It is so in reference to ourselves. The great work now being accomplished–the gathering of the people from the nations of the earth, had not its origin in the mind of any man or any set of men, but it emanated from the Lord Almighty. Joseph Smith received a revelation and commandment from the Lord, to go forth and preach the Gospel of salvation to the nations of the earth, with power and authority to baptize those who would repent of their sins and be immersed in water for the remission of them; he was also commanded to preach the gathering to them, that a people might be drawn together who would be willing to hearken to the voice of the Lord and keep His laws, that a righteous seed might thereby be preserved when the great day of His wrath should come. This Gospel was preached, and thousands of Saints have been gathered from almost all parts of the globe, who are now scattered throughout the length and breadth of this Territory, making farms, building houses, planting orchards and reclaiming the soil; creating villages, towns and cities where nothing but wild beasts and savages used to roam, and causing the desert to blossom as the rose. Yet all this has not been accomplished by human wisdom, although the enemies of the Saints would try to make the world believe so; it has been done by the wisdom and power of Almighty God, whose outstretched arm has been over His Saints, preserving them from evil of every kind. Jesus, while travelling here on earth, fulfilling his mission, told the people he did not perform the miracles he wrought in their midst by his own power, nor by his own wisdom; but he was there in order to accomplish the will of his Father. He came not to seek the glory of men, and the honor of men; but to seek the honor and glory of his Father that sent him.
Two years ago and powerfully reaffirmed again this morning, President Monson declared “that every worthy, able young man should prepare to serve a mission. Missionary service is a priesthood duty—an obligation the Lord expects of us who have been given so very much.” Again he explained that for young sisters, a mission is a welcome option but not a responsibility. And again he invited many more mature couples to serve. Preparation for a mission is important. A mission is a voluntary act of service to God and humankind. Missionaries support that privilege with their personal savings. Parents, families, friends, and donors to the General Missionary Fund may also assist. All missionaries, younger and older, serve with the sole hope of making life better for other people. The decision to serve a mission will shape the spiritual destiny of the missionary, his or her spouse, and their posterity for generations to come. A desire to serve is a natural outcome of one’s conversion, worthiness, and preparation. In this great worldwide audience, many of you are not affiliated with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and know very little about us and our missionaries. You are here or tuned in because you want to know more about the Mormons and what our missionaries teach. As you learn more about us, you will find that we share many of the same values. We encourage you to keep all that is good and true and then see if we can add more. In this world filled with challenges, we do need help from time to time. Religion, eternal truth, and our missionaries are vital parts of that help.
Too numerous to mention are the examples of all the individuals who have faced difficult circumstances and yet who have persevered and prevailed because their faith in the gospel and in the Savior has given them the strength they have needed. This morning, however, I’d like to share with you three such examples. First, from my own family, I mention a touching experience that has always been an inspiration to me. My maternal great-grandparents Gibson and Cecelia Sharp Condie lived in Clackmannan, Scotland. Their families were engaged in coal mining. They were at peace with the world, surrounded by relatives and friends, and were housed in fairly comfortable quarters in a land they loved. Then they listened to the message of the missionaries from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and, to the depths of their very souls, were converted. They heard the call to gather to Zion and knew they must answer that call. Sometime around 1848, they sold their possessions and prepared for the hazardous voyage across the mighty Atlantic Ocean. With five small children, they boarded a sailing vessel, all their worldly possessions in one tiny trunk. They traveled 3,000 miles (4,800 km) across the waters—eight long, weary weeks on a treacherous sea, watching and waiting, with poor food, poor water, and no help beyond the length and breadth of that small ship. In the midst of this soul-trying situation, one of their young sons became ill. . . .As they sailed away, only those parents knew the crushing blow dealt to wounded hearts. However, with a faith born of their deep conviction of the truth and their love of the Lord, Gibson and Cecelia held on. They were comforted by the words of the Lord: “In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.” How grateful I am for ancestors who had the faith to leave hearth and home and to journey to Zion, who made sacrifices I can scarcely imagine. I thank my Heavenly Father for the example of faith, of courage, and of determination Gibson and Cecelia Sharp Condie provide for me and for all their posterity.
In your service as a full-time missionary, you will go to thousands of people in great spiritual need. Many, until you teach them, will not even know that they have spiritual wounds that, left untreated, will bring endless misery. You will go on the Lord’s errand to rescue them. Only the Lord can bind up their spiritual wounds as they accept the ordinances that lead to eternal life. As a quorum member, as a home teacher, and as a missionary, you cannot help people repair spiritual damage unless your own faith is vibrant. That means far more than reading the scriptures regularly and praying over them. The prayer in the moment and quick glances in the scriptures are not preparation enough. The reassurance of what you will need comes with this counsel from the 84th section of the Doctrine and Covenants: “Neither take ye thought beforehand what ye shall say; but treasure up in your minds continually the words of life, and it shall be given you in the very hour that portion that shall be meted unto every man.” That promise can be claimed only if we “treasure up” the words of life and do it continually. The treasuring part of that scripture has meant for me a matter of feeling something about the words. . . I know from experience that you can get the assurance of truth from the Spirit because it has come to me. You and I must have that assurance before the Lord puts us in the way of a traveler we love who has been wounded by the enemies of truth.
Our inquiring friends and neighbors not of our faith can also catch the wave. We encourage them to keep all that is good and true in their lives. And we invite them to receive more, especially the glorious truth that through God’s eternal plan, families can be together forever. This wave of truth and righteousness is wondrous! It is not man-made! It comes from the Lord, who said, “I will hasten my work in its time.” This wave is empowered by a divine announcement made 193 years ago. It consisted of only seven words: “This is My Beloved Son. Hear Him!” Uttered by Almighty God, that announcement introduced a young Joseph Smith to the Lord Jesus Christ. Those seven words launched the Restoration of His gospel. Why? Because our living God is a loving God! He wants His children to know Him and Jesus Christ, whom He has sent! And He wants His children to gain immortality and eternal life! For this glorious purpose, our missionaries teach of the Restoration. They know that some 2,000 years ago, the Lord established His Church. After His Crucifixion and the death of His Apostles, men changed the Church and its doctrine. Then, after generations of spiritual darkness, and as predicted by previous prophets, Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ restored the Church, its doctrine, and its priesthood authority. Because of that Restoration, knowledge and essential ordinances for salvation and exaltation are again available to all people. Ultimately, that exaltation allows each of us to dwell with our families in the presence of God and Jesus Christ forever! I cannot speak of the Restoration in tempered tones. This fact of history is absolutely stunning! It is incredible! It is breathtaking! How amazing is it that messengers from heaven came to give authority and power to this work?
The challenge is to be more profitable servants in the Lord’s vineyard. This applies to all of us, whatever our age, and not alone to those who are preparing to serve as full-time missionaries, for to each of us comes the mandate to share the gospel of Christ. May I suggest a formula that will ensure our success: first, search the scriptures with diligence; second, plan your life with purpose (and, I might add, plan your life regardless of your age); third, teach the truth with testimony; and fourth, serve the Lord with love. Let us consider each of the four parts of the formula. . . Brethren, may each one of us search the scriptures with diligence, plan his life with purpose, teach the truth with testimony, and serve the Lord with love. The perfect Shepherd of our souls, the missionary who redeemed mankind, gave us His divine assurance: “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!”
Devoted disciples of Jesus Christ always have been and always will be valiant missionaries. A missionary is a follower of Christ who testifies of Him as the Redeemer and proclaims the truths of His gospel. The Church of Jesus Christ always has been and always will be a missionary church. The individual members of the Savior’s Church have accepted the solemn obligation to assist in fulfilling the divine commission given by the Lord to His Apostles, as recorded in the New Testament: “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: “Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen”. Latter-day Saints take seriously this responsibility to teach all people in all nations about the Lord Jesus Christ and His restored gospel. We believe the same Church founded by the Savior anciently has been reestablished on the earth by Him in the latter days. The doctrine, principles, priesthood authority, ordinances, and covenants of His gospel are found today in His Church. When we invite you to attend church with us or to learn with the full-time missionaries, we are not trying to sell you a product. As members of the Church, we do not receive prizes or bonus points in a heavenly contest. We are not seeking simply to increase the numerical size of the Church. And most importantly, we are not attempting to coerce you to believe as we do. We are inviting you to hear the restored truths of the gospel of Jesus Christ so you can study, ponder, pray, and come to know for yourself if the things we are sharing with you are true.
Example is an important characteristic of a boy’s life. Generally there are many people who will follow and few who will lead. It is therefore important that all you young men develop the power of leadership and then all be sure to give good examples. This will be true in your lives. If you have little brothers, remember that they watch you and listen to you, and they are likely to do about what you did and say about what you said. I hope you will keep this in mind as you come to teenage. Remember that, generally, if you attend your meetings and if you do your duty, it is quite likely that your little brothers will follow your course, and the opposite is also true. This is also true as to your missionary work. If your little brothers see you faithful in seminary and institute and that you have the right attitudes and that you are preparing yourself to fill a mission, their thoughts will be along the same line. . . One obsession of this Church and all its members is missionary work, about which you have heard from Brother Tuttle this night. The Lord told his apostles, as you will see in the beautiful picture over in the Church Office Building, to go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. May we remind you young men again, your responsibility is to respond to that call. And if you receive a call from the Lord through your bishop and stake presidency, it is your privilege, but also your obligation, to fill that calling expertly. And since you will now establish your goal to fill a mission, remember it costs money to go to the various parts of the world and preach the gospel. Remember, then, it is your privilege now to begin to save your money. Every time money comes into your hands, through gifts or earnings, set at least a part of it away in a savings account to be used for your mission. Every boy would like to be independent and furnish his own funds for his mission, rather than to ask his parents to do that for him. Every boy in every country in all the world who has been baptized and received the Holy Ghost will have the responsibility of bearing the message of the gospel to the people of the world. And this is also your opportunity, and it will contribute greatly toward your greatness.
One returned missionary, for example, specifically prayed to be led to “the one” he could reach. The name of a former college classmate came into his mind. He reached out to her over Facebook, and he learned that she had been praying for purpose and meaning in her life. He followed up just at the time she was searching for the truth, and in December she was baptized. Many similar invitations were reported to me, but only a few people have followed up like this brother did. I’m a great believer in the principle of follow-up. As it says in the missionary guide Preach My Gospel, “extending an invitation without following up is like beginning a journey without finishing it or buying a ticket to a concert without going into the theater. Without the completed action, the commitment is hollow.” Preach My Gospel teaches everyone not only how to invite but also how to follow up on our invitations. The purpose of missionary work is defined as inviting “others to come unto Christ by helping them receive the restored gospel through faith in Jesus Christ and His Atonement, repentance, baptism, receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost, and enduring to the end.” Inviting is certainly part of the process. But notice that there is much more to missionary work for members than simply extending invitations to people to listen to the missionaries. It also includes follow-up with the missionaries in the cultivation of faith, the motivation to repentance, the preparation for making covenants, and enduring to the end.
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”. 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! 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”. May I share with you a game plan I’ve felt impressed to implement after praying, reading chapter 13 of Preach My Gospel, and pondering past experiences? I invite you to consider these three points as you think about your own plan. 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. The only way to do this is to greet them, look at their badge, call them by name, and ask them who they are teaching. Elder Russell M. Nelson wisely contributed, “Until you know a person’s name and face, the Lord cannot help you know his or her heart.” I attended the baptism of a wonderful sister, who shared her testimony. I will forever remember her saying, “I’ve never had so many people praying for me and feeling so much love! I know this work is true!” 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.
Brothers and sisters, as surely as the Lord has inspired more missionaries to serve, He is also awakening the minds and opening the hearts of more good and honest people to receive His missionaries. You already know them or will know them. They are in your family and live in your neighborhood. They walk past you on the street, sit by you in school, and connect with you online. You too are an important part of this unfolding miracle. If you’re not a full-time missionary with a missionary badge pinned on your coat, now is the time to paint one on your heart—painted, as Paul said, “not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God.” And returned missionaries, find your old missionary tag. Don’t wear it, but put it where you can see it. The Lord needs you now more than ever to be an instrument in His hands. All of us have a contribution to make to this miracle. Every righteous member of the Church has thought about how to share the gospel. Some share the gospel naturally, and we can learn a lot from them. Some struggle and wonder how to do better, wishing that guilty feeling we sometimes feel would find somewhere else to go. Our desire to share the gospel takes all of us to our knees, and it should, because we need the Lord’s help. President Monson has asked that we pray for “those areas where our influence is limited and where we are not allowed to share the gospel freely.” As we earnestly and unitedly petition our Father in Heaven, the Lord will continue to open important doors for us. We also pray for our own opportunities to share the gospel. The Apostle Peter said, “Be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh … a reason [for] the hope that is in you.”
I know that God lives, my brothers and sisters. There is no question in my mind. I know that this is his work, and I know that the sweetest experience in all this life is to feel his promptings as he directs us in the furtherance of his work. I have felt these promptings as a young bishop, guided to the homes where there was spiritual, or perhaps temporal, want. I felt it again in the mission field as I worked with your sons and your daughters — the missionaries of this great Church who are a living witness and testimony to the world that this work is divine and that we are led by a prophet. I think of a little sister, a French-Canadian sister, whose life was changed by the missionaries as her spirit was touched as she said good-bye to me and my wife two years ago in Quebec. She said, “President Monson, I may never see the prophet. I may never hear the prophet. But President, far better, now that I am a member of this Church, I can obey the prophet.” My sincere prayer today, President McKay, is that I might always obey you and these, my brethren. I pledge my life, all that I may have. I will strive to the utmost of my ability to be what you would want me to be.
Sister Ballard and I returned a few days ago from England, where we had the privilege, along with several of the Brethren and their wives, to watch the first-ever presentation of the British Pageant. Some 200 cast members, and several hundred other volunteer members, told the story in song, dance, and the spoken word about the arrival of Elders Heber C. Kimball, Orson Hyde, Willard Richards, Joseph Fielding, and a few others who came to establish The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in England. As I watched that story unfold, it brought great memories flooding back to my mind of my experience sixty-five years ago arriving in England to serve a full-time mission as a young man. And as the story progressed, I was deeply touched by the overwhelming contribution converts in the British Isles, and, of course, some from Scandinavia, made in building up and strengthening The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in 1837 and even on through to today. These fearless early missionaries, bearers of the priesthood and the message of the Restoration, touched hundreds and later thousands of lives through their testimonies, priesthood blessings, and love for the people of Great Britain. They reaped a great harvest of wonderful converts. As I watched the pageant, I thought to myself, “How did they do this?” The early Saints did not have any proselytizing systems. They did not have Preach My Gospel. They did not have a Missionary Training Center. They did not have easy ways of transportation. But what they did have was an abiding, deep testimony that Joseph Smith knelt in the presence of the Father and the Son as They appeared to him in 1820 and opened the way of the Restoration of the fulness of the gospel of Jesus Christ. The Father and the Son gave him the principles of the doctrine of Christ that I have previously mentioned. As I pondered the miracle of the mission to Great Britain, it seemed to me that the simple gospel truths, powerfully explained by those great apostles of yesteryear, just penetrated the hearts of the people. I was also deeply impressed—in fact, so much so that I changed what I had in mind to share with you today because of the impressions that came to me about the power and the importance of the faith and testimony of the dear women and even the children who joined the Church during that formative era. As I watched and remembered, it was overwhelming. They withstood the challenges of the journey to Zion because of their faith, their own study and knowledge of the Book of Mormon, and their unwavering acceptance of Joseph Smith as the prophet of this dispensation. The women of the British Isles who made their way here—many arriving without their companion and some of their children whom they buried along the way—were in many ways the heart of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in those early days.
My brothers and sisters, the day for carrying the gospel to ever more places and people is here and now. We must come to think of our obligation to share the message rather than of our own convenience. Calls from the Lord are seldom convenient. The time is here when sacrifice must become an even more important element in the Church. We must increase our devotion so that we can do the work the Lord has for us to do. There is a growing need for more missionaries now that the term of service is shorter—but they must be those who have a desire to go and who have been carefully trained and prepared through the family and the various Church organizations. Young men, with the encouragement of their parents, should begin early in life to prepare with the spirit of saving, with the spirit of studying and praying about the gospel, with the spirit of attending seminary and institute classes. And of prime importance is preparation by keeping their lives clean and worthy. The parting words of the Master to His Apostles just before His Ascension were, “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.” We must not falter nor weary in well-doing. We must lengthen our stride. Not only is our own eternal welfare at stake, but also the eternal welfare of many of our brothers and sisters who are not now members of this, the true Church. I thrill to the words of the Prophet Joseph Smith in a letter that he sent to the Church from Nauvoo on September 6, 1842: “Shall we not go on in so great a cause? Go forward. … Courage … and on, on to the victory!”
We have just returned from a long journey from Salt Lake City to Montevideo, Uruguay, to dedicate a temple, the 103rd working temple of the Church. It was a time of great rejoicing for our members there. Thousands gathered in that beautiful and sacred building and in surrounding chapels. One of the speakers, a woman, told a story, the likes of which you have heard many times. As I remember it, she recounted a time in their lives when the missionaries knocked on their door. She had not the remotest idea of what they were teaching. However, she invited them in, and she and her husband listened to their message. It was, for them, an unbelievable story. . . They could not believe it, and yet they did. Following their baptism, their knowledge of the Church grew. They learned more of temple marriage, of families united for eternity under the authority of the holy priesthood. They were determined to have this blessing. But there was no temple anywhere near them. They scrimped and saved. When they had enough, they traveled all the way from Uruguay to Utah with their children, here to be sealed together as a family in the bonds of eternal marriage. She is today an assistant to the matron in the new Montevideo Uruguay Temple. Her husband is a counselor in the temple presidency. I am not surprised that comparatively few people join the Church from among the large number on whom the missionaries call. There’s no faith. On the other hand, I am amazed that so many do. It is a marvelous and wonderful thing that thousands are touched by the miracle of the Holy Spirit, that they believe and accept and become members. They are baptized. Their lives are forever touched for good. Miracles occur. A seed of faith comes into their hearts. It enlarges as they learn. And they accept principle upon principle, until they have every one of the marvelous blessings that come to those who walk with faith in this, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. . . It is so with our missionaries wherever they might serve, whether it be right here in Salt Lake City or in Mongolia. They go and serve with faith in their hearts. It is a phenomenon of great power that quietly whispers, “This cause is true, and to you there is an obligation to serve it regardless of the cost.” Again, people cannot understand it, these thousands of bright and able young men and women who forgo social life, leave school, and selflessly go wherever they are sent to teach the gospel. They go by the power of faith, and they teach by the power of faith, planting a seed of faith here and another there which grow and mature into converts of strength and capacity.
When I was twenty-one years of age, I was sent on a mission to the southern states. I became secretary of the mission, and while there was called to Columbia, South Carolina, because some of our elders had become seriously ill. It was difficult to get word back and forth, so I got on a train and went down there. I found that they were improved and getting along all right. When I bade them good-bye, I boarded the train and started home, and we passed a little Indian settlement at the side of the track. I saw evidence that there were quite a number of Indians there, so I reached over and touched the man who was sitting in the seat in front of me, and I said, “Do you know what Indians these are?” He said, “They are the Catawbas.” That is the tribe that Chief Blue represents, who has just spoken to us. . . I speak of that because that was the first time I had ever heard of the Catawba Indians, and there were only a few of them. I understand now from Chief Blue that ninety-seven percent of them are members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. . . So you may be interested, brethren and sisters, in knowing that I am delighted in seeing Chief Blue here today, representing that tribe of fine Indians. I have seen some of them since. I have met one very fine young woman who is a schoolteacher, and others I have met of that race; in fact, I have some trinkets in my office that were sent to me by members of that tribe. I am happy to have this good man here who represents one of the tribes that descended from Father Lehi as well as some of the others that are in our audience today. One good man that I am looking at here came to the temple during the week and was sealed to his wife. They are coming into the Church all around, and I am so grateful this morning to be here and hear this man who for sixty years has been a faithful leader among his people and now comes to this general conference and bears testimony to us.
Forty-five years ago, shortly after the horrors of the Second World War, at age eight I was baptized in Zwickau, Sachsen, in eastern Germany. This came about because a white-haired, courageous, and caring lady shared the restored gospel of Jesus Christ with my grandmother and parents, and they did not hesitate to accept the challenge. How I love them for that! In 1952 my family had to leave that part of my homeland, expecting never to see it again. We went to Frankfurt, where I was ordained a deacon and taught by tough but loving leaders to appreciate the value of work and service. At the same time, in the heart of western Germany, another marvelous lady, recently widowed, still in her thirties, was terrified by the difficulties of the future. She had two young daughters and felt left alone in a country without hope. Right then two young missionaries rang the doorbell and brought the message of light, truth, and hope. I give thanks eternally to those diligent American missionaries and most of all to Sister Carmen Reich—who became my mother-in-law—for her faith, strength, and willingness to listen to the still, small voice. My life has been very different because of the miraculous insight of these great individuals. . . On long-range flights, the shortwave radio frequencies are often crowded and static distorts the messages. The same is true for our lives. Everybody wants to get their message across. We have to train and condition ourselves to hear the still, small voice, never to be distracted or stop listening because of too much static on that sacred frequency. This can best be done by internalizing and acting according to the moral and ethical standards we receive from the scriptures and the living prophets.
There came to my office a few days ago a fine upstanding, sweet-spirited elderly man. He came in timidly and took a chair at the desk, and then he said: “Brother Benson, how old can a man be before he is too old to go on a mission?” And I answered: “My good brother, I do not know that there is any upper age limit.” He said: “I have been on two missions, and I would like to go on one more before I pass away. I would like to go back to Oklahoma, where I served my second mission. Do you think I am too old?” “How old are you?” “Eighty-six; but I would like to go once more before I die.” Now, there is much of that spirit among the priesthood of the Church. I thrill with it, my brethren, and I am grateful to be associated with men who carry that spirit. I have been impressed in reading the revelations, that there are at least four significant things pertaining to this priesthood which have been emphasized by the Lord to his prophets. If I may, I would like to refer to those four items.
We are in the world for a purpose. We are not here accidentally. We came here because we were willing to come, and because it was the wish of our Father in heaven that we should come. We undoubtedly saw very clearly that there was no other way for us to secure what the Father had in store for us. We send missionaries among the children of men. When appointed they feel strangely. Their feelings are not always the most pleasurable, either. There are things about a mission which are not altogether agreeable to our young Elders. They realize that they have to sacrifice the pleasures of home, and they understand that they are going among people who will not always feel gratified at what they have to say to them; yet, on the other hand, they feel that they have the seeds of life in their possession, and that if they can find an honest man or woman, the Spirit of the Lord will operate upon their hearts and they will perchance receive this glorious message which they have to deliver. This affords them pleasure and satisfaction. Another thing, they see in this experience a chance for them to secure that which will be of great value to them in their future duties. It is a strange thing that among the thousands of letters which I have received from those who have been called to go upon missions –mostly young men–I do not think of but one case where a refusal was given. Why is this? It is because the spirit of love and of immortality, the Spirit of the Almighty, is upon these young Elders, and they have received manifestations which inspire them to do that which otherwise no inducement could prompt them to do.
My message this afternoon is that the Lord is hastening His work. In our day this can be done only when every member of the Church reaches out with love to share the truths of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ. We need to work together in partnership with our 80,000 missionaries now serving. Information about this great work, especially the assignments for the stake and ward council leaders, is clearly outlined on the LDS.org website entitled “Hastening the Work of Salvation.” 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. We know that when someone gets up to give a talk in sacrament meeting and says, “Today I’ll be talking about missionary work,” or perhaps even when Elder Ballard gets up in general conference and says the same thing, some of you listening may think, “Oh no, not again; we have heard this before.” Now, we know that no one likes feeling guilty. Perhaps you feel you may be asked to do unrealistic things in your relationships with friends or neighbors. With the help of the Lord, let me remove any fear you or any of our full-time missionaries may have in sharing the gospel with others.
Reference has been made repeatedly to missionary work. We have been told that we have nearly six thousand missionaries out in the world today. Of course they are coming and going all the time. For a small church, such as we are, having membership a little more than a million, approximately six thousand missionaries is a marvelous record. As I sit here looking at the faces of the men and women that I know here, and I can see people here from all over it came into my mind to ask the question: How many of you have filled a two-year or longer mission during your lifetime? Raise your hands. Thank you very much. This is a missionary Church. Sometimes people might think, from the way we refer to finance, that we are a bank, but we are not. Think of the buildings that are on this block, every one of them built many years ago. This tabernacle and the temple were built in the very poverty of our people when they were trying to make homes here in the valleys of these mountains. But the Lord said, “Seek ye first,”-not last-”. . . seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you.” When I travel, as I have, approximately a million miles in the world, in many nations and places in the world, and come back here, I do not know of any place where people have more comforts and blessings than we do right here in this place that 103 years ago was a desert land, with only one tree growing in this valley. My grandfather came with the first company of pioneers. There were 143 men, three women, and two children. After he had been here for five or six years, one of his non Mormon friends asked him, “President Smith, why did you leave Nauvoo and all that fine country back there in New York and Missouri and come out to this God-forsaken land?” The reply of my grandfather was, “Why, we came here willingly, because we had to.” In other words, the people, about twenty thousand of them, when they were expelled from Illinois, had their choice. They could have stayed there and lived with so-called Christians (I want to emphasize that), or they could leave and come out here and live with the Indians. That was their choice. They preferred the Indians. Now that was not because our people did not believe in Christianity. I know of no people in the world who believe as firmly in the divine mission of Jesus Christ as do the membership of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
We have something that this world needs to hear about, and these interviews afford an opportunity to give voice to that. One of the most extensive was with Mr. Mike Wallace of the CBS “60 Minutes” program. . . For the most part, this is from the material not used in the broadcast. Here are Mr. Wallace’s questions and my extemporaneous, unrehearsed answers: . . Mr. Wallace: “Young men and women give two years of their lives to serve as missionaries?” Response: “Young women serve eighteen months. The work is strenuous, it is difficult. It isn’t easy to go to New York, or London, or Tokyo and knock on doors and face people you have never met before. But it does something for you. It does two or three things. It creates in the first place a feeling of reliance upon the Lord . . . It builds within (a young man) something of strength and capacity. If he goes to a foreign land, he develops expertise in the language; he learns to speak the language of the people. Wherever he goes he comes to know the people among whom he serves and brings back with him something of their culture, their way of doing things, with appreciation and respect for them and their conditions and circumstances. There is nothing like it. When you think that we have nearly 50,000 out right now, and that number is constantly rotating so that it touches the lives of hundreds of thousands of these people . . . I can walk down the streets of Salt Lake City with you and meet people who speak fluently in Japanese and Chinese and Swedish and Norwegian and Finnish and Spanish and Portuguese, and who have love in their hearts for the people among whom they served.”
We experienced a special day in our family on January 4, 1997. My brother organized a party honoring the 200th birthday of Gustavus Adolphus Perry. I am certain we were the only family holding a party for one born 200 years ago. Gustavus Perry was an important member of our family tree. He was baptized in 1832 and became the first of our family to embrace the gospel. . . This good family was ready for the gospel when it came to them, and they joined The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in 1832. The Perrys were like other families who joined the Church in the early 1800s. They moved from their home in upstate New York to Ohio, then on to the gathering in Missouri. Forced from their Missouri home, they moved to Illinois. Again driven from their home, in the very cold winter of 1846, they made the painful trip across Iowa to settle in the Lake Branch at Winter Quarters. Here Gustavus served as a counselor in the bishopric until they were instructed in 1852 by Brigham Young to close the ward, join a wagon train, and make the long trek across the plains. Upon their arrival in Utah, he moved his family north into Box Elder County and settled at Three Mile Creek. In a few years his son, Orrin Alonzo, became the first bishop, and, as was the custom in those days, the community was named after their first bishop—thus, Perry, Utah, was named. My brother thought that the birthday of Gustavus Adolphus Perry was significant and that we should all remember and honor the first member of our family to join the Church. As a part of the birthday celebration, my brother spent last year searching for the descendants of Gustavus Adolphus Perry. We were amazed at the record he had on the table before us as we celebrated. He had found more than 10,000 descendants of this good man. The number overwhelmed me. I could not believe that there could be more than 10,000 descendants of Gustavus Adolphus Perry, the first member of our family to join the Church. Suddenly I realized the value of a good name. In seven to eight generations, his family had sufficient numbers to organize three stakes of Zion.
Brethren, for good and sufficient health, family, or economic reasons, some of you, we realize, may not be able to go just now or perhaps ever. But with a little planning many of you can go. Bishops and stake presidents, discuss this need in your councils and conferences. Sit on the stand in your meetings and prayerfully look into the congregation for impressions about those who should receive a call. Then counsel with them and help them set a date for service. Brethren, when that happens, tell your wives that if you can leave your recliner and the remote control for a few short months, they can leave the grandchildren. Those little darlings will be just fine, and I promise you will do things for them in the service of the Lord that, worlds without end, you could never do if you stayed home to hover over them. What greater gift could grandparents give their posterity than to say by deed as well as word, “In this family we serve missions!” Missionary work isn’t the only thing we need to do in this big, wide, wonderful Church. But almost everything else we need to do depends on people first hearing the gospel of Jesus Christ and coming into the faith. Surely that is why Jesus’s final charge to the Twelve was just that basic—to “go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.” Then, and only then, can the rest of the blessings of the gospel fully come—family solidarity, youth programs, priesthood promises, and ordinances flowing right up to the temple. But as Nephi testified, none of that can come until one has “enter[ed] into the … gate.” With all that there is to do along the path to eternal life, we need a lot more missionaries opening that gate and helping people through it.
The seeds of testimony frequently do not at once take root and flower. Bread cast upon the water returns, at times, only after many days. I answered the ring of my telephone one evening to hear a voice ask, “Are you related to an Elder Monson who years ago served in the New England Mission?” I answered that such was not the case. The caller introduced himself as a Brother Leonardo Gambardella and then mentioned that an Elder Monson and an Elder Bonner called at his home long ago and bore their personal testimonies to him. He had listened but had done nothing further to apply their teachings. Subsequently he moved to California where, after thirteen years, he again found the truth and was converted and baptized. Brother Gambardella then asked if there were a way he could reach these elders who had first visited with him, that he might express to them his profound gratitude for their testimonies, which had remained with him. I checked the records. I located the elders. Can you imagine their surprise when, now married with families of their own, I telephoned them and told them the good news—even the culmination of their early efforts. They remembered Brother Gambardella and, at my suggestion, telephoned him to extend their congratulations and welcome him into the Church. You can make a difference. Whom the Lord calls, the Lord qualifies. This promise extends not only to missionaries, but also to home teachers, quorum leaders, presidents of branches, and bishops of wards. When we qualify ourselves by our worthiness, when we strive with faith nothing wavering to fulfill the duties appointed to us, when we seek the inspiration of the Almighty in the performance of our responsibilities, we can achieve the miraculous.