Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Words of Wisdom -- From My Uncle

“Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”
Viktor E. FranklMan's Search for Meaning

Viktor Frankl was held in a concentration camp for over three years.  During that time, his wife, mother and brother died.  That adds a lot of perspective to a quote about choosing your attitude in any given set of circumstances.

I love you being on a mission.  I think about when I was a missionary all the time.  When I first got to the mission my trainer had been out 6 weeks.  This was basically one transfer!  When new missionaries came in the next transfer, we became trainers.  It sounds crazy ... and it was crazy.  My mission president was very new, but he quickly realized a very important thing.  The missionaries who had been out over 9 months had developed a culture, and it was not a positive one.  They had become conditioned by the missionaries before them … and the ones before them … and the ones before them.  Rules had become optional.  Picking and choosing who to teach and who to visit was based upon personal opinions, and not the Spirit.  So my mission president moved the majority of these missionaries five hours north.  Only the exceptional missionaries were allowed to stay in the city.  The new missionaries were paired up with new missionaries and they influenced and supported each other in learning how to follow the Spirit.  They no longer had the influence of someone telling them what couldn’t be done.   The younger missionaries prayed with faith, demonstrated hope and exercised their faith.

The mission President did this for over six months … and amazing things started happening.  We went from teaching very little and few baptisms to a total explosion.  It was unheard of in this city.  The members started to change their opinions and dinner appointments kicked back in.  People were being baptized in every zone.  Most importantly the missionaries BELIEVED!  They believed in the work. They believed in the people and they believed they were called to SERVE and TEACH!

A common term for a new missionary is green or greenie.  Buddy I have some advice … STAY GREEN!  Stay green your entire mission.  I mean it.  I think Nephi is a great example of someone who was green.  He was young and inexperienced.  All he knew was that the Lord commanded him to do certain things, and the Lord would provide a way.  Under his leadership, his family left Jerusalem, got the plates, returned for wives, built a ship and traveled across the ocean.  None of which his older brothers thought was possible.  The biggest difference is that Nephi had faith, perspective, a good attitude, and he didn’t let others change his mind.  STAY GREEN.

Lehi shared his vision of the tree of life with his family.  Nephi went away and spent time thinking and praying and asking the Lord if it was true.  He was blessed with amazing experiences because of showing initiative and taking responsibility for his own testimony and faith.  His brothers complained, wined, and frankly didn’t try to learn if it was true or what the Lord would have them do.  When Nephi asked if they have prayed or spent time asking God about it, instead of depending on what they did or didn’t understand, they became angry and annoyed.  Nephi never let this deter him.  He knew what the Lord had asked of him and he was always willing to follow the promptings and do the right thing. 

I know you said others have doubted your feelings for Carlos.  You will meet a lot of Carlos’ on your mission and throughout your life.  Stay Green – Be Like Nephi -- and continue on the path the Lord has outlined for you.  Never lose that hope and faith in others.  Your Heavenly Father will bless you with amazing experiences.  I promise you this.  I feel the Spirit so strong when I write this.  You CAN have an amazing mission.  You never really know all of the things that can come from your actions and belief in others.  Be confident in knowing that the Lord can see the big picture.  There are times He will prompt you to help him with a piece or two of the puzzle.  You place those pieces and He will take care of the rest.  Be like Nephi.

Think back on your opportunities to teach Primary.  Being green is a lot like becoming childlike.  Not in the sense of being immature, but in the sense of being open to the Spirit and not requiring proof but moving forward on faith.  Kids rarely give up hope.  They wake up every day and love you and their friends and the world around them.  They don’t remember what frustrated them the day before.  Every single day is filled with the hope that it will be the BEST DAY EVER.  That hope and faith is what allows them to love so openly and freely.

I know how much you love a good animated movie.  Dreamworks put out a movie a few years ago called “The Prince of Egypt” and it told the story of Moses from his birth to receiving the 10 Commandments.   During most of the movie, the Israelites are slaves to the Egyptians.  They have prayed for years to be freed; and the lack of a perceived response from the Lord has caused them to question their own faith.  How can they continue on when the prayers have remained unanswered for so many years?  After they are freed by Moses and are seen marching towards the Red Sea, there is a song that starts to play …

Many nights we've prayed, with no proof anyone could hear.
In our hearts a hopeful song we barely understood.

Now we are not afraid, although we know there's much to fear.
We were moving mountains long before we knew we could.

There can be miracles when you believe.
Though hope is frail; It’s hard to kill.
Who knows what miracles you can achieve, when you believe.
Somehow you will, you will when you believe.

In this time of fear, when prayer so often proved in vain.
Hope seemed like the summer birds, too swiftly flown away.
Yet now I'm standing here, with heart so full I can't explain.
Seeking faith and speaking words I never thought I'd say.

There can be miracles when you believe.
Though hope is frail; It’s hard to kill.
Who knows what miracles you can achieve, when you believe.
Somehow you will, you will when you believe.

One of my favorite lines in this song is “we were moving mountains long before we knew we could” – They did not know they could or even recognize the Lord’s hand in their lives, but He knew.  He knew what they were capable of and He guided them every step of the way.   The miracles came in the Lord’s way and in the Lord’s own time.

I got home from my mission in 2002, so that is 12 years ago.  Here is what is so great about the lessons you learn as a missionary.  Even though I haven’t been a missionary for a long time, these lessons continue to teach me today.  Right now I serve with the Young Men.  There are plenty of people who have been YM Leaders for a lot longer than I have.  They may have lost hope in some of these young men.  Some leaders may say it’s a waste of time to do this or that.  Those who have done this calling before me have their own ideas about how things should be done in this ward.  There can be a fine line between listening to more experienced people and ignoring your feelings and promptings.  I know I was called here for a reason.  I know I am being prompted to do certain things and I know that if I listen to the Lord, great things will happen.  Each of us struggle with this very basic concept … To see people the way God sees them.  To not be influenced by the world says or thinks is cool.  To take immediate action when the Lord asks us to do something.  To believe in ourselves and our ability to receive inspiration.  To truly know that we can make a difference in the lives of others.  I know that if we put our trust in the Lord, strive daily to have hope in those around us, and seek to see others as God does … amazing things will be put in our path.  There can and will be miracles if we believe!

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