‘Make calling focus of your mission’: President Hunter counsels missionaries during an address telecast via satellite

The calling of missionaries to "go into the world, call people to repent, teach them to have faith and, after they express the desire, take them into the waters of baptism," was emphasized by President Howard W. Hunter in a satellite address Sept. 13 to full-time missionaries.

"We encourage you to make this the focus of your mission," he said.In a first-ever telecast to full-time missionaries by the president of the Church, President Hunter spoke to missionaries gathered at the Missionary Training Center. His remarks were carried live on the Church's satellite system to missionaries throughout the United States, Canada and other locations served by the system. The service was videotaped for distribution to missions throughout the world.

His address came at the the conclusion of a training session in which Elders David B. Haight, Neal A. Maxwell and M. Russell Ballard of the Council of the Twelve discussed fundamental principles of missionary work and the importance of unity between full-time missionaries and local priesthood leadership.

As President Hunter entered the auditorium filled with missionaries, they began singing "We Thank Thee, O God, for a Prophet."

He responded with a radiant smile. In his address, he said, "What an impressive sight to stand before you today, my brothers and sisters. You look wonderful to me. I extend my love and greetings to those here at the Missionary Training Center and in other locations throughout the United States and Canada.

"Please know that you are in our thoughts and prayers each day. We appreciate your faithful and devoted efforts."

Later, following his address after the broadcast ended, missionaries reverently stood in silence as President Hunter carefully made his way to the door. Outside, a group of young men and women missionaries watched from about 30 feet away. One called, "You look very good, President Hunter." He smiled and waved. Then one missionary began singing again, "We Thank Thee, O God, for a Prophet." Others joined the spontaneous chorus, and as they sang, the window on President Hunter's car opened, and he waved again.

He remained for a luncheon at the center before returning to Salt Lake City.

During his satellite program address, he complimented missionaries on their dress and grooming standards, "which you uphold as ambassadors of the Lord. I hope that you recognize the importance of this matter, not only while you are serving as missionaries, but throughout your lives. Too often we see returned missionaries who forget the standard of excellence they once had in this regard. As General Authorities, we are striving to set a standard that the members of the Church can follow in this matter."

The importance of following mission rules and maintaining harmony in companionships was emphasized by the Church president. "You will learn that to be a leader you must first learn to be a good follower. You will never learn the principles of leadership until you learn how to follow them.

"You may feel that you know a lot more than your senior companion, but he is your senior companion and you should follow him in righteousness. This is one of the greatest lessons in life: to learn how to follow your district leader and zone leader and especially your mission president."

President Hunter told missionaries, "The Savior has outlined the purpose of your mission: `Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.' " (Matt. 28:19.)

As missionaries teach potential converts, the missionaries should ensure that the converts "have a sufficient foundation of faith, understanding, conviction, and commitment to keep themselves faithful when they become members of the Church. Please be certain there is coordination with the ward mission leader and stake missionaries so that new converts are warmly fellowshiped by ward or branch members."

He cautioned: "You can't be a part of worldly things and also carry out your role as a representative of the Lord. The two are not compatible. Your objective has been clearly defined for you. From the day you were set apart, you were charged to not be of the world, meaning that you were transferred then from worldly things into a spiritual climate for the duration of your mission.

"If you have found yourself in this new climate, you are on your way. If you haven't, then you've got some work to do. Satan is always present and will do everything he can to hinder and block and defeat. We encourage you as companionships to help each other in this matter."

When missionary companions comply with this directive to be spiritual, "two persons dedicated, living in faith, and being prayerful can be an awesome force in the work of the Lord."

"I commend you for responding to the call to serve," he continued. "A great indicator of your personal conversion to the gospel of Jesus Christ is the desire to share it with others. For this reason the Lord gave a charge to every member of the Church to be a missionary. Each of us present today has a duty to bear faithful testimony of our Lord and Savior and His restored gospel."

President Hunter concluded, saying: "I bear my solemn witness to you, my beloved brethren and sisters, that our Heavenly Father lives. His Son, Jesus Christ, is our Savior and Redeemer and the head of the Church. We are His humble servants. He speaks to His prophets today as He has in the past. May each of you receive His promised blessings through your faithful service. May you also receive His commendation, `Well done, thou good and faithful servant." (Matt. 25:21.)

Elder Haight, chairman of the Missionary Executive Council, conducted the service and delivered an address. He reminded the missionaries, "We are dedicated to accomplish a great harvest of souls that the Lord has shown to us."

In achieving this great harvest, missionaries must "involve the members of the Church in the wards and the branches where you are laboring."

"Finding prospective converts through members is the key to conversion and retention, and thus to the future growth of the Church," he emphasized. He also noted, "We must have many more worthy and well-prepared full-time missionaries."

Elder Maxwell also encouraged missionaries to involve members in missionary work. "The more local leaders and members become part of the conversion and integration process, the more they will identify with new members and feel a keen personal sense of responsibility for them. . . . Very soon these new members should have new friends, friends who will be with them long after their beloved full-time missionaries are transferred or released.

"Clearly, when we baptize, our eyes should gaze beyond the baptismal font to the holy temple. The great garner into which the sheaves should be gathered is the holy temple."

Elder Ballard said members must be involved in the social transition of converts. "The bond of fellowship is vital. It is part of the feeling of oneness and unity with the Saints. It is part of the process of nourishing the seed of faith so that it does not shrivel and die because of neglect."

Missionaries are to find, teach and baptize converts, and to help retain them in activity in the Church. They also are to visit less-active members and help bring them to full activity. Each week, missionary companions are to provide four hours of community service.

"Great spiritual experiences await you if you will walk in the footsteps of the Savior by serving others," said Elder Ballard.