BELÉM, Brazil — The gospel message is perfect, but it doesn’t have to be delivered by full-time missionaries who are perfect, said Elder Dale G. Renlund of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles during a Brazil Belém Mission conference Saturday, Nov 19.
“You have a perfect message,” Elder Renlund said, listing key elements such as the Restoration of the gospel, modern-day revelation, a living God, Jesus as the Christ, priesthood keys, and covenants and ordinances. “Your message is perfect — everyone needs it.”
And then he cited several scriptures — Doctrine and Covenants 1:23, 2 Nephi 27:19-20, Ether 12:23-26 and Mormon 8:12 — that describe the traits of the messengers of the gospel: weak, simple, unlearned, awkward and imperfect.
“That is you — that is who God has called to preach his perfect message, and it is sufficient for the meek,” said Elder Renlund, adding that all that is asked is that “we do our part and work over time to get better.”
The Apostle reminded the 108 full-time elders and sisters of the Belém mission that “you don’t convert, the Holy Ghost converts.”
Elder Renlund was accompanied by his wife, Sister Ruth Renlund; Elder Carlos A. Godoy of the Presidency of the Seventy and his wife, Sister Monica Godoy; and Elder Adilson de Paula Parrella, president of the Brazil Area, and his wife, Sister Elaine Parrella.
Sister Renlund and the Godoys shared messages and the Parrellas their testimonies.
Elder Renlund began his instruction saying he wanted to emphasize three points:
- “On behalf of the Lord and His Church, thank you,” he told the missionaries — for accepting their mission calls, having the faith to come and serve and for helping Heavenly Father’s children return to His presence. “Don’t forget that on this day, two Seventies and a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles expressed thanks for your sacrifice and your willingness to serve.”
- The attending missionaries were called by prophecy to serve in the Brazil Belém Mission. “You have a right and obligation to get that revelation for yourselves,” he told them several times.
- President Paulo R. Ribolla and Sister Patricia R. Ribolla, leaders of the Belém mission, were also called by prophecy, Elder Renlund said, briefly explaining the process used by the Quorum of the Twelve to review and confirm the calls of proposed new mission presidents and companions. “We have to know them, love them and trust them, and the question is, ‘Does the Lord know them, love them and trust them?’” before a member of the quorum is assigned to speak with candidates, followed by a member of the First Presidency issuing the call, he said. As missionaries realize such prophecy is involved, when they receive transfers, new companions and assignments from the mission leaders, they can ask, “What does the Lord want me to accomplish now?”
Said President Ribolla after the meeting: “I still can’t find the words for the feelings that I’m having right now, because Elder Renlund said everything that every missionary in this mission needs. He is a true Apostle of Jesus Christ, and I love him and love my Savior.”
And President Ribolla was feeling doubly blessed with the meeting. As a young full-time missionary, he served in the Brazil Belém Mission during the same time that the Godoys led the mission, from 1997 to 2000, and the current mission president got to have his missionaries listen to and learn from his former mission president.
“I still think it’s a dream — it was awesome, and it’s a feeling I cannot describe,” said President Ribolla of being in a mission meeting again with Elder Godoy. “The Spirit was so strong, and I felt like I was Elder Ribolla again and not President Ribolla any more.”
The Ribollas are not much older than the Godoys were 25 years ago when Elder Godoy was a 36-year-old mission president. Another shared experience between the two mission-leader families is both having brought children with them to serve.
Sister Renlund spoke of chapter 11 of “Preach My Gospel” — titled “How Do I Help People Make and Keep Commitments” — which she said is the integration of all missionary efforts.
Using the five fingers on her hand and inviting the missionaries to follow, she highlighted the process to help others make and keep commitments — teach, testify, invite, promise blessings and follow up.
She then went first to “invite,” saying: “This is how we call people unto repentance — we invite them to change. … If you haven’t extended an invitation when you teach, you haven’t called the person to repent. You made a social call, but you’ve not been a missionary.”
She told the missionaries to associate doctrine to invitations, which is to “teach” the doctrine prior to inviting and to “testify” the doctrine is of God.
She also underscored the need to promise blessings with invitations and to use methods to follow up on invitations, including involving members in the teaching, testifying, inviting and promising blessings.
Elder Godoy showed photos from their Belém service a quarter-century ago, beginning with a photo of the young Godoy family in front of the Provo Missionary Training Center in 1997. He then scrolled through missionary roster pages showing thumbnail photos and names of the 500 missionaries who served in the Belém mission during their time.
He paused to highlight President Ribolla as Elder Ribolla the missionary from 1999 to 2001.
Emphasizing the Belém mission is one of faith, obedience and miracles, he told the elders and sisters their mission service “is preparing you for your own lives” as spouses, parents, providers and leaders. He then showed a rotating collage of dozens of the Godoys’ returned missionaries in recent photos with their spouses and children. “These photos here get me emotional,” he said.
The next day’s dedication of the Belém Brazil Temple is the result of missionaries for decades teaching the importance of families, ordinances and covenants, Elder Godoy said. “We dreamt about temples, we sang about temples, and at conferences, we spoke about temples — and here we are.”
Sister Godoy invited one of the sister missionaries to come up front and put on Elder Godoy’s suit jacket, which was long and oversized on her. She used the moment as a visual object lesson of how we grow into our calls and service and fill out in reaching our own potential.
What missionaries learned
Elder Samuel Hood of Kaysville, Utah, said he learned from Elder Renlund’s message and interactions that coming prepared with questions of things one wants answered is important. “And I learned that through the Holy Ghost, even your questions that you don’t think you’ve asked will be answered by God,” he said.
Elder Seth Ellingson of Windsor, Colorado, said he learned missionaries have to put 100% of their trust in God — something he had known from Primary, Sunday School and Young Men. “But it hasn’t been until I got into the mission that we have to put every ounce of trust that we have in the Lord, and when we do that, He will fill in the space that we can’t fill.”
Sister Ana Monteiro, of Iguape in the state of São Paulo, Brazil, said she felt a confirmation of her testimony that God knows each individually “and He has me on Earth now to share this message as many times as possible and to endure to the end.”
Sister Raab Silva from the Brazilian state of Minas Gerais said, “It was an indescribable spirit that was there in the meeting.”
Elder Pedro H. Amorim of São Bernardo do Campo, Brazil, said he had felt that Heavenly Father knows him more than he knows himself. “And as I listened to Elder Renlund’s words, I could be sure that God is at the forefront of missionary work. God called me to be here, and now with a temple in Belém, we are confident that through the work of previous missionaries, our work has been made even more special now.”
Elder Guilherme S. Alves of São Paulo, Brazil, said: “Today my prayers have been answered — prayers that I had in the depths of my soul, prayers that really needed to be answered. And they were answered thanks to an Apostle, a prophet, seer and revelator in these last days.”