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Understanding and being committed to the Savior is fundamental for all missionaries, declares President Oaks

Understanding and being committed to the Savior is fundamental for all missionaries, declares President Oaks

President Dallin H. Oaks began his Saturday, June 25, address at the 2022 Seminar for New Mission Leaders by echoing a declaration from President Russell M. Nelson: The gathering of Israel is the most important thing taking place on earth today.

Heavenly Father, the Church president taught, has “reserved many of His most noble spirits” for this final and essential work of gathering.

“Think of what those words from our Prophet means to our youth — your missionaries present and future,” said President Oaks.

The first counselor in the First Presidency then turned his focus on the responsibilities of the new mission leaders.

“Most fundamental to teaching the gospel is our understanding of and our commitment to our Savior and Redeemer Jesus Christ,” he said. “Our most important resource is our testimony of the risen Lord and His Atonement. He is central to the Father’s plan of salvation. He is the light and life and the only hope of the world. He is central to the restored gospel.”

Another fundamental to teaching the gospel is the Book of Mormon, an additional testimony of Jesus Christ. The Book of Mormon is vital to the message and methods of every missionary.

“Teach missionaries how to learn its truths, how to ponder and pray over them, and how to testify of them,” counseled President Oaks. “Missionaries must know how to use the Book of Mormon to answer their own questions so they can use it effectively to help others learn to do the same. Many of our missionaries do not know this. They must internalize the power of the Book of Mormon in teaching the restored gospel, first by applying it in their own lives and then by sharing it with those they teach.”

It is also important that every missionary understand how vital partaking of the sacrament is to their teaching efforts. That essential ordinance helps them remain worthy to have the Spirit.

Teaching by the Spirit — in the Lord’s way

Teaching by the Spirit is an essential fundamental of “teaching the great truths of the restored gospel,” said President Oaks. Individual worthiness and obedience is necessary to have the companionship of the Spirit.

“Our missionaries meet people who have studied philosophy and metaphysics, world history and languages, sciences and the arts. They frequently meet people who are better educated than they are. We cannot compete with the world on its terms. If we are to fulfill our calling, we must teach in the Lord’s way.”

When missionaries teach by the Spirit, “He can use us to deliver His message of salvation to every soul.”

 Mission leaders, added President Oaks, have dual roles: First, preaching the restored gospel; and second, teaching and preparing the rising generation for the future.

Mission leaders must know and love the elders and sisters they serve. Spend time in personal interviews to get to know them. Help each one understand and practice repentance.

“Then, as you pray for inspiration, you will be able to handle individual problems as an inspired, informed, wise and loving leader.”

2022 Seminar for New Mission Leaders: Read talk summaries and see photos

The Lord has revealed that “there must needs be opposition in all things.” That eternal truth includes missionary labor. “This also includes opposition from what some missionaries bring into the field with them,” said President Oaks. “Be familiar with the most current opposition your young missionaries face — the kind of things that are most troubling to them.

“These would include struggles with testimony, difficulties in giving the sustained attention required by gospel study, feelings of same-gender attraction, pornography and what goes along with it, and others on which you will receive help in this mission leadership seminar.”

The motives with which missionaries teach will be evident to many of their contacts, he added. If those motives are pure, they will encourage the people they contact to listen. If not, contacts will be turned off.

President Oaks said the principles of “love, share, invite” are fundamental for all. It is the culture of member missionary work.

The gospel is “the good news” — and joy comes through knowing that one’s ultimate identity is as a child of heavenly parents.

“Joy comes through knowing that our Heavenly Father created this world to give His spirit children the mortal experience we must have to achieve our eternal destiny,” he said. “The central joy in His plan is the sure knowledge that we have a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, whose Atonement gives us the assurance of immortality and the opportunity for eternal life.”

President Oaks encouraged the mission leaders Saturday to go forward “along the covenant path” and be filled with great joy. “Filled with joy, we serve with the sure knowledge that Jesus Christ, our Redeemer and Savior, is the head of this Church, and that we are led by His Prophet.”

Caring for the Church’s missionaries

President Oaks counseled the mission leaders to be aware of the force and challenges of the day that might hinder a missionary’s eternal progress. Utilize interviews to connect and counsel with the missionaries.

President Oaks also noted that in today’s society, there are decreased opportunities for youth to learn how to work.  

“Many of the missionaries you will supervise have never learned how to work in a sustained way on something they’ve not chosen to do,” he said. “Be conscious of that when you evaluate reports about the activities of missionaries who have not yet become accustomed to missionary work.”

Other missionaries come from unstable backgrounds or families. 

“Be aware of this in the lives of your missionaries,” counseled President Oaks. “By your example and your teaching, help them overcome their insecurities, their anxieties,and their fear of the marriage we hope comes naturally and timely after their missions.”

Mission leaders and the missionaries must also understand what it means to “establish the Church.” New converts should be on the covenant path and anchored to the Atonement of Christ while establishing a strong pattern of sacrament meeting attendance, tithe-paying and working toward the blessings of the temple.

“We are not interested in just getting a lot of people baptized,” said President Oaks. “We want our missionary effort to bring real growth.”

It takes both baptizing and retaining for members to proceed faithfully to the ordinances of the temple.

“In this way, those we teach and their posterity will realize the fruits of the restored gospel from generation to generation.”

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