Sunday, November 30, 2014

2014-12-01 President's Letter

Dear Sisters and Elders,

What a joy and privilege it is for Sister Ostler and me to serve Heavenly Father with you. Last week we had the privilege, along with the other 20 mission presidents and wives from the Philippines, of being taught by our Area Presidency in Baguio (northern Luzon). One of the presidents asked me what was the most surprising thing for me during these first 5 months as mission president. I shared with him the true feelings of my heart. I told him that I am amazed and overwhelmed with the faith and goodness and sacrifice of the 250 missionaries in our mission. Tears came to my eyes as I shared with him how much respect I have for you. You are disciples of Jesus Christ in every sense of the word.

Each of us are at a different point along the path of discipleship. Today I felt that I should share with you a few thoughts about this path we are on. Why do we want to be disciples of Christ? Why do YOU want to be a disciple of Christ?

For me personally, I want to be a disciple because I want to:

-show my love to my Heavenly Father for His blessings

-be with Sister Ostler and my family forever

-be the kind of man that God can trust

-share the great joy that I have felt with as many people as possible

-come back HOME to my Heavenly Parents

-bring joy to my Heavenly Father

What is a disciple? A disciple is someone who is trying to acquire the same characteristics and qualities of his master. He wants to become the person, and do the things, that his master does.

Of course, having a mission call letter or a ministerial certificate signed by the First Presidency does not mean that we have arrived at the point that we are completely like our Master. Our sacred missionary calling is to walk the path that leads us there. There are many descriptions of this Path of Discipleship in the scriptures. Lehi's vision of the Tree of Life in 1 Nephi chapter 8 describes one path: "[the angel] spake unto me and bade me follow him. And it came to pass that as I followed him I beheld myself that I was in a dark and dreary waste. And after I had traveled for the space of many hours in darkness, I began to pray unto the Lord that he would have mercy on me...And it came to pass after I had prayed unto the Lord I beheld a large and spacious field. And it came to pass that I beheld a tree, whose fruit was desirable to make one happy. And It came to pass that I did go forth and partake of the fruit thereof; and I held that it was most sweet, above all that I ever before tasted...And as I partook of the fruit thereof it filled my soul with exceedingly great joy."

Lehi saw in his dream his own path of discipleship, as well as ours. When Nephi prayed to "behold the things which my father saw" (1 Nephi 11), the Lord showed him more detail of his path of discipleship.

As I read about and ponder the life of Christ, I think about the time, in Matthew 20, when the mother of two of the disciples asked Jesus if they could sit on His right hand and on His left hand in His kingdom. His answer teaches us clearly what it means to be a disciple (vs 22...) "But Jesus answered and said, Ye know not what ye ask. Are ye able to drink of the cup that I shall drink of, and to be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?"

In other words, are we willing to suffer as He suffered, to love as He loved, to be as selfless as He is, to forgive as He forgives?

In order to be true disciples, to be like our Master, we need to be willing to change our very nature. We pay the price to become like Him. Sometimes the path is hard. Every path of discipleship has steep, rugged, difficult stretches. Sometimes the path is lonely. Every path of discipleship requires courage and faith when you feel alone. And ALWAYS there are times of great joy on this path. These times of joy are not constant, and sometimes it seems like there is a long time between times of joy, but they are so very sweet.

This is a path of patience. Alma said: "But that ye would humble yourselves before the Lord, and call on his holy name, and watch and pray continually, that ye may not be tempted above that which ye can bear, and thus be led by the Holy Spirit, becoming humble , meek, submissive, patient, full of love and all long-suffering; Having faith on the Lord; having a hope that ye shall receive eternal life; having the love of God always in your hearts, that ye may be lifted up at the last day and enter into his rest." (Alma 13:28-29)

So, Elders and Sisters, here is an assignment. Please write down the reasons YOU want to be a disciple of Christ. Then answer the question for yourself: Am I willing to pay the price that is required of a disciple?

I promise you that you can do it. You ARE doing it. You can successfully travel this sacred path. I testify to you, just as Alma testified to his son, Helaman: "...I beseech of you that thou wilt hear my words and learn of me; for I do know that whosoever shall put their trust in God shall be supported in their trials, and their troubles, and their afflictions, and shall be lifted up at the last day." (Alma 36:3)

I have great love and respect for each of you. Some of you may feel that you are stuck in the mud on the path of discipleship and that you slip and fall into this mud every time you try to move forward. Some of the finest disciples I know feel that way. Take heart. Take courage. Keep getting up and keep moving forward. You are not the Judge. You are the disciple. He is cheering you on and so am I.

So, fellow disciples, fellow travelers along this sacred path, let us support and encourage each other. Let us rely on the Lord, the Lord of Mercy. Let us do all we can to invite everyone to join us on this path. Then our joy will be great, TOGETHER, in the kingdom of our Lord.

Mahal ko po kayo,

President Ostler