What is Our Marvelous Work Today?

July 23, 2008 | 27 comments
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The development of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has always been marvelous, but our sense of just what it is doing has changed quite dramatically from one decade to another. When Joseph Smith first went to (what in hindsight we call) the Sacred Grove, he was seeking guidance for his own spiritual life. He wanted to know that he was right with God and received the most dramatic reassurance. It took him a while to absorb the idea that he was also being called to restore the Church of Jesus Christ to Earth.

When the Saints gathered to Ohio or Missouri, they wanted to build Zion, in preparation for Christ’s imminent Second Coming. They laid out the plan of a new Jerusalem. It took a while for it to become clear that church headquarters was going to be in Salt Lake for a century or two. When the Saints gathered to Utah, they were gathering to Zion. Perhaps the Civil War was the beginning of the end of the world, and we would shelter behind the mountain walls until war was replaced by millennial peace. It took a while before we started to think of gathering as something that happens in stakes of Zion all over the world.

When President Kimball said that every worthy young man in the Church should serve a full-time mission, we thought of the image of the stone in Daniel’s vision, rolling forward to fill the Earth (Daniel 2:45 D&C 65:2). As the missionary force grew, and the numbers of converts grew over the decades that followed, the stone seemed to roll forward just as the image suggests. When the Iron Curtain came down, we were eager to send missionaries to new lands, and many living there were eager to join the Church.

As the initial rush of converts died down, it became clear that the growth of the Church in numbers was much greater than its growth in vitality, as in most parts of the world, many, many converts did not remain active. We built many more temples, to strengthen members across the world. Elders Holland and Oaks went abroad to better understand and address the problem of inactivity. The missionary teaching materials were dramatically revised. Based on what I hear from my brother on a mission, though, and what I see in my wards, the growth of the church in vitality, in the form of active, committed, members with testimonies, is still much more modest than it had appeared for a time. It seems better for the changes, but still doesn’t quite seem like a flood. We are responding to the gap between what we had in mind and what has really been happening, but the explosive growth of, say, the Utah period seems unlikely in the near future. As the 20-teens approach, what is our marvelous work today?

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27 Responses to What is Our Marvelous Work Today?

  1. Hans on July 23, 2008 at 4:38 pm

    Places like Eastern Europe are growing slowly but steadily. After Melvin J. Ballard dedicated South America in the 1920′s growth was minimal until the 50′ and 60′s. Also, places like India only allow 40 visas per year to the church so while we have a presence there, there are still places that we have a lot of potential for “Utah” growth.

  2. Lincoln Cannon on July 23, 2008 at 4:58 pm

    Maybe we’re the generation that will use family history data to contribute toward fulfillment of life extension and transfiguration prophecies . . .

    http://www.newsroom.lds.org/ldsnewsroom/eng/news-releases-stories/church-family-history-records-lead-to-groundbreaking-genetic-research

    D&C 101
    26 And in that day the enmity of man, and the enmity of beasts, yea, the enmity of all flesh, shall cease from before my face.
    27 And in that day whatsoever any man shall ask, it shall be given unto him.
    28 And in that day Satan shall not have power to tempt any man.
    29 And there shall be no sorrow because there is no death.
    30 In that day an infant shall not die until he is old; and his life shall be as the age of a tree;
    31 And when he dies he shall not sleep, that is to say in the earth, but shall be changed in the twinkling of an eye, and shall be caught up, and his rest shall be glorious.
    32 Yea, verily I say unto you, in that day when the Lord shall come, he shall reveal all things—
    33 Things which have passed, and hidden things which no man knew, things of the earth, by which it was made, and the purpose and the end thereof—
    34 Things most precious, things that are above, and things that are beneath, things that are in the earth, and upon the earth, and in heaven.

    . . . and from there, who knows? Resurrection?

  3. Neal Davis on July 23, 2008 at 5:00 pm

    Realistically, I think that our marvelous work is to get a fair portion of Utahns and other Mormon-bubble LDS to move away from that bubble, whether abroad or simply elsewhere in the USA. Just spreading around that strength will do a lot to increase the Church’s vitality. I just saw so many people there who could be bishops or stake presidents, but were content to be the second counselor in an EQ presidency. We’ve got to stop wasting our collective potential.

    Also, learning how to utilize technology to do more than family history or blog.

  4. SRas on July 23, 2008 at 5:52 pm

    The marvelous work is getting members to do missionary work. Like Elder Bednar said in April – members are to be full-time finders. I don\’t think the Lord will open new countries until we are making sufficient progress where we already are. That will involve members doing the work. I don\’t think it is any big secret – the brethren have done everything short of grabbing us by the lapels and shaking us.

    Elder Ballard\’s emphasis on technology is ancillary to members doing the finding. It is about getting us in the mindset, having us tell our own story. I agree with Neal – I think the development of Mormon pop culture has caused members to look inward, to shut ourselves away from the world. That flies in the face of \”Let your light shine\” and being the \”salt of the earth\” – we can\’t help save it if we are sequestered from it.

  5. Seth R. on July 23, 2008 at 6:16 pm

    Ether 3:25-26 and 4:4-19

    Our aim is to exercise faith as the Brother of Jared did, and see the things that he saw. Each of us – for ourselves.

  6. quin on July 23, 2008 at 6:25 pm

    I think the Lord’s marvelous work today is what it has always been-to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man. I think our work is to help Him do that, no matter what dispensation we live in.

    Ben, you seem to think that “converts” would flood the earth, but I’ve never read things that way. President Benson asked us to “flood” the earth with the Book of Mormon, and I believe that is being done, but that doesn’t mean that each copy will result in conversion for anyone. The prophecies are that the gospel will be spoken among all nations, kindreds etc. not that all will accept it. In fact, scriptures often state that “few there be” that find the “straight and narrow gate”. Prior to the second coming things on earth get worse, darker..not better and brighter and the millennium is peaceful and filled with righteousness not because the majority of the earth’s inhabitants have become converted, but because millions of wicked people have been destroyed and removed from it. Paul predicted that “in the latter times, some shall depart from the faith”-so it should come as no surprise that some are indeed doing just that.

    Real floods (as in those involving water-with the exception of the “great flood” spoken of in Genesis) don’t go on and on and sustain strength for long. For example when a dam breaks, a great wall of water explodes downstream but eventually loses power and strength and ends with simple trickling fingers extending as far as possible. Floods on more level plains take place when the system that normally contain the water is breached or the water rises too high, and continue until the excess water stops falling or becomes absorbed etc. But eventually ALL floods lose energy, taper off, and eventually end, so even comparing the spreading of the gospel to a flood means that even it will do the same.

    Neal-I agree that there is a lot of leadership in the “Mormon-bubble” but I don’t think that you or I have the authority to determine that those people “should” be somewhere other than where they are. Many of those people are from abroad or elsewhere in the USA and have felt inspired to move to Utah to raise their families, or get transferred here by their companies, or simply found work (or came back to finish school) here. We’re not supposed to “covet” positions of leadership, so being content as a second counselor or nursery leader if that is where God wants you is humble and appropriate. (Not to mention many men have BEEN bishops or stake presidents and are relieved and thrilled to be able to shoulder other callings and spend more time with their families after their terms end.)

    I also think your comment paints those who live outside of the bubble in a rather poor light. I think highly intelligent, spiritual people live all over the world and they deserve their own opportunities to grow and exercise their own God-given authority and talents to help build His kingdom. I don’t think that we’ve even reached our maximum “collective potential” and transplanting experience rather than developing more leaders is counterproductive to that end.

  7. Neal Davis on July 23, 2008 at 6:42 pm

    quin–

    I don’t mean to display those who live outside of the Mormon Belt as incapable, or even less capable, than those who live in Utah. However, there is an enormous volume of work to be done, and too few to do it in most cases–numbers are the clincher. You claim that “transplanting experience rather than developing more leaders is counterproductive to that end”, but I suggest that exposing more people to the wealth of experience currently buried in Utah will help more leaders develop, not to supplant, but to supplement local growth.

    We shouldn’t covet positions of leadership, but we shouldn’t dodge them by staying where we’ll never be needed either. There are several of wards I’ve seen where several capable families could move out without really being able to say that the ward as a whole, and its work, wouldn’t have been any different if they’d ever been there or not. That’s the potential that I’m referring to, that the Church as a whole needs to get at. In any case, I don’t want to get too off-topic here, so that’s my two bits.

  8. Ben Huff on July 23, 2008 at 7:30 pm

    Lots of great thoughts here. Obviously, looking at the macro-scale, we can easily overlook the wonderful things that happen in the lives of particular people, gradually over the course of years, or suddenly at the most unexpected times. Those things continue to happen, as they always have, though in different ways for each person. And I suspect that none of us can do a lot of good on the macro-scale unless we are individually converted and purified. This is a kind of core to the marvelous work.

    Still I think the macro-scale question is appropriate and even important to ask. The Brother of Jared had his amazing experience in the process of working to found a new nation in which the gospel would be taught–when he went to the Lord with the stones to receive light in their ships (barges). Abraham, Lehi and Nephi also had amazing indivitual experiences, and spent a lot of time feeling a bit alone in their faith, but still clearly were oriented toward building something much larger. I think when we think too much in terms of individuals and nuclear families, we are thinking too much like Protestants, with their focus on an individual relationship with God (“personal relationship with Jesus . . .”). The distinctive LDS teachings on marriage and work for the dead point strongly to a conception of reuniting the human family, and among the living building a Zion society.

    So the thoughts on where more overall vitality might come from are very helpful. The relationship between the center and the periphery is a very interesting question. Certainly the growth of the church has historically depended a lot on sending people out from “core” regions where the Church is quite strong, particularly the Mormon corridor in the western US, as missionaries and leaders. But I think there is a downside to this, because while it is easy for them to try to reproduce what they know from back home, in the long run I think the church needs to be culturally less Anglocentric. To integrate more people, I think we need more cultural space within the church, and this cultural limitation may itself be limiting growth right now. Perhaps now we have enough members with enough different cultural backgrounds that we can begin seriously brewing a global gospel culture.

  9. Ray on July 23, 2008 at 9:07 pm

    Establishing stakes of Zion, imo – with all the implications of that concept.

    I would love to see the day when no full-time missionaries are called to serve in mid-large wards of established stakes – when they are called to serve in smaller wards and branches and twigs – when native stakes supply native missionaries – when most North American missionaries go to countries and areas that are in the early stages of establishment. I would love to see Ward Missions function as Missions, under the direction of the Ward Mission President (the Bishop), his AP (the Ward Mission Leader) and the Ward Missionaries.

  10. Ben Huff on July 23, 2008 at 9:58 pm

    Ray, would you say more? I really like the shift the church has made to Ward Missionaries and think missionary work will go better the more the ward leadership are involved. Local leaders and members are more mature and understand the area and its people better than imported young missionaries, can keep track of investigators’ and new members’ development over time better, and are the people new members need to bond with in the long term. Greater integration with the local members would also seem to be facilitated by having missionaries live with members, as they are doing more now. Could you say more about how the Ward Mission would function differently from the way it does now? Are you saying that Ward Missions would have no full-time missionaries? or would they have them in some parts of the world but not others? How would the relationship of full-time missionaries to the ward be different than it is now?

  11. queuno on July 23, 2008 at 10:04 pm

    Ray’s vision (echoed by Ben) is already coming to fruition in some cases. Look at Utah, one of the highest-baptizing places in North America (really!), and FT missionaries there have something like 20-30 wards to oversee. The work is largely done by local ward missions. Even in a distant outpost like North Texas, we don’t have missionaries in every ward, and some wards have 8-10 ward missionaries.

    I think the trend will be for ward missions to run the day-to-day work, with the FT missionaries as “consultants”, so to speak, to make sure potential converts truly have been taught, are ready, etc.

    As for living with members, I don’t think that’s a positive development. My brother who is serving behind the Curtain did that, and it didn’t sound positive. I like having a boundary between members and missionaries.

  12. Bookslinger on July 23, 2008 at 10:56 pm

    Neal, (#3), That’s a comment I made somewhere, recently. About distributing some of the talent from the Mormon corridor to outside of it. Take some of those “points of light” and spread them out to where membership constitutes

  13. Bookslinger on July 23, 2008 at 11:33 pm

    (Ack, hit enter to soon.)

    where membership constitutes consder “spreadng out” when they are at “transition points” such as graduation, retirement, or maybe getting laid off from work.

    The church has acknowledged the need to “spread out” from places where the saints are more concentrated by calling service missionaries from strong suburban wards to serve as “service missionaries” in inner-city wards in the same stake.

    Even better would be for retired couples or empty nesters (or anyone at a “transition point”) to prayerfully consider “where does the Lord wants us to live?” in their decision-making.

    Moving to the inner-city doesn’t have to be expensive, as there are plenty of real-estate deals to be had if one doesn’t need to worry about quality of the local school district. One can often move within the boundaries of an inner-city ward without having to move into the worst neighborhoods.

  14. Bookslinger on July 23, 2008 at 11:35 pm

    Ack, it was the “less than” symbol I tried to use that messed it up. It got interpreted.

  15. Utahn in CT on July 24, 2008 at 12:20 am

    Why does the “marvelous work” of Mormonism need to be connected to missionary work? How about Mormons show they can make a difference in our world today–accomplish something truly constructive–that is not connected with expanding their own numbers?

  16. Ray on July 24, 2008 at 12:24 am

    Ben, the Church has been shifting the responsibility for missionary work down to the most local level for a while. The Raise the Bar announcement coincided quite closely with the abolishment of Stake Missions and the establishment of Ward Missions. The Church is now shifting missionaries (by not replacing ones going home) from low baptizing areas in the Eastern US and Canada (especially) to higher baptizing areas in the Western US and foreign countries. The FP & Q12 recently completed a very large survey of missionary work world-wide, focusing primarily on the infrastructural differences between low and high baptizing wards – with conclusions that emphasize the prioritization of the Bishop and Stake President and the involvement of the ward and branch membership as a united whole.

    Iow, they are beginning to roll out a practical application of the principles articulated Preach My Gospel. I would love to see Ward Missionaries coordinate sharing the Gospel (both teaching and community service) in their own communities – especially since that would free up traditional full-time missionaries to go into areas where we just can’t go right now due to not enough missionaries being available.

    Think about it in the simplest terms, as if we didn’t have the cultural habits that currently define our “missionary program”: Why do we need young men and women to teach the Gospel in many stateside areas? Why can’t called and set apart members do it? Why does it have to revolve around tracting and/or street contacting? If each family or single member brought one person to church with regularly, and 25% of the people who attend church regularly and are taught with a member present end up being baptized . . . do the math. Our challenge, imo, is to carry the load we are meant to carry and quit pushing it off onto the full-time missionaries – letting them fish in waters where the stake infrastructure isn’t established fully and the local membership isn’t broad enough to carry the load.

  17. Velska on July 24, 2008 at 7:06 am

    As one living outside an organized stake, I could speculate a little (our family of 7 moved out of a stake area ca. 10 years ago). In our branch it seems that there are only a handful of very active members who carry most of the load. Those members often are too busy to do much else than their Church callings and work, with too little time to get out as families to be among other people.

    We have had some excellent senior couples, who, with their experience, have helped enormously. We would very much like to see more of them (caveat: language!). As it is, it seems that we are able to reach young adults mostly, because our city has a concentration of college-level institutions plus a smallish university. One of the greatest innovations I’ve seen in my 30 years as a member is the Outreach Initiative. When Elder Perry was asked to preside over Europe Central Area, he had a vision of how the work can move forward. I think I remember an article about it in New Era back in 2005. Anyway, the idea is to really engage the member YSA’s and to invite nonmembers and less-actives to activities that are uplifting. They have an opportunity to feel the Spirit, and many end up being taught, and while most nonmembers don’t get baptized, they certainly are more informed about what the Church and the members are like.

    But I guess what we all need first and foremost is to get out and serve our fellow men. Then we could bless humanity in a more concrete way. I confess that I could do more…

  18. sscenter on July 24, 2008 at 8:35 am

    I think that the development in the US is not what we will see move forward. There will always be, obviously a strong presence in the US anchored by Utah. The future of the church is international. There will be lots of baptisms, temples, ect. The real movement will be we we see those blessed by the PEF move into their forties and fifties and assume strong government and business positions. Currently we are excited, and rightfully so, when someone finished their education and gets a much better job. For now that is enough. As the program reaches into it’s second, third and fourth decades we will see not just the membership increase but the leadership in the church, business and government will expand expotentially. That will be the news when one day Brazil and Mexico and Chile and others have more members than the US but also wards and stakes that match our strength.

  19. StillConfused on July 24, 2008 at 11:41 am

    I think our marvelous work now is to help people feel peace, joy and a sense of self worth irrespective of where they are in life. Converting people doesn’t do any good if we aren’t there for them afterwards as well.

  20. SRas on July 24, 2008 at 12:00 pm

    I don’t think there is a dichotomous relationship between “growing our numbers” and accomplishing “something truly constructive” as suggested by Utahn in CT. The Church exists to provide a vehicle for all of God’s children to come unto Christ and receive all the sweet fruits of the Spirit, made available to help us reach our ultimate goal. We manifest that work in a variety of ways, most succinctly in the three-fold mission of the Church.
    I made the comment earlier that our marvelous work is missionary work. I think our understanding of missionary work has become dramatically skewed – we always picture sitting down and teaching people. Missionary work, as others have suggested, must become a culture with members of the Church; I’d suggest that it is the culture of the Church but many of us have failed to grasp it.
    If members were “full-time finders” that would accomplish something truly constructive. That doesn’t mean members are out knocking doors, but are actively seeking opportunities to share the gospel. That means being involved in our communities, and not keeping to ourselves in our wards and families. It means showing the power of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ to inform, instruct, and inspire everyday life in the 21st century. It means we are the salt of the earth. We aren’t seeking new members to simply grow our numbers; the success of missionary work and the Church in general should be the natural outgrowth of living the gospel.
    Our work is not found in some new program or reorganization of missionary work at the stake or ward level. Our true work will result as individual members come unto Christ and receive that mighty change of heart. No, I’m not one of those who says “Just live the gospel and people will come to you.” I’m saying that the fruits of a true change of heart manifest themselves in accomplishing the work of God – and surely there is nothing more constructive.

  21. Carlos U. on July 24, 2008 at 4:03 pm

    Mitt Romney, President. Just kidding.

  22. Raymond Takashi Swenson on July 24, 2008 at 5:17 pm

    Maybe it’s because I am 58 years old, but I remember the Church in Utah in my teenage years being a much less educated, less capable and confident organization. I think the Saints’ understanding and vision of what the Church and we are supposed to become has been expanded and ennobled and enhanced. The opening of nation after nation beyond those available to us in 1968, before I left on my mission, has given us much more a sense of forward momentum.

    In my experience, there has been a real effort by the successive prophets in my lifetime to bring the Saints to a better understanding of this expansive vision of the Church and its mission. President McKay’s international experiences took temples outside America. President Kimball prepared us to expect miraculous things to happen to expand the mission field, and his revelation on priesthood did its part accomplishing that. President Benson’s emphasis on the Book of Mormon made a real change in the Saints’ spiritual knowledge and power. President Hinckley was a leading force in facing the Church outward toward the world throughout his career in the Church. The effort to spread temples and other programs like Seminary across the world have helped members justify the decision to be Mormons in their home countries.

    The Church in 2008 is not only larger than in 1968, but also stronger and more powerful in its meaning to the Saints. There is more understanding of the scriptures. This of course is not uniform for all members, but I perceive that the bell curve has moved further along the scale of righteousness and faithfulness and intelligent testimony. I think there is an increased optimism that the Church is up to the challenge, with God’s help, of doing what he wants us to do.

    The Baby Boom generation of Saints has had the blessing of obtaining more education than most of our parents ever dreamed of. That general level has risen and produced at its top some first class scholars in history, and ancient cultures and languages, who have produced a significant foundation of intellectual understanding that reassures us that the Restored Gospel has all the intellectual depth we could ever desire. We have come to appreciate more and more the remarkable nature of the Book of Mormon, both in doctrine and in poetry and as a window into an ancient culture that has many correspondences, not so much with America in 1829, but with America in 2008. As time advances, the relevance of the Book of Mormon grows.

    We have also grown in our understanding of Church history and appreciation of it beyond the set pieces of the Mormon pageant. While the Reorganized LDS Church has largely forsaken its commitment to Joseph Smith as a prophet as it seeks to join Protestantism, the LDS Church has found that a closer familiarity with the details of Joseph’s life can enhance our testimonies of his work.

    So I would propose that the Church is, looking back over the last 40 years, accomplishing a marvellous and miraculous work, not only in quantity of Saints around the world, but also in quality of their lives and testimonies and understanding of the gospel.

    I think also there is a direct correlation between quantity and quality, namely, that as Saints come from diverse cultures around the world, they enrich all of us with their perspectives and talents. As we have more hands and arms and eyes and ears, the Church as a whole is stronger, faster, more caring, and more perceptive. As we see the gospel through the eyes of 165 nations, we see better what is truly at the core of the gospel and what is our personal cultural baggage and traditions of our fathers. Paradoxically, as we become more numerous, we also become more unified. As Joseph Smith said, Zion is encompassing North and South America, and the world.

  23. E on July 24, 2008 at 5:27 pm

    Neal, I sympathize with your perspective. In my Utah ward, there have to be at least 30 men who could easily serve as bishop. In a midwestern ward I lived in in the past, there were only a handful.

  24. Toria on July 24, 2008 at 10:46 pm

    I appreciate this post and the responses. I’ve been asking myself this same question for several years, except that I’ve been phrasing it a slightly different way. I have been asking myself “What needs to be happening in order to actively prepare the earth for the Lord’s coming?”

    Clearly there are many different aspects to preparing for the millennium including missionary work, Family History/Temple work, the strengthening of the stakes of Zion, etc. And while all of these aspects are important and none can be left out, I often wonder if there is one aspect among the many that my generation (I am in my earlier 20’s) should be most focused on? And if there is, what is that aspect?

    I tend to place the work of “strengthening the good in the world” at the top of the list of things that need to be done to help more speedily usher in the millennium. I know it sounds a little vague, but it seems like a lot of work needs to be done in the world that is not directly related to missionary work or Temple work. The scriptures never say that the Lord will only come when there are enough members of His church to properly receive Him. In fact they state that the church will be few in number and that it isn’t until he comes that knees will bow and tongues confess that He is the Christ. But what we do know is that there needs to be a core of righteous people and that Good needs to be found on the earth just as Evil also will unfortunately be found.

    We need more people than ever to fight for the good of society politically, socially, and morally, not for the sake of converting people to the LDS church but for the sake of supporting the good wherever it is found so that people of all walks of life and all religious beliefs can find places of refuge and receive the strength needed to counterbalance the problems in the world.

    What does this mean for my generation? Well, it means that we need to learn to more precisely define our beliefs using terms that other Christians understand and relate to. We need to be more tolerant and learn to recognize truth wherever we find it. We also need to be more established in our own beliefs and comfortable with church history and church doctrine so that we can spend our energy finding common denominators with people of other faiths rather than searching for ways to prove ourselves and our religion.

    While I acknowledge that the steps above coincide with the church’s efforts to improve its public image, could they also be indicative of the kind of marvelous work that the current generation needs to be focused on?

  25. Ben Huff on July 24, 2008 at 11:11 pm

    Missionary work is important, but a Zion society doesn’t just need a population; it also needs a culture. Perhaps the biggest growth area for the next decade or two will be enriching and expanding the Mormon cultural profile. In recent decades we have made great strides in intellectual, artistic, and political arenas. This is possibly even more important as the surrounding culture (in Europe and North America at least) becomes less supportive of our values. As Toria said, we need to contribute to the good in our societies. We are big enough and confident enough now I think that we can work in partnership with others who share our values, without being assimilated. We are increasingly able to present our distinctive contributions in ways that will be well received. I would like to see us do more and become more culturally accomplished and confident.

    In the early Utah period we were building a culture, not just growing in numbers. As the church has become more spread out, in some ways I think we have lost ground as far as having our own robust and distinctive culture. We have become less insular, though, and more accomplished, so in the long run it should help us to do our work as leaven more effectively. Also, for some people this will make a big difference in their sense that the church is someplace where they want to be involved. I know quite a few people who have drifted out of the church because their intellectual needs were not met. A lot of popular music today obviously has far from wholesome messages, but the LDS offerings there are a bit thin, etc. In the long run a richer culture will prepare us to offer inspired approaches to the problems of the world (economic, environmental, political challenges as well as intellectual, artistic, etc.).

  26. mike on July 28, 2008 at 4:56 pm

    Among our circle of evangelical friends is an older rather harmless-appearing single woman who has lived in rural China twice as a children’s music teacher and secret underground Christian missionary. I do not have any expertise on this subject only a dinner-table observation, and I am going from memory only…..(Get out the salt shaker). Anyway,

    A religious miracle is unfolding in China. Evangelicals and Catholcis and a few others have been going into China for a variety of reasons; proselyting as permitted, teaching English or for business, etc., and they have smuggled Bibles into China by the millions. They have quietly taught the gospel to their closest Chinese friends, at great risk. A few have been put in jail or kicked out of the country.

    In the past religious progress in China was slow and mostly consisted of conversion to traditional churches with roots outside of China. In recentyears however, enormous numbers of Chinese have sort of self converted to their own form of generic Christianity. Some sources claim that as much as 10-15% of China is now Christian and this growth shows no signs of slowing down. That would be as many as 100 to 200 million new converts to Christianity in China. That would be almost like half of the US population converting to an entirely new religion in a few years span.

    Most Chinese Christians are not really connected to any particluar sect or type of Christian orgainzation such as the Roman Catholics or a Baptist convention or Mormons. They often meet together quietly in homes and are beginning to build a few, officially illegal church buildings and testing the limits of what the government will allow. They are not centrally organized or governed, except by the Spirit. They read the Bible but are not obsessed with many of the doctrines and issues that historically divide the rest of Christianity. Their focus is on the most simple principles and practices.

    I don’t think they can be classified easily as either Protestant or Catholic. In time they will develop their own unique mature response to the Christian message. Their numbers are so enormous that they rightfully represent another major new branch of Christianity. Evangelicals in America feel a close connection with them, but that feeling may not necessarily run both ways. With a largely apostate Europe and a religiously divided America, post-communist China could become the central axis of Christianity by the middle of this century.

    This marvelous work and wonder perplexes me, as a Mormon. Why, I wonder are we not more of a part of it? I don’t think we have any official missionaries in China except in or near Hong Kong. I don’t think our full-time missionaries would be any more successful in the middle of China than they are in any number of places with difficult languages and cultures such as Japan (where I served) or Korea or the Philipines or Indonesia. We are not smuggling Books of Mormon into China by the millions and spontaneous Mormon wards do not spring up with dozens of millions of new members. We might have a few Mormons deep in China for a variety of reasons and I would be surprized if we don’t have a handful of conversions across the country. But this is so small in comparison to the colossal changes outside of our realm.

    Yet this miracle in China warms my soul and demonstrates how the Lord can bless his children in marvelous and miraclous ways. I think this miracle in China is the most marvelous religious work of today. I just don’t understand why we are not in the middle of it.

  27. CRC on September 5, 2008 at 10:04 am

    May I suggest that our Marvelous Work is to be watching for the Marvelous Work… which is yet to take place

    http://www.threewatches.blogspot.com

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