When Learning the Language of Your Mission Proves to be Close to Impossible
Problem: An Elder, who we will call Elder Ward, felt guilty that he wasn’t learning French as fast as he should. He kept comparing himself with his companion and others who had been on their mission longer, and/or who had a facility for languages. He kept thinking that he must not have enough faith, or he must not be trying hard enough. This problem continued to the point that Elder Ward became quite depressed and believed that he was wasting his time as a missionary.
Points to Consider: When Elder Ward shared his problem with his Mission President, he was asked several questions. Are you praying sincerely for help? Are you following the recommended missionary study program? Are you trying to speak French as often as you can when out and about? The answer to each question was “yes”, which led the Mission President to conclude: “Well then, you have nothing to feel guilty about. Quit worrying and just keep doing your best. I’m convinced the Lord accepts your effort. He has heard your prayer; and He certainly has the power to help you with the language. Since he hasn’t helped you solve the problem—yet anyway—that means it must not be a significant problem from His perspective. So again, do your best and leave the rest in the Lord’s hands. And by all means, quit worrying about it.”
As confirmed by the Mission President, guilt in this situation was unnecessary. Guilt was actually making it harder to learn French, and it was detracting from Elder Ward’s enjoyment of his mission. The Mission President’s advice was basically for Elder Ward to make sure he was doing his duty and then persevere. He should just keep doing what he could and not worry about the rest. This is essentially the advice found in the Doctrine and Covenants, “Therefore, dearly beloved brethren, let us cheerfully do all things that lie in our power; and then may we stand still (no worry, no guilt), with the utmost assurance, to see the salvation of God, and for His arm to be revealed (D&C 123:17, italics and parenthesis added).
Likewise, in the Sermon on the Mount, the Savior makes an important promise that Elder Ward might have been overlooking. “Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart; and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30). It’s apparent that Elder Ward had taken on the yoke of Christ. He was not perfect; yet he was committed in his discipleship. He was serving more, studying more, and living a more righteous life than ever before. But primarily because of his struggle with a foreign language, he was also burdened like never before.
Essentially, Elder Ward was not taking advantage of the opportunity inherent in having the Savior as a partner. To explain, think of what it means to be yoked to Christ. A yoke, of course, is a harness or crosspiece that is fastened to the necks of two animals in a way that allows them to pull some burden together. When two animals are thus yoked, the strength of each is multiplied, even beyond what would be expected by simply adding the power of each animal. For example, it has been reported that a typical Belgian draft horse can pull 8,000 pounds. When harnessed together with another, the two together can pull 20,000 to 24,000 pounds--significantly more than the sum of what each horse could pull alone. But assume that one of the horses had infinite power, in which case, the pulling power of the normal horse attached to it would be multiplied infinitely. No burden would be too much to pull.
This means that when yoked to the Savior we cannot lose. And herein lies the opportunity to not worry about things we can’t control. Since the one we are yoked to does everything perfectly, and has all power, we can rest assured that whatever He is involved in will ultimately work to our advantage, as well as to the advantage of others we care about. If we are yoked to the Savior, we therefore need not worry about unfortunate present circumstances, or unwanted future possibilities, or even problems learning French. Thanks to the Atonement, after repentance, we also need not worry about our past mistakes. In short, as long as we are partnered with the Savior and doing our best to follow Him, we need not worry about or fear anything! Nor, as we persistently try to overcome them, do we need to feel guilty or frustrated by our natural limitations.
Dr. Gary G. Taylor