Thursday, January 10, 2008

Contention with Companions

Satan doesn't want missionaries to get along because then they would be able to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of those they teach. That is why he works on them to fight with their companions.

Russell M. Nelson tells us that Satan is the source of contention. "To understand why the Lord has commanded us not to “contend one with another,” we must know the true source of contention. A Book of Mormon prophet revealed this important knowledge even before the birth of Christ: “Satan did stir them up to do iniquity continually; yea, he did go about spreading rumors and contentions upon all the face of the land, that he might harden the hearts of the people against that which was good and against that which should come.” (Hel. 16:22.)

When Christ did come to the Nephites, He confirmed that prophecy:

“He that hath the spirit of contention is not of me [saith the Lord], 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.

“Behold, this is not my doctrine, to stir up the hearts of men with anger, one against another; but this is my doctrine, that such things should be done away.” (3 Ne. 11:29–30.)

Contention existed before the earth was formed. When God’s plan for creation and mortal life on the earth was first announced, sons and daughters of God shouted for joy. The plan was dependent on man’s agency, his subsequent fall from the presence of God, and the merciful provision of a Savior to redeem mankind. Scriptures reveal that Lucifer sought vigorously to amend the plan by destroying the agency of man. Satan’s cunning motive was unmasked in his statement:

“Behold, here am I, send me, I will be thy son, and I will redeem all mankind, that one soul shall not be lost, and surely I will do it; wherefore give me thine honor.” (Moses 4:1.)

Satan’s selfish efforts to alter the plan of God resulted in great contention in heaven. The Prophet Joseph Smith explained:

“Jesus said there would be certain souls that would not be saved; and the devil said he could save them all, and laid his plans before the grand council, who gave their vote in favor of Jesus Christ. So the devil rose up in rebellion against God, and was cast down.” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, sel. Joseph Fielding Smith, Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1938, p. 357.)

This war in heaven was not a war of bloodshed. It was a war of conflicting ideas—the beginning of contention.

Scriptures repeatedly warn that the father of contention opposes the plan of our Heavenly Father. Satan’s method relies on the infectious canker of contention. Satan’s motive: to gain personal acclaim even over God Himself.

The work of the adversary may be likened to loading guns in opposition to the work of God. Salvos containing germs of contention are aimed and fired at strategic targets essential to that holy work. These vital targets include—in addition to the individual—the family, leaders of the Church, and divine doctrine."

Missionaries need to be united that is the only way to overcome Satan. Missionary should be kind to each other. Missionaries should be careful to avoid contention by not putting down their companions or other missionaries in their district by saying mean things or make up untrue things about them. Unkind feelings can develop in to real animosity that is hard to forget. I remember one companion I had who was from my home stake. He ruined our relationship one day when he said to me "If you worked for my father's construction company elder he would fire you. Your the worst elder I ever met. In fact you aren't even good enough to work for him." He sure didn't know how to win friends and influence people. We struggled for a month as a companionship before I was transferred. If another missionary does something ignorant we need to be forgiving. The Lord said we should forgive 70 x 7 which really means unlimited forgiveness. I might have gotten over the remark if he had wanted to give me the benefit of the doubt. Good missionaries are nonjudgmental and treat each other positively. If we don't the salvation of people might be affected since the Spirit becomes dulled in us.

Another thing that stirs up contention among missionaries is they like to horse around pretending to punch or actually do punch each other. It is a male bonding thing. It can get out of hand if you hit someone too hard. I remember getting punch so hard it put a bruise on me. I became so mad I slapped the other missionary back because he didn't know when to quit. Missionaries should be taught a basic preschool lesson keep your hands off each other.

James E. Faust
, in "What I Want My Son to Know before He Leaves on His Mission" counsels: ". . .never permit contention in your companionships. Some of your missionary companions will be your life’s dearest friends. Be the kind of companion you would like to be with. Be unselfish in your relationship with your companions. When there is contention, the Spirit of the Lord will depart, regardless of who is at fault.

Each of us is an individual with unique strengths and talents, different from any other person in the world. Each of us has weaknesses. In a harmonious companionship, there is teamwork—where one is weak, the other is strong. As a boy, I learned to drive a team of horses. If one horse was balky, the other could not pull the load alone. So it is in a missionary companionship. Each must pull his share of the load."

A couple of mission presidents counseled: "“They should have a desire to be of service to others,” said President Lewis. “They should develop an attitude of optimism and happiness and be able to see the good things in people rather than their failings and faults. They need to be obedient to the commandments of the Lord without trying to fight the rules. They will need to have firm testimonies of the Savior and should spend time preparing themselves so that they know what is in the scriptures.”

President Dean Robinson agreed. “My best missionaries have faith the Lord will direct their efforts if they will set goals. They literally call down the powers of heaven.” President Robinson also said good missionaries have learned to get along with their companions and to avoid contention and that “they love to talk to their Father in Heaven and do it often during the day.”

A good example of overcoming contention was related by Candace Elder who related her experience of using the scriptures to help a struggling companion: "A convert of three years, I had entered the mission field with a great desire to share my newfound testimony with the people of Chile. Four months into my service, my mission president had assigned me to a companion who was struggling with desires to go home early. My assignment as her junior companion was to help her regain the spirit of missionary service and honorably finish her remaining six months.

At first I felt honored to be entrusted with such a responsibility. My enthusiasm soon dwindled, however, as the difficulty of my task became apparent.

My companion would not participate in finding new families or working with investigators, even though my Spanish was limited and I needed her help in teaching lessons and answering questions. Before long, she refused to leave our house at all. Because few sisters from the branch were available to accompany me, my missionary service became limited to studying at home while my companion slept.

She is ruining my mission, I thought as I lay on my bunk.

Suddenly a gentle, familiar feeling of admonishment broke through my anger and despair: perhaps I was ruining my own mission. I mentally reviewed the case against my companion and angrily recounted her failures, but the feeling persisted that I also was in need of repentance.

Indignantly, I gave my scriptures a shove. The pages fell open to 1 John, chapter 4 [1 Jn. 4]. As I read the chapter, I felt my spirit gradually soften and submit, especially as I considered verse 19: “We love him, because he first loved us.”

Love my difficult companion? I pondered.

But how? I pleaded with the Lord to help me.

Swiftly and surely came the needed direction. I felt impressed to read the Book of Mormon with my companion. I began fasting from that moment and resolved that the next morning we would begin studying the Book of Mormon together.

The next day, my companion was unresponsive when I placed her scriptures in her hands. Nevertheless, I read a chapter aloud to her in Spanish. The subsequent morning she greeted me negatively, but again I read another chapter aloud.

After about a week of this routine, I was overcome with emotion one morning when my companion opened her scriptures on her own and followed along. As the next days went by, her attitude improved until one glorious morning she suggested that we alternate reading five verses each until the chapter was finished.

From then on, the rebirth of my companion’s spirit was clearly evident. Each day the light of Christ shone more brightly in her eyes as the scriptures came alive in our hands. My own spirit was affected as well: I marveled at how each verse touched me more in Spanish than it ever had in English.

Finally, one morning after we had read and prayed, my companion closed her scriptures and headed for the door. Looking back at me with mock impatience, she asked, “Pues, ¿vás a venir conmigo?”—or, translated, “Well, are you coming with me?”

Tears filled my eyes as I grabbed my scriptures and followed her. As we left the house for a day of missionary work, I marveled at the change the Spirit had wrought in my companion. I also noted with immense satisfaction how I too was changing. My outlook was brighter and my feelings toward my companion were less critical and more tempered by understanding, patience, and love. I was reminded of the great blessings in store for those who cultivate the habit of working through challenges with faith as they seek the eventual fruits of their labors (see D&C 58:3–4)."

Elder N. Eldon Tanner gave us the key to overcoming contention: "It has always been interesting and inspirational to me to notice that as our missionaries go out into foreign countries to preach the gospel of peace and love, they soon learn a different language, adopt foreign customs, and come home with a deep and abiding love for the people of the land where they served. We must all learn to do this wherever we live or serve.

The most difficult thing for us seems to be to give of ourselves, to be unselfish. If we really love someone, nothing is too difficult for us to do for that individual. There is no real happiness in having things or getting things unless we are doing it for the purpose of giving it to others. Half the world seems to be following the wrong path in the pursuit of happiness—many think it consists of having things and getting things and being served, when really happiness is found in serving others.

Sometimes I am almost convinced that it is human nature to magnify the weaknesses in others in order to minimize our own. Let us always remember that men of great character do not belittle others nor magnify their weaknesses. In fact, the thing that makes them great is the showing of love for and interest in the success and welfare of their neighbors. True love does not permit us to hold grudges or ill feelings, to tell unkind things about others, or to destroy a person’s good reputation. We should not talk about or criticize one another, but strive to build and strengthen one another."

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