Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Laborers in the Vineyard, changing habits

SAN DIEGO — Happy Fourth of July tomorrow! I hope you have some fun:) You all saw the picture of Karen and me; it was so good to see her yesterday!

I have been pondering what I want to tell you about this week, and my thoughts are kind of scattered.

I guess I can start first with an update on our ward. The plants are sprouting here in Avocado!

Thanks to Dad teaching me how to set goals and make plans, we have come far in the ward council in just a few weeks. Of course, it's all Heavenly Father, but He helps a lot more and a lot faster when things are organized. 

I have been taught on my mission what a ward council is supposed to be, and I realize that many times we miss the mark of the Brethren’s vision. It's hard to help ward councils understand what God expects a ward council to be like. It’s all about missionary work — reactivating, finding, retaining. It should be focused around the ward mission plan and how to accomplish those goals, not just to talk about activities and the drama/needs of individuals in each auxiliary, (that’s for presidency meetings) but missionary work as a whole. Church is a tool God uses for missionary work — Relief Society, Young Men's, Young Women's, Sunday School, Priesthood quorums,  all of the activities, service projects — all of that is a tool to help us be missionaries. 

In our ward council this week, we remade a progress record sheet, with our progress as missionaries for the week with less actives, investigators and members. We made a grid of our weekly, monthly, and yearly goals and how the ward's progress was. We then had assignments for each member of the ward council, as well as follow-ups from the previous week. It was amazing to watch these members volunteer to invite their friends to the 4th of July activity, to pray about someone they could have for us to teach by next week, to assign us members from their auxiliaries to teach. There was a fire and an excitement about missionary work! I realized this is what it's all about! I hope that we all can catch the vision, and help revolutionize the way we do missionary work. We need to be Moroni's. And just like Moroni revolutionized war, we can change the old habits of the church and make new more effective ones.

Enough said about that. I also wanted to share a few thoughts from our Zone Leader council this week. Once a month, Sister Tanner and I meet with President, the Assistants and the Zone Leaders and talk about how to continue improving our work. This month, President talked about the urgency of missionary work. He told us this story: He was doing anesthesia on one of the Apostles, and as the Apostle was waking up, he kept trying to get out of bed, squirming and looking very uncomfortable. President asked what he needed, explained that he was just coming out of anesthesia and needed to rest. The apostle responded, "I don’t have time, I need to go, there is so much work to do!" 

President related that story with tears in his eyes, as he explained that in order for us to be disciples of Christ, we need to catch the urgency of this work.

It made me think of the Ensign article from General Conference about the Laborers in the Vineyard. I was reading it this morning and a few things popped out at me. I guess before I share that, I should give background of the story (found in Matthew 20:1-15):

A householder went out early in the morning to hire laborers. After employing the 1st group at 6 in the morning, he returned at 9, noon, and 3, hiring more workers as the urgency of the harvest increased. In the Bible, it says, "he came back a final time about the eleventh hour" which would have been 5 pm. Just an hour later, all the workers were gathered in and received their day’s wages, all of them receiving the same pay.

Elder Holland talked about how it shouldn't make anyone jealous for god to choose to be kind.  And how it was not too late for these laborers who waited all day, with sorrow in their hearts, feeling hopeless and thinking that they would have to return to their families with no way to feed them that night. The householder gave them a great gift. An opportunity to work, even if for just an hour, still it was something. To everyone's surprise at the end of the day, all the laborers received pay, and all of them received the same wage.

To all of you reading this: as I sat today at my mission president’s feet, and as I read the words of an Apostle of God, I was taught from on high that no matter who you are, no matter what you have done, this work is urgent. We need everyone we can! In Elder Holland’s words:

 "However late you think you are, however many chances you think you have missed, however mistakes you feel you have made or talents you think you don’t have or however far from home and family and God you feel you have traveled, I testify that you have not traveled beyond the reach of divine love. It is not possible for you to sink lower than the infinite light of Christ’s Atonement shines.... If you have made covenants, keep them. If you haven't made them, make them. If you have made them and broken them, repent and repair them. It is never too late so long as the Master of the vineyard says there is time. Don't delay. It’s getting late"

I testify to what Elder Holland and President both taught me this week. God needs everyone He can. Come join the ranks! And don’t give up or give in if you have been fighting, no matter how long it has been. We will win. We are on the Lord's side.

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