From out of the world He has called us, and now the people of the Lord are leavening the earth, with representatives in every continent and every clime.
The Church in this dispensation started with six men, then increased a thousand fold, and is now stretching toward a thousand fold more. Today, there are more than 4.3 million members of the Church worldwide.
What are the reasons for such tremendous growth? The Lord said he would perform a “marvellous work and a wonder” in the last days (see Isa. 29:14); and indeed he has, as the Saints featured in this section joyfully attest. The peace of the gospel has touched their lives.
The following pages show the Latter-day Saints of 1980—faces and testimonies, activities and experiences—glimpses of a people who follow Jesus Christ, the Good Shepherd. These photos are visual evidence of prophecies fulfilled: “And he gathereth his children from the four quarters of the earth; and he numbereth his sheep, and they know him; and there shall be one fold and one shepherd; and he shall feed his sheep, and in him they shall find pasture” (1 Ne. 22:25).
The more I study Mormon doctrine, the stronger my testimony grows about the only true church here upon the earth. I strongly believe that there is a spirit of harmony between Mormon doctrine and Confuscius’ good teachings. Through this spirit of harmony, the gospel shall be preached throughout China, for this church is the religion that suits the Chinese people best.
—Liu, Chun-Hua, Taiwan
I returned to activity in the Church three years ago—and these last three years have had more meaning and brought more closeness and happiness to me and my family than all the other years put together. I have a testimony of the truthfulness of the gospel and how it changes lives—but only if you let it.
—Hugh Wilkinson, Spokane, Washington
After I heard the missionaries, I knelt down and asked the Lord if the message they’d brought was true. As long as I live I will never forget the answer I received—an indescribable, wonderful feeling that filled my entire being. I knew without a doubt that the message was true; everything fell into place for me and I felt nearer to the Lord than I had ever felt before. I have since had this witness confirmed many times. My twelve years of service in the Church have taught me that a testimony grows in accordance with our obedience to the commandments.
—Steffen Vestergaard Poulson, Denmark
Through all our troubles, trials, and testing my wife and I have developed an understanding love for each other, for our children, and a special love for our Heavenly Father that far exceeds anything we believed possible. We feel such a closeness to the Lord that we are compelled to talk with him about the things he wants us to do and seek his approval of the things we feel we should do. We feel a great dedication to him and his work. Our hearts are overflowing with gratitude for his blessing to us, our home, and our children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren.
—Delos B. Price, St. George, Utah
One spiritual experience leads to another if we are faithful, diligent, and prayerful. There is a special spirit that accompanies every Church calling, and a spiritual reward for fulfilling each calling. Oh, how I love the work of the Lord!
—Nadia Ardis, Salisbury, Maryland
Amidst our grief at losing our young son came the sweet realization that even though we had lost for a time someone very precious, we had received something priceless in return. We felt the Spirit of the Lord comfort us as literally as if the Lord had put his arm around us. Love and peace beyond measure have filled our hearts and home.
—Teresa Gardner Randall, Tempe, Arizona
One of the first times I used my priesthood was to give a healing blessing. The experience, the feelings I had, sensing the thoughts of the Spirit in my mind, had a profound effect on me. The experience strengthened my faith and testimony that God lives, that Jesus is the Christ, that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is his kingdom established on earth to accomplish his will.
—Harry W. Cross, Newark, Delaware
On 28 April 1979 at 7:00 P.M., Bob and I were baptized into The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. How pure and peaceful we felt. It’s a feeling we will never forget. I remember Bob’s face when he had the laying on of hands for the Holy Spirit. He seemed to glow and he looked so peaceful—it was as though I could see the Spirit within him.
When I had the laying on of hands I felt different than I had before. I found what was missing within me. I remember crying for joy. We love Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ. We are constantly working to better ourselves and to live more like Christ. We look forward to when our family will be together for eternity, with our Heavenly Father.
—Candy Bethany, Louisville, Kentucky
My grandparents were among the earliest group of people to accept the gospel and be baptized into the Church when the missionaries first arrived in New Zealand. I am the fourth generation in our family to be born a member of the Church. To my great-grandfather, Te Rangihawe Puriri, and my great-grandmother, Terena Puriri, I am eternally grateful. Even though they couldn’t speak English very well, they knew that the missionaries brought the truth and that they were indeed servants of the Lord. They had a strong desire to become members and have set a great example for me and the rest of my family.
—Rakaipaka Puriri II, Alpine, Utah
My answers to life—its purpose and meaning—are found through the gospel of Jesus Christ. By living in accordance with the Lord’s will and commandments, we can have joy and peace of mind, rather than the world’s so-called fun and pleasures. It is wonderful to know that this is not our only life; when you think of life as being eternal, you naturally start your own planning with eternal goals in mind.
—Edward Joseph (Skip) Willis, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada
With open hearts, trust, and courage, life can be rather exciting. But the most exciting thing is seeing how the gospel of Jesus Christ and its blessings embrace more and more people around us. Perhaps that’s the greatest blessing in life: to know that those you love are walking the same path, toward the same goal of being together with Heavenly Father, forever.
—Karin Wingard, Skovede, Sweden
In these past years I have learned that there is no joy in life unless it is in living the gospel. I have learned that the Lord gives us his commandments to keep—not to break or even bend—and that I have a Father in Heaven who loves me on a personal, individual basis and cares about what happens to me. No matter where life may lead me, I will be eternally grateful to him for bringing me to his holy gospel.
I have questioned the gospel many times in my mind; at times I tried not living it because it seemed too hard, but I always came to the same conclusion: the gospel is true and life is not worth living without the guidance of the Lord. I have only one goal in life, and that is to serve the Lord and keep his commandments so that in the end I may be with him forever in the celestial kingdom.
—Delma M. Heath, Dugway, Utah
After fifteen years in the Church I am grateful for the knowledge I have of this life and the life to come. It has brought me an inner peace that all the money of this world can’t buy.
—Edward A. Lyons, New South Wales, Australia
Not a day goes by that I don’t think of the dearest and most peaceful awareness in my life: Heavenly Father and our Savior live! When I think of their love for me, sometimes I get choked up and I can’t speak. At other times I can’t stop talking, trying to explain how I feel about this wonderful gospel. I know our Father is always there with his ever-guiding hand, to help us in time of need. I thank the fine missionaries that persevered with us—if not for them I’d still be the lost soul I was when I first met them.
—Judy Colston, Lakeland, Florida
My life as a single woman is continually blessed by my activity in the Church. As I learn how to exist in the Church as a single woman I find that I am better able to exist in the outside world. My growth in the gospel and my acceptance of my role as a woman seem to be in direct proportion to my activity in Church programs. I am thankful for those inspired programs that offer opportunity for activity and growth to all daughters of the Lord—single as well as married.
—Connie Pynes, St. Louis, Missouri
When we attended our first meeting, I felt a gentle spirit presiding there. I also felt that I had known these friendly people for a very long time. I was impressed by the sure knowledge they had of Christ and that he lives today. I soon found that these special people live their religion seven days a week and are striving to attain a degree of perfection that I had been taught would never occur until death.
We became as the man who sold all to buy the pearl of great price—we gave up the habits that conflicted with the Word of Wisdom; we gave up our material goals. Following Moroni’s instructions, we prayed with sincere hearts—and Heavenly Father answered our prayers. We know that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the true church of God.
—Cheryl Bryant Lancaster, Norman, Oklahoma
After some time of inactivity in the Church, one day the Lord opened my mind to a message brought by my home teacher, one based on fasting and prayer. I felt the sincerity of his spirit and, motivated to learn for myself, have finally come to understand that the gospel is true.
—John E. Hopkins, Warrington, Pennsylvania
I thank my Heavenly Father every day for sending his servants to my home to teach us the gospel. I am grateful for my testimony and the many blessings he bestows upon us. We will always be in his debt; if we are willing to keep his commandments and use our time and talents in his service, he does open the windows of heaven to pour out his blessings upon us.
—Willem van Zoeren, the Netherlands
I can hardly remember the long slow labor that preceded my rebirth: It felt so much like dying sometimes. But I was blessed with dear friends and a ward who helped me more than they will ever know. I began my renaissance on my knees, then read, really read, the scriptures—and slowly began to realize that while I had been living the letter of the law for many years, I had not even known how to live the spirit of the law. I had never learned how to love people. And so I discovered the center of it all, the mystery, the corona of the gospel, that is so simple and yet so immense: we only keep what we lose. In giving up my inner-independence, I gain freedom; in giving of myself I gain love. But most of all, I learned in trying to keep the commandments that one cannot keep them alone.
—Lynnda Seyfried, St. Louis, Missouri
Though I was baptized in 1969, I feel as though I’ve been a member all my life. In a way, my life really began when I joined the Church.
—Mary A. Burns, Ardsley, Pennsylvania
I spent my days without any particular purpose until I learned about the Church. I had hoped that I would lead a purposeful and fruitful life; however, I felt empty. I had not found anything to fill my soul and vitalize my spirit. Then the missionaries came and we began to have the lessons. From the missionaries I began to believe that we are the children of God. It is natural that as the children of God we follow the will of God. That is the reason I chose to seek to live God’s commandments. We began to live the commandments and in December 1972 my family happily entered the waters of baptism.
—Kaoru Takeda, Japan
When I went to church for the first time, I was welcomed as the greatest and most special person around. And the more I talked to the members the more I had the feeling that I needed to let them guide me. I quickly gained great confidence in these warm and friendly people. Because of their love I had the desire to learn.
—Guy Taburet, Paris, France
I can truly say that the Church has transformed my life. It has given me direction in my business career, spiritual life, and most importantly as a father. I know that God lives for I have felt the promptings of his Spirit. I am most happy to be a member of this church.
—Charles W. Woodrow, Hopkins, South Carolina
The Ensign thanks the many wards and branches, stakes and missions that helped supply the photographs and the testimonies of the Saints. And a special thanks goes to the hundreds of Saints around the world who willingly spent time taking the pictures and recording their thoughts and feelings about their membership in the Church. (For more detailed experiences of Saints, see page 50.)