The stake presidency came over tonight and set us apart as missionaries called to serve in the South Africa Johannesburg mission for the next 18 months. It was wonderful to be able to put on our missionary badges for the first time in 10 months. Now all we need to do is pack and close up all the different accounts that are connected with home. Then on Wednesday morning we will get on the plane to start our latest South African adventure…
We were truly blessed today as we had a chance to speak in church and have about 40 FFLM RMs there to support us. For the closing song the RMS and us sang the first two verses of ‘We’ll bring the world his truth.” After the meeting most of the missionaries came over to our house and had a great time eating and talking. I think most of them had a better time talking than eating. However most of them managed to do both of them very well…
Sanctify yourselves to help others to the ordinances including the Temple:
“Such a miracle week! So, first, we received a media referral from this lady and left a message on her phone so she called back and set up a time for us to come see her on Friday. When we got there we started talking and asked her how she came to get on our website and why she wanted us to come over. She then told us her amazing experience. About a month ago she had this dream one night of a light cream colored building that was beautiful and had beautiful windows. She didn’t know where this building was until she was driving on the freeway and saw the temple! And she immediately knew that was the building in her dream and she kept thinking ‘Mormon.’ So she searched the temple out and found out about our church and asked us to come over! She wanted to know about Smith and the Book of Mormon and everything she could. And even invited herself to be baptized saying ‘they said I had to do something before I could get baptized?’ This Sunday she showed up for church early to meet people and get a good seat. The temple is a missionary tool that God is preparing his children for!”
Sanctify yourselves so that you may witness others sanctify themselves:
“She looks at me and asked ‘Do you see my face? I have changed, I am happy and so is my son and it’s because when you and your companion knocked on my door that Friday; I can never thank you enough.’ She began to tell us how she received her patriarchal blessing and now she is preparing to go to the temple, her 8 year old son told us how much the Gospel has changed his and his mom’s life as well… I was SO happy to hear the blessings that have come to them and the pure joy they have felt from the gospel. The one thing that I pulled out from this experience was the importance of following the promptings of the Holy Ghost. Just like Elder Kopischke said that we HAVE to act on the promptings of the spirit and to never doubt them. My companion and I spent almost a whole month knocking this entire apartment complex and the reason why we kept going back was because we knew that someone in that complex needed the gospel and as hundreds of doors were shut and hundreds of no’s we knew that we needed to be there for this woman and her son.”
Sanctify yourselves so you can witness the sanctification process of others accepting the truth:
“It all started on Sunday when my companion and I felt prompted to invite a member to come out with us… we found him (new investigator) and he was living in a halfway house, no relationship with God and could care less about keeping the commandments… when we first saw him I didn’t see him progressing that much in the Gospel, but we got a return appointment for Tuesday… As soon as he opened his door on Tuesday I immediately pictured him in white. And it was so easy to do so. As we taught with love, that night he was able to feel of God’s love. He told us that he hadn’t felt that for a really long time, and he was ready to change his life around so he could get back to heaven… On Wednesday we took a member out with us and again we had a power house lesson. We taught the Word of Wisdom, and he LOVED it! He even went into the house and gave us his box of cigarettes. And the member was incredible, supporting him every step of the way… Then on Thursday after the amazing training from Elder Kopischke, my companion and I talked about that we needed to HELP our investigators… When we got to his house on Thursday evening… you could see the light was gone from his eyes. We asked him what was wrong and he told us that he had messed up and smoked 2 cigarettes that day. We changed our lesson plan and decided to go through the steps of Repentance with him… we both felt prompted to have him pray right then and there with us. And as we helped him with the repentance process you could feel the spirit working on him. During his prayer, he was basically pleading with God to forgive him. After his prayer, we sat there for a few minutes. We finally asked how he felt and he said ‘I now know the difference between happiness and pure joy!’ And the light was back in his eyes! After church we asked if he believed he was at Christ’s church and he told us without a shadow of a doubt he KNEW he was. He said that for the first time in his life, he had family and true friends. Sunday he had some things come up and he took with him a bible, a Book of Mormon, a TON of pass-a-long cards, and all the pamphlets we have left with him. As of today, he no longer has his bible, (he gave it to someone who was depressed) his pamphlets have all been given away, and yesterday and today he asked for more pass-a-long cards, because he has given them all out! He is already doing missionary work and is sharing the love that he has felt these past week with everyone that he meets. [He was baptized yesterday]”
Missionaries, sanctify yourselves and cast off all distractions that would keep you from finding and “HELPING” God’s children come to Christ; yield your hearts to God:
“Nevertheless they did fast and pray oft, and did wax stronger and stronger in their humility, and firmer and firmer in the faith of Christ, unto the filling their souls with joy and consolation, yea, even to the purifying and the sanctification of their hearts, which sanctification cometh because of their yielding their hearts unto God.” (Helaman 3:35)
Michael Austin Dunn, 55, and Linda Poulson Dunn, three children, Neff’s Canyon Ward, Salt Lake Mount Olympus Stake: South Africa Johannesburg Mission, succeeding President S. Craig Omer and Sister Catherine C. Omer. Brother Dunn serves as a ward Young Men president and is a former stake president, bishop, gospel doctrine teacher and missionary in the Hawaii Honolulu Mission. Chief marketing officer, Surefoot. Born in Tucson, Ariz., to Austin Taggart Smith and Patricia Sargeant.
Sister Dunn serves as a ward nursery leader and is a former stake Young Women president, YSA adviser, gospel doctrine teacher and Cub Scout leader. Born in Salt Lake City to Kenneth Ralph and Virginia Wilson Poulson.
Elder and Sister Knowles are the senior couple who has been working the area that we will be serving. I wrote to them about a number of things and they sent back this great letter that told us more about our mission. In some ways this idea of following up where others started reminds me of Richards Bay where the Hafens and Bartholomews had the task of getting 4 brand new very small branches functioning and then about a year later we got to continue what they worked so diligently to organize.
“Dear Elder and Sister Pier,
Nice to hear from you. I have forwarded your email to my husband who will look into the Knowles connection.
We do not live in the area where we work We live in Johannesburg. The result has been that we have done 4 hours of travelling every day to an back from Potchefstroom where we work and you will be living. The Bishop’s who are in charge of housing have told us that they have found you a glorious and huge townhouse with 3 bedrooms and a study. You should be extremely comfortable.
We drive an automatic but you will be getting a different car but I am quite sure it will also be an automatic. We have driven our poor car to the ground.
As far as cost is concerned, I am afraid I think it varies for everyone on what you plan on spending and doing and how you plan your meals. We have found it to be quite unpredictable. We drive a lot and therefore pay the maximum amount for our car. $2,500 would probably be a fair estimation for you but who knows.
As you know, South Africa is a beautiful country with more than enough shopping opportunities. I don’t think it is possible that if you forget to bring something that you won’t be able to find it over here. So please don’t stress about that.
As far as the garmin is concerned – we have about a month overlap!! So, we think you should just download the South African maps and then you can follow us around our area and you can mark all the addresses on your Garmin that you will need.
We pioneered the area and it really went quite smoothly to find out feet and get situated – it just took a while. You are going to love it here. It has been an marvelous experience and we have come to love, as all missionaries do I suppose – the people we work with. Good luck on your flight and we will look forward to meeting you.
Elder and Sister Knowles.
I am including the complete letter because it contains excellent counsel from a general authority…
Sister Anderson and I have started interviews and apartment inspections this week. We will be At Miami and Homestead Zones on Wednesday, 2-19-14; Friday at Hialeah Zone 2-21-14; Palm Beach Zone, Wellington and Belle Glade on Tuesday, 2-25-14; the rest of Stuart Zone, Boca Raton and Coral Springs on Wednesday 2-26-14; rest of Coral Springs Zone and Miami Beach Zone on 2-28-14. We are excited to meet with you and feel your excitement for the great work we have been called to. Please be prepared to have your Area Books current. We are looking forward to see your spotless apartments and cars.
Elder Kopischke left an incredible mark on our hearts and Spirit this last week. He taught so much concerning our needs, and not so much our concerns. He is a master teacher when it comes to Doctrine, Principle, and Application. Some of the things he taught (and additional what inspired my spirit):
- Help our Investigators get answers to their questions through Church, The Book of Mormon, and Prayer. They will have all their questions answerd, if diligent in their efforts. Joseph Smith asked the greatest question in the world in the Sacred Grove.
- Teach and Testify in plainness and simplicity (2 Nephi 25:4; 7)
- Boldness is not shouting, it is teaching plainly, clearly, in a way that they can learn.
- A major part of our purpose is not to just “invite”, but to “Help”. Aaron invited and helped King Lamoni’s Father come to Christ, Alma 22:16
- Take him that is weak (members, other missionaries) and build and strengthen (D&C 84:106). Pray for them, help them see, bring them up through faith and example (3 Nephi 18:24-25). Bring together the slow wheel (members) and the fast wheel (missionaries). We can work together and bring unity.
- Three C’s to keep our investigators strong after baptism
- Conversion – don’t teach for Baptism, teach for conversion, Alma 23:4-7; Mathew 25:1-9 “oils of conversion”, “lamps of testimony”
- Circumstances –Condition – Completion – Help them not fail in their progress, because you love them, Alma 4:10; Help them follow the example of you and the members, Alma 39:11; Greatest support for your investigator is when the whole family are members, not just one or two (completion).
- Contribution/Service – Difference between “a calling” and “an assignment”. Assign them service opportunities; help fellowship your investigators, go teaching with you, reactivate others, serve others.
- Bring and invite investigators to witness the sacred ordinance of Baptism
- Strive to be “Pure” not “Sterile”; Pure is sanctified, worthy, chaste, obedient, and intentions of the heart. Sterile is without the Spirit, without sincerity, and without understanding.
- The greatest missionaries get discouraged, Alma 8:10; God will bless us (compensate) if we continue faithful and obedient, Alma 8:15.
- “How can you help an investigator if you have never failed?”
- “You don’t take credit for your successes; don’t take the blame when others don’t listen” (agency).
- “Your success as a missionary is measured primarily by your commitment…” (PMG p.10)
- Follow Spiritual Promptings with obedience and exactness, D&C 82:3; if you don’t do what you know, following the promptings, the sin will be upon us, D&C 82:4. The promised blessings of being obedient and following God’s promptings, D&C 82:10.
- We are here to bring a change in us, D&C 4:4, “he that thrusteth in his sickle with his might, the same layeth up in store that he parisheth not, but bring salvation to his soul.”
- “Why should I be baptized again?” When Adam was baptized he “became quickened in the inner man”, Moses 6:65-68. Since we are body and spirit, the inner man must be the spirit and a record was made for heaven and earth (vs 66). Then that “quickened inner man (spirit)” becomes one with God, “thou art one in me, a son of God, and thus may all become my sons.” (vs 68)
- We are not asking anyone to deny the good things they have learned in their previous church, but to add upon them, to give them the complete truth.
- “How can we be more motivated?” Another word for motivation is desire. In Lehi’s vision of the “Tree of Life”, Lehi prayed to overcome discouragement (darkness) and to increase his motivation (desire). He prayed sincerely and fervently for mercy and desire and he received it when he saw the tree. When he partook of the fruit, he wasn’t concerned about himself (his darkness) any more, but his desires were for others, his family (1 Nephi 8:7-16). Not everyone will partake, because of their agency. (1 Nephi 8:17-18)
The list goes on with the things we learned. Now is the time to apply it in our work, and work with the members:
“This week we worked with a 77-year old Cuban man. We met him through a recent convert who met him running one morning and felt that this man “NECECITA SER BAUTIZADO!” (needs to be baptized). In a little over two weeks, he gave up coffee, started feasting upon the word, praying, and attending church. Being a cyclist all his life and promising himself that he would never use a car after he retired, he insisted on riding his bicycle to church for his baptism. So we chose to ride with him. Sunday morning we met him outside his house waiting for us and we started the 8-mile journey to the chapel. The whole time, the recent convert riding with us was practicing the baptismal prayer. What a sight it must have been to the people witnessing this “baptismal parade”! Hours later, he was baptized by this member friend and then bore a powerful testimony of the spirit he felt and of the truthfulness of this work.’”
Apply in our work with the Spirit:
“We went to visit an investigator who had a friend over. As soon as we walked in the gate of the home He said excited ‘wow… as soon as you walked through the gate I felt something. I was so mad and was about to stomp out but now I’m calm. What did you do? What is that?’ We started talking to him and reading from the Book of Mormon about the Holy Ghost, and that was what he was feeling. He listened and talked a lot about how he’d never felt anything like it. Throughout it he said ‘I don’t even want to do…(a certain sin)… anymore. That desire is gone… I’m a changed person.’ We invited him to be baptized, at first he said he had been but then when we testified that baptism is a commitment to God to keep his commandments He said ‘I got baptized for my mom, but I want to get baptized in the real church and that’s this one’, (we hadn’t even taught him the restoration. He just felt it.) He didn’t want us to leave. He really felt the spirit and it taught him.”
Apply in our work our member’s testimony:
“He still wanted to be baptized, but couldn’t promise to live the law of chastity, only try. This wasn’t good enough for God though, and he wasn’t able to be baptized. This week we saw him after many days of him probably avoiding us. He came out and immediately started throwing out these doubts about repentance and how God accepts everybody, and how our church was unfair. He told us that he didn’t need to be married and that he didn’t want to be married. We talked about Matt. 3:11 about confessing sins and then Corinthians where the scripture says it’s better to marry than to burn. After sharing these scriptures I was feeling like that might have been too harsh, and the member jumped right in and simply said, “if you want to be at peace with God, you need to be married.” Our investigator thought about this and we asked him if he loved his girlfriend. He said yes. We told him about how we can get him married… and make it a special ceremony that God can be proud of. He said hold on, opened the door and called his girl friend to come outside. We met her and then watched as the hand of God and the Spirit pushed him to propose. Looking at her he asked, ‘do you want to get married? With me?” WOW!!!! We were in shock! She said yes and now we are planning a wedding and then a baptism! How incredible!!!”
President Uchtdorf taught the blessings we will receive as we unite in these principles of God and go forward in spite of adversity:
“Guided by the Holy Spirit, we will learn from our mistakes. If we stumble, we will rise. If we falter, we will go on. We will never waver; we will never give up. As a mighty [Mission] of God, we will stand together, shoulder to shoulder, focused on the principles of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ and gratefully serving our God and fellowman with dedication and love… I testify to you this day that God the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ, live. They are real! They are there! You are not alone. Your Father in Heaven cares about you and desires to bless and uphold you in righteousness. Be assured that God speaks to mankind in our time. He will speak to you!” (President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, General Conference, 2012)
We have heard and studied wonderful doctrine and principles this last week. Now is the time to apply it. “Men and brethren, what shall we do?”(Acts 2:37) We must act on that knowledge and learning; we must change our circumstances and not wait to be acted upon. Like our converts, we must fulfill our commitments and change towards Christ, now is the time. We are part of a historic moment in this mission. “Elders and Sisters, what shall we do?”
“[Missionaries] shall we not go on in so great a cause? Go forward and not backward. Courage, brethren; and on, on to the victory! Let your hearts rejoice, and be exceedingly glad. Let the earth break forth into singing. Let the dead speak forth anthems of eternal praise to the King Immanuel, who hath ordained, before the world was, that which would enable us to redeem them out of their prison; for the prisoners shall go free.” (D&C 128:22)
Douglas Milo Richardson, 63, and LuAnn Ebert Richardson, four children, Red Cliffs 8th Ward, St. George Utah Red Cliffs Stake: Florida Fort Lauderdale Mission, succeeding President Donald E. Anderson and Sister Janet Anderson.
Brother Richardson serves as a bishop and is a former high councilor, stake Young Men president, stake mission president, counselor in a bishopric and missionary in the Brazil North Mission. Director, Strategic Partner Alliance, Western Digital Corporation. Born in Arlington, Va., to Acel Wayne Richardson and Vivian Carol Lee.
Sister Richardson serves as a counselor in a special needs Young Women presidency and is a former ward Relief Society president, counselor in a ward Young Women presidency and Primary teacher. Born in Salt Lake City to Richard Wayne Ebert and Geraldine McCullough.
President Packer has taught us to pay attention, and follow the Spirit’s promptings or we will lose out on future opportunities to be instruments in God’s hands:
“The Spirit does not get our attention by shouting or shaking us with a heavy hand. Rather it whispers. It caresses so gently that if we are preoccupied we may not feel it at all… Occasionally it will press just firmly enough for us to pay heed. But most of the time, if we do not heed the gentle feeling, the Spirit will withdraw and wait until we come seeking and listening.” (Elder Boyd K. Packer, “The Candle of the Lord”)
Revelation will give you boldness with love and they will feel it’s power:
“This week has truly been a miracle transfer week. The day I came to this area we went to see an amazing woman who was preparing for baptism. We taught her the word of wisdom, and asked if we could help remove temptation by taking her cigarettes. She was reluctant at first because she said she would just go out and buy some more. She wanted to quit but didn’t think she could. A scripture came to mind and we had her read Ether 12:27. She reread it a few times so she could understand it and then she said. ‘so basically God is more powerful than anything. He can help me to overcome this.’ She sat for a moment. We had testified of the divinity and ability from God, and now those words were becoming real because of this scripture, but now it was time for silence. She gave us her cigarettes… She gave us everything and told us she wouldn’t have given us them if she wasn’t done. It was a transfer miracle!”
Revelation will help you know what to teach and inspire all within the sound of your voice:
“We were walking from the sign we’d locked our bikes to, to the building where [we] felt inspired to harvest. We both abruptly turned from our destination without a word and walked to a nearby door and knocked. The woman knew us and let us in. We found out she had been told she needed to be married and baptized by previous missionaries, and she loved the missionaries but not the commitments. She wanted to be taught, and we were ready to teach true Doctrine and help her out. Then her friend came over and she invited her to sit with us. They talked and talked until they arrived at the topic of why there are so many churches. We cut in and said, ‘If we tell you the answer to that question, will you listen to what we have to say.’ They both quieted down and leaned in. We taught them about the restoration of the Gospel and they soaked it up, but did not yet recognize its truth. Then our attention shifted to the friend who had come in. We invited her to pray to know of the truth of our message and she knelt down with all of us, but she could not pray – even after we had instructed her a few times. The original woman we met urged us to just say the prayer ourselves – which we knew wasn’t an option – when a voice came from the corner of the room. It was her husband. ‘You pray and have her follow you,’ he said. It was inspiration. We led her in the prayer as we would a child and after the prayer she was beaming and knew Joseph Smith was a prophet. Also she wanted to be baptized.”
One of the very great blessings of going on senior missions is getting to know the young missionaries. By going to Fort Lauderdale and working in the office we got to know most of the missionaries. Some we got to know really well and got to know their families through this blog and after we got home.
On the 30th of January 9 of those amazing FFLM missionaries arrived home and were greeted by family and friends. We were blessed to be there and to get to know those families we had not met before and of course to join in welcoming the missionaries home. Sisters Emily Bagley, Emma Daines, Crishelle Stegelmeier, Elders Ryan Johnson, Nathan Lee, Landon Loucks, Joseph Pearce, Colton Pond and Erik Benitez all served honorable missions and helped many through the gate and down the path to Eternal Life.
Every family had one or more signs to welcome their missionary home.
They waited patiently for the plane to arrive and then for the missionaries to get down the escalators.
The Loucks family did one of their signs in Creole. I gave the prize for the best sign to the Lee family…who could ignore that beautiful child.
We got to meet Elder Pearce’s family – sister Pearce said she was a follower of this blog. The mothers lined up as the anticipated moment was about to arrive.
We got to meet the Bagley family and I thought this was a great sign. They said that is what friends called Sister Bagley.
We got to meet the Pearce family for the first time. Sister Pearce said she was a regular reader of this blog. Sister Stegelmeier got out in front when she thought she saw her very tall daughter.
She was rewarded by being the first mom to get a big hug. Sisters Daines and Bagley were close behind and soon got their hugs.
Then came the elders. From left to right Elders Benetiz, Pond – way in the back pulling the red suitcase, Lee with the blue tie, Johnson already being hugged by his mom, and elder Pearce who you can only see part of pulling the black suitcase. The last to arrive was elder Loucks who I think teased his mother by hanging back and then stopping before he got to her. But he soon got his big hug.
The sisters are all in the picture on the left. Elder Pearce gets a big hug from his mother.
I got to take some family pictures. Elder Pearce and Elder Lee’s families. We had the pleasure of having brother and sister Lee in our home a few months ago. We had a good talk about the mission and their missionary.
We got to meet the Benitez family. We had the honor of having the Stegelmeier family come to our homecoming. Sister Stegelmeier the younger got roses. I thought she should have worn her Florida dark glasses with the pink mustache.
We got to meet the elder Ryan Johnson family for the first time. Later as we were leaving I noticed that elder Johnson was getting the contact information from a man he had opened his mouth to – a real missionary to the end. The picture on the right is the Morgan Utah group – the Loucks family on the left and the Stegelmeier family on the right. Their two missionaries will be giving their reports on the same day in different wards and we will be able to be at both of them.