PROVO, Utah — Love from God, love for God, and loving like God are interdependent — and their source is the Savior, Jesus Christ.
The current Young Women general president arrived at the seminar feeling, perhaps, a bit nostalgic. Nine years ago, she and her husband, Brother Derek L. Cordon, were sitting in the audience at the annual conference prior to beginning their own service in the Brazil Curitiba Mission.
Returning to the Provo MTC evoked many “wonderful memories.”
“I testify to you that this is the Lord’s Church and that you are on His errand,” she said during her seminar presentation. “Our God is a God of miracles, and you will see them in your service in the days and years ahead.”
The first and great commandment is “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind” (Matthew 22:37).
“As new mission leaders sitting here today, you have an even greater understanding of the deep love this commandment calls for — all our heart, soul, and mind,” she said. “You are giving all and will continue to give all. And a divine miracle is that the more you give, the more your hearts and lives will open to receive even greater love. As much as you feel you understand the first and great commandment today, I can promise you that in three years, you will know even more.”
Meanwhile, missionary service will redefine the new leaders’ understanding of the second great commandment: “Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself” (Matthew 22:39).
As a mother, Sister Cordon said she did not particularly care where her children served their missions — but she did care who their mission presidents would be. Would he and his companion have a deep love for the Lord? Would they love her son or daughter and seek to know how the Lord knows and loves them?
“Essentially, I wanted my children to be guided and mentored by a faithful husband and wife who would help them continue to feel that nourishing love from God, advance their love for God, and build on their understanding of how to love like God,” she said. “Dear friends, you are those mission presidents and dear wives whom the mothers and fathers are praying and hoping will love their missionaries. You will be a blessing in their lives.”
When mission presidents and their companions help missionaries discover love from God, love for God and are loved by their leaders like God, they are helping their missionaries establish a lifelong pattern of discipleship.
Love from God
“As we feel love from God, our ability to love Him and to love others increases,” she said.
Every missionary will know rejection, and they will need “a dose of grateful love” every time they are with their mission president and his companion.
“Even seeing the love you have for one another as husband and wife feeds their souls and brings the Spirit. Love is of God, and they are eager to see and feel this love.”
Many youth, including young missionaries, feel lonely and isolated. Some have not felt Christlike love in their homes. They may falsely believe that God’s love for them is a condition of their success or “perfect” actions.
But God’s love does not depend on behavior or circumstances, said Sister Cordon. She cited a teaching from Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf:
“Though we are incomplete, God loves us completely. Though we are imperfect, He loves us perfectly. Though we may feel lost and without compass, God’s love encompasses us completely.”
Love for God
How do mission presidents and their companions help their missionaries increase their love for God? The answer, she said, is as varied as the missionaries themselves.
Some missionaries will arrive in the field with a love for God that has already been demonstrated. For others, the mission field will be their first opportunity to show their love for God and test its strength.
One of a mission leader’s most important responsibilities is to point the missionaries to the Savior so they can increase their love for God, said Sister Cordon.
“The reality is that all of your missionaries will come to you wounded in one way or another and all will need you to walk with them to the Savior’s healing,” she said. “With some missionaries, the journey will be pleasant — like guiding a soft, frolicking lamb to the Savior’s side.
“However, other missionaries may feel more like carrying a prickly porcupine to the Savior’s outstretched arms. But regardless of fleece or quills, all your missionaries will require kindness and love as they advance their love for God.”
By recognizing the varying capacities of each missionary and seeking the direction of the Holy Ghost, “we can establish expectations that will help them draw closer to God and increase their love for Him,” she said.
Love like God
Sister Cordon testified that the Savior’s love can come to the missionaries through their mission president and his companion. Their sacred callings and responsibilities make them partners with Christ.
"When you combine God’s love with the guidance of the Holy Ghost, you will have all the capability and capacity needed to love His sons and daughters as He would.”
Sister Cordon shared the experiences of two missionaries who were blessed because their mission president loved them as the Lord loved them.
In the first experience, a prayerful mission president opted not to send a disobedient elder home after coming to understand the Lord’s love for that missionary. Over time, the missionary changed after knowing that the Savior — and his mission president — loved him.
In the second experience, a mission president helped a sister missionary with worsening anxiety make the agonizing decision to return home earlier than scheduled. But the sister missionary knew her mission president loved her and hoped she would return.
That sister missionary eventually returned to the field, strengthened by the Christlike love of her dedicated mission president.
Mission leaders, concluded Sister Cordon, are leading their missionaries into battle.
“You will, as Helaman of old, have the opportunity to lead your missionaries to become firm and undaunted,” she said. “These youth are vital in the success of this war. They need to feel God’s love through you so as to learn to trust and follow the Savior.”