|copyright: Karen Larsen photography|
While I was serving as a stake president in the Los Angeles area, my counselors and I asked our bishops to carefully select four or five couples who wanted to further their progress in the Church. Some were less active, others new converts—but they were motivated to spiritually progress. We got them together in a stake class and taught them the gospel. Rather than emphasizing the temple, we stressed a better relationship with our Heavenly Father and his Son, Jesus Christ. Our careful selection process assured success, and the majority of these couples did become active and go to the temple.
he realized that his family is a current example of these specific efforts of President Hunter. My father-in-law grew up in the Los Angeles area. He currently resides there. President Hunter was his stake president when he was a boy. When President Hunter became their stake president, my father-in-law's father was completely inactive. His mother was not a member. He was 12. They were asked to participate in these classes. Eventually, over time, Drew's grandfather became active. His grandmother joined the church. By the time my father-in-law was 16 and his sister (I think) was 7, his family was prepared to attend the temple and they were sealed as a family. From this beginning, my father-in-law's sister married in the temple, her three sons served missions, and three of her five children have intact temple marriages. My father-in-law has three children who have each married in the temple, Drew is serving as bishop, his sister's husband is currently the bishop of their ward, and the other sister's husband is serving in the bishopric. Three of the grandsons have served missions and one is out. President Hunter's efforts and the efforts of his bishops, and home and visiting teachers have directly affected the lives of generations of our family!! Can you imagine the feelings and emotions that must have washed over him as he read and taught those principles realizing the happiness of so many of his descendants are the beneficiaries of such time and love and effort?
Contrast that with my family. My parents were sealed two months before I was born. I am the oldest child. By the time I was 18, both of my parents were excommunicated. None of my siblings, or their families are active in the gospel. Neither are my parents. At this point in time, those generations are lost as to the blessings of the gospel.
I have the gospel largely due to the efforts of my young women, girls' camp, and seminary leaders. Though they may not know the results of their efforts, those leaders kept working, and teaching, and serving, until I was receptive enough to take what they were offering and run with it. They not only saved a girl, they have saved generations of people----because my children have leaned and been taught the gospel, have served missions (teaching it to others) and will look for and find spouses who will be willing to teach these principles to my grandchildren, hopefully down on through the lines.
Isn't that amazing??? We often think that our efforts don't matter that much. We never touch very many people----that is just not true.
I also had another amazing experience this week. A missionary who had served in our ward contacted me. When he served in our ward, I could tell he was struggling. I felt the need to write him a letter. I will share it with you, because it is my letter. But here is what I said to him:
|copyright: Karen Larsen photography|
I’ve just had the feeling lately that I should sit down and write you a letter. I want you to look up a scripture, Moroni 8:25-26. (Now J) Mormon is speaking to his son, Moroni. Mormon has learned that the people where Moroni is are disputing over baptizing their little children. This isn’t a discussion about that doctrine, but you need to understand the context in which the comments were made. Back to the scripture.
Mormon teaches Moroni that the first fruits of repentance is baptism. Baptism happens because people are exercising their faith in the repentance process and they are fulfilling the commandments, which brings a remission of their sins. Remission of sins, brings meekness and lowliness of heart, and because of meekness and lowliness of heart, cometh the visitation of the Holy Ghost, which Comforter filleth with hope and perfect love (charity), which love endureth by diligence unto prayer. This is a process, a scriptural and spiritual process. It is repeated over and over in the Book of Mormon. Read passages about repentance, Alma the Younger, Enos, the people of Ammon, King Lamoni. Wherever the repentance is true you can see the process. People want to repent, they begin to repent, they begin to sincerely try to keep the commandments, and because of their repentant state, the Holy Ghost comes and fills them with hope and a desire to further keep more commandments and they have a desire for the welfare of their fellowmen. The process is maintained only by diligence unto prayer. Those who continue to sincerely pray, will maintain the process, while those who do not, will step out of the upward cycle. This is one of the reasons prayer is so vital!!
I’m not sure about the rest of your mission, but here in California, you have fallen on a hard lot. The people, even those in the church, are unrepentant and disobedient in small and simple things like prayer. If the people within the church are struggling in these areas, I imagine most of the people out of the church are also struggling. Baptism is only a sign that someone is ready to begin the process.
I, like you, like to have a measuring stick that says, “I’m making a difference. My work and effort matter.” I like to see the fruits of my labors. The Lord has spent much time in my life tutoring me to help me see that the fruit I was laboring for, wasn’t necessarily what I thought I was there to harvest.
The scriptures say, “And if it so be that you should labor all your days in crying repentance unto this people, and bring, save it be one soul unto me, how great shall be your joy with him in the kingdom of my Father!” D&C 18:15
Who is that one soul, Elder? Sometimes, that one soul may just be ourselves. The work you are doing on your mission, though you are crying repentance and working and laboring all your days, though none of the people may listen, though you may not baptize one person….what has that work done for your own soul? Sometimes the labors we are asked to perform are simply for the benefit of our own soul. The fruit is in our lives and our testimony. The work and effort you put in, changes you.
Now, putting that aside for a moment. The next scripture reads, “And now, if your joy will be great with one soul that you have brought unto me into the kingdom of my Father, how great will be your joy if you should bring many souls unto me!”
Who might those souls be? You may be tempted to say “those we baptize on our missions.” Well, maybe yes. But more importantly, how about the souls of your wife and your children? How about the souls of your mother and brothers and sisters? How about all of those around you who are better people because of the example you set and the way you treat them, because your light shows them how to behave during their times of darkness and distress?
For many years I have been frustrated and felt like I have not actively participated in missionary work because though I fling gospel seeds everywhere, I never seem to be able to see the fruit of the things I have done or said, or shared. The Spirit has let me know that there are many more souls to my credit than I have any idea. He has told me that people are better people because of their interactions with me and because of the example I set, even if they never join the church. Those thoughts bring me a measure of peace about the subject.
But more than that, as I am watching my children grow and develop, I am witnessing the fruit mature before my eyes. They are becoming incredible people, spiritual men and women of sound understanding and righteousness, with firm testimonies. That brings me great joy. Drew and I have been laboring with them for nineteen years, and we have many more to go. But because of the example we set for them and because of the teachings and training they receive in our home, they will change the world. They will be the ‘Keepers of the Savior’s light’ in an ever-darkening world. They will teach those things to my grandchildren--who will hopefully teach them to their children. With continued effort and prayer, we will hopefully bring all of these souls back into the kingdom when we come.
Some may be lost. Some may choose not to come. But that is the price of agency, which we all fought for before we came here. I will honor their agency, but I will continue to labor with my might that they may change their minds and come into the kingdom with us. And so it is with your mission, now and in the future….
“If you should labor all your days and bring save it be one soul…..” If it is only you---it is OK, as long as you have labored all your days. But if the truth were told, you will be there with your wife and your children, and hopefully the rest of the generations beyond that.
Elder, you have no idea how much I like you. You are an incredible young man! You WILL make a fabulous father! You have the heart and soul of a disciple of Christ and you will teach those things to your children. Parenting is very soul stretching, but the great Father of us all is always there to help us and to guide us and to give us counsel on how to handle the most difficult of situations with His children. Often my heart’s prayer is, “He has been your child much longer than he has mine. What do we do now? How can we help this child learn this principle?”
Remember, your own spiritual cycle is maintained by diligence unto prayer. A proud man is often not saying his prayers. Keep the cycle maintained by obedience and diligence unto prayer.
Your sister in the work,
This week, he let me know that he still has this letter and still pulls it out to share it periodically, when he feels its contents will help the person he is speaking with. It really made my heart swell!! I am so grateful for the words of Christ! The doctrine really does change lives, not just one life, generations!!! And not just down the line, but backward too, as we do those temple ordinance for our deceased ancestors!
|copyright: Karen Larsen photography|
Don't quit working! You are making a difference!! You just may not know how much! Have a great day!