Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Blessings for Missionaries Who Avoid Contention

In the LDS Church missionaries are taught unity. The Lord tells us in D&C 38:27 "if you are not one ye are not mine."

John K. Carmack said: "The unity of the Saints is unique and powerful. I have seen and felt it on virtually every continent and in the islands of the sea. That unity is a major reason the Church is progressing. Without it we would falter. As Jesus explained, “Every city or house divided against itself shall not stand.” Division and fault lines abound in the world, but “we are not divided; all one body we.” We have that unity under the spiritual direction of our prophet. Our wealth, social status, or skin color doesn’t matter. The feast of the gospel is freely available to all that desire to partake of its delicacies. Jesus told His disciples “that many shall come from the east and west, and shall sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven.” The Church is quietly moving forward in crescendo, as a great symphony orchestra moving toward a climax, strengthening communities as it grows.

We enjoy that unity through love. We can neither purchase nor force it. Our method is to “persuade, … and bless with wisdom, love, and light, … but never force the human mind.” To the extent we operate in other ways, we diminish our right to be recognized as disciples of Christ. “By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.”

That unifying love is coupled with our individual testimonies. Almost every member could and would respond if called upon to bear their own testimonies in this conference. Yes, we are united in love and testimony."

Susan W. Tanner said: "Missionaries wear a badge as a constant reminder that they are representatives of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. This reminds missionaries to dress modestly and comely, to treat people with politeness, and to strive to have Christ’s image in their countenances. They must do these things because they wear that name tag, an outward sign of their identity. By covenant, we too have all taken upon ourselves Christ’s name. His name should be engraven inwardly upon our hearts. Likewise, we are expected to act as worthy children of Heavenly Father, who, at least figuratively, has sent us to earth with the admonition “Remember who you are!”"

In 3 Nephi 11:29 we read: "“For verily, verily, I say unto you, he that hath the spirit of contention is not of me, but is of the devil, who is the father of contention, and he stirreth up the hearts of men to contend with anger, one with another.” Most contention is followed by anger. Anger is usually followed by violence. Violence leads to the loss of the Spirit. We know that when we give in to the dark side we lose the Spirit and bad things happen. When we are united we keep the Spirit so good things happen.

James E. Faust tells us about diversity and unity: "As we move into more and more countries in the world, we find a rich cultural diversity in the Church. Yet everywhere there can be a “unity of the faith.” 10 Each group brings special gifts and talents to the table of the Lord. We can all learn much of value from each other. But each of us should also voluntarily seek to enjoy all of the unifying and saving covenants, ordinances, and doctrines of the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.

In the great diversity of peoples, cultures, and circumstances, we remember that all are equal before the Lord, for as Paul taught, “Ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus.

“For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ.

“There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.

“And if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.”

We do not lose our identity in becoming members of this church. We become heirs to the kingdom of God, having joined the body of Christ and spiritually set aside some of our personal differences to unite in a greater spiritual cause."

David E. Sorenson says that missionaries future can depend on their getting over problems: "Some years ago I served with my wife as president of the Canada Halifax Mission. Two of our elders were serving in an area that was a cold place, both in terms of the weather and of the people’s reception of the missionaries. After a particularly long stretch of rejection, they called me, feeling discouraged. I suggested they consider proselyting in the countryside nearby, where I hoped the people would be a little friendlier.

The next day the elders drove out into the country, parked their car, and spent the day going door to door without any success. When they came back just after dark to their car, they discovered that it had been vandalized. Someone had smeared manure across their car’s windshield, doors, and windows. The afternoon sun had caused it to melt through the cracks of the doors, where it had then frozen in place.

That night I received another phone call from these elders, who were even more discouraged than before. The senior companion felt the full brunt of rejection. Over the phone he wondered out loud whether he was worthy to be a zone leader, whether they should be transferred, or whether he should just give up and go home. He just couldn’t see that he and his companion were accomplishing anything. I suggested that he and his companion call another set of elders across town and ask for priesthood blessings and then recommit themselves to the work. We talked about how difficult things had been but how important it was that they carry on.

These elders did not know it at the time, but this was a pivotal point in their missions. Although nothing changed in the next few weeks, they chose to carry on, remaining faithful to the commitments they had made when they became full-time missionaries. They moved ahead, staying focused on preaching the gospel with love. They were obedient and faithful and continued to work hard. Later in their lives this strength of character and commitment led to successes in their careers and families. They now serve with distinction in their families, wards, and communities. Their success then and their success now have come from following their priesthood leaders."

Missionaries should avoid contention at all cost. At all costs means we should be humble enough even when we don't feel we are wrong to lay aside any real or perceived slight. Everyone is blessed when missionaries learn to get along well with each other. Remember that the Spirit will not continue to be present in an atmosphere of contention and dissension and, without the Spirit, missionaries will not be successful."

Mary Ellen W. Smoot shares this about those who are united: Unity of purpose, thought, and feeling are exalting qualities. When we can put aside our differences and value each others’ strengths, great things happen. The Prophet Joseph Smith admonished, “Don’t be limited in your views with regard to your neighbor’s virtue. … You must enlarge your souls towards each other.” Such generosity of spirit invites greater unity."

In Section 121 all members and especially missionaries are instructed: “Let virtue garnish thy thoughts unceasingly; then shall thy confidence wax strong in the presence of God; and the doctrine of the priesthood shall distill upon thy soul as the dews from heaven.

“The Holy Ghost shall be thy constant companion, and thy scepter an unchanging scepter of righteousness and truth; and thy dominion shall be an everlasting dominion, and without compulsory means it shall flow unto thee forever and ever” (vv. 45–46). Missionaries are to act “by persuasion, by long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned; “By kindness, and pure knowledge, which shall greatly enlarge the soul without hypocrisy, and without guile.” Contention cannot exist if missionaries follow this formula.

Joe J. Christensen tells what positive blessing await missionaries who overcome contention: "Missionaries who learn to get along well with their companions develop skill in coping with a wide variety of different personalities. This experience not only helps them to be successful missionaries, but long after their mission the same skills will help them to be successful in their work, in Church service, and especially in their own marriages and families.

I hope all missionaries remember President Hinckley's advice as members counsel: "I hope that kindness will replace harshness in our conversations one with another." Missionaries need to be kind to each other, the members, investigators and to their mission president. Seek to lift those you come into contact with through righteous actions and conversations. Be a peacemaker not a troublemaker.

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