Sunday, November 1, 2015

2015-11-2 President's Letter

Dear Elders and Sisters,

We love you so very much. When I read your letters this week, tears of love and gratitude filled my eyes. You are truly Pearls of Great Price--valuable and precious to the Lord. Sister Ostler and I are so pleased with you. As I interviewed our 34 new missionaries two weeks ago I showed them the picture board in my office and said: "Welcome to the Manila mission! These are 200 of the greatest missionaries on earth!"
Because I love you, I am going to invite you to make a change in your life. When you first read the invitation, you might think that it is a small thing, but I testify to you that making this change will change your life forever. Making this change will invite the spirit into your life. It will increase the number of friends you have. It will make you a joy to be around. It will double your success in the Lord's work.

When I was in high school I worked for a company that sold survival equipment. One of the items this company sold was a special, two-edged knife. The blade was about 6 inches (15 centimeters) long and was so sharp that you could not feel it when it cut you. It was a very dangerous knife. One of the customers took the knife hunting and, instead of putting the knife back into the sheath (cover), he accidentally shoved it into his hip. He did not know anything was wrong until he started bleeding heavily from the wound.

In Hebrews 4:12 Paul teaches: "For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword..."

In the Doctrine and Covenants, five times the Lord says that His word is "quick and powerful, sharper than a two-edged sword." (6:2, 11:2, 12:2, 14:2, 33:1)

Elders and Sisters, your words are also very powerful. Your words have two edges: the power to lift and inspire, or, the power to discourage, weaken and destroy. One edge blesses, the other hurts.

You might think that it doesn't matter too much when you use your words to complain about a church leader, to criticize a companion, to murmur about a rule, to gossip about another person. Oh, but it matters very much!

You might not think that it matters too much when you use your words to express confidence in a church leader, to say good things about your companion, to cheerfully obey rules or when you refuse to listen to gossip about another person. It matters very much!

One of the mysteries of the Book of Mormon, that wonderful book that is so full of inspiration and wisdom, is the difference between Nephi and his oldest two brothers, Laman and Lemuel. What was the main difference? It was their attitude. It was the Attitude of Murmuring by Laman and Lemuel versus the Attitude of Faith by Nephi. Their father Lehi said to Nephi:

"And now, behold thy brothers murmur, saying it is a hard thing...[but Nephi]...thou shalt be favored of the Lord, because thou has not murmured." (1 Nephi 3:5-6)

Elder H. Ross Workman identified a pattern of those who murmur. There are three steps:

"Laman and Lemuel murmured. It began, as always, with QUESTIONING: "How is it possible that the Lord will deliver Laban into our hands?" they said.

Next, the EXCUSES: "Behold, he is a mighty man, and he can command fifty, yea even he can slay fifty; then why not us?"

Finally, they were SLOTHFUL. Filled with anger, resentment, and excuses, Laman and Lemuel waited by the walls of Jerusalem while the faithful Nephi accomplished the work of the Lord." (1 Nephi 3:31, 4:3-5)"  (General Conference October 2001)

They were using the hurtful, negative side of the sword. They were using their words to destroy their own faith and courage. They used their words to depress themselves. Do you ever do that?
It is inspiring to read Nephi's words, as he so faithfully uses the other edge of the sword:

"And it came to pass that I spake unto my brethren, saying: Let us go up again unto Jerusalem, and let us be faithful in keeping the commandments of the Lord; for behold he is mightier than all the earth, then why not mightier than Laban and his fifty, yea, or even that his tens of thousands?" (1 Nephi 4:1)

So Nephi's brothers murmured and stayed outside of the walls while faithful Nephi entered the city and accomplished the Lord's work.

Elders and sisters, don't stay "outside the walls." Use your words to pray to the Lord. Use your words to build your faith and build the faith of those around you. You show your faith by your words and your actions.

The Lord gave you a mouth so that you could use it to do great things.

Recently, Sister Ostler, Caleb, six elders, 2 sisters and I spent many hours at the Manila airport trying to get on a plane to fly to Puerto Princesa. After waiting several hours we finally boarded the plane, put on our seat belts, and then the pilot announced that our flight was canceled. We waited another 30 minutes, de-boarded the plane, picked up our luggage and went back home. We got up very early the next morning and again boarded the plane to Puerto Princesa. I watched our missionaries closely. What would they do? How would they react to waiting and waiting, getting to bed late, getting up early and then doing it over again? I am pleased to report that I never heard a single word of complaint. What did they do? They talked to everyone around them about the gospel and received some referrals. After that, they pulled out their hymnbooks and sang Christmas hymns and other gospel hymns to the crowds of hot, frustrated people. They brought smiles to people's faces. Many people (including Sister Ostler) videotaped these smiling, singing, happy Mormon missionaries. I would not be surprised if the whole purpose for these flight problems was to bring the gospel to these souls!

FIRST INVITATION: NEVER COMPLAIN ABOUT ANYONE OR ANYTHING. Never complain about the weather. Never complain about your companion. Never complain about the leaders or the members. Never complain about your area or the bugs or the pollution. Never complain about people who reject you or who don't keep their commitments.

SECOND INVITATION: FIND SOMETHING POSITIVE IN EVERY SITUATION.  For example, if the weather is hot, be thankful that it is not hotter. Use your umbrella. Be grateful you don't have to buy expensive jackets, hats, gloves and scarves for your mission. Find positive things about your companion. Say true, positive things about leaders and members. Be humble enough to realize that you are not perfect, so express faith and confidence in the people you teach. If they don't keep their commitments, trust the Lord, do your best and the Lord will bless you. Complaining never blessed anyone.
Elder Orson F. Whitney said: "The spirit of the gospel is optimistic; it trusts in God and looks on the bright side of things. The opposite or pessimistic spirit drags men down and away from God, looks on the dark side, murmurs, complains, and is slow to yield obedience."

I promise that making these changes will bless your life. If you made no other change during your entire mission than to change your words from negative to positive, your whole mission would be worth it! Don't "stay outside the walls" murmuring and complaining. Follow faithful Nephi as he says "Let us be faithful!"

May the Lord bless you my dear fellow-servants. May He bless you with the spirit of Hope and Happiness and Joy.
Mahal ko po kayo,

President Creg D. Ostler