Robert Cornilles is the author of the just-released Preparing Tomorrow’s Missionaries Today, available on Amazon. Currently serving as the elders quorum president in his Saratoga Springs, Utah, ward, Robert and his wife Allison have three married sons and two grandchildren. When not leading his business, Game Face Inc, an executive training firm advising sports teams and other diverse companies in revenue enhancement, Robert is an adjunct professor at the BYU Marriott School of Business in Provo, UT. Originally from Oregon, he served a mission in Japan, was twice nominated for U.S. Congress, and has served in multiple stake and ward leadership positions.
This bicentennial of the Restoration is an historic year—perhaps in ways Latter-day Saints may not yet comprehend. As families have largely been homebound for school, work, and church, recent prophetic directives are worth re-examining:
- June 2018: President Russell M. Nelson declared to the young people of the Church in a Worldwide Youth Devotional that the gathering of Israel is “the most important thing taking place on the earth today.”
- July 2018: The Church announces a new Come, Follow Me—For Individuals and Families curriculum, stating: “For years Church leaders have been emphasizing that home is the best place to live, learn, and teach the gospel.”
- October 2018 general conference: President Nelson and Elder Quentin L. Cook announce a two-hour meeting schedule to create “a home-centered and Church-supported plan to learn doctrine, strengthen faith, and foster greater personal worship.” This adjustment would help achieve “a new balance and connection between gospel instruction in the home and in the Church.”
- February 2019: The First Presidency announces that missionaries will now be allowed to phone, text, video message, or online chat with their families back home: “One of the major purposes of this adjustment is to encourage families to be more involved in their missionary’s efforts and experiences.”
- April 2019 general conference: Elder David A. Bednar teaches, “Our homes are the ultimate setting for learning, living, and becoming.” He further stated, “The ultimate missionary training center is in our homes.”
- January 1, 2020: President Nelson releases the following message to all members: “This is going to be an important year. We invite you to be a major part in sharing the message of the ongoing Restoration of the Savior’s gospel. The time to act is now. This is a hinge point in the history of the Church, and your part is vital.”
Was it by heavenly design that we have spent an unprecedented amount of time at home in 2020? Families have never been challenged more—while supported by the Church—to create a Christ-centered home where teaching and ordinances are taking place.
Many of our missionaries in the field have been sent home to conclude their full-time service. But this does not mean their missionary duties are over; they have simply been transferred to member missionary work!
Meanwhile, new missionaries are being called but are receiving virtual MTC-guided training—while at home!
And because of a worldwide pandemic, which can easily be interpreted as a tragedy of global proportions, our children and youth (future full-time missionaries) are spending less time in outside activities and more time at home!
Divinely Designed Conditions
A marvelous convergence is taking place! This unprecedented time of so-called self-isolation is actually an MTC-like preparatory period for the Lord’s missionaries—member and full-time. We not only need to train tomorrow’s missionaries today, we should recognize how the Lord is opening a way and setting an expectation for all of us to become lifetime missionaries.
We have a duty to proclaim His gospel. But where do we begin? What message do we start with? The First Vision? The Book of Mormon? Temple construction?
Once again, we should consider the divinely designed conditions under which we find the world today. Amidst a sprawling pandemic, a suffering economy, and civic unrest, are our neighbors sitting and wondering if a nineteenth century farm boy might have experienced a vision? Sadly, probably not. Are they wondering where they pick up a 500-page religious book? Doubtful. How about why temples are being built? In a depressed economy, such sights might lead to animosity more than curiosity. While visions and scripture and temples are sacred topics to Latter-day Saints, the world—your sheltered neighbor or out-of-work brother-in-law—is being prepared to hear the gospel of Jesus Christ not because of anything we have, but because of what the gospel can do for them.
As President Dallin H. Oaks observed, “What we are interested in … isn’t usually what others are interested in.” Said another way, more than the fact that Joseph Smith received a vision, nonmembers would be more interested in the results that wondrous event can bring them. For starters: knowledge that God lives today; that He knows His children; that He hears and answers sincere prayers; that God has power over evil; that He is in control; and, that Heavenly Father has a plan for us and this world. Instead of telling them about the vision, we communicate the results of the vision.
In these unprecedented times, members need simple approaches that help them communicate the meaningful results their friends are seeking—outcomes, in fact, that are more quickly attainable by knowing and following the Savior, Jesus Christ.
To make sharing the gospel easier, lifetime and future full-time missionaries should consider these fundamental questions:
What is my neighbor likely trying to achieve, obtain, or accomplish today—in this troubled world of 2020? What are they surely longing for in uncertain times? Could it be peace? Unity? Harmony? Acceptance? Happiness? Love? Security? If any of these are true, how can I follow the prophet’s counsel to share the gospel—especially in this bicentennial year of the Restoration—and still address my neighbor’s hopes? The answer is: do both!
The Gospel Provides the Results People are Seeking
Aren’t the daily results your neighbor is seeking actually achieved because of the Restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ? In other words, if, in 2020, they understood a living Savior and the significance of Christ’s true church with all its attendant blessings, wouldn’t that provide them the very results they desire—such as peace, unity, harmony, acceptance, happiness, love, and security?
Before proclaiming the gospel, future full-time and lifetime missionaries should consider all the results their nonmember neighbors, colleagues, and classmates desire in life—irrespective of the Church. Then, ask: Are such results achievable through the Church and the gospel of Jesus Christ? When the answer is yes, a natural missionary moment awaits.
Supported with practical concepts like this, missionaries in home-based missionary training centers can realize Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf’s vision of “talking with others about your faith normal(ly) and natural(ly).”
Desire and Goodwill
We’ve Had This Feeling… A thoughtful approach your family could learn is this: “Ever since this social distancing started, we have been thinking about and praying for your family. We’ve had this feeling that we should share something that’s brought hope into our home to see if it couldn’t do the same for you during these troubled times.” Might that be better received than, “We believe in the Word of Wisdom. Would you like to hear more?”
Elder D. Todd Christofferson said, “We study so that we may better teach.” Covid-19’s blessing in disguise is that prospective and lifetime missionaries, studying together in the ultimate missionary training center, now have a unique and wonderful chance to enhance their skills of more naturally introducing the gospel to those around them.
You have the desire and goodwill to proclaim His gospel. By including communication and teaching skills in your individual and family study in the home, you will be prepared not only in what to say, but in how to say it. This is the blessing of home-centered gospel and missionary study.
The time is now. The tools are there. A worldwide pandemic is not a curse as much as it is a time for us to prepare to preach the word of God to those He is beautifully preparing to hear it.