President's Pen 4-2-18 (Epic, Wow, Inspired)

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! Wow!  What an amazing general conference.  The Lord is hastening His work and I feel so blessed to be a part of it.  We are His hands, let us all continue to serve with all our heart, might, mind, and strength.

We’re you inspired?  What a historic conference, I’ve never seen anything like it and it was simply amazing! General Conference is always a feast and a reminder that God speaks from the heavens and that He loves each of us individually.  Like you, I always feel like specific messages are directed at me, as if I was the only person on earth that was intended to hear it.  Elder Hales shared the following as we are left to ponder on what we were taught from on high…  “We accept the Savior’s invitation when we ponder and pray to understand what we have been taught and then go forward and do His will. Remember President Spencer W. Kimball’s words: “I have made up my mind that when I go home from this general conference … there are many, many areas in my life that I can perfect. I have made a mental list of them, and I expect to go to work as soon as we get through.” 

As I pondered the messages we’ve received the last two days, here are a few of the thoughts the Spirit has brought to my heart and mind… First, I am a beloved son of God and that He knows me.  I am a child of God.  In my notes I wrote… The most powerful knowledge we possess is knowing our own identity and that God sanctifies us on our most difficult days.  The invitation I accepted was to seek God and His divine Son and to do so through the my continued study in the book of Mormon.  The promised blessing is that I will come to know God and more fully cherish my noble birthright.

I was reminded that mistakes are a fact of life, that they are temporary, and that perfection is gained line upon line and precept upon precept through the small and simple things.  In my notes I wrote…  Success isn’t the absence of failure, but going from failure to failure without losing enthusiasm.  I can repent and not lose enthusiasm because I know it is the plan and that through the Savior and His grace, I will be blessed as I keep striving.  I need to remember that my spiritual growth is best perceived with the passage of time and that growth will be found in looking backwards.  The small and simple things I do every day build a pattern for righteous living and my prayers, scriptures study, sacrament meeting attendance, and service will continue to strengthen me.  The invitation I accepted was to be thankful that the Savior offers countless second chances and that I need to do my part to keep learning, growing, and succeeding.  The promised blessing was that in time, my human heart will become divine through the Savior and His Atonement.  

I was taught the importance of continuing to improve upon my character and to develop the Christlike attributes that come as spiritual gifts.  In my notes I wrote… I will work on my righteous responsiveness, willing submissiveness, and stronger self-restraint.  This will help me develop meekness, a Christlike attribute that is strong, active, courageous, restrained, modest, and gracious.  The invitation I accepted was to become meek and to put God’s wisdom above my own.  The promised blessing is that I will become more like the Savior and enjoy the peace and blessing of living a purposeful life.  I want Christlike attributes to possess me so that what I do becomes who I am.

As I raised my arm to the square in the solemn assembly, and sustained President Russell M. Nelson as our prophet, seer, and revelator, the Spirit flooded my mind with peace and affirmation.  As President Nelson spoke throughout conference, the Spirit witnessed again and again that we are hearing the mind and the will of the Lord.  I was inspired as he directed us to sing as men of the priesthood, “Rise Up, O Men of God” following the announcement of how quorums will now be organized to bless others.  In my notes I wrote… The Lord desires to assist me and I need to pray daily for revelation and give thanks for what comes into my heart and mind.  I choose to receive the Spirit and it is up to me of how in tune I will become as I strive to receive the Lord’s direction.  I need to practice and practice the ability to receive revelation from on high.  The voices of the world will continue to get louder and louder and the more practice I have listening and responding to the Spirit, the more capable I am of surviving an increasingly wicked world.  The invitation I accepted was to continue to increase my spirituality to hear the voice of the Spirit.  The promised blessing is that the most important truth will be revealed to me; that Jesus is the Christ!  With this knowledge all things are possible in and through Him!

I am to minister! I was taught the higher law of making sure love and charity direct my actions as I seek to bless those I am called to serve.  In my notes I wrote… I need to better extend a warm hand of friendship and seek to continually strengthen the faith of others.  I need to care for others in bold, new, and holier ways. I also need to do this more fully as a teacher in my home, gather my kids more often, and minister to them more individually.  The invitation I accepted was to let the Spirit guide me in the way I minister one on one and to seek out the needs of those I serve.  The promised blessing is that I will feel the Lord laboring at my side and that my life and the lives of those I serve and love will be changed for the better. 

Of all the things the Spirit witnessed to my heart and mind this weekend, the one I am most grateful for is the reality of the Savior and of His Atonement for me.  The countless testimonies born of Him lifted my faith.  He has overcome death and sin and through his matchless love, I have the hope and assurance that I can overcome the natural man.  In my notes I wrote… The most important day in my life is when I truly learn to behold Him and bring Him even more abundantly into my life.  The invitation I accepted was to more fully commit to living His gospel and to create the only culture that matters, a Christ centered culture in my life and in my home.  There are more promised blessings than I can count, but my life will have greater meaning, joy, peace, and the hope of eternal life. 

Elders & Sisters, these are just a few of my thoughts as I reviewed and typed up nearly ten pages of notes.  I look forward to reviewing the talks again in the coming days.  What President Nelson taught on the pattern of seeking and receiving revelation was simply amazing.  Revelation will continue to flow if we return the words and counsel we just received.  President Monson once taught, “I encourage you to read the talks … and to ponder the messages contained therein. I have found in my own life that I gain even more from these inspired sermons when I study them in greater depth.” As President Nelson concluded he said, “I exhort you to study the messages of this conference repeatedly…  Your desire to obey will be enhanced.” 

I invite each of you to treasure up what you heard this weekend.  We have a prophet on the earth that will keep pace with the Lord and it is up to us if we want to keep up.  You simply can’t do what you’ve always done and expect different results, that was apparent in the inspired direction we received.   Will you be the same or will these teachings work a mighty change in your heart?  I testify in the name of Jesus Christ that we have heard what the Lord needs us to know, to keep us safe, to bless us, and to direct us on the path we should follow. God speaks from the heavens and We Thank Thee O God for a Prophet! Love ya!

President Hall

 

President's Pen 3-26-18 (Faith Lifted)

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 another great transfer and for your ongoing faith, obedience, and diligence to do the Lord’s work.  Have sufficient faith to know that your success is truly manifested in who you’re becoming and in your effort and commitment to teach repentance and baptize converts!

He is risen!  This coming Sunday we celebrate the one thing of most importance; the Savior has come to do the Father’s will and that His matchless love, mercy, and infinite Atonement has been extended to all.  I testify and know He lives, that He is my Redeemer, my Savior!  There is no more important message we can share than that of His birth, His life, His ministry, His suffering in the garden of Gethsemane, His death, and His triumphant resurrection.  All things are centered in Christ and this message, we are His representatives, and how blessed we are to teach of Him and of His gospel. 

Elder Neil L. Anderson said the following in the 2016 Missionary Broadcast, “As a missionary, always keep His name on your lips, and be prepared as the prompting comes to testify of Him. I know you talk to everyone who will listen to you. Wherever you are—in a bus, on the street, in a teaching situation, or in a home with a member—if you are ever unsure of what to say, speak of the Savior. Testify of Him. Speak of His doctrine, of faith in Him, of His Atonement, repentance, baptism, the gift of the Holy Ghost, and enduring to the end. This is your purpose. This is your charge.”  I love his simple words as he reminds us to always have the Savior in our hearts, our minds, and on our lips.  Regardless of what we do, we always can remember that the reason why we open our mouths is to testify of Him, to invite others to come unto Him, and to help them do so. 

Elder Anderson further taught, “Your first responsibility is to help lift the faith of a man, woman, or child from wherever they are to a greater faith in Jesus Christ and in His Atonement. I love this statement in Preach My Gospel: “As your understanding of the Atonement of Jesus Christ grows, your desire to share the gospel will increase.” Ask yourself, “What do I really believe about the Savior’s Atonement? Am I personally experiencing every day the Atonement?” By increasing your own understanding of the Atonement, your effectiveness as a missionary will increase. Do you see why this is so important?”

Elder Anderson’s teaching and invitation is critical for all of us to keep in mind.  Our first responsibility is to lift and increase the faith in the Savior and His Atonement.  We personally prepare to do this through our personal worthiness, our obedience, our effective planning, our focused personal and companionship study, our teaching by the Spirit, our commitment invitations, and our continuous follow up.  If our responsibility is to lift the faith of others, what are we doing, as Elder Anderson teaches, to understand the Savior’s Atonement in our own lives and are we personally experiencing it?  We can only lift others if we are higher than where they currently stand.  As the Savior taught His Apostles, “But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not: and when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren.” Is your faith in the Savior where you want it to be so you can lift others?

I am often asked, “How do I increase my faith in the Savior, or how do I come to know Him better?” These are two wonderful questions and we can find answers from the Lord’s chosen prophets and apostles.   If you will study the two talks below, I promise that you will find answers for yourself and for your investigators. 

Finding Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ – Elder Robert D. Hales (What do you learn from Enos’ experience and what pattern can you follow to increase your faith?)

If Ye Had Known Me – Elder David A. Bednar (What things can you do today that will help you come to know the Savior better?)

Elders & Sisters, this coming weekend you will hear prophets, seers, and revelators testify that Jesus is the Christ, the only begotten Son of the Father, and our Savior and Redeemer.  They will lift our faith and increase our understanding of His Atonement and love for each of us.  I invite you to ponder the following questions as you prepare to watch conference… How can I increase my faith in the Savior and experience His Atonement more fully in my life?  How can I lift the faith of those I teach to have greater faith in the Savior and in His Atonement?  If you will ponder these two questions, spiritually prepare to be taught by the Holy Ghost, and prayerfully seek the answers you desire, the spirit of revelation will bring feelings to your heart and thoughts to your mind.  Of all that we study and desire to know, faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and His Atonement, is the most important thing for each of us. (Alma 7:7)  We are faith builders and faith lifters and it is incumbent upon each of us to be prepared to always teach and testify of Him.  He has come among His people to save and redeem us and He will come again.  I testify that you are His representatives, honor His name, wear it with courage, and testify boldly that He is risen and that He lives!  I love ya!

President Hall

President's Pen 3-19-18 (Miracle Mile)

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 effort to talk to everyone this week and every week.  What you have been called to do is not easy, and yet when you go in faith as a disciple of Christ, you have no need to fear.  Trust that the Lord has prepared those who want to change and come unto Christ!

In 1954 the unthinkable happened… On a May evening in Oxford, England, the once fabled myth of breaking the four minute mile barrier had finally happened.  Runners had set their sights on breaking the four minute mile barrier as early as 1886 and for decades had failed at doing so.  On May 6th, however, Roger Bannister, a young English student at Oxford University, came across the finish line in three minutes, fifty-nine and four-tenths of a second.  The unthinkable was now a reality.

In the day, breaking the four minute mile was considered an impossible goal for anyone to achieve.  As a British journalist wrote, “For years milers had been striving against the clock, but the elusive four minutes had always beaten them.  It had become as much a psychological barrier as a physical one. And like an unconquerable mountain, the closer it was approached, the more daunting it seemed.”

The coaches, trainers, and even athletes of the day had planned for the perfect moment to break the barrier.  It would need to be a day where there was no wind, a perfect temperature of 68 degrees, a hard and dry clay track, and a big frenzied crowd screaming the runners to push harder and faster.  On the day it actually happened, it was cold, the track was wet, and a small crowd had gathered at the track in Oxford. 

Once the barrier was broken, however, within forty-six days the four minute mile barrier was lowered again, this time by an Australian runner who did it in three minutes and fifty-eight seconds.  What unfolded next? Only a year later, three runners broke the four-minute barrier in a single race. Since that amazing day, more than a thousand runners have conquered a barrier that had once been considered impossible and out of reach. The current world record stands at three minutes, forty-three and thirteen-tens of second.  That’s screaming fast!!!

The amazing fact in this story is that Roger Bannister, the first to ever do it, wasn’t considered the best miler of the day.  He was a full-time medical student and didn’t use all the conventional training strategies as his peers.  He had participated in the 1952 Olympic Games and had not lived up to his or others expectations.  After the Olympics, he spent two months deciding whether to give up running and then came to a decision…  He decided that he would set a goal and make a plan to be the first man to run a mile in under four minutes. 

To reach his goal, he intensified his training, increased his interval work outs, and in May of 1953, he made an attempt on the British record at Oxford. On that day, he ran 4:03.6 and shattered the old record.  After the race, and nearly a full year before he would accomplish the goal,  he said, "This race made me realize that the four-minute mile was not out of reach.”  Other runners also had their sights set on breaking four minutes and a handful of athletes had dropped the time to 4:02.  They were getting ever so close, but it was still just out of reach.  It wasn’t until a cold day in May,  that the barrier that couldn’t be broken, was now not only possible, but accomplished.

What do we learn from this? There have been a number of academic papers written and books published over the years on this amazing feat.  There is admiration for how the record was broken given the lack of training, technological, and nutritional expertise they had at the time.  There are lessons of triumph, positive thinking, the will to succeed, and the human spirit to achieve the impossible.  I love, however, what one author summarized regarding the idea of “mindset”.  He wrote, “How is it that so many runners smashed the four-minute barrier after Bannister became the first to do it? “Was there a sudden growth spurt in human evolution? Was there a genetic engineering experiment that created a new race of super runners? No. What changed was the mental model. The runners of the past had been held back by a mindset that said they could not surpass the four-minute mile. When that limit was broken, the others saw that they could do something they had previously thought impossible.”

A mental model… “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:8-9) Does our mindset, like these athletes of old, lead us to feel that we’ll get close, but never break through? Do we look for the perfect conditions, when all is right in the world, and say, “when that day comes, I’ll be able to get there?” If that is the belief we hold, we restrict ourselves of seeing progress on the wet and cold days where miracles may be waiting if we simply run the race. 

An additional thought… As our mindset reaches heavenward, and breaks new barriers, can it aid the progress of those we’ve come to bless and serve? Can the faith of one, your faith, lift the faith of another to heights they never thought possible?  Could the example of one, your example, allow another to change and become someone they never thought possible?  As you personally break barriers that seem out of reach, could it inspire others to do the same?  Imagine if your dedication, faith, effort, and your decision to make a goal and set a plan to do something truly amazing could have the same effect as the “Miracle Mile”. 

Elders & Sisters, each of you in your own way are running to break the four minute mile.  There may be things you feel that are impossible to accomplish and there may be days when you want to quit and hang it up.  What I love about this story of human triumph, is rather than feeling defeated, Bannister set a new goal and plan to break a barrier.  He modified his training, worked harder, patiently persisted, and then on a day that was the unlikeliest of days to succeed, his effort and determination paid off.  I have no doubt this is true for you and for all of God’s children.

The greatest “miracle mile”… The Savior broke the barrier that was truly impossible for any of us to overcome.  With His triumph, a new mindset for all of mankind was formed.  No longer is the barrier of death and sin unconquerable; the heavens are now again within our reach.  The power of the resurrection will bring us all forward to immortality and to stand before our Maker.  The blessing of repentance and the enabling power of the Savior’s grace will lift us to greater heights than we could ever imagine.  Because you believe in the Savior’s name and on His redeeming and saving power, your witness of these truths to the world can have the same barrier shattering effect in the lives of those you teach.  When you boldly testify in the name of Jesus Christ, and of His power to heal, forgive, comfort, bless, and make us whole, you inspire others to reach for what they once felt was impossible.  As His representatives, you help others understand, feel, and know that any barriers that hold them back can and will be broken as they come unto Him. I invite you to apply the Savior’s victory in your own life and trust that because He did it, it is now absolutely possible for you and for all of us to triumph.  I also invite you to always testify of the Savior’s infinite Atonement and love for each of us.  Never leave a lesson without sharing your witness of the Savior and how the unthinkable became a reality.  I testify in His name that all barriers have been broken, and that through His help, we will all finish the race with a record time.  Love ya!

President Hall 

President's Pen 3-12-18 (I am Bound)

As missionaries in the Texas Houston South Mission, we know our purpose is to invite others to come unto Christ, by helping them receive the restored gospel through faith in Jesus Christ and His Atonement, repentance, baptism, receiving the Gift of the Holy Ghost and enduring to the end. We do this through our constant efforts to find, teach, invite, retain, and activate God’s children; we love it, we live it, and we do it! “We begin with the End in Mind”, and see God’s children as he does. We are Disciples of Jesus Christ that teach repentance and baptize converts and the best missionaries in the world!

Dear Elders & Sisters,

I love ya!  Thanks for your goodness and for your ever increasing desire to teach repentance and baptize converts.  We do this for our God, our (religion) faith in Him, our freedoms (agency), our peace, our families, and for the families we’ve come to invite and help.  I love being a missionary with my whole soul!

In Proverbs we are taught an eternal truth, but also a dilemma for mortal and fallen men and women, “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.” (Prov 3:5)  The counsel to trust the Lord in all we do is logical, rational, and clearly the correct choice.  Our problem, however, is we often lean to our understanding and perhaps better said, our way of doing things.  Why do we do this!?!

Mormon does a brilliant job of summarizing this point as he describes the wickedness of the Nephites.  “Yea, how quick to be lifted up in pride; yea, how quick to boast, and do all manner of that which is iniquity; and how slow are they to remember the Lord their God, and to give ear unto his counsels, yea, how slow to walk in wisdom’s paths!  Behold, they do not desire that the Lord their God, who hath created them, should rule and reign over them; notwithstanding his great goodness and his mercy towards them, they do set at naught his counsels, and they will not that he should be their guide. (Hel 12:5-6)  In other words, we know better, we’ve got this, no help required, I can figure this out on my own…  (911 call though just in case it doesn’t go my way, please answer :)

The Prophet Jacob saw this same pattern with his people and taught, “Wherefore, brethren, seek not to counsel the Lord, but to take counsel from his hand. For behold, ye yourselves know that he counseleth in wisdom, and in justice, and in great mercy, over all his works.” (Jacob 4:10)  And we also learn from Alma that we should, “Counsel with the Lord in all thy doings, and he will direct thee for good…” (Alma 37:37).   Very simple teaching, the Lord stands ready to bless us, and yet, we can be quick to turn from the Lord and walk our own path.  Dumb, there I said it, it’s dumb. 

How in the world can we be so foolish and not trust the being who gave us life, is all powerful, and knows perfectly what we need if we just trust and follow him?  Why, the natural man is an enemy to God, that’s why.  So, God knowing this says the following…  “And again, I say unto you, I give unto you a new commandment, that you may understand my will concerning you.”  In other words, “Hey, natural man, listen up, I’m going to help your natural self out.  Let me give you some guidance and you’ll know what you need to do.” He then goes on to say,  “Or, in other words, I give unto you directions how you may act before me, that it may turn to you for your salvation.”  In other words, “I’m going to spell it out for you so you’ll understand, do these things, listen to my Spirit, be good, and I’ll save you from yourself!” And then comes the moment of trust, “I, the Lord, am bound when ye do what I say; but when ye do not what I say, ye have no promise.” Oh snap (as the kids are known to say), you mean I have to do it your way or I don’t get the blessing?  And then the battle within rages and we have to decide whether we’ll do it God’s way or our way, even when we know that it’s the only smart and logical thing to do.  (D&C 82:8-10, thanks for allowing my liberal interpretation of the scriptures)

We can bind the Lord… It is a 100% guarantee of blessings being poured upon us if we simply do what he asks of us.  There has never been nor will there ever be a better contract written.  We accept the terms, do it His way, blessings in the bank.  And yet, we waffle and wonder if there’s a better, more simple, easier, or convenient path.  We look for a loop hole, or an out clause where we get to make our cake and eat it to.  Dumb.

As missionaries we have this same contract given to us, “I, the Lord, am bound when ye do what I say…”   We know the prophets and apostles speak the will and mind of the Lord, so let’s take this one for a ride… “Now is the time for members and missionaries to come together, to work together, to labor in the Lord’s vineyard to bring souls unto Him. He has prepared the means for us to share the gospel in a multitude of ways, and He will assist us in our labors if we will act in faith to fulfill His work.” (President Thomas S. Monson -2013)

If it were a commandment from the Lord, and it is, He might say, “My dear missionaries, I give unto you a new commandment, that you may understand my will concerning you regarding member missionary work… In other words, I give unto you directions how you may act before me, that it may turn to your benefit as you go about doing MY work.”  In President Monson’s quote we find the Lord’s counsel and direction (work together), how to act (ways are prepared to share and act in faith), and the blessing (He will assist us in our labors).  It is then up to every missionary that walks the planet if we will follow this inspired counsel.

There are a multitude of ways for us to do it… plan to work with them, every lesson a member present lesson (video or face to face), real daily member connections (not just a group text or thought), working with the ward council, asking for assignments, teaching, inviting, and following up.  Included in our member effort is a focus on less active and part members (children of record 9+, prospective elders , etc).  At times we think this route is too slow, we’ve tried it before, the members don’t help, I want it to be easier, they never have referrals, we can’t eat with them, and on and on… So, we go about it our way.  We don’t get to know them, connect with them, teach or invite them, we hang out with them, or avoid them all together.  Yes, it takes time, and trust is needed, and we earn their referrals, but when we do these things consistently and well, the Lord blesses us because we are doing what He says!

Another topic, glad you asked… “My dear missionaries, I give unto you a new commandment, that you may understand my will concerning you regarding technology use… In other words, I give unto you directions how you may act before me, that it may turn to your benefit as you use the safeguards for using technology.”  Do I need to restate the blessing of being one, guided by the Spirit, staying focused on your purpose, and becoming disciplined? Some might say, “Thanks for that great recommendation and I’ll see if it works out for me, but in the interim I’m going to keep doing what works for me, or it’s just too hard, marshmallows are too delicious to pass up…”  Ay, caramba!  The stated promised blessings from the Lord’s prophets, seers, and revelators, “As you learn to follow these safeguards instinctively, you will become a more effective instrument in the Lord’s hands, and you will unlock the door to blessings in your life and in the lives of those you teach.” Boom, enough said, drop the mic, peace out!

Now I could write for pages on other examples, but I think you get the point.  Obedience to mission standards, effective planning, focused individual and companionship study, effort and diligence are all choices and all bring promised blessings.  We can do it our way, or we can do it the Lord’s way, but the blessing will only come if we bind the Lord.  Some may say, however, I know of missionaries who are disobedient, don’t do it the Lord’s way, and they still baptize, I don’t get it.  The question I would have you ponder is… Is that missionary any better off, any more converted, any more aligned to God and His will? Are they any less of the natural man/woman? If that missionary baptizes a thousand souls, but is no less converted to the Lord, was their mission a success? If you are tempted to feel or think this way, may I remind you that, “…for the Lord seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart.” (Samuel 16:7)  You serve with all of your heart, your might, your mind, your strength and let the Lord bless you how and when He sees fit, but trust that He will. 

Elders & Sisters, I know the Lord’s way is the best way and the only way.  I too struggle with my dumb moments, and like all of you, am easily beset with temptations and the desire to lean unto my own understanding.  I have found through experience that this route never lifts, fills, or gives peace to my soul.  I can testify that when I do what the Lord says, I always receive the promised blessing, always.  I invite you today to ponder on areas of your missionary service or in life where you can trust in the Lord with all your heart.  In some cases, that may mean you need to start doing things that you know you should do, but for some reason choose not to.  For some of these things it will likely require an AR list check as we are good at rationalizing or justifying why we don’t do some things (i.e., tried it, doesn’t work, going to do my own thing).  In other cases, it may mean that you need to stop doing things that you know keep you from receiving all the blessings you desire.  Repentance is beautiful… The Lord delights in blessing His children, do what He says, and He will ALWAYS keep His promises.  Your conversion to Him and His gospel is what I desire most for each of you; that will be the true measure of your mission.  Our Heavenly Father knows and loves us, the Savior enables us with His grace, the Spirit changes our hearts and helps us put off the natural man.  The Lord is bound as I do what He says and I commit today to do better!  I know these things are true.  Love ya!

President Hall

President's Pen 3-5-18 (Overcoming Ourselves)

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 the great week of zone conferences and for all you’re doing to invite and help all to come unto Christ.  I love that we have the blessing each day to increase someone’s faith in the Savior and His Atonement, help them change, make promises to God, feel of the Spirit, and walk the path back to His presence.  What  a blessing it is to be one of the Lord’s chosen representatives!

A topic that has been on my mind for the last several weeks is one that I hope will help us all in our effort to invite all to come unto Christ.  It is a critical aspect of our mortal experience and an area we must all work on if we want to become like the Savior.  In most cases, it will determine whether or not we will be successful in this life and the life to come.  The topic can be labeled as self-control, self-dominion, self-discipline, or self-mastery, and however you choose to describe it, it is ultimately about the test of agency and how we choose to use it.  In its simplest terms, self-mastery is doing those things we should do, and avoiding those things we should not do. It requires strength, willpower, and above all, the Savior's grace; enabling us to do things we otherwise can't do on our own.  

A few thoughts first to get your mind around the idea…  Plato said: “The first and best victory is to conquer self; to be conquered by self is, of all things, the most shameful and vile.”  We see this all over the earth, men and women who are conquered by addiction, debt, self-pity, entitlement, and with seemingly no responsibility or ability to dig themselves out of the pit they choose to enter.  Leonardo da Vinci stated, “You will never have a greater or lesser dominion than that over yourself.”  He then went on to say that, “the height of a man’s success is gauged by his self-mastery; the depth of his failure by his self-abandonment. … And this law is the expression of eternal justice. He who cannot establish dominion over himself will have no dominion over others.” In other words, how can you hope to lift, inspire, and bless others, if you choose not to do it for yourself?  This is why the Savior stated, "But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not: and when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren." (Luke 22:32)

Can we expect to see success in life if we are unwilling to overcome weaknesses that confront us?  Self-mastery is associated with our thoughts, actions, appetites, passions, language, emotions and in most cases it is the struggle of our spirit striving to overcome the weaknesses of our flesh.  President James E. Faust stated, "Self-mastery is a challenge for every individual... it cannot be bought by money or fame. It is the ultimate test of our character. It requires climbing out of the deep valleys of our lives and scaling our own Mount Everest's."  We all face some battle of controlling self.  The issues are too numerous to name, but you're all familiar with what they might be for you. (anger, procrastination, pride, slothfulness, etc. etc. etc.)  Isn't this the great test of our mortal probation, to do all we can to overcome these challenges, to then be proven worthy to return and live with God again?

During your missionary service you have the ability to define your character and truly develop patterns of self-mastery that will bless you for the rest of your life.  You determine how hard you work, study, find, and serve with all your heart, might, mind, and strength.  It is the principle of not only coming to understand what we should do (knowledge), but how we apply it (wisdom). The problem, we are all prone to weakness of body and mind and the question then becomes will we allow our weakness to dominate or will we do all we can and seek divine help along the way.  Consider then a few examples of missionary life where we demonstrate self-mastery each day…

Our exercise in self-mastery begins every morning at 6:29…  You are tired and your body does not want to get up and exercise.  At that point you have a choice, does the spirit or the flesh win?  Will you be overcome or will you have the willpower to start the day on the right foot?  Do you choose to have a productive and effective morning planning effort by setting real goals, by making solid plans, or do you just hope for the best?  Will you have a fruitful personal study?  Will you stay focused and sit at your desk, or lie on the floor, going through the motions, giving the appearance of study when your heart is far from it?  Will you get out of the apartment on time and look for ways to serve and teach or will you stay in the comfort of the apartment and wait until early afternoon to go about your efforts? Will you be engaged in companionship study and lesson planning for the well-being and progress of your investigators, or will you skip it and hope for the best ?  When your companion is getting on your nerves, do you go quiet and avoid, get upset and lash out, or do you demonstrate self-restraint, patience, kindness, and seek to understand?  Do you have the courage to talk openly and lovingly with your companion or do you just avoid? Throughout the day are you anxiously engaged, teaching, improving, and focused, or do you let the day simply come and go lost in your own desires and needs?  All of these can be answered if you have your purpose written on your heart or not…

A significant test of self-mastery for some of you is the phone in your hands.  It is true what we have been told… It accelerates a missionary in either direction, positive or negative. We speak often of keeping the safeguards and the importance of having the Spirit direct your efforts, being focused on your purpose, being one with your companion and the big one… discipline.  Even with this, some can’t help but go to the feed and scroll through what’s going on with friends at home or liking posts.  Some get up on time, and then go right to messages or notifications to see who’s liked their post or sent them a message.  Some endlessly look at their phone throughout the day, without their companion, or with any purpose in mind.  If your phone controls you here, imagine how it will control you at home.  I love those who’ve said, “I can’t trust myself or I don’t even want the temptation, so I’ve simply deleted Facebook.”  Others have turned off all notifications, email, Facebook, any anything else that will cause them to become undisciplined or distracted.  The AR list is alive and well for those who are undisciplined, and any excuse is a reflection on your progress and personal integrity.  I invite those who can and should be better to remember whose time you’re on.  As Nephi taught, “the guilty taketh the truth the be hard, for it cutteth them to the very center.”

You are all faced with the choice of how you serve and who you will become.  The natural man/woman within us wants to default to the path of least resistance.  This path of course leads to little growth, unfulfilled dreams, and regret.  Unfortunately, it is the simple areas of self-mastery that can hang us up well into the future (small and simple means for good or destruction).  When I return home, will I have the discipline to study the scriptures and pray daily?  Will I be faithful in my callings, go home/visit teaching, take care of my physical body, attend the temple, make the Sabbath Day a delight?  You will reap what you sow and there is no better time than today to sow personal strength and self-control.

So what do you do to gain self-mastery?  We are sons and daughters of God, endowed with power, enabled by the Savior's grace, to do and become whatever we choose.  We fall on our knees and wrestle with the Lord in our weakness so he can make us strong. We set personal goals and plans to help drive us, cause us to act, and progress.  We lean on and ask for the support of others where we struggle.  We own up to our weaknesses, poor decisions, ask for forgiveness, drop our pride, and do the best we can.  We recognize when we fall victim to becoming an object vs. an agent and seek to change our ways (repent).  To gain self-mastery we ultimately have to give our will to the only beings that can make us strong and help us overcome, our loving Father in Heaven and our Savior.   What do we gain by obtaining self-mastery, all that the Father has!

Elders & Sisters, my prayer for all of us is that our mission experience will enable us to develop patterns of self-mastery that will last a lifetime.  We have the ability to overcome the natural man/woman as taught by King Benjamin.  The formula he gave us was to yield to the enticing’s of the Holy Spirit, and become a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord, and become as a child, submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon him, even as a child doth submit to his father.  I invite you today to have more self-mastery, first as a son or daughter of God, then as a missionary, and finally as a lifelong disciple of Christ.  Thanks for your goodness, your efforts, and desire to become who you are destined to be.  Love ya!

President Hall

President's Pen 2-26-18 (Called to Arms)

As missionaries in the Texas Houston South Mission, we know our purpose is to invite others to come unto Christ, by helping them receive the restored gospel through faith in Jesus Christ and His Atonement, repentance, baptism, receiving the Gift of the Holy Ghost and enduring to the end. We do this through our constant efforts to find, teach, invite, retain, and activate God’s children; we love it, we live it, and we do it! “We begin with the End in Mind”, and see God’s children as he does. We are Disciples of Jesus Christ that teach repentance and baptize converts and the best missionaries in the world!

Dear Elders & Sisters,

I love ya! I trust the promise we find from the Frist Presidency in Preach My Gospel, “The Lord will reward and richly bless you as you humbly and prayerfully serve Him.” Whether the blessings come now or later are not of concern, I simply trust that they will!

From the Lectures of Faith, the Prophet Joseph Smith taught, “…unless a person has an actual knowledge that the course he/she is pursuing is according to the will of God, he/she will grow weary in mind and faint…”  So it is true for us…  Unless we know the course, direction, or why (knowledge/understanding) behind what we do, we too will tire, grow weary in mind and faint.   This is true for anything in life, be it missionary work, education, career, church service, and family life. 

As missionaries we are given a vision statement, our why, our message, and our direction…  “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 memorize it, recite it, and even sing it, but unless we truly know and have an actual knowledge that this is the course God wants us to pursue, it will be nothing more to us than a nice slogan or a rally cry that has little meaning and effect. 

In the scriptures we see a people, and in particular a leader, who understood their cause and the direction they should pursue.  Their vision statement… “In memory of our God, our religion, and freedom, and our peace, our wives, and our children.” (Alma 46:12) Captain Moroni raised the “Title of Liberty” to bring focus to his people, motivate them to act, and inspire their behavior.  What was the result of this inspired vision? “And when Moroni had said these words, he went forth among the people, waving the rent part of his garment in the air, that all might see the writing which he had written upon the rent part, and crying with a loud voice, saying: Behold, whosoever will maintain this title upon the land, let them come forth in the strength of the Lord, and enter into a covenant that they will maintain their rights, and their religion, that the Lord God may bless them.  And it came to pass that when Moroni had proclaimed these words, behold, the people came running together with their armor girded about their loins, rending their garments in token, or as a covenant, that they would not forsake the Lord their God…”(Alma 46:19-21)  Moroni’s inspired vision stirred the hearts of the people, gave them direction, and they wrote it upon their hearts by making a covenant to abide by it.  Because they individually knew the course to pursue, they had purpose, they gave their all, they knew their why!

A missionary must come to understand the vision for what the Lord wants them to pursue… Our “Title of Liberty” for the souls of men is to invite and help them… We are to teach them the restored truths of the gospel insomuch that they will have a desire to increase their faith in the Savior and in His loving Atonement.  Our vision is to invite them to repent so they can feel at peace, forgiven, and clean.  Our purpose is to invite them to receive a remission of sins by entering the waters of baptism.   Our why is to help them receive the gift of the Holy Ghost so they can connect to heaven and receive loving guidance and direction.  Our message is to help them understand how to keep the commandments, continue in their faith, repent, keep covenants, enjoy the Spirit in their lives and endure to the end.  This has to become our WHY!  Does this purpose inspire and motivate you to come running, write it upon your heart, and make it the course you want to pursue?

Spiritual vision, when in harmony with the Lord’s will, always answers the question “Why?”  Where there is no vision “the people perish” (Prov 29:18), they lose motivation, grow weary in mind, and faint. The vision will always produce the reason behind what we do, and how we do it.  Without a strong vision or belief in the cause, we might do things out of duty, but it won’t be sustainable over the course of time.  Case in point on a subject where few have a vision: home teaching…  It is a struggle for many brethren in the Church because they do not know their why.   The why for home teaching is to bless and help families increase their faith in the Savior, repent, keep covenants, feel and recognize the Spirit in their lives, keep commandments and endure to the end.  If the “why” behind home teaching isn’t understood at a personal level, there is little motivation to go and do and it becomes a wearying and time consuming activity.  No vision, and no why, will lead to halfhearted attempts and going through the motions. 

A vision statement that is understood will always lead to goals that are inspired by the vision.  Goals answer the question “What?”  In other words, “what” will I do to accomplish the vision.  For Captain Moroni’s people it was to take up their arms, go to battle, and to make covenants.  A vision cannot be measured or counted, but a goal allows us to see progress towards the desired cause we are pursuing.  As an example… If my vision is to feel better about my health and well-being, I may set a goal to lose weight, exercise more, eat better, and get more rest.  These goals can be counted and measured and allow a person to begin feeling and seeing the results they desire.  What is often true, however, is many set the goal to lose weight or eat better, but grow weary of the effort required, and having lost sight of their vision (if they had one), fall back into old patterns.  A goal without an inspired or higher purpose (vision) will not be as meaningful or anxiously pursued.  No goals, and no what, will lead to halfhearted attempts and going through the motions.

A vision statement that has clear goals and objectives will always lead towards a plan.  Plans answer the question “How?”  A true plan will lead us to the details of how, when, where, and who.  For Captain Moroni, his plan was to gather his troops, march them into battle, and to specifically cut off the armies of Amalickiah. (Alma 46:31) Using the example of heath, a specific plan will include the time you’ll exercise and how, the kinds and quantities of the food you’ll eat, and even who you might make an accounting to.  No plans, and no how, will lead to halfhearted attempts and going through the motions.

You all know what I’m sharing above is true, it is not new to you, and you hear it often.  The question I’m often asked is how do I get there?  How do I make this vision become something that motivates, inspires, and gives me the direction I need?  How do I let this vision truly make a difference in the goals I set and the plans I make?  How can I hear Moroni’s cry and want to join in with all of my heart?  The truth is, you have to come to it on your own.  A brief example below…

In a recent letter from one of our returned missionaries, she shared how she came to understand the missionary vision/purpose and how it became personal and real.   While serving, she went through a very difficult few weeks… Her grandmother unexpectedly passed away, there were troubles with family at home, her companion was experiencing some real challenges, and she wasn’t seeing the success she had hoped for.  She was very down and was on the verge of calling me and asking to go home.  In her letter, she expressed how the doctrine of Christ was something she had heard taught over and over, but it wasn’t until she realized that she could apply it to herself that the light went on in her mind.  On a particularly difficult day, she recognized what she needed was greater faith in the Savior and His Atonement for all that was going on at home and on her mission.  Rather than losing hope or turning to despair, she turned towards the Savior and let Him carry the burden she simply couldn’t.  She shared how repentance took on a new meaning, and that it wasn’t simply about turning from sin, but changing the way she thought about her relationship to God and how He could and would bless her.  She realized that the covenants she had made would help her focus on the Savior and become more like Him; patient, long-suffering, obedient, and humble.  She prayed more mightily for the Holy Ghost to be with her and then allowed the Spirit to comfort, teach, and testify that what she was doing as a missionary mattered, that her family would be well, and that she could endure not the current and future challenges.  The vision she proclaimed and taught suddenly became real!  She realized that it wasn’t just something she said or read about, but that it actually helped her in a meaningful and personal way.  This experience was like hearing Captain Moroni call her to arms; to take up the fight, and to make a covenant to serve with more heart, might, mind, and strength.  I can witness to you that she did and that it changed her mission.  She had found her why and it became her motivation to study, plan, find, teach, invite, follow up and do what missionaries do.  They weren’t just activities, they were purposeful experiences on helping others come unto Christ.  The challenges did not go away, but she blessed many and she expressed that it has forever changed her. 

Elders & Sisters, unless you come to an actual knowledge of why you’re here, you too can grow weary in mind and faint.   A vision does not mean that things will become easy.  Moroni still had to fight the battle, but he knew what he was fighting the battle for.  Going through the motions will never bring peace of mind, growth, or happiness.  It is when we jump in with both feet, surrender our will, and apply the vision to ourselves that our missions change.  The understanding of the vision, and belief in it, makes all the difference on the days that don’t go well and when all seems to fall apart.  Having a “Why” inspires you to keep pressing forward, to pursue your goals, to execute your plans, and to stay with it through the ups and the downs.  Vision truly does motivate, inspire, and direct…  I invite you to do three things today: First, go back and read chapter 1 of PMG and make it a goal to study it at least once a month for the rest of your mission.  It has been written to help you understand your why.  Second, study the doctrine of Christ in the scriptures and liken what you read to yourself.  How did Nephi, Jacob, King Benjamin, Abinadi, Mosiah, Alma, Alma Jr., the sons of Mosiah, Amulek, Mormon, and Moroni apply the doctrine of Christ to themselves and how can you do the same.  The third invitation will come at zone conferences this week… if you accept this invitation, and truly ponder what is asked of you, it will lift your vision and all that comes with it.

As the cliché says, “There are two great days in a missionaries life, the day they get their call, and the day they find out why!”  I invite you to write doctrine of Christ in your heart; it is the purpose of our work and the only way.  God’s vision is to bring all His children home, His goal is to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man, His plan is the Plan of Redemption, Salvation, Mercy, and Happiness.  The Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost and living prophets and apostles call us to arms.  We have accepted the invitation to go to battle, to fight for a cause more noble than anything else we can do. I pray that we will all find our reason and why to fight with them.  We know the battle has already been won, but there are many who need our invitations and help to bring them safely home.  I testify in the name of Jesus Christ that this is God’s work and that it is true! Love ya!

President Hall

President's Pen 2-19-18 (Font to Font)

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! “Behold, I am a disciple of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. I have been called of him to declare his word among his people, that they might have everlasting life.” (3 Ne 5:13). There couldn’t be a better description of who we are and what we all strive to do!

An amazing blessing is soon to return to Houston…

“Behold, the field was ripe, and blessed are ye, for ye did thrust in the sickle, and did reap with your might, yea, all the day long did ye labor; and behold the number of your sheaves! And they shall be gathered into the garners, that they are not wasted” (Alma 26:5).

“Therefore, I must gather together my people, according to the parable of the wheat and the tares, that the wheat may be secured in the garners to possess eternal life, and be crowned with celestial glory, when I shall come in the kingdom of my Father to reward every man according as his work shall be” (D&C 101:65)

Two amazing verses of scripture! What do we learn?  The Lord will gather his people into the garners (sheaves represent newly baptized converts) to the end that they may not be wasted and that they might be secured.   What does this mean? Elder Neal A. Maxwell taught, “Clearly, when we baptize, our eyes should gaze beyond the baptismal font to the holy temple. The great garner into which the sheaves should be gathered is the holy temple.”

Today I met with President Hayes of the Houston Temple and he shared with our coordinating council the exciting news regarding the rededication and opening of the temple.  On April 22nd,  the Houston Temple will be rededicated by President M. Russell Ballard, and on April 24th the doors will open for all saints who desire to be gathered in and secured.  I can’t wait!

Since the devastating effects of Hurricane Harvey, we have had over 100 new converts baptized, but very few have had the blessing of being gathered in the garners of the temple.  Can you imagine what it would be like if all 100 converts were able to join us at the temple in the months ahead?   One of the greatest blessings of seeing a new convert in baptism white, is helping them prepare to be baptized for their ancestors in temple white.  When we help an new convert go from baptismal font to the temple font, we are ensuring that they are not “wasted” and that we help “secure” them. We know that when we help a new convert do their own family history work, and then take those names to the temple, they are more likely to stay active and progress towards greater saving ordinances for themselves.   Gathering and securing are vitally important in our daily efforts…

How do we help secure them?  One of my favorite scriptures that teaches the promised blessings of attending the temple is found in Doctrine and Covenants 109:22. This scripture comes from the Kirtland, Ohio Temple dedicatory prayer offered by the Prophet Joseph Smith and promises four specific blessings… “And we ask thee, Holy Father, that thy servants may go forth from this house armed with thy power, and that thy name may be upon them, and thy glory be round about them, and thine angels have charge over them”.  I love the promised blessings found in this scripture and what it offers all of us as we enter the house of the Lord.  Every new convert needs to be armed with God’s power, His name upon them, His glory with them, and angels that have charge over them!  How secure would a new convert feel with these promised blessings?  How desirous would they be to get to the temple soon and return often?  Sign us all up, we all need these blessings!

To gather them in and help them prepare to enter the temple we need to begin sharing with them a vision for how the temple will bless them and their ancestors.  How do we do this? “And he shall plant in the hearts of the children the promises made to the fathers, and the hearts of the children shall turn to their fathers.” (D&C 2:2)  When we begin to share how the temple will bless their fathers, mothers, grandparents, and beyond, the Lord will plant in the new converts hearts a desire to come to their rescue.  How does this happen?  Elder David A. Bednar taught that the spirit of Elijah is a “distinctive influence of the Holy Ghost (that) draws people to identify, document, and cherish their ancestors and family members – both past and present.”  When the Holy Ghost penetrates their hearts, they are moved to bless their families, and they are drawn to them.  As they respond to the call of their fathers, by finding, preparing, and taking ancestors names to the temple, they literally become “saviours on mount Zion.” (Obadiah 1:21)   

To prepare for the opening of the temple, to gather them in and help secure them, we need to do the following… First, identify all new converts in our areas from last year (even beyond August) and invite them to prepare to go the temple when it opens.  Second, we need to make sure we are helping them prepare by finding their own family names to take.  If we are to do this, we need to know how to find names ourselves; do you?  When new converts take their own family names to the temple it has a far more powerful effect than if it is someone they don’t know.  Third, we need to make sure men 12+ are working with their bishops to receive the Aaronic priesthood.  You can help them by teaching them the importance of the priesthood and how it blesses all of God’s children.  Fourth, we need to make sure they receive a limited use recommend, involve member friends, and prepare a date to attend.  As a mission we have scheduled the third Friday of each month from 5pm onward to bring as many new converts to the temple as we can.  If they are your converts, you can join them and we want you to be there to celebrate with them.  Will you prepare as many new converts as you can? Will you seek them out and get them excited about the promised blessings of attending the temple and turning their hearts to their fathers? (We will also hold our quarterly temple trips again – date to be determined)   

Elders & Sisters, some of the most amazing mission experiences we have had here in Houston have been at the new convert temple nights.  Not only does the beauty of the temple inspire them, but what they feel and experience broadens their views and expands their horizons.  They see the great Plan of Salvation at work and how God’s love extends to their immediate family.  We have seen daughters baptized for their mothers, grandsons baptized for their grandfathers, and siblings baptized for their siblings.  Gathering these new converts into the garners is part of our sacred callings.  Our work is among the living and our blessing is to help secure them through the blessings that are uniquely found at the house of the Lord.  I invite you today to prepare yourself.  Your personal worthiness is always a requirement to attend the house of the Lord.  I invite you to learn or improve your ability to help new converts find their own family names (see Family History training on missionary portal).  I also invite you to think font to font and to begin with the end in mind.  Only when our new converts are safely gathered in and secured can we feel comfortable that our efforts have been full and complete.  How I love the sacred blessings that come from the holy temple, let’s help all we teach come to feel the same.  Love ya!

President Hall

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

As missionaries in the Texas Houston South Mission, we know our purpose is to invite others to come unto Christ, by helping them receive the restored gospel through faith in Jesus Christ and His Atonement, repentance, baptism, receiving the Gift of the Holy Ghost and enduring to the end. We do this through our constant efforts to find, teach, invite, retain, and activate God’s children; we love it, we live it, and we do it! “We begin with the End in Mind”, and see God’s children as he does. We are Disciples of Jesus Christ that teach repentance and baptize converts and the best missionaries in the world!

Dear Elders & Sisters,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

President Hall

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

As missionaries in the Texas Houston South Mission, we know our purpose is to invite others to come unto Christ, by helping them receive the restored gospel through faith in Jesus Christ and His Atonement, repentance, baptism, receiving the Gift of the Holy Ghost and enduring to the end. We do this through our constant efforts to find, teach, invite, retain, and activate God’s children; we love it, we live it, and we do it! “We begin with the End in Mind”, and see God’s children as he does. We are Disciples of Jesus Christ that teach repentance and baptize converts and the best missionaries in the world!

Dear Elders & Sisters,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

President Hall

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

As missionaries in the Texas Houston South Mission, we know our purpose is to invite others to come unto Christ, by helping them receive the restored gospel through faith in Jesus Christ and His Atonement, repentance, baptism, receiving the Gift of the Holy Ghost and enduring to the end. We do this through our constant efforts to find, teach, invite, retain, and activate God’s children; we love it, we live it, and we do it! “We begin with the End in Mind”, and see God’s children as he does. We are Disciples of Jesus Christ that teach repentance and baptize converts and the best missionaries in the world! 

Dear Elders & Sisters,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

President Hall

 

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

As missionaries in the Texas Houston South Mission, we know our purpose is to invite others to come unto Christ, by helping them receive the restored gospel through faith in Jesus Christ and His Atonement, repentance, baptism, receiving the Gift of the Holy Ghost and enduring to the end. We do this through our constant efforts to find, teach, invite, retain, and activate God’s children; we love it, we live it, and we do it! “We begin with the End in Mind”, and see God’s children as he does. We are Disciples of Jesus Christ that teach repentance and baptize converts and the best missionaries in the world!

Dear Elders & Sisters,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

President Hall  

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

As missionaries in the Texas Houston South Mission, we know our purpose is to invite others to come unto Christ, by helping them receive the restored gospel through faith in Jesus Christ and His Atonement, repentance, baptism, receiving the Gift of the Holy Ghost and enduring to the end. We do this through our constant efforts to find, teach, invite, retain, and activate God’s children; we love it, we live it, and we do it! “We begin with the End in Mind”, and see God’s children as he does. We are Disciples of Jesus Christ that teach repentance and baptize converts and the best missionaries in the world! 

 Dear Elders & Sisters,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

President Hall

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

As missionaries in the Texas Houston South Mission, we know our purpose is to invite others to come unto Christ, by helping them receive the restored gospel through faith in Jesus Christ and His Atonement, repentance, baptism, receiving the Gift of the Holy Ghost and enduring to the end. We do this through our constant efforts to find, teach, invite, retain, and activate God’s children; we love it, we live it, and we do it! “We begin with the End in Mind”, and see God’s children as he does. We are Disciples of Jesus Christ that teach repentance and baptize converts and the best missionaries in the world! 

 Dear Elders & Sisters,

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

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

DOERS

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

DELAYERS

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

DENIERS

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

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

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

President Hall

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

As missionaries in the Texas Houston South Mission, we know our purpose is to invite others to come unto Christ, by helping them receive the restored gospel through faith in Jesus Christ and His Atonement, repentance, baptism, receiving the Gift of the Holy Ghost and enduring to the end. We do this through our constant efforts to find, teach, invite, retain, and activate God’s children; we love it, we live it, and we do it! “We begin with the End in Mind”, and see God’s children as he does. We are Disciples of Jesus Christ that teach repentance and baptize converts and the best missionaries in the world!

 Dear Elders & Sisters,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

President Hall

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

As missionaries in the Texas Houston South Mission, we know our purpose is to invite others to come unto Christ, by helping them receive the restored gospel through faith in Jesus Christ and His Atonement, repentance, baptism, receiving the Gift of the Holy Ghost and enduring to the end. We do this through our constant efforts to find, teach, invite, retain, and activate God’s children; we love it, we live it, and we do it! “We begin with the End in Mind”, and see God’s children as he does. We are Disciples of Jesus Christ that teach repentance and baptize converts and the best missionaries in the world!

 Dear Elders & Sisters,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

President Hall

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

As missionaries in the Texas Houston South Mission, we know our purpose is to invite others to come unto Christ, by helping them receive the restored gospel through faith in Jesus Christ and His Atonement, repentance, baptism, receiving the Gift of the Holy Ghost and enduring to the end. We do this through our constant efforts to find, teach, invite, retain, and activate God’s children; we love it, we live it, and we do it! “We begin with the End in Mind”, and see God’s children as he does. We are Disciples of Jesus Christ that teach repentance and baptize converts and the best missionaries in the world!

 Dear Elders & Sisters,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

President Hall

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

As missionaries in the Texas Houston South Mission, we know our purpose is to invite others to come unto Christ, by helping them receive the restored gospel through faith in Jesus Christ and His Atonement, repentance, baptism, receiving the Gift of the Holy Ghost and enduring to the end. We do this through our constant efforts to find, teach, invite, retain, and activate God’s children; we love it, we live it, and we do it! “We begin with the End in Mind”, and see God’s children as he does. We are Disciples of Jesus Christ that teach repentance and baptize converts and the best missionaries in the world!

Dear Elders & Sisters,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

President Hall

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

As missionaries in the Texas Houston South Mission, we know our purpose is to invite others to come unto Christ, by helping them receive the restored gospel through faith in Jesus Christ and His Atonement, repentance, baptism, receiving the Gift of the Holy Ghost and enduring to the end. We do this through our constant efforts to find, teach, invite, retain, and activate God’s children; we love it, we live it, and we do it! “We begin with the End in Mind”, and see God’s children as he does. We are Disciples of Jesus Christ that teach repentance and baptize converts and the best missionaries in the world!

 Dear Elders & Sisters,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

President Hall

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

As missionaries in the Texas Houston South Mission, we know our purpose is to invite others to come unto Christ, by helping them receive the restored gospel through faith in Jesus Christ and His Atonement, repentance, baptism, receiving the Gift of the Holy Ghost and enduring to the end. We do this through our constant efforts to find, teach, invite, retain, and activate God’s children; we love it, we live it, and we do it! “We begin with the End in Mind”, and see God’s children as he does. We are Disciples of Jesus Christ that teach repentance and baptize converts and the best missionaries in the world!

Dear Elders & Sisters,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

President Hall

 

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

As missionaries in the Texas Houston South Mission, we know our purpose is to invite others to come unto Christ, by helping them receive the restored gospel through faith in Jesus Christ and His Atonement, repentance, baptism, receiving the Gift of the Holy Ghost and enduring to the end. We do this through our constant efforts to find, teach, invite, retain, and activate God’s children; we love it, we live it, and we do it! “We begin with the End in Mind”, and see God’s children as he does. We are Disciples of Jesus Christ that teach repentance and baptize converts and the best missionaries in the world!

Dear Elders & Sisters,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

President Hall