PROVO, Utah During the 20th Century the Lord has opened the windows of Heaven and poured out upon the Church, its leaders and members inspiration and blessings that have opened doors to the Church throughout the world, said Brent L. Top.
Speaking during BYU's Sydney B. Sperry Symposium Sept. 29, Brother Top, associate dean of BYU Religious Education, noted that the mission of the Church is to help all mankind to come unto Christ by "proclaiming the gospel, redeeming the dead and perfecting the Saints."
"These fundamental missions, revealed by the Lord in Holy Writ and reiterated by latter-day prophets, guide the Church in all that it does," he said during his address, "A Lengthening Stride, the Three-fold Mission of the Church."
"The last 50 years have been filled with marvels and miracles in the work of the Church in these three areas, causing both members of the Church and outside observers to be astonished beyond measure."
Brother Top discussed numerous events that, during the last 50 years, have helped the Church meet this three-fold mission.
Proclaiming the gospel: "The missionary force of the Church increased dramatically during the decades of the 1950s to the 1990s," he said. "Not only did the numbers of full-time missionaries increase significantly, but so also did the expanding reach of the gospel message as evidenced by the increased numbers of missions, many of which were in nations which had never before been open to the Church."
Member-missionary endeavors: "While each of the presidents of the Church from the Prophet Joseph Smith on have stressed the covenantal obligation of members, the latter half of the 20th Century saw perhaps the most extensive and successful member-missionary efforts in the history of the Church. 'Every member a missionary,' declared President David O. McKay."
Spreading the gospel through modern technology: Brother Top said, "The information age of the latter half of the 20th Century brought with it many innovative technological advances that enabled the Church to proclaim the gospel to millions more of God's children than had been possible in earlier generations."
Results of the revelation on priesthood: "This historic event brought with it profound blessings to individuals as well as the entire Church," said Brother Top. "Perhaps nowhere, however, did this revelation have such dramatic effects both immediate and long-term than on the continent of Africa."
The "Iron Curtain" comes down: Brother Top noted that after the fall of communism, the Church received official recognition in the Russian Republic. "By the mid-1990s, full-time missionaries were serving in 15 newly created missions [in countries] reaching from central Europe to Siberia. Thousands joined the Church and scores of branches were established."
Temples dot the earth: "We could scarcely have imagined only a decade or two earlier a hundred temples in operation around the globe by the end of this century."
Technological advances aid genealogical research: "From an eternal perspective, the information age will be hailed as much more than an era of technology," said Brother Top. "It has been and will continue to be an unprecedented era of salvation of the souls of men."
Family Home Evening: Quoting President David O. McKay, Brother Top said, "The problems of these difficult times cannot better be solved in any other place, by any other agency, by any other means, than by love and righteousness and precept and example and devotion to duty in the home."
Consolidated meeting schedule: "At the very core of this important change was the family."
Priesthood correlation: Brother Top said, "One of the most significant developments in the history of the Church, although one that is not very well known or understood, was the priesthood correlation work of the 1960s."
New edition of the scriptures: "The impact of these new scriptures went far beyond just classrooms and quorum discussions. It would assist in raising up a new generation who would love and use the scriptures more than ever before and, in turn, be blessed with great spiritual power and protection."
The Power of the Book of Mormon: "Throughout his entire administration President [Ezra Taft] Benson emphasized the need to study from the Book of Mormon, to teach and counsel our families from the Book of Mormon, to use it more in our Church callings and assignments."
Brother Top concluded, "Whether it be structural changes, program innovations, the new editions of the scriptures or any number of developments that characterize the latter-half of the 20th Century, we have witnessed the opening of the windows of heaven in remarkable ways."
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