The single most important thing about teaching and preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ is to bear clear and pure testimony, said President Boyd K. Packer on June 25.
Speaking at the 2008 Seminar for New Mission Presidents in the Provo Missionary Training Center, President Packer offered counsel and direction to those who will lead some of the Church's vast missionary force currently serving across the globe.
"You are good enough and your testimony is good enough. It will enlarge and be greater," he told the mission presidents and their wives.
President Packer, President of the Quorum of the Twelve, recalled a time years ago when he met a young, disrespectful missionary. The young man had been referred by the Missionary Training Center to President Packer as a member of the Church's Missionary Committee to determine if he should be sent home from his mission.
The young man was a smart aleck and impudent and rude, President Packer thought. He took the young man to lunch.
"There could only be one verdict," President Packer said. "This young man could not go on a mission."
As the pair returned to the Church Office Building, they saw the Missionary Training Center director waiting for them at the top of the stairs.
"I thought, 'When we get up to the top I will have to send him home,' but I thought, 'I can't do that.' About half way up the steps I took hold of this young man and pulled him around so I was looking him right in the eyes. I said, 'You have been disrespectful and impudent and don't deserve much. But there is one thing you have got to know.'
"Then I bore my testimony to him, clear and pure testimony.
"Then I said, 'Now, don't you ever say you don't know or that you haven't been told, because you have been told. I will bear testimony against you at the judgment seat of Christ that you were told.'
"I have never done anything like that before or since."
When President Packer and the missionary got to the top of the stairs, President Packer simply said, "Take him back and try again."
Some months later President Packer heard a report of President Marion G. Romney's weekend visit to Mexico, where he met a missionary who embodied all that is ideal in a missionary. To President Packer's great surprise, it was the missionary he had sent back to the Missionary Training Center.
"And I had learned a lesson. The single most important thing that can be done is to bear testimony to them so that they will know," he said.
President Packer also told the mission presidents and their wives that they have already passed a major test in mortality, by virtue of their being at the conference.
"If the world asked a couple in the prime of their life to go someplace they have never been, speak a language they may or may not know, put their career aside, miss weddings and funerals and grandchildren, would they go?" he said.
"If asked, 'Who could you get to do that?' The answer is probably nobody," he said. "But it is different for you. You were not asked; you were called."
"The Lord," he told the couples, "will watch over you."
President Packer then shared with the congregation a truth taught by the Prophet Joseph Smith: "All beings who have bodies have power over those who have not" (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, sel. Joseph Fielding Smith (1976), 181).
"The adversary," he said, "only has power over those that permit him to."
"There are things that are ensnared within our lives and it seems so hopeless, but remember: 'Men,' the Book of Mormon says, 'are instructed sufficiently that they know good from evil"' (2 Nephi 2:5).
President Packer said he has learned that "nobody is worthless. Nobody in mortality is totally lost."
"So," he explained, "you are on the winning team."
"Now, unfortunately, the scoreboard will always be in the other direction. You will close each inning with them having more numbers on the scoreboard than you do. But you know that ultimately you are on the winning team. The missionaries need to know that. 'All beings who have bodies have power over those who have not.' The devil has no power over us."
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