clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:


For missionaries to succeed in their quest to bless additional lives, they must become more skillful teachers of the gospel, said Church leaders who addressed the New Mission Presidents Seminar.

During four days of intensive instruction June 21-24, 68 new mission presidents and their wives heard from the entire First Presidency, six members of the Council of the Twelve and other General Authorities assigned to the Missionary Department.In addition to these addresses, much of the instruction centered on training mission presidents to teach missionary skills. These skills are needed in creating a spiritual setting and in developing the faith needed to teach under inspiration.

President Ezra Taft Benson addressed the new mission presidents June 21, (See June 25 Church News.)

President Gordon B. Hinckley and President Thomas S. Monson, counselors in the First Presidency, spoke to mission presidents in subsequent sessions, as did President Howard W. Hunter and others of the Council of the Twelve. (See page 7 for excerpts of addresses of members of the Council of the Twelve.)

After the seminar's concluding session, the new mission leaders departed for their fields of service. Warm friendships developed during the week. The leaders left after exchanging handshakes and hugs and carried with them the urgency of spreading the gospel to all the world.

In his address, President Hinckley said that missionaries are sent to bless lives. These missionaries, he remarked, "look the same everywhere - they are clean and sharp, bright and neat, and eager and alert. They have looked that way for the last hundred years, and I hope they'll look that way for the next hundred years.

"There is something wonderful and marvelous about missionaries . . . they are ambassadors of the Lord Jesus Christ."

President Hinckley told mission presidents that to supervise missionaries "is a tremendous responsibility, one which I hope you will never forget."

He said mission presidents are successful when they:

1. Love the Lord Jesus Christ.

2. Motivate missionaries to do their best in the work to which they have been called, and leave the result of that work to the Lord.

3. Forget themselves in the service of others.

4. Bless all whose lives they touch.

President Hinckley applied the Beatitudes of the New Testament to missionary work.

"'Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven,'" he said. "You'll be dealing with poor in spirit; know that theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

"'Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.' You'll come to know something of suffering, as well as gladness."

"'Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.' And that is your great opportunity to teach the teachable - those who eagerly wish to listen to what you have for them.

"'Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.' You will have a few of them," he continued, "not as many as you might wish . . . and you shall witness the marvelous process of them becoming filled and faithful." (Matt. 5:3-6).

President Monson told the mission presidents and their wives that they were entering one of the happiest periods of their lives. "Your first responsibility will be to the missionaries," he said. "You will be entrusted with the hopes and dreams of parents." He said parents make a considerable sacrifice as young men and women leave the family.

Missionaries, he continued, must always remember that they have received a call from the prophet of the Lord, and that they have accepted that call in writing.

President Monson admonished the mission presidents to be kind to their missionaries. "If you treat them as they are, they will remain as they are, but if you treat them as you expect them to be, they will become so.

"If you ignore, you injure. If you inform, you inspire," he told the mission presidents.

He said the leaders should instruct their returning missionaries about preparation for careers. "Tell them to be the best in that field. There is no room for mediocrity."

Returned missionaries should be instructed to marry in the temple and to commit themselves to always pay tithing, counseled President Monson.

"Let your motto be, 'No one fails in my mission,'" he instructed. "Let the mission be a place where they can find themselves."

Missionaries carry essential truths that include doctrines of the plan of salvation, the Godhead, the Prophet Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon, he declared. Missionaries should understand these truths and become skilled in teaching them. In addition, "Make prayer a part of that great message," he added.

President Monson encouraged the leaders to engender support from the members within their missions. "Their support has to be merited. It can't be drafted." Then, he added, once the members are involved, "there is nothing that can't be accomplished."

He promised the new mission presidents and their wives that the Lord would pay them dividends for their service that would last long after their terms in the mission field ended.

As his years as a mission president were starting, former automobile executive Giuseppe Pasta, new president of the Italy Rome Mission, summed up his feelings about the mission presidents seminar: "We have been in the 'celestial kingdom,' and now we are going back into the lone and dreary world. But we have a three-years' supply of spirituality."



Atonement: Act of love

The primary object of missionary work is to help non-members enter into the way of eternal life, said President Howard W. Hunter of the Council of the Twelve.

The gateway to that path of eternal life is through repentance and baptism, he explained. "No man or woman can receive eternal life without the atonement of Jesus Christ being fully efficacious in his or her life."

The Atonement, he said, is an act of love by Heavenly Father and His only Begotten Son.

"I have stood in the Garden of Gethsemane on many occasions," President Hunter recalled. "I have contemplated that suffering, the agony of the Savior - that agony that was experienced when our Heavenly Father permitted Him, in a way our minds cannot even contemplate, to take upon Himself the pain and sins of all mankind.

"What does the Atonement have to do with missionary work? Any time we experience the Atonement in our lives, we cannot help but have concern for the welfare of others. A great indication of one's personal conversion is the desire to share the gospel with others," said President Hunter.

'Prophet has stood test'

No prophet on earth has been scrutinized as long and thoroughly as has the Prophet Joseph Smith, said Neal A. Maxwell of the Council of the Twelve.

And, he added, "He has stood the test."

Joseph Smith, though unlearned and untrained in theology, gave the Church more printed pages of scriptures than the combined papers of Paul, Luke and Mormon, he said.

"He provided us with the essential grammer of the gospel as no one else could," continued the apostle.

The truths he shared were revolutionary in his time. And, said Elder Maxwell, while these truths tower above the foothills of philosophy, the world still largely ignores them.

The people of the world "don't realize that the great relevance of the truths of the Restoration are a many-splendored affirmation that Jesus is the Christ."

Elder Maxwell said missionaries must bear firm testimonies of the Restoration's lead prophet, "who did what no one else would do."

Spirit will testify

The Lord's way of teaching takes place through the instrumentality of the Holy Ghost, reported Elder Dallin H. Oaks.

"The Spirit guides us in what we should teach, brings all-important gospel truths to our rememberances and then testifies of the Father and the Son and affirms the truth of what we have taught by the Spirit," said Elder Oaks of the Council of the Twelve.

"This is why the gospel can be proclaimed by the weak and simple to the ends of the earth."

He said that to teach by the Spirit, members must be worthy of the companionship of the Spirit. "We must be obedient to the commandments of the Lord, we must be prayerful, we must be prepared in knowledge of the doctrine and missionary discussions."

Careful preparation is required to be guided by the Spirit, said Elder Oaks. "We must always be prepared to proceed on our own best judgement. There are times when we have latitude, and time when we will be told what to do."

The testimony of the Spirit is an intense feeling of serenity, or righteousness, or peace, he declared. The apostle encouraged missionaries to bear testimony in simple, direct phrases and avoid using cliches.

Catch enthusiasm

Mission presidents are entrusted with one of the greatest assets of the Church - full-time missionaries, said Elder L. Tom Perry of the Council of the Twelve.

He said that after serving, returned missionaries continue to be important. "They provide a valuable leadership base for the Church. The future leadership base for the Church. The future leadership of the Church is in your hands."

He encouraged mission presidents to "thrust in your sickles with enthusiasm. Your missionaries will catch the enthusiasm from you. You need to be on fire every morning when you are with your missionaries.

Mission presidents should perform their work with love, particularly in the labor to save each missionary. "Your missionaries all have one thing in common - they are all junior angels," said Elder Perry.

He encouraged mission presidents to be exemplary in sharing the gospel and in teaching missionaries. "You will bring to pass much righteousness. This Church is not man-made. It is directed by the Savior Himself," said Elder Perry.

Increased skills needed

Missionaries need to increase their finding and teaching skills, emphasized Elder M. Russell Ballard of the Council of the Twelve.

"Until our missionaries understand how to prepare people for the gospel, and identify and prepare for the Spirit of the Holy Ghost, and until they learn how to follow up, frankly, we are not going to accelerate the work," he said.

Missionaries must build a relationship of trust, resolve people's concerns, and create a teaching setting before conversion can take place, he noted.

"Do you realize that more people are born in one day in the world than we baptize in one year?" he asked. "We just simply have to learn how to break loose from where we are."

Missionaries, he said, are dealing with eternal life. Once they are prepared, they have the tools . . . and they can go forward anywhere, under any circumstances.

"They can teach the chairman of the board just as easily as they teach underprivileged families. That's the skill that has to be generated in the lives of the missionaries."