Dr. Gary G. Taylor
SNIPPET: Two missionaries had the relatively common experience of having a promising investigator tell them that he was no longer interested in their message. Unfortunately, these two Elders took their investigator’s decision personally and began to doubt themselves. They wondered if they had pushed him too much; or maybe they hadn’t been sufficiently direct. Maybe they didn’t answer his questions adequately, or they might have chosen the wrong sequence of topics in their teaching. They picked apart their efforts, assuming that they must have done something wrong. Of course, there is wisdom in missionaries reviewing their teaching methods and evaluating how well they are doing (see PMG, p. 21). This, however, works best if done under inspiration and without being overly critical. The Lord will bless us with information about our weakness (Ether 12:27), but in a way and at a time that will help us become stronger. Satan will beat us over the head with our weaknesses in an attempt to discourage and overwhelm us. That was essentially what was happening to these two Elders.
There are two lessons here that, if applied, would have made this a less negative experience for these two Elders. First, there is no reason to feel guilty about anything that is beyond our control. The decision to accept or reject a missionary’s message is certainly one of those things. Second, no matter how imperfect our effort, if we are trying hard to do the right thing, and trying to do the best we can, that is good enough. Since these Elders were trying their best and praying hard for help, then can reasonably assume that if there was something important that they should have done differently, it would have been made known to them.
SNIPPET: Elder Thomas just left Zone Conference where his Zone was encouraged to dig deeper and try harder in their missionary work. He and his companion had just committed to upping their game and had been working very hard in the last week or two. Now he felt overwhelmed with the need to work even harder, even though he had no idea how he could do any more. Here’s an analogy for Elder Thomas to consider. We all know that exercise and proper diet are essential to good health and most of us hear constant reminders. When the shoe fits, better try it on. But when we are already reasonable in our diet and exercise, no need to feel obligated to do more. Just keep up the good work. Elder Thomas can apply the same logic. He is already working very hard at doing his best, so the encouragement in the Zone Conference might be considered as encouragement to keep doing what he is already doing; not a requirement to try even harder.
SNIPPET: Sister Hawkins gave it her best; but a few months after arriving in her assigned area, she had to admit that significant anxiety and depression problems simply would not allow her to continue to serve a full-time mission. She was released but felt like a failure for not completing her assignment. Her Mission President suggested that she think of her situation as being a little like Abraham's (Genesis 22). Abraham was willing to sacrifice his son; but he was not required to do so. Sister Hawkins was willing to sacrifice 18 months of her life; but she was not required to do so. If completing her service was necessary in the eyes of the Lord, her prayers would have been answered and she would have been healed. Since that didn't happen, she can now accept the Lord's will, get treatment for her anxiety and depression, and continue to serve in the many ways available other than as a full-time missionary.
If you haven't seen it, or haven't reviewed it lately, look again at Elder Holland's advice to missionaries who return early from their service for whatever reason at https://www.lds.org/media-library/video/2016-05-012-elder-hollands-counsel-for-early-returned-missionaries?lang=eng.
SNIPPET: Personal Testimony: Elder Andrew Taylor. Recently returned from the Cape Town South Africa Mission. A mission can be both one's personal Sacred Grove; but also one's personal Gethsemane.
"My mission was my own personal Sacred Grove. It was where I learned for myself who my Father in Heaven is and my Savior Jesus Christ; and I learned what they expect of me. It was where I had the most sacred spiritual experiences; and where I learned for myself that those kinds of experiences are very real. But my mission was also my own personal Gethsemane. There were days when I didn’t believe I could push through any longer and I wondered if there could be a simpler, easier way. Jesus Christ asked His Father if there was not an easier way. He didn’t want to go through everything He did, and neither did I. But because of the love Jesus has for us, His love for His Father, and His love of the truth, He pushed through. Because of His example, and with His help, I knew that I could push through too. Because I love my Heavenly Father and earthy father and mother, I knew I needed to give it my all and continue in the hard times. I am so grateful I pushed through. I have learned for myself that God lives, that Jesus is the Christ, the Savior and Redeemer of the world. I know Joseph Smith was and is the prophet of the restoration. The Church is true, and so is the Book of Mormon. I know these things by the power of the Holy Ghost and the countless experiences that I have had. Tears come to my eyes as I reflect on the last two years."
Check out the video of Elder Taylor's mission experience.
SNIPPET SECTION -Relatively brief quotes and ideas to help LDS missionaries. See the Blog Section of the web site for more detailed offerings.
SNIPPET: Many of us go through periods where we don't feel the Spirit as we would like. It may help to realize the promise is that if we are worthy we will always have the Spirit with us, but we may not always feel it. Lots of things can get in the way of feeling connected to the Spirit; such as being distracted, anxious, depressed, too busy, or perhaps we are going through a period of testing. But if we remain basically worthy, the Spirit will still be there as we need it.
SNIPPET: “Just as we should not lower the standards that the Lord has established for the conduct of His servants, we are also not authorized to raise them…Be sure that you do not have higher standards for yourself or others than the Lord has established” (Elder Cecil O. Samuelson Jr, “Perfection, Perceptions, Pressures, and Principles”. Provo Missionary Training Center devotional, Mar 19, 2002.
SNIPPET: Those preparing for a mission would be wise to talk with parents, priesthood leaders, or someone you trust about how to handle the three "R's" that full-time missionaries so often face. The three "R's" are:
REJECTION: Few will be interested in your message. Daily rejection is likely. You may be rejected, or at least apparently so, by a love interest at home, your missionary companion, or friends and family who quit writing regularly, or for some other reason seem to lose interest. At some point in your mission, it might even seem like God is rejecting you; or at least not hearing you.
ROUTINE: Be prepared for repetitive study and many of the same activities day in and day out.
RESTRICTIONS: You won't be able to do some of the things to reduce stress that have worked for you in the past; i.e., go for a long run, read a book, or play a video game. There will be more rules than you are accustomed to; some of which may seem ridiculous to you. Be prepared for very high expectations from mission leaders, companions, members, and your self.
SNIPPET: Here is a common, but unhealthy way of thinking that can cause unnecessary guilt and concern: “If something doesn’t work out well (bad lesson, a promising investigator quits, etc.) I must have done something wrong”. In missionary work, and many other pursuits in life, the fact that something didn’t work out is not good evidence of having done something wrong. For example, you could teach a great lesson; but have it fall on deaf ears for reasons beyond your control. Even the best teacher ever, the Savior Himself, had that experience more than once. When something doesn’t work out the way you had hoped, just ask yourself these questions: Was I trying my best to do the right thing? Was I inspired to do something that I refused to do? Is there something I am doing that would obviously block me from access to inspiration? If you know you didn’t try to do your best, if you refused to follow spiritual promptings, or if there is some obvious problem in your life that would preclude the Spirit, then put every effort into fixing the problem. If not, accept the disappointment without guilt (don’t blame yourself for the fact that something didn’t work out); just get back up and move on.
SNIPPET: Missionaries are sometimes tempted to do things that are clearly inappropriate; and in these cases they should use the guilt they feel to help motivate them to repent. Far too many, however, feel guilty when there is no good reason. The resulting stress is counterproductive and no doubt makes Satan smile. It’s clear that Lucifer will take advantage of any opportunity to tempt a missionary to do too much of a good thing. He knows this will sometimes derail a missionary as quickly as when he or she does a truly bad thing. Not only that, but this is a tool Lucifer can use on even great missionaries who have proven resistant to more overt temptation.
SNIPPET: Most missionaries and general members of the Church understand how important it is to give the gospel our best effort. But how can we know when we are doing our best? With something open ended like our commitment to the gospel, there is always something more that we could do. When facing this question, it might be helpful to define our best effort as our best effort under the circumstances. We sometimes define best effort in terms of the best possible effort; and/or what we have been able to accomplish or could accomplish under ideal circumstances. Unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately from God’s perspective) we don’t operate under ideal circumstances. We are human. Talents vary from person to person and even within an individual over time. We experience peaks and valleys in our endurance, health, and other circumstances. The Lord considers all of this in His judgments of us and we should do likewise when judging how successful we are in keeping His commandments.
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