“O ye that embark in the service of God, see that ye serve him with all your heart, might, mind and strength,”1 the Lord proclaimed in revelation to Joseph Smith in February 1829 and later included in the book of scriptures the Doctrine and Covenants.2 His words, given even before the establishment of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, commissioned missionaries to preach the restored gospel3 with fervency—to the world.
The Prophet stated, “How vast the numbers are who are crowding the road to death without ever giving heed to the cheering sound of the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ!”4 Missionaries began preaching the “good word of God” in the eastern states, Canada, and many of the southern states. Within 10 years, their efforts reached to the British Isles. Joseph counseled his cousin George A. Smith5 to rely on the Lord in his work: “Preach short sermons, make short prayers, deliver your sermons with a prayerful heart.”6
With confidence in the “marvelous work,” Joseph declared, “The truth of God will go forth boldly, nobly”7 and will “fill the whole earth.”8
Joseph Smith Quotes
“After all that has been said, the greatest and most important duty is to preach the Gospel” (History of the Church, 2:478).
“A man filled with the love of God, is not content with blessing his family alone, but ranges through the whole world, anxious to bless the whole human race. This has been your [the Twelve in England] feeling, and caused you to forego the pleasures of home, that you might be a blessing to others, who are candidates for [eternal life], but strangers to truth; and for so doing, I pray that heaven’s choicest blessings may rest upon you” (History of the Church, 4:227).
“I ask God in the name of Jesus, to . . . cause that His word may speedily go forth to the nations of the earth, to the accomplishing of His great work in bringing about the restoration of the House of Israel” (History of the Church, 1:451).
Lydia Bailey Knight, Early Member of the Church
“[The Prophet] stated that the last dispensation had come, and the words of Jesus were now in force: ‘Go ye into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. . . .’ He then arose and poured forth a golden stream of words, many of which were verily pearls without price, setting for the restoration of the gospel and the great work that had commenced on the earth” (Lydia Knight’s History (1883), 18–20).
Gordon B. Hinckley, 15th President of the Church, 1995–2008
“Within the space of that twenty years preceding his death, Joseph Smith set in motion a program for carrying the gospel to the nations of the earth. I marvel at the boldness with which he moved. Even in the infant days of the Church, in times of dark adversity, men were called to leave homes and families, to cross the sea, to proclaim the restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ. His mind, his vision encompassed the entire earth” (“Joseph the Seer,” Ensign, May 1977, 65).
Brigham Young, Second President of the Church, 1847–1877
“There is neither man nor woman in this Church who is not on a mission. That mission will last as long as they live, and it is to do good, to promote righteousness, to teach the principles of truth, and to prevail upon themselves and everybody around them to live those principles that they may obtain eternal life” (Deseret News, July 3, 1867, 210).
Why did Joseph Smith send missionaries to England?
It was not Joseph’s decision. In the spring of 1837 Joseph went to Heber C. Kimball in the Kirtland Temple and, speaking softly into Heber’s ear, said, “Brother Heber, the Spirit of the Lord has whispered to me, ‘Let my servant Heber go to England and proclaim my Gospel and open the door of salvation to that nation’” (Millennial Star, Sept. 10, 1864, 584).
How did the early missionaries feel as they went into foreign lands to preach the gospel?
Heber Kimball said of his call to England in 1837: “I felt myself one of the very weakest of God’s servants. I asked Joseph what I should say when I got there; he told me to go to the Lord and he would guide me, and speak through me by the same spirit that dictated him” (Deseret News, May 21, 1862, 370).
Did Joseph Smith serve as a missionary himself?
In 1831 the Lord revealed to Joseph: “The keys of the kingdom of God are committed unto man on the earth, and from thence shall the gospel roll forth unto the ends of the earth, as the stone which is cut out of the mountain without hands shall roll forth, until it has filled the whole earth” (Doctrine and Covenants 65:2). Joseph served a number of missions. On a short mission to New York in the autumn of 1833, he preached to a number of people and pleaded in his journal, “Oh God, seal our testimony in their hearts.” Soon thereafter he noted the baptism of 14 souls (Joseph Smith Ohio Journal, 6, 13–14 Oct. 1833, Church History Library, Salt Lake City; The Joseph Smith Papers 2:6–7, 13–14; punctuation modernized).
Online Resources at ChurchofJesusChrist.org
“Missionary Work Goes Forward”—in “Building the Kingdom in Kirtland, Ohio,” Our Heritage: A Brief History of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (1996), 29–33
“The Infant Church Expands”—Church History in the Fulness of Times Student Manual (Church Educational System manual, 2003), 79–88
“The Church Will Fill the World”—in “Joseph Smith: First President of the Church,” Presidents of the Church Student Manual (Church Educational System manual, 2004), 17
Online Resources at BYU
“Light on the ‘Mission to the Lamanites’”—Leland H. Gentry, BYU Studies, vol. 36, no. 2 (1996–97), 226–34
Missionary covenant of Oliver Cowdery and others, as well as a February 14, 1831, letter from Cowdery and a February 15, 1831, letter from Indian agent Richard W. Cummins. Both letters are written to the superintendent of Indian affairs requesting permission to establish a mission to the Native Americans.
“The Impact of the First Preaching in Ohio”—Richard L. Anderson, BYU Studies, vol. 11, no. 4 (1971), 474–96
Includes a copy of the covenant among the first four missionaries.