President's Pen 8-22-16 (Faith over Fear)

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 your consecrated efforts and for all you do each day to invite others to come unto Christ.    

We have focused each week on a talk related to the topic of faith in our district councils this month.   I wanted to add a talk to your studies given by President Dieter F. Uchtdorf at the 2014 Mission President Seminar titled, “Fear Not, I am with Thee”.   As you read his talk, consider how your faith can remove fear from your life…

“When you think about it, as members of the Church we actually celebrate Easter week every Sunday by partaking of the sacrament. It was on the Thursday before Easter Sunday when the sacrament was established. As we partake of the sacrament we recommit ourselves to remember the Savior’s sacrifice and to keep His commandments. At the same time, we are promised to have His Spirit to be with us at all times and at all places.

Think about what happened during the week following Palm Sunday and culminating in Easter Sunday, when Jesus Christ rose triumphant from the tomb. He broke the bonds of death and made it possible for all mankind to be resurrected.

For us as missionaries, as servants of the Lord, this is the core message we take to the world—“I know that my Redeemer lives.” Make sure that your missionaries never forget this. Keep this in mind when you and your missionaries partake of the sacrament on Sundays and when you invite people to attend sacrament services with you. Partaking of the sacrament is a very sacred act. If you explain to those who seek truth what the gospel and the sacrament can be to them, you will touch their hearts.

Because of Christ’s sinless life and through the profound miracle of the Atonement, He created a way for us to be purified and glorious—a way for us to return to our Heavenly Father and to receive eternal life. But it is also interesting what else happened as a result of His rising from the tomb. This act of love transformed a band of frightened, worried disciples into a dynamic group of fearless missionaries who changed the world.

The events of that day have the potential and power to do the same for every servant of the Lord, for every missionary, for every one of you who is proclaiming and teaching the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Please go back with me to the events of that Easter week in the Holy Land immediately after the Savior of the world was crucified. The disciples huddled together afraid, perhaps in disbelief that their Master was really dead. I can imagine them looking into each other’s eyes and feeling confusion, anger, and— perhaps most of all—a profound and consuming grief.  If you will recall, the day after Christ’s crucifixion the chief priests and Pharisees approached the Roman ruler, Pilate, and said, “Sir, . . . that deceiver said, while he was yet alive, After three days [he would] rise again. Command therefore that the sepulchre be made sure until the third day, lest his disciples come by night, and steal him away, and say unto the people, He is risen from the dead.”

Pilate approved that request, and a detachment of Roman soldiers guarded the tomb to ensure that no man would steal away the body. It was just before dawn of that Easter Sunday morning when the earth began to shake and an “angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door. . . . His countenance was like lightning, and his raiment white as snow: and for fear of him the keepers did shake, and became as dead men.”

Not long after, Mary Magdalene, with a few of the other women, came to dress Jesus’s body. “And they found the stone rolled away from the sepulchre. And they entered in, and found not the body of the Lord Jesus. And . . . behold, two men stood by them in shining garments . . . [and] said unto them, Why seek ye the living among the dead? He is not here, but is risen.”  The women rushed back and told the eleven and the others with them what they had seen, but “their words seemed to them as idle tales, and they believed them not.”  However, Peter ran to the tomb. And “he beheld the linen clothes laid by themselves,. . . wondering in himself at that which was come to pass.”

But everything changed for them after Christ rose from the tomb. The great senior Apostle, Peter, is of particular interest to me. Here was a man who was no stranger to adversity—he was a man’s man. How often had he steadied the rudder of his small fishing vessel during a threatening storm? How often had he bartered with shrewd merchants for the price of his fish? And yet, what do we see in this “rock” of a man prior to the Resurrection? Among other things, we see fear!

When he stepped out of his boat on the Sea of Galilee and walked on the water toward the Savior, we see the beginnings of great courage and faith. “But when he saw the wind boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink, he cried, saying, Lord, save me.”

Later, only a few hours before Christ was taken prisoner, the impulsive Peter boasted of his faithfulness. “Although all shall be offended, yet will not I,” he proclaimed to the Savior. And when Jesus prophesied that Peter would deny Him three times that very night, the great fisherman became even bolder and proclaimed, “If I should die with thee, I will not deny thee in any wise.”15 And the other Apostles were quick to echo his words. Peter was one of the closest friends of the Savior. That terrible night of Jesus’s trial, Peter stood beneath the palace attempting to learn of what was happening when a maid approached and said, “Thou also wast with Jesus of Nazareth.”

Fear overtook him at that critical moment. Mark, who knew Peter well, would later record the events of that night. Possibly on Peter’s instructions did Mark tell the story in all its humiliating detail. Mark writes of Peter’s denials and even says that Peter “began to curse and to swear, saying, I know not this man of whom ye speak.”

Peter later wept and agonized over that betrayal. With a broken heart, he pleaded with God for forgiveness. How could he have been so weak? How could he have allowed fear to make him deny the man whom he knew was “the Christ, the Son of the living God”?

But from the moment Peter saw the risen Christ, he was transformed. He was a different man. Along with James and John, he was a true leader. No longer was he afraid. From that moment on he boldly testified that “this Jesus hath God raised up, whereof we all are witnesses.”

Peter fearlessly spoke in public places—even the temple itself. Peter, along with John, was taken into custody and the next day brought to the rulers, elders, and scribes for interrogation. Annas the high priest was there, and so was Caiaphas. It must have been an intimidating group—a group that held Peter and John’s lives in their hands.

But any trace of the old, fearful Peter had by now disappeared in the magnificent refiner’s fire of that Easter morning. Peter bravely confronted those who condemned him—the very men who had slain His Lord—with miracles performed in the name of the Lord. When he healed the lame man, he was asked by what power and through whose name he had done this. Peter proclaimed: “Be it known unto you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom ye crucified, whom God raised from the dead, even by him doth this man stand here before you. . . . There is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.”

Such courage and boldness were not expected by the rulers of the Jews. The scriptures say that they marveled how these unlearned and ignorant followers could be so bold. These scholars of the law finally decided that the best course of action was to threaten them “that they speak henceforth to no man in this name . . . [or] speak at all nor teach in the name of Jesus.”  For Peter and John, this was their opportunity to leave Jerusalem without penalty. “Whether it be right in the sight of God to hearken unto you more than unto God, judge  ye,” the disciples said with boldness. “For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard.”

From that Easter Sunday morning on, Peter was a new man. He had been born again. For the rest of his life, Peter faced threats, ridicule, hatred, and humiliation. But he did not back down. He feared no man. Nothing kept him from fulfilling his mission to raise his voice as a witness of his Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. We do not know for certain what happened to this magnificent servant of God toward the end of his life. Tradition suggests that he was arrested in Rome and imprisoned. The Roman authorities had to keep changing his guards because Peter’s bold testimony had the effect of converting them nearly as fast as they could bring new ones in.  That’s a true missionary!

Now, I ask the question: What does this have to do with your sacred callings to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ? What does this have to do with your responsibilities to lead our missionaries?

My dear brothers and sisters, it has everything to do with you. This is the core of your calling. Each day you put on your nametag, your badge of honor, you declare to the world that you are disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ. Like Peter, you have taken upon yourselves the name of the Lord and the great responsibility to spread the happy and glorious news of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

The ancient Apostles were charged by the Lord to teach and baptize all nations, “teaching them to observe all . . . I have commanded.” You are called to do the same. In this way you and your missionaries are the extended arm of the Twelve Apostles, with the same promise that the Lord will be with you, even unto the end of the world. Every day of your mission you are faced with choices similar to what Peter had to make.

Like Peter, you have the same question before you: What kind of witness will you be?

Among the 86,000 missionaries serving today there are many who, like Peter, are fearless in proclaiming the truth. They approach each day with renewed vigor. Even in the face of ridicule, apathy, and hatred they raise their pure and joyful voices to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Of course, there are also some who are afraid, as Peter once was. But in a sense, we are all like Peter. We each can see the fruits of Christ’s life, Atonement, and Resurrection in our discipleship.

The life-giving waters of the everlasting gospel are before us. Will we take just a few sips through a pinched straw? Or will we allow these waters to spring up inside of us, filling us with renewed energy and divine power?

During your mission, will you allow your fears to get the better of you? Will you give only a portion of your potential to the work before you?

I am confident that I am speaking to those who serve God “with all [their] heart, might, mind and strength.” You are called to the work. And each day you serve your Savior by “[thrusting] in [your] sickle with [your] might, . . . [bringing] salvation to [your] soul.”

Elders & Sisters, President Uchtdorf’s question to us is simple… will we have faith or will we have fear?  If we choose faith in the Lord Jesus Christ all things are possible.  If we choose fear, we limit our potential and miss opportunities to see miracles.  Fear and faith cannot coexist; we either will nurture one or the other.  Will you fear no man, or will you shrink like Peter of old?

I testify to you that the Lord has called you as His representative and that He is in the vineyard with you! Fear not, he is with you, have faith in Him, His work, His timing, His grace, and His love for you.  Move forward with faith, remove fear from your life, and become the bold missionary that the Lord has called you to be!

Mission Update

We had another amazing night at the temple with our newest converts (pics attached).  As one of our new converts walked out of the temple he asked me, “President, do you want to know what my most prized possession is?”  Of course I wanted to know the answer and when I asked what it was he pulled his temple recommend from his pocket and grinned from ear to ear!  Elders & Sisters, this work is true!  You are making a difference each day.  Serve with all your heart, open your mouths, be obedient, be diligent, be faithful.  This time is too precious to waste.  Love ya!

President Hall