SANTIAGO, Chile — When Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf spoke to hundreds of missionaries here on Saturday, Feb. 15, he knew from personal experience the joy of sharing the gospel with Chilean investigators.
Just a day earlier, the veteran Church leader sat with “two wonderful sister missionaries” and two local members in the living room of a Santiago family who was learning about the Church.
The missionaries taught their investigators about family home evening, along with the joy found in attending Church services on Sunday.
“It was wonderful,” said Elder Uchtdorf, who was reminded of the power of including local members in teaching investigators.
Missionaries come and go with each transfer. But the members will remain essential in fellowshipping new converts. Involving them in teaching others “in a normal and natural way” will instill in them a love for missionary work.
“Such members will be a great help to those newly-baptized individuals after you leave the area,” he said. “And those members will be great ambassadors for you, the missionaries.”
Elder Uchtdorf’s enthusiasm following that missionary discussion inside a home in a humble neighborhood in Chile’s sprawling capital was evident during Saturday’s gathering of four Santiago-area missions.
“We are living in wonderful, historic times,” said Elder Uchtdorf of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.
He was joined Saturday by his wife, Sister Harriet Uchtdorf. Despite the large number of missionaries, the couple made time to shake hands with every missionary
The Uchtdorfs’ Latter-day Saint experience is deeply connected to missionaries. Their own children and grandchildren have served missions in areas across the globe.
And for Sister Uchtdorf, the unexpected knock on the door by a pair of missionaries forever changed her life.
She had lost her beloved father to cancer at a young age. But when she heard the elders’ message of eternal life and forever families, she rediscovered her happiness and hope.
Decades later, the Uchtdorfs remain thankful for those two missionaries who continued to search even when their prior efforts proved fruitless. Had they simply stopped searching for people to teach after knocking on a few apartment doors that day in Frankfurt, Germany, they would have never reached the apartment of 14-year-old Harriet Reich and her small, grieving family.
The determination of the missionaries who found the Reichs, said Elder Uchtdorf, is emblematic of missionary work today in Chile and beyond.
“You just have to continue on,” he told the missionaries. For Harriet and her family, the elders’ commitment to finding people to teach “made the difference.”
The missionaries initially shared a short message with young Harriet and her family.
“Sometimes it’s important to share a short but deep message,” he said. “Something that touches the heart. If you start with heavy doctrine, it won’t work. It needs to be heart-to-heart.”
Then, after sharing their brief message, the missionaries gave the family a copy of the Book of Mormon. They invited them to read several key passages they had marked previously.
Never underestimate the power of the Book of Mormon, Elder Uchtdorf said Saturday. “Use it while guided by the Spirit and invite investigators to start reading.”
Sometimes the best place for investigators to begin reading is in 3rd Nephi, he added. That allows them to compare the Book of Mormon with familiar and beloved chapters from the Bible.
By sharing the Book of Mormon, “you will see the power of the Holy Ghost combined with the power of the light of Christ.”
Elder Uchtdorf encouraged the missionaries to be creative in how they touch hearts. Utilize the unique nature of each mission area to reach others.
“And use your own unique personality,” he said. Music loving missionaries, for example, can sing the songs of the Restoration with the people they teach.
Every investigator needs to feel “at home in the Church” — and make sure “you work closely with the members of your ward,” he added.
Elder Uchtdorf said there’s no need for missionaries to wait to extend essential invitations to make commitments, including the invitation to be baptized.
Following His mortal ministry, the Savior commissioned His Apostles to go to all ends of the earth and share His gospel. That same divine charge is extended today to all of His disciples.
“You are His disciples,” Elder Uchtdorf told the missionaries. “You are an extended arm of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. We are only 12, but you are [a missionary force] of 67,000 serving all around the globe.
“Extend these invitations with the knowledge that you are doing it in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. You are His servants. He is at the center.”
This year marks the 200th anniversary of Joseph Smith’s First Vision.
“I recommend to you that you read, weekly, Joseph’s account of his First Vision,” said Elder Uchtdorf. “You will realize great strength. It is a wonderful message of a young man who wanted to know what to do.”
Remember, the Father invited young Joseph to “hear” His Beloved Son.
“And that’s what you do,” he said. “You say: ‘We have a message from Jesus Christ. Hear Him’. And then you share what this message means in a creative way that the people will understand.”
Elder Uchtdorf counseled the missionaries to avoid making choices that might cause regrets. Utilize the gift of repentance, find joy in forgiveness and seek each day to be worthy “of the great call the Lord has given you.”
Don’t focus on past mistakes — “but build on what you have learned.”
The Lord, he added, “will accept your sacrifices and He will bless you … and your families at home.”
The Apostle concluded with a blessing on the missionaries and their loved ones.
“Because of your dedicated service, your lives will be better,” he promised. “Chile will be better.”
Sister Uchtdorf told the missionaries she enjoyed shaking each of their hands “and looking into your smiling faces. I could feel the excitement in your spirits. You are wonderful.”
As a convert, Sister Uchtdorf said she will never forget the smiling faces of the two young missionaries who knocked on her door decades ago.
Just recently, she was greeted in Salt Lake City by a young man carrying a small child. The two began chatting and the young man candidly told her “he had not been a good missionary.”
When his mission ended, he did not feel good.
“I wish,” he said, “I could do it all over again.”
Sister Uchtdorf encouraged the young man to be a good husband and a good father and prepare to serve a senior mission later in life.
“I tell this to you in hopes that you will have no regrets,” she said. “Decide each day to do your best so you can have good memories. You will want to be able to look back on your mission years from now and want to share your mission experiences with your husbands and wives and your friends and family.”
Power, she added, can be found by utilizing the gift of the Holy Ghost that each missionary received when they were baptized.
“It is one of the greatest gifts we can receive from our Heavenly Father … It is an amazing tool that you have in your hands and in your heart.”
By learning to listen to the Holy Ghost, “you won’t need to make many mistakes in life,” she said.
Elder Benjamin De Hoyos, a General Authority Seventy who presides over the South America South Area, also shared brief comments Saturday, along with his wife, Sister Evelia De Hoyos.
Elder De Hoyos challenged the missionaries to follow Sister Uchtdorf’s example and share a smile with everyone they meet.
“You can stand in front of the mirror every day and practice your smile,” he said, drawing laughter from the missionaries.
The gospel offers missionaries a precious opportunity to share the gospel with everyone they meet, he added.
A convert, Sister De Hoyos spoke of how she was forever touched by the experience of Joseph Smith, who was “filled with the love of God” when he sought answers to his questions.
The way one shares his or her love for God, she added, is to share His gospel with others.