President Thomas S. Monson has a love for missionaries, mission presidents and their wives, and the work they accomplish.
That love was evident as he addressed 126 couples attending a sacrament meeting at the conclusion of the 2015 Seminar for New Mission Presidents.
The mission leaders and their wives received instructions from General Authorities at the Provo Missionary Training Center from Wednesday, June 24, through Sunday, June 28. They reported to their assigned missions on July 1.
Elder Russell M. Nelson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, who conducted the sacrament meeting, said that for at least 43 years President Monson has addressed every group of new mission presidents and their wives.
President Monson assured the new mission presidents and their wives that they have been called by inspiration and will be serving where the Lord would have them serve.
He used his call to preside over the Canadian Mission to illustrate changes made over the years for extending calls to new mission presidents and the training given to help prepare them to serve.
He and his wife, Sister Frances Monson, were 31 years old when they were called. “Our children were seven and four years old, and Sister Monson was expecting our third child,” he said. “Our call came during the last week of February 1959, and we boarded the train for Toronto, Ontario, Canada, just a few short weeks later.” He said the Church now gives mission presidents and their wives a little more time to put their affairs in order before they leave.
“Over the years as Sister Monson and I reflected on those three years we spent in Canada, we recognized that they were among the happiest times of our lives. When God calls and we respond to such a call, we experience the joy and satisfaction of having done as He would have us do.
“I testify to you that whom God calls, God qualifies. This promise extends not only to you but also to your missionaries as well. When we are worthy, when we strive with faith nothing wavering to fulfill the duties appointed to us, when we seek the inspiration of the Almighty in the performance of our responsibilities, we can achieve the miraculous.”
He reminded the new mission leaders that parents of their missionaries kneel in prayer each day, asking Heavenly Father to bless their son or daughter in the mission field. “And in their prayers they also ask a blessing upon you, that their son or daughter might be guided and loved and watched over by you. In effect you become a surrogate parent to their child during the time he or she serves in your mission,” he said.
“As you oversee prayerfully the work of the mission and of the missionaries, you will see the hand of the Lord time and time again.”
As an example, he told about the time he looked at a list of missionaries serving under his direction and felt inspired to move one young elder, Neul Smith, to Welland, Ontario. “He was not due for a transfer, but I followed the inspiration and moved him.” President Monson said. “The next week, when I received a letter from his new companion, tears came to my eyes as I read, ‘President Monson, I know you were inspired in sending Elder Smith to us in Welland. We are teaching some Italian-speaking families whose English skills are limited. I have been praying for a missionary in our area who could speak Italian. And you sent Elder Smith, who speaks Italian fluently.’
“Until that moment I was not aware that Elder Smith spoke Italian. One would not normally associate the name ‘Smith’ with the Italian language. Although I was unaware of his language ability, however, our Heavenly Father knew. I promise you that you will have similar experiences as you seek Heavenly help in all that you do.”
President Monson said he recently read a communication from a young missionary, Elder Mathew Winterholler, who has been serving in Bolivia for the past eight months.
“Before he left, his life was focused on sports and friends and school and on having a good time. This, of course, is typical of almost all young people,” President Monson said. “After eight months in Bolivia, this dedicated missionary wrote the following in his weekly email to his family: ‘The work is so hard, but I am so happy. I just want to help as many people as I can. I am giving all I have to the Lord and to the people. We come home at night completely exhausted, but we smile with joy. I know this is the work of the Lord. I love being an instrument in His hands.’
“Elder Winterholler has redirected his focus, as have the thousands of other young men and young women serving the Lord as His emissaries. As a result, countless lives are being changed and blessed — including their own.”
The other side of the coin is represented by those who come to embrace the gospel, President Monson said. “Many years ago at a priesthood leadership meeting in Basel, Switzerland, one of the speakers was Brother Johann Wondra, who at the time was a Regional Representative. Near the conclusion of his message he invited Brother Kuno Müller to stand, and then he said to the congregation, ‘Here is Brother Müller, the missionary who brought the gospel, and all that it means, to my wife and to me. Without him, where would I be today?’ Then he turned to Brother Müller and said, ‘We love you. We think of you every day of our lives.’ Brother Müller wept; Brother Wondra wept. I believe we all shed a tear as we witnessed the sacred bond between missionary and convert and felt the spirit of the occasion.
“This is the spirit which you will feel, which you will sense, which you will experience in your mission.”