Lessons learned from COVID-19 that we can all apply, by Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles
The last few months have brought unprecedented changes to missionary work. We have moved many missionaries home, as other missionaries have stayed in their missions. Throughout this time, I have received hundreds of messages from missionaries who attend MTC at home, or serve in their mission under challenging COVID-19 circumstances. They share with me how they focus on the things they can do and not so much on what they cannot. They learn to be happy under any circumstance. Some of them don’t even have smart phones or WiFi access and still they connect with others socially and help spread the gospel message of hope and peace.
As I reflect upon what has happened and look to the future, I like to consider the question “What can we learn from this?” I feel that the Lord has lessons in store for each of us in these difficult times.
Social Media and Technology
We are continuing to learn of the immense good that comes from the righteous and intentional use of technology. Sometimes we think of the Internet and social media as an enemy because there can be so much negativity there. However, the Internet can be a friend to us when we use it correctly.
We may seek personal revelation from heaven for ways we can use technology to connect with others during this time. We have many success stories of missionaries who have used technology to share the gospel of Jesus Christ in extraordinary ways! We should seek to use these tools to fulfill the great commission from our Savior: “That the fulness of my gospel might be proclaimed by the weak and the simple unto the ends of the world,” (Doctrine and Covenants 1:23).
Our goal for the future is to continue to learn and become better at using the Internet to proclaim the gospel and to bless God’s children. It is through our everyday actions—including our social media interactions—that we invite others to come and see, come and help, and come and belong to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I testify that the Lord will guide us as we seek His guidance on how to use technology to share His gospel in normal and natural ways.
The Power of Communication
It has been a great blessing to see missionaries regularly communicate with their families. Through all of this, we have watched families, missionaries, and leaders around the globe stand together and support one another. This communication has helped missionaries and their families lift each other up during this difficult time. Rather than focusing on things outside of their control, missionaries and their families have focused on what they can change and control within their own circumstances.
We can learn from this for our future. The Lord teaches us, “I say unto you, be one; and if ye are not one ye are not mine,” (Doctrine and Covenants 38:27). This experience has further testified to me that if we are united—if we do things together, with the help of the Lord—we will triumph!
The future of missionary work is bright. We are learning much and the Lord has lessons in store for all of us as we seek to hear Him and find new ways to share His gospel. Now, is our turn to make the best we can out of this. I hope that we will not yearn to move back to something that didn’t work well in our lives before COVID-19, but rather look to the future with hope. May we each use this time to become more refined, edified, empowered, and refreshed to move forward.
Harriet and I love our missionaries and we love and we pray for all you families who support them by staying close to them spiritually and socially.
Stories from Missionaries during COVID-19
I hear of many amazing experiences from missionaries around the globe. They stay happy by sharing the gospel message in new and wonderful ways. There is much we can learn from them. Please see a couple of these examples below.
Finding Help for Marc Abroad—Adriatic South Mission
Sister Pelucchi, Sister Edwards, and Sister Vennerholm in the Adriatic mission.
“We have a friend called Marc, who we have been teaching for a while. He did not understand why he needs to be baptized, even though he had been baptized in his own faith before. His baptism is so important to him that he celebrates it but not his birthday; so for him, hearing that he needed to be baptized again was really confusing.
“When we asked him to pray about it, he promised to do it, but wouldn’t. He would just say to us the next time: ‘I’ve already been baptized.’ We thought a lot about his situation and about how we could best help him. Because Marc speaks French, Sister Pelucchi (who lived in France) thought of some of her member friends from home, who could join us to help teach him. After all, there are not a lot of members around here who speak French.
“The first person that came to mind was Franzy. He is a super cool member. We taught Marc with him and the lesson was incredible. We spoke about the priesthood and Franzy just had the right words to help Marc understand. It was amazing. At the end of the lesson, Marc told us that he now understood about the priesthood and that he would really pray to know if he needs to be baptized or not.
“Quarantine is not all that bad. It is hard not being able to see in person the friends we teach, but we realized that without quarantine, we would have never thought of asking someone from another country to help teach one of our friends here. Members are so key in our friends’ conversion. Sister Pelucchi realized that the idea of asking Franzy was inspired from God. He has a plan for His children. He is here to guide us and bring His work forward even when we cannot go outside.” —Sister Pelucchi, Sister Edwards, and Sister Vennerholm
Study Group Success in Italy—Italy Milan Mission
Sister Ceraso and Sister Plumb in the Milan Italy mission.
“We are finding great success in organizing study sessions with groups of members and investigators. For example, we are teaching Mauro, who is married to a member named Isabella. Mauro and his wife choose a different family each week for us to invite to a Come, Follow Me study session. The reaction has been delightful when the participants find out that Mauro and Isabella personally thought of them to participate. We have also started a weekly Come, Follow Me study group with a less-active sister and an active member, both of whom come from the same country in South America! We all look forward to this every Saturday.“One of the greatest miracles has been doing a Book of Mormon and Bible study group with neighbors from my last city, Verona, the zone leaders in Verona, and a member family from here that knows this nonmember family. Although they are very dedicated to their current religion, they thoroughly enjoy our study sessions, which have been held weekly for almost two months. They have mentioned how it gives them great hope during this time. “We have all shared ideas about how to do personal study. In short, our study sessions are working very well. We intend to expand them and set up many more with our members. Some benefits we have seen include:Members enjoy the opportunity to associate with each other as part of an organized event.
It provides a simple approach to involve less-actives in a way that helps them feel part of the group instead of being singled out.
It presents members with an easy opportunity to invite their friends to participate.
Because of Come, Follow Me, the lessons have been already planned and prepared.
Finally, it allows members and friends to connect spiritually with each other during this time of quarantine.
“The nonmember family from Verona actually told us that they are so inspired by our weekly gatherings that they have now organized a similar group on Zoom with friends from their church to read the Bible together. They even involved their priest last week! We’ve loved seeing how excited they are and that they are being leaders of faith in their community through technology. Thank you for the mission goal to focus on Come, Follow Me lessons with members. It is making a big difference and we are grateful for the experiences we have shared with our members and friends discussing the Book of Mormon!”—Sister Ceraso and Sister Plumb