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Elder Russell M. Nelson: ‘Epistles of the Lord’

Elder Russell M. Nelson: ‘Epistles of the Lord’


With the hastening of the work of salvation and changes in some of the tools used by missionaries to assist in it, “God’s goals have not changed” when it comes to missionary work.

So declared Elder Russell M. Nelson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and Chairman of the Missionary Executive Council as he addressed the opening session of the 2015 Seminar for New Mission Presidents on June 25.

“[God’s] work and His glory is always ‘to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of His children,’ ” he said. “In other words, as a beneficent and loving Father, He yearns for the safe and successful return of His children.”

New mission presidents and their wives — 126 couples from 23 countries — met in the Provo Missionary Training Center June 24-28 to receive direction from Church leaders prior to their departure to 51 nations.

“We, as agents of the Lord, are privileged to preach His gospel,” Elder Nelson said. “The Apostle Paul taught an amazing concept. He declared that each agent, each disciple, yes, each missionary, can become a living ‘epistle of Christ, … written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God … [embedded] in the fleshy tables of the heart’ (2 Corinthians 3:3). With that unique designation, we can help to achieve Their three great overarching objectives for us.”

First, he said, missionaries are helping to gather scattered Israel; second, missionaries are helping the families of gathered Israel to be sealed in a holy temple; and third, missionaries are helping prepare the world for the Second Coming of the Lord.

“Their objectives become our objectives,” Elder Nelson said. “Keep them foremost in our minds. Their objectives undergird everything that we do. The Lord expects us to maintain His quickened pace. … We need to proceed in faith and do our best, knowing that He will help us.”

Today there are more missionaries serving than in 2012, the year that President Thomas S. Monson made the announcement that the eligibility age would change. With that comes more young people who are endowed, preparing for the covenant of marriage and to raise righteous families.

“More than anything else, we want our missionaries to receive that blessing, to have the doctrine of Christ engraved in their hearts — rooted deeply in the marrow of their bones,” he said. “Through these mighty missionaries, more and more people will come to a knowledge of the Lord, and be baptized.”

Elder Nelson spoke of the need to “teach and reteach the importance of listening to the Spirit and of heeding those promptings.” He encouraged teaching obedience, explaining that obedience to the commandments provides physical and spiritual protection.

“Obedience allows them to receive guidance and direction from the Spirit,” he said. “A mission at its best is an exercise in obedience training. And exact obedience brings miracles.”

Elder Nelson compared the missionaries to Helaman’s 2,000 stripling warriors, who are firm in their testimony, have put their trust in God, and have manifested their faith by answering the call to serve as a missionary.

“And you, like Helaman, will likely face trials as you care for your missionaries,” he said. Just as Helaman’s stripling warriors were wounded in battle, many missionaries have been wounded to some degree by exposure — whether they wish to be or not — to pornography.

Discussing the “plague of pornography” endemic in society today, Elder Nelson spoke of the need for mission presidents to first protect themselves, then their companions, and then their missionaries. He encouraged mission presidents, as they counsel with those who struggle with pornography, to look to the Savior’s example when a woman taken in adultery was brought before Him. The Savior was bold in denouncing the sin but also showed mercy and love to the sinner.

“Teach them that, like the stripling warriors, they can be preserved in their hardships,” he said. “They can overcome past temptations and unworthy behavior if they put their trust in God and teachings they have received from parents and you exemplary mission presidents and companions. Help missionaries to understand that protection and strength are available to them.”

Prayer, the influence of the Holy Ghost, the scriptures, priesthood blessings, appropriate fasting and companions are all resources that provide strength and guidance, he taught.

“We know you will constantly remind your missionaries of the Lord’s love for them,” he said. “Those who struggle with pornography may be disappointed in themselves, but the Savior is not disappointed with anyone who earnestly seeks to repent.”

“Our greatest desire for our missionaries is that, by the time they return home, all of them will have the new and everlasting covenant written in the fleshy tables of their hearts, that each will become personally an ‘epistle of Christ.’ All are capable of doing so, no matter their personal situations or challenges, if they rely upon the Lord Jesus Christ.”

Teaching the gospel is sacred work, and there is no better way to get the gospel of Jesus Christ into the hearts and minds of young people than through teaching others the gospel, Elder Nelson taught.

As missionaries focus on the message, goals and objectives of the Lord, their understanding of the doctrine of Christ — faith, repentance, baptism, receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost and enduring to the end, which includes participating in eternal covenants — will help them comprehend the entire plan of salvation.”

Elder Nelson said that each person is precious to God, and precious to ancestors who are hoping, praying and yearning for their descendants to be converted and perform temple ordinances vicariously for them. “Our missionaries can be part of that great rescue for which President Monson has fervently pleaded.” @marianne_holman

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