Friday, August 8, 2014

President's Weekly Letter #99

Captain of My Soul
I have felt for some time a deepening appreciation for each of you missionaries.  Coming here for you may have seemed at the time an adventure and exciting, but it also required courage.  You instantly became heavily involved in the work of salvation, no longer simply sitting on the sideline watching.  You entered the arena and you are performing.   

Theodore Roosevelt, the 26th President of the United States, lived a somewhat exotic life style and though I disagree with his Progressive politics, he once stated:

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

It is as if he were speaking to each of you.  You came to the mission, entered the arena, and are striving valiantly with personal strengths and weaknesses.  Of you it is required, physical, emotional and spiritual work in a backdrop of trials and adversity.  You experience successes and failures, you make choices and you come face to face with your weaknesses and unachieved ambitions.  You realize your personal accountability for your results.  You experience personal breakthroughs as you become what our Father in Heaven intends you to become.  You essentially state, “By my works, judge me.”  This is part of what makes a mission so great. 

The combination of entry level circumstances are infinite.  You may have a great or little knowledge of the gospel.  You may have great or little faith, come from a broken or non-member home with no support or from a traditional family with strong emotional and financial support and you may be the 1st missionary from your family or one of many in the tradition of serving.  You may be the student body president type: the flashy, confident, proud, have it all, rich, athletic type with girl or a boyfriend.  You may be troubled or lazy or have low self-esteem and low aspirations. You may be unhealthy or prone to anti-social behavior.  You may be an average work horse with average skills.  You may be on the rebound from sin and addictions that still plague you.  No matter what the circumstances, the personal breakthroughs still happen and wonderful transformation occurs as you perform in the arena.

A few years ago, I learned a lesson that would help anyone have success on a mission.  I split a tooth; one of my back teeth, upper jaw on the right side.  The tooth actually had been a root canal at one time, the cap was defective and caused the split which was fatal for the tooth.  My dentist in Den Haag specializes in fixing problems such as this. He recommended replacement with an artificial tooth.  Installation of the artificial tooth took 6 months with several treatment steps.  The broken tooth was extracted.  Time was given to heal with bone growth enhancers.  Computer imaging and lab work was done to make my new tooth.  My gum was pealed back and a hole was drilled in the jaw for the artificial implant. A hole was drilled just deep enough to not enter the sinus cavity.  Bone in the jaw between the hole and the sinus cavity was then fractured with a hammer and steel punch.  It sounded like repairing the swather on the ranch.  The implant looked like a large grabber screw and was screwed into my jaw with a ratchet wrench like I use on the swather on the ranch.  I could feel my head torque with each pull on the wrench as the implant was ratcheted in.  Thanks to my dentist, it was a successful, interesting and painless experience.

You have all been to the dentist and have all seen what I saw.  My mouth and eyes were wide open, and two masked faces were peering into and sticking instruments into my mouth.  However, what caught my attention most of all was the verbal exchange between Dr. Leo and Brenda, his assistant during every procedure.  They never deviated.  It went something like this: Assistant: “Dr. that hole you drilled was perfectly aligned,” Doctor: “Thank you, it was perfect.”  Doctor: “The ping sound of the punch was perfect so I know the bone broke into the sinuses correctly,” Assistant: “You hammered that perfectly.” Assistant: “The artificial tooth you fitted is perfect.”  Doctor:  “It is beautiful, isn’t it?”  Assistant: “The screw was torqued to exactly the correct spot.”  Doctor: “Yes, it is perfect.”  I was so impressed with their optimism and positive outlook.  Plus, as the patient, I really needed to hear that (regardless of the truth).

Your own optimism or positive attitude goes a long way to help you progress as you perform in your personal arena.  Progress happens with diligent, consistent effort and faith that Jesus Christ will succor you according to your infirmities.  Remember the Lord told Ether regarding your weaknesses that, “…I will make weak things become strong unto [you].”  (Ether 12:27) So, you must optimistically strive valiantly knowing the change will occur through Jesus Christ.

With optimism and a clear hope for a better world to which you are progressing, you are still accountable to do the work.  I think this is part of what Paul meant when he stated:

 22 But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves.
 23 For if any be a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a glass:
 24 For he beholdeth himself, and goeth his way, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was.
 25 But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed. (James 1:22-15)

The poet William Ernest Henley, 1849-1903, grew up in poverty.  Later in life his leg was amputated due to tuberculosis.  His other leg needed an operation so, believe it or not, he switched doctors.  The new doctor was able to save his remaining leg after some foot operations.  While recovering from his surgeries he wrote the poem later named “Invictus.”  It pretty well describes your accountability to perform in this arena that we call a mission:

Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds, and shall find, me unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate,
I am the captain of my soul.

President Robinson

No comments:

Post a Comment