Facebook Twitter



President Thomas S. Monson, first counselor in the First Presidency, opened the annual Seminar for New Mission Presidents, speaking in the first session Wednesday morning, June 19. He spoke again on the closing day of the seminar Sunday, June 23. He also spoke to missionaries and staff at the Missionary Training Center on the opening day. (See separate article on page 5.)

In his address at the seminar on June 19 he advised mission presidents and their wives to get ready for "the most challenging and inspiring experience" that they've ever had. He reminisced about some of the experiences he and his wife, Sister Frances Monson, had when he presided over the Canadian Mission from 1959-62.He presented "five M's of missionary work," which he identified as:

1. The message. "What a divine message you and your missionaries have to proclaim the divinity of the Lord Jesus Christ; to teach people where they came from, why they're here, where they go after they die; to talk to them about families that can be forever; to share with them the truths of the Book of Mormon; to bring to them the rays of living light," President Monson said. "It's the message that's all important, but we must convey it in a way which exemplifies the spirit of the message itself."

President Monson quoted the Savior, who said: " `All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth.

" `Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:

" `Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world.' " (Matt. 28:18-20.)

"There is the message," President Monson emphasized. "Note that He said `teach' before He said `baptize.' "

He quoted the Prophet Joseph, who declared: " `After all that has been said, the greatest and most important duty is to preach the Gospel.' " (History of the Church 2:478.)

President Monson told the new mission leaders: "You've been called to the greatest and most important duty - to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ.

"The personal testimony of the missionary is part of the message that you carry to people. There is something powerful about the testimony of a young man, a young woman and older missionaries when they bear witness to someone that this work is true, when they present a principle, and then declare, `I know Joseph Smith was a prophet of God.' "

2. The missionary. President Monson said that missionaries "represent the fruit of the families of the Church." Many, he observed, have had savings accounts for their missions all their lives, and some parents started the accounts before today's missionaries were born.

He noted that the families have prepared young men and young women to be missionaries. These missionaries have now put aside their daily interests and activities, have left jobs, friends and family behind to serve the Lord. "That's no small thing, particularly in this day and age," President Monson declared. "It's a miracle, a true miracle, to see the missionary force of the Kingdom of God."

3. The mission. President Monson emphasized that calls are issued to missionaries to serve in the particular fields of labor where the Lord wants them to serve. He spoke also of the importance of missionaries gaining a love and an appreciation for the missions to which they are assigned. He quoted Ernie Pyle, a World War II correspondent: " `Morale is really the secret of success. Morale depends upon two things: Pride in your outfit and confidence in your leaders.'

"You are leaders," President Monson told the mission presidents and their wives. "You can build pride in your outfit. The missionaries under your direction will be happy to be in your mission, wherever it is."

4. The member. "The member is the key to the maximization of a mission's success," President Monson pointed out. "There are many ways to contact people. There are many ways to teach investigators. The best way in the world is to involve the members."

He described how, in the mission he presided over, missionaries enlisted the assistance of converts who had common interests with investigators, particularly those who had come from the same religious backgrounds. He encouraged the mission leaders to work with stake and district presidents to keep them informed about what is taking place within the missions where they reside. "Work with them and the members," he told the mission leaders. "You're working on the same team."

5. The mission president. President Monson told the mission presidents that they set the spiritual tone of their missions, and that they and their wives serve as models for the missionaries.

He cited an ideal used by outstanding teachers: "No one fails in my class." That ideal, he said, should be employed by mission presidents who say, "It is my responsibility to help each missionary succeed."

In his remarks Sunday morning in the seminar's closing session, President Monson commended the presidents for having "responded magnificently, I think no less than when the early brethren received their calls. I'm glad you don't have to leave your sick wives behind. I'm glad you can take your wives with you; you'll need them!"

President Monson closed with what he called an example of a missionary blessed. The missionary was Randall Ellsworth, who, in an earthquake in Guatemala in 1976, was paralyzed in his lower extremities when a beam fell upon him as he slept. Elder Ellsworth was told by physicians he would never walk again.

"He sat in a wheelchair as a national television reporter was interviewing him," President Monson recalled. "Sister Monson and I were sitting at home watching the news, and the reporter asked, `Do you think you'll ever walk again?' I turned to Frances, and I said, `That's cruel, that's terribly cruel. We've been told he'll never walk again.' "

But Elder Ellsworth declared he would walk again, that he would return and finish his mission in Guatemala.

President Monson said he monitored the young elder's progress and, upon the advice of Elder Ellsworth's doctors, eventually approved his return to Guatemala to complete his mission.

"When he arrived, his mission president, John F. O'Donnal . . . said to Randall Ellsworth, `It's a miracle you're here. It truly is.' After a time, Pres. O'Donnal told Elder Ellsworth, `I believe you don't need those crutches.' " The mission president handed him two canes, which the elder used in place of the crutches. Eventually with the mission president's encouragement, he was able to lay aside even the canes.

Years later President O'Donnal gave one of the canes to President Monson as a memento of the experience. This President Monson eventually returned to Randall Ellsworth, now a practicing physician with a wife and family. He said he told Brother Ellsworth, "I want you to keep it in your family forever as a reminder of that great promise of the Lord to missionaries: `I will go before your face. I will be on your right hand and on your left, and my Spirit shall be in you hearts, and mine angels round about you, to bear you up.' (D&C 84:88.)"

To the mission presidents and their wives, President Monson said, "With all my heart I invoke that prayer and that blessing upon each of you."

(Church News staff writer R. Scott Lloyd contributed to this article.)