Elder Andersen at Mission Leadership Seminar: Unity and reassurance for life-changing assignments

Elder Neil L. Andersen opened his June 26 remarks at the 2020 Mission Leadership Seminar with a message of reassurance for newly called mission presidents and their companions as they begin life-changing assignments:

“I witness that [the Savior] knows you, that He loves you, and that He desires to bless you as you begin this important chapter of your life,” said the member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.

It was the Savior, said Elder Andersen, who, prior to His suffering in Gethsemane and His crucifixion, prayed for all “which shall believe on me through their word; That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me” (John 17:20-21).

The unity enjoyed by Elder Andersen and his fellow Brethren in the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles helps them discern the Lord’s will for His Church. As Joseph Smith taught: “By union of feeling we obtain power with God.”

Elder Neil L. Andersen and Sister Kathy Andersen underscore being as one as they speak on Friday, June 26, 2020, at the 2020 Mission Leadership Seminar.
Elder Neil L. Andersen and Sister Kathy Andersen underscore being as one as they speak on Friday, June 26, 2020, at the 2020 Mission Leadership Seminar. Credit: Intellectual Reserve, Inc.

Elder Andersen referenced the Savior’s words to His apostles found in John 17: 22: “And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one.”

One interpretation of that glory, said Elder Andersen, “is the authority and the keys He gave to them. Through the Lord’s ordained servants, His glory, His authority, has been given to you. Your ability to garner the trust and lift the work is not just in your past experience and training, it is in your setting apart, it is in your keys. Use that authority, those keys that have been given you to bless the members as they find their way in sharing the gospel.”

Such “union of feeling,” added Elder Andersen in his remarks to 135 couples from 17 nations gathering virtually, is utilized to obtain the power of God. “We seek this in our marriage, our family, with the members of the Church and with the missionaries.”

The Apostle invited his wife, Sister Kathy Andersen, to join him in a brief discussion about the importance of being one. She said it was the Savior who said: “If ye are not one ye are not mine.”

A great spiritual adventure awaits each new mission president and his companion.

“This is the holy work of our Savior and Redeemer, and you have the glorious privilege of preparing the way for His Second Coming,” said Sister Andersen. “He will send His miracles if we are ‘one.’ ” 

Elder Andersen then focused on fostering unity with missionaries, local priesthood leaders and Church members.

“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,” he said. “Yet I warn you: It does not come easily. It requires love, persistence, extraordinary effort, patience and the blessings of heaven. You will find your noble efforts pulled in many directions.”

Finding the correct unifying balance between the missionaries and the members is essential, he added. In one’s earnest effort to care for the missionaries, it remains important to work diligently with local members and leaders.

President Robert J. Dudfield, soon to preside over the Ethiopia Addis Ababa Mission, participate from their home in Greensborough, Australia, in the 2020 Mission Leadership Seminar.
President Robert J. Dudfield, soon to preside over the Ethiopia Addis Ababa Mission, participate from their home in Greensborough, Australia, in the 2020 Mission Leadership Seminar. Credit: Photo courtesy of President Robert J. Dudfield

“As you prayerfully, patiently and persistently dedicate your time and your heart to your relationship with priesthood leaders and members, I promise you the fruits of your work will multiply many times.”

The COVID-19 pandemic has made unity more important than ever. “But even when COVID-19 is gone, the cultural acceptability of knocking on a door or stopping someone on the street will continue to diminish in many places in the world,” he said. “The ‘oneness’ the Savior spoke about between you, priesthood leaders, missionaries and members is absolutely essential in obtaining the power to bring about the miracles you desire.”

Elder Andersen emphasized the “vital role” women leaders play in building relationships with local priesthood leaders, their wives and families. “You know how to do this better than anyone and you know how to encourage your husband. You are caring and compassionate, you see the unseen, and you can know how to bind up wounds and to show sincere love to others.”

Mission presidents and their companions, he added, can build strong relationships with Area Seventies and stake and district presidents by fostering the qualities of genuine love, time, trust, communication and delegation.

“Come to know and genuinely love those with whom you are serving. Know their names and their families. Know about their conversion to the Church and their profession. Eat with them, talk with them, be concerned about their lives — their hopes and dreams, their happiness and their sorrows.

“Love them. Value their judgment.”

Elder Andersen spoke of one mission president who emailed stake presidents about a week before every missionary transfer to inquire about special needs in their respective stakes. That wise mission president relied, of course, on prayer and revelation. But he also listened to the advice of stake presidents. Then, after transfers, he sent follow-up notes to stake presidents to update them on which missionaries were serving in each area and the steps he had taken in response to the stake presidents’ concerns.

A monitor shows a number of the 135 couples of new mission presidents and companions participating in the virtual 2020 Mission Leadership Seminar.
A monitor shows a number of the 135 couples of new mission presidents and companions participating in the virtual 2020 Mission Leadership Seminar. Credit: Intellectual Reserve, Inc.

“There is great power in a note from the mission president to a bishop thanking him for a kind act to the missionaries or to a ward mission leader or a Relief Society president,” he said. “And some of those who will be the kindest and most helpful in this work will be those who do not hold leadership callings. Technology today allows amazing advances in communicating with one another. Look for opportunities to express genuine gratitude.”

Elder Andersen also taught the unifying value in selecting reliable counselors and fully utilizing their capabilities in working with the members and missionaries.

And a mission president should never feel he has to solve every issue in the mission.

“This is why you have counselors, assistants and zone leaders,” he said. “Teach the missionaries that the first line of solving a problem is their personal prayers. Their district or zone leader can also assist. You are there when they need you, but your role is not to respond to every question.”

Remember to be patient with the missionaries, the members “and with yourself.”

“Not all will step forward with the same enthusiasm,” he said. “There will always be wards or branches that are more missionary-minded than others. There will be stake presidents to whom you relate quickly, and others who are less willing to engage. But you have been called, set apart and received a sacred commission. You have a power given to you.”

A mission president’s divinely given authority — his priesthood keys — can also foster unity.

“Through the Lord’s ordained servants, His glory, His authority, has been given to you,” concluded Elder Andersen. “Your ability to garner the trust and lift the work is not just in your past experience and training, it is in your setting apart, it is in your keys. Use that authority, those keys that have been given you to bless the members as they find their way in sharing the gospel.”