Mission presidents told to prepare for 'greatest experience'

The scripture in Isaiah 9:2 describes what is taking place as doors swing open to missionaries in Eastern Europe and other areas of the world, President Thomas S. Monson told new mission presidents in their annual seminar June 23.

"Jot down Isaiah 9:2," admonished President Monson, second counselor in the First Presidency. "It is beautiful."He then read the scripture, which states: "The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light."

"That's true of every investigator in the world," he explained. "It describes what has taken place in Eastern Germany, Russia, Poland, Hungary, Yugoslavia, Greece, Romania, Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, Albania. All this has happened during the period when we've been living. The door is open."

In an address filled with warmth and humor, President Monson spoke for an hour, underscoring the importance of taking the gospel to the world, and suggested 10 ways for more effective missionary work.

The seminar began June 22 with an address by President Gordon B. Hinckley (see June 26 Church News). Through the course of the week at the seminar, members of the Council of the Twelve and the Seventy spoke on various subjects relating to missionary work.

The seminar concluded with a testimony meeting Sunday, June 27. The 136 new mission leaders and their wives then enplaned to various parts of the world where, beginning about July 1, they assumed the leadership of their missions for the next three years.

President Monson told the mission presidents and their wives to "prepare for the greatest experience in your life thus far."

He then paid tribute to his wife, Frances, for her example of service in the Canadian Mission where he was president from 1959-1962.

"Realize back in 1959 she was expecting our third child, deathly sick. We'd been in our one-and-only new home just a year and half. And I came home in the middle of the day.

"She said, `What are you doing here?' "

"I said, `We've been called on a mission to Canada.' "

" `A mission? When do we go?'

"In three weeks."

" `Do we have any training?' I said no."

Now, he reflected, "As we look back on that three-year period, she's often said it was the most treasured experience we had together. And I acknowledge that likewise."

He observed that during their mission, Sister Monson was president of the Relief Society, the Young Women and the Primary of 53 branches, and ran "that old mission home with the staff living in, and the office on the top floor."

"And we loved every minute of it.

"She said, `I wouldn't trade that old mission home and all those missionaries and sick ones and homesick ones for the lovely mission quarters that are provided today.' She loved those missionaries and they knew it. I think she did more good than she realizes."

President Monson said the scripture theme for his talk was the Savior's commission to the Twelve. "It is your charge," President Monson told the mission presidents:

"Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:

"Teaching them (`I like that - teaching them') to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. (Matt. 28:19-20.)

"If we'll keep that charge firmly in our minds and in our hearts, we'll be successful," he said.

President Monson then outlined his 10 suggestions for more effective missionary work, based on his experience and faith:

Be an example - continually

"Your missionaries are going to emulate you," he said. "You'll find out they'll use your gestures when they are speaking. Your scripture favorites will be theirs. Your illustrations will be theirs - magnified a bit. They'll walk in your footsteps - make sure they are straight and pointed in the right direction."

Mission presidents can also be examples in the way they motivate missionaries, he said. A few missionaries may become discouraged, but, "Presidents, you don't need to lose them. Hold on to them with faith and love and prayer, and love them and work with them, and they will praise your name to their dying days."

Interview - wisely

President Monson said mission presidents should have a personal in-depth interview with their missionaries about every six weeks. Missionaries are encouraged through personal interviews, he said. He then spoke of some of the experiences he had while interviewing missionaries as a mission president. "All those interviews were worthwhile," he emphasized. He also said that during one year as a General Authority, he personally interviewed 1,7000 missionaries.

President Monson told the mission presidents in their interviews to talk about the missionaries' companion, and referred to a thought by then-Elder Spencer W. Kimball. "He'd ask, `What traits in your companion do you admire most?' That's the way."

"Another thought of Elder Kimball's was, `If you were advising your younger brother, what would you tell him in writing that he might become a more successful missionary?'

"Finally, provide help, not pressure," suggested President Monson. "Show how, not just tell how. Love, don't scold."

Transfer - sparingly

President Monson encouraged mission presidents to make transfers through inspiration and refrain from making transfers too often.

In considering companionships, he suggested, find missionary companions who will edify each other spiritually.

Part of transferring is to teach missionaries to work in an area, not through it. "I had an elder over in Kitchener, Ontario. He wrote a letter to me: `Dear President, we tracted out Kitchener. What do we do now?'

"Kitchener. A city of 80,000."

"I wrote back, `Dear Elder, Happy to hear you have tracted out Kitchener. Now if you will teach and baptize the people in Kitchener.' And that was that."

Read reports - carefully.

President Monson said reading the weekly reports from the missionaries "is the best diagnostic aid available" to mission presidents.

"You may not be able to read it all. Handwriting is poor and the grammar sometimes worse - they can't even spell the words. But what they say in there is vital to your success as a mission president.

"One elder wrote, `I'm real happy today. My sister had a baby, and I am now an uncle for the first time.'

"I jotted a note to him and said, `Elder, congratulations on being an uncle for the first time. Send a letter to that baby. It'll be the first letter he'll ever receive. And tell him his uncle's advice on how to be a good missionary.'

"That elder [later] said that was the first time he knew the president read the letters he sent. `I'll be more careful in the future,' " he said.

Plan preparation day - intelligently.

Preparation day is when missionaries attend to personal responsibilities and "when they write their weekly letter home," a practice he described as "the Monson rule - a weekly letter home to your parents."

He cautioned that missionaries should avoid strenuous sports that might lead to injuries. "There is one way to judge what it is proper on [preparation day] and what isn't - Do nothing on preparation day to rob you of your spirituality."

Motivate with meetings - monthly

Missionary meetings give missionaries a new start. "Feature the handbook, share success accounts, and demonstrate how you would do it if you were giving a door approach, or soliciting a referral, or encouraging someone to be baptized.

"Remember: `I hear, and I forget. I see, and I remember. I do and I understand.' Get involved in those meetings.

"Testimonies could be wonderful in those meetings. Let each one bear a testimony and have him or her relate faith-promoting experiences they have had in the last month.

President Monson related that at a meeting in which he was conducting a missionary stood up and said: " `Since coming on my mission, my father has been ordained an elder. I know this happens every day in the Church, but it doesn't happen every day to my father.' Oh, we had the spirit that day," said President Monson.

Follow the handbook - constantly

President Monson said the concise missionary handbook is brief but valuable. "In your missionary meetings, use the handbook, teach out of it, give demonstrations out of it, ask questions about it, let [the missionariesT get totally familiar with that handbook. They will be more successful."

Seek member help - consistently

He said that no mission achieves its full potential without member help.

"That's a guarantee. It's your job, president, to establish the rapport between the mission and the stakes or the districts. It is the best thing you can do.

"Ignore and you injure; Inform and you inspire."

He related the account of a stake president in Argentina, Hugo Gazoni, who had each of the auxiliaries involved in an open house effort. Pres. Gazoni told his stake members that with their help, the open house would be the greatest day in the history of the Rosario Argentina Stake. Hundreds of non-members would come.

"He had the right idea," said President Monson.

Cultivate mission spirit - enthusiastically

Henry Ford once said that whether you think you can, or whether you think you can't, you're right, President Monson related.

He described his personal philosophy about missionaries as being like that of a school teacher: "No one fails in my class. I'm the teacher, they are the pupils. My task is to so teach that everyone learns and no one fails in my class.

"That's the charge I leave with you mission presidents. We send to you the fruitage of the families of the Church. Their parents have sacrificed and saved and taught and skimped.

"You can turn a mission into the most successful proselyting areas simply by your attitude," he counseled. "And by the attitude of the missionaries and the enthusiasm you generate."

Remember the worth of souls - everlastingly

"The worth of souls is great in the sight of God. That is a beautiful passage," said President Monson.

"It was the Prophet Joseph who said only a fool will trifle with the souls of men. Don't let your missionaries demean a contact, or an investigator, or a member. They are precious. Everyone on this earth. And we have a privilege of harvesting in the Lord's harvest field so white.

President Monson reminded the mission presidents that when they are on the Lord's errand, they are entitled to the Lord's help. "That should make everyone of you a little more comfortable after these Brethren have told you all that is expected of you. When you are on the Lord's errand, you are entitled to the Lord's help. Remember, whom the Lord calls, the Lord qualifies.

"He has spoken, you have answered," President Monson concluded.

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