“Mission Presidents Learn from Church Leaders,” Ensign, Oct. 2002, 74
The “grand theme of our message,” President Gordon B. Hinckley told new mission presidents on 25 June, is “that God has revealed Himself to men, that He has spoken and introduced His beloved Son. There can be no greater declaration than this.”
President Hinckley was the first speaker during the four-day new mission presidents’ seminar held at the Provo Missionary Training Center. During the seminar, the 129 newly called mission presidents and their wives also heard remarks from President Thomas S. Monson and President James E. Faust of the First Presidency and from members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.
“You follow a long tradition of men and women who, in response to the calls from the Church, have left whatever they were doing and gone into the mission field,” President Hinckley said. “Thank you very much for your willingness to serve, for your prayers unto the Lord to bless you and make you equal to the responsibility.”
Speaking of the Prophet Joseph Smith and the early Latter-day Saints, President Hinckley said, “I’ve reflected on the great sacrifices which have gone into the building of this cause and kingdom.” He offered examples of early missionary efforts in Canada and of the 1837 missionary call of Heber C. Kimball, who with a few associates accepted the call from the Prophet Joseph. They undertook the long journey to England, “leaving sick families with practically nothing on their backs and nothing in their pockets.”
President Hinckley spoke of the great success that followed their efforts and the continuing efforts of other early missionaries under extreme hardship. He pointed out that even though most of those days of severe sacrifice are behind us, “the work will not be easy. It will be strenuous. It will be demanding. It will require all of your best efforts and your deepest searching prayers.”
“This is the work of God in which we are engaged,” President Hinckley testified. “It is His work, a part of His eternal plan for the blessing of His sons and daughters of all generations of time. …
“There is no greater message we can give than of the living reality of God, our Eternal Father, and His beloved Son and that They have spoken again in this time of history. You and I both know these things are true. Now we are sent forth to communicate them to others.”
President Thomas S. Monson, First Counselor in the First Presidency, pointed out in his address that it is the responsibility of the mission president to see that his missionaries succeed. “Love them, lift them, inspire them,” he said, “[and] your house will be a treasure house of eternal memories.”
He then spoke about the three M’s of successful missionary labor: the missionary, the message, and the member. The missionary: “If your relationship is sound, that relationship [with the missionaries] will last long after the mission.” The message: “You have the answers to man’s search for happiness. The message of the plan of salvation, coupled with your testimony, will touch more hearts and souls.” The member: “Use members to help missionaries teach, and you will see membership grow.”
President James E. Faust, Second Counselor in the First Presidency, spoke of 10 things he hoped his grandchildren would bring home from their missions: first, a “firm testimony of the Lord Jesus Christ as the Savior and Redeemer of the world; second, a testimony of the Prophet Joseph Smith; third, a love for the gospel; fourth, a knowledge of the scriptures; fifth, a love for the mission president and his wife; sixth, a love for the place and people where they served; seventh, an appreciation for missionary companions; eighth, an understanding of the importance and the power of prayer; ninth, a desire to serve; and tenth, an enduring faith that will carry them through the challenges of life.”
President Boyd K. Packer, Acting President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, addressed the mission presidents and their wives on the topic of lessons learned through missionary service. “It is a great experience to learn that it is not your mission—it is the Lord’s mission,” he said.
Members of the Quorum of the Twelve gave remarks on other aspects of missionary work: Elder Neal A. Maxwell spoke on how the Book of Mormon helps us solve life’s challenges; Elder Russell M. Nelson spoke on understanding the Atonement of Jesus Christ; Elder Dallin H. Oaks spoke on the theme “Every missionary a member”; Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin spoke on involving members in missionary work; and Elder Jeffrey R. Holland spoke about the Restoration of the gospel.