Over the last 13 lessons we have focused on the revelations and events from while the saints were in Kirtland, Ohio. We’ve discussed the Law of Consecration, the Law of Tithing, the kingdoms of glory, the Word of Wisdom, the Second Coming and the priesthood. This lesson teaches about another important aspect of the Saints’ time in Kirtland. Today we’ll be talking about missionary work and the sacrifices the early saints made to be missionaries.
In D&C 42:4-6, which was received in February 1831, the Lord gives the Saints certain instructions on how they were to go about missionary work.
4 Behold, verily I say unto you, I give unto you this first commandment, that ye shall go forth in my name, every one of you, excepting my servants Joseph Smith, Jun., and Sidney Rigdon.
5 And I give unto them a commandment that they shall go forth for a little season, and it shall be given by the power of the Spirit when they shall return.
6 And ye shall go forth in the power of my Spirit, preaching my gospel, two by two, in my name, lifting up your voices as with the sound of a trump, declaring my word like unto angels of God.
- What were the terms of missionary service that the Lord set forth?
- Go forth in His name
- Preach the gospel until they felt inspired to return to their homes
- Preach two by two
Many of the revelations given in Kirtland included instructions to preach the gospel. The early saints were very poor and had to sacrifice much to show their courage and faith in following the will of the Lord.
(have someone summarize “Missions of the Early Ohio Converts” from Our Heritage, page 30-32)
Missions of the Early Ohio Converts – Zera Pulsipher, a convert from Ohio, is an example of those who enthusiastically shared the message of the Restoration. He joined the Church in January 1832 and recorded that shortly afterward, he “was ordained to the office of an elder and went to preaching with considerable success at home and abroad.” He and another missionary, Elijah Cheney, traveled to the small town of Richland, New York, where they began preaching in the local school. One of the first converts baptized by Elder Pulsipher in Richland was a young farmer named Wilford Woodruff, who would one day become one of the most successful missionaries in the history of the Church and the fourth President of the Church. Within a month’s time, the two missionaries had baptized a number of people and organized a branch of the Church in Richland.
Answering the call to warn their neighbors, missionaries came from all walks of life. Many of them were married and had family responsibilities. They departed in the midst of harvests and during the dead of winter, during periods of personal prosperity and at times of economic depression. A number of the elders were almost destitute when they entered the mission field. The Prophet himself traveled over 15,000 miles, serving 14 short-term missions from 1831 to 1838 in many states and in Canada.
When George A. Smith, cousin of the Prophet, received his call to the eastern United States, he was so poor that he did not own or have the means to purchase the clothes and books he needed. Consequently, the Prophet Joseph and his brother Hyrum gave him some gray cloth, and Eliza Brown made him a coat, vest, and trousers. Brigham Young gave him a pair of shoes, his father gave him a pocket Bible, and the Prophet provided a copy of the Book of Mormon.
Elders Erastus Snow and John E. Page were also poor when they left for the mission field in the spring of 1836. Describing his status at the time of his departure for a mission in western Pennsylvania, Elder Snow wrote, “I left Kirtland on foot and alone with a small suitcase containing a few Church works and a pair of socks, with five cents in my pocket, being all my worldly wealth.” Elder Page told the Prophet that he could not accept a call to preach because he was destitute of clothing. He didn’t even have a coat to wear. The Prophet responded by removing his coat and giving it to Elder Page. He told Elder Page to go on his mission and the Lord would bless him abundantly. On this mission, Elder Page was blessed to share the gospel with hundreds of people who joined the Church.
- What sacrifices did the Saints make in order to share the gospel?
- They had to leave their families, sometimes children without mothers
- They were called to depart during harsh weather conditions
- They were called to depart during harvest time when their families needed their help
- Many only had the clothes on their backs
Sometimes they faced discouragement and hardship, but they were always blessed because of their efforts and desire to be obedient to what the Lord asked of them.
Handout #1 – In 1836 Elder Parley P. Pratt, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve, was called to serve a mission to Canada. On his way to Toronto, Canada, “a stranger gave him a letter of introduction to John Taylor, a Methodist lay preacher in Toronto. Taylor was affiliated with a group who believed existing churches did not correspond with New Testament Christianity. For two years this group had met several times a week for the ‘purpose of seeking truth, independent of any sectarian organization.’ In Toronto, Elder Pratt was courteously received by the Taylors, but they were not at first enthusiastic about his message.
“Discouraged at being unable to secure a place to preach, Parley decided to leave Toronto. Before going he stopped at the Taylors to get some of his luggage and to say goodbye. While he was there, Leonora Taylor told her friend Mrs. Isabella Walton about Parley’s problem and said she was sorry he was leaving. ‘He may be a man of God,’ she said. Mrs. Walton replied that she had been inspired by the Spirit to visit the Taylors that morning because she was willing to let Elder Pratt stay at her home and preach. He did so and was eventually invited to attend a meeting of John Taylor’s group, in which John read the New Testament account of Philip’s preaching in Samaria. ‘Now,’ said he, ‘where is our Philip? Where is our receiving the Word with joy, and being baptized when we believed? Where is our Peter and John? Our apostles? Where is our Holy Ghost by the laying on of hands? …’ When Parley was invited to speak, he declared that he had answers to John Taylor’s questions.
“For three weeks John Taylor attended Elder Pratt’s meetings, making detailed notes of his sermons and carefully comparing them with the scriptures. Gradually he became convinced that the true gospel of Jesus Christ was restored. He and his wife, Leonora, were baptized on 9 May 1836” (Church History in the Fulness of Times[Church Educational System manual, 1993], 157; see also Parley P. Pratt, Autobiography of Parley P. Pratt , 134–40, 151).
John Taylor was later ordained an elder, served a mission and became the third President of the Church.
- How did the Lord bless Elder Pratt as he sought to teach the gospel?
- He provided a place for Elder Pratt to stay
- He provided a place for Elder Pratt to teach from
- The Lord had prepared the hearts and minds of those in John Taylor’s congregation to hear the gospel
Some of the Kirtland Saints who served missions were plagued with hardships, but did not waver in their desire to do the Lord’s work.
Handout #2 – Levi Hancock was baptized in November 1830, and soon afterward he was called to leave Kirtland and serve a mission in Missouri. The journey involved walking hundreds of miles, and he and his companion, Zebedee Coltrin, had success in preaching the gospel as they traveled. “But they also suffered hardships on their journey. Levi fell ill because of an infection in his feet and had to spend time recuperating with a family who took him in while Zebedee went on without him. Later, in Missouri, he continued to struggle with illness and chafed at times because of his inability to do all he wanted. But grateful to serve, he wrote: ‘I have to be honest before God and do all the good I can for his kingdom or woe is me. I care not for the world nor what they say. They have to meet my Testimony at the Judgement seat. I mean that my conduct shall be such that my words will be believed, the Lord being my helper.’”
Later, Levi served valiantly as part of Zion’s Camp. In February 1835 he was chosen as one of the Presidents of the Seventy. (See Don L. Searle, “It Is the Truth, I Can Feel It,” Ensign, July 1999, 48–50.)
As we can see, the Saints made many sacrifices and faced much hardship in the early days of missionary work. Today, many still have to face sacrifices in order to be faithful to the requirements of the Lord.
- What sacrifices are missionaries called on to make today?
- Two years of their lives
- Postpone college education
- Decline scholarships in hopes it will still be available when they return
- Turn down job offers
- Leave family
- Serve without family support
- Leave the familiar
- Learn a new language and culture
- Leave the comfort of home and the care of their family
- Leave their family when they are facing a hardship
- Does anyone have any experiences of a sacrifice they had to make in order to serve a mission and how that blessed your life or the lives of your family?
- My sister was born with Turner’s Syndrome and some of the side-effects of that are very short stature, weight problems, the need for glasses and partial deafness. There are some other physical characteristics that are special to Turner’s Syndrome and that has always caused people to ridicule her. My sister is very smart, capable and loving, but the physical differences she has have caused many people to overlook those qualities. In 1996 she decided to serve a mission and was called to the Idaho Boise Mission. Leaving home and the people who loved and understood her was difficult and put her in a situation where she had to face judgment and misunderstanding daily. But through her mission, she gained confidence and assurance that she was okay just the way she is and she has grown and flourished so much in the 16 years since she got home. She came to realize the value she has and how important and loved she really is.
Another way she was blessed was that our family valued her more. We got to experience life without her around and we began to understand the blessing she is in our lives. She truly is a spectacular person and life wouldn’t be as bright and entertaining without her in it.
Because the Saints in Kirtland were faithful in their missionary work, the church grew and became more diverse. As this happened, Satan upped his efforts to tear the church apart. Unfortunately, some Saints did submit to the influences of Satan. This prompted the Lord to expand missionary efforts.
(have someone summarize “Mission to England” from Our Heritage, page 32-33)
Mission to England – In the latter part of the Kirtland period, a crisis arose within the Church. Some members, including some leaders, apostatized because they could not bear trials and persecutions and because they began to find fault with the Prophet Joseph and other Church leaders. The Lord revealed to Joseph Smith that something new must be done for the salvation of his Church. That something was an infusion of converts into the Church from England. On Sunday, 4 June 1837, the Prophet approached Elder Heber C. Kimball in the Kirtland Temple and said to him, “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.’”14
While Heber C. Kimball was being set apart for his mission, Elder Orson Hyde entered the room. When he heard what was taking place, Orson was moved upon to repent, as he had been one of those involved in finding fault with the Prophet. He offered to serve as a missionary and was also set apart to go to England.
So eager was Heber C. Kimball to preach the gospel on foreign soil that as the boat approached the landing at Liverpool, England, he leaped from the boat to the dock before it was moored, proclaiming that he was the first to reach a land overseas with the message of the Restoration. By 23 July the missionaries were preaching to congregations of overflow crowds and the first baptisms were scheduled for 30 July. George D. Watt won a footrace to the River Ribble in Preston, which determined the honor of being the first to be baptized in Britain.
Within eight months, hundreds of converts had joined the Church and many branches had been organized. Reflecting on this great harvest of souls, Heber recalled that the Prophet and his Counselors “laid their hands on me and … said that God would make me mighty in that nation in winning souls unto Him: angels should accompany me and bear me up, that my feet should never slip; that I should be mightily blessed and prove a source of salvation to thousands.”
Because many early missionaries obediently accepted mission calls despite personal sacrifice, thousands of British converts enjoyed the blessings of the restored gospel. They gathered to Zion and greatly strengthened the Church for the crucial periods that lay ahead.
- How did the Lord bless the church during this period of persecution and trial?
- He expanded the mission field
- He brought those who received the gospel to Kirtland to strengthen those who were faithful
- The influx of new converts to Kirtland helped remind those who were faltering of the testimonies they once had
- Elder Heber C. Kimball was a great example of the attitude we should have towards missionary work. What can we learn from the example he set?
- We should be eager to share the truth and salvation of the Lord with others
- That as we have faith in the Lord and are obedient to His commands, we can accomplish great things
On the day the missionaries first preached the gospel on British soil, Joseph Smith received a revelation directed to Thomas B. Marsh who was then serving as the President of the Quorum of the Twelve. This revelation is now known as D&C 112. In this section, the Lord gives instructions and promises to the Twelve. Verses 19-22 contain some of those promises.
D&C 112: 19-22
19 Wherefore, whithersoever they shall send you, go ye, and I will be with you; and in whatsoever place ye shall proclaim my name an effectual door shall be opened unto you, that they may receive my word.
20 Whosoever receiveth my word receiveth me, and whosoever receiveth me, receiveth those, the First Presidency, whom I have sent, whom I have made counselors for my name’s sake unto you.
21 And again, I say unto you, that whosoever ye shall send in my name, by the voice of your brethren, the Twelve, duly recommended and authorized by you, shall have power to open the door of my kingdom unto any nation whithersoever ye shall send them—
22 Inasmuch as they shall humble themselves before me, and abide in my word, and hearken to the voice of my Spirit.
- What promises does the Lord make to the Twelve Apostles in these verses?
- That He will be with them as they go about spreading the gospel
- That doors will be opened unto them as the preach
- That they will have the power to bring the blessings of the gospel to any nation they are sent to
The promise of verse 19, that doors would be opened unto them and people will receive the gospel, was fulfilled quickly. Within eight months of missionary service by those men, 2,000 people had joined the church and 26 branches had been organized.
In these verses, the Lord promised the Twelve Apostles that He would give them power to open nations to the teachings of the gospel if they would, as it says in verses 21-22, “humble themselves before [Him]…..abide by [His] word and hearken to the voice of [His] Spirit. Today, the Lord continues to fulfill this promise through his Apostles. While President Monson was still a young Apostle, he had the following experience.
Handout #3 – “In 1968 when I made my first visit to the German Democratic Republic, tensions were high. Trust and understanding did not exist. No diplomatic relations had been established. On a cloudy and rain-filled day I journeyed to the city of Görlitz, situated deep in the German Democratic Republic. … I attended my first meeting with the Saints. We assembled in a small and ancient building. As the members sang the hymns of Zion, they literally filled the hall with their faith and devotion.
“My heart was filled with sorrow when I realized the members had no patriarch, no wards or stakes—just branches. They could not receive temple blessings—either endowment or sealing. No official visitor had come from Church headquarters in a long time. The members could not leave their country. Yet they trusted in the Lord with all their hearts.
“I stood at the pulpit, and with tear-filled eyes and a voice choked with emotion, I made a promise to the people: ‘If you will remain true and faithful to the commandments of God, every blessing any member of the Church enjoys in any other country will be yours.’ Then I realized what I had said. That night, I dropped to my knees and pleaded with my Heavenly Father, ‘Father, I’m on Thy errand; this is Thy Church. I have spoken words that came not from me but from Thee and Thy Son. Wilt Thou fulfill the promise in the lives of this noble people.’ Thus concluded my first visit to the German Democratic Republic.”
Eight years later, the Lord fulfilled the promise made in verse 21 to “open the door of [His] kingdom unto any nation” they were sent to and also the promise He had made to the Saints of Germany that if they “remain true and faithful to the commandments of God, every blessing any member of the Church enjoys in any other country will be yours”. At that time, Germany was dedicated to the preaching of the gospel and was opened up to missionary work. President Monson shared his experience at the fulfilling of the Lord’s promises.
Handout #4 – “On a Sunday morning, April 27, 1975, I stood on an outcropping of rock situated between the cities of Dresden and Meissen, high above the Elbe River, and offered a prayer on the land and its people. That prayer noted the faith of the members. It emphasized the tender feelings of many hearts filled with an overwhelming desire to obtain temple blessings. A plea for peace was expressed. Divine help was requested. I spoke the words: ‘Dear Father, let this be the beginning of a new day for the members of Thy Church in this land.’
“Suddenly, from far below in the valley, a bell in a church steeple began to chime and the shrill crow of a rooster broke the morning silence, each heralding the commencement of a new day. Though my eyes were closed, I felt a warmth from the sun’s rays reaching my face, my hands, my arms. How could this be? An incessant rain had been falling all morning.
“At the conclusion of the prayer, I gazed heavenward. I noted a ray of sunshine which streamed from an opening in the heavy clouds, a ray which engulfed the spot where our small group stood. From that moment I knew divine help was at hand.”
After this dedicatory prayer was given opening up Germany to the preaching of the gospel, things began to change for the members there.
Handout #5 – Following this inspired prayer, the Church grew rapidly in the land. District councils were organized, followed by the creation of stakes. Priesthood leaders and patriarchs were called. The Freiberg Germany temple was dedicated in 1985. And in 1989 the government permitted the Church to send full-time missionaries to the country. (In Conference Report, Apr. 1989, 66–69; or Ensign, May 1989, 50–53.)
This one event is one of many that show the Lord will always keep His promises to those who are faithful and obedient to His commandments.
Soon after the revelation directed at Brother Marsh and the other member of the Twelve was received, the Saints’ time in Kirtland was ending. Persecution and economic hardship forced them to leave their homes and their beloved temple behind.
Handout #6 – Exodus from Kirtland – The building of the temple brought many blessings, but in 1837 and 1838, faithful Saints also faced problems caused by apostasy and persecution, which hastened the end of the Church era in Kirtland.
The United States was suffering a financial depression, and the Church felt the effects. Some members became caught up in rampant speculation and debt and did not spiritually survive a dark time of economic collapse, including the collapse of the Kirtland Safety Society. This banking institution had been established by Church members in Kirtland, and some members incorrectly blamed Joseph Smith for the problems associated with it.
Organized persecution and violent mob action came from residents of the local community and from bitter members who had been excommunicated or had apostatized from the Church.
As the violence against the Saints and their leaders escalated, it became unsafe for them to remain in Kirtland. The Prophet, whose life was in grave danger, fled Kirtland in January of 1838 for Far West, Missouri. During 1838 most of the faithful Saints were also forced to leave. They left behind a monument of faith, consecration, and sacrifice in the temple built to God. In the example of their lives, they also left a permanent heritage of faithful obedience to the Lord’s anointed leaders and personal sacrifice in the work of the Lord. (Our Heritage, page 36)
While some church members fell into apostasy in Kirtland, most remained faithful and strengthened the church. Brigham Young is one of those who remained faithful and shared of an experience he had dealing with those were not as faithful.
Handout #7 – While living in Kirtland, Brigham Young was in a meeting where a group of apostates, including some prominent Church leaders, were plotting to depose the Prophet Joseph Smith and put someone else in his place. Brigham Young said of this experience:
“I rose up, and in a plain and forcible manner told them that Joseph was a Prophet, and I knew it, and that they might rail and slander him as much as they pleased; they could not destroy the appointment of the Prophet of God, they could only destroy their own authority, cut the thread that bound them to the Prophet and to God, and sink themselves to hell. Many were highly enraged at my decided opposition to their measures. … This meeting was broken up without the apostates being able to unite on any decided measures of opposition” (“History of Brigham Young,” Deseret News,10 Feb. 1858, 386).
- What qualities did Brigham Young demonstrate in this situation?
- Faith in the Lord
- Dedication to his beliefs and principles
- The strength of his testimony
- How does sustaining our church leaders strengthen us?
- As we sustain our church leaders and have faith in how they lead us, we can receive a confirmation from the Spirit that what we are doing is true and correct.
Brigham Young was one of those who dedicated his life to missionary work before being called to lead and preside over the church. He, and most of those who served missions, remained faithful during a time of great hardship and adversity in the early days of the church. These men are a great example of faith and obedience, as well as sacrifice, to the will of the Lord.
There are those of us who do not serve full-time missions or have been released from our missions that can still be missionaries as we live our lives.
- In what ways can we be missionaries even though we’re not serving a mission?
- Live the commandments
- Share our beliefs with others
- Invite non-member friends and family members to come to church or church activities with us
- Befriend members who are less active and invite them to come back to church
- Invite non-member friends and family members to meet with the missionaries
- Be a righteous example
- Live as Christ did so that others will know of His good works
There are many ways for each of us to be missionaries in our lives whether or not we have ever been on a mission or plan to. Missionary work is very important to furthering the work of the Lord and bringing His blessings into the lives of those around us. When we take up the task of planting the seeds of the gospel in the hearts of others, we bless many lives, not just the lives of those we touch.
I am very thankful for missionary work and the impact it has had on my life. My mother grew up in a non-member family and didn’t join the church until 1979 after having been invited to church by her friend and then became interested in hearing the discussions. Her joining the church allowed for myself and my brother to be born into the covenant and for my brother, sister and I to grow up in a gospel-centered home. Later, my sister was sealed to our dad and we all now enjoy the blessings of being an eternal family. Recently, my parents were released from their calling to be ward missionaries where they taught and touched the lives of many inactive members and non-member investigators. Both my brother and my sister served honorable full-time missions and baptized many into the gospel as well as planting the seeds of the gospel into the lives of many others.
All of this came about because one woman asked her friend if she and her baby girl wanted to go to church with her. This one person has impacted the lives of hundreds of people just by changing the life of one. I am very thankful for that act of missionary work by my mother’s friend. I have been blessed so much by growing up in the gospel and I know that woman will be blessed beyond measure for doing what she did. I have a strong testimony of missionary service and the blessings received by those we touch when we introduce the gospel into their lives. I hope we will all strive to find ways in our own lives that we can be missionaries and bring the Lord’s love to those we come in contact with.