Elder Holland Shares Account of “Missionary Speech of All Time” with New Mission Presidents

Contributed By R. Scott Lloyd, Church News staff writer

  • 30 June 2017

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles speaks with participants at the 2017 Seminar for New Mission Presidents at the Provo Missionary Training Center held Saturday, June 24, through Wednesday, June 28.

Article Highlights

  • A missionary needs the Spirit of the Holy Ghost in every aspect of the work.
  • The work is true, and the Spirit is the ultimate and essential teacher of that truth.

“We are sent by God to invite His children home. We do that through the Holy Ghost, the Comforter, the Spirit of Truth, on the strength of the Atonement of Jesus Christ. Welcome to the divine companionship.” —Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles

PROVO, UTAH

Just as Moses would not endeavor to go into the promised land without the assurance of the Lord’s presence, so today’s missionaries are also totally dependent upon the Lord for success, Elder Jeffrey R. Holland told mission presidents and their wives who are embarking on new assignments.

Elder Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles spoke on June 27, the fourth day of the 2017 Seminar for New Mission Presidents being held at the Provo Utah Missionary Training Center. His topic was “the divine companionship.”

Every missionary and mission president must come to understand the import of Jehovah’s promise to Moses, “My presence shall go with thee” (Exodus 33:14), and that this is the only way the kingdom of God can be built, Elder Holland said.

The first “great verity your missionaries must embrace and declare” is the truthfulness of the work of Almighty God, of Jesus Christ’s ministry and Atonement, of the Book of Mormon and its restoration through the Prophet Joseph Smith, and that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the only church that has priesthood authority to teach the fulness of the gospel and administer the ordinances of exaltation that are central to it, Elder Holland said.

“The second truth they have to understand and embrace is that the Holy Ghost, as a member of the Godhead, is He who bears witness of that truth and that He carries the missionaries’ testimony of it to the heart of the investigators.”

Referring to the title of the missionary guide Preach My Gospel, Elder Holland said too many missionaries forget the remainder of the scriptural passage from which the title is taken, Doctrine and Covenants 50:14–18. It includes the qualifier that they are to teach it by the spirit of the Holy Ghost, and if they do it “in some other way, it is not of God.”

“So presidents, teach your missionaries that the work is true, and teach them that the Spirit is the ultimate and essential teacher of that truth,” Elder Holland said.

An additional truth, he said, is that “the investigator has to invite—or at least allow—the Holy Ghost into his or her heart if the missionaries’ message is to bear fruit.” It is not due to the missionary’s inadequacy if those hearing the gospel harden their hearts against the Spirit, he explained.

If missionaries grasp the above principles, they learn an attendant truth: that they need the Spirit at all times and “it can’t be put on and off like an old sweater,” Elder Holland noted. “We can’t live in Babylon most of our missionary day and then hurry over to the City of Enoch to prep quickly for a lesson we have to give.”

The divine companionship

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles speaks at the 2017 Seminar for New Mission Presidents at the Provo Missionary Training Center held Saturday, June 24, through Wednesday, June 28.

Elder Holland says he sometimes teaches missionaries of “the divine companionship.”

“Every missionary twosome should be a threesome, and the third companion should always be the Holy Ghost,” he said.

He displayed an illustration depicting the Godhead with lines connecting the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost to one other and, additionally, lines connecting the Holy Ghost to the two members of a missionary companionship.

“Each of these three majestically share Their divinity, Their gifts, and Their witness of each other,” he said, referring to the members of the Godhead. “But one of these has a special role with you and your missionaries—the Holy Ghost, the great teacher of truth.”

Elder Holland emphasized that, beyond teaching by the Spirit, “the missionary needs the Spirit in every aspect of the work—in his study, in her planning, in his work with members, in her service to the community. But they especially need the Spirit in helping them to find investigators.”

Elder Holland said that from the scriptures, he has identified 50 or so different categories or kinds of spiritual influences from the Holy Ghost. He shared 12 of them with his listeners.

“And just as I should never do anything to offend or hurt my mortal companion, so should I never do anything to offend or hurt my divine companion, the Holy Ghost,” he said. “I need that guidance with me all the time, in every way.”

The missionary speech of all time

Elder Holland closed by relating a story—being careful to protect the privacy and anonymity of the participants—of a young man from southern Idaho. One night the young man stormed out of the house and set off to join an infamous motorcycle gang. He succeeded in that resolve and for 20 years became immersed in a culture “of temptations yielded to and degradations explored,” never contacting his parents, who feared that he was dead.

Eventually ending up in Southern California, he one day was sitting on the porch of a rented home when he saw two LDS missionaries making their way up the street.

“With a rush of memory and guilt, regret, and rage, he despised the very sight of them,” Elder Holland recounted. “But he was safe, because he kept all visitors at bay by employing two Doberman pinschers, who viciously charged the gate every moment that anyone came near.”

The dogs startled the missionaries as they passed by and continued on, “our man on the porch laughing at the lovely little drama he had just witnessed, wishing only that the gate hadn’t restrained his two dogs.”

Then, the two elders stopped, looked at each other, conversed a little, “likely said a silent prayer,” then turned around and approached the gate.

“The Dobermans on cue charged the gate again, hit it, snarling, frothing, and then stopped in their tracks,” Elder Holland said. “They looked at the missionaries, dropped their heads, ambled back to the front steps, and lay down.”

The man on the porch was speechless as the missionaries opened the gate, walked up the path, and greeted him.

“One of the elders said, ‘Are you from this part of California?’

“The man said, ‘No. If you want to know, I’m from Pocatello, Idaho.’

“There was a pause. ‘That’s interesting,’ the elder said. ‘Do you know the [such-and-such] family in Pocatello?’

“With a stunned look, our biker paused and then, in very measured words said, ‘Yeah, I know them. They are my parents.’

“‘Well, they’re my parents too,’ the missionary said. ‘God has sent me to invite you to come home.’”

The younger brother had been born after the older boy had left home. The elder brother did not even know of him.

“Mom and Dad have been praying for you every morning and night for 20 years,” the younger brother said. “They were not sure you were alive, but they knew if you were, that someday you would come back to us.”

The wayward son invited the two in, and they talked for the rest of the day and some of the night. He did return home, returned to Church activity, and, in March 2015, was married and sealed in the Boise Idaho Temple.

Commenting on the account, Elder Holland said, “This is a story of the role of Almighty God, the Savior of the World, and the Holy Ghost involved in the work of the ministry to which we’ve been called.

“The Holy Ghost prompted those parents to keep praying, to keep believing, to keep trusting. … The Holy Ghost inspired that rebellious boy to come to himself like the prodigal he was and to head for California. … The Holy Ghost influenced that younger son to serve a mission and be willing to accept a call to Southern California. … The Holy Ghost inspired one of my brethren in the Twelve, who was on the assignment desk that Friday, to trust his impression and assign that young man for service not a great distance from his native-born state. The Holy Ghost inspired that mission president to assign that young missionary to that district and that member unit. The Holy Ghost led those missionaries to that street, that day, that hour, with big brother sitting on the porch waiting, and, with Doberman pinschers notwithstanding, the Holy Ghost prompted those two elders to stop, talk, and in spite of their fear, to go back and present their message. …

“And through the elders, the Holy Ghost taught repentance and brought true conversion to one coming back into the fold.”

Elder Holland said the young elder, without realizing it, gave the missionary speech of all time, when he said to his brother, “God has sent me here to invite you to come home.”

“We are sent by God to invite His children home,” Elder Holland concluded. “We do that through the Holy Ghost, the Comforter, the Spirit of Truth, on the strength of the Atonement of Jesus Christ. Welcome to the divine companionship.”

Couples attending the 2017 Seminar for New Mission Presidents visit.

Missionaries escort couples attending the 2017 Seminar for New Mission Presidents at the missionary training center in Provo, Utah.

Apostles attend the 2017 Seminar for New Mission Presidents.

Apostles attend the 2017 Seminar for New Mission Presidents.

Mission presidents and their wives gather in the Provo Missionary Training Center to hear counsel and instruction from Church leaders during the 2017 Seminar for New Mission Presidents on Sunday, June 25.