President's Pen 12-26-16 (Best Prepared Missionaries)

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,

We love ya!  What a blessing it has been the past 25 days to #LIGHTtheWORLD.  We are blessed to bring light everyday into the hearts and minds of those we teach.  Set a goal and make a plan to serve someone each day as the Savior did.  

Just a few days before Christmas, my younger brother Adam, who is currently serving as a bishop, sent me an email and asked the following…   “Based upon your experience, what is the greatest attribute of the greatest missionaries?  Realizing all of us have different personalities (extroverts/introverts), brain power (smart/not so smart), language skills, life experiences, etc., what is/are the attribute(s) that set missionaries apart?  Faith, personal worthiness, humility?  Have you noticed a re-occurring attribute that sticks out? Just curious and trying to help develop future missionaries….”

I thought about his question and over the last many months I have seen what I believe makes the greatest difference, I thought I’d share it with you…  How would you respond to his question?

“Adam, I’m asked this question a lot and my most common answer is this…  Until a missionary, regardless of life experience, introvert/extrovert, and or skills comes to truly understand their purpose, and then uses those talents or attributes they have been given with the intent to bless others, they will never reach their full potential as missionaries.  They of course need to be worthy, have a desire to serve, and want to bless others, but it’s in the understanding of their missionary purpose that for me makes all the difference. 

Here’s what I have seen… They must truly come to feel and know that the doctrine of Christ is the only way we and everyone else can return to live with God.   Before they serve, the more they can come to have faith in the Savior and His Atonement, the more likely they will be to use it in their lives and then recognize the saving, redeeming, enabling, and healing power it provides to all of us.  No missionary can truly become the type of servant the Lord needs them to be until the Savior’s Atonement becomes personally real and meaningful to them.  They need to come to feel how it works for them versus knowing about it.   There are a lot of scriptures to study that give evidence to this point, but you only need to look at missionary examples of Lehi, Nephi, Jacob, Enos, Alma Jr. and the Sons of Mosiah to see how their understanding of the Savior’s Atonement became their cause to serve.  The more we come to know the Savior and His Atonement, the better missionaries we become.

As a missionary increases their faith in the Savior and His Atonement, the more they will come to love and look forward to repentance. The scriptures teach that there must be faith unto repentance (Alma 34) and all need sufficient faith in the Savior to repent.  When real faith in the Savior is demonstrated, the natural outcome is that people want to change.  Missionaries preparing to serve won’t worry about what consequences they might need to face or who they need to talk to if they have issues that need to be resolved.  They will see repentance as a gift and not something to fear.  When the principle of repentance is truly understood, they won’t think of it as steps, but as a change of heart, desires, mind, and behaviors.  Many preparing believe repentance is about ending bad behavior or habits, and while this is good, it’s not true repentance until they change their desires and no longer want to willfully disobey the commandments.  True repentance is ongoing, valued, and something great missionaries rejoice in.

Repentance then leads them to want to be clean and this comes in the form of the ordinances.  Effective missionaries understand that in order to fully access the Savior’s Atonement and to have the power of godliness manifested in their lives, they must invite all to be baptized.  Baptism is for a remission of sins and is the first fruits of repentance.  A missionary that understands this principle will talk, dream, teach, and focus on baptism all the time as it is the only way back to God.  Most missionaries preparing know they want to baptize, but most don’t truly understand why it is so important and why it is the primary reason they have come to serve.  Without baptism, we are damned and ultimately cut off from God’s presence.  A missionary that understands this recognizes how their own baptism has blessed them, and as a result, wants the same blessing for others.  We want missionaries who understand why they’re here and that let this purpose and cause be their true motivator.

Great missionaries also recognize baptism is the beginning and know and feel blessed to renew their baptismal covenants each week.  A missionary that understands this doctrine can’t wait to partake of the sacrament each week to retain a remission of their sins.  They prepare for the sacrament by repenting in advance and strive to become better each week.  When they understand this they do everything in their power to help those they teach come to church.  Anyone preparing for a mission needs to understand why ordinances matter and how baptism and the sacrament allow us to become clean.  

A missionary that is preparing needs to understand that every activity they do on their mission, whether it be personal and companionship study, finding, working with members, teaching lessons, planning, or any other activity is a means to an end and that end is to help people be baptized for a remission of sins.   If you want to show your youth something that will emphasize this point, take them to 3 Nephi 11 and have them count the number of times the Savior teaches baptism from verse 20 onward.  Of all things the Savior could have taught, He teaches repentance, baptism, receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost, and enduring to the end.  The Savior’s Atonement cannot have the full and desired effect in the lives of men and women who aren’t baptized by water and fire.  Missionaries preparing to serve need to know we are here to teach repentance and baptize converts. 

Missionaries that are preparing to serve and those in the field need to come to understand how the Holy Ghost works, how to recognize it, and how to help others do the same.  They need to come to know that the Holy Ghost sanctifies and purifies us each week as we repent and partake of the sacrament.  They need to come to know that the spirit of revelation, manifested through the Holy Ghost, is thoughts to the mind and feelings to the heart.  Missionaries need to come to know how the Spirit works in their own lives so they can help those they teach learn to recognize them as well.  They need to know the Spirit is generally very subtle, not overwhelming like most would hope for.  They need to know that the sacrament provides a covenant promise that the Holy Ghost will be their constant companion as they remember the Savior, do His work, and keep His commandments.   Missionaries need to come to know that it is the most important gift we receive in all of mortality and that they should do all in their power to have it with them.   Without the Holy Ghost they can’t teach nor can they truly have the power and authority needed to do the Lord’s work. 

Missionaries need to know that enduring to the end means they do the best they can, even when life isn’t easy, and that their mission and life in general won’t be.  The way we get through a mission, and life, is by having faith, repenting, making and keeping covenants, and keeping the companionship of the Spirit to guide us as we do the best we can.  Enduring means they will learn line by line and precept upon precept.  It also means that they will be tested and tried to see if they will be faithful and true.  They need to know they won’t be perfect, nor are they expected to be, but what we do expect is their best effort. Missionaries preparing to serve need to know they can endure, they just need to know it requires a lot of work, sweat, energy, and some difficult days.  Before serving they will receive their endowment at the temple, which will bless them with power, the Savior’s name upon them, and angels who will have charge over them.  These blessings with help them serve and endure their missions well.   

When missionaries come to understand these principles and ordinances they arrive to the mission with real power.  They arrive clean and with the determination to be obedient, because they know it’s the only way to have the Spirit with them and only way to serve.  They look forward to inviting and helping others come unto Christ by teaching His doctrine.  They arrive wanting to study, work with their companion, set goals and make daily and weekly plans to help people progress, work with members, help bishops, ward councils, and do everything in their power to help people come unto Christ.  You can see a fire in their eyes, even though they don’t have the experience of doing it yet, and they have no fear to just jump in, make mistakes, and do the best they can each day.  

We have missionaries like this and it is awe inspiring to watch them work.  We also have a few that go through the motions, count their time, and do the bare minimum to get by.  They might be the brightest, most articulate, most outgoing, and have all the worldly qualities to do the work, but what they lack is a true understanding of their purpose and the “WHY” they’ve come.  We love them all, but it’s a long two years or eighteen months for those that don’t catch this vision.  Many do catch the vision and after a short period of time you can see them awaken to the true nature of who they are and the importance of their sacred call.  

If we had more missionaries arriving that truly understood their purpose, and or at least strive to get there during the time of their service, it makes up for any weakness they have.  Most of the missionary skills they truly need will be developed as they serve, but what I most hope for when they arrive (in addition to understanding their purpose) is a positive attitude, work ethic, consistent effort, passion (we call it tenacity), humility, a desire to learn and get better each day, and a love for the gospel message and their purpose.  Along the way they will develop Christlike attributes that will serve them and others long after they’ve gone home.   I believe in this work the truly great missionaries are those that know their purpose, work to have the Spirit with them, and then go to work each and every day with a desire to help others come unto Christ by finding, teaching, inviting, and doing the best they can.  They are no longer the weak and simple, but the bold disciples of Christ that serve with all their heart, might, mind, and strength. 

When our best get it, they have no fear, talk to everyone, work in the hot and rainy days, and they are our happiest and most successful, whether they baptize or not.  In the end, they have come to personally know the Savior and His Atonement, want nothing more than to share this news each day, and that is what I find distinguishes a good missionary from a great one.  Hope this helps…”

Elders & Sisters, what do you think?  Has this proven to be true for your mission so far?  If you have a friend or family member at home preparing to serve, how would you help them get ready?  The good news is all can become great; all can come to know and experience the Savior’s Atonement and increase their desires to share the one thing of most importance.  My invitation to you is to ponder in your own heart where you stand.  There is no greater motivation than what will come from within.  Have the doctrine of Christ written on your heart to the extent that it becomes the only motivation you need to do the Lord’s work.  Keep up the great work and please know how much we love you all.

President Hall