Elder Stevenson offers 4 ‘missionary pillars of gratitude’ during Thanksgiving devotional at Provo MTC

PROVO, Utah — Citing both the beautiful form and the important function of a column or pillar, Elder Gary E. Stevenson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles offered four missionary pillars of gratitude as he spoke during a Thanksgiving Day devotional at the Provo Missionary Training Center.

Joined by his wife, Sister Lesa Stevenson, in the Thursday, Nov. 25, morning devotional, Elder Stevenson highlighted the use of pillars worldwide and throughout time, including the 24 columns of the Church Administration Building on Temple Square. “The form is as beautiful as the function of the column,” he said.

With Thanksgiving in mind, he continued listing four missionary “pillars” of gratitude. “They are foundational and functional, especially for you as missionaries in the work that you’re doing as full-time representatives of Jesus Christ,” he said. 

Elder and Sister Stevenson highlighted the  four missionary pillars of gratitude — the missionary purpose, changed hearts, the Restoration and the companionship of the Holy Ghost, with passages from the scriptures and “Preach My Gospel.”

Sister Stevenson labeled those in the MTC audience as “Thanksgiving missionaries” — not only because of their holiday time at the training center but the opportunities to share with others a gospel message full of gratitude.

She expressed appreciation that she and her husband and a small group of their family and friends could spend the special day at the Provo MTC. “We are excited to share a Thanksgiving table with you,” she said. “We have shared it with many, many different people over the years and in many interesting places, and we’re very excited to be with you.”

The Stevensons joined the missionaries for a post-devotional holiday dinner in the MTC cafeteria, pausing for conversations and photos in the meal lines and at their table. They also participated in the afternoon service project, as the MTC missionaries packaged an estimated 385,000 breakfast kits for Hunger Fight, a Florida nonprofit organization.

Missionary purpose 

Elder Stevenson had the missionaries recite their purpose: “Invite others to come unto Christ by helping them receive the restored gospel through faith in Jesus Christ and His Atonement, repentance, baptism, receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost, and enduring to the end” (“Preach My Gospel,” p. 1).

He referred to the moment as “our Thanksgiving celebration” — to know and understand “the purpose we have as missionaries” and to focus on the action words of “invite” and “help others.”

Change of heart

Elder Gary E. Stevenson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, right and his wife, Sister Lesa Stevenson, smile as they participate in the Thanksgiving Day devotional at Provo Missionary Training Center on Thursday, Nov. 25, 2021, in Provo, Utah.
Elder Gary E. Stevenson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, right and his wife, Sister Lesa Stevenson, smile as they participate in the Thanksgiving Day devotional at Provo Missionary Training Center on Thursday, Nov. 25, 2021, in Provo, Utah. Credit: Shafkat Anowar, Deseret News

Sister Stevenson quoted Alma’s inquiries from the Book of Mormon: “Have ye received his image in your countenance? Have ye experienced this mighty change in your hearts?” (Alma 5:14).

She also read Alma 26:37: “Now my brethren, we see that God is mindful of every people, whatsoever land they may be in; yea, he numbereth his people, and his bowels of mercy are over all the earth. Now this is my joy, and my great thanksgiving; yea, and I will give thanks unto my God forever. Amen.”

She told of a young boy that missionaries had befriended and taught when Elder Stevenson and she were president and companion of the Japan Nagoya Mission. The boy’s parents became visual and spiritual examples of a change of heart and countenance as they themselves learned of and embraced the gospel.

“You can’t help but be around goodness and have a bit of that rub off,” Sister Stevenson said.

She told the missionaries: “I could see it in your countenances as we walked in today. I could see that light in you.”

Read more: Thanksgiving service at Provo MTC produces 385,000 meal kits via ‘controlled chaos’

The Restoration

Elder Stevenson underscored that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is blessed with the restored authority, doctrine and ordinances of Christ’s ancient church.

“The Restoration is our unique message — it is one of our great gifts,” he said.

He again cited “Preach My Gospel” and the missionaries’ need to teach the Restoration: “Whatsoever your initial approach, refer quickly and simply to the Restoration of the gospel, for this is our unique message to the world” (p. 163).

Underscoring the missionaries’ age and the relative age of key figures in the Church’s early years of the Restoration, Elder Stevenson noted that Joseph Smith, Emma Smith, Oliver Cowdery, David Whitmer and Book of Mormon publisher E.B. Grandin were all 22 to 24 years of age in April 1829.

“The Lord relied on these young 20-somethings — these are people your age,” he said. “He trusted them. And he will you. He trusts you and is relying on you” to be a part of the ongoing restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ.”

Companionship of the Holy Ghost

Elder Stevenson read a scripture verse and a “Preach My Gospel” statement on the importance of the constant companionship of the Holy Ghost.

“And the Spirit shall be given unto you by the prayer of faith, if ye receive not the Spirit ye shall not teach” (Doctrine and Covenants 42:14).

Elder Gary E. Stevenson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and his wife, Sister Lesa Stevenson, converse with the missionaries prior to Thanksgiving dinner in the Provo Missionary Training Center cafeteria following a morning devotional there on Thursday, Nov. 25, 2021, in Provo, Utah.
Elder Gary E. Stevenson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and his wife, Sister Lesa Stevenson, converse with the missionaries prior to Thanksgiving dinner in the Provo Missionary Training Center cafeteria following a morning devotional there on Thursday, Nov. 25, 2021, in Provo, Utah. Credit: Shafkat Anowar, Deseret News

“Pray specifically for the guidance and help of the Holy Ghost. Show that you value this blessing by being sensitive to and aware of spiritual promptings” (“Preach My Gospel,” p. 100).

He related a personal experience from several winters ago where he was cautiously negotiating a steep, icy road during an intense snowstorm. Following a strong prompting, he stopped his car — just as an out-of-control vehicle, narrowly missing a collision.

Elder Stevenson warned the missionaries about being attentive to the Spirit, sharing another “Preach My Gospel” statement: “Many voices in the world compete for your attention, and they can easily drown out spiritual impressions if you are not careful” (p. 102).

Sister Natalie Bale of Loveland, Colorado, training to serve in the Utah Salt Lake City South Mission, said she appreciated the message on the Restoration as a pillar of gratitude. “It reminded me that this Church is unique in that it is a renewal of Christ’s church — and that it is still continuing to be restored.”

Sister Leah Mata, of Harlingen, Texas, also bound for the Salt Lake City South mission, said she was taught by Elder Stevenson’s story about the icy roads. “I could definitely feel the Spirit teaching me how important it was to follow promptings — especially on the first one you receive. . . . It was absolutely incredible to see how God protects His servants and He wants to protect us, so we need to follow the Spirit.”

Elder Gary E. Stevenson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, left and and his wife, Sister Lesa Stevenson, participate in the service projects at Provo Missionary Training Center on Thanksgiving afternoon Thursday, Nov. 25, 2021, in Provo, Utah.
Elder Gary E. Stevenson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, left and and his wife, Sister Lesa Stevenson, participate in the service projects at Provo Missionary Training Center on Thanksgiving afternoon Thursday, Nov. 25, 2021, in Provo, Utah. Credit: Shafkat Anowar, Deseret News

Elder Stevenson said it was heartwarming and inspiring to see the enthusiasm of the missionaries throughout the day — from the morning devotional, the Thanksgiving dinner, a pre-service devotional message shared by Sister Sharon Eubank, president of Latter-day Saint Charities and first counselor in the general Relief Society presidency, and the afternoon service project.

“This is a manifestation of their love of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Here they are, on Thanksgiving, their families are all gathered together someplace, and some of these missionaries have been here for just two days. And yet they all seem to be completely immersed, forgetting themselves and remembering the Lord.”

The Apostle added: “This is really a Christ-centered day and a wonderful day of Thanksgiving. We can offer our thanksgiving from the bottom of our hearts for the missionaries who are here at the MTC and representing missionaries around the world.”

Missionaries are reflected on a piano as they prepare to exit the Thanksgiving Day devotional at Provo Missionary Training Center on Thursday, Nov. 25, 2021 in Provo.
Missionaries are reflected on a piano as they prepare to exit the Thanksgiving Day devotional at Provo Missionary Training Center on Thursday, Nov. 25, 2021 in Provo. Credit: Shafkat Anowar, Deseret News