Writing about the all Mission Zone Conference:
The lull in the car ride came to a quick end when the Tulsa Stake Center came into view. My excitement mounted. Soon we would see the missionaries assigned to the Tulsa, Tulsa East, and Bartlesville Stakes. The previous day’s experience of being with the rest of the missionaries brought a conditioned response. I can not explain what it feels like to enter a chapel where Elders and Sisters quietly sit studying their scriptures. They are gathered. Their desires for service leaves a tangible feeling that encompasses you as you enter. It is a hallowed feeling. As I sit on the stand and look out at “my” missionaries. I see some who are struggling. It is evident on their faces, but they are there, and I am proud of them. I see others who furiously record the proceedings of the meeting. I wonder what they write. How much of what they write was said and how much was felt? I do not know, but that is okay. I know they are learning. There are obvious moments of greatness. Twice I see different missionaries encourage a certain missionary to raise his hand higher so he can make a comment. I watch one in particular who is not treating his companion well. It makes me feel sad. But we are all here to learn and I will have to figure out the best way to influence him to be different. I try to catch as many eyes as possible. I want them all to know that each one of them is important to President and I. We love them!
Every Monday the missionaries write a letter to President and every Monday President and I write a letter to the missionaries. Each week President reads the letters. It is a sweet experience for him. The following is my letter for the week.
I have been thinking about doing things that are unfamiliar and how to get better at doing those things. In the process of thinking, I remembered an experience I had when I was first dating President.
I didn’t grow up on a farm. I also didn’t know how to ride a horse. Before I begin this story I want to say in my defense, President’s horses were used to running and cutting cows out of a bunch so they weren’t exactly trained to be trail horses. One day President and I went on what I’m sure was calculated to be a romantic roam through the hills of Fort Hall. The only thing was that as we turned on to a dirt path, my horse took off. Soon she was going faster than my thoughts. But I’m pretty sure I was hollering, “Whoa! Whoa!” Then we came to a part in the path where the barbed wire gate was pulled shut across the path. I do remember yelling “Whoa!” at about that time. This horse was either intellectually challenged or it had a mind of its own, because it didn’t “Whoa.” Instead it took a sharp turn to the right. The only problem is that I kept going- right into the barbed wire fence. The barbs shredded the back of my shirt as well as my back, and I landed with a thump on my bum. You can imagine that I was a little stunned by the whole experience. I don’t remember much of the immediate details, but I remember being afraid to get back on the horse, and quite frankly I don’t remember whether I did or not.
But I know for sure that there came a time when I had to get back on the horse. If I had chosen right then to never ride again I would have missed some pretty cool things, like riding into the canyon at dusk and hearing the coyotes howls, or packing to Moose Lake with my family, or a quiet ride along the canal during a still, summer evening.
I have since learned that symbolically getting back on the horse is one of the most important things one does in life. There will be horses that resemble school work, relationships, projects, and a myriad of other challenges.
However, today, I would like to talk about getting back on the mission horse.
Today I don’t want to talk about why we get bucked off or why things sometime run out of control; but rather, I want to give you formula that will help you get back on and stay on so you can experience new joys that you just don’t want to miss.
The Lord says his arm is extended to all. That extended arm will give you a boost up and will hold you on. I remember that each week when a deacon, holding God’s priesthood, extends his arm to me and offers broken bread and a small cup of water that I do not want to let pass.
I remember that each day when I take up my scriptures and begin to read. There is power found only in reading the word of God. I can have power to avoid temptations. In Helaman 3:29 it says, “whosoever will may lay hold upon the word of God, which is quick and powerful, which shall divide asunder all the cunning and the snares and the wiles of the devil, and lead the man of Christ in a strait and narrow course across that everlasting gulf of misery.” I can know what to do in any situation. In 2 Nephi 32:3 promises that feasting upon the words of Christ “will tell you all things what ye should do.” I can have my soul healed from hard things. “ Ye the word which healeth the wounded soul.” Jacob 2:8
And so I would say, the way to get on and stay on the mission horse is to increase the time and effectiveness of your scripture study. If you do this, I promise that your desires and ability to live mission rules will increase. You will have renewed excitement. And you will be able to do what you need to. In last general conference President Monson said, “in order to gain and to keep the faith we need, it is essential that we read and study and ponder the scriptures. Communication with our Heavenly Father through prayer is vital. We cannot afford to neglect these things,”
My challenge to you is to figure out how to study the scriptures with intensity. Ask the Lord for help. Ask fellow missionaries what they do. Remembering that the Lord honors effort – your effort! I promise you it will get more and more easy to obey the mission rules and be the missionary you want to be because you decided to get on and stay. The mission horse will take you to places you can’t even imagine. Now that’s a promise!
As a mission we are preparing for Elder Foster who will tour our mission on December 10th and 11th. We are seeking personal purification. We are reading three talks that Elder Foster suggested we read, "So Where Did You Put the Tigers" by Elder Brad Foster , "His Grace is Sufficient" by Brad Wilcox, and "The Gift of Grace" by President Uchtdorf. President has also asked that we all have a question to ask Elder Foster so that when he asks every hand will be raised. I am looking forward to the training. I have enjoyed Elder Foster's General Conference insights as well as when we have met with him.
Christmas is a wonderful time to be a missionary. Sharing the Christmas Initiative is a powerful opportunity. I hope you all get on Christmas.mormon.org. and then figure out with the Lord how to share it with others. The animated video has really touched my soul. It captured why Christmas is important to me.
On the 21st of December we will have a mission-wide zone conference. We have rented a bus from the Tulsa area and from the Springfield Area that will help bring the missionaries to Bentonville. The day will consist of training, a Christmas program put on by the missionaries, service, a meal, and enjoying each other. As a side note, in selecting your Christmas gifts please be conscious of companions. Personally I am excited for our chance to be together.