Elder Nelson Delivers Spiritual Thanksgiving Feast to MTCs

  By R. Scott Lloyd, Church News staff writer

  • 4 December 2013

Elder Russell M. Nelson gives a "virtual handshake" as a Thanksgiving greeting to missionaries at the devotional.  Photo by R. Scott Lloyd, Church News.

Article Highlights

  • Elder Nelson counseled the missionaries to get to know and work with the ward mission leaders.
  • He urged them to remember their converts and keep track of them.
  • Sister Nelson encouraged the missionaries to pray to be led to those whose ancestors have accepted the gospel.

“Teaching and baptizing lead to thanksgiving that never ends.” —Elder Russell M. Nelson of the Quorum of the Twelve

On Thanksgiving Day, elders and sisters at missionary training centers around the world feasted spiritually on words of counsel from an Apostle and his wife. Later that day, at the Provo MTC, missionaries helped nourish others physically as they packed ingredients for 350,000 meals to be distributed to the needy through the Utah Food Bank.

“Teaching and baptizing lead to thanksgiving that never ends,” declared Elder Russell M. Nelson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles in the live broadcast emanating from the missionary training center in Provo. His talk followed one given by his wife, Sister Wendy Nelson, who counseled the missionaries to put away childish things.

The morning devotional was carried to missionary training centers in Colombia, Guatemala, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, and the Philippines and was translated into Spanish, Portuguese, and French.

“Including the Provo MTC, a total of approximately 3,000 missionaries will view this morning’s devotional,” announced President Lon Nally of the Provo facility as he conducted meeting.

Elder Nelson began his remarks by posing questions to volunteers among the congregation who stood at microphones positioned on the floor of the meeting hall. Among other questions, he asked the missionaries what would be among their first objectives on the first Sunday they attend the first ward or branch to which they are assigned in their fields of labor.

“The first person I would like to meet, after the bishop or the branch president, is the ward mission leader,” Elder Nelson said in response to his own question.

“That person will become your very best friend. … You’re going to work very closely with this person.”

He said he and Sister Nelson had just returned from Peru, where they had visited a ward in which the mission leader had assembled a list of prospective elders in the ward and asked the full-time missionaries to invite each person to the stake conference over which Elder Nelson was to preside.

“Hundreds of them came to the stake conference,” he said. “We had dozens of referrals.”

The mayor of the city was among the attendees.

Another person whom the missionaries should befriend in the ward is the family history consultant, Elder Nelson said. “Can you see how strong you will be when you can say to your investigator, who, you’ve learned, doesn’t know the names of all eight of his or her great-grandparents, ‘If you will come to Church with us, … we’ll find out what the names of all your great-grandparents are’?

“Who will turn down a request like that?”

Elder Nelson commended the courage of those who volunteered to answer his questions.

“You trusted me; now I trust you, each of you,” he said. “You will all be fabulous missionaries. Your families will be blessed for your service.”

He said a mission is an exercise in obedience training.

“Obedience brings success; exact obedience brings miracles,” he said.

Posing the question “Why are you going on a mission?” he surmised that each has a good and correct answer.

Thousands of LDS missionaries assemble 350,000 meals Thursday, November 28, 2013, in the missionary training center in Provo, Utah. Photo by Scott G Winterton.

“But there is one concept in the scriptures that embraces all the others. You’re called to help establish the Lord’s Church. How do you do that? By preaching and practicing faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, repentance, baptism by immersion for the remission of sins, the laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost, and enduring to the end.

“All steps are essential. If any is omitted, or if that sequence is not observed, you will not establish the Church in the Lord’s way.”

Elder Nelson said the sacred ordinance of baptism should not be administered without adequate preparation on the part of the convert.

“You must never trivialize that sacred ordinance,” he admonished. “We must never speak of it, even among ourselves, in terms that are casual or crude. We must never administer it inappropriately.”

Regarding enduring to the end, Elder Nelson said the end to which the new convert should endure includes the “endowment of the temple.”

“There, the highest blessings of the Church are received. Temple blessings lead to the exaltation of families.”

He added, “Thus, you are sent forth not only to establish the Church, but to do so with multigenerational families of faith.

“You have a continuing responsibility for each convert you bring into the Church. They become your dear friends. They become people who will always remember your name and call you blessed.”

He told of a married couple to whom he had introduced the Church while they all were serving as medical personnel in the army in 1953. The man was killed in a wartime tragedy, but the wife remarried. Many hundreds of posterity faithful in the Church resulted from the marriage. Extended family members came to Elder Nelson’s office in May to thank him for teaching the gospel to their mother and grandmother.

“Remember your converts,” he counseled. “Keep track of them. In a very real way, they’re your children in the Church.”

He told the missionaries their purpose is to teach the doctrine of Christ. He pointed out that the Topical Guide in the LDS edition of the Bible has 18 pages of references to Christ with 57 subtitles such as Advocate, Anointed, Atonement, and Creator.

“Let the content of these pages become your personal core curriculum,” he said.

“When you leave the missionary training center, your spiritual batteries will be fully charged,” he said. “Once you’ve reached your field of labor, your challenge will be to keep those batteries fully charged.”

He said they should take a lesson from the automobile, which has a generator that recharges batteries while the car is running.

“Exciting electricity will come to you when you are in action teaching, testifying, seeking out, and serving the people.”

In her talk, Sister Nelson quoted 1 Corinthians 13:11, then said, “Your mission is an opportunity to put away childish things: childish ways of thinking, childish ways of responding to difficult situations, childish ways of understanding the gospel, childish ways of behaving.

“Your mission is your time to grow from being a child of God to becoming a man or a woman of God, a time to grow up in the Lord, a time to grow up unto the Lord.”

She gave three suggestions for that pursuit:

“If there is anything from your past that could prevent you from moving forward, anything that could prevent you from living your mission and the rest of your life in crescendo, I urge you to clean it up now.”

Her second suggestion was to do everything they can to increase their understanding of the Atonement of Christ.

Her third suggestion: “Pray to be led to those whose ancestors are ready to receive their essential ordinances. … Their ancestors have already taken the discussions from missionaries on the other side of the veil. They have already repented. They have already chosen Jesus Christ and His gospel, and they are ready to be baptized and receive other ordinances.”

The missionaries at the Provo MTC spent the afternoon packing lentils, rice, and other components into the meal packets.

President Nally said that other than responses to natural disasters, the service project represented the largest humanitarian effort ever undertaken by the Church.

The food will be distributed by the Utah Food Bank’s BackPack Program, in which packages of nonperishable food are provided to Utah schools to be sent home on the weekend to feed disadvantaged families.

“On Thanksgiving, when we might be a little homesick, that has been really nice to just forget about ourselves and get into the work and start helping other people,” said Sister Jennifer Bement, one of the missionaries who was at work assembling the food bags.