Sunday, July 28, 2013

The Lord is Hastening His Work

Wow, what a day!

It started at 8:00 a.m. with a meeting with the bishopric to discuss missionary work in the ward, and the new directive from the stake to provide two appointments per week for the full time elders. We made some specific plans for the next ward council. Then I gave a talk in sacrament meeting on missionary work. For the third hour of the block, I presented some of the material from last month's worldwide training broadcast. Unfortunately, I had some technical difficulties that limited which video clips I was able to show. I showed Elder Perry's message, but I also really wanted to show the musical vignette, "I'll Go Where You Want Me To Go," and President Monson's remarks. You can watch those at the link above, if you like. I especially recommend the musical vignette. After church, I went home teaching, visiting with a wonderful family in our ward who I just love. Then I attended the monthly stake missionary training. After that meeting, I co-hosted a special fireside with the other ward that meets in our building, an event we called Ward Mission Conference (which will become a quarterly meeting). It went really well, and I was glad to see the folks who turned out. Finally, I baked some brownies and delivered them to another home teaching family. Whew!

Yesterday, I had the opportunity to attend the Brigham City Temple with my good friend Ryan and perform baptisms for the dead. They had a shortage of Melchizedek Priesthood holders on hand, so we got to not only do Ryan's family names, but also assist with some youth who were there. We each got to fulfill six different roles: baptizer, proxy baptizee, baptism witness, confirmer, proxy confirmee, and confirmation witness. The trip took four hours all told, and it was really nice that we had no restraints on our time and could just relax, wait, be patient, serve, and enjoy the spirit of the temple. That's really the way to do it!

So, a great spiritual weekend all around! Exhausting, but refreshing all at once. (Note: I mention all these things not to "toot my own horn," but simply to recommend to you the great blessings that come from being active in the Lord's work. It takes effort, but it really makes you feel good!)

Anyway, here's a transcript of the talk I gave in sacrament meeting today. Hopefully it may be of some use to you. (Note: a small portion of this talk was previously published as a post on this blog.)

Sacrament Talk: Missionary Work in the Ward

This talk may not be for everybody. It is really only for some of you.

So, if you are someone who has no interest in missionary work, no desire at all to fellowship the less active, befriend the part-member family, or be an example to non-members in your neighborhood, this isn’t for you. If you are convinced that you can personally never make any difference in someone else’s life, if you are certain that you’ve got nothing to offer and you don’t ever want to try to be a missionary, if the whole idea of member missionary work is impossible to you –I guess you can just go home and take a nap until Sunday School starts.

Meanwhile, if you’re a complete missionary superstar – fully on board with the program, totally ON FIRE with missionary spirit, bursting with excitement over the Church’s big new emphasis on missionary work and are currently providing me and the full-time elders with multiple solid referrals and teaching opportunities each month – and to be honest you’d rather be out in the neighborhood right now spreading the gospel – well, you don’t need to hear what I have to say either. You can leave.

Oh. So, I guess you’ve all self-selected to fall into the third group – those who, deep down, WISH they could do more to build up the Lord’s Kingdom, who truly desire to make a difference and to be a faithful member-missionary, but perhaps struggle with overcoming the challenges of stepping out of your comfort zone, or maybe have a hard time with thinking of things you can do. Perhaps you have a desire to share the gospel, to be an example, to make more friends – but you just don’t have time. You have no idea who to talk to – you don’t know where to start. Maybe you’re just tired, overwhelmed, or scared.

Well, looking around, I see you are not alone.

And brothers and sisters, I’m in that category, too.

What I’ve found, as I’ve analyzed my situation, is that I have many excuses. I’ve also determined that most of them are pretty lame. Maybe these sound familiar:

I'm too busy. I am too shy. I don't want to offend anyone or make them feel uncomfortable. I would rather keep to myself. I don't want to open up that "can of worms." The status quo is just fine. I feel awkward – I don't even know where to begin a gospel conversation. Someone else is better qualified. I don't know anyone who could use the gospel message. So-and-so would never want to hear it. The time is never right.

While it's possible that each of these statements is technically, in some way, true; it does not excuse my inaction. It does not absolve me of the responsibility – the duty I have – to do what I know is right. It just helps me to rationalize and justify my personal failures.

That said, it's not productive to beat myself up, either. It's time to just recognize the fault, and fix it.

Put simply, it's time to repent. Time for change.

Last month, I had the opportunity to attend a special worldwide broadcast training for mission presidents – it was opened up to members of Ward Councils and their spouses as well – and is now available for viewing online by anyone. It was called “The Work of Salvation.” I found it to be a great motivator to remind me of my obligations, and to inspire me to do what's right.

And, lucky you, if you have not already seen it, I will be showing portions of it today during the third hour in a special joint meeting of the Priesthood and Relief Society.

In that video, our wonderful leaders are so inspiring. They make you want to change – not by making you feel guilty, but with gentle and loving counsel designed to inspire, uplift, and remind us of the great blessings we enjoy. The messages instill in us a true desire to live up to our divine potential, to serve, to share, and above all, to love.

As has been said several times recently by the prophet and apostles, the Lord is hastening His work. I do not take that message lightly. It means great things are ahead. It also means that I need to step up my own game, because the Lord's work (you know, that one that is hastening) is performed by His people – His followers – His Saints. We are the ones who must accomplish that work, as His hands, doing His work on the earth as His servants, blessing and serving others.

AsKing Benjamin said, "And behold, I tell you these things that ye may learn wisdom; that ye may learn that when ye are in the service of your fellow beings ye are only in the service of your God."

Now is the time to serve our fellow beings, and thereby serve our God. All it takes is love, and a willingness to act upon that love. If you let love be your motivator, and let the Spirit be your guide, all you need to do is ignore your excuses (say "no" to laziness, "no" to fear, "no" to any and all of those false obstacles in my "excuse" list I mentioned earlier) – and you will have success.

In that training video, we were reminded of some great and wonderful facts by President Monson and the apostles:
  • As we do our best, Heavenly Father will not let us fail.
  • When we are on the Lord's errand, we are entitled to His help.
  • Wishing will not make it so; the Lord expects our action.

These are powerful messages that can help us overcome the things that we let prevent us from sharing the gospel.

When I think of how happy the gospel makes me, when I consider the great blessings in my life that come because of the gospel, and when I think of the eternal significance of the gospel – I am driven, I am motivated, I am urged from deep within my soul to share the wonderful truths of the restored gospel.

Now all I need to do is ignore the excuses and do it.

The best way to share the gospel is in the way we live our lives. We should let it be evident in the way we live and serve others and build friendships that we love others and want them to share in the joy we experience in the gospel. If we can shift our focus ever so slightly away from ourselves and look outward to those around us, this should not be hard.

In a message found in the February 2013 edition of the Ensign, called “A Word to the Hesitant Missionary,” President Dieter F. Uchtdorf said:

“Disciples of Jesus Christ have always been under the obligation to take His gospel to the world. Nevertheless, sometimes it is difficult to open our mouths and speak about our faith to those around us. While some members of the Church have a natural gift for talking to others about religion, others are a little hesitant or may feel awkward, embarrassed, or even fearful of doing so.”

He then outlines four important things to consider when being a member missionary:

  1. Be a light: that is, let the joy radiated in your life be, in itself, a reason why people may ask you questions to find out what it is that makes you so happy.
  2. Be conversational: here he includes the simple method of not avoiding references to the Church when speaking with others not of our faith – in fact, we should freely speak of Church-related things, as it opens a door for people to ask questions. In the past, I've found myself editing my speech by saying "my neighborhood" when I really mean "my ward." I really should just use the language of the gospel, as it opens up doors. President Uchtdorf also mentions using social media to be conversational about the Church - something that's easy for us all to do – as simple as clicking "like."
  3. Be full of grace: meaning, be clear and kind and civil; do not be disagreeable.
  4. Be filled with faith: for this one, I will quote President Uchtdorf – “Sometimes we take upon ourselves too much credit or too much blame when it comes to others accepting the gospel. It’s important to remember that the Lord doesn't expect us to do the converting. Conversion comes not through our words but through the heavenly ministrations of the Holy Spirit. Sometimes all it takes is one single phrase of our testimony or about an experience to set in motion the softening of a heart or the opening of a door that can lead others to experience sublime truths through the promptings of the Spirit… The Lord can magnify the words you speak and make them mighty. God doesn't ask you to convert but rather to open your mouths. The task of converting is not yours—that belongs to the person hearing and to the Holy Spirit.”

So, by your efforts, you can bring the Spirit, and then let him do the work.

Elder Clayton M. Christiansen said in February 2005:
“The ability to share the gospel isn’t a ‘gift’ that has been given to only a few Latter-day Saints and denied to the rest. We have concluded from our own experiences and from watching others that finding people for the missionaries to teach can be easy and natural for all of us—if we go about it the Lord’s way.”
One of the things Elder Christiansen mentions is the importance of not editing people off your list of “possibly interested” folks, simply because you don’t think they’d be interested (for whatever reason – usually some kind of judgment on your own part). You simply never know who is ready, unless you provide the opportunity. He described how he and his wife had made a list of possible contacts for the missionaries, but left certain couples off the list as “obviously not interested.” When the missionaries became desperate for referrals, they offered those “unlikely” names, only to surprisingly find that they were receptive. Elder Christiansen says, “The only way all people can have the opportunity to choose or reject the gospel of Jesus Christ is for us, without judgment, to invite them to follow the Savior.”

Now, while much of what I am saying today has to do with building friendships with our neighbors in the context of missionary work, I think Elder Christiansen said something very interesting. He said, 

“Over the past 20 years, we have observed no correlation between the depth of a relationship and the probability that a person will be interested in learning about the gospel. But the reverse is almost always true: Everyone who accepts an invitation becomes a closer friend, regardless of whether or not he or she ultimately accepts baptism. We have also learned that even when people decline our invitations, they are not offended if they can feel our love and God’s love when we invite them to learn about Christ’s gospel. They typically have expressed gratitude that we cared enough about them to want to share something so personal and important.” 
That’s worth thinking about.

As many of you may know, a few decades ago, President David O. McKay stated that every member should be a missionary. Of course, he didn’t mean that you – with your busy life, your job, family, and other responsibilities – needed to be a full-time missionary every hour of every day of your life.

Instead, you might think of your missionary efforts – the sharing of the gospel through words and actions, being a friend and being an example – as something you tithe. A tithe is ten percent, so with 168 hours in a week, that works out to 16.8 hours of missionary work a week. Nah, that’s WAY too much to expect. So, how about we just go with a tithe of a tithe – just one percent of your time. Well, that’s a little over 90 minutes a week. Still too much? Okay, how about just 0.3% of your time – which works out to about a half hour a week?

But what can you accomplish in a half hour a week, when it comes to missionary work? It turns out there’s a lot you can do. Here are a few ideas. I’ve arranged them into three levels that represent varying degrees of “stepping outside your comfort zone.”

  1. Wave and smile to a neighbor you don’t know very well.
  2.  Say “hello” to a neighbor you don’t know very well.
  3.  Say “Hello, how are you?” and stop and wait for the reply.

  1. Bake some cookies and bring them to a neighbor you don’t know very well.
  2. Without being asked, perform a small service, such as bringing their trash can in from the street (preferably AFTER the trash has been collected), pulling a few weeds in their yard when you’re already out doing yours, mowing their grass when you mow yours, or some other little thing.
  3. Invite a neighbor over for dessert or perhaps a barbecue.

  1.  Invite a neighbor to a church-related activity, such as a picnic, fireside, or other event.
  2.  Invite a neighbor to church.
  3.  Invite a neighbor to meet with the missionaries in your home.

Of course, the different ideas may be applicable to different neighbors. For example, if you already say “hello” to a certain neighbor, and have been doing so for the last four years, maybe it’s time to move to the next level with them, and bring them some cookies. Or, if you have a neighbor with whom you regularly exchange treats, maybe it’s time to ask them over for dessert *inside* your home. There is great power to touch hearts in the sacred and spiritual environment found in your home. Make use of it.

There are a bunch of other ideas, too, such as those found in our Ward Mission Plan. You may not be familiar with the Ward Mission Plan…I had intended to post it on the wall over here in our corridor, but have not done so yet. But here it is:

The purpose of the 2013 Fox Hollow Ward Mission Plan is:
  • to help every member of the Fox Hollow Ward fulfill the prophetic admonishment to be a member missionary
  • to help every less active member within our ward boundaries return to full activity and receive the blessings attendant thereunto
  • to assist the full time missionaries in their efforts to teach the gospel to non-members within our ward boundaries by regularly providing qualified referrals

You and your family can advance the purposes of the ward mission plan by participating in the following ways:
  • February/March: Prayerfully select a specific family to invite to visit the church investigator website or to whom to give a pass-along card.
  • April/May: Prayerfully select a specific family to give a Book of Mormon. Write your family’s testimonies in it to give meaning to the gift.
  • June/July: Prayerfully select a specific family to invite over for a family dinner, BBQ or FHE.
  • August/September: Participate in our neighborhood “Snack ‘n’ Shuffle” and invite a less active or non-member neighbor to participate. By the way, that Snack n Shuffle is two weeks from today, on August 11th at 6pm. And I’ll be talking to a few of you very soon about being “snack stations.”
  • October/November: Prayerfully select a specific family to invite to Sunday church meetings.
  • December: Prayerfully select a specific family to invite to visit Temple Square and see the lights.

For the youth (as a year-round challenge): Prayerfully select one specific non-member friend to invite to a weeknight Young Men/Young Women activity.

For the primary children (as a year-round challenge): Help your little ones think of a less active or non-member friend they can invite to Primary.

If your efforts through the year are successful, you may also want to prayerfully select one specific family to hear the missionary discussions in your home.

Review these goals regularly to assess progress, and pray about missionary opportunities daily.

I also recommend taking full advantage of digital opportunities to share the gospel – such as blogging and social media – per Elder M. Russell Ballard’s suggestions found in the June 2008 Ensign. It was that message that inspired me to start my gospel blog, called Intelligent Life, found at It is a blog that is strictly about Church doctrine, intended to be used a missionary tool. I really wanted to have the opportunity to be a missionary in that way, since I did not have the opportunity to serve a full-time mission, being an adult convert.

Elder M. Russell Ballard said, “With a relationship of trust established and with help from the Lord, we generally can feel comfortable moving beyond the realm of friendship and can invite our friends to learn more about the Church.”  He also emphasized that you must set deadlines for yourself, or things don’t get done.

Also, if you haven’t been to lately, check it out. There are tons of great resources there now for sharing the gospel – they have really put a lot of effort into the missionary direction and it’s actually pretty cool.

The work is hastening. Doctrine & Covenants 4:1-2 says, “Now behold, a marvelous work is about to come forth among the children of men. Therefore, O ye that embark in the service of God, see that ye serve him with all your heart, might, mind and strength, that ye may stand blameless before God at the last day.” As a covenant people, you have already embarked in the service of God. Let that service, then, be with your whole heart and might and mind and strength.

The General Authorities have passed along expectations to the stake, and the stake has passed those expectations on to the wards. We are to provide two new names each week for the full time missionaries to visit. These can be names of non-member investigators, part-member families, or less-active members. This does not mean names for the missionaries to cold-call. They must be folks with whom you have already spoken, and who have agreed to have the missionaries over.  Yes, it is a daunting challenge, but remember, that’s not two new names for each member, that’s for the whole ward. Together, we can do it. The important thing is to not think that someone else will take care of it, because if everyone thinks that, it won’t happen. But think of it this way: based on the math, you really only need to provide a referral about once every six months – but it may take you six months of relationship-building to get to that point with one of your neighbors. So, I encourage you to start now.

Think about your nearest neighbors – on each side, and across the street. Which one of them will you start improving your relationship with today? Who will you say “hello” to today? Or bring a treat to? Pray about it, then act on it.

If you have any additional ideas, please let me know. You can email or text me anytime. Also, you may wish to bring your ideas to a special fireside we are having tonight. It’s a joint meeting with the other ward that shares our building. We’ll be talking about the referral challenge, and also doing some hands-on practice in stepping outside the comfort zone. That’s at 7:00 p.m.

Brothers and sisters, I’m glad you decided to stick around for my talk. I know that your family will reap many wonderful blessings as a result of your concentrated, focused missionary efforts. It will definitely bless your children and increase the faith and love in your home. It will prepare your children for their missions. And it will help build the Kingdom of God.

I testify that as you make the effort, you will be blessed. We can and will, as a ward family, meet the challenge that’s been set forth by our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, to share the gospel with the world.

God lives. He loves us. He wants all of His children to have the opportunity to choose to come unto Christ. I know that Jesus Christ suffered and died for me, and was resurrected. I know that this is His restored Church, and that we are led by a true prophet. I say this in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I sincerely enjoyed reading this talk! Thank you!-Carli

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