Welden Andersen, IRI
During his June 25 remarks at the 2014 Seminar for New Mission Presidents, President Boyd K. Packer acknowledged that some new mission leaders would be serving amidst impossible and even dangerous circumstances.
But the president of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles said the mission presidents need not worry.
“The Lord will be with you, and you will be all right,” he added.
President Packer spoke of being called to preside over the New England Mission nearly 50 years ago. His wife, Sister Donna Packer, and their nine children, joined him on his mission assignment.
At the time, there were just over 30 missions. Since that time, the Church has experienced dramatic growth.
“We are in 182 countries,” he said. “We print literature of the Church in 119 languages. It is breathtaking when you look back at what it was, and then look at what it is now.”
President Packer emphasized a key doctrinal point to the mission presidents and their wives: “It has to do with the Spirit. No matter how inadequate you may think you are (and we all feel that way at times), the Spirit is the great enabler and equalizer in this work.”
Missionaries and others often ask about the difference between the Spirit of Christ and the Spirit of the Holy Ghost. These terms are used interchangeably, but there is a significant difference.
“Every soul born into the world has born within him or her the Spirit of Christ,” he said. “That is important to know because it makes a difference in how missionaries do what they do when they are out teaching.”
When missionaries teach investigators, he added, they fan a flame that is already lighted — the Light of Christ.
“The Spirit of Christ is a Light. As I have worked with people I have thought to be hopeless, I have had to discipline myself to say, ‘No, not hopeless, because somewhere inside there is a spark of decency and righteousness that will respond when the gospel is presented.’ ”
Missionaries must teach and understand the principle of repentance, which he declared is a glorifying doctrine that allows one to “get back to where you were before you made your mistakes.”
Learning to “forgive yourself” can prove a difficult exercise, said President Packer.
“Repentance and forgiveness are teamed up,” he taught. “That is one of the things that the missionaries are come to understand, and part of that is to forgive yourself.”
Mission presidents and their companions have the responsibility to see that the missionaries are cared for physically and spiritually.
“It is not easy,” he said. “And yet you have the advantage of knowing that ‘it shall be given you in the very hour that portion that shall be meted unto every man’ (Doctrine and Covenants 84:85). You will know what you are to do with the missionaries.”
President Packer counseled the new mission presidents to learn to differentiate between establishing the Church across the world as compared to establishing the gospel.
“Building the Church seems to center around buildings and budgets and programs and procedures, but somehow in the midst of it, the gospel is struggling for breath,” he said. “Get that fixed in the minds of your young elders and sisters.”
Teaching doctrine, he added, will improve behavior quicker and more permanently than teaching about behavior will improve behavior. “Missionaries should know the doctrine, and you should understand it.”