This is a single part in a series of satirical and critical posts that corrects errors and adds missing details in “Preach My Gospel”. If anyone deserves to know the realities of what membership in The Church of Jesus Christ entails, it’s the investigators being taught by missionaries. All changes to the original are marked in red.
As you teach, prepare your investigators to meet the qualifications for baptism taught in Doctrine and Covenants 20:37 and in the baptismal interview questions. This is best accomplished by inviting your investigators to make and keep the commitments listed below.
Do you believe that God is our Eternal Father?
Do you believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, the Savior and Redeemer of the world?•
Do you believe that the Church and the gospel of Jesus Christ have been restored through the Prophet Joseph Smith?
Do you believe that polygamy was divinely inspired?
Do you believe that the Book of Mormon is a historical record and another witness of Jesus Christ?
Do you believe that [current Church President] is a prophet of God? Will you obey the leaders of the Church? What does this mean to you?
Will you read and pray to know that the Book of Mormon is the word of God?
Will you pray to know that Joseph Smith was a prophet?
Will you attend church with us this Sunday?
May we set a time for our next visit?
Other commandments from lesson 4 that you choose to include.
God is our Heavenly Father. We are His children. He has a body of flesh and bone that is glorified and perfected. He loves us. He weeps with us when we suffer and rejoices when we do what is right. He wants to communicate with us, and we can communicate with Him through sincere prayer. He has multiple wives.
He has given us this experience on the earth so we can learn and grow. We can show our love for Him through our choices and our obedience to His commandments given to us by his inspired prophets.
Heavenly Father has provided us, His children, with a way to be successful in this life and to return to live in His presence. However, we must be pure and clean through obedience in order to do so. Disobedience moves us away from Him. Central to our Father’s plan is Jesus Christ’s Atonement. The Atonement included His suffering in the Garden of Gethsemane as well as His suffering and death on the cross. Through the Atonement we can be freed from the burden of our sins and develop faith and strength to face our trials.
Belief about God
Determine what each person you are teaching understands regarding Christian beliefs about God. Many people in today’s world either have no concept of God or a very different perception of Deity.
Two Book of Mormon missionaries, Ammon and Aaron, taught people who did not have a Christian background. They taught simple truths and invited their investigators to pray. Lamoni and his father were converted. Read Alma 18:24–40 and 22:4–23, and answer the questions below:
What did these missionaries teach about the nature of God?
- How can you follow their examples?
- How can demonstrate that the Christian God is the most accurate depiction of God?
The restored gospel blesses and helps traditionally married husbands and wives, parents and children as they strive to develop stronger relationships and spiritual strength in their families as long as everyone believes in the standards of the gospel. These blessings are available now and in eternity. The gospel of Jesus Christ provides help with current concerns and challenges.
Because families are ordained of God, they are the most important social unit in time and in eternity if you accept the gospel. God has established families to bring happiness to His children, allow them to learn correct principles (Mormonism) in a loving atmosphere, and prepare them for eternal life as Gods. The home is the best place to teach, learn, and apply principles of the gospel of Jesus Christ. A home established on gospel principles will be a place of refuge and safety. It will be a place where the Spirit of the Lord can abide, blessing family members with peace, joy, and happiness. A home that is not established on gospel principles will not be a place of refuge and safety. The Spirit of the Lord will not abide there in full measure, and can only give lesser blessings to family members. Through prophets in every age, including our own, God has revealed His plan of happiness for individuals and families.
One important way that God shows His love for us is by calling prophets, who are given the priesthood—the power and authority given to man to act in God’s name for the salvation of His children. Prophets learn the gospel of Jesus Christ by revelation in a way that is no different than the average person. They in turn teach the gospel to others and testify of Jesus Christ as the Savior and Redeemer. The teachings of prophets are found in sacred books called scriptures, other sacred scripts called handbooks, other sacred magazines called the Ensign, and through their books published through the Church owned publishing company and book store Deseret Book.
Our Father’s plan for us to be successful in this life and to return to live with Him is called the gospel of Jesus Christ, with Jesus’ Atonement and following the prophet at the center of that plan. Through the Atonement of Jesus Christ and following the Lord’s Anointed, we can receive eternal life if we exercise faith in Jesus Christ, repent, are baptized by immersion for the remission of sins, receive the gift of the Holy Ghost, follow the prophet, and endure to the end. “This is the way; and there is none other way (except whatever the current prophet is teaching) nor name given under heaven (except the prophet’s name, because rejecting a prophet is like rejecting Jesus himself) whereby man can be saved in the kingdom of God. And now, behold, this is the doctrine of Christ” (2 Nephi 31:21). All people have the gift of agency, which includes the freedom to accept or reject the gospel as taught by the prophets and apostles. Those who choose to obey are blessed, but those who ignore, reject, or distort the gospel do not receive God’s promised blessings.
Whenever people choose to disregard, disobey, or distort any gospel principle or ordinance, whenever they reject the Lord’s prophets (such as when people reject the doctrine of polygamy or reject the doctrine of not giving blacks the priesthood), or whenever they fail to endure in faith, they distance themselves from God and begin to live in spiritual darkness. Eventually this leads to a condition called apostasy. When widespread apostasy occurs, God withdraws His priesthood authority to teach and administer the ordinances of the gospel.
Biblical history has recorded many instances of God speaking to prophets, and it also tells of many instances of apostasy. To end each period of general apostasy, God has shown His ability to move on and once again love for His children by calling another prophet and giving him priesthood authority to restore and teach the gospel of Jesus Christ anew. In essence, the prophet acts as a steward or babysitter to oversee the household of God here on earth. Such periods of time headed by prophetic responsibility are called dispensations.
God revealed the gospel of Jesus Christ to Adam and most likely gave him priesthood authority. Adam was the first prophet on the earth. By revelation, Adam learned of mankind’s proper relationship with God the Father, His Son Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost; of the Atonement and Resurrection of Jesus Christ; and of the first principles and ordinances of the gospel. Adam and Eve taught their children these truths and encouraged them to develop faith and to live the gospel in all aspects of their lives. Adam was followed by other prophets, but over time the posterity of Adam rejected the gospel and fell into apostasy, choosing to be unrighteous. [Note: Most if not all of this information is taken from the Pearl of Great Price which was rewritten in Egyptian then translated by Joseph Smith. That translation has now been determined to be incorrect.]
Thus began the not completely accurate or obvious pattern of prophetic dispensations that makes up much of the recorded history of the Old Testament. Heavenly Father revealed His gospel through direct communication to prophets such as Noah, Abraham, and Moses. Each prophet was called by God to begin a new dispensation of the gospel. To each of these prophets we assume God granted priesthood authority and revealed eternal truths. Unfortunately, in each dispensation people eventually used their agency to choose to reject the gospel and then fell into apostasy.
Determine what the person you are teaching understands about prophets. In most cultures there are people who believe that holy or inspired people receive some form of guidance and direction from Deity. However, not all inspired individuals are prophets of God as defined in the restored gospel. Explain clearly that God establishes His kingdom on the earth by calling a prophet to establish a new dispensation. He gives that prophet priesthood authority. The prophet then helps people understand their relationship to Deity, including how to receive eternal life through the gospel of Jesus Christ. Any other prophet is a false one, and he will lead people away from the restored gospel, or astray.
You might wonder how gospel dispensations are relevant when teaching people who do not have a Christian background or culture. But you will find that by briefly relating the history of gospel dispensations, you can help people understand that God loves His children, that following the prophet is essential and the reason why we teach it first, and that He is the same yesterday, today, and forever, in that He is always changing His mind about everything.
A few hundred years before the birth of Jesus Christ, people again fell into apostasy. But when the Savior began His mortal ministry He established His Church again on the earth.
Heavenly Father sent His Son to the earth to atone for the sins of all mankind and overcome death: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son … that the world through him might be saved” (John 3:16–17). Our Heavenly Father sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to take upon Him, by His suffering, the sins of all who would live on this earth and to overcome physical death. The Savior made an infinite atoning sacrifice so that if we have faith in Him, repent, are baptized, receive the Holy Ghost, follow the prophet, and endure to the end, we can receive forgiveness of our sins and enter and follow the path that will lead us to eternal life in God’s presence (see 2 Nephi 31:13–21).
During His earthly ministry, the Savior taught His gospel, the same as we teach in our Church, and performed many miracles. He called twelve men to be His Apostles and laid His hands on their heads to give them most likely priesthood authority. He organized His Church, fulfilled prophecy, and was rejected and crucified. Most important, He completed the Atonement and called apostles and organized His Church. The Son of God, the Lord Jesus Christ, completed all that His Heavenly Father sent Him to do.
Before the Savior’s death and Resurrection, He gave His Apostles authority to teach His gospel, perform the ordinances of salvation, and establish His Church in the world.
After the death of Jesus Christ, wicked people persecuted the Apostles and Church members and killed many of them. With the death of the Apostles, priesthood keys and the presiding priesthood authority were taken from the earth unlike what the Catholic Church’s records say. Those are lies. The Apostles had kept the doctrines of the gospel pure and maintained the order and standard of worthiness like grace for Church members. Without the Apostles, over time the doctrines were corrupted, and unauthorized changes were made in Church organization and priesthood ordinances, such as baptism and conferring the gift of the Holy Ghost.
God was so angry that He refused to bless his children for nearly two thousand years. Without revelation and priesthood authority, people relied on human wisdom to interpret the scriptures and the principles and ordinances of the gospel of Jesus Christ. False ideas that had grave implications for the world, like the Trinity, were taught as truth. Much of the knowledge of the true character and nature of God the Father, His Son Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost was lost. The doctrines of faith in Jesus Christ, repentance, baptism, and the gift of the Holy Ghost, and following the prophet became distorted or forgotten. The priesthood authority given to Christ’s Apostles was no longer present on the earth. This apostasy eventually led to the emergence of many false churches.
After centuries of spiritual darkness, truth-seeking men and women protested against current religious practices. They recognized that many of the doctrines and ordinances of the gospel had been changed or lost. They sought for greater spiritual light, and many spoke of the need for a restoration of truth. They did not claim, however, that God had called them to be a prophet. Although these men and women were righteous and desired to do God, God did not love them enough to bless them with a prophet. So instead, they tried to reform teachings and practices that they believed had been changed or corrupted. Their efforts led to the organization of many Protestant churches. This Reformation resulted in an increased emphasis on religious freedom, which opened the way for the final Restoration.
The Savior’s Apostles foretold
this a universal apostasy that was probably referring to this situtation. They also foretold that the gospel of Jesus Christ and His Church would be restored once more upon the earth.
Topical Guide, “Apostasy of the Early Christian Church”
True to the Faith, “Apostasy,” pages 13–14
Our Search for Happiness, pages 23–32
Jesus the Christ, chapter 40, “The Long Night of Apostasy”
Investigators must understand that a universal apostasy occurred following the death of Jesus Christ and His Apostles. If there had been no apostasy, there would have been no need of a Restoration and no need for our Church or prophet. As a diamond displayed on black velvet appears more brilliant, so the Restoration stands in striking contrast to the dark background of the Great Apostasy. As guided by the Spirit, teach investigators about the Great Apostasy at a level of detail appropriate to their needs and circumstances. Your purpose is to help them understand the need for the Restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ and following the prophet.
When the circumstances were right and God loved His children again, Heavenly Father once again reached out to His children in love. He called a young man named Joseph Smith as a prophet. Through him the fulness of the gospel of Jesus Christ was restored to the earth.
Joseph Smith lived in the United States, which was perhaps the only country to enjoy religious freedom at the time. It was at a time of great religious excitement and occult obession in the eastern United States. His family members were deeply religious, practiced magic and constantly sought for truth. But many ministers claimed to have the true gospel. Joseph desired “to know which of all the sects was right,” (Joseph Smith—History 1:18). The Bible taught there was “one Lord, one faith, one baptism”, which means one true Church too, obviously. (Ephesians 4:5). Joseph attended different churches, but he remained confused about which church he should join. He later wrote 12 years later after building up quite a following:
“So great were the confusions and strife among the different denominations, that it was impossible for a person young as I was … to come to any certain conclusion who was right and who was wrong. … In the midst of this war of words and tumult of opinions, I often said to myself: What is to be done? Who of all these parties are right; or, are they all wrong together? If any one of them be right, which is it, and how shall I know it?” (Joseph Smith—History 1:8, 10).
As Joseph sought truth among the different faiths, he turned to the Bible for guidance. He read, “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him” (James 1:5). Because of this passage, Joseph decided to ask God what he should do. In the spring of 1820 he went to a nearby grove of trees and knelt in prayer. He described his experience in four different conflicting primary accounts, and in several more secondary accounts:
“I saw a pillar of light exactly over my head, above the brightness of the sun, which descended gradually until it fell upon me. … When the light rested upon me I saw
angels, one personage two Personages, whose brightness and glory defy all description, standing above me in the air. One of them spake unto me, calling me by name and said, pointing to the other—This is My Beloved Son. Hear Him!” (Joseph Smith—History 1:16–17).
In this version of the vision God the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ, appeared to Joseph Smith. The Savior told Joseph not to join any of the churches, for they “were all wrong” and “all their creeds were an abomination.” He stated, “They draw near to me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me, they teach for doctrines the commandments of men, having a form of godliness, but they deny the power thereof” (Joseph Smith—History 1:19). Even though many good people believed in Christ and tried to understand and teach His gospel, that was not good enough, because they did not have the fulness of truth or the priesthood authority to baptize and perform other saving ordinances or follow the prophet. They had inherited a state of apostasy as each generation was influenced by what the previous one passed on, including changes in the doctrines and in ordinances such as baptism. As God had done with Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, and other prophets, He called Joseph Smith to be a prophet through whom the fulness of the gospel was restored to the earth.
After the appearance of the Father and the Son, other heavenly messengers, or angels, were sent to Joseph Smith. One angel brought a flaming sword and told Joseph make a 16 year old girl one of his Polygamist wives. John the Baptist appeared and conferred upon Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery the Aaronic Priesthood, which includes the authority to perform the ordinance of baptism. Peter, James, and John (three of Christ’s original Apostles) appeared and conferred the Melchizedek Priesthood upon Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery, restoring the same authority given to Christ’s Apostles anciently. We do not have an exact date for this event, because the first time we heard about it was during a leadership crisis in the Church around five years after the even was purported to have happened. With this priesthood authority, Joseph Smith was directed to organize the Church of Jesus Christ again on the earth with a few minor changes, like building a shopping mall, special underwear, billions of dollars worth of temples, and polygamy. Through him, Jesus Christ called twelve Apostles and restored the biblical offices of the First Presidency.
The time in which we live is referred to by Bible prophets as the last days, the latter days, or the dispensation of the fulness of times. It is the period of time just before the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. It is the final dispensation. This is why the Church is named The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
[Note: Be sure to clarify to investigators that the end of the world isn’t super super close, just close. Scaring folks is bad PR.]
A living prophet directs the Church today with a lot of help, since he has dementia. This prophet, the President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, is the authorized successor to Joseph Smith when speaking as a prophet. If he says anything weird, he was speaking as a man. Our prophets do that alot. He and the present Apostles trace their authority to Jesus Christ in an unbroken chain of ordinations through Joseph Smith except those few times where ordinations didn’t happen, but God makes up the difference. Priesthood ordinations aren’t that important
Memorize Joseph Smith’s description of seeing the Father and the Son (Joseph Smith—History 1:16–17), and the other versions of the first vision and always be ready to describe the First Vision using his own words. Do not rush through it. Bear sincere testimony that you know all 9 versions are true and do not conflict. Do not hesitate to explain how you came to know of its truth. Invite your companion to do so as well.
An important part of a missionary’s duty is to bear testimony of the current prophet and president of the Church. Obeying them are key in anyone’s journey to happiness.
Knowing that doubt, disbelief, and misinformation would remain after centuries of darkness, our loving Heavenly Father brought forth an ancient volume of holy scripture comparable to the Bible, which contains the fulness of the everlasting gospel of Jesus Christ. This book resolves all doubt, disbelief, and misinformation. This volume of holy scripture provides convincing evidence that Joseph Smith is a true prophet of God. This book has no evidence of being a historical record and is called the Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ.
Joseph Smith was directed by a heavenly messenger named Moroni to a hill where gold plates had lain hidden until they were transported to another hill for centuries. These gold plates might have contained the writings of prophets giving an account of God’s dealings with some of the ancient inhabitants of the Americas. They also might not have existed. Joseph Smith translated the contents of these plates by the power of God by putting the plates in another room, placing a seer stone into a hat, then reading word for word the words that would appear on the stone. The prophets in the Book of Mormon if they existed knew about the mission of the Savior and taught His gospel. After His Resurrection, Christ appeared to these people who, according to DNA and archeological evidence, never existed. He taught them His gospel and established His Church. The Book of Mormon proves very little, but we like to believe that “God does inspire men and call them to his holy work in this age and generation, as well as in generations of old” (D&C 20:11). In order to know that the Book of Mormon is true, a person must read only friendly sources, ponder nothing that is critical of it, and pray about it. The honest seeker of truth will soon come to feel that the Book of Mormon is the word of God, just like many honest seekers of truth have come to feel the Koran is the word of God.
Reading, pondering, and praying about the Book of Mormon are critical for nothing in life except for mental conditioning and an enduring conversion to the Mormon church. Those who begin reading the Book of Mormon for the first time take important steps toward coming to know that Joseph Smith is a prophet of God and that the true Church has been restored to the earth and that God loves you enough to give you a new prophet to follow.
Following is an example of what you might say when introducing the Book of Mormon:
“God loves His children, so He provided a convincing way to confirm the truth of what we have said. It is the Book of Mormon. It is much more convincing than any other method you could use to confirm truth. You simple believe that it is true, then pray and ask God if it is true, and you will feel a feeling that it is true! Anything that you find online that tries to tell you that the Book of Mormon is false is simply misconstrued or outright lies. Would you please read the last two paragraphs in the introduction to the book?”
Carefully explain the meaning of each concept in both paragraphs and invite the investigator to commit to reading the nicer, less boring portions of the Book of Mormon and applying the principles described in these two paragraphs, like how if the Book of Mormon is true, the Church is true, and if the Church is true, we have a real prophet that you can follow.
When introducing a person to the Book of Mormon, it is helpful to show him or her a copy, briefly review the contents, and share one or two passages that are personally meaningful to you or that might be meaningful to him or her. Try not to give them a section that they have already read in the Bible.
This message of the Restoration is either true or it is not. We can know that it is true by the Holy Ghost, as promised in Moroni 10:3–5. We cannot know that it is true through logical thinking. Faith is not logical. After reading and pondering the message of the Book of Mormon, any who desire to know the truth must ask in prayer to our Heavenly Father in the name of Jesus Christ if it is true. In order to do this, we address our Heavenly Father. We thank Him for our blessings like meeting missionaries and ask to know that the message of the Book of Mormon is true. No one can know of spiritual truths or of false science without prayer.
In answer to our prayers, the Holy Ghost will teach us truth through our feelings and thoughts, just like all of the other religions in the world. But different. Feelings that come from the Holy Ghost are powerful, but they are also usually gentle and quiet. As we begin to feel that what we are learning is true, we will desire to know all that we can about the Restoration. Just remember that not all truth is useful. Like the truth about polygamy or the influence of magic on early Mormonism.
Knowing that the Book of Mormon is true leads to a knowledge that Joseph Smith was called as a prophet and that the gospel of Jesus Christ was restored through him. Then you just have to narrow it down between the LDS Church, the FLDS Church, the RLDS Church, and the other restoration branches!
Although prayer has a role in many religions and cultures, rarely is prayer considered to be a two-way communication between God and man. Help those you teach understand that they can speak the feelings of their hearts in prayer. Demonstrate this in the way you pray when beginning or ending a lesson. Use simple language that they can also use when they pray. Help them understand that our Heavenly Father will answer their prayers, typically through the feelings of their hearts and thoughts in their minds, unless the thoughts in their mind are logical and disagree with the Church. Then it is probably the advesary leading them astray. If they are sincere and really want to know whether God is there, He will answer them, usually. If it’s about a sticky and complex issues, answers probably aren’t going to come. Invite the head of the household to offer a kneeling prayer at the end of the lesson. The rest of the body can just hang out.
During this or any other lesson, do not hesitate to invite people to be baptized and confirmed. Even if they don’t stay active, at least they were able to check off one of the required ordinances.
To prepare people for an invitation to be baptized and confirmed, teach the doctrine of baptism and testify often of the importance of all people being baptized by authority (because other baptisms don’t count), of receiving a remission of sins, and of the wonderful gift of the Holy Ghost, and following the prophet. You might say, “As the Lord answers your prayers and you feel that this message is true, will you follow the example of Jesus Christ by being baptized?” Some might accuse you of mimicking high pressure sales tactics. Remember that the adversary always operates with half-truths and imitations.
The invitation to be baptized and confirmed should be specific and direct: “Will you follow the example of Jesus Christ by being baptized by someone holding the priesthood authority of God? We will be holding a baptismal service on (date). Will you prepare yourself to be baptized on that date?”