President's Pen 5-14-18 (12 Week)

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! Borrowing from the amazing words of President Gordon B. Hinckley, “In this work there must be commitment. There must be devotion. We are engaged in a great eternal struggle that concerns the very souls of the sons and daughters of God. We are not losing. We are winning. We will continue to win if we will be faithful and true. We can do it. We must do it. We will do it. There is nothing the Lord has asked of us that in faith we cannot accomplish.”  I know this to be true and we know the battle has already been won! Go into the Lord’s vineyard each day knowing that the outcome has already been determined and that your faith, commitment, and devotion will bring miracles!

I want you to think for a moment on what you do vs. why you do it…  We often focus on our WHY here in the Great THSM as we know that without purpose and vision, what we do, and how we do it, can feel robotic, impersonal, and checklist oriented.  Elder Bednar spoke on the topic of purpose to lift our sights and used the following examples… “In our customary Church vocabulary, we often speak of going to church, going to the temple, and going on a mission. Let me be so bold as to suggest that our rather routine emphasis on going misses the mark.  The issue is not going to church; rather, the issue is worshipping and renewing covenants as we attend church. The issue is not going to or through the temple; rather, the issue is having in our hearts the spirit, the covenants, and the ordinances of the Lord’s house. The issue is not going on a mission; rather, the issue is becoming a missionary and serving throughout our entire life with all of our heart, might, mind, and strength. It is possible for a young man (woman) to go on a mission and not become a missionary, and this is not what the Lord requires or what the Church needs.”

I love how boldly Elder Bednar teaches using these three examples of church and temple attendance and missionary service.  Not only are they important for us, but so important for our investigators as well.  If we apply his thinking to other things we do, how would we describe our purpose of reading scripture, offering mighty prayers, talking to everyone, inviting boldly, or any other missionary activity for that matter.  If we do, without focusing on the why, we can miss the far greater blessings that are available to us.  As Preach My Gospel teaches, “You need to be a Christlike missionary, not just do missionary things.” In other words, doing without becoming will never bring about the higher purpose we are here for.  As Elder Bednar taught, it is possible to be on a mission, but not become a missionary. 

Over the last several weeks I have asked many missionaries about their experience when they first arrived to the field.  The typical challenges they share are universal; some homesickness, feeling overwhelmed or inadequate, adjustment to mission standards and schedule, language barriers, and wondering if they can measure up.  I have then asked about what they have done in the first few weeks that have helped them become the kind of missionaries they hope to be.   In most cases they answer with activities they have done; more mighty prayers, better study, relying on the Lord, and even the passing of time.  These are wonderful and good and it’s always amazing to me to see what a good and consecrated missionary can learn in such a short period of time.  What I rarely hear, however, is how “The First 12 Weeks” has helped them do and become who the Lord expects them to be.

Review in your mind for a moment your experience of working through “The First 12 Weeks” with your trainer.  Did you do it?  Did you take time each day to review the doctrine, skills, videos, and other activities that would help you become the best missionary you could be?  Sometimes I find that a trainer is not as disciplined as they would hope to be in creating the schedule and commitment to daily 12 Week activities.  In other cases, a new missionary may feel like they are already good with the skills they have and not give their all to this amazing training program to become.  In some cases, both the trainer and trainee feel like it’s a checklist of items to get through (do it all in a day) rather than to practice, study, and become great at.  Sadly, we might do, but not approach the level of becoming if we haven’t applied the principles the Lord needs us to learn and master.

In “The First 12 Weeks” there are eight fundamentals from Preach My Gospel that teach every missionary what to do, how to do it, but more importantly why they do it.  These fundamentals begin with the doctrine of Christ, our missionary purpose, and the WHY behind everything we do.  Until this purpose drives your daily activities, you might do them, but they will feel like a checklist and robotic.  The next critical item is understanding how the Holy Ghost is the Testator, Teacher, and Comforter, and how His role brings about true conversion.  A missionary who understands the role of the Holy Ghost will a strive to be a worthy vessel and do everything they can to create the environment for the Spirit to teach.  The next three fundamentals are about increasing faith and teaching repentance…  We focus on how revelation will come through prayer, reading the Book of Mormon, and going to church.  A missionary that masters these teaching principles, and helps an investigator act in faith, will help men and women come unto Christ.  The last three fundamentals are about your missionary skills… Teaching people and not lessons (needs based teaching), commitment invitations/follow up, and how to begin teaching.  A missionary who develops the confidence to use these important skills will bless many and become a powerful instrument in the Lord’s hands.

I have felt impressed that as a mission we all need to have a refresher and not just do “The First 12 Weeks”, but let the “The First 12 Weeks” reinforce and help us become the missionaries the Savior would have us become.  Some of you had great experiences learning from the 12 Weeks outlines and will enjoy seeing how much progress you’ve made.  Some of you didn’t spend the time you should have each week and it will be a great opportunity to experience and grow from what you already know and improve the skills you have.  We now enter a season of the year where many missionaries will be returning home and many new will arrive.  Some of you will be asked to train and others will be asked to follow up train (weeks 7-12).  As a mission we need to be ready to welcome new missionaries and equally important we need to master the doctrines and skills that help us become who the Lord needs us to become. 

Elders and Sisters, my invitation to you today is to begin “The First 12 Weeks” again this week (if you’re new, continue where you’re at).  I want you to start by taking the personal assessment on pages 13-15 in the booklet.  Be honest with where you’re at and share your assessment with your companion.  I would then invite you to read the introductory pages (1-5), ask yourself if you’re following the guidance given, and then begin week 1.  I would like every companionship in the mission to take a half hour each day in the early afternoon (between 12-3) to follow the suggested study schedule.  Whether you’re going home soon or just finished the 12 week outline last transfer, we can all benefit through the blessing of repetition. 

My promise to you elders and sisters is that you won’t just know what and how to be a missionary, but that you will become even more powerful representatives of the Savior.  If you will take only a half an hour each day, a small and simple thing, your confidence will soar, your knowledge will increase, your skills will improve, your language abilities will progress, and you will become the missionary the Lord needs you to be.  I testify in the Savior’s name that great things will come about if you follow my invitation to not only do, but to remember the purpose behind it.  You all desire to become and be the best missionaries you can be.  I love this about you and know that the tools and resources we’ve been given are inspired and will help you in your efforts to invite all to come unto Christ.  As Elder Bednar taught, “The issue is not going on a mission; rather, the issue is becoming a missionary and serving throughout our entire life with all of our heart, might, mind, and strength.”  Will you accept this invitation? Love ya!

President Hall