Mission presidents

Only a few people will influence the life of a young man or woman as much a mission president.

And that's as it should be. For mission presidents and their wives are ordinary Latter-day Saints, called to perform extraordinary service as they collectively preside over the greatest missionary force ever assembled.To most missionaries, however, a mission president seems far beyond ordinary. Not only is he one of the greatest influences in a missionary's life, but he makes being a combination bishop-Scoutmaster-father-seminary teacher look fairly easy. And if the mission president makes his job look easy, his wife makes her role as a combination Relief Society president-Young Woman leader-mother-confidant look positively elementary.

When you think about it, though, it isn't all that amazing - because these ordinary people called to provide this extraordinary service are those same people who have for so many years been blessing so many lives right in your own ward.

Perhaps it's the high priest who coaches the young men in volleyball. He's the one who taught the youth that there is no comparison between sportsmanship and winning. Winning is great; sportsmanship is essential. Calling yourself for an infraction was not only noble, but required.

As one would expect, this man, who for so many years focused anxious players and spectators on goals beyond the score, would bring a valuable perspective to missionary service.

It might be the counselor in the bishopric, the one who almost inherently knows how to get into the hearts of the youth he serves. To him, the youth's background doesn't matter; his future, however, is vital.

The mission president and his wife just might be the couple whose home was always open - even at some pretty odd hours - to the ward's youth. These young people were not only welcomed and befriended, but they left feeling just a little better about life, the Church, their parents or any other subject directly or indirectly related to gospel essentials.

The mission president and his wife might be the couple who, while faithfully devoting time and talent to Church service, successfully reared four boys of their own. Each, now men, served faithful missions and continues as a stalwart in the gospel. Surely this couple would bring marvelous experience to the mission field.

The mission president might be the husband of the Relief Society president who lovingly, and without complaint, cared for scores of widows in a single ward. While his earlier service in the stake presidency was honorable, her service to the needy was charitable - in the pure sense of the word. The observant know that only by deferring her own needs could she possibly attend to so many pressing needs of others. How could a 19-year-old's mother be the least bit concerned knowing her son would be watched over by such good people?

Knowing the background of these honorable servants, one won't be surprised when they work minor (and not-so-minor) miracles while presiding over a mission. Though their height, weight, hair color (if they have hair at all), race and national origin vary greatly, their commitment to, and understanding of, the restored gospel is very nearly the same. Further, they share a similar commitment to the souls over whom they have been called to preside. Despite the variety, in each you will find:

A seemingly endless supply of spiritual energy manifest each day with enthusiasm born of the Spirit. Theirs is a righteous commitment to let those they serve see the joy of the gospel in all they do. From the "Good morning, dear Elder," to the "I know you're great, but how are you doing?" (in response to a simple "How are you?") these couples radiate gospel love.

A thorough - and practical - knowledge of gospel principles and doctrine. The missionaries will constantly be amazed as the mission president leads them to scripture after scripture as they seek guidance, direction, advice, solace and fulfillment.

A working - and practical - knowledge of Church government and its various and appropriate application in a variety of situations. Those serving with the mission president soon learn that when he says "We ought to . . ." he's giving direction in the form of an invitation. The wise will, of course, heed the invitation.

A great teacher who, by word and example, practices his preaching that missionaries should be dignified, refined and full of integrity. Further, he will be humble, prayerful and seek always to be guided by the Spirit.

More than 50,000 full-time missionaries are entrusted to the 318 mission presidents throughout the world. In the next few weeks, about 100 mission presidents will complete their three-year service. That many more will begin their service. To calculate the number of lives - missionaries, members, investigators, non-members and others - affected by these great servants is virtually impossible. But we remain eternally grateful for the dedicated, valiant and righteous men who accept the call to preside and the women who so unselfishly serve by their sides. May the Lord truly bless them.

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