PROVO, UTAH — Emphasizing that “effective member missionary work is a revelatory plan of engagement,” Elder Robert C. Gay called on new mission leaders to help forward the Lord’s work by having their missionaries work with — and not separate from — local leaders and members, particularly in councils.
In speaking on June 25 to the 164 couples of mission presidents and companions in the 2019 Mission Leadership Seminar at the Provo Missionary Training Center, Elder Gay encouraged them to not rely on the world’s way to lead their missions but the Lord’s way.
When the Lord commanded Nephi to build a ship in the Book of Mormon, Nephi knew nothing of the conditions of the sea. But the Lord knew, and He showed Nephi how to construct a ship — but not after the manner of man.
“What is true for Nephi is true for you,” said Elder Gay, a member of the Presidency of the Seventy and of the Missionary Executive Council. “As you build and lead your missions to new shores and lands, just know that the building plan is deeply connected to local leaders, members and councils and their accountability and revelation.”
Elder Gay shared two principles of how to effectively work with members and in councils.
1. Working with members will have its greatest impact, if done by the Spirit.
“Please write this into your hearts,” Elder Gay said. “Your mission will never reach its potential without the help of members and local leaders; but not all work with members is created equal — some is more effective than others.”
He said revelatory engagement with members is a key to multiplying a missionary’s success. And for members, engaging in missionary work brings blessings, including forgiveness of sins, strengthening of families and salvation.
“Our challenge is that local leaders, members and missionaries often fail to unite together in the work beyond meals or occasional referrals. … Too often members and missionaries look at each other as the reason for the lack of progress in the work in their area. But I think the real obstacle is that neither missionaries nor members see themselves as one in the work.”
Missionaries become powerful instruments in the hands of the Lord as they effectively invite members to seek guidance from the Lord to find people for them to teach, he said. “Their invitations will be most powerful when they are Spirit-led, simple and specific. Simple and direct, not vague and complex, opens the door to the Spirit.”
Missionaries should also inspire members to engage with those who they are teaching as well as work with local leaders to prayerfully identify less-active and part-member families to help strengthen both the families and the Church.
He quoted a recent statement of President M. Russell Ballard, acting president of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles: “There is power in the prayers of members of this Church. Heaven will help them find someone. The Lord will go before their faces. ... We need to get members on their knees ... and opening their eyes and mouths. ... Stay on it with members, they are the key.”
2. Work through local councils will also greatly impact a mission’s success, if conducted in a revelatory manner.
Preaching by the Spirit is more than just what one says, Elder Gay explained, adding that it includes knowing by the Spirit where to go, who to teach and how to engage others. “Revelation is required in all aspects of the work, and as we get that revelation, our power to astonish increases.”
However, such revelation is scattered, he said. “In your missions, the Lord will impress many besides yourself on how to move His work forward. This especially includes Church leaders who hold keys for missionary work in their units, as well as members who are called to minister to others.”
He underscored the various councils — coordinating councils, stake councils, ward councils, mission leadership councils and local missionary coordination meetings — as prime opportunities. “As you welcome the scattered or individual revelation brought forth in these council settings, you will find it will amplify and accelerate the power of the keys of your calling.”
He again cited President Ballard, this time on councils: “I believe that working through councils is the most effective way to get real results.”
Elder Gay offered two cautions regarding councils — first, to teach and role play with missionaries on who participate and contribute in councils, since “virtually no young missionary arrives in the field knowing how to interact in a meaningful way with adult Church leaders.”
Also, mission leaders who find local leaders not holding council meetings may need to help and encourage them to do so.
He called on all involved to avoid giving simply “lip service” to working together. “To succeed in missionary work, we need the power of heaven; you, as mission leaders, must be ever careful that you lead your missions not according to your genius but in the Lord’s way — which is a united, revelatory effort between missionaries, leaders and members who counsel together. When you are aligned 100 percent with the Lord in this manner, then power unique to your calling will be unleashed.”
Elder Gay concluded: “Our charge is to hearken to the words of God, to do this work in His way because that is the means He has devised to save His sons and daughters. I bear my sure witness that as members, leaders and missionaries each rise up in their divinely appointed responsibilities and work together with heaven, in the simple ways discussed today, missions will rise to their full potential.”