I am please to announce that last week we released a new website design for MormonMissionPrep.com. I’ve stuck with the same logo we introduced in 2013, but the rest of the site design and layout is new. The site is dramatically cleaner–less cluttered, fewer side bar items, fewer ads, more white space, etc., but the biggest change is that the site is on a new server and loads much much faster than before. Hopefully you will find it easier to navigate and find and read the content you are looking for. We had a few technical hiccups when we launched the new site design last week, but I think we have all the bugs worked out now. If you notice any problems, though, or if you have any suggestions, let me know via the contact page. Thanks and God bless you in your mission preparation!
I served in the Parque Urquiza neighborhood of the city of Rosario, Argentina from December 18, 1996 to February 18, 1997. It was the ward in the very geographic heart of the city. Like all the areas in which I served, it was very enjoyable in many ways, and had it’s unique challenges in other ways. Prior to me arriving in this area, as I recall, this ward had not had a baptism in a long time. With the help of the Lord, though, we were able to see many good people brought into the Church through the waters of baptism while I was there.
- People We Taught and Baptized
- Members of the Church in Parque Urquiza
- Missionaries I Served With
- Neighborhoods in Parque Urquiza
- Apartment in Parque Urquiza
Above is Juan Carlos Lopez and his mother with me at their apartment. From the way we met Juan Carlos to his ultimate conversion and baptism, his story was filled with the miracles of God. Click here to read more about the conversion story of Juan Carlos.
Above is the Flores family, José and María, and their three kids (names changed to protect their identity). I really enjoyed meeting them and teaching them the discussions and seeing their whole family come into the waters of baptism. A few years ago, I connected with Brother Flores on Facebook and found out that his youngest son, the baby in the picture, was preparing to serve a full-time mission. That gave me much joy and satisfaction. I felt like Alma who, when he was reunited with the sons of Mosiah, “did rejoice exceedingly to see his brethren; and what added more to his joy, they were still his brethren in the Lord” (Alma 17:2).
This is the wife and children of the Parque Urquiza Ward bishop, Cabrera. This family fed us lunch frequently, for which we were very grateful. I also enjoyed spending time with them, as they reminded me of my own family back home. This is Steve Regis, a member of the stake high council, and his wife and sister in law. Steve grew up in California, and I heard he may have later moved back to the US, but we have not connected since the mission. I remember a powerful lesson he gave one Sunday about the Prophet Joseph Smith.
This is the bishopric of the Parque Urquiza Ward. From left to right: A brother who’s name I don’t recall, Bishop Cabrera, and Brother Burgeño. As I recall, Brother Burgeño got married and sealed to his wife in the Buenos Airies Temple while I was serving there.
This is Brother Cutri and his daughter Joanna. Brother Cutri is Argentine, but he raised his family in California and they spoke perfect English. I remember Brother Cutri coming with us one day to teach a discussion to Juan Carlos Lopez and we appreciated his support.
This is my companion, Elder Wasden, and I will the zone leaders/district leaders. From left to right: Elders Staffanson, Rindlisbacher, Smith, and Wasden. The lady in front is the land lord for Elders Staffanson and Rindlisbacher. She was upset that day because one of them was being transferred.
Here’s our mission president, Presidente Ontiveros grilling up some hamburgers at the Christmas day 1996 get together at the mission home. Who doesn’t do a back yard bar-b-que for Christmas? 🙂 But you do need to remember that Christmas occurs in the middle of summer in Argentina.
The meeting house for the Parque Urquiza ward. This chapel and grounds were very nice with a basketball court / concrete soccer field in the back. The building was a major contrast to all the high rise buildings around it.
I have a picture of the apartment I lived in for most of my mission areas but I can’t find one for this area. But these two pictures were taken inside my apartment.
DNA is the genetic code inside living organisms that determines all their bodily characteristics. DNA determines visible traits like hair color and height, and it is also responsible for unseen things like cholesterol risk factors and mental health issues. The DNA molecules in your cells carry seemingly infinite combinations of atoms, proteins, and gene sequences that are unique to you. Nobody else in the world has the same DNA as you (unless, perhaps, if you have an identical twin, in which case I’ll have to ask a geneticist :). Many scientists say that DNA is what makes you, you.
I’m a marketing analyst by profession and some time ago I was introduced to the concept of “marketing DNA” developed by a guy named Perry Marshall. Like your physical DNA, your marketing DNA is the combination of preferred communication styles and methods that are unique to you, like speaking to others in person compared to using written communication, or using stories and illustrations compared to using charts and numbers. Marketing DNA is a way of measuring and expressing each individual’s “natural persuasion and communication style.”(1) The Marketing DNA concept helps people understand their innate strengths and talents so that they can harness communications methods and styles that are more effective for them personally. By sticking to the marketing DNA that comes to you naturally, your marketing, sales, and communications activities “become easier, less tedious, less frustrating and more rewarding.”(2)
What is Missionary DNA?
While I intend no endorsement of Mr. Perry, as I learned about his idea, I couldn’t help but see many ways in which it relates to missionary work. I think each of us has a Missionary DNA–a natural way that we prefer to communicate and share the restored gospel of Jesus Christ with our friends and neighbors. It’s the combination of ideas, activities, words, deeds, and styles that is unique to you as an individual when you do missionary work. No one else has the same missionary DNA as you and by sharing the gospel in ways consistent with your natural talents, you can be more sincere and more effective than if you try to force yourself to do missionary tasks that you’re not naturally inclined to do.
Natural and Normal Missionary Work
With regard to member missionary work, the prophets have often encouraged us to share the restored gospel of Jesus Christ in ways that are natural to us and that flow out of our normal everyday lives. In April 2012, Elder David F. Evans gave a General Conference talk in which he said that when you do member missionary work, “do it in a natural and normal way” (Was It Worth It?). In 1977, then Elder Thomas S. Monson encouraged members “to naturally and normally share the gospel” (Ensign, Oct. 1977).
Referring again to Mr. Perry’s marketing DNA concept, he says there are “lots of tasks you can perform, and do perform, which are slow or laborious because they’re not in your natural groove” while “other people love to do things you hate.”(3) In your career in marketing and communications as well as in your member missionary work, I think it’s okay to focus on the things you naturally excel at, and when it comes to the activities that do not come naturally, leave them to other people who do enjoy them.
With member missionary work, there are thousands of ways in which we can share the gospel message with others. Some of those activities will be suited to your individuals skills and communication preferences, your missionary DNA, and some activities will be less suited for you and more suited to others. With so many types of missionary activities to choose from, it is not only okay to focus on what works for you, it very well may be the best choice. God’s children all have different talents, and if we each do our part, everyone can play a role, though each of us will play a slightly different role, in building the kingdom of God. “For all have not every gift given unto them; for there are many gifts, and to every man is given a gift by the Spirit of God” (D&C 46:11)
Skills that are part of the Missionary DNA
The eight core skills that are part of marketing, or in our case missionary work, as identified by Mr. Perry are:
- Dreaming: Dreamers are creative and prize originality. “Inventing, innovating, creating, generating, [and] re-combining” come naturally to these people.
- Doing: Doers are highly productive. They get things done. This kind of person “adheres to plans, follows routines, makes things predictable.” This is “the person who arranges, systematizes, codifies, plans, scripts and stages everything.”
- Words: “Words denotes a person whose strength is either writing or talking.”
- Images: “Images refers to the person who prefers to communicate visually, whether through photographs, drawings, videos, charts, graphs or live demonstrations.”
- Live: These “people are fantastic on the spot. They absolutely shine when the pressure’s on.” If this is you, you like to “get in front of the client and you basically wing it.”
- Recorded: These “people prefer to meticulously script everything they do. Write it, plan it, edit it, produce it to the hilt.”
- Empathy: “People with high empathy have an almost psychic sense of what people want, aspire to, feel, experience, loathe and fear.”
- Analysis: “You’re a data driven person.” You thrive “where everything is measurable.”
These eight skills are often treated as four pairs, or opposite ends of a single dimension: 1) Dreamer/Doer, 2) Words/Images, 3) Live/Recorded, 4) Empathy/Analysis. They are paired this way because most people generally prefer one of the paired traits. For example, most people would lean toward either being a Dreamer or being a Doer but not both. Though it is possible to be a equally strong Dreamer and Doer. But whether it’s marketing communications or missionary work, every team needs bother Dreamers and Doers, Word people and Image people, those who are good Live and those who prefer to be Recorded, people with Empathy and those with Analytical skills.
Your One in a Million Missionary DNA
Now it’s your turn to figure out your own missionary DNA. Think about the way you prefer to communicate, work, or otherwise utilize the eight skill areas mentioned above. It is likely that some of these areas are strengths of yours and some are weaker areas. Do you tend to come up with big ideas (a dreamer)? Or do you prefer get your hands on a project and get things done (a doer)? Or both? Get a piece of paper or a virtual note pad, and list the eight traits and then beside each trait, list it as a High, Medium, or Low strength of yours, according to your own personal style preference. As Mr. Perry says, there is no right or wrong answer here, no good or bad, “there is only your preferred way to communicate and persuade.”(3)
Here is how I scored myself. Your results will vary:
- Dreaming = High | Doing = High
- Words = High | Images = High
- Live = Medium | Recorded = High
- Empathy = Low | Analysis = High
With eight skills being scored three ways (High/Medium/Low), there are 6,561 different combinations. If those eight skills were scored on a scale of 1 to 10, there would be 100 million different possibilities. So you see how your missionary DNA could be considered unique and personal to you? Your combination of missionary skills is truly one in a million.
Member Missionary Activities for Every DNA
Now that you know your missionary DNA, the next step is to figure out what member missionary activities fit well into your style. There are thousands of ways to share the gospel, so which of those ways requires the same or similar skills as you possess? This step can also be used to identify activities that are not suited for your skill set. I have thought of 36 member missionary activities and scored each of them on the eight communication skills with a three-point scale (High/Medium/Low). The chart below (click it to enlarge it) shows to what degree this variety of member missionary activities use one, many, or all of the skills discussed.
Now, as an example, I’ll apply this chart to myself. In order to be most effective in my member missionary efforts, I am trying to find and focus on those activities that are high on Dreaming, Doing, Words, Images, Recorded, and Analysis, and those that are low on Live and Empathy. Or, if I can’t find a perfect match, I should at least try to find the activities which demand skills relatively close to what I am good at. We see that “Posting your testimony online”, “Building a website about missionary work”, and other missionary work on social media are activities that are well suited for my missionary DNA. It’s no wonder I’ve been running a mission prep website for nearly ten years 🙂 Of course, the activities that are conducive to your missionary activity will be different, so check out the chart and find them, or use your imagination and these principles to think of your own ways to share the gospel in an effective, natural, normal way for you.
I have also created an interactive version of the chart above on Google Sheets. The interactive version makes it easier to select a member missionary activity that is right for you. Simply use the filter controls along the top to select skills and levels that are right for you, and the chart will then only display the activities with those same skill levels. Click the filter icon in the top left (it looks like a funnel), then select “create new temporary filter” and that will enable the column filter controls. And if you’ve thought of member missionary activities ideas that aren’t on my list/chart/spreadsheet, tell me what they are by commenting below or contact me and I’ll add them to the list. Also please note that I have scored the activities based on my own opinion, so if you think I scored something wrongly (e.g. I gave it a High and you think it is a Medium), let me know and I’ll reconsider the scoring.
As you probably noticed, I focused on member missionary activities in this article and not full-time missionary activities. While many of these concepts apply to full-time Mormon missionaries, the fact of the matter is that they have relatively less flexibility in the activities they do, especially compared to members who have much flexibility in choosing the gospel-sharing activities they participate in.
Another thing to note is that unlike physical DNA, I do think your missionary DNA can change. The Book of Mormon prophet Moroni that through humility, and no doubt plenty of concerted effort, and with the help of the Lord, “weak things” can “become strong unto” you (see Ether 12:27). President Ezra Taft Benson confirmed that the Lord can bless and strengthen us beyond our natural abilities:
“God bless us that we may serve so that we will never have any serious regrets, that we will know we have been magnified even beyond our own natural talents.” “We cannot fail in this work. He will magnify us even beyond our natural talents. Of this I bear humble testimony, based on personal experience as well as on observation and familiarity with the promises of the Lord.” (Keys to Successful Member-Missionary Work, September 1990)
There are times when I have felt inspired by the Spirit of God to do missionary activities that are not my natural strength. And when the Lord commands, we should always obey. I have found that through time and patience and hard work, many of the missionary tasks that were once difficult for me, now come much more easily. So in discussing the concept of your missionary DNA, I’m not suggesting that we can always avoid doing missionary tasks we don’t like. I am suggesting, however, that when we have options, let’s focus on doing member missionary activities that are consistent with our strengths. By so doing, we will be more authentic, more filled with the Spirit of God, and more effective instruments in the hands of God in building His kingdom.
1) Perry Marshall Reveals the Secret to Building the Perfect Sales and Marketing Team by Adam Kreitman,
Summary: Paul and Terry are well underway in their preparations to leave on a senior mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. See updates below.
- Related Post: Preparing To Be Senior Missionaries by Paul Smith
- Related Post: Receiving a Senior Mission Call by Paul Smith
We will leave for the MTC in less than four weeks. There are many little things that we have been doing and which still need to be done. Yesterday, our home was inspected for lead paint. In order to rent our home in Maryland, the home must first be certified to be free of lead paint contamination. Homes built before 1978 must be inspected. Our home was built in 1963, so we had to comply. We will get the results next week. They were primarily looking for painting that is chipped and flaking because the primary source of lead paint poisoning comes from chips of lead paint. We worked for several days in wiping, cleaning and in some cases painting any areas (in and out) that were chipped or pealing. It is primarily the window areas.
Also yesterday we rented a storage unit into which we will put our furniture, books, files, etc. We did not want to pay for a storage unit. We hoped one of our children might be able to live here while we’re gone. We figured maybe one of our eleven children would want to do this. But, alas, it was not the case. So, at this point, we have to start moving things out of the house and into the storage unit. Some things will not be moved out until just before we leave, but other things can go now–by starting the arduous task it won’t be as overwhelming as it would be to try to do it in a day or two.
The storage task is more complicated for us because of three factors: I have been storing my closed law files in our basement (approximately 2,000 files); I have a lot of books (including approximately 800 books on the Constitution; and I have lot of files about family histories, religious matters, current events and Constitutional issues. I love to write and teach about these things, and so I have collected resources that I use for this. In any event, we plan to take some of these materials on our mission, but most of the books and files will be put into storage. So we are beginning the process now of picking out the select few materials to bring with us, and then putting the rest in storage.
About two weeks ago I wrapped up a project that I needed to complete before entering the mission field–writing and publishing an issue (perhaps the last issue) of my newsletter, “Constitutional Law Updates.” This newsletter discusses law cases and current developments in how the Constitution is interpreted. The newsletter supplements the book I wrote and published in 2002, The State of the Constitution. The election of Donald Trump as President will have many significant implications on the Constitution–especially in comparison to what would happen if Hillary Clinton had been elected. In any event, that edition of the newsletter is now completed and out of the way.
We also got our flu shots this week. Yesterday we received our first letter from our Mission President, Darrell Whitney. In his letter he included a page with about a hundred scriptures that he wants all his missionaries to understand and master. Also, during the past week I applied on line for Social Security benefits to begin next month. I turn 66 in three weeks, so we will begin to receive a monthly Social Security payment in March. When we return from the mission in 18 months, those payments will continue when I resume my law practice.
We still have not received the detailed instructions we have been looking for on the amount of money we will be contributing monthly for missionary purposes. I believe we will be contributing about $1,250/month, and when we get in the mission field the Church will provide housing, and then we will pay for all of our other expenses. We’ll have to call and get some clarification on this.
We are looking forward with excitement and some trepidation to entering the mission field. Terry and I both have some excitement; Terry has most of the trepidation. We watched and enjoyed the on-line missionary training videos of “The District 2.” We found all three episodes to be very good. We are both reading The Book of Mormon again, as we were requested. Although we have already read it several dozen times, it is an inspiring experience to read it again.
We are well underway in the process of moving our stuff from our home to the storage unit. With three weeks to go before we leave, I believe we have made enough progress so that we will not be scrambling and worrying too much when we get down to the last couple of days. So far we’ve moved a couple of book shelves, a bed, about 20 boxes of books and files and a few other things.
We use our ’05 Dodge Dakota pick-up truck to move these things. But the pick-up truck is having some problems, as the engine frequently misfires in one or more of the cylinders. We brought it in for repairs last week, and we thought it was fixed, but the problem returned a day later. The mechanic said the problem was in cylinder # 5, and that it was due to a faulty injector. I have an appointment to have it repaired again on Tuesday. We had been planning to leave the pick-up truck for our daughter Julie and our son Timothy to use. But if the problem cannot be fixed, we may just sell the truck.
Last week I received a court order approving an administrative account in the Connacher Estate, an estate from which I will receive several thousand dollars for past services. We need this money in order to go on our mission, so we are greatly relieved to have this money come in. I have one other pending case from which I am expecting a significant payment in the next couple of months. We will fine financially when that payment comes.
Because of my service in the community as an elected official for eight years, I have developed many connections in the community with elected officials and other influential people. I have always regarded these relationships as missionary-type opportunities. From the very first meeting as a newly-elected Alderman for the City of Frederick, I have had opportunities to say and do things that I believe will help the kingdom move forward. At the first Aldermen meeting, the Mayor asked me to offer a prayer. I told him that I would be happy to do so, but that I was going to pray in the name of Jesus Christ. He said that would be fine. I did, and then there was a good bit of public consternation about this. My prayer became a front page story because I had prayed “in the name of Jesus.” Some people complained that I had violated the City law about prayers, and an atheist complained on the op-ed page that the prayer was “too long.” The paper even printed the text of my 45 second prayer. I responded at our next Aldermen meetings that if I did violate the City prayer policy then that policy was unconstitutional.
In any event, most Christians were quite happy with my having the backbone to pray in the name of Jesus Christ. During the campaign prior to the election, some of my opponents tried to smear me by publicized that I was a Mormon and by labeling me a “homophobe.” Neither of these tactics succeeded. To the latter accusation, the newspaper publicized my response in which I told of some gay people that I had effectively represented, including a current case in which I helped a gay man to get a large reduction in alimony from his ex-wife (where the alimony award had been much higher than was proper). The point is that for all of my eight years as an elected official, the community has been well aware that I am a Mormon. And I believe my service as an elected official has reflected positively on the Church.
Meanwhile, back to the present–after talking with my friend Tim May, who hosts a daily, 3-hour community talk show, he invited me on the show for an hour on Friday, where we discussed national political matters. Terry said it was very good–in fact, the best commentary they ever have. After the talk show, I spoke with one of our State Senators, Michael Hough (also a good friend) about a local ethics law that he had been discussing on the radio just prior to my hour visit. Senator Hough thanked me for sending him a copy of my latest issue of Constitutional Law Updates. He said that my writing is excellent, and that he has shared the newsletter with others.
I mention these things here to point out that even though I am currently making a significant public relations contribution to the Church, Terry and I still feel that we need to go away and serve a full-time mission somewhere else, while we have the health and strength to do so. The community will know that we are going on a mission, and they will learn that our commitment to the Lord is so strong that we are putting Him first in our effort to serve God and our fellow man. As I discuss the mission call with my many friends in the community, some of them ask why we are doing this. “Didn’t you serve a mission when you were younger?” one of them asked. Yes, but this is all about the purpose of life. We want to serve the Lord and share the gospel of Jesus Christ with others–to help them.
Earlier this week, I mentioned to one of my clients on the phone that I would soon be leaving on a mission, and that my associate, Jeff Holtzinger, would be handling the case in the future. The man probed into why I would be going on a mission, and for what church. When I told him, he became interested, and he seemed positively impressed. I told him that I would send him a copy of The Book of Mormon, a powerful, fantastic book that he would find very inspiring and helpful. He said he looked forward to getting it and reading it. The man said that he had been against all organized religions for the last two years because of the neglect he felt from his church after he had been seriously injured in an accident at his church. He was electrocuted and fell from a ladder while working on a light at his church. The fall caused him to have a broken neck and back, and bad cuts to his head (requiring 120 stitches). He said that in his long recovery period of many months, he only had three visitors from his church. This really soured him on religion. I told him that I was sorry to hear that. I said that it is a miracle that he is even alive. I think he believes likewise. So, I’ll send him a copy of The Book of Mormon in tomorrow’s mail.
Tomorrow Terry and I will enter the Mission Training Center in Provo for ten days of instruction, inspiration and preparation for our mission. We are looking forward to that. The last month has been totally filled with attending to our personal and business affairs so that we will not have to worry about them on the mission. This has been a mammoth undertaking—partly because I plan to return to my law practice after the mission, and partly because we have not moved in 25 years and because we have had to put into storage most of the stuff that is in our home. (We will return to the home after the mission.)
Putting our furniture, papers, books, clothing, etc. into the large storage unit took a full month. We rented a large unit (10’ wide x 35’ deep and 10’ high). When our home is rented, that should be just enough to cover the cost of our mortgage and the rental. We must have taken 25 trips to the storage unit. Except for help with a few of the larger items, we moved most of the stuff ourselves. In addition to the larger items—chairs, tables, dressers, beds, etc.—we bought about 50 boxes from Home Depot and Lowes, into which we put our smaller things. In addition to this, we used about 30 plastic storage crates that we had accumulated through the years. These boxes and crates were about the same size; they were easy to handle, and they stacked very nicely to a height of about 7 feet.
We had planned to leave Maryland on Saturday morning, Feb. 25th at 7:00 a.m. But we were not able to leave until 10:30 p.m. We put the last load of stuff into our storage unit at about 8:30 p.m.—the unit is totally packed, except for a narrow passage through the middle of the unit from front to back. Once this last load was delivered, we had to go to my law office to attend to several matters. We spent two hours there. Terry waited patiently—I have to commend her. I sent out several letters that needed to be sent, and I gathered with me the files for about six remaining cases—matters that I would have to attend to in the next week. Now, a week later, I have gotten all of this work done, except for two letters that need to go out by Monday morning. Then we will be ready to have a good experience at the MTC.
While 10:30 p.m. is an odd time to leave for our trip across the country, we had no place to sleep in our home even if we had waited until the next day. So, we left and traveled 95 miles west, and got a motel in La Vale, Maryland.
As we drove west in our jam-packed 1998 Lexus, we stopped for a short visit in Peoria, Illinois with our son Philip and his wife Mary and their six children. We then traveled west, having a short visit in Nauvoo. Then we took our journey through Atchison, Kansas, stopping to see the historic marker there, at Mormon Grove. About 20,000 Mormons went through Mormon Grove in the 1850s, including some of our ancestors. One of my ancestors, Julia Ann Grant Bagley, and two or three of her children, died of cholera one day west of Mormon Grove. Julia and her husband, Edward Bagley, joined the Church in 1845 in Frederickton, New Brunswick, Canada.
We traveled through Denver, and took the time for a quick visit at Utah’s Goblin Valley State Park. That was really neat. Now we can say that we met the Hoodoos from Hanksville.
We arrived in Sandy, Utah, and spent a few days with our son John and his wife, Jessica, and their two-week old, beautiful baby, Jasmine. We thoroughly enjoyed this visit. We were also able to visit our son Michael and his wife Shelby (who is expecting), and our son Paul Jr., and his wife Jill (who is also expecting) and their son Wiley, and our oldest granddaughter, Danielle, who is a freshman at BYU. We had two wonderful visits with them.
We will be ready for the MTC tomorrow.
The following is an inspirational poem written by Charles Giroux, who served in the New York Rochester Mission of the LDS Church from 2014 to 2016. While serving in a particularly difficult area he felt inspired to write this poem in order to comfort some missionaries who were struggling under various circumstances. Though his mission was difficult at times, he thoroughly loved it and to anyone considering serving one he emphatically states that choosing to serve a mission is something you will not regret. The poem is published here by permission of the author.
Two Missionaries knock door by door.
People answer come back no more.
We’re all set so don’t come here.
We don’t want you to be near.
So the boys leave their yard
and keep on going, though it’s hard.
A man among the Zoramites
comes to give them back the light.
We know the truth they say to him.
We’re already saved upon God’s whim.
Still he pleads with his pure heart
that their new lives they might start.
Turned away he still moves on
because he knows it’s not a con.
Though hard the task his soul has taken
his love for them can’t be mistaken.
It’s an important message the missionaries tell.
It will save your soul from the depths of hell.
We mean by this that you’ll have joy.
But in their response, they still are coy.
They don’t see why it’s such a big deal
why this message could be real.
Right before the final battle
Nephites scream and walls do rattle.
It’s just a book they tell the kid.
How could evil those plates rid?
Yet the prophet knows himself
that the record does give help.
More precious than it’s weight in gold
are the stories that are told.
His friends around him do not know
that these tales help others grow.
Hunted by the winning team.
Saving others seems like a dream.
Yet he strives to hide away
what helps others fight today.
He gives his life for what they mock
while he’s hunted like a hawk.
His love surpasses their lack of care
so that truth he might share.
Gone from home he loved so much
and can’t return to live with such.
He misses family. He misses friends.
He feels his heart never mends.
He left behind an awesome job.
Sometimes he has to softly sob.
What he gave up to come out here
everything he held so dear.
He longs for home yet pushes through.
Acting in diligence he tries to do.
Away from home for two years.
The idea brings the boy to tears.
He left his land to go to preach.
His enemies he tries to teach.
The kingdom’s crown he left behind
to teach to people who aren’t too kind.
Though depressed yet he turns back
to give to them the message they lack.
Away from home for fourteen years.
The idea brings the man to tears.
But he can’t bear the solemn thought
that any soul would not be bought.
Bought from hell through heav’n above
so he goes to them to show his love.
An hour has gone and now the day
and all their efforts don’t seem to pay.
There was no spirit from on high
that spoke to the man walking by.
No tears did come to those they taught.
No miracle today was wrought.
The day’s a waste, so it seems.
Being a missionary is unlike their dreams.
One day wasted, just like the last.
So much time is in the past.
Two years gone and nothing to show.
The results of their work seem really low.
He preaches day and preaches night
yet no one sings choose the right.
The prophet hides within a cave
because of the word which he gave.
Filled with hate that does breed war.
The land is covered in blood and gore.
He has to watch his people die.
Their destruction is coming nigh.
His life now gone and nothing to show.
The results of his work seem really low.
But this man has more excellent hope
and that’s the way that he can cope.
The hope that all can one day love
and return with him to mansions above.
It’s ridiculous they tell the men
that man can know his God again.
We’ll shout at you from high and low
telling you you’ve got to go.
A sandwich thrown into your face
will surely show hate’s embrace.
Unwelcome guests missionaries leave.
Within their hearts they do grieve.
Dragged outside into the cold.
Your a liar he is told.
Tar and feathers were applied.
In the cold his baby died.
Kicked around from state to state.
Surrounded by a world of hate.
Yet he strives his very best
to declare love to the rest.
And though hated yet he’ll love
for his call was from above.
Two young men talk to a crowd.
They try their best to not be loud.
I know myself he saw them both
and through his words we might have growth.
The crowd yells back Tis all a lie.
Tis all a cult that should just die.
The scream the louder worse and worse
pointing at a Bible verse.
It is the work of sinful men
to say that God can speak again.
They say his work is done away.
God can’t add to his word today.
The young men take it to their heart.
They have done all their part.
Though with eyes yet they’re blind
for they haven’t yet an open mind.
It’s blasphemy, they say,
to think God works today.
The young men’s love drives them on
to bring others the lighted dawn.
One noble man stands midst a crowd.
At Him they jeer. No knee is bowed.
They strike Him hard and mock their God.
Emmanuel. Their iron rod.
A king, they say, He claims to be.
There is no crown on Him I see.
Let’s fashion one of plenty thorn
and cast on Him all our scorn.
Humbly He bears it all.
The sheep do not hear His call.
We have the law that Moses gave.
Has he come out of his grave?
Free us from the Roman nation.
Then we will believe Your station.
Until then You’re just a fraud
and not to us the Son of God.
It’s blasphemy, they say,
to think God lives today.
Yet He rescues that lost one
while ninety-nine only shun.
Every night and every day
the missionaries get down to pray.
They pray for help from above
for those people they’ve come to love.
Their hearts are open desires pure.
They want for others heaven’s cure.
In the garden during night
that one man prays with might.
He pleads with heaven for that grace
to save us all the human race.
Though rejected and despised
He gives them love they still deny.
He suffers all to make us free
that we one day might ransomed be.
He fears not how many go above.
For there’s not numbers only love.
So don’t despair it’s all been done.
It’s all been suffered by the Son.
What’s hard for us was hard for Him.
But even so, He did not sin.
We may struggle. So did the best.
Let’s mirror Him more than the rest.
Each hard step, though might seem grim,
will bring you closer unto Him.
Will make you brighter of a light
to dispel darkness of the night.
So men may find the way to Christ
Who payed for us the greatest price.
Paid in pain from above
to show to us the greatest love.
My wife Terry and I received our mission call about ten days ago, on January 10, 2017. I want to let you know what that was like. Terry called me at work and said that the call letter had arrived in the mail; it was a large 9×12 envelope that was rather thick. As soon as I could break away I came home and we opened it together. Some people had suggested that we invite other family members to be with us when we opened the letter, but we wanted to be alone when we did it. It was a solemn, spiritual time for us. We prayed before opening the letter. We were looking forward to learning where the Lord would call us to serve.
The Mission Call Letters and Packets of Information
Terry and I both received separate letters from President Thomas S. Monson–each signed personally by him. He told us that we were called to serve for eighteen months in the Texas Fort Worth Mission, to serve in the Seminaries and Institutes of Religion program. We were told that we would work under the direction of President Darrell Whitney and his wife, Sally. We remembered that several months ago when we looked through the hundreds of missionary opportunities for seniors that one of those needs was in Denton, Texas, a suburb north of Fort Worth. We are to report to the MTC in Provo, Utah on Monday, March 6, 2017.
Terry and I had dozens of questions, so we quickly read through the packet of information and instructions that had been sent with the letter from President Monson. The information in the packet was general information that applied to most senior missionaries. A lot of it was detailed, but we still had many questions that it did not answer. We knew that we would get a letter from the mission president that would provide additional information. We have yet to receive that letter, but we expect to receive it shortly. After we read the packet, we went on line and sent in our acceptance letter. The packet instructed us to begin some online pre-mission training and finish reading or read again The Book of Mormon. Later that day, we called all of our children about receiving the mission call, and we emailed our siblings about it.
Finalizing Financial Arrangements
Although we had been making many arrangements to be able to go on a mission beginning March 1st, there still remained a lot to do, and there are some matters that have not yet been adequately arranged. For example, we need to rent our home for 18 months, and I need to obtain payments from several outstanding legal matters–payments that are critical to our being able to support ourselves for the next year and a half. We made inquiries, and located a property management company with whom we listed our home for rent. We are trying to decide where to put our furniture, books and papers that need to be stored–we haven’t made those decisions yet. In the meantime, we have begun a major project of sorting our stuff, and throwing out a lot of it. We don’t want to pay to store stuff that we would throw away after we return from our mission–we want to throw it away now.
With regard to the business payments that we are expecting–some of these are payments that I have mostly earned, but for which I don’t control the exact time when payment is made. Yesterday, I received the notice that two of those payments were about to be made. Receiving this notice has been a great relief to me. The last big financial matter is for us to rent our home. This needs to happen in order for us to avoid a major drain on our finances. But we know that the Lord knows of our need, and we are expecting him to bless us with a rental.
Learning Details of the Work We’d Be Doing
About a week after receiving our call, I called Elder Ayres, the brother in Salt Lake who helps to coordinate with the senior couples working in the Seminaries and Institutes program. We had spoken with him several times before, beginning in October, as we were inquiring into mission opportunities. Brother Ayres continued to be helpful and gracious, in responding to our questions. When I called him last week, he said that I should call Brother Kevin Clayton, the Director of the Institute at Denton, Texas. Brother Ayres said that Brother Clayton was anxious to talk with us, and that now that we had accepted the call that this type of pre-mission communication was proper and was encouraged.
We called Brother Clayton, and had a telephone call with him of almost an hour. He answered many of our questions–including giving more specifics about what we would be doing. He said that we would spend most of the week days from 8:15 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. at the Institute building, and that we would do some team teaching, and that we would be the host and hostess of the Institute building–providing love and friendship and support to about 150 LDS college students who would be regularly visiting the Institute for classes and for friendship. He said that we would be replacing another couple, Brother and Sister Bond, and that we would be moving into the apartment where they are currently living. In addition to responding to our many questions, Brother Clayton said several times that he is excited and anxious to meet us and that he knows that the Lord has called us to come and work with the students at the Denton Institute. Brother Clayton is about the same age as several of our children, and we are impressed with the words he said, and with his enthusiasm, and faith and love.
Still Much to Do to Prepare to Leave
Terry and I feel like we have a lot to do before we leave for the mission, but we are excited about the mission call. The task of sorting and storing all our stuff is quite daunting. We are also trying to figure out what we will bring on our mission with us. We have more latitude than the single missionaries in deciding what to bring with us, although we may have to ship some of the things. In our case, we have a number of books and resource files that we want to bring.
Now that we have received our mission call, our bishopric asked Terry to speak in church last week, and I will speak in church next Sunday. (See Jimmy’s related post on missionary farewell talks.)
Once the Church received our acceptance, we began to get additional information online and in the mail (e.g. instructions about travel and about needing to get the flu shot before entering the MTC). We are currently considering driving to Utah–going through Peoria, Illinois (where one of our sons lives); visiting Nauvoo, Illinois; visiting Independence, Missouri; visiting Mormon Grove, Kansas (where some of my ancestors are buried); and then visiting the families of two of our children in Utah. Four of our children are expecting babies at this time. We hope to be able to meet one new arrival (projected delivery date of February 26th) in Utah, just before entering the MTC.
My name is Paul Smith. I am a 65-year old attorney, with a solo law practice in Frederick, Maryland (suburbs of Washington, D. C.). My wife Terry is 63. We are waiting to receive a call from the Prophet to serve a mission for 15-19 months.
As a young man I served a proselyting mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in France from 1970-1972. Terry and I married in 1973. I graduated from law school in 1978. I have practiced law in Maryland for 38 years. While I have had numerous informal lawyer associates, my practice has been mostly a solo business, focusing primarily on serving individuals and families, including many people of lesser means. Financially, my law practiced survived for the first 20+ years. During the last 10 years it has done very well financially. But in the meantime, Terry and I had 12 children (9 boys and 3 girls). Our daughter Patricia died at age 6 (26 years ago). All the others are now married, and we have 30 grandchildren, with 3 on the way, and with two other couples planning to get pregnant. We have been very active in church. I have been a bishop, and I have worked with the young men most of my adult life (serving as scoutmaster 5 different times). Terry has been a Relief Society president and an early morning seminary teacher (4 years), but she mostly has taught the children in Primary. She is an excellent teacher, and she loves this.
Desire to Serve a Senior Mission
For years Terry and I have wanted to serve a senior mission. But we have wondered when and how we could do it. We have very little savings and no retirement. As I approach my 66th birthday, we will be able to draw Social Security without any reduction in that amount when I bring in other income from my law practice. Financially, it would have been better for me to wait to draw Social Security until I reached the age of 70, and I do plan to continue working in my law practice until beyond age 70. But about a year ago, we noticed that Terry was beginning to show some short term memory deficits. Once we realized this, we immediately began to prepare to apply for a senior mission, to begin early in the year 2017. We wanted Terry to have a good mission experience, as well as me. I felt very strongly that we needed to get things in order immediately to serve. We prayed for the Lord to bless us in this effort, and He has indeed blessed us.
Preparing My Business
In my case, the biggest preparation item was to find an attorney who could manage/handle my law practice while I would be away, until I would return. I started working on this in early 2016, and I succeeded in this in the spring of 2016. There were a lot of small details that we had to work out, including coordinating our lawyer liability insurance policies, rental arrangements, the type of formal arrangement we would establish, and helping him become familiar with the several cases that would be continuing after my departure.
Preparing by Visiting Family
As the 2016 unfolded, it has become a very good financial year, even while I stopped taking on most new litigation cases in late summer. We were able to take a couple of trips this year, visiting our children and grandchildren, and many of our siblings, around the country. We traveled all around the country–to Texas, to Nevada, to California, to Utah, to Idaho; then back through Winter Quarters, Nebraska and Nauvoo, Illinois; and to Kirtland, Ohio; to Palmyra, New York, and to Harmony, Pennsylvania. After Christmas we will take a trip to visit our son’s family in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. We wanted to visit all our children before going away for 18 months.
Terry is probably less anxious to serve a mission than I am, but she wants to support me and to be with me. Terry wants to be able to visit our children when they have new babies. We understand that this may be possible, although we don’t know where we will be serving, and we don’t know how we will make this happen.
Preparing Our Home
One of the biggest issues for us is the rental and care of our home while we are away. We still have mortgage payments on our home, so we will need to rent it. For several months we have been exploring whether any of our children could live in our home for a year, but this has not materialized. We are now reaching out to find a renter. Beginning in January, we will have to engage a rental/management company to help with this. This is a major financial issue to be resolved, but our home is a nice home in a very nice neighborhood in Frederick. We are confident that we will be blessed with a good resolution to this matter.
If we did not plan to return to my law practice after the mission, perhaps we might have considered selling our home. But we will need to work after the mission. I keep my old case files in the basement of our home (about 2,000 files). This takes up some space. Also, we have a very large collection of books. We would like to keep a lot of these books and files in the home while we are away. Otherwise, we will have to put some of them in storage. Exactly how much will be put in storage, and how much we will be able to leave in the home is yet to be determined. I have spent a lot of time this year going through old files–throwing out papers that are no longer needed. We have also done a lot of little home improvement projects and painting, so that the home will be in good shape.
As we now wait for our mission call to arrive, we feel that the house is mostly ready, my business affairs are in order, and we have made the important family visits. We are anxious to see where we will be called to serve.
Determining the Type of Mission to Serve
As you may know, senior missionaries are encouraged to make suggestions of types of missionary service that they would like to do, as well as places where they might like to serve. Terry and I went to the Church website and looked through the various types of senior missionary opportunities that were available. In our case, the one that we had the greatest interest in pursuing was in the field of Institute and Seminary. There are perhaps a dozen such opportunities/needs in the United States. We mentioned this in our application. We also mentioned my love of the French people, and my interest in serving there. But we have felt that an Institute/Seminary calling in the States would be our preference. I obtained the name and phone number of an Elder Ayers, who works at the Church Seminary and Institute headquarters, and who makes recommendations to the Brethren regarding the senior missionary callings in this area. He was very happy to hear from me, and we have spoken several times. Terry and I think we will receive a call to serve in this area. Nevertheless, we want to go where the Lord wants us to go–whatever that is and wherever.
Senior Missionary Application Process
To begin the mission application process, we had to contact our bishop. The mission application is made on-line, but our bishop had to take some steps to allow us to access the on-line system. Once this was done, we completed the application on-line. We were able to revise our application a couple of times. Terry and I each had to complete a separate application and separate medical/dental evaluation forms. Once we completed the medical forms, we made appointments with our doctors and dentists to sign the forms. Once we got all the required signatures, electronically submitted our applications–this sent the applications to the bishop. We arranged a meeting with our bishop, and turned in the signed medical and dental forms to him. He then added his comments, and electronically forwarded the applications to the stake president. We arranged a meeting with our stake president, who then made his comments, and submitted the application to the Church. Now we just wait for our mission call letter to come. We understand that the brethren usually meet on Thursdays or Fridays to extend callings.
Eight years ago when I started this website, one of the first things I wrote about was how humility was one of the most important characteristics a missionary could posses. This weekend I was asked to give a talk in my ward sacrament meeting about humility, so I thought I’d share the text of my talk here. I hope you enjoy it and find it insightful and inspiring.
*** Talk: The Blessings of Humility ***
In order for us to achieve our eternal salvation and happiness, there is a process that needs to be followed, a plan if you will.
Opposition in the Plan of Salvation
We needed to be sent to earth, away from our previous Heavenly home with God, to experience the good and the bad, pleasure and pain, righteousness and wickedness. As the Book of Mormon prophet Lehi taught in 2 Nephi 2: 11 “For it must needs be, that there is an opposition in all things. If not so … righteousness could not be brought to pass.” Then continued Lehi in verse 15, “And to bring about his eternal purposes in the end of man, … it must needs be that there was an opposition; even the forbidden fruit in opposition to the tree of life; the one being sweet and the other bitter.”
Because of our fallen state in this earth, each one of us would sin. We would need this experience to teach us and help us on our path of progression, but in the process, we would become soiled and unworthy to return to God’s presence. We would need a Savior who would atone for our sins, someone who would suffer for our mistakes and plea before God on our behalf to grant us re-entrance into the Kingdom of Heaven. Jesus Christ, the Beloved Son of God, Chosen from the beginning, humbly said “Here am I, send me” (Abraham 3:27) and volunteered to be our Savior and Redeemer.
Satan didn’t like this plan. He sought to bring about the salvation of mankind without allowing us to go through the opposition and hardships of earth life (Moses 4:3). He didn’t seem to understand that there are no shortcuts to salvation. The path to salvation has been shown to us by Jesus Christ and that path includes the crucial step of humbly coming down to earth before eventually being raised to eternal life.
Humble Circumstances, as well as Pride, are Universal
We are all humbled during our mortal journey. Those experiences of humility begin from the moment we are born, helpless, and totally dependent upon our parents for survival. As little children we enter the humbling experience of school and begin to learn all the things we didn’t even know we didn’t know. As teenagers, we long for independence but are constantly reminded of our humility and our lack of understanding of the things of the world.
Throughout life we have our ups and downs. Sickness, to one degree or another, affects all of us, keeping us humble and grateful for health. Loss of a job or trouble getting adequate employment is a humbling trial that many of us face. There are very few of us who haven’t experienced financial hardships that keep us humble and grateful for our material blessings. Then there is the humbling task of trying to raise children. As John Bytheway said, “before I had kids I had six theories on parenting. Now I have six kids and no theories on parenting.” Parenting is a deeply humbling experience for anyone who has had the blessing to try it.
Yet, throughout life, we grow older, smarter, stronger, and wealthier and most of us slowly lose our humility. The evil one exerts his influence on us and then “When we are learned we think we are wise, and we hearken not unto the counsel of God, for we set it aside, supposing we know of ourselves” (2 Nephi 9:28). Pride, the opposite of humility, begins to creep into our hearts. The Book of Mormon prophet Moroni saw our day and testified against us: “And I know that ye do walk in the pride of your hearts; and there are none save a few only who do not lift themselves up in the pride of their hearts, unto the wearing of very fine apparel, unto envying, and strifes, and malice, and persecutions, and all manner of iniquities” (Mormon 8:36).
President Ezra Taft Benson, in his landmark talk called Beware of Pride, said that “Pride is the universal sin.” Elder Kim B Clark, in a 2009 talk, pointed out that “the perils of pride [occur] both in prosperity and in adversity.” Yet, I believe the converse is also true, that humility can be achieved in both prosperous circumstances and in adversity. The Book of Mormon prophet Alma confirms this: “there are some among you who would humble themselves, let them be in whatsoever circumstances they might” (Alma 32:25). Regardless of your circumstances, God wants you to be humble so that he can lift you up to eternal life (James 4:10).So while pride universally plagues us all, there are a righteous few who are able, by the grace of God, to overcome it.
Yet for many of us, perhaps most of us, God compels us to be humble. And he does so for good and loving reasons. Quoting Alma again, “because ye are compelled to be humble blessed are ye; for a man sometimes, if he is compelled to be humble, seeketh repentance; and now surely, whosoever repenteth shall find mercy; and he that findeth mercy and endureth to the end the same shall be saved” (Alma 32:13).
Blessed are the Humble
“Blessed are ye” for being humble. That got me thinking that I’d like to talk today about the blessing of humility. In preparing this talk, I did a quick count and came up with 33 distinct blessings from God that come by being humble. Today I will focus on only four of them, they are the blessings of Grace, Guidance, Growth, and Greatness.
In the New Testament, Peter said “Be clothed with humility: for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble” (1 Peter 5:5). Another word for grace is atonement. Or, better said, the Grace of God comes to us by through the mission, mercy, and Atonement of Jesus Christ (John 1:17). Elder Jeffrey R. Holland spoke of the grace of God in his April 2006 talk, Broken Things to Mend:
“We must change anything we can change that may be part of the problem. In short we must repent, perhaps the most hopeful and encouraging word in the Christian vocabulary. We thank our Father in Heaven we are allowed to change, we thank Jesus we can change, and ultimately we do so only with Their divine assistance. Certainly not everything we struggle with is a result of our actions. Often it is the result of the actions of others or just the mortal events of life. But anything we can change we should change, and we must forgive the rest. In this way our access to the Savior’s Atonement becomes as unimpeded as we, with our imperfections, can make it. He will take it from there.”
Setting the sail rather than rowing the boat
A book called “Willpower is Not Enough” written by an LDS family counselor named Dean Byrd, has a good analogy about grace and humility. Said Brother Byrd:
“When it comes to changing our lives, our energy is often better spent in setting the sail than in rowing the boat. Throughout our days, we spend most of our effort on rowing the sailboat of our lives. We spend our energy on this concern and that, worrying, working, and trying to control. In the frantic midst of all our doing, we would do well to stop rowing and instead set the sail to pick up the winds of God’s power. How? By learning his will, and then being submissive to it. By letting his power have place in us. By letting him do his work in us, rather than keeping him out while we try to do it ourselves. When we try to conquer the problems of our lives through willpower alone, we’re essentially trying to be our own saviors. When we set our sail in Christ, allowing his blessings, power, and grace to come to us, we’re turning to him and letting him be our Savior. Putting God and his will first in our lives. Letting his power direct and guide and bless us. That is setting the sail. And that’s the true path to lasting and divine change.”
I pray that we may be humble and receive that divine blessing of grace.
The second blessing of humility I want to discuss is guidance from God through His Holy Spirit. The Lord said in Doctrine and Covenants 136:33 “My Spirit is sent forth into the world to enlighten the humble and contrite.”
Alma said “But that ye would humble yourselves before the Lord, and call on his holy name, and watch and pray continually, that ye may not be tempted above that which ye can bear, and thus be led by the Holy Spirit, becoming humble, meek, submissive, patient, full of love and all long-suffering” (Alma 13:28).
The Lord told William Law through the prophet Joseph Smith, “let him be humble before me, and be without guile, and he shall receive of my Spirit, even the Comforter, which shall manifest unto him the truth of all things, and shall give him, in the very hour, what he shall say.” (Doctrine and Covenants 124:97)
Certainly the scriptures make it abundantly clear that being humble is a necessary ingredient to receiving the guidance of the Holy Ghost in our lives. And the Holy Ghost will teach us all the things we need to do to return to our Heavenly home and live with God in celestial glory (2 Nephi 32:5).
What Lack I Yet?
In the October 2015 General Conference, Elder Larry R. Lawrence Of the Seventy gave a talk entitled “What Lack I Yet?” in which he spoke about humility and seeking God’s guidance in our lives. He said:
“As we travel along that strait and narrow path, the Spirit continually challenges us to be better and to climb higher. The Holy Ghost makes an ideal traveling companion. If we are humble and teachable, He will take us by the hand and lead us home. However, we need to ask the Lord for directions along the way. We have to ask some difficult questions, like “What do I need to change?” “How can I improve?” “What weakness needs strengthening?”
Let’s consider the New Testament account of the rich young ruler. He was a righteous young man who was already keeping the Ten Commandments, but he wanted to become better. His goal was eternal life. When he met the Savior, he asked, “What lack I yet?” (Matthew 19:20)
Jesus answered immediately, giving counsel that was intended specifically for the rich young man. “Jesus said unto him, If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and … come and follow me.” (Matthew 19:21)
The young man was stunned; he had never considered such a sacrifice. He was humble enough to ask the Lord but not faithful enough to follow the divine counsel he was given. We must be willing to act when we receive an answer. …Every one of us, if we would reach perfection, must at one time ask ourselves this question, ‘What lack I yet?’”
Elder Lawrence then gave several examples of people who, in a humble desire to receive direction from the Lord, asked some introspective questions and got clear answers from the Lord through His Spirit. This got me thinking about what I lack and how the Lord would have me to improve in my life. I then wrote the following questions down in a journal entry:
- What do I need to do to be more happy?
- What do I need to do to strengthen my marriage?
- What does the Lord want me to change in my life?
- What do I need to do to become the person God wants me to become?
I know that when I asked those questions, I got specific answers. The Lord prompted me with inspiration from His Spirit on how to change and improve and be a better follower of his son Jesus Christ. Guidance from God is a wonderful blessing of humility.
The next blessing of humility is growth.
Muscles grow after being broken down
As any of you who are weight lifters will know, in order to grow and increase your strength, you have to first break down your muscles. Muscles that are stressed beyond what they are accustomed to become damaged and that’s why your feel soreness after a workout. But your body, in a miraculous process, begins to repair those muscles and the new muscle grows back stronger and more capable.
Similarly, to grow spiritually, we must come down in the depths of humility. We must be meek and lowly of heart, repent, and then we can begin to grow spiritually. Growth is a type of change, it’s progression, a good type of change. And another word for change in the scriptures is to repent.
The Righteous are Whoever are Repenting
The Lord has called on all people everywhere to repent (D&C 18:9; 133:16; Moses 6:23, 57; 3 Nephi 11:32). Repentance has been the call of prophets and missionaries from the beginning to the present day. Church scholar Hugh Nibley once said that “the righteous are whoever are repenting, and the wicked [are] whoever are not repenting” (Scriptural Perspectives on How to Survive the Calamities of the Last Days, BYU Studies 25 (Winter 1985): 7-27). He then cited this parable from Luke chapter 18 where the Savior teaches that a humble, repentant attitude is necessary for spiritual growth and exaltation.
10 Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican.
11 The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican.
12 I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess.
13 And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner.
14 I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other: for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.
The prophet Alma also taught of the importance of continually, humbly, repenting. He said:
“Mercy claimeth the penitent, and mercy cometh because of the atonement; and the atonement bringeth to pass the resurrection of the dead; and the resurrection of the dead bringeth back men into the presence of God; and thus they are restored into his presence, to be judged according to their works, according to the law and justice. For behold, justice exerciseth all his demands, and also mercy claimeth all which is her own; and thus, none but the truly penitent are saved” (Alma 42: 23-24).
Never stop improving. Never stop repenting.
There is a large home improvement store with the motto: “Never stop improving.” It strikes me that in our spiritual lives, we should never stop improving either and we can accomplish that if we never stop repenting.
Repentance and humility go hand in hand and help us grow closer to God. After briefly describing the Savior’s humble life in a 1963 talk at BYU, Elder Spencer W. Kimball gave the following definition of humility:
“If the Lord was meek and lowly and humble, then to become humble one must do what He did in boldly denouncing evil, bravely advancing righteous works, courageously meeting every problem, becoming the master of himself and the situations about him and being near oblivious to personal credit. Humility is not pretentious, presumptuous, nor proud. It is not weak, vacillating, nor servile. …Humble and meek properly suggest virtues, not weaknesses.” (Humility, Brigham Young University Speeches of the Year [Provo, 16 Jan. 1963], pp. 2–3.)
Humility + Faith –> Weak Things Become Strong
Ether 12:27 perhaps sums up best how humility leads to growth. This is where the Lord tells Moroni, “I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them.”
The last blessing from humility that I wish to speak about today is greatness.
The greatest in the kingdom of heaven
You’ll recall that when Jesus was on the earth, his disciples came to him one day and asked “who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” (Matt 18:1) Jesus, then, “called a little child unto him, and set him in the midst of them” (v2) and said whosoever “shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven” (v4).
To achieve greatness in the kingdom of heaven, one must be humble like a little child. Of course, to achieve greatness in this earth life, one must also be humble, though God’s definition of greatness is, of course, much difference than the world’s definition. The Savior taught by word and deed that “he that is greatest among you shall be your servant” (Matthew 23:11).
Jesus “descended below all things”
Jesus, who is without question, the greatest man to ever walk this earth, showed us a perfect example of humility. He went “forth, suffering pains and afflictions and temptations of every kind; and this that the word might be fulfilled which saith he will take upon him the pains and the sicknesses of his people” (Alma 7:11). Jesus suffered “temptations, and pain of body, hunger, thirst, and fatigue, even more than man can suffer, except it be unto death; for behold, blood cometh from every pore, so great shall be his anguish for the wickedness and the abominations of his people” (Mosiah 3:7)
Jesus “descended below all things” and thus was the most humble man to ever walk this earth. Jesus “ascended up on high, as also he descended below all things, in that he comprehended all things, that he might be in all and through all things, the light of truth;” (Doctrine and Covenants 88:6)
President Spencer W. Kimball, who’s talk on humility I referenced earlier, shared a wonderful poem about the humility, yet greatness of our Savior Jesus Christ and his faithful followers throughout the world.
Humility is royalty without a crown,
Greatness in plain clothes,
Erudition without decoration,
Wealth without display
Power without scepter or force,
Position demanding no preferential rights,
Greatness sitting in the congregation,
Prayer in closets and not in corners of the street,
Fasting in secret without publication,
Stalwartness without a label,
Supplication upon its knees,
Divinity riding [a donkey].
Eternal Identity. God’s Perspective.
I was once sitting in the foyer of our church building and I noticed a man sitting across the way from me. I don’t know his name. I had never spoke with him. He looked tired and worn out by life. As I gazed on him, I felt like the Lord gave me a glimpse of his eternal identity. I felt reminded that he, his spirit or intelligence that is, has been alive for eons. He has had countless experiences and has gained much knowledge during that time. Unfortunately, the veil of forgetfulness we all pass through when we come to our humble mortal life, causes us to start over in many respects. But as I contemplated this, I felt humbled by what marvelous truths this man could teach me if he could pierce that veil of forgetfulness. I felt a little of what God sees as he views each of us, his children, with an eternal perspective.
Joint-heirs with Christ
“The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together” (Romans 8:16-17).
Truly, our eternal potential for greatness is infinite and that blessing is accessible through humbly following Jesus Christ.
I pray that we can all faithfully accept our humble circumstances, and that by so doing we can receive the promised blessings:
- Grace from our Savior Jesus Christ through his Atonement
- Guidance from God’s Holy Spirit
- Growth through repentance and positive change
- Greatness as heirs of the Heavenly glory and joint heirs with Christ.
The Perfect Path to Happiness By President Thomas S. Monson
Our Father’s plan for our happiness and our salvation is shared by our missionaries throughout the world. Not all who hear this divine message accept and embrace it. However, men and women everywhere, just like my young friend at the New York World’s Fair, recognize its truths, and they plant their feet on the path that will lead them safely home. Their lives are forever changed.
Fourth Floor, Last Door by President Dieter F. Uchtdorf
Faith comes to the humble, the diligent, the enduring. It comes to those who pay the price of faithfulness. This truth is illustrated in the experience of two young missionaries serving in Europe, in an area where there were few convert baptisms. I suppose it would have been understandable for them to think that what they did wouldn’t make much of a difference. But these two missionaries had faith, and they were committed. They had the attitude that if no one listened to their message, it would not be because they had not given their best effort.
One day they had the feeling to approach the residents of a well-kept four-story apartment building. They started on the first floor and knocked on each door, presenting their saving message of Jesus Christ and the Restoration of His Church. No one on the first floor would listen to them. How easy it would have been to say, “We tried. Let’s stop right here. Let’s go and try another building.”
But these two missionaries had faith and they were willing to work, and so they knocked on every door on the second floor. Again, no one would listen. The third floor was the same. And so was the fourth—that is, until they knocked on the last door of the fourth floor. When that door opened, a young girl smiled at them and asked them to wait while she spoke with her mother.
Her mother was only 36 years old, had recently lost her husband, and was in no mood to talk with Mormon missionaries. So she told her daughter to send them away. But the daughter pleaded with her. These young men were so nice, she said. And it would take only a few minutes. So, reluctantly, the mother agreed. The missionaries delivered their message and handed a book to the mother to read—the Book of Mormon.
After they left, the mother decided she would read at least a few pages. She finished the entire book within a few days. Not long after, this wonderful single-parent family entered the waters of baptism. When the small family attended their local branch in Frankfurt, Germany, a young deacon noticed the beauty of one of the daughters and thought to himself, “These missionaries are doing a great job!”
That young deacon’s name was Dieter Uchtdorf. And the charming young woman—the one who had pleaded with her mother to listen to the missionaries—has the beautiful name of Harriet. She is loved by all who meet her as she accompanies me in my travels. She has blessed the lives of many people through her love for the gospel and her sparkling personality. She truly is the sunshine of my life.
How often have I lifted my heart in gratitude for the two missionaries who did not stop at the first floor! How often my heart reaches out in appreciation for their faith and work. How often have I given thanks that they kept going—even to the fourth floor, last door.
“Come, Follow Me” by Practicing Christian Love and Service By Elder Robert D. Hales
Youth, you are some of our most effective gospel teachers. You come to church to learn so that you can go home to teach and serve your family, neighbors, and friends. Don’t be afraid. Have faith to testify of what you know to be true. Think how full-time missionaries grow because they are faithfully living a consecrated life—using their time and talents and bearing testimony to serve and bless others. As you share your testimony of the gospel, your faith will grow and your confidence will increase!
A Witness of God By Elder Neil L. Andersen
Be open about your faith in Christ. When the occasion presents itself, speak of His life, His teachings, and His incomparable gift to all mankind. Share His powerful truths from the Book of Mormon. He has given us this promise: “Whosoever … shall confess me before men, him will I confess … before my Father … in heaven.”10 I promise you that as you pray often and sincerely for opportunities to “stand as a witness of God,” those opportunities will come, and those who seek more light and knowledge will be put before you. As you respond to spiritual promptings, the Holy Ghost will carry your words to the heart of another, and one day the Savior will confess you before His Father.
The spiritual work of helping someone come into the kingdom of God is a group effort. Enlist the missionaries as soon as you can, and pray for heavenly help. But remember, the timing of another’s conversion is not fully up to you.
Kamla Persand was from the Mauritius island, attending medical school in Bordeaux, France, when we met her in February of 1991. We had prayed as a family to be able to share the gospel with someone who was seeking the truth, and we taught her in our home. I was privileged to perform her baptism, but we were not the most significant influences in Kamla joining the Church. Friends, missionaries, and even family members had been “witnesses of God” in her home country, and one day in France, when the time was right for Kamla, she made the decision to be baptized. Now, 25 years later, the blessings of that decision are all around her, and her son is a missionary in Madagascar.
Be Ambitious for Christ by Elder Kazuhiko Yamashita
What does it mean to “be ambitious for Christ”? Being ambitious for Christ means being motivated, focused, and dedicated to His work. Being ambitious for Christ will seldom mean that we are singled out for public honor. Being ambitious for Christ means that we serve faithfully and diligently in our wards and branches without complaint and with joyful hearts.
Our missionaries serving throughout the world are beautiful examples of those who are truly ambitious for Christ. …I am proud not only of Elder Cowan but also of all the missionaries throughout the world who serve willingly without murmuring or complaining. Thank you, elders and sisters, for your faith, your focus, and your strong ambition for Christ.
…My dear brothers and sisters, we are ambitious for Christ when we serve faithfully, accept humbly, endure nobly, pray fervently, and partake worthily. May we be ambitious for Christ as we accept our difficulties and trials with patience and faith and find joy in our covenant path.
Sharing the Restored Gospel by Elder Dallin H. Oaks
Nearing the end of His earthly ministry, our Savior, Jesus Christ, commanded His disciples: “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations” (Matthew 28:19) and “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature” (Mark 16:15). All Christians are under these commands to share the gospel with everyone. Many call this the “great commission.”
…Today we have many resources to share the gospel that were not available in earlier generations. We have TV, the internet, and social media channels. We have many valuable messages to introduce the restored gospel. We have the prominence of the Church in many nations. We have a greatly increased number of missionaries. But are we using all these resources to maximum effect? I believe most of us would say no. We desire to be more effective in fulfilling our divinely appointed responsibility to proclaim the restored gospel in all the world.
…Sharing the restored gospel is our lifelong Christian duty and privilege. Elder Quentin L. Cook reminds us, “Missionary work is not just one of the 88 keys on a piano that is occasionally played; it is a major chord in a compelling melody that needs to be played continuously throughout our lives if we are to remain in harmony with our commitment to Christianity and the gospel of Jesus Christ.”
…we can pray for inspiration on what we can do in our individual circumstances to share the gospel with others. This is different than praying for the missionaries or praying for what others can do. We should pray for what we can do personally. When we pray, we should remember that prayers for this kind of inspiration will be answered if accompanied by a commitment—something the scriptures call “real intent” or “full purpose of heart.” Pray with a commitment to act upon the inspiration you receive, promising the Lord that if He will inspire you to speak to someone about the gospel, you will do it. …As we demonstrate our faith, these opportunities will come without any “forced or … contrived response. They will flow as a natural result of our love for our brothers and sisters.”
…Our efforts to share the gospel should not be limited to our circle of friends and associates. During the Olympics we learned of an LDS taxi driver in Rio de Janeiro who carried copies of the Book of Mormon in seven different languages and gave one to whoever would receive them. He called himself the “cab driving missionary.” He said, “The streets of Rio de Janeiro … are [my] mission field.”
…Sharing the gospel is not a burden but a joy. What we call “member missionary work” is not a program but an attitude of love and outreach to help those around us. It is also an opportunity to witness how we feel about the restored gospel of our Savior.
Joy and Spiritual Survival By President Russell M. Nelson
That is why our missionaries leave their homes to preach His gospel. Their goal is not to increase the number of Church members. Rather, our missionaries teach and baptize to bring joy to the people of the world!
The Great Plan of Redemption By Linda S. Reeves
When I served with my husband as he presided over a mission, we went to the airport to pick up a large group of missionaries one morning. One particular young man caught our eye. He seemed sad, weighed down, almost distraught. We watched him carefully that afternoon. By evening, this young man made a belated confession, and his leaders determined that he needed to return home. Although we were very sad that he had been dishonest and had not repented before coming on his mission, on the way to the airport we sincerely and lovingly praised him for having the courage to come forward, and we pledged to stay in close contact with him.
This great young man was blessed to have wonderful parents, great priesthood leaders, and a supportive, loving ward. After a year of working hard to fully repent and partake of the Savior’s Atonement, he was able to return to our mission. It is difficult for me to describe the feelings of joy we felt as we picked up this young man from the airport. He was full of the Spirit, happy, confident before the Lord, and anxious to fulfill a faithful mission. He became an outstanding missionary, and later my husband and I had the privilege of attending his temple sealing.
By contrast, I’m aware of another missionary who, knowing her unconfessed sin from before her mission would surely cause her to be sent home early, made her own plan to work extra hard during her mission and confess to the mission president just days before completing her mission. She lacked godly sorrow and tried to circumvent the plan that our loving Savior has offered each one of us.
During our mission, I once accompanied my husband when he went to interview a man for baptism. While my husband conducted the interview, I waited outside with the sister missionaries who had taught this man. When the interview was finished, my husband informed the missionaries that the man would be able to be baptized. This dear man wept and wept as he explained that he had been certain that the serious sins he had committed in his life would prevent him from being able to be baptized. I have seldom witnessed the joy and happiness of someone coming out of the darkness and into the light equal to what I witnessed that day.
I served in the city of Fray Luis Beltrán from August 28, 1996 to December 17, 1996. It was a small city a few miles north of the main city of Rosario, Argentina. I think we were part of the Capitan Bermudez ward, which was a city just to the south. This was the third area of my mission. (See this article on my first mission area, the Gazano Branch in the city of Paraná, and my second area, the Rural Ward in the city of Santa Fe). This was an enjoyable area to serve in and the first where I was able to have a leadership opportunity of being a district leader and trainer.
- People We Taught and Baptized
- Members of the Church in Beltrán
- Missionaries I Served With
- Neighborhoods in Beltrán
- Apartment in Beltrán
Above: This is the baptism of Maxi Paré Sept 8, 1996. His mom was baptized the week prior, having received most of the discussions before I got there. But Elder Gertge and I taught Maxi all the discussions and then he was baptized. I remember teaching him the principle of keeping the Sabbath Day Holy because in the lesson, he mentioned that he played in a basketball league and had games on Sunday. He did not want to stop playing ball on Sunday, and I felt bad pushing the issue. I remember him agreeing to a rather weak commitment to come to church and to avoid playing basketball if he could on Sundays. I have often wondered if I did the right thing.
The picture above was taken at the baptism of Aldo, September 29, 1996. Aldo was a great young man. We met him my first week at Church when I was in Beltrán. He was dating a girl in the ward, Gabriela Reide. We taught him the discussions and he was soon baptized. Click here to read the full Conversion Story of Aldo.
The baptism of Betiana Pare and Silvina Saucedo, October 6, 1996.
This is the baptism of Agostin Zapata, November 24, 1996. Agostin’s was a memorable conversion story. Read it here.
This is the Columbo Family (the three in white across the front: Enrique, Yolanda, and Ines). They were baptized only weeks before I got to Beltrán.
This is Yolanda and Maria Jose Celentano’s baptism. They are in white with Elder Gertge. Her husband and their younger son are also in the picture. They were baptized only weeks before I got to Beltrán.
This is the familia Godoy, the older daughters were Gishela and Shamila, and I don’t remember the names of the others. Sister Godoy would wash our laundry for free. All she asked was that we pay for the laundry soap, which we were happy to do. Thanks Sister Godoy! She would go above and beyond the call of duty in cleaning our laundry. As I recall, we once arrived at her house to find her ironing our jeans. We, of course, told her that was not necessary. The Godoys also fed us frequently and for that we are very grateful.
This photo was taken in the home of Claudia Santoro. She is in the front left, and her mom and sister, Hermana Wagner, are on the right. Her dad is in the middle. Her daughter Raquel, and other family and friends are in the photo. Sister Santoro was a relatively new member as I recall, about 6 months. She was very stalwart and served as the stake primary president. Sister Santoro would cook for us often and each Sunday night she would let us use her phone for 30 minutes (not an inexpensive thing). Read more about the Santoro family here.
This is Monica Brenner and her three children, the younger two are named Emanuel and Pamela.
Here’s the Santoro family. Alejandro Sr was not yet a member, but Claudia, Raquel and Alejandro Jr were baptized a few months before I got there. The dad was baptized a few months after I left.
Here is the familia Torres with friend Leandro Paré making bunny eyes in the back. Children Daniel, Elizabeth, Maita, her son Leandro.
Here’s Jorge Torres (no relation to the Torres family above) and his wife and seven kids.
This is Brother and Sister Zacarías and there two youngest children, Rafael and Gloria. They were also very stalwart members. Several of their sons served missions.
This is Sister Portillo with two of her children. One of the things I remember about her is that she had been endowed in the temple and thus one of the few people who was able to do all our laundry, including temple garments.
Brother Jose Chopita playing ping pong in a table set up in the chapel of the Church owned and constructed building in Capitán Bermudez. The two in the back are resting against the sacrament meeting podium. Each Sunday we would set up chairs in that space for sacrament meeting.
Here’s my companion, Elder Gertge, on our first day together. He had been with his trainer for four weeks. We would spend the next three months together.
This was the composition of our district of missionaries: Elder Draper, Elder Segelke, Elder Gertge, Elder Smith, Sister Sines, and Sister Johnson.
Me and Elder Gertge got caught in the rain and took refuge at Sister Santoro’s house.
Another picture of the missionaries in our district. Elder Videla is the new one. This is the room in the Capitan Bermudez chapel where we had district meeting each week.
New missionary in the district is Sister Ireland. I think she was brand new out of the MTC.
Elder Gertge and I pretending to drink mate. I only drank it for real once, and that’s when it was accidentally given to me in a normal cup by a member. Usually when Argentine’s drink mate, they do it out of those special cups with a cool, filtering straw called a bombilla.
Two new additions to our district. This photo was taken at the mission home, where we would go once a month to have interviews with the mission president. Sister Ireland, Sister Julien, Elder Smith, Elder Adams, Elder Videla, Elder Manriquez.
Here’s me standing out in front of the mission home in Rosario.
This was the view looking north (I believe) from our apartment.
The city of Fray Luis Beltránwas located right on the Rio Paraná. A large river that had huge barges going up and down it.
This is the Terminal de Omnibus, the central bus station in Rosario. Each time we had transfers, you would see a lot of missionaries coming and going through here.
This is a Carrefour super store, kind of like a Super Walmart, but much more rare in Argentina. They had a huge assortment of groceries and other things that were hard to find anywhere else. I believe there may have only been one in Rosario at this time and it was near the mission presidents home. So we had permission to go there after we came in for interviews with the mission president.
The Carrefour had a McDonald’s in it. McDonald’s were rare in Argentina at that time. This was the only time I recall going.
Here’s where we lived. This is our land lord’s house, and he rented the second floor it us. It had one bedroom, a kitchen, and a bathroom, all a missionary needs. We would sometimes hang laundry out to dry on the roof that we could walk out to.
This is our land lord, Luis Sanchez and his wife. They were always very kind to us.
This is the bathroom toilet and bide in our apartment. I never used the bide and don’t think most America missionaries did. Once Luis, the land lord, found out that the bide was broken and he was shocked. He asked “how do you clean yourself?” We explained that we use toilet paper and we shower daily and that keeps us clean.
This is the birthday party of Luis Sanchez. We almost always got back to the house around 9:30, and Luis knew that. But on this particular day we had a discussion that went long and it was about 10:25pm when we walked in. We were planning to race to bed to meet our 10:30 bedtime in the missionary schedule. But when we realized they had been waiting for us, we decided it was more important to socialize with them, so we joined them for the party.
A picture of me at Luis’ birthday party. Luis gave this one to me and signed his name on the back.
Me in our apartment. Getting ready to go to district meeting, I believe.
Here’s Elder Adams in our apartment.
Here’s what my mom sent me for Christmas that year. Thanks Mom!