PROVO, Utah — Citing an adage that in the Lord’s work there are rarely final endings but rather everlasting beginnings, Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles called the conclusion of the 2018 Mission Leadership Seminar the start of “a great adventure in building the kingdom of God here on earth.”
And taking his trademark aviation analogies to a higher level, the former airline captain likened the pending departure of new mission presidents and their companions to the exhilarating liftoff of a space shuttle.
“Wherever you have been assigned to labor, I testify and promise that Jesus Christ has the divine power to lift you to great heights from what might appear at times to be too hard or too challenging,” he said.
As chairman of the Missionary Executive Council, Elder Uchtdorf provided the closing message — and his second of the seminar — on June 26 at the three-day event held at the Provo Missionary Training Center. This year’s seminar provided training for the 112 couples of incoming mission presidents and their wives just prior to their beginning three-year service, with the messages also available for currently serving mission leaders and subsequent training.
To illustrate a shuttle launch, he quoted a description by American astronaut Tom Jones, who flew on four shuttle missions.
“When the main engines ignited six seconds before liftoff, the entire orbiter rattled and shuddered like a skyscraper in an earthquake,” Jones wrote. “A deep rumble shook the cabin as the main engines came up to full thrust. At T-minus-zero, the solid rocket boosters ignited, giving me a massive kick in the back as they blasted our ship off the pad. The pounding exhaust from the twin boosters shook us continually as we accelerated at 2.5 G’s, ripping through the lower atmosphere under seven million pounds of thrust. …
“At main engine cut-off, thrust dropped to zero in just a half-second, the pressure on my body vanished, and we were afloat under our straps, in free fall at last,” he added. “We’d lived to make it to orbit, and to start our mission at last.”
Elder Uchtdorf asked the new presidents and companions if they were ready for their own “spiritual lift-off” into a “higher orbit” as they prepared to preside over their assigned areas.
“Can you imagine the experience of being on the space shuttle Discovery during its countdown and lift off? Of course, you can,” he said, “because you are on the Missionary Training Center launch pad right now!
“The excitement has been increasing during this seminar, the countdown for your launch is almost over, and you will soon be on your way to a new adventure of discovery, wonder, awe and missionary labors.”
Elder Uchtdorf reiterated the theme of his opening-day address at the seminar, reminding the mission presidents and their companions to inspire and lift missionaries and local members and leaders by focusing to act upon the Lord’s great commission — to teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost — and to be firmly grounded with the two great commandments to love God with all one’s heart and mind and to love one’s neighbors.
Loving one’s neighbor for a mission president and companion means loving their missionaries and never underestimating the power that such love has on them. Look for the good in each one and don’t compare them to each other, he said, adding that mission presidents and their wives often serve as the bridge between God’s love and the heart of a missionary.
He also cautioned against competition among missionaries as well as among other missions.
“As leaders, you need to create a culture of shared success and mutual goals, never of envy or jealousy,” he said. “Be a mission of high love, but also a mission of high expectations.”
Elder Uchtdorf encouraged the mission presidents and companions to go forward with faith, hope, joy and happiness — and, as he repeated several times, to look for the reasons to rejoice.
“When you think about the years of preparation, including the specific preparation you have received in the past few months and during this seminar, have you not reason to rejoice?” he asked.
“As you will feel the Lord’s acceptance for your sacrifices to serve Him, and that He is ready to guide you on this great path as mission leaders, have you not reason to rejoice?”
He continued: “My dear brothers and sisters, you have been called and set apart to represent Jesus Christ and serve Him in His vineyard for a season, to watch over and care for His beloved missionaries, His royal army of elders and sisters. You are privileged to build up His Church, to assist in His great work, and help to bring to pass the eternal life of man. Aren’t these amazing reasons to rejoice?”
The souls that mission presidents and companions help bring to the Lord will be those who they and their missionaries find, teach, baptize and make disciples, said Elder Uchtdorf, noting that such will include less-active members and part-member families.
“And certainly,” he added, “the souls you will bring closer to the Lord will be your own missionaries.”
Elder Uchtdorf also encouraged mission presidents and companions to focus on using the scriptures and “Preach My Gospel: A Guide to Missionary Service” as the tools provided for missions and missionaries to accomplish their divine purpose. He asked the leaders to refrain from introducing supplementary materials, saying such would dilute the message and power of “Preach My Gospel.”
“‘Preach My Gospel’ is the user’s manual to missionary service,” he said, adding that the Holy Spirit will provide as needed any customized help and guidance to be successful.
“In ‘Preach My Gospel’ and the scriptures, there is more than enough material regarding the principles, policies and doctrines that will instruct and inspire you and your missionaries to fulfill the mission purpose to the fullest,” Elder Uchtdorf said. “Every time you invite the missionaries to study secondary self-created material, you reduce their opportunities to learn from prophets, apostles and the scriptures.”