Serving as a mission president, said President James E. Faust, is much like the Chinese wheelwright who was asked how tight spokes in a wheel should be.
"I can't tell you," he said. "If the spokes are too tight, the wheel will be contorted out of shape. If the spokes are too loose, the wheel will fall apart."
Speaking June 21 during the mission presidents seminar, President Faust, second counselor in the First Presidency, taught the newly called mission presidents how to "Find balance through seeking the Spirit."
"Some sow, and some reap," he said, explaining that numbers do not determine success or failure in missionary service.
"Based on my experience in Brazil where only three people were baptized in a year, and where I baptized only one person in my 33 months, I don't consider my mission a failure. I worked hard. I did the best I could. Now there are 186 stakes and 743,000 members in Brazil."
President Faust noted the tools and resources and instructions provided by the missionary department to aid in their mission efforts, and then suggested "how to put this together."
"We will pray for you, but all the counselors and assistants in the missionary department are merely the coaches. You are the players. No one else can do it for you. The Lord gave the directions in 1831 how this is to be done," President Faust said.
"It has always been given to the elders of my Church from the beginning, and ever shall be, to conduct all meetings as they are directed and guided by the Holy Spirit." (Doctrine and Covenants 46:2.)
"You'll need to put your spiritual houses in order," he said. "Polish the windows of your soul to see more clearly. You'll need to cleanse your hearts to feel clean and pure and worthy.
"A disciplined missionary force is the key to a mission president's success," he continued. "But we should not be so insecure in our leadership to overcontrol the missionaries and take the joy out of the work. Too many locally-imposed mission rules can send the message that you don't trust the missionaries. This can lead to discontent. Tightening the spokes too tight takes the fun out of missionary work.
"The Spirit flourishes when we enjoy our work. In missionary work, we need to stop and smell the roses. Develop relationships of love and mutual respect and not fear."
Time spent serving as a mission president will be the "most challenging and fulfilling time in your life," President Faust said. "There is nothing quite as fulfilling as missionary work."
President James E. Faust, second counselor in the First Presidency, addressed the mission presidents seminar June 21. He was accompanied by his wife, Ruth. Other members of the Quorum of the Twelve attended, along with members of the Seventy and the Presiding Bishopric.