President's Pen 3-5-18 (Overcoming Ourselves)

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 the great week of zone conferences and for all you’re doing to invite and help all to come unto Christ.  I love that we have the blessing each day to increase someone’s faith in the Savior and His Atonement, help them change, make promises to God, feel of the Spirit, and walk the path back to His presence.  What  a blessing it is to be one of the Lord’s chosen representatives!

A topic that has been on my mind for the last several weeks is one that I hope will help us all in our effort to invite all to come unto Christ.  It is a critical aspect of our mortal experience and an area we must all work on if we want to become like the Savior.  In most cases, it will determine whether or not we will be successful in this life and the life to come.  The topic can be labeled as self-control, self-dominion, self-discipline, or self-mastery, and however you choose to describe it, it is ultimately about the test of agency and how we choose to use it.  In its simplest terms, self-mastery is doing those things we should do, and avoiding those things we should not do. It requires strength, willpower, and above all, the Savior's grace; enabling us to do things we otherwise can't do on our own.  

A few thoughts first to get your mind around the idea…  Plato said: “The first and best victory is to conquer self; to be conquered by self is, of all things, the most shameful and vile.”  We see this all over the earth, men and women who are conquered by addiction, debt, self-pity, entitlement, and with seemingly no responsibility or ability to dig themselves out of the pit they choose to enter.  Leonardo da Vinci stated, “You will never have a greater or lesser dominion than that over yourself.”  He then went on to say that, “the height of a man’s success is gauged by his self-mastery; the depth of his failure by his self-abandonment. … And this law is the expression of eternal justice. He who cannot establish dominion over himself will have no dominion over others.” In other words, how can you hope to lift, inspire, and bless others, if you choose not to do it for yourself?  This is why the Savior stated, "But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not: and when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren." (Luke 22:32)

Can we expect to see success in life if we are unwilling to overcome weaknesses that confront us?  Self-mastery is associated with our thoughts, actions, appetites, passions, language, emotions and in most cases it is the struggle of our spirit striving to overcome the weaknesses of our flesh.  President James E. Faust stated, "Self-mastery is a challenge for every individual... it cannot be bought by money or fame. It is the ultimate test of our character. It requires climbing out of the deep valleys of our lives and scaling our own Mount Everest's."  We all face some battle of controlling self.  The issues are too numerous to name, but you're all familiar with what they might be for you. (anger, procrastination, pride, slothfulness, etc. etc. etc.)  Isn't this the great test of our mortal probation, to do all we can to overcome these challenges, to then be proven worthy to return and live with God again?

During your missionary service you have the ability to define your character and truly develop patterns of self-mastery that will bless you for the rest of your life.  You determine how hard you work, study, find, and serve with all your heart, might, mind, and strength.  It is the principle of not only coming to understand what we should do (knowledge), but how we apply it (wisdom). The problem, we are all prone to weakness of body and mind and the question then becomes will we allow our weakness to dominate or will we do all we can and seek divine help along the way.  Consider then a few examples of missionary life where we demonstrate self-mastery each day…

Our exercise in self-mastery begins every morning at 6:29…  You are tired and your body does not want to get up and exercise.  At that point you have a choice, does the spirit or the flesh win?  Will you be overcome or will you have the willpower to start the day on the right foot?  Do you choose to have a productive and effective morning planning effort by setting real goals, by making solid plans, or do you just hope for the best?  Will you have a fruitful personal study?  Will you stay focused and sit at your desk, or lie on the floor, going through the motions, giving the appearance of study when your heart is far from it?  Will you get out of the apartment on time and look for ways to serve and teach or will you stay in the comfort of the apartment and wait until early afternoon to go about your efforts? Will you be engaged in companionship study and lesson planning for the well-being and progress of your investigators, or will you skip it and hope for the best ?  When your companion is getting on your nerves, do you go quiet and avoid, get upset and lash out, or do you demonstrate self-restraint, patience, kindness, and seek to understand?  Do you have the courage to talk openly and lovingly with your companion or do you just avoid? Throughout the day are you anxiously engaged, teaching, improving, and focused, or do you let the day simply come and go lost in your own desires and needs?  All of these can be answered if you have your purpose written on your heart or not…

A significant test of self-mastery for some of you is the phone in your hands.  It is true what we have been told… It accelerates a missionary in either direction, positive or negative. We speak often of keeping the safeguards and the importance of having the Spirit direct your efforts, being focused on your purpose, being one with your companion and the big one… discipline.  Even with this, some can’t help but go to the feed and scroll through what’s going on with friends at home or liking posts.  Some get up on time, and then go right to messages or notifications to see who’s liked their post or sent them a message.  Some endlessly look at their phone throughout the day, without their companion, or with any purpose in mind.  If your phone controls you here, imagine how it will control you at home.  I love those who’ve said, “I can’t trust myself or I don’t even want the temptation, so I’ve simply deleted Facebook.”  Others have turned off all notifications, email, Facebook, any anything else that will cause them to become undisciplined or distracted.  The AR list is alive and well for those who are undisciplined, and any excuse is a reflection on your progress and personal integrity.  I invite those who can and should be better to remember whose time you’re on.  As Nephi taught, “the guilty taketh the truth the be hard, for it cutteth them to the very center.”

You are all faced with the choice of how you serve and who you will become.  The natural man/woman within us wants to default to the path of least resistance.  This path of course leads to little growth, unfulfilled dreams, and regret.  Unfortunately, it is the simple areas of self-mastery that can hang us up well into the future (small and simple means for good or destruction).  When I return home, will I have the discipline to study the scriptures and pray daily?  Will I be faithful in my callings, go home/visit teaching, take care of my physical body, attend the temple, make the Sabbath Day a delight?  You will reap what you sow and there is no better time than today to sow personal strength and self-control.

So what do you do to gain self-mastery?  We are sons and daughters of God, endowed with power, enabled by the Savior's grace, to do and become whatever we choose.  We fall on our knees and wrestle with the Lord in our weakness so he can make us strong. We set personal goals and plans to help drive us, cause us to act, and progress.  We lean on and ask for the support of others where we struggle.  We own up to our weaknesses, poor decisions, ask for forgiveness, drop our pride, and do the best we can.  We recognize when we fall victim to becoming an object vs. an agent and seek to change our ways (repent).  To gain self-mastery we ultimately have to give our will to the only beings that can make us strong and help us overcome, our loving Father in Heaven and our Savior.   What do we gain by obtaining self-mastery, all that the Father has!

Elders & Sisters, my prayer for all of us is that our mission experience will enable us to develop patterns of self-mastery that will last a lifetime.  We have the ability to overcome the natural man/woman as taught by King Benjamin.  The formula he gave us was to yield to the enticing’s of the Holy Spirit, and become a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord, and become as a child, submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon him, even as a child doth submit to his father.  I invite you today to have more self-mastery, first as a son or daughter of God, then as a missionary, and finally as a lifelong disciple of Christ.  Thanks for your goodness, your efforts, and desire to become who you are destined to be.  Love ya!

President Hall