“And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come” (Matt. 24:14)
A few weeks ago, President Obama eased a half-century American policy toward the communist nation of Cuba. Briefly, restrictions were lifted on Cuban-Americans who want to travel and send money to their island homeland. The broader U.S. trade embargo, however, remained unaffected.
Politics aside, this decision got me wondering about potential expansion of LDS missionary efforts into the Cuban island. Could this move by the Obama administration be a precursor to the Gospel being preached “in all the world”? On the other hand, in light of today’s expansive technological resources, is it even necessary to have a missionary force present in similarly situated countries? I see no reason why we couldn’t teach the missionary discussions via webcam since we have already set precedent by dedicating temples and other holy edifices via satellite.
Paul once stated that, since Christ’s death, the Gospel had been preached “in all the world,” when missionaries certainly had not reached all the known regions of the Earth, let alone the unknown inhabitants of the Americas. (See Col. 1:5-6) So, was Paul there referring to physical nations or that the Gospel had simply been extended to the two types of people representative of the world – i.e., Jews and Gentiles? Does a similar line of reason follow for the prophecies of the last days?
The question then becomes, does scripture or modern revelation support a vast missionary effort where our missionaries physically trod the soil of the various nations of all the Earth?
It is true that every person must have the opportunity to hear the gospel, either here or hereafter. In fact, eventually “the truth of God will go forth boldly, nobly, and independent, till it has penetrated every continent, visited every clime, swept every country, and sounded in every ear, till the purposes of God shall be accomplished, and the Great Jehovah shall say the work is done” (Joseph Smith, History of the Church, 4:540).
Elder Bruce R. McConkie explained that before the Lord Jesus can return in glory, two things must take place:
“The first . . . is that the restored gospel is to be preached in every nation and among every people and to those speaking every tongue. Now there is one immediate reaction to this: Can’t we go on the radio and preach the gospel to . . . the nations of the earth? We certainly can, but that would have very little bearing on the real meaning of the revelation that says we must preach it to every nation, kindred, and people. The reason is the second thing that must occur before the Second Coming: The revelations expressly, specifically, and pointedly say that when the Lord comes the second time to usher in the millennial era, he is going to find, in every nation, kindred, and tongue, and among every people, those who are kings and queens, who will live and reign a thousand years on earth (Revelation 5:9-10).
“That is a significant statement that puts in perspective the preaching of the gospel to the world. Yes, we can go on the radio; we can proclaim the gospel to all nations by television or other modern invention. And to the extent that we can do it, so be it, it’s all to the good. But that’s not what is involved. What is involved is that the elders of Israel, holding the priesthood, in person have to trod the soil, eat in the homes of the people, figuratively put their arms around the honest in heart, feed them the gospel, and baptize them and confer the Holy Ghost upon them. Then these people have to progress and advance, and grow in the things of the Spirit, until they can go to the house of the Lord, until they can enter a temple of God and receive the blessings of the priesthood, out of which come the rewards of being kings and priests.
“The way we become kings and priests is through the ordinances of the house of the Lord. It is through celestial marriage; it is through the guarantees of eternal life and eternal increase that are reserved for the Saints in the temples. The promise is that when the Lord comes he is going to find in every nation and kindred, among every people speaking every tongue, those who will, at that hour of his coming, have already become kings and priests. . . . All this is to precede the Second Coming of the Son of Man” (quoted in Spencer J. Palmer, The Expanding Church [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co. (1978), 141-142).
Although some readers of this blog make it general practice to second guess controversial doctrinal topics explained by Elder McConkie (I admit I fall victim to this tendency also), he seems quite clear here. When Christ returns, He will return to a world where ALL nations include at least a handful of peopple who have obtained the promised blessings of the temple. Thus, opening up Cuba’s borders, according to McConkie’s reasoning and explanation, may in fact be a foreshadowing of the time when the Church opens the Havana, Cuba mission.
However, it does not follow that every person or even the majority of people must hear the gospel before the Second Coming. In fact, the great day of gathering – the day when millions upon millions will come into the fold of God – is millennial. According to Doctrine and Covenants 45: 50-54, the heathen nations will not be redeemed until the millennial era. Therefore, whether you lean toward the McConkie interpretation, or follow a more realist approach, the REAL great missionary effort will eventually take place during the Millennium under the direction of Christ Himself.
I would like to hear reader’s thoughts on McConkie’s statements above.