Light of Christ which is given to every person born in this world. The Light of Christ, or conscience, will guide all children of our Heavenly Father in paths of truth and witness to right and wrong, as long as they give it heed.
Even in testimony meetings, I frequently hear people confuse the function of the Light of Christ and the Holy Ghost. Both are divine, but they serve different functions. A worthy Latter-day Saint -- who has the gift of the Holy Ghost -- would be worthy to feel that Spirit even in a positive religious context of another denomination, while a non-LDS person might not. Non-LDS persons might feel positive, inspiring, and uplifting feelings on those occasions, but in general, I do not think that those feelings would represent a manifestation of the Holy Ghost. The Spirit, of course, will not testify to the truthfulness of something that is only partially true! What purpose would the Holy Ghost serve in confirming the truth of the Only True Church, if in fact many members of all denominations had felt this very same divine witness on many occasions throughout their life in association with their own denomination?
We do not automatically receive the Holy Ghost when the gift of the Holy Ghost is conferred on us! The scriptures have some examples of individuals who were sufficiently prepared that, on baptism, they immediately received the Holy Ghost. This experience is, however, exceptional. Most of us have to work hard after baptism to obtain the Holy Ghost, and then to retain it. The Holy Ghost is not commanded to come to us. We are actively commanded to "receive the Holy Ghost," or in other words to seek, find, and keep it through our diligence and obedience.
I should also comment on what is not the Holy Ghost. The commonly-cited scripture in Galatians that lists the "fruits of the Spirit" does not mean that whenever we have the positive feelings of love, hope, etc. that we are feeling the Spirit. It means that when we have the Spirit, those are the fruits we bring forth, in contrast to the fruits of the flesh listed in the same chapter. Having particularly strong emotions or feelings about something does not mean that we are feeling the Holy Ghost. Knowing that something is right or wrong is not a function of the Holy Ghost, but of the Light of Christ -- one's conscience. Sometimes these terms are misunderstood even by individuals who have been active in the church for many years. It is important for investigators to learn to distinguish between the Holy Ghost, the Light of Christ, reason, and personal feelings and emotions. The Holy Ghost, which speaks to both heart and mind, enlightens our minds and warms our hearts while expanding our soul. It influences both -- not just one or the other.
Discussion 2 Principle 7: Following the Commandments of God
1. "Through baptism, we promise our Father in Heaven that we will obey His commands until the end of our lives. In the scriptures, this obedience to the end of life is often called ‘enduring to the end.’ God gives us commandments to help us understand how we can fulfill his plan and become like Him. [Read and discuss D&C 82:8-9.] Only through obedience to the commandments of God can we find lasting peace and happiness in this life. When we are obedient to the commandments, we show our faith and love to our Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ. We then also become worthy of the companionship of the Holy Ghost.
Find out: Do the investigators understand, how obedience to the commandments of God gives us direction in this life."
- Do they believe that we must be obedient if we desire to return to the presence of God?
Testify: Express your feelings about:
- The blessings that obedience to the commandments of God brings.
- The need to obey these commandments.
2. "One of the most fundamental things in which God requires our obedience is baptism. As we mentioned several minutes ago, when we are baptized, we make covenants with God. The Book of Mormon teaches us that Christ gave us the example when He was baptized. His baptism was a witness that He was obedient to all commandments of his Father. [Read and discuss 2 Nephi 31:4-7.]"
Invite: Unless the Spirit prompts you otherwise, you should ask the investigators to be established on a specific date. If they need additional preparation for this commitment, use the "baptismal commitment" section in the instruction brochure.
Will you follow the example of Christ and be baptized by one who has the divine authority of the priesthood?
A baptismal service will be (date). Will you prepare yourself for baptism on that date?
Find out: Do the investigators understand what they need to do to prepare themselves for baptism on the established date?
What do they think about this commitment?
Discussion 3 Principle 1: Truth against Error
Has a member of the ward or branch attended a discussion with the investigator yet?
If not, it's time arrange such a visit promptly.
Elder L. Tom Perry reports that 86% of new converts who remain active have "close personal ties" to active members.
That means that if the person who you are teaching is a street contact, media contact, or anyone other than a referral from active members, unless you work to develop "close personal ties" between the investigator and some active members *now*, the chance that the investigator will remain active in the Church after baptism is slim indeed.
In addition to ensuring that the new convert attends church every week -- for a minimum of three consecutive weeks -- before baptism, you should also ensure that local member(s) attend at least two of the discussions prior to baptism. If the investigator has already made friends with a member, invite that member to the discussion. If not, think of a member who you feel would relate well to the investigator, and ask him or her to attend the discussion.
1. "The truths of our Heavenly Father are eternal and unchanging. They are the foundation of all of his commandments. Only through these truths can we find lasting happiness and prepare for eternal life. It is imperative for us to us to find truth, accept it, and live according to it."
2. "Human ideas are limited and changing. Human wisdom will never lead to a complete understanding of eternal truth. God is the only source of truth about the Plan of Salvation."
3. "Jesus Christ organized his Church when he lived on earth. One of the foundations of this was a conviction that the teaching was true. After having called apostles and prophets, he gave them authority to teach his gospel and act in his name. This authority is called 'priesthood.'"
"Find out: Do the investigators understand that priesthood is authority to act in the name of God, and not a group of priests."
4. "After his death, Jesus continued to direct the Church through revelation given to his prophets and apostles. These people had the authority of His priesthood. They taught truths and recorded these teachings. In this manner, the teaching of truths of the plan of God were taught clearly without error."
Find out: Do the investigators believe that continued revelation to apostles and prophets is important for finding peace and lasting happiness?
"Testify: Express your feelings about: The blessings that come into your life though gospel truths. The importance of continuous revelation through apostles and prophets chosen of God."
Discussion 3 Principle 2:
1. "Jesus sent the apostles into all the world to teach the gospel and establish the Church. But many people did not accept them and persecuted them. Even members of the church fell into error and unrighteousness."
2. "Because of the wickedness of men, the apostles and many righteous members of the Church were killed. The Lord took the power of the priesthood and His church from the earth. There was no longer a church directed by revelation. Because people relied on their own wisdom to understand scripture, many simple and plain truths were lost."
3. "In consequence of this, on the earth there arose great confusion and misunderstanding of the truths of God's plan. Many false human ideas were taught as truth. This general step away from truth is called the apostasy. Apostle Paul prophesied of this apostasy (read and discuss 2 Thessalonians 2:1-3].
Visual Teaching Aids: Apostasy and Restoration
I learned these helpful visual teaching lessons from sister missionaries in my mission who presented them at one of our missionary conferences. They worked so well that my companions and I always used them from then on.
1. Revelation: Linking Heaven and Earth
It is helpful to draw a timeline representing the history of the world. The words "Heavenly Father" are put above the timeline. Starting at the beginning of the timeline, write the names of prophets, including Adam, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Nephi, and Alma. Did Heavenly Father communicate with these prophets? Yes. How? Through revelation. Draw lines from Heavenly Father to each of the prophets, representing revelation. Then explain that God sent His son, Jesus Christ. After Christ's crucifixion, the apostles were sent to all the world. But after a short time, the apostles were persecuted and killed. The line of revelation ends there and a break is drawn. For many centuries, there was no true church upon the earth. Because people relied on their own wisdom for understanding of doctrine, contentions arose and many separate movements were found (draw the apostate church branching into many offshoot denominations). In our time, the Lord again called a prophet of God and spoke with him just as He spoke with Moses and other ancient prophets (write in Joseph Smith's name further down on the timeline and draw the lines of revelation connecting Heavenly Father with a prophet on earth. Explain that the revelations have continued with inspired prophets called after Joseph Smith up to the current prophet, Gordon B. Hinckley, and depict continued revelation on the chart. Ask the investigators what questions they may have. Once you are convinced that the investigators understand the model, ask them to explain the apostasy and restoration in their own words.
2. The Only True and Living Church
The investigators must understand that the church is more than just a building, an organization, or a collection of teachings. The Lord's true church is built upon the foundation of (1) Jesus Christ (2) living apostles and prophets with (3) revelation, (4) authority and (5) correct teachings. Other churches have no apostles and prophets, no revelation, no authority, and therefore no direct link with Jesus Christ. They have only some teachings - only a fragment of the complete church -- which are corrupted because of the absence of the first four principles and by mingling them with the philosophies of men. A nice visual aid can be made with a temple picture from an old gospel principles book or another source. Cut it into five even pieces, with each piece labeled with one of the words in (1)-(5) above. The temple can be taken down piece by piece during the apostasy (Discussion 3 Principle 2) and rebuilt during the restoration (Discussion 3 Principle 3). The pieces can be kept in a handy envelope. This model demonstrates to investigators that the difference between other churches and the true church is far greater than simply a few missing pieces of doctrine. Once you are convinced that the investigators understand the five essential features of the true church, ask them to explain the importance of each.
Discussion 3 Principle 3: Restoration of the Truth
1. "To overcome the influence of the apostasy, God declared His truth to us in our times. He declared it through living prophets as He had done in biblical times. As we explained during our first visit, God the Father and Jesus Christ appeared to Joseph Smith in the spring of 1820. They came in answer to Joseph's prayer."
2. "They told Joseph that he should not join any of the churches, because they all taught incorrect teachings. People understood many Christian principles, which helped them to live a good life. But they incorrectly understood some fundamental and important truths because these truths were lost centuries before."
3. "As a chosen prophet of God, Joseph Smith did some very important things to help us to know truth. Through him, the Lord gave us additional scriptures. As we discussed at the time of our first meeting, Joseph Smith translated the Book of Mormon by the power and inspiration of God."
- Do the investigators feel that knowledge that there is on the earth a true Church lead directly by Christ would be important for them. Why?
- Do they feel that it would be important to become members of the true Church of Jesus Christ?
- Have they received answers to their prayers?
4. "Joseph Smith wrote additional revelations which he received from God. Some of these revelations can be found in two books of contemporary scripture entitled: Doctrine and Covenants and Pearl of Great Price. These books of scripture show us that God continues to give revelation to lead His children."
Testify: Express your feelings about -
- How the truths revealed through contemporary prophets have helped you.
- The prophet Joseph Smith and his vision.
- The Book of Mormon and the revelations of the prophet Joseph Smith written in the Doctrine and Covenants and the Pearl of Great Price.
When investigators correctly understand the need for the restoration, they should be able to explain in their own words:
- Why do we need living prophets today?
- Why did Heavenly Father take his church from off the earth and then restore it?
- Why is the authority of ancient scripture not enough to empower individuals to baptize and perform saving ordinances today?
Discussion 3 Principle 4: Restoration of the Church
1. "In addition to revealing additional scriptures, Joseph Smith received the Priesthood --authority to act in the name of God. John the Baptist, who baptized the Savior, returned authority to baptize to the earth through Joseph Smith. This authority is called the Aaronic Priesthood."
2. "Not long after the Aaronic Priesthood was conferred, Apostles Peter, James, and John, who Jesus called to direct his first Church, restored the authority of the higher priesthood through Joseph Smith. It is called the Melchizedek Priesthood. Through this higher power and authority the Church is directed and members of the Church receive great blessings."
3. "All vital ordinances of the gospel are fulfilled throguh the authority of these two priesthoods. By the power of the priesthood we are baptized and receive the Gift of the Holy Ghost. Through this gift we receive personal inspiration and direction from God."
4. "After Joseph Smith received the authority of the Priesthood, the Lord commanded him to restore the Chuch of Jesus Christ on April 6, 1830."
5. "Christ is the head of the Church, therefore it is called the Church of Jesus Christ. Today the Church is named the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to distinguish it from the Church of Jesus Christ in ancient times."
6. "The Lord testified that this is the ‘only true and living Church on the face of all the earth’ (D&C 1:30)."
Find out: do the investigators understand the restoration of the priesthood and the Church. Have they accepted that only one church can be the true Church of Jesus Christ.
Testify: Express your feelings about:
- The restoration of the Priesthood.
- The importance of the Priesthood in your life.
- Your conviction that this is the true Church of Christ.
Discussion 3 Principle 5: Membership in the True Church
1. "A prophet and twelve apostles direct the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The Lord called these men just as in biblical times. They receive revelations from God and have His priesthood. Therefore they can teach His plan, fulfill their commissioned work, and authoritatively direct His Church. They help to eliminate misunderstanding and confusion, teaching correct doctrines of the plan of salvation. We accept these people as prophets of God. We follow the direction and counsel that God gives us through them."
"Discuss: Tell the investigators a little about the president of the Church and the twelve apostles."
2. "We must come to Christ by belonging to His Church [Read and discuss Moroni 6:2-4]. Only in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints we can find all truths with the help of which we can return to our Heavenly Father. Only in the Church we can receive authority to fulfill essential ordinances of the Gospel. Through baptism and joining the true Church of Jesus Christ we demonstrate that we have accepted Christ."
Testify: Express your feelings about:
- The president of the Church and the twelve apostles.
- Your conviction that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the only true Church of Jesus Christ.
- The necessity of belonging to the true Church.
At this time there can be a confirmation of the investigator's commitment to be baptized on (date).
This principle presents an excellent opportunity to discuss the wonderful opportunity that we have to hear from the prophet and apostles of the Church twice a year at LDS General Conference. The importance of making a careful study of the conference talks together with our scripture for the next six months until the next conference should be discussed.
Discussion 3 Principle 6: Attendance at Church Meetings and Sacrament
1. "[Read and Discuss Moroni 6:5-6.] The Lord commanded members of the Church to meet often. The fundamental obligation of the members of the Church is weekly attendance at worship services and activity in the Church. Worship servics are conducted regularly for the benefit of the members of the Church."
2. "An important part of sacrament in the Church of Christ is the ordinance of baptism. Other societies sometimes call this ordinance ‘the Lord's Supper.’"
3. "In the modern Church of Christ we use bread and water as symbols of the body and blood of Christ. His followers use bread and water as symbols of the body and blood of Christ. His followers take the sacrament in remembrance of His sacrifice for them."
4. "As with other ordinances, those who take the sacrament enter into a covenant with the Lord. Fulfilling our part of the covenant, we renew our promises made at baptism. We take upon ourselves the name of Christ, always remember him, and keep his commandments."
5. "From his side, the Lord promises that we will always have His Spirit. From that point we will enjoy the constant companionship of the Holy Ghost."
"Find out: Do the investigators understand the purpose of sacrament, including the covenant which we enter into when we take the sacrament."
"Testify: Express your feelings about: Sacrament and what it represents. Spiritual blessings that come through regularly taking the sacrament."
6. "Besides the Sacrament, at the time of worship services members of the Church teach each other the Gospel. They enjoy feelings of unity, mutual strengthening, and the companionship of other members. Those who neglect worship services lose blessings which the Lord has prepared for us."
7. "After you become a member of the Church, attendance at church meetings and sacrament will bless your life. Doing this will help you to keep the Sabbath Day holy and to learn the truth more fully. You will see the priesthood in action. You will be strengthened in fulfilling commandments. You will better understand the plan of our Heavenly Father and the atonement of Jesus Christ will become more effective in your life."
"Find out: Do the investigators understand why the Lord desires for people to serve him together, and not only individually and privately."
"The local congregation meets at (place) (time). Will you visit church with us this Sunday?
"Find out: Do the investigators understand what is expected of them. How they accept this assignment."
"Confirm: Discuss how you can help the investigators to keep this commitment. For example, you can: Arrange for acquaintance with members of the Church. Over the course of several days answer questions. Explain the meeting schedule of the local ward or branch and the purpose of each meeting. Prepare them for church meetings. Be sure that they understand that they will not be obligated to do anything. They can sing, but they are not obligated to take the sacrament until baptism."
You should also inform the priesthood leaders of the ward or branch that investigators will visit the meetings.
Arrange with a family that is friends with the investigators to take the investigators to church.
"But I say we do not go to Sabbath meetings to be entertained or amused; we go there to worship the Lord. It is an individual responsibility, and regardless of what is said from the pulpit, if one wishes to worship the Lord in spirit and in truth, he may do so by attending his meetings, partaking of the sacrament, and contemplating the beauties of the Gospel. If the sacrament meeting is a failure to you, you are the one that has failed. No one can worship for you, you must do your own serving of the Lord." Spencer W. Kimball, LDS General Conference, April 1944
If the investigators have not yet been to church, they certainly should attend at this point. It goes without saying that it is highly problematic to attempt to commit investigators to baptism when they are not attending church regularly. Few baptismal commitments (only one-fifth) obtained under such circumstances are carried to fulfilment, and only a fraction of those who are baptized remain active. Play it smart and ensure that the habit of weekly attendance at all Sunday church meetings is firmly in place for a minimum of three weeks prior to baptism.
During the discussion, it is important to review the Law of the Sabbath. Proper Sabbath observance requires more than simply attending Church. We must dedicate the entire day to the Lord:
"May we not hope that in addition to our worshipful activities on the Lord's Day we might also on that day reduce the drudgery of the home to a minimum, and that outside the home only essential chores will be performed. Make this a day of prayerful, thoughtful study of the scriptures and other good books. While filled with the joy of the Sabbath, write a letter to your sweetheart or an absent loved one or a friend who may need your spiritual strength. Make your homes the places for the singing and playing of beautiful music in harmony with the spirit of the day. At evening's close as you gather at your fireside with the family alone or with friends, discuss the precious truths of the gospel and close with the benediction of family prayer. My experience has taught me that the prompting of the conscience to a faithful Church member is the safest indicator as to that which is contrary to the spirit of worship on the Sabbath Day." Harold B. Lee, Decisions for Successful Living, p. 148
Discussion 4 Principle 1: Our Premortal Existence
1. "We lived before our birth. We do not remember our premortal existence. But Heavenly Father revealed to us important truths to help us to understand His plan."
2. "We are literally children of our Heavenly Father. We lived with him as spirits before our birth on earth. Each of us was a unique individual. Our spiritual bodies were created in the image of Heavenly Father."
3. "But we in many ways differed from our Heavenly Father. For example, He was much more developed than us spiritually. We did not have a physical body like He did."
4. "Our Heavenly Father wanted for us to become like Him, because he loved us very much. Therefore He prepared a plan through which we could come to earth. [Read and discuss: Abraham 3:22-25]. We accepted the plan of our Heavenly Father and rejoiced in the blessings it would bring."
"Express your feelings about:
- Your understanding that God is your father in a literal sense.
- How knowledge of your premortal existence influences your life here in mortality.
Discussion 4 Principle 2: Mortal Life on Earth
1. "Our life on earth has a goal. It gives us an opportunity to become like our Heavenly Father and to prepare to return to Him."
2. "When we came into this life, each of us received a physical body. These earthly bodies are imperfect and mortal. Receiving a physical body is a step towards receiving a glorified, immortal body like our Heavenly Father's."
3. "Because we do not remember our premortal life, our choice must be founded on faith. Our place in postmortal existence will depend upon our choices in this life [read and discuss: Alma 12:24]. Learning to govern our physical bodies, we become more like our Heavenly Father."
- Whether the investigators understand the purpose of mortal life.
- How they feel about the idea that mortal life is a time of preparation for returning to the presence of God.
- How do they feel about the principle that we grow and develop through trials and through the need to act in accordance with faith.
Testify: Express your feelings about:
- The divine nature of our Heavenly Father.
- The importance of mortal life for preparing for Eternal Life with our Heavenly Father.
Discussion 4 Principle 3: Life After Death
1. "Our physical bodies are mortal and therefore each of us will die. But physical death is a part of the plan of happiness that our Father prepared for us. Through death and the resurrection, our imperfect mortal bodies become perfect and immortal."
2. "As we have previously explained, at the moment of death, the spirit leaves the physical body. The spirit continues to live, but it goes to a place called the world of spirits."
Scripture: Alma 40:11 (When we die, our bodies leave our mortal bodies)
3. "In the resurrection, the spirit again unites with the body in an immortal state. We will be judged before the Lord based on our faithfulness in following the path that He showed us.
Find out: Do the investigators understand what happens to our spirit when we die? Do they believe that when we will be resurrected, our spirit will unite with the body in an immortal and glorious state."
4. "If we have followed this path, we will return to our Heavenly Father to live with Him in celestial glory. In the New Testament, this glory is compared to the glory of the sun. Those who inherit this glory will experience a fulness of happiness. They will become like our Heavenly Father."
5. "Some people will not be faithful in obeying the commandments of God. They will not believe in Christ, will not not repent of their sins, and will not follow His commandments, and will not fulfill essential ordinances. They will not qualify for the fulness of glory in the plan of our Heavenly Father. They will also receive a degree of glory, but it will be lower."
- Do the investigators understand that people will receive different degrees of glory and why our rewards will be different.
- How do they feel about this knowledge.
6. "The Apostle Paul compared the celestial glory to the glory of the sun. Other degrees of glory he compared to the glory of the moon and stars. [Read and discuss 1 Corinthians 15:40-42.] "
Testify: Express your feelings about:
- Your confidence that we will live after death.
- How important it is for us to prepare for the immortal state by our lives now.
Discussion 4 Principle 4: Salvation of the Dead
1. "Many people are interested in what will happen with the millions of those who never heard about Jesus Christ or never had the opportunity to be baptized. Would God be just to condemn them?"
Find out: Have the investigators been interested to know how those who never heard of Christ can accept him and be baptized?
2. "The Lord revealed that those who did not know the Gospel in this life will be taught it in the spirit world [2 Peter]. Every child of our Heavenly Father will have the opportunity to accept or reject the gospel; therefore all will be justly judged."
3. "Those who accept the gospel in the spirit world will have the opportunity to be baptized. God gave members of His Church here on earth the opportunity to be baptized for those who have died."
4. "Baptism for the dead is performed in holy temples. These special structures are dedicated to the completion of holy ordinances for the living and dead. This great work for the dead shows the justice, mercy, and love of God towards each of His children."
5. "Does the knowledge of the redemption of the dead help the investigators to understand the love and justice of our Heavenly Father?"
Express your feelings about: your confidence that each child of our Heavenly Father will have the opportunity to accept or reject the Gospel. The blessings that come through helping to redeem the dead.
It is important to reinforce that, while the doctrine of the redemption of the dead is taught in the Bible, that no other church teaches or accepts this doctrine. We owe our understanding of this divine Biblical principle to the Latter-day revelation received through Joseph Smith and modern prophets. Many other denominations teach that those who die without having an opportunity to accept Christ will have no possibility of salvation. Such a belief would be incompatible with God's justice and mercy.
Discussion 4 Principle 5: The Eternal Family
1. "In earth life, our bodies have the power to create children. This power is a gift from God. It allows us to take part in the creation of life and train our children according to Gospel principles. In this manner we begin to become like our Heavenly Father."
"God commanded his children to limit this sacred power of creation to the family. The love between man and wife and between parents and children is the source of the greatest joys in life."
2. "Family relations do not have to end with death. Through the prophet Joseph Smith, the Lord restored knowledge that spouses can be married for eternity through holy temple ceremonies. These ceremonies are conducted by the sealing power of the priesthood. Spouses obtain a promise that their family relations will be eternal if they remain worthy. This is one of the greatest blessings promised to the righteous."
3. "Do the investigators understand the power of creation of life and their family relations are sacred. How do they accept the knowledge that their family relations can last eternally and not to death only."
Testify: Express your feelings about: The joy which you feel in your family. The faith that you can be together with your family after this life.
"Investigators are particularly inclined to listen to Heavenly Father's plan for their salvation. Among these are people who have recently moved or who have lost a loved one or had a new birth in the family...Everybody asks the question posed by Job: 'if a man die, shall he live again?'", he said, noting that as missionaries discuss the eternal nature of the family, "You're on sacred ground in the soul of that person." President Thomas S. Monson, LDS Church News, Saturday, June 26, 1999
"Those who do too much for their children will soon find they can do nothing with their children. So many children have been so much done for they are almost done in." Neal A. Maxwell, LDS General Conference, April 1975
It is important that investigators understand that not all families will be eternal, and that baptism is only the first step towards family togetherness. The gift of eternal families is reserved only for those who qualify for the highest degree of the Celestial Kingdom through their valiance and obedience.
Discussion 4 Principle 6: The Law of Chastity
1. "A moment ago, we mentioned the sacred power of procreation and the great significance of the family in God's plan. The privilege of participating with God in the creation of life is a main part of the plan of salvation. This creative power is holy."
Warning: Moral cleanliness is a delicate topic. Teach it in a delicate fashion with care for the feelings of others.
2. "Therefore God established laws to direct and control this power. He also established a punishment for its abuse."
3. "He commanded: 'thou shalt not commit adultery' (Exodus 20:14). [Read and discuss D&C 42:22-25.] The law of chastity given by the Lord commands that we must not have any sexual relations with anyone except for our own husband or wife. The Lord also taught that we must avoid unclean thoughts, and not just unclean acts. We must keep our thoughts clean and be modest in dress, word, and action. The power of procreation must must be kept sacred like our bodies."
- Do the investigators feel that the power of procreation is holy.
- Do they understand why God established laws to direct and control this power.
- Do they understand that God's law of cleanliness means that we must not have sexual relations except with our husband or wife.
- What do they think of this law.
Testify: Express your feelings about
- How the power of creation is holy.
- The spiritual blessings that come from keeping thoughts clean.
Will you obey (or continue to obey) the law of chastity in your acts, thoughts, and words?
Warning: Investigators may have questions about old sins. In this case you must explain that they should not confess the sins to you. They can talk about them in general terms during the interview prior to baptism. Assure them that through sincere repentance and baptism they can receive forgiveness. Encourage them to begin to prepare themselves for baptism by living the law of chastity, starting now.
Discussion 4 Principle 7: The Word of Wisdom
1. "During this discussion we have emphasized the most precious gifts which we have in this life: our physical body and freedom of choice. We also discussed how the way we use these gifts will determine our blessings, both in this and in the next life. The Lord has given us commandments like the law of chastity to help us to understand how to use these gifts."
2. "Among these commandments there is a law of health, known as the Word of Wisdom. This law teaches us not to take alcohol, tobacco, coffee, tea, and narcotics into our body. They bring harm to our physical body and to our spirit."
3. "The Word of Wisdom also teaches that fruit, vegetables, grains, and other products are useful for our bodies. We must use them wisely and with thankfulness."
4. "[D&C 89 selections] The Lord promises those who follow this law increased physical and spiritual health. He also promises wisdom, strength, and more happiness to those who discipline themselves in this manner."
5. "Possibly the most important is the promise of the Lord that this law will help us to be worthy of the guidance of the Holy Ghost. Through the Holy Ghost, we can know that the Book of Mormon is true and that Joseph Smith was a prophet of God."
- Do the investigators understand the counsel of the Word of Wisdom.
- How do they accept this counsel.
- How to they feel about how important the blessings promised by the Word of Wisdom are to them.
- Do they believe that it is important to avoid the substances the Lord counsels us not to use in the Word of Wisdom."
Express your feelings about: The blessings which you have enjoyed following the Word of Wisdom.
Will you live according to the Word of Wisdom, including the commandment not to use tobacco, alcohol, coffee, or tea?
If the investigators need additional preparation, you can: Make sure that they understand what the Word of Wisdom requires. Share several personal experiences that you have had (or someone who you know) while living by the Word of Wisdom.
Emphasize that by living by the Word of Wisdom, they can more fully enjoy the guidance of the Holy Ghost. The Holy Ghost will testify about truth and will strengthen their baptismal preparations.
Review the promises in D&C 89. Discuss the ways that these promises can bless us in daily life.
Have the investigators calculate how much money they spend on tobacco, alcohol, and other harmful substances.
Read and discuss: 1 Nephi 3:7. Convince them that God will help them to keep these commandments if they will show faith in him.
Discuss how you can help the investigators to fulfill their commitments. For example, you can:
- Take away their tobacco, alcohol, and other harmful substances and in this manner eliminate temptation.
- Propose your daily visits to support and encourage them.
- Arrange for members of the Church to contact them frequently.
- Explain that you will pray every morning and evening for them to have strength to observe their commitments.
"I have every sympathy with the American who was so horrified by what he had read about the effects of smoking that he gave up reading." Henry G. Strauss
"No man who breaks the Word of Wisdom can gain the same amount of knowledge and intelligence in this world as the man who obeys that law. I don't care who he is or where he comes from, his mind will not be as clear, and he cannot advance as far and as rapidly and retain his power as much as he would if he obeyed the Word of Wisdom." Heber J. Grant, LDS General Conference, April 1925
"We must be master of our beings and control ourselves, and not be controlled by some habit or by someone else. We must be lifters and not leaners." Ted E. Brewerton, Ensign, November 1986
One should never be afraid to bring up the Word of Wisdom's restrictions on smoking or alcohol even on the first or second visit with an investigator. There is no point in sailing smoothly through the first four discussions and finding out only on the fifth that the investigator wants to take several months to "try" to stop smoking, only to have the baptism cancelled altogether. Mentioning the Word of Wisdom early also saves face for the investigator, because they have a longer time to quit and get more support along the way. No baptismal commitment should be considered firm until the Word of Wisdom is being fully observed. At a minimum, all members should be obeying the Word of Wisdom completely for at least a week before baptism by avoiding tea and coffee; a minimum of three to four weeks is generally necessary for smokers and moderate or heavy drinkers. When converts are baptized in shorter periods, the relapse rate is very high:
"To cease smoking is the easiest thing I ever did; I ought to know because I have done it a thousand times." Mark Twain
Showing that the Word of Wisdom is true is not difficult with most people. Virtually everyone knows that smoking and heavy drinking are wrong. I don’t think abstinence from tea or coffee should be pushed too much on the first visit or two (some people will discontinue drinking them as soon as they find out that the missionaries don’t), but regular follow-up is important.
One should be aware that many "herbal teas" are actually a mixture of herbs with yellow or black tea. These mixed teas are widespread throughout Eastern Europe. It is important to always ask to see the box before one drinks an "herbal tea." Many trusting missionaries have unwittingly drank this mixed tea at investigators' houses.
Discussion 5 Principle 1: Two Great Commandments
Have the investigators committed firmly to baptism?
Are they attending church meetings weekly?
Are they reading in the Book of Mormon for half an hour each day?
If not, do not pass go, do not collect two hundred dollars, and do not teach the fifth discussion. How can teaching sacrifice, fasting, tithing, and new commitments possibly be appropriate for investigators who are not yet living more basic commitments from prior discussions? Proceeding on with new information and commitments will only add to the investigator's confusion and multiply doubts. It may add a discussion to the weekly report, but it won't help the investigator, and will probably be counterproductive. Stop, go back, and reemphasize the prior teaching points and commitments that the investigator is struggling with. If the investigator demonstrates that he or she is able to successfully master prior commitments, then you can proceed with the fifth discussion at a later date.
1. "In our earthly lives we have a great tendency to seek worldly success and praise of others. Egotism is a great obstacle to our spirituality. By concentrating on ourselves, we can forget God and lose our human feeling. In this condition we will not fulfill our Father's plan and cannot become more like him."
Find out: Do the investigators understand why we must overcome egotism and value spiritual things more?
2. "God gave us commandments to help us to develop selfless desires. When Jesus was asked which commandment is most important, he answered: [Read and and discuss Matthew 22:37-39.] "
3. "Jesus taught how we need to show our love for God. [Read and discuss John 14:15.] When we love God, we desire to do that which is required of us. We must be obedient as small children and try to know His will in all. Then we must show Him obedience, even when we must sacrifice what we want very much."
4. "If we love God, we must also love our neighbor. The Book of Mormon explains the connection between these two great commandments. [Read and discuss Mosiah 2:17.] When we serve others, we conquer selfishness and become more like our Heavenly Father and His Son Jesus Christ."
- Do the investigators understand how these two great commandments help us to become more like Heavenly Father and fulfill His plan?
- Do they think that it is important to put the will of God above our own desires?
Testify: Express your feelings about
- Your love for Heavenly Father.
- The joy that serving others brings (for example, serving a mission.)
"I will tell you a secret. If we could only prepare ourselves to do the will of God and keep his commandments and live our religion so that God could trust us with more means than we have, he would so order things, and that too by natural ways, that our desires in that direction would be fully gratified." John Taylor, 'The Gospel Kingdom' p.248-249
"The wise man is...going to steer his course away from the living death of pleasure-seeking. He is not going into bondage or debt to buy automobiles and other costly equipages to keep pace with the fashionable rush of pleasure-seeking..." Joseph F. Smith, Gospel Doctrine pp. 323-24.
Discussion 5 Principle 2: Sacrifice
1. "To love God and our neighbors and to serve them, we often must sacrifice our personal interests. This means that we put the needs of others before our own. Sacrifice can be difficult."
2. "God always tests people. He wants to see whether we will put the things of God first in our life (Read and discuss: 3 Nephi 13:33). We must desire to give our time, substance, talents, and energy for the Lord's work."
3. "Not all may experience the need to sacrifice all. But we must learn to willingly sacrifice all that is necessary. This will help us to become worthy to return to the presence of God."
4. "To sacrifice we must have great faith in the Lord. We must also believe that we will receive the promised reward."
5. "In sacrificing, we come to know the joy of sharing and giving. We feel the increasing influence of the Holy Ghost in our lives."
Find out: Do investigators understand why the Lord requires sacrifice of his people. What feelings have they had when they willingly sacrificed something for someone else's benefit.
Testify: Express your feelings about: The blessings that you have obtained when someone sacrificed for you (especially the Savior).
Invite: If the investigators feel the influence of the Spirit, help them to commit to demonstrate their faith in God and love towards people. This can be done by sharing time, talents, and substance with members of the family and with the Lord's Church.
The fifth discussion is relatively short and allows extra time. This principle provides an opportunity to discuss the fact that service in the Church will be expected of the new convert after baptism, including a calling and a home or visiting teaching assignment. Discuss what a calling is and what home and visiting teaching are. Explain briefly how home and visiting teaching work and how lessons are coordinated with companions. Discuss the blessings you have received by sacrificing time and talents to the service of others in church callings and in home or visiting teaching. Commit the investigator to accept a calling and a home or visiting teaching assignment after baptism.
Discussion 5 Principle 3: Fast and Fast Offerings
1. "The Law of the Fast gives us one more way to place the Lord's will above our own desires. To fast means to go without food or drink for a certain time. Fasting was always a form of true worship."
2. "Obedience to the Law of the Fast brings great blessings into our lives and helps us to serve others. This law increases our modesty and brings us closer to God. It also teaches us to control our physical body. Our faith and spirituality increase."
3. "While fasting, we must sincerely pray for guidance or for special blessings for ourselves and others. Fasting is a powerful way of obtaining a testimony."
Find out: Do the investigators understand what a fast is.
4. "The Church designates one Sunday each month has a special day of fasting. On this day members of the Church fast for two meals and gather for testimonies. These days give us great spiritual experiences."
5. "The fast also gives us the opportunity to help the needy. We give money saved by fasting to the bishop for the help of the needy. We also help the sick, the hungry, and those who have other problems."
6. "This money is called a fast offering. It is not necessary to limit it to the equivalent of two meals. The prophets encourage us to be generous in our offerings.
7. "The law of the fast helps us to give of ourselves. We take part in the work of the Lord, and this helps us to become like Him."
8. "Giving up our time and property for the benefit of others, we show our love to God and His Son. We fulfill our part of the plan of our Father. We prepare ourselves to receive joy in this life and eternal life after this. Most importantly, we fulfill our obligation to serve the Lord. This obligation is required for baptism."
- Do the investigators understand the purpose and blessings of the fast and of fast offerings.
- Do they feel that fasting and fast offerings will bring blessings to their lives.
- Will they fast and pray about the truth of the Church (if necessary).
- Will they obey the law of the fast as members of the Church.
Testify: Express your feelings about:
- The spiritual power that comes through fasting and material help to the needy.
- The blessings that you enjoy fasting and giving fast offerings.
Find out: If the Spirit directs, invite the investigators to fast while praying about your message.
Discussion 5 Principle 4: Tithing
1. "One way to learn to give God the central place in our lives is obedience to the law of tithing. The law of tithing is not new. It was taught by prophets of the Old Testament, including Malachi (Read and discuss Malachi 3:8-11).
2. "To understand the law of tithing, we must remember that God is the source of all that we have. In this law he commands us to return to him a tenth part of our income. This money is used for his work.
3. "Tithing is the way that God fulfills the needs of His Church. Through the law of tithing each of us can support the work of the Lord and His Church.
4. "Paying tithing also helps us to develop selflessness. Tithing is a test of our faith. If we will observe this law, the Lord promises to bless us spiritually and materially."
- Do the investigators understand what tithing is?
- Do they understand that great blessings come through obedience to this law?
- How do they accept the necessity to pay tithing after their baptism?
Express your feelings about:
- Your personal feelings about paying tithing.
- Your faith that God blesses those who believe in him enough to pay tithing.
Invitation to Commitment: Tithing. Will you after baptism live by the law of tithing, giving a tenth of your income to the Church?
Additional Preparation. If additional preparation is necessary, you need to:
-Ensure that the investigators understand how tithing is used and what blessings come from paying tithing.
-Read and discuss examples from the scriptures of willingly sacrificing one's property (for example, Luke 21:1-4 or 1 Kings 17:8-16).
-Share personal experiences from paying tithing.
-Testify of the blessings that come through paying tithing.
Perhaps the most important point about tithing is that it is a test of our faith. The Lord does not need our money to accomplish his work. However, we do need the blessings that come from obedience to this law.
Discussion 6 Principle 1: The Role of Jesus Christ in the Plan of Salvation
1. "We believe in Jesus Christ for many reasons. He is the Creator [read and discuss Mosiah 3:8]. Under the direction of the Father, Jesus created the earth and all that is on it. He gave us everything that we have."
2. "He is our Redeemer and Savior. Through his sacrifice, we can return and life with Him and our Father."
3. "Jesus Christ will be our Judge. When our mortal life ends, He will judge us according to our acts and desires. He will be our Advocate with the Father."
Testify: Express your feelings about:
- Jesus Christ as our Creator, Savior, and Judge
-The importance of faith in Christ.
Discussion 6 Principle 2: Exaltation through Christ and His Church
1. "During our visits, we have emphasized that we must strive to become like our Heavenly Father. We must become worthy to return to Him. This privilege of living with our Father is His greatest gift to us. This gift is called exaltation, eternal life, or salvation. It is given to those who are worthy and have prepared themselves over the course of this life. To be worthy of exaltation, we must be free from spiritual death through the atonement of Christ."
Many investigators are confused because the word "salvation" is used differently by non-LDS faiths. The terms "salvation" and "exaltation" have slightly different meanings. All people, except the sons of perdition, will receive some degree of salvation. The different kingdoms of glory all represent varying degrees of salvation. However, exaltation -- the highest degree of salvation -- is reserved for the most righteous.
2. "Exaltation is a greater gift than immortality. We obtain immortality because Christ overcame physical death through the Resurrection. Immortality is a free gift to all people, independent of whether they were righteous or unrighteous. Each of us will live again after this life."
3. "The atonement of Christ removes all obstacles from our path, if we accept Him and follow His perfect example. In this way we can cometo the Father and find the gift of exaltation only through the Savior Jesus Christ. [Read and discuss the Gospel of John 14:6]."
- Do the investigators understand, what immortality and eternal life are.
- Do they believe, that they can come to Heavenly Father only through Christ.
- What do they think about Christ.
4. Through membership in the Church of Jesus Christ, we can receive ordinances, spiritual leadership, and help which we need, to progress forward towards exaltation.
Testify: Express your feelings about:
- Your surety that Jesus Christ is the Savior of the world and that through Him we can inherit eternal life.
- The importance of relying on the Savior to receive exaltation.
Discussion 6 Principle 3: Mission of the Church: Perfecting the Saints
1. "Our goal is to invite you to come to Christ through accepting baptism in His Church. The Church was organized to help all children of our Heavenly Father to receive eternal life."
2. "[Read and discuss Mosiah 1:39] As a member of the Church, we have the privilege of helping the Lord to make eternal life available to His children. This work is composed of three main missions: "
3. "First, we work to perfect the saints. (When the Scriptures speak of Saints, they refer to those who have accepted Christ in His Church). Through the Church of Jesus Christ each member receives great strength and opportunities to serve others. In this way, the Church helps us to learn and progress towards perfection."
4. "In the Church, we receive constant direction from inspired leaders selected by the Lord. Through these leaders,the Lord speaks to us and assures that the true gospel of Jesus Christ is taught."
5. "In the Church, we impart and receive ordinances of the gospel. Through them, we conclude important covenants with God. These ordinances allow us to clean ourselves of sin and imperfection. They make possible the companionship of the Holy Ghost."
6. "In the Church, we enjoy the companionship of other members. We mutually help and inspire one other to live as Christ lived. This companionship gives strength to endure the challenges of daily life and to avoid temptation."
7. "Members take an active part in the Church and teach, strengthen,and serve one another. The Church has no paid clergy. Therefore, all members teach each other the gospel and help to bear each other's burdens. These opportunities for service are the source of great blessings."
- Do the investigators understand why the Church is necessary.
- Do they understand the blessings that the Church gives.
- How do they feel about preparing themselves for baptism in the Church.
Testify: Express your feelings about the following:
- Blessings which you have received as a member of the Church.
- How important membership in the church is.
Discussion 6 Principle 4: Mission of the Church: Proclaiming the Gospel
"The second way in which we work for the salvation of others is sharing the gospel with those who have not yet received it. When we accept the gospel of Jesus Christ, we accept also the responsibility to share it with others (read and discuss D&C 88:81). As a member of the Church, you will want to share the blessings which you have received with your friends and relatives. Through your example and friendliness they will see how the gospel brings joy into life."
"Your life will show your friends the great blessings which you have received through the gospel. You must help them to develop the desire to acquire more information about the church. Then you can invite your friends to discussions with the missionaries."
- Do the investigators understand that every person who accepts the gospel is responsible for sharing it with others.
- What do they think about sharing the gospel with their acquaintances and relatives.
Testify: Express your feelings about:
- How important it is to share the gospel with others.
-The blessings which you have received through missionary work.
Invitation: When the investigators feel the influence of the Spirit, invite them to compose a list of acquantances and relatives who they would like to invite to their baptism.
Most importantly, missionaries need to help converts to establish the habit of sharing the gospel regularly. It is not enough to attempt to share the gospel only at the prompting of missionaries who ask for referrals. Sharing the gospel and witnessing of Christ "in all times and in all places" is a fundamental covenant that we take upon ourselves at the time of baptism (Mosiah 18:9-10).
Studies have repeatedly shown that individuals are most likely to share the gospel with others at or around the time of conversion. After that, the involvement of members in missionary work declines progressively. With good teaching, this trend can be reversed. Each time individuals hear about sharing the gospel without acting upon it, they become less likely to share the gospel in the future. Disobedience decreases our ability to obey. This is why most long-time members, who have heard missionary pep-talks many times, are much less likely than new members to regularly share the gospel with non-members.
The only way to overcome this trend is to commit new members to establish a lifetime habit of speaking with a new non-member about the gospel every week, at a minimum. By involving investigators and new members in sharing the gospel immediately, the fear of man can be successfully overcome before it becomes a serious obstacle. It is also helpful to acquaint the prospective members with some of the resources available for sharing the gospel. Ask them who they can share the gospel with. Help them to prepare and anticipate likely concerns. Give them helpful church literature, if appropriate. Follow up at subsequent visits to see how things went. Then, ensure that sharing the gospel is established as a regular habit. Let them know that, even though many active members do not share the gospel, that the Lord expects them to do so. Prepare them to persist in this habit so that they will not be dissuaded by the suboptimal examples of other members.
Discussion 6 Principle 5: Mission of the Church: Redeeming the Dead
1. "The third way which we work for the salvation of others is fulfilling holy ordinances in temples. First we receive these ordinances ourselves, and then we can fulfill these ordinances for those who have not received the gospel in this life."
2. "Through genealogical searches, you can know your ancestors. And then, as a member of the church, you can fulfill baptism and other necessary ordinances for those who have died. One of these important ordinances is eternal marriage, which allows us to be together as a family forever."
3. "Because temples are sacred, only members of the Church, who attain high standards of righteousness, can enter. The bishop can discuss this with you a minumum of one full year after your baptism. He will ask specific questions to verify that you meet the required level of righteousness. Then you can receive holy ordinances for yourself and fulfill them for the dead."
- Do the investigators understand that those who died without receiving the gospel have an opportunity to accept it and the required ordinances.
- Do they understand the role of the temple in work for the dead.
- What do they think about the importance of searching out their dead ancestors.
- What do they think about preparing themselves to enter the temple.
Testify: Express your feelings about:
-How work in the temples shows the mercy and justice of God.
- How work in the temples shows our love for others.
- The blessings brought by work in the temple for the salvation of others.
Make sure that you bring a four-generation chart with you to allow the new convert to begin completing his or her genealogy. When new members are started in personal family history work immediately after baptism, retention in one Utah study rose from 40% to 80%. This is best done by ensuring that a family history missionary meets the new convert at or before baptism to start the individual on personal genealogical research. In areas where a temple is nearby, some studies also note 80+% retention when the convert attends the temple within six weeks of baptism to perform proxy baptisms, especially for one's own family file. Inform the converts that the one-year waiting period for temple attendance applies to endowments and sealings, but not to proxy baptisms.
Discussion 6 Principle 6: The Straight and Narrow Path
1. "When you are baptized on (date), you will begin on the path which leads to perfection and eternal life with Heavenly Father (read and discuss 2 Nephi 31:17-21). Enduring to the end on this path demands great faith and effort. But enduring to the end also brings joy and peace. You can know that you live according to the expectations of Heavenly Father."
2. "The Holy Ghost will help you to travel the straight and narrow path. You will be worthy of the Holy Ghost in this life, if you:
- Repent of your sins
- Are baptized
- Receive the gift of the Holy Ghost
- Obey the commandments
- Serve in the Church"
- Do the investigators understand what it means to "endure to the end" on the straight and narrow path?
- What do they think about the personal responsibility of doing all that they can to remain on the path to eternal life.
After your baptism, will you take an active part in fulfilling the missions of the Church to perfect the saints, preach the gospel, and redeem the dead?
Discuss: Confirm the planned baptism date with the investigators (or ask them to accept baptism, if you have not yet done this). Discuss further arrangements if they are necessary and how you can help them.
At this time, review the converts' performance on all of the core baptismal commitments (see the section for Discussion 2, Principle 5). Review their performance and reinforce the need to continue these habits lifelong. If the prospective converts have not yet consistently fulfilled the basic gospel commitments for at least three weeks, baptism should be scheduled for a later date that will allow this to occur, with interim missionary follow-up visits.
It is very important for investigators to understand that baptism and belief alone do not bring salvation. Beliefs in this area often run deep, and require special emphasis to overcome. Baptism is merely the first step on the path back to our Heavenly Father. It opens the door of opportunity. Baptism into the church is in many ways comparable to admission to a university. We cannot graduate from the Lord's university without first accepting admission, but admission alone does not guarantee successful completion. We must put in the effort to pass the tests of mortality before we can graduate to eternal life. To succeed, we must diligently study and apply the Lord's word. We must endure to the end.
Even a great many active church members do not understand that we must be cleansed from sin "every whit," or we cannot enter the Kingdom of God. The whole purpose of life is to become cleansed from sin. The need for consistency. When we live a principle, the reward for faithfulness is far greater the hundredth time than the first time! In the Doctrine and Covenants, the Lord teaches that there are actual laws that determine our reward for obedience to commandments, and that the reward grows exponentially greater with consistent faithfulness (D&C section 98). Anyone can be faithful once or a few times. However, to remain faithful consistently through adversity takes great perseverance. Repentance is available, but as Joseph Smith stated, it is not pleasing to the Lord for us to constantly be sinning and repenting. When we repent, we can be forgiven, but we cannot receive the blessings for righteous acts that we did not do. We must start again from the beginning.