First off, we met up with Jeremy, Sister Maureen's nephew on Monday. Jeremy had promised us that he would come to Church on Sunday, but he didn't make it, so we set up an appointment for Monday and went over. We were on exchanges so I was with Elder Stone. The lesson started off relatively normal. He's been doing good. We read through some of the scriptures that he had been reading, and things were going well. But, as we talked about why he didn't come to Church, he said that he wasn't ready yet. He said he wasn't able to explain it. But, as we continued to talk to him, the Spirit became the teacher and the Spirit prompted him to tell us what his concern really was. He told us that he hadn't been to his Church for three years, and when he went a few weeks ago for his family members' baptisms, he felt rotten about it. He had been dressed and ready to come to Church on Sunday, but felt that he couldn't come. It was wonderful to teach him about the Atonement o the Savior, and remind him of what it does for all of us. He was rather emotional about it all. It was really a good thing to see that mighty change working within his heart.
Met with Rick and Jean Howe again after a few months. I was on exchanges with the Assistants again, but this time with Elder Troxel. It was another great lesson. Brother Howe has a bad leg and suffers because of it. We talked about the need for him to come to Church and to bring his wife, who does want to come, and who isn't yet a member. We shared Alma 7:11-12, which, with the Spirit, gave me a greater insight and more especially a greater appreciation of the Atonement that I have yet had. Elder Troxel and I recited a couple of our favorite verses from How Firm A Foundation that taught me more again. Funny that you really learn with you teach people in service.
A member from Bangladesh has brought four friends here for us to teach. There is a huge language barrier, but through love, and the Spirit, we are now teaching them. The first lesson was amazing. We had an amazing time with them, and I love them. It is so intensely powerful when you are able to love someone almost immediately when you see them, or feel them for who they really are.
I gave a talk last Sunday (again), and I was asked to speak on gifts that we can give the Savior at Christmastime. I hope you enjoy it, it's my Christmas message to you all also for this year.
A Gift to the Savior
Giving is such a wonderful thing, because the feelings that we feel and the blessings that we receive surpass the supposed sacrifice of the gift. During this Christmas season, we focus much on the presents that we receive from loved ones and friends, and also find joy in seeing the excited and satisfied faces of the recipients of our gifts. While that might be good, what more can we do to give to the one who has given us all? We too often focus on the physical act of giving and receiving. But, true giving prevents us from needing that reciprocation. Instead, we give out of love. And, as we reflect on the true meaning of Christmas, then we know what we must do to truly give. This season is the time for us to reflect on the gifts that we have received from the Savior, but more than that, to proactively do our best to repay the Savior in the very best way we can.
The Savior taught His apostles a powerful lesson that very much applies to us as disciples of Jesus Christ. In the 21st chapter of John, we read of the Lord having a meal with His disciples. Verses 15-17 read,
So when they had dined, Jesus saith to Simon Peter, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me more than these? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my lambs.He saith to him again the second time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my sheep. He saith unto him the third time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? Peter was grieved because he said unto him the third time, Lovest thou me? And he said unto him, Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee. Jesus saith unto him, Feed my sheep.
My personal feeling is that the Savior's most wanted gift from his children is that of personal ministry, of ministering one by one to His children who need His love the most. We are to feed His sheep with the living waters of His gospel. In our world today, there are many who need to comfort and love of another human being, and we are those who are charged to serve Heavenly Father's children. In our day, it isn't so common to see angels ministering to the people of the Earth, but rather, it is the Saints who are given the charge to be, as the Savior said, "even as I am(3 Nephi 27:27)." As we do so, we will see the relief and comfort they feel, and in our very own way, receive of that peace and comfort that comes from a grateful Father and Son in Heaven.
The act of ministering is to literally act in behalf of the Savior to perform His work among His children.
Ministering to Heavenly Father's children is an expectation. Servants of the Lord Jesus Christ are expected to not only provide physical support to our fellow brothers and sisters, but also to be a guide with emotional and spiritual challenges. Heavenly Father wants us to minister to each of His children, one by one. As we do so, we will be able to draw closer to the Savior, because we will feel His love and approval for what we are doing. As we keep an eternal perspective, we will see that we are but helping each child of God return to Him, as we participate in that work of ministering in our own little way.
Amulek's great discourse on prayer reads: "But this is not all; ye must pour out your souls in your closets, and your secret places, and in your wilderness. Yea, and when you do not cry unto the Lord, let your hearts be full, drawn out in prayer unto Him continually for your welfare, and also for the welfare of those who are around you. (Alma 34:26-27)."
"For the welfare of those around you." We are to be mindful in our prayers especially for those around us. Personal ministry through prayer is a powerful tool.
Sister Bonnie D. Parkin, former Relief Society General President spoke of prayer in relation to personal ministry. She said, "We can become better acquainted with Heavenly Father through prayer. Personal ministry can answer prayers. We can offer a daily prayer that enlists the help of the Lord Jesus Christ as we ask: "Help me to be the answer to someone's prayer today." The Lord consistently answers this prayer as we tune our eyes and ears to discerning the needs of those around us…. Asking to be an answer to someone's prayer has a powerful impact. We become the hands of our Savior as we do His work. There are sacred, quiet experiences for those who participate with the Lord in answering prayers. As we go about listening, watching, and feeling for the answer to those prayers—even in the midst of our busy schedules—I testify that our earthly ministry unfolds by revelation and divine empowerment. Our testimonies, faith, and feelings of connectedness to the Lord expand in amazing, unexpected ways.
My challenge for you today, for the upcoming year, and for the rest of your lives, is to ask the Lord each day to be the answer to someone's prayer. As you (and I), live worthy of the Spirit, we will receive the inspiration necessary to be the answer to someone's prayer each day.
As a new year comes about, let us remember the words of Will L. Thompson which read,
Have I done any good in the world today?
Have I helped anyone in need?
Have I cheered up the sad and made someone feel glad?
If not, I have failed indeed.
Has anyone's burden been lighter today
Because I was willing to share?
Have the sick and the weary been helped on their way?
When they needed my help was I there?
There are chances for work all around just now,
Opportunities right in our way.
Do not let them pass by, saying, "Sometime I'll try,"
But go and do something today.
'Tis noble of man to work and to give;
Love's labor has merit alone.
Only he who does something helps others to live.
To God each good work will be known.
Then wake up and do something more
Than dream of your mansion above.
Doing good is a pleasure, a joy beyond measure,
A blessing of duty and love.
I know that as we follow the counsel of this hymn, as we do our best to minister personally to each of Heavenly Father's children, to "feed His sheep", that we will "help others to live" the true gospel of Jesus Christ. As we give of ourselves to serve and minister to our fellow men, we will be giving the Savior the best gift that we could possibly give Him, because we will be remembering and applying the great commandment that states, "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself." As we do so, we will truly become the instruments of God in His hands, serving His children, and becoming the people whom He so wants us to be.
I know that as we focus on what really matters, and what gives us true happiness, that we will be HAPPY! The new year is coming along! I am grateful for the wonderful opportunity to be a representative of the Lord Jesus Christ. The Savior has given us all, and I am grateful for it.
Be your own gift to the Savior.