The Savior's call to "Come, follow me" set the standard and gave the priorities for the ministry of all His disciples, said President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, second counselor in the First Presidency.
"Therefore," said President Uchtdorf, addressing the 124 newly called mission presidents and their wives during the annual mission presidents seminar, "it is your responsibility to inspire and encourage your missionaries to become more like Him, more Christlike."
President Uchtdorf said "the Lord does not ask us to merely 'try' to live the gospel or, 'give it a good effort.' His standard is higher than that. He asks that we 'bind (ourselves) to act in all holiness before (Him),' promising that 'as (we) do this, glory shall be added to the kingdom which (we) have received' (Doctrine and Covenants 43:9-10, italics added). Therefore, priceless blessings will attend our faithfulness."
Christlike attributes come into individuals' lives as they righteously exercise their agency, avoiding the traps of Satan and holding on to the will of God. "Christlike attributes are gifts from God, and we cannot develop them without His help. The one indispensable gift we all need is offered freely to us through the Atonement of Jesus Christ and the path of true repentance."
President Uchtdorf said the Christlike attribute of humility willingness to submit to the will of the Lord, and to give unto Him the honor for all that is accomplished is of critical importance for missionaries. It includes gratitude for blessings and acknowledgment of the constant need for divine help. "Humility is not a sign of weakness; it is a sign of spiritual strength."
President Uchtdorf said that missionaries have been called of God and promised great resources of power, and that God has high expectations for them. "You have been called to help them rise to these expectations. Have faith in the promises the Lord has made to you and your missionaries. The Spirit will guide them, and the Spirit will guide you."
Because the Holy Ghost does not dwell in unclean tabernacles, virtue is a prerequisite to receive the guidance of the Spirit, President Uchtdorf said. "Virtue is a Christlike attribute originating in our innermost thoughts and desires. It is a pattern of thoughts and behavior based on high moral standards. Whatever we choose to think and do when we are alone and no one is watching is a strong measure of our virtue."
President Uchtdorf asked the mission presidents and their wives to encourage missionaries to cultivate and enrich their character, through repeated study, learning and work, and to help them not only to know what to do, but also to know and feel with all their heart and mind what they are to be.
"The Christlike attributes of faith and hope are a key part of this process," he said. "They are very powerful and will lead you and your missionaries safely through unknown territories and carry you across deep and fearsome canyons. Those who have faith and hope receive the Lord's promise that He will bear His servants up as on eagle's wings" (see Doctrine and Covenants 124:18).
The life of a missionary is about growing, having faith and hope, about courage and sweet boldness, about acquiring knowledge and skills, about enduring and trusting that God is always there and that He will bear them up as on eagles' wings, President Uchtdorf said.
He spoke of faith as a principle of power and said, "God works by power, but His power is usually exercised in response of faith. And God works according to the faith of His children."
He said that doubt and fear are opposed to faith. "However," he cautioned, "please do not confuse doubt and fear with having questions. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is one of the few churches, if not the only church, that invites questions. Your missionaries need to seek, knock and ask to receive answers from the Lord. This is the way the young Prophet Joseph received instructions and answers. They need to study and pray to find answers to their questions. At times, an answer may not appear right away, but as the missionaries continue to work day by day, they receive more light and knowledge. Until then, they walk and work by faith.
President Uchtdorf reminded the mission leaders that "we are not here on our own errand. We are not engaged in a public speaking competition, religious debate or a sales contest. It is our task and solemn responsibility to proclaim the glorious news of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ. It is our responsibility to serve worthily so that the Holy Ghost can accompany us and touch the lives of those we come in contact with. As representatives of the Lord Jesus Christ, we courageously open our mouths and tirelessly exclaim the truths revealed again through living prophets to the children of our loving Heavenly Father. That is our responsibility, privilege and joy....
"You are on the Lord's errand; it is His work. It is the work of our Father in Heaven. Teach your missionaries to have faith and trust that our Heavenly Father will do His part. Your missionaries need to learn, as did the young man who served Elisha, that unseen hosts attend them and support this wonderful work" (see 2 Kings 6:15-18).
Expressing love and gratitude for missionaries, President Uchtdorf spoke of two missionaries from small rural towns in the United States who served in Germany. They met with rejection as they knocked on doors in a multistory apartment building but, finally, on the fourth floor, at the last door, they were invited in by a widow, mother of two daughters. One of those daughters became President Uchtdorf's wife. President and Sister Uchtdorf's eldest grandsons, twins, recently received their mission calls. "They both have a deep respect and love for the missionaries who came to that fourth floor, last door, in Frankfurt, Germany, in 1954. They have seen only pictures of these missionaries but have never met them in person.
"Now, 54 years later, our grandsons, as newly called elders, have also promised the Lord and His prophet to be missionaries of faith and hope, missionaries of discipline in the work of the Lord, and missionaries who are willing to endure to the end, even to the fourth floor, last door. As grandparents, we pray for their success.
"Please tell your missionaries that the fruits of their labor will reach far beyond their present horizon. Generations to come will be grateful and bless their names for their faithfulness and dedication." Gerry Avant