The 2020 Mission Leadership Seminar truly served as a global affair, as leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints provided virtual training to new mission leaders scattered worldwide through online streaming broadcasts June 26-27.
With the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic restricting travel and large public gatherings, the 135 couples of new mission presidents and companions preparing to serve in 79 countries participated from home through the mission presidents’ online portal.
Unlike past large-scale seminars held at the Provo Missionary Training Center, this year’s proceedings were broadcast from the Conference Center Theater in Salt Lake City and other Church headquarters locations.
President Russell M. Nelson opened the two-day seminar Friday morning, June 26, speaking on the divine tutoring of the Prophet Joseph Smith and explaining his intent in selecting the topic.
“I have done so for two reasons,” President Nelson said. “First, to reassure you and bear my personal witness that this work is truly divine. It is the work of the Lord Jesus Christ, and Joseph Smith is His prophet of this last dispensation.
“Secondly, it is to declare that you, too, can and will be guided by heaven in your work as you seek direction, guidance and inspiration from on high.”
Other speakers, from the First Presidency, the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and the Missionary Executive Council, included:
- President Dallin H. Oaks, first counselor in the First Presidency, “Counsel for Mission Leaders” — “Encourage [missionaries] to ponder the fact that their disruptions and inconveniences in the current pandemic are not unique in the work of the Lord or in the lives of their ancestors or fellow members. Teach them to remember the heritage of faith of those who have gone before.”
- President Henry B. Eyring, second counselor in the First Presidency, “You and Your Missionaries Are Never Alone in the Work” — “I have seen with the eyes of faith not only that I did not work alone but also that the Lord and other servants were generous beyond measure to let me share in the joy for my small efforts.”
- President M. Russell Ballard, acting president of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, “For Behold the Field Is White Already to Harvest” — “One obligation that flows from the Restoration of the gospel is our responsibility to share it with others. In a sermon given in April 1837, the Prophet Joseph Smith stated, ‘After all that has been said, the greatest and most important duty is to preach the Gospel.’ ”
- Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, “The Two Great Commandments” — “With a plea, indeed a commandment, that should pierce us today as much as it did them, the living Son of God summarized His entire ministry and their ultimate, ongoing responsibility in one concept, one grand, eternal principle. ‘A new commandment I give unto you,’ He said quietly, ‘[t]hat ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another’ ” (John 13:34–35).
- Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, “Making Disciples” — “This admonition to make disciples by finding, teaching, baptizing and confirming them is called the Great Commission. To be commissioned by the Savior means He has formally chosen disciples to carry on the work of the Father.”
- Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, “You Are Not Alone!” — “You have God’s words, His Holy Scriptures and the unspeakable gift of the Holy Ghost, and you have a channel to speak directly to your and our Heavenly Father in the name of His Son Jesus Christ in prayer. The Father and the Son direct this work through the Holy Ghost — you are never alone.”
- Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, “Repentance and Remission of Sins” — “Described most simply, repentance is turning away from evil and turning to God. As we exercise faith in and on the Lord, we turn toward, come unto and depend upon Him. Thus repentance is trusting in and relying upon the Redeemer to do for us what we cannot do for ourselves.”
- Elder Quentin L. Cook of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, “You Shall Build Up My Church” — “We are in a new Internet-connected, social-media world. You and your missionaries may be among the ‘spiritual pathfinders’ to truly proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ in this Internet-connected world. We have the obligation in this dispensation to prepare the world for the Second Coming of Jesus Christ.”
- Elder D. Todd Christofferson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, “The Holy Ghost Beareth Record” — ”“Our teachings are prophecies about future blessings for all who have faith in Christ, repent, are baptized, receive the Holy Ghost and endure to the end. These prophecies regarding salvation and exaltation, attested by the Holy Spirit and rooted in Christ, are foundational to faith and conversion.”
- Elder Neil L. Andersen of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, “That They May Be One, as We Are” — “I know that each of you desire to ‘be one’ not only with the missionaries but also with priesthood leaders and the members in the wards and branches. Yet I warn you: It does not come easily. It requires love, persistence, extraordinary effort, patience and the blessings of heaven.”
- Elder Gerrit W. Gong of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, “Becoming Perfect in Christ” — “For you and your missionaries to be happy and feel successful, it is essential to understand the crucial differences between the perfectionism of the world and perfection as defined by the Lord.”
- President Bonnie H. Cordon, Young Women general president and member of the Missionary Executive Council, “Firm in the Faith” — “For the rest of your life, the names and faces of members and [your] missionaries will be engraved on your heart. Your ability to love, and the sheer number of people you love will grow exponentially.”
The shortened virtual seminar — from the traditional three days to just two — condensed the number of speakers participating in the 2020 sessions.
Other members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles who didn’t give addresses during the seminar instead conducted afternoon breakout sessions with smaller virtual groups of new mission presidents and companions. Also assisting with the breakout sessions were members of the Presidency of the Seventy and the Missionary Executive Council.
For both days, the breakout groups discussed the topic “What Did I Learn and What Will I Do?” based on impressions from listening to the morning addresses given by Church leaders.
“We counseled together on takeaways that would assist us in our service,” said Sister Darice Dudfield, who joins her husband, President Robert J. Dudfield, in leading the new Ethiopia Addis Ababa Mission. “We were able to also receive insights from those leading the breakout sessions and receive additional thoughts, impressions and counsel from them and from each other.
“This demonstrated a valuable pattern of learning together that we can implement in the mission field as we work with the missionaries.”
Representative of the new mission leadership couples joining from their homes scattered across 17 countries worldwide, the Dudfields participated in the seminar in Greensborough, Australia, from midnight to 7 a.m. both days — and with a fire going in the fireplace since the local winter temperatures overnight hovered near freezing.
“When we were first informed that we were not traveling to Salt Lake City for the seminar, we were a little disappointed but totally understood the reasons why,” President Dudfield said.
“Those feelings quickly left as we prepared for and participated in the seminar. We sat at the feet of Prophets and Apostles and were taught from on high. The instruction was inspired and divine, the warmth and love from our leaders were real, and the seminar was an incredibly uplifting experience for us both.”
President Micah D. Rolfe and Sister Marie Rolfe of the New Jersey Morristown Mission, joining from their home in Surprise, Arizona, agreed with the Dudfields on how the virtual seminar underscored the increasingly effective use of technology by missionaries during the pandemic’s restrictions and isolations.
“I learned that the Spirit truly can be transmitted from the words of a teacher through the internet to penetrate the heart of the listener,” President Rolfe said. “I felt the Lord speaking to my heart in the same way and with the same strength and power as I have many times through person-to-person contact.
“I know this experience was important for me to learn as we move forward with more missionary work and teaching being done through technology.”
Added Sister Rolfe: “I was really able to feel the love our Prophet, Apostles and General Authorities have for our missionaries, and I hope to bring that love to our missionaries in the New Jersey Morristown Mission. The seminar strengthened my testimony that this is God’s work and He is guiding it.”
New mission presidents and companions, who normally serve for three years, will begin their service on or near July 1 or when travel restrictions allow relocation to an assigned country.
As of July 2020, the Church will have 406 missions worldwide, including eight new missions — the Brazil Recife South, Cameroon Yaounde, Ecuador Guayaquil East, Ethiopia Addis Ababa, Mozambique Beira, Tanzania Dar es Salaam, Texas Austin and Texas Dallas East missions.