Like Alma in the Book of Mormon, today's missionaries have been called to serve the Lord, and "the way we do it is by bearing down in pure testimony," Elder L. Tom Perry told a group of departing missionary couples Jan. 15 at the Missionary Training Center.
The talk by Elder Perry of the Quorum of the Twelve was part of an agenda of intensive instruction at an annual seminar for newly called missionary training center presidents and visitors center directors and their wives. Of the 16 couples, 10 are bound for international missionary training centers, and the remainder are being sent to Church visitors centers in various locales.
Elder Perry's comment was in reference to Alma 4:19, wherein Alma, as high priest, resigns his position as chief judge to devote himself wholly to the ministry.
"Like Alma of old, we have been called to serve," commented Elder Perry, chairman of the Missionary Executive Council. "We made the decision, like he did, to leave the things of the world and come to devote our time to building our Heavenly Father's kingdom."
Elder Perry said he loves the new missionary guide, "Preach My Gospel," so much that he had it hardbound to go with his scriptures. "Anyone who uses it will soon find the joy and happiness in it," he said. "Use it. Learn how to teach from it. It will stand you in good stead."
The apostle spoke of the power of personal influence that the leaders will have on new missionaries who are just coming into the field. "You will never know in this life the power of your impact on their lives," he said.
Speaking in a humorous vein, he contrasted the approach today in training of new missionaries with what existed when he served as a young missionary. He said he felt so deficient in gospel knowledge that he determined to stay up after bedtime in the kitchen of his apartment to write and practice giving four talks on each of the first principles and ordinances of the gospel. He practiced giving the talks to a small rat that would creep out into the kitchen. He knew he was starting to be effective when, the morning after he practiced his talk on baptism by immersion, the missionaries found the rat at the bottom of a pan of water that was in the kitchen.
"I share that story to show you the tender feelings that young missionaries have," he said. "You're going to have the opportunity to touch their lives, to teach them the gospel of Jesus Christ. I want to be certain when they leave you, either serving with you in the visitors center or when they leave to go out in the field, they have a firm testimony of the four cornerstones of the gospel."
These he identified as, first, Jesus Christ is Lord and Savior; second, belief in the calling of the Prophet Joseph Smith; third, the Book of Mormon as tangible proof of the mission of the Prophet Joseph; and fourth, the restoration of the priesthood.
Regarding the birth of the Savior, Elder Perry said it is the most significant event in the history of mankind. "The fulness of the gospel depends on His mission. It is designed to bring immortality and eternal life to man. It includes the Creation, the Fall, the Atonement, with all of God's laws and ordinances and doctrine. It makes possible for the people to be exalted and live forever with our Savior.... It paves the way for us to be forgiven of our sins and prepares us to again live with our Father."
Pertaining to Joseph Smith, Elder Perry said he, like each of the biblical prophets, made the bold claim, "God has spoken to me; thus sayeth the Lord."
"If the Book of Mormon is true, then Joseph Smith truly had that glorious First Vision declaring the true nature of the Godhead," Elder Perry said, regarding the book's power as proof of Joseph's mission. Likewise, he said, if the book is true, then the priesthood has been restored with all of the sacred ordinances required for eternal salvation.
Elder Perry told the newly called leaders that of those missionaries who may be influenced by them, "I want them to leave with that testimony burning so brightly in their hearts and souls that it will carry them on through the full life of mortality, that they may have the gospel, that they may be able to witness that they understand from these basic truths the cornerstones of our religion."
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