Every soul who is baptized into the Church is precious and deserving of the nurture and care that will lead him or her to unshakable faith, President Gordon B. Hinckley instructed new mission presidents June 18.
President Hinckley, first counselor in the First Presidency, spoke to 81 new mission presidents and their wives at the opening session of the annual Mission Presidents Seminar, held annually at the Missionary Training Center here.Following his address to mission presidents, President Hinckley walked to the nearby auditorium and addressed a packed congregation of more than 2,000 missionaries. His missionary address is a tradition over several years.
The new mission presidents, who came from 15 states of the United States and nine other countries, will begin their service about July 1.
Also speaking at the opening session of the seminar were Elder L. Tom Perry of the Council of the Twelve, chairman of the Missionary Executive Council, who presented remarks jointly with Elder Robert L. Backman of the Presidency of the Seventy and executive director of the Missionary Department.
Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin of the Council of the Twelve and a member of the Missionary Executive Council also gave remarks at the opening session.
President Thomas S. Monson, second counselor in the First Presidency, and President Howard W. Hunter of the Council of the Twelve addressed later sessions of the seminar. Coverage of their remarks, and remarks of other General Authorities, who were to address the new mission presidents, will be in the Church News next week.
Speakers in the opening session called for a balanced and unified endeavor between full-time missionaries and members in efforts to convert, fellowship and reactivate. They noted that missionaries are authorized to help in reactivation efforts as well as in proselyting.
President Hinckley called upon the new leaders to perform work that is "solid and well-done."
Mission presidents "go out as ministers of the Son of God to teach the gospel of salvation and eternal life," he declared. "You go as leaders, inspired and dedicated and selfless in your service to those whom you lead.
"Three years will pass quickly, but the fruits of those three years will go on forever in your lives and in the lives of those you are sent to lead."
President Hinckley observed that converts of just the past year would constitute more than 100 stakes.
"Through this service, lives of converts are altered in a remarkable and marvelous way, and out of those efforts will come generations of those blessed by the light of the everlasting gospel.
"And, perhaps as important as the effect on converts is the effect upon the missionaries. No one can measure the effect, but all can observe it."
While missionaries have done much, President Hinckley continued, "It is a rather shocking fact that millions of people are born and living out their lives and dying without ever hearing of this Church."
Nevertheless, "We go where we are able to go, and we do what we are able to do. Some nations we cannot enter. But what we do now is preparation for the day when we will enter such nations.
"The work at best is slow. It must be solid and well done. We cannot afford the kind of teaching that leads to unstable membership and weak and flagging testimony."
He assured the new leaders they were called by the spirit of prophecy and revelation. He instructed them to "go into the world as ambassadors of the Lord Jesus Christ to teach the gospel of salvation to the people.
"You go with an almost terrifying responsibility. . . . You go with our love and confidence to do the work of the Lord."
President Hinckley said mission presidents should be great leaders who take young men and women of mostly ordinary capacity and lead them to work in an extraordinary manner.
"The mission field affords such a tremendous opportunity to acquire habits of work that will prove to be an everlasting blessing," he said.
"Unassailable integrity" should also be practiced in the mission field.
"In this age of shoddy behavior and rampant dishonesty, how precious is a man or woman who will not barter his or her principles for any price."
President Hinckley declared that every missionary deserves a president who loves him or her.
"When all is said or done, that's what this work is all about," President Hinckley explained. "It is a work of love that transcends every other consideration. It is the kind of love that comes out of the heart of a president and is felt in the heart of the missionary.
"It is the kind of love that says, `You are very important to me. You are very important to the Lord. You are very important to His work. Please know that I love you and that I want to help you succeed.' If that love is experienced in the mission field, it will become as a medicine to those who are discouraged and despondent. It will become a strength that will be felt forever after in the lives of those who become beneficiaries of it."
Elder Perry and Elder Backman encouraged members and missionaries to work unitedly with members in both proselyting and reactivation.
Elder Perry noted that, according to research, 86 percent of the active converts have close personal ties to other LDS members or relatives.
"We are grateful to live in a time when the Lord is opening doors and hastening His work, making it possible as never before to `Go ye unto all the world,' " said Elder Perry. "Think of it – a united effort of missionaries and members and priesthood leaders focused upon a single divine objective!"
Elder Backman called for "complete and perfect harmony" between full-time and stake missionaries.
"We have long taught that every member is a missionary," he explained. "Now we add that every missionary is a member who assists as appropriate in the ward or branch where he serves to perfect the saints as well as proclaim the gospel. This is one great work of salvation and should not be artificially separated."
Elder Wirthlin also encouraged leaders to develop cooperation between members and missionaries.
"Authorization has been given for missionaries to provide assistance in the retention of converts and the full activation of less-active members. The salvation of souls is not compartmentalized into non-members and less-active members. One soul is as precious as another."