President's Pen 8-15-16 (Embracing Change)

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!  Thanks for all you do each day to invite and help others come unto Christ.  Your efforts are never wasted!  Have faith in the Savior, have the faith to find, teach, invite, follow up and then go to work and let the Lord do the rest. 

With a transfer week upon us I have been impressed to write you today on a topic many of us struggle with - CHANGE!  As is often said, the only thing that is constant in life is change!  Before departing from our home to the mission field I was blessed to be set apart as a full-time missionary and mission president by Elder David A. Bednar.  Prior to the blessing he took a moment to speak with our family and asked how we were feeling about the life changing events that were to come.  Generally speaking, our family was excited, a bit anxious, but looking forward to the adventure ahead.  There was one exception within our little family though, our then seven-year-old daughter, Jessica Kate Hall, was not in love with the new plan. 

Jessie was not excited nor did she embrace the idea of the changes that lie ahead.  When we told the kids that we had been called to serve a mission we expected tears and sadness from our teenagers, but Jessie was the only one that got upset and broke down and cried.  Her reason, she didn’t want to leave her friends, she didn’t want to give up her Chinese immersion school, she didn’t want to leave family; in short, she didn’t want anything to change.  As Elder Marvin J. Ashton once said, “Oh change is hard! Change can be rough.”

As Elder Bednar went around the room and finally arrived at Jessie, we wondered what in the world she would say.  When he asked what she thought of the changes she told him straight up that she was sad and didn’t want to leave!  After that firm pronouncement I was anxious to hear how Elder Bednar would respond… He very lovingly told her that he was going to speak to her as if she were an adult.  He then shared with her that life will bring countless changes and that the sooner she could learn to embrace change, the better off she would be.  Wise counsel for a seven-year-old and for all of us.  Since that day our family has been through more changes than I can count.  New home, new neighborhood, new schools, new ward, new you name it.  It has all been new and the changes keep coming.

You are all involved in this great change process with us and perhaps you have experienced more change than you ever anticipated or desired.  Change in lifestyle, change in focus, change in areas, change in companions, change in wards, change in languages, change in heart, change in mind, and change in spirit.  Some of you embrace change and soak it in, some of you are perhaps a little more like Jessie and dig in your heels. The reality of life, however, is change will just keep coming.  For this reason you should live be the beatitude, "Blessed are the flexible, for they shall never be bent out of shape."

What principles can you learn recognizing that change is the nature of our mortal existence?  With the fall of Adam and Eve we became natural enemies to God and changed creatures.  Knowing this would take place, a plan to rescue us from our changed state was provided.  With our faith in the Savior and His Atonement, our repentance, our covenant making and keeping, and the companionship of the Holy Ghost, we are blessed make the changes required and become worthy of returning to God’s presence.   Without the Savior, no change is possible, but with Him, everything is possible.  You can rest assured that change (conversion) is part of the plan and how you learn to rely on the Savior will either help you through it or leave you feeling frustrated by it.  This is also your invitation to everyone you teach; change your life and be blessed by following the Savior, it’s the only way to find true happiness. 

When change comes you really only have one of two options… You can resist, fight, kick, scream, and throw a fit, or you can embrace and embark on the potential of what lies ahead.  What seems to drive how we feel about change can be determined by one simple fact – our ATTITUDE.  If you look for the good that will come from change, you’ll find it, and if you look for the bad that can come from change, you’ll find it.  Like all things in life you are an agent to act vs. being acted upon.  You decide how you will react when change comes. 

Change brings all of us some stress, this is inevitable, but how we manage that stress can make all the difference.  It can either be healthy and motivating or paralyzing and unfruitful. The change train will keep rolling on whether we like it or not.  As change will keep coming, this is where tools like Adjusting to Missionary Life, our attitude, counseling with others, and relying upon the Lord can be great strengths to us, even when we might feel overwhelmed by the uncertainty of the future.    

A favorite author, C. S. Lewis, indicated there is often pain in change when he wrote of God’s expectations for His children: “Imagine yourself as a living house. God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, perhaps, you can understand what He is doing. He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on: you knew those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised. But presently he starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably and does not seem to make sense. What on earth is He up to? The explanation is that He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of—throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards. You thought you were going to be made into a decent little cottage: but He is building a palace.

Will you let God build you a palace or will you settle for the cottage?  The Lord is trying to transform you into something far better than you can ever imagine.  As a missionary we ask you to change into true disciples of the Savior by submitting your will, letting go of pride, and becoming like a child.  This is hard change and yet so many of you are willing to let the Lord knock down a few walls and work through his construction plan.  His eternal purpose is to have you become like He and the Father and this is going to create discomfort.   Getting rid of the natural man and woman is not easy, but it is entirely possible because you have God as the builder.  The Lord is knocking down walls right now for all of us, he’s changing the roof, and at times using a different blueprint than what we expected, will you let him

For this transfer and for all of life’s transfers (change in all its variety) ahead, I want you to think differently about how you manage change.  Ask yourself, “How is the Lord going to develop me?”, “What can I learn from this new companion/area/ward/assignment?”, “How can I continue to learn and grow from this experience?”.  If you take the counsel Elder Bednar gave to Jessie, develop the right attitude, and let God mold you, the sky is the limit.

When I’m about to face change that I don’t love, or even desire, I sing in my head the great words from, “How Firm a Foundation”.  “Fear not, I am with thee; oh, be not dismayed, For I am thy God and will still give thee aid. I'll strengthen thee, help thee, and cause thee to stand, Upheld by my righteous, upheld by my righteous, Upheld by my righteous, omnipotent hand.”  Embrace the changes life will bring, they are for your good and for your experience.  Pray for strength, God will always cause you to stand!  We love you!

Mission Update

We have had 11 souls enter the waters of baptism to receive of remission of their sins this month!  This coming Friday night is our new convert temple trip between 6-8pm.  Our experiences at the temple with these new saints has been awesome and we want all of our new converts to experience the great blessing of helping their ancestors receive saving ordinances.  

President Hall