Chapter 29: “Ye Are My Witnesses, Saith the Lord”

The Life and Teachings of Jesus and His Apostles, (1979), 240–49


Map Chp. 29

The Acts of the Apostles, Written by Luke to Theophilus, ca. A.D. 61–63

Events Occurred ca. A.D. 33–36 (1–8)

 

Acts

Kingdom to Be Restored to Israel

1:1–8

Mount of Olives:

Christ Ascends to Heaven

1:9–14

Jerusalem:

Apostles Choose Successor to Judas

1:15–26

The Holy Ghost and the Day of Pentecost

2:1–21

Peter Testifies of Jesus’ Resurrection

2:22–36

How to Gain Salvation

2:37–40

All Things in Common

2:41–47

Peter Heals Man Lame from Birth

3:1–16

Age of Restoration Is Prior to Christ’s Second Coming

3:17–24

The Children of the Covenant

3:25, 26

Salvation Comes Only Through Christ

4:1–12

Sadducees Seek to Silence Apostles

4:13–22

Saints Glory in Testimony of Jesus

4:23–31

Saints Practice United Order

4:32–37

Fate of Deceivers

5:1–11

Apostles Continue Miracles of Jesus

5:12–16

Angels Deliver Apostles from Prison

5:17–26

Apostles Testify of Christ

5:27–32

Persecution Is Not of God

5:33–42

Seven Chosen to Assist Apostles

6:1–6

Stephen Transfigured Before the Sanhedrin

6:7–15

Stephen Preaches about Israel

7:1–36

Moses—A Prototype of Christ

7:37–40

Stephen Testifies of Apostasy in Israel

7:41–53

Stephen Sees the Father and the Son

7:54–60; 8:1

Saul Persecutes the Church

8:1–4

Samaria:

Philip Works Miracles, Converts Simon

8:5–13

Apostles Confer Gift of the Holy Ghost

8:14–17

Simon Seeks to Buy Gift of the Holy Ghost

8:18–25

Toward Gaza:

Philip Preaches Christ, Baptizes Eunuch

8:26–40

Interpretive Commentary

(29-1) What Is the Theme of the Acts of the Apostles?

The principal Theme of the book of Acts is that of growth—growth in men through adherence to the gospel of Jesus Christ and growth of the church through the preaching of God’s word. As Jesus told his apostles shortly before his ascension to heaven, “Ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.” (Acts 1:8.) Note the ever-widening circle of apostolic influence: first “in Jerusalem,” then “in all Judea,” then “in Samaria,” and finally “unto the uttermost part of the earth.” The manner in which the apostles and others fulfilled this divine commission becomes one of the major messages of the book of Acts.

(29-2) Who Wrote the Book of Acts of the Apostles?

It is generally agreed that the book of Acts was written by the same person who wrote the third Gospel, namely, Luke. Careful students of Luke’s gospel will recall that its first four verses are addressed to one described as the “most excellent Theophilus.” We do not know who Theophilus was or what position of excellence or honor he held. That he was a person of considerable prominence, likely a Greek, seems probable, since Luke addresses him in both of his written works. Prefacing the book of Acts, Luke writes:

“The former treatise [i.e., the Gospel of Luke] have I made, O Theophilus, of all that Jesus began both to do and teach.” (Acts 1:1.) The book of Acts begins where the Gospel of Luke leaves off: with an account of the events surrounding the ascension of Jesus into heaven.

That the author of Acts was an active participant in many of the events described in its pages is evident from the so-called “we” passages. These commence in Acts 16:10, presumably following the conversion of Luke to the gospel by Paul’s preaching, and continue for a time without interruption, indicating the active presence of the writer in the events described. These so-called “we” sections then disappear for a while, only to reoccur in Acts 20:6 and in some later chapters.

(29-3) Date and Place of Writing

While the place of writing cannot be determined with any degree of certainty, the time of writing can be narrowed with some assurance. The book itself records Paul’s journey to Rome and his imprisonment there for two years, probably about A.D. 61–63 (Acts 28:30). Yet no mention is made by Luke of the trial itself or of its outcome, a fact he would hardly have failed to mention if it had already taken place. The date of writing is very probable within that two-year period.

(29-4) The Significance of the Acts of the Apostles

The book of Acts provides us with our principal view of the church of Jesus Christ during its formative years. It forms a unique bridge between the life and teachings of Jesus on the one hand and the writings and labors of the Savior’s apostles on the other. According to Elder Bruce R. McConkie, Acts also ranks first among biblical books “in telling how the Church and kingdom of God on earth operates when Jesus the King is not personally resident on planet earth.” (DNTC, 2:19.) Elder McConkie further states: “Acts tells how the spiritual gifts multiplied until they were enjoyed by the apostles and by whole congregations of the faithful. Peter and Paul raise the dead. Angels minister to Jew and Gentile alike. Miracles of healing multiply. Thousands receive the gift of tongues. Revelation and prophecy is everywhere. …

“Amid the spiritual display, Acts recounts the facts relative to church organization, missionary journeys, and the general spread of truth in a pagan world. It tells of the persecutions, stonings, trials, and impositions heaped upon those who center their hearts on Christ and strive to overcome the world.

“And the doctrines of salvation—how many of these are spoken of in plainness and perfection: the Second Coming, the plan of salvation, the atonement of Christ, the restoration of the gospel in latter-days, revelation, prophecy, gifts of the Spirit, miracles, healings, the latter-day gathering of Israel, the resurrection, apostasy from the truth, and so forth.” (McConkie, DNTC, 2:19–20.)

Thus we are indebted to Acts for our clearest view of life in the early church. Nowhere do we get a better view of Paul’s travels in behalf of the kingdom of Christ. Further, the epistles written by Paul and others take on their greatest significance only when viewed against the backdrop of the narrative provided by Luke. We see the infant church and its leaders struggling with the problems encountered when the new revelation in Christ is thrust against the time-honored traditions of the Jews. Are gentiles who enter the church bound by the Mosaic restrictions? Do Jews who become Christians continue to be subject to the law of Moses? What is the status of the law of Moses now that Christ has atoned for men’s sins? These and other problems are wrestled with and solved by divine revelation.

The book of Acts comes to us in two principal divisions: In the first part, Acts 1–12, activities of the church center in and near Jerusalem; and Peter, the president of the church, is the principal figure. In the second part, Acts 13–28, Antioch in Syria is the primary center from which activity emerges, and the main focus is on Paul, missionary to the gentiles.

(29-5) Acts 1:1. Who Was Theophilus?

The name itself means “beloved” or “friend of God.” The Gospel of Luke and the book of Acts were addressed to this man (Luke 1:3; Acts 1:1). Because he is referred to in Luke as “most excellent Theophilus,” it has been inferred that he was of high rank. The title “most excellent” is thought to be equivalent to “right honorable” in English. All that can be safely assumed is that he was a gentile, possibly a Greek and an official.

(29-6) Acts 1:8. Was There a Particular Pattern to the Manner in Which the Gospel Message Was Spread?

Just prior to his ascension to heaven, Jesus informed his apostles that they would be “witnesses” to his name “both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.” It is interesting to notice how the book of Acts reflects the fulfillment of our Savior’s words. Chapters one through seven deal with events in the city of Jerusalem only. Following the stoning of Stephen, however, the disciples “were all scattered abroad throughout the regions of Judaea and Samaria.” (Acts 8:1.) Luke informs us that those thus scattered “went every where preaching the word.” (Acts 8:4.) Later he tells us just how far from Jerusalem the word had spread: “Now they which were scattered abroad upon the persecution that arose about Stephen traveled as far as Phenice, and Cyprus, and Antioch, preaching the word to none but unto the Jews only.” (Acts 11:19. Italics added.) (See map inset.)

At this point, the word of God was taken into Samaria by Philip (Acts 8:5). The Samaritans, while not totally gentiles, were considered half-caste Jews by the residents of Judea. They were a people to be avoided if at all possible. When the apostles at Jerusalem learned that Samaria had received the word of the Lord, Peter and John went to bestow the gift of the Holy Ghost (Acts 18:14, 15). Clearly, the gospel message had moved out of Jerusalem. By the time of Paul’s conversion, as recorded in Acts, chapter 9, the word of the Lord had spread as far as Damascus, a city of Syria, some 130 miles northeast of Jerusalem. Meanwhile, Philip was preaching in the cities west of Judea along the Mediterranean seacoast. (See the map on page 230.)

Living in Caesarea was a certain man named Cornelius, a Roman centurion and a gentile. He was a worshiper of God, and he thought much on spiritual matters. He was privileged to be the first Gentile who had not previously become a proselyte to Judaism, to join the church of Jesus Christ (Acts 10). To Peter, president of the church of Jesus Christ, was given the revelation that “God is no respecter of persons: But in every nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him.” (Acts 10:34, 35.) The gospel had moved from Jerusalem to Samaria, to the whole world, to the gentiles. Although Paul’s pattern was to preach the gospel first in the Jewish synagogues in every town into which he might journey, he turned his attention increasingly to the gentiles also (Acts 13:46; 18:6; 28:28). It is safe to assume that the other apostles, though we have no precise record of their labors, also helped to fulfill the Lord’s prediction that they would be his “witnesses … unto the uttermost part of the earth.”

Map connecting Jerusalem as center Chp. 29

(29-7) Acts 2:1. What Was the Day of Pentecost?

Fifty days or seven weeks following the Passover feast, faithful Jews observed a celebration known as Pentecost. The word comes to us from the Greek pentekoste and literally means “fiftieth.” It was variously known as the day of the first fruits (Numbers 28:26) or feast of harvest (Exodus 23:16). Coming as it did following the seven weeks of Passover, it was also known as the feast of weeks (Exodus 34:22; Deuteronomy 16:10). How significant that God should literally pour out his Spirit upon the people at a time when they were pouring out their gratitude to him. Peter saw it as a partial fulfillment of the ancient prophecy of the prophet Joel (Joel 2:28–32).

(29-8) Acts 2:2–4. Has the Ancient Pentecostal Experience Ever Been Repeated?

The great pentecostal experience of the outpouring of the Spirit, or Holy Ghost, has a parallel in history. At the time of the dedicatory services for the Kirtland Temple, the Prophet Joseph Smith prayed for a special anointing of the Spirit from on high. “Let it be fulfilled upon them as in the days of Pentecost,” he pleaded in behalf of the Saints. “Let the gift of tongues be poured out upon thy people, even cloven tongues as of fire, and the interpretation thereof. And let thy house be filled, as with a rushing mighty wind, with thy glory.” (D&C 109:35–37.) This plea was literally fulfilled, not once, but for several days following the initial dedicatory services. On one occasion, “a noise was heard like the sound of a rushing mighty wind, which filled the Temple, and all the congregation simultaneously arose, being moved upon by an invisible power; many began to speak in tongues and prophesy; others saw glorious visions; and I beheld the Temple was filled with angels, which fact I declared to the congregation.” (Smith, HC, 2:428; cf. 432.)

(29-9) Acts 2:29–31, 34. What Do We Know Concerning the Spiritual Fate of David, King of Israel?

“A murderer, for instance, one that sheds innocent blood, cannot have forgiveness. David sought repentance at the hand of God carefully with tears, for the murder of Uriah; but he could only get it through hell: he got a promise that his soul should not be left in hell.”

“Although David was a king, he never did obtain the spirit and power of Elijah and the fullness of the Priesthood; and the Priesthood that he received, and throne and kingdom of David is to be taken from him and given to another by the name of David in the last days, raised up out of his lineage. (Smith, Teachings, p. 339.)

(29-10) Acts 2:40. What Is an “Untoward Generation”?

In the Old English used when the King James Version was written, toward meant obedient, teachable, amenable. Untoward, therefore, meant rebellious, intractable, perverse.

(29-11) Acts 3:19. What Is Meant by the “Times of Refreshing”?

“If we are to catch the vision of Peter’s prophecy, we must know pointedly and specifically what is meant by the times of refreshing. It is elsewhere spoken of by Jesus as ‘the regeneration when the Son of man shall sit in the throne of his glory.’ (Matt. 19:28.) It is the day ‘when the earth shall be transfigured, even according to the pattern which was shown unto mine apostles upon the mount. …’ the Lord says. (D&C 63:21.) It is the day when ‘the earth will be renewed and receive its paradisiacal glory.’ (Tenth Article of Faith.) It is the day of the ‘new earth’ that Isaiah saw (Isa. 65:17), the earth which will prevail when wickedness ceases, when the millennial era is ushered in. … It is the day when men ‘shall beat their swords into plowshares, and hooks’ (Isa. 2:4), a day of universal peace and justice, a millennial era when Christ shall reign personally upon the earth.” (Bruce R. McConkie in CR, Oct. 1967, p. 43.)

(29-12) Acts 3:21. What Is Meant by the “Times of Restitution”?

“These words mean age of restoration, an age in which God has promised to restore all things that he spoke by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began.

“Thus, Christ came once and ministered among men, climaxing his ministry with his atoning sacrifice and ascension to his Father. He is to come again, a second time, in a day of refreshing and renewal, to reign personally upon the earth. But he cannot come this second time until an age in the earth’s history commences which has the name the times of restitution, or in other words he cannot come until the age or period of restoration; and in that age or period all essential things that God ever gave in any age of the earth for salvation, betterment, blessing, and edification of his children will be restored again.” (Bruce R. McConkie in CR, Oct. 1967, p. 43.)

(29-13) Acts 4:6. Who Were Annas, Caiaphas, John, and Alexander?

Annas was a Jewish high priest in the days of Jesus. He was the son of Seth, was appointed to the priestly office at age thirty-seven, and held the office when John the Baptist commenced his call for repentance (Luke 3:2). He was the father-in-law of Caiaphas, high priest during the time of Jesus’ crucifixion and Peter and John’s difficulties with the Sanhedrin (John 18:18, 24; Acts 4:6). He was a man of powerful influence among the Jews, and five of his sons served as high priests.

The full name of Caiaphas was Joseph Caiaphas. He was high priest of the Jews during the reign of the emperor Tiberius (Matthew 26:3, 57; John 11:49; 18:13, 14, 24, 28; Acts 4:6). Before him appeared both Jesus and the apostles Peter and John. He was the son-in-law of Ann as, high priest before him, and he served some eighteen years in this important post.

Nothing more is known of John and Alexander beyond this one reference.

(29-14) Acts 5:1–11. What Lesson Can Be Learned from the Deaths of Ananias and Sapphira?

“In effect the lesson to learn from Ananias is that unrepentant liars will be damned. What, then, of the part tithepayer who tells his bishop the sum given the Church is a full tithing? Or of the immoral couple who, conspiring together, assert their purity in order to get a temple recommend? Or of church members who deny sins of any sort which would keep them from receiving temple blessings, priesthood ordinations, or positions of leadership?” (McConkie, DNTC, 2:58–59.)

(29-15) Acts 5:34–40. Who Was Gamaliel?

The grandson of the famous rabbi Hillel and famous in his own right, Gamaliel was a member of the Sanhedrin and a distinguished scholar of the Jewish law during the time when the early church was first getting underway. Paul states that he was “brought up at the feet” of Gamaliel (Acts 22:3), an idiomatic expression meaning that he was tutored by the famous master of the law. Gamaliel had a reputation for being tolerant and kindhearted, emphasizing the humanistic considerations of the law, relaxing the demands of Sabbath observance so they were not so rigorous, and encouraging more humane treatment of the woman in divorce laws. The advice which he gives to the chief priests regarding the apostles and the infant church (Acts 5:34–40) supports this reputation for tolerance and wisdom. It is likely that his wise advice saved the lives of the apostles, even though the council beat them before sending them away (Acts 5:40).

(29-16) Acts 5:36. Who Were Theudas and Judas of Galilee?

Gamaliel attempted to persuade the Jewish leaders from their intent to persecute and kill Peter and the apostles. In a speech before the Sanhedrin he referred to a man called Theudas who had gained four hundred followers, only to fail in his attempts to acquire additional adherents. In fact, Theudas was killed and his followers were scattered. In effect, Gamaliel’s approach was, “Let nature take its course. If the work be of men, it will fail as did Theudas. If it is of God, it will triumph to your injury.” (See Acts 5:35–39.)

In giving a reason why the Sanhedrin should let the apostles go, Gamaliel cited the case of Judas of Galilee as an example of how a movement would come to naught if the Lord was not with it. Though Gamaliel’s advice carried with the council, his evaluation of Judas and his followers proved to be quite inadequate. In about A.D. 6 or 7, Quirinius, the Roman governor of Syria, undertook a census of Palestine. Judas, a fanatically loyal Galilean, said that the Jews should be free of any foreign domination and therefore opposed the census. He gathered a band of followers who resisted the order with open violence. They were, for the most part, captured, tortured, and killed, including Judas, so in that sense, at least, Gamaliel was correct. But from that brief insurrection was born the movement known as the Zealots which, in A.D. 66, led another revolt against Rome. It was this Zealot-inspired revolt which led to the destruction of the temple and the scattering of the Jews from Palestine in A.D. 70–72.

(29-17) Acts 6:5–7:59. Who Was Stephen?

Seven men, among whom was Stephen, were selected by the apostles to perform duties pertaining to whatever system of welfare was in use at the time. Stephen was especially valiant in his ministry. The scriptures attest that he was a man “full of faith and power” who “did great wonders and miracles among the people.” Because he spoke and acted with such authority and might, certain men of the Jews had him arrested on false charges. False witnesses testified before the Sanhedrin that Stephen had spoken blasphemy against the temple and the law of Moses. During the proceedings, all who looked on him “saw his face as it had been the face of an angel” (Acts 6:15); yet they refused to heed this visible witness which was manifest in Stephen’s transfiguration. His defense was a recitation of the history of God’s dealings with his children. Stephen argued that Israel did not understand their own law. They had persecuted and killed the prophets as they had persecuted and killed Jesus. Stephen gazed into the heavens and saw the resurrected Christ with his Father. His incriminating testimony they could not bear. Crying “blasphemy,” Stephen was cast out of Jerusalem’s walls and stoned. Stephen died, one of the first martyrs of the faith.

(29-18) Acts 7:58. Who Was Saul?

Saul was the Hebrew name of Paul the apostle. Born of the tribe of Benjamin (Romans 11:1; Philippians 3:5), Paul was a Jew of the Diaspora. At an appropriate time he changed his Hebrew name to its Roman counterpart, Paul, thus enabling him to move more easily in gentile circles. (For further biographical detail, see page 270.)

(29-19) Acts 7:60. “Lord, Lay Not This Sin to Their Charge”

“When the Lord, in his dying moments, turned to the Father and requested, ‘Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do’ (Luke 23:34), he was referring to the soldiers who crucified him. They acted under the mandate of a sovereign nation. It was the Jews who were guilty of the Lord’s death. Again how could he forgive them, or how could his Father forgive them, when they were not repentant. These vicious people who cried, ‘… His blood be on us, and on our children’ (Matt. 27:25) had not repented. Those who ‘reviled him’ on Calvary (Matt. 27:39) had not repented. The Jewish leaders who tried Jesus illegally, demanded his crucifixion from Pilate, and incited the mob to their vilest actions had not repented. Nor had the Roman soldiers who, though no doubt obligated under their military law to crucify Jesus as instructed, were under no compulsion to add the insults and cruelties to which they subjected the Savior prior to his crucifixion.

“Could the Lord forgive Pilate? Certainly he could not without Pilate’s repentance. Did Pilate repent? We do not know what Pilate did after the scripture drops him. He had a desire to favor the Savior. He did not display full courage in resisting the pressures of the people. Could he have saved the life of the Lord? Again, we do not know. We leave Pilate to the Lord as we do all other sinners, but remember that ‘to know and not to do’ is sin.” (Kimball, Miracle of Forgiveness, p. 167.)

(29-20) Acts 8:5. Who Was Philip?

Philip was one of seven men chosen to assist the apostles in caring for the needy (Acts 6:1–6). He preached at Samaria, where Simon the sorcerer believed the gospel message (Acts 8:5–13). When commanded by an angel, Philip went from Jerusalem to Gaza, where he expounded the words of Isaiah and the gospel to a eunuch of great importance who received the word with gladness and was baptized (Acts 8:26–39). Then he preached in different places until he took up residence at Caesarea (Acts 8:40). Paul stayed with Philip at Caesarea on his third missionary journey (Acts 21:8–15). Philip had four unmarried daughters who had the gift of prophecy (Acts 21:9).

(29-21) Acts 8:5–8. Can a Member of the Aaronic Priesthood Perform Great Works of Righteousness?

“I desire to impress upon you the fact that it does not make any difference whether a man is a Priest or an Apostle, if he magnifies his calling. A Priest holds the key of the ministering of angels. Never in my life, as an Apostle, as a Seventy, or as an Elder, have I ever had more of the protection of the Lord than while holding the office of a Priest. The Lord revealed to me by visions, by revelations, and by the Holy Spirit, many things that lay before me.” (Wilford Woodruff, Millennial Star, 53:629.)

Points to Ponder

The Commission to Be Witnesses of Christ Continues for Saints of Modern Times

(29-22) All the World Is to Be Converted

When Christ said that the witness of him should go “unto the uttermost part of the earth” (Acts 1:8), some people assumed he was speaking only to the saints of that time. But that was not true. Christ was speaking especially to us as members of the restored church. President Spencer W. Kimball said this:

“If there were no converts, the Church would shrivel and die on the vine. But perhaps the greatest reason for missionary work is to give the world its chance to hear and accept the gospel. The scriptures are replete with commands and promises and calls and rewards for teaching the gospel. I use the word command deliberately for it seems to be an insistent directive from which we, singly and collectively, cannot escape.

“… It seems to me that the Lord chose his words when he said ‘every nation,’ ‘every land,’ ‘uttermost bounds of the earth,’ ‘every tongue,’ ‘every people,’ ‘every soul,’ ‘all the world,’ ‘many lands.’

“Surely there is significance in these words!

“Certainly his sheep were not limited to the thousands about him and with whom he rubbed shoulders each day. A universal family! A universal command!” (“When the World Will Be Converted,” Ensign, Oct. 1974, pp. 4–5.)

(29-23) “For Verily the Voice of the Lord Is unto All Men”

It is clearly a monumental task that the Lord has given his church. Even considering the fact that the charge does not necessarily imply that every person must be converted but rather that every soul must have the privilege of hearing the gospel and choosing for himself, it is still a challenge of staggering proportions. But, obviously, President Kimball is not discouraged by the challenge. Before reading of the great perspective he has about how this divine commission can literally be fulfilled, consider some other statistics which show that, while the task is of huge proportions, the Church is making amazing headway in its accomplishment.

Population experts estimate that in 1850 the world’s population reached one billion people.

In 1850 the total membership of the church of Jesus Christ was an estimated 60,000.

By 1976, the world’s population had increased to about four billion people.

By 1976, the membership of the Church had increased to nearly 3,650,000.

Thus, in the last 126 years the world’s population increased fourfold, but Church membership had increased over fifty-six fold. In other words, Church growth was fourteen times faster than that of the population.

Or to put it another way, in 1850 Church membership amounted to only six thousandths of one percent of the world’s total people. But by 1976 that ratio had increased fourteen times, to just less than one-tenth of one percent.

(29-24) When the World Will Be Converted

When President Kimball gave this address, he was speaking to Regional Representatives of the Twelve. But you ask yourself the same questions he asked them, for when it comes right down to it, the responsibility must rest upon the shoulders of individual members of the Church.

“My brethren, I wonder if we are doing all we can. Are we complacent in our approach to teaching all the world? We have been proselyting now 144 years. Are we prepared to lengthen our stride? To enlarge our vision?

“Remember, our ally is our God. He is our commander. He made the plans. He gave the commandment. Remember what we have quoted thousands of times as told by Nephi:

“‘And it came to pass that I, Nephi, said unto my father: I will go and do the things which the Lord hath commanded, for I know that the Lord giveth no commandments unto the children of men, save he shall prepare a way for them that they may accomplish the thing which he commandeth them.’ (1 Ne. 3:7.)

“And as I read the scripture I think of the numerous nations that are still untouched. I know they have curtains, like iron curtains and bamboo curtains. I know how difficult it is because we have made some efforts. Surely the Lord knew what he was doing when he commanded. …

“‘For verily the voice of the Lord is unto all men, and there is none to escape; and there is no eye that shall not see, neither ear that shall not hear, neither heart that shall not be penetrated.

“‘And the voice of warning shall be unto all people, by the mouths of my disciples, whom I have chosen in these last days.’ (D&C 1:2, 4.)

“Somehow, brethren, I feel that when we have done all in our power that the Lord will find a way to open doors. That is my faith.

“‘Is any thing too hard for the Lord?’ he asked, when Sarah laughed when she was told that she would have a son. When she heard this in the tent door, she knew that both Abraham at 100 years and she at 90 years were past the age of reproduction. She could not bear children. She knew that, as well as it has been known that we could not open doors to many nations.

“‘And the Lord said unto Abraham, Wherefore did Sarah laugh. …

“‘Is any thing too hard for the Lord? At the time appointed I will return unto thee, according to the time of life, and Sarah shall have a son.’ (Gen. 18:13–14.)

“Brethren, Sarah did have a son, from Abraham, the father of nations.

“‘Therefore sprang there even of one, and him as good as dead [and that was Abraham, 100 years old], so many as the stars of the sky in multitude, and as the sand which is by the sea shore innumerable.’ (Heb. 11:12.)

“Is anything too hard for the Lord?

“Also to Jeremiah he had said:

“‘Behold, I am the Lord, the God of all flesh: is there any thing too hard for me?’ (Jer. 32:27.)

“If he commands, certainly he can fulfill.

“We remember the exodus of the children of Israel crossing the uncrossable Red Sea.

“We remember Cyrus diverting a river and taking the impregnable city of Babylon.

“We remember the Lehites getting to the promised land.

“We remember the Revolutionary War and the power of God that gave us triumph.

“I believe the Lord can do anything he sets his mind to do.

“But I can see no good reason why the Lord would open doors that we are not prepared to enter. Why should he break down the Iron Curtain or the Bamboo Curtain or any other curtain if we are still unprepared to enter?

“I believe we have men who could help the apostles to open these doors—statesmen, able and trustworthy—but, when we are ready for them.

“Today we have 18,600 missionaries. We can send more. Many more! Eight thousand, nine hundred went through the mission home in 1973.

“I believe it was John Taylor who said, ‘God will hold us responsible to the people we might have saved, had we done our duty.’” (Kimball, “When the World Will Be Converted,” pp. 5, 7.)

As you read what President Kimball said, were you thinking only in terms of the full-time missionary and the contribution he can make? If you are a young man who has not yet fulfilled a mission, then you can take President Kimball’s challenge directly into your life and apply it. But consider also some other ways you can do your part in increasing the missionary effort.

  1. Are you dating a boy who is approaching mission age? Have you let him know that you want him to go, that anything less on his part would be a severe disappointment to you? Or have you thought only in terms of your own temporary loss and thus added to the difficulty of his leaving?

  2. If you are a returned missionary, do you share your testimony often with young men around you about the importance of missionary work and the great value of fulfilling a mission? Do you share the experiences you had which will motivate others to say, “That’s the kind of experience I want in my life”?

  3. Do you teach a class of Primary or Sunday School children? Have you remembered that attitudes set early in life influence patterns for years thereafter? Are you doing all you can as a teacher to develop the eager, spiritually prepared missionary President Kimball is calling for?

  4. And what about your own family? Are there opportunities there to influence a younger brother? Have you lent your faithful prayers to an older brother struggling to decide whether or not he should go?

  5. Have you determined irrevocably in your own heart to raise sons that will be the kind of missionaries demanded by our challenge? Have you broken out of the limited vision of now and thought of your possible contributions in ten or twenty years from now? Such determination would mean wise selection of a mate, temple marriage, church activity.

  6. Do you capitalize on your opportunities to influence nonmembers to seek for the knowledge and blessings you have? You can prepare effective contacts for the missionaries. Are you remembering that potential also?

  7. At baptism, you made a solemn covenant with the Lord. Part of the covenant included the promise to “stand as witnesses of God at all times and in all things, and in all places that ye may be in, even until death.” (Mosiah 18:9.) What would the faithful completion of that covenant mean for you?

  8. Every Sunday when you partake of the sacrament, you again solemnly affirm that you are bearing witness of something. (See D&C 20:77, 79.) To what are you bearing witness and what does that mean in terms of missionary work?

Christ issued the commission to go to all the world, and President Kimball has challenged us to accept that commission literally and fulfill it. Your place in its fulfillment can be of eternal and profound significance if you willingly commit yourself to the task.

“I ask you, what did he mean when the Lord took his Twelve Apostles to the top of the Mount of Olives and said:

“‘… And ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.’ (Acts 1:8.)

“These were his last words on earth before he went to his heavenly home.

“What is the significance of the phrase ‘uttermost part of the earth’? He had already covered the area known to the apostles. Was it the people in Judea? Or those in Samaria? Or the few millions in the Near East? Where were the ‘uttermost parts of the earth’? Did he mean the millions in what is now America? Did he include the hundreds of thousands, or even millions, in Greece, Italy, around the Mediterranean, the inhabitants of central Europe? What did he mean? Or did he mean all the living people of all the world and those spirits assigned to this world to come in centuries ahead? Have we underestimated his language or its meaning? How can we be satisfied with 100,000 converts out of nearly four billion people in the world who need the gospel?” (“When the World Will Be Converted,” Ensign, Oct. 1974, p. 4.)