Elder Quentin L. Cook was almost 7 years old in 1947 when his mother gave him a volume of the history of her great-grandfather, Heber C. Kimball.
Even as a young boy, Elder Cook began to understand the importance of missionary work from Elder Kimball, acknowledged by the Church as its first full-time mission president.
Today, the early Apostle’s calling is a “remarkable historical heritage” for others who are called to preside over missions, Elder Cook said.
Speaking at the 2020 Mission Leadership Seminar on June 26, the member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles addressed the Lord’s charge to all mission leaders: “You Shall Build Up My Church.”
Looking back on Heber C. Kimball’s legacy, Elder Cook said 1837 was a perilous time for the entire world. The Panic of 1837 had crippled banking and other businesses in both the United States and Great Britain. Still, during this difficult time, the Spirit whispered to the Prophet Joseph Smith to call Elder Kimball to England to proclaim the gospel.
Overwhelmed, Heber offered a reluctant prayer regarding his calling to “preach in that land, which is so famed throughout Christendom for learning, knowledge and piety.”
Heber’s “faith and obedience prevailed,” Elder Cook said.
Heber recorded: “The moment I understood the will of my Heavenly Father, I felt a determination to go at all hazards, believing that He would support me by His almighty power … and although my family was dear to me, and I should have to leave them almost destitute, I felt that the cause of truth, the Gospel of Christ, outweighed every other consideration.”
During the seminar, broadcast to 17 countries, Elder Cook told mission leaders that Heber C. Kimball’s feelings may resonate with their own feelings. “But can you imagine being a mission president without any members, with no Church buildings — not even a mission home, and without any funds?”
In one letter, Heber’s wife, Vilate, copied the revelation that would become section 112 of the Doctrine and Covenants. The revelation was received on the day on which the gospel was first preached in England, July 23, 1837, said Elder Cook.
Noting that much could be said about this revelation, Elder Cook highlighted Doctrine and Covenants 112:21 and 28 (italics added) and told the mission leaders that the verses describe “each of you.”
“And again, I say unto you, that whosoever ye shall send in my name, by the voice of your brethren, the Twelve, duly recommended and authorized by you, shall have power to open the door of my kingdom unto any nation whithersoever ye shall send them. … Purify your hearts before me; and then go ye into all the world, and preach my gospel unto every creature who has not received it.”
Because “the majority of missionaries are engaged in finding and teaching methods that are dramatically different from the past,” now is an exciting time to begin missionary service, said Elder Cook.
“We are in a new Internet-connected, social-media world,” he said. “You and your missionaries may be among the ‘spiritual pathfinders’ to truly proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ in this Internet-connected world. We have the obligation in this dispensation to prepare the world for the Second Coming of Jesus Christ.”
Elder Cook called the charge of mission leaders — “You Shall Build Up My Church” — “straightforward and profound.”
Doctrine and Covenants 10, received by the Prophet Joseph Smith in 1829, details the Prophet’s challenges and contains some fundamental principles of missionary work. The section deals with the lost manuscript and the plan of the adversary to destroy the work.
Then the Lord informs Joseph that He did not bring forth the gospel to destroy that which the people had already received but rather to “build up my church” (Doctrine and Covenants 10:54), said Elder Cook.
Two years later, in January 1831, the essential doctrine of the charge to do missionary work was provided in Doctrine and Covenants section 39: “Thou art called to labor in my vineyard, and to build up my church, and to bring forth Zion, that it may rejoice upon the hills and flourish” (Doctrine and Covenants 39:13).
“How will we ‘build up the Church?’ ” asked Elder Cook. “With reference to scriptural usage, the word ‘build’ is defined in Noah Webster’s 1828 dictionary as follows: ‘to increase and strengthen; to cement and knit together; to settle or establish and preserve.’ ”
Missionaries can help “build up” the Church in many ways, he said, emphasizing three:
First, teach the missionaries to understand that it is the Lord who will establish the Church. The missionaries need to follow the promptings of the Spirit. This is the Lord’s work.
Wilford Woodruff in England is a wonderful example of going where the Spirit directed him, said Elder Cook. “He was having success, and the Spirit told him to go south. He traveled 80 miles south, where people were praying for light and truth. Altogether, some 1,800 people were baptized in that new field of labor.
“I believe that in this Internet-connected world, the missionaries will need to be closer to the Spirit and follow promptings to reach out in ways they might not fully understand. The Spirit may guide us as to how to warn the world in ways that far exceed what Wilford Woodruff experienced.”
Second, we help build up the Church by working with members and ward and stake leaders.
When the missionaries love and serve the ward or branch, they “help build up the Church,” said Elder Cook. “When they win the love and support of the members, they not only reactivate and build faith, but they also baptize. The relationships they develop with Church members will bless them for the rest of their lives.”
Missionaries will need to learn how to relate to members. They need to understand the impact they can have if “they are warm and friendly and love the people and really want to serve,” he said.
The third way you can help build up the Church is by preparing missionaries for future service as fathers and mothers and Church teachers and leaders.
“A missionary is his or her first and most important convert,” emphasized Elder Cook. “The role that you mission leaders play in helping each individual missionary obtain a permanent, lifelong conversion is beyond the ability of words to describe.”
The “quintessential power of a mission” is that those called to serve spend far less time thinking about themselves and their personal worldly goals, said Elder Cook. “At their best, they become completely immersed in worshipping and serving the Lord Jesus Christ by learning His doctrines and striving to bring salvation and exaltation to His children.
“When missionaries become part of a mission team, where every success belongs to the Lord because He established His Church, then the entire mission is blessed. When this occurs, missionaries are in tune with the Spirit.”
Elder Cook spoke of the impact his mission president had on his life by quoting words Winston Churchill once used to describe a great contemporary: “He lighted beacon-fires which are still burning; he sounded trumpet-calls whose echoes still call stubborn soldiers to the field.”
To the mission leaders, he concluded: “My prayer is that you will light spiritual beacon fires that burn brightly in the lives of your missionaries, that you will sound doctrinal trumpet calls that will echo in the hearts and minds of your missionaries throughout their lives, and that you will be blessed as you go forward in helping the Lord build up and establish His Church.”