Cover Story: New mission presidents receive counsel

PROVO, Utah — Continue to make time in your lives and hearts for Christ, President Thomas S. Monson urged new mission presidents and their wives at the opening of the annual Mission Presidents Seminar June 22 at the Missionary Training Center here.

President Monson, first counselor in the First Presidency, emphasized that it was the resurrected Savior who instructed, "Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost." (Matt. 28:19.)

The seminar was conducted by Elder David B. Haight of the Quorum of the Twelve and chairman of the Missionary Executive Council, who observed: "This seminar is the last one of the century, and it is also the century's largest," with 131 new mission presidents and their wives, who will go to a third of the Church's 333 missions.

Also in attendance were members of the Quorum of the Twelve, members of the Presidency of the Seventy, and of the Quorums of the Seventy, and the Presiding Bishopric. During the weeklong seminar, all the First Presidency and several of the Quorum of the Twelve, and other General Authorities and leaders in the Missionary Department were to address the group.

President Gordon B. Hinckley's address, which was to be delivered June 25, will be covered in next week's Church News.

Following his address to the mission presidents, President Monson spoke to missionaries at a devotional at the training center's auditorium. (See related article on page 7.) He was accompanied at both meetings by his wife, Frances, who bore her testimony at the missionary devotional.

In speaking to the new mission leaders, President Monson spoke of the missionaries, the message, and the members. He drew from his experiences during his 14 years in the First Presidency and 22 years as an apostle — including 10 years as a member of the Missionary Executive Council and another 10 years as its chairman. He also spoke of experiences that he and his wife had when he presided over the Canadian Mission from 1959-62.

Speaking of the missionaries, President Monson spoke of their call, their arrival, their first interview, their companions, their testimonies and the mission presidents' responsibilities to them.

In quoting the Prophet Joseph Smith, President Monson declared, " `After all that has been said, the greatest and most important duty is to preach the Gospel.' There is no more important work than to proclaim the message of the Church."

Speaking of the call to serve, President Monson emphasized that the mission calls to both mission presidents and missionaries are inspired. "Whom the Lord calls, the Lord qualifies. And when you are on the Lord's errand, you are entitled to the Lord's help," President Monson said.

"Ours is the responsibility, not only to direct their feet, but also to effectively climb with them, rung by rung, the ladder to eternal life," he continued. "Help them to be successful, help them to meet people, help them to teach the gospel, help them to convert and to baptize, and to fellowship, and you will see miracles before your very eyes."

As missionaries arrive in the field, President Monson told the mission leaders, "Parents place their precious son or their precious daughter right into your capable hands and tender hearts."

He encouraged the new presidents to welcome new missionaries "to the best mission in the world." He asked leaders to send parents a photograph of their missionary's safe arrival.

Speaking of missionary companions, President Monson encouraged the presidents to team up companions wisely. "And if any man among you be strong in the Spirit, let him take with him him that is weak, that he may be edified in all meekness, that he may become strong also." (D&C 84:106.)

Among the responsibilities of the mission president and his wife are setting the spiritual tone and being role models for the missionaries, counseled President Monson. "You can help make the mission the foundation of a person's life."

He asked the mission presidents to strengthen the testimonies of their missionaries so that they follow the admonition: "Be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity." (1 Tim. 4:12.)

Testimony bearing is the key to missionary work, declared President Monson. He then quoted a successful missionary who served in Milan, Italy, Elder Matt Zito, who wrote:

" `I am having the time of my life serving the Lord here in Italy. I love Italy. I love the people, and I love the work. When I think how much the Lord has given and blessed me while I've been here, my heart fills with joy and my eyes with tears. This is the best thing I have ever done."'

President Monson then spoke about the message of the missionaries. Investigators, he said, are particularly inclined to listen to Heavenly Father's plan for their salvation. Among these are people who have recently moved or who have lost a loved one or had a new birth in the family.

"Everybody asks the question posed by Job: 'If a man die, shall he live again?' " he said, noting that as missionaries discuss the eternal nature of the family, "You're on sacred ground in the soul of that person."

In discussing member-missionary work, President Monson said that when members and missionaries work together they create "a wonderful, cooperative relationship."

"Nothing will bring more joy nor increase success like that cooperative endeavor," President Monson emphasized.

He quoted President Spencer W. Kimball, who said, "'We expect to have complete cooperation between the stake and the full-time missionaries, and to involve the members of the Church generally in opening the gospel door to our Father's other children.'

"Will we remember that," President Monson asked, "and will we take advantage of the opportunity of strengthening the members as well as the missionaries?

"A motto relative to relationships with ward and stake leaders is 'Ignore and you injure; inform and you inspire.' "

He encouraged mission leaders, as they travel to meet with their missionaries, to also train the leadership in member districts in helping them prepare for stakehood.

President Monson emphasized that at Church meetings, especially stake and district conferences, missionaries should sit with investigators or new members and not sit as a group of missionaries. Visiting authorities are pleased to meet these investigators when invited, he noted.

In conclusion, President Monson urged mission leaders to love their missionaries.

He recounted, "Several years ago, when I was serving as president of the Canadian Mission, I attended a worldwide seminar for mission presidents. The parents of the missionaries were invited to meet and visit briefly with each mission president. Forgotten are the names of each who extended a greeting and exchanged a friendly handshake. Remembered are the feelings which welled up in within me as I took in my hand the calloused hand of one mother from Freedom, Wyo.

"'Please excuse the roughness of my hand,' she apologized. 'Since my husband has been ill, the work of the farm has been mine to do, that our boy may, as a missionary, serve the Lord.'

"Tears could not be restrained, nor should they have been. Such tears produce a certain cleansing of the soul. A mother's labor sanctified a son's service."

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