Saturday, December 6, 2008

Joseph B. Wirthlin: A Missionary Tribute

Photo by Staker Olsen © 2008 Provo Daily Herald

Elder Joseph Bitner Wirthlin was born June 11, 1917, in Salt Lake City. From his youth he has been involved in missionary work as his family encouraged him to serve. His father, Joseph L. Wirthlin, a member of the Presiding Bishopric of the Church, instilled in him his desire to serve a mission:
When I was a boy, our family home evening took place at the dinner table. It was most pleasant and enjoyable. It was a time when our father would reminisce and tell us about his life. He often told us of his inspirational and exciting experiences while preaching the gospel as a missionary in Germany. Each story seemed to improve the more often it was related. I grew up never doubting that I would become a missionary, and I never lost the zeal that he instilled in my heart. Our mother taught us about the nobility of her pioneer parents and their great faith in the gospel.
He also developed a love for the Book of Mormon in his home:
Fortunately, my introduction to the Book of Mormon came at an early age. My parents loved this divinely written book and used it often in our home to explain the principles of the gospel in such a way that each one of us in the family could understand these principles.

“I used my own Book of Mormon every day while in the mission field. This sacred book, which meant so much to me, was my constant companion. Today, its leather is worn and the edges are shredded. As I look inside to again read the contents, my mind takes me back to the inspired words of the Nephite, Lamanite, and Jaredite prophets. What a thrilling, sacred scripture I found it to be when I first read it in my teenage years! The knowledge I have gleaned concerning its priceless, spiritual teachings means even more to me today. The emphasis our Prophet, Seer, and Revelator has placed on this sacred volume gives it even greater meaning to me.

“I would hope that each member of the Church will not fail to read this sacred scripture, for it will bring them a more thorough knowledge of the gospel.”

Joseph B. Wirthlin served a mission as a young man in 1936 in the Swiss-Austria Mission at the time of Hitler's rise to power. He gave up his senior year on the University of Utah football team to serve. Nathan Grover of the BYU-Idaho Scroll writes of Elder Wirthlin's mission:
In 1936 the Nazi government ruled in Germany and had already begun their European conquest which lead to the bloodiest war the modern world has known.

In the midst of this conflict, Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin, a young football player at the University of Utah, received his mission call to this hotbed of political turmoil.

“My first field of labor was in Salzburg, Austria,” Elder Wirthlin said during a CES Fireside in November 1999. “The mission was shorthanded, and not long after I arrived, my companion was transferred to another district in the mission. Soon I found myself alone in Salzburg, a young missionary in a strange, new country.”

During that same fireside, Elder Wirthlin said that the tension in Austria was mounting because of the Nazi army, which had gathered across the German-Austrian border, just 20 miles from Salzburg.

“I remember those days well. I don’t suppose there has been a time in my life when I felt more discouraged, more lost,” Elder Wirthlin said. “The mission was a difficult one; no one seemed to have any time for me or the message I brought. I wondered if there would ever be enough members in that city to make a ward.”

“He loves to speak the language he learned on his mission,” James Wirthlin, a grandson who recently returned from serving in the Swiss Zurich mission where his grandfather also served, said.

James said his grandfather still loves the Austrian, German and Swiss people whom he served as a missionary nearly 70 years ago.

“He still greets me in German every time he sees me. That tells a lot about him,” James said.

That love and affection for those people showed in January 1997 when Elder Wirthlin went back to Salzburg with his wife to organize the Salzburg, Austria Stake.

“In a way it was a coming home for me,” Elder Wirthlin said. “My heart filled to overflowing as I looked over that congregation of faithful members and as I remembered the time I spent there.”

“As I look back on it now, I wonder if those times of trial and loneliness weren’t instrumental in strengthening my character and heightening my desire to succeed. Those times of seeming failure may have been the most instrumental of my life, because they prepared me for greater things to come.”

Elder Joseph Bitner Wirthlin was born June 11, 1917, in Salt Lake City. He was the first of five children born to Joseph L. and Madeline Bitner Wirthlin.

In 1936 the Nazi government ruled in Germany and had already begun their European conquest which lead to the bloodiest war the modern world has known.

In the midst of this conflict, Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin, a young football player at the University of Utah, received his mission call to this hotbed of political turmoil.

“My first field of labor was in Salzburg, Austria,” Elder Wirthlin said during a CES Fireside in November 1999. “The mission was shorthanded, and not long after I arrived, my companion was transferred to another district in the mission. Soon I found myself alone in Salzburg, a young missionary in a strange, new country.”

During that same fireside, Elder Wirthlin said that the tension in Austria was mounting because of the Nazi army, which had gathered across the German-Austrian border, just 20 miles from Salzburg.

“I remember those days well. I don’t suppose there has been a time in my life when I felt more discouraged, more lost,” Elder Wirthlin said. “The mission was a difficult one; no one seemed to have any time for me or the message I brought. I wondered if there would ever be enough members in that city to make a ward.”

“He loves to speak the language he learned on his mission,” James Wirthlin, a grandson who recently returned from serving in the Swiss Zurich mission where his grandfather also served, said.

James said his grandfather still loves the Austrian, German and Swiss people whom he served as a missionary nearly 70 years ago.

“He still greets me in German every time he sees me. That tells a lot about him,” James said.

That love and affection for those people showed in January 1997 when Elder Wirthlin went back to Salzburg with his wife to organize the Salzburg, Austria Stake.

“In a way it was a coming home for me,” Elder Wirthlin said. “My heart filled to overflowing as I looked over that congregation of faithful members and as I remembered the time I spent there.”

“As I look back on it now, I wonder if those times of trial and loneliness weren’t instrumental in strengthening my character and heightening my desire to succeed. Those times of seeming failure may have been the most instrumental of my life, because they prepared me for greater things to come.”

Shaun D. Stahle wrote about his Swiss-Austria Mission in "Joseph B. Wirthlin, Oldest Apostle Dies, Age 91":

Interests in athletics won out over the theater. In high school he became known as "Mr. Touchdown" as the quarterback of the East High School football team before playing halfback at the University of Utah.

"I had always dreamed of playing football at the university level, and during my freshman, sophomore and junior years, I wore a crimson uniform and played running back," he said in BYU fireside on Nov. 7, 1999.

After the 1936 football season, with the world on the brink of war, Elder Wirthlin's father came to him and said, "Joseph, do you want to go on a mission?"

He replied that he did.

"Then you must go now. If you wait any longer, you'll never go."

Elder Wirthlin said, "I didn't want to believe him. I wanted to pursue my dream of continuing to play football and to graduate from the university. If I were to accept a mission call, I would have to give up everything. . . . If I accepted, there was a good chance I would never play football again — perhaps I would not even be able to graduate. But I also knew what my father had said was true."

He approached his bishop, Marion G. Romney, who later became a member of the First Presidency. A few months later, in the late 1930s, he stepped aboard the SS Manhattan bound for the German-Austria Mission for a two-and-a-half year mission in the heart of a world crisis.

He was alone in Salzburg for the first six weeks of his mission, a challenging time for a new missionary in a strange, new country, not knowing if, or when, Hitler's tanks would flood across the border.

His mission was an intense time of gospel study where he learned to teach, preach and "love people more than ever before, and to accept them for what they were."

A defining moment for Elder Wirthlin came on a cold, clear, snowy night on Christmas Eve in the quaint village of Oberndorf nestled in the Austrian Alps. After listening to organ music in a humble Church, Elder Wirthlin and his companion started for home and became engaged in a serious discussion about what they wanted to do with their lives.

"The spirit was so strong as I walked with my companion that it's hard to express," Elder Wirthlin said, "I really had a burning testimony that the Church is true as never before in my life."

On Nov. 29, just two days prior to his death, the Church News published Elder Wirthlin's account of that Christmas Eve experience.

Years later, Elder Wirthlin said, "As I look back on it now, I wonder if those times of trial and loneliness weren't instrumental in strengthening my character and heightening my desire to succeed. Those times of seeming failure may have been some of the most instrumental of my life, because they prepared me for greater things to come."

Approximately 24 months later, at the conclusion of his mission while laboring in Germany, he was boarding a train that would lead him home while watching thousands of Nazi troops boarding other trains bound for an invasion of Poland. Had he not followed his father's counsel, he would have missed his opportunity to serve because of the commencement of World War II.

During his mission, Elder Wirthlin also contemplated the type of woman he would marry. After returning home, he said he knew the first time he laid eyes on Elisa Rogers that she would be his wife.

Photo by Staker Olsen © 2008 Provo Daily Herald

On Wednesday, 3 December 2008 Cody Cook of the Provo Daily Herald said of Elder Wirthlin's first proselyting mission:
Midvale resident Staker Olsen, who was Wirthlin's first missionary companion, said that he and Wirthlin were serving together in Salzburg, Austria, when the armies of Adolf Hitler were preparing to invade in March 1938. After going to bed one evening, Olsen said, the two missionaries "woke up in the morning and there were swastikas hanging from every window." Olsen said that he and Wirthlin didn't leave their apartment for a week, following which time church members helped them flee the country to Switzerland.

"He was very, very spiritual," Olsen said of Wirthlin. "We had an enjoyable four months together." (Though they hadn't spoken for a number of years, Olsen, 93, had been anticipating a phone call from Wirthlin on Tuesday morning. He had contacted Wirthlin's office on Monday after reading in the weekly LDS publication Church News about a missionary experience that the two of them had shared.)

Upon returning from missionary service in late 1939, Wirthlin completed his schooling at the University of Utah, earning a bachelor's degree in business administration. He married Elisa Rogers on May 26, 1941, in the Salt Lake Temple, in a ceremony performed by David O. McKay (who became president of the church in 1951). The Wirthlins had eight children.
The LDS Newsroom in Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin: A Life Full of Adventure and Joy that Surpasses Understanding wrote:

Elder Wirthlin’s desire to succor the poor in body and spirit resulted in his leaving his studies at the University of Utah, and a starting position on the football team, to serve a two and a half year mission for the Church in the late 1930s. At a precarious time in world history, he stepped aboard the S.S. Manhattan as a young missionary and began a long voyage that would take him into Germany and Switzerland. For the first six weeks he was alone in Salzburg, a missionary in a strange, new country not knowing if or when Hitler’s tanks would blitz across the border.

Elder Wirthlin said: “As I look back on it now, I wonder if those times of trial and loneliness weren’t instrumental in strengthening my character and heightening my desire to succeed. Those times of seeming failure may have been some of the most instrumental of my life, because they prepared me for greater things to come.”

His mission was a period of intense gospel study during which he learned to teach, preach and “love people more than ever before and to accept them for what they were.”

A defining moment for Elder Wirthlin came on a cold, clear, snowy night on Christmas Eve in the tiny village of Oberndorf nestled in the Bavarian Alps. After listening to organ music in a humble church, Elder Wirthlin and his companion started for home and became engaged in a serious discussion about what they wanted to do with their lives. “The Spirit was so strong as I walked with my companion that it’s hard to express,” Elder Wirthlin said. “I really had a burning testimony that the Church is true as never before in my life.”

On that soul-searching night, Elder Wirthlin also contemplated the type of woman he would someday marry. After returning from his mission he said he knew the first time he laid eyes on Elisa Rogers that she would be his wife — and she was just a year later, on 26 May 1941.

Elder Wirthlin in a BYU Devotional on 26 October 1986 summarized his father's influence on his serving a mission:
My father also taught me the value of balance in my life. Before my senior year of football and academic pursuits, he encouraged me to go on a mission. He said, "If you don't go now, you'll probably never go." A little over two-and-a-half years later, I found myself newly released from my mission and standing on the streets of Berlin watching the German soldiers board the train to travel to Poland for the Nazi invasion. I was barely able to accomplish my travel home to Salt Lake City because of the immediate eruption of World War II. Had I not followed the advice of my father, I probably would not have had the opportunity to serve a mission.
In 2005 he shared:
When I was a missionary in Austria in 1938, Hitler was ravaging Europe and threatened to take over Austria. Rumors had spread out of Germany about how he had treated the Jews and how he was opposed to religion, and this led people to fear. But with all of the turmoil that was going on, I had an inner faith and hope because of the blessing I had received when I was set apart as a missionary by my father. I was told that I would be protected from whatever danger might come my way, so I had an inner peace and hope that despite the dangers that were very evident, everything would be OK.

Two weeks before what they call the “Anschluss”—Hitler’s annexation of Austria—I was transferred to Switzerland, which was neutral. I’ve always looked back on that as a blessing in times of peril.

Then another time, as I was coming home on the ocean, German submarines had just sunk a British passenger vessel called the SS Athenia off the coast of Ireland. Word was given throughout the ship that we were being followed by two giant submarines and that we could possibly be torpedoed. There again, faith came back to me, a feeling of faith, confidence, and hope that we would arrive in New York safely, which we did.
He also shared a few different slant about his mission in a 2003 BYU devotional:

I remember the times my dear mother trusted in our Heavenly Father for my safety. I played quarterback at East High School and running back at the university. During all that time I don’t think my mother ever stopped praying for my safety. She trusted in our Father in Heaven, depending on Him to protect me from major injury during the games. Although I had my share of bumps and bruises, I never had a major injury.

I suppose my mother breathed a sigh of relief when I told her that I was going to leave the football field for a season. I met with my beloved bishop, Marion G. Romney, to express a desire to serve a full-time mission. But that short, worry-free session soon ended when I was called to serve in the German/Austria Mission. Three months after I arrived in Salzburg, the name of the mission was changed to the Switzerland/Austria Mission.

The year was 1937. I arrived in Salzburg, Austria, at the very time Hitler was amassing 300,000 troops on the border for the Anschluss, his invasion of Austria.
My mother and father gathered the family to kneel in prayer morning and night and pled for my safety. I know that I felt the influence of those prayers. I trusted my Heavenly Father would hear their prayers. I trusted in my prayers that He would preserve my life.

A month before Hitler invaded Austria, I was transferred to Switzerland. My testimony is that our prayers had been answered.

“Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding,” we read in the scriptures. “In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct they paths” (Proverbs 3:5-6). (Joseph B. Wirthlin, “Improving Our Prayers,” Brigham Young University 2002-2003 Speeches, Provo, UT.: Brigham Young University Publications & Graphics, 2003, pp. 162-163).

He had a rare spiritual experience on his mission that he described in a CES Fireside in 1999:

It is not hard for me to remember when I was in college. I loved many things about college life: I loved learning. I loved the comradery. And I loved football.

I had always dreamed of playing football at the university level, and during my freshman, sophomore, and junior years, I wore a crimson uniform and played running back.

At that time, the world tottered on the brink of chaos. Opposing political forces roiled and ground against each other. Tension mushroomed. Nations chafed against each other. It was as though the entire world groaned in a burgeoning rumble, a volcano that had to erupt, that ultimately would erupt. Before it was over, every nation, every people felt the effects of those dark days.

I remember the day my father came to me. It was just after the 1936 football season had ended.

“Joseph,” he said, “do you want to go on a mission?”

I told him I did.

“Then you must go now,” he said. “If you wait any longer, you’ll never go.”

I didn’t want to believe him. I wanted to pursue my dream of continuing to play football and to graduate from the university. If I were to accept a mission call, I would have to give up everything. In those days a mission call was 30 months long, and I knew if I accepted, there was a good chance I would never play football again—perhaps I would not even be able to graduate.

But I also knew what my father had said was true. My bishop was Marion G. Romney (1897–1988), who later became a member of the First Presidency of the Church. He had spoken with me before about serving a mission, and I went to tell him that now was the time.

A few months later I stepped aboard the SS Manhattan and began a long voyage that would take me into the heart of the world crisis. My mission call was to the German-Austrian Mission.

My first field of labor was in Salzburg, Austria. The mission was shorthanded, and not long after I arrived, my companion was transferred to another district in the mission. Soon I found myself alone in Salzburg, a young missionary in a strange, new country.

One other thing was happening that I haven’t mentioned: a large army of Hitler’s Third Reich was gathering just over the border, not 20 miles from Salzburg. Everywhere you went you could sense a mounting tension in the air. No one knew if tomorrow would be the day the panzer tanks would flood across the border.

I remember those days well. I don’t suppose there has been a time in my life when I felt more discouraged, more lost. The mission was a difficult one; no one seemed to have time for me or the message I brought. I wondered if there would ever be enough members in that city to make a ward.

Six weeks I was alone. Six weeks I waited for a companion. Six weeks I wondered about what I might be doing had I stayed in Salt Lake City and continued my studies.

Even though the days and nights seemed at the time to be never ending, they eventually passed. A senior companion arrived, and we did the best we could under the circumstances to serve the Lord.

That year as Christmas Day approached, my companion and I decided we would walk to Oberndorf, a little village nestled in the beautiful Bavarian Alps. You may know that the beauty and majesty of this little village is what inspired Joseph Mohr in 1818 to write the wonderful hymn “Silent Night” (Hymns, no. 204).

On Christmas Eve we walked to the village and sat quietly for a while in a small, humble church, listening to the beautiful organ music. A crisp, clear winter night enveloped us as we began our return trip. We walked under a canopy of stars and across the smooth stillness of new-fallen snow. Perhaps it was a night not unlike the one that inspired an assistant priest to write the lyrics to one of the most beloved hymns in all of Christendom more than a hundred years earlier.

As we walked, my companion and I talked of our hopes and dreams. We talked of our goals and what we wanted to have happen in our lives. The more we talked, the more serious we became about achieving the things we talked about. As we walked under the light of a full moon, we both made serious resolutions.

I committed that night that I would not waste my time. I would renew my efforts to serve the Lord. I made up my mind that I would magnify any callings I received in the Lord’s kingdom.

That was also the evening I made up my mind about whom I would marry. I didn’t know her name, but I had in my mind the type of person she would be—one who lived the gospel and who was strong spiritually. I even described her to my companion—that she would be five foot five, that she would have blue eyes, and that she would have blonde hair. Sister Wirthlin fits all of the description that I made of her at that time without knowing her. And so that night was important to me.

Two and one-half years passed, and before I knew it, I was home again. I remember hearing someone mention a name: Elisa Rogers, a young woman who was in charge of a university dance at the Hotel Utah. There was something special about that name. I decided I ought to meet her.

I remember the first time I saw her. As a favor for a friend of mine, I had gone to her home to pick up her sister. Elisa opened the door, and I stared. There she was, beautiful, five foot five, blue eyes, blonde hair.

She must have had a feeling also, because she said to me, “I know who you was.”

She quickly realized she had made a grammatical error. To fully appreciate that, you have to remember that she was an English major.

Even after all of these years, she has remembered the embarrassment of that moment. Of course, my retelling this story doesn’t make matters better, but I trust she will forgive me.

Six decades have intervened since that Christmas Eve in Oberndorf when I made those resolutions. Much has happened in the intervening years. My premonitions about playing football were right; I never played again. But I did graduate from the university. Even so, I’ve never regretted serving a mission and committing myself to serving the Lord. By doing so, my life has been filled with adventure, spiritual experiences, and joy that surpasses understanding.

In 1992 at the mission presidents' seminar in his remarks during the opening session, Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin of the Quorum of the Twelve counseled the mission presidents to act in a spirit of unity with Church leaders by following a pattern of responsive orthodoxy and inspired initiative. He explained that responsive orthodoxy includes actively seeking the counsel of the Brethren. “It means that once you have learned the will of the Lord you exercise voluntary obedience. It means you act in a spirit of unity, not in a spirit of grudging compliance. “Inspired initiative means you seek the Lord’s guidance to carry out the approved program,” Elder Wirthlin continued. “I would emphasize that inspiration comes most freely when you seek it in behalf of [serving] others.”

In June 1994 he dedicated the Argentina Buenos Aries CTM (MTC). "The Missionary Training Center in Buenos Aires, Argentina, was recently dedicated by Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin of the Quorum of the Twelve. In addition to the training center, Elder Wirthlin dedicated the Patron Housing Facility. Both of the three-story buildings are adjacent to the Buenos Aires Argentina Temple.
The Missionary Training Center, which can accommodate up to ninety missionaries, and the housing facility, which houses 154 patrons, with ten apartments for couple missionaries serving in the temple, are directly involved in the mission of the Church, Elder Wirthlin pointed out in his remarks at the dedication. “We see here an example of the Church—it is compacted in these three buildings. The Missionary Training Center is where we train and send out these wonderful missionaries in order to bring many people to the gospel of Jesus Christ. And then, later, as the converts proceed and improve themselves, they are able to come to the patron housing and then go to the temple.”

In 1994 he shared a personal member missionary experience he had while visiting Hawaii with his wife:

Sharing the Gospel on Molokai

Recently while on Church assignment in Hawaii, Sister Wirthlin and I visited the island of Molokai. One of the world's few remaining leper colonies is found there. We drove into the mountains to a trail that leads to an overlook where the colony can be seen in the distance below. After laboring up the trail, we were disappointed to discover that rain and fog obscured the valley beneath us, and we could not see the colony. As we walked back to our car, we came upon a young man headed toward the overlook. I offered a polite greeting. From his answer, I could tell that he was from Germany.

I served a German-speaking mission in Austria and Switzerland in my youth. Here was a young man whose countenance bespoke a sincere heart and an approachable personality. And I spoke his language and understood his culture. The Spirit prompted me to open my mouth and introduce the gospel to him. However, due to other people being around us, our brief encounter was interrupted, and we went our separate ways without my having said a word about the restored gospel of Jesus Christ. I failed to be the missionary that every member of the Savior's Church ought to be.

As we drove away, I had the disturbing feeling that I had failed in my duty to proclaim the gospel. I remembered the Lord's words in section 60 of the Doctrine and Covenants:

But with some I am not well pleased, for they will not open their mouths, but they hide the talent which I have given unto them, because of the fear of man. Wo unto such, for mine anger is kindled against them. [D&C 60:2]

I was then troubled and ill at ease while we drove around the island to see Molokai's beautiful waterfalls. After many miles, the road came to a dead end. We got out of our car to enjoy the beautiful surroundings. We had been there only a few moments when another car drove up and stopped. The young man we had seen on the overlook trail got out of his car, smiled, and gave me a warm handshake. As I grasped his outstretched hand, I thought to myself, "This time I will do my duty!"

In a few brief moments we introduced ourselves. I learned that he was a university student in a small city south of Dusseldorf, Germany. We spoke of my experiences in his country, of my fond memories of Germany, and of my admiration for the German people. Speaking of my work in Europe gave me an ideal opportunity to explain some of the basics of the gospel. As we parted, I asked for his address and telephone number, which he gladly shared with me. I felt that he was truly a newly found friend and an interested investigator.

Upon my return to Church headquarters, I promptly wrote to President John F. Charles of the Germany Dusseldorf Mission. I explained how Sister Wirthlin and I had met this outstanding young man and gave him his address. I asked President Charles to immediately send missionaries to continue the gospel discussion that I had begun on a dead-end road on Molokai.

Maddie Wilson on Mormon Times recounts a story told to her by Elder Wirthlin's home teacher Skip Daynes. Daynes was one of 46 priests that were in the care of Joseph B. Wirthlin when he was bishop of the Bonneville Ward. Daynes describes his efforts to get all his priests including him to serve missions:
"I'm paying a little bit back to what this marvelous man has given," Daynes said.

Daynes recalled a time when Elder Wirthlin was bishop in the ward, when there were at least 46 priests, including Daynes. Daynes said Elder Wirthlin wanted all of them to serve missions.

"It was a big challenge because, for him to say that, he had to realize that my father was inactive and my mother wasn't a member." Daynes claims he was the hardest of the 46 to get to serve a mission. He explains this by telling how he spent time growing up on Jeremy Ranch in Summit County.

"When you're a cowboy and you're off with sheep-herders doing that all summer, while all my friends were playing basketball in the city, I would assume that I would probably be the harder one to get (to go on a mission)."

But Daynes got some extra help from a friend who was serving a mission in Uruguay at the time. His friend wrote Daynes a letter telling about the small branch he was serving in.

"He said, 'I'm down here in Uruguay, and they assigned me a horse. Since you like horses so much, you should come serve a mission here.'"

When Daynes filled out his mission papers, he requested Uruguay three times. And that's where he went.

But "I didn't ever see a horse," Daynes said.

Every priest from that ward ended up serving a mission, Daynes said.

And about a year ago, Daynes organized a reunion of all the priests from that ward.

"This is probably my best thing I did for Elder Wirthlin.

"People came from Canada, they came from all over the United States. I was totally blown away by all these people that came just to honor this man and recognize what he had done for them when he was a bishop to get them on missions or change their lives."

Even though Daynes and Elder Wirthlin "go way back" — he said they are the two oldest members of the Bonneville Ward — he said it is sometimes difficult to home teach an apostle.

"It's pretty hard to teach an apostle of the church, but they say they need it," Daynes said. "The scary part is what do you teach one of the Twelve?"

But, he said, there were many times when he taught the month's message, and Elder Wirthlin said afterward, "I learned something today that I didn't know."
Joseph B. Wirthlin began full-time general authority service to the Church on 4 April 4 1975 when he was sustained and set apart as an Assistant to the Council of the Twelve. He later was called to the First Quorum of the Seventy in April 1976. ("The Ensign", November 1986, pages 95-96.)

Elder Wirthlin served as Area Supervisor for the Europe Area from July 1975 to April 1978 and as Executive Administrator for the Southeast Area of the United States and the Caribbean Islands from 1978-1982. He then served as Executive Administrator for Brazil until 1 July 1 1984. He has served as Managing Director of the Melchizedek Priesthood Department and as Managing Director of the Military Relations Committee of the Church.

In 1976 Enzio Busche reported "Elder Joseph A. Wirthlin, Assistant to the Council of the Twelve and Europe’s area supervisor, has “instilled a new drive and enthusiasm in the missionaries.”

From July 1984 to August 1986, Elder Wirthlin was President of the Europe Area, with headquarters in Frankfurt, Germany. There he was in charge of Church activities in the British Isles, continental Europe, Scandinavia, and Africa.

Elder Wirthlin shared this interesting story when he presided over the European area:

While I was serving as president of the European area, Sister Wirthlin and I traveled throughout Finland, Sweden, Denmark, and Norway holding meetings and conferences with members and missionaries in these northern lands. As we neared the end of our rigorous travels, we arrived, along with President and Sister John Langeland, in the small city of Alta, Norway. We held a meeting with the members and afterward climbed a beautiful mountain and at midnight enjoyed a picnic with them. It was as light as noon-day. At that time of the year there was no sunset in Alta, which is located near the top of the world, lying well inside the Arctic Circle. We watched the sun hover in a straight line as it moved across the horizon, and we marveled at the precision and exactness that the Savior employed in creating the earth in all its majesty.

As President Langeland and I reviewed our many meetings and travels, we were happy that we had made the extra effort to meet with the members in such a remote part of Norway. Over the years there had been few General Authorities who had visited these small and widely scattered branches. But, while chatting with the local Church leaders, we learned that there was yet one more small branch even further north. We learned that in the city of Hammerfest, which is located on the other side of a high mountain north of Alta, a branch of the Church had been established, a small branch that was not on our itinerary. Hammerfest is one of the world's northernmost cities, making its tiny branch one of the most remote units of the Church. To our surprise, we learned that several years earlier, Elder Howard W. Hunter had been the first General Authority to visit the Hammerfest Branch, a visit that was accomplished with considerable difficulty. The story of that visit is worth telling because it says so much about the man who the Lord has now chosen as his prophet, seer, and revelator:

"Hammerfest is difficult to reach by normal transportation. It was originally planned that the visitors would fly . . . by seaplane. A change in the weather eliminated any possibility of using a plane, as is often the case. It was decided that they should travel by car from Alta, the closest city to Hammerfest with a commercial airport. Snow had started to cover the roads. Several times en route Elder Hunter and Pres. [Leo M.] Jacobsen had to push their car through the snow. When it seemed as if further progress was impossible, a truck came by and towed the car over the summit to Hammerfest."

They finally arrived at ten-thirty that night for a meeting that was to have started at seven o'clock, and found that most of the members had waited. 'They had come from a number of places along the north cape and from as far as Kirkenes near the Russian border." [Eleanor Knowles, Howard W. Hunter (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1994), pp. 175­76]

The members in Hammerfest, anxious to meet an apostle of the Lord and to hear the voice of one called as a special witness, waited three and a half hours for Elder Hunter's delayed arrival. Their faith, hope, and prayers were rewarded as he shared with them his powerful testimony of the Savior. Despite great hardship, Elder Hunter, with God's blessings and protecting care, kept his commitment to minister to the Lord's sheep in that faraway small branch.

Mormon Wiki says: "On October 9, 1986, Elder Wirthlin was ordained an Apostle of the Church. As an Apostle, he has served as a member of the Missionary Executive Council; the General Welfare Services Committee; the Church Board of Education and Boards of Trustees; the Leadership Training Committee; and First Contact of the Quorum of the Twelve for the Australia/New Zealand, Asia, Asia North, Pacific, and Philippines Areas."

At one time Elder Wirthlin was over humanitarian missionaries. "Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles has said, “If the Savior were among us in mortality today, He would be found ministering to the needy, the suffering, the sick” (“Inspired Church Welfare,” Ensign, May 1999, 78). Those who serve welfare missions spend their lives in service to “the least of these” (Matt. 25:40). They walk in the footsteps of the Savior, feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, visiting the lonely, and giving hope to the despondent. They understand in a profoundly personal way the Lord’s counsel to “Go, and do thou likewise” (Luke 10:37).

“Have compassion, making a difference” (Jude 1:22). Those who serve welfare missions show that rich blessings come into the lives of both givers and receivers when loving, generous people exercise this compassion that makes a difference.

In 1997 he returned to his first field of labor as an apostle to create the Salzburg Austria Stake, which includes the Klagenfurt, Linz, Linz-Urfahr, Salzburg, Salzburg-Flachgau, and Wels wards, and the Haag Am Hausruck, Innsbruck, St. Johann-Pongau, Steyr, and Villach branches.

Joseph B. Wirthlin was one of the few apostles to serve a mission. His life was missionary-oriented and he contributed a great deal to missionary efforts through his service and writings.



Missionary Quotes and Stories
To his surprise, he happened to knock on her door one night while tracting with his stake missionary companion. She opened the door cautiously at first, then, seeing who was there, opened the door wider and happily exclaimed, "What a pleasant surprise!"
He explained that he was not wearing his grocery man's hat that night but was calling on her as a missionary of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. She said in response that she had her own religion, that for years she had refused to listen to the Representatives of the Mormon Church and had no interest in its message. But she exclaimed, "With you, it is different. Please come in. I want to hear what you, a splendid Christian gentleman, have to say."

That was only the beginning. We don't need to tell the whole story. It is enough to say that she joined the Church and loves it--because her heart was softened by this outstanding Latter-day Saint.

His experience illustrates the second point to effectively reaching those who are supposedly unreceptive--build a bridge of friendship before the subject of religion and Church involvement in broached. A relationship first established on the basis of good feelings will help to dissolve fears, uncertainties, and antagonisms and will open doors to understanding and acceptance of the gospel. (Joseph B. Wirthlin, "The Worth of One," Ensign, [January 1983]: 19).
Priesthood bearers concern themselves with several aspects of missionary service: (1) They serve full-time missions; (2) they friendship nonmembers so that they will want to hear the gospel; (3) they prepare their children--especially sons--for missions; and (4) they give financial support to missionary work.

The responsibility to do missionary work rests with every member of the Church. (See D&C 88:81). Priesthood bearers and priesthood quorums have a particular charge to lead out in this work. Seventies, high priests, and elders share the responsibility and are to organize ways to help quorum members fulfill this sacred responsibility.

President Chang Suen Kim of the Seoul Korea West Stake has been especially anxious to have the Melchizedek Priesthood quorum leaders carry their share of the missionary work. he has concentrated on the role of the stake Melchizedek Priesthood committee to train the quorum leaders and see that they are well organized and functioning effectively. The seventies of the stake have been able to establish a good liaison with the full-time missionaries by holding regular meetings with them and have brought many new converts into the Church. Missionary preparation activities have also been carefully organized by the quorums of the stake. Through specific training classes and consistent emphasis, they have prepared a high number of young men to be called as full-time missionaries.
Under the direction of stake president Evert W. Percivall and stake mission president Haken Palm, the Melchizedek Priesthood quorum leaders and other members of the Stockholm Sweden Stake organized a unique missionary project in the Exhibition Hall in downtown Stockholm. They created an outstanding exhibit entitled "Sweden's Future Is Formed in the Home." The exhibit included guided tours and professionally prepared visual displays telling the gospel message. Members staffed the exhibit from 9:00 A.M. to 9:00 P.M. each day for a month. They estimate that more than twelve thousand people visited the exhibit, resulting in many referrals and teaching opportunities. (Joseph B. Wirthlin, "The Work of Our Priesthood Quorums," Ensign, [August 1984]: 11-12).

Each of you young men should be preparing for missionary service. Make yourselves worthy to receive a mission call by learning and living the principles of the gospel, especially by living clean, pure lives. Those who bear the priesthood must never defile it or bring shame to the Lord's church. Prepare also by studying the divine principles of the gospel so you can teach them to those who are awaiting the truth. Lastly, prepare yourselves financially. The world needs the gospel message; you need to help declare it. (Joseph B. Wirthlin, CR O'88, Ensign, [November 1988): 35).

Help your missionaries see that they must come to love the things the Lord loves. Their obedience, their service, their commitment will then grow from love for the Lord and not from fear, or habit, or desire to measure up to parents' expectations.

This begins to stretch their hearts to love God's children. . . . Let us never forget that love is the essence and evidence of a true disciple. (Joseph B. Wirthlin, [Mission Presidents’ Seminar], Church News, [30 June 1990]: 4).


Missionary work was a distinct part of the Savior’s mortal ministry. This is also true today. The Savior commanded, “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.” (Mark 16:15.) His disciples, especially Paul, proclaimed the gospel message widely in the years following the Savior’s crucifixion. In 1831, the Lord revealed through the Prophet Joseph Smith, “The voice of the Lord is unto all men, and there is none to escape; and there is no eye that shall not see, neither ear that shall not hear, neither heart that shall not be penetrated.” (D&C 1:2.)

Today more than 44,000 missionaries are working to fulfill the divine mandate to preach the gospel. They bless the people they teach by acquainting them with the fulness of the restored gospel. They bless themselves by the dramatic growth and maturity that come during a mission. Every worthy young man should go on a mission. Also, worthy young women and couples of the Church can give invaluable service in the mission field. They all serve as the emissaries of the Lord. We thank them most sincerely. (Joseph B. Wirthlin, “Fruits of the Restored Gospel of Jesus Christ,” Ensign, Nov 1991, 15).


It means that once you have learned the will of the Lord you exercise voluntary obedience. It means you act in a spirit of unity, not in a spirit of grudging compliance.
Inspired initiative means you seek the Lord’s guidance to carry out the approved program. I would emphasize that inspiration comes most freely when you seek it in behalf of [serving] others. (Joseph B. Wirthlin, “New Mission Presidents Receive Instruction,” Ensign, [September 1992]: 74–75).

To help missionaries remain faithful and obedient, we give them a little handbook. We ask them to carry it with them and read from it often. We have also provided a handbook for our young men and young women. Its title is For the Strength of Youth. We ask you to carry it with you, refer to it frequently, and live according to the counsel it contains. That counsel can protect you from evil and help you to obey even when obedience is difficult.

As you build your lives in obedience to the gospel and strive to achieve your goals, do not become discouraged by temporary setbacks and disappointments. Remember that “it must needs be, that there is an opposition in all things.” 12 You will grow and learn by overcoming obstacles. The Lord has admonished all of us to “keep [His] commandments and endure to the end.” 13

No doubt, you young men have learned that obedience is not always easy. In fact, it can sometimes seem stifling, uncomfortable, or even impossible. “But with God all things are possible.” 14 You can be obedient. You can defeat Satan and overcome temptation. God “will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.” 15 The Lord does not expect anything of you that you cannot do. Remember Nephi’s faith when he testified that “the Lord giveth no commandments unto the children of men, save he shall prepare a way for them that they may accomplish the thing which he commandeth them.” 16 (Joseph B. Wirthlin, “Live in Obedience,” Ensign, May 1994, 39).

Our challenge as missionaries is to declare the word of the Lord among all nations, kindred, tongues and people of the earth who are searching and hungering and yearning for the truth. "For there are many yet on the earth among all sects, parties, and denominations who are . . . kept from the truth only because they know not where to find it". (Joseph B. Wirthlin, "Mission Presidents’ Seminar: Apostles Counsel Embarking Leaders," Church News, [2 July 1994]: 5).

Continue to be missionaries. May I suggest that you set a lifelong goal to bring at least one individual or family into the Church every year. Live lives that will attract people to the gospel of Jesus Christ. "Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven" (Matthew 5:16). Seek to emulate the works of our Great Exemplar. The Lord could not have been more direct in seeking our allegiance than when he taught the Nephites during his ministry in the Americas. He asked, "Therefore, what manner of men ought ye to be?" Then came this response of awesome magnitude: "Verily I say unto you, even as I am" (3 Nephi 27:27).(Joseph B. Wirthlin, "Choose the Right," 1994 BYU Speeches, Provo, Utah: Intellectual Reserve, 1995; 4 September 1994).

May I take a moment here to speak to those who have completed full-time missions. Like no other experience, a mission prepares you for a lifetime of faithful service in preaching the gospel. You have learned eternal truths and strengthened your testimony as you vigorously proclaimed the message of the Restoration. You have learned to serve and sacrifice, to be exacting in your obedience to the commandments, to set and achieve challenging goals. Do not allow Satan to lull you into an apathetic stupor with such superficial returned-missionary rationalizations as "I've served my time; it's time to relax."If such thoughts have crossed your mind or similar words have escaped your lips, please take a moment to ponder these words from 2 Nephi:

And others will he pacify, and lull them away into carnal security, that they will say: All is well in Zion; yea, Zion prospereth, all is well--and thus the devil cheateth their souls, and leadeth them away carefully down to hell. [2 Nephi 28:21]

Don't let an apathetic attitude rob you of the progress you've worked so hard to achieve. Choose, instead, to remain stalwart and true. Choose to follow the Savior.

We can reach out to others in missionary service in response to the Savior’s injunction to “go … into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.” 12 The Lord used a harvest analogy when he instructed the early Saints to proclaim the gospel. He said, “Behold, the field is white already to harvest; therefore, whoso desireth to reap, let him thrust in his sickle with his might, and reap while the day lasts, that he may treasure up for his soul everlasting salvation in the kingdom of God.” 13 That is our sacred privilege and obligation.

The field is still white and all ready to harvest. Church members remain a small percentage of the world’s population. “For there are many yet on the earth among all sects, parties, and denominations … who are only kept from the truth because they know not where to find it.” 14 In proclaiming the gospel we need to be sensitive to the feelings of others, remembering that “we claim the privilege of worshiping Almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience, and allow all men the same privilege, let them worship how, where, or what they may.” 15

Missionaries labor diligently to teach and baptize those who accept the gospel. In the process their own testimonies become deeply rooted. Missionary service provides the finest foundation possible for young people as they move into adulthood. The deep roots they sink into the gospel will sustain them for a lifetime and for all eternity. The Church needs more missionaries, many more, including couples, to fulfill its charge to proclaim the gospel “unto all nations, kindreds, tongues and people.” (Joseph B. Wirthlin, “Deep Roots,” Ensign, Nov 1994, 75)

We can experience no greater joy than to see the light of the gospel shine in the eyes and face of a newly baptized brother or sister who has 'spiritually been born of God,' who has 'experienced [a] mighty change in [heart],' and who has 'the image of God engraven upon [his or her countenance!]'" (Joseph B. Wirthlin, Ensign, November 1995: 76).
Companionships also constitute the basic organization in the 318 missions of the Church. Just as the disciples of old, our more than 56,000 missionaries go two by two “into all the world” 12 to proclaim the good news of the gospel. In this wonderful work of saving souls, there is tremendous fellowship and camaraderie. When Alma was reunited with the sons of Mosiah after 14 years of missionary service, he “did rejoice exceedingly to see his brethren; and what added more to his joy, they were still his brethren in the Lord.” 13 Missionary reunions are still a great time of rejoicing. (Joseph B. Wirthlin, “Valued Companions,” Ensign, Nov 1997, 32).

Recently, I received a letter from our grandson who is a missionary. He wrote that members “who are reading scriptures and praying are more willing to share the gospel.” 13

I believe he’s right. The more we study the scriptures and pray, the more likely we can enthusiastically share our testimonies of the gospel with others.

Remember, Church members who receive a testimony of the gospel are under covenant “to stand as witnesses of God at all times and in all things, and in all places.” 14 It is clear we have a sacred obligation to obtain referrals for our missionaries. Witnesses have a special knowledge and are to bear testimony of “that which they have seen and heard and most assuredly believe.” 15 We make simple, clear, direct statements that we know with certainty and surety that the gospel is true because it has been “made known unto [us] by the Holy Spirit of God.” 16 In bearing such a testimony, speaking by the power of the Holy Ghost, we are promised that “the Holy Ghost shall be shed forth in bearing record unto all things whatsoever [we] shall say.” 17 We are blessed personally when we so testify. (Joseph B. Wirthlin, “Pure Testimony,” Ensign, Nov 2000, 22–24).

One who received and welcomed the gift of peace was Joseph Millett, an early missionary to the Maritime Provinces of Canada, who learned while there and in his later experiences in life of the need to rely on heavenly help. An experience which he recalled in his journal is a beautiful illustration of simple yet profound faith:

“One of my children came in and said that Brother Newton Hall’s folks was out of bread, had none that day.

“I divided our flour in a sack to send up to Brother Hall. Just then Brother Hall came.

“Says I, ‘Brother Hall, are you out of flour?’

“ ‘Brother Millett, we have none.’

“ ‘Well, Brother Hall, there is some in that sack. I have divided and was going to send it to you. Your children told mine that you was out.’

“Brother Hall began to cry. He said he had tried others, but could not get any. He went to the cedars and prayed to the Lord, and the Lord told him to go to Joseph Millett.

“ ‘Well Brother Hall, you needn’t bring this back. If the Lord sent you for it you don’t owe me for it.’

“You can’t tell me how good it made me feel to know that the Lord knew there was such a person as Joseph Millett.” (Joseph B. Wirthlin, “Lessons Learned in the Journey of Life,” Liahona, May 2001, 41; Ensign, Dec. 2000, 12.)

Fourteen years ago, President Ezra Taft Benson (1899–1994) gave a landmark address in general conference titled “Flooding the Earth with the Book of Mormon.” In this masterful discourse, he called the Church to repentance and gave us his prophetic vision of the role the Book of Mormon must play in our lives and in the Church. I wish to remind you of that vision. Also, I want to discuss how well we have followed his counsel these many years later. How are we doing in flooding the earth with the Book of Mormon? President Benson taught:

“The Book of Mormon is the instrument that God designed to ‘sweep the earth as with a flood, to gather out [His] elect.’ (Moses 7:62.) This sacred volume of scripture needs to become more central in our preaching, our teaching, and our missionary work. …

“The time is long overdue for a massive flooding of the earth with the Book of Mormon for the many reasons which the Lord has given. In this age of electronic media and the mass distribution of the printed word, God will hold us accountable if we do not now move the Book of Mormon in a monumental way. …

“… We hardly fathom the power of the Book of Mormon, nor the divine role it must play, nor the extent to which it must be moved. …

“I challenge our mission leaders to show their missionaries how to challenge their contacts to read the Book of Mormon and pray about it. Missionaries need to know how to use the Book of Mormon to arouse mankind’s interest in studying it, and they need to show how it answers the great questions of the soul. Missionaries need to read with those they teach various passages from the Book of Mormon on gospel subjects. …

“I challenge all of us to prayerfully consider steps that we can personally take to bring this new witness for Christ more fully into our own lives and into a world that so desperately needs it. …

“I have a vision of thousands of missionaries going into the mission field with [marvelous testimonies of this sacred book] so that they might feed the needs of a spiritually famished world.

“I have a vision of the whole Church getting nearer to God by abiding by the precepts of the Book of Mormon.

“Indeed, I have a vision of flooding the earth with the Book of Mormon” (Ensign, Nov. 1988, 4–6).

We need to have that same vision if we are to be successful in fulfilling the Lord’s wishes. We may be doing fine in terms of quantity, but how about in terms of quality? I believe there is much room for improvement. (Joseph B. Wirthlin, “The Book of Mormon: The Heart of Missionary Proselyting,” Ensign, Sep 2002, 13; From an address to new mission presidents, Provo Missionary Training Center, 23 June 1999.)

In 1839 the Prophet Joseph Smith and several other Church leaders had the opportunity to address a congregation of 3,000 people in Philadelphia who were not members of the Church. Sidney Rigdon spoke first. Attempting to establish common ground, he taught the gospel by referring to the Bible and its prophecies. When Joseph arose to speak, he was displeased. He said that if others did not have the courage to testify of him, then he would testify of himself and of the Book of Mormon. Because of his speech, many were touched by the Spirit and were baptized into the Church (see Parley P. Pratt, Autobiography of Parley P. Pratt [1985], 260).

You may have many opportunities to teach and to bear witness of the gospel. May I suggest that you emulate the example of the Prophet and take every opportunity to bear witness of the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon and of the divine mission of Joseph Smith.

When President David O. McKay’s father was serving a mission in Scotland, he encountered antagonism toward the Church. He decided to preach the doctrines of the gospel without mentioning the Restoration or the Book of Mormon. As the days passed, President McKay said, his father continued with this approach until his mind became so darkened and despondent that he felt he would have to leave his mission and go home.

As a last resort, he decided to go into a cave and pray for help. While he was praying, a voice came to him, “Testify that Joseph Smith is a Prophet of God.” He consequently changed his approach and began to testify of the Book of Mormon and of the Prophet Joseph Smith. As a result, President McKay said, his father discovered that many were touched by the spirit of his words and believed and were baptized (see David O. McKay, Cherished Experiences from the Writings of David O. McKay, comp. Clare Middlemiss [1976], 11).

I hope we can learn from this experience. If you want to reach people, if you want to change hearts, if you want to be successful in your missionary work, testify of the divinity of the Book of Mormon. (Joseph B. Wirthlin, “The Book of Mormon: The Heart of Missionary Proselyting,” Ensign, Sep 2002, 13; From an address to new mission presidents, Provo Missionary Training Center, 23 June 1999.)

Before we go any further, we must understand why this inspired book of scripture is the heart of missionary proselyting. Conversion to it is conversion to Christ, because this book contains the words of Christ. The very title page of the Book of Mormon proclaims its purpose: “To the convincing of the Jew and Gentile that Jesus is the Christ.”

Additionally, conversion to this inspired book is conversion to the gospel of Jesus Christ, because it contains the fulness of the gospel of Jesus Christ. The Lord told Joseph Smith in the Doctrine and Covenants, “And again, the elders, priests and teachers of this church shall teach the principles of my gospel, which are in the Bible and the Book of Mormon, in the which is the fulness of the gospel” (D&C 42:12).

Finally, conversion to the Book of Mormon is conversion to the divine, prophetic calling of the Prophet Joseph Smith. It is the divine evidence of the truthfulness of Joseph Smith’s calling. Either this is all true, or it is not. Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles explained it best when he wrote:

“To consider that everything of saving significance in the Church stands or falls on the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon and, by implication, the Prophet Joseph Smith’s account of how it came forth is as sobering as it is true. It is a ‘sudden death’ proposition. Either the Book of Mormon is what the Prophet Joseph said it is, or this Church and its founder are false, a deception from the first instance onward.

“Not everything in life is so black and white, but the authenticity of the Book of Mormon and its keystone role in our religion seem to be exactly that. Either Joseph Smith was the prophet he said he was, a prophet who, after seeing the Father and the Son, later beheld the angel Moroni, repeatedly heard counsel from Moroni’s lips, and eventually received at his hands a set of ancient gold plates that he then translated by the gift and power of God, or else he did not. And if he did not, he would not be entitled to the reputation of New England folk hero, or well-meaning young man or writer of remarkable fiction. No, nor would he be entitled to be considered a great teacher, a quintessential American religious leader, or the creator of great devotional literature. If he had lied about the coming forth of the Book of Mormon, he would certainly be none of these.

“I am suggesting that one has to take something of a do-or-die stand regarding the restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ, and the divine origins of the Book of Mormon. Reason and righteousness require it. Joseph Smith must be accepted either as a prophet of God or else as a charlatan of the first order, but no one should tolerate any ludicrous, even laughable middle ground about the wonderful contours of a young boy’s imagination or his remarkable facility for turning a literary phrase. That is an unacceptable position to take—morally, literarily, historically, or theologically” (Christ and the New Covenant [1997], 345–46). (Joseph B. Wirthlin, “The Book of Mormon: The Heart of Missionary Proselyting,” Ensign, Sep 2002, 13; From an address to new mission presidents, Provo Missionary Training Center, 23 June 1999.)

I have great faith in our young people who are called to serve missions. I believe they are better prepared with greater testimonies of this book. Let me share the example of one young man, Brian Yoho. When Brian was 14 years old, he decided it was time for him to read the Book of Mormon, since Joseph Smith was 14 when he received the First Vision. Brian read constantly, and he loved the book so much that he read it four times in one year.

One day Brian went to the Church distribution center with his mother. As they were leaving, Brian told his mother to go on ahead, as he wanted to purchase something alone. Normally that may be a red flag for a mother, but after all, what could he buy at the Church distribution center that would be harmful?

Brian’s mother respected his wish and waited in the car for him to make his secret purchase. A few minutes later, Brian got into the car with a large box. His mother asked what was in the box. “Oh, nothing,” he replied. When they got home, Brian then wrote on the box the address of his older brother, who was currently serving a mission, and asked his mother to ship it to his older brother. He still wouldn’t tell his mother what was in the box. So she wrote her son in the mission field, asking what was in the box that Brian had sent to him. He wrote back, explaining that Brian had sent him a box of copies of the Book of Mormon to hand out to people in his mission. Brian had been so touched by his reading from the Book of Mormon that he had a great desire to share it. He bought the box with his own hard-earned money and sent it to his missionary brother. Brian later served a full-time mission in Japan.

Is there any doubt that Brian caught President Benson’s prophetic vision of the Book of Mormon? We need more missionaries and members prepared, like Brian, with a great love and understanding of the Book of Mormon.

The proper use of this scripture in proselyting consists of much more than just placing a Book of Mormon in a home. The goal is not simply to see how many copies of it we can give away. The immediate goal when placing the Book of Mormon should be to have the investigator read it and receive the missionary discussions. The ultimate goal is for the book to lead the person to come unto Christ and be converted to the true Church.(Joseph B. Wirthlin, “The Book of Mormon: The Heart of Missionary Proselyting,” Ensign, Sep 2002, 13; From an address to new mission presidents, Provo Missionary Training Center, 23 June 1999.)

Remember, prospective converts are like sprouting plants. They are all sprouting, but at different stages and degrees. Some are still seeds planted far beneath the ground, needing lots of sun, water, and time to grow. Such prospective converts may need years to sprout and blossom. Others are very close to the surface and only need a little sun, water, and patience to poke through the ground to the full rays of the sun. These prospective converts only need someone to love them. They only need to hear the truth as taught by the missionaries and gain a testimony of the Book of Mormon. They only need to make and keep the commitments that will lead them to conversion and baptism. Others, of course, are sprouting and blossoming when missionaries contact them, and they are fully prepared for the message of the Restoration. The Doctrine and Covenants states that such people “are only kept from the truth because they know not where to find it” (D&C 123:12).

By using the Book of Mormon effectively, we can accelerate that sprouting process. It contains the fulness of the gospel and the greatest witness of the Lord Jesus Christ and His divine mission. Teach of the Savior and His mission from its pages. We must teach of Christ more often. When we do, the Spirit will attend us more often, and true conversion will result.

This book of truth has many uses in missionary work: it helps people feel the Spirit, it helps answer concerns and questions, and it helps people make commitments. I know that as we use this sacred book effectively, our converts will be like those of Ammon’s converts who “were converted unto the Lord, [and] never did fall away” (Alma 23:6; emphasis added). No member of this Church is fully converted until he or she has a burning testimony of the Book of Mormon.

The world needs this great book of scripture more than ever. And people are hungering for it. This book is now translated and available in more than 100 languages. We will not rest until every man and woman can read this book in his or her tongue. Many people still do not have it in their own language. We are doing the best that we can in that regard.

Please do not take the Book of Mormon for granted. Pray for a vision of how you can use the Book of Mormon more effectively in your missionary work. I promise that as you do so, your mind will be enlightened with the direction that you should take. I pray that we may catch the vision of this great work, particularly of flooding the earth with this great book of scripture. (Joseph B. Wirthlin, “The Book of Mormon: The Heart of Missionary Proselyting,” Ensign, Sep 2002, 13; From an address to new mission presidents, Provo Missionary Training Center, 23 June 1999.)

We manifest our love for others by standing "as witnesses of God at all times and in all things, and in all places" (Mosiah 18:9). The great missionary work of the Church is a testimony to our love of our fellowman. The gospel of Jesus Christ restored to the earth in these latter days is the great hope for individuals, families, communities, and the world itself. We say to our friends, "Come unto Christ, enter the purifying waters of baptism, receive the Holy Ghost, and your lives will be transformed in the light and life of the Spirit." (Joseph B. Wirthlin, “The Two Guiding Lights,” Brigham Young University CES Fireside for Young Adults, 1 February 2004).

2 comments:

Seth said...

This is a great blog. Keep up the good work! I'll be checking back and forth for updates! God bless!

Anonymous said...

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http://www.isaiahexplained.com/
The site has free lessons on every chapter.
Very well done and in the author’s own voice.
Every Isaiah Chapter has the Analytical Commentary of Isaiah. Enjoy this personable verse-by-verse commentary of Isaiah by well-known Hebrew scholar Avraham Gileadi.

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“Dr. Gileadi has clearly demonstrated his mastery of the Book of Isaiah and of the scholarly literature dealing with it”—Professor Ronald Youngblood, Bethel Theological Seminary, San Diego, California.

“Avraham Gileadi’s books and tapes take the casual observer of Isaiah’s words and transform him into an enlightened and lifelong student of the Word of God”—Allan and Nancy Pratt, LDS mission president, Toulouse, France.

“Dr. Gileadi has awakened a whole new depth of my understanding of Isaiah’s prophetic message. His books and tapes illuminate the urgent relevance of Isaiah’s writings to our own day”—Becky Douglas, supervisor and sponsor of three orphanages in India, Atlanta, Georgia.

“Dr. Gileadi’s translation [of the Book of Isaiah] is clear and smooth, allowing the reader to appreciate the power and beauty of Isaiah as conveyed in the Hebrew original”—Professor Herbert M. Wolf, Wheaton College, Wheaton, Illinois.

“Gileadi has uncovered an amazing message written in a divine code by the prophet–poet Isaiah. This will give comfort, hope, and joy to masses of people as they cope with the perplexing events now unfolding before their eyes”—Fenton Tobler, thirty years elementary school principle, Las Vegas, Nevada.