As soon as The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was organized, the leaders of the Church earnestly sought to know, so history records, the will of the Lord with reference to their responsibilities in gathering the newly baptized members of the Church together in order that they might “walk by the true light, and be instructed from on high.”
In answer to their earnest desires, the Lord, through his chosen prophet, Joseph Smith, instructed that they should, first, “send forth the elders of my church unto the nations which are afar off; unto the islands of the sea; send forth unto foreign lands; call upon all nations, first upon the Gentiles, and then upon the Jews.” (D&C 133:8.)
And second, their message to the peoples of the world should be: “Wherefore, prepare ye, prepare ye, O my people; sanctify yourselves; gather ye together, O ye people of my church, upon the land of Zion, all you that have not been commanded to tarry.” (D&C 133:4.)
Obedient to that divine command, even in the times of persecution and great sacrifice and privation, General Authorities were sent to all parts of the world to lay the foundation for the opening of missions, following the dedication of each such land for the preaching of the gospel, “that every man might speak in the name of God the Lord, even the Savior of the world; … That the fulness of my gospel might be proclaimed by the weak and the simple unto the ends of the world, and before kings and rulers.” (D&C 1:20, 23.)
This great missionary work from that beginning down to the present has resulted in a tremendous harvest of converts from every nation, kindred, tongue, and people.
As one travels throughout the wards and stakes and missions of the Church in the United States, and elsewhere, he is continually impressed by the remarkable spiritual and temporal contributions made in past years by the Saints who joined the Church in Europe and sacrificed so much as they immigrated to America.
We have found strong and righteous families, proud descendants of pioneer mothers and fathers. We have seen beautiful tabernacles, fine chapels, lovely homes, and clean communities, all testimonies to the skill and devotion of these blessed brothers and sisters.
This inspired gathering of former years was necessary for those earlier times. In the wisdom of the Lord it was desired that converts from throughout the world gather together to unitedly build the kingdom.
In the writings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, he sets forth the basic purpose of such gathering to designated places of the American continent, which was referred to as “the land of Zion.” This is what the Prophet Joseph wrote: “It was the design of the councils of heaven before the world was, that the principles and laws of the priesthood should be predicated upon the gathering of the people in every age of the world. Jesus did everything to gather the people, and they would not be gathered, and He therefore poured out curses upon them. Ordinances instituted in the heavens before the foundation of the world, in the priesthood, for the salvation of men, are not to be altered or changed. All must be saved on the same principles.”
The Prophet Joseph Smith added, “The main object was to build unto the Lord a house whereby He could reveal unto His people the ordinances of His house and the glories of His kingdom, and teach the people the way to salvation; for there are certain ordinances and principles that, when they are taught and practiced, must be done in a place or house built for that purpose.” (Documentary History of the Church, vol. 5, p. 423.)
With this knowledge of the purpose of gathering, it is well understood that it was the urge of members to immigrate to places where temples were located that brought thousands of early converts to America. Not all of those who were converted to the gospel elsewhere joined the Saints in the United States. Many remained in their own lands. In recent years it has been the inspired policy of the church to urge converts to stay in their own lands, to build up Zion within their own numbers, “… that thy light may be a standard for the nations” (D&C 115:5.) to all who surround them. And so even before they had temples and the full programs of the Church, they have throughout the years created Zion in their own hearts and homes as the Lord promised, for after all, Zion is where the pure in heart are to be found. They have suffered much with war, persecutions, hunger, and deprivations, but the Lord has been mindful of their suffering.
It has always been inspiring to observe the results of this faith and sacrifice made by those who have immigrated to America—the number of bishops and stake presidents, Regional Representatives of the Twelve, and the great hosts of righteous officers and teachers of the Church whose blood lines and very existence spring from Europe as well as other lands. It is thrilling to see the great blessings that these good people have given the Church through their righteous descendants. Their members have been fully honored by the number of General Authorities from the past and present whose heritage goes back to Europe.
Since the end of World War II, the Lord has blessed the Church greatly, and we are now in a new era of growth and development. Many new wards and stakes and missions have been organized, and the full programs of the Church are now enjoyed by the Saints of Europe. Recognizing the desire of all faithful Saints to go to places where temples are available, temples will continue to be built where the Lord directs they should be built. Outside Canada and the continental United States, temples have been dedicated in Switzerland, to serve the Saints from all over Europe; in England, where members go from the British Isles and South Africa; in New Zealand, for those of New Zealand, Australia, and the islands of the South Pacific; and in Hawaii, where Saints attend from the surrounding islands and from the nations of the Orient. In these temples, as in all others, Saints receive sacred ordinances and additional gifts and blessings of the Lord Jesus Christ. Young people go for baptismal work for the dead, and their parents go to perform the essential endowment work. Attendance at the temple can always be a great spiritual experience.
We had a thrilling experience in our area general conference at Manchester, England, in August 1971. It was there that the Saints at the conclusion of their conference stood and unitedly sang together a hymn that had been especially written for that occasion. The hymn was very meaningful. This is what they sang:
In Britain’s chosen countryside,
’Mid England’s dales and Scottish hills,
Welsh mountains green, and Irish lakes,
Here we live, and here we will serve.
God gave to us this special land;
He made us men of character;
Our women fair and steadfast too;
Here we will live, here we will serve.
Here we were called by God above
To join the special chosen few,
To be His saints, called, set apart;
So here we live, here we will serve.
The Church restored is here to stay,
In God’s sure hands we place our trust;
A Church of order, firm and true,
Here we will live, here we will serve.
God’s work is ours; we must not fail
To labour with our heart and strength;
With Him beside us we’ll not fear.
Here we will live, here we will serve.
This is our place, here we will stay,
To build, to strengthen ward and stake.
Until the Lord supreme shall reign;
This is our place, here we will serve.
It is my hope that this same spirit will be in all native lands where our Saints are congregated together, that they may be strengthened by the unity and faith and growth that is rapidly coming as more missionaries are being sent, temples are being built, stakes are being organized.
It is well that we remember that the trials, difficulties, and experiences of life all have purpose. There came to me on the occasion of a year in my life to be remembered when the lovely sisters of our Relief Society wrote this as a prayer in my behalf. It was entitled “May You Have”:
Enough happiness to keep you sweet,
Enough trials to keep you strong,
Enough sorrow to keep you human,
Enough hope to keep you happy,
Enough failure to keep you humble,
Enough success to keep you eager,
Enough wealth to meet your needs,
Enough enthusiasm to look forward,
Enough friends to give you comfort,
Enough faith to banish depression,
Enough determination to make each day better than yesterday.
This is my prayer for the faithful Saints in every land and throughout the world as we look forward to the future with courage and with fortitude.