Need for Missionary Work


Historically, modern polygamists and Mormon fundamentalists have not sent out missionary two by two to preach the gospel to every creature and baptize them according to Jesus’ commandment (Matthew 28:19).  Apparently they believe that their polygamous marriage ceremonies exempt them from this commandment. This greatly contrasts polygamists in the days of Joseph Smith and Brigham Young.

It appears that Mormon fundamentalist leaders seldom, if ever send out missionaries to preach the gospel and to baptize.  If LDS Church members were to join a fundamentalist faction, they would instantly be released as member-missionaries.  Why?  Because their new fundamentalist leaders would not expect them to perform missionary work.

D&C 84:75-76 states:  “The gospel is unto all who have not received it. But, verily I say unto all those to whom the kingdom has been given–from you it must be preached unto them” (italics mine).  Mormon fundamentalists usually claim to represent the “kingdom of God” on earth and to possess all priesthood keys (including the “keys of the gathering of Israel” mentioned in D&C 110:11, 35:25).  Yet they do not claim to have received all priesthood responsibilities that Joseph Smith, Brigham Young and other early leaders shouldered.  One of the foremost responsibilities is the need to do missionary work (see D&C 1:4,18; 4:3; 18:10-16; 33:6-10; 60:2-3; 68:8 etc.).

Anciently, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, and other of God’s prophets served as missionaries and sent missionaries.  It appears that no individual or group of God’s followers in the history of the world who received the gospel were exempted from this important duty.  The one exception, according to their own theology, is the Mormon fundamentalists.

It seems that one function of the Holy Spirit is to inspire receptive listeners to share the gospel. Doctrine and Covenants 14:8 specifies:

And it shall come to pass, that if you shall ask the Father in my name, in faith believing, you shall receive the Holy Ghost, which giveth utterance, that you may stand as a witness of the things of which you shall both hear and see, and also that you may declare repentance unto this generation.

For example, after their conversion, the four sons of Mosiah felt “desirous that salvation should be declared to every creature, for they could not bear that any human soul should perish; yea, even the very thoughts that any soul should endure endless torment did cause them to quake and tremble. And thus did the Spirit of the Lord work upon them” (Mosiah 28:3-4). Similarly, Enos cried unto the Lord in “mighty prayer” for many hours until he received a remission of his sins. He immediately “began to feel a desire for the welfare of my brethren, the Nephites; wherefore, I did pour out my whole soul unto God for them” (Enos 1:9). After being assured on their behalf, he also prayed “with many long strugglings for my brethren, the Lamanites” (v. 11).

Having read thousands of pages of religious discourses and other writings produced over the past century by both Mormon fundamentalist leaders and LDS Church leaders, I have noticed the striking lack of concern on the part of fundamentalists for missionary work. From the 1920s to the present, they usually see themselves as a privileged group who, unlike nineteenth LDS polygamists, do not need to serve as missionaries to gather scattered Israel.

Leroy S. Johnson, FLDS leader from 1952 to 1986, manifested this elitist mentality: “Let us look to our own selves. If we labor from now on and save no one but our own souls, how great will our joy be in the Kingdom of God.”[1]  This self-focused attitude sharply contrasts the Church’s beliefs as portrayed in D&C 18:14-15:  “Wherefore, you are called to cry repentance unto this people.  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!”

A spirit exists within the fundamentalists movement that moves its adherents.  It moves them to tears; it gives them undeniable emotional feelings; it moves them to practice plural marriage; but ironically, it does not move them to share the “good news” with those who have not received it.  This distinction exemplifies, perhaps, the most important difference between the spirit of Mormon fundamentalism and the Spirit that guided Joseph Smith, Brigham Young, John Taylor, and other early Church members.  The Spirit they followed prompted them to be polygamists and missionaries.  Today that Spirit prompts Later-day Saints to embrace eternal marriage and to continue missionary efforts.

[1]Leroy S. Johnson, The L. S. Johnson Sermons. 7 vols. Hildale, Utah: Twin Cities Courier, 1983-84, ,5:58.