Chapter 33: Missionary Work

Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Brigham Young, (1997), 242–50


Few gave to the cause of missionary work as did President Brigham Young. The description of his arrival in Kirtland, Ohio—after serving a mission for about a year—is a tender account of the sacrifice he had made for this work: “When we arrived in Kirtland [in September 1833], if any man that ever did gather with the Saints was any poorer than I was—it was because he had nothing. … I had two children to take care of—that was all. I was a widower. ‘Brother Brigham, had you any shoes?’ No; not a shoe to my foot, except a pair of borrowed boots. I had no winter clothing, except a homemade coat that I had had three or four years. ‘Any pantaloons?’ No. ‘What did you do? Did you go without?’ No; I borrowed a pair to wear till I could get another pair. I had travelled and preached and given away every dollar of my property. I was worth a little property when I started to preach. … I had traveled and preached until I had nothing left to gather with; but Joseph said: ‘come up’; and I went up the best I could” (DNSW, 9 Mar. 1867, 2).

Teachings of Brigham Young

The gospel will be preached to all people.

The Lord has called me to this work, and I feel as though I will do it. We will send the Gospel to the nations; and when one nation turns us away we will go to another and gather up the honest in heart, and the rest we care not for until we come on Mount Zion as saviors, to attend to the ordinances of the house of God for them [see Obadiah 1:21] (DBY, 319).

The Gospel must be preached to the world, that the wicked may be left without excuse (DBY, 319).

It is necessary that all have the privilege of receiving or rejecting eternal truth, that they may be prepared to be saved, or be prepared to be damned (DBY, 319).

Our Father in Heaven, Jesus, our Elder Brother and the Savior of the world, and the whole heavens, are calling upon this people to prepare to save the nations of the earth, also the millions who have slept without the Gospel (DBY, 319).

The Lord has restored the Priesthood in our day for the salvation of Israel. Does he design to save anybody else? Yes; he will save the House of Esau, and I hope to live until I see Mount Zion established, and saviors come up to save those poor, miserable beings who are continually persecuting us—all who have not sinned against the Holy Ghost. Our labor is to save ourselves, to save the House of Israel, to save the House of Esau, and all the Gentile nations—every one that can be saved (DBY, 319).

I shall be very happy when I can know that … the people on every island and continent, both the high and the low, the ignorant and intelligent, have received the words of eternal life, and have had bestowed upon them the power of the eternal Priesthood of the Son of God (DBY, 320).

The day will come when the Gospel will be presented to the kings and queens and great ones of the earth; but it will be presented with a different influence from that with which it has been presented to the poor, but it will be the same Gospel. We shall not present any other Gospel; it is the same from everlasting to everlasting (DBY, 320).

The Elders have also preached through the different nations of Europe so far as they were allowed to do so. In some countries the law would not permit them; but the Lord will yet revolutionize those nations until the door will be opened and the Gospel will be preached to all (DBY, 320).

We gather the poorest of the people, the unlearned, and a few of the learned; but generally, we gather those who are poor, who wish to be redeemed; who feel the oppression the high and the proud have made them endure; they have felt a wish to be delivered, and consequently their ears were open to receive the truth. Take those who are in the enjoyment of all the luxuries of this life, and their ears are stopped up; they cannot hear (DBY, 321).

And when you are called to preach the Gospel on foreign missions, take a course to save every person. There is no man or woman within the pale of saving grace but that is worth saving. There is no intelligent being, except those who have sinned against the Holy Ghost, but that is worth, I may say, all the life [efforts] of an Elder to save in the Kingdom of God (DBY, 321).

Elder Thomas C. Griggs

Photograph of Elder Thomas C. Griggs, a missionary to the British Isles, in 1880.

Missionaries should focus their minds and hearts on their missions and labor earnestly to bring souls to Christ.

There is neither man or woman in this Church who is not on a mission. That mission will last as long as they live, and it is to do good, to promote righteousness, to teach the principles of truth, and to prevail upon themselves and everybody around them to live those principles that they may obtain eternal life (DBY, 322).

When I came into this Church, I started right out as a missionary, and took a text, and began to travel on a circuit. Truth is my text, the Gospel of salvation my subject, and the world my circuit (DBY, 322).

We do not wish a man to enter on a mission, unless his soul is in it (DBY, 322).

The brethren who have been called upon foreign missions we expect to respond to the call cheerfully (DBY, 322).

Go forth and preach the Gospel, gain an experience, learn wisdom, and walk humbly before your God, that you may receive the Holy Ghost to guide and direct you, and teach you all things past, present, and to come (DBY, 322).

Go trusting in God, and continue to trust in him, and he will open your way and multiply blessings upon you, and your souls will be satisfied with his goodness. I cannot promise you any good in taking an unrighteous course; your lives must be examples of good works (DBY, 322).

I would like to impress upon the minds of the brethren, that he who goes forth in the name of the Lord, trusting in him with all his heart, will never want for wisdom to answer any question that is asked him, or to give any counsel that may be required to lead the people in the way of life and salvation, and he will never be confounded worlds without end. Go in the name of the Lord, trust in the name of the Lord, lean upon the Lord, and call upon the Lord fervently and without ceasing, and pay no attention to the world. You will see plenty of the world—it will be before you all the time—but if you live so as to possess the Holy Ghost you will be able to understand more in relation to it in one day than you could in a dozen days without it, and you will at once see the difference between the wisdom of men and the wisdom of God, and you can weigh things in the balance and estimate them at their true worth (DBY, 323).

If the Elders cannot go with clean hands and pure hearts, they had better stay here. Do not go thinking, when you arrive at the Missouri River, at the Mississippi, at the Ohio, or at the Atlantic, that then you will purify yourselves; but start from here with clean hands and pure hearts, and be pure from the crown of the head to the soles of your feet; then live so every hour [see Psalm 24:4]. Go in that manner, and in that manner labor, and return again as clean as a piece of pure white paper. This is the way to go; and if you do not do that, your hearts will ache (DBY, 323).

The travels and labors of the Elders about to go on missions will throw them into positions which will cause them to seek unto the Lord. They need to live their religion, to go forth with pure hearts and clean hands, and then preach the Gospel by the power of God sent down from heaven. They should touch not and taste not of sin, and when they return they should come pure and clean, ready to meet the Saints with open countenances (DBY, 325).

If you go on a mission to preach the Gospel with lightness and frivolity in your hearts, looking for this and that, and to learn what is in the world, and not having your minds riveted—yes, I may say riveted—on the cross of Christ, you will go and return in vain. Go forth weeping, bearing precious seed, full of the power of God, and full of faith to heal the sick even by the touch of your hand, rebuking and casting out foul spirits, and causing the poor among men to rejoice, and you will return bringing your sheaves with you [see Psalm 126:5–6]. Let your minds be centered on your missions and labor earnestly to bring souls to Christ (DBY, 325).

Dedicate them [your loved ones] to the Lord God of Israel, and leave them at home; and when you are in England, or among other nations, no matter where, when you pray for your families, pray for them … and do not bring them close to you, as though they were in your carpetbag. Pray for them where they are. You must feel—if they live, all right; if they die, all right; if I die, all right; if I live, all right; for we are the Lord’s, and we shall soon meet again (DBY, 324).

When men enjoy the spirit of their missions and realize their calling and standing before the Lord and the people, it constitutes the happiest portions of their lives (DBY, 328).

early missionaries

Missionaries of the Church in Echo Canyon, Utah, 1867. Early missionaries taught the gospel in England, Europe, and the islands of the Pacific Ocean.

The Spirit, not logic or debate, converts people to the gospel of Jesus Christ.

I had only traveled a short time to testify to the people, before I learned this one fact, that you might prove doctrine from the Bible till doomsday, and it would merely convince a people, but would not convert them. You might read the Bible from Genesis to Revelation, and prove every iota that you advance, and that alone would have no converting influence upon the people. Nothing short of a testimony by the power of the Holy Ghost would bring light and knowledge to them—bring them in their hearts to repentance. Nothing short of that would ever do. You have frequently heard me say that I would rather hear an Elder, either here or in the world, speak only five words accompanied by the power of God, and they would do more good than to hear long sermons without the Spirit. That is true, and we know it (DBY, 330).

Let one go forth who is careful to prove logically all he says by numerous quotations from the revelations, and let another travel with him who can say, by the power of the Holy Ghost, Thus saith the Lord, and tell what the people should believe—what they should do—how they should live, and teach them to yield to the principles of salvation,—though he may not be capable of producing a single logical argument, though he may tremble under a sense of his weakness, cleaving to the Lord for strength, as such men generally do, you will invariably find that the man who testifies by the power of the Holy Ghost will convince and gather many more of the honest and upright than will the merely logical reasoner (DBY, 330).

Debate and argument have not that saving effect that has testifying to the truth as the Lord reveals it to the Elder by the Spirit. I think you will all agree with me in this; at least, such is my experience. I do not wish to be understood as throwing a straw in the way of the Elders storing their minds with all the arguments they can gather to urge in defense of their religion, nor do I wish to hinder them in the least from learning all they can with regard to religions and governments. The more knowledge the Elders have the better (DBY, 330).

The spirit of truth will do more to bring persons to light and knowledge, than flowery words (DBY, 333).

The preacher needs the power of the Holy Ghost to deal out to each heart a word in due season, and the hearers need the Holy Ghost to bring forth the fruits of the preached word of God to his glory [see D&C 50:17–22] (DBY, 333).

No man ever preached a Gospel sermon, except by the gift and power of the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven. Without this power, there is no light in the preaching (DBY, 333).

If an Elder in preaching the Gospel, does not feel that he has the power to preach life and salvation, and legally to administer the ordinances, and that, too, by the power of God, he will not fill his mission to his own credit, nor to the good of the people, and the advancement and honor of the Kingdom of God. From all I can read, from all I can gather, from the revelations from God to man, and from the revelations of the Spirit to me, no man can successfully preach the Gospel and be owned, blessed, and acknowledged by the heavens, unless he preaches by the power of God through direct revelation (DBY, 336).

Continue to labor faithfully and keep the spirit of preaching and the gospel.

I wish to make this request: that the Elders who return from missions consider themselves just as much on a mission here as in England or in any other part of the world (DBY, 328).

We frequently call the brethren to go on missions to preach the Gospel, and they will go and labor as faithfully as men can do, fervent in spirit, in prayer, in laying on hands, in preaching to and teaching the people how to be saved. In a few years they come home, and throwing off their coats and hats, they will say, “Religion, stand aside, I am going to work now to get something for myself and my family.” This is folly in the extreme. When a man returns from a mission where he has been preaching the Gospel he ought to be just as ready to come to this pulpit to preach as if he were in England, France, Germany, or on the islands of the sea. And when he has been at home a week, a month, a year, or ten years, the spirit of preaching and the spirit of the Gospel ought to be within him like a river flowing forth to the people in good words, teachings, precepts, and examples. If this is not the case he does not fill his mission (DBY, 328–29).

Come home with your heads up. Keep yourselves clean, from the crowns of your heads to the soles of your feet; be pure in heart,—otherwise you will return bowed down in spirit and with a fallen countenance, and will feel as though you never could rise again (DBY, 328).

Those faithful Elders who have testified of this work to thousands of people on the continents and islands of the seas will see the fruits of their labors, whether they have said five words or thousands. They may not see these fruits immediately, and perhaps, in many cases, not until the Millennium; but the savor of their testimony will pass down from father to son (DBY, 329).

Suggestions for Study

The gospel will be preached to all people.

  • President Young said that when the gospel would be preached to kings and queens, it would be “presented with a different influence from that with which it has been presented to the poor.” Why do different people respond to different teaching methods? How can we adapt our teaching methods to teach different people without compromising the truths of the gospel?

  • President Young stated that the Lord would “revolutionize those nations” whose laws would not permit the gospel to be taught. How is this prophecy being fulfilled?

  • According to President Young, who “is worth saving”? (See also D&C 18:10–16.)

Missionaries should focus their minds and hearts on their missions and labor earnestly to bring souls to Christ.

  • According to President Young, every man and woman in this Church is on a mission. What are our responsibilities? What specific actions have brought you or others success in your missionary efforts? What have you learned from your missionary efforts that will help you become more effective in inviting people to come unto Christ? (See also Moroni 10:32.)

  • President Young taught that missionaries should have their souls in the work. Based on what you have read in this chapter, what does that mean?

  • What did President Young promise those who would preach the gospel and trust in God? Why should we seek the companionship of the Holy Ghost as we share the gospel?

  • Why is it important that missionaries be clean before they begin their full-time service? What was President Young’s counsel regarding missionaries being worthy while they serve and when they return?

  • Why should missionaries have their minds “riveted” on our Savior, Jesus Christ? What was President Young’s counsel to full-time missionaries who are dealing with homesickness?

The Spirit, not logic or debate, converts people to the gospel of Jesus Christ.

  • Why are missionaries who testify of the gospel by the power of the Holy Ghost more effective than those who teach only with logic and reason? Why is debating an ineffective method of sharing the gospel?

  • Why is there no light in the preaching of those who do not have the Holy Ghost with them?

  • What did President Young promise those who preach “by the power of God through direct revelation” and trust in Him?

Continue to labor faithfully and keep the spirit of preaching and the gospel.

  • Why is it “folly in the extreme” for missionaries to put aside their religion when they return home?

  • When we are released from a calling, how can we keep “the spirit of preaching and the spirit of the Gospel … like a river flowing forth to the people in good words, teachings, precepts, and examples”?

  • What did President Young promise faithful missionaries who testified of the Lord’s work?