From the Life of Spencer W. Kimball
During a trip to Quito, Ecuador, as a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, Elder Spencer W. Kimball was at a hotel restaurant with a group that included four young missionaries. “He commented to the others that their waiter was a fine-looking young man and would make a good missionary for the Church. Elder Kimball ordered bread and milk, then asked the waiter if he had any children at home. ‘One son,’ the waiter answered. ‘Bread and milk will make him healthy,’ Elder Kimball said, ‘but he will be even healthier if you will feed him the food these young men have to give.’ The waiter looked puzzled. Then Elder Kimball explained that the young men were missionaries who had the gospel of Jesus Christ to teach. The waiter expressed interest in having the missionaries teach him.”1
President Kimball often referred to the Savior’s charge that the gospel be taken to “all the world” (Mark 16:15). He asked for more full-time missionaries, particularly young men and older couples, and he reminded all members of the Church to participate in this divinely appointed work. “Our great need, and our great calling,” he taught, “is to bring to the people of this world the candle of understanding to light their way out of obscurity and darkness and into the joy, peace, and truths of the gospel.”2
Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball
The Lord promises us great blessings as we share the gospel.
There is a spiritual adventure in doing missionary work, in giving referrals, in accompanying the missionaries as they give the discussions. It is exciting and rewarding. The hours, the effort, the wondering, all are worth it when even one soul expresses repentance and faith and a desire to be baptized. Imagine how wonderful you would feel when they say, “When you are here, and we’re talking about these things, it seems like I’m remembering things I knew before,” or, “You can’t leave here until you’ve told us all you know about the restored Church.”3
Sharing the gospel brings peace and joy into our own lives, enlarges our own hearts and souls in behalf of others, increases our own faith, strengthens our own relationship with the Lord, and increases our own understanding of gospel truths.4
The Lord has promised great blessings to us in proportion to how well we share the gospel. We will receive help from the other side of the veil as the spiritual miracles occur. The Lord has told us that our sins will be forgiven more readily as we bring souls unto Christ and remain steadfast in bearing testimony to the world, and surely every one of us is looking for additional help in being forgiven of our sins. (See D&C 84:61.) In one of the greatest of missionary scriptures, section 4 of the Doctrine and Covenants, we are told that if we serve the Lord in missionary service “with all [our] heart, might, mind, and strength,” then we may “stand blameless before God at the last day” (verse 2).
And, further, the Lord said:
“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.)
If one labors all his days and brings in save it be one soul! What joy! One soul! How precious! Oh, that God would give us that kind of love for souls!5
The Lord has entrusted all members of the Church with a responsibility to serve as His messengers.
I wish we could more effectively and faithfully establish in the hearts of all members of the Church the understanding that if a person is old enough to be a member, he is old enough to be a missionary; and he doesn’t need to be set apart especially for that calling. Every member has the obligation and the calling to take the gospel to those around him. We want every man, woman, and child to assume his rightful responsibility. It is very important. For this is the message of the gospel: We receive blessings from the gospel, and then we go out and share those blessings with others.
Now, we are a busy people; but the Lord did not say, “If it is convenient for you, would you consider preaching the gospel.” He has said, “Let every man learn his duty” (D&C 107:99) and “Behold … it becometh every man who hath been warned to warn his neighbor.” (D&C 88:81.)
We must remember that God is our ally in this. He is our help. He will open the way, for he gave the commandment.6
What a thrilling thing it is, my dear brothers and sisters who are fellow members of the kingdom of God, to be entrusted by the Lord to serve as messengers of His word to our brothers and sisters who are not members of the Church. Let us assume for a moment that the roles were reversed—that you were not a member of the Church but that your present nonmember neighbor was a Latter-day Saint. Would you want him or her to share the gospel with you? Would you then rejoice in the new truths you had learned? Would your love and respect increase for your neighbor who had shared these truths with you? Of course, the answer to all of these questions would be: Yes!7
Brethren and sisters, I wonder if we are doing all we can. Are we complacent in our assignment to teach the gospel to others? Are we prepared to lengthen our stride? To enlarge our vision?8
The day for carrying the gospel to ever more places and people is here and now. We must come to think of our obligation to share the message rather than of our own convenience. Calls from the Lord are seldom convenient. The time is here when sacrifice must become an even more important element in the Church. We must increase our devotion so that we can do the work the Lord has for us to do. … The parting words of the Master to His Apostles just before His Ascension were, “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.
“He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.” (Mark 16:15–16.)
We must not falter nor weary in well-doing. We must lengthen our stride. Not only is our own eternal welfare at stake, but also the eternal welfare of many of our brothers and sisters who are not now members of this, the true Church. I thrill to the words of the Prophet Joseph Smith in a letter that he sent to the Church from Nauvoo on September 6, 1842: “Shall we not go on in so great a cause? Go forward. … Courage … and on, on to the victory!” (D&C 128:22.)9
Through our righteous influence and effort, we can help others receive the restored gospel.
Member-missionary work is the key to the future growth of the Church.10
I feel the Lord has placed, in a very natural way within our circles of friends and acquaintances, many persons who are ready to enter into his Church. We ask that you prayerfully identify those persons and then ask the Lord’s assistance in helping you introduce them to the gospel.11
It should be clear to us that usually we must warm our neighbors before we can warn them properly. Our neighbors must experience our genuine friendship and fellowship. We want members to entreat neighbors, not to scold them or scare them.12
The gospel is true. By studying and living its principles and seeking the help of the Holy Ghost, any earnest seeker can know for himself that it is true. But how much easier it is to understand and accept if the seeker after truth can also see the principles of the gospel at work in the lives of other believers. No greater service can be given to the missionary calling of this Church than to be exemplary in positive Christian virtues in our lives.13
Righteous members, living the gospel by example, as well as by precept, are the Church’s best advertisement.14
What every member ought to do, by good example and by bearing testimony, is to portray to nonmembers the joys of gospel living and understanding and thus help to bring them to the stage where they will accept more formal teaching.15
The real goal for effective proselyting is that the members do the finding and the full-time missionaries do the teaching. … When members do the finding they have a personal interest in fellowshipping, there are fewer investigators lost before baptism, and those who are baptized tend to remain active.16
Our goal should be to identify as soon as possible which of our Father’s children are spiritually prepared to proceed all the way to baptism into the kingdom. One of the best ways to find out is to expose your friends, relatives, neighbors, and acquaintances to the full-time missionaries as soon as possible.17
Sometimes we forget that it is better to risk a little ruffling in the relationship of a friend than it is to deprive him of eternal life by keeping silent.18
Don’t wait for long fellowshipping nor for the precise, perfect moment. What you need to do is find out if they are the elect. “[My] elect hear my voice and harden not their hearts.” (D&C 29:7.) If they hear and have hearts open to the gospel, it will be evident immediately. If they won’t listen and their hearts are hardened with skepticism or negative comments, they are not ready. In this case, keep loving them and fellowshipping them and wait for the next opportunity to find out if they are ready. You will not lose their friendship. They will still respect you.
Of course, there are discouragements, but nothing is ever lost. No one ever loses a friend just because he doesn’t want to continue with the visits from the missionaries. The member can continue the association with no threat to his friendship or special relationship with that family. Sometimes it takes more time for some to come into the Church than for others. The member should continue to fellowship and try again at a later date for conversion. Don’t be discouraged just because of a temporary lack of progress. There are hundreds of stories about the value of perseverance in missionary service.19
Missionary work includes loving and persistent fellowshipping of new converts and less-active members.
When we baptize somebody it is a crime to let them just slide slowly back out of the Church and out of the gospel because of a lack of fellowship. Fellowshipping is an important responsibility. We should be able to fellowship everybody that comes in. That is the reason we want the members to do the missionary work as well as to get help from the missionaries. We want the people … to go out and do this work because they are still the neighbors after the person is baptized. They can still fellowship them; they can still call for them and take them to priesthood meeting; they can still encourage them and help them in their home evenings and so on.20
We cannot stress too strongly the need to do missionary work in the framework of priesthood correlation so that investigators are fellowshipped and tied into the programs of the Church in such a way that they promptly become active and faithful members. This, then, is another way in which all members of the Church can be actively and constantly engaged in missionary service—by fellowshipping, befriending, and encouraging the new members of the Church.21
It is imperative that those who are baptized as converts immediately be assigned home teachers who will fellowship them in a very personal and concerned manner. These home teachers, working with their priesthood officers, should see that each mature convert is given some challenging activity as well as an opportunity and encouragement to increase his knowledge of the gospel. He should be assisted in establishing social relationships with the members of the Church so that he will not feel alone as he begins his life as an active Latter-day Saint.22
It is an inspiration and joy to see … the Saints embrace and help and assist and pray for those who daily enter the kingdom of our Lord. Continue to reach out to each other—and the many more who will enter the Church. Welcome them and love and fellowship them.23
Our responsibility as brothers and sisters in the Church is to help those who may be lost to find their way, and to help those who have lost that which is precious to find their treasure again. The scriptures clearly teach us that every member has the obligation to strengthen his fellow members.
The Savior lovingly yet pointedly emphasized this when he said to Peter, “When thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren” (Luke 22:32). May I say the same to each of you: When you are converted, please strengthen your brethren and sisters. There are so many who hunger, sometimes without knowing the cause of their hunger. There are spiritual truths and principles that can be as bedrock to their lives, safety to their souls, peace to their hearts and minds if we would but turn our prayers and active concern to them. …
There may be someone who will say, “Well, we know a man or a woman who can never be touched.” Of course he or she can be touched. He or she can always be blessed and helped! There is the promise of scripture. It reads, “Charity never faileth.” (1 Cor. 13:8.) Never! Charity, applied long enough, never fails to work its miracle either in the individual, in us, in both of us, or in others around the individual.
… I believe there is none who cannot be converted—or I might say reactivated—if the right person makes the right approach at the right time in the right way with the right spirit. I know that the blessings of our Father in Heaven will attend our efforts if we prepare ourselves, and if we happily live gospel principles, and if we will seek our Heavenly Father’s assistance. …
Let priesthood quorum home teachers, Relief Society visiting teachers, husbands and wives, parents and children, and members everywhere who love the Lord and desire to do his will, turn and under love and inspiration do the righteous labors required by helping those in need. Temporary flashes of interest and enthusiasm will not achieve the desired results. But our desired results can come, and will come more often than any of us imagines, if we will prayerfully enlarge our efforts. Not only will the choice blessings of the Lord come into your lives and the lives of others, but we will draw closer to the Lord and feel the presence of His love and His spirit.24
Parents should help their children prepare for full-time missionary service.
We need the missionary-age young men of the Church to step forward in even greater numbers than they are doing now so they can assume their rightful responsibility, privilege, and blessing as the Lord’s servants in the missionary cause. How strengthened we and they would be if all young men readied themselves for the Lord’s work!25
When I ask for more missionaries, I am not asking for more testimony-barren or unworthy missionaries. I am asking that we start earlier and train our missionaries better in every branch and every ward in the world. That is another challenge—that the young people will understand that it is a great privilege to go on a mission and that they must be physically well, mentally well, spiritually well, and that “the Lord cannot look upon sin with the least degree of allowance.” [Alma 45:16.]
I am asking for missionaries who have been carefully indoctrinated and trained through the family and the organizations of the Church, and who come to the mission with a great desire. I am asking … that we train prospective missionaries much better, much earlier, much longer, so that each anticipates his mission with great joy.26
We must think in larger numbers. We must prepare our missionaries better, not only with language but with scripture and above all with a testimony and a burning fire that puts power to their words.27
Send your boys on missions. The minute they come into your arms, you begin to teach them. They hear your prayers, night and morning. They hear you pray to the Lord to help to open the doors of all the nations. They hear about missionary work. They hear you pray for your bishops and your mission presidents and all others who are serving you, and it just grows into their consciousness gradually.28
Nearly every time I see a little boy, I say, “You will make a great missionary, won’t you?” You plant into his mind a seed. It is just like plants and other vegetation. It grows and grows, and if a father and a mother talk to their little boys … about going on a mission—when they are infants, almost—that little seed will grow and grow.29
It is well for parents to start preparing their sons to save money early in their lives. Let them have the spirit of saving. Let them also have the spirit of studying and praying about the gospel, of seeing for themselves how the gospel works in their own lives and in the lives of those around them. Let them have the spirit of service throughout their growing years and the experience of helping others discuss the joys of the gospel message in their lives. Let them use their seminary and institute classes and experiences as a training ground for acquiring spiritual knowledge of great value to themselves and others. Let them prepare by keeping their lives clean and worthy and by wanting with all their heart to help the Lord take the gospel to those who are ready for it.30
I hope that every family will hold home evening every Monday night without fail. Missionary work will be one of the strong points that will be brought before it; and the father and the mother and the children in their turns will offer prayers which will be centered around this very important element—that the doors of the nations might be opened to us and then, secondly, that the missionaries, the young men and women of the Church, may be anxious to fill those missions and bring people into the Church.31
The Church needs couples to serve as missionaries.
If health and other conditions permit, parents can look to the day when they, too, may serve a mission.32
We have rather forgotten, we older people, who have been retired and who have found an easy place to go with our camping outfit and with our other opportunities. We have found an easy way to satisfy our own thoughts and our own consciences that the work must go on—we will send our boys, we say.
All of us have this responsibility. Not all of us are able, but many, many of us are.33
We could use hundreds of couples, older people like some of you folks, whose families are reared, who have retired in their business, who are able to go … to teach the gospel. We could use hundreds of couples. You just go and talk to your bishop—that is all you need to do. Tell him, “We are ready to go, if you can use us.” I think you will probably get a call.34
This is the work of the Lord. We are on his errand. He has commanded us specifically, and yet we are unknown among many people of the world. It is time to gird up our loins and go forward with new dedication to this great work. We covenanted, you and I, to do it. May we all say with that young man, found in the temple by his anxious parents, sitting in the midst of the doctors, “I must be about my Father’s business.” [Luke 2:49.]35
Suggestions for Study and Teaching
Consider these ideas as you study the chapter or as you prepare to teach. For additional help, see pages v–ix.
In what ways is missionary work “a spiritual adventure”? (page 259). As we share the gospel, what “exciting and rewarding” experiences can we have? (For an example, see the story on page 258.)
Review pages 259–60, looking for blessings we receive when we share the gospel. When have you experienced any of these blessings?
Read the fourth full paragraph on page 261. What do you think it means to “lengthen our stride” and to “enlarge our vision”? How can we follow this counsel in missionary work?
Review the section that begins on page 262. Think about or discuss the specific counsel you find about sharing the gospel with family and friends. For example: (a) What can we do to “warm our neighbors”? (b) In what ways might we be an “advertisement” for the Church? (c) What are some possible drawbacks of waiting for “the precise, perfect moment” to share the gospel? (d) How should we respond if our family members and friends do not accept our invitation to learn about the gospel?
What are some of the needs of new members? of less-active members? What can we do to help them? (See pages 264–66.)
What qualities do Church leaders seek in full-time missionaries? (For some examples, see pages 266–68.) What can parents and others do to help children develop these qualities? What are some ways parents and children can follow President Kimball’s counsel to save money for missions?
President Kimball urged older couples to serve missions (pages 268–69). What are some of the options and opportunities the Church gives to couple missionaries? What can couples do to prepare to serve? How are you doing missionary work in your current stage of life?
Edward L. Kimball and Andrew E. Kimball Jr., Spencer W. Kimball (1977), 354.
“Are We Doing All We Can?” Ensign, Feb. 1983, 5.
“It Becometh Every Man,” Ensign, Oct. 1977, 7.
Ensign, Feb. 1983, 4.
“President Kimball Speaks Out on Being a Missionary,” New Era, May 1981, 50.
Ensign, Feb. 1983, 3.
Ensign, Oct. 1977, 3.
“When the World Will Be Converted,” Ensign, Apr. 1984, 4.
In Conference Report, Oct. 1982, 5; or Ensign, Nov. 1982, 5, 6.
Regional representatives’ seminar, Oct. 3, 1980, Archives of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 2.
Ensign, Feb. 1983, 4.
Regional representatives’ seminar, Sept. 30, 1976, Archives of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 2.
The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, ed. Edward L. Kimball (1982), 555.
Regional representatives’ seminar, Oct. 3, 1980, 2.
“President Kimball Speaks Out on Service to Others,” New Era, Mar. 1981, 48–49.
Ensign, Oct. 1977, 6.
Ensign, Oct. 1977, 6.
Regional representatives’ seminar, Apr. 3, 1975, Archives of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 7.
Ensign, Oct. 1977, 6.
In Conference Report, Glasgow Scotland Area Conference 1976, 23.
Ensign, Oct. 1977, 7.
In Conference Report, Oct. 1977, 67; or Ensign, Nov. 1977, 45.
“Always a Convert Church: Some Lessons to Learn and Apply This Year,” Ensign, Sept. 1975, 4.
“Helping Others Obtain the Promises of the Lord,” Ensign, June 1983, 3, 5.
Ensign, Feb. 1983, 3.
“When the World Will Be Converted,” Ensign, Oct. 1974, 7.
Regional representatives’ seminar, Apr. 5, 1976, Archives of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 14.
In Conference Report, Glasgow Scotland Area Conference 1976, 6.
The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, 556.
Ensign, Feb. 1983, 5.
In Conference Report, Oct. 1978, 66; or Ensign, Nov. 1978, 46.
“Therefore I Was Taught,” Ensign, Jan. 1982, 4.
The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, 551.
The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, 551.
New Era, May 1981, 50.