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Teachings of Howard W. Hunter Lesson 8: "Taking the Gospel to All the World"

This is not your standard missionary lesson. Most missionary lessons rely heavily on scriptures from the New Testament or the Doctrine and Covenants where our missionary duties as members of the Church are outlined. President Hunter’s approach to missionary work takes a whole different approach.

The Lord’s Work

Putting aside any responsibilities we may have as members of the Lord’s church, we need to see that missionary work is the Lord’s work. This is what He does. Moses 1:39 says that our eternal happiness and exaltation are the purpose of His work. How can that be accomplished if his children don’t know that he exists or has a plan for their happiness?

The Lord has already told us that He is hastening his work. Note that He is hastening his own work. With or without us, it will get done. Our part in his work secures the needed changes within us that make us more like Him. Our part in the missionary effort is required for us to become more Christlike. We cannot become like Christ and yet let our brothers and sisters languish without the blessings of the atonement.

Intro

This lesson begins with quotes about how the Lord has promised that our ability to share the gospel message will dramatically increase. “I fully believe that in the near future we will see some of the greatest advancements in spreading the gospel to all nations that have ever taken place in this dispensation or any previous dispensation.” That was back in 1979. Within 10 years of that statement the Berlin wall came down, opening all the former communist block states up to the preaching of the gospel. That wasn’t anything we did. The Lord did that.

Once the possibilities for teaching the gospel exists, then it is our responsibility to go in and share the message of the atonement and resurrection of Christ. The Lord opens the doors, but he expects us, who have not only claimed we want to be like Him, but have made covenants to that effect, to go through those doors and perform the labor needed to save all of God’s children who will accept the message of his gospel.

The Restored Gospel is For All People

President Hunter makes an interesting claim that is rarely addressed by the Brethren. He says, regarding the message we bear to the world, “It is neither confined nor partial nor subject to history or fashion.”
How is the gospel not “confined?” The message we bear has universal application. It will save equally someone in China, Afghanistan, Tanzania, Peru, or New Zealand. It doesn’t matter what social class the person comes from, what educational background they have or what religious persuasion they were raised with. The truth of Christ extends beyond all boundaries to encompass all of God’s children. His message is not partial or incomplete, it is given in its fulness. It has the same ability to save any person who will accept it. The truth of the gospel cannot go out of fashion or fade from history. This is the last dispensation of the earth. The gospel is here to stay until Christ himself comes back to earth to rule in person.
(Mormon Basics commentary)

When Christ told the apostles to take the gospel to the whole world, in their minds all they could comprehend was the idea that he wanted them to convert all the Jews throughout the world. To them, that was the whole world. We often suffer from the same constricted view, the same malady of vision that those of the early church suffered. The whole world includes every race, every religion, every kind of person and philosophy, not just those who look and act like us.

In this gospel view there is no room for a contracted, narrow, or prejudicial view. The Prophet Joseph Smith said: “Love is one of the chief characteristics of Deity, and ought to be manifested by those who aspire to be the sons of God. A man filled with the love of God, is not content with blessing his family alone, but ranges through the whole world, anxious to bless the whole human race” [Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith (2007), 330–31]. …

Teach the Gospel to all Nations

A horizon is the farthest point you can see. For us, our personal horizon may stop at seeing a Muslim (for example) as a potential member of the Church. We assume there are too many limitations and prejudices in place for us to find any success. That may be true, but we don’t know how hard the Lord has been working on any one person to prepare them for the gospel message. We don’t know how many years He has been building up their experiences to help them get to the point of acceptance. It is our responsibility to share, not judge readiness. That is a hard lesson for many of us to accept.

As members of the Lord’s church, we need to lift our vision beyond personal prejudices. We need to discover the supreme truth that indeed our Father is no respecter of persons. Sometimes we unduly offend brothers and sisters of other nations by assigning exclusiveness to one nationality of people over another.

This is our day to personally experience Peter’s vision on the rooftop where the Lord taught him that anything is clean and worthy that the Lord declares to be clean (Acts 10). The Lord is commanding us to teach everyone, not just those of our own kind. We need to learn better than we now know, how to extend our personal love to those of other backgrounds, races, and cultures. The point the Lord is trying to make here is that we are all His children. He does not love any of his children less than his other children. All are to be saved, and for us to become Christlike in our own attitudes, we need to learn to feel just as concerned for the welfare of the atheist, Muslim, Jew, apostate, (or member of the opposing political party) as we do for our neighbor next door (who, by the way, may be from any of the previously mentioned groups).

That which Joseph [Smith] was instrumental in establishing, even The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, is now a world religion, not simply because its members are now found throughout the world, but chiefly because it has a comprehensive and inclusive message based upon the acceptance of all truth, restored to meet the needs of all mankind.

What a glorious concept! The teachings and tenets of Christ’s gospel are sufficient to save anyone from any background in any culture on earth. His love and priesthood can save us all, regardless of what else our personal culture teaches. It really is universal in its scope and reach.

Overcoming Obstacles

Just as the communist government put up the Berlin wall to “safeguard” its people and interests, so too do we sometimes put up walls that prevent us from blessings that could be ours if we were but willing to tear down our personal barriers. Our own progress is hindered by what we hide behind.

To satisfy the new demands being made upon us in this great missionary work of the last days, perhaps some of us (particularly the older generation whose families are raised) need to take stock to determine whether “walls” that we have built in our own minds need to come down.
For example, how about the “comfort wall” that seems to prevent many couples and singles from going on a mission? How about the “financial wall” of debt that interferes with some members’ ability to go, or the “grandchildren wall,” or the “health wall,” or the “lack of self-confidence wall,” or the “self-satisfied wall,” or the “transgression wall,” or the walls of fear, doubt, or complacency? Does anyone really doubt for a minute that with the help of the Lord he or she could bring those walls crashing down?

Missionary work is second only in importance to the work we do in our own families. There is nothing more important we can accomplish in this life, outside of our own family’s salvation, than the saving of our brothers and sisters of God’s family. “There is no greater calling in this life. If we are content to hide behind self-made walls, we willingly forgo the blessings that are otherwise ours.”

Final Thoughts

We can learn a lesson from Peter and Andrew in the New Testament. “Again and again during his mortal ministry, our Lord issued a call that was both an invitation and a challenge. To Peter and Andrew, Christ said, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men” (Matt. 4:19).”

Peter and Andrew were not educated men. They were not wealthy men. They had no social standing other than among other fishermen. Yet the Lord saw within them that which would make them great in the kingdom of God and called them to His work. He also sees past our circumstances and our current self perceptions and calls us to the work. There is room for a great many more “great ones” in the Lord’s kingdom.

The Lord has always chosen the weak and insignificant in the world’s eyes to do His will. It is through those others discount that he performs his greatest miracles. The only thing required for us to be able to perform great things for the Lord is to put our trust in him that He can overcome our fears and give us the strength to accomplish the work to which he has called us.