Daniel H. Ludlow, Gospel Doctrine teacher in the Provo Pleasant View Fifth Ward. There are various reasons why we are not doing formal missionary work in some countries. A review of the principles related to this subject can be found in a few of our Articles of Faith.
“We believe in being subject to kings, presidents, rulers, and magistrates, in obeying, honoring, and sustaining the law.” (A of F 1:12.)
Some countries have laws forbidding a person to try to persuade another person to change religious beliefs, with penalties for both people. Through legal and political means, Church leaders are attempting to influence the leaders of these countries to change their laws, but unless the Church is given legal recognition to do active proselyting in a country, no formal missions are established.
The Church has obtained the right in some of these countries to allow Church members residing there to meet together, as long as they do not attempt to involve or convert others.
Important principles related to missionary work are also found in the fifth article of faith: “We believe that a man must be called of God, by prophecy, and by the laying on of hands by those who are in authority, to preach the Gospel and administer in the ordinances thereof.”
The kingdom of God on earth is a house of order, and missionaries or representatives of the kingdom are called and sent by God through his authorized leaders. It is indeed true that the Lord has stated that the gospel will be preached to every nation, kindred, tongue, and people before the Second Coming. However, the Lord has also stated many times in the scriptures that his work will be done in his own time and in his own way. Also, the Lord has instructed us not to seek to counsel him.
Therefore, as President Spencer W. Kimball indicated, we should prepare ourselves to take the gospel wherever the Lord might direct, and we should also pray that God will touch the hearts of the leaders of the nations so that they will allow missionary work. But the exact time when missionaries will be sent to a particular country will be determined by the Lord and revealed through his leaders.
Note the extent of preparation suggested by President Kimball: “When we have increased the missionaries from the organized areas of the Church to a number close to their potential, that is, every able and worthy boy in the Church on a mission; when every stake and mission abroad is furnishing enough missionaries for that country; when we have used our qualified men to help the apostles to open these new fields of labor; when we have used the satellite and related discoveries to their greatest potential and all of the media—the papers, magazines, television, radio—all in their greatest power; when we have organized numerous other stakes which will be springboards; when we have recovered from inactivity the numerous young men who are now unordained and unmissioned and unmarried; then, and not until then, shall we approach the insistence of our Lord and Master to go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.” (Edward L. Kimball, ed., The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1982, p. 585.)
In the years since President Spencer W. Kimball made this significant and prophetic statement, we have seen the ways in which the Lord is extending his work as we become prepared to assist him. Eventually the gospel will be taken to every nation, kindred, tongue, and people. In the meantime, we should give our very best efforts, both as individuals and as a church, to those responsibilities to which we have already been assigned. As we learn to give all our heart, might, mind, and strength to our present assignments, we will be prepared to assist the Lord in furthering his work in other areas.
At the 160th semiannual general conference of the Church on 6 October 1990, President Gordon B. Hinckley quoted President Ezra Taft Benson:
“With all my soul I testify that this work will go forward till every land and people have had opportunity to accept our message. Barriers will come down for us to accomplish this mission, and some of us will see this done. Our Heavenly Father will cause conditions in the world to change so that His gospel can penetrate every border. … We must prove, every day of our lives, that we are willing to do the will of the Lord—to spread the restored gospel, to bear testimony to the world, to share the gospel with others.” (The Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson, Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1988, p. 174.)
In conclusion, the Prophet Joseph Smith stated:
“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, till the purposes of God shall be accomplished, and the Great Jehovah shall say the work is done.” (History of the Church, 4:540.)