With the huge emphasis on “hastening the work of salvation” we cannot help but ask the question, “Why do so many receive the messengers of salvation while at the same time so many others reject them? What preparation or predisposition causes some to rejoice and some to condemn the same message and its ministers?”
President Wilford Woodruff made this most interesting observation:
Joseph Smith had to walk in deep water, he had to row uphill or upstream all the days of his life in order to try and plant the gospel in the midst of the sons of men. A few here and there heard and were disposed to receive that gospel, and the Spirit of God bore record unto them of its truth, and they went before the Lord and asked him if it was true, and the Lord revealed it unto them and they embraced it. From that day until the present this message has gone to the world. I have preached it to millions of my fellow men, so has President Young, and I may say the same of hundreds of the elders of this Church; and I do not believe that ever a man, with his ears open, stopped a moment to listen to the testimony of the servants of God about the truth of the Book of Mormon, Joseph Smith being a prophet of God, and the restoration of the fulness of the gospel, but what a measure of the Spirit of God has backed up that testimony to him. When men have rejected these testimonies they have done so against light and truth, and herein is where condemnation rests upon this generation ‘Light has come into the world and men love darkness rather than light, because their deeds are evil [see John 3:19].(JD 16:37, April 7, 1873, emphasis added).
When I was sixteen, I went with two friends to explore a cave. We were teenagers and idiots (is that redundant?) and took only one flashlight, which I dropped and broke about three quarters of a mile inside the cavern. We were in a terrible situation. The pathway out was barely safe with a light; in the darkness it was impossible. And so we did the only things we could do. We sat, and waited, and prayed. Perhaps three hours later, a man and two of his children appeared. We followed them. Wherever they were going, we were going, and for one simple reason. They had a light. Had we refused to follow them, we would have condemned ourselves to a large measure of misery. I believe this is the meaning of Wilford Woodruff’s declaration above about those many people who rejected the testimony of the restoration when the Spirit bore witness. When light comes to us in our darkness, we ought to arise and follow.
But it is nevertheless true that the emissaries of the restoration ought to live in such a way that the Spirit can bear testimony of every word. People ought to know they have heard the truth whether they repent or not.
My experience and observations tell me that missionaries only need to do three things: (1) They prepare to teach; (2) they look and pray for opportunities to teach; and when they find an opportunity (3) they open their mouths. This direction to “open our mouths” has become particularly evident with the new missionary emphasis on teaching by the Spirit, that is, teaching by revelation rather than recitation. We trust the Lord and His promises about this. And He has made a lot of promises.
And at all times, and in all places, he shall open his mouth and declare my gospel as with the voice of a trump, both day and night. And I will give unto him strength such as is not known among men (D&C 24:12).
And thou must open thy mouth at all times, declaring my gospel with the sound of rejoicing (D&C 26:18).
And your whole labor shall be in Zion, with all your soul, from henceforth; yea, you shall ever open your mouth in my cause, not fearing what man can do, for I am with you (D&C 30:11).
Open your mouths and they shall be filled, and you shall become even as Nephi of old, who journeyed from Jerusalem in the wilderness. Yea, open your mouths and spare not, and you shall be laden with sheaves upon your backs, for lo, I am with you. Yea, open your mouths and they shall be filled, saying: Repent, repent, and prepare ye the way of the Lord, and make his paths straight; for the kingdom of heaven is at hand (D&C 33:8-10).
And the Lord said unto Enoch: Go forth and do as I have commanded thee, and no man shall pierce thee. Open thy mouth, and it shall be filled, and I will give thee utterance, for all flesh is in my hands, and I will do as seemeth me good (Moses 6:32).
Neither take ye thought beforehand what ye shall say; but treasure up in your minds continually the words of life, and it shall be given you in the very hour that portion that shall be meted unto every man (D&C 84:85).
Therefore, verily I say unto you, lift up your voices unto this people; speak the thoughts that I shall put into your hearts, and you shall not be confounded before men; For it shall be given you in the very hour, yea, in the very moment, what ye shall say. But a commandment I give unto you, that ye shall declare whatsoever thing ye declare in my name, in solemnity of heart, in the spirit of meekness, in all things. And I give unto you this promise, that inasmuch as ye do this the Holy Ghost shall be shed forth in bearing record unto all things whatsoever ye shall say (D&C 100:5-8)
Take no thought beforehand what ye shall speak, neither do ye premeditate: but whatsoever shall be given you in that hour, that speak ye: for it is not ye that speak, but the Holy Ghost (Mark 13:11).
And when they bring you unto the synagogues, and unto magistrates, and powers, take ye no thought how or what thing ye shall answer, or what ye shall say: For the Holy Ghost shall teach you in the same hour what ye ought to say (Luke 12:11,12).
Early in this century, missionaries were instructed to move away from memorized presentations. If done correctly, that shift has not required less preparation, but more. Elder Tingey of the Seventy came to our Stake Conference in 2003. His comment about this was that “the presentation of the gospel has gone from recitation to revelation.” This means that our efforts to obtain the word (see D&C 11:21) must be relentless. The Spirit will light the lamp of our witness, but only if we fill that lamp with oil on a regular basis.
This counsel is imperative for all of us. We must “treasure up in [our] minds continually the words of life” (D&C 84:85). I wonder if some of our brothers and sisters have given up on searching the scriptures. That would be a lot like saying, “I’ve decided to stop eating. It is an inconvenience and takes up time I would rather use for other things. But I should be all right.” No one would ever say such a thing. And the person who makes such a decision about the scriptures will not be all right, either. We must hunger and thirst after righteousness as we hunger and thirst after sirloin steak and crab salad.