President's Pen 5-28-18 (Be Wise)

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 words of Elder Holland, “God is eagerly waiting for the chance to answer your prayers and fulfill your dreams, just as He always has. But He can't if you don't pray, and He can't if you don't dream. In short, He can't if you don't believe.”  I believe Elders & Sisters!  I know this is God’s work and that He has prepared hearts and minds to receive you.  Pray with faith, with real intent, and then believe He can and will help you accomplish your dreams!

“Knowledge is knowing that a tomato is a fruit, wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad.” I love this quote and think of it often when I remember Jacob’s teaching to his people, “O be wise; what can I say more?” (Jacob 6:22)  As we come to learn the gospel of Jesus Christ, we understand that knowing is not enough, it is in the application or living the gospel (wisdom) where the miracle of conversion takes place.  As Nephi taught, “But to be learned is good if they hearken (listen and obey) unto the counsels of God.” (2 Ne 9:29)  King Benjamin also added to this teaching when he said, “and now, if you believe all these things see that ye do them.” (Mosiah 4:10)

In the grand council in heaven we learned that an important purpose of our mortal existence was to be proven, “…to see if they will do all things whatsoever the Lord their God shall command them…” (Abraham 3:25)  The blessing of mortality is applying the gift of agency that was preserved and maintained through the Savior’s loving Atonement.  It is the one gift that will never be taken from us, and yet, it is the one gift that the Father asks us to return as we submit our will to His commandments.  As Elder Neil A. Maxwell taught, “the submission of one’s will is really the only uniquely personal thing we have to place on God’s altar. The many other things we “give,” brothers and sisters, are actually the things He has already given or loaned to us. However, when you and I finally submit ourselves, by letting our individual wills be swallowed up in God’s will, then we are really giving something to Him! It is the only possession which is truly ours to give!”

Wisdom, as I begin to understand it more fully, helps me realize that when I come to know and learn God’s will (commandments), the only logical and clear choice is to do/act/submit to whatever I’m asked to do.  It will always bless me to keep God’s commandments, to love Him, and in return, I receive the innumerable blessings He wants to give me.  Wisdom is found in obedience, in submitting my will.  I know, and therefore, it would be wise for me to go and do.  For this reason, I believe Nephi was wise when he said, “I, Nephi, said unto my father: I will go and do the things which the Lord hath commanded, for I know that the Lord giveth no commandments unto the children of men, save he shall prepare a way for them that they may accomplish the thing which he commandeth them.” (1 Ne 3:7) 

When I know following the Lord’s path is best, I love how Lehi’s teaching expresses the wisdom behind it, “Wherefore, men are free according to the flesh; and all things are given them which are expedient unto man. And they are free to choose liberty and eternal life, through the great Mediator of all men, or to choose captivity and death, according to the captivity and power of the devil; for he seeketh that all men might be miserable like unto himself.” (2 Ne. 2:27).  Here we see the grand plan of salvation taught plainly and the wisdom behind it…. Be obedient, choose well, have eternal life or be disobedient, do it your way, choose captivity and misery.  The choice is ours and Lehi’s wise counsel to his family was, “And now, my sons (daughters), I would that ye should look to the great Mediator, and hearken unto his great commandments; and be faithful unto his words, and choose eternal life, according to the will of his Holy Spirit;  And not choose eternal death, according to the will of the flesh and the evil which is therein, which giveth the spirit of the devil power to captivate, to bring you down to hell, that he may reign over you in his own kingdom.”

The beauty of the Father’s plan for us is in the ability to choose, to act, and to receive all that He has.  Satan, the father of all lies, tempts us to use our agency unwisely and as Elder Holland has taught, “Agency will be a disaster if we don’t follow the will of the Father!” In the end, it will be proven whether or not we love God or the enticing’s of the adversary.  While this may be a sobering thought, this is the nature of our mortal state.  The war in heaven simply moved here to the earth and the question for all of us is whether or not we’ll continue to follow the Father’s will or succumb to the adversary.  Thus, there must needs be opposition in all things, and the decision will be ours.  We’ve already chosen well once, let’s not forget the capacity is within us to be wise and keep doing it!

As missionaries, you are taught the principle of obedience the moment you arrive to the MTC (and hopefully for many years before!).  You are taught what it means to be exactly obedient, the miracles that can come, and the why behind it.  I believe every missionary that begins this great experience of serving the Lord has the desire to be obedient, and yet, when missionaries arrive to the field, sometimes their will becomes stronger than the Father’s.  It happens in small ways, we don’t get up on time, we don’t exercise, we don’t plan or study like we should, we don’t use our time wisely, we may listen to unapproved music, we may break the safeguards, etc. etc..  As King Benjamin taught, “And finally, I cannot tell you all the things whereby ye may commit sin; for there are divers ways and means, even so many that I cannot number them.” (Mosiah 4:29)   

Some missionaries may say, well, it’s not that big of deal, others do it, it’s too hard, it’s a silly rule, and the list of anti-responsible thinking blooms and grows.  Some may point to the spirit of the law vs. the letter of the law not realizing that the spirit of the law always elevates the letter of the law (letter of the law, 20mph in a school zone, spirit of the law, protect children)  Letter vs. spirit of the law rationalizing is an excuse, it’s AR, and it’s not the Lord’s way.   The Savior had a stern warning for this kind of thinking when he taught, “Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven.” (Matt 5:19)  He also promised, however, “…but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.” I believe we have an obedient mission and generally speaking we do very well.  For some, however, the natural man has taken control, we see rebellion, poor choices slow progress, and in turn, the work of the Lord.  We may know what we need to do, but we are not wise (tomatoes dropped into the fruit salad).  

Elders & Sisters, it is my desire to love you into the law of obedience.  I can’t command, force, convince, or manipulate you into doing what the Lord would have you do, nor do I desire to.  I will follow the counsel given in D&C 121 and strive to persuade, demonstrate long suffering, seek to be gentle, meek, and kind, and love you into it.  As the Prophet Joseph said, “I teach them correct principles, and they govern themselves.”  My hope is to help you see and learn for yourselves why it is wise to keep the first and great commandment by loving and serving God.  It is the only way to true happiness and the only way for a missionary to serve.  It is my expectation that you are exactly obedient, that you know the why behind it, the promised blessings you can and will receive, and how it will increase your faith in the Savior.  It is, however, your choice.  You can accept the standards set by the Lord (daily schedule, safeguards, clean the apartment/car, keep sight and sound, all the guidance found in the missionary handbook) or you can disregard them, but when you do, you do so knowingly and willfully.  Be wise, what can I say more?

I love the Savior who gave us the perfect example of submitting His will to the Father.  In 3 Nephi 11:11 we read, “…I am the light and the life of the world; and I have drunk out of that bitter cup which the Father hath given me, and have glorified the Father in taking upon me the sins of the world, in the which I have suffered the will of the Father in all things from the beginning.”  The Savior’s example of obedience helps me see that it is possible to give of my will, even when it seems immeasurably hard.  We will never be asked to go to the depths the Savior experienced, the Father simply is looking for us to give Him a broken heart and contrite spirit.  He is asking us to become submissive as a child, to root out the natural man, all for the purposes of giving us all that He has!  I invite you today to first ask, why do you choose obedience and what is the motivator?  Second, I ask you to evaluate where you need to give your will more fully to the Father.  I testify in the name of Jesus Christ that each of us will receive the promised blessings He has for us.  Let us all do what He asks, it’s the most intelligent (knowledge) thing to do, and there is great wisdom in following His counsel.  Love ya!

President Hall