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

 

President's Pen 9-25-17 (Discipleship, Change, Long Suffering)

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 are so blessed to be serving in the Great THSM during this time of the Lord’s harvest.  Thanks for opening your mouth to all as you share the blessings of repentance and baptism for a remission of sins. 

We will be blessed this coming weekend to hear from living prophets and apostles who will speak the will and mind of the Lord. (D&C 1:38)  They will invite us to follow the Savior, repent, keep our covenants, love our fellow man, and do God’s will.  They will also counsel us, warn us, and prepare us for when the Savior comes to the earth to rule and reign.  We will be grateful to receive their messages, we will recommit to be better servants and more effective disciples.  We will then go and do the best we can to live our lives in a way that will be pleasing to God.

The opportunity to gather, learn, follow, and obey is the pattern for true disciples of Jesus Christ.  I think of the Savior as he gathered his flock on hillsides, on the shores of the sea, in the synagogues, and wherever men and women would hear His voice and doctrine.  From these gatherings, men and women would decide if they would walk with him, change their lives, and follow His teachings. This same pattern continues today as we also have a choice of whether we will walk with Him, change our lives, and follow His teachings.

Discipleship, however, is not easy.  We will hear God’s word this weekend, we will be invited to walk the path, we will know it’s true, but we will all find difficulty in doing everything we can and should.  Discipleship requires constant discipline, and that is hard for the natural man and woman within us.  We want to do what is right, but we often fall short.  I think the feelings that we all have felt on this path to true discipleship are expressed well by Nephi, “O wretched man that I am! Yea, my heart sorroweth because of my flesh; my soul grieveth because of mine iniquities.  I am encompassed about, because of the temptations and the sins which do so easily beset me.” (2 Ne. 4:17-18)

I have pondered a lot lately on why discipleship can be a rollercoaster ride; shouldn’t we be able to figure this out?  It just makes sense and it makes us so much happier if we do what God wants!  Certainly, for missionaries, God’s Army, we should be able to have enough discipline to live mission standards, love our purpose, love our companions, work diligently and effectively, without having to be externally compelled to do them.  These are not difficult things we are asked to do, but they do require our focus, effort, and constant attention.  For some, these things come easier, and for some, it is a constant battle, even when your heart is in the right place. 

Sister Hall and I have discussed this topic and she sent me a recent BYU speech given by Amanda K. Fronk titled, “Thoughts for When Change Seems Impossible”.

“I’m sure you’ve been there: sitting in sacrament meeting and recognizing that yet again you couldn’t manage to keep that at-one-point heartfelt promise to sincerely pray or study the scriptures every day. Well, that’s where I was—taking a personal inventory and finding myself wanting for the umpteenth time.

Prayer and scripture study were just a couple items of many that I could see glaring at me from my “weakness” pile. I felt sheepish asking Heavenly Father for forgiveness once more for some error I knew I would do again in the next week. Heck, I only needed an hour to mess up. In the midst of this nihilistic self-assessment, the idea crystallized that I was tired of trying. I couldn’t see how someone as flawed as me could ever change and overcome my shortcomings. I lacked the needed persistence, motivation, and diligence to improve. And it felt insincere to ask Heavenly Father to strengthen me when I didn’t feel I’d tried hard enough.

But I decided to pray anyway. As I opened my heart to communicate with my Father, I began to think about what it means that Christ infinitely loves us. Did that mean that He loved me and forgave me again and again and again even when we both knew I wouldn’t succeed in the coming week?  The answer came in a single word: long-suffering.

It hit me that I was no longer being long-suffering with myself, but that Christ was still somehow long-suffering with me. What a profoundly loving attribute! I realized that Christ sees my potential and believes that I can achieve it while He simultaneously understands that I am a long, long ways off from fulfilling it.

While that thought gave me hope, I still felt overwhelmed. There was so much that I needed to change to be better. I was grateful the Lord was eternally patient with me, but I didn’t know how to work up the energy to keep trying or to be long-suffering with and forgiving of my journey. I then remembered a promise in the Book of Mormon: “Behold, he offereth himself a sacrifice for sin, to answer the ends of the law, unto all those who have a broken heart and a contrite spirit; and unto none else can the ends of the law be answered” (2 Nephi 2:7). Of my long checklist of improvements, there was only one item that was mandatory to keep doing: come to Christ with a broken heart and a contrite spirit. Everything else would follow in time.

Elder Dallin H. Oaks explained:  “When a person has gone through the process that results in what the scriptures call a broken heart and a contrite spirit, that person is not only eligible to be cleansed from sin. He is also strengthened, and that strengthening is essential for us to realize the purpose of the cleansing, which is to return to our Heavenly Father.”

As Elder Oaks explained, this single act of coming to Christ with a broken heart and contrite spirit would provide me with strength to keep trying, to keep stumbling forward to Him over and over and over again. I remain a perpetually inadequate disciple well accustomed with failure, but as I’ve focused my progress on having a broken heart and a contrite spirit, I’ve found a long-suffering Savior who not only forgives me but also empowers me to keep trying to change. And that enabling strength helps me be a bit more long-suffering with myself.”

Elders & Sisters, as you are invited to become better disciples of the Savior Jesus Christ this weekend, accept these invitations with the full commitment that you’ll give your best each day to achieve them.  Discipline yourself to become who the Savior knows you will become.  Make the necessary changes that will allow you to see and feel the progress you desire. But, also recognize that you will fall short and that the Savior’s grace is sufficient for you as you humble yourself, come unto Him, and keep trying.  Instead of mercilessly beating yourself up about your weakness, work on the Christlike attributes of long suffering, patience, and charity, and in particular for yourself. Start again today, don’t excuse, rationalize or blame. Set a vision, goal, & plan and stick to it. You're never done unless you quit. Keep your faith, keep repenting, and doing the best you can.  In Elders Holland’s wonderful words, "Keep trying. Keep trusting. Keep believing. Keep growing. Heaven is cheering you on today, tomorrow, and forever."  Thanks for who you’re becoming and keep walking the wonderful path of discipleship, change, and long suffering.  I love ya!

President Hall

President's Pen 9-18-17 (Hearts are Prepared, Is Yours?)

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!  Everywhere I go I am nearly tackled with praise and gratitude for the Great THSM missionaries who have gone out of their way to bless and serve during the Harvey clean-up efforts.  I simply thank them, agree with how awesome you are, and let them know that you have all answered the call to be in the service of your fellow beings.  I couldn’t be prouder of who you are and who you’re becoming.  The Lord loves you, as do the many leaders, members, and neighbors you are serving each day.  Keep up the amazing work!

As missionaries, we offer mighty prayers to our Heavenly Father that He will soften and prepare the hearts of the people we hope to find, teach, and invite to come unto Christ.  An amazing thing has happened since Hurricane Harvey… People of all faiths have come together to serve, lift, and bless one another and we are seeing miracles across the mission.  Those whose doors might have been shut to receiving the message of the Restoration, have now been opened as thousands of yellow shirts have given new light to what it means to be a Latter-Day Saint.  People want to know who we are and why we serve.  You have all been a part of this remarkable effort and gospel seeds have been sown and the soil is more fertile than it has ever been. 

The softening and preparing of hearts was the prayer in Alma’s day, and “…the Lord did pour out his Spirit on all the face of the land to prepare the minds of the children of men, or to prepare their hearts to receive the word which should be taught among them…” (Alma 16:16) We now serve at a time where the Lord has heard our prayers, and it is now up to us to be the instruments in the Lord’s hands that he needs us to be.  The question I pose to all of us is, “Our are hearts sufficiently prepared to harvest the souls the Lord has prepared?” 

To help you ponder this question I want you to review what will be required for the Lord give unto us success in our effort to find, teach, and invite those the Lord has prepared. 

1 – Do you know and love your purpose of inviting 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?  Elders & Sisters, this is your WHY, this is the reason you were called to serve, this is the only way for men and women to make it back to God.  If this purpose is written on your heart, and you see the worth of souls, you will let this purpose drive and enable you to do the Lord’s work.  If this is your cause, you are equally yoked with the efforts of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost.  Nothing is more important to them and all the points that follow below come back to this only and true doctrine. (2 Ne 31:21)  Our call is to teach repentance and baptize converts; it must be our vision, our goal, our dream, and the reason why we wake up and serve with urgency each day.

2 – Are you a worthy vessel and one who is prepared to be guided and directed by the Spirit?  We know this is a spiritual work and that what we should desire and pray for most is the companionship of the Holy Ghost. (3 Ne 19:9)  If we are to answer the call to teach by the Spirit, we must put off the natural man, yield to the enticing’s of the Spirit, and become saints through the Savior’s Atonement. (Mosiah 3:19)  No pebbles can be in your shoes, confession must be complete and whole, and repentance should be a part of your daily curriculum.  The Spirit can only work through you if you are clean.  Perfection is not expected, but worthiness is.  I invite you to review anything that may be holding you back from becoming the disciple the Lord needs you to be in this important season of your service.

3 -- Are you willing to be a faithful covenant keeper?  In an individual and sacred ceremony, we each bowed our head and said we would be obedient, sacrifice, live the laws of the gospel, be chaste, and consecrate our time and effort to building up the kingdom of God on the earth.  Is obedience your quest and not an irritant?  Are you willing to sacrifice the small things that bring great things to pass? Do you strive to live the gospel and let it define who you are?  Do you keep your thoughts and actions clean and pure? Are you becoming more consecrated by leaving the things of the world behind?  We are a covenant keeping people and our missionary service is enabled by the blessings that come as we are true and faithful. 

4 – Are you striving to become a Preach My Gospel missionary?  A few points of emphasis: goals and plans, personal study, companionship study, and missionary proselyting skills.  Do you set goals and make plans each day (13 steps) to help people progress and find new souls to teach?   Do you have a personal desire to treasure up the words of eternal life so you will know what to say in the very hour you need it? Are you and your companion striving to build unity, teach by the Spirit, and help investigators/members/less actives progress through your companionship study?  Are you working on your ability to teach people and not lessons through effective HTBT, simple teaching, bold testimony, clear and direct commitment invitations, promised blessings, and daily follow up?  In short, are you striving to continually improve each day (1%) and reaching for excellence as complete and whole missionaries?

5 – Are you willing to overcome your fears, open your mouth, and make connections with everyone in your path each day?  The hearts the Lord has prepared aren’t likely to raise their hands.  Your effort to find by OYM’ing with everyone has never been more important.  If you fear and keep your mouth closed, the Lord is not pleased. (D&C 60:2)  When we fear to open our mouths, we remove the ability for men and women to use their agency by saying yes or no to the gospel message and the Lord’s invitations.  If we are to reap what has been sown, we must make as many connections as we can each day (20), focus on daily member connections (10), and be sure to use all seven sources to find each day (members, less active, part member, investigators, formers, referrals, street/door contacts).  All your preparation is in vain if you refuse to open your mouth.  Pray for courage and remember it is the Savior you represent, you need not fear!

Elders & Sisters, as I renewed my covenants at sacrament meeting, I had a very distinct impression that the Lord has prepared many hearts for us to find, teach, and invite to come unto Him.  Your side by side efforts with members have helped you earn their trust.  You are more visible than ever in the communities you serve.  You are not here by accident and there are people waiting to be found.  It is now up to us if we are willing to answer His call to labor in the vineyard with all our heart, might, mind, and strength.  You were prepared and sent here at this time to bring souls unto Christ.  Hurricane Harvey is one of many ways that people are being awakened unto God.  It is now up to you to determine if you know and love your purpose, are worthy vessels, are faithful covenant keepers, are striving to become Preach My Gospel missionaries, and willing to overcome fears and open your mouths.  I invite you to answer the question, “Is your heart prepared to harvest the souls the Lord has prepared?”  I testify that this is the Lords’ work and that it is true.  I also testify that you are loved by Him and that He will give unto you success as you demonstrate your faith in Him and His work.  In the Savior’s name, it is my prayer that you will have eyes to see, ears to hear, and hearts to discern how the Lord brings to pass His work through your prepared heart and hands.  Love ya!

President Hall

President's Pen 9-11-17 (Tale of Two Cities)

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!

Elders & Sisters,

I love ya! Thanks for your tireless work as we strive to bless all both temporally and spiritually.  Your light is shining as you serve and as you teach.  Keep up the great effort to be purposeful as you teach repentance and baptize converts!

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way—in short, the period was so far like the present period…” These are the opening words to Charles Dicken’s famous work, “A Tale of Two Cities”.  As I have driven, walked, and worked the streets of Houston the last two weeks, these words have echoed in my mind. 

As soon at the roads were passable into Houston, Sister Hall and I drove into the city to get a feel for the impact of hurricane Harvey.  What we saw surprised us... On one side of the street was utter destruction, and yet, a street away there was no evidence that the storm had even come ashore.  The contrast was and still is remarkable to behold.  There are individuals and families who are rebuilding their lives, and there are individuals and families that go on with their day to day like they always have.  There are piles of debris, treasured memories, and valued belongings covering once manicured lawns, while the other side of the street is still manicured and the picture of peace. 

The impact of Harvey fell upon both the righteous and the unrighteous, the educated and the uneducated, the rich and the poor.  There was no discrimination of ethnicity, age, gender, health, religion or social status.  The floods came and went and either mildly inconvenienced some for a few days or have caused varying degrees of disruption to life and home for months to come.  There are those with flood insurance and there are those without flood insurance.  There are those who take no thought for the loss of material possessions, and there are those that are still lamenting the loss of a what they once had. 

This is the nature of mortality…  We don’t need a Harvey to show up to Houston to find these two tales in all areas of the world or in our own lives.  For some, life is the best of times, and for others it feels like the worst of times, and for some it can change almost daily.  We see contrast at its best and opposition in all things at its finest.  It’s a fragile balance and it can change on us overnight as life storms and then calms. The degree to which we feel the contrast will be relative to our individual circumstances and our perspective on the purpose of our lives.  What might be a huge and overwhelming issue for one, may be nothing more than a small annoyance to another.  Regardless, we can be assured they will come to all of us in some form or another either due to the consequence of choice, and in many cases, through nothing of our own doing. 

As I pondered on these great contrasts, these two tales, my mind was taken to the words of President Gordon B. Hinckley who taught, “There never was a greater time in the history of the world to live upon the earth than this. How grateful every one of us ought to feel for being alive in this wonderful time with all the marvelous blessings we have. … And on top of all that is the Restoration of the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ with all of the keys and authority, with all the gifts and blessings, with all the organization and doctrine of all previous dispensations all brought into one. And you and I are partakers of that marvelous restoration.”  As I remember this teaching, I feel incredibly blessed to live in the best of times…   It doesn’t matter how many hurricanes rage, earthquakes shake, political and economic issues prevail; I know the battle is won and I need not fear as I am blessed!

In the same breath, President Hinckley didn’t shy away, from recognizing the difficulties of our day, “I have little doubt that many of us are troubled with fears concerning ourselves. We are in a period of stress across the world. There are occasionally hard days for each of us.” The worst of times can and do feel real and at times overwhelming.   

His optimistic message, however, “I am asking that we stop seeking out the storms and enjoy more fully the sunlight.  I am suggesting that as we go through life we “accentuate the positive.”  Do not despair. Do not give up. Look for the sunlight through the clouds. Opportunities will eventually open to you.”   I trust this optimism with my whole soul on days where it feels like there is no silver lining in the dark clouds.

Elders & Sisters, our lives will be a tale of two cities.  On some days, the Harvey’s of our life will come as consequences of choice or unexpectedly and without warning.  At other times, we will see nothing but blessings all around us.  It is the nature of the fall of man to have two tales, even if we’re living as righteously as we can and doing all that we should.  In these moments, you have a choice of whether you will see the sunlight or the storm.  You can be optimistic and look to the Savior with faith, and hope, and trust, and positivity, or you can be doubting, discouraged, and distraught.  It’s not a question of “if” the winds or storms will come, but “when”.  As Helaman promised and taught so well, “…remember, remember that it is upon the rock of our Redeemer, who is Christ, the Son of God, that ye must build your foundation… because of the rock upon which ye are built, which is a sure foundation, a foundation whereon if men build they cannot fall.”  You bring optimism and positivity to people you teach each day in a fallen world.  You know that opposition is needful for growth.  You know that as we humble ourselves, and come unto Christ, His grace is sufficient for all people.  Fear not the tale of two cities… Embrace what comes your way, live life to the fullest, doubt not, fear not, and trust the Savior to make all things work out in the end.  I know He will and I love the hope, peace, light, truth, and assurance that He gives.  I love ya!

President Hall

  

President's Pen 9-4-17 (Labor Day!)

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 historic time to be a missionary in the Great Texas Houston South Mission!  You are now all survivors of hurricane Harvey, a category 4 storm and one of the largest to ever hit the United States.  The impact of Harvey will be felt for months to come and you were called to serve at a time when the people of South Houston need us most.  The Lord trusts you to bless, uplift, and invite all to come unto Christ both spiritually and temporally.  You have indeed been called to serve and labor in the vineyard.

Today is Labor Day, a day that celebrates the contributions that workers have made to strengthen and prosper the nation.  It is a symbolic day for our mission as our labor will be a great contribution to the many people that have been devastated by Harvey. For the work that is ahead of us, I like the Latin description of the term as it means, "toil, exertion; hardship, pain, fatigue, and work”.  You will likely feel many of these things on given days in our service, and yet, as we go forward in the strength of the Lord; we all things can do! We will be tested physically, spiritually, and emotionally, and I love that the Lord has seen fit to bless our mission and each of us individually to labor with all our heart, might, mind, and strength. 

I’ve been pondering today as I served if I am a laborer worthy of my hire. (D&C 31:5) The scriptures often refer to laboring or being a laborer in the Lord’s work. Mormon counsels his son Moroni in his service by teaching,”…let us labor diligently; for if we should cease to labor, we should be brought under condemnation.” (Moroni 9:6)  In the great allegory of the olive trees in Jacob 5, the call to go into the vineyard is followed by the invitation to labor with your might.  The Lord in the Doctrine and Covenants often reminds the early saints the importance of their labors, “And the inhabitants of Zion also shall remember their labors, inasmuch as they are appointed to labor, in all faithfulness; for the idler shall be had in remembrance before the Lord.”  To be a laborer for the Lord cannot be taken lightly and it is a blessing to serve Him. As we apply the scriptures to ourselves, our call is to also labor with all diligence, our might, and not just for a day, but all the days of our lives. 

Over the last week I have been blessed to labor in the homes of those impacted by Harvey.  With both elders and sisters I have worked together shoulder to shoulder, carrying out furniture, tearing down sheetrock, removing wood floors, and comforting those that stand in need of comfort.  With sweat dripping from our faces, I’ve felt so much joy that I thank my Heavenly Father each night for sending missionaries to the Great THSM that know how to labor.  I’ve seen very few stand idle, I’ve watched missionaries not wait to be told what to do, but act and be agents.  I’ve seen missionaries go from one house to the next house seemingly with no need to stop and rest.  It’s been awe inspiring to me and I thank you all for how you are laboring during this special season in the Lord’s vineyard.

Perhaps the greatest blessing of your labors has come as I’ve heard from those you’ve served.  They see the light in your eyes and ask more about you, what you do, and why you do it.  They’re amazed that you give your time and talents to come and bless people you don’t know without any desire for recognition.  There is also great praise from local government officials, friends and family back home, and the leaders of the Church.  Your labors are in the spotlight and they will be for many weeks and months to come.  The minute you put your yellow helping hands t-shirt on you are noticed, watched, and thanked for your goodness.  While we labor now, let us also remember that we need to connect with people as we do.  Ask their names, how long they’ve lived in their home, if they’ve ever had a Mormon missionary knock on their door. :) Make sure you make your labor memorable and connect as we’ll want to return and share more about the Savior’s message of hope and peace.

Elders & Sisters, one of the greatest Christlike attributes you will gain during the course of your missions is your desire and love to labor.  Call it diligence, hard work, persistence, tenacity, or grit, it is what distinguishes those who reach greatness verses those who live below their potential.  It is a great step on the road to becoming more consecrated as we go and do. During this season of your mission, you will need to develop this attribute perhaps like no other time.  You will be asked to go out and labor physically.  You will be asked to labor in your studies, your planning, and your proselyting efforts.  You will be asked to labor as you bless and serve both temporally and spiritually.  Like Adam and Eve, you are to labor all the days of your life and to do so by the sweat of your brow.  More work has just been added upon you and I bless you as your mission president to have the strength physically, spiritually, and emotionally to carry the extra service now laid before us.  Your future wives and husbands and posterity to come will be blessed because you’ve learned how to labor.  What better time is there to strengthen your backs as you labor for the Lord.  I invite you to also ponder if you’re a laborer worthy of your hire and commit to doing so with all your might each day.  I love ya, I’m grateful for your willingness to do hard things. I’m especially grateful that you’ll labor with positive attitudes and grateful hearts as one of God’s chosen servants.  Let us all make today our day of labor and love it.  I love ya!

President Hall

 

President's Pen 8-21-17 (1%)

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 are to help people come unto Christ as we invite them to repent and receive a remission of sins through baptism.  This is the plan of salvation for all men and women and you and your companion(s) are truly the only people in your area who are called and set apart to do this work!  How great is your call and how great is your responsibility…

“…by small and simple things are great things brought to pass…” (Alma 37:6) Just over year ago I shared a principle related to ongoing personal improvement known as marginal gains or improving by 1%.  As many of you know, I’m big into cycling and I love the greatest race of the sport, the Tour de France.  The Tour de France is just over 3500 miles of racing and it is completed in only 21 days of riding.  The best teams and cyclists from around the world come to race this epic event and it truly a test of endurance, strategy, and sheer will power to cross the finish line.

The first Tour de France was held in 1903 and over the 100 year history, a British team, nor rider, had ever won the event.  Discontent with never having stood on the podium, a professional cycling team, known as Team Sky, was created in 2010 with one objective, win the Tour de France in five years.  The team pulled in the best British riders they could find and recruited a few other promising riders to build towards their vision. 

All cyclists at this level are world class athletes and simply making a goal to win the Tour in five years, especially when they had never won before, was more than ambitious.  The newly appointed director and coach of the team, David Brailsford, had the tall order of defining the strategy, organizing the team, and setting in motion the vision, goal, and plan for success.

Team Sky looks like every other high level professional cycling team out there…  They all have great athletes, incredible gear (top of the line bikes, wheels, etc.), technicians, dieticians, training regimens, and they all come with the same goal; WIN! Coach Brailsford knew that in order to win, he had to think differently and look for small and simple things that could make the difference.  He was well known as a coach as one who looked at the traditional elements of success such as physical fitness and racing tactics, but he decided early on that he also needed to focus on a more holistic strategy that included technological developments and athlete psychology.  He also decided on a strategy that would emphasize constant measuring and monitoring of key statistics, such as cyclists' power output, as well as individual training improvements that would target any weaknesses a cyclist might have.  This was all good, but not enough to win…

What Coach Brailsford ultimately decided on was a strategy of applying what is known as marginal gains or small improvements to the sport of cycling.  He proposed that if the team broke down everything they could think of that goes into competing on a bike, and then improved each element by 1%, they would achieve a significant aggregated (all elements combined) increase in performance.  The idea was relatively simply… if riders could improve by 1% over several disciplines such as training, gear, diet, sleeping, recovery etc., etc., the small gains collectively would add up to better results.

Coach Brailsford did exactly what he proposed and they evaluated everything they could think of to improve their performance.  They looked at seemingly small things such as the weekly training plan, what the riders ate, where they slept, how they recovered, and even what pillow they slept on!  No idea was too small and all areas of improvement were considered. 

What were the results?  The small and simple things added up to huge success! In 2013, two years earlier than planned, Team Sky won the Tour de France.  Their success was not simply a one hit wonder…  Since then, they have won the Tour De France four times, including this past July.  The team also applied the same principles to the Olympic Games and for the first time ever, the British won the gold in team cycling.  It wasn’t huge daily improvements over time that made the difference, it was the small, seemingly meaningless improvements that changed the outcome.

What can we learn from this in our missionary work and in our lives in general?

  •  It is truly the small and simple things that we do day, after day, after day, that lead to great things being brought to pass…
  • It is easy to overestimate the importance of one defining moment (the event, i.e, win the Tour, baptize etc.) and underestimate the value of making better decisions and acting accordingly on a daily basis.
  • Almost every habit that you have — good or bad — is the result of many small decisions over time.
  • At times, we convince ourselves that change is only meaningful if there is some large, visible outcome associated with it.
  • Improving by just 1% isn’t notable (and sometimes it isn’t even noticeable). But it can be just as meaningful, especially in the long run.
  • “Success is a few simple disciplines, practiced every day; while failure is simply a few errors in judgment, repeated every day.” — Jim Rohn

A great illustration of these principles can be seen in the chart below…

Marginal Gains.jpg

What does this tell you?  In the beginning, there is basically no difference between making a choice that is 1 percent better or 1 percent worse. (In other words, it won't impact you very much today.) But as time goes on, these small improvements or declines compound and you suddenly find a very big gap between people who make slightly better decisions on a daily basis and those who don't. This is why small choices don't make much of a difference at the time, but add up over the long-term.  Can you see how daily prayer, scripture study, and daily gospel living, though small and simple, can define who you are overtime?

Elders & Sisters, imagine what would happen if you improved slowly but surely in all aspects of your missionary efforts each day…  1% better at planning, personal study, companionship and language study.  1% better in your faith in the Savior and His work, your repentance, and your love for the doctrine of Christ.  1% better in your desire, your work with members, overcoming your fears and opening your mouth.  Each of these 1% improvements could yield incredible outcomes and results for you personally and the work!  Just like the Savior, we will each continue to grow in wisdom and stature with God and man as we learn line by line, precept upon precept, here a little and there a little.  If you have a desire to continuously improve, it doesn’t generally come from big events, but by small and steady efforts day after day.  It requires discipline, self-mastery, and a willingness to give up something good for something better and the power is within you to do it. 

I invite you to evaluate the small things that you can do to improve each day; the 1%.  Consider how you will measure your progress and then create a vision, goal, and plan for how you will get there.  The status quo and settling for mediocrity will never get you where you long to be and your small and simple efforts now will bless you over a lifetime.  I know the Savior’s grace is sufficient for each of us as we humble ourselves and come unto Him; one small step at a time.  Join the 1% improvement team that will lead you to exaltation and eternal life and then invite others to do the same.  Love ya!

President Hall

President's Pen 8-14-17 (3 Nephi 19:9)

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!  As representatives of Jesus Christ, I hope you awake each day with the following in mind… “I have been called to preach the word of God among all this people, according to the spirit of revelation and prophecy.” (Alma 8:24) When we do teach by the spirit of revelation and prophecy miracles can take place! Be bold in your callings as disciples of the Savior. Fear no man!

At our zone conferences this past week we were blessed to receive instruction from Elder Holland on the importance of always having the Holy Ghost to be with us in our missionary labors.  He described the nature of a truly divine companionship that brings power to the message we teach.  He taught the importance of having the Spirit with us throughout our day and in all of our activities.  He boldly taught that this is the true work of God and that missionaries must have the Holy Ghost with them in both word and deed.  He also spoke of the wide-ranging gifts and roles of the Holy Ghost that are there to assist missionaries in their efforts.  He mentioned twelve that are especially important to us as missionaries…

  • The Holy Ghost is a… A revelator, a guide to action 
  • Provides in the very moment of need
  • Conveys the words of Christ which tell us all things we should do
  • Purifies the teacher and the learner
  • Leads us when we do not know beforehand the things that we should do
  • Intercedes to strengthen prayers
  • Prepares people to hear the gospel
  • Provides language proficiency
  • Teaches truth carrying it to the heart
  • Brings all things to our remembrance
  • Teaches what to say and how to say it
  • Is the Comforter conveying peace and joy

Simply based on the list above, it is perfectly clear in my mind why all of us would most desire (3 Ne 19:9) the Holy Ghost as our constant companion.    It is also apparent why my personal worthiness, obedience, and unity with my companion are not only necessary, but a given if I want to do the Lord’s work in the Lord’s way.  Have you been more mindful of the things you’re doing throughout the day to keep the Spirit with you?

As I have interviewed many of you and listened to what you want to do to have a greater abundance of the Spirit in your life, a common theme has emerged… We desire to have more meaningful and mighty prayer throughout the day to keep the Spirit with us.  I love that this is the desire of your hearts as it parallels what we studied regarding the Nephites and their earnest desires.

As I’ve chatted with you about this desire, many of you have shared that prayer in the morning and at night tend to be less than mighty for a simple reason… We’re tired when we wake up, an we’re tired before we go to bed.  When this is the case, we’re not as alert, focused, or fervent in our prayers.  Certainly a common challenge, but I wanted to share something I learned as a missionary that may help. 

As a young new missionary, Elder Yoshihiko Kikuchi of the Seventy, came to the MTC to meet with the new elders and sisters that had arrived that week.  It was a relatively small group of us and I’ll never forget what he taught me about prayer.  He described that he too was often tired in the morning and in the evening and that he prayed when he was ready to present himself to the Father in a dignified way.  He taught us that when we roll out of the bed in the morning, that we should begin with a prayer in our heart, not necessarily on our knees yet.  He recommended that we go and exercise, get ready for the day, pray over our breakfast, and then once dressed in our missionary attire, offer a mighty morning prayer when we were alert, awake, and ready to ask for the Lord’s Spirit to be with us.  He then taught that when we arrived home that evening, rather than readying for bed, brushing our teeth, and heading for our pillow, that we should pray as soon as we came through the door.  In this evening prayer, still dressed in our missionary attire, he recommended that we give an accounting to the Lord of our day and offer a mighty prayer of thanks for the blessings of the day.  Of particular importance, he taught that the way we present ourselves to God will influence what we feel and say.  After all the years that have passed, this is still the approach that works best for me.  Would this approach work for you?  Would you be able to offer a mightier prayer and plead for the Lord to have His Spirit to be with you?

As you offer your mighty prayers to have the Spirit with you, I love what Alma asked for… “Nevertheless Alma labored much in the spirit, wrestling with God in mighty prayer, that he would pour out his Spirit upon the people who were in the city; that he would also grant that he might baptize them unto repentance.” (Alma 8:10).  We should also offer up the same kind of prayer for our individual areas… Elder Holland’s list of twelve gifts the Spirit can bless us with may also be exactly what you need to pray for.  Can you pray specifically (by name) for the Spirit to prepare hearts, testify of truth, lead to action, and enlighten minds?  Could you also pray for the Spirit to lead you where to go, what to say in the moment you need it, and what to do?  Specific prayers bring specific results!  

Elders & Sisters, we are to preach the gospel by the Spirit.  I know this is the desire of your heart and that you will do all you can to have the Lord bless you with this most important divine companion.  I have found that my desire to have the Spirit to be with me continues to grow and I sincerely pray each day that the Lord will bless me with His Spirit in greater abundance.   I know I cannot do this work on my own,  my way, or without divine guidance. I invite you to pray more mightily each day for the Holy Ghost to be with you.  I also invite you to increase your mighty prayers when your day seems to get off track.  Go back to the source that can enlighten and guide you to know where to go, what to do, and what to say.  I testify that this work is true and that as missionaries we truly to need to have the Holy Ghost with us in both word and deed.  Love ya!

President Hall

President's Pen 8-7-17 (Your Purpose & Beyond)

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 se 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 grateful for your fearless desires to open your mouth and share the gospel with all you meet.  I also love the scriptures that tie so well into our effort to teach repentance and baptize converts… “Remember the worth of souls is great in the sight of God; For, behold, the Lord your Redeemer suffered death in the flesh; wherefore he suffered the pain of all men, that all men might repent and come unto him.  And he hath risen again from the dead, that he might bring all men unto him, on conditions of repentance. 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!”  Let’s keep the joy coming!!!

A treasure within the Church that can often be left unopened and neglected is known as “Handbook 2: Administering the Church”.  This is the go to resource for leadership in the Church, and in particular, those that are called to serve within the auxiliaries.  All members of the Church can go to its pages to learn their duties, review policies and procedures, review important instructions on how to hold meetings, delegate, counsel, and most other key administration items to govern the Church.  It is a remarkable resource that when followed, helps us all know our WHY and gives direction for the callings we are extended.  While it is not the primary resource for your efforts today, it will be something you all need to become familiar with for the future. (see link at the bottom of the email)

In the opening pages, you will read something that should be very familiar to you… “Through the Atonement of Jesus Christ, we can be cleansed and sanctified from sin and prepare to enter again into the presence of our Eternal Father. To receive this blessing, we must follow the principles and ordinances of the gospel (see Articles of Faith 1:3). We must:

1. Exercise faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, the Only Begotten Son of God.

2. Turn to God through sincere repentance, having a change of heart and confessing and forsaking sins.

3. Receive the saving ordinance of baptism for the remission of sins.

4. Be confirmed a member of the Church and receive the gift of the Holy Ghost by the laying on of hands.

5. Endure to the end by keeping sacred covenants.

Not only are these “must do’s” our missionary purpose, but they are also the “must do’s” for every member, and the purpose for every calling in which we’re blessed to serve.  We know that the doctrine of Christ is the way and the only way for men and women to return to live with God, so it should come as no surprise that this is also what you’ll be assigned to do when you go home.  Get ready to be missionaries forever!

The reality, however, is that for many members of the Church they tend to focus on what they are called to do, versus the reasons behind WHY they do it.  It’s not that they don’t’ serve faithfully and well, but it is easy to get caught up in doing things (teaching a class, going to girls camp, having a ward party, primary activities, scouting, home and visiting teaching etc. etc.,) versus focusing on the real reason the programs and activities exist in the first place.  When we remember our purpose, the activities become tools and resources to help us meet our goal of blessing people and families.  For those wonderful members that catch this vision (this will be you), you see remarkable and loving service.  The same is true for missionaries, and that is one of the reasons why I focus on our purpose as often as I do. 

For this reason, it is critically important for you at this stage of life to become deeply rooted in your purpose of inviting and helping others come unto Christ.  Faithful membership in the Church requires Latter Day Saint men and women to consecrate time and talents towards building the kingdom of God on the earth.   Here’s a brief example… One day you may be called to teach the 12 year old Sunday School class.  If you know your WHY, you won’t simply teach lessons, but you’ll be doing all you can to invite and help your class to increase their faith in the Savior, help them repent, help them make and keep covenants, and endure to the end.  You’ll give thoughtful consideration to the kids in your class; who needs help, who needs a call/text/visit, and who will you bless beyond what you do on Sunday.   I could follow this same pattern and go through every calling in the Church, from primary, to young women, to the elders quorum, and everything in between, all callings have the same purpose! We focus on the individual, invite them to come unto Christ, and help them progress in their journey towards their heavenly home.  

As the most important organization in the Church is the family, you can be assured that your purpose as husbands and wives, fathers and mothers will be the same as well.  A scripture that provides evidence… “And again, inasmuch as parents have children in Zion, or in any of her stakes which are organized, that teach them not to understand the doctrine of repentance, faith in Christ the Son of the living God, and of baptism and the gift of the Holy Ghost by the laying on of the hands, when eight years old, the sin be upon the heads of the parents.” (D&C 68:25)  This same purpose was given to Adam and Eve (Moses 6:57) and this will also be your responsibility one day as well. 

Elders & Sisters, can you imagine what would happen within the Church and certainly within our missionary efforts if we all truly came to know our why… We are developing a pattern of life that allows us to look beyond ourselves and towards the needs of others.  We are developing a way of life that allows for God’s work and glory to become a part of who we are and what we do.  I envision you as a great leader in the Church, who serves with all your heart, might, mind, and strength, because you learned and applied your purpose here on your mission.  I see you as a father or mother that gathers the family for prayer, family home evening, scripture study, and weekly sacrament meeting, not simply because they are things you do, but because you know why you do them.  My invitation is to have you share your purpose with those members you are blessed to serve.  Ask them why they serve, what they love about their callings, and then lovingly teach the doctrine of Christ and help them connect the dots between what they do, and why they do it.  We are all part of the Lord’s work of salvation… to bring God’s children into the fold (baptism), to keep them in the fold (retention), to bring them back to the fold if they go astray (activation), to teach them in the Savior’s way, and to help them all receive the saving ordinances of the temple.  I invite you to come to love your purpose, it will bless you for the rest of your life and richly bless your posterity, and all those you are called to serve! This work is true and I testify in the Savior’s name that this is the way and there is no other way!  Love ya!

President Hall

President's Pen 7-31-17 (Destination, Route, Conclusion)

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!  You are disciples of Christ, you have been called to declare His word among the people of Houston, that they might have eternal life!

There is a simple teaching pattern we can follow as we help men and women increase their faith in the Savior and His Atonement, repent, make and keep covenants, receive the gift of the Holy Ghost in their lives, and endure to the end.  Follow this thought process with me…

If I want to go on vacation, I look at all the options available and choose a destination (somewhere I want to go and a reason for why I want to go there).  Let’s say I choose Palmyra, New York, as I want to visit the sacred grove and walk the grounds where Joseph Smith saw God the Father and His Son Jesus Christ.  After I choose this destination, I then look at the available methods and routes to get there.  I could drive, fly, take the train, ride the bus, ride my bike, or even walk.  As I want to make the best use of my time and spend as much time in Palmyra as I can, I look at the method and route that will be the most direct.  After evaluating all my options, I conclude that the best route to travel to my chosen destination is to fly from Houston to the Rochester, New York airport.  From there, I’m a short drive to being in a place where God the Father and the Savior once were.  I know where I’m going, how I will get there, and what I will do…

This simple example of a destination, route, and conclusion is what we teach.  The destination is the “Why”, the route is the “How”, and the conclusion is the “What”.   The question to ask yourself is, “Do I explain the destination clearly enough in order for people to follow the route and come to the conclusion that what we offer is the place they want to go?”  Here’s what I mean…

We all do our best to teach, but at times we have a tendency of getting things backwards.  If we are not careful, we can focus first on “how” or “what” people need to do to prepare for baptism, such as; pray, read, come to church, keep the commandments, etc., instead of focusing first on WHY they need be born of the water and of the Spirit in the first place.  If we haven’t given people a reason or understanding of why they will want to do these things, we give them a long list of hard things to do and sacrifices to make.  In other words, if they don’t understand the destination, the vision, big picture, or end in mind, they don’t keep commitments, because they don’t understand where it will lead them.  We give them a part of the route and may not make the destination very clear…

We might say in these cases that the investigators weren’t ready, weren’t prepared, or it’s not their time.  But the real truth is they don’t understand what we’re offering.  They don’t understand because in some cases we haven’t taught them to understand.  If they truly understood that salvation hangs in the balance, and came to know through us, the plan of redemption, the nature of spiritual death, how to receive a remission of sins by baptism of water and by the Holy Ghost, would they push away?  What responsibility do we have and how bold do we need to be in helping them come to understand?  If they reject us, is it because of the doctrine or that they haven’t understood it?

Here’s the magnitude and blessing of your calling… Without the priesthood authority to baptize, without baptism, and without the priesthood authority to confer the gift of the Holy Ghost, without the laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost, the Atonement of Jesus Christ has no effect in their lives.  They remain in sin, subject to the demands of the law of justice and life will be for naught! People cannot repent and be baptized without the truth, they cannot have the truth without someone to teach it, and you as a missionary are called to teach it! Nothing else matters if we do not have this central purpose in mind!

A couple of years ago we were blessed to have Elder Lawrence E. Corbridge of the Seventy come to the mission to teach the principle of destinations, routes, and conclusions.  He started his message by asking the missionaries what they wanted to accomplish during their missions.  Hands went up to respond to this question and the missionaries shared wonderful things such as; become more Christlike, gain greater knowledge, be lifelong disciples, prepare to become worthy husbands and wives and on and on…  All great responses, but very few, and I mean one or two said, “What I hope to accomplish on my mission is to baptize people for a remission of sins, to help them be forgiven, and to receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.”  It was a revealing exercise on whether or not missionaries truly, and I mean truly, understood their purpose.

He then went on ask the missionaries if they wanted to baptize, and of course, they all said, “Yes!”.  He then asked the missionaries why they wanted to baptize, of which came several answers, but again, only one or two that said, “I want to baptize because I want people to have the blessings of the Savior’s Atonement in their lives; I want them to be forgiven of their sins and to receive the gift of the Holy Ghost, because that is the greatest gift a person can receive in this life.” How might you have responded?

What Elder Corbridge taught that day had a profound impact on me as he focused me on the destination! He focused on WHY we are here and emphasized over and over that unless a missionary understands this vision to baptize, we can’t expect their investigators to understand the vision we have for them.  He then emphasized, “Almost always the reason people aren’t baptized, when they do not keep their commitments, is because they do not understand the truth, the doctrine, especially the doctrine relating to baptism by water and by fire.”  He then he looked at me and said, “President, make sure your missionaries understand this!”

What I have learned from my own experience is that missionaries, generally speaking, do not come with, and are often slow to develop the vision to baptize.   They want to baptize, but often don’t truly know why.  They want to baptize, but don’t exhaust themselves in the cause of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost in their finding, teaching, inviting, and following up.  For this reason, I continue to emphasize over and over the need to have the doctrine of Christ written on our hearts, and the need to teach repentance and baptize converts with the understanding of why we do it.  It is the only way for you, me, members, non-members, and every kindred, tongue, and people that will ever walk the earth.  When a missionary understands the destination, the route, and comes to the conclusion that this is THE only way to God, their service changes.

How does it change the missionary?  Their vision to baptize becomes their destination for the people they serve.  They teach with the end and the WHY in mind.  They help people identify how the route (faith in Christ and His Atonement, repentance, baptism for the remission of sins and the laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost, and enduring to the end) will lead them to their desired destination (the only way).  They extend invitations in the Savior’s name, and help people recognize that the goal isn’t simply to pray, read, come to church, or keep the commandments, but that these invitations are a means to knowing that what we teach is true and that baptism is the goal.  Missionaries then help their investigators understand why we want them to act in faith, so the power of the Holy Ghost can bear witness to their hearts and minds and enable the miracle of conversion.  They teach for understanding and help people conclude for themselves that the destination they should choose is to be redeemed of sin, endowed with the Holy Ghost and inherit eternal life.  That is a vision to baptize, and this is why we are called, set apart, and given power and authority to teach!

What else happens when missionaries understand this vision?  No longer do they focus on reporting key indicators as their measure of success or the result that drives them.  They become focused on success that can be measured in their hearts and minds, their commitment and effort! They find, not because it will be reported, but because they understand the destination and want nothing more than to teach repentance and baptism to those they find.  They study because they want to treasure up the words of life, so the Spirit can bring understanding to the words they teach.  They companionship study so they can teach in unity, by the Spirit, and help people progress towards the destination.  They are obedient, they work with members, they set goals, they plan, they give blood, sweat and tears to help people come unto Christ.  In the end, their purpose consumes them, and that is a vision to baptize!

Elders & Sisters, how great is your call! You increase the faith in men and women to help them understand the destination God has prepared for them. (3 Ne 5:13) You help them understand and put them on the direct route (doctrine of Christ) that will lead them to a remission of sins, forgiveness, the power of godliness in their lives, and eternal life.  You invite them to come to their own conclusion, through your effective teaching by the Spirit and your invitations, that there is no other intelligent choice. (Alma 5:62)    You help them know that every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus is the Christ.  My invitation to you today is for you to become ever more focused on your purpose and remember WHY it is that you do what you do.  I invite you to astonish men and women as you teach faith in the Savior and His Atonement, repentance, baptism for a remission of sins, receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost by the laying on of hands, and enduring to the end.  I invite you to talk to everyone, think about baptizing, talk about it, dream about it, and teach, teach, and teach to help people understand that baptism and receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost is the only way they can live with God.  This is your message, your theme, your dream, your purpose! Because you know your WHY, your WHAT & HOW will be a means to the end.  I testify in the name of the Savior that these are true principles, that your calling is to teach and bear powerful witness of these truths, and that you will help more come unto Christ as you come to know this for yourself.  Love ya!

President Hall  

President's Pen 7-24-17 (Your Best!)

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 se 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 wonderful work in the hot, humid, Houston South!  The Lord only sends his finest to Houston as he knows they’ll push on and push forward, regardless of what gets in the way.  Each day be grateful for the blessing to find constantly, to teach repentance and to baptize converts!

Two questions I am often asked by missionaries are, “How do I know if I’m doing my best?” and “Is my best good enough?”.  To the first question, I often respond by saying, “You and the Lord will be the only two that know if you are giving your best.”, and for the second response, “If you’re giving your best, it is good enough!”.  As fallen mortal men and women, we often fall short of the high expectations we have for ourselves and for those of our Father in Heaven.  When we read in scripture, “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.” (Matt 5:48) and “Therefore, what manner of men ought ye to be? Verily I say unto you, even as I am.” (3 Ne. 27:27) it is easy to understand that we may not feel good enough or even like we are beginning to measure up.  These ideals can seem too distant, unachievable, and unrealistic, but it is the expectation.   

For some, the pursuit of these expectations can consume their souls with feelings of inadequacy, comparison, and anxiety.  This can lead to a constant feeling of not doing enough or that their best will never do.  For others, the expectations of becoming as the Savior is are too high, and in time, the easier wrong becomes their path rather than the harder right.  This can lead to a lack of effort and a life of living below their divine potential.  Neither ends of the spectrum are healthy nor do they lead to happiness.  On the one hand, perfection won’t be attained in this life, and on the other hand, if we don’t pursue it, we’ll never progress. What is the balance?  

Our Father in Heaven’s expectations for us are high, and rightly so.  He knows who we are, He knows our worth, He knows our potential, and He sent His only Begotten Son to help us become like Him.  The bar He sets for us will not be lowered and through scripture and the words of living prophets and apostles we are often reminded that we must repent, deny ourselves of all ungodliness, become as a little child, and follow Him.  His message to us is constant and the same yesterday, today, and forever.  To become as God is, and to live His gospel, is not for the faint of heart nor does it come easy or without sacrifice.  Giving our best and striving to become like Him is what we will always be invited and asked to do.  This invitation, after all, is the way and the only way for us to be saved in the kingdom of God.

So how do we find the assurance that our best is good enough?  Nephi’s example is a pattern for us to follow…  I will go and do the things the Lord commands! The Lord sets the standards and then says to us, go and do, I’ll help you along the way.  As was the case for Nephi, he did his best to get the plates from Laban.  His best at first was to go and ask for them, his second best was to persuade Laban with gold and silver, and finally, as he pressed forward with faith, the Lord prepared the way for Nephi to obtain the plates.  Nephi could have dropped the cause after his first two attempts and said, “I’ve given my best, what more can I do?”, but he knew he had the Lord on His side and an errand to finish.  What I learn from Nephi is that his best simply meant that he never gave up.  He didn’t get it right the first or second time, but he never quit, he always trusted that the Lord would help him.  As is true for us, the Lord will ask us to do things that seem hard, unattainable, and even undesirable at times, but when we go and do, He will always prepare a way for us to accomplish them.   Our best response to his command is to go and do and never give up!

Consider then how as missionaries we can be assured that our best is good enough as we strive to go and do what the Lord asks of us each day.  We can start by simply evaluating how we lived the missionary schedule today… Am I obedient, did I get up on time, exercise, plan, study, comp study, and give my best effort to use my time wisely?  We can then evaluate if we gave our best effort to find, teach, invite, and help others come unto Christ throughout the day.  A way to measure if we’ve given our best each day is always tied to our purpose… Did we give our best to help someone increase their faith in Jesus Christ and His Atonement today (invitations), did we help someone change and repent today (invitations), did we invite someone to be baptized for a remission of sins today, did we help someone feel and recognize the Spirit today, and did we help someone start the path back to their heavenly home today?  If we do these things each day, even if our plans fall through, we can be assured we gave our best today!  We will likely have some experiences like Nephi, where our first best attempts don’t go to plan, but through our persistent effort, we can be assured that our best has been given. If we didn’t give our best on a given day, let’s resolve to do better tomorrow, accept our weakness, learn from our mistakes, and keep pressing forward.  Our best is when we keep going, despite the obstacles that will come our way!

Even when we give our best we may still feel that we fall short.  As we all have come to love and understand, God gives us weakness so we will come unto Him. As we are taught so well by Moroni, when we come unto Him in our weakness, humble ourselves, and demonstrate our faith in Him, His grace (divine help and strength) is sufficient for us.  We need not worry about the Savior’s ability to help us in our weakness.  His grace is always there, willing to help us become strong.  As Brad Wilcox stated in his talk, His Grace is Sufficient, “Grace is not a booster engine that kicks in once our fuel supply is exhausted. Rather, it is our constant energy source. It is not the light at the end of the tunnel but the light that moves us through the tunnel. Grace is not achieved somewhere down the road. It is received right here and right now.” We are saved by grace after all we can do, but His grace is ever present, always enabling, always helping, always cheering us on. 

Elders & Sisters, the Lord’s expectations for us are high and it is good for us to reflect and ask ourselves if we are giving our best.  It is also good to recognize that our best will often fall short, but that our willingness to go and do and never give up is all that God requires of us.  Giving our best requires constant effort, thought, and hope for outcomes that sometimes we don’t see here and now.  The blessing, however, is that we are the Lord’s work and His glory and He will spare no effort, no support, nor resource to help us succeed and return to our heavenly home.   I invite you this week to continue to focus on those things that help you serve as the best disciples you can be.  It may require a Nephi type effort to be more effective in using your time.  It may require a Nephi type effort to make your purpose the driving force behind what you do.  Whatever it is, don’t give up, keep going!  You only fail when you stop trying…  As Elder Holland says, “Keep trying. Keep trusting. Keep believing. Keep growing. Heaven will be cheering you on today, tomorrow, and forever.”  Thanks for all you do to serve each day with all your heart, might, mind, and strength.  Your best is good enough!  Love ya!

President Hall

President's Pen 7-17-17 (Excellence!)

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 se 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! Each transfer brings the opportunity to recommit, refocus, and rededicate our efforts to serving the Lord.  As you begin this new transfer, set worthy goals and make effective plans that help you accomplish your purpose to invite and help others come unto Christ. Believe and trust that the Savior is in the vineyard with you!  Resolve to find every week this transfer, to teach repentance with power and authority, and to prepare God’s children to receive baptism and a remission of their sins.  

“Come as you are,” a loving Father says to each of us, but He adds, “Don’t plan to stay as you are.” We smile and remember that God is determined to make of us more than we thought we could be.”  These words have echoed in my mind over and over since Elder Holland spoke them so powerfully at the most recent general conference.  Our Father in Heaven’s desire for us is not to remain as we are or become average, adequate, or mediocre, but immortal and endowed with power and glory; just like He is.  

The phrase, “Don’t plan to stay as you are”, speaks to me at a personal level and invites me to look within my soul, change and repent, and strive for excellence.  I am, after all, a son of God and He did not send me to the earth to fail nor fall short of my divine potential.  He wants me to be excellent, not average!  I don’t believe there is a soul that comes to this beautiful planet that wants to achieve less that their divine destiny, but sadly, we find souls all over this planet that have come to the belief that average is good enough and that mediocrity is sufficient.  We, however, need not fall into the trap of the world, as was spoken so well by Paul to the Corinthians, “yet shew I unto you a more excellent way.” (1 Cor.12:31) What is the more excellent way?

Moroni also echoed Paul’s teaching, “But in the gift of his Son hath God prepared a more excellent way.” The Savior and His gospel is the more excellent way! By coming to know it, live it, and share it, we are put on the path to excellence and in the process of becoming who God wants us to become; even as He is! 

A quote I love states, “Mediocrity is crowded, but there’s a whole lot of room up in excellence.”  What does this mean? Unfortunately, there are those that never aspire or reach high enough for something better.  They tend to stay with the crowd, rather than rise above the crowd.  We see this in all walks of life, in every profession, in families, with members of the Church, and even in missionaries.  There are those that prefer comfort and the status quo vs. pushing themselves to become something more. We know more comes from the Savior’s divine help and strength (grace), ever pushing us upwards, higher, and higher as we strive to do all we can do.  No one ever need be merely average or mediocre, unless they of course choose it.  The objective is not to become better than others, but to become our best selves. That is so cool!

Excellence is not an act, but a habit, it takes practice and perseverance. Excellence is the gradual result of always striving to do better. Excellence is a continual process and not an accident.  Excellence is not a skill, it’s an attitude. The difference between excellence and mediocrity is effort, commitment, and detail.  The price of excellence is discipline, the cost of mediocrity is disappointment.  – From all these statements, we start to see a pattern…  Excellence is built upon practice, effort, commitment, perseverance, attitude, and discipline.  It does not come without sacrifice, and thus, there’s a whole lot of room up in excellence. It is also important to point out that excellence does not equal perfection.  “Excellence is something you can reach for, but perfection can only come from God.”

Elders & Sisters, your mission affords you a truly unique opportunity to become who you desire to become.  The Savior’s Atonement lifts you above the natural man, making it possible for you to achieve the highest heights.  What is required on our end is tenacious, consistent and persistent effort.  Nothing in life worth any value comes easy.  For this reason alone, so many are simply satisfied going through the motions and never reach their full potential.  We see this in missionaries who don’t come to understand their purpose and therefore only receive a portion of what they could obtain.  This is not who you are nor is it what a loving Heavenly Father wants for you.  Imagine what you could accomplish through the Savior and His grace if you choose the more excellent way.  It will require greater self-mastery, sacrifice, obedience, faith, and diligence, but oh how great will be the reward if you choose the harder, less traveled path.  “It’s You vs You, make sure You Wins!”  

My invitation to you today is to recognize that your Father in Heaven knows who you are, but doesn’t intend for you to stay who you are.  Your mission is the opportunity for you to redefine your future, your desired outcomes, and who you will become.  Mediocrity will always attack excellence, fight this when you feel like giving up, giving in, or not giving your best.  The power is within you to become excellent!  Rise to your potential, get rid of the excuses (#ARlistbegone!), set goals and make plans, and see how the Savior can transform you into more than you could have ever expected.  “You did not wake up today to be mediocre!” I love ya and know excellence is within you!

President Hall

President's Pen 7-10-17 (Counseling in Councils)

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 se 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! The field is white already to harvest! Do you believe and trust this to be true? The Lord has sent you to a part of His vineyard where the gospel will be accepted and received by those He has prepared.  Our responsibility is to have the faith that we can find,  teach repentance and baptize converts in every area of our mission.  This is not a passive belief, it is an absolute trust in God that as you prepare yourself each day, have a mighty prayer, and then go to work, miracles can and will happen.  I know this to be true!

The Father and the Son have established the pattern for how we are to work together as we help them bring to pass their work and glory.  The pattern that has been established for us to do their work is in councils.  Consider the councils in the Church… The First Presidency, the Quorum of the Twelve, presidents of the Seventy, stake presidencies, bishoprics, ward councils, auxiliary presidencies, YM/YW presidencies, the family, a husband and wife, and yes, your companionship are all forms of councils. 

Before you arrived on your mission, how many times had you attended a ward council?  I can probably quickly answer that question…  for most it would have been never, unless you served in a YSA ward.  When you arrive in the field you quickly discover that you not only attend church, but that you attend a number of other councils where you will provide an update on your efforts regarding the work of salvation including; your efforts to baptize, retain, and activate God’s children.

Each of these councils has a specific purpose, but if I were to give you a brief summary of what they hope to achieve it would be… to invite all (focused on individuals and families) to come unto Christ, to help them receive the restored gospel, to increase their faith in the Savior and His Atonement, to help them repent and change, to help them receive the next ordinance (baptism, gift of the Holy Ghost, the sacrament, the priesthood, the endowment and sealing blessings), and to endure to the end.  Sounds familiar doesn’t it?  Get used to it, it’s your purpose the rest of your life! The doctrine of Christ is the vision and purpose for all councils.  Why? Because it is the way and the only way we can be saved! (2 Ne 31:21)

We meet in councils to strengthen one another, share ideas, make better decisions, discuss individual needs, extend invitations, receive assignments, return and report, and then commit to go and do.  My purpose for choosing this subject is to review with you some basic principles and to help you prepare to better serve within the councils you are assigned, specifically the ward council.  During your mission you will experience both effective and ineffective council meetings, but what can always be true is your plan, preparation, and participation as you attend them.  Here are a few guidelines for you to follow…

·         Before the council… Ideally there is a missionary correlation meeting (council) that takes into account the missionary (baptism, retention, activation) efforts being made by ward/branch auxiliary leaders and full time missionaries.  This is a great opportunity for you to share the details of the progress record, your efforts, and where you need support.  If this meeting doesn’t take place, encourage your ward mission leader to hold it (even if it’s just with you) so they can have all the information they need for ward council.  At a minimum, share what he needs to know to represent your efforts in the ward council. 

·         Be prepared!... Make sure your progress record is complete and accurate.  Use full names, include ages, basic information about them and specific needs. The progress record should have enough detail that you don’t need to explain it all in person.  Many progress records lack detail and are of no help to the council nor do they know what you need.  Always prioritize the most important and progressing investigators at the top and then work down the list from there.  Where there is more than one companionship, work together to consolidate the report into one document.

·         At the council… You are invited guests and not members of the ward council.  Arrive on time, with enthusiasm, and with a desire to contribute as needed.  The ward mission leader has the responsibility to report on missionary efforts within the ward council and you are there to support.  The only way a ward mission leader can feel comfortable with this assignment is if you have given him the information he needs.  This includes the progress record and regular updates via phone calls and texts throughout the week to make sure he knows what is happening regarding your efforts.  If you don’t have a ward mission leader, or if he doesn’t fulfill his responsibility, don’t give up, be prepared to briefly share what you know and need during the council.  Always defer to the ward mission leader first, build his confidence and help him in his calling.  Be kind and patient in your efforts to help.

·         During the council… Be careful not to dominate the time by sharing too much detail when asked to participate.  Focus on names (full names).  Who needs adoption, who has a baptism date, who will be coming to church?  For each council, limit your discussion to two to three key updates (prioritized) and two or three needs/requests.  Only focus on those that are truly progressing or where you need help.  This may include investigators, recent converts, or less active members.  Keep in mind there are several topics to be discussed and the council has other important topics to address.  Depending on the ward, they may have you stay for the entire meeting or excuse you. 

·         Request and report on assignments!...  Before the end of each ward council make sure you have requested an assignment.  Always report on your previous assignments and express appreciation for their trust in you.  Take notes, listen, be attentive and care about the conversation.  Too many missionaries zone out do little to add value.  You are being watched and measured up in every meeting, what you do and don’t do speaks louder than words. 

·         Know all ward council members by name and by assignment…  These leaders are your best friends when it comes to doing the work.  They can help you get to know the members, part-members, less active, and find.  Be there to bless and help them and recognize they have very busy lives and challenges you are unaware of.  Be a blessing to the bishop/branch president.  Help them see you are there to help and serve them.

·         Ward Mission Plan… Many wards struggle with implementing a ward mission plan.  They know what they need to do, but often struggle in their execution.  When you hear the following things… discussion of a less active and how to help them, how to retain someone or help them get to the temple, discuss their effort to baptize… they are talking about the elements that make up a ward mission plan, even if it’s not directly mentioned.  Help them, don’t be critical, be grateful and supportive.  There are things you need to do as missionaries you also fall short in.  We continue to invite and help and then we all do the best we can.

Elders & Sisters, this is not a comprehensive guide to working within a ward council, but I’m hopeful it gives you some additional insight.  These are great experiences for you that will shape how you will lead in the Church someday.  Learn from what’s good, consider what you’ll do differently, and build your experience as you go.  I invite you this week to do the following… Watch District 1, “Working with the Ward Council & PEC”.  Please also watch “Working with the Ward Mission Leader”.  Takes notes as you watch both and adjust your approach as needed.  Additionally, please take the time to study chapter 13 of Preach My Gospel.  Continue to counsel with one another as you plan, hold companionship study and inventory.  A great way for you to prepare for even better councils coming your way! ;) We need to do the work in the Lord’s way, and His way is by counseling in councils.   Thanks for your great work.  Love ya!

President Hall

President's Pen 7-3-17 (Invitations - Doctrines - Promises)

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 se 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!

Elders & Sisters,

I love ya!  Thanks for your goodness and desires to bless and help all men and women come unto Christ.  Your worthiness, obedience, planning, and desires to teach repentance and baptize converts are a great blessing to the people in this part of the Lord’s vineyard.  There is not an area in our mission that doesn’t have people prepared.  Believe and trust that God is directing His work and that He will give unto you success.  

The seminar for new mission presidents entering the field was held at the Provo MTC this past week.  Sister Hall and I sat in those same chairs just over two years ago and it will be considered one of the greatest highlights of my life.  For mission presidents already serving in the field, we also receive the instruction at the end of each day.  There were many wonderful talks given and I will share them with you in the weeks to come, but there was one in particular that I felt like I needed to emphasize from Elder Renlund of the Twelve.  He titled his address, “Treasuring up the Words of Life”.  I loved this as we have all embarked on a thorough study on chapter three of Preach My Gospel for the month of July.  As missionaries in the Great THSM, we will know the word of God!

As you might expect, Elder Renlund counseled the new mission presidents to make sure that missionaries were taking the time each morning to purposefully study from Preach My Gospel and the scriptures.  He cited examples of missionaries that entered a lesson hoping and expecting for it to go well, but were dismayed when the opposite was true.  He simply stated, they hadn’t taken the time to have an effective individual or companionship study.  As we know, the Spirit cannot draw from an empty well and when missionaries take a casual approach, they are seldom welcomed back and often wonder why no one ever seems to progress (members included).  He likened it to missionaries that don’t bother to go shopping on pday, only to find the fridge and cupboards bare on Tuesday, and wonder where the food is. ;)

As he delivered his address, I reflected on our missionaries and felt peace in my heart and mind that the missionaries in the Great THSM were diligently striving to treasure up each day and preparing to teach people, and not lessons.  He went on to explain that one of the ways you will know how well a missionary understands their purpose, and how well they are studying and treasuring up, will be based on the way they extend commitment invitations.  He recommended that each missionary consider the following in their personal and companionship study…

First – Begin with the commitment invitation… “Will you…” (This is what you build towards in your lesson as you increase their faith in Christ and help them act!)

All too often missionaries extend invitations, both to investigators and members alike, that are not specific, clear, and direct.  We often forget that we are representatives of the Savior and we extend the invitation on His behalf.  There can be no fear, no hesitation, no second guessing.  A successful missionary will always be found inviting.  As we invite, always consider using… The Lord/Savior/Jesus Christ would have you… (insert the invitation here).  As disciples of Christ, we invite men and women to do what the Savior wants them to do, not what we want them to do.  You will have more power in your invitations if you invite in His name.  A missionary that is treasuring up the words of eternal life will know the commitment invitations from PMG.  Did you know there are 40 plus! I triple dog dare you to count them in chapter three. ;)

Second – Understand the doctrine behind the commitment invitation.

You all know the quote from President Packer, “True doctrine, understood, changes attitudes and behaviors.” If you are unfamiliar with true doctrine, your power in teaching it will be diminished.  Consider the following doctrines… faith in the Savior and His Atonement, repentance, baptism, the gift of the Holy Ghost, enduring to the end.  In the course of your teaching, you will invite your investigators to accept and live the doctrine of Christ.  The Savior would have you follow Him and be baptized, “Will you follow the example of Jesus Christ and be baptized by someone who holds the priesthood authority of God.”  The invitation is specific, clear, and direct, but what is the doctrine behind it?  How many scriptures could you turn to right now, without the aid of Preach My Gospel, if you needed to explain or defend why we must be baptized?  A good measure of the effectiveness of your study and what you’ve treasured up, is if you not only know the doctrine, but know where to go to find it.  

Third – Understand the promised blessings behind the commitment invitation.

Frequently missionaries extend invitations that include a promised blessing that is general, unspecific, and often times not tied to the invitation extended.  An example might be.  “Will you attend church with us this Sunday?”  Followed by, I promise you that your life will be better for it.  While this is true, a missionary that has treasured up the words of life will know specific blessings and promises the investigator can expect to receive.  If there is no incentive for an investigator to act, it will be rare that they do.  In Preach My Gospel and the scriptures, you will find mentioned many promised blessings that are specific to the invitation, doctrine, and blessings we promise they will receive.  As an example, in zone conference we recently reviewed the doctrine of repentance.  The commitment invitation was, “Will you repent and pray for forgiveness of sins?”  The doctrine of repentance we teach is that through our faith in the Savior, we change our thoughts, our beliefs, and behaviors that are not in harmony with God’s will.  We also teach that no unclean thing can return to live with God and that to receive a full remission of sins and be found spotless, we must repent, be baptized and receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.  We then teach an investigator how to follow a process of repentance throughout the course of their lives.  The promised blessings we extend are to feel God’s forgiveness, peace, have guilt and sorrow swept away, feel the Spirit in their lives, and prepare to meet God (pg. 62 PMG).  When we promise blessings, we need to make sure we know exactly what they are and why they will matter to the investigator.  You will find promised blessings with every doctrine in PMG!

Elders & Sisters, Elder Renlund’s counsel to us was to make sure we know how our specific, direct, and clear commitment invitations tie back to the doctrine and blessings we teach and promise.  We can improve in our teaching as we come to know these truths and we will do it as we treasure up the words of eternal life each day.  As we all study doctrines from PMG each day this month, I invite you to know the specific, clear, and direct invitations you will extend and the promised blessings available to them as they act in faith.  To measure your progress, ask yourself, can I teach this doctrine simply (2 minutes or less), do I know where to find it in scripture, and do I know what specific blessings I will promise? In the Savior’s name, I testify that treasuring up the words of eternal life is much more than casual, haphazard study, it is building a reservoir of truth you can pull from when the Spirit prompts you to speak.  I promise you that when you treasure up these words, you will have more confidence when you teach, they will be brought to your remembrance, the Spirit will bear witness of your words, and more will come unto Christ.  Study well, study purposefully, and seek to be an instrument worthy of the Lord’s help as we invite all to come unto Him.  Love ya!

President Hall 

President's Pen 6-26-17 (Wheel's Aligned)

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! A scripture reference for you to ponder today found in Alma 13:3, “And this is the manner after which they were ordained—being called and prepared from the foundation of the world according to the foreknowledge of God, on account of their exceeding faith and good works; in the first place being left to choose good or evil; therefore they having chosen good, and exercising exceedingly great faith, are called with a holy calling, yea, with that holy calling which was prepared with, and according to, a preparatory redemption for such. And thus they have been called to this holy calling on account of their faith…”  Elders & Sisters, this is you! You have been called and prepared before you came to earth because of who you were!  You had chosen good, exercised your faith, and you have been called to the Lord’s work in this part of the vineyard.  It is not by circumstance you are here, in the area in which you currently serve, or with the companion you have been assigned to labor with.  I testify to you that you need not wonder why you are here or what you are to do.  Go forth with faith, hope, and charity, and give your all to the God who gives you daily breath! Oh, how great is your call!

As a missionary family we have our preparation day on Saturday.  Before we were called to the great Texas Houston South mission, I enjoyed competitive cycling and triathlons and on our pdays I try to get out and ride my bike first thing in the morning.  For the past two years I have ridden solo on each of these rides.  Two weeks ago, however, was the first time since we arrived where I was able to join a group ride.  I had ridden about 15 miles on my own when I saw a group of 30+ riders moving at a high pace in the opposite direction.  Upon seeing them, my pulse started to race, my competitive juices started flowing, and I knew I had to join in.  I quickly turned around and joined at the back of the group and within minutes three things became wonderfully apparent: first, I was no longer fighting the headwinds on my own.  Second, I was traveling at far faster speeds than I can sustain on my own.  Third, I was exerting less effort, but covering more distance without tiring.  Within the group, we were in complete alignment, our bikes were wheel to wheel, we pushed each other faster, and everyone took a turn at the front to pull the group ahead.  Instead of riding 20-30 miles, I rode 40 miles that day (in just over an hour and a half) and when I returned to the mission home I was grinning from ear to ear!

As I was riding along with the group all I could think about was how effective missionary work is when members and missionaries work together.  I spent the first 15 miles of my ride pushing the pedals on my own, and there are times when we as missionaries do the same thing.  We can and should knock doors and street contact, but the work is never as effective (headwinds, slower, more effort) if this is our only approach.  When missionaries align their wheels and efforts to the goals and efforts of the ward and line up with the members, we accomplish more, we move faster, we find more, we teach more, we invite more, and more come unto Christ.  When we do this, we come home from our daily missionary efforts grinning from ear to ear!

Let me share with you a recent example of how the members and the missionaries aligned their wheels and worked together in the Pearland and Memorial Park 2 Wards.  The Mahdzadeh family arrived as refugees from Iran in December.  The Pearland Ward received the assignment to adopt this family of five and a miracle occurred.  Sister Austin Blackwell, she herself a recent convert, was given the assignment to coordinate the efforts among the ward to look after the family.  The father of the family was Muslim, and the mother of three kids was Christian.  After getting the family settled, Sister Blackwell offered to take them to any church they wanted to attend.  Not knowing where they wanted to go for church, the mother said we’ll go to yours!  Sister Blackwell and the ward family jumped on the opportunity and welcomed them with open arms.  The family lived in downtown Houston, but Sister Blackwell and the other members of the ward would make the drive in to town each week to pick the family up and bring them to church (for three months!).  In simple terms, the ward adopted them. After a period of time, the family was integrated into the Memorial Park 2 Ward and several member families continued to adopt them there.  They were introduced to the missionaries and at the beginning of May, the Dad, Mom, and oldest daughter were baptized.  Just two weeks ago, the family attended the temple for the first time and it was a beautiful thing to see. 

Had the missionaries randomly knocked the Mahdzadeh’s door, perhaps the miracle of conversion would have never taken place, but through awesome ward members, and missionaries called to teach repentance and to baptize converts, a miracle took place for this little family.  There are countless stories like this in our mission, and I have had many converts share with me their experience of being adopted by a member family.    

A few reminders for you Elders & Sisters on how we can continue to align our wheels and pull together with the members… When you find someone to teach, you need to immediately work with the ward mission leader and or other members of the ward council to identify a family/individual that can adopt them.  Sister Blackwell of the Pearland Ward experienced this for herself just under a year ago.  The Hugo family in the Pearland Ward adopted her and her two kids. Sister Blackwell described to me that when they arrived at church, and members swarmed and greeted them, they immediately felt like they had arrived in a place where they felt like part of the family.  My hope would be that whenever an investigator comes to church, as missionaries you never sit with your investigators, but that you make sure a family/individual in the ward does.  You need to be relationship builders and seek to establish opportunities for the investigators to thrive without you.  You will all leave the area at some point, and far too many missionaries don’t go out of their way to introduce their investigators when they join us.  Some very wise missionaries have also started a member area book that helps them know more info about the members when they need to call upon them. It’s also a great start for any new missionaries that come into the area (think Susan Fulcher case). 

Three more simple missionary invitations you can continue making as you ride shoulder to shoulder with the members. These are already familiar to you, but we must keep extending them! First, invite them pray to have the desire to do missionary work.  There is not a member in the Church that can’t pray each day to have the desire to share the gospel.  From the young to the old, you can invite all to pray for the desire to share how faith in the Savior, repentance, baptism, receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost, and enduring to the end will lead them back to their Father in Heaven

Second, invite them to keep living the gospel and to let the Savior’s countenance shine in theirs.  We are peculiar people for a reason; help them let their light shine so people can see their good works.  Help them know how they can talk about the gospel in everyday conversations, share what they did at church this weekend, and how to be an everyday missionary by opening their mouth.  Continue to teach them how they can share the gospel to friends directly over social media like Facebook Messenger and Instagram.  Help them overcome their fears teach them that success is measured when they invite!

Third, invite them to pray for a specific opportunity to do missionary work and help them to be willing to open their mouth when the Lord puts someone in their path.  Every member connection (at least 10 a day) needs to include a missionary based invitation.  The key to all invitations is your follow up.  Most members have shared with me that the missionaries invite them (some more than others), but never bother following up.  Many members don’t get involved, not because they don’t want to, but they have come to expect the missionaries to never follow through.  Don’t let this be you!

Elders & Sisters, I testify that the work of salvation is best achieved when we work together, wheels aligned.  We discussed this at our last zone conference and I have included something related to working with the members in every zone conference since we arrived in the mission.  I am following the counsel given by our Prophet and a wise missionary will use all finding sources, and especially the members in their efforts to find.  Be patient, be tenacious, and above all love them for their willingness to help you. When we align our wheels and each pull together, we are stronger, we are faster, and we help others receive the joy of the gospel in their lives.  Love ya!

President Hall

President's Pen 6-19-17 (Interviews)

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! President Ezra Taft Benson stated, “When you choose to follow Christ, you choose to be changed.”  Thanks for all you do every day to invite and help others come unto Christ so they can experience the miracle of conversion in their lives. What a blessing it is to teach repentance each day so the power of godliness can come into their lives through priesthood ordinances.  There is only one way and it is the doctrine of Christ!

I look forward to being with you in our one-on-one interviews this week.  Have you ever asked why we meet so often?  President Hall interviews me every six weeks and interviews me in emails every Monday :), what more can there be to discuss?  A few thoughts I would share with you on the topic of interviews and why I love meeting with you. 

If I were to break down interviews into two basic categories they would be… First, to build my relationship with you, bless, serve, and help you and second, inspire you to become more consecrated as you serve the Lord’s and do His work.

Before each day of interviews, I pray for the gift of discernment to have eyes to see and ears to hear. The gift of discernment comes as I am worthy and prepare myself for the things the Spirit will bring to my heart and mind.  While I am unable to spend much time with you, I have been blessed to receive impressions before we meet and even during our discussions that help me know what to share and what to ask.  It’s important for me to make sure you feel comfortable so I can know what’s in your heart and mind.   I sincerely want you to know you are loved, appreciated by the Lord, and help you accomplish the Lord’s work.  I pray that if there is anything we need to discuss, you will have the confidence and trust to know that what you share with me is confidential and important to me. 

My interviews with you also help me accomplish several purposes…. They help me see, feel, and learn things that won’t be apparent over the phone or read in an email or text.  They allow me to teach and share principles and doctrines.  They allow me to have you teach and have you express your faith and testimony. They allow me to receive an accounting of your stewardship and efforts.  They allow me to counsel and motivate you to align yourself to what the Lord has called you to do.  They allow me to determine your worthiness and help you confess and forsake sin.  They allow me to spend one-on-one time that I have come to treasure and truly enjoy.  

Before we meet I also pray for the gift of charity so I’ll have my vision opened to not only who you are today, but who you are becoming.  The gift of charity allows me to have greater love for you and that is something I’m so grateful for.  I recognize that we are all weak and that we all have challenges and issues we need to work through.  As I am able to discuss with you an area where you may feel weak, I am blessed with the assurance that the Savior’s grace is sufficient for you as you come unto Him, humble yourself, and exercise your faith in Him.  As we discuss challenges or obstacles you’re facing, I am blessed to help you develop a plan that you will choose to work on and follow; I love seeing your progress.  The miracle of the interviews for me come as I observe how much growth you are experiencing and how the Savior and His gospel is truly changing you.  You may not recognize it, but I get to see you change and become better disciples in small increments of time and it is awe inspiring. 

We see a pattern of one-on-one interviews in the scriptures where a father and a son meet to counsel together.  I love the interaction between Lehi and his boys Nephi, Jacob, and Joseph.  Alma’s one-on-one interactions with Helaman, Shiblon, and Corianton are some of my favorite father and son interactions and each discussion is unique and appropriate for what his sons need to know, feel, and do.  I personally love the one-on-one time I get with my kids.  They may never know they’re getting a father’s interview, but I love the interaction I have with them and for the counsel I am able to offer. 

The Savior’s interviews with the apostles, and especially with Peter are amazing to me.  Peter, lovest thou me?  Peter, whom to me say that I the Son of man am? After each question the Savior listened, taught, and inspired Peter to become the disciple the Lord knew he would be.  The Savior will have a similar interview with each of us.  Do we love him, do we know who He is, and have we come to know Him?  I like to think of our interviews here on the earth as role-play for the future.  In particular, I see the temple recommend interview as the opportunity to visit with the Savior as we strive to be worthy to enter the presence of the Father. 

Elders & Sisters, as we sit down in our interviews together this week, and every time hereafter, I hope you will know and feel of my love for you.  I hope you will feel encouraged and inspired to give all of your heart, might, mind, and strength to the Lord and His work.  I hope you are willing and excited to give an accounting that shows your effort and desires to improve.  I hope you will receive any kindly correction with the understanding that I desire for you to become the best you can be.  I hope you will be willing to cast aside any fears and confess anything that needs to be addressed.  I hope to learn from you and know how I can bless you in your desire to become converted to the Savior and His gospel.  I invite you to pray that we will be able to accomplish what the Lord would have us do as we meet.  I testify and know the Savior has blessed me with the ability to love you beyond what you’ll ever know and what I ever expected.  President Eyring shared with me that we would love you and his promise is true.  Love ya!

President Hall

 

President's Pen 6-12-17 (Commitments, Commandments, Covenants)

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!  As we come to understand the Savior’s Atonement, we have a greater desire to share it!  This is a true principle and I pray that you will each come to a greater understanding of how the Savior has personally atoned for you.  When you do, teaching repentance and baptizing converts will become your vision and your effort. 

“And again, I will give unto you a pattern in all things…” (D&C 52:14) I love that the Savior and His gospel is established upon a pattern that helps us know what we need to do to return to his presence.  As missionaries, the pattern we follow is established in our purpose… First, we invite all men and women to increase their faith in Christ and come unto Him by extending commitments He would have them accept.  Second, we help them by teaching God’s commandments, that when followed, further demonstrate their faith in the Savior and His Atonement and their willingness to change (repent).  Third, because of their faith in Jesus Christ, we help them make covenants (baptism, receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost, temple) so they can endure to the end.  Commitments, Commandments, Covenants is the pattern we follow.

If we begin with the end in mind, we realize that everything we work towards is to help men and women increase their faith in the Savior so they can make covenants with God.  As we study King Benjamin’s talk, we can see the pattern…  His teachings increased their faith in the Savior (by the Holy Ghost), he extended commitment invitations, the people had a greater desire to keep the commandments, and they wanted to enter into a covenant to do God’s will. (Mosiah 5:4-6) The result was exactly what King Benjamin desired, “And now, because of the covenant which ye have made ye shall be called the children of Christ, his sons, and his daughters; for behold, this day he hath spiritually begotten you; for ye say that your hearts are changed through faith on his name; therefore, ye are born of him and have become his sons and his daughters.”  (Mosiah 5:7)

To teach this pattern effectively to our investigators, I believe it is important for you to remember how your faith in the Savior has lead you to covenants you are asking others to make and keep.  Do you know them all?  Each week we are blessed to review all covenants we have made as we partake of the sacrament.  The beautiful pattern we seen in this is that we have the opportunity to ponder our own faith in the Savior, review our own commitments, evaluate whether or not we are keeping the commandments, and if we are living up to and keeping our covenants.

Consider the following covenants you renew each week and evaluate how you’re doing.  Equally important is to remember the blessings you are promised as you keep your covenants.  These blessings are not comprehensive, but I share a few that I am most grateful for. 

Baptismal Covenants – The promised blessings… We will always have His Spirit to be with us and we will be clean…

·         Remember the Savior – We fulfill this covenant as we trust, acknowledge, repent, do His will and remember His life, His teachings, His example, and His Atonement.  We might ask ourselves, “Do I always have the Savior’s name on my lips and on my heart?”

·         Take His Name upon Us – We fulfill this covenant by putting the Lord first in our lives, by striving to think and act as He would, and by standing “as witnesses of God at all times and in all things, and in all places”.  It means we do His work and we strive to develop His attributes.  We might ask ourselves, “I wear His name on my chest, is it also written on my heart?  “Am I engaged in His work, am I worthy of His name?”

·         Keep His Commandments – We fulfill this covenant when we are willing to “live by every word that proceedeth forth from the mouth of God.” (D&C 84:44).  Start with the first and great commandment, all others will follow… We might ask ourselves, “Do I do His will or mine?

Temple Covenants – The promised blessings… We will have power, have the Savior’s name upon us, and angels will have charge over us.   We will be able to walk back to the presence of the Father and live with Him again…

·         Obedience – We fulfill this covenant by aligning our will and desires to God.  Obedience is the first law in heaven and aligns us to all the other commitments and covenants we make.  The Savior was always obedient and always found doing His Father’s will.  We might ask ourselves, “Am I obedient to the standards I teach and know to be true (including mission standards)?”

·         Sacrifice -- We fulfill this covenant by our willingness to sacrifice all that we have for the truth’s sake —“our character and reputation; our honor and applause; our good name among men; our houses, lands, and families: all things, even our very lives if need be.” (Elder Bruce R. McKonkie) We might ask ourselves, “Have I given up the things of the world that distract me from serving with all my heart?” 

·         Laws of the Gospel -- We fulfill this covenant when we do our best to live the doctrines, principles, laws, ordinances, and covenants necessary for us to be exalted in the celestial kingdom.  We must repent, we must be baptized, we must receive the Holy Ghost.  These laws, and many others (tithe, fast, forgiveness etc. etc.) are unchangeable and bring us back into the presence of the Father.  We might ask ourselves, “Are there any gospel laws I don’t clearly understand or any I need to live more fully?”

·         Chastity -- We fulfill this covenant by letting virtue garnish our thoughts unceasingly.  During our mortal existence we are to learn self-mastery and control our desires, passions, and appetites.  Breaking this law is selfish and mocks God.  We might ask ourselves, “Are my thoughts and actions clean and virtuous?”

·         Consecration – We fulfill this covenant as we consecrate our time, our talents, and anything else the Lord blesses us with to build up His kingdom on the earth.  A consecrated missionary is the 4th missionary and one that we all strive to become… We might ask ourselves, “How am I using my time, am I developing my talents, am I focused on building the Lord’s kingdom?”

Oath & Covenant of the Priesthood – The promised blessing… We will be given all that the Father has…

·         Magnify our Office/Calling -- We fulfill this covenant by serving in each calling to the best of our abilities and by reaching out to bless those we have stewardship for.  As missionaries, our calling is to labor diligently and to teach the gospel of Jesus Christ. We might ask ourselves, “Is the Lord pleased with my service, am I doing what I’ve been called to do?”

Elders & Sisters, I love the patterns our Father in Heaven has given us so we know what we need to do to return to His presence.  As we are taught in the Doctrine and Covenants, “He who is not able to abide the law of a celestial kingdom cannot abide a celestial glory.” (D&C 88:22)  Our time on earth is to learn how our faith in the Savior, our keeping of commitments, commandments, and covenants prepares us to live in celestial glory.  I invite you to review the covenants you have made each week as you partake of the sacrament.  Evaluate your life and be grateful to the Savior, that despite our weakness, He will help you overcome as you do your best.  I also invite you to begin with the end in mind by recognizing that when you help others increase their faith in the Savior, you are putting them on the path to commitments, commandments, and covenants.  There is no other way men and women, including us, can return to live with God.  We are a covenant making and a covenant keeping people.  I testify in the Savior’s name, that the blessings prepared for us by making and keeping these covenants, will be far greater than any sacrifice we ever make.  I love the Savior, He lives, this is His work, and let us all put people on His covenant path.  Love ya!

President Hall

President's Pen 6-5-17 (No Fear!)

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!  A new transfer ahead, what will you and your companion be known for?  Create a vision statement of how you will focus on our effort to teach repentance and baptize converts and then let’s go to work!

A challenge that many missionaries experience throughout their missions is having the spirit of fear.  As we know, fear is the opposite of faith and when it enters our hearts and minds, our ability to serve as bold disciples and representatives of Jesus Christ is diminished.  Faith in the Savior and His Atonement can remove all fear and fill our minds with courage, peace, and strength.  

Fear has tormented some of the greatest missionaries, and in particular, we see it in the Apostle Peter.  We all know the account of the Savior calling to Peter to come down out of the ship and walk on water.  Peter took courage at first, but with the winds boisterous, he was afraid and began to sink.  Fear overtook him and “sinking” could not be a better verb to describe the feeling we have when we lose our trust in the Lord.  Later, we also see Peter deny the Savior three times.  Among many possible reasons for his denial, certainly fear was one of them.  Despite Peter’s initial fears, however, he became not only bold, but powerful and courageous (just read the Book of Acts!).  Fear may have been in his heart to begin with, but his trust and faith in the Savior produced a miraculous change.  The same is true for all of us.

Fear is crippling to a missionary and I see it affect us in a variety ways.  The list below is not exhaustive, but these are some of the common things I see or hear.  Review the list below and determine any of these have ever caused you to “sink” with fear. 

·         Fear to Open Your Mouth! – off all fears this is perhaps the most common.  The Lord doesn’t mince words when he says; “But with some I am not well pleased, for they will not open their mouths, but they hide the talent which I have given unto them, because of the fear of man. Wo unto such, for mine anger is kindled against them.” (D&C 60:2)  These are strong words and rightly so.  I’m surprised at times by how many missionaries simply refuse to rise above this fear and continue to carry it with them.  Missionary work only works if you open your mouth!  Wouldn’t it be better, if like the sons of Mosiah, we couldn’t bear that any human soul should perish?  Imagine what would happen if rather than fearing what men and woman might say, that you would fear for their salvation! How do we improve in this regard? The Savior said to Peter, “O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?”  In other words, do you believe in my work, my power, my ability to save, my ability to help you?  You can’t reach your potential as a missionary until the fear of boldly opening your mouth is replaced by faith in the Savior and His ability to lift you as he did Peter.  Of all things I would invite you to do today, it is to lose the fear of men and put your trust in God! “Fear ye not the reproach of men, neither be ye afraid of their reviling’s.” (2 Ne 8:7) How will you know if you’re progressing?  Simply by your willingness to talk to as many people as you can each day without passing them by.

·         Fear to Communicate – This fear can be manifest in a several ways.  Instead of having a good and fruitful companionship inventory when issues need to be addressed, we avoid them because we fear that we will hurt feelings or that we will ruffle feathers.  Working through issues with a companion is certainly a skill and needful, but hiding from issues won’t make them better.  Do you think it will get easier when you’re married? (if yes, think again :)  A common disconnect within a companionship is who is right and who is wrong.  The truth is there are many ways to accomplish our goals, and it’s not about being right, it’s about doing what’s right.  Another example… I see my companion disobey mission standards and I say nothing and either join in or look the other way (living the missionary schedule, using time wisely, music, technology use, etc. etc.)  If we want to have unity, teach by the Spirit, and help our investigators progress, we need to remove any and all fear within our companionships and come back to our common cause.  (A caution to some of you… some can be overly critical and condescending to your companions.  This is a form of bullying and cannot be.  Feedback without tact is simply being cruel.  Your approach to kindly correct has to be done in the Savior’s way.)  How will you know if you’re progressing?  Simply by your willingness to talk to your companion when differences in opinion come up and by showing humility to learn from and appreciate one another. 

·         Fear of Inadequacy -- The Lord has called the weak and simple and yet he has qualified each of you. You have been endowed with power and authority to teach repentance and help men and women come unto Christ through the saving ordinances.  You are a child of God with unlimited potential!!! You will not reach perfection in your mission (or in this life), you will not get everything figured out, you will make mistakes and fall short and that is absolutely ok! You do fall short, get over it, we all do!  Fearing that you don’t measure up is something we all experience, and yet we can’t let it stop us from doing the best we can.  We can’t be content with mediocrity, but that will never be the case if you’re doing your best (some of you need to care more!).  All things come line upon line and your study, diligence, and experience will all remove feelings of inadequacy over time. The Savior’s grace is sufficient for each of us and despite our weakness, our coming unto him with humble hearts will make us strong.  A word of caution, comparison will rob you of any joy and any sense of progress you’re making.  Using Elder Uchtdorf’s words, “Stop IT!”  How will you know if you’re progressing?  Simply by your willingness to focus on your spiritual preparation, gospel and language study, companionship study and lesson planning, and greater trust in the Lord.

·         Fear of the Future – I often chat with missionaries about fear of the future or the unknown…  What about school, what about my family, what about my converts being faithful, what about...  I understand these concerns and they are important, but for now we have been set apart and removed from the world to have a singular focus and purpose.  The Lord’s teaching on taking no thought for the morrow, as we seek first to build the kingdom of God, brings me great peace.  I have learned that if I just do what the Lord wants me to do, everything always works out.  There will be time to plan and look forward, but let’s first and foremost remember why we are here today and minimize distraction.  We don’t always have the answers for what the future will bring, there will be challenges at home, there are difficulties in the world, but we do know the battle is the Lord’s and that the victory has been won.  Fear not, doubt not, trust that the Lord has your family and your future in mind.  Your patriarchal blessing can bring peace to your mind for the future.  It may not spell out every detail, but what matters most can always be found within. How will you know if you’re progressing?  Simply by your willingness to focus on what matters today by putting distractions behind you. 

Elders & Sisters, l love the teaching from the Apostle Paul to Timothy, “For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind. Be not thou therefore ashamed of the testimony of our Lord…”  (2 Tim 1:7-8)  This is a great scripture when it comes to going out and opening our mouths.  It is written on the mirror in my son’s bathroom and I’m glad they get to look at it every day.  A modern day prophet, President Russell M. Nelson of the Twelve, stated in the recent general conference, “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.  There is nothing easy or automatic about becoming such powerful disciples. Our focus must be riveted on the Savior and His gospel. It is mentally rigorous to strive to look unto Him in every thought.  But when we do, our doubts and fears flee.”

My invitation to you is to conquer your fears and replace them with the light and hope that comes through our faith in the Savior. Identify any fears that you currently have or hold onto. Set a goal and develop a plan to help you overcome these fears as you go out and serve each day.  Sister Hall once shared the following… “Do you have times on your life when you know what you should do, but you allow fear to hold you back? It’s okay to be scared – do it scared.  It’s okay to be unsure – do it unsure. It’s okay to be uncomfortable – do it uncomfortable. Just get started where you are.  That is the attitude of the most disciplined and successful people on the planet.  As you apply this attitude of just do it, you will develop the habit  of acting in the face of fear and overcoming it.  You will also understand that your fear has no power unless you do nothing.”  I love it! The greatest blessings in life live just beyond your fears, why not conquer a few of them while you’re here! When you truly come to know who you represent, as Peter did, you will stand out, speak up, and be different.  I testify in the name of the Savior that fear does not come from a loving Heavenly Father, but courage, strength, and faith do! Love ya!

President Hall

President's Pen 5-29-17 (Desires to Serve God)

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 constant and consistent efforts to find, teach repentance, and baptize converts!  Keep up the great work! #fc&tr&bc

“Therefore, if ye have desires to serve God ye are called to the work…”  (D&C 4:3)  I have thought a lot about what it means to have desires to serve God lately.  I suppose I have pondered on this subject as I am amazed by the many faithful men and women who truly desire to serve God and do His work, they are all around us. I also ponder on this topic often as I pray for eyes to see, ears to hear, and a heart to discern to know how to bless and help you increase your desires to serve the Lord.

Desires can be both worthy and unworthy and they will impel (inner drive) us to excellence or mediocrity, happiness or misery, success or failure.  As Elder Oaks has taught, “Desires dictate our priorities, priorities shape our choices, and choices determine our actions. The desires we act on determine our changing, our achieving, and our becoming.” As an agent to act, your desires will shape you into the person you will become.

If you dig deep within your heart for a moment, and check the desires you have to serve God, do His work, and build His kingdom, what do you find?  “Behold, there are many called, but few are chosen. And why are they not chosen? Because their hearts are set so much upon the things of this world, and aspire to the honors of men…” (D&C 121:34-35) “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” (Matt 6:21) Desire has been and always will be indicative of where your heart lies.  We will all ultimately decide whether or not we will be one of God’s chosen.  He will look into our hearts and either find us as profitable or unprofitable servants.

Desire to serve God has to come from within, it can’t be given, forced, manipulated, or controlled.  The light of Christ is there to compel us towards loving and serving God, but we’ll never be forced to do so.  As there is always opposition in all things, Satan will also entice, but he has no control on our desires unless we allow him to whisper in our ears.

A common obstacle to worthy desires comes in a subtle and destructive force known as apathy.  It is manifested as a lack of desire, passion, enthusiasm, effort, commitment, and emotion.  The Greek root word for apathy is pathos, which means feeling.  When you add the “a” to it, it describes a person as having a “lack of feeling” or a lack of concern or care towards others.   Apathy is one of the great sins of our day as it is like the flaxen cord that wraps around us without much concern in the beginning, but in a future day, it can completely bind us.  We see apathy in all aspects of life including within the membership of the Church. It begins slowly binding men and women as a flaxen cord; I don’t pray as often, study as much as I should, miss a few Sundays, serve less in my callings, visit the temple less often, and slowly but surely the adversary careful leads them to destruction.  This is the all is well in Zion crowd that may look the part, but doesn’t feel the part.   This was Nephi’s great warning to the people of our day and you see it ever increasing around us.

Missionaries are not immune from becoming apathetic towards God’s work if they’re not careful.  I believe most missionaries come with desire to serve God and do His work.  They may not feel quite like the sons of Mosiah when they arrive, “Now they were desirous that salvation should be declared to every creature…”, (Mos 28:3) but they come ready to give their best.  I have found over time though, that some missionaries find the work hard, the grass greener, and with the challenges and obstacles of missionary life, desires start to wane.  What goes with those desires are the day to day efforts and commitments to give their best.

If you want to know what keeps President Hall up at night, you’d come to learn very quickly that I worry most about those that have a lack of desire.  I love those that battle, that struggle, that keep fighting to give their best, that do all they can, they give me hope and courage that they’ll keep going even though they’re not there yet.  They remind me of those that take on Alma’s challenge as they, “exercise a particle of faith, yea, even if ye can no more than desire to believe, let this desire work in you…” (Alma 32:27)  For those that have lost the flame of desire, I pray that somehow, I’ll be able to see into their hearts and help light the flame of faith and rekindle their desire again.  I care a lot about each of you, love you as my own, and when I see a lack of desire it crushes me.

President Brigham Young said, “the men and women, who desire to obtain seats in the celestial kingdom, will find that they must battle every day”.  This battle is constant and the adversary fights to push the desires of your heart to the things of the world.  He is after your hearts constantly as he knows that if he can get you to lose your desires to do the work, your effort and commitment will diminish.

How do we increase our desires and protect those we already have?  I love this quote from Brigham Young, “Do you think that people will obey the truth because it is true, unless they love it? No, they will not.”  There is a profound teaching in this message… We may know what is true, logically, rationally, and even with evidence to support it, but unless we come to love the truth, we won’t be changed by it.  Thus, many are called, but few are chosen, because they may know truth, but they don’t yield their hearts or desires to it.  If you want to increase your desire in any aspect of the Lord’s work, battle through until you come to love it!

Here’s what I believe you need to “love” so your desires shine bright and motivate you to serve God.  First, love God, know that He lives, that His plan is real, and that he loves and know you.  Second, love the Savior and increase your faith in Him, love His teachings, His life, His Atonement, His Grace, His power to heal, bless, and redeem you.  Third, love the gift of the Holy Ghost, His companionship, His direction, comfort, sanctifying and purifying power, strive to always have Him with you. Fourth, love the people, pray for charity so you can see them as God does, until you love them, you won’t break your backs to find, teach, and invite them. Fifth, love what it takes to become a great missionary; worthiness, obedience, sacrifice, consecration, goal setting, planning, finding, teaching and inviting, personal and companion study, accountability, effort, commitment, members, tenacity, diligence etc. etc. The first and great commandment is where your desire to love and serve God begins!

Elders & Sisters, my mighty prayers are for you to have desires to love and serve God with all your heart, might, mind, and strength.  My expectations for Houston South missionaries are high.  I want the true and faithful, the committed, the obedient, the diligent, those that are battling and giving their best.  I love serving with you, I want your hearts and desires to be in the work, regardless of the heat, humidity, rain, ups and downs, highs, and lows, THSM missionaries just go and do!  You have been called, I invite you to check your desire to serve God and recalibrate if needed.  Learn to love truth so you’ll act on it.  Much is expected of you, but you are capable and qualified to do the Lord’s work.  It is true, I love it, and I love each of you.   I testify in the Savior’s name that if you have desires to serve God, you are indeed called to the work.  Let us all be anxiously engaged in it.  Love ya!

President Hall

President's Pen 5-22-17 (Do YOU Believe in Miracles!)

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,

We love ya!  I express my love and gratitude to you for your desires to do the Lord’s work.  With those wonderful desires, you have been called to give your heart, might, mind, and strength as you invite all to come unto Christ.  Your desire to do the work is all the Lord needs to turn you into the instrument that can put His children on the path home.  Your calling is significant, keep giving your best!

“Do you believe in miracles!?!” Just before my ninth birthday, the United States hockey team beat the Russians in dramatic fashion with a final score of 4-3.  This 1980 Olympic Hockey Team was full of misfits and underdogs and had no business beating the more powerful and skilled Russians.  The sportscaster, Al Michaels, shouted out with seconds left in the game, “Do you believe in miracles!?!”  After all these years, I still remember the game, the now infamous quote is widely known, and yes, a miracle in sports took place that day.

I would ask you today, do you believe in miracles?  Mormon asks us this same question as he is finalizing the marvelous abridgement of the gold plates.  First, he reminds us all that, “God is the same yesterday, today, and forever… (Mor 9:9) and then he asks, “And if there were miracles wrought then, why has God ceased to be a God of miracles and yet be an unchangeable Being? (Mor 9:19) Mormon is a brilliant teacher! He teaches the nature of God as being unchangeable, and then concludes… He has performed miracles before, is performing miracles now, and will perform miracles in the future. 

Mormon then draws us in to why some may not see miracles, “And the reason why he ceaseth to do miracles among the children of men is because that they dwindle in unbelief, and depart from the right way, and know not the God in whom they should trust.” (Mor 9:20)   We then learn that miracles were a topic of conversation at the dinner table as Moroni teaches something very similar in the book of Ether, “For if there be no faith among the children of men God can do no miracle among them.” (Ether 12:12)  Moroni then goes on to recount miracle after miracle performed by the faith of righteous servants.  Simple formula we learn from this teaching, Faith in Jesus Christ = Miracles

I believe we can see miracles everyday if we look for them.  On Friday night, we had 20 recent converts performing baptisms for the dead at the temple for their ancestors.  That seemingly simple event is a miracle and we see the Plan of Salvation in action!  Never discount what God did to prepare these people for baptism nor how he created a path to have them bless their ancestors in the temple. We see the miracle of conversion as the Holy Ghost changes the hearts of minds of those we teach.  We see miracles as the Lord places people in our path as we have the faith to plan and then go to work.  We are engaged in a work of miracles, truly a marvelous work and a wonder.

This past week I received an email from a sister here in Houston about a small miracle in our mission…  “I wanted to share a little experience that happened with two elders a few weeks ago.  My dad was a mission president and I know sometimes people tend to tell you all the negative goings on with the missionaries, but this was quite the contrary, the elders were in the right place, at the right time, and truly a miracle.

I live with my husband and kids in Spring, not far from the Temple.  We are in the Wimbledon Ward in the Klein Stake.  A few weeks ago our ward was assigned a refugee family.  They had three little girls are were arriving from Myanmar.  Our ward gathered furniture and other items to furnish their apartment and then my husband and I were asked to go pick them up from the airport.  We have four small kids so we had a van and car seats already set to go!  We were told that an interpreter would be there to meet us, and off we went, so excited to welcome this family. 

When we got the airport, we called the interpreter who was supposed to meet us, and she said she was not coming.  Her English wasn't great and so communication with her proved difficult as well.  We stood there holding name signs as people were coming through the doors at customs.  Finally, I saw a family with three little girls and I knew it must be them.  Well, they sort of glazed past us and walked on, and I thought to myself, this has to be them!  We followed them and checked their suitcases and sure enough it was them, but they couldn't read the American alphabet to see their names... needless to say, we were going to have a little challenge on our hands trying to get this family to the car, safely into their apartment and explain details like the apartment key, the mail key, etc.

As we drove the hour to their apartment I tried to communicate with these sweet people, but all that we could understand of each other was a genuine smile.  It was a very helpless feeling.  As we pulled into the apartment complex I saw a set of elders talking to someone in the parking lot.  They were speaking a different language.  I rolled down my window as we drove by them and asked, "Elders, what language do you speak?"  They looked at me and said, "Burmese"  almost like, you've probably never heard of this language before, but believe it or not, we are assigned to speak it here...  I nearly jumped for joy!  I said, "Elders, we need you!  This family just arrived from Myanmar and we can't communicate with them!"  They helped us take their stuff up to the apartment and spent the next hour or so helping explain everything from the light switches to how to use a microwave.  It truly was a miracle!  Had these elders decided to take an early dinner or choose not to speak to someone in the parking lot we could have missed them by minutes.  We are so grateful for Elder Noles and Elder Ferrero.

As we reflect on this experience we just keep feeling an overwhelming sense of gratitude that the Lord is in the details and when you are doing your best to be where you need to be, He will guide your path and put you where you need to be to be an instrument in His work. I just wanted to share with you this simple experience that made a profound impact on us and surely this little Burmese speaking family.”

I loved this sweet and simple miracle and it again reassures me that God is involved in the details of our lives and that He knows His children.  It’s a miracle that He cares enough to bless His children individually in small and simple ways. 

The Lord works miracles through those that have the faith to be in the right place at the right time.  He works miracles for those that believe, stay the course, and continue to trust.  He works miracles for those that patiently endure trials of faith and then gives them a witness that He is the same yesterday, today, and forever.  He works miracles through missionaries that are exactly obedient and doing their best. He works miracles as you teach repentance and baptize converts! He is a God of miracles!    

In the Spring of 1820, a young man walked into a grove of trees and prayed to know what church to join.  A miracle occurred that day and the miracles haven’t stopped since.  When you share the account of the First Vision, you are sharing a miracle no less amazing than Moses parting the Red Sea or Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead.  Before you teach Joseph Smith’s miraculous account, you might ask an investigator, do you believe God is a God of miracles?  If yes, ask, do you believe He is the same yesterday, today, and forever? If yes, tell them that you’re about to share a miracle that will change the course of their life forever!

Elders & Sisters, believe that God will work miracles in your life as you demonstrate your faith in His Son Jesus Christ.  Every day you walk out of your apartment expect to see a miracle as you act in faith (obedience, planning, study, etc.)  Big or small, miracles can and will be seen by those who believe!  I invite you this week to look for miracles in the work.  Pray to have eyes to see, ears to hear, and hearts to discern what the Lord is doing all around you.  Share with each other at the end of the day any miracles you may have seen and record them in your journal.  I’d love to hear about the miracles you’re seeing each week.  They are there to be found!  I testify in the Savior’s name that we live during a time of miracles and I can easily answer “YES” to the question, “Do you believe in miracles!?!”  Love ya!

President Hall

President's Pen 5-15-17 (We Believe)

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,

We love ya!  Thanks for all you do each day to give your all to the Lord.  I am grateful to be working with those who the Lord has called and anointed to do His work.  Be found as one that can truly be called as one of His disciples. 

At our recent zone conferences, we read a quote from Elder Holland regarding the importance of simplicity and teaching to the needs of the investigators.  He stated, “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 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 minutes— I mean few, like one or two—a question is asked or a testimony of a principle is born or the other companion takes over.”

One of the greatest examples of simple, but powerful teaching occurred on March 1, 1842.  At the invitation of John Wentworth, the editor of the Chicago Democrat, Joseph Smith wrote the most precise, doctrinally sound, and simple explanation of our faith that could be written; The Articles of Faith.  Many of you memorized these simple truths in your primary days and may still be able to bring them to memory.

What you might not know about the Articles of Faith is some additional history… As soon as the restored Church was founded on April 6th, 1830, the great effort of missionary work and the gathering of Israel began.  There was no PMG, there was no MTC, no pamphlets, there was no mission president to direct the day to day effort of the missionaries.  There was, however, a great need to present the Church’s beliefs to the world in a concise and simple way.  At first, missionaries had to write their own statements of faith, just as they had to prepare their own tracts (brief pamphlets – could you do this?).  Well known Church figures such as Oliver Cowdery, Joseph Young, Orson Pratt, and Orson Hyde wrote summaries of what Latter-Day Saints believe and these were used and printed in various Church publications.  If you want to read more about the history of the Articles of Faith, go here… We Believe - Development of the Articles of Faith

When Joseph Smith was asked by the John Wentworth to write a letter, the intent was to provide a brief historical overview of the early days of the Church and Joseph Smith's life.  Joseph also then added a concise summary of the principles and doctrines of the Church.  I believe we underestimate, and may not appreciate how powerful, simple, and clear the 13 Articles of Faith are and what they teach.  I think about all that Joseph Smith knew, what he could have written, and yet, he knew his audience would read it in the pages of a newspaper.  He had to keep it simple, interesting, brief, and compelling.  Imagine if he had written it with more complexity or too long.  The newspaper could have taken the liberty to edit and perhaps leave out key and important truths that tell the story of what we believe.  The readers may have been left confused and uninterested.  In short, and to draw a parallel to what we strive to do, he connected the investigators to what they needed, nothing more, nothing less.  Do you ever turn to the Articles of Faith when asked what we believe?

What do we learn from the Articles of Faith?  In addition to what “We believe..”, I also see how doctrinally rich and bold statements can be given succinctly and simply.  These of course are not the only examples of simple teaching that connect to the needs of the hearts and minds of men and women.  Consider President Gordon B. Hinckley’s simple teaching to members of the Church on how to retain a new convert; they need a friend, a responsibility, and to be continually nurtured by the word of God. How simple and awesome is that!  Both the “Family, A Proclamation to the World”, and “The Living Christ” are a single page.  Could these doctrines be taught and better? The Savior Himself, the Master Teacher, did it best, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.  On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”  (Matt 22:37-40)  A simple question, a powerful and yet simple answer and teaching. 

Elders & Sisters, as Elder Holland stated, “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.”  We learn from the Articles of Faith a pattern of teaching that delivers to needs and is full of inspiration.  In many ways, you are not dissimilar from the original missionaries called to preach the gospel at the beginning of this dispensation.  You still teach using your own statements of faith and we need to do so in a personal, concise, and simple way.  I invite you to read and study the Articles of Faith this week to inspire you to teach with more simplicity and boldness.  I also invite you to continually improve upon the way you are teaching, recognizing that the Spirit is the teacher.  Your continued personal study, companionship study, and personal witness of the doctrines we teach can’t be underestimated.  The Spirit can’t draw from an empty well nor will thoughts be put into your mind if you haven’t treasured up the words of eternal life.  The scriptures, in particular the Book of Mormon is one of your greatest tools, PMG must be studied daily, the pamphlets are a phenomenal guide, but your own simple testimony is equally if not more powerful.  You have been called to teach with power and authority and follow the pattern of the Master Teacher.  I invite you to follow His example and to teach personally, boldly, and simply.  This is His work and His message, let’s share it with all our heart, might, mind, and strength.  Love ya!

President Hall