Elder Brent H. Nielson at 2016 Seminar for New Mission Presidents: how to measure success

Credit: IRI
Credit: IRI
Credit: IRI


In introducing his topic during the 2016 Seminar for New Mission Presidents, Elder Brent H. Nielson shared the examples of his three sons who all served full-time missions. His son Brent served in Brazil where he worked hard and baptized regularly. When Brent came home he felt like a successful missionary.

Elder Nielson’s son Chris served his mission in Poland where he worked hard but baptized very few. He took solace, Elder Nielson said, in Doctrine and Covenants 18:15 which reads, “And if it so be that you should labor all your days in crying repentance unto this people, and bring save it be one soul unto me, how great shall be your joy with him in the kingdom of my Father.”

When Chris came home he felt like he was a successful missionary, Elder Nielson said.

Elder Nielson’s third son, Eric, served his mission in Russia where he worked hard his whole mission to find people to teach and to baptize. However, at the end of his mission as he arrived at the little airport in his hometown of Twin Falls, Idaho, his mother and father could see that he was struggling. “[Eric] labored all his days and never found anyone that he taught and baptized,” Elder Nielson said. “[My wife and I] tried to help him understand how to measure success.”

Elder Nielson, a General Authority Seventy and executive director of the Missionary Department, told the new mission presidents and their wives that they will play an important role in helping missionaries understand how to gauge their success in the mission field.

“You’re going to have sisters and elders in your mission who will labor all their days and never baptize anyone, and you need to be prepared with the tools that are available to you to help these missionaries know every day of their service that they are successful,” Elder Nielson said.

When considering missionaries like Eric, there may be a temptation to minimize discussion about baptism. “That is not the answer,” Elder Nielson declared. “Whether you serve in Brazil or Poland or Russia, we don’t change our purpose. Our purpose is to invite others to come unto Christ through repentance and baptism.”

Elder Nielson shared a list found in Preach My Gospel that can serve as “an amazing tool” in helping missionaries measure their success. Missionaries can know they have been successful when they:

• Feel the Spirit testify to people through them.

• Love people and desire their salvation.

• Obey with exactness.

• Live so that they can receive and know how to follow the Spirit, Who will show them where to go, what to do, and what to say.

• Develop Christlike attributes.

• Work effectively every day, do their very best to bring souls to Christ, and seek earnestly to learn and improve.

• Help build up the Church (the ward or branch) wherever they are assigned to work.

• Warn people of the consequences of sin. Invite them to make and keep commitments.

• Teach and serve other missionaries.

• Go about doing good and serving people at every opportunity, whether or not they accept their message.

Elder Nielson then shared the following statement from Preach My Gospel: “When you have done your very best, you may still experience disappointments, but you will not be disappointed in yourself. You can feel certain that the Lord is pleased when you feel the Spirit working through you” (pp. 10-11).

“If missionaries understand that,” Elder Nielson said, “they will be successful missionaries.”

In conclusion, Elder Nielson told the mission leaders, “Brothers and Sisters, you hold in your hands these wonderful young men and young women who are volunteering to come and serve as missionaries. My hope for you is that you’ll take this opportunity to help these missionaries know that as they serve their Heavenly Father that He is pleased with their service.”

Subscribe for free and get daily or weekly updates straight to your inbox
The three things you need to know everyday
Highlights from the last week to keep you informed