“I invite you to become a vast army with enthusiasm for this work and a great overarching desire to assist the missionaries in the tremendous responsibility they have.”
From the Life of Gordon B. Hinckley
As a young man, Gordon B. Hinckley was a faithful priesthood holder, but he did not expect to be called to serve a full-time mission. “It was the time of the worst economic depression in the history of the world,” he later explained. “Unemployment in [Salt Lake City] was about 35 percent, and most of the unemployed were husbands and fathers, since relatively few women worked in the labor force. Very few missionaries were going into the field at that time. … I received my bachelor’s degree and planned on somehow attending graduate school. Then the bishop came with what seemed to me a shocking suggestion. He spoke of a mission.”1
Gordon accepted his bishop’s “shocking suggestion,” and in 1933 he was called to serve in England—one of only 525 missionaries who were called that year.2 He faced many trials during his mission, but his service anchored his faith:
“The work in the field was not easy. It was difficult and discouraging. But what a wonderful experience it was. In retrospect, I recognize that I was probably a selfish young man when I arrived in Britain. What a blessing it became to set aside my own selfish interests to the greater interests of the work of the Lord. …
“How profoundly grateful I am for the experience of that mission. I touched the lives of a few who have, over the years, expressed appreciation. That has been important. But I have never been greatly concerned over the number of baptisms that I had or that other missionaries had. My satisfaction has come from the assurance that I did what the Lord wanted me to do and that I was an instrument in His hands for the accomplishment of His purposes. In the course of that experience, there became riveted into my very being a conviction and knowledge that this is in very deed the true and living work of God, restored through a prophet for the blessing of all who will accept it and live its principles.”3
President Hinckley’s mission set the course for a lifetime dedicated to the Lord’s work. During his service as President of the Church, he traveled more than a million miles (1.6 million kilometers) to more than 70 countries to bear testimony of Jesus Christ and His restored gospel.4
President Hinckley frequently sounded a call for Church members to join with him in sharing the gospel. More than 400,000 full-time missionaries answered that call during his time as President. Assisted by their service and the work of member missionaries, more than 3,500,000 converts were baptized during that time.5
Ever optimistic, President Hinckley shared an expansive vision of how the Lord’s work would continue to grow:
“If we will go forward, never losing sight of our goal, speaking ill of no one, living the great principles we know to be true, this cause will roll on in majesty and power to fill the earth. Doors now closed to the preaching of the gospel will be opened.”6
“Our hope concerning the future is great and our faith is strong. We know that we have scarcely scratched the surface of that which will come to pass in the years that lie ahead. … Our burden in going forward is tremendous. But our opportunity is glorious.”7
Teachings of Gordon B. Hinckley
We are to reach out to the world in missionary service, teaching all who will listen.
We have a divine mandate to carry the gospel to every nation, kindred, tongue, and people. We have a charge to teach and baptize in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. Said the resurrected Savior, “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature” [Mark 16:15]. We are engaged in a great and consuming crusade for truth and goodness.8
Before the Church was organized, there was missionary work. It has continued ever since, notwithstanding the difficulties of many of the seasons through which our people have passed. Let us, every one, resolve within ourselves to arise to a new opportunity, a new sense of responsibility, a new shouldering of obligation to assist our Father in Heaven in His glorious work of bringing to pass the immortality and eternal life of His sons and daughters throughout the earth.9
Let us as Latter-day Saints reach out to others not of our faith. Let us never act in a spirit of arrogance or with a holier-than-thou attitude. Rather, may we show love and respect and helpfulness toward them. We are greatly misunderstood, and I fear that much of it is of our own making. We can be more tolerant, more neighborly, more friendly, more of an example than we have been in the past. Let us teach our children to treat others with friendship, respect, love, and admiration. That will yield a far better result than will an attitude of egotism. …
Let us reach out to the world in our missionary service, teaching all who will listen concerning the restoration of the gospel, speaking without fear but also without self-righteousness, of the First Vision, testifying of the Book of Mormon and of the restoration of the priesthood. Let us, my brothers and sisters, get on our knees and pray for the opportunity to bring others into the joy of the gospel.10
It is a marvelous and wonderful thing that thousands are touched by the miracle of the Holy Spirit, that they believe and accept and become members. They are baptized. Their lives are forever touched for good. Miracles occur. A seed of faith comes into their hearts. It enlarges as they learn. And they accept principle upon principle, until they have every one of the marvelous blessings that come to those who walk with faith in this, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.11
We are to help the full-time missionaries bring others to a knowledge of the truth.
I met a woman in South America who had just joined the Church. Fired by a great love for that which she had found, she had gone about enthusiastically telling others. During a period of only seven months since her baptism, she had referred three hundred acquaintances to the missionaries so that they might explain the gospel to them. At one point, sixty had come into the Church. More likely came in. In São Paulo, Brazil, I met the young missionary who first had taught her the gospel. He too had been a convert, had gone on a mission to represent the Church at considerable financial sacrifice. The woman of whom I speak was one of forty-three he had assisted in bringing into the Church to that point. This young man of Brazil had expanded himself more than one hundred times—forty-three converts of his own and sixty through one of those he converted, with more from others of his converts to come.12
So many of us look upon missionary work as simply tracting. Everyone who is familiar with this work knows there is a better way. That way is through the members of the Church. Whenever there is a member who introduces an investigator, there is an immediate support system. The member bears testimony of the truth of the work. He is anxious for the happiness of his investigator friend. He becomes excited as that friend makes progress in learning the gospel.
The full-time missionaries may do the actual teaching, but the member, wherever possible, will back up that teaching with the offering of his home to carry on this missionary service. He will bear sincere testimony of the divinity of the work. He will be there to answer questions when the missionaries are not around. He will be a friend to the convert who is making a big and often difficult change.
The gospel is nothing to be ashamed of. It is something to be proud of. “Be not thou therefore ashamed of the testimony of our Lord,” wrote Paul to Timothy (2 Tim. 1:8). Opportunities for sharing the gospel are everywhere. …
The process of bringing new people into the Church is not the responsibility alone of the missionaries. They succeed best when members become the source from which new investigators are found. …
Let there be cultivated an awareness in every member’s heart of his own potential for bringing others to a knowledge of the truth. Let him work at it. Let him pray with great earnestness about it. …
… My brethren and sisters, we can let the missionaries try to do it alone, or we can help them. If they do it alone, they will knock on doors day after day and the harvest will be meager. Or as members we can assist them in finding and teaching investigators. …
Let there develop in every stake an awareness of the opportunity to find those who will listen to the gospel message. In this process we need not be offensive. We need not be arrogant. The most effective tract we will carry will be the goodness of our own lives and example. And as we engage in this service, our lives will improve, for we shall be alert to see that we do not do or say anything which might impede the progress of those we are trying to lead toward the truth. …
There needs to be an infusion of enthusiasm at every level in the Church. Let this subject [of missionary work] be dealt with occasionally in sacrament meeting. Let it be discussed by the priesthood and the Relief Society in their weekly meetings. Let the Young Men and the Young Women talk about and plan ways to help in this most important undertaking. Let even the Primary children think of ways to assist. Many a parent has come into the Church because of a child who was invited to Primary. …
Brothers and sisters, all of you out in the wards and stakes and in the districts and branches, I invite you to become a vast army with enthusiasm for this work and a great overarching desire to assist the missionaries in the tremendous responsibility they have to carry the gospel to every nation, kindred, tongue, and people. “The field is white [and ready] to harvest” (D&C 4:4). The Lord has repeatedly declared this. Shall we not take Him at His word?13
In behalf of the missionaries … I want to plead with the Saints to do all that you possibly can to provide referrals [of people] whom they might teach. You will be happy if you do so. Everyone that you see come into the Church because of your effort will bring happiness into your lives. I make that as a promise to each of you.14
Full-time missionary work brings lasting happiness to those who serve.
We must raise the bar on the worthiness and qualifications of those who go into the world as ambassadors of the Lord Jesus Christ.15
The world today needs the power of pure testimony. It needs the gospel of Jesus Christ, and if the world is to hear that gospel, there must be messengers to teach it.
We ask that parents begin early to train their children [for missionary service]. Where there is family prayer, where there are family home evenings, where there is scripture reading, where the father and mother are active in the Church and speak with enthusiasm concerning the Church and the gospel, the children in such homes become imbued in a natural way with a desire to teach the gospel to others. There is usually a tradition of missionary work in such homes. Savings accounts are set up while children are small. Boys grow up with a natural expectation that they will be called to serve as missionaries for the Church. A mission becomes as much a part of a boy’s program for life as is an education.16
Missionary work is essentially a priesthood responsibility. As such, our young men must carry the major burden. This is their responsibility and their obligation.17
Young [men], I hope all of you are pointed in the direction of missionary service. I cannot promise you fun. I cannot promise you ease and comfort. I cannot promise you freedom from discouragement, from fear, from downright misery at times. But I can promise you that you will grow as you have never grown in a similar period during your entire lives. I can promise you a happiness that will be unique and wonderful and lasting. I can promise you that you will reevaluate your lives, that you will establish new priorities, that you will live closer to the Lord, that prayer will become a real and wonderful experience, that you will walk with faith in the outcome of the good things you do.18
We need some young women [to serve missions]. They perform a remarkable work. They can get in homes where the elders cannot. …
[However], … young women should not feel that they have a duty comparable to that of young men. Some of them will very much wish to go. If so, they should counsel with their bishop as well as their parents. … To the sisters I say that you will be as highly respected, you will be considered as being as much in the line of duty, your efforts will be as acceptable to the Lord and to the Church whether you go on a mission or do not go on a mission.19
Along with the need for young elders and sisters, there is a growing need for couples in the mission field. Older married couples are doing a wonderful work in the missions. Many more are needed. Particularly we need those with foreign language abilities. They can serve in many responsibilities under the direction of sensitive and considerate mission presidents.
With an increasing number of people retiring while they are still possessed of health and vitality, there are many who can fill a tremendous need in the work of the Lord.20
We [have] retired men and women serving in a meaningful missionary capacity for this Church throughout the world. The number is growing. They go where they are called. They serve where they are needed. Friendships are established; skills are shared; opportunities are opened for those who will never forget the men and women who have come among them in a spirit of entire unselfishness to teach and do good. They receive no money. They go at their own expense. The measure of their devotion is unlimited. The fruits of their efforts are beyond calculation.21
As we introduce others to the gospel, the Spirit of the Lord helps overcome differences between us.
Because we have all come of the same parentage [as children of God], we respond to the same truth. The fact that one’s skin may be of a slightly different color, that one’s eyes may have a slightly different set, that one may wear a different type of clothing does not in any sense make of him or her a different kind of individual. Men and women the world over respond to the same stimuli in essentially the same way. They seek warmth when they are cold; they know the same kinds of pain; they experience sadness, and they know joy. …
When differences—either with our neighbors or in other cultures—seem to stand as hurdles as we seek to share the gospel, quiet courtesy usually removes these hurdles. As we keep the Lord’s commandment to introduce others to the gospel, I testify that the Spirit of the Lord helps overcome the differences between him who is teaching and him who is being taught. The Lord made the process clear when he said, “Wherefore, he that preacheth [by the Spirit] and he that receiveth [by the Spirit], understand one another, and both are edified and rejoice together.” (D&C 50:22.)
I am satisfied that the most effective means each of us has in our calling to share the gospel is the Spirit of the Lord. We have all seen it in others. As we do the Lord’s work, we have also sensed it in ourselves. On such occasions, superficial differences between us and those we teach seem to fall like scales from our eyes. (See 2 Nephi 30:6.) A warmth of kinship and understanding emerges which is marvelous to behold. We literally understand one another, and we literally are edified and rejoice together.22
As we go forward in faith, the Lord will bless our efforts to introduce others to the gospel.
Truly we are engaged in a marvelous work and a wonder. … The God of heaven has brought to pass this latter-day miracle, and what we have seen is but a foretaste of greater things yet to come. The work will be accomplished by humble men and women, young and old.23
The work will succeed because it is the Lord who has promised:
“And whoso receiveth you, there I will be also, for I will go before your face. I will be on your right hand and on your left, and my Spirit shall be in your hearts, and mine angels round about you, to bear you up.” (D&C 84:88.)
With our charge divinely given, with blessings divinely promised, let us go forward in faith. As we do so, the Lord will bless our efforts. Let us do our part in sharing the gospel with those around us, by example first and then by inspired precept.
The stone cut out of the mountains without hands will continue to roll forth until it has filled the whole earth. (See Dan. 2.) I give you my witness of this truth and of the truth that each of us can help in ways that are appropriate to our circumstances if we will seek our Father in Heaven’s guidance and inspiration. This is God’s work that we do, and with his blessing we shall not fail.24
Matthew 10:1–4; 16:19; 17:3–7; 18:18; Ephesians 2:19–20; 4:11–14
Jesus Christ organized His Church upon a foundation of apostles and prophets
Show students a key or a set of keys, and ask what we mean when we use the word keys in the context of the gospel. Invite several students to take turns reading aloud the passages in the following scripture chain. Ask the class to follow along and identify the main event each passage describes or alludes to.
Matthew 10:1–4 (Apostles called and commissioned)
Matthew 16:19 (Priesthood keys are promised to Peter [see Guide to the Scriptures, “Keys of the Priesthood”; scriptures.lds.org].)
Matthew 17:3–7 (“The Savior, Moses, and Elias [Elijah], gave the keys to Peter, James, and John, on the mount, when they were transfigured before him” [Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith (2007), 105].)
Matthew 18:18 (The reference to binding and loosing on earth and in heaven alludes to priesthood keys also being promised to the other Apostles.)
You may want to explain that the “keys” mentioned or alluded to in these passages are synonymous with the sealing power (see Boyd K. Packer, The Holy Temple , 81–87).
What is meant by priesthood keys?
Why is it important that Apostles hold priesthood keys?
Ask a student to read the following statement by Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles:
“‘Priesthood keys are the authority God has given to priesthood [holders] to direct, control, and govern the use of His priesthood on earth’ [Handbook 2: Administering the Church , 2.1.1]. Every act or ordinance performed in the Church is done under the direct or indirect authorization of one holding the keys for that function. As Elder M. Russell Ballard has explained, ‘Those who have priesthood keys … literally make it possible for all who serve faithfully under their direction to exercise priesthood authority and have access to priesthood power’ [M. Russell Ballard, “Men and Women in the Work of the Lord,” New Era, Apr. 2014, 4; Liahona, Apr. 2014, 48]” (“The Keys and Authority of the Priesthood,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2014, 49).
In what ways do priesthood keys bless individual Church members?
Invite a student to read Ephesians 2:19–20 aloud. Then ask the class:
What do we learn from this passage about the foundation of the Savior’s Church? (Students should identify the following truth: Jesus Christ, who is the chief cornerstone, organized His Church upon a foundation of apostles and prophets.)
What do a foundation and a cornerstone do for a building? (The foundation provides strength and support for the building. As the first stone placed in a foundation, the cornerstone is the reference point for the placement of all other foundation stones and determines the position of the whole building. It also helps to anchor the walls in place.)
Invite students to discuss with someone sitting next to them the following questions:
In what ways is Jesus Christ the “chief cornerstone” of the Church?
What does this scripture teach us about the relationship between the Savior (the cornerstone) and the apostles and prophets (the foundation)?
Invite a student to read Ephesians 4:11–14 aloud. Ask the class to follow along and identify reasons Paul gave for why we need apostles, prophets, and other Church leaders to guide the Saints.
Display the following statement by Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, and ask a student to read it aloud:
“In order to establish a church that would continue under His direction even after He was taken from the earth, Jesus ‘went … into a mountain to pray, and continued all night in prayer to God.
“‘And when it was day, he called unto him his disciples: and of them he chose twelve, whom also he named apostles’ [Luke 6:12–13].
“Later on, Paul would teach that the Savior, knowing the inevitability of His death, had done this to give the Church a ‘foundation of … apostles and prophets’ [see Ephesians 2:19–20]. These Brethren and the other officers of the Church would serve under the direction of the resurrected Christ.
“Why? Among other reasons, so ‘that we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive’ [Ephesians 4:14]” (“Prophets, Seers, and Revelators,” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2004, 6–7).
In what ways have you seen modern apostles and prophets provide foundational strength and stability to the Church?
Acts 2:1–6, 14–26; 4:1–13, 18–21; Acts 10:9–20, 25–28, 34–35, 44–48; Acts 15:1–20
Jesus Christ guided the Apostles through the Holy Ghost
Ask a student to read Acts 1:1–2 aloud. Then ask the class:
How did Luke say the resurrected Jesus Christ continued to lead His Apostles after His Ascension to heaven? (He gave commandments and instruction through the Holy Ghost.)
Testify that after His Resurrection and Ascension to heaven, Jesus Christ guided the Apostles through the ministration of the Holy Ghost. To help students see examples of this guidance, divide the class into four groups and give them the following assignments:
Study Acts 2:1–6, 14–26, looking for how the Holy Ghost assisted Peter and the Apostles on the day of Pentecost.
Study Acts 4:1–13, 18–21, looking for how the Holy Ghost helped Peter respond to Jewish leaders.
Study Acts 10:9–20, 25–28, 34–35, 44–48, looking for how an important change in the Church was revealed to Peter.
Study Acts 15:1–20, looking for how past revelation from Jesus Christ through the Holy Ghost influenced Peter’s decision and the support that other Church leaders gave this decision at the Jerusalem conference.
After sufficient time, ask individuals from each group to summarize what they read and to explain how Jesus Christ guided Church leaders through the ministration of the Holy Ghost. Explain that the Holy Ghost performs His duties under the direction of the Savior (see John 16:13–14).
Consider using 3 Nephi 19:7–9, 19–20 to show that Church leaders we read about in the Book of Mormon also received the assistance of the Holy Ghost in their ministry.
Discuss with students the following question:
How would you explain to someone why it is important to know that following His death, Jesus Christ continued to guide His Apostles?
Jesus Christ directs Church leaders today through the Holy Ghost
Display the following statements by President Thomas S. Monson and President Henry B. Eyring of the First Presidency (or distribute them to the class), and ask a student to read them aloud:
“I testify … that our Savior Jesus Christ is at the head of this Church, which bears His name. I know that the sweetest experience in all this life is to feel His promptings as He directs us in the furtherance of His work” (Thomas S. Monson, “Looking Back and Moving Forward,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2008, 88).
“Revelation and inspiration have come to [President Thomas S. Monson] in my presence, which confirms to me that God is honoring [the priesthood keys that the prophet holds]. I am an eyewitness” (Henry B. Eyring, “The True and Living Church,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2008, 24).
How do these statements illustrate a connection between the New Testament Church and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints? (Help students understand the following truth: Just as Jesus Christ directed His Apostles in New Testament times, He directs Church leaders today through various means, including the ministration of the Holy Ghost.)
Invite a student to read aloud the following statement by Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. Ask the class to listen and think about why Church leaders need to be directed by the Savior.
“The apostolic and prophetic foundation of the Church was to bless in all times, but especially in times of adversity or danger, times when we might feel like children, confused or disoriented, perhaps a little fearful, times in which the devious hand of men or the maliciousness of the devil would attempt to unsettle or mislead. Against such times as come in our modern day, the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve are commissioned by God and sustained by you as prophets, seers, and revelators, with the President of the Church sustained as the prophet, seer, and revelator, the senior Apostle, and as such the only man authorized to exercise all of the revelatory and administrative keys for the Church. In New Testament times, in Book of Mormon times, and in modern times these officers form the foundation stones of the true Church, positioned around and gaining their strength from the chief cornerstone, ‘the rock of our Redeemer, who is [Jesus] Christ, the Son of God’ [Helaman 5:12]” (“Prophets, Seers, and Revelators,” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2004, 7).
Follow up by asking students some or all of the following questions:
What do you think it means that the presiding officers of the Church are “positioned around” and gain strength from the chief cornerstone, Jesus Christ?
What evidence have you seen or when have you felt that the Savior directs those who preside over the Church today?
In what ways has participating in general conference helped you come unto Christ and build upon a foundation of apostles and prophets?
Display or write the following questions on the board. Invite students to ponder the questions and then write in their personal journals or scripture study journals a plan to improve in those areas.