"The harvest is the Lord's," said President James E. Faust. "I don't know anything that is more demanding than missionary work. Our responsibility is to thrust in the sickle 'with heart, might, mind and strength.' "
Addressing 106 new mission presidents and their wives June 25 during the annual New Mission Presidents Seminar in the Provo Missionary Training Center, President Faust, second counselor in the First Presidency, emphasized the need for missionaries to understand their message and bear a worthy testimony of it.
"For your missionaries to be effective, they must say by way of testimony, as did Jeremiah, 'His word was in my heart as a burning fire shut up in my bones,' " he said.
Great blessings are promised to the missionaries, he continued. "As your missionaries teach these transcending, eternal principles, . . . they will . . . 'have fire in their bones.' "
With the new emphasis for missionaries to "memorize concepts" rather than "memorize words," said President Faust, there is a great challenge to conform to Doctrine and Covenants 21:11.
"This scripture emphasizes that before our missionaries try to teach, they must first learn these simple, powerful gospel concepts . . . to be able to teach them. . . .
"Even though our children and grandchildren may have been born in the Church and been active in attending seminary and institute, [that] does not guarantee that they know the fundamentals of the doctrine well enough to teach them," he said. "Many do not know the gospel, but all can learn."
President Faust said the high standard for baptism into the Church was set by the Lord in Doctrine and Covenants Section 20.
"We must somehow raise the bar because in so many places where many of us have labored we've had too many come in the front door, and go out the back door. . . .
"Hopefully, we can get the members to get more involved in inviting their non-member families and friends into their homes to be taught by the missionaries. Because . . . that's where the real converts come into the Church.
"Ultimately," President Faust continued, "nothing is more effective than the personal testimony of the missionary." To illustrate, he told of a prominent man who heard President J. Reuben Clark bear his testimony many years ago.
"He was touched by the spirit of President's Clark testimony and joined the Church," President Faust said.
"We cannot overestimate the power of testimony," he continued. "It is unimpeachable, . . . and can't be challenged. Mission presidents have the responsibility to strengthen the testimony of each missionary so he can speak by the Spirit with power and authority."
President Faust told of a conversation years ago with a father who asked if his son would be a successful missionary. The father said his son had a great aptitude for mechanical things, but had difficulty with words and concepts.
"Can he bear his testimony?" President Faust asked.
The father stated "unequivocally" that he could.
"He went on his mission and was faithful and obedient . . . and was greatly appreciated by his mission president," said President Faust. "The two keys of his success in the mission field were his obedience and his ability to bear his testimony, even though his words were not articulate and not polished.
"When I think of him I am reminded that 'no one can assist in this work except he shall be humble and full of love, having faith, hope and charity, being temperate in all things whatsoever shall be entrusted to his care.' " (See Doctrine and Covenants 12:8).