by Richard O. Cowan
At the Church’s sesquicentennial conference in 1980, Elder Bruce R. McConkie spoke of the Church’s progress to date and of its future destiny. Using symbolic terms, he likened the Church’s present achievements to standing on a majestic and glorious mountain peak: “From where we stand, on the peak of 150 years of progress, the view is glorious indeed.” The stone foreseen by the prophet Daniel is rolling forward towards its destiny of filling the whole earth. (See Dan. 2:34-35.) Prophet after prophet labors to prepare the faithful for the Savior’s second coming. “Our joy and rejoicing is not in what lies below,” Elder McConkie continued, “not in our past-great and glorious as that is-but in our present and in our future.” Our sorrows and sufferings are not all behind us, he cautioned. “We shall yet be tempted with more severe trials… than we have ever known before …. ”
“From the top of the peak… we can look forward, crest upon crest, to the Zion of God which one day will be ours if we walk in the course charted by those who have gone before.” Unfortunately, not all will attain this goal. “We weep for those in the true Church who are weak and wayward and worldly and who fall by the wayside as the caravan of the kingdom rolls forward.”
Elder McConkie anticipated the time when the gospel would be preached with success in all nations. “We see the Lord break down the barriers so that the world of Islam and the world of communism can hear the message of the Restoration.” He looked forward to stakes being organized throughout the earth. In temples, which will dot the earth, “those of every nation and kindred and tongue and people can receive the fullness of the ordinances of the house of the Lord and can qualify to live and reign as kings and priests on earth a thousand years.” There will be a rich outpouring of the Holy Spirit, together with revelations, gifts, and miracles. Because of this, Elder McConkie emphasized, faithful souls are “born again, . . . sanctified by the power of the Spirit, and they prepare themselves to dwell with God and Christ and holy beings in the eternal kingdom.
“Truly the world is and will be in commotion,” Elder McConkie concluded, “but the Zion of God will be unmoved. The wicked and ungodly shall be swept from the Church, and the little stone will continue to grow until it fills the whole earth.” 1
Prophecies in the Doctrine and Covenants and other scriptures similarly speak of these future conditions through which the Church must pass before the glorious second coming of Christ. The consistent message is a “voice of warning” to the Saints to prepare for that which is to come. Church organizations and programs are intended to aid in this preparation.
In 1823, Moroni declared “that the time was at hand for the Gospel in all its fullness to be preached in power, unto all nations that a people might be prepared for the Millennial reign.” 2During the 1960s a member of one of the priesthood correlation committees recalled:
I sat in a meeting at 47 East South Temple and heard President N. Eldon Tanner say, “Brethren, we are sending you out to the conferences of this Church. We send you forth to teach, and not to be taught.” Then he said, “You go out and prepare the people for the second coming of Jesus Christ.” We sat there with those chills just going up and down our spines when we heard a prophet say this. 3
But before these glorious events occur, prophecy indicates, the world must pass through a period of tribulations. The programs of the Church are designed to fortify the Saints for these difficulties. Elder Harold B. Lee explained:
Almost imperceptibly we see the hand of the Lord moving to do things, and this I construe to Be a consolidation of the forces of the Lord under the direction of the prophet, just as in an army, in order to meet a superior force of the enemy in numbers, the forces of our opposition to the forces of evil must be consolidated in order to give them the most effective possible defense.
We are in a program of defense. The Church of Jesus Christ was set upon this earth in this day “… for a defense, and for a refuge from the storm, and from wrath when it should be poured out without mixture upon the whole earth.” (D&C 115:6.) [Therefore we are instructed] “to move forward,” that we consolidate to make more efficient and more effective the work of the priesthood, the auxiliaries, and the other units in order that we may conserve our time, our energy, and our efforts toward the prime purpose for which the Church itself has been organized. 4
Elder Thomas S. Monson regarded priesthood correlation, emphasized beginning in the 1960s, as the inspired means by which those objectives can be achieved:
Though our objectives may at times appear unattainable, though the resources of that evil one loom overpowering, and though discouragement threatens, and weaknesses handicap, yet that blessing brought by correlation-even united effort-will bring us the victory we so much seek.
We can take strength from the example of Gideon. You will remember how Gideon and his army faced the overwhelming strength of forces vastly superior in equipment and in number …. The outcome of that mighty battle is recorded in one short sentence: “And they stood every man in his place …” (Judg. 7:21), and the victory was won.
Today, we are encamped against the greatest array of sin, vice, and evil ever assembled before our eyes. Such formidable enemies may cause lesser hearts to shrink or shun the fight. But the battle plan whereby we fight to save the souls of men is not our own. It was provided to our leader, even President David O. McKay, by the inspiration and revelation of the Lord. Yes, ] speak of that plan which will bring us victory, even the Correlation Program of the Church. And as we do battle against him who would thwart the purposes of God and degrade and destroy mankind, I pray that each of us will stand in his or her appointed place, that the battle for the souls of men will indeed be won …. 5
President Hugh B. Brown expressed his appreciation for the priesthood correlation program and then added this prophetic declaration:
It seems to me that of all the signs of the times (and they are ominous and on every side) this is one of the significant signs of the times-that the Church of Jesus Christ, the kingdom of God, is massing its forces, getting ready for that which is to follow ….
I want to say to you, brethren, that in the midst of all the troubles, the uncertainties, the tumult and the chaos through which the world is passing, almost unnoticed by the majority of the people of the world, there has been set up a kingdom, a kingdom over which God the Father presides, and Jesus the Christ is the King. That kingdom is rolling forward, as I say, partly unnoticed, but it is rolling forward with a power and a force that will stop the enemy in its tracks while some of you live.
Do you want to be among those on the side of Christ and his apostles?…
Now is the time to make a resolution to that effect and to prepare to put yourselves in a position where you can do the will of God, keep control of yourselves, and control your passions and your appetites and those other things that lead downward into forbidden paths. 6
If we are to meet President Brown’s challenge, Zion must be established on earth before Christ comes. In 1834, the Lord outlined what is required for us to be prepared to fulfill this goal:
. . . it is expedient in me that mine elders should wait for a little season for the redemption of Zion-
That they themselves may be prepared, and that my people may be taught more perfectly, and have experience, and know more perfectly concerning their duty, and the things which I require at their hands.
And this cannot be brought to pass until mine elders are endowed with power from on high.
In summary the Lord then declared: “But first let my army become very great, and let it be sanctified before me….” (D&C 105:9-11, 31). How are we doing?
We have seen that there has been tremendous growth during the twentieth century, that the Lord’s “army” truly is becoming “very great.” Yet, has it filled the earth? In 1978 Church membership passed the four million mark, but there were approximately four billion people living on the earth at the time. This meant that there was only about one Latter-day Saint for every thousand of the earth’s inhabitants. Obviously there is room and need for further growth.
Is the Lord’s “army” or Church sufficiently sanctified? President Wilford Woodruff declared:
The parable of the ten virgins is intended to represent the second coming of the Son of Man, the coming of the Bridegroom to meet the bride, the Church… and I expect that the Savior was about right when he said, in reference to the members of the Church, that five of them were wise and five were foolish;… if he finds one-half of those professing to be members of his Church prepared for salvation, it will be as many as can be expected, judging by the course that many are pursuing. 7
Available statistics do not measure worthiness or sanctification directly. Nevertheless, faith and devotion are reflected in the levels of Church activity. Information presented in this volume indicates that there has been substantial progress during the twentieth century in such matters as attendance at meetings, missionary service, or temple ordinances performed. Yet here again there is ample room for further improvement.
Latter-day Saints in the twentieth century should find the Church’s progress thrilling. Truly the kingdom is rolling forth. Yet much more remains to be accomplished. Each Church member has the opportunity and responsibility to contribute to the kingdom’s forward momentum. Elder Harold B. Lee Once challenged: “If we can get the priesthood now to come alive and to put into gear the full strength of the priesthood, we shall see some of the most wonderful developments and some of the greatest things happen to the forces which the Lord can set in motion that we have ever known in this dispensation.” 8
The challenge to all Latter-day Saints, then, is to catch the vision of the Church’s mission and destiny, that they may help to realize the fulfillment of the Prophet’s inspired petition (D&C 65:6) in which he prayed, “May the kingdom of God go forth, that the kingdom of heaven may come, that thou, O God, mayest be glorified in heaven so on earth.”
Chapter 24. The Destiny of the Church
1. Conference Report, April 1980, pp. 97-99.
2. Joseph Smith, Jr., History of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 2nd ed. rev., 7 vols. (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1960), 4:537.
3. Paul F. Royal, “Every Man in His Place,” BYU fireside address, January 3, 1965, p. 12.
4. Conference Report, September 1961, p. 81.
5. Relief Society Magazine, April 1967, pp. 246-47.
6. Conference Report, October 1967, pp. 115-16.
7. Journal of Discourses, 26 vols. (London: Latter-day Saints’ Book Depot, 1855-86), 18:110.
8. Conference Report, October 1962, p. 83.