Today we had an opportunity to be taught by a very special man, Elder D. Todd Christofferson who is a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. In the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints we sustain all of the Quorum of the Twelve as prophets, seers and revelators. We consider them to be special witnesses of the Savior in the same way Matthew, Mark, Luke, John and the other early apostles were.
It was a very powerful meeting. There were about 500 missionaries in attendance, most of the young sisters and elders as well as Senior Missionaries from both the Auckland and Hamilton missions. Elder Christopherson made a point of shaking every single hand and greeting us all personally.
In addition to hearing from both Elder Christofferson and his wife, we also heard fabulous talks by
our Pacific Area president, Elder Kevin W. Pearson and his wife, June.
We started with Sister Pearson who focused on three things:
1) Have faith in yourself and your calling
She reminded us that we have been set apart as missionaries by one in authority. We are called to our missions at this time and in this place by a prophet of god. She affirmed that all things are possible when we are on the Lord's errand and that nothing is too hard for the Lord. (See Luke 1:37).
She quoted President Neilsen who once said "Obedience brings blessings. Exact obedience brings miracles."
She said that we will make or break our mission based on what we do and what we do not do between 6AM and 10PM.
We each will choose every day how dedicated we want to be in our mission. The degree to which we fully turn to our Father in Heaven and faithfully follow ALL mission rules, the greater will be the reward.
3) Make sure you seek for, live for and ask for the companionship of the Holy Ghost.
Referring to the famous missionary scripture in D&C 4, Sister Pearson promised that as we give all our heart, mind and might for the work, the Lord will bless us.
Next we heard from President Pearson. He told a great story about the power of a magnifying glass. When he was a young boy he had a friend who showed him how to fry ants and bugs using a magnifying glass. Young Kevin Pearson had never seen one before, and he was amazed by the power of this incredible piece of technology!
"Your power as a missionary is a function of being aligned with the spirit".
"Power comes from constancy and consistency".
"Great learners equal great leaders".
"Average is the enemy of excellence. Improve your abilities every day".
"You can't see what you aren't looking for".
"Our lives must be a relentless pursuit of Christ until we come to see him face to face".
"Your success in your mission will not be based on number of baptisms" (Or in our case, number of people who submit names for vicarious work in the temple). "It will depend on your personal commitment and dedication to serve".
I need to remember this and keep it ever in my thoughts when we are going over reports or assessing the outcomes of all that we do.
We have certain metrics that we measure the effectiveness of our programs by. That is a good and appropriate thing. We were so excited when the reports showed us that in 2015 more people than ever before throughout the Pacific Area were submitting and reserving names for temple work, We blew our department goals out of the water! But I also have to remember the REAL purpose of our mission is to bring others to Christ, and that cannot be measured on a bar graph.
The other great thing about what he said is that it means there is NO WAY we can fail in our mission, so long as we put forth the commitment and dedication he speaks of. We would love it if we were able to get another big increase in number of users of FamilySearch and lots more people submitting names for temple ordinances. But whether they do or do not follow through on the things we teach is a matter of their agency. I am only responsible for MY choices. So the real measure of the success of my mission will be based entirely on the degree to which I am doing everything I can to align my will, my thoughts, my actions to what I understand the Lord is asking of me,
That means if the work was going forward regardless of my efforts, I can't ride the wave of that success while being lackadaisical in my efforts. It also means if the work stalls despite my very best efforts, the Lord will still look upon me and say "well done, my good and faithful servant". Who doesn't want to hear those words?
Next came Sister Christopherson. She told the story from 2nd Kings, Chapter 4 about the poor widow woman who comes to the prophet Elisha for help. Although her husband had been a righteous man, when he died she was left with a crushing load of debt and no means to pay. His creditor was threatening to take her two sons as bondsmen to pay this debt. She was at her wits end, not knowing what to do.
Elisha asked her what resources she had in her house. She was a very poor woman. All that she owned in the world was a small pot of oil.
So Elisha instructed her to go borrow every empty vessel she could from her neighbors. So her sons went out and gathered the vessels. She then did exactly what the prophet had told her to do.
Then Sister Christopherson pointed out: "The Lord will bless us to the degree that we are prepared
She followed that with a talk about a pair of missionaries who were directed where to go. They had no specific plan or appointment, but by following spiritual prompting were led to a certain house. They both felt rather uncertain, not sure why they were going the direction they were going. They just knew that if felt like that was where they needed to be. When they knocked on the door of the houses no one was home, so they were baffled as to why they had been led there. Then as they were leaving the lady who lived in the house came jogging by as she had been out getting some exercise. She greeting the missionaries and told them she wanted to be baptized.
Apparently the lady had been taught before but never made a commitment to be baptised. When the friend who had introduced her to the gospel moved away, the lady said "If missionaries from your church ever come to my house, I will get baptised." These missionaries had no formal referral to find this lady. But the Lord knew her heart and knew she was ready, so He guided his servants to go to that home.
However, those missionaries had to be PREPARED to receive that prompting through faith and obedience. Then they had to be willing to follow the spirit even though they did not understand why they were being asked to go there.
I do not want to limit the number of vessels I have available to gather in the Lord's blessings. As I continue to pattern my life after the Savior and get more adept at recognizing and following the promptings of the spirit, I know I too can see miracles in our mission.
When Elder Christopherson took the pulpit he invited us to all stand and stretch. I was impressed by his sensitivity to helping the listeners in the group to be ready to fully hear and appreciate his words. I wrote in my notebook "How can I be sure I am sensitive to the needs of those I teach?"
He then asked for questions. Rather than giving out a pre-planned address, he used his time responding to what the group most wanted to learn about.
One of the questions was "How can we personally know the Savior?"
Elder Christopherson reminded us that in addition to knowing Jesus Christ, we must strive to come to know the Father, as it says in the scriptural account of the Last Supper: "This is life eternal, that they might know the ever living God and Jesus Christ whom He has sent."
Elder Christopherson spoke about things we can do, ways we can come closer to both the Father and the Son (such as continuing to study and ponder the attributes of Christ, to live and serve according to the Savior's example).
Then he said something that really struck me. He said "There are times when Heavenly Father wants us to pray certain things. The Spirit can guide you to know what to pray". I'd never really thought of that before.
Then Elder Christopherson did something else that really impressed me. He had the pulpit - it was his time. But he recognized that some of the other leaders on the stand might have something worthwhile to contribute. So he asked if any of them had something to share. The humility of that very much impressed me. It wasn't about him having the spotlight or being the important big shot apostle from Salt Lake. He was so utterly sincere in wanting us to share this time together in such a way that all could be edified. We could FEEL the sincere love of this man as he was teaching.
So when he asked for other's input, President Pearson came back to the stand and said something I hope I will always remember about wanting to know Heavenly Father and the Savior:
"Remember that we DO know them. We just can't remember it because of the veil. Part of mortality includes mortal amnesia. That is why we feel comfortable in the temple. It takes us closer to our true nature, our true home." I felt a personal witness as he said those words that they were true.
There were many more nuggets of wisdom from this special missionary meeting with an apostle. I will hang on to those notes and go over them again and again.
I am so grateful for this opportunity to be taught important truths that will help me in my service as a missionary and throughout my life.
This was indeed a spiritual mountain-top experience.
What I heard from the speakers was powerful. But what I felt in my own heart from the Holy Ghost who is the testifier of all truth is what mattered most of all.