Crowded into the Kingston Branch meetinghouse's room used for Primary, missionaries in the Canada Toronto East Mission's Trenton District felt a closeness they've seldom experienced for a Church leader. That closeness came not just in physical proximity to President Thomas S. Monson but also from the realization of shared experiences.
President Monson, first counselor in the First Presidency, and his wife, Frances, spoke in the meeting conducted by mission Pres. Stephen M. Hadley.In his remarks, President Monson reminded the missionaries of the important role that attitude plays in any missionary's success.
"When I came as mission president to Eastern Canada, I found that the missionaries called the city of Kingston `Stony Kingston,' he said. "There had been but few converts in six years, even though missionaries had been continuously assigned during that entire interval. No one baptized in Kingston. Days in Kingston were marked on the calendar like days in prison. A missionary transfer to another place - any place - would be uppermost in thoughts, even in dreams.
"While I was praying and pondering this sad dilemma, my wife called to my attention an excerpt from a book, A Child's Story of the Life of Brigham Young, by Deta Petersen Neeley. She read: `Brigham Young entered Kingston, Ontario, on a cold snow-filled day. He labored thirty days and baptized forty-five souls.'
"Here was the answer. If the missionary Brigham Young could accomplish this harvest, so could the missionary of today. Without explanation I withdrew the missionaries from Kingston, that the continuity of defeat might be broken. Then I started a rumor: `Soon a new city will be opened for missionary work, even the city where Brigham Young proselyted and baptized 45 persons in 30 days.'
"The missionaries speculated as to the location. Their weekly letters pleaded for the assignment to this `Shangri-la.' More time passed. Then four carefully selected missionaries - two of them new, two experienced - were chosen for this high adventure. The members of the small branch pledged their support. The missionaries pledged their lives. The Lord honored both. In the space of three months, Kingston became the most productive city of the Canadian Mission. The city was the same, the population constant. The change was one of attitude."
Sister Monson spoke of her love for missionary work and related some of the experiences she had in working with missionaries in the Canadian Mission. She explained that the mission then had 180 missionaries, seven districts and 55 branches. "We had the opportunity to meet the members all through the mission, which was wonderful," she said.
She mentioned that about a week before President Monson was called to preside over the mission they had been talking about what the future might hold for them pertaining to serving in the Church. "He was just 31 years old when he had this opportunity to come to Canada to preside over a mission," she said. "We were happy about the calling, but we had to get ready to go quickly; we had about three weeks. We had just moved into a new house; we had not expected it, but it was a wonderful calling. It was one of the sweetest experiences of our lives. I'm sure you'll discover the same thing with your mission call, that it is wonderful."