Samuel Harrison Smith: He Was There
I first remember being impressed in learning about Samuel Smith when we were studying Church history in seminary-actually, more than fifty years ago. Although we didn't spend a lot of time discussing him, I was impressed, and Samuel's example has made a positive impact on me since then in a variety of ways- especially while serving in the mission field in Mexico and Central America.
As a young nineteen-year-old elder, fresh into the mission, I discovered that door-to-door contacting-or tracting, as we used to call it-was not my favorite activity. By nature I was somewhat shy. I had to push myself to get out and knock on those doors.
I suppose it was difficult for a variety of reasons. I was not particularly enthusiastic about intruding into the lives of complete strangers. Also, when someone would come to the door it was not easy for me to stand there feeling somewhat embarrassed and as I attempted to share the message in a language I was just beginning to learn. The anxiety of being rejected-and sometimes hostilely-was not appealing to me. Nevertheless I persisted, and in this I owe much to the example of Samuel H. Smith. He too had left his comfort zone and as a missionary had confronted much greater odds than I was ever called to face. And in addition, on that first mission he didn't even have the benefit of a companion at his side.
With that kind of exemplary incentive, then, I would push myself to make the effort. In time the task became easier; and in fact, before long, contacting those strangers even came to be an enjoyable stimulus and challenge.
Now, years later, I am continually thankful for having had the privilege of facing those missionary difficulties and receiving the opportunity to play even a small part in the lives of several who were converted and came to be faithful members-and some of them even leaders-in the Church in Mexico. I owe an immense debt of gratitude to such as Samuel H. Smith.
Samuel had many other remarkable qualities worthy of our emulation. They began to be evident early in his life's experiences. He was born March 13, 1808. That means that in 1820, when his next older brother, Joseph, told the family of some of his remarkable spiritual experiences in connection with the First Vision, Samuel had just turned twelve years of age.
Soon after Joseph had the remarkable and life-changing experiences in the Sacred Grove, he apparently confided to his family, to ministers, and perhaps to others outside the family some of what he had experienced (see JS-H 1:21). Family discussions took on a new excitement. His mother, Lucy, recounted the family's delighted response to the heaven-sent knowledge shared by their eighteen-year-old son and brother:
From this time forth, Joseph continued to receive instructions from the Lord, and we continued to get the children together every evening for the purpose of listening while he gave us a relation of the same...I can picture in my imagination, during such occasions of sharing, a younger brother Samuel-wide-eyed, mentally and spiritually tuned in-as he listened to his next older brother. Samuel's entire life following that time proved that he was not merely a passive listener, not just a believer only-he was a doer of the first order. For Samuel, those early years of the Restoration must have been a time of immense spiritual growth and commitment.
During our evening conversations, Joseph would occasionally give us some of the most amusing recitals that could be imagined. He would describe the ancient inhabitants of this continent, their dress, mode of traveling, and the animals upon which they rode; their cities, their buildings, with every particular; their mode of warfare; and also their religious worship. This he would do with as much ease, seemingly, as if he had spent his whole life among them.
Like so many scriptural and historical figures, Samuel Harrison Smith has taught me a great deal. I see in him a rare blend of commitment and constancy. Someone said that just showing up-being where we ought to be-has to be one of the most important characteristics of a good Church member. Samuel was one who "showed up." He was there. In fact, his name is associated with many of the important "firsts" in the history of the Restoration.
Some time in May 1829, Samuel went to Harmony, Pennsylvania, to see his brother Joseph and Oliver Cowdery, who at that time were in the process of translating and transcribing the Book of Mormon. While there, he learned of that monumental visit of the resurrected John the Baptist to Joseph and Oliver on the banks of the Susquehanna River. Samuel was made aware that his brother Joseph and his scribe Oliver had received the Aaronic Priesthood and had been baptized.
Earlier, in the religious excitement that existed in the area of up-state New York, Samuel and others in the family had formally joined one of the Protestant churches. Subsequently, as Samuel learned more about what his brother Joseph was learning and doing, he had the challenge of considering giving up his newfound church and identifying with this new movement. Like many converts today, considering leaving one's faith was trying for him.
[Joseph and Oliver] informed him what the Lord was about to do for the children of men, and began to reason with him out of the Bible. We also showed him that part of the work which had been translated, and labored to persuade him concerning the Gospel of Jesus Christ, which was now about to be revealed in its fulness. He was not, however, very easily persuaded of these things, but after much inquiry and explanation he retired to the woods, in order that by secret and fervent prayer he might obtain of a merciful God, wisdom to enable him to judge for himself. The result was that he obtained revelation for himself.
After Joseph and Oliver had led the way, on May 25, 1829, Samuel was the first person to be baptized for the remission of his sins in this dispensation. Following the baptism "Samuel was filled with the spirit of prophecy and praise. He uttered many sublime truths of which his mind up to that moment had never conceived."
Samuel was not gullible. He did not rush into his conversion. He wanted to make sure that he knew enough about the restored gospel before he would agree to be baptized; but once he did, there was no retention problem with Samuel-there was no looking back.
A short time later, Samuel's name appeared as one of the Eight Witnesses of the Book of Mormon. He saw the plates. He touched them. He noted the careful workmanship on them. He knew and testified to his dying day that the plates were real-just as his brother Joseph had told him. He signed his name along with the seven others and testified to the world:
Be it known unto all nations, kindreds, tongues, and people, unto whom this work shall come: That Joseph Smith, Jun., the translator of this work, has shown unto us the plates of which hath both been spoken, which have the appearance of gold; and as many of the leaves as the said Smith has translated we did handle with our hands; and we also saw the engravings thereon, all of which has the appearance of ancient work, and of curious workmanship. And this we bear record with words of soberness that the said Smith has shown unto us, for we have seen and hefted, and know of a surety that the said Smith has got the plates of which we have spoken. And we give our names unto the world, to witness unto the world that which we have seen. And we lie not, God bearing witness of it. (Book of Mormon, The Testimony of Eight Witnesses.)On the historic date of April 6, 1830, about sixty people gathered at the Peter Whitmer home in Fayette, New York, to witness the formal organization of the Church of Jesus Christ in this dispensation. Samuel was again selected to be another "first" as he was designated one of the six charter members of the Church.
Presumably these six men signed a document required by state law. In Spanish, the word for signature is firma. I like that word even better in Spanish than its English equivalent because it comes from the Latin root firmus, which means "to strengthen, not yielding under pressure, solid, hard, not moved or shaken easily, fixed, stable, unchanging, resolute, constant, showing determination and steadfast in conviction."
All these definitions characterize Samuel well because when he participated and voted in that sacred inaugural meeting as one of the first members of this newly organized Church, he took it very seriously. His word was literally as good as his bond. Similarly, when he signed the document testifying to the world that he, along with those seven others, had actually seen the plates from which the Book of Mormon had been translated, he was honor- bound by that firma, or signature, and he did not waver. He never sought to hide behind the "small print" or seek legal escape from obligation. He was not one ever to go back on that signature, which manifested what he actually had seen and that which he had committed himself to support. His life became a living testament and should be a faith-producing example to all of us.
Samuel Smith set an example of a missionary spirit we could all well follow as committed Latter-day Saints. The Church of Jesus Christ in ancient times was a missionary church, so it follows that in the restoration of that church in our day it too was to be a missionary church. The final commandment the resurrected Savior gave to his disciples just before ascending to His Father in Heaven was related to this missionary responsibility: "And he said unto them, 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.) That same basic charge has been given to the Church in this dispensation (see D&C 68:8).
Samuel knew that the message of the Restoration needed to be shared. I remember seeing years ago a painting by William H. Whitaker that made a significant impression on me. The painting pictured a solitary figure with a satchel in one hand and a book in the other trudging down what appears to be a muddy road. The painting represents Samuel, all alone, courageously leaving home, family, and loved ones to open this dispensation's missionary efforts.
It is significant that Samuel achieved another "first" in the history of the Church when he was called and set apart as a missionary. He began his mission in June of 1830.
There wasn't much of a temporal nature that Samuel took with him on this mission. He didn't have much money, if any, nor likely any more in his satchel than a few personal items, the rest of the space being occupied by as many copies of the newly published-and publicly boycotted-Book of Mormon as he could carry. As to spiritual things, Samuel carried with him all that was most necessary-a deep faith and an abiding testimony that Jesus was the Christ and that the Book of Mormon was literally another testament of this reality. In this lonely venture Samuel carved his place in history as he fulfilled his responsibility as the first formally called missionary in this dispensation of the fulness of times.
It was not merely a matter of stuffing a few copies of the Book of Mormon into a satchel and going out to share it with others who were anxious to accept it. Residents of the area around Palmyra-ministers of religion and a good share of the parishioners-had been encouraged, and many had agreed, to boycott the book in an effort to prevent it from selling. Thus it was not a benign atmosphere into which Samuel went. His brother Joseph had had his life threatened, and the entire Smith family had been vilified by the wagging tongues and scurrilous reports that spewed from the presses in the vicinity. Thus Samuel was entering a largely hostile world.
Nevertheless, he was willing to sacrifice his time and effort. He went, he began the appointed task of "opening his mouth" and proclaiming the good news that God really does live, and that the claims that Jesus is the resurrected Christ have been verified in modern times through actual revelation from God to a modern prophet.
Samuel's example can be a help to all of us in the area of overcoming "the fear of man" and in "opening our mouths" as we have been commanded. Note the following verses of scripture: "Open your mouths and they shall be filled, and you shall become even as Nephi of old, who journeyed from Jerusalem in the wilderness. Yea, open your mouths and spare not, and you shall be laden with sheaves upon your backs, for lo, I am with you. Yea, open your mouths and they shall be filled, saying: Repent, repent and prepare ye the way of the Lord." (D&C 33:8-10.)
For four years I had the privilege of serving as president of the Missionary Training Center in Provo, Utah. During that time I thought often of Samuel Harrison Smith as I saw the more than 58,000 missionaries who were beginning their preparation for their missions to carry the same message to the world. Now it is taught in more than thirty languages. They, the modern-day missionaries, like this younger brother of the Prophet Joseph, are willing to leave the comfort of their homes and families and go into what occasionally proves to be a somewhat inhospitable world. Like Samuel, they are willing to "open their mouths" and share the precious truths of the Book of Mormon and the restoration of the gospel.
In principle, the nature of a missionary call hasn't changed dramatically over all these years since Samuel's, other than the fact that there are now tens of thousands of companions sharing the same message. In Samuel's time he had to muster the courage and rise to the responsibility to start his mission alone, setting a precedent for all who would follow.
Samuel's valiant example helped me while I was serving as a missionary in Mexico and Central America during a time when the dominant church had great hold on the minds of people and many made us feel that we were not welcome among them. I remember the discouraging feeling of returning to our missionary apartment after a long day of rejections only to find a note attached to our door letting us know that we were not appreciated in the country and telling us that we should go home.
Samuel had experienced such feelings of discouragement long before any of us arrived in the mission field, and his experience, determination, and example were a great help to me. He may have felt disheartened because of the very few people who were willing to accept the book or his account of how it had been received and translated. However, most members of the Church have learned of the remarkable outcome of that first mission in terms of future leaders of the Church who were directly or indirectly influenced by its message-leaders such as President-to-be Brigham Young and Heber C. Kimball.
The record indicates that Samuel left a copy of the Book of Mormon with the Reverend John P. Greene who, at first, was not personally interested. As an evidence of his persistence, Samuel didn't give up easily. He called back three times. At the insistence of his wife, Reverend Greene finally read the Book of Mormon. Later both he and his wife were baptized.
Meanwhile Mrs. Greene's brother, Phineas Young, had earlier obtained a copy of the Book of Mormon from Samuel. He gave it to his brother Brigham, who later passed it along to his sister, Mrs. Murray, the mother of the wife of Heber C. Kimball. Thus we see the serial impact of just one copy of the Book of Mormon in bringing into the Church some of its most influential early leaders.
Have you ever wondered how the history of the Church may have been significantly altered had Samuel not had the courage and fortitude to launch out on that first missionary effort?
Someone said that the Lord is not as much concerned with our ability as with our availability. Samuel Smith strikes me as one of those good, solid, committed, regular members of the Church. One of his daughters wrote of her father: "His sisters and his mother have always been loud in their praise of him, his honesty and his good qualities in general. While not as brilliant as some of the rest of his brothers he had a logical turn of mind and many excellent qualities that lay hidden under the stress of circumstances." He may not have had the talent or ability of his brothers Joseph or Hyrum, but he was there-he was available-and willing to serve when so many tasks of significance needed to be done.
I identify with such a man as Samuel Harrison Smith. He has been a great model to me personally. Because of such as he, it has been easier for me to "open my mouth" and come a little closer to being the kind of member missionary I know that I ought to be.
Samuel had other important personal traits and characteristics that I would like to emulate in my own life. Some of them have been described by his contemporaries. It would be marvelous if statements such as these could be made about each of us:
- Orson Hyde, a missionary companion, described Samuel as "a man of good faith and extreme integrity."
- Don Carlos, Samuel's brother, described him as "faithful as the sun."
- Samuel's mother also recorded that "Samuel was never censured by revelation, to my knowledge, for he always performed his missions faithfully, and his work was well approved."
- Samuel's spirituality is made evident by a statement made by his mother, Lucy Mack Smith, when she alleged that "none of her sons had a greater gift of healing than Samuel."
- President George Q. Cannon described Samuel as "a man of integrity and singleness and fixity of purpose."
- George A. Smith, a cousin of Samuel H. Smith, said, "He possessed great strength and wonderful powers of endurance, and was very exemplary in all his habits."
As another one of his "firsts," Samuel was a member of the initial high council called in 1834. Samuel's faithfulness and the integrity of his commitment are illustrated by the fact that during the time of apostasy in Kirtland, when some of the most prominent leaders were falling away, only three of that original high council remained faithful and were sustained. Samuel was one of them. Samuel later became its presiding officer. Samuel's attributes of faithfulness, integrity, constancy, courage, and missionary zeal are all qualities we should strive to incorporate into our own lives.
We commemorate with love and admiration the martyrdom of the Prophet Joseph and his faithful brother Hyrum on 27 June 1844. We also thrill at the dedication of Elders John Taylor and Willard Richards, who risked their lives to be with the brothers at Carthage. One fact we may tend to overlook is that Samuel was also one of the early martyrs of the Church.
When Samuel heard that his brothers were imprisoned in Carthage, he knew that they were in extreme danger. One of his daughters later recorded that Samuel took a young fourteen-year-old boy and set out in a wagon from Nauvoo to Carthage but was turned back by members of the mob, who anticipated that some help might be coming to Joseph and Hyrum from Nauvoo. Samuel was prevented from continuing. His daughter described subsequent events as follows:
He then returned home as quickly as possible, purchased a horse noted for its speed, and determined to reach his brothers in time to be of assistance to them, altho the hope seemed a forlorn one. He went unarmed, and as he again neared Carthage he met several people coming from there in great haste, among them a man and a woman in a buggy, of whom he asked what had happened, and received answer that the two Smiths had been killed by the mob. The terrible shock was too much for him, and for an instant he reeled in his saddle and they expected him to fall. Then as the necessity of immediate action flashed across his mind, he steadied himself, saying, "God help me! I must go to them," and he again pressed forward. The mob, expecting his return, and intent upon murder, were secreted in a thicket, and two men on horseback with rifles gave chase. As they emerged from the thicket, the man in the buggy gave a warning shout; my father, turning his head quickly, took in the situation at a glance, and put his horse to its utmost speed, still keeping his course straight toward Carthage. His splendid horsemanship kept him somewhat out of the range of the bullets sent after him, the one passed thru the top of his hat. The chase was a long and exciting one, but he finally out-distanced them and rode into Carthage. (Mary B. S. Norman, "Samuel Harrison Smith," Church Historical Department.)Again, Samuel was there. Samuel's daughter mentions that her father was the first (another of those "firsts") to arrive at the jail following the Martyrdom.
Along with a Mr. Hamilton, Samuel performed the gruesome task of removing his brothers' bodies to the hotel. The next day was hot and humid. With green branches covering his two brothers' bodies to help protect them from the heat, the grief-stricken Samuel, accompanied by Willard Richards and Mr. Hamilton, escorted the sad caravan back to Nauvoo. Upon arrival, the responsibility fell to Samuel as the first family member to attempt to console the others.
His mother, Lucy, records that after she had retired to her room following viewing the bodies of her murdered sons, Samuel said, "Mother, I have had a dreadful distress in my side ever since I was chased by the mob, and I think I have received some injury which is going to make me sick." Greatly weakened due to fatigue, shock, and apparently some internal injuries he had suffered from the chase, he never recovered. Samuel Harrison Smith, at the young age of thirty-six, passed away on July 30, 1844, just over a month after the death of his brothers. Thus Samuel was a third victim of the Martyrdom. He was willing to sacrifice his all for his convictions.
In these tragic events, again Samuel was there at the very heart of the most important happenings of the time. Samuel's reliability, constancy, unwavering faith, commitment, and courage make him one of the truly outstanding heroes of the Restoration.
"Elder Milton R. Hunter," in Conference Report, October 1951
PREACHING OF GOSPEL
. . . 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.)
After the ascension of the Lord, the Apostles went forth humbly faithfully, diligently, from town to town, from village to village, from city to city, declaring the good message which the Lord had given them; preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ, establishing Christian communities. Gradually, one Christian community after another arose in the Mediterranean world. The gospel spread from land to land.
But also as time passed, the Apostles received very severe persecutions, which resulted in the deaththe martyrdomof all of them except John the Beloved. They sealed their testimonies with their blood, dying for the eternal truths which they had embraced.
As time went on, and as Paul the Apostle and others of the great prophets had predicted, heresies crept into the Christian Church. False teachings and false doctrines came into Christianity. Especially is this true toward the end of the fourth century A. D. At that time the Roman government made the Christian Church the state religion and outlawed all pagan religions. This resulted in thousands and thousands of pagans flocking into the Christian Church, naturally without being converted. They brought with them their choice pagan ideas, practices, religious rituals and doctrines, bringing about an adulteration of the gospel of Jesus Christ, which resulted in what is known as the Great Apostasy.
If the Savior had come back to earth at the beginning of the fifth century A.D., I doubt whether he would have recognized the Christian Church as the one that claimed descent from that which he had established, so far had it gone astray. Christianity had actually become a composite of Christian beliefs, practices, and doctrines, Jewish teachings and rituals; Greek, Roman, and Egyptian pagan philosophies: and pagan religions of various brands. The Holy Priesthood had been withdrawn from the earth. The power of godliness was no longer present in the Christian Church. Thus there was a complete falling away from the gospel which had been established by the Son of Man. The Church lay in darkness, and the darkness enveloped the earth. This spiritual darkness continued for hundreds and hundreds of years.
Finally, during the early part of the nineteenth century, Jesus Christ, the God of heaven and earth, stretched forth his hand again to reveal once more the gospel plan of salvation to the human family and to establish his Church upon earth. This great and marvelous work came about in fulfillment of the prophecies made by many of the ancient prophets. They had predicted that there would be a restoration of all things in the latter days and that all the rights, rituals, doctrines, powers, priesthoods, and ordinances necessary for the salvation and exaltation of the human family would be restored. (See Acts 3:21.)
From heavenly beings this gospel was restored to the Prophet Joseph Smith, and the promise given by the Lord that it would never be taken from the earth again nor given to another people. (See D. & C. 27:13.) As part of that restoration, the Holy Melchizedek Priesthood was brought back to earth again. The Savior, as he had done in the Meridian of Time, established offices in that priesthood. In this dispensation they consisted of a First Presidency, Twelve Apostles, seventies, elders, and others to carry forward the work of the Lord.
COMMANDMENT IN PRESENT DAY
The commandment from Jesus Christ, our Savior, came to the Twelve in modern times, just as it did to the Apostles in his day:
Therefore, go ye into all the world: and whatsoever place ye cannot go unto ye shall send, that the testimony may go from you into all the world unto every creature.
And as I said unto mine apostles, even so I say unto you, for you are mine apostles, even God's high priests; ye are they whom my Father hath given me; ye are my friends;
Therefore, as I said unto mine apostles I say unto you again, that every soul who believeth on your words, and is baptized by water for the remission of sins, shall receive the Holy Ghost. . . .
Verily, verily, I say unto you, they who believe not on your words, and are not baptized in water in my name, for the remission of their sins, that they may receive the Holy Ghost, shall be damned, and shall not come into my Father's kingdom where my Father and I am.
And this revelation unto you, and commandment, is in force from this very hour upon all the world, and the gospel is unto all who have not received it. (Ibid., 84:62-64, 74-75.)
ASSIGNMENT TO THE TWELVE
Acting in accordance with this revelation and also several others, such as the one which appointed the Twelve Apostles to hold the keys of opening the doors of the gospel of Jesus Christ to every nation throughout the earth; the revelation to the effect that the gospel should be taken to every nation, kindred, tongue, and people preparatory to the coming of the Lord, and other similar pronouncements, the Twelve Apostles did go forth throughout the world. During the past one hundred and twenty-one years, they have opened the doors of the gospel to most of the nations.
The history of the work of the Twelve in carrying forward their missionary assignment presents a marvelous story. In addition to the great work that they have done, the Apostles also have sent many other gospel messengers to the places where they could not go.
Now, the Lord, in establishing the gospel on the earth in the latter days, did not give revelations entirely to the effect that the Twelve were to be the only ministers of the restored truths. He also gave revelations to the seventy, designating them as "especial witnesses" of Christ, and calling them to be ministers of the restored gospel. " . . . first unto the Gentiles and then to the Jews." (Ibid., 107:25 26, 34, 38, 93-97.) And again, he also gave a revelation to every faithful elder in the Church, commanding him to proclaim the message of salvation. He said unto the elders:
Go ye into all the world, preach the gospel to every creature, acting in the authority which I have given you, baptizing in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.
And he that believeth and is baptized shall be saved, and he that believeth not shall be damned. (Ibid., 68:8-9.)
During the past hundred years, thousands upon thousands of elders have gone forth in harmony with this divine command. I believe there is no time in the history of the human family where a Church has put forth a greater missionary effort in accordance with the command of God than has the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints during the past one hundred and twenty-one years.
The Lord not only commanded the elders to go forth and preach the gospel, but he also gave a command in a revelation to Joseph Smith to the effect that every person who is baptized into the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is morally obligated in the sight of God to do missionary work. In other words, he is to proclaim the words of eternal life to the honest in heart. In fact, the commandment of the Lord to every baptized member of the Church of Jesus Christ is as follows: " . . . and it becometh every man who hath been warned to warn his neighbor." (Ibid., 88:81.)
If every Latter day Saint would take that revelation seriously thousands and thousands of the honest in heart who live among us would gladly receive the words of eternal life and affiliate themselves with the true Church and kingdom of God.
LIVING OF GOSPEL
If all Latter-day Saints would live the gospel in every detail, as it has been revealed from the mouth of Jehovah through the prophets, our lights would so shine to the world that multitudes of good people would actually ask to join the Church of Jesus Christ. Our neighbors would see the light shining forth from Latter-day Saints, because the gospel had made them live such good lives, and they would readily accept this Church as being "the only true and living Church upon the face of the whole earth." (Ibid., 1:30.) Certainly the gospel would then roll forth throughout the world, as Daniel predicted it would, like a great "stone cut out of the mountain without hands." (See Daniel 2:27-49.) It would roll forth until it "filled the whole earth."
One of the obstacles we meet in our efforts to spread the gospel message is the fact that so many Latter-day Saints do not live the gospel. And, on the other hand, many members of the Church do not take the time to tell their neighbors about the gospel. They do not invite their neighbors to attend Church with them nor to come in contact with Church influence in other ways. I sincerely believe that there are many honest in heart who would like to investigate the gospel truths and later on probably join the Church if they were invited to participate and were encouraged to do so. God will hold us accountable to do our share along this line. We must warn our neighbors.
When the Lord established the gospel through the Prophet Joseph Smith, he gave the members of the Church many great assignments. I believe that there is no assignment that the Lord gave to the Church greater than that of missionary work.
If one should read the Doctrine and Covenants through and tabulate the various subjects that the Lord revealed information on, he would find that missionary work holds a dominant place. In my study of modern revelation, I have found that there is no subject that the Lord revealed more about, that he talked on more times and in more ways than the missionary assignment. In fact, the gospel of the kingdom must be taken unto every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people preparatory to the coming of the Lord; and after this great assignment has been successfully completed, according to the words of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior, " . . . then shall the end come." (D. & C. 133:37; Matthew 24:14.)
Not only must the gospel be taken "to every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people" here in mortality, but it must also be preached to all of our departed ancestors in the spirit world. A great missionary campaign must go forward until all who have died without the law of the gospel will have the opportunity to accept or reject it. Temple work will not be completely effective without missionary work. In fact, the people in the spirit world have to learn the various gospel truths, receive the gospel plan of salvation, repent of their sins, and prepare themselves to receive the temple ordinances which have been performed for them vicariously before that great work reaches a fulfillment and gives to the people the blessings that they should receive.
Therefore, it is very evident that missionary work is one of the greatest assignments which God has placed upon the Church. In fact, the Prophet Joseph Smith on one occasion said, "After all that has been said, the greatest and most important duty is to preach the gospel [of Jesus Christ]." (Joseph Fielding Smith's Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 113. )
THE THING OF MOST WORTH
When the gospel was being restored to earth during the early part of the nineteenth century, a number of brethren came to the Prophet Joseph Smith and asked what the Lord would have them do in this great work. Their concern was to learn what would be the most important thing for them to do. The word of the Lord came to the Whitmer men as follows:
And now, behold, I say unto you, that the thing which will be of the most worth unto you will be to declare repentance unto this people that you may bring souls unto me, that you may rest with them in the kingdom of my Father. (D. & C. 15:6; 16:6.)
I believe that that revelation applies as aptly to you and me as it did to John and Peter Whitmer, Jr. I know of no way whereby we can help to bring salvation to our own souls better than by doing all that we can to bring salvation to the souls of others. In other words; we save our own souls in proportion to the service we render to the honest in heart who are seeking after truth by giving to them the gospel of Jesus Christ, or the plan of life and salvation.
There are many other revelations that could be cited which indicate the importance of the missionary assignment, but we haven't time on this occasion to quote them.
ENCOURAGEMENT TO SEVENTIES
As a member of the First Council of the Seventy, the duty rests upon me and others of the Council to help carry the message of salvation to the honest in heart and to do our utmost in promoting missionary work. I would like to take this opportunity, therefore, to encourage all the seventies throughout the Church to engage in missionary work that they might magnify their callings as seventies. If we fail to do this, we may stand under condemnation at the judgment day for not having magnified our priesthood.
The First Presidency has asked for three seventies from each quoruma thousand seventiesto go into the mission fields this fall. I should like to encourage the stake presidents, the bishops, the seventies, and all who are concerned, to cooperate on this great assignment and to respond to the call of the First Presidency.
The call from the First Presidency is a call from the Lord, because these men are the duly authorized servants of God here upon the earth. They hold the keys of the kingdom; and God the Eternal Father and his Only Begotten Son accept all that they do in the office of their calling as if these acts had been performed personally by Jesus Christ.
STAKE MISSIONARY PROGRAM
Also, I would like to encourage all of us as Church members to take greater advantage of the stake missionary program. I am sure we have done a good job in the past, but I feel confident that we have hardly scratched the surface. I am of the opinion that there are thousands and thousands of seekers after truth who live among us who would receive the gospel of Jesus Christ if they had a fair chance. If we would spend more time in doing missionary work, great would be our joy in this life, and eternal should be our reward in the world to come. The Savior made this point clear and definite wherein he said:
Remember the worth of souls is great in the sight of God;...
Wherefore, you are called to cry repentance unto this people.
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! (Ibid., 18:10, 14-16.)
My dear brothers and sisters, I do humbly trust and pray that God will bless us to the extent that we will not only continue with the great missionary spirit that we have shown in the past, but that we shall also catch a fullness of the spirit and greatness of this assignment and vigorously carry it forward until we do prepare the world for the coming of the Savior, that he may reign as Lord of lords and King of kings.
I bear testimony that this is the true gospel of Jesus Christ. I know this fact as I know that I am alive. I know that Joseph Smith is a prophet of God and one of the greatest prophets that has ever lived on this earth. I know also that if you and I will live according to the teachings of the commandments that we have received in the Church of Jesus Christ, someday we shall come back into the presence of God and receive exaltation, which he has declared to be the greatest gift that he has in store for those who love him and keep his commandments.