My assignment is to discuss some doctrinal principles that are of such infinite import, and are so interwoven with our struggle to gain salvation, that I have no way of coining the phrases or framing the sentences that will ascribe to them the dignity and divinity they deserve.
I do not think that the very angels of God in heaven, speaking as they are privileged to do with the trump of God itself, have language given them which can overstate the importance of these matters which have come to us by revelation.
My faith-filled prayer is that as I restate these eternal truths—truths known to us all—I may speak by the power of the Holy Ghost, and that your hearts may be open so that same Holy Spirit will renew in your souls the verity and magnitude of those matters it is now our privilege to consider.
I shall speak of the obligation the Lord has laid upon us as his people to preach the gospel he has given us to every creature upon the face of the earth.
Underlying this divine commission are certain eternal verities. The chief among them are these:
First, that salvation is in Christ and is manifest to men through his holy gospel, which gospel proclaims him as the Son of God, who atoned for the sins of men and ransomed them from the temporal and spiritual death brought into the world by the fall of Adam.
Second, that the Lord has in these last days restored the fulness of his everlasting gospel through the instrumentality of Joseph Smith, Jr., thus making the knowledge of God and of Christ and of salvation available again to men on earth.
Third, that he has set up, for the last time, his church and kingdom, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which administers the gospel and thereby makes salvation available, I repeat, to all men, to those of every nation and kindred and tongue and people.
Because the gospel is the most important thing in this or any world, because we alone have this power of God unto salvation, and because it is for all men, the Lord has commanded us to go forth “in solemnity and the spirit of prayer, in bearing testimony to all the world of those things which are communicated unto” us. (D&C 84:61.)
His word, not to those of a former day, but to us, is: “Go ye into all the world; … that the testimony may go from you into all the world unto every creature.” (D&C 84:62.)
By his own mouth he has promised us: “Every soul who believeth on your words, and is baptized by water for the remission of sins, shall receive the Holy Ghost.” (D&C 84:64.)
Also from his own mouth we hear this awesome truth: “Verily, verily, I say unto you, they who believe not on your words, and are not baptized in water in my name, for the remission of their sins, that they may receive the Holy Ghost, shall be damned, and shall not come into my Father’s kingdom where my Father and I am.
“And this revelation unto you, and commandment, is in force from this very hour upon all the world, and the gospel is unto all who have not received it.” (D&C 84:74–75.)
From what source shall the world receive the gospel? From what fountain shall they drink to receive that water which quenches eternal thirst? These words contain the Lord’s answer: “Verily I say unto all those to whom the kingdom has been given—from you it must be preached unto them.” (D&C 84:76.)
Who carries the message of salvation to the world? Who is responsible to do missionary work? Whose voice do our Father’s other children hear, inviting them to keep every true principle they now possess, but to receive the added light and knowledge that has come by the opening of the heavens in our day?
The Lord’s answer is: “All those to whom the kingdom has been given.” This is not a work reserved for Apostles and prophets alone. It is not restricted to seventies and those called on missions.
The genius of the heaven-sent system is that it involves all of the Saints. It will take all of us, plus the converts yet unmade, and our children and our children’s children, to raise the warning voice in the ears of all of them.
But the great crusade of righteousness has begun. We have commenced to gather the elect from the four quarters of the earth into the stakes of Zion, where they, as a people, will be prepared for the second coming of the Son of Man. The work is underway, and because it is the Lord’s work, it will not fail.
He has sounded forth the trumpet that shall never sound retreat;
He is sifting out the hearts of men before His Judgment seat;
O be swift, my soul, to answer Him! be jubilant, my feet!
Our God is marching on.
(Battle Hymn of the Republic.)
The manner in which each of us offers the blessings of the gospel to our Father’s other children becomes a major factor in working out our own salvation. And this brings us to the covenant of baptism.
Alma tells us that we make a covenant in the waters of baptism to serve the Lord and keep his commandments. One of the express provisions of this covenant is a solemn promise on our part “to stand as witnesses of God”—meaning both the Father and the Son—“at all times and in all things, and in all places that [we] may be in, even until death.” This, Alma says, is required of us, if we are to “be numbered with those of the first resurrection, that [we] may have eternal life.” (Mosiah 18:9.)
Being thus under covenant to testify of Christ and his gospel everywhere and at all times, as long as we breathe the breath of life, it comes as no surprise to hear the Divine Voice say to each of us:
“I sent you out to testify and warn the people, and it becometh every man who hath been warned to warn his neighbor.
“Therefore, they are left without excuse, and their sins are upon their own heads.” (D&C 88:81–82.)
I leave with each of you the problem of determining upon whose heads their sins will rest if we fail to raise the warning voice.
To raise the warning voice is to preach the gospel; it is to set forth the plan of salvation; it is to teach that sins are remitted by baptism; it is to testify that all who believe and obey shall be saved and that those who reject and disobey shall be damned.
What a warning that is—a warning to forsake the world or suffer the desolations and plagues, both temporal and spiritual, that shall fall upon the ungodly in the coming days.
Thus it is that we—meaning every member of the kingdom who has arrived at the age of accountability—have a divinely imposed duty, a revealed responsibility, an overriding obligation to proclaim the message of the restoration to the world. It is a divine appointment, lighted as a fire by the power of the Spirit, that should burn as a holy fire in our hearts at all times.
Orson Pratt baptized one of my great grandfathers in Scotland. I thereby inherited the blessings of the gospel by being born under the covenant. Is there any way I can repay those who brought the gospel to me, except by taking it in turn to others whose souls are equally precious in the sight of Him who is no respecter of persons?
Those of us who hold the holy priesthood—all of us, elders, seventies, high priests, patriarchs, and Apostles—have an additional responsibility, because of our calls to be ministers of Christ, to go forth and preach the gospel “as with the voice of a trump.” Unto all who hold the Melchizedek Priesthood this word has come from the Lord:
“And now this calling and commandment give I unto you concerning all men—
“That as many as shall” receive the gospel and the priesthood “shall be ordained and sent forth to preach the everlasting gospel among the nations. …
“And this commandment shall be given unto the elders of my church, that every man which will embrace it with singleness of heart may be ordained and sent forth, even as I have spoken.” (D&C 36:1, 4–5, 7.)
In addition to this, how many of us know that as part of the revealed home teaching directive every holder of the priesthood—both Aaronic and Melchizedek—is to “invite all to come unto Christ”? (D&C 20:59.) Can this mean anything except that provision is made in the home teaching system of the Church to include nonmembers in the teaching process?
Let us consider how the covenant-bound members of the Church may serve as effective missionaries.
Certainly they must not run hither and yon, calling meetings, organizing programs, preaching this or that favorite doctrine, and baptizing as they choose. The Lord’s house is a house of order, not a house of confusion. His work is always organized.
Nor is it our purpose to give detailed direction as to how the Saints should accomplish this missionary service. We have no intention to mandate programs or impose uniform procedures upon the whole Church. It is perfectly clear that cultures and peoples and circumstances differ, and what is needed in one area may not be needed in another.
It is neither meet nor necessary for us to be commanded in all things; rather, we are expected to be anxiously engaged in determining what each of us should do according to the talents and capacities the Lord has given us. As he has said, the power is in us and we are agents unto ourselves; and it is our privilege to go forward, each using his own talents, and bring to pass much righteousness. (See D&C 58:26–29.)
But there are certain basic guidelines which, if properly understood and applied, will guide us in the path we should follow. In presenting them we are simply teaching correct principles and allowing the Saints to govern themselves.
Let us, accordingly, be reminded of the proselyting program of the Church. It is organized into three areas:
1. Finding investigators.
2. Teaching investigators.
3. Fellowshipping new converts.
Church members, as individuals, without any special calls, participate in all three areas.
At the present time, in most places, our greatest need is to find investigators. It is to single out from the masses of men those who are prepared spiritually to hear the everlasting word and to believe the witness we bear.
This finding responsibility is a burden that ought to be borne primarily by the members of the Church in general rather than by the full-time missionaries. All of us, all of the time, should be engaged in friendshipping, mellowing, and preparing others to receive the gospel.
Conversion itself results from the teaching process. Paul said, “Faith cometh by hearing.” (Rom. 10:17.) His meaning is: Faith cometh by hearing the word of God taught by a legal administrator, speaking by the power of the Holy Ghost, and testifying of the truth of the message he as a servant of the Lord has been sent to proclaim.
Our regularly called missionaries, trained in presenting the proselyting discussions, are in a particularly advantageous position to teach the basic doctrines that lead to conversion.
Fellowshipping is a member responsibility. Much of it is done by home teachers. New converts must believe the wondrous truths of salvation and feel at home with us as a people, the people with whom they will associate now and forever.
Church members are prone to ask: Where shall I begin my personal missionary work? The scriptural answer is: With your nonmember kinsmen, the members of your family who have not yet come into the Church, and with your nonmember neighbors.
It was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, who brought the chief of the ancient Apostles into the kingdom. After Andrew believed, the scripture says, “he first findeth his own brother Simon, and saith unto him, We have found the Messias.” (John 1:41.) Above all others we should seek to convert and save our family members.
And as to your nonmember neighbors—they are yet of the world; they are the ones who will be damned unless they believe, are baptized, and keep the commandments after baptism.
Our obvious course is this: We friendship our neighbors; we invite them into our homes; we break bread with them. They are our Father’s children and one day may be stalwarts in his kingdom. We invite them to church meetings, especially sacrament meetings and conferences. These are the occasions when the gospel is taught, and the scripture says: “It pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe.” (1 Cor. 1:21.) We ourselves also talk with them about the gospel; and we invite the missionaries in to teach them the discussions.
There are two words that summarize what we must do. They are: Teach and Testify. We are to teach the doctrines of salvation and then bear testimony of the truth and divinity of our words.
We are bound to take every opportunity to tell others of the restoration of the gospel, of the salvation that is in Christ and his atoning blood, of the appearance of the Father and the Son to Joseph Smith, of the coming forth of the Book of Mormon, and of all the glories and wonders that are ours.
Now, let it be written in every heart with a pen of fire that this work in which we are engaged is true, that the gospel we have received came from heaven, and that it shall be preached by us in every nation, to all people, beginning with our neighbors, and then shall the end come.
Let us be reminded that there is joy without measure in bringing souls unto Christ—a joy that will be magnified and perfected beyond mortal comprehension when we sit down with them in the kingdom of the Father.
As one among you I know whereof I speak and testify that God who gave us the gospel has also called us to take it to his other children. God grant that we may do so in the way we already know we should.