WHITE READY TO HARVEST
When I served my first mission 43 years ago, I felt the Church was “making it” in the world. It had been expelled in the eastern United States after it was founded in 1830. Through the faith, work and sacrifice of converted saints, the Church headquarter was established in Utah, it survived the days of poverty and steadily grew for a century and a half. I felt that in 1970 many people respected the Church for its humanitarian work and the wholesome, successful lives that members of the Church seemed to live. The fastest growing areas at that time, as I remember, were the Northwest of the United States and South America. In the world, there were about 16,000 missionaries, 560 Stakes, 94 Missions and the church was established in about 60 countries. There were 13 operating temples. There were 2.9 million members with about 79,000 convert baptisms in 1970.
Today there are 65,000 missionaries, 3,005 Stakes, 347 Missions, the Church is established in 189 nations of the 224 nations and territories of the world and there are 140 operating temples. Church membership is 14.8 million people with 272,000 converts baptized in 2012.
While the difference in numbers are impressive, it is put into perspective to note that in 1970 there were 3.7 billion people living on the earth. Today, 2013, there are 7.0 billion people. Church membership today is a mere 0.2% of the world population.
We are few in number just as Nephi foretold in 1 Nephi 14:12, but the prophetic words of Daniel are clearly seen: the “stone … cut … without hands … [is filling] the whole earth.” (Daniel 3:34-35) The membership growth of the Church is and will continue to be an exponential function ie, if each year every member finds one, then the next year every member finds one and so on, the numbers are astounding. If this occurred and you assume only 1/3 of 1/2 of the members participate now and in the future, the Church would have 7.0 billion members in 40 years. Do the math. I am convinced that some day in the not so distant future we will look back at 2013 as pre-historic in terms of where the Church will be at that time.
Many more missionaries are coming. The Lord is pouring out his spirit on Nederland and Belgium consistent with the hastening of the work begun last October with the announcement of the lowering of age for missionary service. But the members and non-members are the main recipient of the blessings of the hastening, not the Mission. It would be well to explain this to members as we work with them. Elder Anderson said in April Conference 2013:
“Brothers and sisters, as surely as the Lord has inspired more missionaries to serve, He is also awakening the minds and opening the hearts of more good and honest people to receive His missionaries. You already know them or will know them. They are in your family and live in your neighborhood. They walk past you on the street, sit by you in school, and connect with you online. You too are an important part of this unfolding miracle...
I promise you, as you pray to know with whom to speak, names and faces will come into your mind. Words to speak will be given in the very moment you need them. Opportunities will open to you. Faith will overcome doubt, and the Lord will bless you with your very own miracles.” (Neil L. Anderson, It’s a Miracle, April 2013 General Conference)
We share the “Living Water” of the gospel. Jesus taught the woman of Samarian at the well, skillfully using water and thirst as the teaching tool (John 4). The “Living Water” Christ taught about is to be compared to the doctrine of the gospel, the love of God and/or the atonement. The woman made it easy to be taught because she was humble (verse 9), she desired to know more (verses 11-12) and she believed his words (verses 15, 19, 25). Samaritans were despised and avoided by the Jews. But, Jesus went straight there and said:
“13 …Whosoever drinketh of this water shall thirst again:
14 But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life.”
He then told her about her relationships with men, which he had no way of knowing, and she immediately recognized him as a prophet. After Jesus testified, “I that speak unto thee am He [the Christ]” (verse 26), she caught the spirit of missionary work, left her water pot (symbolic that she will never thirst), went her way into the city and testified to the people of the Christ. They went out of the City and came unto Jesus. Upon seeing them come Jesus said,
36 And he that reapeth receiveth wages, and gathereth fruit unto life eternal: that both he that soweth and he that reapeth may rejoice together.
37 And herein is that saying true, One soweth, and another reapeth.
38 I sent you to reap that whereon ye bestowed no labour: other men laboured, and ye are entered into their labours.”
In the end, the Samaritans asked him to tarry and he stayed there two days.
Elders and Sisters, we along with the church members in our Mission are engaged in this great work that Jesus foretold. Let us all commit our best efforts to be successful at our task, making the members a partner in the work and gather the fruit.