PROVO, UTAH Drawing from the scriptures, teachings from past prophets, letters from missionaries and his experiences as president of the Canadian Mission, President Thomas S. Monson opened the 2014 Seminar for New Mission Presidents during a special sacrament meeting on Sunday morning, June 22.
In a large meeting room in the Provo Missionary Training Center, President Monson gave direct, yet tender, counsel to the 129 couples from 20 countries who will begin their mission assignments on July 1.
“You will be in the Lord’s service 24 hours a day, seven days a week, for the next three years and will be recipients of His direction and His blessings,” President Monson said.
He referred to the young men and young women entrusted to their care as a “precious commodity,” and shared with the leaders some ways to motivate the missionaries so they might be effective in their responsibilities and have the kinds of experiences that will affect them in a positive way throughout their lives. Of the importance of the first contact with the missionaries who will be sent to their missions, President Monson said, “Nothing takes the place of that warm hand clasp and heartfelt greeting from you as they arrive at the airport or the train station or by whatever means they may arrive.”
He encouraged the mission leaders to have one-on-one conversations to learn about the missionaries’ backgrounds, families and ambitions, and, in interviewing missionaries already serving, to take an approach similar to what President Spencer W. Kimball recommend to him. “Said he, ‘When I interview a missionary, I don’t say to him, “Are you doing this or that wrong? Do you have this problem or that problem?” Rather, I say, “Tell me what you most admire about your companion.” ’ President Kimball’s suggestion sets a positive tone for the interview.”
President Monson told the mission presidents that they will see the hand of the Lord as they prayerfully seek guidance concerning missionary transfers. He advised the mission presidents to always select their outstanding missionaries to introduce the new elders and new sisters to the field. He quoted modern scripture: “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” (Doctrine and Covenants 84:106).
President Monson spoke of preparation day. “I think a guide which will aid you in handling the motivation of missionaries on preparation day is to tell them this: ‘Do nothing on preparation day that would rob you of your spirituality.’ I might point out that we have no preparation evening. Every evening should be a proselyting evening.
“Next, I’d like to mention what I call the Monson Rule: An email every week from each missionary to his or her parents. I like to tell missionaries that it isn’t significant how much they write but that they be certain to write.” He spoke of missionary meetings, saying, “Let the meetings be such that they build and lift and inspire and provide opportunities for experiences to be shared which demonstrate success. Nothing succeeds quite like success.”
He instructed mission presidents to involve Church members in their efforts. “There is no substitute for a member-oriented proselyting program,” he said. “I believe it is the key to success. One of the greatest tools you have for increasing the effectiveness of your missionaries and their productivity is to ensure that a proper relationship is maintained with the bishops and stake presidents in the area where they proselyte.
“Next, one of your most effective tools for motivating missionaries will be to build mission spirit. You can instill within each missionary the conviction that he or she has been called to the greatest mission in all the earth.” President Monson spoke of the responsibility of mission presidents to make certain each new member of the Church is fellowshipped and made to feel welcome. He told of watching new converts in Italy being greeted, embraced and included by members at a district conference. “They were no more strangers nor foreigners; they were fellow citizens with the Saints, and of the household of God (see Ephesians 2:19). ... Involve the members in helping to rally around and welcome those who come to the waters of baptism in your mission.
“Now, beyond those who come to membership in the Church, you will find that your missionaries, themselves, will change and grow as they serve to the best of their ability, thus securing blessings for themselves and for future generations.” President Monson read a portion of the last email a missionary sent to this family before completing his two-year mission in Mongolia.
The missionary wrote of some “tangible” changes that had come as a result of his mission: a new language, experience with a foreign culture, increased knowledge of the scriptures and a greater capacity to express doctrines of the gospel. Less apparent and measurable, but at least as important, wrote the missionary, were changes of fortified faith and purified purpose, of relationships with deity and with his fellow man and changes that “turned a distracted, disoriented teenager into a committed disciple of Christ, filled more fully with charity and an increased interest in service to others. I am now ready to stand proudly with Paul and to ‘give every man that asketh a reason of the hope that is in me.’ ”
President Monson said, “This message from a missionary to his family represents the transformation which can take place in each of the young men and young women who will come to you as he or she works diligently and fulfills the responsibilities of a missionary. Yours is the opportunity to assist each one in doing so.”