PROVO, Utah — Mindful of the multitude of responsibilities of interviewing, teaching, training and edifying that face new mission presidents and their wives, Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles identified a simple target and bullseye for focus.
“Our loving Heavenly Father gave us two great commandments as our target and divine motive for our service as disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ,” he said. “They are to love and serve God and to love and serve God’s children.
“Fail in these two commandments and we fail in all.”
He linked in the Savior’s commission to “go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost” (Matthew 28:19).
“The interconnected teachings of the two great commandments and the great commission are the bullseye for mission presidents and companions,” he said.
Named as chairman of the Missionary Executive Committee earlier this year, Elder Uchtdorf spoke Sunday morning, June 24, to the 112 new mission presidents and their wives attending the 2018 New Mission Leadership Seminar at the Provo Missionary Training Center.
Two great commandments
Elder Uchtdorf cited the Savior’s two-fold response when He was asked which might be the greatest commandment: “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets” (Matthew 22:36-40).
The apostle added: “Those who heard His answer then must have marveled that He was able to digest the 613 commandments found in the Hebrew Bible down to two interrelated commandments. Jesus hit the bullseye by His absolutely perfect response.”
He likened the love for God and neighbor as “the higher and holier way” outlined by President Russell M. Nelson in April 2018 general conference.
“Our Church service is one of loving and caring for God’s children and has no beginning or end,” he said. “We don’t finish ministering; we don’t finish loving; we don’t finish praying, and we don’t finish thinking about those whom God has put in our path.”
Elder Uchtdorf encouraged mission leaders to help missionaries to know and love God and to choose belief instead of doubt and to help them to reach out to others in love and compassion while fulfilling their missionary purpose.
“Our love for others does not end should they reject baptism or refuse to listen to the good news of the gospel. Our love is not conditional upon their interest in spending time with our missionaries,” he said.
“We love them because they are children of our Heavenly Father. We love them because they are our brothers and sisters. We love and pray for all men and women — even those who hate, curse, persecute or mistreat us.”
Missionaries will have greater success when they touch the hearts of people, help them to see what the gospel and Church are all about and invite them to come unto Christ, he said.
“This can best be accomplished if your missionaries first listen to the promptings of the Spirit while finding people, then listen to these people with compassion and love, and be guided by the Spirit how best to teach and to help them.
The great commission
Elder Uchtdorf noted a recent English translation of the Greek Bible regarding the Savior’s commission that reads in part: “Go forward, making disciples of all nations and baptizing them in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit.”
“Each step is important,” he added. “We must go — that is find — we must teach the true doctrine, make disciples, and baptize. Leaving one of the steps out will not fulfill Christ’s command.”
“Going” is finding people to teach, one of a missionary’s primary daily responsibilities and not just relying on the internet and social media activity, he said. “It would be a fatal mistake if you and your missionaries simply waited passively for referrals.”
“Teaching” requires missionaries to develop compassion, empathy and love for the people they find and teaching to their specific circumstances, he said. “Confidence in teaching will be rewarding as they move from a mechanical approach to an approach in which they listen more intently and then teach to the needs of those they meet.”
As for “baptizing,” Elder Uchtdorf said: “We mortals do not convert anyone. Receiving a testimony of the gospel of Jesus Christ and making a commitment to enter the waters of baptism is between the individual person and the Holy Ghost. Conversion comes from personal revelation and from the heavenly manifestation of spiritual light.”
Quoting President Gordon B. Hinckley’s statement that “any individual who is worthy of baptism is worth saving as a member of the Church,” Elder Uchtdorf said the same is true for missionaries.
“All who are called to serve the Lord as missionaries are worth saving during their mission and after they return home,” he said. “Your missionary’s sheaves are the converts in your mission; your sheaves are the missionaries and their descendants.”
Elder Uchtdorf underscored the target theme once more in conclusion. “In this sacred work we don’t get to choose the target, let alone the bulls-eye,” he said. “It has already been chosen by the Savior Himself. Our role is not to redefine the purpose, but to align with it.”