“Live and Teach by the Spirit, New Mission Leaders Told,” Ensign, Sept. 1982, 76–77
Being guided by the Spirit and teaching with the Spirit were recurring themes during the final session of the seminar for new mission presidents, Friday, June 25.
Sessions on the three previous days, June 22–24, had been held at the Missionary Training Center in Provo, Utah. During that time, fifty-two new mission presidents and their wives had been instructed by ten members of the Quorum of the Twelve. They had also received counsel from all seven members of the Presidency of the First Quorum of the Seventy and from other General Authorities. They had become acquainted with the facilities and training at the Missionary Training Center and had met with MTC missionaries assigned to their missions and with families of missionaries currently serving.
Assembled on the stand for the Friday meeting in the Church Office Building auditorium in Salt Lake City were members of the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve. Other General Authorities were also present.
President Spencer W. Kimball visited briefly with the new mission leaders saying, “I love you and those whose lives you represent by your missionary and individual work.” He encouraged them to “lay wide open the gospel plan for the people of the world to accept.”
President Gordon B. Hinckley, who conducted the Friday session, told the mission leaders that converts must understand the gospel clearly in order to live it, and that conversion comes only through the Spirit. “There must be more than the logic of the lessons,” he said. “There must be the convincing power of the Holy Spirit giving expression in the words of the teacher and bringing certitude to the heart of him or her who is taught.” He stressed the importance of baptizing only those who are truly converted: “Train and motivate your missionaries to the point of view that it is converts that they are out to win, rather than numbers of baptisms for the sake of a good statistic.”
He noted the excellent work the Public Communications Department is doing to improve the image of the Church. “But,” he said, “there is nothing that so enhances the image of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as the lives and examples of faithful members who live the gospel and walk in the testimony of Jesus.”
President Hinckley also encouraged the mission presidents to follow the program of the Church and avoid tangents. However, he added, “There is left much latitude under which the promptings of the Holy Spirit may be received and acted upon. … The work of the Lord must never become stereotyped or reach a point where missionaries are merely engaged in role-playing. Testimony is an individual and personal thing. It comes as a gift from God. It finds expression in various ways.”
President Ezra Taft Benson said that “the greatest cause in all the world [is] saving the souls of our Father’s children.” He discussed four proven keys for missionary success: strive to obtain the Spirit, acquire humility, love the people, and work diligently.
Obtaining the Spirit, he said, involves the process of putting our own lives in order, praying mightily, searching the scriptures daily, and doing good works. Being humble, he continued, is recognizing “our dependence upon a higher power, a constant need for the Lord’s support in His work.” Loving the people is essential: “Your hearts must go out to them in the pure love of the gospel, in a desire to lift them, to build them up, to point them to a higher, finer life and eventually, to exaltation in the celestial kingdom of God.” And, finally, work is “one of the greatest secrets. … If a missionary works he will get the Spirit; if he gets the Spirit, he will teach by the Spirit; and if he teaches by the Spirit, he will touch the hearts of the people; and he will be happy.”
As missionaries follow this formula, he promised, “you are going to be successful—there is no doubt about it. The Lord has sent you out into the field at the time of harvest.”
Elder Boyd K. Packer also spoke during the Friday session. He explained that spiritual knowledge is gained in a unique way, through “delicate, refined spiritual communications … not seen with our eyes, nor heard with our ears. And even though it is described as a voice, it is a voice that one feels, more than one hears.” For this reason, we find it difficult or impossible to explain to others in words alone our spiritual knowledge. “We can, however, with words, show another how to prepare for the reception of the Spirit. The Spirit itself will help. … Then when they have a spiritual communication, they say within themselves, ‘This is it! This is what is meant by those words. …’ Thereafter, if they are carefully chosen, words are adequate for teaching about spiritual things.”
Elder Packer cautioned against talking lightly of spiritual experiences or trying to force spiritual things. “Do not be impatient to gain great spiritual knowledge,” he said. “Let it grow, help it grow, but do not force it or you will open the way to be misled.”
Learning about the Spirit is one of the greatest rewards of a mission, he said. “The choicest pearl, the one of great price, is to learn at an early age how one is guided by the Spirit of the Lord, a supernal gift. Indeed, it is a guide and a protection.”
Following the seminar, the new mission presidents traveled to their assignments. The general date for transfer of presidency from outgoing presidents to new presidents was July 1.