Topic Study: Atonement and Missionary Work

(December 2007.  Given as a PowerPoint in the Missionary Training meeting for Joliet Illinois Stake)

I             Atonement

What does the Atonement have to do with missionary work? Any time we experience the blessings of the Atonement in our lives, we cannot help but have a concern for the welfare of others. . . . A great indicator of one’s personal conversion is the desire to share the gospel with others.  (Howard W. Hunter, “The Atonement and Missionary Work,” seminar for new mission presidents, June 1994, as quoted in Preach My Gospel p. 13)

When we truly understand how great a blessing the gospel of Jesus Christ is in our lives, when we accept and embrace these eternal truths and allow them to sink deep into our hearts and souls, we experience a “mighty change” (Alma 5:14) in our hearts.

Our love for the Lord and appreciation for the Restoration of the gospel are all the motivation we need to share what gives us much joy and happiness. It is the most natural thing in the world for us to do, and yet far too many of us are hesitant to share our testimonies with others.  (Elder Russell M. Ballard of the Quorum of The Twelve In Conference April 2006)

II            Behavior

“True doctrine, understood, changes attitudes and behavior. The study of the doctrines of the gospel will improve behavior quicker than a study of behavior will improve behavior.”  (President Boyd K. Packer “Little Children,” Ensign, Nov. 1986, 17, quoted in Preach My Gospel p. 19)

If we can’t change a behavior, what doctrine don’t we understand?

III           Key Doctrine

13  Behold I have given unto you my gospel, and this is the gospel which I have given unto you—that I came into the world to do the will of my Father, because my Father sent me.

14  And my Father sent me that I might be lifted up upon the cross; and after that I had been lifted up upon the cross, that I might draw all men unto me, that as I have been lifted up by men even so should men be lifted up by the Father, to stand before me, to be judged of their works, whether they be good or whether they be evil—

15  And for this cause have I been lifted up; therefore, according to the power of the Father I will draw all men unto me, that they may be judged according to their works.

16  And it shall come to pass, that whoso repenteth and is baptized in my name shall be filled; and if he endureth to the end, behold, him will I hold guiltless before my Father at that day when I shall stand to judge the world. (3 Ne. 27:13 – 16, emphasis added).

This quote is from the Savior to his Disciples, summarizing his ministry in 3 Ne. 27:13 – 15 (similar quotes can be found in John 6:44, John 12:32, 2 Ne 9:5, D&C 17:8, D&C 27:18)

How can the Savior draw all men unto him, in light of this doctrine:

30  All truth is independent in that sphere in which God has placed it, to act for itself, as all intelligence also; otherwise there is no existence.

31  Behold, here is the agency of man, ….(D&C 93:30 – 31, emphasis added)

Will the Savior somehow counter agency?  Will he force them to do so?

And consider this scripture.

31  Yea, every knee shall bow, and every tongue confess before him.  Yea, even at the last day, when all men shall stand to be judged of him, then shall they confess that he is God; then shall they confess, who live without God in the world, that the judgment of an everlasting punishment is just upon them; and they shall quake, and tremble, and shrink beneath the glance of his all–searching eye. (Mosiah 27:31)

Everyone will do this.  But will the Savior, or God our Father force that to happen?

I think not.  Then if agency continues to be the same, whereby every person gets to choose what they will do, then it means that everyone will ultimately willingly do this.  And what is that will draw them to the Savior?  I believe it is the resurrection.  Ultimately, every person will apply to the Savior for resurrection.  And doing so, will entail, willingly for everyone, kneeling, bowing, and confessing.

Jesus’ glorious Atonement is the central act in all of human history! It provides the universal Resurrection; it makes our personal repentance and forgiveness possible. Since all of us “have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23), the need for repentance is universal. And mercifully, Christ’s Atonement fits sins of all sizes—whether the smaller sins of omission or major transgressions. Hence, when we turn away from our sins, the required arc of that turning varies from person to person, but it is necessary for all.  (Elder Neal A. Maxwell, “Testifying of the Great and Glorious Atonement” October 2001 Ensign. From a Church satellite broadcast on conversion and retention given at the Provo Missionary Training Center on 29 August 1999.)

IV          Our Part in This

Continuing from the above quote from the Savior says what the Savior thinks the gospel should mean to each of us.

16  And it shall come to pass, that whoso repenteth and is baptized in my name shall be filled; and if he endureth to the end, behold, him will I hold guiltless before my Father at that day when I shall stand to judge the world.

….

20  Now this is the commandment: Repent, all ye ends of the earth, and come unto me and be baptized in my name, that ye may be sanctified by the reception of the Holy Ghost, that ye may stand spotless before me at the last day.

21  Verily, verily, I say unto you, this is my gospel; and ye know the things that ye must do in my church; for the works which ye have seen me do that shall ye also do; for that which ye have seen me do even that shall ye do; (3 Ne. 27:16 – 21)

What steps are here?  Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, Repentance, Baptism, and the Gift of the Holy Ghost.

Can we apply these steps to missionary work?  I think so.

V           Faith

What is the biggest problem with missionary work?  Look at these scriptures:

For, behold, you should not have feared man more than God….D&C 3:7

BEHOLD, I say unto you…that you have feared man and have not relied on me for strength as you ought.  D&C 30:1

But with some I am not well pleased, for they will not open their mouths, but they hide the talent which I have given unto them, because of the fear of man.  Wo unto such, for mine anger is kindled against them.  D&C 60:2

Ye endeavored to believe that ye should receive the blessing which was offered unto you; but behold, verily I say unto you there were fears in your hearts, and verily this is the reason that ye did not receive.  D&C 67:3

And your whole labor shall be in Zion, with all your soul, from henceforth; yea, you shall ever open your mouth in my cause, not fearing what man can do, for I am with you.  Amen. D&C 30:11

Look unto me in every thought; doubt not, fear not.  D&C 6:36

What is the antidote to fear?

38  And he was in the hinder part of the ship, asleep on a pillow: and they awake him, and say unto him, Master, carest thou not that we perish?….

40  And he said unto them, Why are ye so fearful?  how is it that ye have no faith? (Mark 4:38 – 40)

President Hunter said the following in relation to this scripture:

None of us would like to think we have no faith, but I suppose the Lord’s gentle rebuke here is largely deserved. (Howard W. Hunter, “Master, the Tempest Is Raging” November 1984 Ensign)

Another word for Faith is Confidence.  We should have confidence that everyone we ultimate testify to will ultimately thank us for having done so.  That is because every one of them will ultimately repent and confess.

VI          Repent

See the following scriptures.

Say nothing but repentance unto this generation (Doctrine and Covenants 6:9)

Wherefore, you are called to cry repentance unto this people. (Doctrine and Covenants 18:14)

Yea, open your mouths and they shall be filled, saying: Repent, repent, and prepare ye the way of the Lord…

Yea, repent and be baptized, every one of you, for a remission of your sins; yea, be baptized even by water, and then cometh the baptism of fire and of the Holy Ghost.  (Doctrine and Covenants 33:10 – 11)

The Greek word of which repentance is the English translation “denotes a change of mind, i.e., a fresh view about God, about oneself, and about the world” (Bible Dictionary, “Repentance,” 760).

The word “Repentance” can seem harsh.  Perhaps “Invitation” could be considered.  Every gospel conversation should include an invitation of some kind to do something, even if it is small.

VII         Baptism

Some parents are listening with this question: “But how can I soften the heart of my child now grown older and convinced he or she doesn’t need God? How can I soften a heart enough to allow God to write His will upon it?” Sometimes tragedy will soften a heart. But for some, even tragedy is not enough.

But there is one need even the hardened and proud person cannot believe they can meet for themselves. They cannot lift the weight of sin from their own shoulders. And even the most hardened may at times feel the prick of conscience and thus the need for forgiveness from God. (Elder Henry B. Eyring, November 2000 General Conference Address “Write upon My Heart”)

VIII       Gift of the Holy Ghost

We must never underestimate the power of the Spirit to stir people’s souls beyond any teaching capacity or skills we may have. As you know, such occurred with Alma when he was in his extremity. And what did he remember? He said he remembered the words of his father about the Atonement of Jesus and said, “My mind caught hold upon this thought” (see Alma 36:17–18).

The Spirit can help those to whom you testify to likewise catch hold of your words in a way that their minds and hearts will grasp them, especially when those words concern the deep doctrines of the kingdom, like the Atonement. (Elder Neal A. Maxwell, “Testifying of the Great and Glorious Atonement” October 2001 Ensign. From a Church satellite broadcast on conversion and retention given at the Provo Missionary Training Center on 29 August 1999.)

IX          Summary

I think these quotes in light of Alma the Younger’s conversion is interesting.  Alma thought upon the words of his father.  I believe that our words, and the feeling they leave, will stay will people for a very long time, even beyond this life.

We will have a greater witness of the Spirit to attend our Gospel conversations if we

  • Have Faith: Do not fear discussing the “deep doctrines of the kingdom, like the Atonement.” and testify directly of the Savior
  • Call to Repent: Extend an invitation to do something
  • Invite to be Baptism: The cleansing power of Christ is something everyone needs.
  • Use The Gift of the Holy Ghost: The Spirit you leave will be remembered.

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