President's Pen 5-7-18 (Transfer Wrestle)

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!  I begin again today with Elder Holland’s inspired words to us as missionaries, “if this is God's work, and if He still lives, then miracles and angels are still there. We must live up to our potential. God will bless us with whatever we need. God wants us to see just what He sees and know what He knows. He wants us to ratchet up the vision. God is easy to please and hard to satisfy... This is not convenient, easy work. We have got to take things to the edge. We have to move into the realm of the miraculous. We have to live in such a way that we cannot do it alone anymore-where we will resort to the Lord-where we will cry, "without thy help, I will fall," "help me fly." Go to the edge where miracles happen. Move in to the realm of the miraculous. Have full faith. Believe in angels. With the power of the priesthood, push the envelope. Welcome to the apostalic work."  I love this work my dear friends!

Every six weeks I have a wrestle before God.  After nearly three years, you would think that this wrestle would have become easier for me, but it simply hasn’t.  The wrestle that I speak of is knowing the Lord’s will for each of you as transfer week approaches. I plead with the Lord to have the spirit of revelation, in other words, I desire that the Holy Ghost will bring feelings to my heart and thoughts to my mind so I can do the Lord’s will.

I want to share with you what I do as I prepare for transfers, and why I believe the Lord is aware of your needs, who your companion should be, and where you should serve.  Prior to each transfer I do everything I can to prepare myself spiritually...  I begin with a mighty prayer and ask the Lord to let me know perfectly who should train, who should lead, and where all should serve.  I always ask for additional discernment to know what you personally need.  I also pray for the gift of charity so I can look and behold you as God does, to see who you are becoming and who you are destined to be.  I then hold a fast and plead with the Lord to give me the spiritual strength and boost I need to be more in tune with the Spirit to help me answer the questions from my prayer.  When possible, I attend the temple and seek additional guidance, peace, and discernment.  I have learned through experience that I need the powers of heaven to aid me in this process and between continuous prayer, fasting, temple attendance, and direction from the Spirit, I feel prepared to do the Lord’s will. 

Information, leads to inspiration, leads to revelation.  I begin the transfer process following the pattern that the Lord taught Oliver Cowdery in Doctrine & Covenants section 9; I study it out in my mind.  These aren’t in any particular order, but helpful to me as I study things out… I look at how long each of you have served in your area, how long you’ve been with your companion, who’s going home (how many/languages/elders/sisters), who’s arriving (how many/languages/elders/sisters), areas that may need to close/open, those who can drive, those who can’t drive, those with health concerns (emotionally or physically), language needs, how much time you have left to serve, those with companionship issues, those who are struggling with faith or obedience, and those who can help and lift.  To help me with this information gathering process I review in my mind our recent interviews, weekly return and report emails, ongoing thoughts I’ve had, feedback from Sister Hall, as well as feedback from mission leadership.  I always have to be looking one to two transfers ahead and that adds to the complexity of each transfer.  I have come to know that the more information I have, the more inspiration I will receive.

With this information in my mind, I then ask the Lord to guide me on who should train.  Training is the most important assignment given by the Lord to a missionary as it requires the most trust.  I know that a way a missionary is trained has a long lasting effect, not only on the missionary, but on our mission culture and desire to teach repentance and baptize converts.  I look for missionaries who are obedient, faithful, hardworking, good teachers, patient, and humble.  I know these missionaries aren’t perfect, but I also know that when they rise up to the significance of their call, the Lord will magnify their humble efforts.   As I pray to know who should train, I review faces and names.  I want the Lord to guide me, and when I move a new missionary on the transfer board to a potential trainer, the Spirit will witness who the Lord would have me choose.  When the right assignment comes together, I trust the impression, and I go with it.   If you are ever called to train, please know it is not taken lightly and that I expect your best.  I also know the Lord qualifies who He calls. 

I then look at leadership… I recognize that most all who come to serve a mission are worthy of being called to lead.  Leadership can be formal and informal and every missionary in this mission has the ability to lead and should.  When I consider who should lead, I of course look at obedience, worthiness, diligence, teaching skills, and desire.   I review leaders who will be returning home soon, how long leaders have served, and whether or not they will be trusted servant leaders.  I expect our leaders to lead by example first, to be diligent, to hold themselves accountable and to help others do the same.  I know some leaders will need to do some repenting as they begin their service and I’m grateful for missionaries who sustain those the Lord has called.  While it’s not possible for every missionary to serve in a formal leadership position, I do try to rotate assignments where possible.  You may be called for a transfer or two or in some cases longer.   If you are released from your assignment, you should never feel like you’ve not performed well, it’s simply a matter of mission needs and inspiration I receive.  If you’ve never been called formally as a leader, it’s not because I don’t see leadership potential, we simply are limited on the number of leaders that can be called.  You will all lead in your homes one day as worthy husbands and wives, mothers and fathers; your mission is a wonderful way to learn and apply these principles now!

As I work through trainers, leaders, and all the addition information I have, I start to move missionaries based on what I know and what I feel.  I spend hours looking at the transfer board, making a move here, changing an assignment there.  In some cases your picture never moves on the board, in other cases I might move you ten times until it feels right, in other cases I know the one place you’re supposed to go.   I can make one change that disrupts what I have already done, and then I go back to each area, each face, and each need again.  Often times I have to get up and walk away from the board to think.  I have learned that if I am uptight, stressed, or not feeling the way I should, the Spirit is hard to hear.  In those cases I stop and walk away until I’m at peace again.  It is a spiritual process that constantly has me praying, wrestling, and I can’t describe to you how much I seek the guidance of the Lord other than to tell you that I do. 

Sometimes I know there is a specific reason for you to be in an area.  It may be for a companion, a leadership assignment (formal/informal), or a need in a ward or branch.  Other times I don’t have the answer why you are there or why you have the companion you do, other than it simply feels right.  What I always know is that there are people who you have been called to find, teach, bless, serve, invite and help come unto Christ.  Every area is a great area, it’s the Lord’s vineyard, and I have full faith that a missionary can succeed regardless of where they are called to serve.  I am saddened when a missionary lacks faith in their assignment or when a companionship doesn’t work through differences.  I know, believe, and feel that the Lord put you in your area and with your companion to first teach His gospel, to live it together, to become equally yoked, and to do His will.  You should always ask the Lord what He wants from you in your assigned area, how you can bless and serve the people, and how you and your companion can learn from each other and work effectively together.  I don’t just throw you together randomly or on a whim!  If you wonder where you are or why this companion, follow Nephi’s suggestion, “Have ye inquired of the Lord?”

After all the iterations, prayers, walking around the neighborhood, late nights, and early mornings, it all comes together.  I can only describe it as a feeling of peace to my heart and that my mind finally becomes settled.  It is hours and hours in the making and there are times where I throw my hands up and walk away from the board, but it always comes together, always!   After I’m at peace, I review each of your faces, your companion, and your area one more time.  I then take my decision to the Lord and get on my knees to ask if this is what He would have me do. In some cases, I may be impressed to make a change.  I follow the prompting, make the change, and then go back and ask the Lord again.  When I’m done, I’m at peace, and that’s all I ask for.  Like all decisions we make in life, even those that are very inspired, there can always be some lingering questions and feelings of the unknown, but this is where we all walk in faith and we trust the impressions we’ve received.  The same is true for me with transfers…

Elders & Sisters,  I share my experience with you for two reasons today...  The first is to help you know and understand that I know that transfers are a spiritual process and that I give my best to the Lord to do His will.  I am confident that you are where you need to be and serving with who you need to serve.  I also share this experience with you to describe how revelation is received.  We must prepare spiritually, study things out in our mind, do the work, make decisions, fast, pray, attend the temple, listen and act on the impressions we receive, and rely on the Lord. For decisions that are important in life, we can always expect to do some wrestling.  I am grateful that the Lord hasn’t let this process come easy for me, He continues to make me work, struggle in the spirit, and wrestle!

Please remember that first, you are called to serve as a full-time missionary in the Lord’s restored Church, and second, you are then assigned to labor in a part of the Lord’s vineyard.  What matters most is your desire to serve God! (D&C 4).  Where you serve is secondary to how you serve.  I invite you to serve with greater faith in the Lord, in your sacred calling, and in the area and with the companion you are called to serve.  We will all stand accountable before the Lord and give a rendering of our service, be confident you have served Him well.  I testify in the Savior’s name that He knows what you need, where you need to be, and that He will continue to mold and help you become as He is.  Love ya!

President Hall