President's Pen 11-13-17 (Connected to Heaven)

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!  I am so grateful to each of you for your love and dedication to the Savior and His work.  A wonderful season of the year is upon us as we strive to live in thanksgiving and show our gratitude to our Heavenly Father.

One of the many blessings of teaching the gospel of Jesus Christ to those we meet is the opportunity to connect them to heaven.  We learn in the Doctrine and Covenants that, “Even before they were born, they, with many others, received their first lessons in the world of spirits and were prepared to come forth in the due time of the Lord…” (D&C 138:56) When we find those the Lord has prepared, the message of the gospel will sound familiar, as if they already know it.  In those first few crucial moments, what we say, what they feel, and what we invite them to do can change their lives now and into the eternities.

When we speak of connecting people to heaven, what do we mean?  Yes, we want them to hear the message of the restored gospel, but equally if not more important, is to help them feel and know that they have a loving Heavenly Father, a Savior who atoned for them, and that the Holy Ghost is the Comforter, Testator, and Teacher.  The Godhead, three separate beings, but one in purpose, are who we want our investigators to come to know on a personal level, and we are here to invite and help others connect to them. 

How do we connect them to heaven? Teaching a lesson will never be enough.  We speak often of teaching people, not lessons, and if we really want those we teach to feel connected to heaven, a rote, stiff, or memorized message will never do.  They need to know and feel that what we are teaching is true, that the message comes from our hearts, not just our lips, and that we love our Father in Heaven, the Savior, and the Holy Ghost.  When they feel the power of the Holy Ghost work within them, those first lessons in the world of the spirits comes to life, and suddenly, all things are brought to their remembrance.  You can see and feel this moment and when it happens, heavens windows are again opened, and in a personal and familiar they are being drawn home.

When we begin teaching the first principle, “God is Your Loving Heavenly Father”, I want you to take note of the personal nature of this statement.  To connect them to the Father, we need to help them understand that He knows them personally, loves them, desires their happiness, hears their prayers, and desires for their safe return home.  They need to know that He loves them so much that He sent His Son to bring them home.  They also need to know and feel that you know this in your heart as well.  Many will say they know and love God, and they do to the extent they’ve been taught.  What we want to help them know and feel is that they are literally His sons and daughters, and connect them in a way that perhaps they’ve never felt or understood before.  Therefore, don’t rush through this principle, it is upon this knowledge that all the invitations we extend come to life!  Testify boldly in the Savior’s name, that God truly is their loving Heavenly Father and help them know and feel it.

How do we connect them to the Father? We teach them who He is. We help them learn to pray with their hearts in a deep and personal way.  Many have never really done this before, and we must teach them how.  We teach them to address Him as their Heavenly Father. We help them to imagine that He is in the room, listening to them, anxious to answer their questions, and to help them feel peace.  We help them ask important questions that only can come by the Spirit.  We teach them that they pray to the Father in the name of Jesus Christ.  In one simple, but powerful prayer, we can help them connect to the Father, through the Son, and teach them that the Holy Ghost will help them feel His love.  If we don’t teach them that God is their loving Heavenly Father, in a real and personal way, their prayer will lack the understanding that they are truly connecting to Him!

In almost every lesson we teach, there is reference to the Savior.  If we want to connect people to heaven, we need to help them know, feel, and understand that Jesus Christ is our Redeemer and Savior.  They need to know that His Infinite and loving Atonement is personal to them.  That through Him, they will overcome physical death through power of the resurrection. That through Him, their sins can be washed away as they repent and follow His example into the waters of baptism.  That through Him, they can have all pains, sorrows, afflictions, burdens, and weakness healed.  That through Him and His grace, they are enabled to do and become more they can ever imagine.  Your understanding of the Savior’s birth, life, ministry, and Atonement make it possible for you to help them understand what the Savior means to you.  They need to know that their connection to Him is real and personal, and you help them understand and feel this!

How can you connect them to the Savior?  We invite them to repent! To turn their lives towards Him, to follow Him and the Father, and come to know Him.  We invite them to read the Book of Mormon, so they can come to personally know that that Jesus is the Christ, the Savior and Redeemer of the world.  If you don’t help your investigators learn to read, love, and cherish the Book of Mormon, can they truly come to know and connect to the Savior?  An investigator will never truly progress until they read the Book of Mormon and start to feel and know that it is another testament of Jesus Christ.  We help them most when we increase their faith in Him, His reality, and His constant invitation to come unto Him.  Let the Book of Mormon be the witness that creates a connection they’ve never felt before.

What we desire most is to teach by the Spirit.  We will never connect anyone to heaven if they don’t come to know and recognize how the Holy Ghost will work within their hearts and minds.  We may deliver a wonderfully stated message, but unless the Spirit can be felt, our words will never reach their souls, nor cause the mighty change of heart we desire.  The Spirit is everything in this work, and we fool ourselves if we think we can simply show up, teach, and expect something to happen.  We connect them to heaven as we are obedient, remain worthy vessels, treasure up the words of eternal life, and then pray with all our souls that the Spirit will come into our lesson and witness that what we have taught is true.  The Spirit is the Comforter, the Teacher, and the Testator.  He delivers the message of the Father and the Son. Without the Spirit, we simply cannot teach. 

How can you connect them to the Holy Ghost?  First, we must simply teach how the Spirit will bring feelings to their hearts and thoughts to their mind. Better than telling them how or what to feel, we can help draw out of them what they have felt and what they have experienced, so they can see how the Holy Ghost can work within their life.  What experiences?  Pondering, praying, and reading… We also invite them to attend church so they can come to learn that the Holy Ghost will be their constant companion as they repent, enter the waters, of baptism, and receive the gift of the Holy Ghost by the laying on of hands.  We connect them to heaven when they come to understand that the Spirit will always be with them when they witness to the Father that they will remember His Son, take upon His name, and keep His commandments.  The sacrament connects them to the Holy Ghost, the Son, and the Father.  We connect them to the Holy Ghost by teaching them to come to worship God the Father, and His Son when they come to church and partake of the sacrament.  

Elders and Sisters, can you see how your role as missionaries is to connect people to heaven?  Can you see that how you teach, and what you teach, and what you invite them to do connects them to a loving Heavenly Father, the Savior and the Holy Ghost?  Can you recognize how important the invitations to pray, read the Book of Mormon, and attending church become in their ability to remember the first lessons they were taught?  Can you also see how important it is for you to help them come to know the members of the Godhead in a real and personal way as you simply teach?  Your personal witness and testimony of your own connection to heaven matters, is it real and personal for you?  We can’t be rote, memorized, or inauthentic.  You are the vessel that helps connect them to heaven!  The personal and simple way you teach them will open up the windows of heaven in their lives.  I testify in the name of Jesus Christ, that the heavens are open to each of us.  That God truly knows us, that Jesus Christ is our Savior and Redeemer, and that we can feel and know these things by the power and gift of the Holy Ghost.   Connect them to heaven and watch the miracle of conversion come into their lives.  Love ya!

President Hall