Church News Viewpoint: Delivering the message

After supper on Feb. 22, 1899, Elbert Hubbard wrote what he called “a literary trifle” to fill space in the March edition of a magazine that he edited, The Philistine. That so-called trifle, “A Message to Garcia,” became one of the most widely published and distributed inspirational essays, with more than 40 million copies in pamphlet form sold and unknown millions of copies distributed worldwide.

The idea for the essay, Hubbard wrote in its “Apologia,” came after his boy Bert suggested that the real hero of the war between Spain and the United States was an American Army officer, Andrew Summers Rowan, who was sent by U.S. President William McKinley to serve as a liaison to General Calixto Garcia, leader of the Cuban rebels. Neither President McKinley nor anyone else on the U.S. side of the war knew Garcia’s exact location. President McKinley gave Rowan the simple instruction to “take a letter to Garcia.”

Hubbard wrote: “How … Rowan took the letter, sealed it up in an oil-skin pouch, strapped it over his heart, in four days landed by night off the coast of Cuba from an open boat, disappeared into the jungle, and in three weeks came out on the other side of the island, having traversed a hostile country on foot, and having delivered his letter to Garcia, are things I have no special desire now to tell in detail. The point I wish to make is this: McKinley gave Rowan a letter to be delivered to Garcia; Rowan took the letter and did not ask, ‘Where is he at?’

“By the Eternal! There is a man whose form should be cast in deathless bronze and the statue placed in every college in the land. It is not book-learning young men need, nor instruction about this or that, but a stiffening of the vertebrae which will cause them to be loyal to a trust, to act promptly, concentrate their energies; do the thing — ‘carry a message to Garcia!’ ” (Source:

Though vitally important to the outcome of the Spanish American War, the message would have been of no value without the messenger. So it is with the gospel of Jesus Christ. Are we not in a position similar to that of Rowan? Have we not been entrusted to deliver a message of great, even eternal, importance, to those yet to be found?

Isaiah spoke of the “swift messengers” the Lord would send to scattered Israel in latter days (see Isaiah 18:2).

Full-time missionaries have an advantage that Rowan did not possess: They are told not only where they are to go to deliver their message but also are provided transportation to get there. The message they carry is not sealed in a pouch over their hearts, but is in their hearts and minds. They have been taught through scriptures, inspired teachings by prophets, apostles, parents and teachers in Primary, Sunday School, Young Men, Young Women, seminary and, in some cases, institute, as well as by priesthood leaders serving in wards and stakes, branches and districts.

The Church has some 80,000 full-time missionaries serving throughout the world. In addition, thousands of Latter-day Saints serve as missionaries in their wards and stakes, and others fill callings as Church service missionaries.

There is an even greater force: All Latter-day Saints have the opportunity to serve as “swift messengers” delivering the everlasting gospel of Jesus Christ.

One of our best “missionary training centers” is general conference. Every six months, we have the privilege of going to the Conference Center at Church headquarters, or watching, listening or reading through various media to inspired messages prepared just for us.

Opening the April 1971 general conference, then-Church President Joseph Fielding Smith said: “We are here today to wait upon the Lord, to worship Him in spirit and in truth, to be fed the bread of life, and to receive counsel and instruction from those whom He has chosen to administer in the affairs of His Church. …

“We are better equipped to serve others when we receive continuing revelation from the Lord’s specially called servants.”

The last time we met in general conference, Oct. 6, 2013, President Thomas S. Monson, the Lord’s prophet today, reminded us that we are a worldwide Church.

“Our membership is found across the globe,” he said. “I admonish you to be good citizens of the nations in which you live and good neighbors in your communities, reaching out to those of other faiths as well as to our own. May we be tolerant of, as well as kind and loving to, those who do not share our beliefs and our standards. The Savior brought to this earth a message of love and goodwill to all men and women. May we ever follow His example. …

“We live at a time in the world’s history when there are many difficult challenges but also great opportunities and reasons for rejoicing. …

“My brothers and sisters, I want you to know how grateful I am for the gospel of Jesus Christ, restored in these latter days through the Prophet Joseph Smith. It is the key to our happiness. May we be humble and prayerful, having the faith that our Heavenly Father can guide and bless us in our lives. …”

Having received the blessings of the gospel of Jesus Christ, may we — as Hubbard said of Rowan — have a “stiffening of the vertebrae,” be loyal to the sacred trust the Lord has given us, act promptly, concentrate our energies and carry to those yet to be found the message of the gospel of Jesus Christ and His redeeming love.

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