10 million individual lives

There are now 10 million members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. What a landmark!

The significance of this statistic lies more in individual lives touched and changed for the better than in numbers, impressive though they may be. From various cultures and languages, members of the Church are united in common bonds of faith and testimony, in words and deeds as they do their part in spreading the message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.On Nov. 1, 1831 - exactly 166 years ago - there were only 680 members of the Church when the Lord gave this revelation through the Prophet Joseph Smith:

"And the voice of warning shall be unto all people, by the mouths of my disciples, whom I have chosen in these last days. . . .

"Wherefore, the voice of the Lord is unto the ends of the earth, that all that will hear may hear. . . .

"That the fulness of my gospel might be proclaimed by the weak and the simple unto the ends of the world, and before kings and rulers." (D&C 1:4, 11, 23.)

This was not the first time such a mandate was given. At least eight months earlier, on Feb. 9, 1831, the "elders of my church" were commanded to "go forth in the power of my Spirit, preaching my gospel . . . unto all nations, kindreds, tongues and people." (See D&C 42:1, 6, 58.)

Can any of us comprehend what members in 1831 might have thought upon learning that the gospel would be taken to the ends of the earth? Could any begin to imagine just how widely the gospel message would be spread, that membership would be counted not in hundreds or even thousands but in millions?

Some wonder why The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints continues to grow and member participation increases while membership and attendance in many other churches decline. Here are a few of many answers:

The Church continues to grow because it is true. It is God's plan.

Such is said with gratitude and humility, not arrogance. This is the Lord's Church, restored by Him in these latter days. He is its head.

The Church continues to grow because it is led by a prophet of God.

Through inspiration and revelation each prophet, in his turn, has known precisely what direction to give members of the Church. Because the Lord directs the affairs of the Church through His divinely called prophets, we are able to stay on an upward and progressive course. We know what our course is because the doctrines of the Church are so plainly laid before us. While programs to implement or carry forth the work of the Church might change from time to time, gospel principles remain constant.

No ecumenical movement caused the Church to spring into existence. It was "built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone." (Eph. 2:20.)

The Church continues to grow because people, as never before, are searching for answers to perplexing questions. Within the teachings and programs of the Church are found solid answers to sincere questions. In the Church is found the true path to happiness in this life and joy in eternity.

The Church continues to grow because missionaries have taken the gospel message to nations of the world.

At the Regional Representatives Seminar in October 1974, President Spencer W. Kimball spoke of missionaries in the early days of this dispensation: "These men of valor began to walk the earth with dignity and honor, with mantles on their shoulders and keys in their hands and love in their hearts."

Today, the Church is established in 160 nations. Nearly 57,200 full-time missionaries are serving the Lord throughout the world, teaching in 175 languages. Yet, more is to be done. The Lord said: "For it shall come to pass in that day, that every man shall hear the fulness of the gospel in his own tongue, and in his own language, . . . " (D&C 90:11.)

The Church continues to grow because of the testimonies of its members. President Harold B. Lee, at the April 1973 general conference, said: "The strength of the Church is not in the numbers, nor in the amount of tithes and offerings paid by faithful members, nor in the magnitude of chapels and temple buildings, . . . but [it is] in the hearts of faithful members of the Church."

While we might be pleased to see membership reach the 10-million-member mark, none of us should be surprised at such growth. The Prophet Joseph Smith said: "The truth of God will go forth boldly, and independent, till it has penetrated every continent . . . and sounded in every ear, till the purposes of God shall be accomplished." (History of the Church 4:540.)

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