President's Pen 6-18-18 (Taste the Fruit)

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! From the inspired teaching of Elder Holland, “The Atonement will carry the missionaries perhaps even more importantly than it will carry the investigators. When you struggle, when you are rejected, when you are spit upon and cast out and made a hiss and a byword, you are standing with the best life this world has ever known, the only pure and perfect life ever lived. You have reason to stand tall and be grateful that the Living Son of the Living God knows all about your sorrows and afflictions. The only way to salvation is through Gethsemane and on to Calvary. The only way to eternity is through Him—the Way, the Truth, and the Life.”  Stand tall with the Savior dear Elders & Sisters, and be grateful!

Of all that I have taught during our missionary service, my favorite doctrine to teach is that of the Savior’s Atonement.  I don’t profess to know much, but what I do know and have come to deeply love is my personal witness that the Savior atoned for me.  Of all things I am grateful for, and of all truths that I take with me, I take 100% assurance in what Alma taught, “there is one thing which is of more importance than they all—for behold, the time is not far distant that the Redeemer liveth and cometh among his people.” (Alma 7:11)

When your first arrived to the mission field we reviewed page two of Preach My Gospel and underlined this sentence, “As your understanding of the Atonement of Jesus Christ grows, your desire to share the gospel will increase.”  Not only have I come to believe this is true, but I’ve seen it fill the hearts and minds of the many missionaries we’ve been blessed to serve with.  When a missionary has come to personally know for themselves that Jesus Christ is their Savior and Redeemer, there is more energy in their step, more drive and purpose in opening their mouths, and the Savior truly becomes the center of all they teach. 

As we read this great statement in PMG, I ask you to turn with me to Lehi’s personal experience of how he tasted the fruit of the Atonement.  In his own words he says, “And it came to pass that I beheld a tree, whose fruit was desirable to make one happy. And it came to pass that I did go forth and partake of the fruit thereof; and I beheld that it was most sweet, above all that I ever before tasted. Yea, and I beheld that the fruit thereof was white, to exceed all the whiteness that I had ever seen.” (1 Nephi 8:10-11)  As we study this experience we learn that the Savior is the tree of life and that the fruit Lehi partook of was the fruit of His infinite and loving Atonement. 

It is not hard to imagine why Lehi’s experience of tasting the fruit of the Savior’s Atonement would make one happy, would be so sweet, so white, and fill him with joy.  In absence of the Atonement, we are subject to death, to sin, to sorrow, misery and captivity.  There is no peace, no forgiveness, no joy, and we are all subjects to the devil.  Without the Savior and His Atonement there is no purpose to life and we are forever cut off from the presence of the Father.   

As we review the amazing and precious fruit of the Savior’s Atonement, I ask each of you to ponder how you’ve tasted the fruit.  I find that many missionaries have a knowledge of the Atonement, but personalizing it based on their own life experiences is often lacking.  When missionaries share how they have felt forgiven, have obtained hope, felt peace, were given strength through His grace, felt healed, and felt joy, I see the lights turn on in their hearts and minds.  For many it is the first time they realize that they have actually experienced the Savior’s Atonement in a real and personal way.  It no longer appears distant, but something that they have felt, applied, and can speak to.  Their faith in the Savior increases and they come to understand more fully that it is individual and personalized to them.

We then turn to the scriptures to learn how those that have come to taste of the fruit have a greater desire to share it.  We know that after Lehi partook he was desirous to share it with his family. (1 Nephi 8:12)  Enos, having tasted the fruit of forgiveness and a remission of his sins desires nothing more than to share it with his brethren the Nephites. (Enos 9 & 19)  Alma the Younger and the sons of Mosiah, following their miraculous conversion experience, desire to spend all their days teaching and sharing the fruits of the Savior’s love and mercy with all who would listen.  (Mosiah 27:32 & 28:3)  Zeezrom, having tasted the fruit of forgiveness and healing is baptized and immediately goes to share his experience and love for the Savior.  (Alma 15:12) King Lamoni, having also come to sing the song of redeeming love wants all of his people to experience what he has felt and learned. (Alma 19:31)  How many other experiences like these have you come to find in the scriptures?

These few, but powerful examples, stand as a witness that, “As your understanding of the Atonement of Jesus Christ grows, your desire to share the gospel will increase.”  I ask you today elders and sisters if you are spending the time to more fully understand the Savior’s Atonement, taste of the fruit, and have an increasing desire to share what you’ve come to know and feel.  We invite others to come unto Christ by helping them receive the restored gospel of Jesus Christ.  The centerpiece of what we teach is our relationship to the Savior, He is the one thing of most importance, and He will soon come again among his people!  You find, teach, and invite to the end that people will come unto Christ, accept Him as their Savior and Redeemer, make covenants, and follow in His ways.

Without faith in Jesus Christ and His Atonement why would anyone choose to repent, make covenants, or desire to endure to the end?  Why be baptized for a remission of sins, why receive the gift of the Holy Ghost, attend church, pray, and study the scriptures?  All we teach, all we testify of, all we invite men and women to do is an appendage to the Savior and His loving Atonement.  This is why we invite in His name, promise blessings in His name, pray in His name, and do all things in His name.  As Nephi taught so well, “And we talk of Christ, we rejoice in Christ, we preach of Christ, we prophesy of Christ, and we write according to our prophecies, that our children may know to what source they may look for a remission of their sins.”  

As Elder Neil A. Anderson taught the missionaries in 2016, “Ask yourself, “What do I really believe about the Savior’s Atonement? Am I personally experiencing the Atonement?” He then goes on to promise, “By increasing your understanding of the Atonement, your effectiveness as a missionary will increase.” Unless we personally come to understand Him, His love, mercy, forgiveness, grace, healing, hope, joy, and peace, we will talk of Christ, but we won’t do it with the same power and authority that will carry it unto the hearts of those we teach.  If we want to lose ourselves in the work, focus on our purpose, and become the missionaries God needs us to be, we need to have the Savior’s name on our lips and declare how we’ve personally tasted this most desirous of all fruit.

The Savior’s Atonement can be experienced by everyone of us each day if we will but recognize it… When you pray to the Father in the Savior’s name, you taste the fruit.  When you struggle, feel inadequate, weak, and hopeless, and rely on His grace, you taste the fruit.  When you seek daily change through repentance you taste the fruit.  When you wake up every morning and are able to bear with patience your afflictions, feel succored, and are granted any success, you taste the fruit.  How else have you tasted of the fruit and how are you recognizing it?  Elders & Sisters, your daily breath is a manifestation of the Savior’s Atonement in your life.  I invite  you today to see it, feel it, taste it, and come to understand that it is infinite is scope, breadth, depth, and personal to each of you.

I know and testify that the Savior came to the world to do the will of the Father.  He drank the bitter cup of death, sin, pain, affliction, and of all infirmities so I can overcome the effects of the fall.  He knows me perfectly, wept and bled for me in the Garden of Gethsemane, arose from the tomb on the third day by the power of the resurrection.  I have put all my faith, hope, trust, and assurance in Him.  Without Him I have nothing, and with Him I have everything.   I know He lives and I testify that He loves each of you and all of the those we have come to bless in Houston perfectly.  Men and women can’t access His grace and His Atonement without your help.  I invite you to come to understand His Atonement so that you too will have a greater desire to share it.  I have tasted the fruit, know of its sweetness, and love to share it so others can partake as well.  Love ya!

President Hall