Preaching the Gospel
From The Encyclopedia of Mormonism
Author: Pinegar, Max L.
Prior to his ascension, the resurrected Savior charged his apostles to "teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you" (Matt. 28:19-20). This charge reiterates the call of Abraham (Abr. 2:6, 9-11) and has been unequivocally renewed in the latter days (D&C 110:12): "And the voice of warning shall be unto all people" (D&C 1:4). "This calling and commandment give I unto you concerning all men [they] shall be ordained and sent forth to preach the everlasting gospel among the nations" (D&C 36:4-5). "For, verily, the sound must go forth from this place unto 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" (D&C 58:64). The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints responds to this charge by sending missionaries to people of all persuasions throughout the world (see Missions).
The calling to preach the gospel has a distinctive meaning among Latter-day Saints. All who are in the Church are directly or indirectly indebted to missionaries for their introduction to the gospel. Historically, missionary labor has been carried out by members of the Church who have gone "two by two" (D&C 42:6;52:10; cf. Luke 10:1; John 8:17) into every land and clime of the free world (see Missionary, Missionary Life). LDS missionary labor is not a profession or vocation. It is voluntary and unpaid. The majority of those who presently serve for an average of two years are young men and women, but many older couples of various professions or walks of life also serve. Mission presidents are themselves laymen called to serve usually for three years. At this writing (1991), some 40,000 LDS full-time missionaries are serving.
In addition, there are other modes of preaching the gospel. Members may be called to fulfill stake missions that are coordinated in time spent with their regular occupations or professions. They devote about ten hours per week (usually evenings) to missionary work in their own stake area. The "Every member a missionary" program emphasized by President David O. McKay involves members inviting friends or interested persons into their homes for discussions of gospel principles. A General Missionary Fund is maintained by member contributions, which help some persons in undeveloped countries to supplement their savings and serve full-time missions. Whether laboring at home or abroad, Latter-day Saints are constantly admonished that the witness and testimony of the gospel are only effective if they reflect genuine and continual discipleship of Jesus Christ. The gospel is to be taught in mildness and in meekness, in demonstration of the Spirit, and in love unfeigned (D&C 38:41;99:2;121:41).
The command of the Lord to preach the gospel to all nations has a twofold purpose: to bring people to an understanding of the gospel of Jesus Christ, and also to sound the warning voice to leave mankind without excuse (see Voice of Warning).