Happy Independence Day! Also, with this being our Pioneer month, I wanted to share something relating to their legacy. A true pioneer is one who goes before, showing others the way to follow. I have been thinking and pondering about their hard-working and reliable beast, the ox. Generally they were paired and yoked together for the use of being draft animals, pulling a load of some kind. Oxen are symbolized for being powerful, hard working, and persistent until their task is completed. A yoke is a wooden beam, normally used between the pair of oxen that enables them to pull together. It places them side-by-side so they can move together in order to accomplish their duty. Implementing these same traits in your missionary efforts can help make you and your companion’s endeavors more fruitful and bring you greater success. However, there will still be those times of discouragement that can cause you to feel overwhelmed and disheartened. This is normal with every missionary. There is no need to be discouraged and depressed.
The following allegory is a wonderful lesson shared by Sister Nicole Callister about discouragement and how you can change your attitude about it:
“One day, Sister Trickler and I had a lot of appointments fall through, so we were out tracting. It was hot and humid and nobody was answering their door. The one person that did was adamantly opposed to our message. I was tired and so was Sis. Trickler, but then she began to tell me a story that changed my view of those rough days.
“She told me, once there was a man who lived near a big rock. One day, at the beginning of the summer, God told him to push the rock, so the man pushed the rock. All summer, day after day he pushed, but the rock never budged. The man became frustrated and discouraged as the season wore on. At the end of summer, the man cried out to God, ‘Why did you tell me to push this rock? I’m unable to move it.’
“God replied, ‘I never told you to move the rock. I told you to push the rock.’ Seeing that the man was confused, He continued, ‘Look at yourself. Although the rock never moved, your skin is tough and tan from the summer sun, and your muscles gained strength from trying so hard every day.’
“Sometimes, God tells us to push a rock. We push and we shove and we cry out to him, ‘I’m not strong enough.’ What we often don’t realize is that our trial is the very thing that strengthens us and prepares us for other things. Heavenly Father knows that we will never be strong enough to move the boulder on our own, but that’s not the point.… But as we push, we gain strength, and that strength enables us to tackle other obstacles we may face. So as I’m out working in the summer heat, I remind myself that God is making me stronger with every door I knock on.”1
This past conference I thoroughly enjoyed the talk, “Bear Up Their Burdens with Ease”, by Elder David A. Bednar. You may recall the analogy about his friend who desired a four-wheel-drive pick up. How he playfully contested with his wife the reasons why it was needed. Upon acquiring the truck, he wanted to prove his reasoning and went to the mountains to cut and haul some firewood. He eventually ran into bad roads, slid off and became stuck. While worrying about his predicament, he decided to go ahead to cut and collect the firewood filling his truck. Eventually, with its weight, it allowed him to gain the traction needed for him to free himself and drive home safely.
As Elder Bednar emphasized the vital lesson between his friend, the truck and the firewood he states, “It was the load of wood that provided the traction necessary for him to get out of the snow, to get back on the road, and to move forward. It was the load that enabled him to return to his family and his home.
“Each of us also carries a load. Our individual load is comprised of demands and opportunities, obligations and privileges, afflictions and blessings, and options and constraints.”
As we each assess our own loads, Elder Bednar desires us to ask two questions, “Is the load I am carrying producing the spiritual traction that will enable me to press forward with faith in Christ on the strait and narrow path and avoid getting stuck? Is the load I am carrying creating sufficient spiritual traction so I ultimately can return home to Heavenly Father?”
Elder Bednar then referred to the unique invitation of the Savior in the following scripture for us to consider and then gives us some additional brilliant insights:
“Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
“Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.
“For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light”(Matthew 11:28–30).
“Making and keeping sacred covenants yokes us to and with the Lord Jesus Christ. In essence, the Savior is beckoning us to rely upon and pull together with Him, even though our best efforts are not equal to and cannot be compared with His. As we trust in and pull our load with Him during the journey of mortality, truly His yoke is easy and His burden is light.”2
In likeness, Elder Russell M. Nelson commented, “You come unto Christ to be yoked with Him and with His power, so that you’re not pulling life’s load alone. You’re pulling life’s load yoked with the Savior and Redeemer of the world, and suddenly your problems, no matter how serious they are, become lighter.” (Elder Russell M. Nelson, “The Mission and Ministry of the Savior,” Ensign, June 2005, 18.)
Here is a little known fact: As long as the conditions, training, and capability of the teamster are optimum, two oxen yoked together can pull more than double the combined weight two single oxen could pull on their own. In missionary work, think of the Teamster as being the Savior and you and your companion as the oxen yoked together—or better yet, yoked with the Savior.
The following is an experience that Elder Boyd K. Packer shared to reinforce this idea of teamwork.
“Several teams of oxen with heavy wooden yokes were lined up to compete. A wooden sledge was weighted with cement blocks. The object was for the oxen to move the sledge three feet.
“I noticed a well-matched pair of very large, brindled, blue-gray animals. They were the big-boned, Holstein, Durham-cross.… Because of their size, of course they were the favorites.
“Each team was given three attempts to move the sledge. If they were able to do so easily, more weight was added until the teams were eliminated one by one. In turn, each team was hitched to the sledge. The teamster would position his animals carefully … and then at a goad and a loud command they would slam forward against the yoke. Either the weight would move or the oxen were jerked to a halt.
“The big blue oxen didn’t even place! A small, nondescript pair of animals, not very well matched for size, moved the sledge all three times.
“I was amazed and fascinated and turned to an old New Englander in the crowd and asked if he could explain how that could happen. He said, ‘the big blues were larger and stronger and better matched for size than the other team. But the little oxen had better teamwork and coordination. They hit the yoke together. Both animals jerked forward at exactly the same time and the force moved the load.
“One of the big blue oxen had lagged a second or pushed a second too soon and the force was spent in a glancing blow. The yoke then was twisted and the team jerked to one side and the sledge hardly moved.
“If I were to moralize, I would begin in typical Book of Mormon language, ‘And thus we see’ that size and strength are not enough. It takes teamwork as well.”3
Returning to Elder Bednar’s analogy about his friend, the truck and the wood. He gives us more thought and inspiration by emphasizing:
“Sometimes we mistakenly may believe that happiness is the absence of a load. But bearing a load is a necessary and essential part of the plan of happiness.…
“The unique burdens in each of our lives help us to rely upon the merits, mercy, and grace of the Holy Messiah (see 2 Nephi 2:8). I testify and promise the Savior will help us to bear up our burdens with ease (see Mosiah 24:15). As we are yoked with Him through sacred covenants and receive the enabling power of His Atonement in our lives, we increasingly will seek to understand and live according to His will. We also will pray for the strength to learn from, change, or accept our circumstances rather than praying relentlessly for God to change our circumstances according to our will. We will become agents who act rather than objects that are acted upon (see 2 Nephi 2:14). We will be blessed with spiritual traction.”4
I want to use some of your fellow missionaries’ stories to tutor us more upon this theme. The following examples are lessons learned by Sister Olivia Snow and Sister Jessica Harmon of the trials and discouragements they have seen and felt as missionaries in regards to some of their own teaching opportunities. I’m sure you each have had similar experiences. Their perspective and insights learned are valuable teachings for us. Sister Snow recorded the following:
“Sol is still doing good. The whole situation with her is breaking my heart. She really confided in us this week and we are doing all that we can to help her. It is something that has become a theme in the Branch.
“So many people are passing through so many trails and such hard things and sometimes as missionaries we just feel like we are helpless in so many ways. We sat in a lesson this week where we just wished we could provide a sweet single sister member with a job so she could buy their children clothes and not have to worry about everything. We sat in a lesson with someone who was in so much pain she could barely even sit up on her couch and we wished we could take that pain away. We sat in many lessons where members have been offended and we wished we could just take that hurt from their hearts. All of these individual trials just started piling up until one night on our way home we just cried. We just want to help these people.
“This is what we learned. We will be their missionaries and Christ will be their Savior. We want to help and take away all their trails and hardships but we can’t, only Christ can. We are here to teach them the gospel of Christ and invite them to live it. We know the blessings of living the Gospel are real and we can all be strengthened through Christ to bear our own personal trials.”5
Sister Harmon shares her experience with this correspondence home:
“About a month ago, Hermana Christina (the RS President) told us that her son met a woman that really needed our help. So we ended up doing divisions and I was the lucky one that got to go with her to meet this family. This day we walked all the way to almost the end of our area until we reached what is known as ‘the invasion’. This is where the farmers fields and crops were invaded by people who built makeshift houses out of cardboard, or whatever other material they could find, without permission. Almost none of them have lights, not to mention this is illegal and the government can kick them out at any time.
“When we arrived at the invasion, it broke my heart to see the way the people lived. This was an experience I shall never forget. Not too long after we got to her house and knocked, Hermana Rosaleigha (the grandma) came out and received us with a big hug! She is one of the nicest women I have ever met! She invited us into her home and kept apologizing for its condition. She told us about her past life, where she always had everything she needed and it was always kept in the best condition. But things changed. Her daughter died, leaving her with her two grandkids. She lost her house, husband, and her job, forcing her to move to where they are now. The only way she can make a living is through recycling, which hardly brings in any money. On top of that, one of her grandsons was in the hospital with a leg that was badly burned and they didn’t have enough money to pay for the medical bills. We shared a small message with her and left her with a prayer.
“This woman works every day from 7:00 a.m. until 8:00 or 9:00 p.m. except for Sundays. We tried the next two Sundays to visit her again with no luck. I just felt the strongest need to see her and I wasn’t going to give up. On Monday we headed out with Hermana Christina, some saltine crackers and Coca Cola, praying to find them in their makeshift home and share a little Family Home Evening with them. They were home! There was Hermana Rosaleigha, her two grandkids and her daughter-in-law with her three kids. They were very excited to see us! We had one of the most amazing Family Home Evenings I have ever had… When we finished the lesson, we shared the refreshments. This poor family is lucky to have enough money to eat, if not they fast. As soon as we opened the pop and crackers it was gone. The thing that broke my heart even more was that they were used to it. We promised them we would be back.
“As we left their house that night and headed back in the dark, I remembered something that brought tears to my eyes. The first time I returned to the temple, following my own endowment, I did the work for a sister named ‘Rosaleigha’. As I went through I felt the strongest connection to this name that I can’t explain. I knew I needed to remember it. I recorded it in my cell phone and didn’t think much about it until this moment. As I was walking in the darkness and pondering, it all clicked. Her name was Rosaleigha! I now know the reason I needed to remember that name. There was a reason I was called to this area. There was a reason I met her.
“Today we decided to spend P-day with them. We bought all the things that we needed, headed to their house, helped them do a little cleaning, and made them lunch. As Rosaleigha entered her home, after searching through garbage, she said to us with tears in her eyes, ‘Hermanas, thank you so much for what you have done today, if it wasn’t for you, we would probably be fasting for the third day in a row.’ I know God has a special purpose for this family, and I know that everything will be okay.
“Lets just say I LOVE this family more than life itself. It doesn’t matter that they live in what just may be the poorest house I have ever seen. It doesn’t matter that their dog tries to kill me every time we knock on their door. In the short time I have known them, they have changed my life for good!
“I found a scripture in Matthew this week that I just loved! ‘The blind receive their sight, and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor have the gospel preached to them.’” (Matthew 11:5)6
In addition to the remarks from Elder Bednar, I came across an address by Elder Spencer H. Osborn that went along with this and I want to include the following excerpt:
“Traditionally, and properly, we consider [Matt. 11:28–30 (take my yoke upon you)] and this beautiful promise of relief in connection with those without the kingdom.… Very often we use this invitation for those within the Church who carry the heavy burdens of sadness, distress, sickness, problems, or sin. May I suggest another vast group of faithful Latter-day Saints who receive great comfort from this scripture. They are the workers in the vineyard, those who carry the load of service in the Church.
“There are two excerpts from this scripture which seem especially appropriate to this group of men and women. The first is ‘Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me.’ Not only are we to accept responsibilities in the service of the Master, but we are to continue our personal studies—the never-ending process of learning of Jesus Christ and pondering His ministry, message, and atonement.… The second segment that applies to us is ‘For I am meek and lowly in heart.’ Meekness is the key to success in the Lord’s service. To be meek and lowly doesn’t mean to be timid or afraid, but to be submissive to the will of the Lord, to be willing to be led by the Spirit and to be teachable.”7
I personally find it interesting that the invitation from the Savior reads, “take my yoke upon you”. Have you considered, what is His yoke? Is it to do the will of the Father? What is the will of the Father? Is it to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man? I know that when we take His yoke upon us and lose ourselves in doing the will of the Father that our own trials, tribulations and burdens shall be lightened and I’ll add, fulfilling. You will find yourself worrying about others and placing them before and above yourself and your own needs and will be blessed for it. This directed me to a Scripture in 3 Nephi:
And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin;
Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is cast into the oven, even so will he clothe you, if ye are not of little faith.
Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed?
For your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things.
But seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you. (3 Nephi 13:28, 30–33)
Elder Christian Peterson serving in Taiwan had an interesting experience regarding this very thought as he put his missionary work and his concerns for others before his own. He shared with me this experience:
“We were knocking doors until our next scheduled appointment when it started to sprinkle. Because the church was across town and we didn’t bring our rain gear, we went over to our bikes to leave for there.
“The sprinkle of rain quickly turned into a downpour, as Taiwan can be known for, so my companion and I ran to get beneath a tree. My companion took off his silk tie and was putting it into my bike box to keep it dry. As he was turned and doing so, I was looking around and noticed a motor scooter coming around the corner and headed right for us. He pulled up and gave me 2 ponchos. He didn’t say a word and then drove off. He didn’t just happen to see us standing there. It felt like he came just for us. It had only been raining for about 1 minute before he arrived so he couldn’t have had time to go get them. It was a miracle. My companion just looked at me and asked how is it I got 2 ponchos. I said, “I don’t know. That guy just drove up and gave them to me.”8
As you and your companion yoke yourselves with the Lord in doing the work, you help chosen individuals yoke themselves with the Savior, and through the Atonement and other principles and ordinances they will create a new life for themselves. The following example is from Sister Emily Mather in Spain:
“We met on the street Victor, from Bolivia, about 5 weeks ago. We had one lesson with him and then lost contact with him completely.
“Oof, this man amazes me, as he opened up to us so much about how he had been a very worldly man, and he wants to change. He truly, truly wants to change and feel more peace in his life. For the five weeks that we hadn’t been able to meet with him, he kept the Book of Mormon on his nightstand. He told us that his 7-year-old daughter has been very interested and has begun reading it too.
“So, we finally got in touch with him again and invited him to be baptized as part of this change in his life. He said that he is in it 100% and trusts that as he puts God first in his life, the rest will come.… He wants his little daughter to come to know who God is and have this strong base in her life. Sister Burgos and I testified to him that that is why we were here. We have been raised by parents, who taught us to believe in Christ and to seek his comfort, peace and teachings. Here we are, putting into practice what our parents have taught us. For this we are so grateful.
“I am grateful for the marvelous power of the Atonement that creates this change in people’s lives, even though I can’t fully comprehend it. So many prayers were answered when we met with Victor again. I knew this man was very special from the first time we met with him. He and his daughter came to church yesterday and loved it. Alison played with all of the Primary kids! Thank you, Mom and Dad, for raising me in this gospel and giving me the opportunity to serve a mission.”9
To end with, this now epistle, I just want to let you know that there are many things that you do as a missionary that make us proud and that we notice. Your hard work of hastening the work is paying off. We hope that as you and your companion yoke with the Lord, pulling together you will have nothing but joy and happiness. When your missions are over, you can look back and feel the same joy Ammon felt as he and his brothers met up with Alma. As she is wrapping up her own mission service, Sister Kiley Cash relates the following that gives a small glimpse of what one may feel.
“Something amazing happened yesterday in Sacrament Meeting. I played the piano. Not too great, right? But the Branch is grateful that someone can at least play as they sing and do some prelude. As I came down from the stand during the Sacrament, a couple stopped me. They looked so familiar but I couldn’t figure out from where. Well, they had come into the Visitors’ Center during General Conference and Sister Campos and I gave them a tour—I wasn’t even on shift at the time and Sister Campos’ companion didn’t speak Spanish, but things worked out. They were amazing and we spent all 2 hours of Conference with them. Sister Campos got their info, off they went, and we didn’t hear anything more as Sister Campos was transferred out of the Visitors’ Center and I didn’t have their information.
“Well, that very couple stopped me in Sacrament meeting yesterday. They were baptized on the 18th of May, went on vacation for the next week and had yet to be confirmed. (I got to the area on the 20th of May.) Well, yesterday they were confirmed members of the church and then they both bore their testimonies and thanked us for giving them a tour! It was exactly what I needed to hear. We were exactly where we needed to be to help them. Not just at the Visitors’ Center, but to reconfirm to them that in the gospel of Jesus Christ, there are no ‘mere chances’ or ‘lucky happenstances.’ So, now I know another reason why I was assigned back here at the Visitor Center. It was so that I could see them and they could see me.”10
Elder Krstyen you are one of those awesome and special missionaries doing great and wonderful things. We love our missionaries.
1. Sister Nicole Callister, Minneapolis Minnesota Mission, 2 Jun 2014 2. Elder David B. Bednar, “Bear Up Their Burdens with Ease” Ensign, May 2014 3. See Elder Boyd K. Packer, “Equally Yoked Together”, Teaching Seminary Preservice Readings Religion 370, 471, and 475, (2004), 30 4. Elder David B. Bednar, “Bear Up Their Burdens with Ease” Ensign, May 2014 5. Sister Olivia Snow, Colorado. Fort Collins Mission, 5 May 2014. 6. Sister Jessica Harmon, Chiclayo Peru Mission, 9 June 2014 7. Elder Spencer H. Osborn, “Service in the Church”, Ensign, November 1984 8. Elder Christian Peterson, Taichung Taiwan Mission, 11 May 2014 9. Sister Emily Mather, Madrid Spain Mission, 19 May 2014 10 Sister Kiley Cash, California, San Francisco/Oakland Temple Mission, 2 June 2014