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

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

Dear Elders & Sisters,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

President Hall

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

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

Dear Elders & Sisters,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

President Hall

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

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

Dear Elders & Sisters,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

President Hall

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

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

Elders & Sisters,

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

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

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

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

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

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

Second – Understand the doctrine behind the commitment invitation.

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

Third – Understand the promised blessings behind the commitment invitation.

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

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

President Hall 

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

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

 Dear Elders & Sisters,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

President Hall

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

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

Dear Elders & Sisters,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

President Hall

 

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

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

Dear Elders & Sisters,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

President Hall

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

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

Dear Elders & Sisters,

I love ya!  Thanks for your constant and consistent efforts to find, teach repentance, and baptize converts!  Keep up the great work! #fc&tr&bc

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

President Hall

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

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

Dear Elders & Sisters,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

President Hall

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

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

Dear Elders & Sisters,

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

At our recent zone conferences, we read a quote from Elder Holland regarding the importance of simplicity and teaching to the needs of the investigators.  He stated, “Without the discipline of memorized, pre-set lessons, there is a great risk—and we see it in every mission we visit—that the missionary can be unfocused, he will wander, will teach with much, much more complexity than investigators need or want. In the end, this means he will drone on for three or four times as long as a teaching discussion should last. Missionary lessons ought to proceed in such a way that every few minutes— I mean few, like one or two—a question is asked or a testimony of a principle is born or the other companion takes over.”

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

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

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

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

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

President Hall

President's Pen 5-8-17 (Increase Faith)

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

Dear Elders & Sisters,

We love ya!  We are looking forward to zone conferences this week and we are so grateful for your faith in the Savior and His work!

In the world wide missionary broadcast in January of this year, Elder Bednar stated, “I think too often we, as members of the Church, have a cookbook, checklist mentality about living the gospel. So faith is this little separate thing, and then repentance is a separate thing, and then there’s the ordinance of baptism and receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost. All things are gathered together in one in Christ. So faith is in the Savior—in Him as the Son of God, in His nature, and in His attributes. Repentance is a dependence upon Him. Faith in Him and depending upon Him is repentance. Following Him is baptism. Pressing forward with Him is enduring to the end, with the companionship of the Holy Ghost. It’s all gathered together in Him. So as we are proclaiming our continuing dependence upon Christ, that is repentance, which leads to the mighty change of heart.”  Elder Anderson of the Twelve described it this way in the 2016 world wide missionary broadcast, “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 teaching as we come to recognize that all things we do are centered in and dependent upon our faith in Jesus Christ and His Atonement.  As missionaries, it can be easy to adopt the mentality that investigators need to complete a list of steps, or the checklist as Elder Bednar describes, to be ready to enter the waters of baptism.  We often set goals and make plans to help an investigator read, pray, come to church, and keep the commandments. These commitments are important and good, but if we’re not careful, these commitments may become the end instead of the means of increasing faith and building upon the rock of the Redeemer.  We read to come to know Christ, we pray in Christs’ name to align our will and access the blessing of the Father, we attend church to remember Christ and renew our covenants with Him.  We are establishing the kind of faith that will help them follow the Savior and His teachings through the remainder of their lives.  The question we often need to ask ourselves is, “Am I focused on helping them do, or am I helping them become converted to the Savior?”

If we understand our purpose well, and truly want to invite and help people come unto Christ, our priority will be to increase their faith in the Savior.  As we teach in lesson three, “faith is a strong belief that motivates a person to act.”  Men and women will naturally come to act when we help them understand that the Savior has Atoned for them and that they can receive all blessings through Him.  If we as missionaries don’t help increase their faith in the Savior and His gospel, we’ll often find that they won’t keep commitments or progress.  On the other hand, we might find that we are able to invite and persuade people to read, pray, or come to church, but if they do so only to meet our desired requirements, we will have done little to increase their faith in the Savior.  They must act, but let’s always point back to the reason of why they are acting!

Elder Holland spoke about how we can lose sight of this important principle at times as he shared the following… “Probably there are very few missionaries, if any, who do not know the centrality of this doctrine (the Savior & His Atonement). But I have been surprised to regularly be with the missionaries and discover that this is not something that readily comes forward in a discussion of missionary work.

For example, in zone conferences, which are some of the greatest teaching moments we as General Authorities have with these young elders and sisters, I have asked missionaries what it is they want investigators to do as a result of their discussions with them. “Be baptized!” is shouted forward in an absolute chorus.  “Yes,” I say, “we do want them to be baptized, but what has to precede that?”

Now they are a little leery. Aha, they think. This is a test. It is a test on the first discussion. “Read the Book of Mormon!” someone shouts. “Pray!” an elder roars from the back of the room. “Attend church!” one of the sisters on the front row declares. “Receive all of the discussions!” someone else offers. “Well, you have pretty much covered the commitments in the first discussion,” I say, “but what else do you want your investigators to do?” “Be baptized!” The chorus comes a second time. “Elders,” I plead, “you have already told me about baptism, and I am still asking!” Well, now they are stumped. It must be commitments from the other discussions, they think. “Live the Word of Wisdom!” someone says. “Pay tithing!” another shouts. And so it goes.

I don’t always run through this little exercise in a zone conference, but sometimes I do. And I have to say that almost never do the missionaries get around to identifying the two most fundamental things we want investigators to do prior to baptism: have faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and repent of their sins. Yet “we believe that the first principles and ordinances of the Gospel are: first, Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ; second, Repentance; [then] third, Baptism by immersion for the remission of sins; fourth, Laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost.” 6

A convert’s new life is to be built upon faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and His redeeming sacrifice—a conviction that He really is the Son of God, that He lives this very moment, that He really is the door of the sheepfold, that He alone holds the key to our salvation and exaltation. That belief is to be followed by true repentance, repentance which shows our desire to be clean and renewed and whole, repentance that allows us to lay claim to the full blessings of the Atonement.

Then comes baptism for the remission of sins. Yes, baptism is also for membership in the Church, but that isn’t what the Prophet Joseph Smith chose to stress in that article of faith. He stressed that it was baptism for the remission of sins—focusing you and me, the missionary and the investigator again on the Atonement, on salvation, on the gift Christ gives us. This points that new convert toward the blessings of the “good news.”

Elders & Sisters, today’s President’s Pen is simply a reminder to keep in mind that we’re not here to check off the boxes on the teaching record, to have an investigator pray, read, or come to church a few times.  Our goal, our objective, and our purpose is to invite others to come unto Christ, and help them become converted to Him as we teach them the restored gospel.  Our teaching, which can only be done by the Spirit, should focus on increasing their faith in the Savior and His Atonement.  This will lead them to have a desire to change and repent, and then want to receive a remission of their sins through baptism and receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost.  Our purpose and our message is founded on the Savior and His Atonement, everything else we teach points back to Him!

My invitation to you today is to consider if you are focused on helping your investigators do things (read, pray, come to church – all good and wonderful) or if you are truly planning and helping them increase their faith in the Savior.  Second invitation, your personal testimony of the Savior and His Atonement will stir the remembrance of truths they were once taught and it will build their sure foundation so they can stand on their own. Testify often and powerfully of the Savior and why His Atonement matters to you!  We teach repentance and baptize converts when we focus on the first principle of the gospel, faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.  I testify in the Savior’s name that it is only through our faith in Him that we are truly converted.  As missionaries, we must always have the Savior’s name on our lips and remember that it is only through Him we can be saved!  Love ya!

President Hall

President's Pen 5-1-17 (Song of the Heart)

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 you all with my whole soul! Continue being the righteous, obedient, and consecrated missionaries the Lord would have you be.  How blessed we are to teach repentance and baptize converts. 

One of the greatest blessings and personal joys for me in life is music.  I grew up in a home where music was always being played in some form or another.  My great grandfather was a professional organist from Poland.  He provided for his family by playing for a variety of congregations, he was a devout Catholic.  My grandfather was trained to be a classical pianist, but he always told me his fingers were too short and stubby and that he couldn’t have provided for the family, but he was very good.  My mom attended college on a music scholarship and sang with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, yes the big show.  My dad introduced us to the arts at a young age while he served as the president of Ballet West.  I heard all the classic composers and I gained an appreciation for what good music does for the soul.  Then there’s me, I can barely carry a tune, I will sing out loud in the car and in the shower, but my talent is enjoying the musical talent of others. ;)  

Some of the most sacred spiritual experiences in my life have come as I have listened to and felt the Spirit through hymns.  I vividly remember singing, “I Know that My Redeemer Lives” as a young missionary in the MTC.  The Spirit washed over me on that day with such force that I knew “He was my kind, wise, heavenly friend”, and I will never forget it.  I had a similar experience in the MTC 25 years later as Sister Hall and I attended the MTC prior to coming to Texas.   A missionary choir sang “Joseph Smith’s First Prayer”, and I knew then, and I equally know now that Joseph Smith did see the Father and the Son on that early Spring day.  Music lifts my soul when I am down, it gives me energy, and it connects me to heaven.  The scripture for me rings true, “For my soul delighteth in the song of the heart; yea, the song of the righteous is a prayer unto me, and it shall be answered with a blessing upon their heads” (D&C 25:12).  Music is a great blessing to me. 

In the hymnal, the First Presidency has written a preface that you should study and become familiar with.  Why would this be important to you?  As missionaries, there are many ways to reach the hearts and minds of the people, and music can be one that lifts troubled souls.  I share a few of the blessings you’ll find that are promised to us by the First Presidency…

·         The hymns invite the Spirit of the Lord, create a feeling of reverence, unify us as members, and provide a way for us to offer praises to the Lord.

·         Hymns move us to repentance and good works, build testimony and faith, comfort the weary, console the mourning, and inspire us to endure to the end.

·         Music has boundless powers for moving families toward greater spirituality and devotion to the gospel.

·         The hymns can bring families a spirit of beauty and peace and can inspire love and unity among family members.

·         Hymns can lift our spirits, give us courage, and move us to righteous action.

·         Hymns can fill our souls with heavenly thoughts and bring us a spirit of peace.

·         Hymns can also help us withstand the temptations of the adversary.  If unworthy thoughts enter your mind, sing a hymn to yourself, crowding out the evil with the good.

This is a powerful list of blessings and as it states in the preface, “some of the greatest sermons are preached by the singing of hymns.” When you are struggling, need a lift, want an answer to a prayer, or just need to connect to heaven, sing a hymn and see if you don’t find the blessings the Lord promises.

One of my favorite hymns is “Be Still, My Soul”, read the lyrics and ponder how the Savior stills your soul and what He does for you as a missionary…

1. Be still, my soul: The Lord is on thy side; With patience bear thy cross of grief or pain. Leave to thy God to order and provide; In ev'ry change he faithful will remain. Be still, my soul: Thy best, thy heav'nly Friend Thru thorny ways leads to a joyful end.

2. Be still, my soul: Thy God doth undertake To guide the future as he has the past. Thy hope, thy confidence let nothing shake; All now mysterious shall be bright at last. Be still, my soul: The waves and winds still know His voice who ruled them while he dwelt below.

3. Be still, my soul: The hour is hast'ning on When we shall be forever with the Lord, When disappointment, grief, and fear are gone, Sorrow forgot, love's purest joys restored. Be still, my soul: When change and tears are past, All safe and blessed we shall meet at last.

As I read these lyrics my soul is lifted and a spirit of peace comes into my heart.  The doctrine it teaches is true and gives me great hope and faith in the Savior.  This is one of many hymns that I love and I have found that I can take a hymn and apply it to almost any situation.  When my diligence suffers, I can go to, “Put Your Shoulder to the Wheel” or “Have I Done Any Good”.  If I find I need a change of attitude I can go to, “There is Sunshine in My Soul Today” or “Count Your Blessings”.  When I trained for my IronMan events I would sing, “Onward Christian Soldiers”, “How Firm a Foundation”, and “High on the Mountain Top”, to get me through the hard work out days. ;)  I invite you to find hymns that speak to your soul that can give you the spiritual boost you need, uplift you, increase your faith, and your resolve to serve the Lord with all your heart.

Elders & Sisters, the music you choose to listen to on your mission will either uplift and strengthen you, or it can distract and take you back into the world.  So much of today’s music is filled with sexual innuendo, hate and violence, and all other forms of ungodliness.  You are asked to sacrifice music that can dull your spirit and take away your ability to teach with power and authority.  The guidelines in the Missionary Handbook are clear and simple to understand and I invite you to follow the counsel of living prophets and apostles and get rid of anything that distracts you from doing the Lord’s work.  Many of you have instruments, and I don’t discourage them, but I do invite you to make sure no worldly music is played on them. 

I love that music is a righteous prayer and one that delights the heart of the Lord.  Find ways to use music with your investigators, sing to them, take them to LDS sites, help them come to know how it can bless their souls.  I hope you can be found singing hymns as you ride your bikes, drive in the car, and walk down the street.  With the mighty prayers you’re already offering, add another that comes from the song of the heart, and it might surprise you what the Lord has done!  I know these principles are true and in the Savior’s name I testify and invite you to make sacred music a part of your service.  Love ya!

President Hall

President's Pen 4-24-17 (Mighty Prayer)

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

Dear Elders & Sisters,

We love ya!  As we begin a new transfer this week I pray that you will be found as disciples that declare His word with all your heart, might, mind, and strength.  Heart = love of our Father in Heaven, the Savior, and those you have come to teach.  Might = the spiritual power and virtue you’ve been endowed with.  Strength = the physical power and health to run and not be weary. Mind = your thoughts and desires all centered on your purpose.  We need you all in, we need you to give your best each day, we are disciples of Christ and we owe Him our all!

How often are you found in mighty prayer throughout your day, asking for the windows of heaven to be opened to you, so you can invite and help more souls come unto Christ?  Ponder this question and ask yourself if you and your companion are calling on the Lord as often as you need for His help and counsel.

As Alma is beginning his mission and heading to Gideon, we read about an important teaching that is given to the members of the Lord’s Church… “Nevertheless the children of God were commanded that they should gather themselves together oft, and join in fasting and mighty prayer in behalf of the welfare of the souls of those who knew not God.”  (Alma 6:6)

From this verse of scripture, we begin to learn a pattern of what true disciples do as they prepare to serve the Lord.  They gather together often to be strengthened and prepared (sacrament meeting/temple), they join together in fasting, and they open their hearts in prayer to find, teach, and invite those that have yet come to a knowledge of the truth. 

As Alma finishes his activities in Gideon, he goes to the land of Ammonihah and upon arriving, and seeing the hardness of the hearts of the people, he continues to follow the pattern he used to start his mission, “Nevertheless Alma labored much in the spirit, wrestling with God in mighty prayer, that he would pour out his Spirit upon the people who were in the city; that he would also grant that he might baptize them unto repentance.”  (Alma 8:8). 

Note that in both of the previous scriptures we find Alma in mighty prayer and even wrestling with God.  As a point of interest, wrestling in old English dictionaries can also mean to be deep in thought.  When I think about being deep in thought, and doing so in mighty prayer, it gives me a feel for how important it was to Alma to bring souls unto Christ.  It consumed his soul and he desired nothing but the welfare, repentance, and baptism for all he met.  His prayers weren’t simply the kind that barely reach the ceiling, but I envision him pouring out his whole soul to his Father in Heaven and pleading for help, strength, and understanding as he strives to align his will to God’s. 

Alma continues in prayer, and as he goes back into the land of Ammonihah, with his faithful companion Amulek at his side, we start to see the results of his prayers… “the Lord did pour out his Spirit on all the face of the land to prepare the minds of the children of men, or to prepare their hearts to receive the word which should be taught among them at the time of his coming— That they might not be hardened against the word, that they might not be unbelieving, and go on to destruction, but that they might receive the word with joy…”  (Alma 16:16-17)

The Lord answered Alma’s mighty prayers! The Lord will pour out His Spirit, hardened hearts can be softened, , and miracles can and do happen!

We then come to the incredible reunion of Alma and the sons of Mosiah and what does Alma find with these missionaries, “they had given themselves to much prayer, and fasting…”  (Alma 17:3)  Another group of missionaries following the same pattern as Alma as they were also found as servants who were found in mighty prayer.

A few verses later we read what fasting and prayer did for them, “…and they fasted much and prayed much that the Lord would grant unto them a portion of his Spirit to go with them, and abide with them, that they might be an instrument in the hands of God to bring, if it were possible, their brethren, the Lamanites, to the knowledge of the truth, to the knowledge of the baseness of the traditions of their fathers, which were not correct.  And it came to pass that the Lord did visit them with his Spirit… (Alma 17:9-10)

How did mighty prayer and fasting work out for this group of missionaries?  We read a few chapters later what began to take place… “Now Ammon seeing the Spirit of the Lord poured out according to his prayers upon the Lamanites, his brethren, who had been the cause of so much mourning among the Nephites, or among all the people of God because of their iniquities and their traditions, he fell upon his knees, and began to pour out his soul in prayer and thanksgiving to God for what he had done for his brethren; and he was also overpowered with joy...”  (Alma 19:14)

Not only did the Lord answer the mighty prayers of Ammon and his brethren, but note that Ammon kept praying in thanksgiving and that his whole soul was filled with joy as he saw those he loved come unto Christ.

As the sons of Mosiah are reflecting on their experience with the Lamanites they recognized an important truth… “And now behold, Ammon, and Aaron, and Omner, and Himni, and their brethren did rejoice exceedingly, for the success which they had had among the Lamanites, seeing that the Lord had granted unto them according to their prayers, and that he had also verified his word unto them in every particular.” (Alma 25:17)

So great were the prayers of these mighty missionaries that the Lord had granted unto them success in every particular! In other words, he answered their prayers very specifically according to the righteous desires of their hearts. 

Elders & Sisters, what pattern do you learn from highly successful missionaries related to the importance of mighty prayer?  Let’s consider what you can put into to application…  When you get up each morning are you found in mighty prayer for the welfare of the souls in your area that haven’t come to the knowledge of the truth? Are you found in mighty prayer, pleading that hearts will be softened, that you might find them and baptize them unto repentance?  Are you found in mighty prayer as you plan and seek guidance to know where to go, what to do, and what do say?  Are you found in mighty prayer when plans fall through and you need Lord’s help to know where to go next?  Are you found in mighty prayer before you teach your investigators, pleading that you’ll have the Spirit come upon you and upon them as you teach? Are you found in mighty prayer each night, accounting to the Lord, asking for forgiveness, and giving gratitude for your many blessings?  Simply stated, are you one that is often found in mighty prayer?

I felt impressed to write on this topic this week as I feel we need to increase the prayers and the strength of our prayers in our mission. I love the teaching from the Bible dictionary… “Prayer is the act by which the will of the Father and the will of the child are brought into correspondence with each other. The object of prayer is not to change the will of God but to secure for ourselves and for others blessings that God is already willing to grant but that are made conditional on our asking for them. Blessings require some work or effort on our part before we can obtain them. Prayer is a form of work and is an appointed means for obtaining the highest of all blessings.”

I invite each of you to align your will to God’s as you are found in mighty prayer each day.  Never underestimate the power of prayer and how it can change your heart and the heart of others.  It is through the prayer of faith that miracles are wrought and a requirement for us to be granted blessings He already has prepared for us.  As we pray, let us remember that we bring ourselves into alignment with His will, His timing, and His plans.  Increase your mighty prayers, pray for the welfare of others, pray that they might repent and come unto Christ and receive a remission of sins as they are baptized.   The Savior prays for us still, He weeps for us, He cheers us on, He loves us.  Let’s join with Him and pray for the heavens to be opened that more might come unto Him.  In the Savior’s name I know that mighty prayers will make a difference for you and for those you have been called to bless!  I love ya!

President Hall

President's Pen 4-17-17 (Look & Behold)

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

Dear Elders & Sisters,

We love ya!  Thanks for your diligent work and tireless efforts as you shared the #PrinceofPeace initiative.   The Savior truly does bring peace to our lives and the message we share will continue to calm troubled hearts and lost souls.   I loved the following quote from Elder Callister as we have been studying the Savior’s Atonement this month… “The doctrine of the Atonement is the most supernal, mind-expanding, passionate doctrine this world or universe will ever know. It is this doctrine that gives life and breath and substance to every gospel principle and ordinance. It is the spiritual reservoir that feeds the streams of faith, provides the cleansing powers to the waters of baptism, and supplies the healing balm to the wounded soul. It is the focal point of the sacrament, temple, and other gospel ordinances. It is the rock foundation upon which all hope in this life and eternity is predicated.”

In our recent MLC, I shared a leadership principle that is taught as Nephi is given the vision of the tree of life.  In 1 Nephi 13:1 we read, “And it came to pass that the angel spake unto me, saying: Look! And I looked beheld…”  This is one of many instances where Nephi is asked by the angel of the Lord to, “look and behold”.  By looking and beholding, Nephi demonstrates his obedience and has his eyes and mind opened to the path that leads to eternal life. 

When you apply this principle to leadership, you will find that “looking and beholding” allows you to minister more personally, understand more deeply, and lead more effectively.  In the case of Nephi, he clearly understood what it would take for his people to commence, catch hold, cling to, and continually stay by the tree by “looking and beholding”.  Imagine the power that would come into your missionary work if you were to focus on “looking and beholding” your investigators the way our Father in Heaven and Savior do…

To apply specific context to the leadership principle of “looking and beholding”, I shared our mission key indicators with the leadership and asked them to “look and behold”.  Why, because our key indicators can open our eyes and minds to see how the doctrine of Christ is being applied by our investigators and by us as missionaries.  Study the graphic below and “look and behold” how the doctrine of Christ, the key indicators, and missionaries proselyting attributes are all intertwined…

We know that all things are centered in Christ and that faith in Him and His Atonement is found in everything we do.  Our responsibility as missionaries is to invite other to come unto Christ and help increase their faith in Him.   A successful day will always point to the Savior, His love, His example, and His call for us to follow Him.  His name should always be on our lips as we boldly and lovingly represent Him.  A successful day will always include our desire to help someone change and turn back to God.  A successful day will always include how we helped someone prepare to make and keep sacred covenants.  A successful day will always include how we helped someone feel and recognize the Spirit.  A successful day will always include helping someone find the tree and stay there! Every day can be a day full of success!

Now follow how the doctrine of Christ, the key indicators, and a missionaries’ proselyting attributes work together…

“Look and Behold” the principle of faith … As we come to understand that our purpose is to increase our faith and the faith of others in the Savior and His Atonement, we will have a greater desire to share it.  An indication of our desire to share it will be found in the number of people we talk to and invite to listen to the message each day.  An indication of their desire to hear more about what we teach will be found in their desire to have us come back and learn more, a new investigator.  The way we come find new investigators begins with our faith in the Savior and His work.  We then demonstrate our faith by setting goals and making plans to find people to teach each day.  We demonstrate our faith by diligently going to work and by using our time wisely and by talking to all who will listen.  Because of our faith, we strive to improve our skills in finding and connecting with people (members, less active, part-members, investigators, formers, referrals, door/street contacts) as we desire to be instruments that the Lord can use towards his vision, goal, and plan.   Faith leads us to FIND!

What does this mean in a practical sense?  If I’m you, I’d “look and behold” what I do each day to determine if my faith in the Savior and His Atonement leads me to want to find people every day and if my planning, diligence, and skills are in alignment with my faith.  We find that the key indicator of “new investigators” is simply the status of a person (their desire to learn more and have us come back) and that our faith and proselyting skills leads lead us to finding them. 

As we are all agents to act, if I were to call you during the week and ask you about how your finding is going, I would “look & behold” as to the strength of your faith, and then ask you questions about your planning, diligence, and missionary skills.  Perhaps there needs to be some sharpening in one or more of the proselyting attributes.  We might find that your faith is low, or that your planning isn’t specific enough, or that your diligence and tenacity isn’t sufficient, or that we could improve your finding skills.  We might find that you’re simply not opening your mouth enough each day. We might also find that you’re doing all you can do and that the trial of your faith is being tested.  Whatever it might be, we would find an opportunity to refocus on our purpose, and then apply the doctrine of Christ, specifically faith in the Savior, to your finding efforts and desires…

Let’s “look and behold” repentance…  As faith is increased, our desire to change and become more like the Savior also increases.  We desire to teach these principles and an indication of true repentance begins as new investigators transition to progressing investigators as they read, ponder, pray and keep the commandments.  An indication of their repentance can be seen as they accept baptismal dates and join us at church.  A critical element to help them repent is to involve members who can strengthen and help these investigators stay on the path.  These are all key indicators that point to the doctrine of repentance and they indicate whether or not the person is willing to change.  Equally important is the missionary attribute of teaching repentance effectively.  Our proselyting skills are again demonstrated as we set goals and plan to help them change.  We see as we study and treasure up each day, in our companion study, and in our lesson plans.  We also strive to help them repent as we teach simply, testify powerfully, invite boldly, promise blessings, and following up (T.T.I.P.F.).

Again, we can “look and behold” how the doctrine of Christ (repentance), is tied to the key indicators (progressing investigators, church, member lessons, and baptism dates), and how our proselyting attributes (planning, study, companionship study, and teaching skills) are linked.  As we are agents to act, if you are finding that few of your investigators are progressing, we would could review proselyting attributes that you might need to improve.  Are we teaching simply, testifying powerfully, inviting boldly, promising specific blessings, and following up every day?  Are you using members, are you doing all you can to be prepared to teach and testify?

To be brief in writing, I’ll stop at repentance as we analyze how the doctrine of Christ, the key indicators, and a missionaries’ proselyting attributes all work together, but I invite you to follow the same pattern for baptism, the gift of the Holy Ghost, and enduring to the end.  Can you “look and behold” how all things are centered in Christ and how everything we do, measure, and seek to improve ties back to the Savior, His doctrine, and His way?

Elders and Sisters, I share the concept of “looking and beholding” with you for a few reasons.  First, the doctrine of Christ is our purpose and message and it is the center of everything we do.  We need to examine if this is what motivates us as we invite and help all to come unto Christ. Second, key indicators reflect a person’s progress and journey as they come unto Christ.  Missionaries who talk about the numbers miss the point that key indicators are about people and their progress, not about the missionary. It is true that the key indicators may demonstrate a missionary’s effort to help an investigator progress, but it is always about a person, not a number.  Third, proselyting skills and attributes are critical in helping people progress (key indicators) and are essential if we want to help people on the path and the only way back to the Father and the Son (doctrine of Christ). You can “look and behold” how you’re doing in each of these three important elements of missionary work.  Do you love and understand your purpose (doctrine of Christ)?  Do you do all you can to invite and help investigators progress (key indicators)? Do you do all you can to improve your missionary attributes to help all come unto Christ (skills)? We teach repentance and baptize converts as we know it is the only way for mankind to be saved and inherit the blessings of the celestial kingdom.  I invite you to review these principles and discuss with your companion what you might need to do to progress in one or all three, they indeed work together!  I testify in the name of the Savior that great things can be brought to pass as we “look and behold”.  As disciples of Christ, we are each on a mission to become as the Savior is and the Spirit will speak to your heart and mind those things you can do to more effectively today to serve in the Lord’s work!  Love ya!

President Hall

President's Pen 4-3-17 (Enticed)

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

Dear Elders & Sisters,

We love ya!  I hope you enjoyed the wonderful messages from the living prophets and apostles during conference weekend.  We have heard the mind and will of the Lord and now it is up to us to follow the counsel we’ve been given.  “...whether by mine own voice or by the voice of my servants, it is the same.” (D&C 1:38)

As you think about what you learned at conference, have you been sufficiently enticed (persuaded by a promise of something)?  “Wherefore, the Lord God gave unto man that he should act for himself.  Wherefore man could not act for himself if he was not enticed by the one or the other.”  (2 Ne 2:16) The great plan of happiness is established on the principle of moral agency and choice.  As we use our agency, there are two enticing voices to listen to, one that brings liberty and eternal life and another that brings captivity and death. (2 Ne 2:27) One voice speaks to the heart of the natural man; rewarding passions, pleasures, and appetites, short term rewards, the easy path.  The other voice speaks to our spirit; causing a mighty change of heart, patience, temperance, long term rewards, the harder path.

Mormon understood the nature of the voices that would entice and warned us to recognize the difference, “..for the devil is an enemy unto God, and fighteth against him continually, and inviteth and enticeth to sin, and to do that which is evil continually. But behold, that which is of God inviteth and enticeth to do good continually… “ (Moroni 7:12-13)

As we read these scriptures and recognize for ourselves that one choice is clearly and monumentally better than the other, why is it that the enticing voice of the adversary can be so compelling?  You all know the answer, “For the natural man is an enemy to God, and has been from the fall of Adam, and will be, forever and ever…”  While this is true, here comes the power of the moral agency we are blessed with, “…unless he yields to the enticings of the Holy Spirit, and putteth off the natural man and becometh a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord, and becometh 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.”  We can be enticed by the adversary, but equally so, we can be enticed by the Spirit, crushing the natural man as we apply the Savior’s Atonement, becoming saints that are willing to give our will to God.

So here we see the formula of how we can be enticed by the voice that brings liberty and eternal life…

·         First, through our faith in Jesus Christ, we use our moral agency to yield, we act.  We give way, surrender and submit our will to God.

·         Second, we listen, and allow our spirit to be persuaded (enticed) by the Holy Ghost.  Why, it is only through the Holy Ghost that a mighty change of heart and miracle conversion comes.

·         Third, our faith in Jesus Christ and the Spirit working within our hearts allows us to “put off” things the natural man is enticed by.  To “put off” is to avoid, evade, or not do something.  This is the great turning away from, the 180, the recalculating route experience we love and know to be the gift of repentance. We “put off” and “put on” a new disposition to do good continually. Our desires, thoughts, behaviors, and actions are changed. 

·         Third and all encompassing in each step, we apply and use the Savior’s Atonement in our lives.  We are saved and redeemed through the merits, mercy and grace of the Savior.  His grace enables us, gives us divine help and strength, and allows us to do things we couldn’t otherwise do.  We are enticed by knowing there is no way back to God, save it be that we come to fully rely and trust in the Savior’s ability to bring us home, even after all we can do. 

·         Fourth, we become as the Savior is.  Christlike attributes begin to possess us; submissiveness, meekness, patience, love etc….  We truly become saints who no longer are enticed by the trappings of the adversary.

So, what was the intent of the enticing’s we heard from living prophets and apostles during conference, the same message Nephi and Jacob shared of old… “For the fulness of mine intent is that I may persuade men to come unto the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, and be saved. (1 Ne 6:4)  “Wherefore we labored diligently among our people, that we might persuade them to come unto Christ, and partake of the goodness of God, that they might enter into his rest… Wherefore, we would to God that we could persuade all men not to rebel against God, to provoke him to anger, but that all men would believe in Christ.” (Jacob 1:7-8)

Elders & Sisters, I testify that “every thing which inviteth and enticeth to do good, and to love God, and to serve him, is inspired of God.”  We have been inspired this weekend to follow the enticing’s that will bring enduring peace and happiness.  I invite you to consider how you can apply your moral agency to act upon your faith in Christ, yield to the enticing’s of the Spirit, repent and “put off” things that hold you back and weigh you down, apply the Savior’s Atonement, and strive to become as you model His attributes.  This was the invitation you received from your Father in Heaven through the voice of His servants during conference.  We will either be enticed by one voice or the other, choose the voice that will allow you to sing the song of redeeming love!  In the Savior’s name, I know these things are true.  Love ya!

President Hall

President's Pen 3-27-17 (Unity)

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,

Can two walk together, except they be agreed? (Amos 3:3)   A great question and one for each of us to ponder as we serve together in the Lord’s work.  As we are taught by the Lord, “And ye shall go forth in the power of my Spirit, preaching my gospel, two by two, in my name, lifting up your voices as with the sound of a trump, declaring my word like unto angels of God.  And ye shall go forth baptizing with water, saying: Repent ye, repent ye, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” (D&C 42:6-7) 

Just before the Savior’s Atonement, He prayed for His disciples, whom He had sent into the world to teach the gospel. As he prayed, he pled for them to have unity: “That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me”.  (John 17:21) Unity, as we go two by two, preaching the gospel in the Savior’s name, is a requirement for us to be able to raise our voices like a trump, declaring repentance and a remission of sins through baptism. 

It is no surprise to me that the Savior would plead with the Father that His disciples would be unified given their natural and fallen state.  Each disciple had come from different experiences, backgrounds, and perspectives. Fishermen, a publican, tradesmen, and a tent maker (Paul) would come together with their own views, opinions, and desires, but to be part of the Lord’s work, they had to come together as one.  If they were divided in their purpose and efforts, the Savior’s newly established Church would have had little hope to survive as each man might succumb to doing their own thing and in their own way.  This band of new disciples stood strong together and went forth two by two teaching all nations. “And he called unto him the twelve, and began to send them forth by two and two; and gave them power…” (Mark 6:7)

The scriptures repeatedly teach the principle of unity: It is good for brethren to dwell together in unity, (Ps. 133:1)  I and my Father are one, (D&C 50:43)  I beseech you that there be no divisions among you, but that ye be perfectly joined together, (1 Cor. 1:10) Be determined in one mind and in one heart, united in all things, (2 Ne. 1:21) Saints should have their hearts knit together in unity, (Mosiah 18:21) The disciples were united in mighty prayer and fasting, (3 Ne. 27:1) The Lord called his people Zion because they were of one heart and one mind.  (Moses 7:18)

As the scriptures teach so well, unity is how we are to serve.  The Savior declared, “I say unto you, be one; and if ye are not one ye are not mine.” (D&C 38:27)  His charge to us is not to be underestimated as He clearly tells us, if we are not unified, we are not His.  In no uncertain terms, if we are divided, we can’t do His work, have His Spirit, or effectively declare His truths.  You, like the disciples of old, come together from diverse backgrounds, experiences, and perspectives.  You are unique individuals who have been blessed with distinct talents and abilities.  These differences are important as it allows you to connect with others as you teach and share the gospel, but you can’t do this work alone nor without unity. 

Speaking of differences, President Eyring taught an important truth, “The children of God have more in common than they have differences. And even the differences can be seen as an opportunity. God will help us see a difference in someone else not as a source of irritation but as a contribution. The Lord can help you see and value what another person brings which you lack. More than once the Lord has helped me see His kindness in giving me association with someone whose difference from me was just the help I needed. That has been the Lord’s way of adding something I lacked to serve Him better.”

All too often Elders & Sisters, I see companionships that could take a lesson from President Eyring and from the apostles of old and learn to work together in unity.  I often hear statements such as, “we’re just so different from one another”, or “we have nothing in common”, or “I’m the only one who…(fill in the blank here).”  I know of contention on simple matters such as: what we’ll do for pday, what time we’ll go to bed or start our planning in the morning, what we’ll do for exercise, when and what we’ll eat.  I also observe companionships who refuse to have companionship inventory, and instead of talking things out, remain silent, let issues build, and carry that spirit with them into the work.  The outcome: hurt feelings, cold shoulders, quick to anger, anxious to criticize, and slow to love and forgive.  This approach will never work and will clearly hinder the work. As the Savior taught, “Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation; and every city or house divided against itself shall not stand.”

Equally damaging and unappealing is any missionary that speaks poorly of other missionaries, who bullies, makes fun of, is unkind, condescending and quick to criticize.  If this is a part of you or your behavior, I invite you to remember who you are, who you serve, and to repent.  We are all in this work together and we should follow the counsel of Paul given to the Ephesians by always, “Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”

Elder & Sisters, I invite you to look within your heart to determine if you are one that unifies or divides.  Are you a peacemaker, or is it more important for you to be right, rather than do what is right?  Are you courageous enough to have a loving and kind conversation with your companion when there are important things to be said (obedience issues, desire to do the work, equally yoked, or anything else that divides)? Do you hold companionship study so you can teach in unity and by the Spirit?  Can you put aside selfish desires for the greater good and yield to the enticing’s of the Spirit when the natural man wants to rage?  Are you one that is found praising, encouraging, showing patience, and helping?  I honor and love the peacemakers among us who can get along with everyone and can see people for who they are, beloved children of God. What a blessing it is for each of us to work on our Christlike attributes and seek to become as the Savior is.  He is the exemplar of unity and peace! Two will always walk together more purposefully, effectively, and happily when “they be agreed”.  I testify that this is a true principle and invite you to follow the Apostle Paul’s admonition, “that ye stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel.” (Philip 1:27) Love ya!

President Hall

President's Pen 3-20-17 (Simply Paced)

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

Dear Elders & Sisters,

We love ya!  We look forward to being with you at zone conferences this week.  We will share with you the Easter initiative, “Prince of Peace” and discuss how we can help all those we come in contact with feel the peace that comes through the Savior and His gospel.  Keep up the great work!

A question I am often asked by our missionaries is what they can do to help an investigator that seems to stall in their progression.  To respond to this question, I’ll share with you some wonderful instruction given by the Prophet Nephi, “For behold, thus saith the Lord God: I will give unto the children of men line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little and there a little; and blessed are those who hearken unto my precepts, and lend an ear unto my counsel, for they shall learn wisdom; for unto him that receiveth I will give more…” As you break down this scripture you will see the pattern of how the Lord instructs us and what is required on our part to learn wisdom, receive more, and progress.

As we apply this instruction to our assignment as missionaries, we can follow the Savior’s pattern by teaching our investigators line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little and there a little.  When I sum up this style of teaching it tells me we need to be simple, simple, simple…  The Apostle Paul gives us a perfect example of this approach as he shares with the Corinthians, “I have fed you with milk, and not with meat: for hither to ye were not able to bear it, neither yet now are ye able.” (1 Cor 3:2)  Our investigators are like the babes that Peter makes reference to, “As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby.” (1 Peter 2:2)  Teaching simply is like milk to those that we hope to help hearken and lend and ear to the Lord’s counsel.  As they lend an ear to the Spirit, they will learn wisdom and then be ready to receive more.  We are not “gospel doctrine” teachers who need to expound and share more than they are able to bear. If we want to help people progress, we need to keep plainness and simplicity at the heart of what we share.      

If we help investigators progress by teaching line upon line, we also need to consider how fast we pace through the lessons.  The message of the Restoration is a powerful wakeup call to all who will listen.  Some doctrines from this lesson are more easily understood, but apostasy, the First Vision, priesthood authority, the Book of Mormon, the true nature of prayer, and how the Spirit can be felt and heard will be very new for most.  In addition the principles taught, there are four major commitment invitations that are necessary for an investigator to progress:  “Will you pray to know that Joseph Smith was a prophet?”, “Will you read and pray to know the Book of Mormon is the word of God?”, “Will you attend church with us this Sunday?”, and “Will you follow the example of Jesus Christ and be baptized by someone that holds His authority?”.  Let’s just say that this is a lot of milk to drink and yet for an investigator to progress, the first three invitations are an absolute must!

When missionaries ask me about an investigator that has stalled, I ask a series of follow up questions to help me understand what the heart of the issue might be.  In most cases, I go right to the basic principles of the Restoration and the status of the first three invitations we extend: “Are they praying, are they reading, are they coming to church?”.  In most cases the investigator hasn’t sincerely prayed yet, hasn’t taken the time to read, ponder, and pray, and hasn’t attended church.  I then ask what we’ve done to help them recommit to these important invitations and I’m told that we’re following up and that we keep recommitting them.  This is wonderful and good, but what I often learn is that the investigator has also been taught the Plan of Salvation, the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and even the commandments.  Instead of going line by line, we teach more lessons and jump further ahead than necessary.  If this is the case, and despite our best intentions, we have given a lot of meat for someone who hasn’t been willing to hearken unto basic precepts, lend an ear to counsel, or gained enough wisdom to receive more. 

What do I recommend?  We need to slow down before we can speed up!  After the first lesson, and before I go any further into important gospel truths, I would set goals and make plans to help them progress by recommitting and helping them pray, read, and come to church.  If they haven’t prayed to know if Joseph Smith is a prophet, I might go back and again teach the principle of prayer, the why, what, and how. I will likely spend some time helping them understand how the Spirit will respond to their sincere prayer.  I may even ask them to pray right there and then so we can help them move forward.  If they haven’t read, I will take the time to read with them, explain what we’re reading, help them apply it to their lives, and declare my witness that the Book of Mormon will open the windows of heaven to them.  I will review Moroni’s promise with them and invite them again to pray to know if what they have read and pondered is true.  If they haven’t come to church, I will teach them a very focused lesson on the importance of the Sabbath day.  I will help them understand the why of the Sabbath and testify of how obeying this commandment will help them receive promised blessings.  I will again invite them to church and do everything in my power to help them come and have a wonderful experience.  I will listen to the Spirit as they might need a lesson on increasing their faith to act, or repentance to change, but I’ll not move too quickly as I know they can’t progress until they at least read, ponder, and pray.   If I’ve done these things and I still see no progress, I will let them know we’ll move on to other investigators and follow up with them in a month or two. 

Until an investigator can lay hold on upon the line upon line, and here a little there a little precepts of prayer, Book of Mormon reading, and church attendance, they won’t progress.  They will likely learn a lot, love your visits, and feel the Spirit, but they won’t be ready to receive more.  You will need to be sensitive to their needs, ask inspired questions, resolve concerns, simply reteach, and extend bold commitment invitations to act.  Let the Spirit work through you and guide your efforts as you testify to them why these acts of faith will help them be prepared to receive more.  Be bold and let them know what blessings they’ll miss out on if they choose not to act.  Give them a clear choice!

Elders & Sisters, teaching simply will allow for investigators to digest the milk they need, “that they may grow thereby.”  Their progression will come as they hearken unto simple precepts and listen to the Lord’s counsel. Promise them that the Spirit will give them wisdom and that more knowledge will surely come.   Keep your first lesson short, you might have to come back again to finish it, don’t feel like you have to rush and cover it all.  Don’t move too quickly to other gospel truths until you see their willingness to keep the basic commitments you have extended.  Avoid the temptation to move on to other lessons when they’re not ready for meat.  Don’t fear the idea of re-teaching principles, especially the faith principles that will allow the Spirt to take the message into their hearts.  I invite you to review the investigators you’ve taught in the past and the current investigators you’re teaching and ask whether or not you’re moving too quickly or teaching simply enough.  Adjust as needed and set goals and make plans to help them progress at the rate they are willing to learn.  As you do this, I promise that you will be able to find those that will open their hearts and minds to the truth.  Be patient, kind, warm, and loving, but also help them understand your purpose is to help them come unto Christ through your invitations to act.  This work is true and I love that the Lord knows us well enough to teach us line by line and at the pace we need to receive all that He has in store for each us of.  Love ya!

President Hall

President's Pen 3-13-17 (Agents to Act)

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 great work this past week and for your focus on our purpose and our message.  The blessing of inviting and helping others repent is that we are changed in the process as well.  Keep up your tenacious, real intent, full purpose of heart efforts.  The Lord loves you and He is always at your side. 

I have taken some time recently to reflect on the great blessing of agency and accountability.  Both are wonderful principles that bless my life and help me continuously improve. I love that our Father in Heaven puts no limits on our potential and that I can do and become whatever I put my heart and mind to.  The only limitations to my growth are the stumbling blocks I put in my own path and they usually come in the form halfhearted efforts or a lack of self-discipline.   The natural man is an enemy to God and will always be so.  I am grateful, however, to know that the power is within me to overcome the natural man as I listen to the enticing’s of the Spirit and apply the Savior’s Atonement.

What I love about these days of missionary work is the trust and love the Lord has for this generation of missionaries.  No longer are you scripted, no longer is a precise schedule dictated to you, you are indeed a unique generation and fully enabled agents.  We of course are given guidelines, but you are given freedom to act, to plan, to study, and to use all the spiritual blessings you’ve been endowed with to help all come unto Christ.

As we begin this transfer, I want to reemphasize the importance of your ability to own your outcomes, choose freedom and eternal life or misery and captivity.  You are an agent unto yourself and you’ll decide if the glass is half empty, half full, or if you’re just grateful you have a glass! To avoid the perils of agency gone wrong, I again share with you the anti-responsibility list.  You review it each day as part of your companionship studies and I’m hopeful you are finding that you are moving further and further away from its deceptive and harmful effects.  The world is full of prideful and unpleasant individuals who sadly use this list as the defender of all that has gone wrong, what will go wrong, or that might go wrong, instead of just owning up, repenting, and striving to become better.  If it is to be, it is up to me!  Read these again and I invite you to identify those that easily beset you, repent, and make the necessary changes to be 100% accountable and 100% responsible…

Blame Others – Saul blames others for his disobedience. “But the people took of the spoil, sheep and oxen” (1 Sam 15:21) – Never my fault syndrome, bad area, bad companion, bad members, bad leaders, bad weather, bad you name it…

Self-Justify – Saul justifies his disobedience. “to sacrifice unto the Lord… And Samuel said, Hath the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord?”   (1 Sam 15:21-22)  I worked hard yesterday, no one else keeps this rule, it’s the spirit of the law that matters, too tired…

Make Excuses – Laman and Lemuel again began to murmur, saying: How is it possible that the Lord will deliver Laban into our hands? Behold, he is a mighty man, and he can command fifty, yea, even he can slay fifty; then why not us? (1 Nephi 3:31) Not my fault, not my responsibility, the ward doesn’t help, the ward mission leader isn’t involved, no one is helping us find, I’m the junior companion, not my concern…

Hide – “And Adam and Eve went to hide themselves from the presence of the Lord” Moses (4:14) Avoid responsibility, in the apartment too long, don’t like accountability, hang out in the car, spend too much time with the same members…

Cover Up – The Prophet Nathan rebukes David: “Thou hast killed Uriah the Hittite with the sword … and hast taken his wife to be thy wife … For thou didst it secretly” (2 Sam 12:9, 12)  Cover up the past and the present, see disobedience that should be corrected but don’t act, it’s not my problem…

Flee/Avoid – “But Jonah rose up to flee unto Tarshish from the presence of the Lord” (Jonah 1:3) This won’t work, I can’t do this, won’t hold companionship inventory, choose not to address the problem, no solutions, only problems given…

Abandon – Alma to his son Corianton: “Thou didst do that what which was grievous to me; for thou didst forsake the ministry” (Alma 39:3) Go through the motions, mind elsewhere, don’t care, no purpose, companion has to drag you along…

Deny/Lie – “And Saul said… I have performed the commandment of the Lord.  And Samuel said, What meaneth then this bleating of the sheep in mine ears…” (1 Sam 15:13, 14) I say this, do that, not me, not us, rationalize the past, hypocritical, fudge the key indicators…

Rebel – Samuel rebukes Saul.  “For rebellion… Because thou hast rejected the word of the Lord, he hath also rejected thee from being king.” (1 Sam 15:23) I don’t care for mission leadership, I have a better way, this doesn’t apply to me, this is lame, they don’t do this in other missions…

Complain/Murmur – “And all the children of Israel murmured against Moses and… said… Would God that we had died in the land of Egypt!” (Num 14:2)  Why this rule, why that rule, this ward/branch, these leaders, these reports, my companion, this area, this bike, this weather…

Find Fault/Get Angry – “And it came to pass that Laman was angry with me, and also with my father; and also was Lemuel” (1 Ne 3:28) My companion this, my area that, I’ve had enough, unkind, rude, sarcastic, …

Make Demands/Entitlement – “We will not that our younger brother shall be a ruler over us.  And it came to pass that Laman and Lemuel did take me and bind me with cords, and they did treat me with much harshness” (1 Ne 18:10, 11)  I’m the senior companion, I’ve been out for so long, I should be this or that, unless the member help, I’ve always done it this way, I’m right…

Doubt/Despair/Give Up/Lose Hope/Quit -- “they began to murmur against me, saying: Our brother is a fool, for he thinketh that he can build a ship; for they did not believe that I could build a ship” (1 Ne 17:17-18)  This area is dead, members won’t help, when I’m not your companion, when I get transferred…

Wallow in Self-Pity -- Behold, these many years we have suffered in the wilderness, which time we might have enjoyed our possessions and the land of our inheritance; yea, and we might have been happy. (1 Ne 17:21) I’m not as good, I compare, I don’t have these talents, my area is the worst, I can’t learn this…

Undecided --  “And Elijah came unto all the people, and said, How long halt ye between two opinions?  If the LORD be God, follow him: but if Baal, then follow him” (1 Kings 18:21)  Not sure this is for me, this is not what I expected, the grass is greener…

Procrastinate – “But behold, your days of probation are past; ye have procrastinated the day of your salvation until it is everlastingly too late” (Hel 13:38) I’ll get around to it, I’ll study that later, I’ll put in minimal effort, I’ll get around to planning or studying or working with the members, MONKEY J

Enable – Eli does not discipline his sons for their sins: “Wherefore kick ye at my sacrifice and… honourest thy sons above me…?” (1 Sam 2:22, 29) I see disobedience in others, but do nothing about it, allow others to break the rules, follow the crowd instead of doing what’s right…

Fear – “And I was afraid, and went and hid thy talent in the earth… His Lord answered and said unto him, Thou wicked and slothful servant” (Matt 25:25-26) I can’t OYM, I’m not good enough, I’m inadequate, I don’t speak well enough, I don’t want to offend my companion…

The source of all the points above come from one simple word, PRIDE!  It destroys a nation, a people, a family, and for certain individuals. As disciples of Christ, who are becoming more and more like Him each day, I invite you to embrace your agency, take full accountability, choose to be responsible and make the necessary changes.  We all suffer from points on this list from time to time, and yet the more we focus on improving, the better we become.  Don’t settle for the natural man, fight it, push through it, crush it, and use the Savior’s grace to help you.  

Elders & Sisters, agency is a blessing and a gift beyond compare.  Use it wisely and be grateful for a loving Heavenly Father who has entrusted you to deliver the message of His gospel.  He calls the weak and yet enables us with divine help and strength at every turn if we but come unto Him and humble ourselves.  The only true gift you have to give to Him, that he hasn’t already given you, is your will, your agency, and your heart.  He will never demand it, take it way, or control you in any way shape or form.  What’s incredible to me is the more I give in, give up, and let go, the more free, happy, and blessed I feel.  I know this is a true principle.  Let us all choose the path the brings happiness and lasting joy by be agents to act versus being acted upon!  Love ya!

President Hall

President's Pen 3-6-17 (Sabbath Day)

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

Dear Elders & Sisters,

I love ya!  Thanks for your goodness and faithful service.  Thanks for giving your all to the Lord and for your faith in the Savior and His Atonement.  His gospel is true and I know it is the plan and the only way we can return to live with the Father.  Continue to write the doctrine of Christ on your hearts as you serve with all your might and strength! 

In our district councils this past week we focused on the importance of helping our investigators join us at church and the doctrine of WHY it is so important.  As we teach repentance and baptize converts, the commitment to attend church is one that we hope will last a lifetime. 

As we teach simply, testify powerfully, invite boldly, promise blessings, and follow up, keep in mind that it is the doctrine we teach, as witnessed by the power of the Holy Ghost, that can move people towards action.  Where do we learn this… Alma 31:5 simply teaches that, “the preaching of the word had a great tendency to lead the people to do that which was just—yea, it had had more powerful effect upon the minds of the people than the sword, or anything else…”  We also know that, “True doctrine, understood, changes attitudes and behavior. “The study of the doctrines of the gospel will improve behavior quicker than a study of behavior will improve behavior. … That is why we stress so forcefully the study of the doctrines of the gospel.” (President Packer)  Of all the many things we can do, we want to make sure that the doctrine is taught simply enough so the Spirit can work within their hearts.

I attended several councils and loved the discussion on the doctrine of why we should make the Sabbath day a delight.  This is not a complete list, but here are some of the important principles that were discussed in the meetings I attended…  By attending church on Sunday I… demonstrate my faith in the Savior and His Atonement, renew my covenants by partaking of the sacrament, am moved to change and repent, am made clean and renewed, will have the Spirit to be with me, retain a remission of my sins, am sanctified and purified by the Holy Ghost, am obedient in keeping the Sabbath day holy, show a sign to God, demonstrate my love towards God, receive instruction and nurturing, give service, am fellowshipped, am connected to heaven.  A short list, but powerful!

As I thought about these key principles, I wrote down a brief lesson of what I might want to share with an investigator…  “The reasons why I attend church each week are many, and from my own experience, I want to share with you why it is so important to me.  I attend each week to show my faith in Jesus Christ and His loving Atonement.  My faith in the Savior is the foundation for the things I do and causes me to act and want to follow Him.  Attending His church, on His day, is an act of faith that He lives, knows me, and loves me.  Before the Savior’s suffering in Gethsemane, on the cross, and His resurrection, He prepared the last supper for His apostles.  We call this last supper the sacrament and it is the way we remember the Savior’s sacrifice as he paid for our sins and gave His life for us.  Of all things I do each week, attending church and partaking of the sacrament, is the most important thing I do.  By partaking of the sacrament, I am made clean and it allows me to renew my covenants and promises with God.  Those promises began as I was baptized and when I partake of the sacrament each week I am blessed to remember the Savior, to take upon His name, and keep His commandments.  When I do these things, He promises me that I will always have His Spirit to be with me.  This is the greatest gift I can receive and with the Holy Ghost in my life, I am guided, comforted, and given heavenly help and direction each day.  I know that as I repent and do my best to live the Savior’s teachings, the sacrament makes it possible for the Spirit to sanctify (makes us holy) and purify me (make us clean) so I can return to the presence of God.  I know no unclean thing can live with God and coming to church each week cleanses me so I can retain a remission of my sins.  For this reason alone, I never want to miss church, and especially a sacrament meeting.   I know that as you prepare for your baptism and that following your baptism you’ll come to know how important the sacrament is to you. 

I also attend church each week as it demonstrates my love for God as I keep His commandment to keep the Sabbath day holy.  Through my obedience and by keeping His sacred day holy, I show a sign of love and honor that I want to do His will.  I feel blessed to attend church as I know the Sabbath was given to us as a day of rest from the world and it allows me to show more gratitude for all that God has given me.  I also attend church each week as I know I need to continually learn and be invited to act and improve.  The talks and lessons given at church are reminders of how the Savior would have me live my life and what I can do to improve each day.  I am also needed at church as I am given an opportunity to serve and bless others.  Serving in the Church and on Sunday’s allows me to focus on the needs of others and by serving others I am blessed.  When I attend church I am strengthened by others who, like me, are doing the best they can to live the gospel.  This fellowship is something that gives me support and needed encouragement as I strive to remember the Savior and keep His commandments.  I want heavenly power and guidance in my life and my church attendance and all the things I’ve describe are a great blessing to me.  These are just a few of the important reasons why I choose to show my faith and attend church each Sunday.  Can you see why the Lord would have you come to Church each week?   What blessings would come to you as you attend?  Is there anything that would stop you from being with us this Sunday?  A scripture I would share that emphasizes what I have shared with you comes from the Savior Himself.  It is found in 3 Nephi 18:11 as he teaches the people about parktaking of the sacrament on His sacred day, “And this shall ye always do to those who repent and are baptized in my name; and ye shall do it in remembrance of my blood, which I have shed for you, that ye may witness unto the Father that ye do always remember me. And if ye do always remember me ye shall have my Spirit to be with you.”  I KNOW this is true and I KNOW as we attend church, partake of the sacrament, and keep his commandments I am blessed.  This is TRUE and I KNOW it will be true for you as well. 

I promise you that as you attend church each week you will have God’s Spirit with you.  You will be made clean as you repent and renew your promises to God.  You will show your obedience and a sign to God that you love Him and want to follow Him.  As you attend you will serve and bless others and receive the fellowship and support you need to make it through each week.  I know the Lord would have you attend church this week so He can bless and strengthen you.  Will you show your faith in Jesus Christ and attend church with us this Sunday?”

Think about the power that comes from the doctrine of attending church!  If we teach the need and reasons to attend church correctly and powerfully, and as the Spirit enters hearts and minds, investigators will be given a clear choice of whether or not to follow this important commandment.  We need to plan and help investigators come to church (rides, reminders, Church & Rescue etc.).  We need to involve members in the invitation and prepare the ward council to receive them as they join us.  All the preparations and plans are needed and important, but what you teach and how you teach the doctrine will have a more powerful effect upon their minds than anything else you can do!

Elders & Sisters, the invitation to attend church can’t be passive or a check list item on your teaching record.  It can’t be a passing thought as you walk out the door.  You need to lesson plan, treasure up, pray for the Spirit to be your senior companion, and then teach with power and authority.  Personalize this important principle, share scriptures that you can use as another witness, pray in faith that the Holy Ghost will move them to act as you invite them boldly and follow up.  The Sabbath day was truly given to us as a way to honor, love, and show a sign to God that we will serve and follow Him.  I invite you to teach this doctrine powerfully and simply as we invite and help others come unto Christ.  I invite you to write your own personal lesson of why weekly church attendance matters to you.  I also invite you to never miss a sacrament meeting the rest of your life! We need oil in our lamps when the bridegroom comes, your faithful church attendance and participation of the sacrament is precisely the oil you need.  In the Savior’s name these principles are true and I know they have blessed me personally.  Love ya!

President Hall

President's Pen 2-27-17 (Inspired Questions)

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

Elders & Sisters,

We love ya!  I pray each day that you are more focused and more urgent in your efforts to do the Lord’s work.  I have high expectations for each of you know you are striving to serve with all your hearts.  Keep up the great work!

A question… How effective are you at asking inspired questions?  Benjamin Franklin taught, “Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn.”  One of the best ways to involve those we teach is to get them talking… To involve them and get them talking is a skill and one that requires effort and practice. We all need to evaluate our ability to ask questions that inspire minds such as the following:  “Jesus saith to Simon Peter, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me more than these?”  Consider how this simple and inspired question changed Peter’s ministry.  How can your inspired questions do the same for those you teach? 

I love the prophet Alma and I’m amazed by how many inspired questions he asks the people of Zarahemla in Alma chapter five.  In total, there are 50 questions that get to the heart of the doctrine of Christ and our standing before God.  Of these 50, there are nine questions for me that cause me to search my soul, reflect on my faith, repentance, and spiritual well-being.   Do they do the same for you?  As you read each of these inspired questions, what thoughts come to your mind and what feelings come to your heart?

Faith in the Savior and His Atonement

1.       Do you exercise faith in the redemption of him who created you? (vs. 15)

2.       Do you look forward with an eye of faith? (vs. 15)

Repentance

1.       Have you experienced this mighty change in your heart? (vs. 14)

2.       Are you stripped of pride? (vs. 28)

3.       How will you feel if you shall stand before the bar of God, having your garments stained with blood and all manner of filthiness? (vs. 22)

4.       Have you walked, keeping yourself blameless before God? (vs. 27)

Spiritual Well-Being

1.       Have you spiritually been born of God? (vs. 14)

2.       Have you received his image in your countenance? (vs. 14)

3.       If you have experienced a change of heart, and if you have felt to sing the song of redeeming love, can you feel so now? (vs. 26)

Do the questions above cause you to think, reflect, and evaluate what you might want to do better or differently? Inspired aren’t they. ;)

The Savior was the master at teaching with inspired questions…  “What man of you, having an hundred sheep, if he lose one of them, doth not leave the ninety and nine in the wilderness, and go after that which is lost, until he find it?”  In the four gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, & John, the Savior asks 307 questions.  In “Teaching in the Savior’s Way” we learn, “The Savior asked questions that invited learners to think and feel deeply about the truths He taught.”  His questions assessed the understanding of basic knowledge and eternal truths, they touched the heart and mind, they invited to act, they invited to bear testimony, and they encouraged self-evaluation.  His example to us is one we need to follow…

Following the pattern the Savior used, Elder Bednar has taught that inspired questions can lead to inspired answers. A great example, “Whom do men say that I the Son of man am?  And they said, Some say that thou art John the Baptist: some, Elias; and others, Jeremias, or one of the prophets. He saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am?  And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God. And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-jona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven.”  Think about how the Savior’s question to Peter lead to a witness of something that wasn’t heard or seen, but felt by the Spirit. Your questions, just as the Savior’s, can lead to inspired answers that will touch hearts, invite action, prompt repentance, and kindle testimonies. 

In the pamphlets we find several inspired questions… How do the questions below follow the Savior’s pattern of asking questions?  What would you listen for as you ask these questions to those you teach?

·         What does it mean to you that the gospel of Jesus Christ has been restored through the Prophet Joseph Smith? (Restoration)

·         What is the purpose of your life here? How could this knowledge affect the decisions you make each day? (Plan of Salvation)

·         What does it mean to repent? Why does everyone need to be baptized? (Gospel of Jesus Christ)

·         How can you help the poor and needy? (Tithes & Offerings)

·         How can you gain the strength to keep the law of chastity? (Chastity)

·         How will the Lord strengthen you when you are tempted? (Word of Wisdom)

·         What does God expect of you when you are baptized? (Families & Temples)

·         What blessings will come to you by serving God and His children? (Learning & Serving in the Church)

It has been said that, “The answers you get depend on the question you ask.”  We know yes/no questions won’t get us far.  We know asking questions before we’ve taught principles should be avoided.  We know that we should keep our questions short and specific, but even a poorly stated question is better than no question at all.  When we fail to ask questions as we teach, we can deny the spirit of revelation to work within our hearts and minds.   If you never ask, you’ll never know, and what you don’t know may stop someone from truly progressing.  The Savior simply taught, ask and you shall receive, knock and it shall be opened, seek and you shall find!

Elders & Sisters, if we are to be effective at teaching repentance and baptizing converts, our questions should inspire investigators to ponder gospel principles and help them find ways to apply them in their lives. Our inspired questions are invitations for investigators to discover gospel truths on their own and to evaluate their understanding of and commitment to those truths.  Our Inspired questions will make the lesson we teach more engaging and personally meaningful.  Inspired questions are at the heart of the restored truths we love; all it took was one inspired question and the heavens were opened.  We want the same for those we teach. 

My invitation to you… Will you improve your use of inspired questions?  These questions can come in lessons, on the phone, in a text, or in a note left on their door.  Don’t over think what questions to ask, observe, listen, and discern and thoughts will come to your mind.  Some suggestions as you seek to improve… Use the pamphlets as a guide, study the “Ask Questions” principles taught on pages 183-184 of Preach My Gospel, review the questions of the soul found on page 107 of Preach My Gospel.  In your personal and companionship study write down questions that come to your mind that may be applicable as you teach.  Review the baptismal interview questions and use them as you teach.  Evaluate after each lesson your use of inspired questions (a good test is to ask if you talked more than you listened).  Great teachers follow the pattern used by the Savior; telling and teaching aren’t enough, we must involve and engage through questions that inspire the mind and cause men and women to act in faith. I know this principle is true! Love ya!

President Hall