President Uchtdorf Urges Mission Presidents to Follow Spirit
By Jason Swensen, Church News staff writer
On June 25, President Dieter F. Uchtdorf spoke to 173 newly called mission presidents and their wives at the 2013 Seminar for New Mission Presidents. The Second Counselor in the First Presidency spoke of his admiration and love for his unique audience and counseled them to trust the Lord and follow the promptings of the Spirit.
“You presidents have been given priesthood keys to preside over your missionaries and administer the work of sharing the gospel in your mission areas,” he said. “After all is said and done, the fruits of your labors as mission president and wife will be seen and felt in the lives of your missionaries, in the lives of those converts you will find and who accept the message, in the lives of members who are strengthened by your example and your testimony, and last, but not least, in the lives of your own family.”
He counseled the couples to help the missionaries understand that the fruit of their labor will reach far beyond their present horizon.
“Generations to come will be grateful and bless their names for their faithfulness and dedication. As these young missionaries endure such things as rejection, loneliness, self-doubt, homesickness, exhaustion, and temptation, the refiner’s fire will purify their souls. They will increase in wisdom and grow up in the Lord, and as they stay faithful, their confidence will wax strong in the presence of God.”
Mission presidents must never underestimate their influence on the Lord’s missionaries, President Uchtdorf said.
“Presidents, when the teaching comes from you, it has a very special impact on these young missionaries,” he said. “Don’t underestimate your influence, but be careful and wise about what exactly you teach, because the missionaries will hearken unto your voice. If your focus is on baptism only, they might neglect retention. If you mainly focus on retention, they might forget finding and baptisms.”
Missionaries will watch and follow the example of their mission presidents, he added.
“You teach your missionaries best through your example. Know and apply the straightforward approach of Preach My Gospel. You will not teach it best through long, complex doctrinal sermons, but you will reach their hearts by proselyting and teaching with them. Teach by interviewing them, by developing an effective mission training plan, by teaching in zone conferences and setting the standards for effective district meetings, and, of course, always by personal daily example.”
President Uchtdorf then counseled the mission presidents and their wives to base their teaching on the scriptures, the Missionary Handbook and Preach My Gospel.
Harkening back to his years as a commercial airline pilot, President Uchtdorf spoke of his love for flying the Boeing 747. That “big bird” feels a bit clumsy on the ground. Even after lift-off, with the landing gear still down and the flaps in take-off position, the Boeing 747 climbs and turns slowly and methodically. The plane reaches its true potential only after the gear and flaps retract, removing significant aerodynamic drag.
“Flying free of its initial drag, the aircraft moved swiftly through the skies, reacting smoothly and instantly to the inputs of the pilot. By increasing lift, it was gaining altitude quickly, and with its great resources it was reaching out to destinations far beyond the horizon,” he said.
President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, Second Counselor in the First Presidency, speaks to newly called mission presidents and their wives during the 2013 Seminar for New Mission Presidents on June 25.
Missionaries, he observed, sometimes go through a similar “lift-off” phase during their mission experience.
“As you help them to get rid of some early challenges, some early drag in their missionary lives, as you guide them to progress closer to their true potential, as you add an extra measure of spiritual lift to their life and service, they eventually will become what they are meant to be—true servants of the Lord Jesus Christ.”
The Church leader then shared five observations:
1. What is important to the mission president will be important to the missionaries.
“Just as your missionaries minister to their investigators, you minister to your elders and sisters. You will strengthen their faith in Jesus Christ by inviting and encouraging them to repent and to renew and keep their covenants.
“Help your missionaries understand what is important to you. If knowing and applying Preach My Gospel is important to you, it will be important to them. Teach them obedience, faith, and hard work. Reassure them that you love them and that you are grateful for their service.”
2. Be an example of Christlike love.
Express that love continuously to the missionaries, to the members, and to all with whom you come in contact.
“Without charity for all people you cannot accomplish the work of the Lord in His way.”
3. Emphasize that the first principles and ordinances of the gospel are the foundation of conversion, retention, and activation.
“Establishing the Church also includes helping our precious new members prepare for priesthood ordination, receiving temple ordinances, and continued service and growth in the Church.”
4. Point the missionaries toward the Savior and His Atonement.
“Teach and testify frequently of the Savior, and express your love for our Master and Redeemer.”
5. Trust the Lord and follow the promptings of the Spirit.
“As servants of the Lord, you and your wife are entitled to our Heavenly Father’s help. Humbly seek His guidance through prayer and fasting, ‘by study and also by faith’” (D&C 88:118).
In closing, President Uchtdorf wished the mission presidents and their wives joy in their essential service. “May God magnify and strengthen you in body and in spirit. May He bless you, your families, and your precious missionaries and bring peace to your hearts.”