08 April 2011

Mission Angel Preparation

Missionaries for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, no matter where they serve, use the same manual for everything they do. Whether they're teaching lessons to investigators, training each other to be more effective teachers, mobilizing wards to do missionary work, or planning how to best use their time as missionaries--everything they need to do and become is in Preach My Gospel.

Preach My Gospel derives its name from section 50 in the Doctrine and Covenants. On a whim, I recently decided to read that chapter, to see if it would yield insight into this special resource we've been given by the Lord.

What I discovered humbled me, and I think every prospective missionary should read that chapter before even thinking about putting in their mission papers.

Section 50 is a direct rebuke against the Elders of the Church for hypocrisy--to eliminate it from their midst, to beware of it in other people, to overcome it through their work and the grace of God. In fact, the name Preach My Gospel is an answer to a direct question asked in verse 13:

"Unto what were ye ordained?"

That question isn't supposed to be answered by rote--it's a question that is supposed to dig at our hearts and turn out our pockets. Because the Lord is asking the question, it translates into a much more personal exchange.

Unto want were you ordained?--What power has He given us? Do we even know? What responsibilities go along with the covenants we've already made, and are we meeting them? Have we embraced what it means to be responsible before God?

Unto what were you ordained?

To be lazy? To pass our portion of the work off onto someone else? To entertain ourselves endlessly? To pollute the gospel with political agendas, personal offenses, and pet philosophies? To leave others in the darkness of their own misery, poverty, hunger, and despair--while we use our blessings and resources to live in luxury and comfort? To destroy ourselves through sins of which we refuse to repent?

Unto what were you ordained?--What are you trying to do? Why are you here? What is your motivation for serving a mission? What is your responsibility as a member of this Church? Do you care about that responsibility?

There's a reason this section is on the cover of Preach My Gospel.


{ Note: No one, to my knowledge, is naked in this picture }
Hypocrisy and wearing a fake, pretty Church face doesn't go very far in the mission field. The work is hard and many times unrewarding. The days are long, and extremely structured. The standards are strict, and the questions we must answer in regards to our performance are sharp and often painful. My sweetheart sent me a letter at the beginning of his mission, explaining that being a missionary is like standing naked in a packed football stadium, with all the lights and eyes on you. Any attempt to cover yourself, to sneak away unnoticed, or to be more or less than what you are just makes you feel even more ridiculous.

By nature, the work is designed to beat the hell and evil and hypocrisy right out of us--because to give away that much of ourselves for anything less than sincere faith and sacrifice is madness.

Essentially, I think there's a very specific purpose that Preach My Gospel takes its name from a section that speaks so harshly against hypocrisy. Being a missionary and being a hypocrite do not go together. Eventually, one gives in to the other. But it has been my experience that this manual doesn't just condemn against hypocrisy. Preach My Gospel eliminates hypocrisy from the congregations of the Church when used to its fullest potential.

How does it do so? Preach My Gospel teaches the gospel of Jesus Christ with clarity and precision. It makes specific connections between Christ's doctrine and needed behavior changes. It covers both temporal and spiritual stewardships. It delivers the teachings and expectations of Jesus Christ in brief statements of pure truth. Preach My Gospel makes it clear that the Lord, not the Church, has essential expectations for our discipleship. It gives specific instructions on what to do to live the gospel of Jesus Christ instead of simply knowing it. Every ward and branch needs to understand the difference between knowing and living the gospel. That process begins in the life and heart of each Latter-day Saint, as he recognizes the value of his contribution in the work of Jesus Christ. Only then will the purpose of the gospel--not the interests of the members--become the focus of the ward/branch's efforts. Only then can the purposes and objectives of the Priesthood be realized and manifested.

But what are those purposes and objectives?

In the process of preparing for a mission, young men are ordained to the Melchizedek Priesthood. That Priesthood is part of a special holy order. Men and women both enter into that order through the holy endowment of the temple. These men and women are then set apart as missionaries--the final piece of a very special preparation process. The end result--the purpose of the Priesthood--is to enter into the ministry of angels. (see 2 Nephi 31: 13 and Moroni 7: 35-37)



Which is what makes Elder Holland's talk from last Sunday so remarkable--not because it is news, but because it is the truth plainly and unapologetically stated. He called his associates in the general authorities angels because that is what they are. That is what the gospel of Jesus Christ has made of them, after a lifetime of devoted service to the Church. That is what they are ordained to be--joint heirs of Christ and co-participants in His work of salvation for the living and the dead.


And they aren't the only ones. If one goes back and ponders over Elder Holland's General Conference talks from past sessions, this isn't the first time he has spoken of angels. Careful study of The Ministry of Angels and The Tongue of Angels reveals that Elder Holland doesn't just see angels among the general authorities--he sees them among faithful Latter-day Saints everywhere. Indeed, he has taught that to be angelic in our discipleship and our service is evidence of our faith in Jesus Christ. If we are not angelic, we are not becoming the disciples that the gospel, by design, is supposed to make of us.

For eighteen months, I'm going to be an angel. I will have the power and authority to minister in the name of Jesus Christ. The work I do in Brazil will be as binding as if it were done by unseen angels, and that could terrify me where I stand.

But it doesn't.

Why? Because I have Preach My Gospel. Everything I need to know about being an angel, a Saint, and a Sister is already in there. I have no reason to be afraid--only to be believing, and to take my place among the noble and faithful angels who came before me. The ones who wanted to live lives of great consequence and purpose--souls who meet challenges with love and are not shaken by fear and trepidation.

That is my purpose because it is the aim of Jesus Christ. He is my exemplar, the source of every desire for good in my soul. I love Him, I worship Him, and I cannot wait to stand beside Him in ministering to His children. I bear my witness that He lives. He alone atoned for our sins. He performed the Resurrection, that we might rise from death. His coming in glory is nigh, and if we are prepared we shall not fear. I bear that witness in His holy name, even Jesus Christ. Amen

2 comments:

  1. Powerful. Thanks for sharing this. I think I needed it.

    ReplyDelete

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