“New Mission Presidents Trained,” Ensign, Sept. 1998, 79–80
At the annual mission presidents seminar held 23–26 June at the Provo Missionary Training Center, 110 new mission presidents and their wives were instructed by members of the First Presidency, Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, Seventy, and Presiding Bishopric.
New converts “make a tremendous decision in coming into the Church,” remarked President Gordon B. Hinckley at the seminar’s final session on 26 June. “Retention will primarily be the work of the local wards and branches. However, you have a very, very important part in this. Your missionaries must be sure that conversion is real, that it is life-changing, that it is something that is to last forever and go on through generations. Nobody gains when there is baptism without retention. The missionary loses, and while the Church gains statistically, the membership suffers, really, and the enthusiasm of the convert turns to ashes.”
President Hinckley spoke of the love mission presidents and their wives develop for their missionaries. “Your first great responsibility is toward the missionaries,” he said. “I am sure you realize this. Their care and well-being will be in your hands. A missionary is a special commodity. With very, very few exceptions, they all have mothers who have loaned them to the Church for two years. Many of these mothers are working to keep them in the field. They are praying for you.”
President Thomas S. Monson, First Counselor in the First Presidency, addressed the new mission presidents on 24 June. “No mission will ever reach its highest potential until there is cooperation between the missionary force and the membership of the Church,” he said. “The Prophet Joseph said that we must work by mental exertion and not by physical force. The referral program is such an example which brings people into the kingdom of God through friendship and close fellowship when we work with the member organization. If we have all the mission presidents and the stake presidents and all of the district presidencies as partners in our missionary labors, we will see the mission take off.”
Speaking at the opening session of the seminar on 23 June, President James E. Faust, Second Counselor in the First Presidency, said: “May our testimonies ring forth with power and authority and conviction concerning the Prophet Joseph Smith—the greatest prophet who ever lived—and concerning the Book of Mormon which he brought forth.” Praising the mission presidents for their sacrifices, President Faust said: “The prayers that ascend to heaven in your behalf and in behalf of your missionaries literally number in the millions, and those prayers will be answered.”
Other General Authorities participating at various times in the seminar included President Boyd K. Packer, Acting President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles; Elders David B. Haight, Joseph B. Wirthlin, and Richard G. Scott of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles; all seven Presidents of the Seventy; several members of the First and Second Quorums of Seventy; and Bishop Richard C. Edgley of the Presiding Bishopric. The Church currently has about 58,000 missionaries serving in 331 missions in more than 150 countries.