“Highlights of Seminar for New Mission Presidents,” Ensign, Aug. 1979, 78–79
Fifty-eight new mission presidents and their wives recently spent three days June 20–22 in sessions and workshops presented by members of the First Presidency, the Quorum of the Twelve, and the First Quorum of the Seventy.
The first two days of classes were held at the Missionary Training Center (MTC) in Provo, Utah, where 2,426 new missionaries are also preparing to take the gospel to the world. Meetings on the third day were held in the Church Office Building in Salt Lake City and culminated in a special testimony meeting held in the assembly room in the Salt Lake Temple.
The two days of workshops given at the MTC included presentations on “Motivating Missionaries,” by Elder Mark E. Petersen; “Distinctive Features of a True Disciple,” by Elder Gordon B. Hinckley; “The First Weeks in the Mission Field,” by Elder Thomas S. Monson; “Missionary Conduct,” by Elder Boyd K. Packer; “Power of Your Personal Influence,” by Elder L. Tom Perry; and “Elements of Effective Teaching,” by Elder David B. Haight.
In other workshops, led by members of the Presidency of the First Quorum of the Seventy and by other members of the quorum, the new mission leaders received additional training. Of special interest was a workshop by Elder Carlos E. Asay, executive director of the Missionary Department, assisted by several General Authorities’ wives, on “Role of the Mission President’s Wife.”
The third day of the seminar opened with an address on the life of Christ by Elder Bruce R. McConkie. The message of salvation, he said, rests upon the resurrection of Jesus Christ. “The resurrection proves that Jesus was the Son of God. If Jesus rose from the dead, he is the Son of God. If he is the Son of God, his gospel is true. If his gospel is true, men must believe and obey. They must accept these truths, be baptized, and live the law, or they will be damned.”
If the resurrection is so central to a belief in the Savior, then, “how do you prove the resurrection?” he asked. “How do you prove spiritual truth?
“You prove it by testimony,” he answered. “You teach the doctrines of salvation so people will be in an intelligent position to weigh the merit and proof of your testimony. And after we have taught in plainness to the best of our ability, then we bear witness, and we say, ‘I know it, the Holy Spirit of God has revealed to me, to us, to the Latter-day Saints, that this work is true!’ And after we have taught and born testimony, every individual who is in tune, who has prepared himself spiritually to receive the truth, will feel in his heart that what we have said is true. And it won’t be a matter of argument, it won’t be a matter of debate, it will not be an intellectual conversion. It will be a revelation from the Holy Spirit of God.”
President N. Eldon Tanner, first counselor in the First Presidency, spoke on Joseph Smith and the restoration. “Every member of the Church,” he said, “and especially every set-apart missionary, should have a testimony of the divine calling of Joseph Smith, and indeed of the need for and the mission of all the prophets. Joseph Smith, like his predecessors and like his successors down to the present, Spencer W. Kimball today, was foreordained to come forth at a given time for a particular mission.”
Besides bearing witness of the mission of Joseph Smith, every missionary needs to have a personal testimony of what the restoration of the gospel means to the world—what unique truths it provides to the world.
“The contributions of Joseph Smith as revealed through the restored gospel,” said President Tanner, “are of such magnitude and so remarkable as to challenge every one of us to invite the world to partake of the glorious message and to live according to the teachings as espoused in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.”
The final address of the Friday morning session was by President Spencer W. Kimball. He began by quoting his concluding remarks in April 1979 general conference:
“‘It seems clear to me, indeed, this impression weighs upon me—that the Church is at a point in its growth and maturity when we are at last ready to move forward in a major way. … We have paused on some plateaus long enough. … Think, brothers and sisters, what would happen if each active family were to bring another family or individual into the Church before next April conference: We would be joined by several hundred thousand new members of the Church. … I believe the Lord’s church is on the verge of an upsurge in spirituality.’ Let’s move forward and upward.” (Ensign, May 1979, p. 82.)
President Kimball then continued: “I now say those same things a second time.
“We’ve been doing in our missionary efforts a good work,” he said, “but it is not good enough. It is time to stir ourselves, and then we can stir others.”
Cautioning the mission leaders against getting bogged down in programs and paper, he said, “We hope that statistics will not overpower us. We do want many, many converts, but we want them well converted. We want worthy baptisms—people who have been carefully taught.
“Our concerns are with souls, not with statistics,” he said. “We desire growth only because it will mean that we are reaching out farther to our Father’s children.”
President Kimball spoke of the importance of constantly fellowshipping new members and of involving them immediately in missionary work “as friends and finders.”
“At the same time we involve the new members,” he continued, “we must begin as never before to energize our members of longer standing to get them involved in the missionary program.
“I feel impressed to say, brothers and sisters, that the Lord has placed in a very natural way within our circles of friends many thousands who we intend to bring into the Church. This is one of the reasons I am so confident that the Church can now grow in a major way.”
He also spoke of the need to revitalize the Melchizedek Priesthood quorums to be ready to receive, assist, watch over, and train the many new members that will be joining the Church.
He encouraged the study of other languages: “Is there any reason why all our sons and daughters couldn’t begin to take the language of their choice—Spanish, French, German, Cantonese, Mandarin—or whatever it would be?”
Reminding the leaders of our charge to take the gospel to the uttermost parts of the world, President Kimball again spoke of moving into countries not yet open for missionary work. “We are tremendously sincere in this effort.”
According to President Kimball, every member of the Church can do much to further this effort: “I hope you’ll pray, brothers and sisters, pray as you’ve never prayed before. Pray with a great earnestness. Pray for the leaders of the nations. Pray for all of our leaders. Pray for our leaders who are filling especially high, responsible positions in all the countries of the world.
“The Lord will hear our prayers, I am positive of that. And he will in his own way and in his own time cause that we may have success.”