On October 25, 2002, late prophet of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Gordon B. Hinckley, addressed Mormon missionaries serving in Philadelphia. A main thrust of President Hinckley’s message was for the missionaries to live and teach by the spirit — the Holy Ghost — which enlightens, edifies and witnesses of the truth. Short excerpts of his discourse follow:
…lift your heads out of the book—instead of just quoting from rote, to speak by the power and the inspiration of the Holy Spirit and in so doing to speak into the hearts of the people. In this city of brotherly love, where people are so mean and unfriendly and have dogs that bark at you and all of those things, you just have to rely on the Spirit of the Lord, and you won’t have that Spirit unless you ask for it and work for it. I believe that with all my heart.
“And ye shall go forth in the power of my Spirit, preaching my gospel, two by two, in my name” (D&C 42:6).
I was holding a meeting of this kind once with President Henry D. Moyle in Chicago. We had two missions there and a great crowd of people in that hall, and we went on all day. When we separated for a break, I went out and walked around in the lobby, and a fine stylish-looking woman said, “Who in the world is this group in there, all dressed in black suits?” And I said, “They are Mormon missionaries.” She said, “They look like angels dressed in black.”
“And the Spirit shall be given unto you by the prayer of faith; and if ye receive not the Spirit ye shall not teach” (D&C 42:14).
… when you pray, do you really ask the Lord, as His servants, to speak through you, to let His power rest upon you and let the Holy Ghost bear witness to the people as you testify to them? Do you really pray that way? Have you really learned to plead with the Lord as if your very life depended upon it? It is necessary because your very life does depend on it, my brethren and sisters—your life as a missionary of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
You can’t afford to be lazy. You can’t afford not to get up in the morning. You cannot afford not to study the prophets of old. You cannot afford not to be acquainted with them and their great work. You cannot afford not to get along with your companion. You cannot afford to be thinking all the time of the girl you left at home. She is home. You are here. She has her work to do, and you have your work to do, and it is pretty important, and you only have two years in which to do it—you young ladies, a year and a half; you old people, as long as you can take it.
Now, I make you a promise. If you will give it the very best you have, you will never get over it. I told this ambassador the other day that the nations of Europe will never have better friends in the United States than the young men and young women who have served as representatives of this Church in those nations. They did not go as tourists. They went as messengers of peace into the homes of the people, where they learned to know them and love them and appreciate them and respect them. And they will never lose their love for them.
I make a promise to you that you will never lose your love for the wonderful people of the areas in which you serve. May God bless you, my dear friends, brothers and sisters, co-workers in this great undertaking, is my humble prayer as I leave with you my witness and testimony of the truth, the absolute truth of this great and singular thing, different from all other things on the face of the earth—the Church and kingdom of God, even The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Of this I testify as I leave my love with you, in the name of our Redeemer, Jesus Christ, amen.
I was born January 14, 1960, in an area southwest of Johannesburg, South Africa. Both my parents are South African by birth but from different ethnic backgrounds. My mother’s father was Portuguese from Mozambique and her mother was mixed South African. My father’s parents are both Chinese who arrived in South Africa in their youth. I am therefore Chinese, Portuguese, and mixed South African.
In my early years, my family moved to a suburb in Johannesburg about 3 miles from the city center. We spent several years in the Doornfontein area, just a block away from aunts and uncles on my father’s side of the family. We then moved to a neighboring suburb called Bertrams for a few years, after which my parents bought a home in Bezhuidenhout (Bez) Valley. All these areas were close to each other and with each move our quality of life improved.
When we moved to Bez Valley I was still in high school, but wasn’t very happy with the school I attended. During these teen years I started working as a waiter in a dinner/dance Chinese restaurant which enabled me to enroll at a private school and pay my own way through the last few years of high school. Earning and paying my own way helped me learn to manage money to a degree.
During my second last year in high school we lost 2 of my brothers in a car accident. It was quite a traumatic experience for the entire family, but especially for my mother. Prior to this we were raised in a Christian home, but my parents were never members of the church they encouraged us to attend. Their activity was limited to attendance on Easter, Christmas, and occasional Sundays. When my brothers died, both Mom and Dad’s religious convictions deepened, and they were baptized in that church. Even though I had stopped attending this particular church, because I was not completely happy with their doctrine and practices, I once again attended to appease my parents. Just a few months later I decided that my religious happiness wasn’t ever going to improve in this church, and I stopped attending once again. During all this time I continued to work at the Chinese restaurant and became friends with a young lady who played in the band. Getting better acquainted, I learned she was a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (a.k.a. LDS or Mormons), which I knew nothing about. She was very open about what she believed and practiced, and I grew more curious. I told her about my brothers’ passing and about my discontent with other religions.
One of the first things she shared with me was the plan of salvation. It all made sense – There was a plan! It wasn’t difficult for me accept that we existed before, that we are here on earth to get mortal bodies and prove ourselves, and that there’s a promise of return to our Heavenly Father if we prove valiant in the testimony of Christ. A big part of the plan that struck home was the promise of eternal family – reunion with those gone before (and in fact with all those who pass through this life), as well as eternal increase.
Some of the other beliefs she shared with me were about our eternal growth, about the Godhead, and about the restoration of Jesus Christ’s Church and the Priesthood.
- I loved the idea that we could become like the Savior and Heavenly Father, experiencing eternal growth and the fact that we could attain what they have.
- The Trinity never made a lot of sense to me. I was tired of being told that some things are God’s mysteries and we leave those alone. The LDS perspective was refreshing – It was more a case of learning as much as we can because after this life, in addition to the spiritual strength we develop, our knowledge is all we take with us. I loved the fact that people are encouraged to search for answers and that through study and prayer we could get personal revelation.
- It made sense to me that Christ would restore His church, and that it would be patterned after the same organization that He set up before.
Not long after we met and spent a lot of time in conversation, I met her family who belonged to the same Church. There was something different about them. There was a wonderfully strong familial bond fostered by the beliefs of this church they belonged to. I grew more curious and more interested. I loved the feeling I had around their family and I visited them often and almost always talked about the Church.
Sometime in second half of 1978 some of the church leaders visited S Africa for a huge (area) conference. The Thomsons invited me to attend, and I went to one of the sessions with them. A lot of the talks were a little over my head, but there was a certain “feeling.” The week after the conference they invited me to attend church with them. It was a little unusual to go to church for a few hours in the morning and return later in the day for more meetings, but it didn’t take long for me to get used to the routine. Everything was very different to what I experienced at church before. I met other members who extended welcoming hands – it was quite impressive that almost everyone knew each other.
After I attended church for a several weeks, the Thomsons introduced me to the missionaries, who were primarily serving amongst the Portuguese, but they fitted me into their teaching pool. Most things they taught me were pretty much the same as I’d heard from the Thomsons, but there were new principles we hadn’t discussed. I readily accepted what I heard and had no reservations about these things being true. When I was challenged to baptism, it seemed the next most logical step to take and I accepted. Since I wasn’t of legal age yet (in South Africa the legal age is 21), I had to get my parents’ permission. Neither one hesitated, but I was cautioned by my father that it was “going to be a busy life.” I’m not really sure how he knew that but his caution was duly noted. Little did I know!
I was ready to be baptized early December 1978, but the missionaries who taught me had another family they were hoping to baptize at the same time as I, so I waited. This other family committed to a later date in December, then early January, then late January and kept postponing. We then determined that I should go ahead without them, and I was baptized on February 3rd 1979, with all the kids in the ward who turned eight. It was both a heartwarming and a soul-nourishing experience. After the baptismal service I went to work at the restaurant. I felt different that evening – warm inside and a glow about me. The next day at church I was confirmed and felt that warmth return. I had felt the fleeting presence of the Spirit before but now it seemed to linger.