PROVO, Utah President Gordon B. Hinckley fresh back from Washington, D.C. declared to the 115 mission presidents and their wives assembled June 24 in the Provo Missionary Training Center that missionary work "is going forward now with a momentum never before reached."
Missionary work is "a basic and fundamental work of the Church," he emphasized.
"It was begun before the Church was organized, and there has never been a period in our history when it has not gone forward. Even in times of world wars, when the number of missionaries was greatly reduced, the work has never entirely ceased."
As the concluding speaker of the three-day seminar, President Hinckley spoke with a vigor and in a spirit of brotherly kindness that encouraged and consoled.
He recounted the events of the day before when he visited the White House in Washington, D.C., to receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom, America's highest civilian honor, on the day of his 94th birthday.
"This remarkable recognition belongs to the Church, which has given me so many opportunities, and whose interests I have tried to serve," he said. "I flew there yesterday morning and flew back late evening. Think of that."
President Hinckley shared how his thoughts went "back nearly 165 years ago when Joseph Smith rode horseback much of the way from Nauvoo to Washington, where he secured lodging in the cheapest place available. He met with President Van Buren to plead for redress for his persecuted people, only to be rebuffed by the President and to return empty-handed. . . .
"How far the Lord has brought us from those dark days to the light and brightness of our own time," President Hinckley said.
He told how he recently stood in front of the old home where he lived in England 71 years ago as a missionary. "I looked up to the bedroom we rented, and I recalled a prayer that I had offered there. It was a prayer and a promise to my Heavenly Father. To that moment, I can trace all of the good things that have happened to me since."
President Hinckley turned his focus to the missionaries and their relationship with their presidents. "How precious they are. How important they are. How much they are worth working with to make of them something that will remain good and strong and growing, not only while they are serving as missionaries, but through all the years yet to come."
He read from a missionary letter recently received by a mission president who is about to be released. The missionary expressed eternal "gratitude that the Lord saw fit to send me to this mission at a time when you would be presiding."
The missionary thanked the mission president's wife for teaching him to play the piano, and for the cookies.
"My mission has been one of miracles," continued the missionary. "I have come to feel, truly feel, the love that my Savior has for me. . . .
"President," he added, "you are the best."
"What a marvelous letter," President Hinckley said. "That's the best paycheck you could get. . . .
"So I plead with you to determine that you will not only instruct your missionaries, but more important, that you will bless them. What does bless them mean? It means bestow upon them some essence of divine power, . . . an intangible thing that will come of your personal relationships, of your individual interview and conversations, or your prayers with them."
- "Bless them with leadership," he said, to "walk out before them as their leader and set the pace for them to follow." Missionaries, he continued, want, once in a while, a listening ear."
He also counseled, "Bless them with doctrine. Teach the doctrine. . . . Teach from the scriptures. . . . At no other time in their lives will they be so involved with the Church as during the 18 months or two years that they are under your direction. . . .
"I think I learned more doctrine while I was in the mission field during two years than I have learned in all the 70 or so years that have passed since then," he said.
- "Bless them with love," he continued. "Sometimes there is a tendency to run a mission like an army. It will not work. The reports might look better. But the end result will not be good. If there is anything this old world needs, it is love. If there is any place where it should be found, it is the mission field. . . .
- "Bless them with faith," he urged. "As they pray, as they immerse themselves in the work, as old interests die and new ones take their place, they will, if directed aright, develop in their hearts a strong and salient faith in the great eternal verities of this gospel. . . . There is no end to their potential when they are blessed with faith."
In conclusion, President Hinckley said, "You never can foretell the consequences of this work. . . . Yours is a mission to bless."
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