Elder Holland tells missionaries to teach by the Spirit — ‘astonish’ those who hear

ST. GEORGE, Utah — Looking over a group of missionaries gathered in a St. George meetinghouse on Saturday morning, Oct. 16, an emotional and compassionate Elder Jeffrey R. Holland testified of what his mission as a young man meant to him. 

“I want you to know that it has meant everything to me for nearly 60 years, and it’ll feel the same way in 660 years and beyond,” said Elder Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. 

“You are doing the most important thing in the universe — you are engaged in the salvation of a human soul. That is at the heart of the Atonement of Jesus Christ. It is the most important thing we can do in time and eternity.” 

As he addressed some 200 missionaries of the Utah St. George Mission, Elder Holland reminded them of the apostolic nature of their call as full-time representatives of the Savior Jesus Christ. 

The gospel of Jesus Christ is not a fairy tale, he declared. “It is God’s very truth. This is the work of Almighty God. … Don’t go home with any regrets. As coaches say to their athletes, leave it all on the field. In this case it is the mission field, and in this case a contest a lot more important than athletics. Give it all you have got and don’t look back.” 

Elder Holland was joined by Primary General President Camille N. Johnson and her husband, Brother Douglas R. Johnson; and Elder Vaiangina (Vai) Sikahema, General Authority Seventy, and his wife, Sister Keala Sikahema. Utah St. George Mission President George Kaluhiokalani and his wife, Sister Manao Kaluhiokalani, and Elder Michael Wilstead, Area Seventy, were also in attendance. 

Elder Holland and other Church leaders focused their remarks on teaching by the Spirit with power and authority and the importance of obedience as missionaries diligently serve with their heart, mind and strength. 

Missionaries of the Utah St. George Mission of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints listen as Elder Jeffrey R. Holland (not pictured) speaks in Diamond Valley, Utah on Saturday, Oct. 16, 2021.
Missionaries of the Utah St. George Mission of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints listen as Elder Jeffrey R. Holland (not pictured) speaks in Diamond Valley, Utah on Saturday, Oct. 16, 2021. Credit: Nick Adams, for the Deseret News

Power and authority 

Elder Holland cited the verse by which the title of “Preach My Gospel” came: “To preach my gospel by the Spirit, even the Comforter which was sent forth to teach the truth … and if it be by some other way it is not of God” (Doctrine and Covenants 50:14-18). 

By being obedient and having the companionship of the Spirit, “a missionary can teach with great power and authority,” Elder Holland said, using the example of Nephi and Lehi, who spoke unto the “great astonishment” of the Lamanites (Helaman 5:17-19). 

Elder Holland pointed out that the word “astonish” is derived from “tondre,” meaning “thunder.”

“You need more thunder,” he told the missionaries. “And it’s not by raising your voice. … This is the power and authority by which a missionary is entitled to teach with the Spirit in this Church.”

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President Johnson spoke of the role of the Book of Mormon helping missionaries teach by the Spirit. Whether the message of the gospel of Jesus Christ is delivered in person, via cassette tapes, social media or whatever the future holds, “I testify that the Book of Mormon combined with the Spirit is your most powerful resource in conversion,” she said, quoting “Preach My Gospel.” 

“Elders and sisters, will you commit to using the Book of Mormon and the Spirit as the fuel to propel whatever vehicle you are using to share the good news of the gospel?” President Johnson asked. 

Primary General President Camille N. Johnson speaks to missionaries of the Utah St. George Mission of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Diamond Valley, Utah, on Saturday, Oct. 16, 2021.
Primary General President Camille N. Johnson speaks to missionaries of the Utah St. George Mission of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Diamond Valley, Utah, on Saturday, Oct. 16, 2021. Credit: Nick Adams, for the Deseret News

“Please make the study and use of the Book of Mormon your priority. It is clear, pure evidence of the Savior Jesus Christ, and when you use the Book of Mormon, the Spirit will be present to teach and testify of its truthfulness,” she said.

Obedience

In speaking of the importance of obedience, Elder Holland told the missionaries: “You have pledged to do this the Lord’s way for the Lord’s Church, and for His good and glory. Please remember that when tempted to break a rule or give up altogether.”

Brother Johnson shared an oft-quoted phrase he and President Johnson used during their time as mission leaders in Arequipa, Peru: “Obedience in the morning, diligence in the afternoon, miracles in the evening.” He added his testimony that “if you will be obedient … [the Savior] will lead you to those who seek the truth.”

Elder Sikahema used Doctrine and Covenants 4:5 and 88:67 to emphasize what it means to have “an eye single” to God’s glory and work and be filled with light. “That body which is filled with light comprehendeth all things. … You begin to understand things that you would not have otherwise understood,” he explained. 

“Do not squander, elders and sisters, the 18 months or the two years that you’re on your mission. Take full advantage of every opportunity that you’re given here. … I bear witness that God lives, and He loves us,” Elder Sikahema said. 

Faith in Jesus Christ is a principle of action and power, Sister Sikahema taught. “We are living in a crazy time in this world, and it will require faith on our part to not just survive but to thrive.”

Elder Wilstead referenced what Elder Holland taught in October 2021 general conference about loving God and following Him completely — throughout one’s mission and throughout one’s life. 

“In the vernacular of today’s youth, we are to declare ourselves ‘all in.’ … Elders and sisters, I know you’re all in,” Elder Wilstead said. 

A senior missionary refers to her copy of the scriptures during a meeting of missionaries of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints' Utah St. George Mission in Diamond Valley, Utah, on Saturday, Oct. 16, 2021.
A senior missionary refers to her copy of the scriptures during a meeting of missionaries of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ Utah St. George Mission in Diamond Valley, Utah, on Saturday, Oct. 16, 2021. Credit: Nick Adams, for the Deseret News

Move forward in faith

The missionary meeting with Elder Holland took place on Sister Allie Hakes’ fourth day in the mission field.  

“For me one of the biggest takeaways was just how sacred this time as a missionary is,” said Sister Hakes, who is from Sacramento, California. “Like [Elder Holland] said, there can be a lot of challenges. And for me, being a Spanish-speaking sister, not knowing the language as well as a lot of people … I felt that it was very hard for me to just move on beyond all my doubts. …

“But I just felt so inspired today to just leave it all behind and move forward in faith,” she told the Church News. “I just feel like it’s OK that I’m not perfect right now, as long as I’m trying, because I’m engaged in the most important work right now. This is exactly where I need to be, and I felt that was confirmed to me today.”

Elder Tyler Coombs, from Puyallup, Washington, said after what he learned he feels inspired to make his scripture study more meaningful so he can have the Spirit and teach with power and authority. “Obedience brings consecration, brings the blessings of the Spirit and teaching power,” he said.

An experience Elder Sikahema shared about sharing the Book of Mormon with a 15-year-old he met at Mount Rushmore touched Elder Felipe Guevara, from Lima, Peru. “I need to have those experiences after my mission … no matter where I go, [I want to] always carry a Book of Mormon,” Elder Guevara said.