As a mission, and as a country we were greatly blessed to receive Elder Neil L. Andersen, of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles as a guest here in Honduras, and especially here in our mission.
He was accompanied by Elder Richard J. Maynes of the Presidency of the Seventy, Elder Dean M. Davies, second counselor in the Presiding Bishopric of the Church, Elder, Elder Adrian Ochoa of the 2nd Quorum of the Seventy, and Elder Valladares, our presiding Area Seventy. It was a great opportunity to hear from each one of them as they addressed the youth of the Church both in a special fireside, and a meeting of both missions here in San Pedro Sula.
Whenever you have many wonderful General Authorities gathered and more than 450 missionaries in one place . . . you can certainly feel the spirit of the great work of the Church on the face of the earth today.
I have been blessed to be in the presence of General Authorities in my life, but I will always remember the feeling I experienced as I first met Elder Neil L. Andersen. My immediate impression was he brought with him the love of the Savior for each person there in the room. I never really comprehended what the love of the Savior might feel like . . . but I experienced it that day in some small measure through Elder Andersen.
His eyes sincere, and each immediately felt an overwhelming sense of caring and concern for the one. He and the other visiting authorities began to tour the room when they entered shaking hands and greeting as many people as possible. It was marvelous to be seated on the stand and watch the expression of the many youth who had opportunity to meet and shake hands with these authorities of the Church. We could tell, it was a lifetime experience, they will not likely forget.
The following day, approximately 450 missionaries from the San Pedro Sula missions gathered to hear the words of the visiting General Authorities. I hope to share messages from each one, but for now will focus the remainder of this post on the words from the special witness of Christ, Elder Neil L. Andersen and his wife.
I was impressed with the words of Sister Andersen as she testified of the apostolic witness of her husband. She spoke of how she studied the words of the apostles as a youth, never dreaming that she would find herself in a position one day, where she would bear personal witness of their great calling and responsibility. She shared with us that she always takes notes, even though they have been married many years, as she always learns something new, something special and inspired, and that we should enjoy and make use of this great opportunity. (What a great example for me of love and support in marriage!)
Elder Andersen clearly demonstrated the gift of tongues . . . he of course speaks English, he served as a young missionary in France, and later presided over the France Bordeaux mission, therefore speaking French. Later he presided as the Area President in Brazil South Area, learning Portuguese. And today he spoke to us in Spanish . . . which kind of rolled off his tongue with a French / Portuguese sort of accent - so lovely.
Elder Andersen arrived with much experience of visiting Church members all over the world. He acknowledged that each area of the Church is a little bit different. In France it's difficult to find people to speak to, in Africa the people are very spiritual, in Russia, Americans can be unpopular and not well liked. Each area has it's particular challenges . . . but here in Honduras, the people are very loving but they need help staying active in the Church, staying faithful forever. Here it is not hard to teach the gospel, the difficulty lies in helping them become truly converted to the gospel of Jesus Christ.
It's especially necessary for each missionary to be personally converted to the gospel of Jesus Christ in order to truly help and convert and change the lives of others here in Honduras. To help a person receive a change of heart, you have to have received that grand change of heart yourself first. Each missionary needs to receive their own witness of the importance of the Atonement in their lives and put it into practice in their lives. He taught the words from the Book of Mormon, the words of Alma the younger, speaking of his father . . .
. . . "there was a mighty changewrought in his heart. Behold I say unto you that this is all true.
And behold, he preached the word unto your fathers, and a mighty change was also wrought in their hearts, and they humbled themselves and put their trust in the true and living God. And behold, they were faithful until the end; therefore they were saved.
And now behold, I ask of you, my brethren of the church, have ye spiritually been born of God? Have ye received his image in your countenances? Have ye experienced this mighty change in your hearts?" - Alma 5
How can we become great instruments like unto Alma, and Alma the younger?
By keeping our focus on the eternal principles that matter -
While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen temporal; but the things which are not seen eternal. (2 Cor 4:18)Each missionary is specifically called with authority, to act as a representative of the Church, and to teach with power and authority the principles found in Preach my Gospel. We must teach the principle of the Atonement, as found in the scriptures, especially the Book of Mormon. Many many scriptures from the Book of Mormon teach of the Atonement of the Savior. It's not just important, that today the Savior lives . . . but what He did. What He accomplished through the Atonement for us.
We were so impressed with a challenge Elder Andersen left for each missionary to memorize 10 scriptures that teach of the Atonement. To commit them to memory, to be ready to teach and to testify at a moments notice the power of the Atonement. (Each missionary may choose their own meaningful scriptures. Five from the Book of Mormon and five from other scripture sources. We have been implementing this wonderful challenge and have already seen great and marvelous things begin to come to pass! For myself it has given greater meaning to my scripture study, and greater purpose as I have tried to commit these special scriptures to memory).
Elder Andersen also taught the principle taught by President Spencer W. Kimball -
President Spencer W. Kimball, who gave such comprehensive teachings on repentance and forgiveness, said that personal suffering “is a very important part of repentance. One has not begun to repent until he has suffered intensely for his sins. … If a person hasn’t suffered, he hasn’t repented.” ( Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1982, pp. 88, 99.)
The Savior taught this principle when he said that his atoning sacrifice was for “all those who have a broken heart and a contrite spirit; and unto none else can the ends of the law be answered.” (2 Ne. 2:7.) The repentant sinner who comes to Christ with a broken heart and a contrite spirit has been through a process of personal pain and suffering for sin.
As we experience and use the Atonement in our own lives . . . we can then teach and testify with power of it's greatness, as we help others become truly converted, truly ready to make great changes in their life through repentance and bringing their lives into harmony with gospel principles. We are the instruments . . . that bring the gospel of our Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ to others . . . we are his hands.
He also shared Elder Bednar's quote from his wonderful address, "In the Strength of the Lord".
Thus, the enabling and strengthening aspect of the Atonement helps us to see and to do and to become good in ways that we could never recognize or accomplish with our limited mortal capacity. - Elder David A. Bednar
He closed with his greetings from the Prophet, President Thomas S. Monson and thanked the missionaries for their devotion, service and hard work, with a blessing for all that their knowledge would increase as they reach out to help all, to teach the Atonement, to strengthen the members, to elevate all together. He blessed the missionaries that they might be able to see the things that can't be seen, to understand more clearly, to understand the situations of the people they will encounter. He bore a powerful testimony that our Heavenly Father lives. He said, "Jesus Christ lives". "I really know that He lives, was resurrected and directs the Church." "One day we will all be in front of Him". "This mission will be a great blessing". "God is our Father". "The Book of Mormon came from light". "I love you, this is my witness of Christ, I testify He lives, I really know".
Powerful! Yes, it was powerful.
The Spirit bore witness to us . . . that this apostle of the Lord
speaks and testifies as His special witness.