President's Pen 1-1-18 (Decisive)

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!  Happy New Year!  What a blessing it is to begin a New Year understanding our purpose, our divine nature as sons and daughters of God, who we are destined to become, and that our everyday efforts make a difference.  Resolve this year to be one who has greater faith in the Savior Jesus Christ and His Atonement.  Let us all keep our focus on the blessing of teaching repentance and baptizing converts!

And Joshua said unto all the people [of Israel], … “choose you this day whom ye will serve; … but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord” (Josh. 24:15).  I love these emphatic words form the Prophet Joshua.  His mind was firm, he had come to a decision, there was no middle ground, he would serve the Lord.  Do we all have that same firm, unwavering, and decisive mindset?

In scripture, we find several teachings where we are asked to make a decision and stand firm in it; a few examples… From the Book of Revelations, John teaches, “I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot.  So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth.”  What’s the message?  You can’t be a fence sitter, you can stand on one side or the other, but you can’t be lukewarm.  In the gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke the Savior teaches, “And if a kingdom be divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand.  And if a house be divided against itself, that house cannot stand.” (Mark 3:24-25) The message?  You can’t have a house in Zion and a summer cottage in Babylon and stand as one who is faithful and true.  And one of my favorite teachings from the Savior found in the Book of Mormon and New Testament, “No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.” (Matt 6:24) The message?  We’ll either love God or love the world; we have to decide.  Remember Lot’s wife…

Mortality brings a constant flow of decision making.  Some decisions are straight forward and easy (should I eat?) and others bring a level of complexity (what should I eat?).   The ability to make decisions, especially those that are important, come with the blessing of agency and the knowledge that the Lord trusts us to act and to, “do many things of their own will.” (D&C 58:27)  We can’t get too far off the path, or at least for very long, if we make a decision that is full of faith, prayer, and trust. We are to walk by faith and not by sight (2 Cor 5:7), so we need to be content that we make the best decisions we can and move forward. 

The truth, however, is that many lack the ability to make a decisive stand because of the adversary’s strategy: fear.  Fear of making the wrong decision, fear of missing out, fear of discomfort, fear of the unknown, fear of what the world view is, fear of you name it…  It is natural for all of us to have some degree of indecisiveness due to our fallen and mortal state.  In a psychology journal, the description of why decision making can be hard for us is explained this way… “The human mind hates uncertainty. Uncertainty implies volatility, randomness, and danger.”  Ever felt this way before an important decision?  If we lack faith, doubt, and are consumed with fear, we stall, become stagnant, and find ourselves sitting on the fence.  When this is the case, we will vacillate between options, lack direction, and can become like the chaff that is blown in the wind.

If we are to stand firm, unwavering, and be decisive, consider what you can do to move beyond your fears and take the leap of faith to press forward. 

  • First, put the options in front of you; I can do this or that, or choose this or that (the Lord’s way or my way).  For some decisions, the options can be limitless, but you have to narrow them down to a select few (i.e., I can go to XYZ universities, but I’m going to stick to those closest to home or how and where will we find today?).  Be effective and efficient, be decisive on options!
  • Second, study those options out in your mind.  This was what the Lord asked Oliver Cowdery to do when he desired to translate. (D&C 9:8-9) Gather the facts, study them out, ask others for input.  A caution here is you’ll never have all the data you need for some decisions.  This is called paralysis by analysis and can leave you stuck.  Once again, you go with the best information you have and make the decision.  You’ll also want to be cautious on making decisions where the timing isn’t right (i.e., praying to know now who you should marry, or what job to take, or what to study.  Good questions, but not necessarily good timing as a missionary, those decisions are better made in proximity to when the decisions need to be made.)
  • Third, decide and don’t look back!!!  For those decisions that are of a spiritual nature, and or consequential, (marriage, education, family) take your decision to the Lord and share with Him what you’ve decided to do.  The information you’ve gathered, will turn to inspiration, guiding you to the revelation you desire (Information = Inspiration = Revelation).  Our Father in Heaven trusts us to make decisions, confirm those that are important with Him, and then trust and move forward.  We must also remember that when we’re choosing between two equally good options, He just wants us to decide and then go and do. 

Elders & Sisters, we need to be decisive of whether or not we’ll be on the Lord’s side.  I think the hymn asks it best, “Who’s on the Lord’s side? Who? Now is the time to show. We ask it fearlessly: Who’s on the Lord’s side? Who?”  Missionaries that are on the Lord’s side know their purpose and have been decisive about how they will serve.  They’ve been decisive about their obedience and willingness to follow mission standards.  They are decisive about how they prayerfully plan, purposefully study, lovingly work with their companions, effectively serve the members, and faithfully bless their investigators.  As President Russell M. Nelson taught, “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.”  They’re not perfect, but they’re making great progress, and are far more content than those whose house is divided.  They are decisive!

I invite you, as we embark on a New Year, to become more decisive in declaring who you will serve.  I invite you to eliminate your fears and make decisions that are bold and represent your true calling as a representative of Jesus Christ.  The Lord needs you to decide this day who you will serve, and how you will serve.  There is no time for fence sitting, middle ground, or neutrality, and there is no better day than today to make a stand like Joshua, and declare your decision.  Love ya!

President Hall