If you recall, a few months ago missionaries took a sabbatical from iPad use and participated in a program called Repent, Refresh, and Restart. Along with the repenting, refreshing, and restarting were visits from general authorities emphasizing that iPad use as a missionary aimed at helping them “resist temptation” associated with technology. Here are some quotes:
“One thing that I thought was so interesting is that he said: “The mission field is the place where the Lord is seeing fit to strengthen you against the temptations of the world. The temptations with technology will never go away but if we can teach you NOW, you’ll be better fit to overcome those temptations for the rest of your life” (LINK)
“There’s an analogy they used about how when different diseases were introduced to Native Americans back when Settlers came over, they had no resistance to them and they would get super sick or die. Other people with the same diseases would just get sort of sick or not get sick at all because they had been surrounded by it and their immune system had adjusted. They related that to missionaries and said that they found that missionaries would go on their missions and be isolated from technology for two years, and then come back and not be ready for the different temptations and changes in technology that had happened while they were gone and they would fall.” (LINK)
They were at a meeting with Elder and Sister Bednar a couple of weeks ago and it’s official… our mission is getting ipads! They have not given us a specific date yet, but they are coming! But they talked a lot about using technology wisely and brought up some really good insights. First, when they were in their meeting with Elder Bednar, he shared an experience where he was preparing one of his talks for a conference on his computer and went to click on an icon and was physically unable to click on the tab. He said the Spirit restricted him to the point where his finger could not push the button. He never knew what was behind that tab and he never will, but it was not virtuous or uplifting. We and our youth can have this same power if we fortify ourselves. We all have filters that attempt to block all inappropriate media, but the filter only does so much. The true filter is the filter upon our minds and our hearts. So the question is how do we help ourselves and our kids become this kind of generation? How can we be physically restrained like Elder Bednar to refrain from evil. I have some of my own Elder Kapp suggestions :)…
On Thursday we had our interviews with President Henderson. We had to practice teaching a lesson with Elder John (one of the AP’s) where they put us in a funny situation. The situation was that he was a new investigator that read something about polygamy, which he doesn’t believe in, and he was questioning why Joseph Smith would do that. We had five minutes to resolve that doubt and set a baptismal date with him.
They had five minutes to resolve an investigators doubts about polygamy AND set a baptismal date! I’m not sure that’s possible, but I’d love to see how they tried doing that.
Here are some other responses from missionaries when investigators brought up polygamy: link.
A little while back we published a blogpost about Elder Clarke of the Seventy giving post-mission educational and marriage advice. In May 2014, Elder Clarke visited a mission in Guatemala and, according to one missionary:
“Elder Clarke gave us a lot of tips for the mission. but he also gave us a lot of tips for life. One of the things he said to the elders is that when we are looking for a wife we have to take her on a hike on a really tall mountain and if she even complains once leave her.”
On Wednesday we had a mission-wide conference with all of the missionaries here come to, even the out of valley ones in Arizona and California. They brought in the big guns, Elder Clarke from the Seventy and Brother Donaldson (missionary department) came and gave us training. Most of it was learning things for after our missions and how to develop good habits with technology because we are getting iPads in about a week. He gave us dating advice too… which is kinda weird but one things he said was, “If you’re dating a girl, take her to hike Mt. Timpanogos. If she complains on the way up, drop her!” So yeah it was a very lively, funny, and great training. I learned a lot.
I agree with the elder. That “is kinda weird” dating advice.
It kind of reminds me of the following political ad.
Growing up a lot of my friends said Elder Holland was their “favorite apostle.” They liked his General Conference talks, his stories, and, I imagine, his delivery. I liked him, but I wouldn’t say he was my favorite. I have liked some of his recent General Conference talks though, for the most part (here and here).
We’ve recently addressed a dozen or so of these issues in a series of essays, desiring to be both accurate and transparent within the framework of faith. Not all gospel questions have answers yet, but they will, and they’ll come. In the meantime, I have a question. What conceivable historical or doctrinal or procedural issue that may arise among any group could ever overshadow or negate one’s consuming spiritual conviction regarding the Father’s merciful plan of salvation, His only begotten Son’s birth, mission, atonement and resurrection, the reality of the first vision, the restoration of the priesthood, the receipt of divine revelation both personally and institutionally, the soul shaping spirit and moving power of the Book of Mormon, the awe and majesty of the temple endowment, one’s own personal experience with true miracles, and on and on and on? It is a mystery to me – talk about a question – it is a mystery to me how those majestic, eternal first level truths so central to the grandeur of the whole gospel message can be set aside or completely dismissed by some in favor of obsessing over second or third or fourth level pieces of that whole. To me, this is in the words attributed to Edith Horton truly being trapped in the thick of thin things.
Screenshot of Elder Holland during his February 2015 Address
This was not the first time Elder ignited conversation regarding his “tone”. Below are a few other public instances that I might describe as “interesting”. Then I present some recent blogposts from missionaries that describe a more closed-door portrayal of some of his recent engagements.
2012 BBC Interview
Following the release of an interview with the BBC, Elder Holland got criticized for how he responded to certain questions about Mitt Romney and his temple “pledges” and questions about The Book of Abraham. See the video below.
The blogger starts out saying “Much has been said about the content, but I am going to talk about the tone, which I found a little unsettling. I’m sure some would say, “The guilty taketh the truth to be hard, for it cutteth them to the very center” (1 Nephi 16:2). But that’s not really it.” He goes on to discuss what he calls a “strange” and “mystifying” moment during the delivery of one of his 2009 General Conference talks called Safety for the Soul. He also discusses the 2012 BBC Interview mentioned above. This is definitely worth the read.
Elder Holland, he wanted to shake our hands. So we were only allowed to say our name and where we were from. So row by row we lined up to meet him. I started to get a bit nervous! As I was up in the line I was checking my tie, checking my suit coat, making sure enough white was showing out of my cuffs. I was a bit nervous! So after he got up and said that we had a great group of missionaries!! He interviewed each of us this way!! After a bit of speaking he started getting heated!! He would go up to a few missionaries and would tap them on the cheek. And one sister, he grabbed her and shook her. It was funny!! I learned a lot from him!!
Then we had a mission talk and then we entered the church building. Then Elder Holland, Elder Christionson and Elder Desler talked to us for about 3 hours. It was great to learn from them. Elder Holland went up to Sister Williams and talking to us and ended up Yelling to us in Sister Williams face. He grabbed her head and shook it for a second. He also did it again with another Elder and kissed him on his head. This was a great meeting.
What did Elder Holland yell “in Sister Williams face”? Sister Williams’ companion explains in a blogpost titled Elder Holland… say what?! (emphasis mine):
So the big news of the week was that Elder Holland came to Wichita and spoke to the entire mission! Just Elder Holland and us, it was crazy and such a cool experience! He is such a personable and relate able man. He was walking around the front of the chapel and since my companion was in the special mission choir we were on the front row, which was entertaining and cool being so close. He said that his mission meant everything thing to him and everything that has shaped the last “50 years 2 months and 7 days, but who’s counting?” He then lunged forward grabbed my companion by the face, stuck his face right in hers and said passionately “Are YOU COUNTING?!” “NO!” She was so red in the face and Sister Bell said my expression as this was happening was quite entertaining. I was squashed right next to my companion on a very full bench. There was so much that was shared in that meeting that I wish I had the time to write, but sadly we are low on time.
She later explains that that one thing she learned from his visit was “Be passionate about your mission”. I guess that’s what he is teaching.
Another missionary describes Elder Holland’s visit, in a blogpost, saying
“I’m not sure what I could say to describe how that experience was – it truly was just…intense.“
Looking into his eyes you can tell that he sees like Christ does and that the veil is very thin for him. He had so many wonderful things to say but the things that I learned the most was what was not said. It was especially amazing to see him as others are speaking. Also, he came down off the stage when he was talking to us and he stood most of the time within arm’s reach right in front of me! I was sitting on the edge of my seat so I could have easily touched him but I kept reverent. He actually kissed the Elder that was in front of me and it was hilarious! He also slapped my District Leader – Elder Maisey. It is so good to know that Apostles definitely have a great sense of humor and they have fun!
This isn’t really related to the content above, but in one of the missionary blogs there is a funny story I just had to share (emphasis mine):
Last week was crazy in so many ways!!!!!!!! We had Elder Holland, Elder Christensen, and Elder Deshler come to our mission and speak to us on Saturday. Before I get into the good stuff…. I was in charge of getting the charter buses reserved to pick up ¾ of the missionaries. That was a nightmare!! Talk about fighting Satan to get 140 missionaries to listen to an Apostle!! As always if we put our trust in the Lord all things will work out. After all, I did sign myself up to work for the Lord full time!
So on Saturday morning we all arrived at the church building and took a mission picture. We then went into the chapel and awaited for Elder Holland. He arrived and we all stood and sung the Hymn “We are all enlisted.” Talk about a powerhouse!!!!!!!! Just imagine: 230 missionaries in a chapel, doors all shut, on the stand is Elder Holland, Elder Christensen, and Elder Deshler. All missionaries are singing with the spirit flowing out of our mouths. I thought to myself that we sounded so incredible!! As I looked around the spirit was filling me. My eyes started to water up and then the thought came to my mind: “I use to be in the depths of misery, now I have been saved and I am now standing in a chapel filled with missionaries and an Apostle.” I will never forget that moment!! After the singing Elder Christensen and Elder Deshler spoke. Honestly, I don’t remember what they said in their talks. I fell asleep!! After having the buses arrive at the church ON TIME my stress melted away! So the next thing I remember hearing was “Amen” then the spirit woke me up!
UPDATE: A commenter on Reddit posted a link to an image from an April 2015 “General Conference Training” that also seems to confirm that leaders will be focusing on Sabbath Day Observance. The also include a picture of what they seem to think is the important multigenerational cycle of “Have children->Children and Converts are Baptized->Are Endowed->Are Temple Sealed->Have Children-> etc.” (Note: I can’t verify the authenticity of the document)
Often we are wondering or guessing what church leaders will do and emphasize in the near future. Will the temple wedding policy change? Will new temples be built? Will church leaders continue to excommunicate promote heretics? Etc.
Well, some missionary blogposts tell us what church leaders plan to focus on during the next year.
it was a powerful talk and the conference that we had with the mission with dallin h. oaks where he said that the church is going to focus more on the sabbath day for the next year.
This was accompanied by “elder urra the seventy talk[ing] about the sabbath day and how important it is. the sabbath day really is a gift to us from our heavenly father.”
Another missionary from the same mission wrote of Elder Oaks’s visit (emphasis mine):
Yeah okay something cool spiritually that I have been studying this week in the scriptures is the importance of “The Sabbath Day”. The topic obviously stood out to me, when Elder Oaks mentioned to us missionaries that the first presidency, and quorum of the 12 would be stressing the importance of it, along with the sacrament more this year than they had ever done in the past. I strongly encourage you guys to read Isaiah 58, and Exodus 31 which are super good chapters on the subject.
Well, there we have it, two witnesses (2 Corinthian 13:1: “In the mouth of two or three witnesses shall every word be established.”)
So, in looking back we can see Elder Nelson’s talk from the last General Conference title The Sabbath is a Delight was likely the kick off talk for the “Year of the Sabbath”. Get ready to hear more about keeping the Sabbath. In fact the Pacific Area Presidency’s YouTube page (with Area President Kevin Pearson) posted a video that begins with an accurate portrayal of Sundays for many families (based on Elder Nelson’s talk).
A missionary in West Virginia recounts a story told my a Seventy (emphasis mine):
We had a really great Stake Conference on Saturday and Sunday. Saturday we mainly focused on the power of councils, both in church and particularly family councils. It was really good but Sunday was awesome. We were taught about the Sabbath day. It was awesome, Elder Tae came and he talked about that they had a several hour teaching from the Quorum of the Twelve, all about this. He talked a little about and sounded some what similar to Elder Nelson’s General Conference talk. One thing that really stood out to me was when he talked about the Sabbath Day observance being a sign – a sign of God’s love for us and also a sign of our devotion to God. He related about it being in a similitude to the sign of the X of lambs blood that the Israelite put on so that the destroying angel would pass over them. Our devotion is a sign so that we may survive in this troubling world so that the destroying angel will continue to pass over us. It was really powerful and got me thinking about my devotion to the sabbath. I invite everyone to think about that as well and redouble our efforts and love for the Lord and the Sabbath. (Isaiah 58:13-14, D&C 59:9-24, and Mark 2:27)
It must be important–the Quorum of the Twelve took “several hours” to instruct Seventies about about the important of the Sabbath! I wonder what topics of importance they weren’t able to cover because of the focus on the Sabbath. Malnutrition and illiteracy amongst LDS child in certain parts of the world? The horrors and injustices occurring in response to military aggression around the world? The growing wealth divide in the United States? Sex trafficking? The treatment of animals in the food/meat industry?
I recently came across an interesting blogpost written by a mission from the New York Rochester Mission.
In his blogpost he mentioned he “had a two and a half hour drive for our specialized training at the Peter Whitmer farm”. The training involved rotating between different rooms for different training sessions.
The first thing he mentions learning during a training session is actually quite interesting (emphasis mine):
I wrote down that when Joseph was translating he was always ready to translate based on the next word, he never had to read the paragraph before to understand where he was at. He could just continue where he left off. I also wrote down that the Urim and Thummim were clear stones that he would look into, and sometime he would put them into a black hat to see the words better.
Wow! They are teaching missionaries the “stone in the hat” translation process. This is certainly a set in the right direction.
The second interesting thing writes is something his mission president said Elder Holland taught at a new mission presidents seminar (emphasis mine):
President Francis talked to us about having Elder Holland come and speak to them at the new mission presidents seminar when they fist got called. To paraphrase E. Holland said that “when your missionaries ask, why is his so hard? Why is this painful? Is there some other way to do missionary work? You tell them that we must all feel a part of the Atonement because salvation isn’t cheap!” President Francis went on to say that time is not relevant to God, it is only something that we understand here on earth. Which means that those three hours that Jesus spent suffering in the garden were actually longer. Jesus paid for each of our sins individually and also our infirmities. It was a performed ordinance, an individual ordinance performed for each of us by the Savior. When we ask “Why is this so hard? Why do I have to go through this?” Remember someone has already asked that before when he cried out “Abba!”, and that person was also the most pure and perfect of us all.
Recall that at the last General Conference Elder Uchtdorf gave wonderful talks–one was titled The Gift of Grace. In it he had a memorable one-liner:
Salvation cannot be bought with the currency of obedience; it is purchased by the blood of the Son of God.
So, salvation isn’t bought with obedience, but is it bought with our pain according to Elder Holland (and “it isn’t not cheap”)—or is it bought “by the blood of the Son of God” as Elder Uchtdorf said?
Also, it is interesting that Elder Holland the Atonement as an “ordinance, an individual ordinance performed for each of us”. Does any other church member teach this? I wonder when this ordinance will be added to the Family Guidebook.
About a month ago the mission president from the California Fresno Mission return from a mission presidents seminar in which he was taught by a few members from the Seventy to “place a stronger focus on the Missionary Purpose with an emphasis that baptisms is how we measure a missionary’s success at focusing on their purpose”. He concluded his own personal opinion that the mission needed to “be constant and vigilant in our Exact Obedience”.
Ever since that first month ago, President Clark has focused his “President’s Weekly” message on exact obedience. And yesterday continued that focus. We could call this past month EOM (“Exact Obedience May”).
it’s the latest! It’s awesome! Everyone is doing it!
Sound like a description of the latest style or trend? Well it is…for the California Fresno Mission. What is it you ask?
What’s the latest thing? He says it is the following:
Talk to Ten
Yep, it appears that it’s trendy and hip to be “exactly obedient” in Fresno. Here is his brief comment to go along with point 2 (emphasis mine):
All of you are endeavoring to be exactly obedient and many of you are taking it to a new level by reviewing the MHB, PMG and Resource Binder to ensure you are aware of all things you should be exactly obedient to in order to receive all of the blessings and miracles associated with Exact Obedience. Well done! Many of you have shared with me how much better you feel about the work, your areas, your companion, and yourselves as you make exact obedience the foundation, the bedrock of your service to the Lord. Exact Obedience brings Miracles!!!
Apparently there is a phrase being used in some missions to describe a ideal, successful, or hard-working missionary that will do anything to be a successful missionary. I have not seen it used to justify such a idealization, but the Parable of the Unjust Steward (Luke 16:1-13) could be their perfect scriptural passage. Wikipedia says regarding the parable: “The parable has caused difficulty, since on the face of it Jesus appears to be commending dishonest behaviour”. Similarly, idealizing the type of missionary that is “willing to do anything to be successful” has it’s own difficulties. Below are some examples of missionaries using term positively.
Well I have a new motto in life. “Happy Always, Content Never.” I got this from Elder Clarke of the seventy! I love it! Cause it’s what I am trying to become! I want to stay happy as I always am, but I also want to never ever be satisfied. I just want to be savage in life, and work my butt off to get the things that I want! The mission has taught me that this is very very important. There is a term in the mission, “savage missionary” which just means that he’s willing to do anything to be successful and help these people. That’s what I want to become, and I also just want to be savage in general! So I can be successful in life! Elder Clarke is the man! And I’m very grateful that I got to learn from him! I also said the closing prayer at our meeting with him! That was super nerve racking! Hahaha I didn’t want to blow it! Haha
“Do anything to be successful”? That sounds a little too Machiavellian to me: “Machiavellianism is ‘the employment of cunning and duplicity in statecraft or in general conduct’.”
Because we spent so much office time, there are only a few faith-promoting stories to tell about this week, although our zone leaders just told us we still out did the other missionaries in our zone to win the “Most Savage Missionary Companionship” award for the week! One of the really interesting things about Orlando is that there are so many people moving in and out of here that come from so many different places in the world, so there are always new faces to talk to every day! So far, we have run into people that speak Spanish, Portugese, German, French, Italian, Creole, Haitian, and English, and most of them are from anywhere you could point to on a globe.
Okay, Ill add a quick spiritual thought. We taught one of our less active members this week Alma 17 through 19. Each chapter was another lesson. I can’t remember the verse but I think is was Alma 17:9 and 10 when Ammon told the king that we was with there in his kingdom to serve. I love this scripture not because Ammon is basically this biggest savage missionary ever, but because his purpose was so simple. Service. Service, is basically the key to our work as missionaries and I believe it’s just as important for non missionaries to serve as well. Mosiah 2:17, when you’re in the service of your fellowman, you’re only in the service of God. Keeping this perspective has helped me to further dedicate myself to this work.
So Elder Clarke of the Seventy is here and spoke to the stakes down here. He said that his Gransons are down here with him and are excited to go out with some missionaries on splits to see how we work. He then said “Don’t mess up missionaries, don’t mess up..” In my head I was thinking ‘Stinks to be whichever missionaries that have to take out his grandsons.’ Well right after the meeting we get a text and guess who’s getting to take them out tonight for a couple hours?… Elder Peacock and I do #yayyyy Haha
Today we continue our review of the California Fresno Mission President’s blogposts (see previous posts here and here).
Apparently, now that the month is 58% over the mission is more than half way to their goal of 100 baptism for the month. A summarized version of the “very important things” they must do to reach their goal, according to their mission president, is (some interesting ones are emphasized in bold and underlined):
“Exercise your faith”
“Exercise and live exactly obedient“
Teach people, not lessons (I actually really like this one!)
Keep investigators committed to prayer, The Book of Mormon, and “Sabbath Day Observance” (Note: we will be discussing the third point in a future post)
Keep focused on their progress and adjust
Show love. Tell them “how ‘well pleased’ He [the Lord] is with them”
Use them to find more people to baptize. “If they are becoming converted…they will have friends they will have friends” to baptize too
Give them friends
“Role place for/to their needs”
“Enjoy this time! This is a pivot point in our mission. It is the launch to the new, new! This is historic and isn’t it fun to be making history!”
Following this list of “very important things” they must do to reach their goal, he gives three promises (emphasis mine):
“As you commit to and work in an exactly obedient way, it will become who you are, the fibers of your being.”
“As you lose yourself in the work, you will find yourself and you will really love who you have become.”
“As you live your Missionary Purpose, wonderful things will happen in great abundance…We are blessed to be in one of those very unique missions where baptisms are a definitive barometer of missionaries living their purpose. Most importantly, they (baptisms) are a barometer of missionaries’ conversion to the gospel of Jesus Christ. In many missions this may not be the case but you have been blessed to be in the California Fresno Mission where living your purpose, baptizing, and becoming converted to the gospel of Jesus Christ are inextricably connected. What a wonderful blessing it is to be a Missionary in the California Fresno Mission where….WE BAPTIZE!”
“Baptisms are a definitive barometer of missionaries living their purpose” and they “are a barometer of missionaries’ conversion to the gospel of Jesus Christ”?
Your success as a missionary is measured primarily by your commitment to find, teach, baptize, and confirm people and to help them become faithful members of the Church who enjoy the presence of the Holy Ghost.
Avoid comparing yourself to other missionaries and measuring the outward results of your efforts against theirs. Remember that people have agency to choose whether to accept your message. Your responsibility is to teach clearly and powerfully so they can make a correct choice. Some may not accept your message even when they have received a spiritual witness that it is true. You will be saddened because you love them and desire their salvation. You should not, however, become discouraged; discouragement will weaken your faith. If you lower your expectations, your effectiveness will decrease, your desire will weaken, and you will have greater difficulty following the Spirit.
In a post at ldsdaily.com, Austin Wrathall gives a much more measured comment about the role of baptisms in the life of a missionary–which, interestingly, is much more in line with public comments from LDS leadership. But who knows? Maybe this mission president is more in line with the behind-the-scenes thoughts and comments of LDS leadership. Austin says (emphasis mine):
From the day they enter the MTC till the time they fly home, it seems all missionaries have one thing weighing most heavily on their minds: baptisms! Missionaries must learn to teach about baptism, extend baptismal invitations, perform baptisms, and fill out baptismal records. They set a baptismal goal every month with their companions, and they report regularly to their leaders on the number of baptismal commitments they get. Baptisms, baptisms, baptisms! So a successful missionary is one who comes home with lots of baptisms? No!
Don’t get me wrong. Baptism is a very important ordinance. Jesus said “Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God” (John 3:3). But do baptisms really indicate the success of a mission? How were Abinadi’s baptism numbers? How would his weekly report have looked? What about Moroni? He should’ve just had more faith and then he could have baptized all those angry Lamanites, right? (Sure, he safeguarded the gold plates and all, but his numbers didn’t quite meet the standard of excellence, you know what I mean?) What about Joseph Fielding Smith? Did you know he served as a missionary for two years without baptizing a single soul?2 Not one! Was he a worthless missionary? Of course not! He was a future prophet! He was a wonderful man and a chosen instrument of God.
So, unless you call Abinadi, Moroni and Joseph Fielding Smith unsuccessful missionaries, clearly you can’t measure a mission in baptisms.
They [“Elders Maynes, Nielson, and Johnson of the Seventy”] taught four things and told us at the onset that if every mission would get back to these things they would be successful. They taught that we should:
1. Place a stronger focus on the Missionary Purpose with an emphasis that baptisms is how we measure a missionary’s success at focusing on their purpose.