In a revelation through Joseph Smith to John Whitmer, the Lord declared, “Behold, I say unto you, that the thing which will be of the most worth unto you will be to declare repentance unto the people, that you may bring souls unto me” (Doctrine and Covenants 15:6). Since the early days of the restoration, several hundred thousand missionaries have served throughout the world spreading the good news that the Lord has restored His Church to the earth.
However, the Lord also declared, “Seek not to declare my word, but first seek to obtain my word, and then shall your tongue be loosed; then . . . you shall have my Spirit and my word, yea the power of God unto the convincing of men” (Doctrine and Covenants 11:21). Adam and Eve are a good example of obtaining and then sharing. One day while offering a sacrifice, an angel asked Adam why he did so. His reply was that it was out of obedience to the commandment of the Lord. The angel then taught Adam and Eve faith in Christ and repentance through the atonement of the “Only Begotten of the Father” (Moses 5:6-9). Adam and Eve rejoiced in this knowledge and understanding.
Through the experiences of their life, they learned faith in Jesus Christ. Said Eve, “Were it not for our transgression we never should . . . have known good from evil, and the joy of our redemption” (Moses 5:11). Once having gained faith in Christ and a knowledge of His plan of salvation, the scriptures record that “Adam and Eve . . . made all things known unto their sons and their daughters” (Moses 5:12). Thus, they obtained the word of the Lord and then, under His Spirit, taught their children—bringing their souls to Christ.
Today, we have been given the awesome responsibility to bring the world to Christ. Nearly 60,000 young men, women, and couples currently serve in nearly every country of the world. They serve in many ways and in many languages, but all with the desire to fulfill the commandment of the Lord to “teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:19-20).
One such missionary was Matthew Cowley. In 1914, at the age of seventeen, Matthew received his mission call to New Zealand. At the end of his three-year mission, a special call came from President Joseph F. Smith to remain in New Zealand and translate scriptures into the Maori language. He didn’t return home until 1919–a five year mission. In 1938, he was called to return to New Zealand as Mission President. He served during the war years and did not return to Utah until the fall of 1945–a seven year mission. A month after returning home, he was called as an Apostle and served until his death at a young age in 1953–an additional eight years.
As a young seventeen-year-old missionary he wrote a letter to his mother. It is typical of the thousands of letters that have been sent home by missionaries to loving and supportive mothers back home. Elder Cowley writes:
“I had scarcely been here three months when I began to get discouraged because I couldn’t talk Maori and when Sunday came I had a great desire to speak in Maori to the Saints, so just before afternoon meeting I went off by myself and prayed to the Lord for his help and when I got up in meeting there seemed to be two voices speaking to me—one telling me to speak English and the Other, to speak Maori—but I resolved to try Maori and sure enough the Lord answered my prayers and I haven’t preached to them in English since. Although I can only speak for a few minutes I still have faith that the Lord will bless me with a greater knowledge each day and I will soon be able to preach a regular sermon. I never take the honor upon myself, when I receive such blessings. I always go in secret and give the Lord the honor, the praise, and the glory—I am enjoying the best of health and like my labors more every day. . .
“This life has school beat in a thousand ways—You can’t imagine what a grand experience it is to go into the ‘vineyard’ and put your whole heart and soul to your work and receive inspiration from the ‘Greatest Mind’ in existence. You cannot compare it with any other work; it is so far above them all that it would be foolish to try to find a work that would be as beneficial to the human race. A person doesn’t know what he is living for until he begins to look on the religious side of life and a mission is the greatest thing in the world to turn your thoughts in that direction.
“One of the greatest things I thought I would have to put up with is homesickness but, as President Ben E. Rich said, ‘An elder will never get homesick if he lets the Spirit of the Lord direct his thoughts toward home.’ I am always trying to do this . . . Anybody who thinks he is lucky because he is not called on a mission is a little bit off, because it is one of the greatest blessings that ever comes to anyone” (Matthew Cowley Speaks, p. 435-436).
Let each of us desire to teach our families the gospel of Jesus Christ under the sweet witness of the Spirit. And then, with charity, reach out to those who do not have the blessings of the gospel in their lives. May each young man, young women, and every couple desire to join with Matthew Cowley in serving the Lord on a full time mission. May each of us join our voice with Enos and declare:
“I must preach . . . unto this people, and declare the word . . . which is in Christ. And I have declared it in all my days, and have rejoiced in it above the world. And I soon go to the place of my rest, which is with my Redeemer . . . and shall stand before him; then shall I see his face with pleasure, and he will say unto me: Come unto me, ye blessed, there is a place prepared for you in the mansions of my Father” (Enos 1:26-27).
Barton Golding, editor