Editor’s note: Sister Shelby Barnes recently returned from the North Carolina Raleigh Mission. While there, she served under the direction of President Matthew S. Holland and his wife, Paige. Elder Holland now serves as a member of the Quorum of the Seventy. Sister Barnes recently interviewed the Hollands regarding the possible changes in missionary service.
Shelby Barnes: What do you project as changes in missionary work?
Elder Holland: We will be doing things differently now. Even when COVID goes away we will do more finding and teaching online. This will stay. There are many reasons the Lord made COVID come forward. We weren’t using the tools as well as we could. Zoom and online communication will be used to make meetings and conferences shorter and more often. Training will be done differently.
SB: What skills should prospective missionaries acquire?
Elder Holland: Missionaries will need to become more disciplined in social media. There is a delicate balance in using it, and missionaries will need to think creatively about it. There will be a shift from social media to teach in live situations. It is exciting to think of these changes! It will still be critical to read the Book of Mormon and Preach My Gospel and we have to be rock solid in these two foundational resources. Missionaries will need to learn to be unafraid to bear testimony.
SB: Have you seen a change in recent and new converts?
Elder Holland: We can find and teach online, but can we hang onto them? A lot are sticking and there needs to be more member connections. People are turning to God. Member work has never been more important. What is happening is a miraculous thing to see!
SB: What are the challenges as a former mission president that you have encountered, and how did the pandemic affect your service?
Sister Holland: It’s hard to be quarantined. The volume of missionaries coming and going was difficult because a lot of international missionaries were being reassigned to stateside missions. The reassigned missionaries are grateful that they could continue to serve and were undaunted by the pandemic.
Elder Holland: I had an idea of something I wanted to do, but I had to get to the airport! Missionary work comes in inconvenient times. Missionary work is the lifeblood of the church.
SB: What have been some of the positives that have come from this pandemic regarding missionary work?
Elder Holland: It has boiled life down to the most critical things. One is testimony, two is the sacrament, three is the gospel, four is the family. People lose sight of the things that are most important. The pandemic has had a very powerful focusing influence on the missionaries and the members in general. I have witnessed the power of prophetic leadership. The church was prepared. It was exquisite timing! The Lord was guiding His church.