President's Pen 9-25-17 (Discipleship, Change, Long Suffering)

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!

Dear Elders & Sisters,

I love ya!  We are so blessed to be serving in the Great THSM during this time of the Lord’s harvest.  Thanks for opening your mouth to all as you share the blessings of repentance and baptism for a remission of sins. 

We will be blessed this coming weekend to hear from living prophets and apostles who will speak the will and mind of the Lord. (D&C 1:38)  They will invite us to follow the Savior, repent, keep our covenants, love our fellow man, and do God’s will.  They will also counsel us, warn us, and prepare us for when the Savior comes to the earth to rule and reign.  We will be grateful to receive their messages, we will recommit to be better servants and more effective disciples.  We will then go and do the best we can to live our lives in a way that will be pleasing to God.

The opportunity to gather, learn, follow, and obey is the pattern for true disciples of Jesus Christ.  I think of the Savior as he gathered his flock on hillsides, on the shores of the sea, in the synagogues, and wherever men and women would hear His voice and doctrine.  From these gatherings, men and women would decide if they would walk with him, change their lives, and follow His teachings. This same pattern continues today as we also have a choice of whether we will walk with Him, change our lives, and follow His teachings.

Discipleship, however, is not easy.  We will hear God’s word this weekend, we will be invited to walk the path, we will know it’s true, but we will all find difficulty in doing everything we can and should.  Discipleship requires constant discipline, and that is hard for the natural man and woman within us.  We want to do what is right, but we often fall short.  I think the feelings that we all have felt on this path to true discipleship are expressed well by Nephi, “O wretched man that I am! Yea, my heart sorroweth because of my flesh; my soul grieveth because of mine iniquities.  I am encompassed about, because of the temptations and the sins which do so easily beset me.” (2 Ne. 4:17-18)

I have pondered a lot lately on why discipleship can be a rollercoaster ride; shouldn’t we be able to figure this out?  It just makes sense and it makes us so much happier if we do what God wants!  Certainly, for missionaries, God’s Army, we should be able to have enough discipline to live mission standards, love our purpose, love our companions, work diligently and effectively, without having to be externally compelled to do them.  These are not difficult things we are asked to do, but they do require our focus, effort, and constant attention.  For some, these things come easier, and for some, it is a constant battle, even when your heart is in the right place. 

Sister Hall and I have discussed this topic and she sent me a recent BYU speech given by Amanda K. Fronk titled, “Thoughts for When Change Seems Impossible”.

“I’m sure you’ve been there: sitting in sacrament meeting and recognizing that yet again you couldn’t manage to keep that at-one-point heartfelt promise to sincerely pray or study the scriptures every day. Well, that’s where I was—taking a personal inventory and finding myself wanting for the umpteenth time.

Prayer and scripture study were just a couple items of many that I could see glaring at me from my “weakness” pile. I felt sheepish asking Heavenly Father for forgiveness once more for some error I knew I would do again in the next week. Heck, I only needed an hour to mess up. In the midst of this nihilistic self-assessment, the idea crystallized that I was tired of trying. I couldn’t see how someone as flawed as me could ever change and overcome my shortcomings. I lacked the needed persistence, motivation, and diligence to improve. And it felt insincere to ask Heavenly Father to strengthen me when I didn’t feel I’d tried hard enough.

But I decided to pray anyway. As I opened my heart to communicate with my Father, I began to think about what it means that Christ infinitely loves us. Did that mean that He loved me and forgave me again and again and again even when we both knew I wouldn’t succeed in the coming week?  The answer came in a single word: long-suffering.

It hit me that I was no longer being long-suffering with myself, but that Christ was still somehow long-suffering with me. What a profoundly loving attribute! I realized that Christ sees my potential and believes that I can achieve it while He simultaneously understands that I am a long, long ways off from fulfilling it.

While that thought gave me hope, I still felt overwhelmed. There was so much that I needed to change to be better. I was grateful the Lord was eternally patient with me, but I didn’t know how to work up the energy to keep trying or to be long-suffering with and forgiving of my journey. I then remembered a promise in the Book of Mormon: “Behold, he offereth himself a sacrifice for sin, to answer the ends of the law, unto all those who have a broken heart and a contrite spirit; and unto none else can the ends of the law be answered” (2 Nephi 2:7). Of my long checklist of improvements, there was only one item that was mandatory to keep doing: come to Christ with a broken heart and a contrite spirit. Everything else would follow in time.

Elder Dallin H. Oaks explained:  “When a person has gone through the process that results in what the scriptures call a broken heart and a contrite spirit, that person is not only eligible to be cleansed from sin. He is also strengthened, and that strengthening is essential for us to realize the purpose of the cleansing, which is to return to our Heavenly Father.”

As Elder Oaks explained, this single act of coming to Christ with a broken heart and contrite spirit would provide me with strength to keep trying, to keep stumbling forward to Him over and over and over again. I remain a perpetually inadequate disciple well accustomed with failure, but as I’ve focused my progress on having a broken heart and a contrite spirit, I’ve found a long-suffering Savior who not only forgives me but also empowers me to keep trying to change. And that enabling strength helps me be a bit more long-suffering with myself.”

Elders & Sisters, as you are invited to become better disciples of the Savior Jesus Christ this weekend, accept these invitations with the full commitment that you’ll give your best each day to achieve them.  Discipline yourself to become who the Savior knows you will become.  Make the necessary changes that will allow you to see and feel the progress you desire. But, also recognize that you will fall short and that the Savior’s grace is sufficient for you as you humble yourself, come unto Him, and keep trying.  Instead of mercilessly beating yourself up about your weakness, work on the Christlike attributes of long suffering, patience, and charity, and in particular for yourself. Start again today, don’t excuse, rationalize or blame. Set a vision, goal, & plan and stick to it. You're never done unless you quit. Keep your faith, keep repenting, and doing the best you can.  In Elders Holland’s wonderful words, "Keep trying. Keep trusting. Keep believing. Keep growing. Heaven is cheering you on today, tomorrow, and forever."  Thanks for who you’re becoming and keep walking the wonderful path of discipleship, change, and long suffering.  I love ya!

President Hall