PROVO, Utah — Taking moments to turn back the clock, President M. Russell Ballard, Acting President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, drew upon his experiences and those of his ancestors as he spoke at the 2018 Mission Leadership Seminar.
"I will often repeat what I have said before, recognizing that once in a while someone listens to me," he said. "You will be doing the same on your mission."
During the event's third and final day on Tuesday, June 26, President Ballard reflected on he and his wife, Sister Barbara Ballard, attending a previous version of the new mission presidents’ seminar 44 years earlier in preparation to preside over the Canada Toronto Mission. He has attended 43 since.
“The seminar, in those days, did not even remotely resemble the marvelous seminar preparation and presentations that you have experienced here this year,” he said to the 112 new mission leadership couples preparing to serve worldwide. “The power of heaven has guided all; we have been taught.”
He also spoke of his great-great-grandparents as examples of his message’s two themes — Hyrum Smith for his faith and life sacrifice for the gospel, and Mary Fielding Smith for her accepting the gospel.
The latter was part of his main theme, “The Faith to Find the Elect,” to which he listed seven principles from “Preach My Gospel” with personal thoughts. “Always remember, ‘nothing happens in missionary work until you find someone to teach,’ ” he said, quoting the manual’s Chapter 9.
1) Missionaries must know how to teach the essential doctrines, principles and commandments. Said President Ballard: “Knowledge is power. Confidence builds courage.”
2) Keep it simple. The equation is simple, he said. “If missionaries want to teach, convert and baptize more people, they must talk to more people.”
He added that in talking to people wherever they are found, the missionaries seem to stay mentally, emotionally and spiritually involved in the Lord’s work. And recent studies show that service to others also improves their physical, emotional and spiritual well-being.
3) Teach when you find and find when you teach. He spoke of one of his senior missionary couples serving in northern Ontario who, on their second day in a small town and first visit at the local store, asked if they could visit and teach the clerk and his wife, — and then inquired if there was anyone else they could invite to join them for the lesson. The clerk and his wife identified a couple. President Ballard said 18 members of the family, at his last count, have joined the Church from that simple extended invitation.
4) Missionaries follow up, they do not give up. President Ballard told of Parley P. Pratt’s mission to Ontario and his persistence in finding, teaching and converting John Taylor, who later became the third President of the Church. Elder Pratt took the yet-unbaptized John Taylor to visit Joseph Fielding and his sisters outside of Toronto, having to persist through a less-than-cordial welcome to convince the Fieldings to listen to the message; they were baptized several days later.
President Ballard then offered “a personal thanks to Elder Pratt for not giving up but following up,” because of his connection to Mary Fielding. After her conversion, she later married a widowed Hyrum Smith; their son was Joseph F. Smith, the Church’s sixth president, and their grandson Joseph Fielding Smith, the 10th president. Joseph F. Smith’s oldest son was Hyrum Mack Smith, himself an apostle and President Ballard’s maternal grandfather.
5) Finding through members. President Ballard shared the two basic reasons why many members hesitate to do missionary work — the first is fear and the second is a misunderstanding of what missionary work is.
“Brothers and sisters, fear will be replaced with faith and confidence when members and the full-time missionaries kneel in prayer together and ask the Lord to bless them with missionary opportunities,” he said.
6) Finding through technology. “Digital media tools provide opportunities to engage those who are searching for truth,” President Ballard said. “In a sense, people are finding us.”
7) Finding with the Book of Mormon. “Our missionaries need to recognize and utilize the power of the Book of Mormon in their finding efforts,” he said, quoting President Ezra Taft Benson in that “missionaries need to show how the Book of Mormon ‘answers the great questions of the soul.’ ”
Concluding his address by speaking of the martyrdom of Joseph Smith and his older brother, Hyrum, President Ballard recounted the two’s discussions about possibly going back to Nauvoo and giving themselves up to authorities. Joseph acknowledged they would “be butchered,” while Hyrum responded with an answer that showed faith in the Lord and a willingness to die for His cause. “Let us go back and put our trust in God, and we shall not be harmed,” said Hyrum Smith. “The Lord is in it. If we live or have to die, we will be reconciled to our fate” (History of the Church, 6:557-558).
And 174 years ago, one day shy of President Ballard’s seminar address, the two brothers lost their lives in Carthage Jail, felled by the guns of a hate-driven mob.
“No missionary should ever fail to understand and appreciate the great price others have paid to establish once again the Church of Jesus Christ upon the earth,” he said. “No assignment or challenge of any missionary should hold him or her back from boldly declaring the gospel truths that are ours to share.
“Joseph and Hyrum, missionary companions, true and faithful one to another and to God, are the example for every missionary companionship in this Church. None of your missionaries will be called upon to go through what Joseph and Hyrum did. None will be required to voluntarily lay down their lives for this Church, but all can learn from these two powerful missionaries how to support and strengthen one another.”
“Your missionaries need to devote themselves to this great cause. They can learn the power of the message of the Restoration. They can learn the attributes and skills that it takes to be a fearless disciple of the Master. They can learn and practice the principles for success found in Preach My Gospel. Your missionaries can come to know that the restoration of the fulness of the gospel of Jesus Christ is glorious and provides to everyone the way to immortality and eternal life.”
President Ballard concluded: “This is The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. We are on His errand. I bear testimony that Joseph and Hyrum were prophets of the living God. We must be bold and steadfast in carrying the gospel of Jesus Christ to our Father’s children — wherever we find them.”