President Henry B. Eyring offered a simple yet sustaining message to new mission presidents, their companions and the missionaries they serve: You are never alone in the Lord’s work.
Speaking June 26 at the 2020 Mission Leadership Seminar, the second counselor in the First Presidency noted that the scores of couples participating in the annual gathering come from a variety of experiences and circumstances. Their new callings can be overwhelming. They have eternal consequences.
“You may have times when you wonder if the call you have is beyond you,” said President Eyring with trademark tenderness. “I have had such moments, and I have learned how important it is to banish them quickly. If you let them linger, they grow and then your power to serve diminishes. That will be as much a danger for your missionaries as it is for you and for me.”
Whenever facing bouts of self-doubt while laboring “in a call from the Lord that appeared far beyond me,” President Eyring said he has been lifted by an impression in his mind and heart.
“It is this simple fact: You and your missionaries are never alone in the Lord’s work.”
Teaching from Jacob 5, President Eyring said the allegory of the olive tree is a reminder of the joy to be found laboring alongside the Lord of the vineyard. Together, they enjoy the blessed fruit of their labor.
“I have felt that joy often, and so have you,” he said. “And 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.”
The certain assurance that one is qualified for a sacred calling comes from the Lord, he added. “It is not what we have done that matters. It is how our hearts have been changed through our faithful obedience. And only God knows that.”
Only the Lord is a sure source of this assurance: Well done, thou good and faithful servant.
“The accolade we most need is to know that by serving Him faithfully, we have become more like Him.
“That understanding could shape the praise you give your missionaries. You will praise them more for what they are becoming than for what they have done. You will help them recognize their character growth. You will tell them how what they have done has allowed you to discern in them what God has helped them to become.”
“Preach My Gospel” teaches earnest missionaries that when they do their best — even amid disappointments — they can feel certain that the Lord is pleased and working through them.
“For me, the most certain evidence of approval that the Lord trusts me is His sending the Spirit to testify, guide and help me in the harvest. I find that comes only after praying, searching the scriptures and the words of living prophets, obeying exactly, loving others, humbly listening for the Spirit and laboring even when doing so is long and painful.”
President Eyring taught that in the Lord’s service, the Holy Ghost comes only after a servant has given all he or she can offer. For a mission president or his companion, “That may mean at the end of a long day you make one more phone call to a missionary who needs you. It is the Holy Ghost who both cleanses us and conveys the Lord’s approval.”
The Church leader identified five characteristics of “a fully qualified servant of the Lord”: temperance, patience, brotherly kindness, charity and humility. Servants do not labor alone, and they must help others. And even if, like Moroni, a servant labors in isolation, the hearts of others can be touched.
“Moroni surely must have been lonely, but in his heart, he was not alone,” he said. “Read his message and you will feel his patience, his charity even for his mortal enemies, and his love for those he would never meet in this life. He was living alone, but he was serving others he could not see with mortal eyes. So he did not labor without desiring the best for others in his heart. He was teaching as God’s servants always do.”
Mission presidents and their companions, he added, are teachers who are obligated to help their missionaries grow in their own capacity to teach others. “They must grow ever better in creating faith in God as they teach. That will require teaching by the Spirit in a way that the Spirit can touch hearts and bring a powerful commitment to repent.”
Missionaries must do more than convince doubters. They must soften hearts enough to allow the Holy Ghost to teach and testify to them.
President Eyring then spoke of the importance of missionaries feeling “the true love of God” for the people they teach.
“It takes faith in the Savior that He loves every student enough to have paid the price of his or her sins.
“With some of the people your missionaries will teach, that will take great faith. It will require the labor of prayer and scripture study to get that faith and to feel that love. It takes more than a feeling of sympathy. It may require asking the student to make commitments to do hard things. Abinadi loved King Noah when he warned him to repent, finally knowing that it would cost him his life.”
A missionary who teaches with love has the greatest likelihood of engendering love for the Master, President Eyring said.
“Teaching is just one of the ways we labor with and for others in our missionary service. But all of those labors must spring from the love of God to be effective.”
Nurturing an individual with God’s love sets in motion a chain reaction that will bless others, he added.
“That is what you will do,” said President Eyring. “You will touch a few. They will touch others. And in the years ahead, you will find that the fruits of your labors were multiplied a hundredfold by those with whom you served.
“And most of all, you will come to see that it was the loving service of Heavenly Father, of the Savior of the world and of the Holy Ghost that allowed you to be blessed with peace here and joy in the celestial kingdom, never to feel alone.”