PROVO, Utah — Helping missionaries deepen their own conversion and become lifelong disciples of Jesus Christ should be the primary goal for mission leaders, Elder Neil L. Andersen of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles told new mission presidents and their companions.
“Realize that many who have been limited in their testimony and productivity in their early days will grow and develop,” he said. “As you continually point them toward the Savior, they will love Him and desire to be like Him. Many will become lifelong disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ.”
Speaking on June 24 during the second day of the 2019 New Mission Leadership Seminar at the Provo Missionary Training Center, Elder Andersen said the subject of his message came from a statement in President Russell M. Nelson’s seminar-opening address: “Please persuade your missionaries to become devout disciples of the Lord.”
While missionaries may seem similar as they pursue the path of discipleship, “they are different in testimony, capacity, personality and desire,” Elder Andersen said. “Each comes to you with this sacred charge: ‘Help make of this son or daughter of God a lasting and enduring disciple of Christ.’
“Completing this charge will be one of the most satisfying blessings of your mission.”
He offered a diagram of quadrants formed by intersecting axes to help show a way to look at missionaries.
Those who are more able to meet and interact with other people on the right side of the horizontal axis, and those less able to meet and interact with other people on the left side. On the vertical axis, those who are more humble and obedient are at the top of the axis and those who are less humble and obedient are on the lower part of the axis.
Those less able to meet and interact with other people would chart on the left side of the horizontal axis, with those more able to meet and interact on the right. On the vertical axis, those who tend to be prideful and careless are relegated to the bottom, with those more humble and obedient at the top.
The hope would be to direct missionaries to the upper-right quadrant, toward a powerful faith in Jesus Christ and a love for the gift of the Holy Ghost, Elder Andersen said, noting that it includes both the faith of conversion and the faith of becoming.
“Many of your missionaries will already be in the upper-right quadrant,” he said. “They are humble, obedient and socially talented.”
Of the upper-left quadrant, Elder Andersen said many missionaries will be teachable and willing but less than talented in meeting and interacting with others. “Help them and allow the Lord to strengthen their capacities.”
Elder Andersen cautioned against being quick to give up on missionaries. “When they know you know and love them, they will listen. As they begin to depend on the Lord, miracles happen.”
Six ways to strengthen missionaries
Elder Andersen shared six ways for mission leaders to help strengthen missionaries to become more converted to the Savior and to choose the covenant path as they return home.
1. Always turn the missionaries toward the Lord.
“As a missionary pours out his whole soul in humility and gratefulness, pleading for help,” he said, “the Father and the Son will come to him by the power of the Holy Ghost, bringing love, comfort, peace and strength.”
2. Let Jesus Christ be the first thought as one teaches and counsels.
Elder Andersen recalled being with fellow apostle Elder Ulisses Soares in West Africa last year and challenging missionaries there to memorize five scriptures from both the New Testament and the Book of Mormon that would strengthen their faith in Jesus Christ.
President Rodney Hillam of the Ghana Cape Coast Mission reported his missionaries memorized more than 300 scriptures, with many repeats. “This small and simple thing has blessed us more than I can say. It has changed our focus and our desire to willingly bring our lives in alignment with the Savior.”
3. Teach humility and obedience through the words and example of the Savior.
“We taught our missionaries greater faithfulness and obedience to the Lord’s commandments with an hourglass such as this one,” said Elder Andersen, holding a large hourglass at the pulpit. “Obedience, like the sand being constrained as it nears the center, may, at times, seem confining and difficult.
“But as the sand slips through the neck of the hourglass, there is indescribable freedom — freedom to do, freedom to feel, freedom to become.”
4. Let the Savior’s words and sinless life come alive through the New Testament; let His incomparable Atonement shine through the Book of Mormon.
“Nothing places us within the plan of redemption and the eternal blessings of the Atonement of Jesus Christ as well as the Book of Mormon,” he said. “A firm and unbending witness of the restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ is inseparably connected to a continuing spiritual confirmation of the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon.”
5. Connect the missionaries’ faith in Jesus Christ to the words of the living prophets.
“For your missionaries to remain lifelong disciples of Jesus Christ, they will need to have a secure, abiding anchor to the Savior’s living prophets and apostles,” he said. “Never in their lives will they be more eager for general conference. Don’t ignore the great opportunity to build their trust in the Lord’s anointed and their willingness to follow prophetic counsel.”
6. Teach the Savior’s preeminence in Preach My Gospel and Missionary Standards for Disciples of Jesus Christ.
Mission leaders helping missionaries to be lifelong disciples of Jesus Christ have “four magnificent tools,” Elder Andersen said listing the scriptures, the words of the living prophets, “Preach My Gospel” and the Missionary Handbook.
New missionary handbook of instructions
Elder Andersen, who is a member of the Missionary Executive Council, introduced a new missionary handbook of instructions, titled “Missionary Standards for Disciples of Jesus Christ,” which will replace the current 2010 version and be available to all missionaries later this year.
Preview copies were provided to the new mission leaders.
“Missionary Standards for Disciples of Jesus Christ is more principle-based than prescription-based,” he said. “It is an invitation to obedience, with more words of the Savior, more meaningful scripture references and an opening letter from the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve.”
Elder Andersen concluded his address with his testimony and a promised blessing. “I know the Savior lives and directs His work upon the earth. As His servant, I bless you that you will be given the inspiration, ability and power to be a most powerful influence in assisting our Heavenly Father and His Beloved Son in preparing your missionaries to become lifelong disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ.”