Every missionary ought to be able to say about his mission president, "He has made us greater than we ever thought we were capable of becoming," President Gordon B. Hinckley said June 26 at the annual Mission President's Seminar.
Saying that he had no formal talk but had made a few notes, President Hinckley seemed to speak from the heart as he addressed the 106 departing leaders. Referring to his recent tour in Australia and New Zealand, he said he could not make that kind of journey without thinking of missionary work and those who had pioneered it.
Fortifying what had been said by others in the seminar about retention of converts, the Church president emphasized that it is as important as baptism.
"When all's said and done, about the only thing that counts is how many we have left who are moving forward in the Church as a result of your missionary effort," he said. He reiterated what he has said earlier about every convert in the Church needing three things: a responsibility, a friend and nurturing with the good word of God.
Reminiscing about his own mission 70 years ago in England and the growth that came to him then, President Hinckley pleaded with the mission presidents to bless the lives of those who work under their direction. He told of a missionary he interviewed many years ago in Japan who had written home to his mother and asked her to find some reason for him to come home so he could do so without disgracing her. She wrote back and said he could not come home, that he was called by the Lord, that somehow he could accomplish the work. "This morning your little brother prayed, and prayed especially for you," she wrote. In response to his request for a blessing, Elder Hinckley blessed him, among other things, to learn the language.
The young man went on to become assistant to the mission president. He later earned a doctorate and became an attache in the U.S. embassy in Japan. Eventually he became a highly successful businessman there, due to his knowledge of the language.
"Teach your missionaries from the scriptures," President Hinckley admonished. "Teach them the doctrine of the Kingdom. It will do wonders for them. They can learn it this time of their lives, and it will become a treasure throughout their entire lives.
"Teach them of the Savior," he said. President Hinckley recounted an experience from his mission when his mission president asked the missionaries, "what's the greatest thing we can do for the people of England?"
"When all is said and done," President Hinckley said, quoting his mission president, "the greatest thing we can do for the people of this land is to teach them that Jesus Christ is the living Son of the living God.
"Bless with example," he said. "Let your example be before them at all times and in all circumstances such that they see in you somebody they'd wish to emulate and reach up to and be a part of."
He told of mission presidents who went tracting with their missionaries on occasion. "And what a marvelous and wonderful difference it made," he said.
"Bless them with love," he said. "Many of them come from homes where they have never known love. Many of them come out of very bleak and difficult and dismal circumstances. Bless them with the spirit of love. Let them really know that you are concerned about them and you wish for them every great and good and wonderful blessing."