The 2020 Mission Leadership Seminar truly served as a global affair, as leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints provided virtual training to new mission leaders scattered worldwide through online streaming broadcasts June 26-27.
With the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic restricting travel and large public gatherings, the 135 couples of new mission presidents and companions preparing to serve in 79 countries participated from home through the mission presidents’ online portal.
Unlike past large-scale seminars held at the Provo Missionary Training Center, this year’s proceedings were broadcast from the Conference Center Theater in Salt Lake City and other Church headquarters locations.
The shortened virtual seminar — from the traditional three days to just two — condensed the number of speakers participating in the 2020 sessions.
President Nelson at Mission Leadership Seminar: How to receive divine tutoring like the Prophet Joseph Smith
During the year when The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints celebrates the bicentennial commemoration of the onset of the Restoration, President Russell M. Nelson detailed how a 14-year-old boy was taught to be a prophet.
“Why have I chosen to speak with you at length about the divine tutoring of the Prophet Joseph Smith?” asked President Nelson in addressing new mission leaders on June 26.
“I have done so for two reasons: first, to reassure you and bear my personal witness that this work is truly divine. It is the work of the Lord Jesus Christ, and Joseph Smith is His prophet of this last dispensation.
“Secondly, it is to declare that you, too, can and will be guided by heaven in your work as you seek direction, guidance and inspiration from on high.”
This is an “unique and exciting” time when the gospel continues to roll forth despite the “whole earth [being] in commotion” (Doctrine and Covenants 45:26), he said. “I cannot stress enough the role of the Prophet Joseph Smith in the ushering in of this, ‘the dispensation of the fulness of times’ (Doctrine and Covenants 128:18).
“You and I truly marvel how Joseph was able to accomplish all that he did. It was only possible through the miraculous and matchless power of God, the Lord Jesus Christ and other heavenly beings.”
Elder Holland at Mission Leadership Seminar: The Savior summarized His ministry in 1 principle — ‘love one another’
Elder Jeffrey R. Holland has often thought of the concern Jesus must have felt as He knew His mortal ministry was coming to an end and that the daily, ongoing operation of His Church would fall on the shoulders of a dozen very ordinary men.
“Did they know enough? Had they understood any part of what He had tried so hard to teach them? Could they carry off this tremendous responsibility successfully?” asked Elder Holland.
During an address that was broadcast June 26 as part of the 2020 Mission Leadership Seminar, Elder Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles addressed “The Two Great Commandments.”
Turning his thoughts to the Savior’s final hours, Elder Holland questioned: What final lesson could the Savior teach in those final hours that would carry His Apostles through His physical absence?
“With a plea, indeed a commandment, that should pierce us today as much as it did them, the living Son of God summarized His entire ministry and their ultimate, ongoing responsibility in one concept, one grand, eternal principle. ‘A new commandment I give unto you,’ He said quietly, ‘[t]hat ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another’ ” (John 13:34–35).
Elder Uchtdorf at Mission Leadership Seminar: Assuring new mission leaders ‘you are not alone’
Prophets, leaders and great missionaries of ancient times, the modern restoration and the present day have all been surprised by their calls to serve the Lord, feeling somewhat uncertain and unprepared.
And yet those prophets, leaders and great missionaries each humbly went forth to serve the Lord, proclaiming His name and inviting others to come unto Him, said the member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and chairman of the Church’s Missionary Executive Council.
In his concluding address at the June 26-27 virtual seminar, Elder Uchtdorf repeated with reassurance the phrase “you are not alone” to the 135 mission leadership couples watching from throughout the world, underscoring their advance preparation for their upcoming service.
He used scriptures and eternal perspectives to reassure the mission presidents and companions that they can be like those in the past, moving from feeling unprepared or unworthy to becoming faithful and mighty.
Elder Uchtdorf noted Paul speaking of his own call: “[The Savior] said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me” (2 Corinthians 12:9).
Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf at Mission Leadership Seminar: ‘Making disciples’ and the wise use of technology
Fulfilling the Savior’s Great Commission — the charge to His ancient apostles to take the gospel throughout the world — is a task mission leaders and missionaries share with the Latter-day Apostles and can be done in normal and natural ways, Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf said.
Detailing a Church president’s historic 1974 address and lessons learned during the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic, the member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles underscored the key roles of communication, service and the wise use of technology.
President Kimball’s historic address
Elder Uchtdorf recalled President Spencer W. Kimball’s April 1974 address, “When the World Will Be Converted,” inviting seminar participants to consider “how this prophet saw our day and how the Lord has prepared us to take the gospel to the entire world today.”
President Kimball emphasized the need for “better additional methods and approaches,” adding, “I believe that the Lord is anxious to put into our hands inventions of which we laymen have hardly had a glimpse.”
He quoted President David O. McKay, who said modern inventions will “stagger the imagination” with “untold possibilities,” which President Kimball labeled as “beyond comprehension.”
Elder Uchtdorf said one of the “untold possibilities” is today’s use of technology by mission leaders and missionaries.
“It has been said that the recent pandemic may have been a ‘divine reset’ that could help us recalibrate our efforts to reach more people — and especially a younger audience.”
Elder Cook at Mission Leadership Seminar: The work of ‘building up’ the Church
Elder Quentin L. Cook was almost 7 years old in 1947 when his mother gave him a volume of the history of her great-grandfather, Heber C. Kimball.
Even as a young boy, Elder Cook began to understand the importance of missionary work from Elder Kimball, acknowledged by the Church as its first full-time mission president.
Today, the early Apostle’s calling is a “remarkable historical heritage” for others who are called to preside over missions, Elder Cook said.
Speaking at the 2020 Mission Leadership Seminar on June 26, the member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles addressed the Lord’s charge to all mission leaders: “You Shall Build Up My Church.”
Looking back on Heber C. Kimball’s legacy, Elder Cook said 1837 was a perilous time for the entire world. The Panic of 1837 had crippled banking and other businesses in both the United States and Great Britain. Still, during this difficult time, the Spirit whispered to the Prophet Joseph Smith to call Elder Kimball to England to proclaim the gospel.
Overwhelmed, Heber offered a reluctant prayer regarding his calling to “preach in that land, which is so famed throughout Christendom for learning, knowledge and piety.”
Heber’s “faith and obedience prevailed,” Elder Cook said.
Heber recorded: “The moment I understood the will of my Heavenly Father, I felt a determination to go at all hazards, believing that He would support me by His almighty power … and although my family was dear to me, and I should have to leave them almost destitute, I felt that the cause of truth, the Gospel of Christ, outweighed every other consideration.”
Elder Gong at Mission Leadership Seminar: What it means to be ‘perfected in Christ’
With the Book of Mormon prophet Moroni inviting all to “come unto Christ, and be perfected in him,” Elder Gerrit W. Gong helped new mission presidents and companions participating in the 2020 Mission Leadership Seminar to understand what perfection truly is.
“For you and your missionaries to be happy and feel successful,” said the member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, “it is essential to understand the crucial differences between the perfectionism of the world and perfection as defined by the Lord.”
Speaking Saturday, June 27, at the virtual leadership training conference, Elder Gong offered five principles to help leaders and missionaries establish a mission culture of high love and high expectations as both groups grow in faith and accomplish the work.
Becoming ‘perfected in Christ’
With God all things are possible, Elder Gong explained, adding the invitation to be perfected in Christ would not be extended if it were unattainable.
He repeated President Russell M. Nelson’s recent teaching that the Greek word “teleios” — usually translated as “perfect” or “perfected” in English — does not mean flawless but rather complete.
Added Elder Gong: “Part of becoming perfected in Christ is to become complete.”
The Apostle reviewed Moroni’s teaching of how one can “come unto Christ, and be perfected in him” (Moroni 10:32-33):
- “Deny yourselves of all ungodliness.” Repentance is changing desires, behavior, one’s very being — changes that bring one closer to Him.
- “Love God with all your might, mind and strength.” As missionaries love and serve with their whole souls, they work with faith.
- Be “sanctified in Christ by the grace of God, through the shedding of the blood of Christ, which is in the covenant of the Father.” Citing “Preach My Gospel,” Elder Gong said: “As your understanding of the Savior’s sacrifice, also known as the Atonement of Jesus Christ, grows, your desire to share the gospel will increase.”
The Lord’s doctrine and invitation to come unto Christ and be perfected in Him is quite different from the perfectionism of the world, he said.
Other speakers, from the First Presidency, the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and the Missionary Executive Council, included:
- President Dallin H. Oaks, first counselor in the First Presidency, “Counsel for Mission Leaders” — “Encourage [missionaries] to ponder the fact that their disruptions and inconveniences in the current pandemic are not unique in the work of the Lord or in the lives of their ancestors or fellow members. Teach them to remember the heritage of faith of those who have gone before.”
- President Henry B. Eyring, second counselor in the First Presidency, “You and Your Missionaries Are Never Alone in the Work” — “I have seen with the eyes of faith not only that I did not work alone but also that the Lord and other servants were generous beyond measure to let me share in the joy for my small efforts.”
- President M. Russell Ballard, acting president of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, “For Behold the Field Is White Already to Harvest” — “One obligation that flows from the Restoration of the gospel is our responsibility to share it with others. In a sermon given in April 1837, the Prophet Joseph Smith stated, ‘After all that has been said, the greatest and most important duty is to preach the Gospel.’ ”
- Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, “Repentance and Remission of Sins” — “Described most simply, repentance is turning away from evil and turning to God. As we exercise faith in and on the Lord, we turn toward, come unto and depend upon Him. Thus repentance is trusting in and relying upon the Redeemer to do for us what we cannot do for ourselves.”
- Elder D. Todd Christofferson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, “The Holy Ghost Beareth Record” — ”“Our teachings are prophecies about future blessings for all who have faith in Christ, repent, are baptized, receive the Holy Ghost and endure to the end. These prophecies regarding salvation and exaltation, attested by the Holy Spirit and rooted in Christ, are foundational to faith and conversion.”
- Elder Neil L. Andersen of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, “That They May Be One, as We Are” — “I know that each of you desire to ‘be one’ not only with the missionaries but also with priesthood leaders and the members in the wards and branches. Yet I warn you: It does not come easily. It requires love, persistence, extraordinary effort, patience and the blessings of heaven.”
- President Bonnie H. Cordon, Young Women general president and member of the Missionary Executive Council, “Firm in the Faith” — “For the rest of your life, the names and faces of members and [your] missionaries will be engraved on your heart. Your ability to love, and the sheer number of people you love will grow exponentially.”