President's Pen 9-11-17 (Tale of Two Cities)

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 that teach repentance and baptize converts and the best missionaries in the world!

Elders & Sisters,

I love ya! Thanks for your tireless work as we strive to bless all both temporally and spiritually.  Your light is shining as you serve and as you teach.  Keep up the great effort to be purposeful as you teach repentance and baptize converts!

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way—in short, the period was so far like the present period…” These are the opening words to Charles Dicken’s famous work, “A Tale of Two Cities”.  As I have driven, walked, and worked the streets of Houston the last two weeks, these words have echoed in my mind. 

As soon at the roads were passable into Houston, Sister Hall and I drove into the city to get a feel for the impact of hurricane Harvey.  What we saw surprised us... On one side of the street was utter destruction, and yet, a street away there was no evidence that the storm had even come ashore.  The contrast was and still is remarkable to behold.  There are individuals and families who are rebuilding their lives, and there are individuals and families that go on with their day to day like they always have.  There are piles of debris, treasured memories, and valued belongings covering once manicured lawns, while the other side of the street is still manicured and the picture of peace. 

The impact of Harvey fell upon both the righteous and the unrighteous, the educated and the uneducated, the rich and the poor.  There was no discrimination of ethnicity, age, gender, health, religion or social status.  The floods came and went and either mildly inconvenienced some for a few days or have caused varying degrees of disruption to life and home for months to come.  There are those with flood insurance and there are those without flood insurance.  There are those who take no thought for the loss of material possessions, and there are those that are still lamenting the loss of a what they once had. 

This is the nature of mortality…  We don’t need a Harvey to show up to Houston to find these two tales in all areas of the world or in our own lives.  For some, life is the best of times, and for others it feels like the worst of times, and for some it can change almost daily.  We see contrast at its best and opposition in all things at its finest.  It’s a fragile balance and it can change on us overnight as life storms and then calms. The degree to which we feel the contrast will be relative to our individual circumstances and our perspective on the purpose of our lives.  What might be a huge and overwhelming issue for one, may be nothing more than a small annoyance to another.  Regardless, we can be assured they will come to all of us in some form or another either due to the consequence of choice, and in many cases, through nothing of our own doing. 

As I pondered on these great contrasts, these two tales, my mind was taken to the words of President Gordon B. Hinckley who taught, “There never was a greater time in the history of the world to live upon the earth than this. How grateful every one of us ought to feel for being alive in this wonderful time with all the marvelous blessings we have. … And on top of all that is the Restoration of the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ with all of the keys and authority, with all the gifts and blessings, with all the organization and doctrine of all previous dispensations all brought into one. And you and I are partakers of that marvelous restoration.”  As I remember this teaching, I feel incredibly blessed to live in the best of times…   It doesn’t matter how many hurricanes rage, earthquakes shake, political and economic issues prevail; I know the battle is won and I need not fear as I am blessed!

In the same breath, President Hinckley didn’t shy away, from recognizing the difficulties of our day, “I have little doubt that many of us are troubled with fears concerning ourselves. We are in a period of stress across the world. There are occasionally hard days for each of us.” The worst of times can and do feel real and at times overwhelming.   

His optimistic message, however, “I am asking that we stop seeking out the storms and enjoy more fully the sunlight.  I am suggesting that as we go through life we “accentuate the positive.”  Do not despair. Do not give up. Look for the sunlight through the clouds. Opportunities will eventually open to you.”   I trust this optimism with my whole soul on days where it feels like there is no silver lining in the dark clouds.

Elders & Sisters, our lives will be a tale of two cities.  On some days, the Harvey’s of our life will come as consequences of choice or unexpectedly and without warning.  At other times, we will see nothing but blessings all around us.  It is the nature of the fall of man to have two tales, even if we’re living as righteously as we can and doing all that we should.  In these moments, you have a choice of whether you will see the sunlight or the storm.  You can be optimistic and look to the Savior with faith, and hope, and trust, and positivity, or you can be doubting, discouraged, and distraught.  It’s not a question of “if” the winds or storms will come, but “when”.  As Helaman promised and taught so well, “…remember, remember that it is upon the rock of our Redeemer, who is Christ, the Son of God, that ye must build your foundation… because of the rock upon which ye are built, which is a sure foundation, a foundation whereon if men build they cannot fall.”  You bring optimism and positivity to people you teach each day in a fallen world.  You know that opposition is needful for growth.  You know that as we humble ourselves, and come unto Christ, His grace is sufficient for all people.  Fear not the tale of two cities… Embrace what comes your way, live life to the fullest, doubt not, fear not, and trust the Savior to make all things work out in the end.  I know He will and I love the hope, peace, light, truth, and assurance that He gives.  I love ya!

President Hall