Nearly 25 years ago, our family lived in Massachusetts, where I was enrolled in graduate school. My program of study was very demanding, leaving me little free time. One Sunday in church the ward Primary president approached me and asked if I might substitute as a Primary teacher for two weeks. Primary was then held on a weekday afternoon, and I knew it would be difficult to find room in my schedule to teach the class. But after some hesitation, I agreed.
The appointed day came to teach Primary. That afternoon I was in the university library, absorbed in a book on international politics. The subject I was studying seemed somehow more important than the upcoming Primary class. Consequently, I procrastinated until just 30 minutes before the class was to begin to review the lesson I was to teach. Then I walked from the library down to our ward chapel on the edge of campus. My reluctant attitude must have slowed my steps, for I arrived a few minutes late. As I stepped to the door of the Primary room, the children were just beginning to sing the opening hymn. It was a song I had never heard before, a song whose melody and message touched me deeply:
(“Love One Another,” Hymns, no. 308)
As I stood there, transfixed in the doorway, the Spirit bore witness that I was looking at the most important class taking place in Cambridge, Massachusetts, that day.
Back at the university in dozens of classrooms and laboratories, dedicated scholars were pursuing answers to the world’s problems. Yet valuable though such efforts may have been, the university did not and could not hold the ultimate answers to the problems of a troubled world. Here before me was the Lord’s answer: the quiet building up of His kingdom on earth by the teaching of the gospel of Jesus Christ. What was taking place in Primary that day was a small part of a divinely revealed plan for the salvation of a fallen world.
In October 1831, the Lord in reference to the Restoration declared, “The keys of the kingdom of God are committed unto man on the earth, and from thence shall the gospel roll forth unto the ends of the earth, as the stone which is cut out of the mountain without hands shall roll forth, until it has filled the whole earth” (D&C 65:2). The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is that kingdom whose destiny it is to fill the whole earth. In the miraculous wisdom of the Almighty, the building up of God’s kingdom in the latter days will take place by means as plain and simple as what I witnessed in Primary that day.
We rejoice to hear of temples being reared in every quarter of the earth and of far-flung nations opening their doors to the gospel. Built upon a foundation of apostles and prophets, the Lord’s Church is being taken to the whole world by missionaries called to proclaim His word. Sometimes, perhaps, we may be inclined to see the building of the kingdom as something that takes place beyond the horizon, far away from our own branch or ward. In truth, the Church advances both by outward expansion and by inward refinement. “For Zion must increase in beauty, and in holiness; her borders must be enlarged; her stakes must be strengthened” (D&C 82:14).
We do not have to be called to serve far from home, nor do we have to hold a prominent place in the Church or in the world to build up the Lord’s kingdom. We build it in our own hearts as we cultivate the Spirit of God in our lives. We build it within our families by instilling faith in our children. And we build it through the organization of the Church as we magnify our callings and share the gospel with neighbors and friends.
As our missionaries labor in fields ready for harvest, others labor in fields at home to strengthen the kingdom in the ward and community where they reside. From its earliest days, the Lord’s Church has been built up by ordinary people who magnified their callings in humility and devotion. It does not matter to what office we are called to serve, only that we act “in all diligence” (D&C 107:99). In the words of modern revelation: “Be not weary in well-doing, for ye are laying the foundation of a great work. And out of small things proceedeth that which is great” (D&C 64:33).
President Joseph F. Smith observed once that “great causes are not won in a single generation” (Gospel Doctrine, 5th ed. , 119). More than anywhere else, it is within the family, in the quiet sanctuary of the home, that generations unite in building the kingdom of God. The rearing of children is a divine work. The First Presidency has called on the parents of the Church to hold family home evening and family prayer, to study the gospel in the home, and to spend time with children in wholesome activities. As fathers and mothers teach their children the eternal truths once taught to them, they pass on the torch of truth to yet another generation, and the kingdom waxes stronger.
(“For the Strength of the Hills,” Hymns, no. 35)
When I was growing up, my father often led our family in gospel discussions around the dinner table. Only with the perspective of years do I understand today the contribution those family hours made to my own testimony. I rejoice in the prophecy of Isaiah that the time will come when “upon every dwelling place of mount Zion” there shall be “a cloud … by day, and … a flaming fire by night” (Isa. 4:5), when the Spirit of God will abide in the homes of His people continually.
The Lord’s kingdom encompasses not only Church and family, but also the hearts and minds of His people. As the Savior taught during His mortal ministry, “The kingdom of God is within you” (Luke 17:21). If we truly desire to contribute to the great latter-day work, our eyes will be single to the glory of God, our minds enlightened by “the testimony of Jesus” (Rev. 19:10), our hearts pure and consecrated. Personal prayer, study, and pondering are vital to the building up of the kingdom within our own souls. It is in quiet moments of contemplation and communion with the Almighty that we come to know and love Him as our Father.
I bear witness that the kingdom of God has been restored to the earth, never to be taken away again. Under the direction of our Eternal Father, Jesus Christ is the Author and Finisher of this work, the cornerstone of the Church, and the Holy One of Israel. In the strength and power of the Lord, may we build up the kingdom of God on earth that it may be prepared to meet the kingdom of heaven at His coming. In the words of a battlefield anthem that might also stand as an anthem of the Restoration:
(“Battle Hymn of the Republic,” Hymns, no. 60)
In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.