Every Member a Missionary
In The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints full-time missionaries are not the only ones who are supposed to help spread the gospel. Members are also asked to watch for missionary opportunities. This idea is often summed up by the saying, "every member a missionary," coined by President David O. McKay. Missionary work has always been a priority within the Church, and members are familiar with scriptures that emphasize the importance of missionary work, such as Mark 16:15-1: "And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature." Doctrine and Covenants 58:64 says, "For, verily, the sound must go forth from this place into all the world, and unto the uttermost parts of the earth—the gospel must be preached unto every creature, with signs following them that believe." President Gordon B. Hinckley said, "in behalf of the missionaries…I want to plead with the saints to do all you possibly can to provide referrals [of people] whom they might teach. You will be happy if you do so. Everyone that you see come into the Church because of your effort will bring happiness into your lives" (“Inspirational Thoughts,” Liahona, Oct. 2003, 3).
Members are also often reminded that they should always be following the principles of the gospel, because they can be missionaries by example. Elder David A. Bednar expressed this fact when he stated, "we are missionaries everyday in our families, in our schools, in our places of employment, and in our communities. Regardless of our age, experience, or station in life, we are all missionaries" (“Becoming a Missionary,” Ensign, Nov. 2005, 44).
In addition to letting their actions help in missionary work, members are also encouraged to speak and to share the gospel of Jesus Christ, because "you never can foretell the consequences of that which you do. And the man or the woman, or the boy or the girl, on whom you call today, with whom you speak, with whom you may leave a Book of Mormon, who may turn you down, may later become interested and come into this Church... Strange are the ways of the Lord in touching the hearts of people. You never can tell the consequences of that which you do" (Gordon B. Hinckley, “Inspirational Thoughts”).
Missionary responsibilities also include making people feel welcome after they join the Church. President Hinckley urged members to make sure that everyone who joins the Church is made welcome, is able to feel at home, has friends in the Church, and something to do to help them build their faith and testimony. Even though full-time missionaries follow up with new members, experienced Latter-day Saints need to enfold them and include them. Numerous Church leaders have addressed the importance of this role; Richard G. Scott stated:
- Simultaneously with doctrinal conversion there must be a social transition. Friends, habits, customs, and traditions not in harmony with the life of a Latter-day Saint are abandoned, replaced by new friends and activities that support a new life. Of the two important changes that must occur in a convert's life—the gaining of a testimony, or doctrinal conversion, and learning how to live as a Latter-day Saint, or the social transition—the latter is the most difficult to achieve. It is best accomplished with the love and support of members. Your worthy example and caring support can lead them through each step required to learn to live as a Latter-day Saint. This social transition requires careful nurturing and help to teach new patterns of life, to introduce new friends, and to assist the new converts to be obedient and begin to serve in the Church. In his last conference message, as the representative of the Lord, President Hinckley stressed this vital role of members and leaders to help each new convert feel comfortable and be sustained in living the requirements of a new life. He said, "With the ever-increasing number of converts, we must make an increasingly substantial effort to assist them as they find their way" (“Why Every Member a Missionary?” Ensign, Nov. 1997, 35).
Other ways that members are encouraged to promote missionary work is by preparing their children, especially their sons, to serve a mission, by doing family history work, going to the temple often to do work for deceased ancestors, and by serving part-time missions and providing service. Recently, emphasis has been placed on sharing the gospel via the internet. Many who are unable to serve missions can share their testimonies online. (See the Ensign article by Apostle M. Russell Ballard regarding sharing the gospel online.)