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Elder Nelson encourages missionaries to 'open eyes, fortify minds'

PROVO — LDS Church Elder Russell M. Nelson encouraged missionaries to open their mouths, "open your eyes and fortify your minds" during a Christmas Day devotional at the Missionary Training Center in Provo.

Thousands of missionaries for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints received instruction from Elder Nelson, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and his wife Wendy.

Particularly, he encouraged the missionaries to "open your eyes and fortify your minds against rumors." One popular rumor in circulation regards missionaries who are called to one area and transferred to open the work in another formerly closed area, such as China.

"Such rumors are absolutely false. Refute them!" Elder Nelson said. "Leaders of this church enter countries new to the church through the front door. We do not go in through the back door or via the alley. Our relationships are based on honesty, openness, integrity and complete compliance with local law."

He then quoted the late church President Gordon B. Hinckley, who said "wherever we go, we go in the front door. Our (missionaries) honor the laws of the nations to which they go and teach the people to be good citizens."

Some missionaries are transferred during their missions, and some callings are modified, he said. This may happen as new missions are created. But, he said, any transfer made or calling modified is done openly.

"Please decide here and now to be a 'rumor stopper' and not a 'rumor monger,' " he said.

Elder Nelson also cautioned missionaries against those who do not have pure motives.

"Keep your eyes wide open, and when you see, or even feel, an atmosphere of evil, speedily move to safety," Elder Nelson said.

In addition to praising the Lord on Christmas Day, Elder Nelson praised the missionaries and their selflessness.

Elder Nelson reminded the missionaries that full-time missionary service for the Lord is a privilege on Christmas. "The spirit of service is in the heart of each missionary."

The Savior came to give second birth. This is especially comforting to those who are grieving because of the Connecticut shooting, specifically Emilie Parker.

"Comfort and solace come to the families of these victims, and to all who suffer tragedy in this life, through the gift of the Savior's birth, life and his glorious victory over death," Elder Nelson said. "That mission of Jesus Christ assures us that little Emilie Parker, and all of those other innocent people, will live again! Indeed, 'all little children are alive in Christ.' His Atonement enables each human being to be resurrected."

The missionaries who are going out throughout the world are "called to bring hope, peace, love and joy to a world mired in hatred, contention and sin."

He encouraged the missionaries to reach out to the ward mission leader in their area, who will help them find people to teach. The family history coordinator for each ward can also be helpful for missionaries who are looking for ways to reach out to those not familiar with the LDS Church. This individual can help people find their ancestors and build bridges of friendship in the process.

Missionaries need to exercise caution and follow mission rules while they are spreading their message, he said, so they can be successful and safe.

When they encounter those critical of the imperfections of the people in the church, missionaries should "help those critics to see that they can gain wisdom - even exaltation - from doctrine received by revelation from heaven to imperfect people. Applying that doctrine, each person can, in due time, become perfected in Christ."

At a time of gift giving and receiving, Sister Nelson talked about spiritual gifts. Comparing them to gift cards, she said many are given gifts they do not use. She encouraged missionaries to pursue and use these gifts "eagerly, persistently and relentlessly," to help them overcome weaknesses and become better missionaries.