"I hope our missionaries are so prepared and so powerful that they 'astonish' the people they teach," Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve declared Jan. 17 in a seminar for newly called missionary training center presidents and visitors center directors.
Elder Holland is a member of the Missionary Executive Council. His talk in the Joseph Smith Memorial Building in Salt Lake City came during the closing session of the three-day event in which the 16 presidents and directors and their wives received intensive instruction prior to departure. (An earlier address given to the group by Elder L. Tom Perry of the Quorum of the Twelve was covered in the Jan 19 Church News, p. 4.)
Elder Holland's comment about astonishing people was given in the context of Book of Mormon passages in which Alma and the sons of Mosiah were "astonished" when an angel spoke to them with a voice of thunder (Mosiah 27:11, 18-19); when dissenters from the Nephites as well as 8,000 Lamanites were "astonished" and converted by Nephi and Lehi, the sons of Helaman (Helaman 5:17-19); and when the sons of Mosiah had success because of the "power of their words," as these missionaries taught with "power and authority" from God (Alma 17:3-4).
The apostle stressed that these scriptures did not mean that the missionaries were to be theatrical or loud in their approach or that they should deliver their message in a way that is anything but sincere. "But every missionary has a gift," he said. "Every missionary has a commission. We just need them to believe in those gifts and embrace that commission. There will be power in such an approach to missionary work."
Earlier in his talk Elder Holland admonished the newly called leaders to "talk to the missionaries about the influence of words that are communicated by the Spirit. The only hope they will ever have as a missionary is to convey the words of the gospel as directed by the Spirit of the Holy Ghost."
Having served in an earlier assignment on the Missionary Executive Council, Elder Holland said he was involved in the development of Preach My Gospel, the new missionary guide. He noted that the title is taken from Doctrine and Covenants 50:13-14, wherein the Lord asks his servants, "Unto what were ye ordained?" and then provides the answer: "To preach my gospel by the Spirit."
"The title of this document could well have been 'Preach My Gospel by the Spirit,"' he said, "but that might be a little bit long for a title. So it is 'Preach My Gospel,' but always with the understanding of where that phrase originates and what the next phrase following it is."
He emphasized the pronoun "my" in the title as spoken by the Lord, and commented, "It is not our gospel, it is His. So we preach His gospel; we do it in His way; we keep His commandments; we follow His procedures and practices of good missionary work for the simple reason that this is His work and for His glory, and we must have His Spirit with us as we teach and testify."
Elder Holland said that the new missionary guide was developed with an eye for "strengthening the missionary as well as converting the investigator."
"We are always heart-broken if even one missionary returns home without that testimony which will stay with them for a lifetime," he said. "If we lose one returned missionary, that's too many. Surely, . . . whatever the spectrum of success or difficulty faced in a particular mission, at least the missionary can come home blessed with a testimony burning in his or her soul."
He added, "Once missionaries have their own conversion experience with the Spirit of this work, they can then be the kind of missionary God wants them to be, that they themselves want to be, and that their parents believe they are. But it won't happen in any permanent sense until they are as converted as they want their investigators to be. That theme is written into Preach My Gospel from the opening cover to the back page."
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