Citing a Doctrine and Covenants verse, Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles concluded the 2021 Seminar for New Mission Leaders emphasizing the “one thing” linking the First Presidency and the Twelve in Salt Lake City with the 109 couples of new mission presidents and companions watching the three-day livestream in their homes across the globe.
The Lord said in Doctrine and Covenants 6:32: “Verily, verily, I say unto you, as I said unto my disciples, where two or three are gathered together in my name, as touching one thing, behold, there will I be in the midst of them — even so am I in the midst of you.”
Added Elder Uchtdorf: “As you have gathered as a mission leadership couple in your homes or somewhere else for the past three days, the Lord’s promise has been fulfilled. The Lord has been among us.
“The ‘one thing’ has been to send you off to the four quarters of the world with our final pre-mission preparation counsel and direction by the Apostles of the Lord.”
His prayer, he added, was that the new leaders have felt the Savior’s loving presence in the past three days. “Remember, His promise is real for you as a mission leader couple. It is real for your entire mission as you pray together, study together, counsel together, work together and teach together.”
As he thanked seminar participants and those who helped arrange and present the three-day event or aided in all the extensive pre-mission preparations, Elder Uchtdorf also acknowledged the messages from each member of the First Presidency during the seminar and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles’ daily presence and participation.
He reminded them that besides being instructed by prophets, seers, revelators and other Church leaders, the participating new mission leaders had, above all, been instructed through the gift, promptings and teachings of the Holy Ghost.
Elder Uchtdorf, who is concluding his three-year assignment as chair of the Church’s Missionary Executive Council, encouraged the new leaders to reflect on the inspirations and impressions received during the seminar and their preparations since their calls earlier this year. He pointed them to both their notes and to the Missionary Portal, which will contain the messages delivered at the seminar.
“As you read and listen to the teachings from this seminar, the Holy Ghost will bring things you learned and felt back to your mind and heart,” he said. “The Holy Ghost will also reveal new insights and will stress how you can apply the principles in a way that will bless you and the missionaries who serve with you.”
He reminded the new leaders — as they prepared to begin their three-year assignments in the coming days — to always focus on Christ, His teachings and His gospel, which leads one to live after the manner of happiness. And he told them to direct the spotlight upon Jesus Christ and no one else, including themselves.
The Apostle highlighted a handful of learnings about missionaries, mission leaders and the work of salvation from the past 15 months of a COVID-19 pandemic, saying God was not surprised by the pandemic and provided the means and tools to navigate during challenging times.
“During the pandemic many people have felt alone, isolated, frustrated and concerned, but the Lord reminded us that His gospel does not change regardless of circumstances,” he said. “It has the answers to life’s questions, pandemic or not. And we learned that our mission purpose will also remain the same.”
He then listed the following learnings:
- Mission leaders who emphasize the missionary purpose and maintain structure to daily missionary activities see miracles.
- Using technology to have shorter and more frequent teaching and training sessions between mission leaders and missionaries lifts missions in remarkable ways.
- Technology tools, social media and microlearning can be used as important resources to reach more missionaries on a regular basis and reach more people looking to strengthen their relationships with God.
- Working with members to increase their presence on social media brings missionaries and members together in effective ways we have not seen before.
- A mission culture based in “Safeguards for Using Technology” helps protect missionaries against the “fiery darts of the adversary.”
- Mission leaders using an inspired, customized blend of proven pre-pandemic ways and proven technology approaches results in thriving missionary work.
“The Lord did not cause the pandemic,” Elder Uchtdorf said. “However, He has used it to move His work forward by providing us a ‘divine reset’ to help us think about what we have done in the past and what we can do better in the future.”
During His mortal ministry the Savior taught His ancient apostles when they had challenges with their work to cast the net to the other side; as they followed His instructions, He multiplied their successes.
Missionary work is not a choice between traditional or modern approaches; it includes both, Elder Uchtdorf said. “As fishers of men, we learned that it is wise to cast the net the Lord’s way, sometimes to the other side.”
The result is retaining and cultivating proven successful principles and ways of how missionary work has been done in traditional forms, he added. “We learned that moving back to old ways is not enough. We learned that we need to add more effective ways and thereby embrace and adapt to the Lord’s way. That we need to move ‘Back to the Future.’”