I was really disappointed by a recent article on Mormon Mentality entitled “The Missionary Work I Didn’t Do.” The author details speaking to a neighbor who expressly told her that she was dissatisfied with her Church. Because she feels that the Church is sexist, she concluded that it would have nothing to offer her neighbor and failed to invite the missionaries or pass along a Book of Mormon.
The think this, unfortunately, completely misses the point of missionary work. We do not simply offer a social club, moving services, or opportunities for fellowship. There are lots of great places one can go to get all of those things. Instead, we offer individuals something that they can get nowhere else. We offer ordinances necessary for salvation and exaltation performed with proper priesthood authority. There is no greater blessing that we can offer our friends and neighbors.
As Elder Oaks explained:
We do not preach and teach in order to “bring people into the Church” or to increase the membership of the Church. We do not preach and teach just to persuade people to live better lives. We honor and appreciate the many ministers and others who are involved in the kind of ministry that makes bad men good and good men better. That is important, but we offer something more. One can qualify for the terrestrial kingdom instead of the telestial kingdom without the aid of this Church. We are concerned with a higher destination. (Why do we do Missionary Work? June 23, 1992).
As I convert, it really bothers me how many people take for granted the blessings of the Gospel and their membership in the Church. Many of them have ancestors who endured persecution, crossed the plains, and sacrificed all things for the truths of the Gospel. Those ancestors understood how precious the Gospel of Jesus Christ was. They understood how important it was to belong to a church with proper authority to baptize and with the power to seal in heaven what is sealed on earth. Those brave pioneers went across the world sharing the gospel because they understood how precious the gospel was. Some even died to secure their progeny the blessings of being born in the covenant.
And yet, some cannot even bring themselves to share the Gospel in such an ideal circumstance. They become so focused on the little specks and flaws that she sees in the Church, that they completely miss out on the beautiful architecture of the restored Gospel. How tragic and how sad.
Frustratingly, the author concludes by saying that “The one benefit that our church does offer if baptism for the dead. After she dies, I’ll make sure her work gets done. By a man, of course.” Of course, that neighbor will have a chance to hear of the restored Gospel in the next life as will every person who does not hear of the gospel. But by failing to act now, we deprive our neighbors of knowledge of the plan of salvation, of saving ordinances, of all of the joy the Gospel brings in this life. Of course, in the eternal perspective, this deprivation will simply be a blip. Maybe now was not the time. Maybe the neighbor would have rejected it. But one day each of us will stand before God and before this we failed to help along the way and be held accountable for our failures to act.
Ultimately, we will be held accountable because as Elder Oaks explained, “[t]he intensity of our desire to share the gospel is a great indicator of the extent of our personal conversion.” If our response to the missionary opportunities that God places before us is to ask “What could the church possibly offer,” we are in serious spiritual jeopardy. If we do not appreciate the blessing of the Gospel enough to share it, we will slowly but surely lose our light and testimony.
I pray that we will all realize the great importance of missionary work and that we will all realize what a precious gift we have in the Gospel. As Elder Oaks said: “No one else can do this. Other churches cannot do it. Good Christian living cannot do it. Good faith, good desires, and good reasoning cannot do it.” We have a great opportunity and a responsibility if we only are willing to embrace it.