A vision came upon my mind very clearly. I felt that if they were to become missionaries, their lives would be changed. From that moment on, I became very excited, and I tried to spend as much time as possible with them, teaching them the importance of missionary service and how to prepare for a mission.
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."
To endure to the end, we need to be eager to please God and worship Him with fervor and passion. This means that we maintain faith in Jesus Christ by praying, studying the scriptures, partaking of the sacrament each week, and having the Holy Ghost as our constant companion. We need to actively help and serve others and share the gospel with them. We need to be perfectly upright and honest in all things, never compromising our covenants with God or our commitments to men, regardless of circumstances. In our homes we need to talk of, rejoice in, and preach of Christ so that our children—and we ourselves—will desire to apply the Atonement in our lives. We must identify temptations that easily beset us and put them out of reach—way out of reach. Finally, we need to frequently biopsy our mightily changed hearts and reverse any signs of early rejection.
If you have congregations of people in branches, and the gospel is being taught, and they are understanding it, then you have done what you are called to do. Building the Church seems to center around buildings and budgets and programs and procedures, but somewhere in the midst of it the gospel is struggling for breath. Get that fixed in the minds of your elders.
It’s easy to say, ‘The time isn’t right.’ But there is danger in procrastination. Years ago I worked for a man in California. He hired me; he was kind to me; he seemed to regard me highly. I may have been the only Latter-day Saint he ever knew well. I don’t know all the reasons I found to wait for a better moment to talk with him about the gospel. I just remember my feeling of sorrow when I learned, after he had retired and I lived far away, that he and his wife had been killed in a late-night drive to their home in Carmel, California. He loved his wife. He loved his children. He had loved his parents. He loved his grandchildren, and he will love their children and will want to be with them forever.
Now, I don’t know how the crowds will be handled in the world to come. But I suppose that I will meet him, that he will look into my eyes, and that I will see in them the question, ‘Hal, you knew. Why didn’t you tell me?
I feel the Lord has placed, in a very natural way within our circles of friends and acquaintances, many persons who are ready to enter into his Church. We ask that you prayerfully identify those persons and then ask the Lord’s assistance in helping you introduce them to the gospel. And in your conversations, if you can’t think of anything you feel is important, you can say, “I know that God lives.” That is the greatest testimony in the world. A conversation telling how you acquired such knowledge and what it means to you and what it might mean to someone else is a powerful witness for the Lord.
Some of your acquaintances will be chance ones and others will be persons warmed and cultivated by you because of your sincere friendship and interest in them.
Is it a coincidence that missionaries give a portion of their lives in behalf of others, then come home and testify of their great love for the people they have served? Is it any wonder that bishops and other priesthood and auxiliary leaders who sacrifice for others are filled with love for those who are recipients of their labors? Is there a greater love among mortals than that of a mother, who offers all for her child? Many who desire to have charity like Jesus attain it as he did.
-Thanking Heavenly Father for the doctrines and ordinances of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ, which bring hope and happiness into our lives.
-Asking for courage and boldness to open our mouths and share the gospel with our family and friends.
-Entreating Heavenly Father to help us identify individuals and families who will be receptive to our invitation to be taught by the missionaries in our homes.
-Pledging to do our part this day and this week and petitioning for help to overcome anxiety, fear, and hesitation.
-Seeking for the gift of discernment—for eyes to see and ears to hear missionary opportunities as they occur.
-Praying fervently for the strength to act as we know we should.
This same pattern of holy communication and consecrated work can be applied in our prayers for the poor and the needy, for the sick and the afflicted, for family members and friends who are struggling, and for those who are not attending Church meetings.