I believe that the Lord is anxious to put into our hands inventions of which we laymen have hardly had a glimpse.”

Spencer W. Kimball made that declaration when he had been president of the Church for less than fourteen weeks. He was speaking to the Regional Representatives of the Twelve on 4 April 1974, the Thursday prior to the General Conference in which he would be sustained as the twelfth president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Although directed to Church leaders, his address was of such importance that it was printed in the Ensign magazine in October of 1974 under the title, “When the World Will be Converted.” It launched dramatic and sustained changes in missionary work and remains one of the great landmark addresses of the past half century.

In his talk, President Kimball asked for a renewed emphasis in carrying the gospel to all the world, made it clear that every eligible young man should serve a mission (many had been excused from missionary service during the Viet Nam war), emphasized that missionaries be better prepared and worthy to serve, asked that nations where the Church was established should work towards being self-sufficient in providing missionaries, and invited Church members to pray that the way would be opened to take the gospel to nations that were closed to the Church. It was a significant turning point in the Church’s efforts to take the gospel to all the world.

President Kimball quoted from Doctrine and Covenants 58:64, “For, verily, the sound must go forth from this place into all the world, and unto the uttermost parts of the earth.” He observed that the Lord had already provided remarkable technologies and inventions to enable the gospel message to sound in every ear, and that we did not yet fully appreciate or comprehend the power of these technologies. He mentioned some relatively recent inventions with great potential: television, radio, portable cassette recorders, and satellite broadcasting networks.

President Kimball was not the first to suggest that God inspired men to invent technologies that could be used to further the great work of the gathering of Israel. The Old Testament prophet Joel recorded the voice of the Lord saying, (Joel 2:38). Referencing Joel 2:38 – “I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh” in the last days – President Joseph Fielding Smith explained that “the Lord would pour out his blessings and his Spirit upon all people and use them to accomplish his purposes.”[1] David O. McKay, speaking in general conference in 1966, expressed his belief that recent scientific discoveries would make possible the preaching of the gospel to every kindred, tongue, and people, saying, “They stagger the imagination.”[2] President Kimball added to these voices with his declaration that the Lord had and would provide technology that would make it possible for the restored Church to fulfill the great divine mandate to “teach all nations” (Matthew 28:19). If this great and last dispensation is to bring the gospel to all nations, kindreds, tongues and people – on both sides of the veil – it will require inspired inventions to make it happen.

The Greatest Inventions

Google “greatest inventions” and you will see links to many different lists of the most significant inventions and technologies in the history of the world. Some ancient technologies appear on almost all these lists: taming fire, the wheel, the plow, the nail, gunpowder. All of these changed the world in significant ways, but as I re-read President Kimball’s talk, I began to wonder: what are the disruptive technologies and inspired inventions that have had a significant impact on our ability in this dispensation to fulfil that great mandate to take the gospel to all the world?

In this series I’ll review some inventions and technologies that had or have a direct and important impact on enabling the gospel message to get to increasingly large numbers of our Heavenly Father’s children. I have limited my list to inventions that are unique to the modern era – no plows or wheels or even the development of written language. The earliest technology on my list is the development of the modern printing press, which took place in the mid-fifteenth century; the most recent is the development of the Internet, which came into widespread use in the 1990s.

After narrowing the list down to less than a dozen significant developments, I realized that all these technologies and inventions had to do with either travel or communication; all of them either bring people together physically or facilitate the dissemination of knowledge. And all of these technologies and inventions enable us to share the gospel message in ways that were impossible in any previous dispensation.

Like most discoveries, these technologies and inventions can be – and were and are – used for both good and evil. President McKay noted back in 1968, that such discoveries can be used “either for the blessing or the destruction of human beings.” But despite the risks associated with the misuse of such inventions, they play an important role in leveraging the power of individuals and the Church to bring about what President Nelson has called “the most important thing taking place on earth today” – the gathering of Israel on both sides of the veil.[3] There can be little doubt that the Lord has inspired men and women to develop these disruptive technologies and inspired inventions to bring about His work on an unprecedented scale.

NEXT: Bringing existing technologies together in a new way that changed the world: Johannes Gutenberg launches an information revolution.

[1] Joseph Fielding Smith, Doctrines of Salvation, 1:176.

[2] David O. McKay, Conference Report, October 1968, p.6.

[3] Russell M. Nelson, Worldwide Youth Devotional, 3 June 2018; “Let God Prevail,” General Conference, October 2020.