In a new devotional now available for missionaries, an Apostle and his wife encourage these young ambassadors of faith to use technology to help more people know about Jesus Christ.
Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints pled with the faith’s 54,000 missionaries to use the pandemic as a prompt to discover more creative ways to help people learn about the Savior of the world. This is a message he has shared several times in the past year (see, for example, here and here).
“Don’t neglect proven principles and practices from before the pandemic,” he said from a recording studio on Temple Square, “but learn, add and adapt technological advances that the Lord has provided to accomplish His work in your time and in your season.” When pandemic restrictions are lifted, “don’t just go back to the old ways. Go back to the future,” he said. “Move forward and upward as you apply what you have learned during the pandemic.” He said this is essential because “the gospel of Jesus Christ is a universal gospel” and the Church is a global organization that “works and serves in a globally connected online world.”
The Apostle promised missionaries that if they trust God to bless their efforts, they will find those searching for their message. “You will gather the seekers, you will find those with questions about the purpose of life and about life after this earthly existence. You will find the young and the old, the poor and the rich, the educated and the illiterate. You will find people of any nation or language, of any religious or socioeconomic background — everyone. With the help of technology, people might even find you. With a gospel message, there will be no more strangers because all are children of our Heavenly Father. All are brothers and sisters. Please trust God to help you find the right ways, just right for our time and for your location.”
Elder Uchtdorf’s wife, Sister Harriet Uchtdorf, said the missionaries should “use the wonders of modern technology to find and teach the gospel with creativity and guided by the spirit. Use them wisely, counsel together, be grateful, let the Spirit guide you in everything you do. You are amazing! The Lord is with you.”
“Future generations will remember you as those who served during the great pandemic,” Elder Uchtdorf added, “the ones who learned to use technology and social media in new and effective ways to proclaim the gospel to every nation and language, and in any circumstance.”
Prior to the pandemic, 62,000 missionaries were serving around the world. Within a few weeks in March 2020, that number fell by 22,000. The return of a steady uptick in missionaries is a welcome boon, Elder Uchtdorf said, because they are the “extended arms of the 12 Apostles” today. He said they are fulfilling the great commandment Jesus gave to the ancient Apostles: “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:19–20, New King James Version).
Questions and Answers
The devotional also featured a Q&A. Elder Uchtdorf said missionaries should “ask each other meaningful questions” and “learn to better listen to each other and to the Spirit. Listening is the beginning of learning. Through God’s still, small voice, and by the power of the Holy Ghost, you can know the truth of all things.”
To model this, Elder and Sister Uchtdorf had eight missionaries serving in Samoa, Chile, the United States, Bulgaria, South Africa and Mexico ask questions via video. Three questions were answered by Sister Uchtdorf; the other five questions were answered by missionaries in Japan, Uganda, Mexico, Brazil and the United States. See below for a summary of the Q&A. The full video of the devotional is available to missionaries at Missionary.ChurchofJesusChrist.org.
Question 1, from Sister Endemann of the Samoa Apia Mission: Two weeks ago, I lost my mother. What are things I can do to rise above this challenge and keep my [missionary] purpose in my heart?
Sister Uchtdorf answered this question by sharing her experience as a teenager of enduring the death of her father.
“Seeing him suffer during those last weeks of his life, I often stood at the open window of our apartment in Frankfurt, Germany, and prayed with all my young heart for help and comfort by a higher source,” Sister Uchtdorf said. “Only after my father had passed away, this heavenly help finally came. It came through two wonderful missionaries who came to our door and taught us the restored gospel message.”
The hope the missionaries offered, Sister Uchtdorf said, was centered on the Savior of the world.
“Dear Sister Endemann, dear elders and sisters,” she said, “please focus on your message of Jesus Christ. Focus on your mission purpose at all times. You are messengers of light, truth and glory. You are messengers of hope and happiness. Your daily service will bless many lives around you, and I promise, it also will bless you—with peace, hope and a strong faith to move forward and upward. I love you. I admire you. I pray for you.”
Question 2, from Elder Zamora of the Chile Concepción Mission: How can we help those we teach have spiritual experiences through technology that will lead them towards baptism?
Elder Davis of the Japan Nagoya Mission answered by speaking, just as Sister Uchtdorf did, of the importance of remembering a missionary’s main purpose.
“We are representatives of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, and we are teaching His gospel,” Elder Davis said. “Just because we are behind a screen doesn’t mean we are providing entertainment. We are helping people come closer to Jesus Christ and providing them with spiritual nourishment.”
Question 3, from Sister Nelson of the Florida Orlando Mission: How do we help other people grow their faith when as young people we may struggle with our own?
Sister Buthelezi of the Uganda Kampala Mission took this question. She said practicing what one preaches can channel God’s grace in the lives of those they teach.
“I know how the Spirit is able to work wonders in the people that we teach, and through the same Spirit of which we will possess, we can be able to help them even feel the influence of the heavens,” she said.
Question 4, from Sister Church of the Bulgaria-Central Eurasia Mission: How can we as missionaries better learn to act on that very first prompting we receive from the Holy Ghost without hesitating because of doubt, fear or apprehension?
This question was answered by Sister Takara of the Japan Nagoya Mission. Her comment was similar to others in its simplicity. She suggested that missionaries center “everything we do and everything we say on our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”
Question 5, from Elder Madlala of the South Africa Johannesburg Mission: We are facing challenges such as lockdown, no in-person teaching and also network constraints. Which perspective could you give us that will help us to focus on the task at hand while facing all of these challenges?
Elder Faria, a missionary in the Brazil Porto Alegre Mission, suggested that missionaries tailor their messages to the needs of each person they encounter. In this way, he said, “the Holy Ghost will confirm all truth” in the hearts of the people they teach. “Even the truth comes through a social media message or a video call.”
Question 6, from Sister Padilla of the Mexico Puebla North Mission: How can I trust that I am doing all that is necessary if, despite all of my efforts, I do not see the results I wish I had?
Two missionaries answered this question. Sister Duran of the Mexico Mexico City Mission encouraged this sister to see 2021 and beyond as “the greatest time to share the gospel” because of the blessing of technology. Elder Kawa’a of the California Newport Mission described how a video about the Rome Italy Temple helped a woman and man who were living together choose marriage and, later, baptism.
Question 7, from Sister Kunz of the Florida Orlando Mission: How can we best help the people we are teaching, [as well as] new converts and returning members, [to] fellowship and build relationships with ward members and leaders during a time of social distancing and limited in-person contact?
Question 8, from Elder Haymer of the Bulgaria-Central Eurasia Mission: We know that members play a crucial role in the Lord’s work. How can we better encourage and bring hope to members, especially active members that may have become discouraged in terms of Church growth and missionary work?
Sister Uchtdorf answered these questions. Four weeks after her mother was baptized in 1954, the missionaries who taught their family had her mother write a letter about why she chose to join the Church of Jesus Christ. The missionaries would then use this letter to help others they taught. Sister Uchtdorf and her family maintained contact with one of these missionaries for more than 40 years. He gifted them the letter, which they now cherish as a sacred memory of her mother, who died in 2000.
Aleah is a graduate of Southern Virginia University, where she studied English, Creative Writing, and Dance. She now works full time as a marketing and product manager, writer, and editor. Aleah served a mission in California and loves baking, Lang Leav poetry, Gaynor Minden pointe shoes, and Bollywood movies.