Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Why do you send missionaries all over the world, when most churches concentrate on third-world countries?

This is part seven of a ten-part post. Elder Cuthbert of the First Quorum of the Seventy suggested ten questions which members of any church might ask our missionaries or any other member of the Church.

Question number seven: Why do you send missionaries all over the world, when most churches concentrate on third-world countries?

Elder Cuthbert’s answer:

I must confess that question was in my mind when the young men knocked on our door and announced they were missionaries. Having studied the New Testament, I should have known the answer, for the Savior gave it so clearly as he instructed his Apostles just before his ascension. “Go ye therefore and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.” (Matt. 28:19.) The fact that the Lord gave the commission is sufficient justification for carrying the gospel to the ends of the earth. People of all nations need the truth and purpose and happiness which the fulness of the gospel brings. Everyone should be interested in truth, and so we say to people of all faiths, Keep all the truth you have and we will add to it. This is why tens of thousands of young men and women and well over a thousand retired couples are voluntarily giving eighteen months to two years, preaching the restored gospel of Jesus Christ to all the world.

My testimony:

Quite frequently on my mission I encountered the mentality of “why are you talking to me, you should be out talking to the drunks and the teenagers, look at their lives, they need the help.” Even now as my mission comes up from time to time, I continue to encounter the same, “why didn’t you go to Africa or Central America and build houses or work on providing clean water? That’s what my church does.” This question has always confused me somewhat because not once have I ever thought that a certain group of people needed the restored gospel of Jesus Christ more than another. As we went door to door in Ukraine, we were no respecter of persons (see Acts 10:34; D&C 1:35); we knocked on every door and talked to as many people as we could. We did talk to the teenagers and the drunks (when they weren’t drunk and a conversation wasn't pointless.) But we also sought out families, people with full-time jobs, and those who were strong in their own faith. We tried to bring the restored gospel to everyone.

My mission wasn’t specifically to improve living conditions of the worst people we could find. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints does do an incredible amount of humanitarian work and encourages all of its members to participate in efforts across the world and in their own communities (see part six of this series.) But my mission specifically was to “invite others to come unto Christ by helping them receive the restored gospel through faith in Jesus Christ and His Atonement, repentance, baptism, receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost, and enduring to the end,” (Preach My Gospel, 1).

Remember, this is life eternal: that we might know our Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ whom He sent (see John 17:3). The work and glory of God is to bring to pass our immortality and eternal life (see Moses 1:39), therefore our physical comfort and temporal desires should be of lesser importance to us. Indeed, as President Spencer W. Kimball (1895-1985) taught, “Since immortality and eternal life constitute the sole purpose of life, all other interests and activities are but incidental thereto” (The Miracle of Forgiveness, Bookcraft 1969, 2).

Jesus Christ taught this principle when He lived on the earth. Remember with me the story in the sixth chapter of John about the multitudes who followed Jesus and the apostles into a mountain “because they saw his miracles which he did on them.” When the apostles tried to send the multitudes away, the Savior commanded that they instead feed the 5000 present, which they did through another miracle. However, the next day when the multitudes again sought out Jesus, He perceived their intentions, saying, “Ye seek me, not because ye desire to keep my sayings, neither because ye saw the miracles, but because ye did eat of the loaves, and were filled. Labour not for the meat which perisheth, but for that meat which endureth unto everlasting life, which the Son of man shall give unto you.” Christ fed the 5000 people and later another 4000 through a similar miracle because their temporal needs needed to be met in order for them to focus better on that which would truly help them. However, when they came back to Jesus because they wanted another free meal, He taught them where their focus should be: “I am the bread of life; he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst” (John 6:35).  Of course there is merit to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs and we cannot focus on the spiritual things as well when we are vitally concerned for our basic needs, hence the reason the Church Welfare Program was started. Yes, physical and temporal needs must be met, but more importantly, we must see the Son and believe on Him, that we may have everlasting life.

Jesus Christ said of himself, “I am the way, the truth, and the life; no man cometh unto the Father, but by me” (John 14:6). To His “other sheep” in America, Jesus taught, “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, . . .” (3 Nephi 27:14, italics added). Our Father in Heaven wants so that each of His children returns to Him, the rich and the poor, the strong and the weak, the young and the old, the believer and the nonbeliever. So he commands His missionaries, “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost” (Matt 28:19, italics added).