San Pedro Sula East Mission
2013 - 2016

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

The Things that Matter Most . . .

Imagine Yourself as a Living House - 

Serving as Mission Presidents is a very humbling experience . . .

You may be familiar with the CS Lewis quote that begins -
“Imagine yourself as a living house” . . . 

It's very painful to say I think I was a little prideful in my life before the mission, but yep, um, i think I was prideful.  I was quite proud of the little house I had built, I was very content with my life . . . I  had no idea of the major remodel that my Heavenly Father had in store for me, or how painful it might be. 

And at first I resisted that remodel quite . . .  insistently . . .

But as I let Honduras, and each missionary, and each little starfish on the vast number of beaches that our Heavenly Father has out there . . . and more importantly, the fervent fervent message that filled my heart of our Heavenly Father’s love for all of His children change my heart -

I began to experience this extensive remodulation take place, until I can truly say I am hardly the same person that I was three years ago when we said farewell to family and friends and got on an airplane to Honduras.

My Pride is Showing Again - 

I thought I pretty much understood all there was to know about life (my pride again), but I came to realize very shortly that I understood very little . . . we have grown in so many ways - 

. . . in faith, knowledge, wisdom, and understanding.  

Our Heavenly Father has greatly blessed us to open our hearts to all the things He has prepared and planned for us when He sent us to this earthly experience.  

From CS Lewis . . . 

“The explanation is that He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of - throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards. You thought you were being made into a decent little cottage: but He is building a palace. He intends to come and live in it Himself.”

And This is Life Eternal - 

Actually, He is teaching us about Eternal life . . . and what it means to dwell with Him forever, what it means to actually BE an exalted being, or in other words, what it means to become LIKE him. 

"And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent." - John 17:3

This great gift is made possible through the Atonement of Jesus Christ. However, to inherit eternal life requires our obedience to the laws and ordinances of the Gospel.

I’m going to come back to that thought in just a minute, 
but first I’m going to take you on a little journey . . . 

I’m going to begin by telling you a little bit about Honduras.

Having been blessed to attend sacrament meetings in a variety of countries throughout the world, i always smile when people say no matter where you go in the world, the church is the same. And i would agree that the gospel is the same throughout the world, but the CHURCH is very much different, in other parts of the world. 

The culture of Honduras very much has an influence on the Church in Honduras, the Doctrine is the same, but culture is very different and that is ok.

I want you to close your eyes for just a moment . . . 
(seriously, it’s ok, everyone around you is doing it also!)

I’m going  take you to my favorite sacrament meeting in Honduras . . .

Imagine yourself in a garden, that looks very much like the garden of Eden right out of the newer LDS temple video scenes . . . palm trees . . .  flowers . . . and you’re sitting beneath a large mango tree, on a dirt floor, on a rustly, brown ancient metal folding chair, in a small congregation of beautiful brown skinned people, dressed very humbly, perhaps without the means to purchase special Sunday clothing, but some of the men can be found in a white shirt and a tie . . . perhaps they are wearing jeans, or something else that in you congregation you might think a little inappropriate . . . 

 . . . but nevertheless, you can be assured, that it is the best that they have . . . and a dog is curled up at your feet, and mama chickens with their little pollitos are wandering in and out of the congregation  . . . 

Above your head is a corrugated tin roof to provide a little bit of shade, and the air smells smokey from the many fires burning nearby . . . and across the street loud music is blaring, and a farm truck is passing through the streets nearby peddling his crops loudly from a loudspeaker almost piercingly . . . 

But you realize that despite all these distractions, the spirit is strong . . . 

These people love the gospel, they love the church, here they find the peace that is missing in the world all around them. Here they find the comfort that will guide them through the rough and difficult challenges of the future.

Here they catch a glimpse of the grand plan of salvation, that their Heavenly Father has prepared for each one of His children.  

Here . . . they partake of the Sacrament.

That They do Always Have His Spirit to be With Them - 

On the night before His Crucifixion, Jesus Christ met with His Apostles and instituted the sacrament (see Luke 22:19–20). 

19 ¶And he took bread, and gave thanks, and brake it, and gave unto them, saying, This is my body which is given for you: this do in remembrance of me.

 20 Likewise also the cup after supper, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood, which is shed for you.

After His Resurrection, He instituted the sacrament among the Nephites (see 3 Nephi 18:1–11). 

Today the sacrament is an ordinance in which Church members partake of bread and water in remembrance of Jesus Christ's atoning sacrifice. This ordinance is an essential part of worship and spiritual development. Through this ordinance, Church members renew the covenants they made with God when they were baptized. To always remember him, and to keep his commandments.

Now I’m going to return to my earlier statement . . . 

This great gift (meaning eternal life and exaltation) is made possible through the Atonement of Jesus Christ. 

However, to inherit eternal life requires our “obedience to the laws and ordinances of the Gospel”.

As I was preparing to finish our service and leave the mission field, I had the opportunity to share a message with all our missionaries. 

I spoke to them of the last lecture series here in the United States in the academic world . . . 

It consists of an ongoing series of lectures where top academics are asked to think deeply about what matters to them, and then give a hypothetical "final talk", i.e., "what wisdom would you try to impart to the world if you knew it was your last chance?”

Since this would be my last chance to share my thoughts and testimony with them.  I had so many thoughts and so much to share, so many messages I wanted to leave with them . . .  

But I had to condense it down to to a short message . . . 

The Things that Matter Most . . .

My words and thoughts should not be a surprise  . . . they are almost exactly the exact lessons that our missionaries teach to their investigators everyday . . .  

We know today that the world is in serious trouble.  The fundamental values of the United States and other nations are being threatened and weakening daily.  There is a continual collapse of principles, virtue, integrity and religious values.  All the things that as missionaries and members of the Church of Jesus Christ, we realize are the foundation of a refined culture, and the ingredients of lasting peace and happiness.

But we are more fortunate that most, because we have the revealed words of modern prophets and apostles to give us guidance in these troubled times.  They have given us a pattern for success and happiness in life despite these conditions.

The Power of Faith - 

Our Heavenly Father created us with the agency to choose to exercise faith, so that we can find peace, joy and purpose in life here on earth.  Our faith gives us great power in life.  The first principle of the gospel is faith in the Lord, Jesus Christ.  But what does that mean?  

First of all, there is no more powerful foundation than faith in the love your Heavenly Father has for you, and in His plan of happiness for you.  And secondly, faith in Jesus Christ, the knowledge that He willingly and with great love for all mankind, will fulfill all His promises.  This is what the first principle of the gospel, faith in the Lord Jesus Christ really signifies. 

There are important gospel principles upon which our faith is  based.  

The first is trust.  Trust in God and in His desire to provide help when you need it, no matter how challenging your circumstances are.

A little side note, especially for missionaries, parents of missionaries, future missionaries . . . God loves all His children.  Of this there is no doubt.  But I do know that He reserves a special measure of love and blessings for His missionaries throughout the world.  There is no general population more blessed, more prayed for than the missionaries serving all over the world.

But as we come to develop this important trust in our Heavenly Father, we will have an increased desire to be obedient to His commandments, and demonstrate to Him, that He can trust us!  

Receive the Holy Ghost - 

As missionaries we are dependent upon the Spirit to lead us to those who are seeking our life changing message.  As members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we received the Holy Ghost to be our companion, to guide us in our many decisions we make each day. Our daily decisions determine our destiny. The Holy Ghost is real, His influence is real. We experienced this great blessing and power on an almost moment to moment basis.  And you can to.

The Holy Ghost works in perfect unity with Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ, fulfilling several roles to help us live righteously and receive the blessings of the gospel.
He “witnesses of the Father and the Son” (2 Nephi 31:18) and reveals and teaches “the truth of all things” (Moroni 10:5). 

We can receive a sure testimony of Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ only by the power of the Holy Ghost. 

His communication to our spirit carries far more certainty than any communication we can receive through our natural senses.

As we strive to stay on the path that leads to eternal life, the Holy Ghost can guide us in our decisions and protect us from physical and spiritual danger.
Through Him, we can receive gifts of the Spirit for our benefit and for the benefit of those we love and serve.

Live by the Whisperings of the Spirit - 

It is absolutely essential that we are sensitive to the quiet promptings of the Holy Spirit.  How do we develop this sensitivity? Through obedience. Through paying attention to the promptings that we do receive.  Perhaps noting each one in a special journal at the end of the day.  And then acting, taking action, based upon the inspiration and revelation that we receive.  

When we do this, our Heavenly Father increases His trust in us, and pours out an even greater abundance of the Spirit out upon us.

Think of it this way - 
If you think that you can do whatever you want here in this life . . .  perhaps not seeking diligently the teachings from the scriptures, and following counsel of the prophets, and receive the same trust from our Heavenly Father, the same outpouring of the Spirit, you are not correct.  You haven’t earned that trust or gift of the Spirit. 

Spiritual Crocodiles - 

Just recently, we watched with our missionaries a short video entitled “Spiritual Crocodiles”,  if you haven’t seen it . . . it’s very effective. 

It demonstrates the hidden power of the adversary, likening the adversary, to the many hidden camouflaged crocodiles of Africa, lurking in every little watering hole, well hidden by the mud, waiting for unsuspecting prey, human or animal to come along. Indeed it very well describes the adversary who is all about us, exerting a stronger and stronger influence in the Latter-days.  

It seems almost to be against our nature, particularly when we are young, to accept much guidance from others. But, young people, there are times when, regardless of how much we think we know or how much we think we want to do something, that our very existence depends on paying attention to the guides.  - Boyd K. Packer

Our goal is to get through mortality without being injured by these spiritual crocodiles.

If you will listen to the counsel of your parents and your teachers and your leaders when you are young, you can learn how to follow the best guide of all—the whisperings of the Holy Spirit. That is individual revelation. There is a process through which we can be alerted to spiritual dangers.

Read the Book, the Book of Mormon - 

I want to finish by sharing my witness of the Book of Mormon - 

The Book of Mormon is powerful evidence of the divinity of Christ.  It is also proof of the Restoration through the Prophet Joseph Smith.  An essential part of conversion is receiving a witness from the Holy Ghost that the Book of Mormon is true.  Young people, future missionaries . . . as a missionary you must have a powerful testimony that the book of Mormon is true. 

Have confidence that the Holy Ghost will testify to those who read and ponder the Book of Mormon and ask God if it is true with a sincere heart, real intent, and faith in Christ.

I have experienced this witness in my life so many times!  There are many things I do not know.  There are many questions I have about life, about the gospel, about the Church.  But I do know the Church is the restored Church of Jesus Christ, restored to the earth today through the prophet Joseph Smith, because I have a witness of this great book that I can never deny.

I love the gospel, I love the Book of Mormon.  The Book of Mormon helps us understand that God’s commandments, the counsel from the prophets, are not a restrictive list.  But the pathway to a happy and abundant life. 

Missionary Blessings - 

A great blessing of serving closely with the missionaries as we did, you find your self upon occasion in close proximity to the prophets and apostles of the Church, specially called in their leadership roles to bear witness and testify of the Savior Jesus Christ.  We have heard them share that because of singular and sacred experiences they have had, they can testify that the Savior lives. 

I have had sacred and special experiences in my life, that I can testify that I know our Heavenly Father knows us and loves us. He cares about each one of us, He knows our names, He knows our needs, He desires to bless us. He is waiting for us to take those first necessary steps in our life to acknowledge His existence, exercising even the smallest evidence of faith, choosing to believe. 

I am Like a Rough Stone Rolling . . .

I feel like I have truly come to know  what Joseph Smith meant when he said -
     "I am like a huge, rough stone rolling down from a high mountain; and the only polishing I get is when some corner gets rubbed off by coming in contact with something else, striking with accelerated force . . . knocking off a corner here and a corner there. And Thus I will become a smooth and polished shaft in the quiver of the Almighty."

Well, I am a long ways from becoming a smooth and polished shaft, but certainly closer than I was three years ago.  I have learned and grown through our mission experiences greatly.

I share my testimony that life does go on after the mortal death of our bodies. That the Savior Jesus Christ came to earth, suffered and died for us, that we can live eternally again, to dwell with Him forever, actually becoming an exalted being, or in other words, becoming LIKE Him.

“this great gift is made possible through the Atonement of Jesus Christ. However, to inherit eternal life requires our “obedience to the laws and ordinances of the Gospel”

As we begin to understand that these basic gospel principles that missionaries teach to their investigators everyday, the principles and ordinances of the gospel of Jesus Christ are the way to an abundant life, a life full of purpose, joy, pleasure, and great happiness, we will come to appreciate that these principles really can help us answer any question and fill every need.

Yea, come unto Christ, and be perfected in him, and deny yourselves of all ungodliness; and if ye shall deny yourselves of all ungodliness, and love God with all your might, mind and strength, then is his grace sufficient for you, that by his grace ye may be perfect in Christ; and if by the grace of God ye are perfect in Christ, ye can in nowise deny the power of God. - Moroni 10:32

(If you read all the way to the end . . . I have a little excitement to share, we have been called to work in a branch presidency, spanish speaking at the MTC in Provo.  We are very excited that our missionary experience will continue for a little bit longer.  Stay tuned for more missionary updates!)

Love you all!

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