President's Pen 11-30-15 (What is Success?)

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 and the best missionaries in the world!

Elders & Sisters,

I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving.   We can't begin to express how much gratitude we have for you and for the many blessings we receive each day.   Our gratitude now continues as we rejoice in the Christmas season and for the opportunity we have to share why "A Savior Is Born".  You can make this Christmas one of the most memorable of your life as you give your heart, might, mind, and strength; declaring the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ to the people of Houston.  Lose yourself in the work and rejoice that the Savior has saved you, redeemed you, enabled you with His grace, and stands ready to heal you.  We all love this message and so many in the world need it.  You are His Disciple, proclaim His love, and declare His word, so that all might have everlasting life.

Earlier this week I decided to go back to Chapter 1 of Preach My Gospel and study our purpose.  I love this chapter as it defines our why and what, our reason for being here, our message, and therefore what my day should be full of; inviting others to come unto Christ and helping them along this wonderful path.  By studying this important chapter my soul was renewed, my energy increased, and my desire to serve God with all my heart, might, mind, and strength improved.  

As I studied I was reminded of one of the many questions I am asked as a mission president, "How do I know if I am being successful or doing a good job?"  It is a wonderful question and one that I hope you all ask yourself regularly.  In my final interviews with missionaries I have some question whether or not they have given all that they could to serve the Lord in a way that he accepts of their offering.  As you study Chapter 1 this important question is answered for you...  

"Your success as a missionary is measured primarily by your commitment to find, teach, baptize, and confirm people and to help them become faithful members of the Church who enjoy the presence of the Holy Ghost.

Avoid comparing yourself to other missionaries and measuring the outward results of your efforts against theirs. Remember that people have agency to choose whether to accept your message.  Your responsibility is to teach clearly and powerfully so they can make a correct choice.  Some may not accept your message even when they have received a spiritual witness that it is true.  You will be saddened because you love them and desire their salvation.  You should not, however, become discouraged; discouragement will weaken your faith.  If you lower your expectations, your effectiveness will decrease, your desire will weaken, and you will have greater difficulty following the Spirit.

You can know you have been a successful missionary when you:

    Feel the Spirit testify to people through you.
    Love people and desire their salvation.
    Obey with exactness.
    Live so that you can receive and know how to follow the Spirit, who will show you where to   go, what to do, and what to say.
    Develop Christlike attributes.
    Work effectively every day, do your very best to bring souls to Christ, and seek earnestly to learn and improve.
    Help build up the Church (the ward/branch) wherever you are assigned to work.
    Warn people of the consequences of sin. Invite them to make and keep commitments.
    Teach and serve other missionaries.
    Go about doing good and serving people at every opportunity, whether or not they accept your message.

When you have done your very best, you may still experience disappointments, but you will not be disappointed in yourself. You can feel certain that the Lord is pleased when you feel the Spirit working through you."

How do you feel you are doing on the points listed above?   All of what is described as a successful missionary is available to you, nothing is beyond your reach.  As you faithfully serve, you will come to know that the Lord is pleased with you and you will feel the Spirit working through you.

As I review the characteristics of a successful missionary, I wanted to highlight a few things that I feel should be important to you…  The first is that your success is measured by your commitment.  Another way of stating this is your desire and willingness to do the Lord's work in His way.  It is important to note that commitment is not a number, but your dedication to His cause.  Your commitment shows not only in how you find, teach, baptize, confirm, and help them stay faithful members of the Church, but how you study, love your companion, love your area, and seek to be anxiously engaged.  When you are fully committed the missionary rules are no longer a burden, your desire to set goals and make plans are a natural extension of your efforts, your willingness to work with the ward and local leadership is not only the right thing, but the only intelligent thing to do.  Your full commitment will make all the difference in your missionary experience and outcomes.  

In addition to your commitment, I would call out the responsibility you have to teach clearly and powerfully so that those you teach can make a correct choice.  This emphasizes the need to teach people and not lessons and to ensure those we teach understand the most important thing; faith in the Savior's Atonement, repentance, baptism, the Gift of the Holy Ghost, and enduring to the end.  You should desire to become a masterful teacher where you use the talents, skills, and abilities God has blessed you with.  This means study, role-play, and continuously seeking to improve the teaching skills you have been blessed with.  If you love the people, you will desire to help them understand and seek earnestly to learn and improve and the abilities you already have.

The Spirit is the ultimate teacher and that requires your worthiness, obedience, preparation, and desire to have the constant companionship of the Holy Ghost.  You should regularly study Chapter 4 of Preach My Gospel so you have the ability to feel and recognize the Spirit and help others do the same.  President Wilford W. Woodruff received the following revelation,  “Let my servants obtain the Holy Ghost and keep my Spirit with them, and that will instruct them what to teach the people continually; and instruct the people to keep my Spirit with them, and they will be enabled to understand the word of the Lord when it is taught them.”  Seek the Spirit, pray for it, stay close to it, deny yourself of all ungodliness, and you will teach with power and authority.  

My counsel to you is that you take the opportunity to review the outline of what successful missionaries do so that you have a benchmark to work from.  I have observed that for many returned missionaries, a good indication of how they succeed at home is indicative of what they did while they served their missions.  We are taught in the scriptures that the same spirit we possess in this life goes with us into the next (Alma 34:34).  Would you believe that if you aren't diligent during your mission that somehow you will be more diligent at home? I would suggest that the same spirit that possesses you as you leave your mission will go home with you as well.  If you gave your best effort to become a successful missionary, those same efforts will carry into your efforts at home.  If you choose to study well now, those same habits will follow you home.  If you choose obedience, covenant keeping will always be a priority.  If you choose to love people now, you'll love people wherever you go.  As it says in Alma 34:32, this life (mission life) is the time for men and women to prepare for the life ahead (likening the scriptures to ourselves :).  The best news, “God will take you as you are at this very moment and begin to work with you. All you need is a willing heart, a desire to believe, and trust in the Lord.” President Dieter F. Uchtdorf

In this Christmas season will you please take a moment to evaluate your journey of discipleship.  You will not be perfect in this journey and this is why we love the gift of repentance.  Keep up the great things you are doing, rededicate your efforts to those areas where you can do better, serve God with all your heart, might, mind, and strength, and feel the blessings of His love as His Spirit works through you.  We love you, we are grateful to serve with you, and want you to feel the joys of being successful. We know that you will be and it is a blessing for us to watch your strive towards that end.

Mission Update

We had 27 souls enter the waters of baptism to receive a remission of their sins this month.  Do all that you can to help them receive additional ordinances in the temple; your work with them now is equally important.  A new month is upon us and you should have set a goal, made a plan, and discussed how you will invite more to come unto Christ.  Use "A Savior Is Born" in all your efforts and ask for referrals from everyone.  Remember the importance of working with members is more than teaching, you should use them to help you find as you visit their homes.  Be wise with your time, be faithful, and strive to all you can to invite others to come unto Christ.  We love you!  

President Hall