Preaching the gospel is 'sacred ministry' grounded on love

Missionary work is a great and sacred ministry based on love for the Savior, President Gordon B. Hinckley instructed mission leaders at the annual Mission Presidents Seminar.

Missionary work, he said, "is about faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, a faith that speaks of love for Him who gave His life for each of us, in an act of atonement beyond our capacity to fully understand. It is about coming to know of His love for us and of the love we must have for Him."President Hinckley, first counselor in the First Presidency, spoke June 22 to new mission presidents and their wives and other leaders gathered at the Missionary Training Center for the week-long instruction. Also in attendance were members of various area presidencies, as well as the new members of the Second Quorum of the Seventy who were called in April. Most of the 92 new presidents assumed their three-year posts about July 1.

President Howard W. Hunter and his second counselor, President Thomas S. Monson, also addressed the new leaders during the week. Their addresses were reported in the June 25 issue of Church News. Excerpts from addresses by members of the Council of the Twelve are on the adjacent page.

In his remarks, President Hinckley reminded the mission leaders that missionary work is about people, not numbers and not reports.

Missionaries should seek to create in "each one who is taught a living consciousness that he or she is verily a child of God loved by an Eternal Father, to impart to each a conviction that the Savior of the world is a forgiving friend, an advocate who shed His blood for us, and whose atonement made possible for all immortality and eternal life," he said.

He reminded leaders to "never forget that you are training young people, not only for the work of this year or the next 18 months, but for the remainder of their lives. I hope you will teach them not only the gospel, I hope you will motivate them to work not only with industry and integrity, but that they will also learn civility in their relationships with others, good manners, and love for the people among whom they labor. Missionaries should also develop love for and dependence upon God, their eternal Father, and the risen Lord in whose name they serve."

President Hinckley said: "Missionary work is concerned with searching and winnowing and gleaning and teaching with love and kindness. Every missionary ought to come to realize that the world is full of beautiful, wonderful people.

"Of course there are rascals. There are a lot of them around and they are meddlesome and nasty. But there are more of the good than the bad. Our mission is to find the good and make them better and teach the bad when we find them and make them good."

He said missionaries should develop sensitivity to the Spirit and follow its directings, and to never give up those who shun the message. Missionaries work with patience and love until trust and confidence are established, he said.

Missionaries encourage reading of the Book of Mormon that will "bring a testimony of the Redeemer of the world, the Lord Jesus Christ." Missionaries should teach without fear the principles of the Word of Wisdom and payment of tithing, and teach the investigator to pray.

"Prayer will become as a polar star to guide the convert throughout his or her life."

He reminisced about his experiences as a missionary that began 61 years when he was called to England. He told of traveling overland by a train that had no sleeping cars, and by ship to England. There were few members in Preston when he served there in 1933. Of the day he arrived, he said: "We drove to the Preston market place. It was there in the evening of the day I arrived that my companion and I took a little stand, set it up in the town square, began singing, offered prayer and watched a crowd gather.

"My companion said a few words and then called on me to speak. That was the first talk I ever gave in England.

"I think I have given hundreds during these passing years but nothing since has held for me the terror that I felt that time or quite the exhilaration when it was over and we'd had an opportunity to talk to people about the Church."

The missionary program in the British Mission at the time was meager, he said. "There were 16 districts scattered throughout England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales. There were about four missionaries in each district, a total of 65 in all of the United Kingdom, where there are now 1,500 missionaries in eight large thriving missions."

He said that the branches in the British Mission were "small and desperately struggling. We owned only one small building in all of the British Isles. We rented halls, and they were cheap and miserable. Preston had its own branch, and had since 1837. It is now a ward and a headquarters of a stake. It is the oldest continuous existing unit in the entire Church. Its history goes back 10 years beyond anything in the Salt Lake Valley."

He spoke of the recent groundbreaking for the Preston England Temple, where more than 10,000 Saints had come from all over England. One in attendance was a member who used to assist him in missionary work in the 1930s.

"I looked down, and on the front row was a row of wheel chairs. In one of these was old Bob Pickles. I'd known him when I was a missionary. He'd gone out and worked with us. I left the stand and hurried and knelt down and put my arms around him. I said, `Bob! Dear Bob Pickles. How wonderful to see you again.' He wept. I wept. He's now an old man, disabled and sick and almost blind."

President Hinckley said of that groundbreaking: "It was wonderful to stand at the pulpit and look into the faces of these good people, these wonderful Latter-day Saints, who pray and pay their tithing and keep the Word of Wisdom and who carry in their hearts a testimony and conviction of the truth of this work and the living reality of God, our eternal Father, and His beloved son, the Lord Jesus Christ."

The groundbreaking was an emotional experience, he said. "Then with a shining English spade we broke the English earth to mark the beginning of another English temple. In the dialect of Lancashire that I heard and couldn't understand when I first went there, I could now again say, `Aye, lad, t'was a grand occasion. That it t'were, my boy.' "

He said: "All that I saw and wondered at in these English meetings is the sweet fruit of missionary work. As I pondered it, I said to myself, `I am grateful for this great program and I am thankful that I was worthy in my young years to serve a mission. I am grateful that I went. I am grateful that I tried to do what I was expected to do. I traced the rich blessings of the present back to those days in Lancashire."

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