President Ballard at Mission Leadership Seminar: Why preaching the gospel is the ‘most important duty’

On the 176th anniversary of the martyrdom of Joseph and Hyrum Smith, President M. Russell Ballard honored the Prophet and his brother, celebrated the Restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ and emphasized the importance of missionary work.

“One obligation that flows from the Restoration of the gospel is our responsibility to share it with others,” said the acting president of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. “In a sermon given in April 1837, the Prophet Joseph Smith stated, ‘After all that has been said, the greatest and most important duty is to preach the gospel.’ ”

Speaking during the 2020 Mission Leadership Seminar, President Ballard addressed the topic, “Behold, the Field Is White Already to Harvest.”

“Today is June 27, which always brings to our minds the traumatic event in the history of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and in the lives of the Joseph and Lucy Mack Smith family,” said President Ballard.

President Ballard’s great-grandfather, Joseph F. Smith, was just 5 years old when his father, Hyrum, and Uncle Joseph were murdered in the Carthage Jail on June 27, 1844. He would later say he learned of his father’s death on a “misty, foggy morning” when everything looked “dark and gloomy and dismal.”

The bodies of Joseph and Hyrum were taken to the Mansion House in Nauvoo, where the family could view them.

“On the following day, the Saints passed through the Mansion House to pay respect to the martyrs,” said President Ballard. “Joseph F. never forgot the moment his mother lifted him up to see his dear father and his beloved Uncle Joseph one last time.”

The fulness of the gospel

President Ballard also noted that this year marks the 200th anniversary of the First Vision, when the Father and Son appeared to 14-year-old Joseph in a grove of trees.

“Between that time and Joseph’s death in 1844, the Lord revealed to him the fulness of the gospel of Jesus Christ,” said President Ballard. “Of that, John Taylor wrote in Doctrine and Covenants 135:3, ‘Joseph Smith, the Prophet and Seer of the Lord, has done more, save Jesus only, for the salvation of men in this world, than any other man that ever lived in it.’ ”

Continuing, President Ballard said President Russell M. Nelson has said the Lord is hastening His work to gather Israel. He quoted President Nelson saying: “That gathering is the most important thing taking place on earth today. Nothing else compares in magnitude, nothing else compares in importance, nothing else compares in majesty. And if you choose to, if you want to, you can be a big part of it. You can be a big part of something big, something grand, something majestic.”

Apostles have the responsibility to see that the restored gospel of Jesus Christ reaches all people in the world, President Ballard added. “You have been called and set apart to lead your missionaries to assist us in fulfilling this great command of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Doctrine and Covenants 11

Hyrum Smith, the Prophet Joseph’s older brother, was one of his earliest and most faithful supporters, said President Ballard. “He knew that his younger brother had been called of God to restore the fulness of the gospel.”

On one occasion in 1829, Hyrum traveled more than 160 miles from his home in Palmyra, New York, to where Joseph and Emma were living in Harmony, Pennsylvania, to find out more about what had been revealed to Joseph. In response to the visit, the Prophet received for Hyrum a Revelation recorded in Doctrine and Covenants section 11.

A statue of Joseph and Hyrum Smith is outside of Carthage Jail, where the brothers were killed on June 27, 1844.
A statue of Joseph and Hyrum Smith is outside of Carthage Jail, where the brothers were killed on June 27, 1844. Credit: Jeffrey Allred, Deseret News Archives

President Ballard told the mission leaders they will find principles in the revelation that apply to them and their missions.

“Like Hyrum, the Lord announces to you and to everyone, ‘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. Yea, whosoever will thrust in his sickle and reap, the same is called of God’ ” (Doctrine and Covenants 11:3–4).

“As you experience challenges and make important decisions in your mission, you will find yourselves on your knees, and that is exactly where you need to be as you lead your mission.”

Mission leaders can do 4 things

President Ballard said the Lord has provided counsel and direction, and promised blessings, for mission leaders who do four things found in Doctrine and Covenants 11:9, 21.

First: “Seek not to declare my word, but first seek to obtain my word, and then shall your tongue be loosed; then, if you desire, you shall have my Spirit and my word, yea, the power of God unto the convincing of men.”

Second: “Say nothing but repentance unto this generation.”

Third: “Keep my commandments.”

Fourth: “Assist to bring forth my work, according to my commandments.”

President Ballard said that in Doctrine and Covenants 11:10, the Lord informs those called to labor in His vineyard, “Behold, thou hast a gift, or thou shalt have a gift if thou wilt desire of me in faith, with an honest heart, believing in the power of Jesus Christ.”

Mission leaders are invited, as was Hyrum, to “Put your trust in that Spirit which leadeth to do good” (Doctrine and Covenants 11:12).

“When we act upon the Lord’s invitations, He blesses us beyond what we can imagine,” said President Ballard. “In this case, the Lord promises to impart His Spirit, which will enlighten our minds and fill our souls with joy! These blessings are yours as you put your trust in the Lord, do justly, walk humbly and judge righteously as mission leaders. As you do these things, additional blessings will come to you — your missionaries and local leaders and members will trust and respect you.”

President Ballard said the Lord has also given to mission leaders, as He gave to Hyrum, some additional heavenly gifts: His word, His Rock, His Church and His gospel (See Doctrine and Covenants 11:16).

“After all that has been said, the greatest and most important duty is to preach the gospel.”

The Lord concludes this revelation with these majestic words: ‘Behold, I am Jesus Christ, the Son of God. I am the life and the light of the world. I am the same who came unto mine own and mine own received me not; But verily, verily, I say unto you, that as many as receive me, to them will I give power to become the sons [and daughters] of God, even to them that believe on my name. Amen’” (Doctrine and Covenants 11:28-30).

In these words, President Ballard said, Latter-day Saints learn that although He was rejected in the first century by His own, the Savior now again offers Himself to the world. “He promises all persons who will receive and believe in Him that they will become the sons and daughters of God through His atoning sacrifice.

“The restored gospel of Jesus Christ is something so wonderful, so amazing and so remarkable. Missionaries need to invite many more people to come unto the Father through the Savior every day.”

Working with missionaries

Missionaries will come in all different sizes, from different communities and lands, social and economic backgrounds, family situations, and a variety of work, school and Church experiences, said President Ballard.

“Through proper discernment as you work with your precious missionaries, you will ensure that you not only look on their countenance, as you provide them opportunities to serve in the mission, but also you will learn to know their love for the Lord.

“One of the greatest joys you mission leaders will experience will be witnessing miracles when you see what you and the Lord will do to change young men and young women into powerful gospel teachers.”

Mission leaders will witness miracles over and over again “if you focus on helping your missionaries become disciples of Jesus Christ through love and through providing them a vision of what they can accomplish with His help,” he said.  

“I testify that this is the Lord’s work. I have felt His presence many times and assure you that you will come to know, hear, feel and see His hand in your mission if you truly seek it.”