PROVO, Utah — President Russell M. Nelson began the 2019 Mission Leadership Seminar on Sunday with a message of hope and guidance for 164 new mission presidents and their partners.
“We know that you have been called by prophecy and revelation,” he said. “You have been foreordained to be leaders in the Lord’s Church at this time. And you will preside over the choicest spirits of this generation.
“We honor you! We thank you! We respect you! We trust you! And we love you!”
The three-day seminar, he promised, will be rich with mission-related instruction from seasoned experts.
“But for now, I would like to express my fondest and prayerful hopes for you,” said President Nelson during the seminar’s traditional sacrament meeting.
Hope No. 1: Spouse and family
The Church president reminded the mission presidents and their partners that their highest personal priority during their service remains one another. Each has an eternal commitment to their spouse. “For each couple, I hope your marriage and your family will be nourished and strengthened during your mission,” he said. “Your families — your children and grandchildren — are yours forever. Through appropriate means, keep as close to them as you can. Even though distances between you may be great, let them feel what you are feeling as you serve the Lord in His work.”
Loyalty to the Lord and love for family are not competitive commitments. They are synergistic.
“An eternal family is the end for which we are all striving. That cannot happen without the Church and its sacred ordinances and covenants. The Church is the means to that end.”
Hope No. 2: Missionaries
The missionaries collectively constitute “the lifeblood” of the next generation. One day they will sit in the chairs now being occupied by the leaders of the Church.
“Please persuade them to become devout disciples of the Lord,” he said. “Teach them to be obedient to the laws of God and man. If they will do so, they will be protected, both physically and spiritually. Teach them that, despite their ever-present risks, they will be much safer on their missions than will be their classmates and colleagues who were not called on missions.”
President Nelson acknowledged that the missionaries serving across the globe come from vast backgrounds. But each can grow and learn from the examples of their mission president and his companion.
“They will watch and learn from your behavior, both spoken and unspoken. They will see how you treat each other. They will observe your mutual courtesy and kindness. They will strive to be just like you. Not only that, your missionaries will love you and remember you forever.”
Mission presidents and their wives share a duty to help each missionary to teach repentance and prepare converts for baptism, he added.
Each missionary should surely have at least one convert on his or her mission.
“His or her most important convert will be himself or herself,” he said. “That true conversion is marvelous to behold.”
Many missionaries are learning to integrate faith, emotion, intellect and knowledge in ways that will bless their lives forever. Others, at first, won’t measure up. They will need help.
“Over the years you will monitor the progress of your missionaries as they return home and strive toward the fulfillment of their great potential. That progress in crescendo — that multigenerational dimension — is the ultimate metric by which your sacred work will be measured.”
President Nelson said the success of a mission president and his partner is aptly measured by how many grandchildren of their missionaries are blessed by temple marriages.
“So encourage your missionaries to inform you when they and each of their children — and their grandchildren — have been endowed in the temple.”
Hope No. 3: Local leaders and members
Learn to love the local leaders and members, said President Nelson.
“Lift them and inspire them,” he said. “Your ability to link the enthusiasm of the missionaries with the stability and loving efforts of the members cannot be overemphasized. Your success will be multiplied exponentially as you harness the power of members with whom you serve.”
Missionaries must learn that their two “best friends” in their assigned units will be the ward (or branch) mission leader and the ward (or branch) temple and family history consultant.
The ward mission leader can help missionaries find more meaningful teaching opportunities. Meanwhile, the ward temple and family history consultant can help missionaries identify for their investigators the names of their ancestors.
“Many of those ancestors are yearning — even desperate — for the exalting ordinances of the gospel to be done for them by their living posterity,” he said.
Hope No. 4: The doctrine of Christ
The Church president emphasized a simple truth taught in the scriptures: The best way to learn the doctrine of Christ is to teach it.
“God’s purpose — His great hope and His glorious work — is to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of His children,” he said. “As we are His agents, His purpose must become our purpose.”
The doctrine of Christ, he added, dictates that His Church be called by its correct name: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Heavenly Father and His Son, Jesus Christ, have made two “overarching and imperative” promises that have yet to be fulfilled. First, scattered Israel is to be gathered in the latter days. And second, Jesus Christ will come to earth again.
“It is our glorious privilege and sacred responsibility as missionaries to assist in preparing the world for these two yet-to-be-fulfilled promises,” he said.
The Book of Mormon is the instrument by which Israel’s promised gathering will be accomplished. That sacred tome is also the “tangible and irrefutable evidence” that Joseph Smith is the prophet of this last dispensation.
The Holy Ghost remains the true teacher.
“No true conversion takes place without the testifying, confirming, and comforting influence of the Holy Ghost,” he said.”Teach your missionaries to be worthy of that influence and be willing to receive those precious promptings, to recognize them and act upon them.”
Hope No. 5: Blessings of the priesthood
The priesthood was restored so that the ordinances of salvation and exaltation of God’s children can be performed with proper authority. And with that authority, blessings can be bestowed on individuals as they endure the trials of mortality.
“You presidents will authorize and direct priesthood ordinances and blessings to sisters and brothers who choose to come unto the Lord and follow Him,” he said. “And in addition to your benevolent authority, you will bless them with your loving example. Elders and sister missionaries teach with that same priesthood authority, under the keys of their mission presidents.”
President Nelson concluded his sacrament meeting remarks by invoking blessings of safety, health, guidance and peace upon the new mission presidents and their partners — and their families.
“I so bless you and bear my testimony to you that we are engaged in the work of Almighty God.”