My beloved brethren and sisters, it is a great joy to meet with you in this Regional Representatives seminar. The work is progressing and we are seeing the blessings of the Lord in the lives of our Latter-day Saints around the world, but we must still do more (there is always, it seems, so much more to be done).
I do not worry about members of the Church being unresponsive when they learn of the needy as much as I worry about our being unaware of such needs. Moroni warned the affluent of all ages about becoming comfortable and loving the things of this world “more than ye love the poor and the needy, the sick and the afflicted” (Morm. 8:37). Moroni also noted how “the needy, and the naked, and the sick and the afflicted” can sometimes pass before such people who “notice them not” (Morm. 8:39). Please, priesthood brethren, do not get so busy trying to manage Church programs that you forget these basic duties in what the apostle James described as “pure religion and undefiled” (James 1:27).
I like the story of Rhoda in the Book of Acts who answered when the prophet Peter stood before the gate. Rhoda took the glad news of the presence of this prophet to others, yet they disbelieved her. “But she constantly affirmed that it was even so” (Acts 12:15).
Let us likewise constantly affirm the reality of the presence of living prophets who are among us in this dispensation, even when others doubt and even when others mock.
To “affirm constantly” the truthfulness of the gospel is a wonderful thing for us all to do as leaders and as followers. Please note the word constantly.
We sometimes have situations in which faithful Saints do well today but slacken in their service and are less than constant. Perhaps that is what the prophet Alma conveyed to those who had experienced “a change of heart” when he asked them the question, “And if ye have felt to sing the song of redeeming love, I would ask, can ye feel so now?” (Alma 5:26; italics added).
We must be constant. We must not weary in well-doing. (See D&C 64:33.) May the Lord bless us all to live our lives so that in doing our duty and in our behavior we “sing the song of redeeming love” and mean it as much now as in any past year and as much tomorrow as today!
Now, I repeat what I have said many times before: we have an obligation, a duty, a divine commission to preach the gospel in every nation and to every creature.
May we repeat again the statement of the Lord from the Mount of Olives during the last week of his mortal life:
“This Gospel of the Kingdom shall be preached in all the world, for a witness unto all nations, and then shall the end come” (JS—M 1:31).
But, I ask you, are we advancing as fast as we should? We feel that the Spirit of the Lord is brooding over the nations to prepare the way for the preaching of the gospel.
Some political events have a bearing upon the spread of the truth.
It seems as though the Lord is moving upon the affairs of men and of nations to hasten the day of readiness when leaders will permit the elect among them to receive the gospel of Jesus Christ and when the gospel will be preached “for a witness” among all nations. Much of the technology for telling the truths of the gospel seems to be in place, but we seem somewhat slow (late) as a people in availing ourselves of it. Technology and developments in transportation have made the world smaller, but it is still a pretty large world so far as numbers of people are concerned when we think of nations like China, the Soviet Union, India, the whole continent of Africa and our Arab brothers and sisters—hundreds of millions of our Father’s children.
Let us fellowship the students as well as other people from all nations as they come to our lands, so that we, above all other people, treat them as brothers and sisters in true friendship, whether or not they are interested in the gospel to start with. None of our Father in Heaven’s children is foreign to him, and this is his work. In the light of the gospel they are “no more strangers and foreigners” (Eph. 2:19).
I fear sometimes lest some people, near and far, who are already partially converted will grow tired of waiting for us. I fear that sometimes we will wait too long to move and miss certain golden opportunities to build the Church or to feed our Father in Heaven’s children. We can be careful and yet move forward. It is better for something to be started than simply discussed. It is better for a facility to be under construction than under consideration.
We have had a great increase in our missionary effort, for which we are deeply grateful. We’ve created new missions and divided old ones. I feel that if we ask for 50 percent of the eligible young men age nineteen to twenty-six, that would be a fair and equitable expectation for the present time. We’ve more than doubled our missionary force and we hope soon to double it again. The Church and its members have begun to respond faithfully to that commandment,“Go ye therefore,” but this morning we must stress the other part of the verse emphasizing where we must go. The answer lies in our obligation to “teach all nations.” (Matt. 28:19.)
What did the Lord mean when he stood atop the Mount of Olives and said to the Twelve, “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, italics added.) These were his last words before he went to his heavenly home.
I ask once again, what is the significance of the phrase, “uttermost part[s] of the earth”? He had already covered the area known to the apostles. Was it the people of Judea? Or those in Samaria? Or the few millions in the Far and in the Near East? Where were the “uttermost part[s] 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 or those spirits assigned to this world to come in centuries ahead? Have we underestimated his language or its meaning? How can we be satisfied with 200,000 converts in a year out of four billion people in the world who need the gospel?
We can bring the gospel with its healing balm and its powerful programs to many, many people, not only to introduce the gospel to them but to show them in our communities how we live and how they can live and better their lives.
We have hardly begun. And yet we find that some of our strongest members have accepted the gospel in their own homelands through some means other than our standard missionary system.
It is so important for you as Regional Representatives to help our leaders and members realize that while much of the Lord’s work gets done through Church organizations and departments, not all of it is done in that manner.
This seems to be on my mind as I think about how big the world is and how many people are waiting for us to move forward. Are we, for instance, using all of the opportunities which come along to put appropriate Church messages on television and radio?
What about Africa? They have waited so long already. More than one-tenth of the entire population of the world is living on the African continent, nearly twice as many as the whole of South America. Are they not included in the Lord’s invitation to “teach all nations”? Are they not included in “the uttermost part[s] of the earth”?
We have been fortunate to have some of our black members attend Brigham Young University or other institutions nearby which have allowed them to learn the ways of Latter-day Saint life and to a degree understand the government of the Church.
I recently received a sweet letter from a school boy in Ghana in which he expressed his great pride in “being a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.” The fact that he has not yet been baptized did not deter him from considering himself a Latter-day Saint. However, he expressed to me his hope that soon he could become a true Latter-day Saint with baptism, confirmation, and at the appropriate time, the bestowal of the Aaronic Priesthood. He said his heart always thrilled when he sang hymns like “Come, Come, Ye Saints,” “Come, O Thou King of Kings,” and the other songs of Zion.
What we are saying is that there seems to be a great movement in progress in many nations to prepare people for the further light and knowledge that only we can give them. The Lord by his Spirit is preparing people for the day when the gospel will be taught them in plainness. We must be ready.
The Lord said, “And, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world” (Matt. 28:20). In 1830 when the Lord sent Parley P. Pratt and others on a very important mission, he said, “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).
Of course, there are other challenges in so-called “third-world” countries. Many of the congregations of interested black people are illiterate or poorly trained. We will need to help educate the youth of these congregations and teach them the principles of growth and development which will allow them to improve themselves economically and culturally as well as spiritually and intellectually.
But that is not so different from what we have had to do elsewhere in other times in our history. We have a great Church educational system, and a great program for welfare services, and a great priesthood department, a great system for training leaders and providing aids for teaching genealogy and doing missionary work and providing auxiliary programs for the children, the youth, and the women. We can do it, for the Lord has promised he would be our advocate with the Father and nothing should prevail against us. We have had many of our people at various times in those countries involved in their schools, their businesses, their political and economic life. It is a large continent. Roads are few and homes are usually far less than we are used to here. Poverty is widespread. Country after country has scarcely over $100 per year per person income for an economic base. But can we ask them to wait any longer? I believe that we cannot. We mention Ghana, but what of Nigeria, Libya, Ethiopia, the Ivory Coast, and the Sudan and others? These are names that must become as familiar to us as Japan, Venezuela, New Zealand, and Denmark have become.
And what of China, the third largest country in the world? Nearly one billion of our Father’s children live in China, one-fourth of the entire world’s population. Six hundred and sixty million of them speak Mandarin Chinese. How many of us speak Mandarin Chinese? We must prepare while there is time to prepare to teach these people. Of course, we face great barriers, including political barriers, in many of these parts of the world.
What of India? Another three-quarters of a billion people, 213 million of which speak only Hindi. How many of us speak Hindi? Will we be prepared to teach these people when the Lord says, “Take my gospel to India”?
What of Indonesia with its 140 million? What of Pakistan with its 70 million, and Bangladesh with its 80 million? What of Israel, Jordan, Iran, and Iraq—with their 51 million souls—all crying for the truth, truth which we alone possess, though as yet they do not know where to look.
There are 147 million people in Burma, Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia, Malaysia, Singapore, and Thailand. The day will soon come when they will inquire after the name of Joseph Smith. We have had a degree of success in some of these lands, but war has interrupted much of the work in those areas.
What of Saudi Arabia? People need the gospel even when they do have money—maybe they need it more! What of Turkey with its 41 million Moslems? Are we preparing adequately to teach 500 million of the world’s Moslems? Is anyone learning to speak to the 130 million for whom Arabic is the native tongue?
There are almost three billion people now living on the earth in nations where the gospel is not now being preached. If we could only make a small beginning in every nation, soon the converts among each kindred and tongue could step forth as lights to their own people and the gospel would thus be preached in all nations before the coming of the Lord.
The Lord will be with us if we pray and prepare. He will go before our face. He will be on our right hand and on our left; his Spirit will be in our hearts and his angels will be round about us to bear us up. (See D&C 84:88.)
When I read Church history, I am amazed at the boldness of the early brethren of this Church as they went out into the world. They seemed to find a way. Even in persecution and hardship, they pressed forward and opened doors which evidently had been allowed to sag on their hinges and many of them to close. I remember that these fearless men were teaching the gospel in Indian lands near headquarters before the Church was even fully organized. As early as 1837 the Twelve were in England. We were in Tahiti in 1844, and Australia in 1851, Iceland 1853, Italy, Switzerland, Germany, Tonga, Turkey, Mexico, Czechoslovakia, China, Samoa, New Zealand, South America, France, Hawaii in the 1850s. When you look at the progress we have made in some of these countries and no progress in many of their nearby neighbors, it makes us wonder. Much of this early proselyting was done while the leaders were crossing the plains and planting the sod and starting their homes. It was faith and super-faith. To the Twelve the Lord said, “There will be times when nothing but the angels of God can deliver you out of their hands. … You have a work to do that no other men can do.” (History of the Church, 2:198.)
“Is any thing too hard for the Lord?” he asked when Sarah laughed when she was told that she would have a son (Gen. 18:14). She heard this in the tent door and knew that both Abraham at a 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.
Brethren, Sarah did have a son from Abraham, the father of nations.
Also, to Jeremiah the Lord 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 we 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 Father Lehi getting to the promised land across an uncrossable ocean.
I believe the Lord can do anything he decides to do.
But I can see no good reason why the Lord would open doors that we are not prepared to enter.
Are we thinking enough and praying enough and working enough? With the help of the Lord we must meet the task and be successful.
Of course, I reiterate what I have said in other seminars about our work with the Lamanites. These great people surely have the right to our loyalty and our service. We owe them every opportunity to hear the gospel message and bear a great responsibility if we fail.
It was reported to us recently that in one area alone there were six Lamanite brethren on the full-time seminary faculty, and there are others elsewhere in the educational work. Not many years ago we would not have had six in the whole world. Now we find six in one faculty meeting in one area. This is the beginning of a great fulfillment of prophecy and promise that the gospel message would be carried back to these people, ideally by messengers of their own great Lamanite heritage. This great work will roll forward among their tribes like (see Dan. 2:45). It must fill the Lamanite world with the blessings of the restored gospel. The Missionary Department informs us that more and more Lamanite young men are accepting mission calls. There have been more stakes and wards organized in Lamanite areas. That pleases us greatly. We owe them much. They are our brothers and sisters. Much more must be done, and the magnitude of Lamanite work in the heart of Central and South America largely still awaits us.
We have only begun our work with our Jewish brothers and sisters. You know the political burdens they and our Arab brothers and sisters bear. These are difficult times for them, and the world watches and waits and prays for peace. The only lasting peace that can come is the peace of the gospel of Jesus Christ. We must take it to Jew and Arab, Lamanite and gentile. We must take it everywhere to everyone. My brothers and sisters, there is much to do.
I plead, therefore, with all of you to understand that while we must always move wisely to move the Lord’s work forward, we must move!
May the Lord bless us all in this great latter-day work. All you brethren and sisters who have responsibility, may you reach out and stretch forth, I humbly pray, in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.