Latter-day Prophets Speak about Missionary Service


The missionaries pictured below became Presidents of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Following are some of their experiences and testimonies about missionary work.

Joseph Smith (1805–44)

First President of the Church

“Our missionaries are going forth to different nations, and in Germany, Palestine, New Holland, Australia, the East Indies, and other places, 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).

Wilford Woodruff (1807–98)

Fourth President of the Church

As a missionary in England, Wilford Woodruff was blessed for his obedience. He recorded: “I asked the Lord what He wanted of me. He merely said, ‘Go to the south.’ I got into the stage and rode eighty miles. The first man’s house I stopped at was John Benbow’s in Herefordshire. In half an hour after I entered the house I knew exactly why the Lord had sent me. There was a people there who had been praying for the ancient order of things. They were waiting for the Gospel as it was taught by Christ and His Apostles. The consequence was, the first thirty days after I got there I baptized six hundred of those people. In eight month’s labor in that country I brought eighteen hundred into the Church. Why? Because there was a people prepared for the Gospel, and the Lord had sent me there to do that work” (Deseret Weekly, 7 November 1896, 643; quoted in Howard W. Hunter, “Developing Spirituality,” Ensign, May 1979, 24).

George Albert Smith (1870–1951)

Eighth President of the Church

While serving in the Southern States Mission, George Albert Smith learned that the Lord truly does protect those who serve Him. After preaching the gospel in a rural area, Elder Smith and five other missionaries were awakened at midnight by shouting from an angry crowd outside. The mob surrounded the building and began firing into it. President Smith later recorded: “Splinters were flying over our heads in every direction. … I felt absolutely no terror. I was very calm as I lay there, experiencing one of the most horrible events of my life, but I was sure that as long as I was preaching the word of God and following his teachings that the Lord would protect me, and he did” (A Story to Tell [1945], 155–56).

David O. McKay (1873–1970)

Ninth President of the Church

David O. McKay’s witness of the truthfulness of the gospel came during his mission to Scotland. He attended a priesthood meeting where “everybody felt the rich outpouring of the spirit of the Lord.” He later recalled: “Never before had I experienced such an emotion. It was a manifestation for which as a doubting youth I had secretly prayed most earnestly on hillside and in meadow. It was an assurance to me that sincere prayer is answered ‘sometime, somewhere.’” It was during this same conference that Elder McKay’s mission president told him, “If you will keep the faith you will yet sit in the leading [councils] of the Church” (“Two Significant Statements,” Deseret News, 27 October 1934, 8).

Ezra Taft Benson (1899–1994)

Thirteenth President of the Church

Missionary work was difficult in England in the 1920s. Thus, when Elder Ezra Taft Benson and his companion received an invitation to speak in a sacrament meeting including both members and nonmembers, they fasted and prayed. “The hall was filled,” President Benson later recalled. “My companion had planned to talk on the first principles, and I had studied hard in preparation for a talk on the Apostasy. There was a wonderful spirit in the meeting. … When I sat down, I realized that I had not mentioned the Apostasy. I had talked about the Prophet Joseph Smith and had borne my witness of his divine mission and of the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon.” After the meeting, several people came to the missionaries and said, “Tonight we received a witness that Mormonism is true. We are now ready to consider baptism.” President Benson said, “It was while I was on my first mission that I discovered the constant need for dependence on the Lord” (“Our Commission to Take the Gospel to All the World,” Ensign, May 1984, 44).

Gordon B. Hinckley (1910–)

Fifteenth President of the Church

During the Great Depression of the 1930s, when few young men were serving missions, Gordon B. Hinckley was called to England. Shortly after his arrival, he became discouraged and felt he was wasting his time and his father’s money. He wrote to his father, who replied, “I have only one suggestion: forget yourself and go to work.” President Hinckley recalls: “[I] got on my knees and made a pledge with the Lord. I covenanted that I would try to forget myself and lose myself in His service. That July day in 1933 was my day of decision. A new light came into my life and a new joy into my heart” (“Taking the Gospel to Britain: A Declaration of Vision, Faith, Courage, and Truth,” Ensign, July 1987, 7).

Years later, he said of his mission: “How profoundly grateful I am. … In the course of that experience, there became riveted into my very being a conviction and knowledge that this is in very deed the true and living work of God, restored through a prophet for the blessing of all who will accept it and live its principles” (“The Question of a Mission,” Ensign, May 1986, 40).

[illustration] Joseph Smith, by Alvin Gittins