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MTC Devotionals Bring Synergy, Says Elder Nash of Missionary Department

A ‘synergy’ results when bringing missionaries, Church leaders together, says Elder Nash, Missionary Department executive director

This story appears here courtesy of TheChurchNews.com. It is not for use by other media.

By Scott Taylor, Church News

Each Tuesday evening at the Provo Missionary Training Center, a general authority or general officer of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints speaks to new missionaries at a weekly devotional.

One week, it could be a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles — those devotionals get broadcast to the Church’s other international MTCs worldwide. The next week, it could be a member of one of the Church’s general organizational presidencies — the Relief Society, Young Women, Young Men, Primary or Sunday School — or of the Presidency of the Seventy or Presiding Bishopric.

Or it could be a General Authority Seventy or one of the aforementioned leaders who also serves on the Church’s Missionary Executive Council — as was the case Tuesday evening, September 19, when Elder Marcus B. Nash, a General Authority Seventy and the executive director of the Church’s Missionary Department, spoke at the Provo MTC.

The weekly 7 p.m. devotionals are a spiritual feast, similarly conducted at all of the Church’s missionary training centers worldwide. Outside of Utah, where many of the general authorities and general officers are based at Church headquarters in Salt Lake City less than an hour’s drive from the Provo MTC, international MTCs draw upon area and local leaders for their devotional speakers, with visiting general authorities or officers who might be on nearby ministry or leadership assignments also scheduled to participate.

And the teachings and learnings go beyond the devotional itself, as missionaries then move to regroup as MTC branches or districts into classrooms to conduct a “devotional review” for about an hour before retiring to their individual personal quarters for the night. There they share among themselves what they learned from the Spirit while listening and participating during that evening’s devotional.

Using the five fingers of his hand to represent the five principles of the doctrine of Christ, Elder Marcus B. Nash, a General Authority Seventy and executive director of the Church’s Missionary Department, speaks at a devotional at the Provo Missionary Training Center in Provo, Utah, on Tuesday, September 19, 2023.Copyright 2023 Deseret News Publishing Company.

‘A Synergy’ When missionaries, Leaders Meet

After concluding his recent speaking assignment in Provo, Elder Nash paused to reflect on the power and impact of the weekly MTC devotionals happening at all the Church’s MTCs worldwide. He started with Doctrine and Covenants 6:32 — with the Lord saying “where two or three are gathered together in my name, … there will I be in the midst of them.”

Elder Nash continued his explanation to the Church News about MTC devotionals: “These missionaries are consecrated servants of God; general authorities and officers are also consecrated servants to God. And so we gather, and He is present — and there is something powerful and ennobling and edifying and joyous when we meet together.”

He said that the consecrated combination of missionaries and Church leaders creates “a synergy,” adding “when you get that all pulled together, it’s a powerful experience.”

Also, for the missionaries in a training center, the devotionals provide one of the few times when they all meet together in a singular, unifying setting.

“When they gather together like this,” Elder Nash said, “they realize that not only are they accompanying the Lord as they serve but there are a lot of others like them, and they’re part of this vast, worldwide, global and consecrated group of servants of God.

“It’s just so encouraging and uplifting.”

Using the recent visit of the Missionary Department’s executive director as an example, here’s a brief look at a Tuesday night devotional at the Provo MTC.

Standard Format for Devotionals — but not Routine

Tuesday evenings usually begin with the visiting general authority or officer and spouse joining the Provo MTC presidency members and their wives for an on-campus pre-devotional dinner. Sometimes the visiting leader is accompanied by a handful of family members or friends, or sometimes they are joined by immediate or extended family members who are missionaries training at the MTC.

The devotional format at the Provo MTC is fairly standard — the young and senior missionaries are in the auditorium well in advance of the start, quietly preparing to receive instruction. Often more than half of the young missionaries opt to sing in the MTC choir — rehearsals are held Sundays and Tuesdays before the devotional. Of the roughly 2,000 young elders and sisters at the MTC to listen to Elder Nash this evening, the choir was 1,080 voices strong.

The devotional begins with a member of the MTC presidency conducting and welcoming the visitors and missionaries, followed by an opening hymn — often “Called to Serve” (Hymn No. 249) — then an invocation, an introduction of the visiting authority or officer and a number performed by the choir.

Preceded by brief remarks from his or her spouse, the visiting authority offers remarks. Sometimes the message includes question-and-answer interactions with attendees, sometimes it includes video clips or special musical numbers. Following the teachings and testimony of the devotional speaker, the meeting concludes with a second congregational hymn and a benediction.

Usually, the guests and MTC presidency and wives depart from the rostrum and out of the auditorium, as the missionaries leave for their ensuing devotional review. Sometimes, the devotional speaker takes a few minutes to walk through the auditorium sections to acknowledge the attendees and interact with a handful of them. On rare occasions — and when the number of training missionaries is more manageable — the speaker has asked to shake hands or personally greet each missionary.

Then comes the devotional review, as missionaries meet in smaller groups in classrooms across campus, led by branch ecclesiastical leaders (missionaries in the MTC are divided into branches). There the missionaries don’t necessarily read from their notes or recite things that the speaker taught but rather share the learnings from the Spirit while attending the devotional.

Missionaries attend a devotional with Elder Marcus B. Nash, a General Authority Seventy and executive director of the Church’s Missionary Department, at the Provo Missionary Training Center in Provo, Utah, on Tuesday, September 19, 2023. Photo by Adam Fondren, courtesy of Church News. Copyright 2023 Deseret News Publishing Company.

Provo MTC’s Large Numbers in the Summer

On this mid-September Tuesday evening, the MTC’s auditorium that was filled with more than 2,000 training missionaries and leaders before the 7 p.m. devotional started. Elder Nash and his wife, Sister Shelley Nash, were accompanied by the Provo MTC ecclesiastical leaders, President Kevin E. Calderwood and Sister Sydnee Calderwood, as they walked to an overflow area in a nearby building to personally acknowledge the some 400-plus unable to be in the auditorium and who were instead watching a video feed of the devotional there.

Since many of the young elders and sisters currently training have chosen to start their two-year or 18-month respective missions after high school or between college semesters, the highest numbers of training missionaries at the Provo MTC are always from early summer into fall annually.

Quickly returning to the at-capacity audience in the auditorium, the Nashes combined to speak for nearly an hour. Afterwards, they spent another nearly 30 minutes greeting and visiting with dozens of missionaries who lingered after the meeting.

And all this came on limited rest for Elder and Sister Nash, having returned home in the early morning hours that day following a mission tour in El Salvador, where Elder Nash had served as a young missionary four decades ago. He was making his first visit to the country since having served there. Both he and his wife talked to the missionaries in the Provo MTC about a few of their tender experiences in El Salvador, helping the listening missionaries understand how their service can have a lifelong influence in the lives of those they teach and serve with.

Two missionaries prepare for a devotional with Elder Marcus B. Nash, a General Authority Seventy and executive director of the Church’s Missionary Department, at the Provo Missionary Training Center in Provo, Utah, on Tuesday, September 19, 2023. Photo by Adam Fondren, courtesy of Church News. Copyright 2023 Deseret News Publishing Company.
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‘We Need to do the Spiritual Work’

Sister Nash recalled an experience in Lima, Peru, where the Nashes spent several years of Church service. She saw a slowly moving car with a dog on a leash trotting along beside.

The driver of the car was making sure the dog was getting its daily exercise, “and yet the driver was getting no benefits from the daily walk,” she said, adding the same is true for her when her husband exercises. “It doesn’t do me any good when Elder Nash gets on the elliptical. I don’t get stronger, and I don’t get more fit.”

She likened the examples to spiritual strength. “If we want the spiritual benefits, we need to do the spiritual work,” she said.

“As missionaries, you’ll be teaching, lifting and strengthening people all over the world, bringing them the restored gospel of Jesus Christ and helping them to start on the covenant path. And as you lift and bless them, you will also receive the lifelong blessings of conversion — if you get out of the car, so to speak. This means that you personally do the spiritual work, walking side by side with those whom you will teach.”

Who Are the Missionaries?

Elder Nash began his remarks by asking missionaries who they are and answered by quoting the recent three-fold list from President Russell M. Nelson“a child of God, a child of the covenant and a disciple of Christ.” Elder Nash added a fourth: “For the next two years or 18 months of your life, you are a missionary.”

Speaking of their roles and responsibilities, he said, “It is a joy, elders and sisters. Yes, it’s a challenge, it’s inconvenient, and sometimes it’s hot or it’s cold or whatever it may be. But it is a joy.”

Elder Marcus B. Nash, a General Authority Seventy and executive director of the Church’s Missionary Department, speaks with missionaries after speaking at a devotional at the Provo Missionary Training Center in Provo, Utah, on Tuesday, September 19, 2023. Photo by Adam Fondren, courtesy of Church News.Copyright 2023 Deseret News Publishing Company.
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He then focused on the Missionary Purpose, found at the start of the first chapter of “Preach My Gospel”: “Invite others to come unto Christ by helping them receive the restored gospel through faith in Jesus Christ and His Atonement, repentance, baptism, receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost, and enduring to the end.”

He invited listeners to join him in explaining more into detail about different words and phrases of the purpose — “invite ... others ... come ... Christ ... helping ... receive.”

‘We Will Go a Lot Higher as We Live That Pattern’

He spent additional time reviewing faith in Jesus Christ and His Atonement, repentance, baptism, the Holy Ghost and enduring to the end, using five fingers of a hand to represent each principle of the doctrine of Christ. And he repeated the list as an ongoing cycle of learning and building and growth, each time raising his hand a little higher.

“I can’t go (physically) much higher,” he said, with his arm extended as far as possible, “but we will go a lot higher as we live that pattern. … If you want to succeed in mortality, live that, and you will succeed — guaranteed. If you want to succeed as a missionary, live that, and you will succeed — guaranteed. It is that simple and that beautiful.”

He then spent the remainder of his message speaking of the Savior, using mostly Book of Mormon scriptures to underscore His example, His restored gospel and how the Atonement of Jesus Christ helps His disciples become guiltless and spotless at the final judgement. He said the Lord is the advocate for those disciples who have strived to be worthy by honoring covenants and keeping commandments.

“My hope is that you will leave this devotional understanding the doctrine of Christ and how important it is,” Elder Nash said. “But built upon that, that you’ll have a deeper understanding of Christ, and then you’ll have a hunger and thirst to come unto Him.”

As missionaries left the auditorium to go to their devotional reviews, several stopped to share their learnings.

The devotional was the first for Elder Mason Wright of Kaysville, Utah, in his first of two weeks of training at the Provo MTC as he prepares for his assignment to serve in the Arizona Mesa Mission. “It just helps me feel the Spirit so strong and especially helps me feel God’s love for me as an individual,” said Elder Wright of his first MTC devotional. “And when Elder Nash was talking about the Atonement of Jesus Christ and how He was in the Garden of Gethsemane really hit me deep in so many ways.”

His companion, Elder Joseph Poulsen of Belmont, Massachusetts, also going to the Mesa mission, added: “I just loved what Elder Nash said about our purpose, our mission statement — just to invite others to come unto Christ and all these different covenants that we help them enter into. It’s such a blessing and so cool to hear such an in-depth analysis of that and the wonderful explanations. I could really feel the Spirit, and I took a lot away from it.”

Copyright 2023 Deseret News Publishing Company.

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