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

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

Dear Elders & Sisters,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

President Hall

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

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

Dear Elders & Sisters,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

President Hall

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

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

Dear Elders & Sisters,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

President Hall

 

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

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

Dear Elders & Sisters,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

President Hall

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

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

Dear Elders & Sisters,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

President Hall

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

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

Dear Elders & Sisters,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

President Hall 

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

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

Dear Elders & Sisters,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

President Hall

 

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

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

Dear Elders & Sisters,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

President Hall

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

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

Dear Elders & Sisters,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

President Hall

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

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

Elders & Sisters,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

President Hall

  

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

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

Dear Elders & Sisters,

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

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

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

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

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

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

President Hall

 

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

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

Dear Elders & Sisters,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Marginal Gains.jpg

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

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

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

President Hall

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

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

Dear Elders & Sisters,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

President Hall

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

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

 Dear Elders & Sisters,

I love ya!  I am grateful for your fearless desires to open your mouth and share the gospel with all you meet.  I also love the scriptures that tie so well into our effort to teach repentance and baptize converts… “Remember the worth of souls is great in the sight of God; For, behold, the Lord your Redeemer suffered death in the flesh; wherefore he suffered the pain of all men, that all men might repent and come unto him.  And he hath risen again from the dead, that he might bring all men unto him, on conditions of repentance. And how great is his joy in the soul that repenteth!  Wherefore, you are called to cry repentance unto this people. And if it so be that you should labor all your days in crying repentance unto this people, and bring, save it be one soul unto me, how great shall be your joy with him in the kingdom of my Father! And now, if your joy will be great with one soul that you have brought unto me into the kingdom of my Father, how great will be your joy if you should bring many souls unto me!”  Let’s keep the joy coming!!!

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

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

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

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

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

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

5. Endure to the end by keeping sacred covenants.

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

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

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

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

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

President Hall

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

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

 Dear Elders & Sisters,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

President Hall  

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

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

Dear Elders & Sisters,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

President Hall

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

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

Dear Elders & Sisters,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

President Hall

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

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

Dear Elders & Sisters,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

President Hall

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

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

Elders & Sisters,

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

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

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

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

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

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

Second – Understand the doctrine behind the commitment invitation.

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

Third – Understand the promised blessings behind the commitment invitation.

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

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

President Hall 

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

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

 Dear Elders & Sisters,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

President Hall