Chapter 9: The Joy of Missionary Work

Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Heber J. Grant, (2011), 82–91


We have a great responsibility to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ. The fulfillment of this duty brings joy and serenity to our hearts.

From the Life of Heber J. Grant

President Heber J. Grant participated in missionary work throughout his adult life, sharing the gospel with family members, friends, and business associates. His first opportunity to serve a full-time mission came in 1901, when he was called to preside over the first mission in Japan.

President Grant approached his call to Japan with optimism and enthusiasm. He wrote: “I have an abiding faith that this is to be one of the most successful missions ever established in the Church. It is going to be slow work at first but the harvest is to be something great and will astonish the world in years to come.”1

With three other missionaries, President Heber J. Grant dedicated Japan for the preaching of the gospel in August 1901 and then worked diligently in what was indeed “slow work.” When President Grant was released from his call in September 1903, he had baptized only two people. At the October 1903 general conference, he gave the following report:

Early missionaries in Japan

Left to right: Goro Takahashi, who was a friend to the early missionaries in Japan, and Elders Louis A. Kelsch, Horace S. Ensign, Heber J. Grant, and Alma O. Taylor. Elder Grant served as president of the first mission in Japan from 12 August 1901 to 8 September 1903.

“I regret I am not able to tell you that we have done something wonderful over in Japan. To be perfectly frank with you, I acknowledge I have accomplished very little indeed, as the president of that mission; and very little has been accomplished—so far as conversions are concerned—by the few Elders sent there to labor, or by the sisters who were with me. At the same time, I have the assurance in my heart there will yet be a great and important labor accomplished in that land. The inhabitants are a wonderful people.”2

Twenty-one years later, President Grant and his counselors in the First Presidency closed the mission, largely because of “almost negligible results of missionary efforts” there.3 The mission was reopened in 1948.

On 18 May 1996, 48 years after the mission reopened, President Gordon B. Hinckley visited Japan and spoke to a standing-room-only congregation at a fireside. By that time, Japan had a temple, and Church membership there had grown to more than 100,000 members in 25 stakes and 9 missions. President Hinckley recalled the beginnings of the work in Japan and observed: “If President Grant were here now, he would weep with gratitude, and I feel that way as I look into your faces. … I see such strength I never dreamed of in this land.”4

Teachings of Heber J. Grant

It is our duty and privilege to share the gospel.

I want to emphasize that we as a people have one supreme thing to do, and that is to call upon the world to repent of sin, to come to God. And it is our duty above all others to go forth and proclaim the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ, the restoration again to the earth of the plan of life and salvation. Appeals are coming from all over the world for more missionaries. The Latter-day Saints should so organize their affairs, and so shape their finances, that more will be ready and willing, especially those of age and experience, with a testimony and knowledge of the divinity of this work, to go forth [on] missions. … We have in very deed the pearl of great price. We have that which is of more value than all the wealth and the scientific information which the world possesses. We have the plan of life and salvation. The first great commandment was to love the Lord our God with all our hearts, might, mind and strength; and the second was like unto it, to love our neighbor as ourselves [see Matthew 22:37–39]. And the best way in the world to show our love for our neighbor is to go forth and proclaim the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.5

The saving of souls, including our own soul, is the one great labor of all others that is most valuable and important, and that will bring to us the blessings of our Father and the good will of our Lord and Master, Jesus Christ.6

This is the mission that has been assigned us, to warn the nations of impending judgments, to preach the Gospel of the Redeemer, … and to invite all to come unto Christ and receive the benefits of His glorious atonement. “Mormonism,” so-called, is in the world for the world’s good. Its missionary system has no other purpose than to bless and benefit. It has no quarrel with the creeds and sects of the day. It stands for peace, the peace of God “which passeth understanding.” [See Philippians 4:7.] It is ever ready to do good in every possible way. It pleads for a return to the faith “once delivered to the Saints,” [see Jude 1:3] believing that such a course will save humanity from the sins of the world and eventually exalt men in the presence of God, the Father, and Jesus Christ, the Son, “Who is the Light and Life of the World.” [D&C 10:70.]7

We know that the first and most important duty for us is to love the Lord our God with all our heart, might, mind and strength; and second to that is love for our fellowmen. No people in all the world in proportion to their numbers, are giving such evidence of a love for their fellowmen, and a desire for their welfare, as are the Latter-day Saints. Our missionary work proclaims to all the world our willingness to make financial sacrifice and to labor with no hope of earthly reward, for the salvation of the souls of the children of our Father in heaven.8

Every young man should … have an ambition to qualify himself for labor to the full extent of his ability, so that he will be able to accomplish all that is possible for him to do in planting the standard of truth firmly on the earth.9

People say: “We cannot understand the strength of ‘Mormonism,’ we cannot understand why [thousands of] young men and young women at one time, at their own expense or at the expense of their families, will go into the world, giving their time without money and without price, to proclaim the gospel, losing their wages, paying their own way, to proclaim your faith.” Every Latter-day Saint can understand it. They understand it because those young men and those young women who go out to proclaim the gospel, live it; they in very deed are fulfilling the requirements laid down by the Savior “to love the Lord our God with all our heart, mind, might and strength,” and the next great commandment, “to love our neighbor as ourselves.”10

We should remember that the Lord has told us that it is our duty to warn our neighbors and to preach this Gospel—that duty is upon all of us—we should be missionaries. …

Let us all realize that this work belongs to each and every one of us, and let us do all in our power for its advancement.11

Missionary work brings genuine joy to the human heart.

I believe that every Latter-day Saint who has received a testimony of the divinity of the work in which we are engaged has [the] same feeling that Alma had—a desire that all the world might hear the testimony of the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ [see Alma 29:1–9]. When men and women receive a testimony of the divine mission of the Prophet Joseph Smith, they are anxious that all the world should have that same knowledge and faith. They are anxious that the gospel should go to every honest soul. And there is no other labor in all the world that brings to a human heart, judging from my own personal experience, more joy, peace and serenity than proclaiming the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.12

In no part of the work of God here upon the earth at the present time is there such a band of happy, contented, peaceful people as those who are engaged in missionary service. Service is the real key to joy. When one is giving service for the advancement of humanity, when one is working without money and without price, with no hope of earthly reward, there comes a real, genuine joy into the human heart.13

If needed, every servant of God with a knowledge of the Gospel, ought to be willing to give his life to this cause, which is in very deed the work of the Master, the plan of life and salvation, the Gospel of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. When we arrive at a full realization of the fact that we have in very deed the Pearl of Great Price, that the Gospel which we have to give to the people of the world means life eternal to those who embrace and faithfully live it; when we realize this, and when we stop to reflect upon the revelation given to the Prophet Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery, in which the Lord says: “And if it so be that you should labor all your days in crying repentance unto this people, and bring, save it be one soul unto me, how great shall be your joy with him in the kingdom of my Father! And now, if your joy will be great with one soul that you have brought unto me into the kingdom of my Father, how great will be your joy if you should bring many souls unto me” [D&C 18:15–16]; then we will begin to realize and comprehend and understand the magnitude of this work.14

I feel sorry for the man or the woman who has never experienced the sweet joy which comes to the missionary who proclaims the gospel of Jesus Christ, who brings honest souls to a knowledge of the truth, and who hears the expressions of gratitude and thanksgiving that come from the hearts of those who have been brought by his labor to a comprehension of life eternal. So also do I feel sorrow for those who have never experienced the sweet joy resulting from reaching out their hands and helping those who were needy. Assuredly there is more blessing [that] comes to us from giving than in accumulating; there is no question of this in my mind. There is also more blessing [that] comes to us in going forth to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ, and laboring for the salvation of the souls of men, than can possibly come to us by merely having a knowledge of the truth of our religion, and then remaining at home to mingle and labor in the ordinary affairs of life, and accumulate the wealth of this world that perishes with the using. One great trouble is that we ofttimes lose sight of what is the most valuable labor for us to perform, the labor that will be most pleasing in the sight of our Heavenly Father.15

Only by the power of the Spirit can we proclaim the gospel and help new converts nurture their testimonies.

I want to say to you that all those missionaries who have gone out to preach the gospel … have had laid upon their heads, the hands of God’s authorized servants, men who held his authority; and all over the wide world, in every land and in every clime, from the midnight-sun country of the north to South Africa, wherever they have gone, the Spirit of the living God has attended them. From every land and from every clime men and women have received the witness of the Holy Spirit, and have embraced the gospel.16

I went to Grantsville, the largest ward in the Tooele stake of Zion, and I approached the Lord with much the same attitude as Oliver Cowdery when he told the Lord, “I want to translate,” and the Lord told him he could translate. But, failing, he was later told, he did not study it out, and he did not pray about it, and he did not do his share [see D&C 9:7–8]. … I got up and talked for five minutes, and I sweat as freely, I believe, as if I had been dipped in a creek, and I ran out of ideas completely. I made as complete a “fizzle,” so to speak, of my talk, as a mortal could make. …

I [later] walked several miles away from that meetinghouse, out into the fields, among the hay and straw stacks, and when I got far enough away, so that I was sure nobody saw me, I knelt down behind one of those stacks and I shed tears of humiliation. I asked God to forgive me for not remembering that men can not preach the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ with power, with force, and with inspiration only as they are blessed with power which comes from God; and I told him there, as a boy, that if he would forgive me for my egotism, if he would forgive me for imagining that without his Spirit any man can proclaim the truth and find willing hearts to receive it, to the day of my death I would endeavor to remember from whence the inspiration comes, when we are proclaiming the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ, the plan of life and salvation again revealed to earth.

I am grateful to say that during the forty years that have passed since then, I have never been humiliated as I was humiliated that day; and why? Because I have never, thank the Lord, stood upon my feet with an idea that a man could touch the hearts of his hearers … except that man shall possess the Spirit of the living God, and thus be capable of bearing witness that this is the truth that you and I are engaged in.17

“We believe in the gift of tongues,” and in the interpretation thereof [see Articles of Faith 1:7]. Karl G. Maeser—than whom no more devoted Latter-day Saint ever lived—told me with his own lips of such an incident. … He said: “Brother Grant, the night that I was baptized I looked up into heaven and said: ‘Oh, God, I have found, as I believe, the gospel of thy Son Jesus Christ. I have rendered obedience to it by going down into the waters of baptism. Give to me a manifestation, give to me an absolute witness of the spirit that I have found the truth, and I pledge to you if necessary my life for the advancement of this cause.’”

At that time Brother Franklin D. Richards [of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles] was president of the European mission, with headquarters at Liverpool. He went over to Germany to be present at the baptism of the first converts to the gospel in that great empire. Walking from the place where he was baptized to his home, a distance of several miles, Brother Maeser expressed a desire to converse upon different principles of the gospel, through an interpreter. That interpreter was Brother William Budge. … Brother Maeser, who understood no English, asked questions in German, and Brother Richards, who understood no German, answered them in English; Brother Budge interpreting the questions and answers. After a few questions had been asked and answered through the interpreter, Brother Richards said: “Do not interpret those questions, I understand them;” then Brother Maeser said: “Do not interpret those answers, I understand them.” They conversed for miles, the questions in German, the answers in English; neither man understanding the language of the other. They arrived at the River Elbe and while crossing the bridge they were separated; when they reached the other side Brother Maeser asked another question, and Brother Richards said: “Interpret it, Brother Budge.” When the answer came, Brother Maeser said: “Interpret it.” His next question was: “How was it, Apostle Richards, that we understood each other, and now we cannot understand?” Brother Richards told him that one of the fruits of the gospel of Jesus Christ was the gift of tongues and the interpretation. Then he said: “God has given to you and to me this night the privilege of partaking of one of the fruits of the gospel by having the interpretation of tongues. Brother Maeser, you have received a witness from God that you have found the truth.”

Brother Maeser told me: “I trembled like a leaf, and I again raised my eyes to heaven and said: ‘Oh, God, I have received the witness that I asked for, and I pledge to you my life, if need be, for this cause.’”18

Suggestions for Study and Discussion

  • What blessings come to us when we share the gospel of Jesus Christ? How have you felt as you have seen family members and friends embrace the gospel?

  • What does the Lord expect of His Saints in carrying His message to the world? How can we develop the faith and courage to share the gospel?

  • How can we arrange our priorities so we will have opportunities to share the gospel? How might missionary opportunities change at different stages of our lives?

  • Why is it impossible to proclaim the truths of the gospel without the power of the Holy Ghost? In what ways has the Spirit helped you share the gospel?

  • Karl G. Maeser received a confirmation of his newfound testimony when he and Elder Franklin D. Richards were given the gift of the interpretation of tongues. What other gifts of the Spirit can we seek as we strive to strengthen our testimonies and the testimonies of others? (See D&C 46:8–26.)

  • What had Brother Maeser and Elder Richards done that led to the confirmation of Brother Maeser’s testimony? How can we help new converts nurture their testimonies?

Show References

    Notes

  1.   1.

    Quoted by Gordon B. Hinckley, in Jerry P. Cahill, “Times of Great Blessings: Witnessing the Miracles,” Ensign, Jan. 1981, 74.

  2.   2.

    In Conference Report, Oct. 1903, 7.

  3.   3.

    In “Japanese Mission of Church Closed,” Deseret News, 12 June 1924, 6.

  4.   4.

    In “President Hinckley Visits Asian Saints, Dedicates Hong Kong Temple,” Ensign, Aug. 1996, 74.

  5.   5.

    In Conference Report, Apr. 1927, 175–76.

  6.   6.

    Gospel Standards, comp. G. Homer Durham (1941), 31.

  7.   7.

    In James R. Clark, comp., Messages of the First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 6 vols. (1965–75), 5:232–33.

  8.   8.

    In Conference Report, Apr. 1925, 4.

  9.   9.

    “Work, and Keep Your Promises,” Improvement Era, Jan. 1900, 197.

  10.   10.

    In Conference Report, Oct. 1922, 10.

  11.   11.

    In Conference Report, Apr. 1931, 131.

  12.   12.

    In Conference Report, Oct. 1926, 4.

  13.   13.

    In Conference Report, Apr. 1934, 9.

  14.   14.

    In Conference Report, Oct. 1907, 23.

  15.   15.

    Gospel Standards, 104.

  16.   16.

    In Conference Report, Oct. 1919, 29.

  17.   17.

    “Significant Counsel to the Young People of the Church,” Improvement Era, Aug. 1921, 871–72; paragraphing altered.

  18.   18.

    In Conference Report, Apr. 1927, 16–17.