It is by love and understanding that the gospel message will go through new doors that the Lord has opened, new mission presidents were recently told by General Authority leaders.
This and other instructions were delivered to newly called mission presidents and their wives at the mission presidents’ seminar held June 19 through 22 in Provo, Utah. Speakers at the four-day seminar included President Gordon B. Hinckley and President Thomas S. Monson of the First Presidency and President Howard W. Hunter, Elder Marvin J. Ashton, Elder L. Tom Perry, Elder Russell M. Nelson, Elder M. Russell Ballard, Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin, and Elder Richard G. Scott of the Quorum of the Twelve, as well as Elder Dean L. Larsen and Elder Robert L. Backman of the Seventy.
The new presidents and their wives came from twenty-three countries, making this the largest group of new presidents ever—124—going to missions around the world, including to several areas that have been previously closed to missionary work.
In conducting the meetings, Elder Perry, chairman of the Church’s Missionary Executive Committee, described the seminar as a momentous occasion. “The challenge is now ours to move forward through a wide-open window of opportunity at an ever-accelerated rate,” Elder Perry charged the assembly. “I am certain that is what the Lord expects of us. He has opened the door; we are now expected to carry the gospel message into all the lands that are now available to us. I am sure He expects us to build solidly with a foundation of true conversions that will allow the fruit to remain and ripen.”
President Hinckley invited the mission president and their wives to be sure love is the lodestar of their service, adding, “The Son of God came into this world not to condemn the world, but to save it.”
“God will not forsake us if we come unto Him in faith. He is not sending us out to fail, but to succeed,” said President Hinckley. He added that the key to obtaining the Lord’s help is “Be thou humble; and the Lord thy God will take thee by the hand, and give thee answer to thy prayers.” (D&C 112:10.)
Reminding the new leaders of the true role of the missionary, President Hinckley corrected the notion that missionary work is a “course in personal development, a rite of passage, a finishing school for young men and women. A missionary is called to serve, to fulfill the divinely given mandate to spread the word of God and build His kingdom on earth.
“Of course there will be personal benefits. These will come in proportion to the degree of selflessness evidenced in service,” he explained. He told the mission president that loving their missionaries—especially those who might be difficult to love—would be essential to success.
President Hinckley concluded his remarks with a charge: “Lose yourselves in the work, so that your lives might be filled with light.
“You husbands and wives must become great exemplars before your missionaries in following this standard. It is a constant challenge to keep the eye of the missionary on the glory of Him whom he serves.”
In giving practical advice to the mission presidents, President Monson recommended President Spencer W. Kimball’s approach to interviewing missionaries in ways that would help them learn to love more effectively. President Kimball would say, “Elder, what are the most outstanding virtues of your companion?” And “If you were writing a letter home to a younger brother, what would you tell him to help him to become a qualified missionary?”
President Monson said that in President Kimball’s approach, “everything was positive, nothing negative. He would lift the missionary to a new height.” Positive, uplifting counsel became the central theme for President Monson’s remarks.
“What a joy to receive a call to lay aside the mundane affairs of the world and respond to an assignment to serve,” he said, reminiscing about his and Sister Monson’s call to lead a mission in Toronto, Ontario.
“You are called to serve where the Lord would have you serve,” he assured the new presidents and their wives. “He know each one of us—our talents, our shortcomings, our failures, the experiences we’ve had, and the experiences we ought to have. And He knows how to match the man with a mission.”
President Monson reminded new mission presidents that “no mission will rise to its greatest potential unless the members and the missionaries work cooperatively together,” adding that “missionary problems almost vanish when every missionary is enjoying success in the service.”
The presidents’ relationship with members is important, but so is his relationship with each missionary, he explained, counseling new presidents that their role is closely akin to being parents. “The Lord will bless you as you look upon each of these young men and women as your son or daughter.”
In the same week as the mission presidents’ seminar, a group of missionaries entered the Missionary Training Center from the German Democratic Republic—the first to do so. He praised their faithfulness and the faithfulness of their parents, who live in a land now hungering for the gospel. He compared them to the people Isaiah described as “people that walked in darkness [who] have seen a great light.” (Isa. 9:2.)
President Hunter counseled mission presidents and their wives to always remember the atonement of Jesus Christ. Because it was the supreme act of love, he said, it is the supreme example of selfless concern for others. “Any time we experience the blessing of the Atonement in our lives,” he added, “we cannot help but have a concern for the welfare of others.”
Speaking of missionary work as an act of love and concern for our fellowman, President Hunter said, “A great indicator of one’s personal conversion is the desire to share the gospel with others. For this reason, the Lord gave an obligation to every member of the Church to be a missionary.”
Just as the Atonement represents His great love for us, the call to share the gospel with others can represent our great love for our Heavenly Father’s children, President Hunter concluded. “May the Lord bless us as missionaries to help our Father’s children outside the covenant receive the full blessings of the Atonement in their lives.”