President's Pen 7-31-17 (Destination, Route, Conclusion)

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!  You are disciples of Christ, you have been called to declare His word among the people of Houston, that they might have eternal life!

There is a simple teaching pattern we can follow as we help men and women increase their faith in the Savior and His Atonement, repent, make and keep covenants, receive the gift of the Holy Ghost in their lives, and endure to the end.  Follow this thought process with me…

If I want to go on vacation, I look at all the options available and choose a destination (somewhere I want to go and a reason for why I want to go there).  Let’s say I choose Palmyra, New York, as I want to visit the sacred grove and walk the grounds where Joseph Smith saw God the Father and His Son Jesus Christ.  After I choose this destination, I then look at the available methods and routes to get there.  I could drive, fly, take the train, ride the bus, ride my bike, or even walk.  As I want to make the best use of my time and spend as much time in Palmyra as I can, I look at the method and route that will be the most direct.  After evaluating all my options, I conclude that the best route to travel to my chosen destination is to fly from Houston to the Rochester, New York airport.  From there, I’m a short drive to being in a place where God the Father and the Savior once were.  I know where I’m going, how I will get there, and what I will do…

This simple example of a destination, route, and conclusion is what we teach.  The destination is the “Why”, the route is the “How”, and the conclusion is the “What”.   The question to ask yourself is, “Do I explain the destination clearly enough in order for people to follow the route and come to the conclusion that what we offer is the place they want to go?”  Here’s what I mean…

We all do our best to teach, but at times we have a tendency of getting things backwards.  If we are not careful, we can focus first on “how” or “what” people need to do to prepare for baptism, such as; pray, read, come to church, keep the commandments, etc., instead of focusing first on WHY they need be born of the water and of the Spirit in the first place.  If we haven’t given people a reason or understanding of why they will want to do these things, we give them a long list of hard things to do and sacrifices to make.  In other words, if they don’t understand the destination, the vision, big picture, or end in mind, they don’t keep commitments, because they don’t understand where it will lead them.  We give them a part of the route and may not make the destination very clear…

We might say in these cases that the investigators weren’t ready, weren’t prepared, or it’s not their time.  But the real truth is they don’t understand what we’re offering.  They don’t understand because in some cases we haven’t taught them to understand.  If they truly understood that salvation hangs in the balance, and came to know through us, the plan of redemption, the nature of spiritual death, how to receive a remission of sins by baptism of water and by the Holy Ghost, would they push away?  What responsibility do we have and how bold do we need to be in helping them come to understand?  If they reject us, is it because of the doctrine or that they haven’t understood it?

Here’s the magnitude and blessing of your calling… Without the priesthood authority to baptize, without baptism, and without the priesthood authority to confer the gift of the Holy Ghost, without the laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost, the Atonement of Jesus Christ has no effect in their lives.  They remain in sin, subject to the demands of the law of justice and life will be for naught! People cannot repent and be baptized without the truth, they cannot have the truth without someone to teach it, and you as a missionary are called to teach it! Nothing else matters if we do not have this central purpose in mind!

A couple of years ago we were blessed to have Elder Lawrence E. Corbridge of the Seventy come to the mission to teach the principle of destinations, routes, and conclusions.  He started his message by asking the missionaries what they wanted to accomplish during their missions.  Hands went up to respond to this question and the missionaries shared wonderful things such as; become more Christlike, gain greater knowledge, be lifelong disciples, prepare to become worthy husbands and wives and on and on…  All great responses, but very few, and I mean one or two said, “What I hope to accomplish on my mission is to baptize people for a remission of sins, to help them be forgiven, and to receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.”  It was a revealing exercise on whether or not missionaries truly, and I mean truly, understood their purpose.

He then went on ask the missionaries if they wanted to baptize, and of course, they all said, “Yes!”.  He then asked the missionaries why they wanted to baptize, of which came several answers, but again, only one or two that said, “I want to baptize because I want people to have the blessings of the Savior’s Atonement in their lives; I want them to be forgiven of their sins and to receive the gift of the Holy Ghost, because that is the greatest gift a person can receive in this life.” How might you have responded?

What Elder Corbridge taught that day had a profound impact on me as he focused me on the destination! He focused on WHY we are here and emphasized over and over that unless a missionary understands this vision to baptize, we can’t expect their investigators to understand the vision we have for them.  He then emphasized, “Almost always the reason people aren’t baptized, when they do not keep their commitments, is because they do not understand the truth, the doctrine, especially the doctrine relating to baptism by water and by fire.”  He then he looked at me and said, “President, make sure your missionaries understand this!”

What I have learned from my own experience is that missionaries, generally speaking, do not come with, and are often slow to develop the vision to baptize.   They want to baptize, but often don’t truly know why.  They want to baptize, but don’t exhaust themselves in the cause of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost in their finding, teaching, inviting, and following up.  For this reason, I continue to emphasize over and over the need to have the doctrine of Christ written on our hearts, and the need to teach repentance and baptize converts with the understanding of why we do it.  It is the only way for you, me, members, non-members, and every kindred, tongue, and people that will ever walk the earth.  When a missionary understands the destination, the route, and comes to the conclusion that this is THE only way to God, their service changes.

How does it change the missionary?  Their vision to baptize becomes their destination for the people they serve.  They teach with the end and the WHY in mind.  They help people identify how the route (faith in Christ and His Atonement, repentance, baptism for the remission of sins and the laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost, and enduring to the end) will lead them to their desired destination (the only way).  They extend invitations in the Savior’s name, and help people recognize that the goal isn’t simply to pray, read, come to church, or keep the commandments, but that these invitations are a means to knowing that what we teach is true and that baptism is the goal.  Missionaries then help their investigators understand why we want them to act in faith, so the power of the Holy Ghost can bear witness to their hearts and minds and enable the miracle of conversion.  They teach for understanding and help people conclude for themselves that the destination they should choose is to be redeemed of sin, endowed with the Holy Ghost and inherit eternal life.  That is a vision to baptize, and this is why we are called, set apart, and given power and authority to teach!

What else happens when missionaries understand this vision?  No longer do they focus on reporting key indicators as their measure of success or the result that drives them.  They become focused on success that can be measured in their hearts and minds, their commitment and effort! They find, not because it will be reported, but because they understand the destination and want nothing more than to teach repentance and baptism to those they find.  They study because they want to treasure up the words of life, so the Spirit can bring understanding to the words they teach.  They companionship study so they can teach in unity, by the Spirit, and help people progress towards the destination.  They are obedient, they work with members, they set goals, they plan, they give blood, sweat and tears to help people come unto Christ.  In the end, their purpose consumes them, and that is a vision to baptize!

Elders & Sisters, how great is your call! You increase the faith in men and women to help them understand the destination God has prepared for them. (3 Ne 5:13) You help them understand and put them on the direct route (doctrine of Christ) that will lead them to a remission of sins, forgiveness, the power of godliness in their lives, and eternal life.  You invite them to come to their own conclusion, through your effective teaching by the Spirit and your invitations, that there is no other intelligent choice. (Alma 5:62)    You help them know that every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus is the Christ.  My invitation to you today is for you to become ever more focused on your purpose and remember WHY it is that you do what you do.  I invite you to astonish men and women as you teach faith in the Savior and His Atonement, repentance, baptism for a remission of sins, receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost by the laying on of hands, and enduring to the end.  I invite you to talk to everyone, think about baptizing, talk about it, dream about it, and teach, teach, and teach to help people understand that baptism and receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost is the only way they can live with God.  This is your message, your theme, your dream, your purpose! Because you know your WHY, your WHAT & HOW will be a means to the end.  I testify in the name of the Savior that these are true principles, that your calling is to teach and bear powerful witness of these truths, and that you will help more come unto Christ as you come to know this for yourself.  Love ya!

President Hall