When it is Difficult
All of you have faced or will face difficulties, trials and adversity of various types during your life. I think your mission to Belgium Netherlands is a great lesson giver; a precursor in learning to either face and overcome or endure future difficulties. On a mission, you learn about yourself and you learn to improve while dealing with everything that is thrown at you. Be it physical, emotional, spiritual, social and most likely all of the above, your very fabric will be tested now as well as all your life. You know the many trials suffered by all missionaries here; health, language, discouragement, worthiness, faith, depression, attitude, the elements, long work hours, rejection, separation, just to mention a few. Then there is the big one, you work long hours to contact and convert people but realize only minimal success. I have always thought it should be easier. After all we are the true church. Every one of you, when you return home, can sprint to your loved ones and proudly state, “I did it; I did something difficult!”
I could write a book on difficulties of all types that I have faced during my life. I consider myself somewhat of an expert, yet I recognize, thank God, there are still many challenges that I have not and never want to face. Let me share 2 examples of challenges of physical hard work.
I enjoyed hauling hay as a youth on the ranch in Flowell, Utah. Many kids my age found hauling hay a terrible task. For me, there was a certain component of machoism in hauling hay because of the accompanying fatigue and discomfort. I liked it. I remember hot windy days were particularly miserable with hay leaves blowing in my eyes and on my sweaty face and body. We would haul hay every day except Sundays during the full month of June and most of July and a few weeks in August. With our haul distances, we averaged hauling about 1200 bales per day, each weighing 85 pounds (38 kg). Once we set a goal and achieved 2000 bales in one day. We were exhausted and unproductive the following 3 days. So, it was better to stay consistent and steady doing that hard and sometimes miserable work.
We had about 200 irrigated acres in alfalfa hay, with 3 or 4 crops harvested each summer yielding about 8.0 tons per acre each growing season. That is a lot of weight to get out of the fields. We attached an elevator with tires and an inclined frame to the side of a 2 ton truck that had a big flat bed. By driving the truck along the rows of bales in the field, funneling them into the elevator, the bales were lifted by an axil driven, moving chain with bale teeth up the inclined frame. We would stand on the truck bed and pick up the bales traveling up the elevator and stack the bales on the truck bed. Once loaded, we drove to the stack yard where we unloaded the truck by hand and re-stacked the hay bales in a permanent hay stack for winter storage. Also, for you to gain an appreciation of the work involved in our ranch, we reloaded the hay bales by hand each week during the winter, hauled them to the feed yard and restacked the hay near the feed mangers. Then during the week we would lift the hay bales one by one into the feed mangers then spread them by hand with a fork to feed cattle. Today, most of the work previously consisting of lifting the hay by hand 5 times per year from the field to the feed manger, is done by hydraulics and machinery.
In the fall we gathered cows off the mountain. We would leave home at 6:00 am, pulling trailers with our horses to the main canyon so by 7:00 am we were unloaded and ready to ride. We rode the horses up the mountain and would ride all day across the mountain top finding cows. We kept the cows together on top in the Bear Hollow corral on the Cedar Springs ridge. It the afternoon we would start driving the herd of cattle down the mountain road and trails toward town. Most of the time it was growing dark by the time they trailed into the main canyon where we left the cattle for the night. We would then drive home, put away our horses, get a meal and some sleep before starting the next morning on the same schedule. Since we have not found a way to use hydraulics for gathering cows, we do it the same way today.
Both activities were exhausting and difficult. I remember actually thinking about this on my first mission and realizing, as hard as the mission was, I had seen it worse on the ranch. Somehow that helped me through the hard work component of that mission experience.
In addition to hard work, you are exposed to all the other trials mentioned earlier. Elder Jeffrey R. Holland counsels us about enduring this adversity as missionaries. Remember, such trials will continue your whole life and missionary work is a great training ground to help you become productive, responsible citizens who are grounded on faith in Jesus Christ and His atonement.
“Anyone who does any kind of missionary work will have occasion to ask, why is this so hard? Why doesn’t it go better? Why can’t our success be more rapid? Why aren’t there more people joining the Church? It is the truth. We believe in angels. We trust in miracles. Why don’t people just flock to the font? Why isn’t the only risk in missionary work that of pneumonia from being soaking wet all day and all night in the baptismal font?
You will have occasion to ask those questions. I have thought about this a great deal. I offer this as my personal feeling. I am convinced that missionary work is not easy because salvation is not a cheap experience. Salvation never was easy. We are The Church of Jesus Christ, this is the truth, and He is our Great Eternal Head. How could we believe it would be easy for us when it was never, ever easy for Him? It seems to me that missionaries and mission leaders have to spend at least a few moments in Gethsemane. Missionaries and mission leaders have to take at least a step or two toward the summit of Calvary.
Now, please don’t misunderstand. I’m not talking about anything anywhere near what Christ experienced. That would be presumptuous and sacrilegious. But I believe that missionaries and investigators, to come to the truth, to come to salvation, to know something of this price that has been paid, will have to pay a token of that same price.
For that reason I don’t believe missionary work has ever been easy, nor that conversion is, nor that retention is, nor that continued faithfulness is. I believe it is supposed to require some effort, something from the depths of our soul.
If He could come forward in the night, kneel down, fall on His face, bleed from every pore, and cry, “Abba, Father (Papa), if this cup can pass, let it pass,” (Mark 14:36) then little wonder that salvation is not a whimsical or easy thing for us. If you wonder if there isn’t an easier way, you should remember you are not the first one to ask that. Someone a lot greater and a lot grander asked a long time ago if there wasn’t an easier way.
The Atonement will carry the missionaries perhaps even more importantly than it will carry the investigators. When you struggle, when you are rejected, when you are spit upon and cast out and made a hiss and a byword, you are standing with the best life this world has ever known, the only pure and perfect life ever lived. You have reason to stand tall and be grateful that the Living Son of the Living God knows all about your sorrows and afflictions. The only way to salvation is through Gethsemane and on to Calvary. The only way to eternity is through Him—the Way, the Truth, and the Life.” (Jeffry R. Holland, Missionary Work and The Atonement, MTC, 20 June 2000)