With the Book of Mormon prophet Moroni inviting all to “come unto Christ, and be perfected in him,” Elder Gerrit W. Gong helped new mission presidents and companions participating in the 2020 Mission Leadership Seminar to understand what perfection truly is.
“For you and your missionaries to be happy and feel successful,” said the member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, “it is essential to understand the crucial differences between the perfectionism of the world and perfection as defined by the Lord.”
Speaking Saturday, June 27, at the virtual leadership training conference, Elder Gong offered five principles to help leaders and missionaries establish a mission culture of high love and high expectations as both groups grow in faith and accomplish the work.
Becoming ‘perfected in Christ’
With God all things are possible, Elder Gong explained, adding the invitation to be perfected in Christ would not be extended if it were unattainable.
He repeated President Russell M. Nelson’s recent teaching that the Greek word “teleios” — usually translated as “perfect” or “perfected” in English — does not mean flawless but rather complete.
Added Elder Gong: “Part of becoming perfected in Christ is to become complete.”
The Apostle reviewed Moroni’s teaching of how one can “come unto Christ, and be perfected in him” (Moroni 10:32-33):
- “Deny yourselves of all ungodliness.” Repentance is changing desires, behavior, one’s very being — changes that bring one closer to Him.
- “Love God with all your might, mind and strength.” As missionaries love and serve with their whole souls, they work with faith.
- Be “sanctified in Christ by the grace of God, through the shedding of the blood of Christ, which is in the covenant of the Father.” Citing “Preach My Gospel,” Elder Gong said: “As your understanding of the Savior’s sacrifice, also known as the Atonement of Jesus Christ, grows, your desire to share the gospel will increase.”
The Lord’s doctrine and invitation to come unto Christ and be perfected in Him is quite different from the perfectionism of the world, he said.
Understanding the Savior’s atoning love frees one from self-imposed, incorrect and unrealistic expectations of perfection and allows the surrender of fears of imperfection — of making mistakes, of inadequacy, of failure by comparison, and of not doing enough to merit God’s love.
“Our Savior’s perfect love casteth out fear,” added Elder Gong, quoting 1 John 4:18.
The new “Missionary Standards for Disciples of Jesus Christ” handbook states that “Jesus Christ is the example of perfect faithfulness. He did only the Father’s will. Follow Him by doing your best to keep all His commandments and live the missionary standards. Being faithful and obedient also means that you try to learn, grow and improve; correct mistakes quickly; and take personal responsibility for your actions.”
Added Elder Gong: “Presidents and sisters, help your missionaries ‘come unto Christ, and be perfected in him.’ Help them discover His atoning love is ‘sufficient for [them], that by his grace [they] may be perfect in Christ’ ” (Moroni 10:32).
5 principles to help missionaries
He then offered five principles for mission leaders to help missionaries increase faith, capacity and effectiveness without fostering feelings of guilt or inadequacy.
1. Be yourself — a disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ.
“The Lord called you because you’re you! Be and become your best gospel self,” he said, adding that new mission leaders are not called to be their predecessors nor to fit some model of imagined perfection. “You naturally bring to the mission your faith, skills, characteristics and strengths.”
2. Be an inspired answer to missionary prayers.
Through diligent prayer, inspiration and careful listening to each missionary, a leader can help be an inspired answer to righteous missionary prayers, Elder Gong said.
3. Through “Preach My Gospel,” teach your missionaries the doctrine of Christ and give them frequent opportunities to practice and teach so the gospel of Jesus Christ distills deep into their hearts and minds — into their souls.
“Learning and teaching the principles of each chapter in ‘Preach My Gospel’ will deepen missionary faith and doctrinal understanding and thereby their capacity, confidence and commitment to teach with the Spirit,” he said, adding that the manual’s pattern of teaching, evaluating and re-teaching is a powerful way to learn doctrine and to practice applying it in various missionary settings.
4. Establish a mission culture of high love and high expectations through a vision with appropriate goals and effective plans to inspire, lift and deepen your missionaries’ faith, capacity and effectiveness in ways that motivate all missionaries in achievable ways.
High expectations without high love and insufficient doctrinal instruction and missionary skill practice will leave missionaries frustrated, uncertain or tuned out, Elder Gong said. Conversely, low expectations, even with high love, will not motivate them.
He encouraged using the mission leadership council, sister leaders and district leaders to help missionaries to set appropriate goals and prepare workable plans so each missionary can grow spiritually while accomplishing her or her purpose.
5. Give your missionaries stories to tell their children and grandchildren.
Elder Gong asked mission leaders to help each missionary be personally involved in the lifelong conversion of at least one individual — and hopefully many more. Or to help those on the path to the temple.
Missionaries should understand that in almost every case, many people, including members, contribute to the conversion process — often involving multiple locations, multiple members and missionaries, and sometimes multiple years.
“Help each missionary, one by one, in this regard so each can tell his or her children and grandchildren how they saw the Lord’s hand in the lives of the people they met — the people they taught and the people they saw baptized, confirmed, endowed or sealed.”
Elder Gong used video clips, statements and anecdotes from a number of former and current mission presidents and companions and missionaries to help illustrate the five principles taught.
Invitations and hopes
Elder Gong concluded by inviting the new mission leaders to “come unto Christ and be perfected in Him,” adding that “a miracle of missionary service is that as we seek to bring others unto Him, we ourselves come unto Him and open divine opportunities to become perfected in him.”
He offered his hopes while repeating the five principles.
“May you become your best gospel self, a true disciple of Jesus Christ, and may you likewise help each of your missionaries become a true lifelong disciple of Christ.
“May you learn by love and diligent effort to be an inspired answer to missionary prayers.
“May you teach diligently the doctrines of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ and bring that understanding deep into the hearts and minds of your missionaries through doctrinal application and meaningful teaching practice.
“May you establish a mission culture of high love and high expectations that increases the faith and capacity of your missionaries and inspires each one, by their faith, gifts and talents, to thrust “in his [and her] sickle with [their] might” (Doctrine and Covenants 4:4).
“May each of your missionaries return home with stories of faith that their children and grandchildren will ask them again and again, ‘Grandpa, Grandma, tell me about the time you served as a missionary.’ ”