Elder Stevenson explains how the Lord defines missionary success

Mission leaders and missionaries come to the mission field with diverse professional and educational backgrounds, interests and hobbies. Success is measured in each of these areas with diverse and unique indicators, said Elder Gary E. Stevenson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. 

“Much of your combined life experience will assist your new role as mission leaders. Yet you now have a new identity, and a new purpose as full-time representatives of Jesus Christ and His restored Church,” Elder Stevenson told new mission presidents and their companions on Thursday, June 24. 

Speaking during the 2021 Seminar for New Mission Leaders, Elder Stevenson testified that mission success is given of the Lord and measured according to His principles.  

Focus on the calling, not your qualifications

Elder Stevenson used an example from the life of President Dallin H. Oaks, first counselor in the First Presidency, to help inspire mission leaders as they contemplate their new role as representatives of the Savior. 

President Oaks asked himself at the beginning of his lifelong service as an Apostle: “Throughout the remainder of your life, will you be a judge and lawyer who has been called to be an Apostle, or will you be an Apostle who used to be a lawyer and a judge?

“I determined that instead of trying to shape my calling to my credentials, I would try to shape myself to my calling,” President Oaks said. 

Elder Gary E. Stevenson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles shows a photo of him and his wife, Sister Lesa Stevenson, prior to their call as mission leaders in Japan, during the 2021 Seminar for New Mission Leaders on Thursday, June 24, 2021, broadcast from the Conference Center Theater in Salt Lake City, Utah.
Elder Gary E. Stevenson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles shows a photo of him and his wife, Sister Lesa Stevenson, prior to their call as mission leaders in Japan, during the 2021 Seminar for New Mission Leaders on Thursday, June 24, 2021, broadcast from the Conference Center Theater in Salt Lake City, Utah. Credit: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

As mission leaders embark on the journey of shaping themselves into their calling, Elder Stevenson identified numerous resources available to help them succeed, including the Holy Ghost, the area presidency, the Missionary Department, the General Handbook, the Mission President’s Handbook and “Preach My Gospel.”

Elder Stevenson invited mission leaders to attempt to identify promises from the Lord in the scriptures to those engaged in missionary labors. The Lord promised, “Go amongst thy brethren, the Lamanites, and bear with patience thine afflictions, and I will give you success” (Alma 26:27, emphasis added). 

“Ammon and his brethren wisely recognized that the success they enjoyed did not come from their own strength, but that it was the Lord who made them successful,” Elder Stevenson said. 

Measuring success

Quoting from “Preach My Gospel,” Elder Stevenson emphasized, “Your success as a missionary is measured primarily by your commitment to find, teach, baptize and confirm people and to help them become faithful members of the Church who enjoy the presence of the Holy Ghost.”  

Likely a departure from some traditional measurements of success mission leaders may have been accustomed to in their professional lives, these measures “are universal to all mission leaders and missionaries,” Elder Stevenson said. 

As “Preach My Gospel” further defines, one can know they have been a successful missionary when they:

  • Feel the Spirit.
  • Love people. 
  • Obey with exactness.
  • Receive and follow the Spirit.
  • Be Christlike.
  • Work effectively.
  • Strengthen the Church.
  • Invite people to repent.
  • Teach and serve others.
  • Do good.

“No matter a missionary’s language ability, perceived gospel scholarship, memorization ability, public speaking skills or physical appearance, achieving these are graspable for them. And when they do, the acceleration of the work reaches its potential,” Elder Stevenson said. 

“Your careful balance of these spiritually developed principles of success, with prayerful goals, standards of excellence and measurement of approved key indicators will bless your mission.”

Examples of successful missionaries

With video and audio clips, Elder Stevenson shared specific cause-and-effect examples of missionaries finding success. 

When Elder Hoopes and his companion in the Wisconsin Milwaukee Mission returned home at 8:55 p.m. one Sunday evening, they felt a desire to obey mission guidelines with exactness and work for five minutes more. The first person Elder Hoopes reached out to on social media wanted to know more about the gospel of Jesus Christ. After a brief video call about the Book of Mormon, they taught him a lesson in a member’s home a few days later. 

Elder Caicedo of the Ecuador Quito North Mission described an experience in which he called his grandmother on preparation day and his cousin asked what Elder Caicedo was doing. The question led to teaching his family a lesson. Elder Caicedo saw the blessings of working effectively every day to bring souls to Christ — even on preparation day. 

President and Sister Bussey of the Spain Madrid Mission shared the success markers from “Preach My Gospel” they emphasize in every conference and interview. “Perfectionism and comparison are some of Satan’s tools most frequently used on our missionaries,” Sister Bussey said. “Helping them believe and embrace these principles brings relief and renewed energy for the work.”

In each of these examples — and others Elder Stevenson shared — the missionaries “were motivated from the inside out, rather than pressured from the outside in, or the top down, to accomplish what is outlined in their missionary ministry,” he said. 

Elder Gary E. Stevenson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles speaks during the 2021 Seminar for New Mission Leaders on Thursday, June 24, 2021, broadcast from the Conference Center Theater in Salt Lake City, Utah.
Elder Gary E. Stevenson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles speaks during the 2021 Seminar for New Mission Leaders on Thursday, June 24, 2021, broadcast from the Conference Center Theater in Salt Lake City, Utah. Credit: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

Again quoting from “Preach My Gospel,” Elder Stevenson said, “When you have done your very best, you may still experience disappointments, but you will not be disappointed in yourself. You can feel certain that the Lord is pleased when you feel the Spirit working through you.”

Elder Stevenson closed by recounting an experience he and his wife, Sister Lesa Stevenson, had while serving as mission leaders in the Japan Nagoya Mission. Sister Stevenson’s decision to act on a prompting to talk with one of their missionaries led to helping him receive medical care which turned out to be timely and essential. 

“Presidents and sisters, as you reset your expectations and measurements for success for you and for your missionaries, assuring that they align with the principles outlined in ‘Preach My Gospel,’ you will be blessed,” Elder Stevenson testified.

“You, too, can know that your success will be measured primarily by your commitment to fulfill your missionary purpose. You can testify with confidence, as I testify to you, of the Lord’s promise to His missionary servants, ‘I will give you success.’ And with a comforting assurance ‘you can feel the Lord is pleased when you feel the Spirit working through you.’”