PROVO, Utah Looking over the 115 newly called mission presidents and their wives, who appeared "a little solemn," President Thomas S. Monson, first counselor in the First Presidency, drew from recent news events and said he felt like President Eisenhower talking to the troops before D-day.
In a hearty voice of encouragement, President Monson told the new leaders, "You will have the treat of your lives."
Speaking to the mission presidents in the Provo Missionary Training Center on June 23, the second morning of their three-day training, President Monson noted that it was President Hinckley's 94th birthday, "a special day."
He told how President Hinckley began his birthday with an early morning flight to Washington, D.C., to receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom that afternoon from President George W. Bush. President Monson asked that the chorister, who had just led a missionary chorus, lead the entire group in singing "Happy Birthday" to President Hinckley.
President Monson, who has spent much of his adult life involved with missionary service and who served as a 31-year-old mission president in eastern Canada and as supervisor over missionary work in many parts of the world, drew on his experiences to instruct from the scriptures and through relating personal experiences.
He commended the mission presidents' wives for their willingness to "follow the whisperings of the Spirit" and leave home and family to serve, in some cases, in places where they didn't know the language.
He quoted the Lord's counsel of comfort to Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon in 1833 after they had been absent from their families and were concerned with their welfare: "Your families are well; they are in mine hands" (Doctrine and Covenants 100:1).
"What better insurance policy could you have than to leave your loved ones to the Lord while you put your hand to the plow?" he asked.
When President Monson was called to preside over the Canadian Mission in 1959, there were 50 missions of the Church in the world, compared with 337 today.
President Monson's recurring counsel to those assembled was the promise that "the Lord will bless your efforts." He quoted 1 Corinthians 3:6, in which the Apostle Paul said that he had "planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase." President Monson assured the mission leaders, "The Lord will provide the increase."
He cited the Lord's command to preach the gospel, found in Matthew 29:19: "Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost." President Monson counseled, "Teach first, then baptize, as the Lord said. It's when we reverse the process that we get into trouble."
He reminded mission presidents that every missionary has the right to know that his president has been on his knees praying over transfer decisions.
Concerning new members and the need to strengthen their testimonies, he said, "The way to put roots deep into gospel soil is to have members help others learn the gospel."
Addressing what mission presidents might do to retain new members, he recounted an experience he had in Italy some years ago during an open-air district conference.
"I noticed in that throng of about 500 that there were many wearing a white carnation," President Monson said. "I asked Leopoldo Larcher, mission president, what the significance was of the white carnation."
"These are new members," President Larcher said. "We provide a white carnation to every member who has been baptized since our last district conference. Then all the members and the missionaries know that these persons are especially to be fellowshiped."
President Monson continued, "I watched those Italian members wearing the white carnation being embraced, being greeted, being spoken to. They were no more strangers nor foreigners; they were fellow citizens in the household of faith and in the kingdom of God."
He shared with the mission presidents and their wives counsel he had received many years earlier from then Elder Harold B. Lee: "Whom God calls, God qualifies. When you are on the Lord's errand, you are entitled to the Lord's help," and "The Lord shapes the back to bear the burdens placed upon it."
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