Saturday, May 17, 2014

Our First Entry!

      It has been 10 1/2 months since the Washington Federal Way Mission was created.  Now that we have our feet under us, we decided it was time to begin a mission blog.  This will likely only be updated once a month or so, but hopefully it will give parents and incoming missionaries a chance to get a feel for things here, starting with the beautiful Mt. Rainier!

     This week we had our eighth transfer.  We said good-bye to some beloved friends and welcomed some new ones.  Farewell to Elders Johnson, Rice, Orr, Basilius, Giles, and Isham.  We also have a picture of our fabulous trainers shown with their trainees--Back: Elders Beckstrand, Clawson, Kim, Raps, Downing, Kim, Tavo, McKendrick, Hisita, and Thomas; Front: Sisters Heaton, Dolan, Wolfe, Hutchendorf, Killingsworth, and Syphus. And we offer a warm hello to our newest missionaries--Back: Elders Clawson, Raps, Kim, Tavo, and Hisita; Front: Pres. & Sis. Eaton, Sister Dolan and Hermana Killingsworth.

Each month the mission produces an electronic newsletter for the missionaries which includes an article from President Eaton.  May's entry follows.

When Thou Art Converted

            “When thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren,” the Savior once admonished Peter.  Had he said this shortly after calling the young apostle to follow him, the charge would not have been surprising.  But this admonition comes near the end of the Savior’s ministry (Luke 22:32).  Peter had been following the Savior for nearly three years, had left behind his prosperous fishing business, and had even walked a few steps on water.  That’s pretty impressive stuff for someone who hasn’t yet been converted.

            What can we learn from this?  Certainly, one critical truth is that without the gift of the Holy Ghost—which Peter would not receive until after the Savior’s resurrection—we cannot be fully converted.  But I wonder if the Savior isn’t also teaching all of his disciples that we have more room for spiritual growth and even conversion than we might think.  To know the Church is true is one thing, but according to Elder David A. Bednar, “True conversion brings a change in one’s beliefs, heart, and life to accept and conform to the will of God (see Acts 3:19; 3 Nephi 9:20) and includes a conscious commitment to become a disciple of Christ.”

            Watching such spiritual growth occur in each of you—and doing whatever Sister Eaton and I can to facilitate it—is one of the most rewarding and important parts of our current calling.  Our aim is not only to have more lasting conversions among the non-members of this mission, but first and foremost to have them among the missionaries.  I was recently reminded of how missions can transform even the best of missionaries when we received letters recently from our daughter who is serving a mission.  She was a marvelous young woman before her mission and is a great missionary now.  But she wrote asking each of us for forgiveness in very specific ways for things like having been selfish or unkind at times.  These were not the confessions of someone hoping to “clear things up” or “take care” of something so they could check a box; they were evidence of repentance born of a deepening faith in Christ.

My daughter’s actions were an example to me, an impressive reminder that faith and repentance are not one-time prerequisites to baptism but principles and practices that “when repeated throughout life . . . become an increasingly rewarding pattern of living” (Preach My Gospel, 6).  She prefaced her request by saying that she was striving to understand and apply the Atonement more in her own life, because of this truth in Preach My Gospel: “As your understanding [and I might add, your appreciation and application] of the Atonement grows, your desire to share the gospel will increase” (p. 2). 

            So my invitation to you is along the lines of what Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 13:5:  Examine yourselves and assess the depth of your own conversion.  After all, those who will ultimately reside in the presence of Heavenly Father in celestial glory will have developed an accurate sense of who they are and how far they have traveled.  They will “see as they are seen and know as they are known” (D&C 76:94).  For some of us, this includes discovering you are doing much better than you realize.  But others may learn that even though they are on the right path and heading in the right direction, they may have more room for improvement than they think. 

            Here are a few questions that might help you as you conduct your own conversion inventory:

Ø  How much do I truly love Heavenly Father and his children?
Ø  How much gratitude do I feel for the Atonement?  In fact, how grateful am I generally?
Ø  How often do I remember the Savior?  “For how knoweth a man the master whom he has not served, and who is a stranger unto him, and is far from the thoughts and intents of his heart?” (Mos. 5:13)
Ø  How single is my eye to the glory of God?  What is it that truly drives me?  What thoughts occupy my mind when I don’t have to think about anything else?
Ø  How much do I seek the praise of men rather than the approval of God?  If no one knew but God knew how hard I worked or what good I did, would I work any less?  Do I work as hard and obey as much when no one else sees my efforts?
Ø  How meaningful are my prayers?  When I pray, how real is the idea that I am personally addressing God, the Father of the Creator of the universe?  How much more respectful and focused would I be if I were having an actual conversation with the Prophet, an apostle, or even my stake president?

That list is far from comprehensive.  The bullet points on pages 10 and 11 of Preach My Gospel are fairly good indicators of conversion as well as missionary success.  And the scriptures are full of other questions you might ask as part of such an inventory.

Hopefully, your inventory will leave you with both some satisfaction about how far you have come, but also with a desire to continue to the climb to become the kind of truly converted disciple the Savior needs.  To help guide you on that journey, may I recommend a masterful talk by Elder Richard G. Scott:  “Full Conversion Brings Happiness,” from the April 2002 General Conference.

As each of us seeks, with God’s help, to draw nearer to God and deepen our own conversions, we will be more powerful instruments in his hands to help others enjoy the fruits of their own lasting conversions. 

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