President's Pen 5-29-17 (Desires to Serve God)

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!  Thanks for your constant and consistent efforts to find, teach repentance, and baptize converts!  Keep up the great work! #fc&tr&bc

“Therefore, if ye have desires to serve God ye are called to the work…”  (D&C 4:3)  I have thought a lot about what it means to have desires to serve God lately.  I suppose I have pondered on this subject as I am amazed by the many faithful men and women who truly desire to serve God and do His work, they are all around us. I also ponder on this topic often as I pray for eyes to see, ears to hear, and a heart to discern to know how to bless and help you increase your desires to serve the Lord.

Desires can be both worthy and unworthy and they will impel (inner drive) us to excellence or mediocrity, happiness or misery, success or failure.  As Elder Oaks has taught, “Desires dictate our priorities, priorities shape our choices, and choices determine our actions. The desires we act on determine our changing, our achieving, and our becoming.” As an agent to act, your desires will shape you into the person you will become.

If you dig deep within your heart for a moment, and check the desires you have to serve God, do His work, and build His kingdom, what do you find?  “Behold, there are many called, but few are chosen. And why are they not chosen? Because their hearts are set so much upon the things of this world, and aspire to the honors of men…” (D&C 121:34-35) “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” (Matt 6:21) Desire has been and always will be indicative of where your heart lies.  We will all ultimately decide whether or not we will be one of God’s chosen.  He will look into our hearts and either find us as profitable or unprofitable servants.

Desire to serve God has to come from within, it can’t be given, forced, manipulated, or controlled.  The light of Christ is there to compel us towards loving and serving God, but we’ll never be forced to do so.  As there is always opposition in all things, Satan will also entice, but he has no control on our desires unless we allow him to whisper in our ears.

A common obstacle to worthy desires comes in a subtle and destructive force known as apathy.  It is manifested as a lack of desire, passion, enthusiasm, effort, commitment, and emotion.  The Greek root word for apathy is pathos, which means feeling.  When you add the “a” to it, it describes a person as having a “lack of feeling” or a lack of concern or care towards others.   Apathy is one of the great sins of our day as it is like the flaxen cord that wraps around us without much concern in the beginning, but in a future day, it can completely bind us.  We see apathy in all aspects of life including within the membership of the Church. It begins slowly binding men and women as a flaxen cord; I don’t pray as often, study as much as I should, miss a few Sundays, serve less in my callings, visit the temple less often, and slowly but surely the adversary careful leads them to destruction.  This is the all is well in Zion crowd that may look the part, but doesn’t feel the part.   This was Nephi’s great warning to the people of our day and you see it ever increasing around us.

Missionaries are not immune from becoming apathetic towards God’s work if they’re not careful.  I believe most missionaries come with desire to serve God and do His work.  They may not feel quite like the sons of Mosiah when they arrive, “Now they were desirous that salvation should be declared to every creature…”, (Mos 28:3) but they come ready to give their best.  I have found over time though, that some missionaries find the work hard, the grass greener, and with the challenges and obstacles of missionary life, desires start to wane.  What goes with those desires are the day to day efforts and commitments to give their best.

If you want to know what keeps President Hall up at night, you’d come to learn very quickly that I worry most about those that have a lack of desire.  I love those that battle, that struggle, that keep fighting to give their best, that do all they can, they give me hope and courage that they’ll keep going even though they’re not there yet.  They remind me of those that take on Alma’s challenge as they, “exercise a particle of faith, yea, even if ye can no more than desire to believe, let this desire work in you…” (Alma 32:27)  For those that have lost the flame of desire, I pray that somehow, I’ll be able to see into their hearts and help light the flame of faith and rekindle their desire again.  I care a lot about each of you, love you as my own, and when I see a lack of desire it crushes me.

President Brigham Young said, “the men and women, who desire to obtain seats in the celestial kingdom, will find that they must battle every day”.  This battle is constant and the adversary fights to push the desires of your heart to the things of the world.  He is after your hearts constantly as he knows that if he can get you to lose your desires to do the work, your effort and commitment will diminish.

How do we increase our desires and protect those we already have?  I love this quote from Brigham Young, “Do you think that people will obey the truth because it is true, unless they love it? No, they will not.”  There is a profound teaching in this message… We may know what is true, logically, rationally, and even with evidence to support it, but unless we come to love the truth, we won’t be changed by it.  Thus, many are called, but few are chosen, because they may know truth, but they don’t yield their hearts or desires to it.  If you want to increase your desire in any aspect of the Lord’s work, battle through until you come to love it!

Here’s what I believe you need to “love” so your desires shine bright and motivate you to serve God.  First, love God, know that He lives, that His plan is real, and that he loves and know you.  Second, love the Savior and increase your faith in Him, love His teachings, His life, His Atonement, His Grace, His power to heal, bless, and redeem you.  Third, love the gift of the Holy Ghost, His companionship, His direction, comfort, sanctifying and purifying power, strive to always have Him with you. Fourth, love the people, pray for charity so you can see them as God does, until you love them, you won’t break your backs to find, teach, and invite them. Fifth, love what it takes to become a great missionary; worthiness, obedience, sacrifice, consecration, goal setting, planning, finding, teaching and inviting, personal and companion study, accountability, effort, commitment, members, tenacity, diligence etc. etc. The first and great commandment is where your desire to love and serve God begins!

Elders & Sisters, my mighty prayers are for you to have desires to love and serve God with all your heart, might, mind, and strength.  My expectations for Houston South missionaries are high.  I want the true and faithful, the committed, the obedient, the diligent, those that are battling and giving their best.  I love serving with you, I want your hearts and desires to be in the work, regardless of the heat, humidity, rain, ups and downs, highs, and lows, THSM missionaries just go and do!  You have been called, I invite you to check your desire to serve God and recalibrate if needed.  Learn to love truth so you’ll act on it.  Much is expected of you, but you are capable and qualified to do the Lord’s work.  It is true, I love it, and I love each of you.   I testify in the Savior’s name that if you have desires to serve God, you are indeed called to the work.  Let us all be anxiously engaged in it.  Love ya!

President Hall