Sunday, November 25, 2012

President's Weekly Letter #13

(1 Nephi 18:1)

Belgium/Netherlands Mission


God is our Heavenly Father and we are his spirit children.  He has a glorified, perfect body of flesh and bones and he loves us.  In the pre-existence we grew and developed becoming more like him. He proposed a loving plan that allowed us to continue progressing.  His plan gave us our agency and opportunity for an earthly experience outside his presence.  We would gain essential learning and growth from our choices through personal experiences of work, successes, regrets, love, trials, adversity, sorrow, etc.  We would receive a mortal body of flesh and bones and could prove ourselves to show we would do all things whatsoever the Lord commands us.
Heavenly Father knew we would make mistakes during our earthly experience and that we would learn through our mistakes and course corrections.  He also knew that no unclean thing can enter his presence.  So once we sin, the punishment would be we would never be able to return to live with him.  He also knew we would die and leave our imperfect body of flesh and bones behind.  
Therefore, the heart of his plan included the atonement.  A Savior would be provided who, through his suffering, would take upon himself the sins of the world, pay the penalty or consequence for sin as demanded by the law of justice and offer us mercy in return.  This sacrifice of Jesus Christ involved suffering that was real.
“Though He suffered beyond comprehension – so much so that he bled from every pore and asked whether it were possible that this burden be lifted from Him…” (PMG, p.52)
Thanks to his sacrifice, we would then not be punished (never be able to return to live in his presence) for our sins and be welcomed back into the presence of God.  All he asks in return for standing in our place and suffered the penalty for our sins is our accepting saving ordinances and enduring to the end.  Also; through the atonement we would receive our body back but in a perfect and immortal form.
“…whoso taketh upon him my name, and endureth to the end, the same shall be saved at the last day…no unclean thing can enter into his kingdom; therefore nothing entereth into his rest save it be those who have washed their garments in my blood, because of their faith, and the repentance of all their sins, and their faithfulness unto the end.” (3 Nephi 27:6,19)
“…the death of Christ shall loose the bands of this temporal death, that all shall be raised from this temporal death.” (Alma 11:42)
We read in Moses more detail about the Plan and its selection process.  Satan proposed an alternate plan where everyone would be saved through force.  In Satan’s plan: Satan would destroy our agency, Satan wanted glory and power and there would be no Redeemer necessary.
Satan came saying, “…behold, here am I, send me, I will redeem all mankind, that one soul shall not be lost…I will do it.…give me thine honor.”  Then Christ said, “Father thy will be done and the glory be thine forever.” (Moses 4:1-2)
The record also states that Satan was cast down,
 “…because that Satan rebelled against me, and sought to destroy the agency of man, which I, the Lord God, had given him, and also that I should give unto him mine own power.” (Moses 4:3)
President Thomas S. Monson explains the two plans as follows and which clarifies our early dependence on and the deep root of the Law of Sacrifice embedded in the atonement:
“We know that we had our agency before this world was and that Lucifer attempted to take it from us. He had no confidence in the principle of agency or in us and argued for imposed salvation. He insisted that with his plan none would be lost, but he seemed not to recognize—or perhaps not to care—that in addition, none would be any wiser, any stronger, any more compassionate, or any more grateful if his plan were followed.
We who chose the Savior’s plan knew that we would be embarking on a precarious, difficult journey, for we walk the ways of the world and sin and stumble, cutting us off from our Father. But the Firstborn in the Spirit.” offered Himself as a sacrifice to atone for the sins of all. Through unspeakable suffering He became the great Redeemer, the Savior of all mankind, thus making possible our successful return to our Father.”
Elders and Sisters, Part 2 – The Offer, follows next week.  Operation Build a Stake as of Nov.18, 2012 has 24 baptisms with 426 remaining.
President Robinson

President's Weekly Letter #12

(1 Nephi 18:1)

Belgium/Netherlands Mission



Numbers this week show total to date of 23 baptisms, 427 to go to complete Operation Build a Stake.  Progress is slow but we are building a big head of steam with the  increased number of progressing investigators.  Keep up the good work.

We have been sent to the Belgium Netherlands Mission to invite people to come unto Christ and help them receive the restored gospel through … baptism (PMG p.1).  We have been directed to push for more growth through baptisms but the baptisms are to be real growth, meaning the new members stay active in the church once they come in the church.  The Europe Area goal is to double church attendance by the year 2020.  Within this goal, we are busy building the 5th Stake in the Belgium Netherlands Mission.  This will require substantial new converts and reactivation of current members.  One way to improve retainage of new converts is to teach the Covenant of baptism in addition to the Ordinance of baptism.

The difference is subtle but important.  Teaching the ordinance, you will find yourself using words such as:  baptismal font, water, emersion, forgiveness of sin, symbolic, washed clean, etc.  These concepts are good to teach but teaching the covenant should better assist the new convert to strengthen his or her commitment to endure to the end.

Teaching the covenant helps new converts better understand the promises they make at baptism.  The Baptismal Interview question number 6 asks:

“When you are baptized, you covenant with God that you are willing to take upon yourself the name of Christ and keep His commandments throughout your life.  Are you ready to make this covenant and strive to be faithful to it?”

While this question is simple and complete, additional details of what the covenant means are stipulated in DC 20:37, Moroni 6:2-4, Mosiah 18:8-10, Mosiah 5:7-9.  While these references are given in PMG, the narrative we give is often something like, “…we promise our Heavenly Father to keep His commandments for the rest of our lives, do good works, serve others and follow the example of the Savior…”  However, a quick summary of the specific commitments that are part of the baptismal covenant outlined in these scriptures includes the candidate being willing to:

·      Be humble before God
·      Desire to be baptized
·      Come with a broken heart and contrite spirit
·      Be willing to take upon yourself the name of Jesus Christ
·      Manifest by works the receipt of the spirit of Christ
·      Bear burdens of others
·      Mourn with those who mourn
·      Comfort those who need comfort
·      Stand as a witness at all times, things and places
·      Changed heart
·      Determination to serve him to the end

Teaching these principles should better assist the investigator to understand that baptism is not an end destination but only a beginning point or entrance to the path to be followed throughout their lives as taught in the doctrine of Christ in 2 Nephi 31.  An important early step in their journey along that path should be to go to the temple for baptisms for the dead as soon a possible then one year after baptism receive their own endowments.  Investigators should understand that to receive the temple covenants are also of eternal importance.

In conclusion, the ordinance is an outward representation of the inward promise.  The covenant is of huge importance.  Christ said,

“…whoso repenteth and is baptized in my name shall be filled; and if he endureth to the end, behold, him will I hold guiltless before my Father at the day when I shall stand to judge the world…Now this is the commandment: Repent, all ye ends of the earth, and come unto me and be baptized in my name, that ye may be sanctified by the reception of the Holy Ghost, that ye may stand spotless before me at the last day.” (3 Nephi 27:16,20)

We covenant to do our best our whole lives (we call this in the Church ‘enduring to the end’) to live the promises listed above.  Partaking of the sacrament each week is an ordinance that renews the baptismal covenant.  When Jesus instituted the sacrament among the Nephites, He commanded,

“…give it unto the people of my church, unto all those who shall believe and be baptized in my name. And this shall ye always observe to do…” (3 Nephi 18:5-6)

 People can literally start each Sunday with a clean sheet of paper when the Sacrament is used properly.  They can continue their journey to improve and live in accordance with the conditions of the covenant long after the ordinance is performed. 

President's Weekly Letter #11

(1 Nephi 18:1)

Belgium/Netherlands Mission


Since this Operation Build a Stake was announced on September 19, 2012, we have baptized 22 people through 4 Nov. 2012.  We have 428 to go.  Keep up the great work.

In the 1960’s a successful plastic surgeon by the name of Maxwell Maltz specialized in operating on peoples’ faces.  His patients were people who had a conspicuously ugly face, or some other freakish feature. Dr. Maltz would operate and correct the face into a beautiful or handsome face as the case may be.

He also found something very interesting.  In most cases that person would experience an almost immediate rise or improvement in self-esteem, self-confidence, his personality, his behavior and sometimes even his basic talents and abilities as a result of correcting the superficial feature of the face

But, this was only in most cases.  In some cases, the patient continued to feel inadequate and inferior.  They would feel, act and behave just as if they still had an ugly face.

He learned that reconstruction of physical image itself was not the real key to change in personality.  There was something else.  When this something else was reconstructed, the person himself changed.  When this something else was not reconstructed the person
remained the same although his physical features might be radically different.

That something else is the self- image.  The self- image sets the boundaries of individual accomplishment.  It defines what you can and cannot do.  Expand the self- image and you expand the area of the possible for yourself.

Dr. Maltz wrote a book, titled Psycho-Cybernetics, about his findings with case studies.  As a plastic surgeon, he was reluctant to publish his book because it probably would not be received well in the medical profession for a surgeon to write about psychology.

 Dr. Maltz learned two things about self image:
1 – All your actions, feelings, behavior and even your abilities are always consistent with your self-image.
2 – The self-image can be changed!

I believe our personal self-image is tied closely with our personal faith and if that is the case our faith can be changed.  Elder Neil R. Anderson stated:

“Several years ago a friend of mine had a young daughter die in a tragic accident. Hopes and dreams were shattered. My friend felt unbearable sorrow. He began to question what he had been taught and what he had taught as a missionary…I laid my hands upon his head…the impression that came to me was: Faith is not only a feeling; it is a decision. He would need to choose faith.  (Nov. Ensign 2008, You are Enough)

Faith is not only a feeling, but a choice!  Regardless of the adversity, we can choose to go out every day working hard, optimistic, enthused, and friendly, loving the work and fully expecting miracles and success.  If that is not what faith looks like, I do not know what does. We have power to control this behavior by simply choosing it.  The atonement allows us to forget yesterday and old habits and then focus on today’s work and tomorrow’s plans.  Of course our actions must be centered on faith in Jesus Christ and his power to bring about our desired success. 

Unshakable faith in Christ does not necessarily mean that we never waiver.  The righteous people, many of whom survived the destruction that occurred in the Americas at the time of the crucifixion of Christ, experienced persecution when Christ was born.  The scripture records:

“…the people who believed began to be very sorrowful, lest by any means those things which had been spoken might not come to pass….they watched steadfastly...that they might know that their faith had not been vain.” (3 Nephi 1:7-8)

Those people continued with their behavior of faith in the coming of Christ, even though it meant being put to death the following day.

Elders and Sisters, I encourage each of you to be the one who goes out every day working hard, optimistic, enthused, and friendly, loving the work and fully expecting miracles and success.  Burn this self-image into your definition of who you are.  I know we will see great fruits from our labors as we do this.  We are building stake number 5 here in the Belgium Netherlands Mission.