“First Presidency Trains Mission Presidents,” Ensign, Sept. 1999, 76
All three members of the First Presidency spoke during the annual Mission Presidents Seminar held in June at the Provo Missionary Training Center. Also participating in the weeklong seminar were several members each of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, the Presidency of the Seventy, the Seventy, and the Presiding Bishopric. Effective 1 July, the 131 new mission presidents and their wives began three-year callings in more than a third of the Church’s 333 worldwide missions.
“No other people in the history of the world have received the kind of mandate that we have received,” said President Hinckley during his concluding remarks to the new mission presidents. He reminded them of the mandate to carry the gospel throughout the earth and to do family history and temple work.
President Hinckley said: “I hope, my brothers and sisters, that you can infuse your missionaries with the spirit of capturing every great opportunity that comes their way. … They will have disappointments; you’ll have disappointments. Discouragement can become contagious. You must rise above it and lift those about you.”
Speaking to full-time missionaries on the same day, President Hinckley said: “Be grateful for your companions. I thank the Lord and will always be grateful for my companions in the mission field.” Of one companion with whom he spent 15 months, President Hinckley said: “What a wonderful young man he was. How I loved him, and I hope he loved me. We became fast and good and wonderful friends.”
Reflecting on his mission, he continued: “I see that it did so much for me, far greater than the time spent. … I am here today because of that mission, and I plead with you now to make the most of your missions.”
Speaking of the missionaries overseen by mission presidents, President Thomas S. Monson, First Counselor in the First Presidency, said, “Ours is the responsibility not only to direct their feet but also to effectively climb with them, rung by rung, the ladder to eternal life.” He counseled, “Help them to be successful, help them to meet people, help them to teach the gospel, help them to convert and to baptize and to fellowship, and you will see miracles before your very eyes.”
Encouraging mission presidents to wisely team up missionary companionships, President Monson quoted D&C 84:106: “And if any man among you be strong in the Spirit, let him take with him him that is weak, that he may be edified in all meekness, that he may become strong also.” He also emphasized the “wonderful, cooperative relationship” that should exist between missionaries and members. “Nothing will bring more joy nor increase success like that cooperative endeavor,” he said.
President Monson said that mission presidents “can help make the mission the foundation of a person’s life.” Speaking of investigators, he said, “Everybody asks the question posed by Job: ‘If a man die, shall he live again?’” (Job 14:14). President Monson said that as missionaries teach individuals about the plan of salvation and the eternal nature of families, they “are on sacred ground in the soul of that person.”
President James E. Faust, Second Counselor in the First Presidency, said: “Even when someone rejects the message, missionaries need to learn to have a positive attitude because the message is still true whether it is accepted or not. Now I know that tracting isn’t very efficient, but I think it is good for the soul of the missionaries.”
He continued: “Your missionaries should recognize that you are all witnesses of the Lord Jesus Christ and that there is nothing more powerful than your own personal witness. I believe we must be prepared for more converts coming into the Church than we have ever had before. Perhaps it may not happen in every country. But in the main, the harvest will increase. The Church is being brought out of the wilderness ‘clear as the moon, and fair as the sun, and terrible as an army with banners’” (D&C 5:14).
Speaking of the need for cooperation between members and missionaries, President Faust said: “Missionary work will never be what it might be without the help of the members. Stake presidents need to feel some responsibility and ownership of missionary work. The stake president is the one who has the presiding priesthood keys over both the members and nonmembers in his stake. The missionaries are his helpers.”