On 26 June 1876, the U.S. 7th Cavalry including 700 men in 12 companies led by General George Armstrong Custer suffered a severe defeat in the Battle of the Little Bighorn also known as Custer’s Last Stand. General Custer along with 5 of the 12 companies were annihilated counting 268 dead and 55 injured. It was a massacre.
This famous battle occurred during the Great Sioux War of 1876 near the Little Bighorn River in eastern Montana Territory. The 7th Cavalry fought a coalition of Native American tribes of Lakota, Northern Cheyenne and Arapaho led by legendary Chiefs: Crazy Horse, Gall and Sitting Bull.
Although, he graduate last in his class at West point (which might explain something), General Custer developed a strong reputation during the American Civil war as a highly effective cavalry commander. He was even present at General Robert E. Lee’s surrender. But, typical, the Battle of the Little Bighorn overshadowed all his prior achievements.
One of the important clues about the cause of that massacre is a statement made by General Custer prior to his departing on that military mission.
“The Indians have long opposed all efforts of white men to enter the Black Hills, but I will have a well-equipped force, strong enough to take care of itself.” (George Armstrong Custer)
General Custer certainly had confidence in himself and his own ability. The battle is symbolic in many ways of missionary work. Custer set out with his own strength wanting and expecting success in achieving his vision and goals. As a missionary, you will also be massacred if you do the same. Your faith must be in Jesus Christ and what He can do in your work. Love is closely connected and is a key ingredient of faith. You must love the Lord, Jesus Christ, love the people and love the work as you successfully work alongside the Lord in gathering Israel (Jacob 5:72). The Lord said,
31 Cursed is he that putteth his trust in man, or maketh flesh his arm, or shall hearken unto the precepts of men, save their precepts shall be given by the power of the Holy Ghost. (2 Nephi 28:31)
37 …Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.
38 This is the first and great commandment.
39 And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. (Matt 22:31-40)
We are building the 5th Stake in the mission. But, let’s be honest, we experience a mediocre 0.8 baptisms per year per missionary. We average only 6.7 lessons per week per companionship. We teach 20 – 30 RAD’s (Restoration and Baptism invitation) per week and add each week in the mission 10 – 15 new names to the list of people with baptismal dates. We need to do better to achieve our vision.
I firmly believe that the heart and mind of missionaries, our expectations, is what changes things in the mission field. When we change our heart and mind, we will change our results. When I talk about your heart and mind, I am talking about your faith. Alma teaches how faith grows and he connects faith directly to your heart and mind.
28…give place that a seed may be planted in your heart…
34…If the growing seed swells in your souls…your understanding doth begin to be enlightened and your mind doth begin to expand… (Alma 32:28, 34)
To me, faith is a difficult attribute to get my arms around. How do you increase your faith? I often hear missionaries say, “I just need more faith to find and baptize.” As such, they are always needy, and frankly they will never feel that they have enough faith. The need will wear them out. Here is a simple, hands on formula to increase your faith to find and baptize.
“As a missionary, you are expected to keep the commandments willingly, to obey mission rules, and to follow the counsel of your leaders. Obedience is the first law of heaven. It is an act of faith. You may sometimes be required to do things you do not completely understand. As you obey, you increase in faith, knowledge, wisdom, testimony, protection, and freedom. Strive to be obedient to the Lord, the living prophet, and your mission president. (PMG p. 122)
Your increase of faith to find and baptize is directly related to your obedience. Obedience is an act of faith; it is a choice. It is something you just willingly do out of duty or commitment. Certain temptations may always seem attractive to you, so obedience may never be easy. You are simply expected to choose to be obedient. Further, to paraphrase President Benson,
“…when obedience ceases to be an irritant, then it can become a blessing.”
As long as you justify yourself and make excuses for lack of obedience, obedience will be an irritant. Many missionaries may never have completely left home. Some resist being fully obedient to the commandments, to the mission rules and to their leaders. In short, if you want more faith to find and baptize then strive to be more obedient.
Love for the Lord, the people and the work are also difficult concepts for me to get my arms around. How do you increase your love? I often hear missionaries say, “I just need to love the Lord, or the people or the work more before I can realize success.” As such, they are always needy, and frankly they will always feel that they need to feel more love; they will never be good enough. Here is a simple, hands on formula to increase your love so that you can find and baptize. The Lord said,
15 If ye love me, keep my commandments. (John 14:15)
Love is the highest level of motivation followed by: duty, payment or bribe, fear and force. Willing obedience will increase your love just as it increases your faith.
There you have it. Faith in Jesus Christ to find and baptize, plus love of the Lord, the people and the work all are increased through obedience. You have complete control over obedience, while faith and the love are more abstract to control or grow.
I firmly believe that the heart and mind of missionaries, our expectations, is what changes things in the mission field. When we change our heart and mind, we will change our results. Obedience is how the heart and mind are changed, so if you are going to change your baptism results on your Mission, you must be more obedient.
Your mission will be a disaster if you put your faith and love in man (yourself) and harkening to their precepts. Instead increase your faith and love in Jesus Christ and what He can do.