The 2015 Philippines Area Goals focus on four divinely appointed responsibilities that will help individuals and families qualify for eternal life and exaltation. “Gathering Israel through Missionary Work” is one of these four area goals.
In this last dispensation of the fullness of times, there are two promises which are yet to be fulfilled - The Gathering of Israel and the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. As members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints we have a responsibility to do all we can to “Gather Israel” and prepare for the “Second Coming of Jesus Christ.”
The Lord made a covenant with His children, the descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (later named Israel), that He would protect and gather them as they were obedient to His commandments. He promised they would have His everlasting gospel and priesthood, and be gathered into the family of God. Because of disobedience they were scattered across the face of the earth, and it is necessary now for us to assist in the gathering.
The Book of Mormon was brought forth for the purpose of “convincing the Jew and Gentile that Jesus is the Christ.” The chapter headings of 3 Nephi 21 and 29 say, respectively, that: “Israel will be gathered when the Book of Mormon comes forth” and “The coming forth of the Book of Mormon is a sign that the Lord has commenced to gather Israel.” After the publication of the Book of Mormon, the Savior Himself appeared in the Kirtland Temple, on April 3, 1836, with other heavenly messengers, including Moses, and the sacred priesthood keys for the gathering of Israel were restored (D&C 110:11).
These sacred events give us a clear understanding that our responsibility in this dispensation is to do all we can to “Gather Israel through Missionary Work.” In D&C 88:73 the Lord said: “I will hasten my work in its time.” The Lord’s living prophet, Thomas S. Monson, made it clear that now is the time to hasten the Lord’s work when he announced in the October 2012 General Conference that the age of missionary service was being lowered for young men and women. At that time there were 2,817 missionaries serving in the Philippines, including 1,805 Filipinos. As we began 2015 there were 4,793 missionaries serving in the Philippines. This amounts to an increase of 1,976 total missionaries. The number of Filipinos serving in the Philippines has increased by 1,417.
The surge in the number of full-time missionaries means that there are now more full-time missionaries assigned to serve in each ward and branch in the Philippines. It also means that members in the Philippines must now do more to help missionaries in the work to convert, retain, and activate.
In a letter sent to Church leaders on November 10, 2014, The First Presidency directed that the theme for the Saturday Session of stake conferences in 2015 be: Individuals and Families Are Blessed and the Work of Salvation Is Strengthened by Ministering through the Ward Council. One of the primary guiding principles for the Saturday Session states: The “work of salvation includes member missionary work, convert retention, activation of less-active members, temple and family history work, and teaching the gospel. The bishopric directs this work in the ward, assisted by other members of the ward council.” (Handbook 2, Chapter 5)
The message we are now receiving from the Lord’s prophets and apostles is that priesthood and auxiliary leaders need to do more to assist in the process of conversion, retention, and activation. This adds to the message we received in the 2014 Saturday session of stake conferences that emphasized: Hastening the Work of Salvation through the Faith, Prayers, and Efforts of Individual Members, Their Families, and Full-Time Missionaries.
My prayer is that all members in the Philippines will make it their goal to be anxiously engaged in Gathering Israel through Missionary Work. As bishoprics work with ward councils and full-time missionaries in determining how members can participate in the work of salvation, let us fulfill our 2015 Area Goals by acting with faith, prayer and daily efforts to invite others to come unto Christ.
I witness that Jesus Christ stands at the head of the church that bears His name: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Jesus Christ directs this sacred work of salvation. He invites all to “come unto Christ, and be perfected in him” (Moroni 10:32). We are His disciples and servants with a responsibility to do the work of Our Heavenly Father and His Only Begotten Son: “to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man” (Moses 1:39). He is now calling upon us to assist Him in Gathering Israel through Missionary Work. I leave this sure witness with you in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.