The Dark Side is infiltrating every part of our world. It’s slipping into our homes through television, Internet, and legislation. It’s squeezing our trained Jedi force and helping to extinguish formerly bright testimonies of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. We are sending out our new forces, but there are just too many that have been consumed by the Dark Side, often without them even knowing it.
But, what is the Dark Side? What is this force that we are trying to fight?
Hopelessness. Despair. Selfishness. Hedonism. Guilt. Depression.
And we, the trained Jedi force, have only one true weapon: the love of Jesus Christ.
It’s an old story. Good versus evil. Dark versus light. But, it’s a good story because it’s a real story, isn’t it?
What Is Your
Missionary Jedi Purpose?
In the talk that Elder D. Todd Christofferson gave to the new mission presidents in 2008, he posed the essential question, “What is my purpose as a missionary?” Today, I pose the same question to you, but in a different framework, “What is my purpose as a Jedi?”
That sounds like a nerd question, and maybe it is: because I’m a nerd. But, allow me a little leeway and think about this. Isn’t our goal the same as those famed Jedi of old? Isn’t our goal to undermine the forces of evil and release the souls whom the Dark Side has claimed?
In Preach My Gospel, in the discussion called, “What’s My Missionary Responsibility,” we read:
“Through the light of the gospel, families can resolve misunderstandings, contentions, and challenges. Families torn by discord can be healed through repentance, forgiveness, and faith in the power of the Atonement of Jesus Christ.”
Furthermore, Spencer W. Kimball said:
“Perhaps the greatest reason for missionary work is to give the world its chance to hear and accept the gospel. Is there any other thing than the gospel that would have a greater chain reaction and affect more interests and people?”
Our purpose is to change to lives of people we love. It is to help others find peace, joy, and fulfillment in this live and eternal life afterwards. And, it’s a goal that is not only necessary, but a natural extension of our own faith in Jesus Christ.
This is the great reason why we share the gospel – to shed the love of Jesus Christ upon the world and act as “leaven” to raise it up. Elder Christofferson says it in his own way as well, “Invite others to come unto Christ by helping them receive the restored gospel through faith in Jesus Christ and His Atonement, repentance, baptism receiving the Gift of the Holy Ghost, and enduring to the end.
It is only through the gospel of Jesus Christ that all men can receive the ordinances that can allow them to live with their Heavenly Father again. And, whether people know that or not, the gospel of Jesus Christ is the thing that holds the happiness they are looking for.
Be Doing, Dangit.
But, sharing the love of Jesus Christ is the purpose, not the means. That would be like if the Jedi warriors had wanted to stop the Dark Side, but never turned on their lightsabers. We do need to be setting goals, inviting people to church, and creating opportunities to share what we believe.
But, that’s not all.
Elder Christofferson said, “It’s not our purpose just to participate in discussions abut the gospel, or to talk to everyone we can about the Church, or merely set goals and plans. These things are important, but they are only a means to an end, and that end is bringing people to Christ.”
What that means is seeing the forest, not just the trees. Because, if you only see the trees, you crash your cruiser.
We don’t set missionary goals for the numbers, we set them because we know that if people are baptized, it will change their lives for the happier. We don’t invite people to church to check it off an eternal to-do list, we invite them because we know there are things there that will help them to find peace.
Love as a Weapon
“But, what if they fight back,” says the loyal Jedi army. “What if we share what we know is true and they don’t want it? What if they stop liking us?”
Elder Dallin H. Oaks said, “Even as we seek to be meek and to avoid contention, we must not compromise or dilute our commitment to the truths we understand. We must not surrender our positions or our values. The gospel of Jesus Christ and the covenants we have made inevitably cast us as combatants in the eternal contest between truth and error. There is no middle ground in that contest.”
Because of our choice to follow the teachings of Christ, we have been set up as “combatants.” That means we will be expected to stand up and fight for what we know is right.
Now, I’m not talking about argumentation or belittling others. I’m not talking about online flaming in chat rooms about gay marriage or immigration. I’m talking about fighting the way that Jesus Christ did – with love and concern for those around us.
In James 3:14-18, James says:
“But if you have bitter envying and strife in your hearts…This wisdom descendeth not from above, but is earthly, sensual, and devilish. But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle and easy to be entreated – full of mercy and good fruits. Without partiality and without hypocrisy.”
Our goal is to fight the darkness, but not with bitterness and conflict. It’s our directive to share with truth, gentleness, and peace.
And, like Luke, we have a commitment to the truth, no matter how unpleasant it may be (or how many limbs it means we have to sacrifice).
Conversion is Contagious
So, how can you be a better missionary? Be converted.
Think of Simon Peter. He was one of the disciples of Jesus Christ, and yet Jesus tells him in Luke 22:32 that he’s still not quite converted. He says, “But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not; and when thou are converted, strengthen thy brethren.”
Peter wasn’t prepared to share the gospel. And he hung out with Jesus.
It wasn’t until after Peter had denied Jesus Christ, faced his own guilt, repented, and renewed his commitment to Christ that he was truly prepared to share the gospel. Then, he was truly converted, because he finally knew the value of the gospel and atonement in his own life. And he became one of the greatest missionaries of all time.
Once we have been converted, we will desire to share the gospel, because we know of the goodness it has brought into our own lives.
And when we are converted, we will be willing to do the 5 things that Elder Christofferson says are our key missionary duties:
- Teach people in a way that helps them truly understand the gospel and why and how to repent.
- Seek and listen to the Holy Ghost as we teach.
- Planning will have a purpose – both in families and with missionaries – as a means to bringing people joy and an understanding of God’s love.
- We will enjoy reading the scriptures because we’ll know that it is for the potential helping someone else hear the voice of God through us.
- We’ll invite people to church, not because we believe it’s what we should do, but because we know that it will inspire them with the spiritual awakening to seek for more truth and a lifelong relationship with Jesus Christ.
Jedi Build, Not Destroy
Unless it’s a Death Star, destruction is not the purpose of your Jedi training. Likewise, being a missionary isn’t about disassembling people that we feel need to be altered: it’s about converting ourselves so we can build them up. In order to do these things, we need to focus on the things that connect us.
Sister Bonnie L. Oscarson said:
“The adversary would have us be critical or judgmental of one another. He wants us to concentrate on our differences and compare ourselves to one another. Sister Patricia T Holland once said, ‘The point is, we simply cannot call ourselves Christian and continue to judge one another – or ourselves – so harshly.'”
Truly being a disciple of Christ means to do what he asked, “Love one another, even as I have loved you.” This is not a love that is contingent on what a person wears, who they hang out with, or what they do on Sunday. This is a love that desires for all of God’s children to know that he’s there, that he cares, and that he has prepared a way for us all to return – if we’ll take it.
Love is the Only True Force
If we are truly sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ with a spirit of love, we will find joy in sharing the gospel, even with people who don’t want it. Even if they don’t understand our message, they will understand that it is a message given out of love.
Remember, this is not a numbers game. This isn’t about winning some spiritual bragging rights. The desire to share the gospel is a natural outcropping of a recognition of its amazingness in your life.
Yes, there are dark forces at work in the world, but that doesn’t mean we should shy away from the fight. And, we have been called to fight. Not with lightsabers and swords, but with truth and love. We have been called to be warriors in this last day against the selfishness, despair, and confusion of the world. We are not called to judge those who think differently than ourselves, but to recognize that we have an opportunity to share with them those things that have brought peace and joy in our lives.
Our battle is the oldest story in the book, an epic adventure of good versus evil. And, with the love of God as our weapon, conversion as our shield, and Jesus Christ as our commander, there is no army that can prevail against us.
Do or do not, there is no try.