President's Pen 2-12-18 (I Know of Myself)

As missionaries in the Texas Houston South Mission, we know our purpose is to 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. We do this through our constant efforts to find, teach, invite, retain, and activate God’s children; we love it, we live it, and we do it! “We begin with the End in Mind”, and see God’s children as he does. We are Disciples of Jesus Christ that teach repentance and baptize converts and the best missionaries in the world!

Dear Elders & Sisters,

I love ya! Thanks for your goodness, for your faith, for your diligence, and for your desire to help all feel the joy and gift of repentance.  You represent the Savior, you teach, testify, and invite in His name.  Be worthy of this blessing, be grateful to serve Him, and continue to become converted to Him and His gospel and help others do the same!

Do you know?  Of all the wonderful teachings we find in the Book of Mormon, I love the assurance that Alma gives of how we can come to know the truth for ourselves.  After teaching an amazing sermon to the people of Zarahemla, he asks, “Do ye not suppose that I know of these things myself?”  He then goes on to answer his own question, “Behold, I testify unto you that I do know that these things whereof I have spoken are true. And how do ye suppose that I know of their surety?  Behold, I say unto you they are made known unto me by the Holy Spirit of God. Behold, I have fasted and prayed many days that I might know these things of myself. And now I do know of myself that they are true; for the Lord God hath made them manifest unto me by his Holy Spirit; and this is the spirit of revelation which is in me.” (Alma 5:45-46)

Have you personally followed Alma’s pattern to gain your own witness of the truth? Has the Spirit confirmed to your heart and mind (spirit of revelation) that what we teach, preach, and live is true? Have you fasted and prayed to come to a knowledge of the truth? Have you entered into your own sacred grove and asked God if He’s there, if Jesus Christ is your Savior and Redeemer, if Joseph Smith truly is a prophet of God, if this is His Church, and if the Book of Mormon is the word of God? 

Elder Lawrence E. Corbridge of the Seventy taught the following. “How can we know the answers? There are different methods of learning including the scientific, the analytical and the divine methods. All three methods begin the same way, with a question. Questions are important, especially the primary questions. (The primary questions are: Is there a God who is our Father? Is Jesus Christ the Son of God, the Savior of the World, Was Joseph Smith a prophet? Is the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-­‐‑day Saints the kingdom of God on the earth?)

With the scientific method a hypothesis is framed in response to a question. Experimentation is then conducted to test the hypothesis. The results are then analyzed and conclusions are drawn that either confirm, disprove or modify the hypothesis in which event the process continues.

The analytical method involves gathering, organizing and weighing the evidence relevant to a question. Based on the weight of the evidence, conclusions are drawn as to what the truth may be.

The divine method of learning incorporates elements of both the scientific and analytical methods but ultimately trumps everything else by tapping into the powers of heaven.

As for the scientific method, Alma invites us to “experiment upon (his) words” and the Lord said: “My doctrine is not mine, but his that sent me. If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself.”  In regard to tithing He also said, “…prove me now herewith…if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it.” Truth can be discovered by doing, which is faith.

The analytical method also plays a role. The Lord instructed Oliver Cowdery saying: “Behold, you have not understood; you have supposed that I would give it unto you, when you took no thought save it was to ask me. But, behold, I say unto you, that you must study it out in your mind; then you must ask me if it be right…”  Reason, studying things out in our minds, plays a role in preparing us to know the truth.

Ultimately, however, the things of God are made known by the Spirit of God.  The Apostle Paul taught that men only know the things of men and that the things of God are known by no man except by the Spirit of God. He said: “The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.”

Jesus said: “But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost… shall teach you all things...”  Part of the great promise of The Book of Mormon is that “…by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things.”  Ultimately, the things of God are made known by the Spirit of God.”

Elders & Sisters, many of us were fortunate to be raised in a home where gospel principles were taught, church attendance was the norm, and we came to believe what our parents, teachers, and leaders taught us.  This is good and it laid the foundation for our faith, but as President Ezra Taft Benson taught, “Every man eventually is backed up to the wall of faith, and there he must make his stand.”  We will all have to come to a knowledge for ourselves, independent of the testimony of others, that what we believe is true. 

I vividly recall arriving on my mission, and for the first time in my life, I realized I had to know what I was teaching was true.  Sadly, I had waited to be in the field before I actually got down on my knees and asked if Joseph Smith really did see God the Father and Jesus Christ.  I was teaching it, I had always assumed it was true, I hoped that it was, but I hadn’t actually done what Alma taught.  For the next several weeks I asked God if Joseph Smith really was a prophet of God. 

The answer didn’t come immediately, but it did come.  I was teaching a lesson on the Restoration in our small, rented church house in Futrono, Chile.  We were showing our investigator an old film strip of Joseph Smith’s experience, his desire to know what church was true, his study in the book of James, and his journey into a grove of trees to ask of God.  I listened to Joseph’s own words as he testified of seeing a pillar of light, that descended gradually until it rested upon him.  When the words were spoken, “This is my beloved Son, hear Him”,  the Spirit witnessed to my heart and mind like never before that Joseph Smith was a prophet of God.  Light filled my mind and I knew without a doubt that what I was teaching, what I believed, and what I hoped for was true.  To this day I remember the feeling… it was peace, it was joy, and it was heaven sent.  I know of myself that Joseph Smith is a prophet of God.

I know of myself that God lives. I have felt His love, I see His creation, I know he hears my prayers and knows me by name.  I know of myself that Jesus Christ is my Savior and Redeemer, that He lives, and that He personally atoned for me.  I have felt the enabling power of His grace, His forgiveness, His peace, and His love.  I know of myself that this is God’s Church on the earthy today.  I know this because I have experimented, weighed the evidence, and have felt the reassurance that this is the only Church that has the priesthood authority, ordinances, and God’s chosen prophet to lead and guide us.  I know of myself that the Book of Mormon is the word of God.  I know this as I have read, pondered, and prayed and have received a witness by the power of the Holy Ghost that it is true.  I know of these things because I have done what Alma taught.  I have prayed, I have fasted, I have experimented, I have nurtured, and I continue to act in faith.  I do not doubt, I do not wonder, I know these things are true.  I testify in the name of Jesus Christ that what I have come to know is true. 

Elders & Sisters, I invite you today to ask if you know of yourself if these things are true.  Have you experimented, analyzed, but most importantly had these things made known unto you by the Spirit of God?  Have you had your own sacred grove moment where the spirit of revelation has brought the feelings to your heart and thoughts to your mind that you desire?  I am eternally grateful that my mission backed me up to the wall of faith and that I came to a knowledge for myself.  If you have had this experience, write it down, treasure it, remember what you did, and how you came to this knowledge.  If you are still working on it, good for you, keep asking, keep acting, keep believing.  I have had to continually nurture my testimony, it hasn’t been confirmed by only one experience, but by many acts of faith and continuous effort.  I believe in Alma’s words.  I testify that the Spirit will make manifest the truth of these things by the power of the Holy Ghost.  I invite you today to know of yourself.  In the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.  I love ya!

President Hall

President's Pen 2-5-18 (Positivity for Performance)

As missionaries in the Texas Houston South Mission, we know our purpose is to 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. We do this through our constant efforts to find, teach, invite, retain, and activate God’s children; we love it, we live it, and we do it! “We begin with the End in Mind”, and see God’s children as he does. We are Disciples of Jesus Christ that teach repentance and baptize converts and the best missionaries in the world!

Dear Elders & Sisters,

I love ya! Thanks for increasing your urgency and desire to help all come unto Christ.  We have the greatest message to share the world will ever know.  Keep your wonderful desires to find those the Lord has prepared and your purposeful efforts to teach repentance and baptize converts!

Although it is out of sight and out of mind for us as full-time missionaries, the world’s nations will soon gather in South Korea for the PyeongChang 2018 Olympic Winter Games.  The best from around the word will compete in their individual disciplines and aim to reach their goal of winning a gold medal.  These athletes have put years into their craft, spent hours and hours in training, sacrificed leisure time, avoided distraction, and will put it all on the starting line.

Athletes of this caliber, however, don’t get to this point on their own.  There is tremendous family support, government backing, and coaches who help them hone their skills and abilities.  The beauty of the Olympics is watching how mankind can push themselves higher, faster, and stronger through discipline, continuous improvement, technology, and an absolute desire to become the best.  I am inspired as I watch them compete, learn about their sacrifices, and see the human spirit soar to new heights.    

With all the amazing talent on display, I am fascinated by what separates the good athletes from the great athletes.  When you get to this level of competition, physical prowess and training are similar for most athletes.  They have similar builds and body types, the best coaches, diet, resources, and all the necessary tools to be successful.  What makes the difference for those who will win?

In a recent study on human performance, there is a new body of evidence that suggests we are all capable of pushing beyond our perceived physical and psychological limitations.  Physiologists combined all the reliable predictors, such as muscle strength and movement, lung capacity, oxygen in the blood, strength of the heart, and any other measurable factors, but they couldn’t predict who would win.  Athletes who hold the same characteristics, that train and measure as equals, could be seconds or minutes apart when it comes to crossing the finish line.  Why?

Since the early 60’s, psychologists have proclaimed how key the human mind is in our performance.  Very early on in their studies, they observed how an athlete’s mind could overcome the fatigue, pain, and discomfort to push harder, further, and endure beyond what the body was willing to give.  Now 60 years later, the research on how the brain figures into performance, clearly suggests that what makes the difference between equally qualified athletes, is what they believe they can do, versus when their bodies tell them to stop.  All the athletes they studied suffered, their bodies are tired and want to give in, but some have just enough mind over body to make the difference.  The research has found, that athletes who are able to provide themselves with positive motivational statements like, “Keep pushing, you’re doing well” or “You have more to give, keep going” have the ability to push through finish line while others may falter. 

In 2016, a study was performed with world-class cyclists to prove the hypothesis that the mind could overcome heat, fatigue, and other negative environmental conditions.  They were given two weeks of positive self-talk training before a grueling all-out ride in 95 degree weather.  The evidence of positive self-talk on the physiological impact was impressive.  Athletes boosted their time to exhaustion from eight to eleven minutes, controlled their core temperatures, and pushed harder and further than ever before.  The mind pushed beyond any limits the athletes had previously imposed on themselves.

Another example of going beyond perceived limits is quoted in the Wall Street Journal… “Former Boston Marathon champion Amby Burfoot once described the “absolute, no-doubt-in-the-world best running workout you can do” as a series of all-out mile repeats where, after you think you’re finished, your coach tells you to do one more at the same pace. The surprise? You can. Most of us don’t have sadistic coaches, or indeed any coach at all, but this general approach—setting a tough but achievable finish line for yourself, and then raising your sights once you reach it—is a powerful way of pushing beyond what seems initially feasible.”  I love this! If you believe you can, you’re right!

It comes with no surprise, that if we believe, we can achieve!  The examples of the Olympic spirit are not limited to the super athletes.  We see people from all walks of life accomplish remarkable results as they put in the hard work, and then positively push towards their desired outcomes.  Is missionary work any different?

I have seen missionaries that are like the great athletes described above…  Some go into a so called “dead area”, and with hard work and belief that the Lord will help them succeed, achieve amazing results.  They push through the hard days, the factors outside of their control, they keep pressing forward and stay positive.  Their faith in the Savior and His work inspires me.  I see it in their weekly emails, interviews, their work with the members, local leadership, and with their companions.  I also see missionaries who give all they have, stay positive despite limited outward results, and stay tenacious and purpose focused wherever they’re assigned.  They don’t become discouraged, lose their faith, drop their expectations, or slow their pace.  They also have the ability to harness the power of positive self-talk and keep the faith and belief that the Lord is in the vineyard. 

Elders & Sisters, we bring the ultimate message of positivity and hope.  The gospel of Jesus Christ brings strength to all with feeble knees and for all who carry burdens on their backs.  It is the differentiating factor for all who aspire to become better than they are today, and especially when they need to go beyond their own physical and mental limits.  It is our faith in Christ that allows us to be steadfast and press forward with a perfect brightness of hope, feasting, pressing forwarding, and enduring.  The goal is eternal life and the good Shepherd whispers to our hearts and minds, “my yoke is easy and my burden is light, you can do this, keep pushing, keep fighting, I’ll give you rest”. 

I invite you to develop a mindset that accentuates the positive!  I invite you to push a little harder, run a little faster, and dig a little deeper when you begin to tire or feel like you can’t go any further.  I invite you to rid yourself of negative self-talk and listen the voice that builds, strengthens, and edifies.  I invite you to recognize that you have prayers coming from the prophet, the apostles, the temples, members of the Church, your family, and I believe the Savior Himself still prays to the Father on your behalf.  You have the best tools, technology, and resources to help you be successful.  Choose to eliminate excuses, choose the harder right over the easier wrong, choose to believe you can achieve.  I know the Savior’s grace is indeed the divine help and strength that allows ordinary men and women to do extraordinary things.  That is what my mind needs to know and believe.  You are the Lord’s representative, your divine potential is real, and there are no limits to who you will become. Love ya!

President Hall

President's Pen 1-29-18 (Tongue of Angels)

As missionaries in the Texas Houston South Mission, we know our purpose is to 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. We do this through our constant efforts to find, teach, invite, retain, and activate God’s children; we love it, we live it, and we do it! “We begin with the End in Mind”, and see God’s children as he does. We are Disciples of Jesus Christ that teach repentance and baptize converts and the best missionaries in the world! 

Dear Elders & Sisters,

I love ya!  This is God’s work, it is true, and I love the blessing we have of teaching repentance and baptizing converts!

As Nephi concludes his remarks to his people, he teaches the doctrine of Christ and shares an insight I love.  He states, “Wherefore, my beloved brethren, I know that if ye shall follow the Son, with full purpose of heart, acting no hypocrisy and no deception before God, but with real intent, repenting of your sins, witnessing unto the Father that ye are willing to take upon you the name of Christ, by baptism—yea, by following your Lord and your Savior down into the water, according to his word, behold, then shall ye receive the Holy Ghost; yea, then cometh the baptism of fire and of the Holy Ghost; and then can ye speak with the tongue of angels, and shout praises unto the Holy One of Israel.” (2 Ne 31:13)

For each new convert baptized in our mission, I send a letter of congratulations and request that they share their testimony or conversion story with me.  I receive both hand written letters and emails, and as I read them, I can see and feel what Nephi expresses…  New converts do speak with the tongue of angels, and in their own way, shout praises to the Holy One of Israel.  As I read their accounts, my faith is increased and my own testimony is strengthened.  I love to learn more about them, their circumstances, their decision to be baptized, and their willingness to follow the Savior with full purpose of heart.  Below, I share with you the accounts of two recent converts who followed the Savior into the waters of baptism; can you hear the tongue of angels?

Account 1 “I remember the first time I really felt a strong revelation.  I was on my way to meet the missionaries to tour what would be my ward meeting house and I was thinking about my previous lesson and reading.  I had read 2 Nephi 31, in which Nephi spoke of why Jesus was baptized.  I was thinking about how Jesus was baptized as an example of obedience and sacrifice and it hit me like ton of bricks while sitting at a stoplight.  I had spent pretty much my entire adult life thinking that it was good enough to follow the teachings of Christ and try to be a good person.  I was not sacrificing anything in my relationship with Jesus and was expecting nothing less than eternal salvation in return.  I had to step up.  It was at that moment that I really started to take my investigation to a new level.  I shared my thoughts with the missionaries during my tour and was surprised to hear my own voice crack a little bit as I was saying it aloud.  I recognized the Spirit working to show me I was on the right path.  Having experienced that first revelation, I started investigating what it would mean to be a Mormon.” 

Account 2 “The missionaries kept meeting with me and asking me to read the Book of Mormon and to pray, which I was doing. After a while, they asked if I would consider Baptism and I said “yes.” But one night while I was reading the Book of Mormon, I found myself so confused and I wasn’t understanding a single thing of what I was reading. I stopped reading, I closed the book, and I started thinking of the many religions there are, and how would I come to know of this was true? How would I know if I was doing the right thing by going to the LDS church?! That made me feel like I wasn’t ready for baptism and I started hesitating. But I remembered that the missionaries asked me to pray if I had any doubts, I also remembered that Joseph Smith prayed when he felt the same way I was feeling. So I got on my knees, I prayed. In my prayers I asked for my faith to grow, to know if I was doing the right thing by going to this church, and to know if the Book of Mormon was true.  After that, I went to sleep. The next morning I woke up with such an amazing joy, happiness, and peace!” 

As I read their accounts, the assurance that Heavenly Father answers the sincere prayers of His sons and daughters fills my heart with joy!  The power of the Holy Ghost was working the miracle of conversion, He had entered into their hearts as they read the Book of Mormon, and Moroni’s promise was being fulfilled as they pondered, and prayed.  Amazing! They continue…

Account 1 “In the remaining time leading up to my baptism I studied the covenants that I would make, prayed for guidance and strength, and made my commitments.  As soon as I decided to make each covenant, it was as if I felt the strength I would need to keep it enter me.  Having accepted that the Restored Gospel was the true Gospel, it started to make sense to me that Heavenly Father would choose a young America as the setting to restore a plan that depended so heavily on individual agency.  Everything was falling into place and it all made sense.  Every time I prayed, I was filled with assurances from the Holy Ghost, even if it was just as simple as something just...making sense.”

Account 2  “I started reading the Book of Mormon and I was understanding everything, I strongly felt like it was so true. It was then, that I knew God was telling me that I was doing the right thing, that the Book of Mormon is just as true as the Bible.  It was then that I knew I had to get baptized, that Heavenly Father was being so clear with me that I was doing the right thing!” 

The words of Alma ring in my ears as I read their words, “If this is the desire of your hearts, what have you against being baptized in the name of the Lord…” (Mosiah 18:10)  As the Spirit continued to work upon theirs hearts and minds through their faithful actions, their desires to follow the Savior, and take upon us His name was the “right thing” and “just made sense”.   The miracle of conversion is real!  They continue…

Account 1 “When my baptism day arrived, I felt very calm and at peace.  I was a little nervous, as I always am when I am the center of attention, but I knew this was what was right for me and I looked forward to it.  The baptism itself was almost a blur - I remember having trouble getting back up out of the water and being proud that we got it right on the first try.  I enjoyed the talks of my new ward family as they welcomed me.  I welcomed the Holy Ghost into my life wholeheartedly the next day in church when I was confirmed.  I am excited about going to the Sacrament meeting every week and really look forward to it all week.  When I imagined finding a religion, I never could have imagined that I would find one that fit me so well.  I never imagined that I would spend time during the rest of the week studying scripture, listening to talks from church leaders, and praying.  I always thought that a church was just something you did on Sundays.  Thanks to my encounter with a couple of Spanish-speaking missionaries, I now know that not only is Jesus Christ my Savior and that he loves me, I know that I have a Heavenly Father that wants me to return to him in the Celestial Kingdom.  I know that Jesus Christ revealed to Joseph Smith His Plan and the ordinances necessary to bring His church back to the Earth.  My testimony is growing every day and I feel like I am where I am supposed to be.”

Account 2 “As I got baptized, I felt joy, after that, I felt such a beautiful type of peace that I can’t even explain. I had never felt a beautiful feeling, until that day.  Then the day I received the Gift of the Holy Ghost came! It was beautiful and I was calm, forgot about everything that worries me again. On that day, I also took the sacrament for the very first time after my baptism, I promise I felt such warmth in my heart. I felt warmth and peace! I felt so forgiven! I felt loved. And ever since then, I haven’t been feeling depressed at all, I feel like I can make better decisions, I have this strong thing that helps me stay away from the things that are wrong. I just feel like I’m a new me. I am in love with the myself. I love God, his Son Jesus Christ.  Thanks to the atonement, I can be forgiven and I can’t express my heart to how grateful I am for it. I know the church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints is true. I know it because I can feel it.”

 Elders & Sisters, I love these two new converts and my heart swells with joy as I read their words! These are our people, our Houstonians, our brothers and sisters who the Lord prepared to receive His servants.  One convert was found through street contacting, the other came from a member who opened his mouth and shared his beliefs.  Missionaries were in the right place at the right time, opened their mouths, taught simple truths, testified boldly, involved members, promised blessings, followed up and extended invitations to act.  The result is two new converts, who chose to act in faith, and have come to feel and know for themselves that God is in the heavens and that Jesus Christ is their Savior and Redeemer.   This is WHY we are here! As Elder Corbridge teaches, “It is the end objective. It is the reason they (missionaries) walk the streets, whatever the weather.  It is why they leave home, family, and friends behind.”

My dear friends, what you do every day makes a difference!  We may need to knock a thousand doors, visit hundreds of members, talk to everyone on the street, and work and work and work some more, but the sweetness of one soul who can speak with the tongue of an angel makes it all worthwhile.  Tonight I received a note from one of these new converts who received their temple recommend earlier today.  She is so excited to go to the House of the Lord and she feels incredible support and love among her new ward family; she says she is truly happy.  I invite you to remember the sacred nature of your calling, to not lose sight of the eternal perspective, and to remember that these are people, God’s children, and you have been called to find and teach them repentance and convert them to the Lord.  Have faith in the Savior to prepare hearts, trust in His work and His timing, and love every minute that you as one who has been called to help all speak with the tongue of angels!  Love ya!

President Hall

 

President's Pen 1-22-18 (Qualified for Baptism)

As missionaries in the Texas Houston South Mission, we know our purpose is to 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. We do this through our constant efforts to find, teach, invite, retain, and activate God’s children; we love it, we live it, and we do it! “We begin with the End in Mind”, and see God’s children as he does. We are Disciples of Jesus Christ that teach repentance and baptize converts and the best missionaries in the world!

Dear Elders & Sisters,

I love ya! Thanks for your faith in the Savior and His wonderful work.  I truly know that the more we come to understand the Savior and His Atonement, the greater desire, urgency, and effort we will make to share it.  I see how the sons of Mosiah reached a point where the very idea that someone might not receive the gospel blessings would cause them to quake and tremble.  Be tenacious this week and remember that the Lord is always in the vineyard with us!

Of the many assignments I am blessed to fulfill, one of my favorites is that of interviewing baptismal candidates.  As a mission president, I hold the keys to preside over missionaries and to administer the work of sharing the gospel.  As part of this responsibility, it is my blessing to make sure baptismal candidates meet the qualifications as laid out in Doctrine and Covenants section 20 verse 37.

“And again, by way of commandment to the church concerning the manner of baptism—All those who (1) humble themselves before God, and (2) desire to be baptized, and (3) come forth with broken hearts and contrite spirits, and (4) witness before the church that they have truly repented of all their sins, and (5) are willing to take upon them the name of Jesus Christ, (6) having a determination to serve him to the end, and (7) truly manifest by their works that they have received of the Spirit of Christ unto the remission of their sins, shall be received by baptism into his church.”

The Lord has blessed us with clear instruction on what must be evident as a person readies themselves to receive a remission of sins by water and by fire.  Have you ever asked yourself, how do we know if someone is ready?  Can you see the fruits of their faith and repentance?   You will notice above I have a placed a number next to the qualifications as laid out in D&C 20:37… Below, I share with you some of my thoughts on how you can have eyes to see, ears to hear, and a heart to discern if investigators are truly demonstrating fruits of repentance and ready to “be received by baptism into his church.”

  1. Humble themselves before God… The Savior teaches us that to become humble is to become as a child.  A child is submissive, teachable, and as King Benjamin taught, “willing to submit to all things…”  When I think of an investigator that has humbled themselves, what I hope to see is someone who will willingly say, “Thy will be done.”  I want to be taught, learn more, I’ll pray, I’ll read, I’ll come to church, I’ll do what God wants me to do…
  2. Desire to be baptized…  The words that best express this in my mind come from Mosiah 18:10, “if this be the desire of your hearts, what have you against being baptized in the name of the Lord, as witness before him that ye have entered into a covenant with him, that ye will serve him and keep his commandments.”  An investigator who desires to be baptized will want to make promises to God and to serve Him.  They will be excited about their baptismal date, attend a baptism, want to make sure they are prepared and ready to enter into covenants with the Lord. They will also clap their hands with joy!
  3. Come forth with broken hearts and contrite spirits… A broken heart is a soft, an open, and a receptive heart. If we have a contrite spirit, we acknowledge our sins and shortcomings.  We feel godly sorrow and are willing to repent. A contrite spirit is willing to listen “to the enticings of the Holy Spirit.”  An investigator who experiences a broken heart and contrite spirit will be one who begins to have a mighty change of heart.  We will see a change in attitudes, desires, and thoughts.  We will see commandment keeping, and even their very countenance beginning to change.  More light will be seen; true repentance will be felt.
  4. Witness before the church that they have truly repented of all their sins… To be a witness means to give evidence or proof of an event.  It can also mean to testify to someone about what they have seen or heard.  An investigator that can give a witness of their repentance can speak to the changes they’re seeing in their life.  They feel the Spirit, they’re happier people, the have begun to sing the song of redeeming love.  Conversion to the Savior and His gospel can be felt from within and outwardly they are becoming new creatures. 
  5. Are willing to take upon them the name of Jesus Christ… There are many ways we take upon us the name of Christ. We take upon his name through the baptismal covenant, weekly participation in the sacrament, when we publicly proclaim our belief in Him, as we willingly serve Him, and take upon his character and attributes.  An investigator who takes upon His name will begin to understand what it means to truly be Christian, a disciple and follower of Christ.  We will see a desire for them to learn of Him, listen to Him, and walk with him. (D&C 19:23)
  6. Determination to serve him to the end… We teach that we must press forward, with a perfect brightness of hope, and love of God.  An investigator who is coming to understand this principle will recognize that preparing for baptism is not an event, but an ongoing process of change and turning towards God.  They will not become frustrated when they stumble as they know there is always a brighter day.  They will be desirous to pray daily, read the scriptures, attend church, and strive to become better people.  When we teach them correctly, they won’t see living the gospel as a checklist, but as a lifelong commitment to be steadfast in Christ. 
  7. Truly manifest by their works that they have received of the Spirit of Christ… Faith without works is dead. An investigator who has received the Spirit of Christ has demonstrated the faith to act and the Spirit is working a mighty change in their hearts.  I think of Moroni’s promise regarding the Book of Mormon; if they read, ponder, and pray, (faith in action), the Holy Ghost will witness the truth of all things.  An investigator who truly manifests their works, is full of light, new intelligence, and ready to receive more and more.  The power of the Holy Ghost is working in their lives.

Elders & Sisters, investigators preparing for baptism should not be simply be prepared to answer a series of interview questions. They are important, as are the other qualifications that show their faith in action, but let’s also keep the end in mind; true converts! As we teach repentance, we are looking for a mighty change of heart, a spirit of humility and willingness to follow God and to keep His commandments.  Investigators are becoming new people and the fruits of repentance will be more and more evident as they listen to the voice of the Spirit and let the miracle of conversion into their hearts.  We are teaching them celestial traditions that we expect them to keep and live for a lifetime.  We know they won’t be perfect, and that their testimonies will be young and growing, and that is good, we continue to improve line by line and precept upon precept.  We teach repentance, so we can truly baptize converts to the Lord and His gospel.   Faith in the Savior and His Atonement is truly the most life changing, miraculous, and the one thing of most importance!

I invite you to review the baptismal qualifications taught in D&C 20:37 and ask if those you are teaching are showing the necessary changes.  Invite them, help them, testify of the Savior and His goodness to redeem and save.  Today I interviewed a wonderful sister who has demonstrated all the fruits and qualifications we desire.  She is so excited to be reborn and to take the Savior’s name upon her.  Her desires are to live the gospel and to forever be changed by her faith in Christ.  Her joy is full and the worth of her soul is priceless!  What a blessing it is to teach repentance and to prepare people to receive a remission of sins through baptism and the gift of the Holy Ghost by the laying on of hands.  Let us all be urgent in sharing the good news of the gospel.  The Savior lives, this is His work, and it will continue to roll forward.  Love ya!

President Hall  

President's Pen 1-15-18 (The Way is Prepared)

As missionaries in the Texas Houston South Mission, we know our purpose is to 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. We do this through our constant efforts to find, teach, invite, retain, and activate God’s children; we love it, we live it, and we do it! “We begin with the End in Mind”, and see God’s children as he does. We are Disciples of Jesus Christ that teach repentance and baptize converts and the best missionaries in the world! 

 Dear Elders & Sisters,

I love ya!  Thanks for your faith in the Savior and His work.  Continue to choose faith and follow the counsel of President Russell M. Nelson, “Day after day, on your path toward your eternal destiny, increase your faith. Proclaim your faith! Let your faith show!”  Our faith is on display daily as we declare repentance and invite all to follow Christ into the waters of baptism.  Keep the flame of faith burning!

Imagine you wake up one morning, and at your feet, lies a ball of curious workmanship.  It has spindles that point the way you should go, and words written on it that help you know and understand the ways of the Lord.  You come to learn that the ball works based on the faith, diligence, and heed you give it.  Would you pay attention to this ball?  Sure, you say president, we’d be unwise servants not to. :)

Well… you know the account Lehi and family as they found this very ball of curious workmanship outside their tent one early morning.  It had spindles to point the way, and from time to time, words were written on it that helped them understand the ways of the Lord. (1 Ne. 16)  They would have been crazy, as they wandered in the wilderness and crossed the great waters, not to have had the faith, diligence and heed to pay attention to it, right?  Such a small and simple thing for them really.  Can’t you hear them say, “If we believe that this compass will guide us, have faith that it will work, and pay attention to it, we should be good to go!”  Right?

Well… sadly, fallen men and women struggle with the easiness of the way at times.  As Alma taught his son Corianton about Lehi and family’s experience… “And now, my son, I have somewhat to say concerning the thing which our fathers call a ball, or director—or our fathers called it Liahona, which is, being interpreted, a compass; and the Lord prepared it... And behold, it was prepared to show unto our fathers the course which they should travel in the wilderness.  And it did work for them according to their faith in God; therefore, if they had faith to believe that God could cause that those spindles should point the way they should go, behold, it was done; therefore they had this miracle, and also many other miracles wrought by the power of God, day by day.  Nevertheless, because those miracles were worked by small means it did show unto them marvelous works. They were slothful, and forgot to exercise their faith and diligence and then those marvelous works ceased, and they did not progress in their journey;  Therefore, they tarried in the wilderness, or did not travel a direct course, and were afflicted with hunger and thirst, because of their transgressions. And now, my son, I would that ye should understand that these things are not without a shadow; for as our fathers were slothful to give heed to this compass (now these things were temporal) they did not prosper; even so it is with things which are spiritual.” (Alma 37:38-43)

Elders & Sisters, the ball, director, compass, or Liahona lies at our feet.  The Lord has prepared it, it is simple, and if we give it heed, diligence and faith, it points the way we should go, and helps us understand the ways of the Lord.  What is it?  Well, we have it in several formats at this point, but you hold it in your hand, and it is available to you both day and night.  I would describe it as the missionary library, inclusive of the standard works, Preach My Gospel, the missionary handbook, District 1 & 2, the online proselyting library, and the words of living prophets and apostles (our Liahona).  These tools point the way and help us know the way of the Lord, the question is do we give them heed, diligence and show our faith in the direction we are given?

Too many times, we seek resources or tools that we believe will somehow show us a better way.  We look for silver bullets, or try to forge trails that seem easier, only to find that the small and simple things always work best.  You know the story of the children of Israel… All they had to do was look at the brass serpent to live, but it was too easy.  The king of Syria, who was a leper, was told to wash seven times in the river Jordan, but initially rebuffed this idea stating that other bodies of water would be better (WHAT?).  Fortunately, his servants helped him see the errors of his ways and he was healed as he did what the Prophet Elisha commanded him to do.  (2 Kings 5) 

As missionaries, we can fall victim to the same thinking…  We know better! Instead of going to PMG chapter 9, when we need ideas to find, we might forget to simply look at the goodness we’ve been given, or worse, disregard them as viable.  We can add any other insightful topics from PMG that might help us like: working with members, with ward councils, how to feel and recognize the Spirit, how to use the Book of Mormon etc.  How can we forget these things or ignore them?  How can we not be in PMG daily?  We may feel like the way to help people understand is to teach using object lessons, instead of teaching the doctrine simply and plainly (PMG chapter 3 & pamphlets).  Rather than positive daily follow up with our investigators, we may lack the faith and feel like we are being annoying or overbearing.  Instead of studying from the missionary library we’ve been given, we might feel like we’ve been there and done that, and that other resources will be more effective.  We may also be slothful and not even look at tools that can help us become more effective instruments, like the District videos, the First 12 Weeks, or assigned study materials.  Certainly, we wouldn’t be like the examples we find in the scriptures, but… the easiness of the way can trip us up to.  We know the outcome from this thinking, “as our fathers (missionaries) were slothful to give heed to this compass (now these things were temporal) they did not prosper.” Do you give heed? 

Elders & Sisters, fortunately for Lehi and family, they did learn for themselves that giving heed to the ball laid at their feet would lead them to the promised land. (Alma 37:38-47)  We must too learn for ourselves that giving heed to the small and simple things we’ve been given is the right path for us to follow.  Will we give heed, will we be diligent, will we have the faith to be directed and know the ways of the Lord?  My invitation is to you is the same Alma gave to his son, “O my son(s) and daughters, do not let us be slothful because of the easiness of the way; for so was it with our fathers; for so was it prepared for them, that if they would look they might live; even so it is with us. The way is prepared, and if we will look we may live forever.” (Alma 37:43)  Let us give heed, let us be faithful, let us be diligent, let us all use the tools we’ve been given that point the way and help us understand the ways of the Lord.  Love ya!

President Hall

President's Pen 1-8-18 (Doers, Delayers, Deniers)

As missionaries in the Texas Houston South Mission, we know our purpose is to 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. We do this through our constant efforts to find, teach, invite, retain, and activate God’s children; we love it, we live it, and we do it! “We begin with the End in Mind”, and see God’s children as he does. We are Disciples of Jesus Christ that teach repentance and baptize converts and the best missionaries in the world! 

 Dear Elders & Sisters,

I love ya!  I pray that you are continuing to increase your faith in the Savior, His Atonement, and His work.  Elder Neil L. Anderson of the Quorum of the Twelve taught, “Faith is by choice, not by chance.” We choose to show our faith in the Savior each day as we are obedient, plan, study, open our mouth, and declare with boldness repentance and a remission of sins through baptism.  Choose faith!

I love the opportunity we have to feast upon the words of Christ in the Book of Mormon each day.  I testify with my whole soul that the Book of Mormon is true! I am grateful for the impressions that come and for the aha moments we receive as the Spirit teaches and testifies of truth.   Like many of you, I am feasting in 1 Nephi right now for our Book of Mormon challenge.  I wanted to share an impression I received this week related to Nephi and members of his family.  If I were to sum up the difference between what we see in Nephi vs. Laman and Lemuel it would be three attributes or characteristics; Doers, Delayers, Deniers…  I think those are words, let’s just go with them…

DOERS

James, the half-brother of Jesus, taught, “But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only…”  (James 1:22) He also then went on to teach, “What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? (James 2:14) In the verses that follow he very clearly answers his question to us… “faith, if it hath not works, is dead” (James 2:7) Nephi is always a perfect example of one who is a faithful doer, “I will go and do the things which the Lord hath commanded…” (1 Ne. 3:7) Whatever the Lord needed Nephi to do, he was always there, always ready, always going about doing good.  I love his wiling heart, optimistic attitude, and unshakable faith.  There are doers who murmur (behold thy brothers murmur, saying it is a hard thing which I have required of them 1 Ne. 3:3), and then there are doers who love God and give their best, regardless of the circumstances (let us be faithful in keeping the commandments of the Lord. 1 Ne: 4:1).  Be like Nephi!

DELAYERS

We are often warned in scripture not to delay those things that can be done today.  The synonyms we find in scripture for delaying are procrastinating, idleness, and slothfulness.  Whether it is our repentance, filling our lamps (as was the case with the five foolish virgins), or even as we travel in the wilderness (life) like Lehi’s family (they were slothful, and forgot to exercise their faith and diligence and then those marvelous works ceased, and they did not progress in their journey – Alma 37:41) delaying to act on God’s invitations limits our potential and progress.  Can you see Laman and Lemuel being the last ones to raise their hand and offer help?  They were great at dragging their feet in almost everything they did… returning to Jerusalem (at least the first time ;), building the ship, and even praying to understand Lehi’s vision of the tree of life.  The Lord warns us about being delayers in D&C 58:29, “But he that doeth not anything until he is commanded, and receiveth a commandment with doubtful heart, and keepeth it with slothfulness, the same is damned.” In other words, when we have to be told what to do, even when we know we’re supposed to do it, and we move on it very slowly, if at all, our progress is stopped.  Nephi when counseling his brothers, “…If God had commanded me to do all things I could do them.” (1 Ne 17:50) Laman and Lemuel when it came time to build the ship, “were desirous that they might not labor…” (1 Ne. 17:18)  Be like Nephi!

DENIERS

The Apostle Peter warned that “…in the last days there shall come scoffers, walking after their own lusts. Denying the Lord Jesus Christ, and saying, Where is the promise of his coming?”  (2 Pet 3:3-4)  The objective of the anti-Christ Korihor was to persuade men and women to deny Christ and to rely upon their own genius and strength. Amazingly, many bought into his message, and many still do today. (Alma 29)  Zeezrom, who was wonderfully repentant, tried this approach with Alma and Amulek as he offered them worldly possessions if they would deny the existence of a Supreme Being. (Alma 11:22)  Knowing the challenges that would face the saints, the Apostle Paul warned Timothy, “…if we deny him, he also will deny us… (2 Tim 2:12)  In other words, the Savior will deny us before the Father in the day of judgement if we deny Him now.  To avoid this at the day of judgement, Nephi boldly taught his people, “…for the right way is to believe in Christ and deny him not; for by denying him ye also deny the prophets and the law.”  (2 Ne. 25:28) Laman and Lemuel were rebellious and deniers of the faith, “ye are swift to do iniquity and slow to remember the Lord your God.” (1 Ne. 17:45) Be like Nephi!

As I studied the Book of Mormon this week, the Spirit invited me again to secure my faith in the Savior and to always be found as one who is willing to go and do.  I love the example of Nephi as well as of the early apostles, Peter, Andrew, James, and John as they were called by the Savior, “And he saith unto them, Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.  And they straightway left their nets, and followed him… And they immediately left the ship and their father, and followed him.” (Matt 4:19-20, 22)  When the Savior called, these men immediately responded (went & did), they did not delay or put off the invitation, and they did not deny the Savior’s voice.  I marvel that these men could drop everything, their lives, and their possessions, but they did.  We, like the apostles of old, have also been called to do the same.  Be Like Nephi!

Elders & Sisters, I invite you today to increase your resolve to be “doers” of the word and not hearers only.  Don’t delay the things that will help you become a more effective instrument in the Lord’s hand and don’t wait to be asked to be anxiously engaged.  Be willing to gladly receive Nephi’s counsel, “I say unto you that the right way is to believe in Christ, and deny him not; and Christ is the Holy One of Israel; wherefore ye must bow down before him, and worship him with all your might, mind, and strength, and your whole soul; and if ye do this ye shall in nowise be cast out.”  I love the Book of Mormon and the promptings I receive to go about doing good, to avoid any reason for delaying, and to never be found as one denying the Lord and His goodness.  Be Like Nephi! Love ya!

President Hall

President's Pen 1-1-18 (Decisive)

As missionaries in the Texas Houston South Mission, we know our purpose is to 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. We do this through our constant efforts to find, teach, invite, retain, and activate God’s children; we love it, we live it, and we do it! “We begin with the End in Mind”, and see God’s children as he does. We are Disciples of Jesus Christ that teach repentance and baptize converts and the best missionaries in the world!

 Dear Elders & Sisters,

I love ya!  Happy New Year!  What a blessing it is to begin a New Year understanding our purpose, our divine nature as sons and daughters of God, who we are destined to become, and that our everyday efforts make a difference.  Resolve this year to be one who has greater faith in the Savior Jesus Christ and His Atonement.  Let us all keep our focus on the blessing of teaching repentance and baptizing converts!

And Joshua said unto all the people [of Israel], … “choose you this day whom ye will serve; … but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord” (Josh. 24:15).  I love these emphatic words form the Prophet Joshua.  His mind was firm, he had come to a decision, there was no middle ground, he would serve the Lord.  Do we all have that same firm, unwavering, and decisive mindset?

In scripture, we find several teachings where we are asked to make a decision and stand firm in it; a few examples… From the Book of Revelations, John teaches, “I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot.  So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth.”  What’s the message?  You can’t be a fence sitter, you can stand on one side or the other, but you can’t be lukewarm.  In the gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke the Savior teaches, “And if a kingdom be divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand.  And if a house be divided against itself, that house cannot stand.” (Mark 3:24-25) The message?  You can’t have a house in Zion and a summer cottage in Babylon and stand as one who is faithful and true.  And one of my favorite teachings from the Savior found in the Book of Mormon and New Testament, “No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.” (Matt 6:24) The message?  We’ll either love God or love the world; we have to decide.  Remember Lot’s wife…

Mortality brings a constant flow of decision making.  Some decisions are straight forward and easy (should I eat?) and others bring a level of complexity (what should I eat?).   The ability to make decisions, especially those that are important, come with the blessing of agency and the knowledge that the Lord trusts us to act and to, “do many things of their own will.” (D&C 58:27)  We can’t get too far off the path, or at least for very long, if we make a decision that is full of faith, prayer, and trust. We are to walk by faith and not by sight (2 Cor 5:7), so we need to be content that we make the best decisions we can and move forward. 

The truth, however, is that many lack the ability to make a decisive stand because of the adversary’s strategy: fear.  Fear of making the wrong decision, fear of missing out, fear of discomfort, fear of the unknown, fear of what the world view is, fear of you name it…  It is natural for all of us to have some degree of indecisiveness due to our fallen and mortal state.  In a psychology journal, the description of why decision making can be hard for us is explained this way… “The human mind hates uncertainty. Uncertainty implies volatility, randomness, and danger.”  Ever felt this way before an important decision?  If we lack faith, doubt, and are consumed with fear, we stall, become stagnant, and find ourselves sitting on the fence.  When this is the case, we will vacillate between options, lack direction, and can become like the chaff that is blown in the wind.

If we are to stand firm, unwavering, and be decisive, consider what you can do to move beyond your fears and take the leap of faith to press forward. 

  • First, put the options in front of you; I can do this or that, or choose this or that (the Lord’s way or my way).  For some decisions, the options can be limitless, but you have to narrow them down to a select few (i.e., I can go to XYZ universities, but I’m going to stick to those closest to home or how and where will we find today?).  Be effective and efficient, be decisive on options!
  • Second, study those options out in your mind.  This was what the Lord asked Oliver Cowdery to do when he desired to translate. (D&C 9:8-9) Gather the facts, study them out, ask others for input.  A caution here is you’ll never have all the data you need for some decisions.  This is called paralysis by analysis and can leave you stuck.  Once again, you go with the best information you have and make the decision.  You’ll also want to be cautious on making decisions where the timing isn’t right (i.e., praying to know now who you should marry, or what job to take, or what to study.  Good questions, but not necessarily good timing as a missionary, those decisions are better made in proximity to when the decisions need to be made.)
  • Third, decide and don’t look back!!!  For those decisions that are of a spiritual nature, and or consequential, (marriage, education, family) take your decision to the Lord and share with Him what you’ve decided to do.  The information you’ve gathered, will turn to inspiration, guiding you to the revelation you desire (Information = Inspiration = Revelation).  Our Father in Heaven trusts us to make decisions, confirm those that are important with Him, and then trust and move forward.  We must also remember that when we’re choosing between two equally good options, He just wants us to decide and then go and do. 

Elders & Sisters, we need to be decisive of whether or not we’ll be on the Lord’s side.  I think the hymn asks it best, “Who’s on the Lord’s side? Who? Now is the time to show. We ask it fearlessly: Who’s on the Lord’s side? Who?”  Missionaries that are on the Lord’s side know their purpose and have been decisive about how they will serve.  They’ve been decisive about their obedience and willingness to follow mission standards.  They are decisive about how they prayerfully plan, purposefully study, lovingly work with their companions, effectively serve the members, and faithfully bless their investigators.  As President Russell M. Nelson taught, “True disciples of Jesus Christ are willing to stand out, speak up, and be different from the people of the world. They are undaunted, devoted, and courageous.”  They’re not perfect, but they’re making great progress, and are far more content than those whose house is divided.  They are decisive!

I invite you, as we embark on a New Year, to become more decisive in declaring who you will serve.  I invite you to eliminate your fears and make decisions that are bold and represent your true calling as a representative of Jesus Christ.  The Lord needs you to decide this day who you will serve, and how you will serve.  There is no time for fence sitting, middle ground, or neutrality, and there is no better day than today to make a stand like Joshua, and declare your decision.  Love ya!

President Hall

President's Pen 12-25-17 (Prepare Him Room)

As missionaries in the Texas Houston South Mission, we know our purpose is to 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. We do this through our constant efforts to find, teach, invite, retain, and activate God’s children; we love it, we live it, and we do it! “We begin with the End in Mind”, and see God’s children as he does. We are Disciples of Jesus Christ that teach repentance and baptize converts and the best missionaries in the world!

 Dear Elders & Sisters,

I love ya!  Merry Christmas! I hope and pray that the experiences you’ve had as you’ve #LightedTheWord and given #MasQueNunca this Christmas season will forever be cherished memories.

Today the heavens and nature sing, the Lord has come!  We sing “Joy to The World” as we celebrate the birth, life, ministry, and Atonement of the Savior Jesus Christ.  He lives, He reigns, and He is our King.  He is the center of our message, it is He whom we represent, and it is He who serves with us in the vineyard each day. 

I love the wonderful words expressed as we sing Joy to the World, “let every heart prepare Him room.”

In a Christmas devotional, President Monson retold the story of the innkeeper in Bethlehem and encouraged all to not let the opportunity pass by to make room for Christ in our lives.  He said, “The innkeeper missed the greatest opportunity that an innkeeper could ever have had. Years later it would not do him any good to say, “If only I had known who they were.” Some homes today have rooms for eating, rooms for sleeping, play rooms, sewing rooms, television rooms, but no room for Christ.  Do we experience a pang of conscience as we recall His own words: ‘Foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head’ (Luke 9:58)? In our busy lives, with ever so many others competing for our attention, it is essential that we make a conscious, committed effort to bring Christ into our lives and into our homes.”

How do we follow President Monson’s counsel and prepare our hearts to make room for the Savior?  I believe it is in the planning, the readying, and preparation that makes the difference for each of us.  It will be found in the time we make, prioritize, and set aside to prepare room when the world and its trappings come calling.  As missionaries, we are creating celestial traditions to make sure there is always room for the Savior in our hearts and minds.  Here are a few thoughts on how to prepare Him room…

  • Prepare Him room through mighty prayer – Every morning and night you have a mighty prayer, giving gratitude and thanks, asking for divine help, and recognizing the hand of the Lord in your life.  Always having a prayer in your heart keeps you mindful of the blessings that come from the Savior and His Atonement.  A heart that has prepared a room, is a heart that is prayerful.
  • Prepare Him room through scripture study – Each morning you are blessed to treasure up the words of eternal life.  This celestial tradition will help you come to know, understand, and increase your faith in the Savior.  Through the scriptures we come to know His attributes and the infinite nature of His Atonement.  A heart that has prepared a room, is a heart that feasts upon the words of Christ.
  • Prepare Him room through daily repentance – The invitation to become as He is requires a heart that is always changing.  Our willingness to repent prepares room for the goodness only He can bring into our lives.  A heart that is open to change is a heart where there is room for His attributes to possess us and bless us.  A heart that has prepared room, is a heart that is broken and changing.
  • Prepare Him room by making and keeping covenants -- As we partake of the sacrament each week we open a room for us to remember Him, take upon His name, and keep His commandments.  We open a room as we keep our temple covenants to obey Him, sacrifice for Him, live His gospel, remain virtuous and pure, and consecrate our time and talents for Him.  Covenants remind us of promises He is bound to give us and is desperate to give.  A heart that has prepared a room, is a heart that rejoices in covenant making and keeping.
  • Prepare Him room through selfless service – We are in the service of our God when we serve His children.  We see the needs of others and act on spiritual prompting to bless them.  A heart that has prepared a room, is a heart that is turned outward. 
  • Prepare him room through…  What would you add here that will help your heart prepare more room?

Elders & Sisters, singing Joy to the World is a wonderful expression of our love, hope, and belief that Jesus Christ is our Savior and Redeemer.  To receive and accept His priceless gift, we must prepare room in our hearts for the enabling and healing power of His Atonement.  We must make the time to prepare Him room.  As the Savior taught, “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” (Matt 6:21)  Do you treasure the Savior and what His birth, life, ministry and Atonement means to you? 

I invite you today to evaluate the kind of room you are preparing.  It is a room that you ready each day?  Is it a room that is given with your heart?  I testify in the name of Jesus Christ, that the room the Savior has prepared for us is far beyond what we can understand.  As Paul said to the Corinthians, “But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.”  Let us serve the Savior with all our hearts, let us prepare more room, and let us reap the blessings that come to those who love him! Love ya!

President Hall

President's Pen 12-18-17 (Hark & Hearken!)

As missionaries in the Texas Houston South Mission, we know our purpose is to 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. We do this through our constant efforts to find, teach, invite, retain, and activate God’s children; we love it, we live it, and we do it! “We begin with the End in Mind”, and see God’s children as he does. We are Disciples of Jesus Christ that teach repentance and baptize converts and the best missionaries in the world!

 Dear Elders & Sisters,

I love ya! Thanks for your incredible efforts and for your continued examples of those who #LightTheWorld.  We have another full week ahead to live as the Savior lived and serve as the Savior served.  It won’t stop there for us, however, as we will continue to be a light on a hill that can’t be hid!

One of my favorite Christmas hymns is, “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing”.  I vividly remember being a young boy and singing this song at the top of my lungs at Christmas time.  I had seen it sung this way by the characters in the classic Christmas cartoon, “A Charlie Brown’s Christmas” and I was happy to raise my voice with theirs.

Today, I draw your attention to the first word in this memorable hymn; hark!  Hark means to listen carefully or attentively, and if herald angels are singing, you couldn’t use a better word to get our attention.  We also find the use of the word hark throughout other well-known hymns, including the great missionary hymn, “Hark, All Ye Nations”.  In like manner, hark is a great way to describe to the nations that we’re about to hear heaven’s voice and that all will rejoice!  While the term isn’t used often in modern language, we find a cousin of the word used often in scripture; hearken…

To hearken, however, isn’t simply to listen carefully or attentively to someone, it has more meaningful implications.  In the scriptures, we come to understand that it is to listen to and obey the voice of the Lord and His teachings.  In other words, it’s not just good enough to hear the voice of the Lord, it must also be obeyed.   The Lord, throughout the standard works, calls on His people to hearken unto His voice and has attached specific outcomes as we do. 

For those that hearken, a few notable blessings, we will not perish (2 Ne 26:8), we will be enlightened and come unto the Father (D&C 84:46-47), we will be blessed with a multiplicity of blessings; (D&C 124:13), we shall learn wisdom (2 Ne 28:30). For those that choose not to hearken; we are told that we are not His sheep (Alma 5:38), that He will be slow to hear our prayers (D&C 101:7-9), and that we will be chastened (D&C 103:4).  To hearken or not to hearken, kind of an easy question? ;) (use the topical guide to continue the study on hearken)

The Prophet Nephi was one that often called on his brothers and people to hearken to the voice of the Lord.  He had many exchanges with Laman and Lemuel where he pleaded with them to no longer harden their hearts and to hearken to the voice of their father and the Lord.  A few examples… As they wandered through the wilderness and began to murmur, we read of his boldness and love directed towards his brothers, “How is it that ye have not hearkened unto the word of the Lord?” (1 Ne 7:9)  Following the interpretation of the vision of the tree of life Nephi taught, “And I said unto them that it was the word of God; and whoso would hearken unto the word of God, and would hold fast unto it, they would never perish; neither could the temptations and the fiery darts of the adversary overpower them unto blindness, to lead them away to destruction.” (1 Ne 15:24) When Nephi’s words were hard for them to hear he declared, “And now my brethren, if ye were righteous and were willing to hearken to the truth, and give heed unto it, that ye might walk uprightly before God, then ye would not murmur because of the truth…” (1 Ne 16:3)  Nephi understood the blessings, he knew it was wise to hearken, he prayed for his brothers to hearken (1 Ne 2:18), why couldn’t he help Laman and Lemuel understand?

You may have an investigator or two that is slow to hearken to the voice of the Lord.  We may all be slow at times.  To understand why Laman and Lemuel struggled, Nephi uses some pretty strong descriptors… Our hearts are hardened, our minds are blind, we set the Lord at naught, we deny the power of God, we hearken unto the precepts of men, and we seek our own will.  I love the scripture written by Mormon in Helaman 12:6 that describes it the best, “Behold, they do not desire that the Lord their God, who hath created them, should rule and reign over them; notwithstanding his great goodness and his mercy towards them, they do set at naught his counsels, and they will not that he should be their guide.” Ouch, the truth is hard to hear!  We would rather listen to our own voice and the one that pleases us most than the voice of mercy, love, and everlasting life.  Oh, how fallen we are, but how blessed we are to have a Savior who continues to call us home and invites us to listen and obey.  I want to be found as one that will hearken!

Elders & Sisters, when we sing, “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing” and “Hark, All Ye Nations” we are inviting all to hear heaven’s voice, but we are also asking all men and women to receive the blessings of obeying the voice.  When you invite investigators in the name of Jesus Christ to pray, teach them that it is the Lord’s voice that invites them to do so.  When you invite them to read the Book of Mormon in the Savior’s name, teach them that they will learn to hear His voice and know how to follow it as they study and ponder.  When you invite them in the name of Jesus Christ to keep any of the commitments and commandments, teach them that if they will listen and obey, their hearts will soften, their eyes will be opened, they will recognize the power of God, and they will align themselves to His will.  Simply stated, teach them to not only hark, but hearken!

I invite you today to reflect on how you hearken to the Lord’s voice, His teachings, and His prophets.  Can you be slow to listen to His counsels, or are you quick to listen and obey?  I also invite you to focus on how you invite others to hearken to the voice of the Lord as you invite them to listen and obey.  Like Nephi, we need to be sweetly bold as we pray for and invite men and women to hearken unto the counsels of the Lord.  I testify in the name of Jesus Christ that to hark and hearken helps God and sinner reconcile and that in every land, all will rejoice.  How grateful I am that we can sing these hymns at the top of our lungs and know why we do it. Love ya!

President Hall

President's Pen 12-11-17 (Autonomy, Mastery, Purpose)

As missionaries in the Texas Houston South Mission, we know our purpose is to 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. We do this through our constant efforts to find, teach, invite, retain, and activate God’s children; we love it, we live it, and we do it! “We begin with the End in Mind”, and see God’s children as he does. We are Disciples of Jesus Christ that teach repentance and baptize converts and the best missionaries in the world!

Dear Elders & Sisters,

I love ya!  Thanks for all you do to #LightTheWorld each day.  We not only serve for 25 days in 25 ways, we do it all day, every day, in so many ways, and I love ya for it!

When the cold weather at home forces me inside during the winter months, I put my road bike on a trainer and I spin for endless hours to try and stay fit.  It’s simply one of the most boring activities I can think of, but I know it’s good for me and I’m better for doing it.  To pass the time, and not dwell on how much time has passed, I will usually watch something that’s inspiring or gets me thinking.  General Conference talks and TedTalks are a good source of insight, as are the Discovery Channel, or something that isn’t mind numbing. 

Yesterday, the weather was too cold to go out, so I found myself spinning on the trainer again.  A topic of ongoing interest to me, not only at a personal level, but in my role as a parent, as a mission president, and as a business executive, is that of motivating people.  In other words, how do you get yourself to do something, and how can you get others to find the motivation to reach their potential and goals as well.  There are days when the natural man comes upon all of us and we struggle to find the energy, desire, and perseverance to stick to our goals and desired outcomes; we lack motivation.  At times the desire isn’t even there, and on those days duty will have to trump desire, and motivation will have to come from somewhere.

As I spun and sweat on my bike yesterday, I reviewed a talk called the “Puzzle of Motivation”. The premise was that the way we motivate and try to inspire employees is outdated and doesn’t work.  Examples of this might be rewarding people with money, trips, and or on the flip side, the threat of losing your job or being demoted.  While these motivators may work, they don’t have the staying power to keep someone engaged or even performing at the highest levels.  In fact, the data shows that sometimes these kind of motivation techniques prove to be detrimental and that people perform worse.  Having run a sales and marketing firm for many years, I agree that not all motivators are going to get people excited or doing their best.

The author of the talk reviewed what social scientists have determined to help create meaningful or intrinsic motivation.  This is the kind of motivation that gets us all to do something because it’s interesting, we like it, and because it helps us feel like we’re part of something important.  What the scientists have proposed is that to operate at high levels of motivation, we need three foundational elements.  They include: autonomy, or the urge to direct our own lives, mastery, the desire to get better and better at something that matters, and purpose, the yearning to do what we do in the service that is something larger than ourselves.  The scientists have determined that if we can live and direct our lives, continuously improve, and do something that helps us serve and bless others, our motivation in life will be more sustainable and create greater satisfaction…

As I listened to this talk, I honestly thought, these scientists should have simply called the missionaries!  We could have very easily and effectively taught them the principles of moral agency, repentance, and Christlike service.  These spiritual laws are the most empowering, motivating, and satisfying elements of the gospel principles we teach and we would have shared this information with them for free! 

For us to be fully motivated, we need to feel like we have the power within us to act and not be acted upon. The prophet Lehi taught this principle to his family because it underlies all the decisions we make.  If we feel coerced, forced, or controlled, we may act for a period of time, but we’ll dread it and go through the motions. Agency to choose and act is one of the greatest gifts, notwithstanding the recognition that agency will either liberate and free us or bring us into captivity.  As missionaries, you are free to choose (within the standards given, laws will always exist) to direct your day, choose your path, and either reap the blessings or miss out on reaching your full potential. You also bless others with the wisdom to use their agency more wisely.  Agency, however, is only one part of the equation as we work towards intrinsic motivation. 

As we all use our agency unwisely at times, falling short may demotivate us if there was no hope for improvement.  The next great principle in our path to motivation is our faith unto repentance!  To think that we can get better and better overtime is incredibly motivating.  Yesterday’s mistakes don’t have to stay with me.  While the consequences of poor choices must be experienced, I can learn from them and choose (agency) a better path.  My faith in the Savior helps me realize that I’m not stuck, doomed for failure, or have to carry feelings of guilt and shame.  As missionaries, you teach the motivating blessings of repentance and how we can all be made better through the Savior’s Atonement.  We are all motivated to get better, what we at times lack is the grit to stick with it.  This is where agency and repentance are linked.  The more I act in faith, the better I become…

Because we all have the light of Christ and divinity within us, we are blessed with the desire to serve our fellow man.  The natural man will fight this desire, but when it’s unleashed, it is liberating.  Living an inward facing life doesn’t bring happiness and peace.  When we experience how turning outward and blessing others feels, it motivates us to act (agency) and to serve more.  Service connects us to heaven, we feel, like King Benjamin stated, like we are in the service of our God.  Doing something that is bigger than ourselves is incredibly rewarding and motivating.  We all want to feel needed, appreciated, and valued, and as missionaries we help people see how serving and blessing God’s children can bring a life of purpose and meaning. 

Elders & Sisters, I have often thought I need to discover some form of liquid motivation for myself, my family, for missionaries, members and investigators.  As I pondered on this idea though, I have come to know that I already have all the elements needed to motivate myself and others to have meaningful and wonderful outcomes.  The gospel of Jesus Christ and His teachings provide all the critical elements for a successful motivational plan.  I am an agent to act, I want to become better, and I love serving God’s children.  Nothing can stop me from what I want to be and who I want to become, but me!  On the days I might have lower motivation, I can immediately go back to these principles and review in my mind that I am an agent to act, not an object to be acted upon.  I can change my current thinking, repent, and draw upon the Lord’s enabling grace as I do the best I can.  I can also remember my WHY, and go back to something that is bigger than me, the Lord’s plan for eternal happiness, redemption, and salvation. 

If you struggle with motivation, in any aspect of your life (missionary work, school, fitness, etc.) I invite you to remember and apply these principles.  No one can motivate you for the long term, but you.  The gospel, however, gives us the motivation to keep trying and progressing.  I testify that the principles of autonomy, mastery, and purpose are heaven inspired.  Who would have thought riding your bike could be so inspiring! We can all find the motivation we need to do God’s work, live better lives, and help others do the same.  Love ya!

President Hall

President's Pen 12-4-17 (Trust)

As missionaries in the Texas Houston South Mission, we know our purpose is to 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. We do this through our constant efforts to find, teach, invite, retain, and activate God’s children; we love it, we live it, and we do it! “We begin with the End in Mind”, and see God’s children as he does. We are Disciples of Jesus Christ that teach repentance and baptize converts and the best missionaries in the world!

 Dear Elders & Sisters,

I love ya!  What a wonderful time of year it is to share the message of repentance and a remission of sins through baptism.  The Savior’s birth is celebrated as a recognition that His Atonement makes it possible for us to connect to heaven and find peace in this life and the life to come.  We help #LighttheWorld as people come unto Christ!

A few years ago, our company held a client appreciation event in Park City.  As a business, we prided ourselves in always taking care of our customers and trying to meet their needs with great service and high value.  Our customers had placed in us a significant amount of trust as we represented their products and brands throughout the world.  Our employees became an extension of our customers desires and expectations and our appreciation event was a way to thank them for their business and foster important relationships. 

As we gathered our clients, we decided to bring in the author of a newly published book titled, “The Speed of Trust”, written by Stephen M.R. Covey.  Having read the book, we felt like it would be a great way to share important principles and discuss together how lasting relationships were built and kept.  As the keynote speaker, Mr. Covey shared the summary of his message, “There is one thing that is common to every individual, relationship, team, family, organization, nation, economy and civilization throughout the world — one thing which, if removed, will destroy the most powerful government, the most successful business, the most thriving economy, the most

influential leadership, the greatest friendship, the strongest character, the deepest love. On the other hand, if developed and leveraged, that one thing has the potential to create unparalleled success and prosperity in every dimension of life. That one thing is trust.” He had everyone’s attention!

Trust is a powerful word (both a noun and verb) that provides us with a firm belief in the reliability, truth, ability, or strength of someone or something.  You all know what it means to trust in someone or something (in the Lord, the sun will come up) and you have also all felt what it means to have your trust broken (promises to yourself and by others).  To trust in someone or to be one that can be trusted is a Christlike attribute that is worthy of all our effort.  In life and in my relationships, I hope to be found as one that can always be trusted to follow through and keep my word, in experiences that are seen and unseen.

Trust, as referred to in the scriptures, is generally spoken of in two ways… First, we are invited to put our trust in the Lord; these are some of my favorite teachings…  “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.” (Pro 3:5)  “And now, verily, verily, I say unto thee, put your trust in that Spirit which leadeth to do good—yea, to do justly, to walk humbly, to judge righteously; and this is my Spirit.” (D&C 11:12) “…for I do know that whosoever shall put their trust in God shall be supported in their trials, and their troubles, and their afflictions, and shall be lifted up at the last day.” (Alma 36:3) “Behold, God is my salvation; I will trust, and not be afraid; for the Lord Jehovah is my strength and my song; he also has become my salvation.” (2 Ne 22:2)

Second, we are warned not to put our trust in the arm of the flesh…  “Cursed is he that putteth his trust in man, or maketh flesh his arm, or shall hearken unto the precepts of men…” (2 Ne 28:31)  “It is better to trust in the Lord than to put confidence in man.” (Ps 118:8) “She obeyed not the voice; she received not correction; she trusted not in the Lord; she drew not near to her God.” (Zeph 3:2)

As we liken the scriptures unto ourselves, we see that those who trust and put their faith, confidence, and hope in God, always receive the greatest reward.  On the other hand, those who follow the precepts of men and put their trust in the things of the world, are always broken, lost, and disappointed.  Where do you put your trust?  A great study for you would be to take the time to go to the topical guide and study some of the many scriptures on trust. 

In the April general priesthood session, President Monson, reminded the brethren of the priesthood the importance of the sacred trust the Lord has given us.  He taught, “Wherever you go, your priesthood goes with you. Are you standing in holy places? Before you put yourself and your priesthood in jeopardy by venturing into places or participating in activities which are not worthy of you or of that priesthood, pause to consider the consequences. Remember who you are and what God expects you to become. You are a child of promise. You are a man of might. You are a son of God.”  He went on to teach, “We have been entrusted to bear the priesthood of God and to act in His name. We are the recipients of a sacred trust. Much is expected of us.”  I love his counsel and want to be one found who follows it!

To be called of God, and to be one of His representatives, shows how much the Lord puts His trust in us and in who we can become.  We will either take that trust and build upon it, or we will be found as one who has been called, but not chosen.  As missionaries, we put incredible trust in you.  Trust that you will be obedient and worthy.  Trust that you will take the time to plan each day and set goals to help investigators progress.  Trust that you will study, treasure up, and earn the trust of your companion, and members.  Trust that you will care for, love, follow up with, and do all you can to bless your investigators.  Trust that you will take care of the Lord’s resources (cars, apartments, sacred funds). Trust that you will use the Lord’s time effectively.  Trust that you will do what you need to do, be where you need to be, and be one that is found as a witness of Christ at all times and in all places.  Trust is at the heart of one who becomes an effective missionary.

Elders & Sisters, are you known as one that can be trusted?  An old and often used quote on trust states, “Trust takes years to build, seconds to break, and forever to repair.”  These are all true principles, but trust can be repaired if true repentance is demonstrated, consistent behavior is recognized, and integrity and honesty are established.  Trust is a great measure of your character and a demonstration of love towards yourself and others. 

I invite you to evaluate if you are building and developing trust, both at times when you are seen or unseen.  The Lord trusts you, I trust you, and I am grateful that mortality affords us the opportunity to put our trust in the Lord and not in the precepts of men.  I have absolute trust in the Father’s plan to bring us home.  I have absolute trust in the Savior’s Atonement, His redeeming, His power to heal, and His enabling grace.  I trust that the Lord has called each of us here to do His work and to help others increase their trust in Him.  I am grateful for the trust you put in me and I thank the Lord daily for blessing me with the opportunity to work with each of you. Let us all be found as representatives that can be trusted to do His work!  Love ya!

President Hall

President's Pen 11-27-17 (Vision)

As missionaries in the Texas Houston South Mission, we know our purpose is to 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. We do this through our constant efforts to find, teach, invite, retain, and activate God’s children; we love it, we live it, and we do it! “We begin with the End in Mind”, and see God’s children as he does. We are Disciples of Jesus Christ that teach repentance and baptize converts and the best missionaries in the world!

Dear Elders & Sisters,

I love ya!  How grateful I am that we all will have the blessing of #LightingTheWorld this Christmas season.  December can be one of the most memorable months of your mission as you consecrate and give your all to the Lord and His work.  Enjoy every minute you have to serve during this wonderful time of year. 

In Proverbs 29:18 we read, “Where there is no vision, the people perish…” Vision from this scripture can be interpreted in a number of ways, but I would have you focus on the context of what it means to have a lack of direction, purpose, or a view of the future.  If you don’t know where you’re going, as the Cheshire Cat in Alice in Wonderland says, any road will get you there.  

The adversary is mentioned often in the scriptures as one who obscures vision, works in darkness, or blinds our eyes and minds.  Amulek exclaimed to Zeezrom before his conversion, “…why hath Satan got such great hold upon your hearts? Why will ye yield yourselves unto him that he may have power over you, to blind your eyes...” (Alma 10:25) The prophet Jacob warned, “Wo unto the blind that will not see; for they shall perish also.” (2 Ne 9:32)  The adversary is an expert at hardening hearts and causing men and women to lose the vision of who they are, their divine destiny, and the path home.  His constant message is short term, instant gratification oriented, “eat, drink, and be merry… for tomorrow we die.” When we are robbed of our vision, our thinking becomes distorted, distracted, and darkened.  When we lack direction, purpose, or a view of the future, we are as good as blind. 

In great contrast, we find the Savior going about bringing light and healing the blind that they might see.  As we study the accounts of the Savior’s miracles, keep in mind that it’s not just physical sight He restores, but spiritual vision.  This is evident with King Benjamin’s people as they came to learn about the “infinite goodness of God”, and by the manifestations of His Spirit, were given “great views of that which is to come… “ (Mosiah 5:3)  The well know hymn “Amazing Grace” pays tribute to spiritual vision, “I once was lost, but now I’m found, was blind, but now I see.”  The Savior is He that enlightens our minds and gives us greater views, perspective, and vision of who we are, who we can become, and lights the path home.  For this reason, we are invited come unto Him and to “look and live”.  

As missionaries, we are asked to increase our vision of the Lord’s work and specifically for those we have come to invite and help.  As we develop the Christlike attribute of charity, as taught in Preach My Gospel, it states, “You will see them as children of God with the potential of becoming like our Heavenly Father…” How you see people will inevitably effect the way you treat them, invite them, and help them progress.  If you have no vision for them, you will lack the needed direction, purpose, and view for who they will become.  The effect of this shortsightedness will be a lack of goals and plans to help them progress and reach their heavenly potential.  When we lack vision, others can perish from darkness and unbelief.

Our vision is strengthened through our faithful discipleship, obedience, covenant keeping, and personal worthiness.  Our vision is improved as we treasure up in daily study, companionship study, and as we ponder what our investigators need.  Our vision is magnified as we pray for eyes to see what our Father in Heaven needs us to see and as the Holy Ghost enlightens our minds and fills our hearts.  Our vision becomes clearer as we remove the beam from our eyes, instead of focusing on the shortcomings (the mote) of our companions or others (repentance).  Our vision is increased as we follow the direction from the new PMG chapter eight, “How Do I Fulfill My Purpose?”, by looking ahead two to three months with our goals and plans instead of only a day or week at a time.  In short, vision improves as we live the gospel and have direction, purpose, and a view of who and what we want to become.   

Our vision has been made perfectly clear to us… we are to invite and help others come unto Christ.  We do this by teaching them the restored gospel.  As I think about teaching the Restoration, I love that we refer to Joseph Smith’s experience as the First Vision… On that day, direction was given to mankind again, we began to see our eternal purpose, and we were given views of who we are and who we will become.  Our vision is to increase the faith of men and women in the Savior and His Atonement.  Blindness leaves their eyes as they repent and receive a remission of sins through baptism.  Eyesight is restored as they receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.  More sight comes as they endure to the end (endowment and sealing blessings) and continue on the straight and narrow path.  This vision is our north star and always points us in the direction we are to go. 

Elders & Sisters, one of my greatest desires during your missionary experience is that you will learn to have a vision for what you can accomplish and who you can become. When we lack vision, we wander, become distracted, lose our way, and fall short of our divine potential.  The adversary has designs on all of us to blind our eyes and cloud our views.  The Savior, however, opens our eyes and gives us perfect hope and a view of all we can do and become.  The proverb of old is true, without vision, we perish.  This is true as missionaries, as a companionship, and especially true for individuals and families that harden their hearts and choose not to see.  The Father’s vision for all of us is crystal clear; He wants to bring us home so we can enjoy immortality and eternal life with Him.  My invitation for you today is to have a vision for what you want to accomplish and who you want to become.  This will require you to set personal goals and plans you’re willing to follow through on.  There is no time like the present to build upon your desires, prioritize and focus, choose to act, and become who you are destined to become.  I also invite you to pray to increase your vision and faith in the Lord’s work and His children (charity).  I promise you that you’ll have a better sense of direction, purpose, and views for things to come.  I am grateful and know that we live in a day where we have been given eyes to see, ears to hear, and hearts to discern the things of God.  Let us all lift our vision to see things that a loving Father in Heaven would have us see.  Love ya!

President Hall

 

President's Pen 11-20-17 (Continuous Revelation)

As missionaries in the Texas Houston South Mission, we know our purpose is to 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. We do this through our constant efforts to find, teach, invite, retain, and activate God’s children; we love it, we live it, and we do it! “We begin with the End in Mind”, and see God’s children as he does. We are Disciples of Jesus Christ that teach repentance and baptize converts and the best missionaries in the world!

Dear Elders & Sisters,

I love ya!  Happy Thanksgiving and please know of our great love and gratitude towards each of you.  I am grateful to be called as one of His disciples and love that the blessing is ours to teach repentance and baptize converts. 

I want you to consider for a moment the 9th article of faith, “We believe all that God has revealed, all that He does now reveal, and we believe that He will yet reveal many great and important things pertaining to the Kingdom of God.”  We live in a day of continuous revelation.  Here are the words of President Boyd K. Packer, “Revelation continues in the Church: the prophet receiving it for the Church; the president for his stake, his mission, or his quorum; the bishop for his ward; the father for his family; the individual for himself.”  I would also add to this, a missionary for his investigator. 

Today you will find attached to this email, a form of continuous revelation, the new chapter 8 of Preach My Gospel, now titled, “How Do I Fulfill My Purpose”.  In a word, it is simply, awesome!  In an effort to help missionaries continually focus on their purpose, and the progression of their investigators, we now have an inspired text to help us improve our efforts as we invite all to come unto Christ.  Divine revelation continues to guide this work!  I’m sure at this point you will want to quickly open the attachment and feast upon what modern prophets and apostles need you to know and do.  Be patient for just a few more paragraphs. ;)

As I have studied this new chapter, there is a singular and motivating feeling; God knows and loves each of us.  From the very first paragraphs, you will come to know that God expects us to love, care for, and watch over His children.  His high expectation for His servants is to, “Counsel with the Lord in all thy doings, and he will direct thee for good;” The good that He seeks, is for you to know what He would have you do to bless others.  The divine personal and companionship revelation you plead for will align you to His will.  He knows and loves each of us perfectly and He will help you see beyond your natural eyes and abilities to bless those you teach.  He will guide you as you review their progress, set inspired goals and make actionable plans to help them.  You will come to feel and understand that the Lord’s desire is for you to be more spiritually in tune and prepared to labor with Him in the vineyard.

You will find that as you come to understand the principles outlined in this new chapter, that you truly are about your Father’s business.  You will come to know that the goals and plans you make are about His work and glory; to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life man through the wonderful plan of salvation, happiness, mercy, and redemption.  If you will read this new chapter with a prayer in your heart, you will receive revelation on how you can do His work and His will.  Your mind will be opened in new ways to help His children progress and you will have greater spiritual manifestations than you have before.  The key is that you must be prepared to receive them.

One of the many benefits of this new chapter, is that it will enable you to use the technology you are about to receive in a very purposeful and meaningful way.  Your smartphone will become a helpful tool that will guide and invite you to seek inspiration and heaven’s help as you pray for, set goals for, and plan for each person.  Your daily and weekly planning will not be seen as daily events, but as continuous opportunities to seek divine revelation throughout your day.  You will find that your purpose will increase and your effectiveness to do the Lord’s work will be improved.  You will come to see how our Heavenly Father directs his work using all the tools and technologies available to us to bless His children. 

Elders and Sisters, God has revealed, does reveal, and will continue to reveal important things to build His kingdom on the earth.  The new chapter 8, “How Do I Fulfill My Purpose?” is one of the many manifestations of what continues to be revealed.  The continuous revelations given to us by His authorized representatives increases the emphasis on our purpose and adds to what we already understand.  I now invite you to feast upon and prayerfully consider what the Lord would have you do to love, care for, and watch over His children.  Your spiritual sensitivity to His will and the voice of the Spirit will need to become more finely tuned.  I invite you to elevate your discipleship, your personal worthiness, your obedience, and your preparation to take full advantage of the great fruits that come from continuous revelation.  What a blessed time to serve and how grateful we all should be to be His missionaries.  Love ya!

President Hall

President's Pen 11-13-17 (Connected to Heaven)

As missionaries in the Texas Houston South Mission, we know our purpose is to 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. We do this through our constant efforts to find, teach, invite, retain, and activate God’s children; we love it, we live it, and we do it! “We begin with the End in Mind”, and see God’s children as he does. We are Disciples of Jesus Christ that teach repentance and baptize converts and the best missionaries in the world!

Dear Elders & Sisters,

I love ya!  I am so grateful to each of you for your love and dedication to the Savior and His work.  A wonderful season of the year is upon us as we strive to live in thanksgiving and show our gratitude to our Heavenly Father.

One of the many blessings of teaching the gospel of Jesus Christ to those we meet is the opportunity to connect them to heaven.  We learn in the Doctrine and Covenants that, “Even before they were born, they, with many others, received their first lessons in the world of spirits and were prepared to come forth in the due time of the Lord…” (D&C 138:56) When we find those the Lord has prepared, the message of the gospel will sound familiar, as if they already know it.  In those first few crucial moments, what we say, what they feel, and what we invite them to do can change their lives now and into the eternities.

When we speak of connecting people to heaven, what do we mean?  Yes, we want them to hear the message of the restored gospel, but equally if not more important, is to help them feel and know that they have a loving Heavenly Father, a Savior who atoned for them, and that the Holy Ghost is the Comforter, Testator, and Teacher.  The Godhead, three separate beings, but one in purpose, are who we want our investigators to come to know on a personal level, and we are here to invite and help others connect to them. 

How do we connect them to heaven? Teaching a lesson will never be enough.  We speak often of teaching people, not lessons, and if we really want those we teach to feel connected to heaven, a rote, stiff, or memorized message will never do.  They need to know and feel that what we are teaching is true, that the message comes from our hearts, not just our lips, and that we love our Father in Heaven, the Savior, and the Holy Ghost.  When they feel the power of the Holy Ghost work within them, those first lessons in the world of the spirits comes to life, and suddenly, all things are brought to their remembrance.  You can see and feel this moment and when it happens, heavens windows are again opened, and in a personal and familiar they are being drawn home.

When we begin teaching the first principle, “God is Your Loving Heavenly Father”, I want you to take note of the personal nature of this statement.  To connect them to the Father, we need to help them understand that He knows them personally, loves them, desires their happiness, hears their prayers, and desires for their safe return home.  They need to know that He loves them so much that He sent His Son to bring them home.  They also need to know and feel that you know this in your heart as well.  Many will say they know and love God, and they do to the extent they’ve been taught.  What we want to help them know and feel is that they are literally His sons and daughters, and connect them in a way that perhaps they’ve never felt or understood before.  Therefore, don’t rush through this principle, it is upon this knowledge that all the invitations we extend come to life!  Testify boldly in the Savior’s name, that God truly is their loving Heavenly Father and help them know and feel it.

How do we connect them to the Father? We teach them who He is. We help them learn to pray with their hearts in a deep and personal way.  Many have never really done this before, and we must teach them how.  We teach them to address Him as their Heavenly Father. We help them to imagine that He is in the room, listening to them, anxious to answer their questions, and to help them feel peace.  We help them ask important questions that only can come by the Spirit.  We teach them that they pray to the Father in the name of Jesus Christ.  In one simple, but powerful prayer, we can help them connect to the Father, through the Son, and teach them that the Holy Ghost will help them feel His love.  If we don’t teach them that God is their loving Heavenly Father, in a real and personal way, their prayer will lack the understanding that they are truly connecting to Him!

In almost every lesson we teach, there is reference to the Savior.  If we want to connect people to heaven, we need to help them know, feel, and understand that Jesus Christ is our Redeemer and Savior.  They need to know that His Infinite and loving Atonement is personal to them.  That through Him, they will overcome physical death through power of the resurrection. That through Him, their sins can be washed away as they repent and follow His example into the waters of baptism.  That through Him, they can have all pains, sorrows, afflictions, burdens, and weakness healed.  That through Him and His grace, they are enabled to do and become more they can ever imagine.  Your understanding of the Savior’s birth, life, ministry, and Atonement make it possible for you to help them understand what the Savior means to you.  They need to know that their connection to Him is real and personal, and you help them understand and feel this!

How can you connect them to the Savior?  We invite them to repent! To turn their lives towards Him, to follow Him and the Father, and come to know Him.  We invite them to read the Book of Mormon, so they can come to personally know that that Jesus is the Christ, the Savior and Redeemer of the world.  If you don’t help your investigators learn to read, love, and cherish the Book of Mormon, can they truly come to know and connect to the Savior?  An investigator will never truly progress until they read the Book of Mormon and start to feel and know that it is another testament of Jesus Christ.  We help them most when we increase their faith in Him, His reality, and His constant invitation to come unto Him.  Let the Book of Mormon be the witness that creates a connection they’ve never felt before.

What we desire most is to teach by the Spirit.  We will never connect anyone to heaven if they don’t come to know and recognize how the Holy Ghost will work within their hearts and minds.  We may deliver a wonderfully stated message, but unless the Spirit can be felt, our words will never reach their souls, nor cause the mighty change of heart we desire.  The Spirit is everything in this work, and we fool ourselves if we think we can simply show up, teach, and expect something to happen.  We connect them to heaven as we are obedient, remain worthy vessels, treasure up the words of eternal life, and then pray with all our souls that the Spirit will come into our lesson and witness that what we have taught is true.  The Spirit is the Comforter, the Teacher, and the Testator.  He delivers the message of the Father and the Son. Without the Spirit, we simply cannot teach. 

How can you connect them to the Holy Ghost?  First, we must simply teach how the Spirit will bring feelings to their hearts and thoughts to their mind. Better than telling them how or what to feel, we can help draw out of them what they have felt and what they have experienced, so they can see how the Holy Ghost can work within their life.  What experiences?  Pondering, praying, and reading… We also invite them to attend church so they can come to learn that the Holy Ghost will be their constant companion as they repent, enter the waters, of baptism, and receive the gift of the Holy Ghost by the laying on of hands.  We connect them to heaven when they come to understand that the Spirit will always be with them when they witness to the Father that they will remember His Son, take upon His name, and keep His commandments.  The sacrament connects them to the Holy Ghost, the Son, and the Father.  We connect them to the Holy Ghost by teaching them to come to worship God the Father, and His Son when they come to church and partake of the sacrament.  

Elders and Sisters, can you see how your role as missionaries is to connect people to heaven?  Can you see that how you teach, and what you teach, and what you invite them to do connects them to a loving Heavenly Father, the Savior and the Holy Ghost?  Can you recognize how important the invitations to pray, read the Book of Mormon, and attending church become in their ability to remember the first lessons they were taught?  Can you also see how important it is for you to help them come to know the members of the Godhead in a real and personal way as you simply teach?  Your personal witness and testimony of your own connection to heaven matters, is it real and personal for you?  We can’t be rote, memorized, or inauthentic.  You are the vessel that helps connect them to heaven!  The personal and simple way you teach them will open up the windows of heaven in their lives.  I testify in the name of Jesus Christ, that the heavens are open to each of us.  That God truly knows us, that Jesus Christ is our Savior and Redeemer, and that we can feel and know these things by the power and gift of the Holy Ghost.   Connect them to heaven and watch the miracle of conversion come into their lives.  Love ya!

President Hall

President's Post 11-6-17 (Purpose, Prayer, Progression, Goals & Plans)

As missionaries in the Texas Houston South Mission, we know our purpose is to 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. We do this through our constant efforts to find, teach, invite, retain, and activate God’s children; we love it, we live it, and we do it! “We begin with the End in Mind”, and see God’s children as he does. We are Disciples of Jesus Christ that teach repentance and baptize converts and the best missionaries in the world!

Dear Elders & Sisters,

I love ya!  I’m am so grateful to be equally yoked with you as disciples who are striving to invite and help all come unto Christ.  Thanks for your goodness and for your daily efforts to serve with all your heart, might, mind, and strength.

Each week I send you an email, and at the top of it, I state our purpose.  I mention our efforts, love for the Lord’s work, and the importance of beginning with the end in mind.  I also remind you that you are a disciple of Christ, one who has been called to teach repentance and baptize converts. I love the simplicity of our calling, we know what we’re here for, what we are to do, and how we are to do it.  When we “get it”, distractions become few, obedience and personal worthiness become our quest, and the urgency to find, teach, invite, and help God’s children becomes our singular focus.  We indeed leave our lives behind, and lay them down for a cause that is far greater than anything else we could pursue.  The simplicity of mission life, because of we have an eye single to the glory of God, is something you will long for when you return home; I promise you this is true. 

As part of our singular focus, think about your day and how you wisely spend your time and fulfill your purpose…  You begin your day in mighty prayer, asking for the Lord to open the windows of heaven to guide, direct, bless, and help your efforts.  You think about your progress, and the progress of your investigators, and then set goals and make plans to achieve the outcomes you desire.  You go to work, having treasured up the words of eternal life, seeking out souls who the Lord has prepared to learn from His authorized representatives.  You teach by the Spirit, invite in the Savior’s name, help and follow up.  You end your day the way it began, with another mighty prayer, thanking the Lord for His tender mercies, accounting for your day, and committing to do better where needed.  The pattern continues day after day, a simple life, not without its challenges, but rewarding, purposeful, and life changing. 

A pattern that we hope you will keep as you return from mission life and back into school, dating, marriage, work, family, and lifelong service in the Church, comes from the simple things you do every day as a missionary.  You have a vision for what you want to accomplish (purpose), you pray, you review your progress, you set goals, you make plans, you go to work, and you pray and account to the Lord.   These are simple things and patterns that bring enormous direction, rewards, and satisfaction to your life. 

In the coming weeks, I will share with you some changes that will enhance the way you think about these simple daily patterns and activities that are part of your missionary service.  To prepare your hearts and minds for what is to come, I want you to ponder the following points:

  • Purpose – Do I know and understand the purpose for my life, and as a missionary, and does it drive my desires and efforts? Do I recognize and understand that the doctrine of Christ is the only way back to the Father and the Son and that I am part of their work and their glory?  Do I know the reason why I am called to teach repentance and baptize converts?  Do I desire to talk to everyone and focus on finding people everywhere I go? Do I truly want to baptize converts and do I make every effort to do so?  What do I want to do to have my purpose more fully written on my heart?
  • Prayer – Do I have mighty prayers both morning and night?  Do I pray from my heart, not just my lips?  Do I seek for personal revelation to guide me and my efforts as a missionary?  Do I pray to find those the Lord has prepared?  Do I pray specifically and individually for my investigators?  Do I pray in gratitude?  Do I know how the Lord answers my prayers?  Do I account to the Lord in my prayers?  What do I want to do to improve my mighty prayers?
  • Progression – Do I take time to review my progress?  Do I think about the progress of my investigators and what I can do to help them increase their faith in the Savior and His gospel? Am I satisfied with progress that doesn’t come quickly, but line upon line and precept upon precept?  Am I committed to my own progression and the progression of others?  What do I want to do to review my progress and the progress for those I’ve been called to serve?
  • Goals – Do I understand what it means to set inspired goals?  Do I value the principles of goal setting, both for myself and my investigators?  Do I recognize that goal setting in missionary work is about people?  Do I value what goals can mean to my progress and the progress of others? Do I recognize that goals have to come from the desires of my heart and that I need to take ownership for setting and accomplishing them?  Am I disciplined enough to stick to my goals in the face of change and adversity? Do I share my goals with others and hold myself accountable to my efforts?  What do I want to improve on how I set inspired goals and achieve them?
  • Plans – Do I recognize the importance of simple, specific plans and how they help me achieve my goals (for myself and others)? Do I know how to make plans within specified timeframes, using all the resources the Lord has made available to me?  Do I recognize that plans can be adapted and changed based on current needs and circumstances?  Do I value the spiritual process of planning and how it can direct and guide my efforts, even when I don’t know exactly what to do?  Am I disciplined enough to stick to my plans and make new ones as needed?  Do I share my plans with others and hold myself accountable to my efforts?  What do I want to improve on how I make plans and accomplish them?

Elders & Sisters, the Lord trusts and loves you.  I continue to see His hand in the work, and especially for this generation of missionaries.  Continuous revelation is real and the prophets and apostles of our day continue to provide us guidance and direction that is inspired.  There are some exciting changes coming that will simplify and bless you in your missionary efforts and in your post mission discipleship.  The changes will, however, require you to know the patterns of purpose, prayer, progression, goals, and plans.  Review in your mind the questions I’ve asked you to ponder above.  I invite you to take a moment in your personal studies and answer them as truthfully and honestly as you can.  If you find that you are lacking in some areas, rather than getting down on yourself, consider what you can do to improve where necessary.  How blessed we are to be the Lord’s missionaries.  We know our purpose, we demonstrate our love to the Lord through our constant efforts, we begin with the end in mind, we are disciples of Christ, and we know our charge is to teach repentance and baptize converts.  I love the Lord and His work! Love ya!

President Hall

President's Pen 10-30-17 (Simplify, Intensify, Testify S.I.T)

As missionaries in the Texas Houston South Mission, we know our purpose is to 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. We do this through our constant efforts to find, teach, invite, retain, and activate God’s children; we love it, we live it, and we do it! “We begin with the End in Mind”, and see God’s children as he does. We are Disciples of Jesus Christ that teach repentance and baptize converts and the best missionaries in the world!

Dear Elders & Sisters,

I love ya! We have been blessed by the Lord to bring many souls unto Christ this year and I am grateful to each of you for your faithful efforts.  We now enter a season where hearts are turned to family, gratitude, and thanksgiving.  I invite each of you to consider how the Lord blesses you each day, to have a greater spirit of gratitude, and to live in thanksgiving.  Demonstrate your love to the Lord by diligently seeking out those he has prepared, invite them to repent and turn their hearts towards God, and invite them to follow the Savior into the waters of baptism for a remission of sins. 

In our effort to teach people and not lessons, I wanted to remind you of some of the great teaching we received from Elder Craig W. Zwick when he visited our mission in February of this year.  He introduced us to the Simplify, Intensify, and Testify approach to bring more power to our teaching.   To sum up why this method is helpful, consider the words of Elder Holland…

“Without the discipline of memorized, pre-set lessons, there is a great risk—and we see it in every mission we visit—that the missionary can be unfocused, he will wander, will teach with much, much more complexity than investigators need or want. In the end, this means he (she) will drone on for three or four times as long as a teaching discussion should last. Missionary lessons ought to proceed in such a way that every few minutesI mean few, like one or two—a question is asked or a testimony of a principle is born or the other companion takes over.”

 In the missionary lessons, there are 42 celestial principles we teach our investigators.  Each of these principles are well known to us, we study them in detail, and we want to teach them well.  Because we do know so much about these topics, it is easy to feel like we need to explain them in great detail and expound upon what we know.  The reality, however, is that the more we talk, the more complex the message becomes, and the less people want to hear.  Thus, we must make sure we teach the message simply, intensify (strengthen) what we teach through our personal conviction (or use of a brief related scripture), and bear bold testimony, in the name of the Savior, that we know it to be true.  When we master this teaching approach, not only will our teaching be memorable, but it will be taught from your heart, and the Spirit will bear witness to your words. 

Here’s an example of how to apply this approach… Take one of the principles and simply state it, “God is our loving Heavenly Father.”  What now follows is a brief and heartfelt witness of what this principle means to you.  “I know God knows me and that you and I are literally His spiritual sons and daughters.  He hears my prayers and yours, He knows my name and yours, He desires that you and I are happy.  He loves all of us and He demonstrated that love by giving us His Son, Jesus Christ, to help you and I return to our heavenly home.  I love what the Apostle Paul taught the Romans in the New Testament, “The Spirit itself beareth witness to our spirit, that we are the children of God.”  I know and testify, in the name of Jesus Christ, that you and I have a loving Heavenly Father…  At this point, you can either ask a question, “What does it mean to you to know that God knows and loves you?”, your companion can then testify, “I also know God loves and knows me.”, and then he/she moves on to the next principle or you can transition to the next principle if that is how you’ve planned your lesson.

Here’s another example… The simple principle, “The Savior, Jesus Christ came to the earth to establish His Church and to save you and me from sin and death.”  The message (intensify), “The Savior came into the world at time where the people had again rejected the prophets and their teachings.  As part of Jesus Christ’s mortal ministry, he reestablished His Church by calling twelve apostles, He gave them His authority to teach, baptize, and lead His Church. (you can show the picture of Peter as well as use the box in the pamphlet).  He lived a perfect life, performed many miracles, and then showed His perfect love to you and me by taking upon our sins, pains, and sorrows.  He also suffered and died on the cross so that you and I, through the power of His resurrection, can live again.”  I testify and know that Jesus Christ loves me and you personally.  As John the Beloved teaches us, “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son…” and this was so that you and I can be saved and return to God.  I know this is true, I have experienced the Savior’s love in my life, and as one of His representatives, I know that His love and sacrifice are extended towards you.”  At this point, you again, might ask a question, have your companion briefly testify and teach the next principle, or continue teaching. 

Can you see how your teaching can have a greater impact if you speak from your heart and give a powerful witness of what you know? You don’t have to over teach!  You will leave them with the pamphlet to study and you will invite them to pray and ask God if what you have taught them is true.  You will then tenaciously follow up to learn about their experience.  The Spirit will have a greater impact on the hearts and minds of those you teach if your lessons are directed towards their needs and if they are brief and simple.   Simplify, intensify, testify… 

Now here’s an additional caution from Elder Holland, “Cold, memorized lessons or sleep-inducing rote presentations won’t do in the world we face today. We must have enthusiastic, inspired teaching that is tailored to the people who are receiving it.”   How can you avoid the trap of being rote and tailor the message?  I invite you to take all 42 celestial principles, and in your own words, practice teaching each principle in one or two minutes.  State the principle, intensify and personalize it to the investigator’s needs (add a scripture for emphasis as inspired), and then bear a bold and powerful witness, in the name of Jesus Christ, that it is true.  If it helps you to get started, you might use a 3x5 card to write down your thoughts.  The pamphlets are also a wonderful resource to guide you as you improve your teaching.  You might also ask the members to allow you to come into their home for brief visits and to have them give you feedback on how effectively you are teaching.

Elders & Sisters, the beauty of the gospel of Jesus Christ is in its plainness and simplicity.  We are not here to expound on everything we know nor expect these good people to remember everything we’ve taught.  We need to follow Elder Holland’s counsel to stay focused, teach simply, and be concise.  When you teach with power and authority, the few words we do share will enter into their hearts as the Spirit testifies of the truths we teach.  I invite you to simplify your teaching, to intensify what you teach through heartfelt and personal statements (adding scriptures as another witness), and to then boldly, and I mean with true conviction, in the name of Jesus Christ, testify that what you have taught is true.  I promise you that as you do this you will awaken people to the message the Restoration, more investigators will have you return to their homes, and the Spirit will witness the truth of what you teach.  Love ya!

President Hall

 

President's Pen 10-23-17 (I Was Afraid...)

As missionaries in the Texas Houston South Mission, we know our purpose is to 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. We do this through our constant efforts to find, teach, invite, retain, and activate God’s children; we love it, we live it, and we do it! “We begin with the End in Mind”, and see God’s children as he does. We are Disciples of Jesus Christ that teach repentance and baptize converts and the best missionaries in the world!

Dear Elders & Sisters,

I love ya! Thanks for your goodness and daily effort to teach repentance and baptize converts.  The blessing of helping people change their hearts and minds, while preparing them to receive a remission of their sins, is truly an incredible thing.  What you will do today can change eternity for someone and their family.  Trust that the Lord needs you as you go about doing good!

What is one of the first effects we see after Adam and Eve partake of the forbidden fruit? Here’s what we read in Moses 4:13-16, “And the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they had been naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves aprons.  And they heard the voice of the Lord God, as they were walking in the garden, in the cool of the day; and Adam and his wife went to hide themselves from the presence of the Lord God amongst the trees of the garden. And I, the Lord God, called unto Adam, and said unto him: Where goest thou? And he said: I heard thy voice in the garden, and I was afraid…” 

Prior to the fall, Adam and Eve walked and talked with God.  They learned from Him, loved Him, and wanted to be with Him.  Upon partaking of the fruit, however, they hid themselves from the presence of the Lord, and when they heard His voice, they were afraid!  For the first time, the paralyzing emotion of fear had entered their hearts, and as mortal men and women, we all experience the same. 

Recently, I was speaking with one of our members that had joined a few of our missionaries on teaching appointments.  He mentioned many positive things about his experience as the missionaries taught the truths of the Restoration.  He shared with me that the teaching was good, but that when it came time to boldly testify and invite, fear had overcome their hearts.  He said that the missionaries were more concerned about offending and asking the investigators to do something that might be hard, rather than giving a powerful witness, commitment invitation, and promised blessings.   This could have been any missionary or companionship in the mission; being fearful and less than bold can be the case for any of us at times.  Welcome to the fall…

To counteract the fear that consumed Adam and Eve’s hearts, they were taught that a Savior would be given to bring them back into the Father’s presence.  Faith in the Savior and His Atonement, now blessed Adam and Eve and their posterity, with the ability to overcome doubt, despair, and of course, fear.  They could now have a perfect brightness of hope and press forward knowing that the Savior’s perfect love would indeed cast out all fear.  The Savior’s life, ministry, and Atonement removes the effects of the fall, in this life and the next, as we come to believe, trust, and have faith on His name.

So, let’s go back to the experience the member shared with me…  You now sit face to face with an investigator (member, less active) etc., teaching them about the beautiful truths of the Savior’s restored gospel.  Will there be fear or faith in your heart?  Because I know how good each of you are, I know you will choose faith, boldness, courage, and absolute trust in the Savior and His message!  As you teach your investigator gospel principles, you will look them in the eye and testify that what you are teaching is true and personal to you …  “I know that I have a Father in Heaven who knows me and loves me and He also knows and love you.”  “I have prayed, know for myself, and testify that Joseph Smith did see God the Father and His Son Jesus Christ on that early Spring morning in 1820.” “From my personal experience, I know that as you pray, God will hear your prayers, and that as you do so with real intent, you will feel the Holy Ghost speak to your heart and mind that what we have taught you is true.”.  Your witness is personal because you’ve experienced it, it’s from your heart, with real feeling, and with power. 

As you testify, and because you know your purpose is to invite, you will invite them in the Savior’s name to follow Him.  You know your invitation needs to be clear, specific and direct, so you look directly into their eyes and ask,  “As a representative of Jesus Christ, will you pray and ask God to know if Joseph Smith was a prophet?”, “Will you read the Book of Mormon starting from the introduction and specifically the account of Nephi and his family?”, “Will you show your faith in the Savior by joining us at church this Sunday?”, “Will you accept the Savior’s invitation to follow Him, by being baptized by someone who holds His authority?”, “Will you specifically pray for an opportunity to share the gospel and act when the Lord puts someone in your path?”  Because you have no fear, you won’t hesitate to invite!  You know that your commitment invitation, when acted upon, will draw them closer to the Savior and bless them.   We succeed when we invite!

You’ll then promise blessings that are specific to each of these invitations… “I promise you in the name of the Savior, that as you pray, the Spirit will speak to your heart and mind that Joseph Smith was a prophet of God, this is what happened for me.”  “I promise you in the name of Jesus Christ, that as you read the Book of Mormon, and pray with real intent to know if it is true, the Holy Ghost will testify to your heart and mind that it is the word of God, this is how I felt.”  You’ll look them in the eye and testify boldly as you make these specific promises because you trust and have an assurance that if they do their part, the answer will indeed come.  Your bold personal testimony and witness of these promises will be conveyed as the Spirit brings power and strength to your words.  You’ll also assure them that you are going to be there to help them and follow up on their experiences as you connect them to heaven.

Are these the bold testimonies, powerful invitations, and heart felt promised blessings I could expect a member to share with me about you? Consider the last invitation you made to a member, a less active, an investigator, someone you met on the street, or the last door you knocked.  Did fear come into your heart, or did bold discipleship guide your actions and words?  Did you worry that someone might be offended; because they’ve already been baptized, or that they might not want to see you again, or that they’re not quite ready, or did you trust the promptings to invite and promise in the name of the Savior that He wants them to act, change, and come unto Him?  Was your invitation clear, direct, and specific or was it something general that didn’t awaken or pierce their hearts?   Did you testify with your heart or were they just words from your lips?  Did you promise specific blessings or general and uninspiring outcomes?  Faith or fear?  No one else is called to do this but you and your companion.

Elders & Sisters, you wear the name of the Savior, Jesus Christ on your chest.  You have been called, endowed, and set apart with power and authority.  You represent Him as if He himself were in the room, extending the invitation to repent and come unto Him.  The fall brought upon all of us mortal fears and the adversary will take full advantage of this.  The Savior and His merciful Atonement, however, overcome any and all effects of the fall giving you confidence, peace, trust, and no need for fear. 

As the Savior’s representatives, I invite you to testify with boldness, surety, confidence, and power from your own experience.  I invite you to invite in the Savior’s name with more power and greater conviction.  I invite you to promise specific blessings that give the assurance in the gospel truths we teach.  I also invite you to read the talk by Elder Bednar titled, Therefore They Hushed Their Fears.  Follow his counsel on three things you can do today to overcome the fears that accompanied the fall.  Study PMG chapter 11 and ask yourself if your personal witness, commitment invitations, and promised blessings are full of faith, boldness, and love.  I testify that you are the Savior’s representatives and that you have far greater power and authority than you sometimes realize.  “I was afraid…” is now something in the past… You never need fear, you can overcome the effects of the fall though the saving, redeeming, and enabling power of the Savior’s Atonement.  Love ya!

President Hall

President's Pen 10-16-17 (Help Wanted!)

As missionaries in the Texas Houston South Mission, we know our purpose is to 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. We do this through our constant efforts to find, teach, invite, retain, and activate God’s children; we love it, we live it, and we do it! “We begin with the End in Mind”, and see God’s children as he does. We are Disciples of Jesus Christ that teach repentance and baptize converts and the best missionaries in the world!

Dear Elders & Sisters,

I love ya!  Some motivation for you today from Elder Holland, “You only get one chance to serve a mission; it is your responsibility, your duty, to use it to the fullest; to give every last ounce of energy until you collapse in exhaustion at the end of it.  All the hardships, all the tears, all the hard work will be looked back upon as the best thing you’ve ever done, not because you enjoyed it, not because you baptized everyone, but because you gave everything you had, even when you didn’t think you could, and especially when you didn’t want to. Live your mission to your fullest, work harder than you’ve ever worked before. Let people know that this is the most important thing in the world to you…”

I love the two verbs found in our missionary purpose; invite and help.  We speak often of commitment invitations as we invite men and women, in the Savior’s name, to come unto Him.  We invite clearly, directly, and specifically so those we teach can make a clear choice of whether or not they want to act and receive the blessings we promise.  A missionary who doesn’t extend bold commitment invitations misses the opportunity to help people make the changes in their lives that will lead them to happiness in this life and exaltation in the next.  No Invitation = No Action

While it is clear that we must invite, I want you to think about how much is required to HELP those that we invite to come unto Christ.  If you consider what the verb “help” actually means, especially as we apply it to our effort as missionaries, see if these definitions add more weight to our purpose: to give or provide what is necessary to accomplish a task or satisfy a need; contribute strength or means to; render assistance to; cooperate effectively with; aid; assist; to save; rescue; succor; to make easier or less difficult; contribute to; facilitate; to be useful or profitable to; and to relieve (someone) in need, sickness, pain, or distress.  For me, these definitions put the word HELP into a whole new realm of understanding…

As we truly come to understand what it means to fulfill our purpose, we start to recognize that “to help” is not a passive verb, but one that awakens us to a greater sense of responsibility and accountability.  Imagine if our missionary purpose was replaced with a richer definition of what it means to help from some of the terms above…, “Our purpose is to invite others to come unto Christ by… rescuing…  succoring… relieving… saving… them, by teaching the restored gospel…”  Suddenly, helping isn’t just something we say, but it becomes the very essence of what we’re here to do. 

If we state our purpose, and truly mean it, what lengths will we be willing to go to help people receive the restored gospel?  What mountains will we climb to help increase their faith in the Savior and His Atonement?  What sacrifice will we offer to help them repent and turn towards God?  What valleys will we descend and what rivers will we cross as we help others enter the waters of baptism for a remission of sins?  What kind of mighty prayers will we offer to help someone feel and recognize the Spirit so they can receive the constant companionship of the Holy Ghost?  What kind of friends will we be to help them endure (enjoy) to the end?  If I truly want to invite all to come unto Christ, I also take on the responsibility of doing all I can to make it possible for them to do so.

Because we invite, it is then our obligation, and hopefully our passion, to want to do all we can to succor, aid, assist, make easier, facilitate, and contribute to their progress.  The beautiful thing about our missionary work, is the Lord is His wisdom, provides missionaries the time to plan specific ways to offer help each day.  We get to ponder what they need, who can be at their side, what obstacles might they run into, and what resources we will make available. When we begin this spiritual and daily process with prayer, and plead for the help of the Spirit, we are given truly divine help and support (grace) as we do all we can.  I testify that the Lord will bless us with inspiration as feelings come into our hearts and thoughts come into our minds as we plan to help them.

If you were to go through a mental exercise of helping one of your investigators progress towards baptism with me right now, what are all thing things you would help them do to… pray to know that Joseph Smith is the Prophet of the Restoration, read the Book of Mormon and pray to know it is true, come to church, keep the commandments etc. etc.?  Do you have mental library of helpful ideas for each of these invitations?  Can you quickly identify ways and means that would offer the support they need in their journey?  Do you often find yourself thinking about solutions to their obstacles, doubts, or concerns?  Are you driven, obsessed, and passionate about their progress?  In other words, do you think about, plan for, treasure up, pray for, and seek out how you will HELP them every day?

Elders & Sisters, your commitment invitations are the catalyst for the real work that begins as we help others come unto Christ. A recent convert shared with me that the reason he was drawn to the Church was because the missionaries invited him to do something that demonstrated his faith in God.   No other religion had asked him to do so many uncomfortable and difficult things.  He then said it was because of the missionaries’ help that he was able to keep his commitments and enter the waters of baptism.  They cared for him, planned for him, studied for him, loved him, and helped him every step of the way.  To truly help requires your personal worthiness, obedience, gospel knowledge, missionary skills, and a love for your purpose.  It also requires local leaders, members, and most importantly, the Spirit.  You are their guides, you are their rescuers, you are their helpers. 

I invite you to ponder how you can increase your capacity to boldly invite, but then to be even more anxiously engaged in how you’ll help.   It is my prayer that you will write your purpose on your heart and fulfill it to the best of your abilities.  You make a difference in the lives of God’s children every day; Oh, how great is your calling!  Love ya!

President Hall

President's Pen 10-9-17 (Decisions, Answers, Immunized)

As missionaries in the Texas Houston South Mission, we know our purpose is to 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. We do this through our constant efforts to find, teach, invite, retain, and activate God’s children; we love it, we live it, and we do it! “We begin with the End in Mind”, and see God’s children as he does. We are Disciples of Jesus Christ that teach repentance and baptize converts and the best missionaries in the world!

Dear Elders & Sisters,

I love ya!  We begin a new transfer this week and it again gives us an opportunity to recommit to our purpose and consecrate our efforts.  I love that our purpose is so clear and that we always know what to do.  Increase your commitment to find those the Lord has prepared by opening your mouth all day, every day.  Treasure up the words of life and then teach repentance with power and authority.  Help people know why they must be born again and show them the path to a remission of sins.  You are the only authorized representatives on the planet that can do this for the sons and daughters of God in your area.  Thanks for giving your best to the Lord every day!

The talks given regarding the Book of Mormon at the recent general conference were inspiring.  In particular, I loved the promised blessings Elder Nelson pronounced, “I promise that as you prayerfully study the Book of Mormon every day, you will make better decisions—every day. I promise that as you ponder what you study, the windows of heaven will open, and you will receive answers to your own questions and direction for your own life. I promise that as you daily immerse yourself in the Book of Mormon, you can be immunized against the evils of the day, even the gripping plague of pornography and other mind-numbing addictions.” Better decisions, the heavens opened and answers to questions, and immunized against evil; is there any reason we shouldn’t dive into the Book of Mormon every day and passionately invite others to do the same?

In my study this week I was looking for what President Ezra Taft Benson taught, “The Book of Mormon . . . was written for our day. . . . It was meant for us.  We should constantly ask ourselves, ‘Why did the Lord inspire Mormon (or Moroni or Alma) to include that in his record?  What lesson can I learn from that to help me live in this day and age?”  With that question in mind, I was studying the war chapters in Alma, and true to President Benson’s words, I found treasures that I can use to be immunized against evil. 

In Alma chapter 50, we learn about all the preparations of war Captain Moroni was making to defend his people against the Lamanites.  Note how many things Moroni does to protect his people…  “digging up heaps of earth round about all the cities…, upon the top of these ridges of earth he caused that there should be timbers, yea, works of timbers built up to the height of a man…, round about the cities, upon those works of timbers there should be a frame of pickets built… and they were strong and high…, he caused towers to be erected that overlooked those works of pickets, and he caused places of security to be built upon those towers.” (Alma 50:1-4)  Earth, timbers, pickets, towers, and places of security.  As the chapter continues, it mentions other strategies Moroni uses to help his people stay safe and protected.   I invite you to read it and look for all Moroni does to protect his people…

While these verses layout important war strategies to defend and protect, how can you apply these scriptures to our day?   Imagine that the Lamanites are Satan and his hosts, always coming to tempt, trap, and cause destruction in your life.  Like Captain Moroni, you recognize that preparations to battle Satan are necessary and important for you to stay firm and true.  You, in like manner, put up every defense you can think of to protect yourself against the adversary’s advances; mighty prayer, fasting, feasting in the Book of Mormon, worshipful temple attendance, and purposeful sacrament meeting preparation and attendance.  You surround yourself, just as Moroni did with his cities, with every strategy to provide protection and peace.  The outcome… for the Nephites, “Thus Moroni, with his armies, which did increase daily because of the assurance of protection which his works did bring forth unto them.”  Could it also be said, that because of your preparations, that you’ll have the increased assurance of being able to overcome Satan and his attacks against you?

How could you apply these passages of scripture to help an investigator overcome addiction or problems that easily beset them?  What could you apply if you’re battling a temptation, negative thoughts towards yourself, striving to fortify your faith, putting your plan together to find, reviewing approaches to work with members, or putting in your plan to help an investigator progress?  Would you also be willing, like Moroni, to go to whatever lengths required to defend against Satan and come off as conquerors? Can you see why President Nelson would promise that you’ll make better decisions, receive answers to questions, and be immunized against evil from just a few verses of scripture?  Can you also see why you should read the Book of Mormon every day, every day, every day and never miss a day the rest of your life?

What if every time you open the Book of Mormon, you could find these kinds of treasures that will bless your day, your investigators, and your life?  I testify that they are there for you to find, if you begin your study with prayer, you seek the Spirit to guide you, you consider what questions or needs you have, and you treasure up what you learn.  If you will do this, the Book of Mormon will not simply be accounts you’ve read before, but a personal handbook of instruction to guide and direct your life. 

Elders & Sisters, as President Nelson has taught, the Book of Mormon is a “Miraculous Miracle”.  I invite you to make it part of your every day study and ponder the question, “What lesson can I learn from that (verse or passage of scripture) to help me live in this day and age?”.  Apply what you learn and ask how you can help an investigator progress towards making and keeping sacred ordinances.  Let the Book of Mormon speak for itself, help investigators see and learn how it can answer the questions of their soul, and testify of its divinity and as another witness of Jesus Christ.  Study from its pages and fearlessly use this amazing tool of the Lord’s harvest to bless others as you teach.

I invite you to reap all the blessings President Monson promised last April as we study each day, “…we will be in a position to hear the voice of the Spirit, to resist temptation, to overcome doubt and fear, and to receive heaven’s help in our lives.”  Let’s listen to the voice of prophets and follow their counsel, to not do so is foolishness.  I witness that the Book of Mormon is the word of God and more valuable than diamonds or rubies.  I know it blesses my life and it is the keystone of my testimony of God’s kingdom on the earth, of His chosen prophet of the Restoration, and that Jesus is the Christ.  Love ya!

President Hall 

President's Pen 10-2-17 (Physical vs. Spiritual Labor)

As missionaries in the Texas Houston South Mission, we know our purpose is to 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. We do this through our constant efforts to find, teach, invite, retain, and activate God’s children; we love it, we live it, and we do it! “We begin with the End in Mind”, and see God’s children as he does. We are Disciples of Jesus Christ that teach repentance and baptize converts and the best missionaries in the world!

Dear Elders & Sisters,

I love ya! How blessed we were this past weekend to hear the mind and will of the Lord through His chosen servants.  Among the many things we’ve been invited to do, the doctrine of Christ continues to be the way and the only way for each of us to return to the Father.  Let us be humble servants that love and teach from the Book of Mormon and apply its principles in our life each day.  Let us all move forward with greater resolve and faith in the Savior to find constantly, teach repentance, and baptize converts! #FC&TR&BC

Hurricane Harvey brought several opportunities for us to learn, grow, and experience the blessings of serving both spiritually and temporally.  Now that the majority of the physical labor has come to an end, I wanted to share some observations with you as we continue to serve the Lord with all our heart, might, mind, and strength. 

I don’t think there is a missionary in this mission that didn’t love going into the homes of those effected by Harvey.  The hot, smelly, sweaty and dirty work of mucking and gutting out homes brought a smile to all of our faces.  We could enter a home without any fear of rejection, and we were often welcomed with open arms and wonderful feelings of gratitude expressed.  We were able to work side by side, pulling down walls, removing furniture, tearing up floors, and carrying piles and piles of debris into front yards.  We had all the necessary tools to make our work more effective; hammers, crowbars, wheelbarrows, shovels, along with strong arms and backs.  We worked alongside our wonderful members, shoulder to shoulder, and earned their trust, appreciation, and gratitude.

At the beginning of our service day we could see a mountain of work to be done, and by the time we departed we could see the outcome of our work.  The two by fours are bare, the cabinets are removed, the flooring is gone, and homes are ready to be restored once again.  The home owners, despite their loss, are so appreciative of our efforts, we feel the joy of a hard day’s work, and we have no problem falling asleep each night. 

Good physical labor, and especially the kind that blesses others, is hard to beat.  I don’t think there were many that didn’t feel that they hadn’t served with all their heart, might, mind, and strength at the end of a good service day.  It is also interesting to note that during our service, I had far fewer missionaries struggling with personal issues, companionship strife, mental health concerns, and general missionary woes.  All hearts were looking outward, instead of inward, a beautiful thing!  The Savior’s teaching is true, when we lose ourselves we indeed find ourselves. 

As we return to our spiritual efforts, my hope is that we put forward the same energy, enthusiasm, and effort as we did while we mucked out a home.  The work of salvation that we have been called to do is equally, if not more urgent, and the mucking and gutting of souls is of far greater worth.  Imagine if missionaries gave the same effort, sweat, toil, and energy to planning, studying, finding, teaching, inviting, and following up.  How great would be our joy!

In contrast to our physical labors, the visible outcome to our spiritual work is not as visible at the end of the day or as apparent.  We don’t see a mountain of sins stacked up in the front yard after we’ve declared repentance.  We don’t see people as willing to throw out bad habits, behaviors, and ungodliness as readily as physically damaged possessions.  We aren’t always as welcomed into homes and we face far greater rejection.  We don’t feel the gratitude from those we teach, and in many cases, they never want us to come back.  We often don’t use all the tools we are given: mighty prayer, PMG, the scriptures, our companion, and the Spirit.  We may not feel the same level of support from the members; giving and equal amount of effort to our spiritual labors.  Do these barriers frustrate our work?    

The spiritual work we do is far harder, requires more toil, more patience, more heavenly assistance, and yet, when one soul comes unto Christ, our sorrows are quickly swallowed up in the joy of a life that has been mucked out and gutted.  We see how the Spirit brings new light into their life, we see repentance bring peace, forgiveness, and change, we see someone truly born again and find the joy only the Savior and His gospel can bring.  Our spiritual work is eternal in nature and will be far more rewarding than I think we realize.  I trust in the promise we find in D&C 18:13-16, “And how great is his joy in the soul that repenteth!, Wherefore, you are called to cry repentance unto this people. And if it so be that you should labor all your days in crying repentance unto this people, and bring, save it be one soul unto me, how great shall be your joy with him in the kingdom of my Father! And now, if your joy will be great with one soul that you have brought unto me into the kingdom of my Father, how great will be your joy if you should bring many souls unto me!”

I love the symbolism of the physical, but clearly spiritual work we find in the allegory of the tame and wild olive trees in Jacob chapter five.  The physical work represented helps us understand how much labor and work is to be done.  How many times did the Lord go into the vineyard to labor with his servants?  Was the work easy and fruitful and did all trees produce good fruit?  Consider what we’ve just experienced and how it can be applied to the way we go to work each day.  The great blessing we find in this chapter is what I love and have come to know… “and the Lord of the vineyard labored also with them…” (Jacob 5:72). The Lord is shoulder to shoulder with us as we go to work each day, never forget this and never make this your work; it’s far harder if you do!    

Elders & Sisters, what can we learn from our physical labor that can turn our heart, mind, might, and strength towards our spiritual labor?  Imagine if you went out each day with the same energy and effort as you did with your yellow helping hand shirt.  How many more souls could we bring unto Christ? Can we continue to keep our focus outward, rather than turn inward?  Can we use all the tools the Lord has given us to be effective instruments in His hands?  Can we be patient as we help people repent, remove guilt and stain, and sleep just as peacefully and well after a day of full effort?  Can we continue to find service that blesses our lives and others in our missionary day? Can we continue to earn the members love and trust as we invite and patiently work alongside them?  Can you be just as satisfied in your missionary day knowing that the spiritual work you do will have far longer lasting outcomes?  I invite you to ponder on these questions my dear friends.  The Lord has prepared the hearts of the people and the question for each of us is will we serve with all our heart, might, mind, and strength.   I pray that we will all labor just as effectively spiritually as we have physically.  Your grit and diligence is needed by the Lord and I know you can give it.  Thanks for your wonderful efforts and let’s all invite ourselves to be missionaries that will serve with all our heart, might, mind and strength in whatever labor the Lord calls on us to give.  Love ya!

President Hall