When President David O. McKay’s father was serving a mission in Scotland, he encountered antagonism toward the Church. He decided to preach the doctrines of the gospel without mentioning the Restoration or the Book of Mormon. As the days passed, President McKay said, his father continued with this approach until his mind became so darkened and despondent that he felt he would have to leave his mission and go home.
As a last resort, he decided to go into a cave and pray for help. While he was praying, a voice came to him, “Testify that Joseph Smith is a Prophet of God.” He consequently changed his approach and began to testify of the Book of Mormon and of the Prophet Joseph Smith. As a result, President McKay said, his father discovered that many were touched by the spirit of his words and believed and were baptized (see David O. McKay, Cherished Experiences from the Writings of David O. McKay, comp. Clare Middlemiss , 11).
I hope we can learn from this experience. If you want to reach people, if you want to change hearts, if you want to be successful in your missionary work, testify of the divinity of the Book of Mormon.
Before we go any further, we must understand why this inspired book of scripture is the heart of missionary proselyting. Conversion to it is conversion to Christ, because this book contains the words of Christ. The very title page of the Book of Mormon proclaims its purpose: “To the convincing of the Jew and Gentile that Jesus is the Christ.”
Additionally, conversion to this inspired book is conversion to the gospel of Jesus Christ, because it contains the fulness of the gospel of Jesus Christ. The Lord told Joseph Smith in the Doctrine and Covenants, “And again, the elders, priests and teachers of this church shall teach the principles of my gospel, which are in the Bible and the Book of Mormon, in the which is the fulness of the gospel” (D&C 42:12).
Finally, conversion to the Book of Mormon is conversion to the divine, prophetic calling of the Prophet Joseph Smith. It is the divine evidence of the truthfulness of Joseph Smith’s calling. Either this is all true, or it is not. Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles explained it best when he wrote:
“To consider that everything of saving significance in the Church stands or falls on the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon and, by implication, the Prophet Joseph Smith’s account of how it came forth is as sobering as it is true. It is a ‘sudden death’ proposition. Either the Book of Mormon is what the Prophet Joseph said it is, or this Church and its founder are false, a deception from the first instance onward."
You will have occasion to ask those questions. I have thought about this a great deal. I offer this as my personal feeling. I am convinced that missionary work is not easy because salvation is not a cheap experience. Salvation never was easy. We are The Church of Jesus Christ, this is the truth, and He is our Great Eternal Head. How could we believe it would be easy for us when it was never, ever easy for Him? It seems to me that missionaries and mission leaders have to spend at least a few moments in Gethsemane. Missionaries and mission leaders have to take at least a step or two toward the summit of Calvary.
Now, please don’t misunderstand. I’m not talking about anything anywhere near what Christ experienced. That would be presumptuous and sacrilegious. But I believe that missionaries and investigators, to come to the truth, to come to salvation, to know something of this price that has been paid, will have to pay a token of that same price.
For that reason I don’t believe missionary work has ever been easy, nor that conversion is, nor that retention is, nor that continued faithfulness is. I believe it is supposed to require some effort, something from the depths of our soul.
After King Benjamin’s great sermon, many of his hearers cried out that the Spirit of the Lord “has wrought a mighty change in us, or in our hearts, that we have no more disposition to do evil, but to do good continually” (Mosiah 5:2). If we are losing our desire to do evil, we are progressing toward our heavenly goal.
The Apostle Paul said that persons who have received the Spirit of God “have the mind of Christ” (1 Cor. 2:16). I understand this to mean that persons who are proceeding toward the needed conversion are beginning to see things as our Heavenly Father and His Son, Jesus Christ, see them. They are hearing His voice instead of the voice of the world, and they are doing things in His way instead of by the ways of the world.
As I answered the telephone, the person calling said to me, "Are you the president of the mormon Church?"
"No," I replied.
She then said, "Are you president of the Mormon Church in Canada?"
Somewhat frustrated, she said, "Well, are you the man responsible for the two young men who come door-to-door with the message of Mormonism?"
I replied that I was, and she curtly stated, "Then get them off my back! We have had no peace in our home since these two young men called at our door. My foolish husband believes their message." She mentioned to me that her name was Rogers and gave me her address. I told her that I would respect her wish that the missionaries not call at their home, but that if Mr. Rogers wanted to continue his study of the truth, he could do so at our own residence on Lyndhurst Avenue. I then felt impressed to say to her, "Mrs. Rogers, you're not able to accept the law of tithing, are you?"
She responded, "How did you know? How did you know?" She went on, "Why, of all the foolish doctrines, to think that those of us who can't get by on one hundred per-cent of our income could get by on nine-tenths. I can't buy that nonsense!" She then slammed the receiver in my ear.
As I returned to bed, Frances asked, "Who was that?"
"Some woman who doesn't want the missionaries," I replied.
I forgot about the incident. About two months later I was attending the fast and testimony meeting of the Tortonto Branch, there to bless our newly arrived child, Clark Spencer Monson. The branch president said, "We have a number of ordinances today-- some blessings, some confirmations. We would like now to invite the members of the Rogers family, seated on the front row, to each one be confirmed a member of the Church." Instantly the name Rogers flashed through my mind. I looked at the red-headed woman sitting on the front row. As I did so, I wondereed, "Could this be the Mrs. Rogers who telephoned at two A.M.?" As though we were communicating one with another, Mrs. Rogers' eyes met mine, and she nodded her head affirmatively.
Following the ordinance work and the condlusion of the meeting, I went forward to congratulate the Rogers family. I said toher, "Could you possibly be the Rogers who telephoned me early one morning?"
She said, "Yes, President Monson, and tithing pays."
I replied, "Tithing does pay, just as the missionaries have declared." I was happy to help confirm her a member of the Church.
I dropped by his office, and the secretary mentioned that Brother Smith was at the Seasider, a mini-caf� on campus. I found him, and, as we talked, Brother Smith proceeded to tell me how I knew the Church was true and that it was time for me to join the Church. I looked at him amazed, and I wondered what he had been drinking.
He continued and said, “From what I’m about to tell you, either one of two things will happen. You will join the Church right away or it will take you awhile.” He quoted a scripture in Ether that states:
And now, I, Moroni, would speak somewhat concerning these things; I would show unto the world that faith is things which are hoped for and not seen; wherefore, dispute not because ye see not, for ye receive no witness until after the trial of your faith. [Ether 12:6]
I thought, “What does this scripture have to do with me?”
Brother Smith explained that he believed I was waiting for some type of miracle or vision to take place before I would join the Church. He said, “You need to act upon what you already know to be true before you will receive a greater witness. ‘Wherefore, dispute not because ye see not, for ye receive no witness until after the trial [or exercise] of your faith.’”
Brother Smith was right. I thought, “Why can’t I receive a vision like the Prophet Joseph Smith?” I wanted a greater witness. Well, it took me awhile to join the Church.
I returned to the other side of the island and started to hang out with my friends. Toward the end of the summer I began to feel somewhat empty, confused, and uncertain. I was missing school and the wonderful feelings I had felt at BYU–Hawaii.
If we do all we can, and I accept my own part of that responsibility, I am sure the Lord will bring more discoveries to our use.