Dear Elders and Sisters,
As you know, Sister Blickenstaff and I were in Hong Kong last Tuesday through Friday participating in our semi-annual Asia Area Mission Presidents’ Seminar. Many of you emailed us wishes for a good time in Hong Kong. We had a wonderful time, if you can imagine, attending a “zone conference” for mission presidents! During the MP seminar we gather with all of the mission presidents and wives in the Asia Area. To our surprise, we were joined by a new mission president and his wife who were just called to the newly established Vietnam Hanoi Mission! We received instruction from the Area Presidency and from Elder Brent H. Nielson, the executive director of the Missionary Department. We learned ways to improve what we are doing and enjoyed counseling together with the other mission presidents and their wives, whom we love and respect. We learned a lot and are excited to implement some new things that will help us be more effective in bringing souls unto Christ through teaching repentance and baptizing converts!
During the closing session, Elder Nielson asked us how we would measure our success as mission presidents. For the newly called Vietnam Hanoi Mission President, this question is perhaps a means to contemplate what goals he hopes to accomplish over the next few years. For those called last year, perhaps it is a time to evaluate how their missions are performing and where they can improve in order to meet their mission goals. For the four mission presidents that will be going home in June, myself included, it is a time to reflect personally on how I have served the Lord these past three years.
Mission presidents and missionaries alike will often succumb to measuring their success by the number of baptisms attained. To avoid this pitfall, we must thoroughly understand our missionary purpose and remember that “[our] success as a missionary is measured primarily by [our] commitment to find, teach, baptize, and confirm people and to help them become faithful members of the Church who enjoy the presence of the Holy Ghost” (PMG, p. 10). Nowhere in Preach My Gospel is success evaluated in numbers of baptisms. We demonstrate our commitment by setting appropriate goals, planning effectively, working diligently, and exercising our faith.
Elder Nielson shared with us a quote from his personal missionary journal, written on June 12, 1974, the last day of his service in the Finland Helsinki Mission :
“My last couple of days have been good ones. I have tried not to focus on going home. Elder [Smith] and I taught Br. [Jones] and we invited him to be baptized again. He is still unsure about things.”
The next day, Elder Nielson went home. He had labored diligently until the last day of his mission. His investigator did not accept baptism before his mission ended. Was he unsuccessful?
A month later, Elder Nielson received a letter from Br. Jones, letting him know he had accepted baptism and was grateful for all that Elder Nielson had taught him. Elder Nielson then asked us, “Was I more successful on that day? Or on my mission?”
Several years later, Elder Nielson was reading in the Church News one day and saw that Br. Jones had been called to serve as a stake president in Finland. Elder Nielson asked us again, “Was I more successful on that day? Or on my mission?”
Over thirty years after his mission, Elder Rasband returned from presiding over the Finland temple dedication. He asked Elder Nielson if he knew a Br. Jones, then told him Br. Jones had been the chairman of the temple dedication committee. Elder Nielson asked us again, “Was I more successful on that day? Or on my mission?”
A few years ago, Elder Nielson did a mission tour of the Helsinki Finland Mission. To help the missionaries see the grander view of their labor, he related the story of Br. Jones. Afterwards a young elder came forward and introduced himself: he was Br. Jones’s grandson. Elder Nielson shed tears of gratitude that he had been diligent in the work that the Lord had called him to perform.
Elders and sisters, we often cannot see the fruits of our labors during our mission. Rest assured, however, that the Lord knows all things, for they are recorded in heaven. Some of the greatest and most important things that we do as missionaries cannot be recorded on a statistical report; they are known only to ourselves and our Father in Heaven. As long as we are committed to the work of salvation and diligently labor every day, even every minute of our mission, we can be successful missionaries!
Mentor of Champions