President's Pen 2-1-16 (President Russell M. Nelson's Visit)

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!

Dear Elders & Sisters,

We love you!  Are you still basking in the glow of our visit with President Russell M. Nelson this past Saturday! I testify that he is indeed a living Prophet and Apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ.  This has been witnessed to me so strongly that it will be forever written on my heart.  It was not only what was said and heard, but more importantly what I observed and felt.  I have learned that a special witness of Jesus Christ not only testifies of the Savior and of His reality, but that they live in such a way that we can see the Savior in their countenance.  I saw and witnessed it for myself as I observed his kindness, humility, and love.  In his apostolic blessing he blessed you with the ability to feast upon the words of Christ and to apply them, to become true disciples, that your families will be blessed and healed for your service.  Believe in this blessing, it is real, and it is good.  He loves you and expresses his heartfelt gratitude to each one of you.

A personal story from his visit that I thought you might enjoy… During our lunch visit I shared with him that my Grandpa Nowak was one of his patients shortly before he became an apostle.   I shared with him that my non-member grandfather was not a great fan of the Church and on the day he needed a five-bypass heart surgery President Nelson gave him a new heart.  Not only was his physical heart repaired, but his heart towards the Church was being opened as well.  My grandfather had never attended a baptism, baby blessing, or any other activity at the church, but following his change of heart he became more open to being with us.  When President Nelson was called to be an apostle I'll never forget my grandfather saying to me, "Aaron, your Church just got a good man."  I shared this and one other story of how President Nelson had blessed my grandpa and then we enjoyed our lunch together.  A few minutes later he said, President Hall, take a look.  He handed me his phone and there on the screen was my grandpa's name and year of his surgery! (pic attached).  Prior to his call as an apostle he completed nearly 7,000 open heart surgeries.  Can you imagine my surprise as he showed me my grandpa's name on his phone!!!  A sweet and simple gesture that I will never forget.  

A few brief take-aways from President Nelson's instruction to you…

We must earn referrals, not ask for them! He reminded us all that the Prophet Joseph has restored and more truth than all the other prophets combined.  As we have also recently taught from 3 Nephi 11, President Nelson recounted the Savior's first instruction to the Prophet Nephi, giving him the power and authority to baptize, to teach the doctrine of Christ, and that there should be no disputations among them.  He taught us that there is only ONE doctrine and that it our blessing to teach it simply and powerfully so that the hearts of the people will be opened.  He taught us that we will be chastened and tried in our labors, but that the Lord does so to sanctify us. He reminded us that your families will be blessed thanks to your service.  He taught you that you were hid from the world, reserved until these last days, so all nations of the world would be blessed. He reminded us that when the Church was established, the score was 1 billion (and something) to 6, and that we're going to win!  He reemphasized our need to testify of the Book of Mormon and that it contains the fullness of the gospel and most importantly a full understanding of the Savior's Atonement.  We need to use the Book of Mormon to convince all people that Jesus is the Christ. He reminded you that the Quorum of the Twelve and the First Presidency gather in the temple every Thursday and that they pray for you! I was also grateful that he allowed Sister Hall and I to share one thing that was important to us in your service.  Sister Hall focused on love, I reminded you of your apostleship with a little "a" and that you connect people to Heaven.  There was much more shared, and much more felt.  What at blessing it was to have him with us!  Attached is a pic his security team took and gave to me (thought you might like it).

Following the missionary conference and our visit from President Nelson and Elder Corbridge I am more fired up than ever about our sacred call to serve the Lord Jesus Christ and to teach repentance and baptize converts.  My feelings have become like that of Alma, "O that I were an angel, and could have the wish of mine heart, that I might go forth and speak with the trump of God, with a voice to shake the earth, and cry repentance unto every people! Yea, I would declare unto every soul, as with the voice of thunder, repentance and the plan of redemption, that they should repent and come unto our God, that there might not be more sorrow upon all the face of the earth."

Following these great verses in Alma 29:1-2, he then goes on to say in verse 9, "I know that which the Lord hath commanded me, and I glory in it. I do not glory of myself, but I glory in that which the Lord hath commanded me; yea, and this is my glory, that perhaps I may be an instrument in the hands of God to bring some soul to repentance; and this is my joy."

Alma gets it! He has a vision to baptize and he knows why.  We baptize unto repentance so that men can come unto God.  He understands his purpose, that as an instrument in the hand of the Lord, he can take the Spirit unto the hearts of men, invite them to change, to repent, to be baptized, to receive the Spirit and power of God in their lives, so they can live with God again.  Can you blame him for wanting to have the voice of an angel?  His joy was in the fact that one of his brothers or sisters used their agency to walk the path of faith in the Savior, repentance, baptism, receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost and enduring to the end.  

To emphasize the point of your purpose, and with permission, I thought I'd share with you a final letter from one of our missionaries that went home last year…  "Vision to Baptize – I realized at the beginning of my mission I had a vision to baptize, but it wasn’t for the right reasons… It was more of, "I want a baptism to impress my family, friends, mission president etc. "  I was more concerned with how people would judge me as a missionary/rate my success, than bring souls to salvation.  Why was that my motivation? I did not understand the Savior's Atonement.  I did not understand the responsibility of my calling.  I did not understand my purpose!  I remember feeling frustrated that after several baptisms in the first couple of months, when I hit a "dry spell".  I remember thinking, "I'm still being obedient, I'm still inviting, I still WANT to baptize, so why isn't it happening?!" When I took those questions to the Lord in humble prayer, he lovingly smacked me upside the head and said to me, "well yes, but what is your motivation? The opinion of man or the souls of your brothers and sisters?"  I am so thankful prayer is a two way thing!  I needed that "call to repentance" from my loving Father.  From that point on I studied topics like my purpose, beware of pride, Christ's Atonement, repentance and baptism, charity, humility… and I finally got it!  My vision didn’t change, I still wanted to baptize, but after understanding and gaining a testimony of the Atonement, the sacred responsibility of my calling, and my purpose, the reason behind my vision COMPLETELY changed.  I invite EVERYONE to come unto Christ, I do my very best to do so by teaching them simply the restored Gospel of Jesus Christ.   I invite them to have faith in Jesus Christ and His Atonement.  I invite them to exercise that faith by repenting and following the example of the Jesus Christ by being baptized by someone who holds the proper authority of God.  I invite them to receive the blessings God has waiting for them by receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost and enduring to the end.  I do so because it's the only intelligent thing to do… and I love doing it!!"   

I loved this letter as it shows a personal transformation that we might all go through.  We each have to come to know for ourselves the reason why we serve and why it is so important.  I would ask each of you to come to know for yourself the "why" behind the reason you should be worthy, obedient, diligent, nightly planners, companionship studiers, lesson planners, finders, teachers, PMGers, game filmers, member "friend" lessoners, OYMers, White Handbook followers, ward council participators, activators, retainers, and on and on.  If you've already come to know that the only reason you're here is to invite and help people come unto Christ so they can return to the Father, then you understand your call.  All the other reasons, your spiritual growth, your family, and the wonderful experiences you have, are truly great blessings and the outcomes of your faithful service.  I am happy to know that as a mission many of you understand and are doing your absolute best to write this purpose on the fleshy tables of your heart.  

We love you and are so grateful for your desires to be the best disciples you can be.  Let's follow Elder Bednar's instruction and get out of the way where needed.  Focus on what you're doing well, have a sincere desire to improve where needed, and do the best you can so the Savior's grace can be sufficient for you!

Mission Update

I am so happy to share that we had 40 souls come unto Christ in the month of January!  Can you imagine all of these new converts at the temple with us?  I am happy to announce that I am working with President Hayes at the temple to hold our mission "New Convert Night" where each of you can bring your newest converts to do their own family baptisms for the dead on a single night.  I hope to have all of you at the temple each month to celebrate new members working on behalf of their kindred dead.  More info to follow, but we will begin with the end in mind.  It is not enough to baptize, we must keep them with us and help them endure to the end.  THSM has a Vision to Baptize and this is just the start of great things to come.  We love you!!!

Abrazos y saludos, have a great week!

President Hall