Missionary Work—When I first saw the topic, I thought “Ugh, what a boring topic.” But I was pleasantly surprised, and learned some things about early LDS missionary work.
From the Manual
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.” ’ ” (Deseret News 1858). 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.” (Deseret News 1862)
The Prophet also extended calls to Orson Hyde, Willard Richards, and Joseph Fielding in Kirtland, and to Isaac Russell, John Snyder, and John Goodson in Toronto, Canada. These brethren were to join Elder Kimball on his mission to England. Gathering in New York City, they sailed on the ship Garrick for Great Britain on July 1, 1837. This first mission outside of North America brought some 2,000 converts into the Church during the missionaries’ first year in England. Elder Kimball wrote joyfully to the Prophet: “Glory to God, Joseph, the Lord is with us among the nations!” (Conference Report 1920)
A second apostolic mission to Britain, involving most members of the Twelve under the leadership of Brigham Young, was directed by the Prophet from Nauvoo. Leaving in the fall of 1839, the Twelve arrived in England in 1840. There they began a labor that by 1841 would bring over 6,000 converts into the Church, fulfilling the Lord’s promise that He would do “something new” for the salvation of His Church.
Comments and Questions.
Ok, so that’s 8,000 converts, roughly 15 missionaries, in 2 years, with no MTC, no previous LDS church members in England, no correlated discussions, and no copies of the Book of Mormon to give out, though people could probably purchase them. What can we learn from these early missionary efforts?
I look back at my mission. We had approximately 180 missionaries at all times, and I believe we had about 500-600 baptisms in 2 years in my mission. What other differences are there between our modern day missionary program and these early apostles missions? Would it help to have older missionaries?
Foundation for foreign missions.
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.” (Times and Seasons, Apr. 1840) 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.” (Orson Hyde, A Voice from Jerusalem, or a Sketch of the Travels and Ministry of Elder Orson Hyde (1842), p. 29) Elder Hyde then made his way to Germany, where he laid an initial foundation for the growth of the Church there.
On May 11, 1843, the Prophet called Elders Addison Pratt, Noah Rogers, Benjamin F. Grouard, and Knowlton F. Hanks to perform missions to the islands of the South Pacific. This was the first mission of the Church anywhere in that vast region. Elder Hanks died at sea, but Elder Pratt traveled to the Austral Islands, where he taught the gospel on the island of Tubuai. Elders Rogers and Grouard continued to Tahiti, where hundreds of people were baptized as a result of their labors.
Under the direction of Joseph Smith, the Saints were moving forward to fulfill the Lord’s command: “Go ye into all the world; and unto whatsoever place ye cannot go ye shall send, that the testimony may go from you into all the world unto every creature” (D&C 84:62).
Comments and Questions
Has anyone opened a new area where the LDS church was completely unknown? If so, can you share insights into the benefits and/or problems associated with opening a new area?
No Bible Bashing
“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.” (History of the Church, 5:344)
There are those critics who think the missionaries should talk more about the mysteries of the Gospel. They claim the LDS are “hiding” important points of theology. How do you reconcile this, or is it better to simply ignore this criticism?
“I spoke and explained concerning the uselessness of preaching to the world about great judgments, but rather to preach the simple Gospel.” (History of the Church, 4:11)
Some people are attracted to apocalyptic preaching. Is it wise to avoid this type of conversation, even if someone is interested in it?
“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.” (History of the Church, 2:431)
Is this a problem on the bloggernacle? How many of us are guilty of not following Joseph’s advice? How should we respond when others are specifically trying to pick a religious fight? Does avoiding contentious arguments really “allay the prejudice of the people”?
“If there are any doors open for the Elders to preach the first principles of the gospel, let them not keep silence. Rail not against the sects; neither talk against their tenets. But preach Christ and him crucified, love to God, and love to man; … thereby, if possible, we may allay the prejudice of the people. Be meek and lowly of heart, and the Lord God of our fathers shall be with you forevermore.” (“The Book of John Whitmer,” p. 80, Community of Christ Archives)
Does it bother anyone that a correlated church manual is using a CoC Archives reference? If this quote wasn’t in the manual, would it be ok to introduce such a quote in a lesson, or would that be considered teaching uncorrelated material and be out of bounds? (In my ward, it certainly would be considered out of bounds.)
“Has anyone opened a new area where the LDS church was completely unknown? If so, can you share insights into the benefits and/or problems associated with opening a new area?”
I didn’t exactly open a new area but I did show up about a year after one had opened and to a branch that had about 80 converts of less than a year. I learned quickly that the standard missionary lessons weren’t enough for many people (these are the older discussions – I like how the new ones seem to be more flexible). At that point a good number of the members were already inactive because they were offended by something some other member did. On the other hand, I think I had some of the most moving meetings there as well. Like when an investigator announced in testimony meeting that they were getting baptized and the congregation applauded and got up and embraced her.
That sounds interesting. I know it’s nearly impossible to replicate the conditions of these early mormon missionaries. On the one hand, I can imagine how difficult it must have been for them to go. I guess the field was white, already to harvest. Perhaps it was easier in these early days, because there would have been no opposition to mormons since nobody had ever heard of them.
As far as using CoC archive reference, I would do it in a heartbeat. If the document is legit. and it doesn’t address any of the touchy issues regarding the fracture between the two churches, there’s no reason that church members should question its usefulness in a lesson. Period.
More on using CoC archive reference.. Read more of the reference. This quote comes from a letter from Joseph Smith and others to Hezekiah Peck. It’s the words of the prophet. Where the information comes from is completely unimportant in my opinion, as long as it is legitimate and the prophets words. If it’s published in church literature, I feel confident in it’s appropriateness.
Yes, I wish I lived in a “liberal ward” like you two…