"You never can foretell the consequence of your work as a missionary in this Church," President Gordon B. Hinckley emphasized during the annual Mission Presidents Seminar. "Doors will be slammed and people will turn you down. At times you may think that you have accomplished absolutely nothing. But miracles come out of these very, very small beginnings."
Speaking June 23 at the conclusion of the week-long seminar, President Hinckley related his experiences as a young member of the Quorum of the Twelve nearly 40 years ago when he was assigned to preside over the Far East Area of the Church, as it was then known.
"We don't need you," President Hinckley was told by the government minister of religion in an Asian country after requesting permission to send missionaries. "Only a small percentage of our country is Christian and we already have 10 churches to handle their needs. There is no need for adding another church," the government minister said to President Hinckley.
President Hinckley and his companion, Elder Marion D. Hanks, and others went to a park where they found a beautiful secluded spot and dedicated the land. Shortly afterward, requests were made for missionaries to enter the country. Three-month visas were granted.
"It interrupted the work and was costly to move the missionaries out of the country every three months," President Hinckley said. But over the years, contacts were made who later became influential friends of the Church. "Now there are 150 missionaries serving without the need to renew visas. On a recent trip, we met with government ministers and were received in hospitality," he said. "It is an unforeseen consequence of that which took place in 1961."
President Hinckley related other experiences dramatizing the growth of the Church from simple beginnings. "I've seen the great struggles of our people in Korea . . . where a marvelous thing has come to pass," he said, recounting the time he was speaking to "a handful of members" gathered in a high school gymnasium and a stove pipe fell, spewing smoke and ashes into the room and forcing the end of the meeting.
"Now there are stakes and missions and a beautiful temple. It's magnificent," he said.
"You cannot foretell the consequences of the great work which comes to pass out of the feeble beginnings of missionary service. Look ahead to the years down the line and see the flowering of your efforts," he counseled the mission presidents and their wives. "As surely as the sun rises in the morning this work will come to flower in the missions where you serve."
President Hinckley recounted the life of Dan Jones, who, by the boldness of his testimony, became a great missionary. Born in Wales where he became a sailor, Brother Jones came to the United States. He learned of the Church by transporting members to Nauvoo on a boat he operated on the Mississippi, the 60-ton Maid of Iowa. He didn't believe the anti-Mormon literature he received and investigated the Church. He was soon baptized on a cold winter's day in the Mississippi River. On a subsequent trip he and Joseph Smith became friends.
"On the 26th of June 1844 he was among those imprisoned with Joseph in Carthage jail," said President Hinckley.
When the others had fallen asleep, the Prophet asked, " 'Are you willing to die for this cause?' " continued President Hinckley. Dan Jones replied that death would be a little cost for a cause such as this.
" 'You will yet live to go to your native land of Wales and preach the gospel,' " the Prophet responded.
In the next days, before the Prophet was martyred, Joseph sent Dan Jones out of the jail to obtain the help of a lawyer. On his return, the mob prevented him from joining Joseph and the others. He escaped after being shot at. "Seven months later, he was called to serve a mission in Wales," said President Hinckley.
"He was a fiery, feisty preacher," President Hinckley continued, describing how Dan Jones would write to the mayor or chief of police of a community to announce his arrival. " 'I'll be there to convert the city,' " President Hinckley said, quoting Dan Jones. "When he arrived the mayor and chief of police would be there to greet him."
Dan Jones baptized 3,600 members while serving. He returned home to later become mayor of Manti, Utah. He was then called to serve a second mission to Wales, this time baptizing 2,000 new members, totalling 5,600 converts.
"Thousands of members joined the Church as a result of his service. He wore out his life in service and died at age 51.
"You're headed for great and wonderful experiences, the end of which no one can foretell," he said, reminding the mission presidents and their wives that "the thing which will be of the most worth unto you will be to declare repentance unto this people." (Doctrine and Covenants 15:6.)
President Gordon B. Hinckley addressed the Mission Presidents Seminar June 23 in the Church Office Building auditorium as the concluding speaker of the week-long training. He was accompanied by President Thomas S. Monson and President James E. Faust, first and second counselors, respectively, in the First Presidency. Members of the Quorum of the Twelve were also present, as well as the Presiding Bishopric and many members of the Seventy who were seated in the congregation.
Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve conducted the meeting. He introduced President Hinckley by noting that on that very day, 90 years earlier, President Hinckley was born to Bryant S. and Ada Bitner Hinckley. Elder Holland considered how much the parents were aware of "the life young Gordon would live, or the prophetic mantle he would one day wear." He then led the congregation in singing a happy birthday song to President Hinckley.
The seminar included 103 newly called mission presidents. They will be among 333 mission presidents throughout the world presiding over 60,500 missionaries.