President's Pen 7-24-17 (Your Best!)

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 se 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 wonderful work in the hot, humid, Houston South!  The Lord only sends his finest to Houston as he knows they’ll push on and push forward, regardless of what gets in the way.  Each day be grateful for the blessing to find constantly, to teach repentance and to baptize converts!

Two questions I am often asked by missionaries are, “How do I know if I’m doing my best?” and “Is my best good enough?”.  To the first question, I often respond by saying, “You and the Lord will be the only two that know if you are giving your best.”, and for the second response, “If you’re giving your best, it is good enough!”.  As fallen mortal men and women, we often fall short of the high expectations we have for ourselves and for those of our Father in Heaven.  When we read in scripture, “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.” (Matt 5:48) and “Therefore, what manner of men ought ye to be? Verily I say unto you, even as I am.” (3 Ne. 27:27) it is easy to understand that we may not feel good enough or even like we are beginning to measure up.  These ideals can seem too distant, unachievable, and unrealistic, but it is the expectation.   

For some, the pursuit of these expectations can consume their souls with feelings of inadequacy, comparison, and anxiety.  This can lead to a constant feeling of not doing enough or that their best will never do.  For others, the expectations of becoming as the Savior is are too high, and in time, the easier wrong becomes their path rather than the harder right.  This can lead to a lack of effort and a life of living below their divine potential.  Neither ends of the spectrum are healthy nor do they lead to happiness.  On the one hand, perfection won’t be attained in this life, and on the other hand, if we don’t pursue it, we’ll never progress. What is the balance?  

Our Father in Heaven’s expectations for us are high, and rightly so.  He knows who we are, He knows our worth, He knows our potential, and He sent His only Begotten Son to help us become like Him.  The bar He sets for us will not be lowered and through scripture and the words of living prophets and apostles we are often reminded that we must repent, deny ourselves of all ungodliness, become as a little child, and follow Him.  His message to us is constant and the same yesterday, today, and forever.  To become as God is, and to live His gospel, is not for the faint of heart nor does it come easy or without sacrifice.  Giving our best and striving to become like Him is what we will always be invited and asked to do.  This invitation, after all, is the way and the only way for us to be saved in the kingdom of God.

So how do we find the assurance that our best is good enough?  Nephi’s example is a pattern for us to follow…  I will go and do the things the Lord commands! The Lord sets the standards and then says to us, go and do, I’ll help you along the way.  As was the case for Nephi, he did his best to get the plates from Laban.  His best at first was to go and ask for them, his second best was to persuade Laban with gold and silver, and finally, as he pressed forward with faith, the Lord prepared the way for Nephi to obtain the plates.  Nephi could have dropped the cause after his first two attempts and said, “I’ve given my best, what more can I do?”, but he knew he had the Lord on His side and an errand to finish.  What I learn from Nephi is that his best simply meant that he never gave up.  He didn’t get it right the first or second time, but he never quit, he always trusted that the Lord would help him.  As is true for us, the Lord will ask us to do things that seem hard, unattainable, and even undesirable at times, but when we go and do, He will always prepare a way for us to accomplish them.   Our best response to his command is to go and do and never give up!

Consider then how as missionaries we can be assured that our best is good enough as we strive to go and do what the Lord asks of us each day.  We can start by simply evaluating how we lived the missionary schedule today… Am I obedient, did I get up on time, exercise, plan, study, comp study, and give my best effort to use my time wisely?  We can then evaluate if we gave our best effort to find, teach, invite, and help others come unto Christ throughout the day.  A way to measure if we’ve given our best each day is always tied to our purpose… Did we give our best to help someone increase their faith in Jesus Christ and His Atonement today (invitations), did we help someone change and repent today (invitations), did we invite someone to be baptized for a remission of sins today, did we help someone feel and recognize the Spirit today, and did we help someone start the path back to their heavenly home today?  If we do these things each day, even if our plans fall through, we can be assured we gave our best today!  We will likely have some experiences like Nephi, where our first best attempts don’t go to plan, but through our persistent effort, we can be assured that our best has been given. If we didn’t give our best on a given day, let’s resolve to do better tomorrow, accept our weakness, learn from our mistakes, and keep pressing forward.  Our best is when we keep going, despite the obstacles that will come our way!

Even when we give our best we may still feel that we fall short.  As we all have come to love and understand, God gives us weakness so we will come unto Him. As we are taught so well by Moroni, when we come unto Him in our weakness, humble ourselves, and demonstrate our faith in Him, His grace (divine help and strength) is sufficient for us.  We need not worry about the Savior’s ability to help us in our weakness.  His grace is always there, willing to help us become strong.  As Brad Wilcox stated in his talk, His Grace is Sufficient, “Grace is not a booster engine that kicks in once our fuel supply is exhausted. Rather, it is our constant energy source. It is not the light at the end of the tunnel but the light that moves us through the tunnel. Grace is not achieved somewhere down the road. It is received right here and right now.” We are saved by grace after all we can do, but His grace is ever present, always enabling, always helping, always cheering us on. 

Elders & Sisters, the Lord’s expectations for us are high and it is good for us to reflect and ask ourselves if we are giving our best.  It is also good to recognize that our best will often fall short, but that our willingness to go and do and never give up is all that God requires of us.  Giving our best requires constant effort, thought, and hope for outcomes that sometimes we don’t see here and now.  The blessing, however, is that we are the Lord’s work and His glory and He will spare no effort, no support, nor resource to help us succeed and return to our heavenly home.   I invite you this week to continue to focus on those things that help you serve as the best disciples you can be.  It may require a Nephi type effort to be more effective in using your time.  It may require a Nephi type effort to make your purpose the driving force behind what you do.  Whatever it is, don’t give up, keep going!  You only fail when you stop trying…  As Elder Holland says, “Keep trying. Keep trusting. Keep believing. Keep growing. Heaven will be cheering you on today, tomorrow, and forever.”  Thanks for all you do to serve each day with all your heart, might, mind, and strength.  Your best is good enough!  Love ya!

President Hall