Chapter 21: Proclaiming the Gospel to the World
Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Fielding Smith, (2013), 262–72
During 2014, LDS members will be studying the latest manual published by their church, Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Fielding Smith. We will evaluate this book regularly, chapter by chapter, by showing interesting quotes and providing an Evangelical Christian take on this manual. The text that is underlined is from the manual, with our comments following.
Teachings of Joseph Fielding Smith
We alone have the fulness of the restored gospel, and we desire that all people receive the same blessing.
So many times I have been told by Latter-day Saints how I have truth and merely need to develop my beliefs in Christ. A quote like this shows how disingenuous this encouragement really is. After all, if the LDS Church “alone” has the “fullness of the restored gospel,” then my gospel must not be complete. I’m fine with that assessment. It makes perfect sense that, if Mormonism is true, I am wrong in my beliefs and need to be corrected. But please, Latter-day Saints, don’t give in to the political correctness so prominent in this age of pluralism. The foundation of your religion doesn’t allow for this. As founder Joseph Smith was supposedly told by God the Father in his “First Vision” (Joseph Smith-History 1:15-20), “all their [the Christian churches’] creeds were an abomination in his sight; that those professors were all corrupt; that: ‘they draw near to me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me, they teach for doctrines the commandments of men, having a form of godliness, but they deny the power thereof.’” Either the Christian churches have true doctrine or they do not. If they do not and the Mormon Church does, then by all means it is vital for every Latter-day Saint to “proclaim the gospel to the world.”
In his infinite wisdom, and to fulfill the covenants and promises made to the prophets of old, the Lord has restored in these last days the fullness of his everlasting gospel. This gospel is the plan of salvation. It was ordained and established in the councils of eternity before the foundations of this earth were laid, and it has been revealed anew in our day for the salvation and blessing of all our Father’s children everywhere. …
Since the time when the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was founded in 1830, LDS leaders have maintained that Christendom very early on fell into irreparable error. According to one church manual,
“During the Great Apostasy, people were without divine direction from the living prophets. Many churches were established, but they did not have priesthood power to lead people to the true knowledge of God the Father and Jesus Christ. Parts of the holy scriptures were corrupted or lost, and no one had the authority to confer the gift of the Holy Ghost or perform other priesthood ordinances.”(True to the Faith, 13)
Another manual adds,
“Men changed the ordinances and doctrines that He and His Apostles had established. Because of apostasy, there was no direct revelation from God. The true Church was no longer on the earth. Men organized different churches that claimed to be true but taught conflicting doctrines. There was much confusion and contention over religion.”(Gospel Principles, 95)
President Gordon B. Hinckley agreed with this assessment, stating in a general conference message,
“We acknowledge without hesitation that there are differences between us [other faiths and Mormons]. Were this not so there would have been no need for a restoration of the gospel.”(“We have witness of Him,” Ensign, May 1998, 4)
Mormon presidents have clearly reaffirmed the Mormon belief that a universal apostasy tainted the authority of the Christian churches, including the churches found in Eastern Orthodox, Catholic, and Protestant traditions. As Apostle James E. Talmage wrote,
“If the alleged apostasy of the primitive Church was not a reality, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is not the divine institution its name proclaims.” (The Great Apostasy, iii)
A manual used by Mormon missionaries describes the church’s stance on the state of Christianity between the death of the apostles and Joseph Smith seventeen hundred years later when it states,
The priesthood authority given to Christ’s Apostles was no longer present on the earth. The apostasy eventually led to the emergence of many churches. . . . Investigators must understand that a universal apostasy occurred following the death of Jesus Christ and His Apostles. If there had been no apostasy, there would have been no need for a Restoration. As a diamond displayed on black velvet appears more brilliant, so the Restoration stands in striking contrast to the dark background of the Great Apostasy. As guided by the Spirit, teach investigators about the Great Apostasy at a level of detail appropriate to their needs and circumstances. Your purpose is to help them understand the need for the Restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ. (Preach My Gospel, 35-36)
Nearly six hundred years before Christ—that is, his coming—the great prophet Nephi said to his people: “… there is one God and one Shepherd over all the earth.
“And the time cometh that he shall manifest himself unto all nations. …” (1 Ne. 13:41–42.)
That promised day is now dawning. This is the appointed time for the preaching of the gospel in all the world and for the building up of the Lord’s kingdom in every nation. There are good and upright people in all nations who will respond to the truth; who will come into the Church; and who will become lights to guide their own people. …
… The gospel is for all people, and the Lord expects those who receive it to live its truths and to offer them to those of their own nation and tongue.
And so now, in the spirit of love and brotherhood, we invite all men everywhere to give heed to the words of eternal life revealed in this day through the Prophet Joseph Smith and his associates.
We invite our Father’s other children to “come unto Christ, and be perfected in him,” and to deny themselves of “all ungodliness.” (Moro. 10:32.)
Once more, if what has been said above is true and Mormon leaders are in agreement, then I commend the missionaries for bringing the message of salvation to everyone who is in need (me included). This is the same motivation we at MRM also have. We too believe we have the truth and merely want to let others know, to the best of our ability, what the true Christian gospel is all about. In essence, the Mormon missionary and MRM have the same purpose, so I would politely ask Latter-day Saints to refrain from calling us “anti-Mormon.” Yes, one of us (possibly both of us) are wrong. But we are no more “anti-Mormon” than you are “anti-Christian” for trying to teach me the restored gospel.
It’s interesting that Moroni 10:32 is used by Smith in this context. It reads:
“Yea, come unto Christ, and be perfected in him, and deny yourselves of all ungodliness; and if ye shall deny yourselves of all ungodliness, and love God with all your might, mind and strength, then is his grace sufficient for you.”
This is a difficult verse. To the Mormon, I ask, Have you denied yourself of all ungodliness? If not, doesn’t this verse tend to prove that you have yet to receive the grace that is sufficient to cleanse you of your sins? If you have not denied yourself of all ungodliness, when do you think you will eventually do so?
The problem with the gospel of Mormonism is that it offers no hope. For a person to “be perfected in Christ,” it is necessary to “deny yourself of all ungodliness.” If you “love God with all your might, mind and strength,” only “then is his grace sufficient for you.” What a contrast to the gospel offered by Jesus as found in biblical Christianity! For more, see here.
We invite them to believe in Christ and his gospel, to come into his church, and to be one with his saints.
Of course, there is a lot more required than what this sentence entails. For more on what is required, see the review from chapter 18.
We have tasted the fruits of the gospel and know they are good, and we desire that all men shall receive the same blessings and the same spirit that have been poured out so abundantly upon us.
I am not unmindful that there are good and devout people among all sects, parties, and denominations, and they will be blessed and rewarded for all the good they do. But the fact remains that we alone have the fullness of those laws and ordinances which prepare men for the fullness of reward in the mansions above. And so we say to the good and noble, the upright and devout people everywhere: Keep all the good you have; cleave unto every true principle which is now yours; but come and partake of the further light and knowledge which that God who is the same yesterday, today, and forever is again pouring out upon his people.
Smith separates others from those belonging to Mormonism. This coincides with the words given by Henry B. Eyring, a member of the First Presidency:
“This is the true Church, the only true Church, because in it are the keys of the priesthood. Only in this Church has the Lord lodged the power to seal on earth and to seal in heaven as He did in the time of the Apostle Peter” (“The True and Living Church,” Ensign, May 2008, p. 20).
When a Latter-day Saint tries to make it appear that those outside the Mormon Church might be “good and devout,” be sure to remind your friend of Smith’s “but” in the second sentence of that last paragraph, as it is taught ow Mormons “alone have the fullness of those laws and ordinances.”
I pray that the Lord’s purposes on earth, both in and out of the Church, may speedily be brought to pass; that he will bless his faithful Saints; and that the hearts of hosts of men who seek truth and whose hearts are right before the Lord may become inheritors with us of the fullness of the blessings of the restored gospel.
According to Smith, the only way to become an “inheritor” in the “fullness of the blessings of the restored gospel” is to become a Latter-day Saint.
All Church members have a responsibility to use their strength, energy, means, and influence to proclaim the gospel.
We have heard that we are all missionaries. … We are all set apart, not by the laying on of hands; we have not had a special calling; we have not been singled out to do missionary labor, but as members of the Church, having pledged ourselves to the advancement of the gospel of Jesus Christ we become missionaries. That is part of the responsibility of every member of the Church.
With a heart full of love for all men, I ask the members of the Church to learn and live the gospel and to use their strength, energy, and means in proclaiming it to the world. We have received a commission from the Lord. He has given a divine mandate. He has commanded us to go forth with unwearying diligence and offer to his other children those saving truths revealed to the Prophet Joseph Smith.
Our mission, I say, is, so far as it is within our power, to regenerate, to bring to repentance, just as many of the children of our Father in heaven as it is possible for us to do. … That is an obligation the Lord has placed upon the Church, and more particularly upon the quorums of the priesthood of the Church, and yet this obligation belongs to every soul.
There are among us a great many honest souls who have never accepted the opportunity, or have never taken the trouble to search, that they might find these glorious truths which have been made known in the revelations of the Lord. They do not think of these things, they live among us, we associate with them and we come in contact with them daily. They think we are a pretty nice sort of people, but peculiar in our religious views, and therefore they pay no attention to our faith, and therefore this great missionary work that is being carried on now in the stakes of Zion is gathering in a harvest of honest, faithful souls right here from among those who before had never taken the opportunity, I say, which has been theirs, to hear the gospel.
“Every person who receives the light of the gospel becomes a light and a guide to all those whom he is able to teach.”
We who have received the truth of the everlasting gospel ought not to be satisfied with anything short of the best, and the best is the fulness of the Father’s kingdom; and for that I hope and pray we shall live and set examples in righteousness to all men that none may stumble, that none may falter, that none may turn from the path of righteousness, due to anything that we may do or say.
There is an influence that radiates not only from the individual but from the Church. I believe that our success in the world depends largely upon the attitude of the Saints. If we were united wholly, in thought, in deed, in our actions; if we loved the word of truth, if we walked in it as the Lord would have us do, then there would radiate from this community, from [congregations] of the Latter-day Saints in all of these communities, out into all the world, an influence that would be irresistible. More honest men and women would be converted, for the Spirit of the Lord would go before us to prepare the way. … If they, this people, would keep the commandments of the Lord it would be a force and a power and influence that would break down opposition and would prepare people to receive the light of the everlasting Gospel; and when we fail to do it we take upon ourselves a responsibility that is dreadful in its consequences.
How will I feel, or you, when called before the judgment seat if someone shall point his finger at me or you and say that “if it had not been for the actions of this man or this group I would have received the truth, but I was blinded because they, professing to have the light, did not live it.”
The Lord says if we labor all our days and save but one soul, how great will be our joy with him [see D&C 18:15]; on the other hand how great will be our sorrow and our condemnation if through our acts we have led one soul away from this truth.
The Latter-day Saints, wherever they may be, are and should be a light to the world. The gospel is a light breaking forth in darkness, and every person who receives the light of the gospel becomes a light and a guide to all those whom he is able to teach.
Your responsibility … is to be living witnesses of the truth and divinity of the work. We hope you will live the gospel and work out your own salvation, and that others seeing your good works may be led to glorify our Father in heaven [see Matthew 5:16].
I do a lot of evangelism at public venues. Now, mind you, I’m not one who does a lot of obnoxious street preaching, and I’m careful not to purposely offend. I either try to hand out information (i.e. temple open house newspapers or tracts) or, with a newer strategy, distribute copies of Spencer W. Kimball’s The Miracle of Forgiveness. I have to say, though, that is’s rare when a Latter-day Saint stops in an attempt to share his or her faith with me. Oh, it does happen—each time I go out several good conversations will ensue—but for every time someone makes the effort to engage, about 499 others walk by, the majority hardly acknowledging my presence. Those who may stop by often ask if I’d like to speak to a missionary and wonder if they could attempt to set up an appointment rather than do the work themselves. For those who may have walked by and maybe not even cared whether or not I understood the “full” gospel, I suggest going back and rereading Smith’s words. As page 192 of Gospel Principles states it, “Every member of the Church is a missionary.” I promise, I haven’t bitten anyone yet!
The Church needs more missionaries to go forth on the Lord’s errand.
We need missionaries. … The field is wide; the harvest is great; but the laborers are few [see Luke 10:2]. Likewise the field is white and ready for the harvest [see D&C 4:4]. …
… Our missionaries go forth. No power has been able to stay their hands. It has been tried. Great efforts were made in the very beginning when there was only a handful of missionaries, but the progress of this work could not be stopped. It cannot be stopped now. It must and will go forth that the inhabitants of the earth may have the opportunity of repenting of their sins and receive the remission of their sins and come into the Church and kingdom of God, before these final destructions come upon the wicked, for they have been promised. …
And these missionaries, mostly young men, untrained in the ways of the world, go forth with this message of salvation and confound the great and the mighty, because they have the truth. They are proclaiming this gospel; the honest and sincere are hearing it and are repenting of their sins and coming into the Church.
We hope to see the day when every worthy and qualified young Latter-day Saint man will have the privilege of going forth on the Lord’s errand to stand as a witness of the truth in the nations of the earth.
We now have many and can use many more stable and mature couples in this great missionary cause, and we hope that those who are worthy and qualified will set their affairs in order and respond to calls to preach the gospel and will perform their obligations acceptably.
We also have and can use many young sisters in this work, although the same responsibility does not rest upon them that rests upon the brethren, and our greater concern with reference to young sisters is that they enter proper marital unions in the temples of the Lord.
We invite members of the Church to assist financially in sustaining the missionary cause and to contribute liberally of their means for the spread of the gospel.
We commend those who are serving so valiantly in the great missionary cause. Joseph Smith said: “After all that has been said, the greatest and most important duty is to preach the gospel.”
Two years ago President Monson declared that men could now serve missions at the age of 18 while females could go at 19. The missionary numbers exploded, going from a total of under 60,000 to almost 90,000 (close to a 50% increase). Many of these new sign-ups were females who in previous years were getting married before they had a chance to go on their missions. Going on a mission is highly stressed in many LDS congregations and families. The common question asked for the rest of their lives is, “So where did you serve on a mission?” Not having a good answer leads to speculation and wonder about why this person didn’t serve.
The gospel is the sole hope of the world, the one way that will bring peace on earth.
Do you know what is the greatest power, the most potent factor in all the world, for the permanent establishment of peace in the earth? Having asked the question I will answer it, at least I will express my view in regard to it—not saying anything about other movements. The greatest factor in all the world is the power of the Holy Priesthood, and that is in the possession of the Latter-day Saints. Right from the beginning the Lord sent out the elders into the world, commanding them to call upon the people, saying, Repent, come unto Zion. Believe in my gospel and you shall have peace.
I find it interesting that, in a chapter dedicated to missionary work, priesthood authority is mentioned as the “greatest factor in all the world.” Yet this authority does not extend to females who make up a good portion of the 88,000 missionaries going into the missionary field! Left to herself, a Mormon female has no authority of her own. Her claim to authority only comes through getting married to a man possessing this authority in the temple. So if this is the “greatest power” and “most potent factor in all the world,” why are females who are not married to valid priesthood holders even bothering with a mission?
We respect our Father’s other children of all sects, parties, and denominations, and have no desire except to see them receive the added light and knowledge that has come to us by revelation, and to become with us inheritors of the great blessings of the restoration of the gospel.
But we have the plan of salvation; we administer the gospel; and the gospel is the sole hope of the world, the one way that will bring peace on earth and right the wrongs that exist in all nations.
We know that if men will have faith in Christ, repent of their sins, covenant in the waters of baptism to keep his commandments, and then receive the Holy Ghost by the laying on of hands by those who are called and ordained unto this power—and if they will then keep the commandments—they shall have peace in this life and eternal life in the world to come [see D&C 59:23].
There is no cure for the ills of the world except the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. Our hope for peace, for temporal and spiritual prosperity, and for an eventual inheritance in the kingdom of God is found only in and through the restored gospel. There is no work that any of us can engage in that is as important as preaching the gospel and building up the Church and kingdom of God on earth.
Second President Brigham Young declared:
“Our doctrine and practice is, and I have made it mine through life—to receive truth no matter where it comes from” (Discourses of Brigham Young, p. 11).
“Take up the Bible, compare the religion of the Latter-day Saints with it, and see if it will stand the test” (Discourses of Brigham Young, p. 126).
I agree with third President John Taylor who said,
“I think a full, free talk is frequently of great use; we want nothing secret nor underhanded, and for one I want no association with things that cannot be talked about and will not bear investigation” (John Taylor, March 2, 1879, Journal of Discourses 20:264).
Perhaps you are a Latter-day Saint who has fear that something a nonMormon could say might end up being influential. Yet the truth should never be feared. Seventy John Morgan put it this way in 1879:
“Let us, as honest men and honest women, lay down all prejudice and malice, and examine the principles of truth and righteousness as they are placed before us, and as the light and intelligence of the Holy Spirit will show them unto us, for they will lead and guide us back to the presence of our Father and God. The truth will hurt no man” (Journal of Discourses 20:286).
As J. Reuben Clark explained,
“If we have the truth, it cannot be harmed by investigation. If we have not the truth, it ought to be harmed” (J. Reuben Clark: The Church Years. Provo, D. Michael Quinn, Utah: Brigham Young University Press, 1983, p. 24).
So there we have it. According to Joseph Fielding Smith, those belonging to other “sects, parties, and denominations” need the “added light and knowledge” that Mormonism affords. If you are a Latter-day Saint, the next time you see me outside a temple open house event, General Conference, or Temple Square, you owe it to me to present Mormonism’s “restoration” of the gospel. Perhaps you’ve ignored me in the past because you think I am close-minded. Yet you will never know for sure unless you stop and talk. Just walking by is, in essence, sentencing me to damnation without even presenting an opportunity. We may disagree, but this doesn’t mean we can’t have a cordial conversation and allow each other to practice our agency.
For more reviews on this manual featuring Joseph Fielding Smith quotes, go here.