Near the end of my mission, my mission president assigned me to lead the Ovalle Zone. I was humbled and flattered at the assignment, because it was near the end of my mission. I fully expected to serve out the rest of my time in my assignment at the time. Nevertheless, I did accept it, and I went on my way.
that we might not shrink
At the same time, I was listening to an old CES devotional talk by Elder Bednar titled “That We ‘Might Not Shrink’”. I listened to it many times, because I found it to help me to persevere until the end of my mission. In the talk, Elder Bednar taught that when challenges come around, one must not shrink before the challenge but accept that it is something to take in life. To come to this conclusion, Elder Bednar told a story of a recently married couple. Cancer shocked the husband, and the husband thought he had failed as a new spouse. He said the following in his journal as recited by Elder Bednar.
“This was the scariest day of my life. Not only because I was told I had cancer, but also because I was newly married and somehow felt that I had failed as a husband. I was the provider and protector of our new family, and now—three weeks into that role—I felt like I had failed. I know that thought is absurd, but it is one of the crazy things I told myself in a moment of crisis.”
How unlucky this man probably felt! He had achieved a marriage, but now it looked like his marriage was going to be taken away quickly. Why should something done with wonderful intentions run the risk of being taken away suddenly? What point is there to achieving things, when they are seemingly unprotected? Such questions forebode an eminent crisis. This is a moral dilemma! It can shake someone to the core.
It could be that, at least to Elder Bednar, the previous questions were the wrong ones to ask. At one point, Elder Bednar visited the couple. During the visit, Elder Bednar asked a poignant question to the couple. “Do you have the faith not to be healed?” It is important to note that Elder Bednar had not thought to ask this question. This question changes perspective on faith! It is often taught that if we have faith all things are possible. It just so happens to be, that “all things are possible” often interprets into “what I want to happen”. There in lies a fallible assumption. With faith, all things are possible through God and not because you deserve it. So instead of “what I want to happen” it is better to say “what God wants to happen”.
The husband noted as follows, “Essentially [Elder Bednar] was asking if I had the faith to accept God’s will if His will were that I not be healed?” It would seem that the root of faith is really just to believe that I am subjected to God, and to be at peace with it. It is also to believe that God has intentions to teach in every event that happens. The challenge to faith is to maintain a belief that there are purposes to everything even though something could happen that one does not want.
Back to the story I want to tell. One of the first district meetings I went to as a zone leader, the district leader asked a question to the missionaries. “Do we have the faith to baptize?” I frowned. This question reflected what I had been learning from Elder Bednar’s talk. I interrupted the meeting. “Do we also have the faith not to baptize?” There have been multiple occasions in which really good missionaries just did not get baptisms. Success could not be measured as baptisms. I started to teach that we just need to follow our duty as missionaries, and then there is the real success of a missionary.
Here is another story in the same zone. There was a pair of sister missionaries, and my companion and I perceived that they were having a tough time. One was a new missionary. They were not getting lessons. I have been in a similar situation a couple times before. I wondered and prayed what I could do for them. A zone meeting came around, and in the zone meeting the time came to do role plays. I decided to be with that pair of sister missionaries to see what I could do.
We started the role play, and the role play went poorly. The role play ended, I asked them what happened, and they responded meagerly. Something jumped within me to speak. I asked them “what does it mean to be a missionary?” They said it was to baptize. “That is the wrong answer”, I corrected. I quickly followed up by saying, “whom do you represent?” They responded “Jesus Christ”. I then taught, “And he wants you to do exactly that, represent Him. You keep His name on your chest everyday as you walk through dirt crusted streets. If you at least do you duty to represent Him, then nothing else matters in a mission does it? You can have people reject you day and night, but if you know you did your best to represent Christ, all is well.” The role play ended, and I left to conduct the rest of the zone meeting. I don’t know how they took it in the end. My mission ended soon afterwards.
proper patience and diligence
Having patience and diligence is required for good faith. The Book of Mormon highlights the importance of having those two attributes. One of the most normal people of The Book of Mormon that exhibits those two attributes is probably Shiblon, Alma’s son.
Shiblon accompanied his father faithfully in all his duties (Alma 38:3). Shiblon was even imprisoned and stoned for following his duty (Alma 38:4). Could Shiblon have said, “why me?” just as anyone else? Could Shiblon have behaved as so many have behaved already and asked “why is this happening? I have done all that I was asked to do.” If Shiblon did, it is not recorded.
Instead Alma praises Shiblon for his patience (Alma 38:3-4), and Alma teaches Shiblon to keep trusting in the Lord because He will always deliver and lift up the righteous in the last day (Alma 38:4-5). Patience helps an individual to wait for the Lord, and diligence helps an individual to keep his or her duty. Combine the two, and one comes closer to good faith.
I believe that the proper application of faith isn’t something that we impose. The proper application of faith is including God in whatever decision we need to make. That decision could be to accept the challenge that is happening, and learn from it. The decision could also be to jump to a decision and accept any outcomes. Whatever happens, wait for promises to be fulfilled and keep to the duty that has been assigned. Doing so, one can be closer to practicing proper faith.