President's Pen 5-15-17 (We Believe)

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!  Thanks for all you do each day to give your all to the Lord.  I am grateful to be working with those who the Lord has called and anointed to do His work.  Be found as one that can truly be called as one of His disciples. 

At our recent zone conferences, we read a quote from Elder Holland regarding the importance of simplicity and teaching to the needs of the investigators.  He stated, “Without the discipline of memorized, pre-set lessons, there is a great risk—and we see it in every mission we visit—that the missionary can be unfocused, he will wander, will teach with much, much more complexity than investigators need or want. In the end, this means he will drone on for three or four times as long as a teaching discussion should last. Missionary lessons ought to proceed in such a way that every few minutes— I mean few, like one or two—a question is asked or a testimony of a principle is born or the other companion takes over.”

One of the greatest examples of simple, but powerful teaching occurred on March 1, 1842.  At the invitation of John Wentworth, the editor of the Chicago Democrat, Joseph Smith wrote the most precise, doctrinally sound, and simple explanation of our faith that could be written; The Articles of Faith.  Many of you memorized these simple truths in your primary days and may still be able to bring them to memory.

What you might not know about the Articles of Faith is some additional history… As soon as the restored Church was founded on April 6th, 1830, the great effort of missionary work and the gathering of Israel began.  There was no PMG, there was no MTC, no pamphlets, there was no mission president to direct the day to day effort of the missionaries.  There was, however, a great need to present the Church’s beliefs to the world in a concise and simple way.  At first, missionaries had to write their own statements of faith, just as they had to prepare their own tracts (brief pamphlets – could you do this?).  Well known Church figures such as Oliver Cowdery, Joseph Young, Orson Pratt, and Orson Hyde wrote summaries of what Latter-Day Saints believe and these were used and printed in various Church publications.  If you want to read more about the history of the Articles of Faith, go here… We Believe - Development of the Articles of Faith

When Joseph Smith was asked by the John Wentworth to write a letter, the intent was to provide a brief historical overview of the early days of the Church and Joseph Smith's life.  Joseph also then added a concise summary of the principles and doctrines of the Church.  I believe we underestimate, and may not appreciate how powerful, simple, and clear the 13 Articles of Faith are and what they teach.  I think about all that Joseph Smith knew, what he could have written, and yet, he knew his audience would read it in the pages of a newspaper.  He had to keep it simple, interesting, brief, and compelling.  Imagine if he had written it with more complexity or too long.  The newspaper could have taken the liberty to edit and perhaps leave out key and important truths that tell the story of what we believe.  The readers may have been left confused and uninterested.  In short, and to draw a parallel to what we strive to do, he connected the investigators to what they needed, nothing more, nothing less.  Do you ever turn to the Articles of Faith when asked what we believe?

What do we learn from the Articles of Faith?  In addition to what “We believe..”, I also see how doctrinally rich and bold statements can be given succinctly and simply.  These of course are not the only examples of simple teaching that connect to the needs of the hearts and minds of men and women.  Consider President Gordon B. Hinckley’s simple teaching to members of the Church on how to retain a new convert; they need a friend, a responsibility, and to be continually nurtured by the word of God. How simple and awesome is that!  Both the “Family, A Proclamation to the World”, and “The Living Christ” are a single page.  Could these doctrines be taught and better? The Savior Himself, the Master Teacher, did it best, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.  On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”  (Matt 22:37-40)  A simple question, a powerful and yet simple answer and teaching. 

Elders & Sisters, as Elder Holland stated, “Cold, memorized lessons or sleep-inducing rote presentations won’t do in the world we face today. We must have enthusiastic, inspired teaching that is tailored to the people who are receiving it.”  We learn from the Articles of Faith a pattern of teaching that delivers to needs and is full of inspiration.  In many ways, you are not dissimilar from the original missionaries called to preach the gospel at the beginning of this dispensation.  You still teach using your own statements of faith and we need to do so in a personal, concise, and simple way.  I invite you to read and study the Articles of Faith this week to inspire you to teach with more simplicity and boldness.  I also invite you to continually improve upon the way you are teaching, recognizing that the Spirit is the teacher.  Your continued personal study, companionship study, and personal witness of the doctrines we teach can’t be underestimated.  The Spirit can’t draw from an empty well nor will thoughts be put into your mind if you haven’t treasured up the words of eternal life.  The scriptures, in particular the Book of Mormon is one of your greatest tools, PMG must be studied daily, the pamphlets are a phenomenal guide, but your own simple testimony is equally if not more powerful.  You have been called to teach with power and authority and follow the pattern of the Master Teacher.  I invite you to follow His example and to teach personally, boldly, and simply.  This is His work and His message, let’s share it with all our heart, might, mind, and strength.  Love ya!

President Hall