“President Kimball Shares Missionary Vision with Leaders,” Ensign, May 1979, 105–7
Suggesting that we prepare for missionary work in China, President Spencer W. Kimball opened the seminar for Regional Representatives Friday, 30 March 1979.
President Kimball told the Regional Representatives that he has followed “with great interest” the normalization of diplomatic relations between the United States and the Peoples Republic of China—and with it the first religious conference of the reorganized Religious Affairs Department of Shanghai 9 January 1979. At that conference, he said, eight hundred Catholics, Protestants, Buddhists, Hindis, and representatives of other religions discussed religious activities.
“We asked last conference for all members to pray with increased sincerity for peace in all nations and especially China,” he said, “and that we might make entry with our missionaries. Since then many people have been to China and much interest has been shown. Let us ask our Heavenly Father to grant our petition and permit this great neighbor, China, to join the great family of nations now bowing to the Lord Jesus Christ.”
President Kimball then outlined other means for beginning the work in that great country: “We need much more language training,” he said. “We need more people fluent in Mandarin.”
He also listed several things the Chinese people themselves can do: “Chinese members of the Church, especially, should pray for this development. Every single Chinese young man in the Church should be prepared to fill a mission.” To help them prepare, Mandarin classes are being given in every meetinghouse in Hong Kong.
“Chinese children should be taught to save and put aside funds to be prepared to serve in China,” he continued. “In the United States and Canada, Chinese members of the Church need to be strengthened.”
President Kimball reminded those present that President David O. McKay and Elder Hugh J. Cannon dedicated China for the preaching of the gospel in 1921. “They walked through shrines, pagodas, and temples fast falling into decay. Finally they came to a grove of cypress trees. A reverential feeling came and a presence seemed to be upon them. They were sure that unseen holy beings were directing their footsteps. There at Peking, in the heart of the most populous nation in the world, undisturbed by the multitudes, they offered the dedicatory prayer, President McKay being mouth.”
President Kimball also spoke of the encouraging successes missionary couples are having in Nigeria and Ghana. He quoted a recent letter from Elders Rendell N. Mabey and Edwin Q. Cannon, Jr., who, with their wives, are serving there:
“‘The Lord’s hand is evident in every thing and everywhere. We are having unbelievable success … —we assume just like some of the success and action stories we read of the early missionaries. We have never been anywhere in the world where it is so easy to engage a stranger in gospel discussion—opportunities are at every hand. One need not go from door to door—just have your tracts ready. Even busy people walking on the street will stop and talk. Workmen on construction jobs carry the tracts in hand for long periods of time. If you go by an hour or so later, it isn’t unusual to see them reading.
“‘A fireman in uniform stopped to help us fix a flat tire in the center of the city of Umuahia the other day as we were driving southward to baptize and organize. We gave him the Joseph Smith testimony tract. Within fifteen minutes he came to us and said he had read enough—this is what he was waiting for. He wanted to be baptized. He then said he knew the people of his village would accept the gospel. The village was about thirty miles further south on the road we were traveling, so we stopped there. The first man we met in the village was the school teacher who happened to be a relative of the fireman. We were taken to the cottage of the family and were warmly received by the fireman’s wife and six children and others. A Book of Mormon was presented to the school teacher with the statement that we had traveled halfway around the world to give him this book and the least he could do was read it. He not only agreed to read it but read it to the villagers. …’”
President Kimball said that convert baptisms there total 483 in Nigeria and 430 in Ghana. He also indicated that the Church is extending into other new areas, with the help of Brother David M. Kennedy, special representative of the First Presidency.
“We are finding that there are people everywhere who are seeking truth, who want to improve their lives, who are family-oriented and who recognize the truth of the gospel message when they hear it,” he said.
But since some governments still don’t allow us to preach the gospel in their nations, “we should continue to pray individually and in our homes and in our councils and meetings and petition the Lord to assist us to find a way to reach the hearts and minds of leaders of nations—China, Russia, eastern European countries, middle eastern countries—yes, all countries that are now closed or have restrictions on the teaching of the truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ, so that the work might go forward in all the world as has been commanded. Our Father does and will hear our prayers—of this I am certain. But we must ask in faith, nothing wavering. Then we must be prepared to enter once the gates are opened.”
President Kimball expressed his delight at the progress of the Church among the Lamanites and quoted President John Taylor as saying, “The work of the Lord among the Lamanites must not be postponed, if we desire to retain the approval of God.”
Regarding the number of missionaries in the field, President Kimball declared that “a new generation of Lamanites [is] emerging in the Church”: the number of Lamanites serving missions increased twenty-seven percent last year.
He expressed disappointment, however, that among the general Church membership, the percentage currently serving missions is much lower than it should be.
If 1% of the Church—instead of 0.67%—were serving missions, he said, we would have over 41,000 missionaries instead of the current 27,699. Just one additional missionary couple from each ward and branch would mean 16,500 new missionaries; five additional couples from each stake would mean 10,000 more. “—Just something to think about as you travel back to your homes.”
President Kimball then moved to another missionary concern: “I continue to be impressed that we should do more to reach the large groups of language minorities in our major cities”—the millions living in the United States who speak Spanish, Chinese, Greek, Polish, Italian, Portuguese, and other languages.
Indicating that more Jews live in the United States than in Israel, he said, “In Israel, a missionary would be fined and imprisoned if he converted and baptized a Jew—but not so in America. As you can see, there is still much to do right here at home.”
Turning to developments geared toward aiding the work around the world, President Kimball said that in emerging countries the Church is beginning to construct smaller meetinghouses at a much reduced cost—“prototypes of what we will do to further the work among the Lamanites.”
Another development is the simplified curriculum and report forms designed for families, groups, and small branches in emerging areas, enabling them to enjoy the blessings of the Church even when separated geographically from larger bodies of Church members.
Referring to the announcement of the new system of Church councils, President Kimball said, “It shouldn’t surprise any of us, given all that must yet be done in this part of this dispensation, if there must be some refining in order to do all the things the Lord has indicated we must accomplish.
“Do not be surprised either,” he continued, “if you also hear from time to time of further focusing on the individual and the family. All our basic duties can be carried out as individuals and families, if we are sufficiently determined. This emphasis is not only correct in terms of the scriptural focus on the individual and what modern prophets have told us of the family—but it has its practical dimension, too, especially in the kind of times in which we live. As a people, we will not always be able to do everything on the same scale we have gotten used to doing things, in the past several decades. We cannot always count, for instance, on the ready availability of transportation. The Brethren have a quiet but firm determination that there is much strength which comes with simplicity and with focusing on basic institutions like the family and on basic principles.”
He then reminded leaders that the Church is trying “to free up some time for busy Church leaders and their families,” and requested that local leaders not “rush in to fill [that] time.”
The emphasis for the 1980 world conference on records is personal histories, he said. Many members as well as nonmembers will want to attend to receive help writing and updating their own histories. Further information is forthcoming.
“We call your attention,” President Kimball continued, “to the need for Church members to take advantage of our wonderful Church magazines, for what they offer to the individual and to the family—whether our members live within the shadow of a temple or are in scattered circumstances.” Although technology allows us many conveniences, he said, the printed word is still a vital source of information. “People can often read the scriptures and our magazines even when other blessings of communication and association are denied to them. Goodly parents who read the Church magazines and who are seen by their children so doing are setting a more powerful example than they may know.”
He then encouraged the Regional Representatives to follow the Savior’s example of leadership—to be a servant and a friend of those they lead. “In the kingdom, the greater our responsibilities, the greater is our need to see ourselves as servants.”
The Church is “making wonderful progress,” he told them. “The work of the Lord is going forward as never before. But, as always, there is infinitely more to be done as we contemplate the whole world and its four billion inhabitants as our field of missionary labor. … There is so much yet to do and the adversary is so unrelenting. So we pray and encourage you not to weary in well doing.”