Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Good vs. Great - Service, Sacrifice and Example - Treasures in Heaven

The difference between good and great is very subtle. And the world’s definitions of greatness vary. Let me explain some of the attributes of true greatness as I see it by sharing some examples. Think about these two great historical individuals from modern society, Mother Theresa and Ghandi. Both these individuals are considered great by most people who are familiar with their lives. Why? What sets them apart from other people? As I thought about this, I realized they are not considered great for what they did or accomplished per se, but for what they did for others and the examples they set. Neither held positions of formal power or authority nor sought for such recognition. The legacy they left was the impact they had on millions of people through their service, sacrifice and examples.

This kind of greatness is not the same as the greatness that may be achieved by an athlete that scores the most points or wins the most championships. That kind of greatness is based on what they accomplished largely for themselves. In a sense, it was for personal glory, satisfaction or even for money. Don't get me wrong, I respect great athletes, but that kind of greatness is not lasting and will eventually fade or even be forgotten. It is not the true greatness I am talking about or personally striving for.
Now think of the Savior, Jesus Christ, the greatest of all. The great sacrifice he made for each of us individually and all mankind, the infinite atonement. It is what the Savior did for each of us that defines His greatness. It was in His doing the will of the Father and not himself. It was His great example of a perfect life. Service, Sacrifice and Example!
True greatness does not fade with time. It is remembered and endures. It is an infinite atonement!
True greatness comes from sacrifice. It is achieved when one does something that merely good people choose not to do. The Savior said, not my will, but thine. To those who choose greatness it is not really a sacrifice to do so, it is simply choosing the right thing when faced with tough personal choices. It is submitting your own will and desires to a greater good, one that will benefit others. True greatness comes from consistency. It is being grounded in true principles and not wavering even when the wind seems to blow against you. It is achieved when you become a light and example to others, not because of your position or status in the world, but because of your character and the standard you have set for others.
I have come to the conclusion that the most important thing we can do in this life is to become more like the greatest of all, Jesus Christ. He is our example. We come to be more like Him when we follow his example and strive to develop the same attributes He possessed and exhibited throughout His mortal ministry. These attributes of Christ are a key to achieving greatness in this life and they are the Treasures He spoke of when He admonished us to Lay Up Treasures in Heaven. Attributes like Charity, Kindness, Love, Service, Sacrifice, Faith, Hope, Diligence, Virtue and Humility are some of the Treasures we must acquire on earth and lay up in Heaven. These aspects of greatness are enduring and the only things (besides our eternal families) we can personally take with us into the next life.

For our missionaries:
The difference between being a good missionary and a great missionary may be found in your attitude and motivation. Your desire to serve, your willingness to sacrifice and what kind of example you set will certainly define what kind of missionary you become and how you will be remembered when you complete your mission. That will be your legacy. Are you here to score a lot of points or compete with others? Or are you here to serve the Lord and help others come unto Christ through your service, sacrifice and example. Are you here to do your will or out of obligation to fulfill your duty or someone else’s expectations? Or are you here to do the will of the Father because you love Him and your fellowman? You can follow the program and go through the motions and be a good missionary. Or you can be great missionaries by doing the will of the Father in all things, as did the Savior.

Through our service, sacrifice, and example we will help people come unto Christ. Each of you has the potential to influence the lives of hundreds, even thousands, of people through your work as a missionary. We help people come unto Christ by inviting them to make and keep commitments. As we teach true doctrine, testify and show a good example, people will begin to have faith in Christ and the courage to keep commitments and obey the commandments. These commitments prepare people to make and keep covenants. The first covenant people need to make to prepare to return to our Father in Heaven is done through the ordinance of baptism. Be bold in your efforts to invite people to change and keep commitments. It is how they repent and come unto Christ. It is how you will play a role in helping them come unto Christ. It is how you will influence the lives of people as a missionary and how you will become a Great Missionary. Don't settle for good, when you have the potential to be great.

President and Sister McIntyre

The Doctrine and Experience of Conversion

May 2010 - Sister McIntyre and I attended a wonderful baptism this past week. The man who was baptized commented in his testimony that when he came to church the first time, he was warmly greeted by the members and he felt a wonderful spirit. He said everyone was so kind and friendly. He said those feelings he had at that time helped him exercise the faith to commit to be baptized. He said he did not know everything about the gospel yet, but he knew it must be good. I believe that when he was baptized that day, he did not necessarily “know” the church is true. However, he certainly felt something good and had hope that it is true, and those feelings and that hope led him to exercise his faith in Christ and accept baptism.

I visited some with him at the baptism. I am confident that if he continues to study the gospel, and is properly nourished and fellowshipped by the members, he will someday have a burning testimony of the gospel and even become a leader in the church here in Japan. But for now he has simply planted the seed of the gospel in his heart, hoping it is a good seed. He is doing all this based on the good feelings he had when he listened to the missionary lessons, read, prayed, and met the members. Those good feelings are from the Spirit. And the Spirit is the KEY to conversion. This is the process or experience people have when they are converted to the gospel.

Alma taught, “Now, as I said concerning faith – that it was not a perfect knowledge-even so is it with my words. Ye cannot know of their surety at first, unto perfection, any more than faith is a perfect knowledge.” (Alma 32:26)

And so it is with our investigators. I am confident that when most people accept baptism, it is exactly as Alma describes it in Alma 32 and as the man whose baptism we attended. Our job as missionaries is to help people plant the seed. To help them exercise that particle of faith to an experiment upon the words of Christ.

Alma says “…yea even if ye can no more than a desire to believe, let this desire work in you, even until ye believe in a manner that ye can give place for a portion of my words.” (Alma 32:27)

As Alma continues and compares the conversion process unto a seed he says that after planting that seed (the gospel) in your heart “…if it be a true seed, or a good seed…behold, it will begin to swell within your breast; and when you feel these swelling motions, ye will begin to say within yourselves, it must needs be that this is a good seed, or that the word is good, for it beginneth to enlarge my soul; yea it beginneth to enlighten my understanding, yea it beginneth to be delicious unto me.” (Alma 32:28) Finally in verse 29 Alma says these feelings will cause your faith to grow, but he continues that even with increased faith, you will not have a perfect knowledge.

As missionaries we must understand the Doctrine of Conversion. Likewise we must understand the Experience of Conversion. When we teach we must help our investigators know when the Spirit is giving them an answer to their humble prayer about the gospel and baptism. Time and time again, I hear about investigators who are “waiting” to get an answer. In many cases, after talking with them directly or the missionaries teaching them, it usually becomes apparent to me that they have probably already received an answer. The problem is they have failed to recognize it or acknowledge it and we, as missionaries, have failed to help them realize this.

Helping People Become Converted:
For people to be converted to the gospel and receive baptism they need to understand the doctrines of Christ (as we teach in our lessons) and they need to feel the Spirit.  The understanding of true doctrine and the feeling of the Spirit will build faith and help people make and keep commitments that lead them to baptism. President Boyd K. Packer has taught that true doctrine, understood, changes attitudes and behavior. When people understand the teachings and then feel in their heart through the Spirit that these teachings are good, they will then begin to have the courage and will to change. For an investigator or new convert, it is probably better to say that they feel the gospel is true, rather than they know the gospel is true in the early stages of there conversion.

The Doctrine and Experience of Conversion:
The Spirit is the Key to conversion. Elder M. Russell Ballard has taught: “True conversion comes through the power of the Spirit. When the Spirit touches the heart, hearts are changed. When individuals…feel the Spirit working within them, or when they see evidence of the Lord’s love and mercy in their lives, they are edified and strengthened spiritually and their faith in Him increases. These experiences with the Spirit follow naturally when a person is willing to experiment upon the word. This is how we come to FEEL the gospel is true.” (PMG p.93) We must help our investigators feel the Spirit and experiment upon the word. This means helping them make and keep commitments, including the commitment to be baptized.

As missionaries, we must teach with the SpiritNephi 33:1) If the recipient of the word truly has a desire to know the truth, he will open his heart and give place for a portion of those words. And the Spirit will enter his heart and he will FEEL the message is good or true. We must not shy away from testifying at that moment. We must acknowledge and tell people when the Spirit is present in a lesson. We should let people know those good feelings they are having when they read, pray or attend church are from the Spirit and the answer they are looking for.

The conversion experience requires people to change. People will usually not change unless they are invited to do so. Our purpose is to invite others to come unto Christ. People come unto Christ through baptism. People prepare for baptism by making and keeping commitments that help them repent and prepare to receive that saving ordinance. “As people choose to keep commitments, they will feel the power of the Holy Ghost more strongly and will develop the faith to obey Christ. Thus you should help the people you work with grow in faith by inviting them to repent and to make and keep commitments.” (PMG P. 93)

Preach My Gospel Missionaries are bold, but not overbearing. They are not afraid to ask people, through the Spirit, to repent. This means talking about baptism often and inviting people to come unto Christ by receiving that saving ordinance. It is my prayer that we will go forward with boldness, declaring the doctrines of Christ through the power of the Spirit. We should never be afraid to invite someone to keep a commitment or be baptized. This is what we have been called to do. It is our purpose and how people come unto Christ. Further, we should not hesitate to invite people to change and be baptized because we worry that they may not be able to endure to the end. We must have faith in them and in the atonement of Christ. Remember Saul (who became Paul) and Alma the younger. People can and will change more than we can imagine. Enduring to the end can be difficult. Some fall down along the way. Most get up and eventually back on the right path. Likewise, we should not hesitate to baptize people when they “feel” the gospel is true, but think they need to wait until they “know” everything. They will never know everything. And that line of thinking contradicts the principle of faith. When people have a desire to change and feel what we are teaching is good, and they understand the basic doctrines taught in the missionary lessons, they are ready for baptism. Of course they will need to be interviewed, and commit to follow the commandments and desire to take upon themselves the name of Christ. They will also need continued support and to be nourished by the members with the good word of God. But we should do all within our power to help them enter that gate and begin their journey on the path to eternal life and exaltation. That gate is baptism.

 I pray we all can come to better understand the Doctrine and Experience of Conversion. To do so, prayerfully read Alma 32 again. Spend some time in Chapter 4 of Preach My Gospel. Then boldly go out with the power of the Spirit and invite people to come unto Christ! For that is our purpose and it is the Gospel of Jesus Christ!

“…My Father sent me that I might be lifted up upon the cross; and after that I had been lifted up upon the cross, that I might draw all men unto me…” (3 Nephi 27:14)

May the great missionaries of the Japan Kobe Mission never shy away from or shrink in their duty to assist the Savior in this glorious purpose!

President and Sister McIntyre

The Spirit is the Key - Remarks from Feb. 2009

These remarks were originally for my missionaries, but they certainly can be applied to all of us as we strive to have the Spirit guide our lives.

President Benson taught that “The Spirit is the most important single element in this work. With the Spirit you can do miracles for the Lord in the mission field.” The Spirit will help you draw upon the knowledge and skills you have developed to help you teach more powerfully. (See PMG p. 176)

The Spirit will give you confidence to open your mouth. A bold missionary is not rude or annoying. Rather he is not afraid to testify of Jesus Christ and the restored gospel. He is confident in, and understands his purpose, and therefore is not afraid to ask others to make and keep commitments. His power comes from his faith in Christ and he knows that the Spirit is the key. So he strives to be worthy to have the Spirit with him always.

As missionaries, the need for the spirit is two-fold. First, we must have the Spirit ourselves and second, we must help those we teach feel and recognize the Spirit as part of their conversion process. The first always precedes the second. In other words, we must first obtain the Spirit ourselves, so we can teach and testify in a manner that the Spirit can work through us to allow those we teach feel and recognize it and be converted.

“Seek not to declare my word, but first to obtain my word, then shall your tongue be loosed; then if you desire, you shall have my Spirit and my word, yea, the power of God unto the convincing of men. (D&C 11:21)

How can we ensure that we are worthy to have the Spirit with us so we can be successful missionaries?

The first criterion for having the Spirit is personal worthiness. Obedience is the price. Obedience to all the commandments and the mission rules and guidelines is essential. Sincere repentance can bring the Spirit back if you do not feel the Spirit and need to make changes in your life or mission.

Second, we must invite the Spirit and ask for guidance and strength from our Father in Heaven. As a missionary (or anyone for that matter), we invite the Spirit into our lives and daily activities when we start out the day with Prayer and Scripture Study. The missionary morning and evening schedule is designed to help you invite and keep the Spirit with you always. Obedience is the price. Obedience to the schedule (morning and nightly study and planning) qualify you for the guidance of the Spirit. Pray with faith morning and evening and throughout the day as you seek out and teach people. Effective prayer invites the Spirit and takes great effort. (see PMG p. 94)

As a missionary the Spirit will help you know where to go? What to do? What to say and how to teach more effectively. The Spirit will lead you to scriptures to help you learn and to help you teach others about the restored gospel. The Spirit is the Key.

As you teach people the gospel, testify boldly, use scriptures and share personal spiritual experiences. All these things will help you bring the Spirit you have with you, unto the hearts of those you teach. (see 2 Nephi 33:1) As you teach with the Spirit and those you teach feel the power of that Spirit, they will be able to make and keep commitments and become converted to the gospel of Christ.

May we all live worthy and strive to have the Spirit with us always. And just as important, may we listen to His promptings.

President and Sister McIntyre