First Presidency Message

“When the World Will Be Converted”


Spencer W. Kimball
By direction of President Kimball, this historic address—given at the 4 April 1974 Regional Representatives’ seminar in connection with President Kimball’s first conference as President of the Church—is now reprinted in an edited, updated, and shortened form for use in home and family discussion.

“When the World Will Be Converted”

May I discuss with you some of the things which have been uppermost in my mind. The Lord said in a revelation to the Prophet Joseph Smith:

“And 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!” (D&C 18:15.)

If there were no converts, the Church would shrivel and die on the vine. But perhaps the greatest reason for missionary work is to give the world its chance to hear and accept the gospel. The scriptures are replete with commands and promises and calls and rewards for teaching the gospel. I use the word command deliberately, for it seems to be an insistent directive from which we, singly and collectively, cannot escape.

I ask you, what did he mean when the Lord took his Twelve Apostles to the top of the Mount of Olives and said:

“And ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.” (Acts 1:8.)

These were his last words on earth before he went to his heavenly home.

What is the significance of the phrase “uttermost part of the earth”? He had already covered the area known to the Apostles. Was it the people in Judea? Or those in Samaria? Or the few millions in the Near East? Where were the “uttermost parts of the earth”? Did he mean the millions in what is now America? Did he include the hundreds of thousands, or even millions, in Greece, Italy, around the Mediterranean, the inhabitants of central Europe? What did he mean? Or did he mean all the living people of all the world and those spirits assigned to this world to come in centuries ahead? Have we underestimated his language or its meaning?

After his crucifixion the eleven Apostles assembled on a mountain in Galilee, and the Savior came to them and said:

“All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth.

“Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:”

(He said “all nations.”)

“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.” (Matt. 28:18–20.)

Again the word power and the word command and the promise of continual support.

In 1830 when the Lord sent Parley P. Pratt, Oliver Cowdery, Peter Whitmer, and Ziba Peterson to the Lamanites he added:

“I myself will go with them and be in their midst; and I am their advocate with the Father, and nothing shall prevail against them.” (D&C 32:3.)

Think of the world as Moses saw it—it was a big world.

“And Moses beheld the world and the ends thereof, and all the children of men which are, and which were created.” (Moses 1:8.)

I believe that at that time the Lord knew the bounds of the habitations of man and the areas that would be settled, and already knew his people who would possess this world.

Still impressing Moses with the magnitude of his works and glory, the Lord showed him more.

“Moses cast his eyes and beheld the earth, yea, even all of it; and there was not a particle of it which he did not behold, discerning it by the spirit of God.

“… And their numbers were great, even numberless as the sand upon the sea shore.

“And he beheld many lands; and each land was called earth, and there were inhabitants on the face thereof.” (Moses 1:27–29.)

Remember also that Enoch, the prophet, beheld the spirits that God had created. (See Moses 6:36.) These prophets visualized the numerous spirits and all the creations. It seems to me that the Lord chose his words carefully when he said “every nation,” “every land,” “uttermost bounds of the earth,” “every tongue,” “every people,” “every soul,” “all the world,” “many lands.”

Surely there is significance in these words!

Certainly his sheep were not limited to the thousands about him and with whom he rubbed shoulders each day. A universal family! A universal command!

Brethren and sisters, I wonder if we are doing all we can. Are we complacent in our assignment to teach the gospel to others? Are we prepared to lengthen our stride? To enlarge our vision?

Remember, our ally is our God. He is our commander. He made the plans. He gave the commandment. Remember what we have quoted thousands of times as told by Nephi:

“And it came to pass that I, Nephi, said unto my father: I will go and do the things which the Lord hath commanded, for I know that the Lord giveth no commandments unto the children of men, save he shall prepare a way for them that they may accomplish the thing which he commandeth them.” (1 Ne. 3:7.)

As I read the scripture I think of the numerous nations and individuals in our lives that are still untouched.

Somehow, I feel that when we have done all in our power that the Lord will find a way to open doors. That is my faith.

“Is any thing too hard for the Lord?” he asked, when Sarah laughed when she was told that she would have a son. When she heard this in the tent door, she knew that both Abraham at one hundred years and she at ninety years were past the age of reproduction. She could not bear children. She knew that, as well as it has been known that we could not open doors to many nations.

“And the Lord said unto Abraham, Wherefore did Sarah laugh … ?

“Is any thing too hard for the Lord? At the time appointed I will return unto thee, according to the time of life, and Sarah shall have a son.” (Gen. 18:13–14.)

Brethren, Sarah did have a son, from Abraham, the father of nations.

“Therefore sprang there even of one, and him as good as dead [and that was Abraham, one hundred years old], so many as the stars of the sky in multitude, and as the sand which is by the sea shore innumerable.” (Heb. 11:12.)

Is anything too hard for the Lord?

Also to Jeremiah he had said:

“Behold, I am the Lord, the God of all flesh: is there any thing too hard for me?” (Jer. 32:27.)

If he commands, certainly he can fulfill.

We remember the exodus of the children of Israel crossing the uncrossable Red Sea.

We remember Cyrus diverting a river and taking the impregnable city of Babylon.

We remember the Lehites getting to the promised land.

We remember the Revolutionary War and the power of God that gave us triumph.

I believe the Lord can do anything he sets his mind to do.

But I can see no good reason why the Lord would open doors that we are not prepared to enter.

Today we have some 27,000 missionaries. We can send more! Many more! We need more young men and we need a great many more of our mature couples.

When I ask for more missionaries, I am also asking that we start earlier and train our missionaries better in every branch and every ward in the world. That is another challenge—that the young people will understand that it is a great privilege to go on a mission and that they must be physically well, mentally well, spiritually well, and that “the Lord cannot look upon sin with the least degree of allowance.” (Alma 45:16.)

I am asking for missionaries who have been carefully trained through the family and the organizations of the Church, and who come to the mission with a great desire. I am asking that we train prospective missionaries much better, much earlier, much longer, so that each anticipates his mission with great joy.

The question is frequently asked: “Should every able young man fill a mission?” And the answer has been given by the Lord. It is “Yes.” Every able young man should fill a mission.

Every man should also pay his tithing. Every man should observe the Sabbath. Every man should attend his meetings. Every man should marry in the temple and properly train his children and do many other mighty works. Of course he should.

We realize that while all able men definitely should, all men are not prepared to teach the gospel abroad. Yes, we would say, every able, worthy man should shoulder the cross. What an army we should have teaching Christ and him crucified! Yes, they should be prepared, usually with saved funds for their missions, and always with a happy heart to serve.

The Lord says:

“And that every man [Did you catch the words, every man?] should take righteousness in his hands and faithfulness upon his loins, and lift a warning voice unto the inhabitants of the earth; and declare both by word and by flight that desolation shall come upon the wicked.” (D&C 63:37.)

May we emphasize again that our main purpose is the same as that of our Heavenly Father—to bring to each soul the gospel which can open the doors to eternal life for that individual. Our objective is not for power or domain; it is totally spiritual. And to every nation and people which opens its borders to the gospel will come unbelievable blessings.

If we do all we can, and I accept my own part of that responsibility, I am sure the Lord will bring more discoveries to our use. He will bring a change of heart to kings and magistrates and emperors, or he will divert rivers or open seas or find ways to touch hearts. He will open the gates and make possible the proselyting. Of that, I have great faith.

Now, we have the promise from the Lord that the evil one will never be able to frustrate totally the work that the Lord has commanded us to do.

“This kingdom will continue to increase and to grow, to spread and to prosper more and more. Every time its enemies undertake to overthrow it, it will become more extensive and powerful; instead of decreasing it will continue to increase; it will spread the more, become more wonderful and conspicuous to the nations, until it fills the whole earth.” (Brigham Young, April general conference, 1852.)

You are acquainted with the statement of the Prophet Joseph Smith in the Wentworth Letters written 1 March 1842. (See History of the Church, 4:536.) I am sure the Prophet Joseph looked ahead and saw many problems with national animosities and fears with war and commotions and jealousies. I am sure that he saw all these things would happen, and yet, in spite of everything, he said with great boldness and assurance:

“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; till the purposes of God shall be accomplished, and the great Jehovah shall say the work is done.”

The immensity of the work before us is emphasized as we consider the population of the world as it approaches the five billion mark.

I am under no delusion to think that this can be done without strain or that it can be done overnight, but I do have this faith that we can move forward and expand much faster than we now are.

Some time ago I was in Japan and Korea, and as I saw the many handsome young men joining the Church and giving leadership to its organizations, I seemed to envision a great movement when there would be thousands of local men prepared and strong and anxious to go abroad. As I have been in Mexico since that time, I seemed to envision again Mexican youth and Latins from Central and South America in great numbers qualifying themselves for missionary service within their own countries, until the army of the Lord’s missionaries would cover the earth as the waters cover the mighty deep.

I have stated the challenge. I believe there is a solution. I think that if we are all of one mind and one heart and one purpose that we can move forward with great energy!

We can approach the ideals set out by President David O. McKay: “Every member a missionary.” That was inspired!

I know this message is not new, and we have talked about it before, but I believe the time has come when we must shoulder arms. I think we must again change our sights and raise our goals.

I pray the blessings of the Lord will be upon us as we approach our great responsibilities.

Ideas for Home Teachers

Some Points of Emphasis. You may wish to make these points in your home teaching discussion:

1. The greatest reason for missionary work is to give Heavenly Father’s children an opportunity to receive the gospel.

2. The Lord has promised his continual support to those who faithfully carry his message to others. Thus, we have no reason to fear.

3. Many nations and individuals are yet untouched by the gospel message. We can do much so that the Lord will open the doors of opportunity to teach the gospel.

4. Parents need to prayerfully consider how they may prepare their children more thoroughly for missionary service.

5. The missionary work before us may seem overwhelming, but miracles will occur as we proceed with faith.

Discussion Helps

1. Relate some of your own feelings about or experiences with missionary work. Ask family members to share some of theirs.

2. Are there scripture verses or quotations in this article that the family might read aloud and discuss?

3. Would this discussion be better after a pre-visit chat with the head of the house? Is there a message from the quorum leader or bishop to the household head concerning our missionary responsibilities?

[photos] Photography by Richard M. Romney