Before I begin my remarks, may I take this opportunity to thank you for your kind expressions during this difficult time of the loss of my beloved wife, Frances. I have been strengthened and sustained as I have felt your love and your prayers in my behalf.
For Sister Monson and me, missionary work has always been a part of our hearts and our lives together. We were still newly married when I was called to serve as bishop of the old Sixth-Seventh Ward in Salt Lake City—a ward of one thousand and eighty members. There were a number in the ward who were less active, and Sister Monson was always supportive and encouraging as my counselors and I visited with these dear members and worked to bring them back into activity.
A few years later I was called to serve as president of the Canadian Mission. Less than a month after the call came, Sister Monson and I left our newly built home and, with our two small children and one on the way, traveled to Toronto, Ontario, Canada, where missionary work became our lives for the following three years.
May I endorse all that has been said here today. I testify to you that you will be blessed as you follow the counsel you have received.
The holy scriptures contain no proclamation more relevant, no responsibility more binding, no instruction more direct than the injunction given by the resurrected Lord as He appeared in Galilee to the eleven disciples. Said He: “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost” (Matthew 28:19). The Prophet Joseph Smith declared: “After all that has been said, the greatest and most important duty is to preach the Gospel.” Some of you here today will yet remember the words of President David O. McKay, who phrased the familiar “Every member a missionary!” President Gordon B. Hinckley told us: “So many of us look upon missionary work as simply tracting. Everyone who is familiar with this work knows there is a better way. That way is through the members of the Church.”
To their words I add my own. 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. He has prepared the means for us to share the gospel in a multitude of ways, and He will assist us in our labors if we will act in faith to fulfill His work.
During the time Sister Monson and I served in the Canadian Mission, we were witness to and strengthened by the deep faith of the Canadian Saints. This video clip sets forth the faith and the works of the members and missionaries in our mission who lived and labored in St. Thomas.
Another evidence of faith took place when I first visited the St. Thomas Branch of the mission, situated about 120 miles from Toronto. My wife and I had been invited to attend the branch sacrament meeting and to speak to the members there. As we drove along a fashionable street, we saw many church buildings and wondered which one was ours. None was. We located the address which had been provided and discovered it to be a decrepit lodge hall. Our branch met in the basement of the decrepit lodge hall and was comprised of perhaps 25 members, 12 of whom were in attendance. The same individuals conducted the meeting, blessed and passed the sacrament, offered the prayers, and sang the hymns.
At the conclusion of the services, the branch president, Irving Wilson, asked if he could meet with me. At this meeting, he handed to me a copy of the Improvement Era, forerunner of today’s Ensign magazine. Pointing to a picture of one of our chapels in Australia, a new chapel, President Wilson declared, “This is the building we need here in St. Thomas.”
I smiled and responded, “When we have enough members here to justify and to pay for such a building, I am sure we will have one.” At that time, the local members were required to raise 30 percent of the cost of the site and the building, in addition to the payment of their tithing and other offerings.
President Wilson countered, “Our children are growing to maturity. We need this building, and we need it now!”
I provided encouragement for them to grow in numbers by their personal efforts to fellowship and to teach. The outcome, brothers and sisters, is a classic example of faith coupled with effort and crowned with testimony.
President Wilson requested six additional missionaries be assigned to the city of St. Thomas. When this was accomplished, he called the missionaries to a meeting in the back room of his small jewelry store, where they knelt in humble prayer. At the conclusion of the prayer, he then asked one elder to hand to him the yellow-page telephone directory, which was on a nearby table. President Wilson took the book in hand and observed, “If we are ever to have our dream building in St. Thomas, we will need a Latter-day Saint to design it. Since we do not have a member who is an architect, we will simply have to convert one.” With his finger moving down the column of listed architects, he paused at one name and said, “This is the one we will invite to my home to hear the message of the Restoration.”
President Wilson followed the same procedure with regard to plumbers, electricians, and craftsmen of every description. Nor did he neglect other professions, feeling a desire for a well-balanced branch. The individuals were invited to his home to meet the missionaries, the truth was taught, testimonies were borne, and conversion resulted. Those newly baptized then repeated the procedure themselves, inviting others to listen. Week after week and month after month the procedure continued.
The St. Thomas Branch experienced marvelous growth. Within two and one-half years, a site was obtained, a beautiful building was constructed, and an inspired dream became a reality. That branch is now a thriving ward in a stake of Zion.
When I reflect on the town of St. Thomas, I dwell not on the ward’s hundreds of members and many dozens of families; rather, in memory I return to that sparse sacrament meeting in the lodge-hall basement, 12 people, and the Lord’s promise, “Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them” (Matthew 18:20).
Many years have passed since that video was recorded. The voice you heard was younger, but the principle of faith as it pertains to missionary work remains just as true today as it was half a century ago in the St. Thomas Branch.
I testify that when we act in faith the Lord will show us how to strengthen His Church in the wards and branches in which we live. He will be with us and will become an active partner in our missionary labors.
As the number of missionaries increases in wards and stakes around the world, I implore you to exercise your faith, as did President Wilson in St. Thomas, as you prayerfully consider which of your family, your friends, your neighbors, and your acquaintances you would like to invite to your home to meet with the missionaries, that they might hear the message of the Restoration. As the Lord did with the city of St. Thomas, He will sanctify your efforts, and you will gain a capacity beyond your own to lift and bless the lives of others.
May we ever increase our faith and faithfulness in fulfilling our sacred duty to rescue our Heavenly Father’s children—our brothers and sisters. In the name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, amen.