Sunday, April 6, 2014

President's Weekly Letter #81

Several years ago while serving as Bishop in my home ward, the Flowell Ward, I attended the mountain man rendezvous.  It was an annual Scout District activity where all 9 Varsity Scout Units in the Stake of 14-15 year old boys camped in the mountains on Friday night.  Saturday we rose early to breakfast and competition between units in mountain man skills such as:  shooting muzzle loader rifles, hatchet and knife throwing, archery, etc.  One of the skills for competition was fire starting using flint and steel.  Friday night the boys were playing in the creek and forest.  Sitting around the camp fire, I and the other adult leaders began starting fires using flint and steel.

Starting fire with flint and steel is easy if you follow the correct steps.  We made char cloth out of cotton, lint and even paper towel by placing it in a can with a lid with a small hole.  We cooked the cloth in the can absent of air in the camp fire creating char cloth.  Juniper tree bark, dried in the microwave oven before departing for camp makes excellent bird nest material.  We worked the bark until it was only fine threads.  We then fashioned the bark threads into a shape like a bird’s nest.  We placed a piece of char cloth in the nest and struck an old metal file against a piece of rock flint above the nest.  Eventually a spark would stick to the char cloth and a speck on the cloth would begin glowing.  We would then squeeze the birds nest together around the char cloth, hold it above our head and blow up through the nest.  Within seconds from the heat from the glowing char cloth, the nest would burst into flames.  We would then set the nest down and add kindling to build a fire.  We repeated this process several times and became proficient at starting fires using only flint and steel.  I have taught many boys over the years how to produce fire within minutes using this fire starting method.

After a short while we could not see what we were doing because we were looking at the back of the boys’ heads who were also watching and asking to try it.  We set up much of the night with the boys starting fires this way.  They became very good at it.

Saturday morning during competition, at the fire starting station the boys had to start a fire with only flint and steel, kindle the fire and burn through a string mounted a short distance above the ground.  It was a timed event.  One boy from another ward came to the station and asked what the fastest time had been so he could try to beat it and win.  The station supervisor said, “Flowell Ward, 16 seconds.”

Just as flint and steel fire starting requires a strict set of steps to be successful, so does steps for missionaries when it comes to working with members.  I do not want to insult anyone and I am in awe of the quality of missionaries serving here now.  But I have received feed-back more than once so here goes with good manners and protocols that might help you be more successful.


Before the meal:
Pray with your companion that the spirit may guide you and that the family will be open to your message. 

Prepare a message in advance that will best serve the needs of the family such as dealing with a wayward child or other real need in the family at the present time.

Be on time.  If you are running late, even 5 minutes, just phone and explain.  Never cancel or be significantly late after someone has cooked a meal planning on your attendance.  It is better for the work to suffer.

If the table is not set when you arrive, offer your help.

During the meal:
Wait to begin eating until everyone else in the family has started.

Show interest and build relationships of trust and avoid awkward silences.

Share something about yourself.

Share a spiritual or a fun experience you have had.

Say “Thank you” and express appreciation for the meal.

No yawning without covering your mouth, no burping, no chewing with your mouth open, no spitting food on plate, no blowing your nose or sneezing at the table.

After the meal:
Share your uplifting message.

Follow-up on the commitment from the last visit.

Leave an appropriate commitment for them to do something in the coming days.

Befriend and serve the needs of children.  Be an example and good influence on them.

Keep it light and fun.

Do not stay too long.  One hour is more than enough.  They need to know you are busy.

Leave a blessing on the family and thank them again for the delicious meal.

Never call for a joint teach on Monday night.

Be formal and respectful.  Always use correct titles – Brother, Sister, President, Bishop, etc.

During the day open your curtains, organize things, open a window occasionally when you are home, make it look like you are clean wholesome and tidy young people.

Haul out your garbage every day.  Keep the place clean and neat every day.  Do your dishes after every meal before you leave. 

Keep your back balcony and front walk clean and clear including bike parts or any other junk.  Your neighbors will appreciate you.

The Koran, newspapers, magazines or other reading material are not in the approved missionary library on PMG p. xxx and are not allowed in the apartment.  This is not approved language study material.

Your welcome letter stated you must purchase a bike and expect to pay $200.  Buy your bike, do not spend less so it is a matter of quality for $200 not how cheap can you be.  And, take responsibility to maintain and take care of your bike during your mission.  This is a life skill that is important to learn.  Do not buy a cheap, piece of junk, beater bike.  It will always be broken down, you will look unprofessional, you will frequently be late to appointments due to breakdowns and you will run up a repair bill and mass transit bill.

In the Mission it is no longer allowed to borrow bikes from members.  It is inevitable that borrowed bikes from members end up with broke down, wrecked, and or stolen.  This is then stubborn to resolve and disastrous to member relations.

I know the Lord expects you to be polite, professional, wise beyond your years and to be well mannered bearers of his Priesthood and as set-apart missionaries representing him.  When you do this you will walk by the light he offers.  But, when you act disrespectfully you are walking by the sparks of your own fire.

“11 Behold all ye that kindle fire, that compass yourselves about with sparks, walk in the light of your fire and in the sparks which ye have kindled. This shall ye have of mine hand—ye shall lie down in sorrow.”  (2 Nephi 7:11)
President Robinson

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