Elder Russell M. Nelson encouraged missionaries to open their mouths and eyes and fortify their minds during a Christmas Day devotional at the Missionary Training Center in Provo, Utah.
Thousands of missionaries received instruction from Elder Nelson of the Quorum of the Twelve, and his wife, Wendy.
Particularly, Elder Nelson encouraged the missionaries to “open your eyes and fortify your minds against rumors.” One popular rumor in circulation regards missionaries who are called to one area and transferred to open the work in another formerly closed area, such as China.
“Such rumors are absolutely false. Refute them!” Elder Nelson said. “Leaders of this Church enter countries new to the Church through the front door. We do not go in through the back door or via the alley. Our relationships are based on honesty, openness, integrity and complete compliance with local law.”
He then quoted the late Church President Gordon B. Hinckley, who said “Wherever we go, we go in the front door. Our missionaries honor the laws of the nations to which they go and teach the people to be good citizens.”
Some missionaries are transferred during their missions, and some callings are modified, he said. This may happen as new missions are created. But, he said, any transfer made or calling modified is done openly.
“Please decide here and now to be a ‘rumor stopper’ and not a ‘rumor monger,’ “ he said.
The Savior came to give second birth, he continued. This is especially comforting to those who are grieving those lost in the Connecticut elementary school shooting, specifically Emilie Parker, a 6-year-old daughter of Latter-day Saints.
“Comfort and solace come to the families of these victims, and to all who suffer tragedy in this life, through the gift of the Savior’s birth, life and his glorious victory over death,” Elder Nelson said. “That mission of Jesus Christ assures us that little Emilie Parker, and all of those other innocent people, will live again! Indeed, ‘all little children are alive in Christ.’ His Atonement enables each human being to be resurrected.”
The missionaries who are going out throughout the world are “called to bring hope, peace, love and joy to a world mired in hatred, contention and sin.”
Elder Nelson also cautioned missionaries against those who do not have pure motives. Missionaries are placed in companionships and should protect one another and stay together, he said.
“Keep your eyes wide open, and when you see, or even feel, an atmosphere of evil, speedily move to safety,” Elder Nelson said.
He expressed hope that each companionship could be assigned to a ward or branch. He suggested that missionaries get to know the ward mission leader, a vital contact for helping the missionaries know the needs of the people of the ward, those who need visits and those who could progress with the missionaries’ help and for providing people for the missionaries to teach. This is especially important in locations where door-to-door proselytizing is becoming less common.
Missionaries should also cultivate a relationship with the ward family history consultant, whom he said could become their “closest ally” in softening the hearts of those investigating the Church. Working together, missionaries and the ward family history coordinator can help investigators identify an ancestor, an ideal way for missionaries to show their love for those unfamiliar with the Church, he said.
In addition to praising the Lord on Christmas Day, Elder Nelson praised the missionaries and their selflessness.
“The spirit of service is in the heart of each missionary ... To be engaged full-time in the service of the Lord Jesus Christ on Christmas Day is a choice privilege for us.”
When they encounter those critical of the imperfections of the people in the Church, missionaries should “help those critics to see that they can gain wisdom — even exaltation — from doctrine received by revelation from heaven to imperfect people. Applying that doctrine, each person can, in due time, become perfected in Christ.”
At a time of gift giving and receiving, Sister Nelson talked about spiritual gifts. Comparing them to gift cards, she said many are given gifts they do not use. She encouraged missionaries to pursue and use these gifts “eagerly, persistently, relentlessly,” to help them overcome weaknesses and become better missionaries.