President's Pen 6-13-16 (Improving by 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 and the best missionaries in the world!

Elders & Sisters,

We love you!  I hope you enjoyed our mission conferences this past week and that you were lifted, edified, and strengthened.  Elder Foster was very impressed with all the good things you're doing and we couldn't be more grateful for your hard work.  As a brief recap of things we discussed…  Remember that 1% improvement across the many good things you do can pay significant dividends in the long term (marginal gains).  Faith is power, and exceedingly great faith allows you to move mountains, change your life, and the lives of those you serve.  There are three levels of missions: Level 1 (all work done by the missionaries), Level 2 (work done by the members), Level 3 (work done by the members, enabled by the missionaries).  We must do our part to move up to the next level, both in spirituality and missionary skills.  Level 3 missions can expect great outcomes as all become equally yoked in the work, we can do our part in this effort.  You are known by God and he hears, records, and responds to your prayers in His time and in His way!  I love the closing hymnwe sang, "A Child's Prayer",  he indeed is there, listening, and we are His children.

Elder Foster asked each of you to respond to two simple questions at the conference… "What troubles you most personally?" and "What are your biggest concerns with missionary work?".  He and I reviewed each of your responses and I thought I'd share with you the most common responses and try to assure you that you are on the right path.  

For the first question, "What troubles you most personally?" -- The most common responses given were feelings inadequacy or questioning if you're doing all you can.  Many of you feel like you don't measure up, lack the skills required, don't have the right level of spiritual strength, feel unworthy or unsure if you've been forgiven of the past.  These feelings are natural and can either motivate and cause you to push forward or in some cases cause you to shrink.  If there is one thing I have come to learn about the Savior and his love, patience, and goodness towards us, it is that His Atonement covers all.  When you measure yourself against God's standards you will feel inadequate, fallen, and helpless.  The truth is that He knows this is and it is why he sent His Son and our Redeemer.  There is not a single feeling the Savior hasn't felt on your behalf.  I testify to you that because He has felt the pains, afflictions, insecurities, and suffering of His people, He can perfectly HEAL and succor you!  So, you trust in Him, you do your best, you pray for His grace, you seek His help, you press forward with steadfastness in Christ and have a perfect brightness of hope and love of God.  Your trials will help refine you, stretch you, and allow for your personal growth.  You don't have to do this alone, He is always with you!

The second question, "What are your biggest concerns with missionary work?" - The majority of you responded with three things and not necessarily in this order…  finding, working with members, and missionary skills.  For the first two challenges, there is no silver bullet!  It will take all your faith and effort to find, this will never change in missionary work and it has always been this way.  Finding requires you to always open your mouth, knowing you'll be rejected, scorned, and ignored more than you'll be accepted.  The Savior of the world felt nothing less and missionary work will always require diligence, faith, and effort to find.  Embrace this challenge, there is no single answer that will make all the difference, you just have to go out and do the best you can every day.  If you know this, you brush off the bad days and look forward to the new one's.  Winston Churchill stated, "Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm."  This has to be your motto on those rough days.  Remember the Lord is in the vineyard and that your future is as bright as your faith.  I love the challenge to find those the Lord has prepared.  The worst anyone can say is no, move on, and move forward.

Working with members…  I know this is not easy, this takes consistent planning, diligent work and effort on your part.  I know you can become frustrated when it doesn't go to plan and that it tries your patience.  The great news, you can make difference in the way you choose to work with them.  Be patient, teach doctrine, model success, role play, help them know how they can do the work, help them see the blessings of serving with you.  We do this so that our converts can have a friend and stay active.  We do this so members can fulfill their role as fellowshippers.  We do this because our living prophet has said that now is the time for members and missionaries to work together.  We do this as 65-70% of our mission baptisms come from working with members.  Keep doing your part, you are making a difference and I am proud of you for doing all you can to have the right member with you.  We also do this so you'll become the kind of member that will help the missionaries when you go home!

Missionary skills…  Line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little, there a little…   If you really want to improve and you have a quest to teach more simply, improve your language skills, follow up, invite more boldly, plan more effectively, and testify more powerfully, they are all within your reach.   No one becomes great at these skills until you put in an honest effort to improve.  The great blessing of missionary work is you have the time to do it.  Every morning is sacred and precious time to treasure up and practice.  You are also blessed with a companion to help you improve.  You can control this outcome with diligence, focus, and a genuine desire to get better.  You can more than measure up here if you do your part.  This is where self-mastery is required most and you will reap what you sow.  There is no easier way and you can't cheat the system.  Don’t become discouraged when you don't see immediate improvement, it will come, do your best, be patient…

The adversary is a master at taking your insecurities and compounding them.  Consider the following feelings that will only come from the father of lies…  Despair, discouragement, disappointment, distress, deceit, disillusioned, desolate, doubt, damned, and even death.  D words have a way of making it into our lives when we forget who we are and who we will become.  When you have these thoughts, throw them out, they don't come from a loving Father in Heaven.

What I sensed from your notes to Elder Foster is that many of you are struggling with the insecurities of fallen natural men and women.  It's ok to feel inadequate or overwhelmed, it's ok to be weak.  The Lord gives you weakness so you will humble yourself, receive His grace, and become strong.  What a perfect plan!  Rejoice in your trials, rejoice in your effort to overcome weakness, it only shows how much your Heavenly Father knows and loves you.  You will succeed, the battle has been won, you are on his errand, you cannot fail.   Develop enough spiritual self reliance in the Savior that when the whirlwinds blow, you know that the rock you have built your faith on will prevail.  Your Heavenly Father is there to bless, comfort, and help you overcome.  Have faith in Him, His Son, and His plan.  

We will continue to teach the ideal, the standard, and encourage you on your personal journey towards becoming finished, complete, whole, or as the Savior said, perfect.  Don't allow yourself to fall victim to anti-responsibility when you fall short.  Nephi fell short, Alma fell short, Alma Jr. fell short, Paul fell short, Peter fell short, but, because of the Savior they all overcame.  Don't dwell on what you're not today, focus on what you'll become tomorrow as you keep doing the best you can!  We will keep our standards of excellence high because it gives us something to shoot for.  The Lord will keep His standards high; they ultimately will allow us to become like Him.  If you fall short, recommit, do your best, and remember why you're doing it in the first place.

We love you and I am so grateful to each of you for who you are and who you're becoming.  We will continue to stretch you, we will continue to ask you to improve, we will continue to teach you principles that will help you become the men and women that will lead out in your homes, in the Church, and in the community.  Missionary work has enrolled you in life 505, an accelerated course, and masters degree program. Remember that as you focus on your purpose of inviting and helping others come unto Christ you are succeeding.  It's a blessing to serve with you and I'm always here to help you in this journey.  There is no greater joy than watching you work through mission life and do it with a smile on your face, because you know who you serve and you know why you're here.  Keep up the great work, love ya!

Mission Update

The temple trip with our new converts is this Friday! Please make sure they have names ready and prepared.  I will need to have a final count from you on who will be attending no later than end of day Tuesday.  We are excited to be with them and celebrate their efforts to bless those on the other side of the veil.  We can begin at the baptistry at 6pm and can plan for 2-3 converts every 15 minutes or so.  Please see if you can have their member friend join you and participate with us as well.  This is just the beginning so let's keep our focus on helping all new converts receive the blessings of the temple.  Love ya!

President Hall