President's Pen 6-4-18 (Houston, We have a problem)

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!  "My mission belongs to the Lord.  With all my heart I give my energy and my time to the Master because I love him.  Therefore, I'm going to look at every day not as mine, but as His.  And I will treat each minute of His time with respect and focus and the dedication that it deserves."  I love this quote from Elder Ballard and pray that this is the way we will all feel and serve as we show our love to the Lord.

On April 14th, 1970, these famous words were communicated to NASA’s mission control here in Houston… Apollo 13 Astronauts: “Okay, Houston, we've had a problem here.”  Houston replies: “This is Houston. Say again please.” Apollo 13 Astronauts: “Houston, we've had a problem.” Imagine being 205,000 miles away from the earth, on your way to the moon, and having everything go wrong.  A large explosion had rocked the Apollo 13 spacecraft, the oxygen tanks that would sustain life were being drained, and power and communication were failing.  “Houston, we’ve had a problem,” seems like a massive understatement for three astronauts whose lives were in jeopardy. 

Problems in life are all around us, we feel, see, and experience them seemingly every day.  Our perception of problems and how we work through them vary in urgency and reaction depending on the situation and what’s at stake.  We have first world problems defined as, “a usually minor or trivial problem or annoyance experienced by people in relatively affluent or privileged circumstances.” (wifi is down)  And in contrast, third world problems, “problems of greater social significance facing people in poor and underdeveloped parts of the world.” (lack of food, water, education, health)  The majority of our problems day to day represent first world problems, and yet, there are those who see every problem as Apollo 13 (life is coming to an end, imminent death is certain). Perspective and our perception is everything!

I love what we learn in the scriptures regarding problems and the brother of Jared’s experience with the Lord.  As you all know, the brother of Jared is commanded to build a ship according to the Lord’s specifications.  Upon completing the vessels, the brother of Jared has a “Houston, we have a problem” moment; we don’t have any light in these fancy ships!  “And he cried again unto the Lord saying: O Lord, behold I have done even as thou hast commanded me; and I have prepared the vessels for my people, and behold there is no light in them. Behold, O Lord, wilt thou suffer that we shall cross this great water in darkness?” (Ether 2:22)

I can only imagine at times what the Lord must be thinking when we have our “Houston, we have a problem!” moments.  He surely must have a wonderful sense of humor and great patience for all of us when we cry out with every problem under the heavens and earth.  The Lord smiles (in my eyes :) as he replies to the brother of Jared, “And the Lord said unto the brother of Jared: What will ye that I should do that ye may have light in your vessels?” (Ether 2:23) In other words, “So yes, brother of Jared, you do have a problem, how can I help you?”

The Lord then goes on to list every possible problem; you can’t have windows, you can’t light fires, the mountain of waves will dash upon you. (Ether 2:23)   The brother of Jared must be thinking, “Oh gee, thanks, I thought it was bad, but it’s worse than I thought!”  The Lord in His infinite kindness, however, reassures the brother of Jared and says, “Nevertheless, I will bring you up again out of the depths of the sea; for the winds have gone forth out of my mouth, and also the rains and the floods have I sent forth.  And behold, I prepare you against these things; for ye cannot cross this great deep save I prepare you against the waves of the sea, and the winds which have gone forth, and the floods which shall come”  In other words, I’ll take care of you, be at peace, but He then asks, “Therefore what will ye that I should prepare for you that ye may have light when ye are swallowed up in the depths of the sea?” (Ether 2:25)

I find it interesting that in scripture I never see the Lord solve our problems… He helps us work through them, gives us strength, reassures us, but then allows us to find solutions.  This was true for Nephi and the brass plates, King Limhi and his people, Alma and his people, Ammon and his people, and on and on.  We know that the brother of Jared decided to go to the mount (symbolic of going to the temple) where he fashioned 16 small stones out of a rock.  He stayed at the mount, problem solved, and then came to the Lord with a solution on how he would have Him provide light as they crossed the sea.   It took time, work, and effort for the brother of Jared to do his part, and then the Lord willingly helped him.

We learn many important problem solving principles from the experience the brother of Jared has with the Lord (language problems, family and friend problems, where to live problems).  Among all of them, one of my favorites is what the brother of Jared says in his prayer, “And I know, O Lord, that thou hast all power, and can do whatsoever thou wilt for the benefit of man...”  (Ether 3:4)  The Lord could clearly step in at any time and take away our challenges, but for our benefit, He doesn’t.   He has power to do whatever we need, but He allows us to stumble and fall, fail, and keep learning, progressing, and growing.  He sees our problems as moments in time, as opportunities to lean upon Him, trust Him, and as He taught the Prophet Joseph, “know thou, my son, that all these things shall give thee experience, and shall be for thy good.” (D&C 122:7) 

We all want the silver bullets, the quick fixes, and the easy outs.  The reality is life is complex, there is opposition, and problems are a part of what mortality is all about.  Your opportunity is to be one who goes to the Lord, shares your problems, but then tells Him your plan and what you’re going to do about it.  Nothing is too big or too small, but He wants us to use the power that it within us to figure things out, to reason, to think, to study it out in our minds.  You get very little out of something when you put no time, effort, or attention to it and alternatively you come away with knowledge, experience, and great satisfaction when you can work things out.  How often do we ask to have problems solved before spending any time on them?

So, what do we do… When investigators don’t come to church, read, or pray, do we say, “Houston, we have a problem!”  No, we determine what the needs are, what the obstacles might be, we get to the root of it, we problem solve with them (not for them) and we create plans with them.  When you and your companion don’t see eye to eye do we say, “Houston, we have a problem!” No, we come back to our common purpose, we communicate safely, openly, kindly, and come to mutually agreeable solutions together.  When the members seemingly don’t do their part do we say, “Houston, we have a problem!”  No, we love them first, we earn their trust, we teach them, serve them, and invite them to join with us and help them share the gospel.  Life is full of “Houston, we have a problem!” moments.  We have challenges, big and small, but we can find solutions and the Lord will always be there to give us light and direction, bank on it! “And I will also be your light in the wilderness; and I will prepare the way before you, if it so be that ye shall keep my commandments…” (1 Ne 17:13)

A few brief ideas when working through problems… First, identify the facts, know what the problem actually is.  Is it real, is it imagined, is it first world, is it yours to solve?  Second, begin by listing the possible solutions and get creative (brainstorm).  The more solutions, the more revelation will come. Third, evaluate the options by determining the pros and cons, the pluses and minuses.  Fourth, choose an option or options and make a plan to carry them out.  Fifth, implement your plan, monitor your progress and evaluate.  Not every problem has an immediate solution, and it is often necessary to account for time, the agency of others, and if its within your control.  We also need to remember, especially when it comes to people, President Monson’s counsel, “Never let a problem to be solved become more important than a person to be loved.”

Elders and Sisters, as missionaries we are problem solvers, we are solution finders, we are obstacle removers, and hurdle handlers.  We do this for ourselves and we help those we’ve come to serve overcome their spiritual problems in life.  Not all problems are Apollo 13 in nature, let’s be optimistic and not doomsayers when the wifi goes down. ☺  We are meant to experience “Houston, we have a problem!” moments.  When we do, we know that the Lord is always preparing a way, He expects us to work through them, find solutions, seek His counsel, do the best we can, and know that light will come. 

I invite you today to consider any “Houston, we have a problem!” issues you’re experiencing.  Whether it is within your own life, with your investigators, or challenges at home.  What does the Lord want you to experience, what is there to learn, how can you find solutions for them?  Are you willing to accept the Lord’s timing and be patient as we endure them?  I testify in the name of Jesus Christ that the Lord knows your needs, He knows how to bless you, the power is within you to manage life’s problems.  Let us all trust in the Lord when our “Houston, we have a problem!” moments come.  Love ya!

President Hall