All the prophets were missionaries, and each was commanded to preach the gospel to the people of his day. At all times when the priesthood was on the earth, God has commanded His servants to preach the eternal principles of the gospel to His children.
The Church of Jesus Christ has always been a missionary church. The Savior ordained Apostles and Seventies and ordained them with authority and responsibility to take the gospel to others. At first, the gospel was preached only to Jews, but it was taken to the Gentiles after the resurrection of Christ. He commanded the Apostles: “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature” (Mark 16:15).
The Apostle Paul was a great missionary, particularly to the Gentiles. Once he was converted, Paul spent the rest of his life sharing the gospel with others. At various times he was whipped, stoned, and imprisoned, but he never let the mistreatment stop his missionary efforts.
When the gospel of Jesus Christ was restored through the Prophet Joseph Smith, missionary work began once again. The Apostles and Seventies have the chief responsibility for preaching the gospel and taking it to all the world. The Lord told Joseph Smith: “Proclaim my gospel from land to land, and from city to city … Bear testimony in every place, unto ever people” (Doctrine and Covenants 66:5, 7). In June 1830 the Prophet’s younger brother Samuel Harrison Smith began the first missionary journey for the restored Church.
Thousands of missionaries have been called and sent out to preach the gospel. They take a special message to the world - Jesus Christ is the Son of God and the Savior of mankind – and testify that the gospel of Jesus Christ has been restored to earth. LDS missionaries pay their own expenses and go to all parts of the world to preach the gospel message; they have responsibility to preach the gospel to all people, to baptize them, and to teach them to do all things which the Lord has commanded (see Matthew 28:19-20).
We know from modern revelation that we must take the restored gospel to every nation and people in the world (see Doctrine and Covenants 133:37). We know the Lord will provide a way to do this because He never gives a commandment without preparing a way for it to be accomplished (see Book of Mormon – Another Testament of Jesus Christ, 1 Nephi 3:7).
Prophets ask us to pray for the doors of many nations to be opened to missionary work. President Spencer W. Kimball said that wonderful inventions would be made to help us take the gospel to all the world. Since that time we have seen many technological breakthroughs that help spread the gospel – the Internet, computers, smart phones, etc.
Missionary work is necessary in order for all people to have an opportunity to hear and accept the gospel. Everyone must have this opportunity in order to learn the truth, turn to God, and receive forgiveness from their sins. As we share the gospel, we help prepare the sons and daughters of God for the second coming of Jesus Christ.
President David O. McKay taught that every member of the Church is to be a missionary even though we are not all formally called and set apart. We have received many blessings because we are members of the Church, and we are required to offer all these blessings to all people. Lord said in modern revelation: “It becometh every man who hath been warned to warn his neighbor” (Doctrine and Covenants 88:81). Other prophets have taught us to love our neighbors and then warn them. This means we should give them our friendship and fellowship before the warning.
The Lord will help us be effective missionaries when we have the desire to share the gospel and pray for guidance. He will help us find ways to share the gospel to our friends, such as: (1) Show the joy of living the gospel by our very lives; (2) Be friendly to others and do kind things for them whenever possible; (3) Show others that we are good people who care about them; (4) Explain gospel teachings to our nonmember friends and other people; (5) Invite our interested friends to our homes to be taught by the missionaries; (6) Teach our children the importance of sharing the gospel; (7) Help our children to prepare spiritually and financially to serve missions; (8) Pay our tithing and contribute to the missionary fund to help further missionary work; (9) Give financial support to missionaries in the field who need the help; (10) Do family history research and temple work to help bring the gospel to our ancestors, and (11) Invite nonmembers to Church or family activities such as family home evening, socials, conferences, and meetings.
The Lord has promised great blessings to missionaries. In a revelation given through the Prophet Joseph Smith, the Lord told returning missionaries: “Ye are blessed, for the testimony which ye have borne is recorded in heaven for the angels to look upon; and they rejoice over you” (Doctrine and Covenants 62:3).
In another revelation, the Lord said, “And if it so be that you should labor all your days in crying repentance unto this people, and bring, save it be one soul unto me, how great shall be your joy with him in the kingdom of my Father!
“And now, if your joy will be great with one soul that you have brought unto me into the kingdom of my Father, how great will be your joy if you should bring many souls unto me!” (Doctrine and Covenants 18:15-16).