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Anchor missionary work to scripture teachings, Elder Holland counsels mission leaders


Joseph Smith’s theophany of the Father and the Son marks the greatest manifestation of divine love since the Savior’s atoning sacrifice and resurrection, testified Elder Jeffrey R. Holland during Saturday’s session of the 2022 Seminar for New Mission Leaders.

The First Vision would usher in the Restoration and change the world forever. But it came only after young Joseph’s prayerful study of James 1:5: “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally…. And it shall be given him.”

A member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, Elder Holland lists James 1:5 among the most important verses of all scripture “because of what the restored gospel means for the exaltation of the living and the dead.”

“After all those millennia of preparation, when God could finally turn toward earth to establish His grand latter-day work, it should not be surprising that he would have prepared and then called one who was a Bible-reading believer to be His prophet.”

Later, the Prophet Joseph Smith would record — in Doctrine and Covenants Section 76 — his essential revelation of the afterlife, turning centuries of erroneous doctrine regarding the concept of heaven “inside out and upside down.”

And once again, that defining vision was preceded by the Prophet’s study of the Bible — specifically, John 5:29.

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland testifies of the importance of anchoring mission culture to the scriptures on June 25, 2022, during the Seminar for New Mission Leaders.

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland testifies of the importance of anchoring mission culture to the scriptures on June 25, 2022, during the Seminar for New Mission Leaders.

Credit: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

Decades later, in 1918, President Joseph F. Smith said of his readings from the first epistle of Peter, “the eyes of my understanding” were opened, resulting in his detailed vision of the redemption of the dead that would become Doctrine and Covenants 138.

“These are only three well-known examples of powerful revelations that came because the scriptures were being studied and pondered over ‘with real intent’,” said Elder Holland. 

It is essential for all to treasure the divine gift that is the scriptures.

He then made this plea to all the new mission leaders: “Make a love for the word of God absolutely central to your mission culture. [Make] familiarity with the revelations and regular use of the standard works one of the chief characteristics of your missionaries for the rest of their lives.”

At all times, he added, teach the missionaries from the scriptures.

“Let them see where you get your strength and inspiration. Teach them to love and depend on these accumulated revelations. Teach them that they are the words not of men nor of man but of God, for it is His voice which has spoken them.”

Read more talk summaries and see photos from the 2022 Seminar for New Mission Leaders here

Elder Holland said he was blessed to have a mission president who taught him and his fellow missionaries (including his fellow Apostle, Elder Quentin L. Cook) from the scriptures. Personal interviews were laced with scripture. District meetings, zone conferences, baptismal services and family home evenings in the mission were all built around scriptural messages.

Unbeknownst to young Elder Holland and his fellow missionaries, that wise mission president was arming them with the tools and strength to withstand temptations and the power of the adversary.

“That has been 60 years ago now, but the message hasn’t changed,” he said, “and as general authorities we are still using the same revelations to teach the gospel that he used to teach us.”

Some missionaries will arrive in the field eager to take on the world and convert thousands. Such “wonderful zeal” should be measured with the Lord’s counsel to Hyrum Smith — a dedicated missionary who was taught to “first seek to obtain my word, and then shall your tongue be loosed; then, if you desire, you shall have my Spirit and my word, yea, the power of God unto the convincing of men” (Doctrine and Covenants 11:21).

That proven formula for effective missionary work is simple enough — but often disregarded, said Elder Holland.

“The Spirit plus His word equals power — and not just general power but power to ‘the convincing of men’. Therefore, the verses go on to say, study the word and prepare spiritually in order that at the right moment your tongue can be loosed with this power not only to explain but also to convince.”

Newly called mission leaders listen intently to counsel during the 2022 Seminar for New Mission Leaders in Provo, Utah.

Newly called mission leaders listen intently to counsel during the 2022 Seminar for New Mission Leaders in Provo, Utah.

Credit: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

After serving some 33 years as a general authority, Elder Holland said he has learned to speak candidly with missionaries about what to expect when they return home. 

“I suppose there is never a missionary meeting I am in that I don’t talk about their commitment to the Lord being binding for the rest of their life,” he said. “I have pled, and I plead here openly, for you to give your missionaries the gift that keeps on giving. Give them a love for the word of God. Give them a love for the holy scriptures. 

“Teach them to come home and inspire those Aaronic Priesthood boys and their young women with the power of the word of God.”

Elder Holland concluded his counsel with a final shot of encouragement and assurance for the mission leaders: “You can do this.”

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