Tuesday, February 25, 2014
On May 14, 2013, Elder Russell M. Nelson and his wife, the former Wendy Watson, were the MTC Devotional speakers. During that Devotional, Sister Nelson said, “Pray to be led to those whose ancestors pray for you on the other side of the veil. They are eager to receive their ordinances; ask for angels to help you.”
I was especially interested in and touched by her words because of my own remarkable experiences while doing family history research. I knew the truth of those words.
After she spoke, Elder Nelson underscored her words when he stated: “Ancestors are praying for you to find their posterity. The Spirit of Elijah is on your side. People on both sides of the veil are praying for the missionaries.” He went on to suggest that the missionaries enlist the Family History Consultants in the wards they serve in to help investigators to find their ancestors.
I was astonished. Uniting family history work with missionary work was a new and unique vision. However, these Devotional talks by Elder and Sister Nelson turned out to be a mere glimpse of things to come.
About one month later, on June 23, 2013, a Worldwide Leadership Broadcast from the MTC occurred, titled “The Work of Salvation.” In that broadcast, we were presented with an enlarged vision of “hastening” the Lord’s work with Church members and missionaries working together. (“Hastening the Work of Salvation—a united effort in conversion, retention, and activation” is available on lds.org for your edification!)
Fast forward to February 4, 2014. The MTC Devotional speakers on that date were Elder David F. Evans, executive director of the Missionary Department, and his wife, Mary. Elder Evans began his talk by mentioning that he had had a meeting that day with Missionary Council members, including Elder Russell M. Nelson, Elder David A. Bednar, Bishop Gérald Caussé, and Elder James B. Martino. The rest of Elder Evans’ talk gave us a glimpse of what had been discussed in that meeting.
He spoke of “new things” happening in our world that would present challenging conditions and situations for the missionaries in the mission field. He said they would be called upon to defend the family and traditional marriage, and they must be prepared to answer unique questions of the soul.
Almost as an aside, he shared that two general authorities had been somewhere in the world together the previous week when they were warned by a strong spiritual impression that they should not proceed to their planned destination. The important part of it was that the Spirit had warned them and that they had heeded that warning, not knowing what might have occurred. It was a “type” for the missionaries to follow—to recognize and trust in spiritual impressions that would keep them safe.
He also shared a person experience. He said that some years earlier the “eyes of his understanding were opened” in a “most profound experience” that “changed forever” the way he felt about his wife and children, so that ever after he tried harder with his children. Here was another “type” for the missionaries to follow—to seek life-changing understanding that would help them to live according to God’s will.
Elder Evans admonished the missionaries to embrace truth, cling to truth for safety, and that these truths will resonate with sincere seekers of truth.
That we live in perilous times can readily be seen. That the Lord is not surprised by world events, and that He inspires His chosen servants in the things that they should do is also readily seen. Our day was foreseen. The safety and well-being of ourselves, our families, our fellow Church members, as well as that of society as a whole, depends on our heeding the promptings of the Spirit and the counsel and teachings of the Lord’s servants.
At the end, Elder Evans suggested that there would be “additional training coming” . . . . ~PLH
[My husband's "take":]
I Have No Desire to Perish
Two scriptures have come to my mind during the last little while. The first comes from the writings of the prophet Amos:
Surely the Lord GOD will do nothing, but he revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets. (Amos 3:7)
The import of this particular passage to me during the last little while will become apparent momentarily.
One of the most delightful aspects of serving at the Provo Missionary Training Center has been the frequent appearance of the General Authorities of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. For the past year, Pat and I have been able to attend the Devotionals held on Tuesday evening, take copious notes on the addresses given by the Brethren and their wives, and then have the opportunity to mutually share what we have learned with one of the Districts in our Branch. I always come away from these evenings edified and more determined to live as I ought to, according to the light and knowledge which has just been abundantly given to me. The Brethren have also visited the MTC on other occasions when I have been instructed directly as a member of a Branch Presidency. I have been grateful for the guidance, and I have invariably been benefited when I have taken the counsel to heart.
The instruction has been timely. One of the most apparent aspects of the activities transpiring at the MTC has been the number of changes that have taken place. When we were first called to serve in our Branch, we were housed on the Main Campus, one of sixty branches that had been established there. Adapting to our new surroundings was a challenge but we achieved that with some grace. Someone asked me what it was like serving with the missionaries. I replied that it was like coming out of retirement and being called as a Bishop on the same day. We have been fully occupied. In the beginning we had to learn a considerable amount of policies and procedures, some of which we had never encountered before in our service in the Kingdom of God. These were specialized instructions and guidelines that had come about as the MTC had grown and expanded. In the process of time, we mastered these and were feeling somewhat comfortable.
Then a new set of guidelines came about with new manuals for both the missionaries and for their ecclesiastical leaders. Much was the same, but some changes revealed an improved approach to the whole process of preparing missionaries for their fields of labor. The number of branches at the MTC had increased to over one hundred. About this same time, the leadership of our Branch changed. The president with whom we had served for six months was released and a new President sustained. The first counselor was released to become the President of another Branch, requiring another counselor to be sustained. There was a flurry of activity as all of us began to adjust to our new circumstances. Administrative assignments changed and I soon found myself deeply immersed in learning heretofore unknown aspects of how a Branch should function. About the same time, our Branch was reassigned to the West Campus; all of our meeting places and times changed radically. In some respects, we were once again starting at square one. As time passed, other changes took place, all about the time we had just finished absorbing the previous changes. We found ourselves almost in a constant state of flux. It was a little unnerving, but we pressed forward in faith.
Throughout all of these disorienting events, there was a steadiness. Underpinning all that was going on were the calming voices of the General Authorities and the Mission Presidency. They assured us, with convincing evidence and not platitudes, that they understood what was going on and that there was a purpose to all that was transpiring. We were counseled to hold fast to the rod of iron, as it were, and continue in our assignments. They also assured us that the changes and adjustments that had been going on were not going to cease any time soon. In every instance these assurances have proven to be justifiable, and our trust and confidence in the midst of seeming turmoil has increased and strengthened. On reflection, I would not choose to have any of the episodes changed one whit.
For one like me, who is decidedly a conservative of the classic type, the fluctuations of our assignment have been just a little disturbing. At the heart of the matter, however, the reason why we persist in our callings, is the principle of preternatural vision, the ability to see through the seeming chaos to the goals that divine providence has mandated for our time and place. We have been strengthened and sustained by those whom we love, those who gladly serve us, until our own eyes have been appropriately opened as theirs already are. What more could anyone hope for in such an assignment? I am grateful beyond expression that there are yet three years remaining to us that our spiritual horizons might continue to expand.
The second scripture came into my mind as I have contemplated what might have happened to us had we chosen to ignore the counsel we have been given during the past year, if we had succumbed to the flurry of activity instead of finding refuge in the revelations being poured out upon those who preside in the Church and Kingdom of God.
Where there is no vision, the people perish: but he that keepeth the law, happy is he. (Proverbs 29:18)
May we always find refuge in the word of the Lord, for whether by His own voice or by the voice of His servants, it is the same. ~PNH
Thursday, February 6, 2014
On Tuesday, January 21, 2014, Bishop Gérald Caussé of the Presiding Bishopric and his wife Valérie were the Devotional speakers at the Provo Missionary Training Center.
First of all, I loved listening to their French accents. They could have gone on for another hour and I would not have tired of it.
Sister Valérie Caussé shared her feelings of inadequacy and trepidation that occurred in 2008 when President Monson phoned them in Paris and asked her husband Gérald (at age 44) to “be a Seventy until he was seventy.”
She said she knew that “Life would not be the same forever.” She felt incapable of leaving children, parents, friends, French food, and her home on the outskirts of Paris: “Why would I do this?” She said that she retreated into the bathroom alone and wept. She said that she felt almost desperate, but then she felt the Savior close to her, she felt his loving presence. So she said yes when she wanted to say no. She said she wanted to be able to say to Jesus Christ when she meets him, “I did my best.”
Bishop Caussé said that during his time as a General Authority he has toured 40 missions and has collected 100 pages of missionary stories. One of his favorite stories is of two Sister missionaries in Spain. As they were passing by a bank one day, a big security guard standing at the entrance of the bank called to them. They described him as having “one and half yellow teeth and a big machine gun.”
Two remarkable things then transpired, first this somewhat intimidating man asked them for a copy of the Book of Mormon; he also went on to tell them that his wife had died and that he was working two jobs to care for his children. The second remarkable thing that happened was that the Sister missionaries instantly were filled with pure and unconditional Christ-like love for this man with the one and a half yellow teeth and a big gun. Bishop Caussé explained, “Instant love is a gift given to Disciples of Christ.”~PLH
Why did I say yes…
As I sat in the Devotional, listening to Bishop and Sister Causse, I was struck twice by statements that they made. The first had to do with the phone call that the Causses received from Salt Lake City extending the call to serve in the Church and Kingdom of God, to leave all else behind and follow the course of life that the Savior pointed out to them. For a moment I was a little envious. What would it be like to be called as a Seventy until I was seventy? I said to myself, “Well it’s a little late for that, now that you are seventy-one.” Being somewhat whimsically minded, I still pursued the thought. “What would it have been like?” Then the answer came: “You already know.”
More than forty-five years ago, I received a phone call from Weldon Thacker, one of the administrators of the Church Educational System, asking me if I would accept a position with the Department of Seminaries and Institutes. I had waited a long time for the phone call and I had almost despaired that it would ever come. In my impatience I had made substantial plans to pursue my Master Degree in English Language and Linguistics at Brigham Young University, even accepting a Teaching Assistant assignment with the English Department. The call to serve as a Seminary teacher came pretty late in the game. I had almost resolved to not allow such an assignment to disrupt what I spent a considerable amount of time setting up. “Why did I say ‘Yes’ when I wanted to say ‘No’?”, I ask, just as Sister Causse had asked, when it was her turn to address the missionaries.
For the next thirty-five years I had the joyous experience of associating with the youth of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, teaching principles that were near and dear to my heart. Every day, I was immersed in the scriptures, learning and growing, that I might be able to present properly the truths of eternity to the sons and daughters of God. Could I have possibly received a more magnificent assignment in time or in eternity than that? I was twenty-seven years old when I began my career; I was sixty-two when I retired. When Bishop Causse is released from his role as a General Authority, he will have served full-time in the Church for twenty-six years. I have no need to be covetous.
Why did I say “Yes” to Brother Thacker on that late winter day in 1969? For the same reason that the Causses said “Yes” to President Monson. It was the right thing to do. The Spirit of God entered into our hearts and spoke peace to us. He encouraged Elder and Sister Causse to press forward in faith. In my case, he softened and purified my almost embittered soul.
I retired from full-time employment with the Church Educational System in 2004. I have rejoiced in the freedom, in being able to leave the house at any time and go anywhere that my wife and I have desired to go. Admittedly, I have missed the classroom and from time to time I have thought about teaching on the side, at the University or at one of the Institutes of Religion in Utah Valley. At those moments there has been a little part of me that has said, “Why in the world would you want to do that? Why would you want to tie yourself down again, now that you are free?” So I continued to enjoy my freedom.
When the call came from the Provo MTC, we willingly went to the interview. The assignment involved several hours on Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday, and almost the entire day on Sunday. This would be every week, fifty two weeks a year, for four years, with a few exceptions. Someone asked me after we had accepted the call, “What is it like to be at the MTC?” I replied, “It’s rather like coming out of retirement, and on the same day being called as a Bishop.” Why did I say “Yes” when I wanted to say “No”? Because it was the right thing to do, because once again the Lord softened my stony, selfish little heart. ~PNH