PROVO, Utah — Only the Father, His Beloved Son and the Holy Ghost can provide the assurance Latter-day Saints need to go forward boldly in their service, said President Henry B. Eyring on June 26.
“My simple message for you, and for your missionaries, is the one that has taken away my self-doubt as I have labored in calls from the Lord that appeared far beyond me,” said President Eyring, second counselor in the First Presidency. “What has saved me is a spiritual assurance that has come to my mind and has gone down into my heart. It is the reality that Heavenly Father and His beloved Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost go with me.”
Speaking on June 26 during the Mission Leadership Seminar at the Mission Training Center in Provo, Utah, President Eyring said the call as a mission leader often brings “moments of feeling overwhelmed.”
“You may have times when you wonder if your call is beyond you,” he said. “You may even ask, ‘Is this too much for me?’
“I have had such moments often in my service in the Lord’s kingdom. And I have learned how important it is to banish those moments quickly. If you let them linger, they grow, and then your power to serve diminishes.”
These moments of doubt will be as much a danger for missionaries as they are to their mission president and his companion, he said.
President Eyring quoted Jacob 5, describing the reality of missionary work in the Church. Missionaries have studied the chapter for years. Now is the time “for you to feel it more deeply and act upon it more courageously,” he said.
In these passages, the Lord of the vineyard labors with his servants to prepare and perfect it. “He calls the servants. He gives them commands. He listens to them. He talks with them. He works beside them,” President Eyring said. “In fact, he seems to do much of the work himself. And yet he gives his servants a generous share in his divine joy.”
President Eyring said he has felt that joy often. “And I have seen with the eyes of faith not only that I did not work alone, but that the Father, the Savior, and the Holy Ghost were generous beyond measure to let me share in their joy for my small efforts,” he said. “We have all felt joy in the transformation of others’ lives through the Lord’s Atonement, and the Holy Ghost being sent to the hearts of those we were called to invite to follow the covenant path.
“If we could feel the reality of being called into the vineyard to labor with Them, it would replace our self-doubt with the courage to go forward. I saw that once when I began in a call, as you are now doing.”
President Eyring said some weeks after he was called to the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, President James E. Faust called him to his office — the office President Eyring now occupies. He said in a kindly voice, “I’ve been watching you. It looks to me as if it has happened. You have begun to feel doubt that you are qualified for the call to the Apostleship.”
President Faust’s words made then-Elder Eyring lean forward in anticipation. “I thought he was going to give me assurance,” recalled President Eyring. “I felt that he was going to answer my question of whether I was approved of God. I began to ask him for that reassurance. He smiled, holding up his hand to stop me from going on with my question. He pointed to the ceiling of the office and said quietly, ‘Don’t ask me. Ask Him.’ ”
President Eyring said it has taken him years to see and feel what President Faust was teaching him. “He knew that the only source of the answer to my question was the Lord of the vineyard,” he said. President Faust and other Church leaders knew of the Church service President Eyring had given. “But only the Savior and His Father knew in what way the Atonement and the Holy Ghost had purified and changed my heart.”
President Eyring told the mission leaders that going to the Lord for assurance will help them in the field.
“I have learned how to seek and then to feel assurance that I am approved enough to go forward in confidence,” President Eyring said. “Everyone needs that assurance.”
Missionaries will seek assurance from their mission president and his companion, President Eyring said. “They are grateful when you praise them. Everyone feels some satisfaction and assurance from being praised for how well he or she did. That kind of recognition is pleasing.
“But then I remember that only God knows my heart. There is only one approval I can trust perfectly. … And the assurance we need is to know that by serving the Lord faithfully, we have become more like Him.”
That understanding could shape the way mission leaders praise their missionaries. “You might wisely tend to praise them more for what they are becoming than for what they have done,” he said. “You can help them recognize their growth in character. You will help them see what God has helped them to become.”
In the book of Helaman the Lord granted to Nephi some of His power, a priceless message of approval. The Lord goes on to give Nephi the charge to call people to repentance.
“You will feel in wonderful moments that the approval of most worth is from God, who knows what you have become,” said President Eyring. “Those moments help me understand why a wise priesthood leader has said more than once in my presence something like this: ‘Rather than focus so much on what we are to do, wouldn’t we do better to focus on what we must become?’ ”
That inspired insight is discernible in “Preach My Gospel,” he said.
“When you have done your very best, you may still experience disappointments, but you will not be disappointed in yourself. You can feel certain that the Lord is pleased when you feel the Spirit working through you,” he said, quoting “Preach My Gospel.”
President Eyring said the most certain evidence of approval is when the Lord sends the Spirit to testify, guide, and help him in the harvest. “I find that the Spirit comes only after prayer, searching scriptures and the words of living prophets — and especially in the Book of Mormon — exact obedience, love of others, humbly listening for the Spirit, and long and painful labor.”
He acknowledged having the experience of being led as a missionary by the Spirit to a person who was prepared to receive the message of the gospel and the Restoration. But that guidance comes most often at the end of a hard day of speaking to people and being rejected.
“It has seemed to me that the prepared person is the next one you find after you and your companion decide to keep working…,” he said. “That’s when you find that you have had the Holy Ghost as your unseen companion. That is when you will know that you do not labor alone. That’s when you find joy in the harvest with the Lord of the harvest. And that’s when you feel approval. And that is how you know your heart is changing.”
President Eyring said he wished he could say that change takes less effort and comes more quickly. “I wish the harvest was easy and that the Holy Ghost was given just for the asking…. The Holy Ghost comes as we try to give our all. And it is the Holy Ghost who both cleanses us and conveys the Lord’s approval.”
President Eyring said fully qualified servants of the Lord, who serve in His way, have temperance, patience, brotherly kindness, charity, and humility.
In “Preach My Gospel,” mission leaders will find the ideas and the doctrine they will need to help their missionaries grow in their power to teach the gospel. He emphasized that gospel teachers should “teach with the true love of God for the student.”
A loving teacher who teaches with love has the greatest likelihood of engendering love for the Master, he said.
“Teaching is only one of the ways we labor with and for others in our missionary service. But all of those labors must spring from the love of God to be effective. …
“Our task is to do our best to let the Lord bring that lofty standard into our daily lives and those of our missionaries, and into the hearts of the members whom the Lord invites to serve with us in the vineyard.”
President Eyring said his suggestions stem from two observations. “First, the love of God does beget love. And, second, successful mission presidents use a variety of ways to engender that love in those they try to influence.”
Personal example seems to me to be more effective than words, President Eyring explained. “But it is powerful only if what the exemplar does springs from what he or she has become.”
In the service of the Lord, each person will touch a few, he concluded. “They will touch others. And in the years ahead, you will find that the fruits of your labors were multiplied a hundredfold by those with whom you served. And most of all, you will come to see that it was the loving service of Heavenly Father, of the Savior of the world, and of the Holy Ghost that allowed you to be blessed with peace here and with joy in the celestial kingdom, never to feel alone.”