“Leadership Meetings Focus on Missionary Work, Activation, and Strengthening Members,” Ensign, May 1985, 96–98
Leadership meetings for all regional representatives, mission presidents, and stake presidents from throughout the world were among the highlights of the recently completed 155th Annual General Conference of the Church.
In addition to the two-day (April 6–7) conference sessions for members of the Church, three other significant gatherings occurred before and after conference—a Mission Presidents’ Conference—held on Wednesday and Thursday, April 3–4, prior to general conference, and on Monday, April 8, following general conference—a Regional Representatives’ Seminar held on Friday, April 5, and a Friday evening leadership meeting for all regional representatives, mission presidents, and stake presidents.
Themes of the sessions focused on missionary work and activating and strengthening members.
Attending the Mission Presidents’ Conference were the mission presidents of the Church’s 180 proselyting missions. Also in attendance were the mission presidents’ wives and other invited guests. The gathering of mission presidents at general conference was the first such gathering since 1961.
Speakers at the Wednesday opening session held in the Assembly Hall on Temple Square were President Gordon B. Hinckley, Second Counselor in the First Presidency; President Ezra Taft Benson, President of the Quorum of the Twelve; Elder Boyd K. Packer of the Quorum of the Twelve; Elder M. Russell Ballard, Executive Director of the Church’s Missionary Department; and Bishop J. Richard Clarke, a member at that time of the Presiding Bishopric.
“The Church is moving forward in a marvelous way,” said President Hinckley to the mission presidents. “Our people, generally through the goodness of their lives, have brought lustre to the name of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints,” he said as he encouraged mission presidents in their work.
President Ezra Taft Benson reviewed four areas of missionary emphasis as taught by President Spencer W. Kimball: the sacredness of bringing souls unto our Father in Heaven; the necessity of increasing our own personal faith to influence missionary work in a dramatic way; the importance of missionaries prayerfully setting personal missionary goals; and the urgency of members of the Church to be actively and productively engaged in member-missionary work.
Elder Boyd K. Packer focused his discussion on the theme of the Mission Presidents’ Conference: “He that receiveth the word by the Spirit of truth receiveth it as it is preached by the Spirit of truth.” (D&C 50:21.) Elder Packer instructed mission presidents to re-emphasize gospel principles in their activities.
Elder M. Russell Ballard noted that one purpose of the conference was to help mission presidents “develop mature, capable, responsive missionaries who will teach by the Spirit” as they teach the gospel to investigators throughout the world.
Bishop J. Richard Clarke spoke about the Book of Mormon, saying, “The Book of Mormon has been the means of converting more people to the gospel than all other instruments combined since the Restoration. Our mandate is to declare the authenticity of the Book of Mormon, validated by the power of the Spirit.”
On Thursday, April 4, the mission presidents and their companions journeyed to Provo to the Missionary Training Center for instruction and training on presenting the gospel to investigators.
Opening the Friday, April 5, Regional Representatives’ Seminar was President Gordon B. Hinckley. In his address he noted that “we now have 1,525 stakes of Zion across the world where many languages are spoken. We soon will have Area Presidencies in places throughout the world. There is not an area of the Church that does not have a presidency of three General Authorities (either as an Area Presidency or as the Presidency of the International Mission), members of the First Quorum of the Seventy, who are accountable for most of the activities in their respective areas. I am confident that it is an inspired and great step forward that we have taken in these last few months. I am confident that the frequent presence of these good men in your midst gives you great reassurance. These Brethren are in effect tying the whole body of the Church together,” said President Hinckley.
In discussing the need for more young men as missionaries, President Hinckley said, “The young man who goes into the world preaching the gospel of peace loses himself and saves himself. Missionary work is one of the great miracles of our time. A transformation comes into the lives of boys. Under the leadership of good mission presidents, they subject themselves to the discipline of the mission field, and that in itself becomes a remarkable blessing. They establish habits of work. They discover the values of life that are most important. They develop in their hearts a fervent testimony that God lives and that Jesus is the Christ. They develop a new and wonderful sense of the meaning of the priesthood. The future of the Church will be so much the stronger by reason of the missionary service of our young men because of the tremendous strength with which they will return to carry out their activities in life, including service in the Church. A mission is not an expense. It is a great investment.”
Elder Boyd K. Packer, vice-chairman of the Church’s Missionary Executive Council, said, “At first the word of the gospel passed [in the latter-days] from friend to friend and from family to family. Copies of the Book of Mormon had a way of getting from one person to another. This is the way most of the early families heard the gospel. The Book of Mormon has great converting power.” Elder Packer encouraged renewed efforts in using and placing the Book of Mormon throughout the world.
Elder David B. Haight of the Quorum of the Twelve discussed principles of activating members of the Church. “Successful activation of others involves the recognition of need and of our becoming personally involved. It requires efforts beyond concern for one’s own comfort,” he said. To illustrate the successful efforts of others in activating members of the Church, Elder Haight invited President Charles T. Graff of the Federal Way Washington Stake to report on the activities of his stake in activating 322 brethren and 1,182 other members of their immediate families.
Elder James E. Faust of the Quorum of the Twelve stressed the need to coordinate member-missionary work. “Missionary work begins with each of us at home,” he said. “It ought to be motivated more by fresh faith and conviction than obligation. It involves quiet living. Missionary work is a natural manifestation of the pure love of Christ,” he said.
Elder Russell M. Nelson of the Quorum of the Twelve focused his counsel on how to strengthen members of the Church, encouraging leaders to water the roots of friendship with their members, to motivate them to have personal experiences with gospel principles, and to help them gain an understanding of gospel truths that will sustain them in their Church activity.
Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve spoke on how to present the message of the Restoration. “We feel a renewed sense of urgency about our missionary responsibility to carry the gospel to all the world,” he said. “We are determined that these meetings will move each of us—and through us the entire membership of the Church—to higher levels of performance in our sacred duty to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ in all the world,” he said.
Area Executive Council Meetings with regional representatives and mission presidents were held in the afternoon.
Speakers at the Friday evening leadership meeting, held in the Tabernacle to accommodate all stake presidents from throughout the Church, stressed similar themes as those treated in the morning session of the Regional Representatives’ Seminar. Speakers were President Gordon B. Hinckley and Elders Boyd K. Packer, David B. Haight, James E. Faust, and Russell M. Nelson of the Quorum of the Twelve.
In his remarks at the conclusion of the meeting, President Hinckley said, “As a people we have problems, yes. We’re not doing all that we ought to be doing, that’s true. Yet I want to say to you that this is the greatest success story on the face of the earth—the story of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. There is no other story in all the world quite like it. You leaders gathered from more than ninety nations of the world, speaking numerous languages, all testify to the great power and strength of the work of God.”
Last year, said President Hinckley, more than 192,000 convert baptisms were performed, “the equivalent of sixty-four new stakes of Zion in one year. It is a success story. Think of the success of a boy from your ward who is called by the authority of the priesthood and leaves home with the prayers of his father, mother, brothers, and sisters and goes into the world. Soon he writes to his family that this is the first time ‘I’ve really come to know what it means to be alive with the Spirit of the Lord.’ That is success—the greatest success story in the world. I never get over the miracle of it. I thank the Lord for it.”
On Monday, April 8, following general conference, the mission presidents again met for summary counsel, review, and the sharing of testimonies.