Elder Gary E. Stevenson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles began his remarks at the 2016 Seminar for New Mission Presidents with a personal memory from a past seminar.
In 2004, he and his wife, Sister Lesa Stevenson, went to the Missionary Training Center in Provo to attend the seminar before embarking on their service to the Japan Nagoya Mission. He spoke of the nervousness they felt in the days prior to beginning their mission together.
At the introductory training, he and the other new mission presidents were presented draft copies of Preach My Gospel.
“Now, after 12 years, over 3.8 million hard copies have been distributed worldwide with thousands of digital downloads,” he said. “What a great joy to be part of such a dynamic work.”
He reminded the mission presidents and their wives that they have been set apart as missionaries to preach the gospel. He acknowledged that, over the next three years, most of their time will be spent teaching, training and motivating missionaries, administering mission business and supervising mission districts. Still, there will be opportunities to fulfill their personal ministries and people to teach and baptize.
“I suggest that concentrated effort is required to assure that you magnify your call as a missionary companionship,” he said. “I also testify that as you will be placed in circumstances, you will feel promptings with respect to your call as a missionary, leading you to what will become some of the choicest memories of your ministry.”
Elder Stevenson shared the New Testament account of Peter and the conversion of Cornelius. Peter was the Lord’s prophet and his duties were significant. Still, he was inspired to seek out Cornelius, who was also receiving promptings of the Spirit. Peter found Cornelius and taught him the gospel with the witnessing power of the Holy Ghost. Cornelius and his household accepted his message.
“I am certain that you, as mission presidents and wives, each one of you, in a manner taught and exemplified by Peter, in the very midst of your important duties pertaining to your call and role as mission president and wife, will receive promptings, you will be placed into circumstances, and you will be the object of revelation and impressions received by others which lead to a Peter/Cornelius type of conversion miracle.”
He added that missionary opportunities will also come through participating in investigator lessons, conducting investigator devotionals and sponsoring family home evenings in the mission home.
Humbly, Elder Stevenson shared a “tender mercy” from his and Sister Stevenson’s mission. A day after arriving in Japan, they met a woman named Hiroko Gathright whose sons would be attending the same school as two of the Stevensons’ sons. Over time, the families became friends and the Stevensons invited the Gathrights to social activities and Church events. That led to invitations to listen to the missionary discussions.
In time, the Gathright sons were baptized by their father, a Church member who had fallen out of activity for a season. Years passed and Hiroko’s own testimony grew. She was baptized by her oldest son two years ago.
Last November, Elder Stevenson performed the sealing of the Gathright family in the Taipei Taiwan Temple.
“Among all the choice blessings and great joy which will be yours resulting from your service as mission president and wife, there likely will be none that will surpass that which comes from your personal ministry to baptize converts.”
[email protected] @JNSwensen