“New Mission Presidents Instructed by Church Leaders,” Ensign, Sept. 1996, 78
The largest group of new mission presidents ever, along with their wives, were counseled to “be not faithless, but believing” (John 20:27) during a four-day seminar at the Missionary Training Center in Provo, Utah. President Gordon B. Hinckley, who had returned the day before from Israel, told the newly called leaders about his trip and said, “I would hope that as mission presidents, if you did nothing else during the time you’re in the field, you would strive to create within the lives, the hearts, the souls of your missionaries, a love for Jesus the Christ.”
The group of mission presidents, who come from 17 different countries and will serve in 47 countries, also heard from President Thomas S. Monson, First Counselor in the First Presidency; President James E. Faust, Second Counselor in the First Presidency; members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and Quorums of the Seventy; and staff members of the Church Missionary Department.
In encouraging the new leaders to create a love for the Savior in their missionaries’ hearts, President Hinckley observed that such a love can come from reading the Bible and the Book of Mormon and by pondering and practicing what one reads.
He counseled the mission presidents and their wives to believe that they were called by revelation, to believe in the message they are sent to teach, to believe in their missionaries, to believe in the power of prayer, to believe in their power to bless, to believe in the Savior whom they are called to represent, and to believe in God, their eternal Father.
After his address, which was the concluding one of the seminar, President Hinckley was surprised when the group sang “Happy Birthday” in recognition of his 86th birthday, which was Sunday, 23 June.
In his address opening the 19–23 June seminar, President Monson instructed the new mission leaders on five M’s of missionary work.
The message. “What a divine message you and your missionaries have to proclaim,” he said. “It’s the message that’s all-important, but we must convey it in a way which exemplifies the spirit of the message itself.”
The missionary. President Monson observed that many families have prepared young men and young women to be missionaries, and these missionaries have now put aside their daily interests and activities, have left jobs, friends, and family behind to serve the Lord. “That’s no small thing, particularly in this day and age,” he declared. “It’s a miracle, a true miracle, to see the missionary force of the kingdom of God.”
The mission. President Monson emphasized that calls are issued to missionaries to serve in the particular fields of labor where the Lord wants them to serve. He also talked of the importance of missionaries gaining a love and appreciation for the missions to which they are assigned.
The member. “The member is the key to the maximization of a mission’s success,” said President Monson. “There are many ways to contact people. There are many ways to teach investigators. The best way in the world is to involve the members.”
The mission president. President Monson told those assembled that the mission presidents set the spiritual tone of their missions and that they, along with their wives, serve as models for the missionaries.
President Faust focused on the principles of conversion during his 21 June address. “Who should be baptized?” he asked, and then observed that while the answer might seem easy, it is not that simple. “It’s a great responsibility to bring someone into this Church … so that through baptism they may become a new person through repentance,” he said. He noted that some missionaries are so hungry for baptisms that they may urge people to be baptized before the people understand what they are baptized for. President Faust then talked about two “time-tested” principles of conversion: the powerful bearing of testimony and being guided by the whisperings of the Holy Ghost.
Speaking of the first principle, President Faust recalled a meeting where the Prophet Joseph Smith spoke to a congregation. Parley P. Pratt recorded that the Prophet “arose like a lion about to roar; and being full of the Holy Ghost spoke in great power, bearing testimony” concerning his visions, the ministering of angels, and the translation of the Book of Mormon. The result of his testimony was that “multitudes were baptized in Philadelphia and in the regions around.”
Regarding the second principle, President Faust related the missionary experiences of Wilford Woodruff, who labored in England. “He had been laboring up among the Potteries, and the Spirit told him to move eight miles south and labor there. Logic would not have taken him there, because it was farm country. He contacted the United Brethren and had perhaps the greatest harvest ever in the history of the Church.”
Many missions in the Church do not have high numbers of baptisms, President Faust said. Despite the potential discouragement, the Church leader told those in attendance that “no one fails if they do their best.”