Thursday, January 1, 2015
How to Change Your Behavior (New Year's Resolutions Are NOT the Way)
Elder Anthony D Perkins and his wife Christine were the MTC Devotional speakers on December 30, 2014. Just ten months previously, on February 18, 2014, they had also spoken at the MTC. On both visits, Changing Behavior was the theme.
In their December visit, Elder Perkins expounded on how a person (whether an investigator or a missionary) can change: First, the Doctrine of Christ inspires faith. Faith brings about a change of attitude. This leads to repentance and a change of behavior. Next comes Baptism and the Gift of the Holy Ghost which results in a change of countenance. The power of the Atonement and the Holy Ghost then actually change our very natures. This pattern continues throughout life as one repents and endures to the end. Paul offers his insights on this Devotional below, following my summary of the February Devotional.
How diligence changes the missionary: Elder Smith and Elder Hanks
As part of his [Anthony D Perkins, 18 Feb 2014] talk, one of the stories he told was of a missionary, Elder “Smith,” who was angry with his senior companion, Elder “Hanks,” because Elder Hanks consistently insisted that they had to be home no later than 9:30 PM exactly, in accordance with mission rules. One evening, a few minutes before 9:30, they met a couple on a motorcycle who expressed interest in their gospel message. When Elder Hanks told the couple that they wouldn’t be able to teach them just then, and handed them a pamphlet with the missionaries’ phone number on it, and invited the couple to phone for an appointment, Elder Smith was furious. This junior companion was sure that they had missed a key opportunity. After all, they had handed out countless pamphlets and no one had ever phoned them. Therefore, in Elder Smith’s opinion, adhering slavishly to the 9:30 rule was ridiculous—he considered it one of those rules that could justifiably be “bent.”
However, at 8:45 the next morning, Elder Smith was astonished when the couple actually did phone and make an appointment to be taught. And he was truly humbled when they actually joined the church. This experience was the turning point of his mission for Elder Smith—dramatically changing him. He recognized that the Lord blesses his servants according to their diligence and obedience.
How the diligence of the missionary changes investigators.
The companion story to the above [same talk], was of a set of missionaries who were teaching the first lesson to a family, and as it got to be about 9:20 PM, they announced to the family that they had to leave in order to obey their mission rules. During the second lesson, the same thing occurred. At the end of the third lesson, they again announced that they needed to leave. The father of the family protested, “but its pouring rain outside!” “It doesn’t matter,” said the missionaries, “we need to go.”
So, the man put their bikes in his car and drove them home. The man was deeply impressed when he discovered that the missionaries lived at the top of a very steep “mountain.” After dropping them off and as he drove away, he marveled at the missionaries’ diligence and obedience. And then he thought, “these missionaries are the kind of individuals that I want my children to become; if the Church produces this kind of young people, then we must join this Church!” (The family did join the Church and went to the temple—because of the example of the missionaries).
In our discussion of Elder Perkins’ talk with the missionaries following the Devotional, I suggested to them that they will undoubtedly—at some time in their missions (as well as in their lives after their missions)—be tempted to “bend” the rules in order to pursue what they consider to be higher or more important purposes. My earnest admonition to them was to not fall for that ploy by the Tempter, because breaking rules can become a habit, and when they bend or break rules, they lose the protection and the power of the Holy Ghost. ~PLH
Paul’s Insights on the December 30, 2014 Devotional with Elder Anthony D Perkins and his wife Christine:
Meeting with the missionaries after a Tuesday Night Devotional is always a delight. No matter how copious my notes might be, I find that the Elders and Sisters frequently have insights into the spirit of the speaker’s message that I had failed to pick up on. In addition, the manner in which they reflect on their own comprehension and feelings usually enhances my own experience; I find myself making marginal notes in my journal next to my personal notes taken during the talks. This was particularly true last night (December 30, 2014) as we met with one of our districts after Elder and Sister Anthony D. Perkins spoke.
Sister Perkins provided four Christ-like attributes that she heartily recommended to the Missionaries, attributes that she admired in the daily conduct that she witnessed in the life of a Taiwanese flower lady, while she and her husband served as a Mission President in China: Be Happy, Be Bold, Testify of Christ, and Be Diligent. The Sisters in our district focused on “Be Happy” and suggested what the effect would be in their own missionary labors if they followed Sister Perkins recommendations.
Suddenly I was reminded of the prophet Joseph Smith, his own self-description as being a person with a “native cheery temperament”. The prophet’s ability to draw people into his circle is legendary. He genuinely loved others and those who came into his company could sense that in him. When others betrayed him, he was quick to forgive and frequently welcomed them back into his bosom of friends.
Elder Perkin spoke of the Doctrine of Christ and the changes that take place as one exercises faith, sincerely repents, and receives the ordinances of baptism and the laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost. Exercising sufficient faith to repent of sin requires a change of attitude. Repenting sufficiently to be prepared for baptism necessitates a change of behavior. Following the commandment to “receive the Holy Ghost” will bring about a change in countenance. Fully responding to the gift of the Holy Ghost will cause a change of nature in the faithfully obedient.
When we discussed the change of attitude, I brought to their attention a metaphor that would help them remember Elder David A. Bednar’s talk which they had all seen the Sunday before, “The Character of Christ”. At the heart of our discussion was the notion as to how easy it is to focus on one’s self, and how our salvation depends on turning our attention outward to the welfare of others. I described the orientation of the Sea of Galilee and the Dead Sea (a similar configuration can be found with Utah Lake and the Great Salt Lake). The Sea of Galilee receives water from the upper reaches of the Jordan River and then sends the still fresh waters south in the same stream. The Dead Sea, which has no outlet, receives the waters of the Jordan and keeps them to itself. The result is a deadly body of water for both flora and fauna. When we turn outward we continue to live; selfishness is deadly.
As the Missionaries talked about the change of countenance, I felt impressed to tell them about Bill Chapman’s transformation over a sixth month period. He was a classic surfer who had been fellowshipped and taught by his friends in southern California. I met him at the Institute at Cypress College shortly after his baptism. He was also a young man with a native cheery temperament, but one who still sported a mass of hair that surrounded his head like a gigantic aura. Week by week the hair was trimmed back until one day he came into the Institute building with what could be called a missionary haircut. He had just been ordained an Elder and a few months later he would embark on his own missionary service.
We finally spoke about the change of our nature and whether we had improved enough of our own character so that we could effectively teach investigators. I reminded them that we all have parents of our physical bodies. By the same token, long before we were born upon this earth, we were begotten spirit sons and daughters of our Heavenly parents. I asked them what we were before our spirit birth. They correctly answered that we were intelligence.
I then taught them that the glory of God is intelligence or in other words, light and truth. The children of men, because of their eternal nature, may be nourished by light and truth. Because The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has more light and truth than any other organization on this planet, the missionaries are able to bless and strength every one with whom they come in contact. If they are keeping the commandments and are enjoying the blessings and benefits of the spirit of God, they cannot fail to bless the honest in heart.
I went home having been edified myself. I am confident that one of the reasons that the Brethren have allowed us to participate in the devotionals is so we might grow and increase in knowledge and wisdom while blessing and benefiting those for whom we have some responsibility. I am glad to be part of all of this. ~PNH