Elder Quentin L. Cook: How mission leaders can help missionaries both fulfill their purpose and be Christlike disciples

Elder Quentin L. Cook shares with new mission leaders that his mission president ‘lighted fires within us that are still burning bright today’

For missionaries, being disciples of Jesus Christ and fulfilling their purpose to preach His gospel “are always combined and interconnected,” Elder Quentin L. Cook of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles taught during the 2024 Seminar for New Mission Leaders on Thursday, June 20.

Speaking to newly called mission leaders who will preside over 148 of the Church’s 450 missions, Elder Cook said it is important for them to teach missionaries to both be Christlike disciples and pursue their missionary purpose.

“My assignment is to provide guidance to you leaders on helping your missionaries fulfill their missionary purpose, which is centered on the doctrine of Christ,” he told the group gathered at the Provo Missionary Training Center in Provo, Utah.

That missionary purpose has been clear since the beginning of the Restoration and is set forth in the Doctrine and Covenants, with the doctrine of Christ as set forth in the Book of Mormon, Elder Cook explained.

Elder Quentin L. Cook of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles teaches at the 2024 Seminar for New Mission Leaders at the Provo Missionary Training Center in Provo, Utah on Thursday, June 20, 2024. | Leslie Nilsson, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

Knowing and loving the Book of Mormon

Elder Cook shared the example of his mission president, Elder Marion D. Hanks, who “was a living example of having the doctrine of Christ written on his heart.”

While Elder Cook and President Jeffrey R. Holland, acting president of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, served together in the British Mission in the early 1960s, Elder Hanks instilled in his missionaries a love of the Book of Mormon.

One approach Elder Hanks used — which is now suggested on page 122 of “Preach My Gospel” — was to provide each missionary with a clean paperback copy of the Book of Mormon and invite them to read and mark the book twice during two or three transfer periods.

“On the first reading, I marked in red everything that pointed to or testified of Jesus Christ,” Elder Cook recalled. “During the second reading, I marked in green the doctrine and principles of the gospel. I found this assignment to be riveting, compelling and spiritually uplifting, particularly reading and marking references to the Savior.”

Elder Cook said Elder Hanks strengthened their faith in the Savior and “lighted fires within us that are still burning bright today.”

Elder Cook told new mission leaders, “Helping missionaries get their purpose deep inside of their hearts will last a lifetime. … Knowing and loving the Book of Mormon will help missionaries be disciples of Jesus Christ all their lives and will also help them fulfill their missionary purpose during their mission.”

‘Legendary missionaries’ from Church history

From the beginning of missionary work in this dispensation, said Elder Cook, “missionaries have adhered to their purpose.”

He noted there are countless individuals in Church history who understood why they were serving and were deeply devoted to the Lord’s cause. He highlighted a few of these “legendary missionaries.”

One is Heber C. Kimball, who was sent by Joseph Smith to serve a mission in the United Kingdom, followed by other members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.

“Their efforts proved to be critical to the growth of the restored Church,” said Elder Cook, adding that by 1850 there were more members of the Church in Great Britain than there were in all of the United States, including the Salt Lake Valley. “The emigration of these converts, statistically and numerically and to some degree in faithfulness, really saved the Church.”

Another example is Dan Jones, who is depicted in a painting that leads into Chapter 1 of “Preach My Gospel.” His missions fulfilled Joseph Smith’s last recorded prophecy, Elder Cook said. The Prophet Joseph told Dan while they were together in Carthage Jail: “You will yet see Wales and fulfill the mission appointed you before you die.”

Dan and his wife, Jane, were called to serve in Wales in 1845. “Dan used his talent for speaking to teach the gospel with great conviction,” Elder Cook said. “He was fluent in Welsh and English, and witnesses recorded that he spoke so captivatingly that he could hold his audience’s attention in either language for hours. He was exceptionally successful in helping numerous people enter the covenant path.”

Elder Quentin L. Cook of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles teaches at the 2024 Seminar for New Mission Leaders at the Provo Missionary Training Center in Provo, Utah, on Thursday, June 20, 2024. | Leslie Nilsson, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

A clear and consistent purpose

Elder Cook emphasized that the purpose for which missionaries serve has been consistent and clear from the beginning of the Restoration. “Accordingly, the doctrine of Christ and missionary purpose are everywhere in ‘Preach My Gospel,’” he said.

As he taught in the past, Elder Cook said the missionary purpose is not just one of the 88 keys on a piano that is occasionally played. Rather it is a major chord that needs to be played continuously every day to remain in harmony with the purpose as set forth in the doctrine of Christ.

“Each missionary is an instrument in the hands of God,” he added. “As they learn to tune their focus to the melody of the missionary purpose in all they do, their combined efforts become a powerful symphony — precisely timed and harmoniously orchestrated — in inviting and helping others to come unto Christ.”

Elder Cook shared a video of how some mission leaders are helping their missionaries understand their purpose. “When mission leaders are able to light the fire of the missionary purpose in the hearts and minds of the missionaries, it makes all the difference in the world,” he said.

The gathering of Israel

Elder Cook referenced President Russell M. Nelson’s April 2024 general conference talk on priesthood keys and the “pivotal events” of April 3, 1836, when these keys were restored to the Prophet Joseph Smith in the Kirtland Temple. President Nelson’s profound talk “is relevant to those of us in this seminar,” Elder Cook said.

Elder Cook described some of the blessings that come from the restoration of these priesthood keys:

  • Missionaries gather Israel from the four corners of the earth as they share the restored gospel of Jesus Christ.
  • As new members are baptized and confirmed, they receive the blessings promised through the Abrahamic covenant by living the gospel of Jesus Christ.
  • After baptism and confirmation, new members prepare for the temple, where they are endowed and experience the sealing covenants and ordinances.

“Without newly baptized converts,” Elder Cook said, “we would not have newly sealed families in the temple. The gathering of Israel is an essential precursor to the crowning blessings of the temple.”

Elder Quentin L. Cook of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles talks about missionary growth at the 2024 Seminar for New Mission Leaders at the Provo Missionary Training Center in Provo, Utah, on Thursday, June 20, 2024. | Leslie Nilsson, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

Update on missionary efforts worldwide

Since President Nelson’s invitation in April 2022 general conference for youth and young adults to serve missions, the Church has seen a remarkable response, Elder Cook said.

“The number of missionaries now serving exceeds 74,000,” he said. “This rise in the number of youth and young adults choosing to serve full-time missions has prompted the First Presidency decision to organize 36 new missions this year. …

“The fruit of this work is also increasing,” Elder Cook continued. “In 2023, convert baptisms reached their highest level in many years. In the first months of this year, they significantly increased again. Not only are total baptisms increasing, but the baptisms per missionary have also increased, especially in the U.S. and Canada.”

In an effort to unite members and missionaries, the Church introduced two new key indicators for conversion to missionaries in 2023 — lessons with a member participating and new members attending sacrament meeting.

“The impact of having missionaries set goals, make plans and then account for their work for these key indicators has been very positive,” Elder Cook said. “Since the introduction of these key indicators, we have witnessed a significant increase in the number of new members attending sacrament meeting.”

Elder Cook concluded: “We are blessed to live and serve in a precious time when the gathering of Israel is accelerating across the earth. I testify that you, marvelous mission leaders, have been called to help missionaries fulfill their missionary purpose as they take the gospel of Christ and the doctrine of Christ to the world.”

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