“Chapter Forty-Nine: The Destiny of the Church,” Church History in the Fulness of Times Student Manual (2003), 646–49
“Chapter Forty-Nine,” Church History in the Fulness of Times, 646–49
While the Prophet Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery were translating the Book of Mormon, the Lord, in a revelation to them, tenderly referred to his restored kingdom as a “little flock” (D&C 6:34). Continuing, he told them to fear not, for “earth and hell” combined would not prevail against his Church. Thus, from the Church’s very beginning, prophetic knowledge of its eventual success has provided hope, encouragement, and optimism to the Latter-day Saints. Often the Lord and his prophets have used the metaphor of a “stone which is cut out of the mountain without hands [that] shall roll forth, until it has filled the whole earth” to describe the Church’s destiny (D&C 65:2).
At the request of John C. Wentworth, editor and proprietor of the Chicago Democrat, the Prophet Joseph Smith wrote a brief history of the Latter-day Saints. The article was published in the Times and Seasons on 1 March 1842. This provided the Prophet with an opportunity to reflect upon the early history of his life and that of the Church and to prophesy regarding the destiny of the restored gospel. He wrote:
“Persecution has not stopped the progress of truth, but has only added fuel to the flame. … Proud of the cause which they have espoused, … have the Elders of this Church gone forth, and planted the Gospel in almost every state in the Union; it has penetrated our cities, it has spread over our villages, and caused thousands … to obey its divine mandates. … It has also spread into England, Ireland, Scotland, and Wales … ; there are numbers now joining in every land.
“… No unhallowed hand can stop the work from progressing; persecutions may rage, mobs may combine, armies may assemble, calumny may defame, but the truth of God will go forth boldly, nobly, and independent, till it has penetrated every continent, visited every clime, swept every country, and sounded in every ear, till the purposes of God shall be accomplished, and the Great Jehovah shall say the work is done.”1
After the martyrdom of the Prophet Joseph Smith and the expulsion of the Saints from Nauvoo, the Church moved on to the Salt Lake Valley under the leadership of Brigham Young. While President Young traveled back to Winter Quarters the Saints in the Salt Lake Valley met in conference in October 1847. The small group assembled in Salt Lake was in sharp contrast to the thousands of Church members still in Winter Quarters and in Great Britain.
John Young, brother of Brigham Young, nine years later said of that gathering: “So I walked down to where they were holding Conference, and I found them by the side of a haystack. There was Father John Smith and a little handful of men that might have been covered with a small tent, and they were holding the Semi-Annual Conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.”2
Elder Orson Pratt provided a scriptural foundation for having been led to such a remote place.3 He quoted Isaiah’s prophecy that “the Lord’s house [would] be established in the top of the mountains” (Isaiah 2:2).
President Brigham Young described his feelings regarding the Church and its destiny in a letter to Elder Orson Hyde, who was presiding over the Saints in Kanesville: “We feel no fear. We are in the hands of our Heavenly Father, that God of Abraham and Joseph who guided us to this land, who fed the poor Saints on the plains with quails, who gave his people strength to labour without bread, who sent the gulls of the deep as Saviours to preserve the Golden Wheat for bread for his people and who preserved his Saints from the wrath of their enemies, delivering them. … We live in this light, are guided by his wisdom, protected by his strength.”4
Over a century later in the April 1976 general conference of the Church, President Spencer W. Kimball bore testimony that he knew the Church was the little stone that was cut out of a mountain without hands. He also bore witness that it would fill the earth as prophesied, and that life eternal was promised to those who would accept and abide by its precepts.5 In the April 1979 conference he spoke of temples dotting the United States and other lands “from end to end,” of significant increases in the number of missions and missionaries, and of an upsurge in spirituality. He spoke of a readiness for the Latter-day Saints to accomplish things that could not have been done in the past.6 In the October general conference of that same year President Kimball spoke of the challenges facing us: “There are great challenges ahead of us, giant opportunities to be met. I welcome that exciting prospect and feel to say to the Lord humbly, ‘Give me this mountain,’ give me these challenges.” He compared these challenges to what Caleb and Joshua faced upon entering the promised land.7
President Joseph F. Smith said: “It has not been by the wisdom of man that this people have been directed in their course until the present; it has been by the wisdom of Him who is above man and whose knowledge is greater than that of man, and whose power is above the power of man. … The hand of the Lord may not be visible to all. There may be many who can not discern the workings of God’s will in the progress and development of this great latter-day work, but there are those who see in every hour and in every moment of the existence of the Church, from its beginning until now, the overruling, almighty hand of Him who sent His Only Begotten Son to the world to become a sacrifice for the sin of the world.”8
Elder G. Homer Durham declared in the April 1982 general conference, “There is a great Church history behind us. There is an even greater Church history ahead of us for every member, every unit of the Church. That history is being made every day, some way, in Korea, in the Philippines, in the Andes, and in every stake.”9
Elder Neal A. Maxwell reminded us, “The Church will be much larger in the latter days than it now is, as we learn from prophecy. (D&C 105:31.) Nevertheless, the Church’s ‘dominions upon the face of the earth’ will still be comparatively small. Its members will be ‘scattered upon all the face of the earth.’”10 Like the leaven in a loaf, the Church will greatly influence world events.
President Ezra Taft Benson told Church members that there is much left to do before the Church can safely rest. The hearts of the world’s leaders must be softened so that the gospel can be proclaimed in their lands. False ideologies must be successfully combatted and overcome, and the Church’s message of joy and salvation must be presented to all of the earth’s inhabitants.11
The Prophet Joseph Smith’s testimony that God lives, Jesus is the Christ, his ancient gospel has been restored, and that the Church of Jesus Christ is again available to all mankind—the testimony that he first bore to his neighbors in upstate New York—can now be heard around the world in many different languages.
President Gordon B. Hinckley also offered the following insight: “My brethren and sisters, do you realize what we have? Do you recognize our place in the great drama of human history? This is the focal point of all that has gone before. This is the season of restitution. These are the days of restoration. This is the time when men from over the earth come to the mountain of the Lord’s house to seek and learn of His ways and to walk in His paths. This is the summation of all of the centuries of time since the birth of Christ to this present and wonderful day. …
“The centuries have passed. The latter-day work of the Almighty, that of which the ancients spoke, that of which the prophets and apostles prophesied, is come. It is here. For some reason unknown to us, but in the wisdom of God, we have been privileged to come to earth in this glorious age. There has been a great flowering of science. There has been a veritable explosion of learning. This is the greatest of all ages of human endeavor and human accomplishment. And more importantly, it is the season when God has spoken, when His Beloved Son has appeared, when the divine priesthood has been restored, when we hold in our hand another testament of the Son of God. What a glorious and wonderful day this is. …
“Given what we have and what we know, we ought to be a better people than we are. We ought to be more Christlike, more forgiving, more helpful and considerate to all around us.
“We stand on the summit of the ages, awed by a great and solemn sense of history. This is the last and final dispensation toward which all in the past has pointed. I bear testimony and witness of the reality and truth of these things. I pray that every one of us may sense the awesome wonder of it all. …
“May God bless us with a sense of our place in history and, having been given that sense, with our need to stand tall and walk with resolution in a manner becoming the Saints of the Most High, is my humble prayer in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.”12