Viewpoint: Joseph Smith’s Prophecy of Church Growth Fulfilled
Contributed By the Church News
- When the Church was first organized, Joseph Smith prophesied that the kingdom of God would one day fill the earth.
- His prophecy is fulfilled in our day with 16 million members around the globe.
“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.” —Joseph Smith Jr.
On a Sunday night in 1834, the Prophet Joseph Smith called on all who held the priesthood to gather into a little log schoolhouse located in Kirtland, Ohio.
“It was a small house, perhaps 14 feet square,” President Wilford Woodruff recounted years later in 1898. “But it held the whole of the Priesthood of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who were there in the town of Kirtland, and who had gathered together to go off in Zion’s camp.”
When the men met in the little structure, the Prophet called upon the “elders of Israel” to share their testimonies of the work of salvation. At the time, the Saints had been living in Kirtland for a few years, had begun constructing a temple, and were learning and establishing the doctrines of Christ’s Church.
After hearing from the elders, the Prophet shared these remarks:
“Brethren, I have been very much edified and instructed in your testimonies here tonight, but I want to say to you before the Lord, that you know no more concerning the destinies of this Church and kingdom than a babe upon its mother’s lap. You don’t comprehend it. … It is only a little handful of Priesthood you see here tonight, but this Church will fill North and South America—it will fill the world” (in Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Wilford Woodruff).
During the last general conference, the First Presidency issued a statistical report concerning the growth and status of the Church as of December 31, 2017. The report concluded that Church membership has grown from the six members in that first official meeting on April 6, 1830, to today’s membership of more than 16 million members.
There are now more than 3,300 stakes, 421 missions, 553 districts, and more than 30,500 wards and branches around the world. More than 67,000 full-time missionaries and more than 36,000 Church-service missionaries are serving in various assignments. There are 159 operating temples around the world, with more planned and under construction.
The prophecy Joseph Smith made 184 years ago is coming to fruition—The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has filled North and South America—it has filled the world—and become a global congregation.
But Joseph Smith was not the first to foresee the growth of the gospel.
In the Old Testament, Daniel, a Hebrew slave in Babylon, was given the opportunity to interpret King Nebuchadnezzar’s dream. After praying to God to reveal to him the interpretation of the king’s dream, Daniel explained how a stone that was cut out of the mountain “without hands” would roll forth, gradually growing in size, until it had filled the whole earth (Daniel 2:34–35).
He further explained that God’s kingdom would come forth, “and it shall stand for ever,” never to be destroyed (Daniel 2:44).
In October 1831, Joseph Smith received the revelation found in the Doctrine and Covenants to “prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.
“The keys of the kingdom of God are committed unto man on the earth, and from thence shall the gospel roll forth unto the ends of the earth, as the stone which is cut out of the mountain without hands shall roll forth, until it has filled the whole earth” (D&C 65:1–2).
Our prophet, President Russell M. Nelson, witnessed the growth of the Church with each stop on his world tour. Whether meeting with members in England, where the Church has been established for many decades, or in India, where the Church’s presence is more recent, each member he met along the way is part of the gospel rolling forth in the last days.
“The Lord’s message is for everyone,” President Nelson said in a Church News article released at the beginning of his world tour. “This is a global work. … We need to bring them the message of the Savior. … To invite all of God’s children on both sides of the veil to come unto their Savior and enjoy the blessings of the temple, have enduring joy, and qualify for eternal life. And that will bring hope, help, and lift to all people.”
Elder L. Whitney Clayton of the Presidency of the Seventy said during the October 2011 general conference: “The work of the Lord is indeed great and marvelous, but it moves forward essentially unnoticed by many of mankind’s political, cultural, and academic leaders. It progresses one heart and one family at a time, silently and unobtrusively, its sacred message blessing people everywhere” (“The Time Shall Come”).
On April 5, 1987, President Gordon B. Hinckley said during general conference: “To some, [the annual statistical report of the Church] may have seemed as a dull exercise in numbers. To me, the information given represents a miracle. … What a miraculous and remarkable flowering from that small seed planted April 6, 1830, in the log home of Peter Whitmer where six men formally organized the Church.
“I am thankful that I am alive to see this day of prophecy fulfilled in the mighty work of the Lord. There was never a brighter day than today in the history of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. There was never a season when the work of the Lord prospered as it now prospers” (“The Lengthened Shadow of the Hand of God”).
More than three decades later, Church members are still witnessing the growth of the Church as the Lord hastens His work.
In March 1842, Joseph Smith penned these words: “Our missionaries are going forth to different nations, and in Germany, Palestine, New Holland, Australia, the East Indies, and other places, the Standard of Truth has been erected; 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; til the purposes of God shall be accomplished, and the Great Jehovah shall say the work is done” (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith).