Church History Lesson 41 (D&C 1; 65; 88; 109)
In April conference of 1959, President David O. McKay issued his now-famous call: “Every Member a Missionary.” More than fifty years later, the importance of this assignment is even more important as we see President Monson hastening the work of gathering souls.
Coming Forth out of Obscurity
While still in its infancy, the Church received glorious promises from the Lord concerning its destiny:
— Those called by God to lead His Church would have power to bring it forth out of obscurity (D&C 1:30).
— The gospel will roll forth until it has filled the whole earth (D&C 65:1–6). Those who receive it will be prepared for the Second Coming of the Savior.
— It will come out of the wilderness and “shine forth . . . clear as the sun” (D&C 109:72–74).
The Prophet Joseph Smith declared that the Church would fill the whole earth: “No unhallowed hand can stop the work from progressing; persecutions may rage, mobs may combine, armies may assemble, calumny may defame, but the truth of God will go forth boldly, nobly, and independent, till it has penetrated every continent, visited every clime, swept every country, and sounded in every ear, till the purposes of God shall be accomplished, and the Great Jehovah shall say the work is done.”1
Taking the Gospel to All the World
Missionary work has always been a priority for the Restored Church. In just the first 20 years of its existence, the Church sent missionaries to all of the following:
England (1837) Germany (1850) China (1850)
Tahiti (1844) Tonga (1850) Samoa (1850)
Australia (1851) Turkey (1850) New Zealand (1850)
Iceland (1853) Mexico (1850) South America (1850)
Italy (1850) Japan (1850) France (1850)
Switzerland (1850) Czechoslovakia (1850) Hawaii (1850)
President Spencer W. Kimball said: “When I read Church history, I am amazed at the boldness of the early brethren as they went out into the world. They seemed to find a way. . . . Much of this early proselyting was done while the leaders were climbing the Rockies and planting the sod and starting their homes. It is faith and super faith.”2
President Kimball also said: “It seems to me that the Lord chose his words when he said [that the gospel must go to] ‘every nation,’ every land,’ uttermost bounds of the earth,’ every tongue,’ every people,’ every soul,’ all the world,’ ‘many lands.’ Surely there is significance in these words! . . . I wonder if we are doing all we can. Are we complacent in our approach to teaching all the world? . . . Are we prepared to lengthen our stride? To enlarge our vision?”3
President Kimball continued: “Our great need, and our great calling, is to bring to the people of this world the candle of understanding to light their way out of obscurity and darkness and into the joy, peace, and truths of the gospel. I believe we must not weary in our well-doing. I believe it is time again to ask ourselves the question, what can I do to help take the gospel to others and to the inhabitants of the world?”4 “Somehow, . . . I feel that when we have done all in our power that the Lord will find a way to open doors. That is my faith.”5
Today, the Church is organized in 176 countries and is proselyting in 164, as we seek to fulfill the commission to take the gospel to all the world. President Kimball asked Church members to pray that the doors of nations would be opened to the preaching of the gospel and to increase the number of prepared missionaries so we could enter those doors. But he also observed that the Lord would not open doors to nations that we are not prepared to enter. We have to do our part.
HASTENING THE WORK
President Gordon B. Hinckley taught that each of us has a responsibility to bring to pass this vision of the gospel filling the earth:
“Now, what of the future? What of the years that lie ahead? It looks promising indeed. People are beginning to see us for what we are and for the values we espouse….
“If we will go forward, never losing sight of our goal, speaking ill of no one, living the great principles we know to be true, this cause will roll on in majesty and power to fill the earth. Doors now closed to the preaching of the gospel will be opened. The Almighty, if necessary, may have to shake the nations to humble them and cause them to listen to the servants of the living God. Whatever is needed will come to pass. The key to the great challenges facing us and to the success of the work will be the faith of all who call themselves Latter-day Saints.”6
The Savior declared to Joseph Smith in 1832: “Behold, I will hasten my work in its time” (D&C 88:73). And President Monson has declared that they time for that hastening is now: “Now is the time for members and missionaries to come together, to work together, to labor in the Lord’s vineyard to bring souls unto Him.”7
One year ago, the age for missionary service was reduced, spurring an increase of 20,000 new missionaries. And all over the world, stakes, districts, and missions are experiencing a new level of energy about this work. The time for hastening the work has arrived.
“Every Member a Missionary”
In 1831, the Lord said, “the voice of warning shall be unto all people, by the mouths of my disciples, whom I have chosen in these last days. And they shall go forth and none shall stay them, for I the Lord have commanded them” (D&C 1:4–5). One year later, in 1832, the Lord extended this responsibility to every member: “Behold, I sent you out to testify and warn the people, and it becometh every man who hath been warned to warn his neighbor” (D&C 88:81)
Why do we hesitate to do this? In our last general conference (October 2013), Elder M. Russell Ballard explained: “We know from our research that most active members of the Church want the blessings of the gospel to be part of the lives of others whom they love, even those whom they have never met. But we also know that many members hesitate to do missionary work and share the gospel for two basic reasons.
• The first one is fear. Many members do not even pray for opportunities to share the gospel, fearing that they might receive divine promptings to do something they think they are not capable of doing.
• The second reason is misunderstanding of what missionary work is.”8
Member missionary work does not necessarily involve proselyting. Members fellowship their neighbors and associates. The full-time missionaries proselyte and teach. Elder Ballard explained, “We are not asking everyone to do everything. We are simply asking all members to pray, knowing that if every member, young and old, will reach out to just “one” between now and Christmas, millions will feel the love of the Lord Jesus Christ. And what a wonderful gift to the Savior.”9 Each family can prayerfully select an inactive or nonmember neighbor that they are will to fellowship. They can pray for them by name every day. And they can reach out in love to include them in their lives.
Elder Ballard said, “The key is that you be inspired of God, that you ask Him for direction and then go and do as the Spirit prompts you. When members view the work of salvation as their responsibility alone, it can be intimidating. When they view it as an invitation to follow the Lord in bringing souls unto Him to be taught by the full-time elders and sisters, it is inspiring, invigorating, and uplifting.”10
Also in our most recent general conference, Elder Gifford Nielsen suggested three steps to the process of members becoming missionaries:
“First, specifically pray to bring someone closer to the Savior and His gospel every day. You could do this by seeing all people as sons and daughters of God helping each other on their journey home. Think of the new friends you would make.
“Second, pray for the missionaries serving in your area and their investigators by name every day. . . .
“Third, invite a friend to an activity in or out of your home. Wherever you go or whatever you do, ponder who would enjoy the occasion and then listen to the Spirit as He directs you.”11
There are numerous additional ways to include such people in our daily lives:
— Set a good example for family members, neighbors, and friends.
— Share copies of the Book of Mormon.
— Refer names of interested people to the missionaries.
— Share your feelings about the gospel with people.
— Invite people to Church activities, meetings, and firesides.
— Invite people to family home evening and to neighborhood activities.
— Invite people who are interested in genealogy to visit a Family History Center.
— Invite people to baptismal services.
Elder Clayton Christensen said: “Every time you take someone figuratively by the hand and introduce him or her to Jesus Christ, you will feel how deeply our Savior loves you and loves the person whose hand is in yours.”12
Preparing to Serve Full-time Missions
Members of all ages are encouraged to serve voluntary full-time missions. But we must prepare for such service. President Spencer W. Kimball said: “When I ask for more missionaries, I am not asking for more testimony-barren or unworthy missionaries. I am asking that we start earlier and train our missionaries better hi every branch and every ward in the world. . . . Young people [should] understand that it is a great privilege to go on a mission and that they must be physically well, mentally well, spiritually well, and that ‘the Lord cannot look upon sin with the least degree of allowance’ [D&C 1:31].”13
Parents and grandparents can encourage such service by our young people by setting the example. They can serve missions themselves. And they can share mission experiences from their youth as well as their old-age in order to inspire the young to serve.
Serving Full-time Missions
All worthy, able young men ages 18 through 25 should serve full-time missions. Full-time missionary service is a priesthood responsibility for these young men. Women ages 19 and older may also be recommended to serve full-time missions if they desire. Older couples are also encouraged to serve missions when they are able to do so. All missionaries must be worthy.
Elder David B. Haight of the Quorum of the Twelve counseled: “The goal of every physically able couple in the Church, just as it is for every nineteen-year-old young man in the Church, should be to serve a mission. No finer example can be given, no finer testimony can be borne by parents to children or grandchildren, than through missionary service in their mature years.”14
Supporting Full-time Missionaries
We can support missionaries who are now serving by remembering them in our prayers, writing encouraging letters, and contributing to the ward or branch missionary fund or the General Missionary Fund. And we can support missionaries who are serving in our area by helping them find and teach investigators and by giving other assistance.
President Gordon B. Hinckley said: “My brethren and sisters, we can let the missionaries try to do it alone, or we can help them. If they do it alone, they will knock on doors day after day and the harvest will be meager. Or as members we can assist them in finding and teaching investigators.”15
Nurturing New Converts and Those Who Reactivate
President Hinckley said, “Any investigator worthy of baptism becomes a convert worthy of saving.”16 Each year, hundreds of thousands of converts are brought into the Church, and these new members need to be nurtured and strengthened by all of us. The same is true for those who have returned from inactivity in the Church. President Hinckley observed: “It is not an easy thing to become a member of this Church. In most cases it involves setting aside old habits, leaving old friends and associations, and stepping into a new society which is different and somewhat demanding.”17
To successfully retain these “found” souls, President Hinckley said we must provide three things:
A friend in the Church to whom he can constantly turn, who will walk beside him, who will answer his questions, who will understand his problems.
An assignment. Activity is the genius of this Church. It is the process by which we grow. Faith and love for the Lord are like the muscle of my arm. If I use them, they grow stronger. If I put them in a sling, they become weaker. Every convert deserves a responsibility. . . .
Nourishment by “the good word of God’ (Moro. 6:4). It is imperative that he or she become affiliated with a priesthood quorum or the Relief Society, the Young Women, the Young Men, the Sunday School, or the Primary. He or she must be encouraged to come to sacrament meeting.”18
Elder Gifford Nielsen reported that at the seminar for new mission presidents held in June, 2013, a record 173 new presidents and their wives received final instructions before beginning their service. All 15 members of the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles addressed this special group.
Elder L. Tom Perry added the concluding comments: “This is the most remarkable era in the history of the Church. This is something that ranks with the great events that have happened in past history, like the First Vision, like the gift of the Book of Mormon, like the Restoration of the gospel, like all of the things that build that foundation for us to go forward and teach in our Father in Heaven’s kingdom.”19
As Elder Nielsen said in conference, “We need to be engaged as never before to match the excitement of our leaders and the commitment of our full-time missionaries. This work is not going to move forward in the Lord’s intended way without us!”20
As President Henry B. Eyring has said, “Whatever our age, capacity, Church calling, or location, we are as one called to the work to help Him in His harvest of souls.”21
1. History of the Church, 4:540.
2. “When the World Will Be Converted,” Ensign, Oct. 1974, 6.
3. “When the World Will Be Converted,” 5.
4. “Are We Doing All We Can?” Ensign, Feb. 1983, 5.
5. “When the World Will Be Converted,” 7.
6. In Conference Report, Oct. 1997, 92; or Ensign, Nov. 1997, 68.
7. “Faith in the Work of Salvation” [worldwide leadership training broadcast, June 2013]; lds.org/broadcasts.
8. “Put Your Trust in the Lord,” Elder M. Russell Ballard, General Conference Address, October 5, 2013.
9. “Put Your Trust in the Lord,” October 5, 2013.
10. “Put Your Trust in the Lord,” October 5, 2013.
11. “Hastening the Lord’s Game Plan!” Elder S. Gifford Nielsen, General Conference Address, October 5, 2013.
12. The Power of Everyday Missionaries: The What and How of Sharing the Gospel , 1.
13. “When the World Will Be Converted,” 7.
14. In Conference Report, Apr. 1987, 73; or Ensign, May 1987, 61.
15. “Find the Lambs, Feed the Sheep,” Ensign, May 1999, 107.
16. Ensign, May 1999, 109.
17. In Conference Report, Apr. 1997, 66; or Ensign, May 1997, 47.
18. Ensign, May 1999, 108.
19. “Concluding Remarks” [address given at the seminar for new mission presidents, June 26, 2013], 1, Church History Library, Salt Lake City.
20. “Hastening the Lord’s Game Plan!” October 5, 2013.
21. “We Are One,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2013, 62.