Monday, March 17, 2014
Bold but Loving
Marcos A. Aidukaitis and his wife Luisa were the speakers at the March 4, 2014 MTC Devotional. During the past year, they also spoke on March 5, 2013 and then again on November 19, 2013. Elder Aidukaitis is a delightful speaker with a huge grin and a contagious laugh. I believe they said that he currently is serving as the Assistant Executive Director of the Missionary Department.
In his talks last year, he urged the missionaries to make “the BIG decision” – to choose which Kingdom they wanted: Telestial, Terrestrial, or Celestial – and, to write their destiny of choice in BIG letters in their journals that night. Writing it in big letters signified a bold decision, not a timid one. “After you make the BIG decision,” he said, “all other decisions are easy and simple.” He also told the missionaries that if the Celestial Kingdom was not their destination of choice, then they were “doing too much.” (Logically, the criterion for admittance into the Telestial or Terrestrial Kingdoms requires little or no effort.)
At the March 4th devotional this month, he expounded several missionary scriptures, iterating the promises and the requisites listed for each scripture. The promised blessings always follow the missionary’s faithful obedience to the requisites, he said. Take, for example, Alma 26:22:
Yea, he that repenteth and exerciseth faith, and bringeth forth good works, and prayeth continually without ceasing—unto such it is given to know the mysteries of God; yea, unto such it shall be given to reveal things which never have been revealed; yea, and it shall be given unto such to bring thousands of souls to repentance, even as it has been given unto us to bring these our brethren to repentance.
In this scripture, the missionary is promised the blessing of bringing thousands of souls to repentance. The requisites are that the missionary is repentant, he exercises faith, does good works, and prays without ceasing. By doing these things, he may know the “mysteries” of God—such as where to go to find those thousands of souls, and what to say to them to bring them to repentance.
Elder Aidukaitis told them that it did not matter that they may have been called to a very difficult mission where converts traditionally have been very few. The promise stands: if you do the requisites, the blessings will follow. Especially now, in this day of the hastening of the work, any missionary can exercise faith in the promises of that scripture, and baptize every week!
Elder Aidukaitis also admonished the missionaries to be a “trumpet” and not a “timid instrument.” He explained the need for the boldness of a trumpet because of the confusion in the world—for there is a war going on—a violin or flute would not be heard above the noise and confusion. “Be bold but loving,” he said. He demonstrated those qualities throughout his talk.
We departed rejoicing.
MY HUSBAND'S TAKE
The Cheerful Reaper
As my wife stated above, Elder Aidukaitis has an infectious laugh and an ebullient personality. I believe that it would be virtually impossible to sit through one of his talks without smiling… a lot. It would take a somber soul indeed to not chuckle at some point. He has, as the prophet Joseph Smith said of himself, a native cheery temperament. He exudes enthusiastic optimism. In his address to the missionaries in 19 November 2013, he quoted from the Gospel according to John: “These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33) He is the living manifestation of one who has completely embraced that commandment.
In concert with the Savior’s instruction to have not fear, but believe joyfully, Elder Aidukaitis also cited Doctrine and Covenant 31. As a Branch Presidency, we use this section with the newly arrived missionaries on their first Thursday with us.
Lift up your heart and rejoice, for the hour of your mission is come; and your tongue shall be loosed, and you shall declare glad tidings of great joy unto this generation. You shall declare the things which have been revealed to my servant, Joseph Smith, Jun. You shall begin to preach from this time forth, yea, to reap in the field which is white already to be burned. Therefore, thrust in your sickle with all your soul, and your sins are forgiven you, and you shall be laden with sheaves upon your back, for the laborer is worthy of his hire. Wherefore, your family shall live. (D&C 31:3-5)
We review with the Elders and Sisters the promised blessings for faithful missionary service. Paramount is the commandment to rejoice, because the subsequent blessings can only lift up our hearts. One’s sins may be remediated while aiding others to put off the natural man and partake of the divine nature. We point out to the missionaries in addition that their families will be blessed while they serve the Lord.
In the first two talks we had the opportunity to listen to, Elder Aidukaitis spoke of the three degrees of glory and the blessings that attend exaltation in the Celestial Kingdom. How does one receive a fullness of joy, the sort of happiness that God the eternal Father experiences in eternity? It is when we find ourselves in complete harmony with His will that we begin to know Him, that we begin to perceive the nature of eternal life.
As he spoke, I was reminded of another wonderful passage in the Doctrine and Covenant, this time in Section 18.
Remember the worth of souls is great in the sight of God; For, behold, the Lord your Redeemer suffered death in the flesh; wherefore he suffered the pain of all men, that all men might repent and come unto him. And he hath risen again from the dead, that he might bring all men unto him, on conditions of repentance. And how great is his joy in the soul that repenteth! Wherefore, you are called to cry repentance unto this people. And if it so be that you should labor all your days in crying repentance unto this people, and bring, save it be one soul unto me, how great shall be your joy with him in the kingdom of my Father! And now, if your joy will be great with one soul that you have brought unto me into the kingdom of my Father, how great will be your joy if you should bring many souls unto me! (D&C 18:10-16)
To the ancient Israelites, the time of the harvest was a joyful hour; great celebrations were held throughout the land of promise when the crops were gathered in. The harvester enters into the field and encircles an armful of wheat stalks and then quickly cuts them near the ground with his sickle. He then uses another bit of stalk to tie the bundle together. This constitutes a sheave. Many sheaves would indicate a bounteous harvest, indeed.
In his talk a few weeks ago, Elder Aidukaitis spoke of the sickle itself, the effective instrument of the harvest in the hand of the harvester. He testified that it represented nothing less than the Book of Mormon itself and that the Elders and Sisters needed to hone the edge of their comprehension of that book in order that they might be at their most effective in teaching the principles and ordinances of eternal life.
I had always thought of the Book of Mormon as the key to conversion, but it had not occurred to me before that evening to consider it as the sickle itself. I was delighted at the thought; I pondered it over and over in my mind and in my heart. By the time he finished his address I was completely convinced that he had spoken the truth of the matter. No one in this dispensation will attain to everlasting life and salvation without a witness of the Book of Mormon, a book, by the way, that provides the means by which one can know of its surety.
I have been reading the Book of Mormon for more than fifty years. I have studied it from every angle, comparing it with the other sacred works of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. No one man could have composed that text on his own; there is no way that it could be false. The world has been compelled to discredit the Book of Mormon and has tried to do so since it first saw the light of day in the spring of 1830. They have utterly failed to do so. It cannot be explained away. It stands a bright and burning witness of all that Joseph Smith said from the beginning of his ministry is true. No one can come away from a reading of that book without being stunned at its consistency and clarity, its indisputable continuity as a narrative. For a missionary, it is the means by which the truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ may be taught. For the investigator of the truth, it is the very key that opens an otherwise inaccessible fountain of divine truth and light. ~ PNH
Sunday, March 9, 2014
On the first Sunday of almost every month at the MTC, is “Mission Conference.” During this two-hour meeting, President Lon Nally and his wife Kaye always speak, and one of his counselors and his wife, along with one of the District Presidency members and his wife, also speak to an audience attended by all of the missionaries and all of the Branch Presidency members and their spouses—upwards of 2000 people. Uplifting and edifying discourses consistently characterize these meetings.
During Mission Conference on Sunday, February 2, 2014, the following story was told:
“Elder Nelson Cordova—a member of the Seventy who resides in California—was just finishing his evening shift as a recorder in the Los Angeles Temple. The phone rang; it was the LAX airport control tower. The obviously stressed man on the phone asked, ‘Where is Moroni?’ Apparently the light that shines on the Angel Moroni atop the temple had gone out—and without Moroni as a beacon, some of the pilots were worried about landing safely.
“Elder Cordova and others climbed to the top of the temple to start the light again with a generator they kept on hand to use during power failures. He said he was amazed that the caller actually asked for Moroni by name—and that he learned a lesson that night—‘The temple is not only a beacon in the lives of the Saints, but for others as well.’ ”
In the context of the talk, the story was used as an attention getter for the theme of the talk, “beacons of righteousness.”
At this month’s Mission Conference on March 2, 2014, President Nally mentioned, in passing, that the New York Times had posted the day before on the front page of the internet edition, a lengthy article about two LDS Sister missionaries serving in Korea. He indicated that he’d not had time to read the entire article yet; he was merely commenting on its front page status.
My response on hearing the Los Angeles Temple story was surprise that pilots and air traffic controllers would know by name the Los Angeles Temple and the Angel Moroni.
My response to the New York Times article, which I read online Sunday afternoon after Mission Conference, was also surprise—why did the New York Times think that their readership would actually be interested in LDS Sister missionaries? As for accuracy, although their premise was somewhat flawed, so that what followed was slightly off, the tone was neutral rather than negative. To judge for yourself, go to:
Another surprising article, titled “The Facebook of Mormon” appeared earlier this year in The Atlantic magazine:
Why was I surprised in each case? Mostly because for the majority of my life, people of other faiths whom I have encountered in the world have either never even heard of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints or Mormons, or, they have heard only the distortions or skewed representations circulated by enemies of the Church. Mocking, scoffing, and outrageous misrepresentations from the world are what I have come to expect.
In January’s Mission Conference, President Nally told us about an experience his granddaughter had recently had while serving her mission in the Philippines. One day, she and her companion were accosted by a North American man who viciously spewed so much hatred at them and at the Church that they were brought to tears. Afterward, their tears were replaced by smiles because of the smiles and friendly greetings of the warm Filipino people, and by the comfort that came to them from the Spirit.
The monumental task of the MTC is preparing the missionaries for such varied experiences. Sometimes, as they serve their missions, the missionaries will be “beacons,” and sometimes they will be “targets.” And sometimes they will be surprised . . . . ~PLH
My Husband’s Take:
One of the liabilities of being assigned at the Provo Missionary Training Center, is that one loses contact with the residential Ward and Stake within which one resides. I miss the members of the Ward where I once presided as Bishop. I want to know how they are doing; my affection for them has not diminished one whit during the past year. I feel the same way about the members of the Stake with whom I worked closely while I served on the High Council. I miss my former Stake President, Richard K. Wilson, whom I love like a brother. I know that I am missing something of the leadership blessings that I might have had with the recently called Stake President, Jeff Robinson, whom I have known almost since the day that we moved into our home here in Orem.
What I have felt for these two great men, I have felt elsewhere in my travels with the Church Educational System. I have enjoyed the fellowship and confidence of Stake Presidents for more than fifty years and I am a better person for having known and worked with them. When I have had eyes to see and ears to hear, I have invariably been edified by those who preside in the Church and Kingdom of God. I have seldom gone to a Stake Conference or a Stake Leadership meeting where I have not been edified and blessed for having been in attendance. This has been pointedly true as I have listened and conformed my life to the teachings of the various Stake Presidents with whom I have served.
I knew that when I accepted the call to serve at the Provo MTC that I would be distanced from people that I knew and loved. That was one of the sacrifices that I was expected to make. I had watched others make the same sacrifice when they had received similar calls that took them outside of the Stake. I have to say that I grieved just a little as the truth of what I suspected came to be realized. I was, however, not abandoned by any means. I had simply changed venues.
For the past year, my wife and I have sat at the feet of the MTC Presidency, rejoicing in the teachings that have been presented to us as we tried to serve the young men and women who had responded to a prophet’s call to serve. There have been training meetings of various kinds, visits to our particular Branch where Presidency members have spoken, and, of course, the monthly Mission Conferences that traditionally take place on Fast Sunday. These have been rich experiences and I have taken copious notes on all of the addresses that have been made. Of all of the speakers, the one I have enjoyed the most has been President Lon B. Nally. In part, I think that I have been particularly attentive to him because he essentially serves as my Stake President, at least as far as my weekly experiences in the Church are concerned.
I decided that I would review my notes from these various conferences and training meetings so that I might share some of the tremendous insights that I have gained as I have sat at President Nally’s feet. Alas, I discovered that my notes are few, and those that appear are almost unintelligible. As I turned the pages, I sorrowed at the lack of adequate stimulus to remind me of the wonderful things that he had said, principles that had touched my heart deeply. I decided to see if this lapse in recording had affected the rest of my notes on the various talks that had been given by others. To my surprise, I discovered that much of what had been said by others had been preserved by my pen. Why had I not treated President Nally’s words better?
As I have pondered the lack of detail in my journal, I have settled on a couple of possibilities. First, during the President’s talks I may have been so enthralled by what he was saying, the sublime nature of his insights, that I simply could not take the time to write them down for fear that I might miss something of what he was saying while I tried to write. Frequently our visitors at the MTC will ask us not to take notes that we might more readily feel the spirit of the Lord. I had not understood what they had been suggesting until now. Perhaps the strength of the spirit on those occasions was so strong that I unconsciously chose to abandon my journal for a greater good.
Secondly, I have thought that maybe some of the things that the President communicated to me personally, that is to say, those things which I learned by the spirit, were too sacred to record. Perhaps they were some of the unspeakable things of the Kingdom, things that could not be written down, because there are no human words into which those thoughts and feelings might be translated. The oddity was that I thought that I had written them down, that I would find them when I perused my journal afterward.
Yet, for all of my ruminating on the matter, I had not been able to intellectually explain why my circumstances are the way they are . . . until this morning, the day after I began writing my portion of this posting. I have concluded that the messages and instruction that President Nally has delivered to the missionaries and their leaders are written down, but in my most personal journal, upon the fleshy tablets of my heart. I am a different man for having been in those meetings, just as I have become a different man for having hearkened to my Stake Presidents throughout the years. I cannot explain what specific doctrines or teachings have influenced me, I just know that I am more determined than ever to be the kind of person that the Gospel of Jesus Christ defines as a disciple of the Son of God. It is a wonderful experience to be entrusted with what I think now are unspeakable things.
In the light of this morning’s epiphany that I had about my journal and the teachings and testimony of President Nally, I finally understood what happened to me several months ago, as President Wilkins and I walked out of a Mission Conference together. I turned to him and exclaimed, “President Nally did it again! He hit the ball right out of the park!” The President turned to me and asked, “In what way? What did he say that made you feel that way?” I tried to explain myself and found that my usual glibness had failed me. I felt like I had just had a stroke. I could not articulate in any satisfactory way what I had been feeling and thinking as a result of President Nally’s address. I have since decided that my heart does not have a playback feature. I know how I feel; I know when I am being blessed; it is as real to me as anything I experience in life. But for the present, I am unable to share what I have gained in this particular venue. Perhaps these things are too sacred to share; perhaps they are impossible to share with others for the time being. All I know for certain is that I am looking forward to the next three years; I am confident that they are going to prove as joyous and as precious to me as the last twelve months have been. ~PNH
Tuesday, March 4, 2014
On a cold, snowy Tuesday evening in December, the scheduled speaker for the Provo MTC Devotional was unable to travel from Salt Lake City to Provo because of the extremely hazardous driving conditions. Remarkably, the MTC Presidency managed to find a stand-in at the last minute! It was Bruce C. Hafen, an emeritus General Authority. How they managed to find him and how he managed to be prepared to speak on such short notice seemed like a miracle to me.
The feeling of the presence of the Spirit came into the auditorium as he spoke. It was palpable.
During his talk, Elder Hafen recounted his own missionary experience as a senior companion in the early 1960s in West Germany with a new junior companion who had just arrived from the MTC. That first day in the mission field, this junior companion, whom I will call “Elder Green,” went on “splits” with another junior companion, while their respective senior companions were in a day-long meeting with the Mission President. Elder Hafen and the other senior companion had thought that the two inexperienced missionaries would be “safe” tracting in a huge complex of apartment buildings.
At the end of his day tracting, Elder Green ecstatically reported to Elder Hafen that he had found a woman who would become a member of the church. “We have to go back and find her!” he said. Elder Hafen had been on his mission for at least a year by that time, and had become somewhat cynical—“frozen over” was how he described it. Nevertheless, he decided to humor his starry-eyed junior companion. Alas, because of his inexperience, Elder Green had neglected to note the woman’s name and address. All he was sure of was that she lived on the fifth floor.
So, the next day, Elder Hafen and Elder Green spent hours climbing to the 5th floor of countless nondescript apartment buildings that all looked the same to try to find her again. As the day wore on, Elder Hafen was convinced that the search was futile. But Elder Green would not give up even though Elder Hafen was obviously skeptical and reluctant to continue. After several difficult hours, they finally located the woman.
Elder Green’s confidence in the spiritual assurance he’d received concerning this woman turned out to be entirely justified. She and her family joined the church. The woman’s husband later became a sealer in the Frankfurt Germany Temple.
Elder Hafen’s message to the missionaries was this: serving a mission is going to be hard; try to not let yourself become cynical or “frozen over,” try to remain hopeful, “be realistic but stay open to promptings from heaven.”
In the most recent issue of the Church News (March 1, 2014), there was an article about the biography of Neal A. Maxwell, which was written by Bruce C. Hafen. To read this article, go to:
As he wrote the book (at Elder Maxwell’s request), Elder Hafen reflected on the question, “Why do we read and write biographies?” His answer was, “When we tell our own stories to each other, we realize that the cosmic quest to overcome evil and find God is a very personal quest for each of us,” he said.
In telling his own personal missionary story at the MTC, Elder Hafen was sharing that sacred moment during which he recognized that the Spirit really had directed his junior companion. In that moment of recognition, he experienced a change of heart, and was rescued from his “frozen over” condition. ~PLH
My Husband's Take:
The Length and Breadth
I, too, thoroughly enjoy the stories told by the Brethren about their missions when they were young men. It is wonderful to me that they frequently speak of their foibles, as did Elder Hafen and his “frozen over” moment as a senior companion in West Germany that was mentioned above by my wife. Last Tuesday’s devotional featured Elder Steven E. Snow of the Seventy. He recounted how difficult his mission had been in the late 1960s in northern Germany. He and his companions spurred themselves on, however, with little quips like: “Let’s keep tracting Elder; for every door we knock on, someone gets baptized in Mexico!”
Elder Snow went on to talk about other missionaries who had seemingly not performed well as young Elders. He referred to President Joseph Fielding Smith’s mission in Great Britain, where the future prophet, seer, and revelator handed out 10,000 pamphlets and visited in over 4000 homes, yet no one received the Gospel at his hands while he was there. He performed no baptisms, and the whole time that he served in England, he helped confirm only one person into The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Yet the experience proved to be no detriment to his character or to his later service in the Kingdom of God.
This past Sunday, as part of Mission Conference, President Nally spoke in a similar vein, and then went on to relate the experience of President James E. Faust during the early 1940s as a new missionary in Brazil. The whole time that he served there with his companions, only three people were baptized and none of them were at his hands. During his first day on the streets of the city where he and his companion, William Grant Bangeter, were working, Elder Bangeter told him that the next door would be his. He knew little Portuguese but made a valiant attempt to communicate with the woman who answered the door. They did not teach her; they did not baptize her. Thirty years later, however, while President Faust was visiting Brazil, this same woman came up to him and wept into his hands in gratitude for his service to her in preparing her and her family for the fullness of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
As I listened to President Nally, I reflected upon my own mission to southern Mexico. I had been one of those missionaries who baptized a person for every door that Elder Snow knocked upon. I knew that I had served well, and that the Lord was pleased with my labors. That was as certain as certainly itself. However, I did not know how lasting any of my efforts had been. Were any of those families who received the Gospel during my tenure there still active in the Church? Were their children and grandchildren faithful members of the Kingdom of God on the earth? I did not know. I have not returned to my former fields of labor to find out how things have gone with these people that I loved. I suppose that I will not know until I pass out of this life and proceed into the next. Will I have to seek them out, or will they be waiting for me?
President Nally played an audio clip of one of President Faust’s talks at one of the Mission Presidents’ Seminar held at the Provo MTC. President Faust began by stating, “You cannot know the length and breadth of your labors as a minister of Christ”. I marveled at that. How fruitful had my mission been? Was it fruitful because of the things that I could outwardly point to in the records that I kept? Were there other things heretofore unmentioned and unrecorded by human hands that had contributed to the building up of the Kingdom of God in that part of the Lord’s vineyard as I labored throughout southern Mexico? I rather hope that there are. ~PNH
Elder Hyde 1964-1966