Gordon B. Hinckley, Conference Report, April 1961, pp. 87-90
My dear brethren, I count this a great privilege and a great opportunity. I feel the weight of this responsibility and seek the inspiration of the Lord. As I envision the vast network of Church buildings, 285 of them reaching all the way to New Zealand across an expanse of 12,000 miles, with thousands upon thousands of men and boys who are assembled tonight, I think of Wilford Woodruff's story of the first meeting that he attended with the Prophet Joseph Smith.
On a Sunday morning in 1834 in Kirtland, Ohio, all of the priesthood were called together. They met in a little, rough log cabin. Hyrum Smith, Oliver Cowdery, Brigham Young, Heber C. Kimball, Parley and Orson Pratt, and William E. M'Lellin all spoke, and then Joseph spoke and said: "I want to tell you this: You know no more concerning the results of this work and what lies before you as elders of Israel, and before this people, than a group of children." He then went on to say that this work will fill the whole earth, and all nations will have to hear the proclamation of the gospel (Mill. Star, Vol. 54, p. 605).
Were those men here tonight they would marvel at the accomplishments that have been wrought. Never has the work of teaching the gospel moved so splendidly forward as it is moving today. Never before was so much being accomplished. I think you may be interested to know that during the ten years that President McKay has stood as President of the Church, more than 24,000 full-time missionaries have gone into the field, notwithstanding the fact that many of our young men were prohibited from going because of military problems beyond their control. During this same period more than 261,000 converts have been baptized into the Church. I can think of no more fitting memorial to the marvelous work of our great missionary President than the fact that in these last ten years more than a quarter of a million people have entered the waters of baptism. There were 48,500 plus last year, the equivalent of ten or twelve average stakes, and a hundred wards.
We now have approximately 8,500 missionaries in the field who are working, I think, as missionaries have never worked before, averaging 210 hours a month of actual proselyting per missionary. We have approximately seven thousand additional missionaries in the stakes. But with all of these, "the laborers are few and the harvest is great" (see Luke 10:2).
". . . Lift up your eyes, and look on the fields; for they are white already to harvest" (John 4:35).
I believe, my brethren, with all my heart that the field is white ready to harvest. We had nearly 50,000 baptisms last year. I think it not at all unrealistic to believe that we could have 100,000 converts a year in the Church if all of us were alert to the opportunities that are about us and would go to work accordingly. I think the answer to the increased number of converts does not lie particularly in our methods—effective as those methods are. Rather, I think we are living in the day of the fulfillment of the word of the Lord given through the Prophet Joel, and repeated by Moroni in his first visitation to the Prophet Joseph.
"And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh" (Joel 2:28).
I believe, my brethren, that we are living in the day when the Spirit of the Lord is being poured out upon all flesh.
To Peter, Jesus said,
". . . Simon, Simon, behold Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat:
"But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not: and when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren" (Luke 22:31-32). I believe, my brethren, that that great admonition applies to the men of the priesthood of the Church of Christ: ". . . when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren." When thou art converted, go thou and convert thy brethren. This is our responsibility.
What will it take to do it?
First, it will take an awareness of our responsibility and our opportunity. Great and magnificent as is the work of the more than 15,000 missionaries who have been set apart, I am convinced that we have a far greater force for teaching the gospel to the world in the membership of the Church—"every man a missionary"—as has been said here so convincingly tonight. "Every man a missionary!"
Anyone can do this, whether you're rich or poor, whether you're bond or free. I think every member of the Church has the capacity to teach the gospel to nonmembers. I was told the other day of a crippled woman, homebound, who spends her days in a wheelchair, who has been the means of bringing thirty-seven people into the Church. An awareness, brethren, we need an awareness, an everyday awareness of the great power that we have to do this thing.
Second, a desire. I think many of us realize that we could do it, but we lack the desire. Let every man single out another, a friend. Let him get on his knees and pray to the Lord to help him bring that man into the Church. I am as satisfied as I am of anything that with that kind of prayerful, conscientious, directed effort, there isn't a man in this Church who could not convert another. I think of a phrase that has been quoted by Brother Richard L. Evans: "If not I, who? If not now, when?" I leave that thought with you.
Third, the faith to try. It is so simple. As Brother Franklin D. Richards has pointed out, this is not complex. It is simple. We have in the Northern Far East Mission of the Church today a beautiful and capable Japanese girl, born in Honolulu. I said to her, "Were your folks members of the Church?" "No, they were Buddhists." "How is it then that you are here?" She said, "I had a high school friend who took me to Mutual once a week and then gave me a tract to read." That girl went on to the University of Hawaii and then to Illinois Wesleyan University, from which school she was graduated. Today she is a missionary in Japan.
The average missionary in Japan brings approximately seven people a year into the Church. That means that if she is just average she will be the means of bringing about fourteen people into the Church. Now if each of those fourteen were to bring another fourteen people into the Church and so on, it is easy to see how the gospel might spread through that land of a hundred million people.
We have in one of our great universities a professor, a doctor in science, who spends his noon hours discussing the gospel with his associates, to whom he had said in effect: "What do you know about the Mormons? Would you like to learn more?" They are learning more.
I want to tell of one more instance. We had speaking recently in a stake conference a lovely eighteen or nineteen-year-old girl who had joined the Church. She stood up and in substance said, "My father was a minister. His father was a minister. My mother's father was a minister. In fact, my father was the minister of the church just down around the corner. A school friend of mine took me to Mutual. Then she brought me to Sacrament meeting. Then she said, 'Couldn't I invite the missionaries to come to your home and teach you?' "
"I replied with astonishment, 'To my home, with my father pastor of the church around the corner?' " The friend suggested she ask her father. So the girl went to her father, and he consented. The missionaries met with her in one room while her father listened in another. She has joined the Church, and her father has resigned his pastorate and is now teaching in a California school.
I say all of this only to illustrate the point which was made by Brother Richards here tonight that the capacity lies within our young people by the tens and tens of thousands to bring their friends into the fold of the Church.
I have here a letter that I picked off my desk. It came from a friend, a lawyer who works in a large bank. He writes: "I set a goal of at least one referral per week. Thus far there have been numerous opportunities to make appointments. With over 1,000 employees at the main office of the bank, the chances of success are good."
The faith to try! It is so simple! And then after that will come the joy which has been promised of the Lord. I know of no other work where the Lord has given so great a promise of joy to those who engage in it.
May I take a minute or two to share with you a testimony—and I hope you will not consider this egotistical, but consider it rather in the spirit in which it is given. I was flying across the ocean on one occasion, and I resolved I would try to discuss the gospel with someone on that plane. We had been flying all night, morning was coming, and I began a conversation with a man across the aisle. I asked him where he was from. He said he was from Newark. He asked, "Where are you from?" I said, "Salt Lake." He said, "Are you a Mormon?" and I said, "Yes." He said, "I thought so. You've had more orange juice than everybody else on this plane put together." Well, he hasn't joined the Church yet, but he has read the Book of Mormon, and he has read LeGrand Richards' book and two or three other books, and he has invited the missionaries to come and speak before the service club of which he is an officer. I think no one can foretell the eventual consequence of that conversation.
I had an interesting experience while going to the Orient last year. When I checked in in San Francisco, the man examined my passport and inquired about my business. I said, "I am going to represent the Mormon Church. Do you know anything about the Mormons?" "Oh," he said, "I know a little. My wife's a Mormon." "Has she ever told you anything about the Church?" I asked him. He said, "Very little. She is rather backward about talking about it." "Where does she come from?" And he told me, and I said, "Your wife comes from wonderful people, great stock, pioneer stock. Wouldn't you like to know something about the faith of your wife's people?" And he said, "Yes." I said, "How about next Thursday night at seven o'clock? Will you spend an hour?" And he said, "Yes." He handed me his card. President Warren E. Pugh of the Northern California Mission was there, and we arranged an appointment. Eight weeks later I had a letter from President Pugh to say that that man had joined the Church.
Now, I give you those instances, brethren, by way of testimony. I think I have known a little of the joy of which the Lord spoke, and concerning which he gave promise.
You never know how much good you can do until you try. You never can judge the consequences of your work. I have been in Korea, in that rough, sad, poverty-stricken land, which has seen so much of sorrow. We have today nearly a thousand members there. They are wonderful people. Last year the missionaries in Korea averaged fourteen converts per missionary, and eighty percent of them were university students or university graduates.
That marvelous work in Korea is largely the lengthened shadow of one man, Dr. Ho Jik Kim, who was a student at Cornell University fifteen years ago. A fellow student, a Mormon boy by the name of Oliver Wayman, began to talk to him about Mormonism. When Elder Wayman left, another Mormon boy by the name of Don Wood, who went there to study bio-chemistry became friendly with this Korean student.
Dr. Kim joined the Church, and he went back to Korea. He undertook to translate the Book of Mormon. He became a tremendous strength to the work there. He rose to high positions of leadership in the government, and the stature which the Church now has in Korea is largely the result of that. Don C. Wood today is president of the Northwestern States Mission. With all that he will do as president of that mission, directing the work of 150 missionaries, I do not know that he will do anything more significant than he did when he was a student at Cornell, walking arm in arm with a young man from Korea over to our little meetings, and then coming back and explaining the gospel to him and encouraging him to read the Book of Mormon.
Brethren, the power lies within us to spread the Lord's work. ". . . I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation" (Rom. 1:16). I give you my testimony of this work, of its divinity, and of the responsibility which lies upon us to spread it throughout the earth to fill its divine mission, and urge you, my brethren, every one of you, young or old, rich or poor, professional man, clerk, or laborer, to work with your associates to build the kingdom, all of which I do in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.