|The following letter of instructions was sent from Church headquarters to local priesthood leaders in February 2005.|
Missionary Work in the Ward
The following instructions have been approved by the Council of the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve and should be carefully reviewed and implemented. Please distribute copies promptly as follows:
In a letter dated February 28, 2002, the First Presidency announced that bishops and wards were being given increased responsibility for missionary work. Other letters dated March 28, 2002, and December 11, 2002, provided further instructions. The missionary manual Preach My Gospel (36617) also contains updated instructions on how full-time missionaries and ward and stake leaders coordinate their work. As a result of these changes, parts of the “Stake and Member Missionary Work” section in the Church Handbook of Instructions, Book 2, are out of date and are replaced by the following instructions.
These instructions include several references to the Progress Record form (36985). This form is used to review the progress of individual investigators, new members, and less-active members. For more information about the Progress Record form, see Preach My Gospel, page 142.
Ward Mission Plan
The priesthood executive committee, assisted by the ward council, develops a ward mission plan. The purpose of this plan is to encourage and organize missionary activities and to strengthen members in their missionary efforts. The plan should include goals, initiatives, and activities to:
Inviting People to Be Taught
The Lord has commanded every member to share the gospel (see D&C 88:81). The ward mission plan should include suggestions on how to encourage members to be personally involved in preparing people to be taught by the full-time missionaries. Every appropriate means should be used to invite people who are willing to listen to the message of the Restoration. Emphasis should be placed on inviting families whose members will come into the gospel together.
Suggestions for preparing people to be taught are found in Preach My Gospel (155–73, 220) and the “Stake and Member Missionary Work” section of the Church Handbook of Instructions, Book 2 (250–52).
Teaching, Baptizing, and Confirming Investigators
The full-time mission president holds the keys for convert baptisms. Under his direction, full-time missionaries have primary responsibility for teaching investigators. The bishop reviews the progress of investigators as they are taught, baptized, and confirmed.
Investigators are more likely to be baptized and confirmed and to remain active when they have close friendships with Church members. Whenever possible, members should participate with full-time missionaries when they teach investigators (see Preach My Gospel, 179). Members can be particularly helpful by sharing experiences and feelings and by bearing testimony. Teaching and developing friendships are most effective when investigators are taught in members’ homes.
For additional suggestions on teaching, see Preach My Gospel (29–88, 175–94).
Befriending and Strengthening New Members
President Gordon B. Hinckley has taught that every new member needs a friend in the Church, an assignment or responsibility, and gospel nurturing (see Ensign, May 1999, 108). The ward mission plan should outline how priesthood quorums, auxiliary organizations, and individual members can help befriend and strengthen investigators and new members during and after the teaching of the missionary lessons. Fellowship should be extended by all in the ward. The bishop and his counselors should prayerfully consider ways to help each new member feel welcome.
Part of the plan to strengthen new male members ages 12 and older should include receiving the priesthood. The bishop ensures that the Aaronic Priesthood is conferred on these brethren soon after they are confirmed.
For additional suggestions, see Preach My Gospel (213–23) and the “Gospel Teaching and Leadership” section of the Church Handbook of Instructions, Book 2 (307–10).
Helping Activate Members
The ward mission plan should also focus on how to help all members enjoy the full blessings of the Church. Accordingly, the plan should include suggestions on how to teach less-active members the gospel, invite them to attend Church meetings and activities, and help them participate in gospel ordinances and keep the associated covenants. The plan should also include suggestions for service and social activities that might bring less-active members closer to the Church.
As needed, the bishop may request that full-time missionary elders assist in home teaching and that full-time missionary sisters assist in visiting teaching part-member families and less-active members, or in otherwise visiting these members. Such visits are most effective when the full-time missionaries are accompanied by a member of the ward.
Normally, full-time missionary companionships should not be separated. However, they may be separated to go with different ward members when necessary to cover a large number of appointments.
For additional suggestions, see the “Gospel Teaching and Leadership” section of the Church Handbook of Instructions, Book 2 (307–10).
Stake and Ward Leadership
Ward priesthood leaders have primary responsibility for missionary work. Stake leaders provide support, instruction, and accountability.
Members of the stake presidency see that priesthood leaders and others are instructed in their missionary responsibilities. They also ensure that the doctrines and principles of missionary work are taught in the stake.
Members of the stake presidency monitor the progress of new members and review their status in their regular meetings with priesthood leaders.
In monthly interviews with bishops, the stake president reviews the Progress Record form and discusses goals and plans for individual investigators, new members, and less-active members. He ensures that each unit has an effective ward mission plan.
The stake president meets regularly with the full-time mission president to coordinate the use of the full-time missionaries in the stake, including assistance they give in activation efforts. Where there are large numbers of stakes in one mission, this may be accomplished in coordinating council meetings. When meeting with the mission president, the stake president recommends the number and location of full-time missionaries working in the stake. He may also request assistance in training leaders and members. If necessary, one of the stake president’s counselors may represent him in these meetings.
The stake presidency assigns a high councilor to help oversee missionary work. This high councilor reports on missionary work in stake priesthood executive committee and stake council meetings. He also helps the stake presidency plan and conduct training for ward mission leaders, or he may conduct this training himself under the stake presidency’s direction. At the request of a bishop, the high councilor may help instruct ward priesthood and auxiliary leaders and ward missionaries.
The bishop directs the work of sharing the gospel, retention, and activation in the ward. He reports to the stake president on all of these efforts.
The bishop calls and sets apart a worthy, missionary-oriented Melchizedek Priesthood holder to serve as the ward mission leader. The bishop or his counselors call and set apart other members to serve as ward missionaries. The ward mission leader and ward missionaries should be sustained in sacrament meeting.
Members of the bishopric also have the following responsibilities:
They use the priesthood executive committee and ward council to develop and implement the ward mission plan and to coordinate missionary, retention, and activation efforts (see “Ward Mission Plan,” below).
They regularly review the Progress Record form in priesthood executive committee and ward council meetings. As needed, they make specific assignments to help individual investigators, new members, and less-active members.
They get to know each investigator personally and oversee efforts to befriend and teach them.
They oversee efforts to minister to new members and sustain their activity.
They oversee the assistance of full-time missionaries in activation efforts.
A member of the bishopric usually presides at convert baptismal services in the ward. He or the ward mission leader usually conducts the services.
Ward Priesthood and Auxiliary Leaders
Ward priesthood and auxiliary leaders should know the status of each new and less-active member and see that they are personally ministered to (see Church Handbook of Instructions, Book 2, 309). These leaders should ensure that home teachers and visiting teachers are assigned to strengthen and support new and less-active members, establish genuine friendships, and help them feel welcome in the ward.
At priesthood executive committee and ward council meetings, leaders should come prepared to discuss missionary, retention, and activation efforts.
Ward Mission Leader
The ward mission leader helps the priesthood executive committee develop and implement the ward mission plan. He also has the following responsibilities:
He prepares agenda items on missionary work and retention for priesthood executive committee and ward council meetings. He reports on the progress of specific investigators and new members in these meetings. He also reviews the Progress Record form.
He conducts the weekly missionary coordination meeting (see “Missionary Coordination Meeting,” below).
He makes sure that following baptism, the first four missionary lessons are retaught and that lesson 5 is taught (see Preach My Gospel, 29–88). He also provides priesthood and auxiliary leaders with regular reports of new members who need a Church responsibility.
He directs the work of the ward missionaries and instructs them. Under the direction of the bishop, he arranges for members to participate with the full-time missionaries as they teach investigators (see “Teaching, Baptizing, and Confirming Investigators,” above).
He organizes convert baptismal services in cooperation with the full-time missionaries, and he may conduct these services if assigned by the bishopric.
Ward missionaries are called and released by the bishopric. They serve under the direction of the ward mission leader. The number of missionaries should be sufficient to support missionary, retention, and activation efforts, including teaching with the full-time missionaries.
Ward missionaries may be priesthood holders, sisters, or married couples. They must meet the worthiness standards required for a temple recommend.
There is no specified term of service or specified number of hours per week for ward missionaries. They normally do not have other Church responsibilities, except for assignments as home teachers or visiting teachers, preferably to part-member and less-active families. They do not wear name tags.
Ward missionaries need not have assigned companions, but they should not go alone when visiting in homes. A man and a woman do not make visits together unless they are husband and wife.
Ward missionaries have the following responsibilities:
They participate with the full-time missionaries in finding, befriending, and teaching investigators.
They participate in reteaching the first four missionary lessons and teaching lesson 5 to new members, in cooperation with the full-time missionaries and home teachers (see Preach My Gospel, 29–88). They also befriend less-active members and may teach them as assigned.
They attend the weekly missionary coordination meetings with the full-time missionaries (see below).
Priesthood Executive Committee and Ward Council
Priesthood executive committee meetings are used to make decisions, give assignments, and ensure accountability. Committee members develop a ward mission plan that is focused on the needs of specific investigators, new members, and less-active members. They coordinate the efforts of priesthood quorums, auxiliaries, and missionaries in accomplishing the plan. They also give direction for the weekly missionary coordination meeting.
The ward council helps the priesthood executive committee prepare and implement a ward mission plan. Missionary work, retention, and activation should be on the agenda of each ward council meeting.
As needed, the bishop may invite the full-time missionaries to attend part of the priesthood executive committee or ward council meetings when missionary work is discussed.
Missionary Coordination Meeting
The ward mission leader plans and conducts a weekly missionary coordination meeting. The purpose of this meeting is to coordinate the missionary, retention, and activation efforts of the full-time missionaries and ward members. This meeting is attended by the full-time missionaries (where available), the ward missionaries, an assistant from the high priests group leadership, and a counselor from both the elders quorum and Relief Society presidencies.
In this meeting the ward mission leader reviews in detail the progress of each person listed on the Progress Record form. He coordinates visits and teaching appointments with investigators, new members, and less-active members.
Support for full-time missionaries, including transportation and meals, is coordinated in this meeting.
This meeting is also used to plan baptismal services after consultation with the bishopric.