Relief Society Lesson 28: Missionary Service: A Holy Calling, a Glorious Work
From the Life of Joseph Smith
Heber C. Kimball, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve, recalled: “About the first day of June 1837, the Prophet Joseph came to me, while I was seated in … the Temple, in Kirtland, and whispering to me, said, ‘Brother Heber, the Spirit of the Lord has whispered to me, “Let my servant Heber go to England and proclaim my gospel and open the door of salvation to that nation.” ’ ” Elder Kimball was overwhelmed by the thought of such an undertaking: “I felt myself one of the very weakest of God’s servants. I asked Joseph what I should say when I got there; he told me to go to the Lord and He would guide me, and speak through me by the same spirit that [directed] him.”
Joseph showed great trust in Heber C. Kimball by calling him to a mission in England. He was asked to trust the Lord, and was promised guidance similar to the prophet’s. Do you think that promise is in force today?
The missions to England in the early days led by Elder Kimball and later Brigham Young eventually brought 8,000 converts to the fold.
From Nauvoo, Joseph Smith continued to send missionaries throughout the world. Elder Orson Hyde landed in England in 1841 and later continued his assigned mission to Jerusalem. He carried a letter of recommendation from Joseph Smith recognizing “the bearer of these presents, a faithful and worthy minister of Jesus Christ, to be our agent and representative in foreign lands, to … converse with the priests, rulers and Elders of the Jews.” On October 24, 1841, Elder Hyde knelt on Jerusalem’s Mount of Olives and petitioned Heavenly Father to dedicate and consecrate the land “for the gathering together of Judah’s scattered remnants, according to the predictions of the holy prophets.” Elder Hyde then made his way to Germany, where he laid an initial foundation for the growth of the Church there.
Elders Addison Pratt, Noah Rogers, Benjamin F. Grouard, and Knowlton F. Hanks were called to the South Pacific. Elder Hanks died en route, but Elder Pratt was able to continue on the journey and many converts were gained from his efforts.
Why was the dedication of Jerusalem necessary? Why was the land dedicated but no mission was established there?
Can we see the fruits of these missions today?
Teachings of Joseph Smith
In December 1840 Joseph Smith wrote to members of the Quorum of the Twelve and other priesthood leaders who were serving missions in Great Britain: “Be assured, beloved brethren, that I am no disinterested observer of the things which are transpiring on the face of the whole earth; and amidst the general movements which are in progress, none is of more importance than the glorious work in which you are now engaged; consequently I feel some anxiety on your account, that you may by your virtue, faith, diligence and charity commend yourselves to one another, to the Church of Christ, and to your Father who is in heaven; by whose grace you have been called to so holy a calling; and be enabled to perform the great and responsible duties which rest upon you. And I can assure you, that from the information I have received, I feel satisfied that you have not been remiss in your duty; but that your diligence and faithfulness have been such as must secure you the smiles of that God whose servants you are, and also the good will of the Saints throughout the world.
“Love is one of the chief characteristics of Deity, and ought to be manifested by those who aspire to be the sons of God.”
How are missionaries asked to conduct themselves? What characteristics recommend us to others?
“Oh, ye elders of Israel, hearken to my voice; and when you are sent into the world to preach, tell those things you are sent to tell; preach and cry aloud, ‘Repent ye, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand; repent and believe the Gospel.’ Declare the first principles, and let mysteries alone, lest ye be overthrown. … Preach those things the Lord has told you to preach about—repentance and baptism for the remission of sins.”
“I spoke and explained concerning the uselessness of preaching to the world about great judgments, but rather to preach the simple Gospel.”
What is the simple Gospel? Why should we avoid condemning others with judgement?
“The Elders [should] go forth … in all meekness, in sobriety, and preach Jesus Christ and Him crucified; not to contend with others on account of their faith, or systems of religion, but pursue a steady course. This I delivered by way of commandment; and all who observe it not, will pull down persecution upon their heads, while those who do, shall always be filled with the Holy Ghost; this I pronounced as a prophecy.”
How should we approach the religions of others? Can we learn from their examples? What can we offer to add their faith?
“Notice this Key, and be wise for Christ’s sake, and your own soul’s sake. Ye are not sent out to be taught, but to teach. Let every word be seasoned with grace. Be vigilant; be sober. It is a day of warning, and not of many words. Act honestly before God and man. … Be honest, open, and frank in all your [dealings] with mankind. [See D&C 43:15; 63:58.]”
We teach the Gospel as directed by the Spirit.
The Prophet spoke at a conference held in October 1839: “President [Joseph Smith] proceeded to give instruction to the Elders respecting preaching the Gospel, and pressed upon them the necessity of getting the Spirit, so that they might preach with the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven; to be careful in speaking on those subjects which are not clearly pointed out in the word of God, which lead to speculation and strife.”
What are the things we should focus on when teaching? What is the best course of action when matters of speculation and strife are brought to us?
In 1834 Joseph Smith preached in a schoolhouse in Pontiac, Michigan. Edward Stevenson was present and recalled the experience: “It was on those school grounds where two Mormon Elders introduced the restored Gospel in the year 1833; and in 1834 Joseph Smith the Prophet preached with such power as had not there ever before been witnessed in this nineteenth century. … I can very well remember many of the words of the boy Prophet as they were uttered in simplicity, but with a power which was irresistible to all present. …
“With uplifted hand he said: ‘I am a witness that there is a God, for I saw Him in open day, while praying in a silent grove, in the spring of 1820.’ He further testified that God, the Eternal Father, pointing to a separate personage, in the likeness of Himself, said: ‘This is my Beloved Son, hear ye Him.’ Oh, how these words thrilled my entire system, and filled me with joy unspeakable to behold one who, like Paul the apostle of olden time, could with boldness testify that he had been in the presence of Jesus Christ! …
Joseph was always ready to present his testimony, even while in jail. He took opportunity to share his beliefs even when it was most inconvenient for him.
How can we look for ways to share our own faith? How can we make personal connections with people? How can we show love and respect for those who do not share our faith? How can we teach with respect and avoid being taught the ways of the world? In what ways do women add to the work of spreading the Gospel? How does the Spirit influence your personal sharing of your testimony?