President's Pen 4-10-17 (Reunion)

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,

We love ya!  How blessed we are to celebrate the Savior this coming Easter Sunday.  He is the Prince of Peace and do all you can to talk to everyone each and every day to share how He can heal, comfort, and bring lasting joy!

Over the weekend Sister Hall and I experienced something similar to what Alma the Younger felt as he met up with the sons of Mosiah.  You remember the account, “Alma was journeying from the land of Gideon southward, away to the land of Manti, behold, to his astonishment, he met with the sons of Mosiah journeying towards the land of Zarahemla.  Now these sons of Mosiah were with Alma at the time the angel first appeared unto him; therefore Alma did rejoice exceedingly to see his brethren; and what added more to his joy, they were still his brethren in the Lord” (Alma 17:2-3)

How did this happen for us?  We decided that the week following April conference, we would start an annual mission tradition by holding a virtual reunion via FaceBook with all the returned missionaries from the Great Texas Houston South Mission.  It was sooo awesome! Since we began our service we have had just over 200 missionaries return home, who are all experiencing the ups and downs of the next chapter in life.  They are each in various stages of adjusting to life after the mission and our hope was to get a feel for how everyone is doing.  Our work with each other is just beginning and as you return home we will be forever concerned for your well-being and will pray for you daily as we do for those who have already departed.  We’re best friends forever, don’t think for a second that I won’t be tracking you down!

As part of our virtual reunion we asked them to share a current picture, what they were up to in school, work, dating, marriage, extracurricular activity, and what they were doing to serve in the kingdom.  To our great joy, we had an outpouring of participation as almost 75% posted their update.  Several are married or in a serious relationship, many are dating or at least trying to figure it out, most are in school and working to achieve their degree, all are working and trying to pay the bills, and many shared their most recent adventure or activities they are involved in.  All of these updates were awesome to see, but by far and away what brought us the most joy, was to see that they were faithful and true!

From their comments we saw a pattern…  Many were serving as ordinance workers in the temple and loved their assignment.  Most, if not all, had callings and were enjoying their service in either YSA or family wards.  To our delight, most talked about how their missionary service became a firm foundation to stay faithful to what they taught everyday, read the Book of Mormon daily, have daily prayers, attend and prepare for sacrament meeting, and simply live the gospel.  Several commented that without the daily habits they had established on the mission, life would be far too difficult to navigate and that these basic CPR activities are what keeps them safe.  Every participant looked back at their mission as the, “anchor to the souls of men, which would make them sure and steadfast, always abounding in good works, being led to glorify God.” (Ether 12:4)  None of these released missionaries were perfect by any stretch, but they were all striving to live the gospel!

Clearly not all was rosy as there are those that are struggling.  All of our missionaries are good and wonderful and we will love you into the eternities, but some had taken paths or made choices that distanced themselves from the tree.  As I reviewed those that might have had a few more bumps in the road, I could point to their service as missionaries and there was a similar pattern…  A general lack of commitment and understanding of their purpose, a greater disregard for the mission rules, a lack of diligence in many missionary activities (study, planning, finding, using time wisely etc.), more anti-responsibility, and an attitude of counting their time vs. making their time count.  True change and repentance was missing, although it may have been understood, it wasn’t being applied.  To make it clear, the numbers were few and no one was beyond hope, and all can get back on the right path, but the way they served their mission was carried over as they arrived home.  We know this to be a true principle as Mormon taught, “and then cometh the time that he that is filthy shall be filthy still; and he that is righteous shall be righteous still; he that is happy shall be happy still; and he that is unhappy shall be unhappy still.”  (Mormon 9:14) We can’t expect to serve one way and hope to return home as someone different than what we’ve become.

As I counseled with you in our recent zone conferences and interviews, you take home with you three lasting principles: your knowledge (light, truth, and intelligence), your relationships (how you’ve come to love, serve, and bless others), and who you’ve become (your character and conversion to the Savior).  It was truly inspiring to see most of our released missionaries striving to work on these wonderful principles still.  It brought me more joy than I can describe!  Your time here as a missionary can’t be underestimated on how it will influence and shape many decisions and actions you make for the rest of your life.  I have seen it in my own life and I have already seen it in the short time we’ve served.  Serving a mission doesn’t make you infallible, less tempted, or somehow less tried.  We know the fiery darts of the adversary and the whirlwinds will blow, not if, but when.  What will make the differences is your conversion to the Savior and your faith in His Atonement, repentance, covenant making and covenant keeping, striving to have the constant companionship of the Holy Ghost, and staying by the tree as you continually cling to your faith.  If the doctrine of Christ becomes your path and your goal, you will succeed and you will experience the blessing of eternal life! This is something I know and I love.  It is simple, it is true, and it brings me absolute peace. 

Elders & Sisters, my deepest desire is to see you become converted the Savior and His gospel.  This is the only true path of happiness!  You can try to go your own way, stray from the path, but I promise it will never bring joy.  This is true for the mission as well as at home.  You are all becoming more like the Savior every day and it is my prayer that we will meet each year for years and years to come and that it will be an Alma the Younger and Sons of Mosiah experience.  Why, because you are already following the pattern they did, “they had waxed strong in the knowledge of the truth; for they were men (women) of a sound understanding and they had searched the scriptures diligently, that they might know the word of God.  But this is not all; they had given themselves to much prayer, and fasting; therefore they had the spirit of prophecy, and the spirit of revelation, and when they taught, they taught with power and authority of God.”  This is the invitation to each of us, that we will find joy in still being brethren of the Lord!  I know this is a true principle and in the Savior’s name, I know we can all experience this kind of lasting joy as we come together now and well into the future!  Love ya!

President Hall