“We have to know the gospel before we can live it,” Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles said to priesthood leaders in Mongolia. “In a church as new as we are in Mongolia, in a stake as young as this stake is, and districts that are just emerging and developing, learning the gospel is absolutely essential.”
Focus on the Spiritual Ministry
At Mongolia’s first-ever priesthood leadership conference, Elder Holland focused on teaching priesthood leaders to “cling to and remember forever the spiritual ministry of the gospel.” Acknowledging their responsibility to administer their Church stewardships, he stated that good management was only important “so that the spiritual impact of the gospel of Jesus Christ can come through.”
He asked what true benefit meetings would be if we didn’t feel the Spirit, love for Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ, and the “fire of testimony that this is the truth.” He answered himself by saying that the meetings would be social events, but wouldn’t significantly help anyone. He encouraged leaders to remember that “those meetings are for these divine purposes.”
He shared a parable in which a man discovers a rare pearl and wants to share it with the world. To do so, the man commissions a stunningly beautiful display box. When the pearl is displayed in the box, the man is dismayed to realize that viewers focus on the box rather than on the pearl.
Similarly, Elder Holland said, the Church in Mongolia would be missing something if leaders “hold all the right meetings and follow the handbook and submit all the reports, but [they] still do not have that burning testimony and spiritual experience by coming into contact with the power and influence of the Father and the Son and the Holy Ghost, the power of the priesthood, and the redemption of our ordinances.” Even beyond the meetings, leaders need to behave in a manner such that “when people come to church, sit in a meeting, come to a temple, sit in a chapel, the redeeming, saving, powerful influences of the Spirit come into their lives. That’s why we have church.”
Emphasizing the sacredness of the priesthood leaders’ callings, Elder Holland told them that the Church is just being born in their nation and “will depend in its maturity on substantial solid understanding of the gospel, and that will come from the people who’ve taught it: you.” He urged them to “try to be good teachers” and to think of themselves as teachers, especially in this youthful stage of the Church in Mongolia.
Sent to Remind the People
In a meeting with the Mongolia Ulaanbaatar Mission, Elder Holland reviewed the plan of salvation, telling the missionaries that “the other things won’t matter. Getting up on time, keeping a good planner, mastering Preach My Gospel—none of that’s going to matter unless you can understand something that we call, in our missionary approach, the doctrine of Christ.”
“You’ve got a field all ready to harvest, because once they knew [the plan of salvation],” he said. “They knew it a long time ago. Veils were drawn over their minds, and you’ve been sent to remind them. Missionaries don’t nearly teach as much as they remind. . . . That’s why you bear your testimony. . . . It’s an echo. It’s a second witness; it’s a reminder of something they heard before.”
Offering loving encouragement, Elder Holland told the missionaries, “You’re called of God. You’re the foundation stones of a destiny in Mongolia that we haven’t even begun to see, that we can’t even imagine.”
Return to Him in the Last Days
“You know the story of the scriptures, that the Savior of the world, this perfect Son of our Father in Heaven, came to save every one of God’s children, every one,” Elder Holland told Mongolian members in a nationwide conference held in Ulaanbaatar. “He took upon Him our sins, our mistakes, our sorrows, our sicknesses, all of our problems. . . . And so in some magnificent way that we scarcely can comprehend, He bore our sins and our burdens, so much so that He bled in every pore and it broke His heart, in what we call the great Atonement of the Lord Jesus Christ.”
Elder Holland asked a young Mongolian family to join him as a visual aid and talked to the members about how each of us was given assignments to come to earth to learn and make our way home to Heavenly Father, with the understanding that Heavenly Father will never leave us alone, but will offer comfort and contact, along with teaching and other helps along the way. He spoke of Satan’s unyielding determination to thwart our salvation, to the extent that Satan arranged to have prophets, apostles, missionaries, and other gospel teachers killed.
“Now here we are today,” he said, and read Jacob 5:61-62, in which the Lord of the vineyard calls servants to labor one last time in the vineyard before the end. “We are the children of this last time, this last day. . . . I testify that the Father and the Son have returned—They did return.” As a result of the Restoration They initiated, prophets, apostles, temples, scripture, missionaries, and gospel teachers have been restored to the earth. Referring again to the young Mongolian family, he said the Restoration was brought to pass “so that little family could be saved, which, of course, means all of us—so that we could be saved.”
He told the members that “this is the last time [the gospel will be restored]. It’s not going to happen again. We’re not going to be given another chance. When this dispensation’s over, it’s over. And in this great vineyard, if we’re not safely gathered in, we’ll face the destruction of those prophetic last days.”
This Is the Truth
Elder Holland testified that “God is our Heavenly Father, and He lives. . . . And He’s done everything He knows how to do to help us return safely to Him, above all, giving the life of His most precious Son in a sacrificing Atonement for sin and sorrow all over the world.” He continued, “This is the truth. I haven’t come halfway around the world to tell you a fairy tale. I haven’t given my life and my time and my energy, nor [have the other visiting General Authorities], nor all that are serving. We would not do it except that it’s true.”
Elder Holland ended his remarks by leaving an apostolic blessing on Mongolia and its people. “I bless every one of you, and I bless the land. I bless Mongolia, I bless its leaders that from this day forward there will be a miracle, a continuing miracle in the land, that life will never be the same again in Mongolia because you have been willing to receive an Apostle of the Lord. . . . Out of this little, tiny congregation will swell multitudes, hundreds of thousands of people to join this Church in Mongolia.”
The Church Strong in Mongolia
At the conclusion of his visit, Elder Holland expressed great admiration for the members in Mongolia. “It’s strong in my heart,” he said, “to come to a land that we hardly knew, and the name of which seemed exotic and foreign and very forbidding, and to come and find the Church so strong here.”
In an interview during the visit, he mentioned that nearly one in ten of the population in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, is LDS. He was particularly impressed by the number of missionaries who have served or are currently serving from Mongolia. “The per capita missionary service in this nation is maybe as great as anywhere in the world,” he said. “What a great foundational piece and strong building blocks for the Church to build on into the future, to have a generation of returned missionaries coming back. Boy, that’s a plus of the first order.”
Referring to the high number of people who attended the member conference in Ulaanbaatar, he said, “Who would have believed, who would have thought, in the old days of wondering where Mongolia was, that you could come and make a visit and you’d fill the house? . . . It’s a pretty dramatic story, one of the most unique [in the Church] in recent decades.”
With a smile, he said, “It’s been kind of a snapshot of the Church in action. This whole experience has been very sweet.”