President Monson Instructs, Counsels New Mission Presidents
By Gerry Avant, Church News editor
New mission presidents—173 of them, the largest group assembled at one time—and their wives gathered Sunday morning in a large meeting room and an overflow area in the missionary training center in Provo for a sacrament meeting held in conjunction with the 2013 Seminar for New Mission Presidents.
With the rest of the congregation in the room, President Akingbade Ojo and his wife, Sister Oludayo Ojo of Calabar, Nigeria, stood as President Thomas S. Monson entered. It was a moment they said they will never forget.
Sister Ojo said, “It is a great privilege to see the prophet face to face. I was so happy to be here. I have been looking forward to this day. I am grateful I could be in the same room with the prophet.”
“When we received our call and prepared to attend the seminar, we asked ourselves what it would be like to be in the presence of the prophet. We had never seen President Monson in person,” said President Ojo, who will preside over the Nigeria Benin City Mission.
President Ojo said he felt as though President Monson had tutored him personally. “It was like he knew my face,” President Ojo said. “I felt the power of his office; I felt the love he has for us all. He encouraged us. He told us we could succeed in our callings, that we could do it.”
President Monson delivered a message of encouragement, instruction, and counsel. Gleaning from his own experiences in presiding over the Canadian Mission from 1959 to 1962, he gave practical advice for supervising a mission, from dealing with homesick missionaries to making transfers to motivating missionaries to do their very best work. He counseled the mission presidents and their wives to rely on the Spirit as they make every decision pertaining to their mission assignments.
He assured the new mission leaders and their wives that many people were praying for them, especially the parents of young elders and sisters called to serve under their direction.
President Monson emphasized the importance of making contact and working with local priesthood leaders and engaging local members in missionary efforts.
“It was President Spencer W. Kimball who said, ‘No mission can achieve its full potential without member help.’ Then he said, ‘We expect to … involve the members of the Church generally in opening the gospel doors to our Father’s other children.’”
President Monson said, “Remember that ‘the worth of souls is great in the sight of God,’ and if we should labor all our days and bring save it be one soul unto Him, how great shall be our joy with Him in the kingdom of our Father. And if we should labor more diligently and bring many souls unto Him, how much greater will be our joy.”
He said, “You may sometimes be tempted to say, ‘Will my influence make any difference? I am just one. Will my service affect the work that dramatically?’ I testify to you that it will. You will never be able to measure your influence for good.
Before sacrament meeting at the 2013 Seminar for New Mission Presidents in the missionary training center in Provo, Utah, Sunday morning, President Thomas S. Monson shakes hands with Karolyn Cropper of the MTC staff. Photo by Gerry Avant.
“My brothers and sisters, you have been hand-selected. You have been chosen from among the most faithful in the Church, and now you have the opportunity to go forth in the Lord’s harvest field. You are going to build rich memories. The next three years will be among the happiest of your lives. … God bless you in your ministry.”
Sister Melanie Carmack, who will serve with her husband, President Curtis Carmack, as he presides over the Panama Panama City Mission, described the sacrament meeting as emotionally moving.
“It was a special experience as we sang the closing hymn, ‘We Ever Pray for Thee, Our Prophet Dear.’ We sang directly to him.” She said she thought about President Monson’s feelings since his wife, Sister Frances J. Monson, died just a little over a month ago, on May 17.
President Carmack said, “It was so great to have been here to listen to President Monson as he gave us practical advice and shared with us experiences he has had over the years. He gave us the ‘nuts and bolts’ of being mission leaders. Over the years, we have heard him speak about his experiences as a mission president, but until I was called to serve as one it didn’t mean as much.”
President Celso Cabral, called to preside over the Brazil Santos Mission, said, “President Monson reminded us that every mother and father of our missionaries will be praying for us to take care of their children. That is a tremendous responsibility.”
President Akingbade Ojo and Sister Oludayo Ojo of Calabar, Nigeria, attend sacrament meeting during the seminar for new mission presidents; he will preside over the Nigeria Benin City Mission. Photo by Gerry Avant.
President Cabral and his wife, Sister Jane Cabral, will experience both sides of those prayers: as they are being prayed for by parents and other family members of missionaries, they will be praying for their son, Kevin, who has been called to serve in the Tennessee Knoxville Mission, and their daughter, Thamirys, who has been called to serve in the Panama Panama City Mission.
Of the sacrament meeting, Sister Cabral said, “I cried all the time. The Spirit was so strong. I felt President Monson’s talk was especially for us. He reminded us that missionary work isn’t about just baptizing people, it’s also about caring for missionaries so they will be able to bring others to Jesus Christ and their celestial home. It was good to hear from the prophet what Heavenly Father wants us to do.”
Elder Russell M. Nelson of the Quorum of the Twelve conducted the sacrament meeting, which was attended by members of the Quorum of the Twelve and many members of the Quorums of Seventy and their wives.