Elder Andersen shares three characteristics that can help in keeping commitments

Preach My Gospel’ chapter 11: ‘Through understanding, inspiration and kindness, our missionaries have the power to spiritually lead those they teach to sincerely make and keep commitments,’ Elder Neil L. Andersen says

PROVO, Utah — Both missionaries and those they teach can grow as they learn to make and keep commitments with others and with Heavenly Father. That was the message Elder Neil L. Andersen of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles shared at the 2023 Seminar for New Mission Leaders on Saturday, June 24, at the Provo Missionary Training Center in Provo, Utah.

On the third day of this year’s training, Elder Andersen encouraged new mission leaders to see the value of the sacred invitations that missionaries carry with them to those they teach. He expressed his hope that missionaries would follow the Spirit in any invitations they extend.

“We pray for inspiration and develop teaching plans that respond to the spiritual understanding and needs of those learning from us,” Elder Andersen said.

Teaching from Chapter 11 of the second edition of “Preach My Gospel,” he said three specific characteristics can help missionaries know how and when to invite those they are teaching.

“Through understanding, inspiration and kindness, our missionaries have the power to spiritually lead those they teach to sincerely make and keep commitments,” Elder Andersen said.

During the 2023 Seminar for New Mission Leaders on June 24, 2023, Elder Neil L. Andersen of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles taught about keeping commitments. | Cristy Powell, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

Missionaries around the world invite those they teach to commit to sincerely praying, study the scriptures, worship with other Church members, follow the commandments and be baptized, Elder Andersen taught. Those invitations need to be made through the inspiration of the Holy Ghost, not off of a checklist, he explained.

As a young missionary in France, Elder Andersen said he memorized lessons and invitations. But he said he also learned how to follow the inspiration he felt as he taught individuals who were in different life circumstances.

Commitments and repentance

Elder Andersen taught how making and keeping commitments is part of a process like “the sprouting seed, that with nourishment, will grow into the flourishing tree of eternal covenants.”

The commitments being made frequently involve repentance because they are a chance for individuals to change and become better, Elder Andersen said.

An example of this, he said, was taught by President Russell M. Nelson at general conference in April 2019 when he said, “When we choose to repent, we choose to become more like Jesus Christ.”

The effort required to keep commitments and become more like the Savior can seem daunting at times, but Elder Andersen taught that striving for this worthwhile goal is met with “His love and approval.”

On top of feeling more of God’s love, Elder Andersen also taught that those who keep their commitments receive spiritual power in their lives as well. Coercion by a missionary to someone he or she is teaching is not compatible with this principle, he said.

“A missionary would never want to try to compel or in any way manipulate someone while offering an invitation,” Elder Andersen said. “A righteous invitation lifts, instills hope and edifies the learner.”

Extending an invitation in the proper tone and doctrinally explained “helps us understand ‘why’ we do what we do,” he said.

During the 2023 Seminar for New Mission Leaders on June 24, 2023, Elder Neil L. Andersen of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles read a letter from the outgoing leaders of the Congo Brazzaville Mission. | Cristy Powell, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

The Apostle offered five principles as a foundation to help those being taught to make and keep commitments:

  1. Making and keeping commitments lead the honest in heart to making and keeping sacred covenants with God.
  2. Inviting someone to make a commitment is often an invitation to repent.
  3. Acting in faith to better follow Jesus Christ brings His love and the truth of His teachings.
  4. Spiritual power comes from exercising one’s own will and agency, no compulsion, no manipulation.
  5. The timing and tone of invitations are individually shaped and inspired.

Missionary invitations are a gift

Why such an emphasis on the understanding of commitments and invitations to make them? Elder Andersen said missionaries’ invitations are a type of gift that they should care for in anticipation of offering it to those they teach.

He offered an analogy of a missionary presenting a friend with an intricately carved, beautiful wood box, inside of which is a royal crown.  

“When should the missionary offer the gift to the new friend?” Elder Andersen asked. “The time needs to be right and the words carefully considered so the value and importance of the gift will be embraced in all its splendor.

“The invitation to enter the sacred covenant of baptism and receive the Holy Ghost is a missionary’s precious gift. If accepted and righteously received, this precious gift opens the door to the kingdom of God,” he said. “If embraced as the first ordinance on the covenant path, the future is glorious and far-reaching.”

Important questions

Before Elder Andersen began his prepared remarks, he spoke of three important questions, which he said he felt impressed to answer for the new mission leaders.

Why have we been called as mission leaders?

Elder Andersen said a sacred calling “of this magnitude, with the accompanying spiritual responsibility you will carry is tied, first of all, to who you are.” The calling follows the spiritual pattern recorded in Alma 13:3: “They ‘being called and prepared from the foundation of the world according to the foreknowledge of God, on account of their exceeding faith and good works; in the first place being left to choose good or evil; therefore they having chosen good, and exercising exceedingly great faith, are called with a holy calling.”

The mission leaders, he said, have also shown by their desires, choices and sacrifices that they are true disciples of the Lord, Jesus Christ. Whatever they are, “your sacrifices are acceptable to the Lord, and He has called you to His holy work,” said Elder Andersen.

Can I do this? Will my efforts be acceptable to the Lord?

The answer, he said, “is a resounding yes.”

“In the eyes of the world we are weak and simple,” said Elder Andersen. “Every one of us. But the Lord has promised: ‘And the voice of warning shall be unto all people, by the mouths of my disciples, whom I have chosen in these last days .... (And) the weak things of the world shall come forth and break down the mighty and strong ones, that man should not ... trust in the arm of flesh’ (Doctrine and Covenants 1:4, 19).”

Elder Andersen said “the Lord, through the marvelous gift of His enabling power of His atoning sacrifice, will expand your talents and lift your capabilities. The gift of revelation will bless you every day.”

Why did new mission leaders and others feel such love and emotion when Elder Jeffrey R. Holland connected, during his seminar address, four Apostles and former mission presidents with four of their former missionaries?

During his address at the seminar, Elder Holland expressed deep and emotional gratitude for the influence of his mission and his mission presidents. He then asked Elder Neil L. AndersenElder Ronald A. RasbandElder Gary E. Stevenson and Elder Ulisses Soares to contemplate their own influence as mission presidents. But before they could respond, Elder Holland had one of each of the leader’s former missionaries join him on the stage, demonstrating the influence of a mission president on the lives of his missionaries. The love and connection that takes place between mission leaders and missionaries was demonstrated without words.

During his address, Elder Andersen told the new mission leaders that as they serve, scores of missionaries “will open their hearts to you and to the Lord. You will teach them of Jesus Christ and His incomparable gifts. They will embrace these teachings and lead many to the Savior. The things they learn from you both as they watch you and listen to you will never leave them. ... They will love you. You will love them. That love will expand and grow as they see its effect on their lives and the lives of their families.”

He then shared the letter from his friends President Jean-Luc Louis Magre and Sister Beatrice Magre, who just completed missionary service in the Republic of the Congo Brazzaville Mission.

“This missionary service has changed our lives,” they wrote. “We are so thankful for the love we have felt, the patience we have gained, the doctrine we have learned, the growth of our testimonies, the spiritual promptings and holy guidance we have received, and for the great understanding of who we are and of what we can do.”

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