Hark, All Ye Nations

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Devotional Address Given at
Brigham Young University–Hawaii

May 26, 2005
Sandra Rogers
VP International Students, BYU Provo

One hundred and seventy-five years ago on April 6 th , about sixty people met at the Peter Whitmer, Sr. farm in Fayette, New York, to witness the formal organization of the Church of Jesus Christ. Oliver Cowdery, Hyrum Smith, Peter Whitmer, Jr., Samuel H. Smith, David Whitmer, and the prophet Joseph Smith were the first six formal members, meeting the requirements of the State of New York to incorporate a religious society..

From the start of the restoration, the prophet Joseph Smith understood that from that simple and humble beginnings of the Church, whose early members were mostly farmers and small merchants, the fullness of the gospel of Jesus Christ was to be taken to every nation. On the day the Church was organized, the Lord described the bringing forth of the Book of Mormon, testifying himself that it contained the fullness of the gospel of Jesus Christ, and proved "to the world that the holy scriptures are true, and that God does inspire men and call them to his holy work in this age and generation, as well as in generations of old;" (DC 20:11)

The leaders of the Church have always known that the difficulties, poverty, obscurity, and persecutions endured by the Church have never excused Church leaders or members from the responsibility of taking the message of the restored gospel to every nation. Christ often stated that he was "the Redeemer of the world" (DC 19:1) "And even so I have sent mine everlasting covenant into the world, to be a light to the world, and to be a standard for my people, and for the Gentiles to seek to it, and to be a messenger before my face to prepare the way before me." (DC 45:9) As early as 1832 the Lord commanded, "Therefore, go ye into all the world; and unto whatsoever place ye cannot go ye shall send, that the testimony may go from you into all the world unto every creature." (DC 88:62)

By June of 1830, Samuel H. Smith and others were serving missions in the local area. By 183l missionaries were in other states and eastern Canada. In 1837 the first missionaries arrived in Great Britain. All this important missionary work occurred when the Church was constantly on the move; from New York, to Kirtland, and then on to Missouri, facing persecution and poverty.

When the Doctrine and Covenants was first published in 1831, the Lord himself wrote the preface to the book found in Section One. His first statement is "Hearken, O ye people of my church, saith the voice of him who dwells on high, and whose eyes are upon all men, yeah, verily I say: Hearken ye people from afar; and ye that are upon the islands of the sea, listen together, For verily the voice of the Lord is unto all men, and there is none to escape; and there is no eye that shall not see, neither ear that shall not hear, neither heart that shall not be penetrated...And the voice of warning shall be unto all people, by the mouths of my disciplines, whom I have chosen in these last days. And they shall go forth and none shall stay them, for I the Lord have commanded them." (DC 1:1-2, 4-5)

Despite the Church's obscure and persecuted beginnings, operating on the fringe of society and far away from the centers of political influence in the United States, much less the world, Church leaders and members alike understood the responsibility to declare the gospel to the world.

Just three years after the calamity of Far West, the tragedy of Haun's Mill, and the injustice of Liberty Jail, Joseph Smith wrote the 1842 Wentworth letter that included what would eventually be known as the Articles of Faith. It also courageously included this prophecy, "The Standard of Truth has been erected; no unhallowed hand can stop the work from progressing; persecutions may rage, mobs may combine, armies may assemble, calumny may defame, but the truth of God will go forth boldly, nobly, and independent, till it has penetrated every continent, visited every clime, swept every country, and sounded in every ear till the purposes of God shall be accomplished, and the Great Jehovah shall say, the work is done." (HC 4:540)

In January 1841, as Nauvoo was beginning to take shape as a city, the Lord told the Prophet Joseph Smith, "...you are now called immediately to make a solemn proclamation of my gospel...This proclamation shall be made to all the kings of the world, to the four corners thereof, to the honorable president-elect, and the high-minded governors of the nation in which you live, and to all the nations of the earth scattered abroad." (DC 124:2-3)

Joseph Smith was martyred on June 27, 1844 before this proclamation could be written. But, Brigham Young and the other members of the Council of the Twelve knew it was their duty to be obedient to the Lord's commandment. Their Proclamation was printed in a 16 page pamphlet in New York City, on April 6, 1845 and in Liverpool, England on October 22, 1845....just a few short months before the Saints were driven from Nauvoo, beginning the great Exodus to Salt Lake City.

Listen to the courage and power in the words the early Twelve wrote to the most powerful individuals on earth, at a time when their very lives and homes were being threatened and they were planning to "refugee" to the Rocky Mountains for safety.

"To all the Kings of the World, to the President of the United States of America, to the Governors of the several states, and to the rulers and people of all nations: Greeting. Know ye that the kingdom of God has come, as has been predicted by ancient prophets, and prayed for in all ages; even that kingdom which shall fill the whole earth, and shall stand for ever.

Therefore we send unto you, with authority from on high, and command you all to repent and humble yourselves as little children before the majesty of the Holy One; and come unto Jesus with a broken heart and a contrite spirit, and be baptized in his name for the remission of sins, and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit, through the laying on of hands of the apostles and elders, of this great and last dispensation of mercy to man.....

We testify that the foregoing doctrine is the doctrine or gospel of Jesus Christ in its fulness; and that it is the only true, everlasting, and unchangeable gospel; and the only plan revealed on earth whereby man can be saved....Again, we say, by the word of the Lord, to the people as well as to the rulers, your aid and your assistance is required in this great work; and you are hereby invited, in the name of Jesus, to take an active part in it from this day forward.....

We say, then, in life or in death, in bonds or free, that the great God has spoken in this age. And we know it.

He has given us the holy priesthood and apostleship, and the keys of the kingdom of God, to bring about the restoration of all things as promised by the holy prophets of old. And we know it.

He has revealed the fullness of the gospel, with its gifts, blessings, and ordinances. And we know it.

He has said that he will not come in his glory and destroy the wicked, till these warnings were given, and these preparations were made for his reception (meaning the second coming). And we know it. (Liverpool pamphlet, BYU Library, Provo, Utah)

I tingle all over when I hear those bold and noble words of confidence and faith.

The Church has made great progress since its humble beginnings in 1830. Today there are over 12 million members of the Church around the world and over half of them live outside the United States. Church curriculum materials are available in 175 languages. 120,175, 500 copies of the Book of Mormon, including books in 104 languages, have been printed since the first edition in 1830. 119 temples are in operation, with dedications of three others coming soon. (Church Web Site, fact page and "Statistical Report, 2004" Ensign , May 2005, p. 25).

We live in a glorious time when prophecy is being fulfilled in every land. And with the blessing and opportunity of being members of the Church during this last and most glorious of all dispensations, come important responsibilities for us. While it is true that Church leaders are meeting with the leaders of nations, provinces and cities around the world, working to promote the cause of the Kingdom of God, we as simple, regular members of the Church, also have the assignment to assist in this great work in the latter days. Obviously, one of the ways we do that is in preparing for and accepting mission calls to serve wherever we might be called to labor. Another way we do that is to accept and magnify Church callings. But, the third and perhaps more critical way we fulfill this responsibility is in the daily choices we make, the way we live our lives, the example we set for others, and the courage of commitment to our covenants we demonstrate every day, regardless of the circumstances in which we find ourselves. Certainly we can preach the gospel in an assignment as a missionary or church worker, but for many people the way we live will be the most important and perhaps the only sermon they will ever hear. We must be truly and bravely converted to every aspect of the gospel to fulfill our responsibilities to the Savior's work. Elder Dallin H. Oaks said, "What does it mean to be true to the faith? That word true implies commitment, integrity, endurance, and courage." ("Following the Pioneers" Ensign , November, 1997, p. 73)

I have come to learn that this is true regardless of our circumstances. In one country I visited, a member in a Sunday School class insisted that God overlooked dishonesty and breaking the law when poor people did it because he understood they had no other choice. Unfortunately, he did not understand that being obedient to every gospel principle, being honest in every aspect of his life, was the only way to truly escape the degradation of poverty and secure a place in heaven. The Lord has asked us to "...Arise and shine forth, that thy light may be a standard for the nations." (DC 115:5) We cannot do that if we are fainthearted in our obedience.

Let me share with you some examples of members of the Church, like you and me, who have worked miracles through their faith and integrity.

The Anti-Nephi Lehis, who were Lamanites were converted by the missionary efforts of Aaron teach us a great deal about true conversion. When they heard the gospel message and decided to "join the Church" as it were, they made the supreme effort to be true. Their king explained their commitment this way, "And now behold my brethren, since it has been all that we could do, (as we were the most lost of all mankind) to repent of all our sins and the many murders which we have committed, and to get God to take them away from our hearts, for it was all we could do to repent sufficiently before God that he would take away our stain.....let us stain our swords no more...for perhaps, if we should stain our swords again they can no more be washed bright through the blood of the Son of our great God, which shall be shed for the atonement of our sins..." Mormon, the great abridger of the records, then explains, "....and they did bury [their swords] deep in the earth....and this they did, vouching and covenanting with God, that rather than shed the blood of their brethren they would give up their own lives....And thus we see that, when these Lamanites were brought to believe and to know the truth, they were firm, and would suffer even unto death rather than commit sin. And they were also distinguished for their zeal towards God, and also towards men; for they were perfectly honest and upright in all things; and they were firm in the faith of Christ, even unto the end....and they never did look upon death with any degree of terror, for their hope and views of Christ and the resurrection; therefore, death was swallowed up to them by the victory of Christ over it....". (Alma 24:11-13,17-19, 27:27-28)

Even when the wicked Lamanites came to war to slay them and the Nephites who had given them sanctuary, they refused to break their covenant and take up their swords, lest they lose their souls. Many were eventually killed. Their children, who had not made the same promises their fathers had made, and who had been taught at home by faithful mothers, became the 2000 stripling warriors of Helaman.

These faithful people understood the importance of being obedient in order to retain a remission of their sins. What wonderful examples of true Saints.

In more modern times we can also find the same commitment and courage. Prior to World War II, the area that became the German Democratic Republic, or GDR, (or East Germany as it was known) was the most productive German speaking missionary site. The City of Chemnitz had the largest concentration of Saints outside North America at that time. But the post-war communist regime made it very difficult for the Saints. It was nearly impossible to get visas to travel to the temple in Switzerland. When parents could receive visas, children were not allowed to accompany them. Government observers often attended meetings and followed the activities of the Saints. But, the members made every effort to be true and faithful to the laws of the gospel and also to the laws of their native land. When President Monson first visited the Saints in the GDR in 1968 he found them in challenging circumstances but promised that if they would be faithful, they would have every blessing. The Saints stayed true and in 1985 the government approached leaders of the Church with the proposal that the Church build a temple in the GDR so members would not have to travel to Switzerland.

Elder Russell M. Nelson said, "The exemplary behaviors of the Saints in the German Democratic Republic...is especially important. Because of the excellence of their righteous example, positive recommendations were given by their governments to inquiring leaders of other nations.....They found our members to be upright and honest citizens. Literally, the moral integrity and devout faith of these Saints brought them their temple in Freiberg." (Drama on the European Stage" Ensign , December 1991, p. 7)

President Monson reported meeting with the State Secretary for Religious Affairs for the GDR in 1988 who said, "We've observed you and your people for twenty years. We know you are what you profess to be: honest men and women." When President Monson met with Chairman Honecker, the head of the government, he said, "We know members of your Church believe in work. You have proven that. We know you are good citizens in whatever country you claim as home. We have observed that." And then he gave permission for German youth to serve missions outside of Germany. All returned home and did not violate that trust. ("Thanks Be to God" Ensign , May 1989, p. 50.)

Two years later the two Germanies were united. Think of the joy the Saints of the former German Democratic Republic had when they sang one of the beloved traditional hymns of the German Saints, written by an early German member, Louis F. Monch.

"Hark, All Ye Nations! Hear heaven's voice

Thru ev'ry land that all may rejoice!

Angels of glory shout the refrain.

Truth is restored again.

Searching in darkness, nations have wept.

Watching for dawn, their vigil they've kept.

All now rejoice, the long night is o'er

Truth is on earth once more.

Chosen by God to serve him below,

To ev'ry land and people we'll go.

Standing for truth with fervent accord,

Teaching his holy word.

Oh, how glorious from the throne above

Shines the gospel light of truth and love!

Bright as the sun, this heavenly ray

Lights ev'ry land today.

("Hark, All Ye Nations", Hymn number 264, Hymns of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints . 1985, Salt Lake City, UT: Deseret Book Co.)

As the Kingdom of God rolls forth to fill the earth, like the great stone in Daniel's prophecy, more and more nations are experiencing the gospel light of truth and love. We now have pioneers of the Church in many lands. The Church grows and progresses when these new pioneers and long-time members keep the spirit and commitment of the early pioneers in this dispensation.

One of these early courageous pioneers was Sister Jane Manning James who was born a free black woman in 1822 in Fairfield County, Connecticut. She was baptized in 1841 and led a group of family members to Nauvoo where she was welcomed by Joseph Smith who told her, "you are among friends." The journey wasn't without difficulty. Jane wrote, "Our feet cracked open and bled until you could see the whole print of our feet with blood on the ground.....But we went on our way rejoicing, singing hymns, and thanking God for his infinite goodness and mercy to us in protecting us from all harm and healing our feet." Jane arrived in the Salt Lake Valley on September 22, 1847. She shared her own meager supply of flour with Eliza Lyman, who had nothing and was starving, saying "I try in my feeble way to set a good example for all." ("Life of Continual Faith," Church News , week ending April 23, 2005, p. 5)

There are countless stories just like this one among our early pioneers. I would pray, brothers and sisters, that when we meet Jane Manning James or the others, that we could put on the altar of sacrifice for the kingdom, something equal to her bleeding feet and her last pound of flour.

Through my work I have been privileged to meet many of the pioneers of lands just opened to the gospel. I have learned from their example and their faithfulness. Sister Perla Manuel served as a missionary in the Philippines at the same time I did. I never have a problem paying tithing because I listened to Sister Manuel tell how her salary as a school teacher supported her elderly parents and when she joined the Church she was unsure how she could pay an honest tithe. Eventually, after a hard day at work teaching, she would crochet into the night and sell her work, thus earning enough money to pay an honest tithe and have the blessings of obedience to that important principle.

After being released from her mission, Perla obtained a masters degree and married. She was often recruited to go abroad to teach. Perla always felt that even though their financial circumstances were desperate, she needed to stay in the Philippines and build the Kingdom there. When her husband was called to be the Stake President she wrote me a short note. She said, "Now that my husband is the stake president, the presiding authority asked that my callings be reduced so that I can support him in his work. I hardly know what to do. All I do now is teach early morning seminary, gospel doctrine, spiritual living and lead the choir." Would we do as much to build the kingdom where we are.

I met Sister Faustina Otoo in West Africa in 1986. Her husband divorced her when she joined the Church, leaving her destitute. She worked at anything to support herself and her children. Now, from her window in the Church Area office in Accra, Ghana she looks out over the beautiful Accra Temple. Imagine the miracle it is for the Saints in Ghana to see this temple finally come to pass. I see it as a marvelous work and a wonder....for just 18 years ago the Church operation in Ghana was completely closed. The Ghanaian government had heard propaganda about the LDS Church and decided to seize the Church's assets and to close all chapels and other Church buildings. The radio and television media bombarded people with horrible stories about the Church. They said Joseph Smith was a criminal who died in prison. They said the Church persecuted Blacks. They said the temples were places where evil things took place. During this difficult period the Saints met quietly in one another's homes and kept the faith. At that time, Faustina wrote to me saying, "The gospel is a pill I have swallowed and it is already working its good in me. Do not worry about me. I will always be faithful." Are we demonstrating that the gospel is "working its good" in us?

At the very beginning of the restoration, Joseph Smith described the persecutions he endured when he told others of the miraculous first vision. Yet, he also affirmed, "I had seen a vision; I knew it and I knew that God knew it, and I could not deny it, neither dared I do it" (JSH 1:25) Not only could he not deny it, but he embarked on a life of persecution, criticism, and hardship because of it.

Brothers and sisters, we will know when we are truly converted when we cannot and dare not deny what it true. We demonstrate that true conversion when we live with honor and integrity.

President Hinckley was once asked if the Church didn't use the cross as it's symbol, what symbol did it use. He "...replied that the lives of our people must become the most meaningful expression of our faith and, in fact, therefore, the symbol of our worship. ...

No sign, no work of art, no representation of form is adequate to express the glory and the wonder of the Living Christ. He told us what the symbol should be when He said, "If ye love me, keep my commandments" (John 14:15)...

As His followers, we cannot do a mean or shoddy or ungracious thing without tarnishing his image. Nor can we do a good and gracious and generous act without burnishing more brightly the symbol of Him whose name we have taken upon ourselves. And so our lives must become a meaningful expression, the symbol of our declaration of our testimony of the Living Christ, the Eternal Son of the Living God." (Gordon B. Hinckley, "The Symbol of Our Faith," Ensign , April 2005, pp. 3-6.)

When our lives become a meaningful expression of our testimony of the Living Christ, our light--which comes from our Savior--can truly help to take the gospel light to every nation. If a government, nervous and unsure of the Church coming to a new land, were to scrutinize my life, or your lives, would they make the decision to allow the Church to enter and to flourish in their country? Would they trust the Church because they could trust us?

Brothers and sisters, I pray that we will be as confident and courageous as Joseph Smith, as Brigham Young and the early Twelve, in declaring the truth to the powerful and the humble in every nation. I pray that we will live our testimonies in such a way that we can assist in the great work of the latter days; that we can be, as the Savior taught, "the light of the world" and that we can let our lights so shine "before men that they may see [our] good works, and glorify [our] Father which is in heaven" (Matthew 5:14). He is the one we honor and reverence. May our lives demonstrate our love for Him and knowledge that He lives, in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.