I want to share an edited for blogging purposes version because when I finished this talk, I sat down and my heart was all, 'Nailed it.' I can't remember feeling that way too many times about a talk. I tend to second guess myself or sit down and think 'I should have said...' but this talk, this talk was different.
So here goes.
Tyler and I spent the summer up in Alaska working, and while up there, we had the opportunity to have a special conference with Elder Maynes of the seventy. He shared a story that I have not been able to get out of my head. Here is the reader's digest version.
|This is Elder Maynes in case you wanted a visual. You are welcome.|
In the Texas, San Antonio Mission, the mission President was struggling with transfer calls. He had made all of the changes, and ended up with these two cow boy missionaries from Utah being together. He wasn’t so sure about that so he went about rearranging the missionary companionships again, only to discover that he was again left with the same two cowboys as companions. After organizing the companionships a third time, with the same two elders ending up together in the exact same area, he decided that it must be the Lord’s will and let it go.
Around the same time, a widow, Angela (name changed for no other reason than I cannot remember her real name), who lived on a ranch in the area that these two elders were being called to, had recently returned from a vacation. She could have gone anywhere in the world, but she chose to visit a dude ranch in Montana, which, of all things, was owned and operated by a member of the church, Brother Smith (see side note for Angela). Angela had spent two weeks with Brother Smith’s recently returned from the mission field son and his nephew, also a returned missionary. She enjoyed her time so much with them, that she sent a letter, along with a $50 check for a tip, thanking Brother Smith for her pleasant stay at their ranch.
For whatever reason, Brother Smith had his missionary hat on that day. Perhaps he had just had a talk like the one I am giving right now, but he wrote her a letter back and told her it was a pleasure to have her at his ranch, and he sent her the check back. He asked if he could buy an hour of her time with her own money and asked if he could send two missionaries to her door. He told Angela she would recognize them because they would look much like his son and nephew. She agreed and of course Brother Smith saw to it that two missionaries-these two cowboys from Utah, were to visit her. They taught her, they served her, and she was baptized.
I can’t quite explain why this story has been on my mind so much, except that I feel it has been on the mind of the Prophet and his apostles too. We have been asked to step up our game, to prepare ourselves, and to share the gospel with those around us. Just this last weekend, Elder Ballard said, “We are not asking everyone to do everything. We are simply asking all members to pray, knowing that if every member, young and old, will reach out to just ‘one’ between now and Christmas, millions will feel the love of the Lord Jesus Christ. And what a wonderful gift to the Savior.’
An essential part of being member missionaries is the gift of the Holy Ghost. While He is the great comforter, He is also the great uncomfortable maker. It is He who whispers to us in those uncomfortable moments that we should probably say something. It is He who prompts us to speak up, to say something, to inspire and to defend the faith. In an uncertain world, we need the Holy Ghost as our constant companion, not just our Sunday buddy. While He will direct us to our own safety and for our own spiritual benefit, and that is important, He will also help us to know how to share the message of the restored gospel with those around us.
In Oct 2010 Priesthood session, Elder Eyring said the following- ‘As the humble servants of the Savior, we should pray for the manifestations of the Holy Ghost to come to us in our service and to those we serve. Humble prayer to our Heavenly Father, in deep faith in Jesus Christ, is essential to qualify us for the companionship of the Holy Ghost.’ It is important that we are praying for opportunities to serve and to seek the companionship of the Holy Ghost in those service opportunities.
While attending school at BYU, I was called to be part of the presidency of the Relief Society in my student ward. It was a very tumultuous time for me. I had experienced some very trying things and deep heart ache in the weeks preceding my call and I felt as though the calling was well beyond my ability. My bishop encouraged me to seek the Holy Ghost in my daily life and promised me that if I did, I would be able to serve those around me faithfully and fully. I began to make prayer and scripture study a part of my daily routine. I was unsure if it was really working, but I continued to keep those habits and hoped that they would pay off.
About a month later I came home from a particularly exhausting day. I was in my senior cohorts before student teaching and there was a lot of work involved. I had a paper due by midnight (which is a cruel thing to do to a university student) and as I came home I thought I might take a little nap before tackling the paper. As I laid down, the thought came to me that something might come up and I should just set about working on my paper so that I was free later that evening. I was the queen of procrastination, but this thought felt important, so I went about writing my paper. I finished around 6 o’clock. About twenty minutes after I finished it, I received a phone call from a friend. Something had happened and she needed me. I did not know what to say, the situation was complex, but the words were given me. In 2 Nephi 32, Nephi says ‘For behold, again I say unto you that if ye will enter in by the way, and receive the Holy Ghost, it will show unto you all things what ye should do.’ While it was a simple act, I knew that because I had finished that paper, I was opened up to be able to serve her and while her problems were not solved that night, I was given the words to say to help her to feel the love of the Savior. That entire year was filled with such experiences for me. As I put the Lord first, as I sought after his Spirit and qualified for his blessings, I was guided to situations where I was needed.
When we have the Holy Ghost as our constant companion, we are better able to serve those around us. It doesn’t mean that our To-Do list will get any smaller, but it does mean that our ability to share the gospel, to serve those around us, and to love our neighbor will be greater. We will be able to perceive those perfect moments to share a testimony, and we will be able to lift others as we lift ourselves.
It can be difficult to recognize the promptings of the Holy Ghost if we are allowing other things to cloud our judgement. When we allow our To-Do list to fill with mindless and meaningless tasks, we detract from what the Lord would have us do. Sister Beck, in Conference of April 2010 said the following. “ The ability to qualify for, receive an act on personal revelation is the single most important skill that can be acquired in this life. Qualifying for the Lord’s Spirit begins with a desire for that Spirit and implies a certain degree of worthiness. Keeping the commandments, repenting and renewing covenants made at baptism lead to the blessing of always having the Lord’s Spirit with us. Making and keeping temple covenants also adds spiritual strength and power to our lives. Many answers to difficult questions are found by reading the scriptures because the scriptures are an aid to revelation. Insight found in scripture accumulates over time, so it is important to spend some time in the scriptures every day. Daily prayer is also essential to having the Lord’s Spirit with us. Those who earnestly seek help through prayer and scripture study often have a paper and pencil nearby to write questions and record impressions and ideas.”
My uncle was called to be a mission president in the Brazil, Campinas mission in 2001. In April of 2002, the temple held its open house and thousands of people walked the halls of the temple, took tours and spoke with missionaries. In each walk through, a short video was shown explaining the importance of temples for Latter Day Saints. In ever one of these viewings, the sister missionaries were instructed to stand at the back and watch the faces of those in the room. My Uncle explained that they always had sister missionaries do it because it was so important a task that they couldn't trust the elders with it. :) They were promised that if they followed the Holy Ghost, they would know which people they should talk to, which families would be prepared and ready for the gospel. They were not allowed to proselyte, but they could answer questions and ask if people wanted to hear more about the gospel. Hundreds of referrals were given to the missionaries all throughout the country. In the year following the temple dedication, hundreds were brought to the gospel because the missionaries, led by the spirit, spoke to those who were prepared by the Lord for the message that the gospel brings. Brothers and sisters, what if they hadn't been worthy?
We too can feel that spirit directing us to those ready for the gospel. The prophet himself declared, “Now is the time for members and missionaries to come together, to work together, to labor in the Lord’s vineyard to bring souls unto Him. He has prepared the means for us to share the gospel in a multitude of ways, and He will assist us in our labors if we will act in faith to fulfill His work.”
If we are worthy of the Holy Ghost, we will know when those precious moments will arise. I have fumbled my fair share of gospel conversations, don’t get me wrong, but if we are worthy of His companionship it won’t matter what we say. I served in the great mission Chile, Osorno. I would never describe myself as an amazing missionary. I wish I could tell you that millions, or thousands or even a few dozen were brought to a knowledge of the gospel because of my service, but I can’t. I learned one very important lesson on my mission though. Struggling through culture shock and language barriers I learned that if it is the right moment, if those we are sharing the gospel with are truly prepared, it won’t matter how broken our language, how brute our words, or how awkward the circumstance, if we are speaking by the spirit, and they are listening by the spirit, than our words will be the right ones.
The Lord has said ‘And now verily, verily, I say unto thee, put your trust in that Spirit which leadeth to do good- yea, to do justly, to walk humbly, to judge righteously; and this is my Spirit. Verily, verily, I say unto you, I will impart unto you of my Spirit, which shall enlighten your mind, which shall fill your soul with joy;’ His thoughts are echoed by Elder Eyring, ‘Whether we are called to teach the gospel by the Spirit, or go with the Holy Ghost to those with feeble knees and hands that hang down. Our...service will be strengthened, people will be blessed, and the light of heaven will be there. The light of heaven will be there for us as well as for those we serve. We may be tired. Our own and our family’s troubles may loom large. But there is a blessing of encouragement for those who serve under the influence of the Spirit….We don’t have to use soaring language or convey deep insights. Simple words of testimony will do. The Spirit will give you the words for you to speak and will carry them down into the hearts of humble people who look for truth from God.”