We'll Bring the World His Truth


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Story of Hugh B. Brown in England

When he was a young man, Hugh B. Brown served a mission in England.

His first assignment, in 1904, was in Cambridge, home of one of the world's most famous universities. His first day there showed little promise. All day he went from door to door by himself, handing out pamphlets and asking for opportunities to teach. He was turned down at every door. The next day went the same way. As he returned home that night, he was discouraged. He was an eager young missionary, and he wasn't used to the idea that most people didn't want to listen to him.

That evening Elder Brown heard a knock at his door. When his landlady opened the door, a man asked for Elder Brown. But the young missionary wasn't so sure this was good news. The last missionaries to work in Cambridge had been ordered out by a mob—at gunpoint. Elder Brown wondered whether the same group might be planning a similar going-away party for him.

But Elder Brown greeted the gentleman—and saw the man's surprise. He apparently expected someone called "Elder" to look a little less like a boy. But the man was holding one of the tracts Elder Brown had been handing out, and what he had to say was rather amazing:

Elder Brown, last Sunday a group of us in the Church of England left the church because we could not agree with our minister. He was not teaching what we believe to be the gospel. There were seventeen of us heads of families who were out of harmony with the minister, and we told him we would not return. We all assembled in my home. I have a large home with a large, hall-like front room which accommodates us and our families. Will you come tomorrow night and be our pastor?

Elder Brown didn't fall over—but he certainly must have gulped. The man then added that the new congregation had been praying all week that they would find a new preacher by Sunday. They were sure the Lord had answered their prayers by sending Elder Brown to them.

Elder Brown answered confidently that he would be happy to preach to the group. But the truth was, he was terrified. This would be his first public sermon since arriving in England, and the responsibility was almost over-whelming. He ate no dinner that night, and he spent the evening praying for God's help. The next morning he got up early but continued to fast. He spent the entire day walking through the streets of Cambridge. How could he answer the needs of these people! What should he say to them!

As the time for the sermon came closer, he was depressed and worried. He simply didn't feel ready for the great task ahead of him. He wondered why the Lord would put him in such a difficult position so early in his mission. Still, he put on his winter coat and his stiff hat, grabbed his Bible and his walking stick, and tried to look as mature and confident as possible. These people were expecting a pastor, not an inexperienced young man.

When Elder Brown knocked on the door of the house, he was welcomed by the man he had met the day before. "Welcome, reverend sir, come in," the man said. Elder Brown's nervousness took another leap. And then, as he entered the room, everyone stood up out of respect. Elder Brown's heart was suddenly in his throat.

At that point he realized that he was expected to conduct the entire meeting—lead the music and say the prayers as well as deliver the sermon. In his confusion, he asked the people to begin by singing "O My Father." This was an LDS hymn, and no one else in the room knew it, so no one could join in. Elder Brown's singing was never great, but on this occasion his nerves turned the hymn into a disaster.

Anxious to get all the eyes off him for a moment, Elder Brown then asked the congregation to kneel at their chairs and join him in prayer. As he prayed, he included this petition: "These people are seeking for the truth. We have that truth, but I am not able to give it to them without thy help. Wilt thou take over and speak to these people through thy Holy Spirit and let them know the message of truth."

Elder Brown got to his feet. He spoke for forty-five minutes. His sermon got better as he went along, and he felt his self-assurance grow. When he was finished, the congregation was thrilled. All in attendance knew they had heard the truth they had been searching for. Within three months every single person was baptized—all seventeen families.

Elder Brown now knew that he could preach with authority and power when he relied on the Lord. But never again did he bring such a large group into the Church. He had many discouraging experiences, and he continued to receive rejections from most of the people he tried to teach.

One day he was going door to door in Norwich, England. He knocked on a door and received no answer. Through an open window he saw a woman sitting in her living room, knitting. He knocked again, but she still didn't answer. What he didn't know was that she had spotted him, recognized that he was a Mormon missionary, and decided not to go to the door.

But Elder Brown was not so easily ignored. He wanted her to hear what he had to say. So he walked around her house and knocked hard, with his walking stick, on the back door. Needless to say, the woman flew to her door and gave the missionary quite a talking to. Elder Brown later wrote:

When she did stop, I said, "My dear lady, I apologize for having annoyed you, but our Heavenly Father sent me 6,000 miles to bring you a message, and inasmuch as he sent me, I can't go home until I give you that message."

"Do you mean the Lord sent a message to me?" she asked.

"I mean just that, I answered. "He sent me because he loves you."

"Tell me the message."

After telling her the story of Joseph Smith and the restoration of the gospel to the earth, he apologized again for disturbing her. Then he added. "Sister, when you and I meet again, and we will meet again, you are going to say, "Thank you and thank God that you came to my back door and insisted on speaking to me."

Ten years later, Hugh B. Brown was in England again, this time as a soldier in World War I. A conference was scheduled in Norwich, but the mission president was sick and couldn't attend. He called Major Brown to see if he could go fill in. He did so willing. At the end of the meeting, a woman came up to see him. Tears rolled down her cheeks as she kissed his hand. She said:

"I do thank God that you came to my door ten years ago. When you left that day, 1 thought about what you had said. I couldn't get it out of my mind. I was fighting it, but 1 couldn't sleep that night. I kept thinking, 'God has sent a message to me.' ... I tried to find the missionaries from the address on the tract you left, and when I found them, you had returned to Canada. We continued to investigate until my daughter and I joined the Church.

Elder Brown was deeply touched, and he remembered all the doors he had knocked on during his mission—and all of the rejections. He wondered whether other people he had taught had later accepted the gospel.

Early in Elder Brown's mission he had experienced something rare and inspiring—seventeen families entering the Church together. The Lord had led him to the people, and they had been prepared to accept what he had taught. It was a magnificent spiritual experience. But it was his hard work, devotion, and perseverance that had kept him trying in Norwich. And after ten years, he could see the worth of all that effort. In many ways, this was a more important lesson for a young man to learn—a young man who would eventually become a stake president, a mission president, and an apostle of the Lord.

Hugh B. Brown shared this experience in Gen. Conf. April 8, 1972 (July 1972 Ensign) "A Missionary and His Message" - (story also told in the book: We'll Bring the World His Truth)