Tuesday, July 6, 2010

2010 Mission Presidents' Seminar: A Comprehensive Synopsis

We entered the MTC on June 23, 2010 for the New Mission Presidents' Seminar (Photograph taken in front of the Wilford Woodruff Administration Building at 9:00 am on June 23). Some 114 new presidents and their wives gathered in Provo for the five day training. They came from across the world, including Europe, Pacific Islands and Pacific Rim, North, Central, and South America. The Missionary Department announced changes in dress for sister missionaries, interview and zone conference schedules, and a new simplified teaching/training plan. It has been a wonderful experience!

My rationale for posting this is that I like to read in one place what transpired. As a service to others who want to  I am putting this all in one place for convenience of those interested.  I link back to the original to drive traffic back to the Deseret News. R. Scott Lloyd and Gerry Avant again covered the talks and activities for the Deseret News giving brief synopses.  This year four of the presiding leaders of the Church, which included the First Presidency and the President of the Twelve Apostles were included in the Saturday, 3 July Church News.  The Mission Presidents' Seminar ran from 24 June 2010-27 June 2010.

R. Scott Lloyd covered the opening day adddress of  President Henry B. Eyring on Thursday, 24 June 2010 who reassured new mission presidents of success:

Photo by R. Scott Lloyd
President Henry B. Eyring speaks to new mission presidents and their wives the morning of June 24.

For newly called mission presidents and their wives, President Henry B. Eyring has a simple message: "You are never alone in the Lord's work."

President Eyring, first counselor in the First Presidency, expressed that message June 24 at the annual Seminar for New Mission Presidents held at the Missionary Training Center.

"You will have times when you wonder if the call you have is beyond you," President Eyring said. "You may even wonder, 'Is this too much for me?'

Photo by R. Scott Lloyd
New mission presidents and their wives listen as President Henry B. Eyring speaks during the Annual Seminar for New Mission Presidents at the Provo, Utah, Missionary Training Center on June 24. President Eyring taught that these new leaders are never alone in the Lord's work.

"I have had such moments. And I have learned to banish them quickly. If you let them linger, they grow, and then your power to serve diminishes. That will be as much a danger for your missionaries as it is for you and for me."

He said the thought that one is never alone in the Lord's work has taken away his self-doubt as he labored in a call from the Lord to serve that has seemed to be beyond him.

Citing Jacob 5 in the Book of Mormon, the allegory of the tame and wild olive trees, President Eyring commented that the Lord of the vineyard labored with his servants. "If we could feel the reality of what it means to be called into the vineyard to labor with Him, He could replace our self-doubt with courage to go forward," President Eyring said.

He then shared a personal incident that occurred soon after he was called to serve in the Quorum of the Twelve. President James E. Faust, then of the First Presidency, told him in private that he had been watching him, and it appeared Elder Eyring was beginning to feel doubt that he was qualified for the call. Anticipating some reassurance, the new apostle was surprised when President Faust answered the expected question by pointing upward and saying, "Don't ask me. Ask Him."

"It has taken me years to see and feel what he was teaching me," President Eyring remarked. "He knew that the only source for the answer to my question was the Lord of the vineyard. ... Only the Lord knew in what way the Atonement and the Holy Ghost had changed and purified me."

President Eyring said he has learned how to seek and then to feel assurance that he is approved enough to go forward in confidence.

"Everyone needs that assurance," he observed. "Your missionaries will seek it from you. They are grateful when you praise them." Such recognition is pleasing, he acknowledged, but added, "Only God is a sure source of the accolade: 'Well done, thou good and faithful servant.' And the accolade we need is to know that by serving Him faithfully, we have become more like Him."

Such awareness could shape the praise the presidents give their missionaries, President Eyring suggested. "You will tend to praise them more for what they are becoming than for what they have done. You will help them recognize their growth in character. You will note how what they have done has helped you discern in them what God has helped them to become."

President Eyring identified what seemed to him a "disconnect" when he first studied the official missionary guide, Preach My Gospel. Filled with direct commands for action, the book nevertheless states: "Your success as a missionary is measured primarily by your commitment to find, teach, baptize and confirm people and to help them become faithful members of the Church who enjoy the presence of the Holy Ghost."
President Eyring admonished: "Avoid comparing yourself to other missionaries and measuring the outward results of your efforts against theirs. Remember that people have agency to choose whether to accept your message. Your responsibility is to teach clearly and powerfully so they can make a correct choice."

Missionaries and their leaders may be saddened at times when some do not accept their message, saddened because they love them and desire their salvation. "You should not, however, become discouraged," he said.

"Discouragement will weaken your faith. If you lower your expectations, your effectiveness will decrease, your desire will weaken and you will have greater difficulty following the Spirit."

President Eyring said he has come to know that the most certain evidence of the Lord's approval is that the Lord trusts him by sending the Spirit to testify, guide and help him in the harvest. "I find that comes only after prayer, searching the scriptures and the words of the living prophets, exact obedience, love of others, humbly listening to the Spirit and long and painful labor."
On Friday, 25 June 2010 R. Scott Lloyd covered President Dieter F. Uchtdorf's remarks about how Christlike attributes are essential for missionaries and their mission leader:

Photo by R. Scott Lloyd
President Dieter F. Uchtdorf asks for show of hands of mission presidents whom he himself interviewed for their callings.
President Dieter F. Uchtdorf focused on the Christlike attributes taught in Chapter 6 of the official missionary guide Preach My Gospel as he addressed the June 25 morning session of the 2010 Seminar for New Mission Presidents at the Missionary Training Center.

"By accepting your sacred callings, you are indeed showing 'the pure love of Christ' you have for all of God's children wherever they live, whatever culture they come from, whatever language they might speak," said President Uchtdorf, second counselor in the First Presidency, alluding to Moroni 7:47.

"The Savior Himself sets the standard and gives the priorities for the ministry of His disciples — back then and now," he said. "To follow the Savior is to learn of Him and His marvelous character. You and your missionaries are truly His representatives. By striving to become more Christlike, your missionaries will discover their true identity."

Photo by Gerry Avant
President Dieter F. Uchrtdorf, right, and Elder Dallin H. Oaks, left, and Sister Kristen Oaks visit with President Richard Holzapfel and his wife, Sister Jeni Holzapfel, during Seminar for New Mission Presidents. President Holzapfel is the new president of Alabama Birmingham Mission.
Acknowledging that attaining Christlike attributes is not easy, President Uchtdorf said, "Prayer or preaching alone will not do the job. Practicing what we preach, or walking the walk, is required. You are the trusted leaders of your missionaries. They will look to you and follow you. Lead them; go with them to find and teach. As you lead by example and follow the Savior's plan, the missionaries will do the same."

Called to teach repentance, missionaries need to apply the principle in their own lives, which will allow them to have the powers of heaven, President Uchtdorf said.

"The Christlike attribute of humility is very important for the missionaries," he said. "Humility is willingness to submit to the will of the Lord and to give the Lord the honor for what is accomplished."

Photo by R. Scott Lloyd
Congregation sings opening hymn June 25 at Seminar for New Mission Presidents at Provo, Utah, Missionary Training Center. 
He enjoined the new leaders to help their missionaries to be teachable, accept direction and correction and to pray for Christlike attributes, demonstrating willingness to improve.

"Help your missionaries identify for themselves, individually, which Christlike attributes they specifically need to develop in order to grow, gradually but steadily, into more powerful servants of Jesus Christ."

President Uchtdorf said that the fruits of the mission presidents' service will be seen not only in conversions but also in lives of families and individuals, in the strength of the Church where they serve "and, most important, in the lives of your precious missionaries."

"Therefore," he said, "occasionally ask yourself the question: Are the missionaries being prepared to be righteous fathers and mothers in Zion and to fulfill future leadership callings in the Church? It is obvious that the answer to this question has a lot to do with how your missionaries develop Christlike attributes."

President Uchtdorf said that developing such attributes can be a painful process. "Please don't hesitate to give direction," he said. "You are a light that shows them the way if they wander into darkness, and you are the watchman on the tower. Perceived tolerance for inappropriate behavior has led some missionaries astray where an early, clear signal would have avoided much pain and sorrow."

He said virtue is a Christlike attribute that originates in one's innermost thoughts and desires.

"Virtuous missionaries replace unworthy thoughts, that can lead to inappropriate actions, with righteous and uplifting thoughts," he said.

"Virtuous missionaries obey God's commandments, follow the mission rules and the counsel of their mission president," he added. "They pray for strength to resist temptation and they follow the promptings of the Spirit. They quickly repent of any sins or wrongdoings."

President Uchtdorf identified two Christlike attributes "that will lead you and your missionaries safely through unknown territories and carry you across deep and fearsome canyons. They are faith and hope."

He said faith in Jesus Christ leads to action, including repentance, obedience and dedicated service.
"Faith will refine and enhance the principle of work," he said, quoting the words one of his missionary grandsons wrote in an e-mail: "To bear fruit, my missionary service has to be hard work motivated by deep love for God and His children, not just hard labor without such a love."

President Uchtdorf said faith is like the muscles of the arm: "If we exercise them, they grow strong."
He said hope is directly connected to faith in Jesus Christ. "Hope is the abiding trust that the Lord will fulfill His promises to us. It is manifest in confidence, optimism, enthusiasm, and patient perseverance. It is believing and expecting that our prayers will be answered."

 On Saturday, 26 June 2010 Elder Boyd K. Packer, President of the Council of the Twelve Apostles reminded leaders that the Lord's work cannot be thwarted:

Photo by Scott Lloyd
Addressing the seminar for new mission presidents, President Boyd K. Packer urged the leaders to "be prayerful," and to "worry a little if you want, but only as a gesture."
President Boyd K. Packer of the Quorum of the Twelve counseled newly called mission presidents and their wives about the need for and nature of revelation.

Speaking June 26 at the 2010 Seminar for New Mission Presidents, President Packer said of revelation, "You are going to have a constancy of it if you will learn to detect when it is happening. It comes so delicately and silently that you may miss the first intimations of that sacred whispering that tells you what to do and tells you what not to do."

He told the missionary leaders they will have many experiences that typify what was reported in Alma 26:27. The chapter relates Ammon's words to his missionary companions, recalling that when they were depressed, the Lord comforted them, telling them to bear their afflictions with patience and go among the Lamanites and they would have success.

"When they were depressed they would simply pray, and the power of inspiration would come to them," President Packer commented.

"You will learn from your experiences, many of which will not be pleasant, that 'it must needs be that there is an opposition in all things,' as Lehi taught," he said.

"When you are looking at it practically, it could be enough to frighten you," he said, "but I think there could not be a confrontation that would give you any substantive fear. If it does, you push it aside."

To mission presidents' wives, President Packer said, "You have that tender heart and you have an insight, a spiritual insight superior to that of your husband. We do not like to admit that, but it is true."

He added, "The power that you bring and the steadiness that you bring will see not only you but also the missionaries and your husband through these very troubled times. You will see what those who have gone before have suffered so much and built for you."

He admonished, "You brethren take care of your wives, and you wives reassure your husbands. You have the steadiness and the power that is going to see you through."

President Packer counseled the couples not to worry about their families and things at home. "Be prayerful and worry a little, if you want, but only as a gesture," he quipped.

He said that when troubled times come in the areas to which the mission presidents are assigned, "you will stand in awe at the power of revelation that you carry with you. We know that you will be a seer insofar as your mission is concerned, but a lot of times you will be able to see more by looking backwards and understanding that that could not have happened unless there was a managing of events bringing it together to cause it so that the Lord's servants and the Lord's work would go forward."

President Packer cited Doctrine and Covenants 88:78, which promises the Lord's servants that His grace will attend them and they will be taught more perfectly.

"How are you taught?" he asked. "You feel it. If you can understand those delicate inspirations that come, you will have a comfort and a power that will cause it to be that you will not fear. Once in a while, a mission president fears more for one of his missionaries or one of the members than for himself. But this is the Lord's work, and it is incredible that as Latter-day Saints we are caught up in the thick of thin things and really are not quite sensitive when the Lord is speaking to us."

He gave this assurance: "The eternal purposes of the Lord will roll on, and they will not be thwarted, and you cannot be thwarted."
 From Left to Right: Brad Brower, Tammy Ballard Brower, Barbara Bowen Ballard, Elder M. Russell Ballard, Julie Greer, Len Greer

There were also other general authorities present including my former mission president M. Russell Ballard.  I believe all of the Twelve Apostles were present and many of the 1st Quorum of Seventy particularly the presidency.  Elder Ballard had two of his former Canada Toronto missionaries attending as newly called mission presidents, his son-in-law Bradford Brower (Canada Toronto West Mission) and Leonard Dare Greer (Washington Kennewick Mission).

On Sunday, 27 June 2010 Gerry Avant reported on President Thomas S. Monson's sacrament meeting talk that includes the mission presidents and their wives, many of the general authorities and all the missionaries currently at the MTC.

Photo by Gerry Avant, Church News
President Thomas S. Monson, right, and his counselors, President Henry B. Eyring, on his right, President Dieter F. Uchtdorf arrive for sacrament meeting during the annual Seminar for New Mission Presidents June 27. During the meeting, President Monson encouraged new mission presidents and their wives on how best to work with both missionaries and members of the Church in their assigned areas.
President Thomas S. Monson gave counsel, instruction, encouragement and assurance to new mission presidents and their wives as he addressed them in a sacrament meeting Sunday morning, June 27.
The service was held on the final day of this year's Seminar for New Mission Presidents, June 24-27, at the Missionary Training Center in Provo.

"I know that you are dedicated to the work of the Lord and to the spreading of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I also know that the missionaries who will serve under your direction will be loved and guided by you," President Monson told the new mission leaders.

Acknowledging the women who are serving with their husbands, President Monson said, "I am reminded of words from the Book of Ruth in the Bible: 'Whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge: thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God' (Ruth 1:16).

Photo by Gerry Avant
President Thomas S. Monson and his wife, Sister Frances J. Monson, and daughter, Ann M. Dibb, pause for photo after sacrament meeting.
Then President Monson added, "I pay tribute to you sisters."

He spoke of "that precious commodity" entrusted to the care of the mission leaders — the missionaries. He quoted Isaiah 52:7: "How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings, that publisheth peace; that bringeth good tidings of good, that publisheth salvation; that sayeth unto Zion, thy God reigneth!"

"The missionaries," said President Monson, "represent the flower of youth. They represent the hopes, the prayers, the dreams of their parents; they represent the element of sacrifice. If you as mission presidents can realize the importance of their missions in the lives of these young men and young women, and in the lives of your senior couples, then you will be in a better position to motivate them properly."

Many fathers and mothers have sacrificed so that their sons and daughters "might go forward as a servant of the Lord," he said. "The young men and women have been trained in their Church classes and in seminary. They are qualified by age and by virtue and by experience. They have been interviewed by the bishop and found worthy, interviewed by the stake president and found worthy, and set apart as a missionary in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints."

Further, he said, "The parents of our missionaries kneel in daily prayer and ask our Heavenly Father to bless that son or daughter in the mission field. And in that prayer they ask a blessing upon you, for you in effect become a mother and a father to their child. You become, as it were, the determiner of the destiny of that young man or that young woman. Someone said the power to lead is also the power to mislead, and the power to mislead is the power to destroy. Let there be positive leading, positive motivation, positive uplift on your part as you inspire missionaries."

President Monson gave instructions pertaining to motivating missionaries. He spoke of the importance of welcoming missionaries "to the greatest mission in all the world," and conducting personal interviews, reminding mission presidents that to "provide help — we love, not scold. 'Show how' is more important than 'tell how.'"

He assured mission presidents that they can receive inspiration in all things pertaining to their calling. As an example, he spoke of having felt the definite inspiration to move one young elder from the city of Belleville, Ontario, to Welland, Ontario, when he presided over the Canadian Mission from 1959-1962. It was only after he transferred the elder that he learned that the young man was fluent in Italian. In his new city, the missionary taught 10 Italian-speaking families whose English skills were limited.

"I was unaware that [the elder's] mother was Italian, and that she had taught her boy to speak in her native tongue. By listening to the Spirit and transferring him, he was able to carry the gospel to those Italian families in Welland."

Another area of motivation on which President Monson gave counsel was preparation day. He cautioned against missionaries becoming involved in activities that might lead to serious injury, which, in turn, could result in their being unable to perform their labors or even be released from their missions.

"It's a shame to teach a young man Portuguese, let's say, and have him wait week after week after week for that visa and then finally get down to Brazil and then get in a game of touch football, break a leg, then have to go home and lose all the Portuguese training, all of that motivation — all for a game of football," President Monson said. "There are other things missionaries might do on preparation day that could destroy and damage the Spirit. We need to be very careful about what activities are allowed on that day.

"I think a guide that will give you what you need 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.' If you keep that in mind, every elder and every sister will be able to make his or her own decisions. I might point out that we have no preparation evening. Preparation day comes to a close at 5 o'clock. Every evening should be a proselyting evening."

President Monson gave mission leaders "the Monson Rule of Proselyting: a letter or e-mail every week to parents."

"I like to tell missionaries that it isn't so significant how much you write — just be certain to write."

He said that letters and e-mails from a missionary son or daughter can bring parents into the Church or back into Church activity.

President Monson counseled mission leaders to involve the membership of the Church in the proselyting effort. "There is just no substitute for a member-oriented proselyting program," he said. "Tracting will not substitute for it. Golden questions will not substitute for it. A member-oriented program is the key to success. It works wherever we try it. I hesitate to deal in dramatic statements, but let me try one: The greatest thing you as a mission president can do to increase the effectiveness of your missionaries and their productivity is to ensure that the proper relationship is maintained with the ecclesiastical leaders in the area where they proselyte."

He told mission presidents to instruct every new district leader, every new zone leader, that the first thing he is to do when he moves into his district or into his zone is to call on the bishop and the stake president that they might jointly have a successful proselyting program.

"It was President Spencer W. Kimball who said, 'No mission can achieve its full potential without member help.' Then he said, 'We expect to ... involve the members of the Church generally in opening the gospel doors to our Father's other children.'"

Concluding his address, President Monson said, "My brothers and sisters, you have been hand-selected. You have been chosen from among the most faithful in the Church, and now you have the opportunity to go forth in the Lord's harvest field."
 I have covered all the mission president seminars' that I could find from 1960 to the present time. Last year I included a similar post entitled 2009 Mission Presidents' Seminar: A Comprehensive Synopsis and the most complete overview extant  The Mission Presidents' Seminar: A Doctrinal and Historical Bibliographic Review.

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