Please Help my Priests

You would love Brian; I can pretty much promise you that. He’s a lanky six-feet of chocolate brown skin with a soothing voice and a slouching posture that leave everyone around him feeling completely at ease. On Sunday, he ordained his friend to the office of Priest. President Boik helped Brian with the more technical aspects of the blessing, whispering words to him from his left as they both stood in the circle. Finally, President Boik said:


“Ok, Brian, now give him a blessing and say whatever you feel is right.”

I cannot, unfortunately, recreate adequately here Brian’s affection for his new brother in the Priest’s Quorum, let alone Brian’s diction, but the prayer went something like this:

“Rodrigo, stay strong in Jesus and be strong to your family. Be strong in Jesus and let your family feel your love. Be strong in God and let people see how light you are, let them feel you love them. Be a power in the Priesthood and let others know you love them. I bless you in the Priesthood.”

Evident in the blessing were the love and power inherent in the Gospel, with the dressings and finery stripped away. It was beautiful in its own right and it symbolizes the reasons I love my new calling as the Priest’s Quorum advisor in the South Philly branch. The branch is as eclectic as they come: Hispanic, Cambodian, Vietnamese, African, Japanese, Chinese, Phillipino, and folks from many other ethnicities join in song and praise each Sunday, worshipping the Lord in a glorious multihued congregation.

As Priest’s Quorum advisor, I have many responsibilities to my Priests: help them succeed in school, help them become responsible, and, most dear to my heart–help them prepare for missions. Many of these boys have no support at home and none of these boys has grown up with the Gospel. Still, they have untapped spiritual potential just bursting to emerge.

And so, I ask for your help. It occurred to me as I prepared for my lesson this evening that this blog provides a unique forum for sharing ideas. And so, I ask you to share your thoughts, feelings, and experiences concerning one (or all) of the following three veins of thought:

1) What mission experiences can you share here that would help my boys understand the meaning and power of missionary work?

2) What principles does a new member who is preparing for a mission need most to understand?

3) If you could begin your mission again, understanding the Gospel as you do now, how would you serve differently?

I appreciate your thoughts and discussion, I may post some of my ideas and feelings as seem appropriate vis. a vis. the discussion as it evolves. Please know that both I and my boys appreicate your help.

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Published in: on October 17, 2006 at 2:30 am  Comments (20)  

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  1. 1. I want to share an experience when I was in my first area in the mission field. My trainer would always stop going door to door when we ran out of Book of Mormons. My trainer and I were on what is known as splits as we were separated from each other and each with a faithful member in the ward. I was going door to door with this sister from the ward. I ran out of Book of Mormons as we had placed them all. However, I did not want to stop. We knocked on the door and found a very receptive woman who not only had a Book of Mormon already but had been teaching her son who was around nine from the book. We checked our files and saw that they had taken lessons from earlier sisters but due to her obligations and time committments with her schooling, they had stopped taking lessons. The nine year old boy was one of the most spiritual people that I taught on my entire mission. He had such a sensitivity to feeling the Holy Spirit. After I left the area, mother and son were baptized on my Birthday.

  2. 2. I think it is important to understand how as you seek to be worthy that you can become an instrument in the hands of God to be led to those who are prepared for the message. I remember a woman that we met who said her daughter had just asked her the night before about the people on the American Continent during Biblical times. As you trust the Lord and have faith, you can see so many times when people are prepared for the truth.

  3. I believed strongly in being in harmony with my companion and not having hard feelngs against her so I would forgive them right away if there was a problem. However, if I could do it all again, I would work to love my companions, the people I teach, and the members even more. A missionary couple that was serving in my first district spoke about how two missionaries taught them a discussion that “knocked their socks off” and that they had such a love in their eyes. This love comes from God and I feel it as I type now. I do not know any of the young men that you advice other than the fine blessing that I just read. I do have such a love for youth. What a beautiful age as they are learning to think more deeply on issues. They can be such an influence for good. I want to add that when I was their age that I did not even know what the Book of Mormon was or that there were temples on Earth or Living Prophets. They are way ahead of me!

  4. As a young mens leader I try to impress upon the young men that they often don’t here about all of the hard work or hard times that they will encounter. When you hear a talk in sacrament from a recently returned missionary all you hear is the most spiritual parts. I had a time on my mission where my companion was very sick and we were confined to the apartment for about 23 hours a day. I think the bottom line is they need to be prepared for whatever is out there.

  5. In response to number 2. I went on my mission one year after I joined the Church. I think I needed to know three things. Give them to the boys if you want.

    1. The Church is true and God needs your help. You, as a new member will know the Gospel better than most of your companions and will have the opportunity to make the church better.

    2. The only reason to serve is for Love of the Lord. You can’t go and expect the girl you love or the father who is not a member to come around to your point of you. They might, but the also might not.

    3. Nothing you could ever do will have more value to you, your children, your wife, your children’s children, or the Lord, than serving a mission.

    3.

  6. The one thing I wish I knew before I started my mission was that it’s the Lord’s work not Elder McKay’s work. My first year I was so frustrated that I didn’t have success. I figured it was because I wasn’t working hard enough, so I just worked harder. Results: more frustration. It wasn’t untill I was half way done with my mission that I realized that it wasn’t my work and I was just a tool in the hand’s of the Lord. Two things happened after that realization: 1) my mission was much more enjoyable, and; 2)my success went out the roof. I baptized almost all my converts in the last year of my mission. If only I knew that I was just tool in God’s hands before my mission, imagine how many more people I could have baptized.

  7. Hispanic, Cambodian, Vietnamese, African, Japanese, Chinese, Phillipino, and folks from many other ethnicities .

    First, buy some Books of Mormon in those languages at http://www.ldscatalog.org. And get an equal number of English copies.

    Read or re-read Elder Bednar’s “be a missionary before going on a mission” talk from April 2006 priesthood session of conf.

    In my senior year of High School, Henry shared with me his belief about a book written in gold, and an “official church” that God established in order to prepare for the 2nd coming of Christ. I remember leaving his place thinking that if it were true, there ought to be a way of finding it out, because if there was an “official” church, that’s the one God would want you to join. But at the time, I wasn’t interested in joining any church, even if there was an “official” one.

    It wasn’t until seven years later, that events led me to look for a church to join, and when I prayed about it, I didn’t get a direct answer, but the “video tape” of that encounter with Henry from seven years previously kept replaying in my mind.

    It took two weeks of praying and hearing/seeing that video tape in my mind before I realized that that might be an answer. So I looked up the local Mormon missionaries, and they gave me a Book of Mormon, a Joseph Smith Testimony pamphlet, and told me to read Moroni’s promise, and 3rd Nephi; and we set an appointment for later.

    Well, I did, and I prayed, and I got an answer in the affirmative about both the Book of Mormon and the First Vision.

    Imagine how Henry must have felt when I called him up later and told him I was going to be baptized into his church.

    So get Books of Mormon in Spanish, Cambodian, Vietnamese, various African (Igbo, Swahili, Shona, Zulu, Amharic, French, Twi, Lingala, Arabic), Japanese, Chinese (both traditional, suffix-265, and Simplified, suffix-266), and Filipino (Tagalog, Cebuano, Hiligaynon/Ilonggo), and give them out to the boys, paired with English, so they can offer them as PAIRS to their friends or other people in the communities.

  8. Even though I am Catholic, I believe that I have something to share. I totally agree with Brett when he said that it’s the Lord’s work and that he is the vessel.

    I can tell you that in my own flawed life, once I perceived myself as the Lord’s vessel, I opened myself up to His will AND my own flaws. I came to see that my every day interactions with people (flaws and all) are a part of His plan. I found life, in general, more enjoyable.

    Most importantly, my inhibitions are being stripped away. I am much more comfortable talking about my religion, the Lord’s presence in my life and describing in detail exactly where and how I can SEE His hand touching my life. I rejoice with that. It feels very natural for me to even speak about it to my non-practicing family and that is quite a stretch for me!

  9. Barb–

    I can certainly feel your love for the youth through your words. As you point out, perhaps one of the most important lessons for missionaries is that much success comes, so to speak, “after the Books of Mormon run out.”

    Jared–

    Amen to that. I used to teach in the MTC and I would not let my missionaries leave without the “most days are hard, most doors are slammed, and most roads are dusty” talk. We do a disservice to furutre missioanries if we pretend that missions are rosy experiences–they are instead, woven of real power and real adversity.

    Matt–

    Thank you for your valuable perspective as someone who served soon after conversion. I especially agree with your third point–I think it is hard to guage how important a mission is.

    Brett–

    The truth of which you speak is one of, if not, the most important thing I learned on my mission. When I left to go to Mexico, I wanted people to think I was spiritual; when I got back, I didn’t want people to think about me at all.

    Bookslinger–

    You are officially one of my favorite people, I did not know you were a convert, but that makes me like you even a bit more (that and the fact that the name you use online sounds vaguely like a superhero). I also liked Elder Bednar’s talk; thank you so much for sharing your story. Forgive me, but i have a couple questions: how many Books of Mormon do you have in your house? What fruits have you seen from your slinging? (PS–I love the idea of distributing books in pairs, I am going to bring it up at a meeting tonight).

    Dragonmommie–

    Your comments are wonderful and candid as always. One of my favorite Apostles, Neal Maxwell, spoke often of the need to submit our wills to the Savior’s (I’ll link some of his talks when I get a little more time). It is certainly true, as one of God’s Prophets observed, that God can make more of us than we could ever make of ourselves.

  10. Tyler, right now I have about 350 foreign language Books of Mormon (all 103 foreign languages) and 200 English Books of Mormon in the house. And maybe 85 to 90 in the car, in about 60 languages.

    At home, I have two complete sets of all 104 languages, then extras in all the common languages represented in town.

    I started really stocking up because the Distribution Center occasionally runs out, so I try not to get down to zero quantity of the languages that I know are spoken around here. I carry multiples in a language in the car, because you can give out books to many people at once at restaurants and stores. And on trips, I’ve given out as many as 70 books on a week-long trip, and have had 30 encounters on a 4 day trip. Plus, I’d rather place fewer big orders, and not bother the Dist Center with onesie and twosie orders. I order English by the case (or 40). Always order and give out hardback where available, they last much longer.

    I stock maybe 100 copies of Gospel Fundamentals in various languages (which is a shortened Gospel Principles). Those are needed because many people in town speak languages for which there is no Book of Mormon yet, but there is a Gospel Fundamentals, like Afar, Bemba, Bambara, Fon, Fula, Hausa, Malayalam, Ndebele, Pashto, Punjabi, Somali, Tshiluba, Wolof and Yoruba.

    Plus we’re getting Chinese investigators now, so I give out Chinese Gospel Principles in Simplified script (suffix 266) to university students and post-grad students from China when they come to church.

    There are 9 missionary multi-lingual DVD’s that I order by the case, because the price drops to $1.50/each or lower ($2.88 each for Joy to the World, probably more expensive due to the Mo Tabs being on it) when you buy a case of 50 instead of individual copies.

    – Heavenly Fathers Plan.
    – The Restoration.
    – Special Witnesses of Christ.
    – To This End Was I Born.
    – Finding Faith in Christ.
    – Together Forever.
    – Finding Happiness (for Asian audiences).
    – Joy to the World.
    – Introduction to the Church.

    How can I afford it? No kids! Giving out Books of Mormon and DVD’s is still cheaper than child-support.

    Several people have investigated over the past 28 months of this project. No one has joined yet, but one guy has committed to baptism for next month, and he seems on track. He was ready and looking for something when I found him.

  11. 1) What mission experiences can you share here that would help my boys understand the meaning and power of missionary work?

    Several weeks ago as I began my second lesson of teaching seminary, I felt impressed to focus my time on D&C 2. The previous week, we had focused our study on D&C 1, studying what we were to study in the coming weeks and months. Thus, this was the first “real” lesson that did more than outline the purpose of the course.

    As we turned to this short little three-verse section, I posed the question to my girls of why the Lord would have placed this section there, right at the beginning of the Doctrine & Covenants. As D&C 1 mainly served as an introduction, why would the first substantive section be comprised of a repetition of three verses previously found in the scriptures?

    From our discussion evolved a beautiful theme. These three verses, so short, but so rich, are the essense and the entire motivating factor of the gospel. As full-time or member missionaries, our main purpose is not to bring people to the Church organization. Certainly this is an important part of building faith and friendship, providing a forum to receive and give succor and support. But it is not the essence of the gospel. That is to bring individuals and families to Christ. As we are frequently reminded by the Brethren, we cannot be saved without those eternal familial links, and I’m inclined to think that heaven would be a pretty lonely place without those bonds.

    As Elijah frankly and powerfully states, “If [familial covenants] were not so, the whole earth would be utterly wasted at his coming.” The very purpose of the Savior, of His earthly existence and of His Atonement, was to redeem families. When we remember this, we remember that missionary work goes far, far beyond having a few extra bodies in sacrament meeting. We come to know in our hearts that we are preparing individuals and families for exaltation, for an eternal existence with the very God of heaven and earth.

    2) What principles does a new member who is preparing for a mission need most to understand?

    You tell me. (For clarification, while I’m no longer a super-new member, I am pondering a mission.)

    Though I suppose I’ve given up any pretense of credibility stemming from experience now, I can tell you what I’m trying to understand. I’m trying to gain a deeper knowledge and understanding of Christ and the Atonement, as well as other fundamental principles of the gospel. Sure, it is great to seek to understand vague or even tangential aspects of the gospel, but most important are those fundamentals.

    The Atonement, I believe, is particularly important, as the future missionary will not only need a deep understanding of it to teach to others, but will need to feel its power personally and frequently for shortcomings and sorrows.

    Other very important principles, I think, are an abiding faith (and a willingness to trust, especially that everything will work out for good as one chooses God), a deep sensitivity to the Spirit, and, perhaps most importantly, charity. Humble gratitude and love for our Heavenly Father and Savior, extending to the people they will serve.

    3) If you could begin your mission again, understanding the Gospel as you do now, how would you serve differently?

    Strategy:
    While this might not be particularly applicable, I hope to serve throughout my life with that first mission in mind. If I could ask for one blessing, it would be to feel the Lord’s love for the people, and to have His vision for them, thereby loving and guiding them as He would.

    Tactics:
    Make time for people. Our home teacher came over yesterday, and we had a very interesting discussion about fellowshipping. One interesting thing that came up was the level of inclusiveness in our ward, and my roommate, who is in the Relief Society presidency, heard from a newer member of the ward once that while our ward is very “friendly” in terms of saying hello, etc., no one has any time. I thought this was fascinating, and am without a doubt very guilty of it myself. I find myself so busy, typically with good things, that I hardly have time to catch my breath, much less invite a new friend to go out to lunch, or see a movie, or anything else.

    Full-time missionaries are unique in that all of their time is devoted to the gospel. Regardless, they are very busy. But I believe it can be useful when missionaries show their investigators that they really care about them, other than simply for the sake of a baptism, and help them to see the aforementioned vision.

    I think it can be particularly important for missionaries to use members in this regard. I’ve often found that missionaries simply don’t think to call on members to attend discussions. This is not because of any fault of their own, but simply that they are busy and forget or don’t realize how important it can be or any other number of reasons. But by far and away, the strongest members that I have seen are those who develop solid friendships in the gospel even before conversion.

    In that same vein, I think it is important for missionaries to understand the importance of visiting/home teaching. A couple of years ago, my roommate had a visiting teacher who never visited her. In fact, she had no idea who her VT was. During this time, however, one girl began talking to her, calling her, inviting her to do things. Not long after, they had become fast friends, and, to this day, are the closest of friends. It was not until far later that my roommate found out that this girl who had befriended her was actually her visiting teacher.

    In discussing this last night, I found myself becoming a little frustrated that I could not do more. It is impossible, of course, to expect to find time to spend with every single person in the ward – we can’t change the fact that we are, in fact, very busy! What we can do, however, is to make time for a few people – namely, our visiting/home teachees/teachers. That is why the church has this program so well organized, and that is why each and every person is connected to it. But the program only works if every person does it – otherwise, no matter how hard a few people try, there will always be people who will feel lonely, left out, or forgotten.

    Don’t get me wrong, I fully believe in the importance of monthly visits, of gospel lessons, and of having spiritual conversations. But to me, this is the true essence of this program – not to build gospel acquaintances, but to build gospel friendships.

    I think this is a principle that missionaries can use with their members to support their investigators, and to help them feel the love of the Savior.

    So, in short, I would want to help people to know how dearly they are loved – by those around them here on earth, and, most importantly, by our Heavenly Father and Jesus.

  12. Bookslinger,

    My hat is off–absolutely astounding. God bless you and Godspeed.

    P,

    Your comments are so thoughtful and beautiful, let me respond to just a few of them:

    I agree that the most important thing for any member and especially any missionary is an understanding of the Atonement: everything a missionary does and teaches eventually revolves around that point. Further, as you point out, missionaries will need the comfort that comes from the Atonement, it is not just a principle they teach but a power they need.

    I like your interpretation of section 2–reading what you wrote I had one of those “how in the world did I not think of that before” moments. Specifically: I have always understood “wasted” apocalyptically (the Earth will be destroyed unless this happens), reading your comments, however, I understand that perhaps the “wasting” refers not to destruction but to the fact that all would be for naught.

    I agree about the purpose and potential of VT/HT. As you point out, no one, not even the Bishop (actually, especially not the Bishop) has time to really attend to each member individually: our needs are too varied and our pains too deep to remain within the reach of any one person. Through this program, however, the shepherds and the Shepherd can have direct contact every month with all the sheep in the fold. Most ingenious of all is that in looking after each sheep, each of us becomes a kind of shepherd.

  13. First, my advice to all full-time missionaries is simple–two words only:

    Be obedient.

    Everything else will take care of itself.

    Second, apply the parable of the talents to full-time missionary service. Some of your young men may feel they only have “only” two talents to offer, instead of, say five. They may very well be incorrect in such a self-assessment. They probably have more talent than they realize when it comes to sharing the gospel. If not, and they are correct, they should remember the Lord rewarded the two and five talent servants just the same. The key is to magnify and enlarge what has been given.

    Third, do the little things. One of my missionary sons wrote of an experience that occurred in Pennsylvania:

    In the fall of 2002 my companion and I found ourselves with extra time before our next appointment. We had exhasted options for effective missionary work, or so it may have seemed. We had been told to be visable and decided to walk a fairly long distance to our next appointment. I remember stopping on a corner on the east-side of the city to take a minute to decide what to do. I felt prompted to walk in a certain direction and thought once we followed the prompting we would know how to proceed. A mile or two later a little red car approached from the oposite direction. It slowly came to a stop. My companion crossed the narrow road to talk with the lady driver. He returned a minute later and told me the woman asked what we were doing and if we needed a ride. He showed her the Book of Mormon in his hand and asked if she would like to hear a message. She declined politely as she was in a hurry and went on her way. We commended on the peculiarity of all of this, but contined walking and soon forgot the strange meeting.

    In has now been 2 years since that encounter. I returned to the city recently, attended the Gospel Principles Sunday School class, and was introduced as an Elder who once worked in the ward. The Ward Mission Leader told the class a little about me and mentioned I had served with a companion who often carried a violin case. A voice came from the back of the room. “The Violin Elder? You’re his companion?” “On the road, the Old Stump Road? You’re the Elder on the road?” I turned to see Sister D, who stood up, ran to me, gave me a big hug, and said, with tears, “thank you, thank you, thank you.”

    All of this surprised me at first, and then I remembered, like a photographic flashback, that specific day when my companion and I found the lady in the little red car — or, she found us. Following our encounter Sister D met a church member, coincidentally a man I had taught with the same companion, at a community event. They became friends and he shared the Book of Mormon with her. That book, and most importantly the spirit that accompanies it, reminded Sister D. of the Spirit she felt when she first saw the Book of Mormon.

    My heart was overcome as I stood and hugged Sister D. An afternoon that my companion and I had thought was rather useless was actually an essential ingredient in her conversion. The small step taken that day started her on the path to baptism. Many other blessings followed her conversion. She has helped bring 5 people into the Church in addition to her son, who was baptized shortly after she was and who has left on a full-time mission. All of this came from being “visable” having a 60-second conversation with a complete stranger on a cold fall afternoon on the Old Stump Road.

  14. Ty-

    My advice, not so much for the boys, but for you, is to immerse yourself in their culture. This may seem difficult because they have such varying backgrounds. But I think it is possible. When you plan activities, don’t think like a guy from Utah, instead try to think as though you were from Philadelphia. It might be playing basketball, or buying a cheesesteak (you can get something else but at least go with them), or visiting each member’s home. If you go to each of your Priest’s homes you will understand them and what direction they need better than you could have ever imagined. I realized the value of coming to know the people I served as a missionary. A 30 minute visit in a Priest’s home, will be worth 2 hours of instruction at the church.

  15. Dave,
    Thanks for that particular piece of advice – as you know, I’m teaching seminary and I’ve thought a few times now that I need to get to know my girls individually, and that the most important thing I can do to help them learn and come closer to Christ is to really come to love them. Thank you for reminding me of the importance of this.

    Ty,
    Going along with that, the best lessons we’ve had thus far have without doubt been the ones in which I’ve felt the most connected to them, knowing about their interests and feeling true love for them.

    Beesh,
    What can I say? The story is simply beautiful, made all the more so because I can so vividly picture the faithful missionary, his violin-toting companion, and even the old Pennsylvanian road.

  16. Dave–

    Your advise is well-taken and wise.

    Beesh–

    The story is beautiful.

    P–

    You almost talk as if you know Beesh and Dave…

  17. beeshnkj,
    Those little “visible” things can be done by all members, not jut missionaries. That’s why I always try to have a trunk-full of Books of Mormon.

    I left a calling card with name, phone, and email address in almost all the ones I give out, so hopefully, someday, I’ll be getting phone calls about people joining the church, and I can share in their joy.

  18. Bookslinger:

    How right you are about the “little” things, because “out of small things procedeth that which is great.”

    Also, count me, please, as a member of your fan club. Your effort to flood the world with the Book of Mormon is something I admire very, very much.

  19. beeshnkj: Thanks, I’m flattered. But don’t be just a hearer of the word, go thou and do likewise. Are there any Chinese restaurants in your area? There’s no reason to be afraid, as the vast majority of them are anxious for bilingual reading material. They are just waiting for someone to give them bilingual copies of the Book of Mormon to them.

  20. Bookslinger: We, of course, have given away dozens of Books of Mormon over the years, from the standard copies with little printed testimonies and photos inside to leather-bound copies with embossed names. But, you have taken to a new level the art of “flooding the earth.” And that is very admirable! We’ll have to consider “going” and “doing likewise.”


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