The Church's multinational missionary force goes forth with only the purest intent, with no hidden agenda, and at great personal sacrifice, said Elder L. Tom Perry of the Council of the Twelve in his Sunday afternoon address.
"They are not out to destroy anyone's faith or to exert unrighteous pressures on anyone," said Elder Perry, his bass voice ringing with enthusiasm. "They are teachers who invite anyone interested in their message to listen and determine for themselves if the message is true."Despite the meekness of the missionaries, antagonism seems to rise up against them, continued the apostle, who is chairman of the Missionary Executive Council.
"We still must wonder why. . . ." he said. "I can only guess that it is because there is a widespread misunderstanding of theirT essential purpose."
Such opposition, however, is not new. Elder Perry looked back in history to present a glimpse of earlier opposition against the saints. He quoted a non-member observer from the 1840s, Col. Thomas L. Kane, who toured the Mormon city of Nauvoo, Ill., after it had been recently abandoned by a people forced from their homes.
In the deserted streets of Nauvoo, "The unmistakable marks of industry, enterprise, and educated wealth everywhere, made the scene one of singular and most striking beauty . . . ," related Col. Kane. "The town lay as in a dream, under some deadening spell of loneliness, from which I almost feared to wake it.
"Fields upon fields of heavy-headed, yellow grain lay rotting."
Col. Kane next visited the people who had been driven from the city and found them suffering and dying of exposure, but even in these dire circumstances, they were peaceful and wholesome. Why, he asked, were such a harmless people persecuted?
Today, continued Elder Perry, Latter-day Saint missionaries are just as harmless. They honor and sustain the laws.
"Missionaries return home with a love for the people they have served and taught. They are true ambassadors spreading goodwill for the peoples in whose countries in which they have lived. They are not concerned with income levels and have no racial bias. The only kingdom that interests them is the kingdom of our Lord and Savior which He will establish at His return."
Elder Perry cautioned members to exercise restraint in their enthusiasm for the gospel. "Sometimes," he warned, "we cast our pearls indiscriminately, and we might even be tempted to enhance the luster of our Pearl of Great Price by placing it in a much too attractive setting. This may only distract from the true value of our pearl."
Rather, such efforts to enhance the gospel with "bright and flashy things" brings on antagonism and conflict to the Church.
"We need to speak less about our accomplishments, and, by our actions, show which kingdom we seek," he emphasized.