The Real Missionary Discussions

The LDS missionary discussions (of my mission)

When I was a missionary, we had a series of six booklets, which we called the missionary discussions, which we had to memorize and then teach verbatim to our investigators, ideally over a period of three weeks, with one discussion given per visit. Each discussion came with a set of challenges or invitations that we made, such as attending church, reading scriptures, setting a baptismal date, etc. The booklets contained summarized principles of the restored gospel, with questions to ask the investigator and helps on when to testify, expound, challenge, etc. Also, after each discussion, there was a study guide that we gave out to the investigator, with scripture-reading assignments, prayer assignments, etc., that they were to perform on their own prior to our next visit.

Although the scripted nature of the discussions has changed with the appearance of the Preach My Gospel manual, the modern missionary still takes more or less the same approach, teaching the investigator over a series of visits, giving him a summary of the gospel principles, inviting him to read the Book of Mormon on his own time, etc.

After the investigator has committed to changing his life, by forsaking a sinful life and living the commandments of God, as explained to him by the missionaries, he is given an interview to determine whether he is ready for baptism and believes the church doctrines, and if everything is in order, he may get baptized and confirmed, even if he hasn’t read the entire Book of Mormon or any of the other scriptures. All that is required is the appropriate change of belief and lifestyle.

The result of such teaching typically produces very weak converts who cannot stand on their own, and who, if there is no support system in place to embrace the new members and get them active in the branch or ward, may end up only sticking around (after baptism) a matter of weeks or months, never to be heard from again. This is actually a common occurrence in a great many areas of the church.

How the ancient Nephites taught the gospel

The Nephite method of preaching and teaching was different than how the modern Gentile church does it, and went something like this:

A Nephite convert exercised faith in Jesus Christ, repenting of all his sins and seeing an angel*, who ministered unto him and declared the word of Christ to him. The convert then was baptized unto repentance as a witness that he had entered into a covenant with God to always keep His commandments, remember Him and take His name upon himself. Afterward, the convert, being endowed with the priesthood and power of God, and being called by the Holy Spirit to preach the gospel, went forth among the people, testifying to all that he had seen an angel and declaring the very words that the angel had declared to him.  All those who listened to his message and believed in his words, would then be taught (by the preacher) the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Now, this is the way the Nephites taught it to investigators:

Four examples of ancients teaching the gospel


when ammon had said these words
he began at the creation of the world
and also the creation of adam
and told him all the things
concerning the fall of man
and rehearsed
and laid before him the records
and the holy scriptures of the people
which had been spoken by the prophets
even down to the time
that their father lehi left jerusalem
and he also rehearsed unto them
for it was unto the king
and to his servants
all the journeyings of their fathers in the wilderness
and all their sufferings with hunger and thirst
and their travail
and so forth
and he also rehearsed unto them
concerning the rebellions of laman and lemuel
and the sons of ishmael
all their rebellions did he relate unto them
and he expounded unto them all the records and scriptures
from the time that lehi left jerusalem
down to the present time
but this is not all
for he expounded unto them the plan of redemption
which was prepared from the foundation of the world
and he also made known unto them
concerning the coming of christ
and all the works of the lord did he make known unto them
and it came to pass
that after he had said all these things
and expounded them to the king
that the king believed all his words


and it came to pass
that when aaron saw
that the king would believe his words
he began from the creation of adam
reading the scriptures unto the king
how god created man after his own image
and that god gave him commandments
and that because of transgression man had fallen
and aaron did expound unto him the scriptures
from the creation of adam
laying the fall of man before him
and their carnal state
and also the plan of redemption
which was prepared from the foundation of the world
through christ
for all
whosoever would believe on his name
and since man had fallen
he could not merit anything of himself
but the sufferings and death of christ atone for their sins
through faith and repentance and so forth
and that he breaketh the bands of death
that the grave shall have no victory
and that the sting of death should be swallowed up
in the hopes of glory
and aaron did expound all these things unto the king


now it came to pass
that i
did teach my brethren these things
and it came to pass
that i did read many things to them
which were engraven upon the plates of brass
that they might know
concerning the doings of the lord in other lands
among people of old


and now behold
i would speak unto you
concerning things
which are
and which are to come
i will read you the words of isaiah
and they are the words
which my brother has desired
that i should speak unto you
and i speak unto you for your sakes
that ye may learn
and glorify the name of your god

Read, expound, exhort and baptize

The pattern was fairly simple, really. They merely took the scriptures and read them to the investigators, expounding them as they went along, by the power of the Holy Ghost, exhorting the listeners to exercise faith in Jesus Christ, repent of all their sins and witness to God, by baptism, their willingness to take upon themselves the name of the Son of God.

The Nephite preachers did not assign to their listeners a scriptural assignment, but instead read the scriptures to them, expounding them to their understanding. This made sure that each potential convert had read the entire canon (or had it read to them) and thus knew of all the laws of God.

For the Nephites, their canon consisted of the plates of brass and all the Nephite scriptures that had been written since the time of Lehi. Once an investigator had exercised faith unto repentance—meaning that he had repented of all his sins and had had an angel minister to him, having begun to exercise his faith in this manner—and had expressed a desire to be baptized, then, and only then, (for “they were not baptized save they brought forth fruit meet that they were worthy of it,” and the fruit was the exercise of faith in the ministration of angels and repentance of all their sins), did they baptize him.

This process assured extremely strong converts.

Teaching the latter-day gospel

For those living in the latter days, the Lord has instructed us:

and again
the elders
and teachers
of this church
shall teach the principles of my gospel
which are in the bible and the book of mormon
in the which is the fulness of the gospel
and they shall observe the covenants
and church articles
to do them
and these shall be their teachings
as they shall be directed by the spirit
and the spirit shall be given unto you by the prayer of faith
and if ye receive not the spirit
ye shall not teach
and all this ye shall observe to do
as I have commanded
concerning your teaching
until the fulness of my scriptures is given

Thus, there is a division in the teaching. The investigator is to be taught the gospel out of the Book of Mormon and the Bible—the Book of Mormon first, because it contains the fulness of the gospel, is “the most correct of any book on earth,” and “a man [will] get nearer to God by abiding by its precepts, than by any other book”—and then those investigators who have entered into the baptismal covenant are to be taught about the church by having the revelations found in the Doctrine and Covenants read to them, so that they can keep them. These are our current standing orders.

Book of Mormon first, Bible second, D&C third

the duty of the members
after they are received by baptism
the elders or priests are to have a sufficient time
to expound all things
concerning the church of christ
to their understanding
previous to their partaking of the sacrament
and being confirmed
by the laying on of the hands of the elders
so that all thngs may be done in order

The Book of Mormon and Bible deal primarily with the gospel of Christ, while the Doctrine and Covenants primarily deals with the church of Christ. The preaching order, then, following the Nephite pattern—which was given by Mormon so that we would follow it—would be:

First, the preacher’s angelic witness; Second, read and expound the entire Book of Mormon to the investigator; Third, read and expound the entire Bible to the investigator. This teaches the investigator the gospel of Jesus Christ. If, during or after these readings, the investigator repents of his sins and obtains the witness that he has exercised faith in Christ—which witness is the ministration of an angel—and desires baptism, a priest or elder may then baptize him. Once the entire Book of Mormon and Bible have been read and expounded to the convert (who is now baptized and desirous of confirmation), he may not be confirmed or partake of the sacrament until an elder or priest has read and expounded to him the entire Doctrine and Covenants. This teaches him everything he needs to know concerning the church of Jesus Christ. He may now be confirmed and partake of the sacrament.

Breaking it down further

If you look at the current canon of scripture, there is a natural “reading order” to them, so that the investigator sees how the whole house is built, beginning with the foundation and working all the way up to the roof, “so that all things may be done in order” and he gets a very sound understanding of the entire work of the Lord in these latter days, as well in former days. That order goes like this:

First, the preacher’s own angelic witness; Second, Joseph Smith—History; Third, the Book of Mormon; Fourth, the Book of Moses; Fifth, Genesis to Abraham; Sixth, the Book of Abraham; Seventh, the rest of the Bible up to Matthew 24; Eighth, Joseph Smith—Matthew; Ninth, the rest of the Bible; Tenth, the Doctrine and Covenants in chronological order.

Now, I personally, would also add some things to that list. For example, before reading the Testimony of Three Witnesses to an investigator, I would first read to them D&C sections 5 & 17, which are revelations given to the Three Witnesses and which help to explain the importance of their witness. Also, before I started to read to an investigator the text of the Book of Mormon, I would also read to them D&C 20:1-36, which gives a greater understanding of the Book of Mormon and its role in the latter days, as well as a great summary of the gospel. Finally, if the Preface to the first edition of the Book of Mormon is read to the investigator, which talks of the lost 116 pages, I would first read to them D&C sections 3 & 10, which are revelations concerning the lost 116 manuscript pages.

A flood of witnesses

So, the investigator would hear the preacher’s own angelic witness; then Joseph Smith’s angelic witness (JS-H); then the Lord’s words to and about the Three Witnesses and about the Book of Mormon (found in D&C 5 & 17), as well as the Lord’s own witness about the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon (found in D&C 17); then the Testimonies of Three and Eight Witnesses; then the Lord’s words about the gospel and the importance of the Book of Mormon and how the Book of Mormon and the Three Witnesses (and all the other witnesses) prove to the world that there is a God in heaven that still speaks to men (found in D&C 20:1-36); then the two revelations concerning the 116 lost manuscript pages (found in D&C 3 & 10); then Joseph Smith’s Preface to the first edition of the Book of Mormon, which is a witness; then they would hear the entire Book of Mormon; then the Book of Moses; then the Bible (including the JST) with the Book of Abraham and JS-M read at the appropriate parts; finally, they would have the D&C read to them. All of these books of scriptures contain many more witnesses.

Now, this might sound like a lot of information to cover, since it would be reading the entire Standard Works to an investigator, but this is how the ancients did it and this is how we ought to do it, too. (Or, at least, this is how I will do it, if and when the Lord sends me out again to preach the gospel.) There is no other way to teach the gospel as Ammon did, except to follow his example, for the scriptures give his manner of teaching as:

and he expounded unto them all the records and scriptures
and all the works of the lord did he make known unto them

In other words, the scriptures themselves have always, historically, (meaning anciently,) been used as the real missionary discussions.


* There may be some who will dispute my assertion that Nephite converts all saw angels, etc. We are taught in the church that such miraculous experiences were the exception, not the rule, but such a teaching is a misunderstanding. The prophet Mormon had the task of teaching us the gospel of Jesus Christ, so that we could “come to the knowledge of [our] Redeemer and the very points of his doctrine, that [we might] know how to come unto him and be saved.” So, all the things that Mormon put into his Book of Mormon were the very rules of the gospel, not the exceptions. The only reason why such miraculous occurrences have become the exception among the latter-day saints is simply because we are not living the gospel of Jesus Christ.

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“Why do you call me a Christian when you believe in a Restoration?”

Tim, an evangelical Christian, recently asked this question in one of the comments of his blog, and it really struck me as pertinent.

So, I ask any and all latter-day saints to offer your answer to this question:

Why do we call them Christians when we believe in a restoration?

While you mull over your answer, consider that Mormons are now calling themselves, and are trying to get others to call them, Christians, while Christians have been for years saying that Mormons are not, and therefore, cannot be called, Christians.

Also consider what Mormon wrote about the Christ-professing churches that existed among the people 200+ years after the coming of Christ:

and now
in this two hundred and first year
there began to be among them those
who were lifted up in pride
such as the wearing of costly apparel
and all manner of fine pearls
and of the fine things of the world
and from that time forth
they did have their goods and their substance
no more common among them
and they began to be divided into classes
and they began to build up churches unto themselves to get gain
and began to deny the true church of christ
and it came to pass
that when two hundred and ten years had passed away
there were many churches in the land
there were many churches
which professed to know the christ
and yet
they did deny the more parts of his gospel
insomuch that they did receive all manner of wickedness
and did administer that
which was sacred
unto him to whom it had been forbidden
because of unworthiness
and this church did multiply exceedingly
because of iniquity
and because of the power of satan
who did get hold upon their hearts

And here is what Mormon, writing about Captian Moroni, said about the term Christian:

and he prayed mightily unto his god
for the blessings of liberty
to rest upon his brethren
so long as there should a band of christians remain
to possess the land
for thus were all the true believers of christ
who belonged to the church of god
by those
who did not belong to the church
and those
who did belong to the church
were faithful
all those
who were true believers in christ
took upon them gladly the name of christ
or christians
as they were called
because of their belief in christ
who should come
and therefore
at this time moroni prayed
that the cause of the christians
and the freedom of the land
might be favored

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Group worship in the church of Christ

Group worship prior to the resurrection of Jesus Christ:

The pattern for communal/group worship of God before the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ was outlined in the law of Moses.  It was the system of offering sacrifices and burnt offering [Mosiah 2:3], called the “observances of the law”.

It was expedient that these outward observances were performed:

and inasmuch as it shall be expedient
you must keep the performances and ordinances of God
until the law shall be fulfilled
which was given unto Moses

[2 Nephi 25:30]

And the people of God were strict in observing them because they were the very word of the Lord to his people:

they were strict in observing the ordinances of God
according to the law of Moses

[Alma 30:3]

until they reached the point where the law would be done away, when adhering to its observances was no longer expedient.

This pattern for worship was done away in Christ:

I say unto you
that the law is fulfilled that was given unto Moses
I am he that gave the law
and I am he who covenanted with my people
the law in me is fulfilled
for I have come to fulfill the law
therefore it hath an end

[3 Nephi 15:4-5]

The time came when it was no longer expedient to keep the law of Moses, as had been prophesied:

I say unto you
that it is expedient that you should keep the law of Moses
as yet
but I say unto you
that the time shall come
when it shall no more be expedient to keep the law of Moses

[Mosiah 13:27]


and they did keep the law of Moses
for it was expedient that they should keep the law of Moses
as yet
for it was not all fulfilled
but notwithstanding the law of Moses
they did look forward to the coming of Christ
considering that the law of Moses was a type of his coming
and believing that they must keep those outward performances
until the time that he should be revealed unto them

[Alma 25:15]

The commandments of the Father for the church of Christ:

It became expedient instead to keep the “commandments of the Father”, instead of the “law”:

Think not that I am come to destroy the law
or the prophets
I am not come to destroy
but to fulfill
for amen I say unto you
neither one iota nor one serif has passed away from the law
but in me it has all been fulfilled
and behold
I have given you the law
and the commandments of my Father
that ye shall believe in me
and that ye shall repent of your sins
and come unto me with a broken heart and a contrite spirit
you have the commandments before you
and the law is fulfilled
come unto me
and be ye saved
for amen I say unto you
that except you shall keep my commandments
which I have commanded you at this time
you shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven

[3 Nephi 12:17-20]

Jesus gave two things:

  • The law
  • The commandments of his Father

In him [that is in his birth, life, suffering, death, and resurrection], the law is fulfilled – therefore all that remains “before you” are the commandments of the Father, which are:

  • Believe in Christ
  • Repent of your sins
  • Come unto Christ with a broken heart and a contrite spirit

Therefore, choose the commandments of the Father over the law — and be saved.  To choose otherwise goes against the doctrine of expediency — and leaves a person damned.

Group worship after the resurrection of Jesus Christ:

When Jesus visited Lehi’s descendents and ministered the gospel among them, they were taught the new, expedient pattern for how to gather for communal worship now that the law had been fulfilled in him:

And it came to pass
that Jesus commanded his disciples that they should bring forth some bread and wine unto him
and while they were gone for bread and wine
he commanded the multitude that they should sit themselves down upon the earth
and when the disciples had come with bread and wine
he took of the bread and brake and blessed it
and he gave unto the disciples
and commanded that they should eat
and when they had eaten and were filled
he commanded that they should give unto the multitude
and when the multitude had eaten and were filled
he said unto the disciples
there shall one be ordained among you
and to him will I give power that he shall break bread
and bless it
and give it unto the people of my church
unto all those who shall believe and be baptized in my name
and this shall you always observe to do
even as I have done
even as I have broken bread and blessed it and given it unto you
and this shall you do in remembrance of my body
which I have shown unto you
and it shall be a testimony unto the father that you do always remember me
and if you do always remember me
you shall have my Spirit to be with you
and it came to pass
that when he said these words
he commanded his disciples that they should take of the wine of the cup and drink of it
and that they should also give unto the multitude that they might drink of it
and it came to pass
that they did so
and did drink of it and were filled
and they gave unto the multitude
and they did drink
and they were filled
and when the disciples had done this
Jesus said unto them
blessed are you for this thing which you have done
for this is fulfilling my commandments
and this doth witness unto the Father that you are willing to do that which I have commanded you
and this shall you always do
to those who repent and are baptized in my name
and you shall do it in remembrance of my blood
which I have shed for you
that you may witness unto the Father that you do always remember me
and if you do always remember me
you shall have my Spirit to be with you
and I give unto you a commandment
that you shall do these things
and if you shall always do these things
blessed are you
for you are built upon my rock.

[3 Nephi 18:1-12]

In this pattern of group worship, described by Jesus, and commanded of the church of Christ — we are to:

  • Bring forth bread and wine
  • Sit down upon the earth
  • Have one man set-apart among the group to break the bread, bless it, and give it to the group in remembrance of the body of Jesus
  • Eat the bread until filled
  • Have the one ordained man take the cup, bless it, and give it to the group in remembrance of the blood of Jesus
  • Drink from the cup until filled

This should be done “always” to witness to God that we always remember Christ – and if we do always remember Him, then we will always have his Spirit to be with us.

The revelations given to Joseph Smith describe this same pattern:

it is expedient
that the church meet together often
to partake of bread and wine in the remembrance of the lord Jesus
and the elder or priest shall administer it
and after this manner shall he administer it
he shall kneel with the church
and call upon the Father in solemn prayer

O God, the Eternal Father, we ask thee in the name of thy Son, Jesus Christ, to bless and sanctify this bread to the souls of all those who partake of it, that they may eat in remembrance of the body of thy Son, and witness unto thee, O God, the Eternal Father, that they are willing to take upon them the name of thy Son, and always remember him and keep his commandments which he has given them; that they may always have his Spirit to be with them. Amen.

the manner of administering the wine
he shall take the cup also
and say

O God, the Eternal Father, we ask thee in the name of thy Son, Jesus Christ, to bless and sanctify this wine to the souls of all those who drink of it, that they may do it in remembrance of the blood of thy Son, which was shed for them; that they may witness unto thee, O God, the Eternal Father, that they do always remember him, that they may have his Spirit to be with them. Amen.

[D&C 20:75-79]

The Nephite church’s example in practicing this pattern of group worship:

In the first couple generations after Christ visited the descendents of Lehi, they observed these commandments, even as he had shown them, and therefore lived as a Zion-like community of believers:

the disciples of Jesus had formed a church of Christ in all the lands round about
and as many as did come unto them
and did truly repent of their sins
were baptized in the name of Jesus
and they did also receive the Holy Ghost
and it came to pass
that the people were all converted unto the Lord
and there were no contentions and disputations among them
and every man did deal justly
one with another
and they had all things common among them
therefore there were not rich and poor, bond and free
but they were all made free
and partakers of the heavenly gift
and it came to pass
that there still continued to be peace in the land
and there were great and marvelous works wrought by the disciples of Jesus
insomuch that they did heal the sick
and raise the dead
and cause the lame to walk
and the blind to receive their sight
and the deaf to hear
and all manner of miracles did they work among the children of men
and in nothing did they work miracles save it were in the name of Jesus
and they were married
and given in marriage
and were blessed according to the multitude of the promises which the Lord had made unto them
and they did not walk any more after the performances and ordinances of the law of Moses
but they did walk after the commandments which they had received from their Lord
and their God
continuing in fasting and prayer
and in meeting together oft
both to pray and to hear the word of the Lord
and it came to pass
that there was no contention among all the people
in all the land
but there were mighty miracles wrought among the disciples of Jesus

[4 Nephi 1:1-13]

This religious community was alive with the miraculous works of the Father and the signs following them that believe.  And even when the people fell into general wickedness a couple centuries later, a segment of the people still remained gathered as the church of Christ and kept the commandments Jesus had given their ancestors earlier:

and after they had been received unto baptism
and were wrought upon and cleansed by the power of the Holy Ghost
they were numbered among the people of the church of Christ
and their names were taken
that they might be remembered and nourished by the good word of God
to keep them in the right way
to keep them continually watchful unto prayer
relying alone upon the merits of Christ
who was the author and the finisher of their faith
and the church did meet together oft
to fast and to pray
and to speak one with another
concerning the welfare of their souls
and they did meet together oft
to partake of bread and wine
in remembrance of the lord Jesus
and their meetings were conducted
by the church
after the manner of the workings of the Spirit
and by the power of the Holy Ghost
for as the power of the Holy Ghost led them
whether to preach
or to exhort
or to pray
or to supplicate
or to sing
even so it was done

[Moroni 6]

The church of Christ “meets together often” to:

  • Fast
  • Pray
  • Hear the word of God
  • Speak about the welfare of each other’s souls
  • Partake of the bread and wine in remembrance of Jesus
  • Preach
  • Exhort
  • Pray
  • Supplicate
  • Sing

“Often” does not mean every Sunday – it doesn’t even mean once a week.  To determine ahead of time how “often” or on what days the church will meet prevents it from being conducted by the workings of the Spirit.

These “meetings” happened as often as they were desired to happen or as often as they were needed to happen among the various congregations of believers in Christ.

Also, no one did anything unless the power of the Holy Ghost led them – or in other words, they followed the principle of:

if ye receive not the Spirit
ye shall not teach

[D&C 42:14]

– meaning nobody spoke a word unless the Spirit of prophecy and revelation came upon them and led them to speak that word.

Doing this makes the discernment of a dead congregation [a group without the Spirit] easy because, in practical terms, what that means is that unless members are cleansed from all sin and therefore can be moved upon by the Holy Spirit – the meeting will be dead silent.

Approaching group worship backwards:

There is a problem when we approach this pattern backwards — when we work at keeping people coming to church — as a way to make them feel the Spirit.  It’s backwards.

People aren’t stupid — and it doesn’t take long for an interested investigator to realize that the Joy they feel in spontaneous meetings with missionaries lacks in our church meetings.  The Spirit that manifests while studying the gospel in a more intimate setting with missionaries is not repeated in the meetinghouse.

This “deadness” happens when the religious experience is approached as something that can be brokered by some all-male merchant-class who deal in religion and religious paraphernalia.  It’s all image and no Life — because the Life’s been suffocated by the Box we’ve put Her in.

Our current practice of assigning everything before church meetings [for example] — the songs, sermons, etc. — is based on the doctrines and commandments of men and not the commandments of the Father that Christ gave to his church — which is why there is no one prophesying or healing or speaking in tongues, etc. during our meetings. The commandments of men are not accompanied by any manifestations of power [just good advice, nice music, etc.]

To get back to a reliance on the Spirit, in which it is the Spirit that directs and guides the conducting of our meetings [and not any man or group of men], we would need room for that spontaneity because that’s how She works.

The church of Christ, when it meets [not when it “has meetings”], should select no one beforehand to say prayers, or prepare talks, or prepare musical numbers, or be given sermon topics, or be given material from which to base a sermon on, etc.

The scriptures say that if the Spirit is not given to a person, then they should not speak.  And the scriptures say that everything must be done at the very moment, which means spontaneously, as the Spirit directs.

Without the pervading presence of the Holy Spirit, a congregation has no “spiritual gravity” drawing the converts together — keeping them gathered in a body of the church of God.  Hence, we see a scattered group of strangers we just happen to meet at the same place at the same time every week.  We get dismal “activity”-rates because “activity” flows out of a person [and thus out of a body of gathered persons] spontaneously or naturally — it can’t be something “stuffed” onto a dead body.

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