President's Pen 6-5-17 (No Fear!)

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!  A new transfer ahead, what will you and your companion be known for?  Create a vision statement of how you will focus on our effort to teach repentance and baptize converts and then let’s go to work!

A challenge that many missionaries experience throughout their missions is having the spirit of fear.  As we know, fear is the opposite of faith and when it enters our hearts and minds, our ability to serve as bold disciples and representatives of Jesus Christ is diminished.  Faith in the Savior and His Atonement can remove all fear and fill our minds with courage, peace, and strength.  

Fear has tormented some of the greatest missionaries, and in particular, we see it in the Apostle Peter.  We all know the account of the Savior calling to Peter to come down out of the ship and walk on water.  Peter took courage at first, but with the winds boisterous, he was afraid and began to sink.  Fear overtook him and “sinking” could not be a better verb to describe the feeling we have when we lose our trust in the Lord.  Later, we also see Peter deny the Savior three times.  Among many possible reasons for his denial, certainly fear was one of them.  Despite Peter’s initial fears, however, he became not only bold, but powerful and courageous (just read the Book of Acts!).  Fear may have been in his heart to begin with, but his trust and faith in the Savior produced a miraculous change.  The same is true for all of us.

Fear is crippling to a missionary and I see it affect us in a variety ways.  The list below is not exhaustive, but these are some of the common things I see or hear.  Review the list below and determine any of these have ever caused you to “sink” with fear. 

·         Fear to Open Your Mouth! – off all fears this is perhaps the most common.  The Lord doesn’t mince words when he says; “But with some I am not well pleased, for they will not open their mouths, but they hide the talent which I have given unto them, because of the fear of man. Wo unto such, for mine anger is kindled against them.” (D&C 60:2)  These are strong words and rightly so.  I’m surprised at times by how many missionaries simply refuse to rise above this fear and continue to carry it with them.  Missionary work only works if you open your mouth!  Wouldn’t it be better, if like the sons of Mosiah, we couldn’t bear that any human soul should perish?  Imagine what would happen if rather than fearing what men and woman might say, that you would fear for their salvation! How do we improve in this regard? The Savior said to Peter, “O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?”  In other words, do you believe in my work, my power, my ability to save, my ability to help you?  You can’t reach your potential as a missionary until the fear of boldly opening your mouth is replaced by faith in the Savior and His ability to lift you as he did Peter.  Of all things I would invite you to do today, it is to lose the fear of men and put your trust in God! “Fear ye not the reproach of men, neither be ye afraid of their reviling’s.” (2 Ne 8:7) How will you know if you’re progressing?  Simply by your willingness to talk to as many people as you can each day without passing them by.

·         Fear to Communicate – This fear can be manifest in a several ways.  Instead of having a good and fruitful companionship inventory when issues need to be addressed, we avoid them because we fear that we will hurt feelings or that we will ruffle feathers.  Working through issues with a companion is certainly a skill and needful, but hiding from issues won’t make them better.  Do you think it will get easier when you’re married? (if yes, think again :)  A common disconnect within a companionship is who is right and who is wrong.  The truth is there are many ways to accomplish our goals, and it’s not about being right, it’s about doing what’s right.  Another example… I see my companion disobey mission standards and I say nothing and either join in or look the other way (living the missionary schedule, using time wisely, music, technology use, etc. etc.)  If we want to have unity, teach by the Spirit, and help our investigators progress, we need to remove any and all fear within our companionships and come back to our common cause.  (A caution to some of you… some can be overly critical and condescending to your companions.  This is a form of bullying and cannot be.  Feedback without tact is simply being cruel.  Your approach to kindly correct has to be done in the Savior’s way.)  How will you know if you’re progressing?  Simply by your willingness to talk to your companion when differences in opinion come up and by showing humility to learn from and appreciate one another. 

·         Fear of Inadequacy -- The Lord has called the weak and simple and yet he has qualified each of you. You have been endowed with power and authority to teach repentance and help men and women come unto Christ through the saving ordinances.  You are a child of God with unlimited potential!!! You will not reach perfection in your mission (or in this life), you will not get everything figured out, you will make mistakes and fall short and that is absolutely ok! You do fall short, get over it, we all do!  Fearing that you don’t measure up is something we all experience, and yet we can’t let it stop us from doing the best we can.  We can’t be content with mediocrity, but that will never be the case if you’re doing your best (some of you need to care more!).  All things come line upon line and your study, diligence, and experience will all remove feelings of inadequacy over time. The Savior’s grace is sufficient for each of us and despite our weakness, our coming unto him with humble hearts will make us strong.  A word of caution, comparison will rob you of any joy and any sense of progress you’re making.  Using Elder Uchtdorf’s words, “Stop IT!”  How will you know if you’re progressing?  Simply by your willingness to focus on your spiritual preparation, gospel and language study, companionship study and lesson planning, and greater trust in the Lord.

·         Fear of the Future – I often chat with missionaries about fear of the future or the unknown…  What about school, what about my family, what about my converts being faithful, what about...  I understand these concerns and they are important, but for now we have been set apart and removed from the world to have a singular focus and purpose.  The Lord’s teaching on taking no thought for the morrow, as we seek first to build the kingdom of God, brings me great peace.  I have learned that if I just do what the Lord wants me to do, everything always works out.  There will be time to plan and look forward, but let’s first and foremost remember why we are here today and minimize distraction.  We don’t always have the answers for what the future will bring, there will be challenges at home, there are difficulties in the world, but we do know the battle is the Lord’s and that the victory has been won.  Fear not, doubt not, trust that the Lord has your family and your future in mind.  Your patriarchal blessing can bring peace to your mind for the future.  It may not spell out every detail, but what matters most can always be found within. How will you know if you’re progressing?  Simply by your willingness to focus on what matters today by putting distractions behind you. 

Elders & Sisters, l love the teaching from the Apostle Paul to Timothy, “For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind. Be not thou therefore ashamed of the testimony of our Lord…”  (2 Tim 1:7-8)  This is a great scripture when it comes to going out and opening our mouths.  It is written on the mirror in my son’s bathroom and I’m glad they get to look at it every day.  A modern day prophet, President Russell M. Nelson of the Twelve, stated in the recent general conference, “True disciples of Jesus Christ are willing to stand out, speak up, and be different from the people of the world. They are undaunted, devoted, and courageous.  There is nothing easy or automatic about becoming such powerful disciples. Our focus must be riveted on the Savior and His gospel. It is mentally rigorous to strive to look unto Him in every thought.  But when we do, our doubts and fears flee.”

My invitation to you is to conquer your fears and replace them with the light and hope that comes through our faith in the Savior. Identify any fears that you currently have or hold onto. Set a goal and develop a plan to help you overcome these fears as you go out and serve each day.  Sister Hall once shared the following… “Do you have times on your life when you know what you should do, but you allow fear to hold you back? It’s okay to be scared – do it scared.  It’s okay to be unsure – do it unsure. It’s okay to be uncomfortable – do it uncomfortable. Just get started where you are.  That is the attitude of the most disciplined and successful people on the planet.  As you apply this attitude of just do it, you will develop the habit  of acting in the face of fear and overcoming it.  You will also understand that your fear has no power unless you do nothing.”  I love it! The greatest blessings in life live just beyond your fears, why not conquer a few of them while you’re here! When you truly come to know who you represent, as Peter did, you will stand out, speak up, and be different.  I testify in the name of the Savior that fear does not come from a loving Heavenly Father, but courage, strength, and faith do! Love ya!

President Hall