The 127 mission presidents and their wives participating in the 2017 Seminar for New Mission Presidents may share common callings, but they are unique individuals. They each bring to their new responsibilities special talents and experiences.
“You will not only have a positive influence on the spreading of the word of God worldwide, but you will also impact the lives of individuals and families,” said President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, second counselor in the First Presidency, during his Monday remarks. “You will be remembered for years and generations to come.”
The Church leader told the seminar participants that they are “the salt of the earth.” He himself extended the call to many of the new mission presidents and their wives at the seminar, including President Jesus Cepeda and Sister Abigail Cepeda, who will serve in the Mexico Tijuana Mission. The Cepedas are the parents of quadruplets. Three are currently serving missions.
“With President and Sister Cepeda, the family now has five missionaries in the field at the same time,” President Uchtdorf said, smiling.
Mission presidents and their companions, he taught, are instruments in God’s hands as they prepare the Church leaders of the future. They can learn much from the life and ministry of Peter, the fearless senior Apostle.
“When I look at you, or our young missionaries around the world, I often think of the Apostle Peter,” he said. “In my mind’s eye I can even see Peter with a missionary badge on his chest, this badge of honor our missionaries wear proudly today throughout the world. We should never be afraid to be identified as servants of the Lord.
“Like Peter of old, our missionaries should be recognized as servants and representatives of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Peter was no stranger to danger or adversity. He was a savvy fisherman and businessman. Yet to many — including Peter himself — he probably seemed an unlikely candidate to become Christ’s chief disciple. Peter felt deeply his own inadequacy.
Who cannot relate, from time to time, to Peter’s self-doubt, asked President Uchtdorf.
“But the Savior’s response, to Peter and to us, is simple: ‘Fear not.’ ”
The Lord patiently tutored the disciple who would one day lead His Church. When Peter’s faith wavered and he grew afraid, the Savior was always there to help.
“[Peter] was always willing to take risks, to open his mouth and say what was in his heart,” he said. “At times this led to blunders, but more often it led to precious learning experiences not available to those who held back.”
Later in his ministry, Peter, as foretold, denied knowing the captured Christ. He gave in to his fears.
“With a broken heart and a contrite spirit, Peter later wept and agonized over that betrayal. How could he have been so weak? How could he have allowed fear to make him deny the Man whom he knew was the Christ, the Son of the living God?”
Perhaps Peter overestimated his own ability to withstand opposition. Perhaps he simply needed to learn to trust himself a little less and trust the Lord a little more.
“But Jesus knew Peter’s heart,” said President Uchtdorf. “And just as He stretched forth His hand to save His faithful but fearful friend on the Sea of Galilee, He reached out to save Peter every time his eagerness outpaced his abilities.”
Peter and today’s young missionaries share much in common. They arrive in the mission field brimming with confidence — certain they will never get discouraged, tired or fearful.
Until they do.
“Because lurking beneath their confidence and zeal are human imperfections, inexperience and fear,” President Uchtdorf said. “And if they are to become the kind of disciples, the kind of leaders the Lord expects, they will need to face and overcome those weaknesses, just as we all must in our individual journey of discipleship.”
The missionaries will look to their mission president and his wife when they have doubts and fears. Lead them to the divine sources of inspired answers and heavenly guidance, President Uchtdorf taught.
“Peter’s moments of weakness are not the end of his story. And it shouldn’t be for your missionaries. The beauty of the gospel of Jesus Christ is that all can be transformed and strengthened, just as Peter was. Peter’s pattern should give these missionaries hope as it gives hope to all of us.”
President Uchtdorf said Peter’s change from fearful fisherman to rock-solid leader came only after he developed a personal witness of the Resurrected Savior. This is what initiated Peter’s complete transformation. His testimony of Christ removed any trace of fear. He became a witness of great power and courage.
“A testimony of the living Christ has the potential and power to do the same for every servant of the Lord, for every missionary, for every one, and especially for those who proclaim and teach the restored gospel of Jesus Christ.”
President Uchtdorf challenged the new mission presidents and their wives to place their worries and fears in the Savior’s hands. “He will make you and your missionaries great and fearless witnesses of Him, of His gospel and of His Church.”
[email protected] @JNSwensen