Tuesday, November 18, 2014

President's Weekly Letter #113

The 4th Commandment
By anyone’s standards, Joseph Smith taught many unique and incredibly brilliant religious concepts which were new to religion in his time or in any time i.e. spirit matter always existed, eternal families, salvation of the dead, the relationship between Christ, truth and light, etc.  One such teaching is simple but obvious to a thoughtful mind:

20 There is a law, irrevocably decreed in heaven before the foundations of this world, upon which all blessings are predicated—
21 And when we obtain any blessing from God, it is by obedience to that law upon which it is predicated.  (DC 130: 20-21)

This being true, how would you like to be the recipient of the following blessings?  In order to receive them, however, you must keep the commandment upon which these blessings are predicated.  Remember, the following specified blessings are symbolic in nature.  For example, the beasts, fowls, orchards, gardens, fruits, crops, increase, and threshing represent what your labors produce, regardless of your profession.  As a rancher, I take them literally too.  The evil beasts and enemies could easily represent your trials or weaknesses.

16 Verily I say, that inasmuch as ye do this, the fulness of the earth is yours, the beasts of the field and the fowls of the air, and that which climbeth upon the trees and walketh upon the earth;
 17 Yea, and the herb, and the good things which come of the earth, whether for food or for raiment, or for houses, or for barns, or for orchards, or for gardens, or for vineyards;
 18 Yea, all things which come of the earth, in the season thereof, are made for the benefit and the use of man, both to please the eye and to gladden the heart;
 19 Yea, for food and for raiment, for taste and for smell, to strengthen the body and to enliven the soul.
 20 And it pleaseth God that he hath given all these things unto man; for unto this end were they made to be used, with judgment, not to excess, neither by extortion.  (DC 59: 16-20)

 4 Then I will give you rain in due season, and the land shall yield her increase, and the trees of the field shall yield their fruit.
 5 And your threshing shall reach unto the vintage, and the vintage shall reach unto the sowing time: and ye shall eat your bread to the full, and dwell in your land safely.
 6 And I will give peace in the land, and ye shall lie down, and none shall make you afraid: and I will rid evil beasts out of the land, neither shall the sword go through your land.
 7 And ye shall chase your enemies, and they shall fall before you by the sword.  (Lev. 26: 4-7)

Imagine your success in life when the fullness of the earth is yours and you receive these blessings.  The law upon which all these blessings are predicated is the 4th Commandment.  When the Lord revealed the 10 Commandments, he focused the first 4 on your love of God, the last 6 are focused on love for your neighbor.  The 4th Commandment is:  Remember the Sabbath Day to keep it holy. (Exo. 20:8)  It is the commandment that came into existence after the creation (Gen. 2:2-3), long before Adam was commanded to dress and keep the earth, not eat of the tree of knowledge of good and evil and the to multiply and replenish the earth.  (Moses 3: 15, 17, 24)

A few years ago I was serving as Young Men President in my home ward.  I had some great boys.  One Sunday morning at the start of the Priest quorum lesson, I pulled out of a sack a bowl and some containers of ice cream.  I put a scoop of ice cream in the bowl and told the boys we were eating ice cream sundays in class today.  They whooped and cheered.  I then pulled toppings out of the sack – and proceeded to place catchup, mustard, horse radish and mayonnaise on the ball of ice cream along with a green olive on top.  The boys groaned thinking I had lost my mind.  None of them would eat it.

We then had a wonderful discussion about the Sabbath day.  The Sabbath day can and is meant to be a spiritually sweet, rewarding, rejuvenating and satisfying; a tasty day, if you will.  A good Sabbath is like eating an ice cream sunday.  We studied the promised blessings listed in DC 130 and Lev 26 to those who keep the Sabbath day holy, and we also talked about activities and things we can put on our sundays that ruin the day and withhold the blessings.

At the end of class, I pulled out more bowls but this time with the fudge, caramel, fruit toppings and cherries.  We made ice cream sundays and ate them in class, as a representation of what happens when you properly remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy and what a tasty treat that can be.  The boys never forgot their lesson, in fact, they frequently asked me if I would reteach them about the Sabbath day.

I never took the Sabbath day seriously until I served a full time mission.  For example, in the fall, I hunted deer and pheasants on Sunday.  The ring neck pheasant was plentiful in Flowell up until raccoons were introduced to the area a number of years ago.  The pheasant hunt began on the first weekend in November each year and was about the most exciting event of the year.  I have had 3 roosters come up at the same time flying opposite directions and have brought all 3 down.  Friends and relatives of people in the community always returned from where they may have been living at the time to hunt pheasants in Flowell.  My local friends and I always hunted on Sunday that week.  I remember once my mother telling me that the sacrament was prepared and past by visitors in my home ward because no local boys were present on the pheasant hunt Sunday.  My mission changed all that for me.  As the months on my mission clicked by, I gradually tried to cleanse myself of my wrong doings that I could think of.  Making the commitment to not hunt on Sunday was one of the last vices I gave up.  I have stayed pretty true to myself over the years since then.

The following guideline will assist you to determine appropriate Sabbath day activities.  Activities should probably be avoided if they distract from feeding your souls with the things of the spirit.

“Jesus taught that the Sabbath day was made for our benefit (Mark 2: 27).  The purpose of the Sabbath is to give us a certain day of the week on which to direct our thoughts and actions toward God. It is not a day merely to rest from work. It is a sacred day to be spent in worship and reverence. As we rest from our usual daily activities, our minds are freed to ponder spiritual matters. On this day we should renew our covenants with the Lord and feed our souls on the things of the Spirit.” (Gospel Principles, Chapter 24)

You live in a bubble on a mission.  The Sabbath is easy to honor here because of your controlled environment.  But, someday you will go home.  Now is the time to make your commitments regarding the Sabbath and what you plan to do throughout your life. 

President Robinson

President's Weekly Letter #112

Church Attendance
When I was about 10 years old, living in Flowell, I became fed-up with Primary; I did not like the singing.  In those days we were not using the current 3-hour block, church meeting schedule on Sundays.  We met at 9:00am, 10:30am and 7:00pm on Sunday for Priesthood, Sunday School and Sacrament meetings respectfully.  Then on Tuesday afternoon, the school bus would drop the kids off at the church for Primary.  I devised a plan to get off the bus, walk directly down stairs in the church building, climb out a window and walk home.  This went on for some weeks, until my classmates invited me to a class party.  I remember eating a piece of chocolate cake at the party and realizing that they were trying to reactivate me!  Luckily, it was then that I decided to end my life of crime.

I am not too proud of what I did, and granted Primary is not the same as Sacrament Meeting, but it pretty well revealed my attitude at that time in my life of church meetings.

Church attendance is an interesting thing.  Missionaries often hear while contacting:  “I have my own belief and do not need a church, look at all the bad in the world caused by churches, all one needs to do is to believe, going to church is not necessary, etc.”  I have a friend in Nederland who, when I mention church, thinks of a vengeful God who will punish him for sin with hell fire and damnation.  He heard that to often over the pulpit as a child while his mother forced him to attend their church.  So, for years he has not gone to church.  He believes in God and is a fine man but is still repulsed with the idea of an organized church in his life.

Christ did more than perform miracles, teach Christian philosophies, and die on the cross.  He also organized and established his church.  The church was built on a foundation of Apostles and Prophets so that, through revelation, Jesus Christ himself, being the chief cornerstone, could continue to lead the church after his death.  (Eph. 2:19-20)

11 And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers;
 12 For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ:
 13 Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ:  (Eph. 4:11-13)

Did Christ ever teach or do something that was unimportant or not necessary?  If not, then it is safe to assume, the church he organized was important.  It was organized for the perfecting of the saints until we all come in the unity of the faith and knowledge of the Son of God, which has not happened yet.  Jesus set a pattern for the Apostles to govern the church.  After the death of Judas, Matthias filled the vacancy by inspiration to the remaining 11 Apostles through the Holy Ghost.  (Acts 1: 23-26)  The church was obviously intended to continue.  Paul, who was also added as a member of the 12 after the death of Peter, spent his whole ministry establishing, organizing and building up units of the church throughout Asia.  That was not an accident or un-needed effort.

The primitive church with its organization was important then and the restored church is important now.  It is where many of the saving ordinances are performed i.e. baptism, gift of the Holy Ghost, the sacrament and Priesthood ordinations.  It is a place to receive revelation.  Members of my friend’s church go once a week for an hour, listen to the preacher and then go home.  Members of our church spend a minimum of 3 hours together on Sunday followed by various church activities with each other all week long.  Some members hold offices and all learn to get along with each other.  Thus, the church organization helps perfect the saints.

When I served as a Bishop, I generally spent time each Sunday visiting with inactive members inviting them to come back. That experience taught me among other things, one glaring lesson.  The thought of the first 10 seconds after walking in the front door is terrifying to an inactive member.  It is usually the biggest hurdle for them to come back.  They fear people will turn to look at them for the first time and think, “What are you doing here, after so many years inactive?”  It is an untrue perception but it is real to them.

Fear of attendance could also be present with investigators.  Think of the concerns an investigator may have.  They do not want to fall into an embarrassing situation.  What will people think when I walk in?  Do I stand or sit when singing?  Am I expected to sing? If we split into classes, do I participate?  What is the sacrament?  Do I partake?  Do they pass a donation tray around and how much should I pay? Etc. 

Several years ago when I served in a Stake Presidency we were invited as guests to the dedication of a new Catholic Church building in Fillmore.  I was uncomfortable entering the building.  I had no idea of what was expected of me during different phases of the service.  I wondered about the above questions too.  Also, was I expected to go forward for communion?  I did not like the idea of the Priest handling my wafer.  Would it offend them if I did not go forward?

As missionaries we should take time to explain our Sunday services to investigators.  Answer their questions and put them at ease by removing concerns.  Visit the meetinghouse with them earlier in the week and show them around if necessary.  Tell them you will walk in with them after you meet them out front or pick them up and come with them.  Members on joint teach can welcome them ahead of time to church on Sunday via email or a visit.  There are also excellent video clips on the meetinghouse locator on the church web site.

Explain the sacrament to them before the bread tray is headed down the row toward them.  The Lord said to not, “suffer any one knowingly to partake of my flesh and blood unworthily,” (3 Nephi 18: 28) but the handbook states nothing should be done to prevent nonmembers from partaking of the sacrament.  They do not have a baptismal covenant to renew, so partaking is actually meaningless.  Explain to them , “During the sacrament ordinance the members are renewing their baptismal convenient in their worship.  It is bread and water and you do not need to partake of it but you can if you want.”  (…je hoeft ervan niet te nemen maar je mag het wel doen als je wilt.)

Hopefully we will have investigators who are more at peace in their first church experience in the Belgium Netherlands Mission.

President Robinson

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Mission President's Seminar for Western Europe

October 21-24, 2014 we attended the Annual Mission Presidents Seminar for all the mission presidents for Western Europe.  It is aways a wonderful experience to get with the other Mission Presidents and their wives. It is a time to be trained and taught by the Area European Presidency--President Teixeira, President Kearon, and President Dyches, all members of the Quorum of Seventy.  It was good to be taught and feel the Spirit so abundantly, but it was equally as good to enjoy our friends and people we have come to love so dearly as we have served together.

 First day in the Schiphol Airport we met up with old friends from our home stake, Fillmore Utah Stake. We have known each other for years.  President and Sister Beckstrand have just began their service as Mission President of Sweden Stockholm Mission. It was so very good to meet old friends.  It felt like a 'bit of home' had come to Europe.

 After the first day of meetings, we spend a couple of hours walking through the quaint streets of Portugal.  Loved the cobblestone pattern in the street.  Presidents and their wives walking and talking.

 What a wonderful stroll down through town.  Some went shopping, Sister Beckstrand and I just talked and caught up with each others lives.

President Beckstrand, Sister Beckstrand, Sister Robinson

Walking along the boardwalk along the beach. 

 Felt like Southern Cal!


Sister Robinson and Sister Beckstrand

Hotel Cascais Mirage

 Wonderful stay and the trainings are exactly what we need to hear and train on when we return from this Seminar.

 Best friends, best companions

 It is such a blessing to spend three years together, full-time, in the service of the Lord serving the people of Belgium Netherlands Mission and the many hundreds of missionaries that have come and gone, who now serve, and who will yet come and serve with us.  

 Just a small thank you to our mothers, our children and grandchildren for your love and support while we are serving so far away from home.

 President and Sister Robinson
Great to spend some relaxing time together with dear friends! 

 President and Sister Robinson,  Sister and President Kosak from the Germany Berlin Mission 
at the restaurant in Sintra, Portugal 

Sintra, Portugal

 Closer view.

Arrival for the afternoon at the Park and Palace of Pena.
This is the restaurant for dinner for the evening.

 More of our friends arrive.

The following are pictures of the Pena Palace in Sintra, Portugal

The Main Gate to the Palace

 President Robinson, in the back, President Pilkington of the England Leeds Mission, and President Beckstrand of the Sweden Stockholm Mission

 Interesting blend of Medieval Europe and Moors (Medieval Muslims) which occupied Portugal

Has the feeling of "1001 Arabian Nights' with 'Disneyland'.  The goal of the king was fantasy and enchantment.

 Selfie---Sister and President Robinson

 Sister Robinson--The Archway is carved to look like sea coral.  Also, tile was everywhere.  Three different tile patterns are behind, one on the wall to the right.

 President Robinson with the view from the Palace.  Beautiful countryside.

 President and Sister Robinson

Our tour guide, and a view of the arches and columns from the porch.

 Some of the beautiful stained glass windows in the palace.

Full view of the beautiful stained glass window.  The depth and contrast was remarkable.  Nothing I have ever seen had such depth and perspective.

Interior of the chapel of the little church in the Palace. 
Part of the Palace was a one time a Catholic Monastery.

 Inner court of the older part of the palace.  Again, tile everywhere which reflects the Moors (Medieval Muslims) that once occupied what is now Portugal.

 The walls and ceiling are all tile.

 Dining Room in Palace

 Queen's Room

 Kitchen--I have decided this is what I need during Mission Leader Council and Transfers!  :)

I would need 'kitchen help' in a kitchen this size.  Maybe the APs could help.

Some time to just relax and enjoy.  Sister Robinson, President and Sister Pace from the Spain Barcelona Mission, President and Sister Beckstrand Sweden Stockholm Mission.

Breakfast on the terrace with other Mission President and wives.
The Atlantic Ocean is just past the palm trees. 

 Waiting for the bus shuttle to the airport.  Time to return to our missionaries and our everyday duties.  It has been a great training.  

Our last look at the Atlantic from the perspective of Portugal.  We are so grateful and thankful to the Area Presidency for such a great seminar.  We are grateful to our Heavenly Father for such blessings to have these Western European Mission Presidents and wives, and the Area Presidency as great friends.