Welcome General Conference. I don’t know about you, but for me this is a welcome sight. Things will be a little different with some of the Addressees speaking in their native language. This will bring some additional challenges for us here at the Magazine department, but we accept the challenge. I hope you all can enjoy and be edified from all the instruction given. I know I will. It sounds as though things are going well in New Mexico. I love catching up with your blogg. We wish you continued success as you enter your final 3 months. You are awesome!
FYI: In the past few months, several of our sister missionaries have completed their missions and are now returning home. This is significant as they were part of the first group of sisters who received their mission calls in response to the age change. It’s hard to believe that it has already been two years, since it was announced? Time has really flown by. Also, it means that it has been a year and a half since I was released as a Bishop at BYU, something I have truly missed. It is always great to hear the stories and experiences from those serving and to get a glimpse of the growth they have received in the Gospel.
As you ponder back over your experiences, just think of the many promises that were made to you as a missionary and as a member of this church that have brought you so many blessings. You are without a doubt a choice missionary and are so blessed. Please take some time to reflect upon your Patriarchal Blessing and your setting apart as a missionary and “remember the promises” which are yours. As you count your blessings each night after your day’s work, you will discover the effects of many of those promises. It is my hope that as you remember them it will bring you better peace, confidence, joy and happiness in the work that you do and inspire you to do more. I want to relate a short story by Elder J. Jensen as he was serving in the Area Presidency in South America, and how remembering his own promises reassured him of this great work and how blessed he really had become.
After four days of interviews and meetings in South America where he was presiding, Elder Jay Jensen boarded his plane and returned home with a heavy heart. He had discovered some problems with the missionaries and members where the negative was outweighing his positive feelings. While traveling he returned to the scriptures where he reread D&C 3:1–5 inserting his name, and became deeply touched as he did so. “Behold, you, Jay Jensen, have been entrusted with these things, but how strict were your commandments; and remember also the promises which were made to you, Jay Jensen.…” After reading this, he records that this phrase, “remember also the promises” struck him with an unusual power.… He conveys the following:
“During those four days I had focused on nothing but problems. I had not stopped to consider one single promise.
“I had with me on the airplane that day a copy of my patriarchal blessing. I read it, noting several marvelous promises. I reviewed in my mind the promises given to me when I was set apart as a mission president. I turned to additional scriptures and pondered the promises in each one. I learned then and have had reinforced to me again and again that when we search the scriptures, we will come to know that ‘they are true and faithful, and the prophecies and promises which are in them shall all be fulfilled (D&C 1:37).”’1
I hope that you can take time to reflect upon your personal promises; both to you and from you, and that they will carry some special meaning and significance as you continue to serve Him.
Keeping in mind your own personal promises, let’s review some of the familiar promises found within the scriptures. Elder Spencer J. Condie comprehensibly addresses some of these in his discourse, “Claim the Exceeding Great and Precious Promises.” He summarizes some of the better-known promises that can bless our lives each day. He delivers the following list:
“The Lord’s countless exceeding great and precious promises include forgiveness of our sins when we ‘confess them and forsake them’ (D&C 58:43; see also D&C 1:32). Opening the windows of heaven is a promise claimed by those who pay a faithful tithe (see Malachi 3:10), and finding ‘great treasures of knowledge’ accrues to those who observe the Word of Wisdom (D&C 89:19).
“Becoming unspotted from the world is a promise to those who keep the Sabbath holy (see D&C 59:9; Exodus 31:13). Divine guidance and inspiration are promised to those who ‘feast upon the words of Christ’ (2 Nephi 32:3) and who ‘liken all scriptures’ unto themselves (1 Nephi 19:23).
“The Lord also promised that ‘whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, which is right, believing that ye shall receive, behold it shall be given unto you’(3 Nephi 18:20). We are promised that the Holy Ghost will be our constant companion when we ‘let virtue garnish [our] thoughts unceasingly’ (see D&C 121:45–46). We can claim the spiritually liberating promise of fasting, which will ‘loose the bands of wickedness,’undo our ‘heavy burdens,’ and ‘break every yoke’(Isaiah 58:6).
“Those who are sealed in holy temples and who faithfully keep their covenants will receive God’s glory, which ‘shall be a fulness and a continuation of the seeds forever and ever’ (D&C 132:19).2
We can pull from the Book of Mormon even more promises as we ponder over the words by President Thomas S. Monson from his address, “Precious Promises of the Book of Mormon”:
From the Book of Mormon come other precious promises, including promises of peace, freedom, and blessings if we “will but serve the God of the land, who is Jesus Christ” (Ether 2:12).
From its pages comes the promise of “never-ending happiness” to “those that keep the commandments of God. For behold, they are blessed in all things, both temporal and spiritual” (Mosiah2:41).
From its pages comes the promise of “incomprehensible joy” to those who become “instrument[s] in the hands of God” in rescuing His precious sons and daughters (Alma 28:8; 29:9).
From its pages comes the promise that scattered Israel will be gathered—a work in which we are engaged through our great worldwide missionary efforts (see 3 Nephi 16; 21–22).
From its pages comes the promise that as we pray unto the Father in the sacred name of Jesus Christ, our families will be blessed(see 3 Nephi 18:21).
From a study of its pages comes the fulfillment of the prophetic promise that “there will come into your lives and into your homes an added measure of the Spirit of the Lord, a strengthened resolution to walk in obedience to His commandments, and a stronger testimony of the living reality of the Son of God”(Gordon B. Hinckley, “A Testimony Vibrant and True,” Liahona and Ensign, Aug. 2005, 6).
And from the pages of the Book of Mormon comes Moroni’s promise that through prayer, real intent, and faith in Christ, we may know the truth of these promises “by the power of the Holy Ghost”(see Moroni 10:4–5).3
In referring back to Elder Jay Jensen’s address “Remember the Promises”, he goes on to teach the following important aspects:
The Lord has promised us specific blessings for reading and studying the scriptures.
I have found repeated in different places in the scriptures two major promises for reading and studying the scriptures that pertain to the next life: one is exaltation, and the other is eternal life.
The surprising discovery was that most promises that come to us for reading and studying the scriptures pertain to mortality. Three categories of promises to consider are promises of power, promises of increase, and “other promises.” Time will permit me to cite but a few of these.
Promises of Power
Consider the following five promises of power:
1.Power to overcome evil—Nephi taught: “Whoso would hearken unto the word of God, and would hold fast unto it, … the fiery darts of the adversary [could not] overpower them unto blindness.” (1 Ne. 15:24; see also Ps. 17:4; Ps. 119:98–101, 104; Hel. 3:29–30.)
2.Power to live righteously—Alma “did … preach the word of God unto them, to stir them up in remembrance of their duty.” (Alma 4:19.) The Psalmist said, “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.” (Ps. 119:105; see also 2 Tim. 3:15–17; Hel. 15:7–8.)
3.Power to teach convincingly—Alma and the sons of Mosiah “had searched the scriptures diligently … and when they taught, they taught with power and authority of God.” (Alma 17:2–3; see also 2 Tim. 3:16.) To Hyrum Smith the Lord said: “First seek to obtain my word … ; then, if you desire, you shall have my Spirit and my word, yea, the power of God unto the convincing of men.” (D&C 11:21; see also 2 Tim. 3:15–17; Alma 4:19; Alma 31:5; D&C 84:85.)
4.Power to call down the powers of heaven—Jacob said that “we search the prophets … and our faith becometh unshaken, insomuch that we truly can command in the name of Jesus and the very trees obey us, or the mountains, or the waves of the sea.” (Jacob 4:6; Hel. 10:4–5.)
5.Power to change the heart and disposition—Samuel taught the Nephites that the Lamanites were “led to believe the holy scriptures, … which are written, which leadeth them to faith on the Lord, and unto repentance, which faith and repentance bringeth a change of heart unto them.” (Hel. 15:7; see also 1 Ne. 15:20.) Three marvelous promises.
Promises of Increase
Consider now the following promises of increase:
1.Increase in hope and joy—The Apostle Paul taught that, “we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.” (Rom. 15:4; see also 1 Ne. 11:25; Jacob 2:8; Jacob 4:6; Alma 44:5; D&C 19:23.)
2.Increase in spirituality—“The preaching of the word had a great tendency to lead the people to do that which was just.” (Alma 31:5; see also 2 Ne. 4:15–16; Moro. 6:4.)
3.Increase in knowledge and understanding—Nephi taught that “the words of Christ will tell you all things what ye should do.”(2 Ne. 32:3.) To Joseph Smith the Lord said: “The holy scriptures are given of me for your instruction.”(D&C 33:16; see also Ps. 19:7; Ps. 119:98–101; 2 Tim. 3:15–17; Alma 12:10; Alma 17:2–3; D&C 18:34–36.)
4.Increase in the power of discernment—“The word of God … is quick and powerful, which shall divide asunder all the cunning and the snares and the wiles of the devil.” (Hel. 3:29.) “And whoso treasureth up my word, shall not be deceived.” (JS—M 1:37; see also Heb. 4:12.)
5.Increase in testimony—From the Doctrine and Covenants: “You can testify that you have heard my voice, and know my words.” (D&C 18:36; see also Ps. 19:7.)
In addition to these general categories of promises of power and increase, there are other promises, such as “for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt have good success” (Josh. 1:8) and as Joseph Smith said, “faith comes by hearing the word of God” (Joseph Smith, History of the Church, 3:379).
President Howard W. Hunter has said: “When we … read and study the scriptures, benefits and blessings of many kinds come to us. This is the most profitable of all study in which we could engage.” (Ensign, Nov. 1979, p. 64.)
May we “remember also the promises.”4
Following are some evidences of promises given and received through these missionaries’ stories. This first one is from Sister Emma Hancock serving in Russia:
So each missionary in Russia has a “copstopper,” which has a copy of your passport, visa, city registration, etc., just so that if the cops ever ask for them, we have something to give them that’s not our real identification and sometimes gets us off easy. When we were moving last week, I had it in my back pocket and lost it. It’s not the biggest deal in the world, but I was a little worried, and it meant I would have to go up to the office and get a new one.
So a few days went by until I called the office to see what the steps were to get a new one. Elder Whelch answered the phone and said, “Hello Sister Hancock, your name came up in our staff meeting today.” It turns out, some guy found my copstopper, looked at the two pictures in there of me, and decided he wanted to MARRY me. He put his name, number, and email on a piece of paper that he stuck inside, and turned it into the mission office. Everyone in the office was cracking up about it. THEN, he came to church yesterday!!!!! He’s totally a normal-looking guy. He was like, “Hey, I’m the guy who turned in your documents.” So I literally ran away and got the elders so they could teach him the word of God, yo. That’s the whole story.5
This next experience comes from Elder Dallin Crowther serving in Georgia:
We had a crazy miracle on Sunday. Our investigator Josh called us as we were in the car with a member and told us this story. How his 6-year-old son wanted to be baptized so they went down to the creek and brought his Book of Mormon to have a little service. The first thing they opened up to was Moroni 8, which is the chapter that tells us that children are saved by the grace of Christ. He read the whole chapter to his two sons and he had to call and tell us. He said they could feel the spirit so strong while down at the creek and wanted us to come over. Unfortunately he lives like twelve miles away and we had other appointments to get to. My companion and I were just going crazy.6
This next story is from Sister Allison Brown serving in the Philippines:
In other news, have I told you about the Marzan family? They live waaaaaaay up in the mountains and we haven’t been able to visit them for about 2 weeks because there’s been a lot of rain. Well, after getting a ride half way and hiking the rest while picking our way through the waist-high plants that pull at your clothes and scrape your skin, we scrambled down the “stairs” that Bro Marzan had cut out of a cliff, crossed the river and climbed the rickety bamboo ladder to reach their house. We found Sister Marzan who says, “Sisters! I’m so glad your here! I have a question for you!” After Brother Marzan came in from the rice fields and we opened the lesson we helped Sis Marzan, who’s in 1 Nephi 15, understand this chapter. Both she and brother Marzan agreed that it now makes a ton of sense!
After that they had a lot of other questions, which were conveniently already to be answered with the lesson that we had planned. Sweet! THEN, they confirmed with us the time church would be the next day. We worked out with them that we’d come early Sunday morning to help them and their two small daughters down the mountain. They usually go out another route and end up in another city. But that route would take hours.
I personally was excited for the sunrise Sunday morning hike. Unfortunately, they cancelled at 6:15 a.m.after we had already showered and dressed and selected a nice pair of shoes to change into after we made it to the church. So that stank. The problem was that their pig went into labor. Some things ya just can’t control.
Sister Marzan was able to make it to church the following week but Bro. Marzan wasn’t, as someone needs to be at the farm at all times. They made it in time to wipe the mud off each other and pick the burrs out of their skirts.7
Sister Madison Taylor wrote this in her email home a while back while serving in Australia. Because of her situation and circumstances she returned home to the USA for a spell but is back out and is currently serving in the Orlando Florida Mission:
The best part of Friday was that we had our second lesson with Judy. Judy is from Taiwan and is studying business here at QUT. She is really cute and is really interested in learning more and finding truth. We met with her on Queen St. and just taught her on a bench since we really don’t have too many other places to go. The lesson was so great and she was really feeling the spirit so she was truly focused.
While we were teaching her the Plan of Salvation, about halfway through, this large group of people came and began setting up tables and stuff about three feet away. As I looked a little closer, my heart sunk because I realized what group they were and what they represented. They were an anti-government/socialist group trying to rally people to sign a petition among other things. Once they were set up, they began shouting and trying to get anyone to come over and listen to them. We were deep in our lesson and couldn’t see a different place to move to. So, with socialist activists shouting and yelling like baboons, a busy Friday night on Queen St., and also a folk/jazz band that began playing loudly nearby, we continued. Let’s just say, it wasn’t the most Spirit-inviting place. I definitely felt that Satan didn’t want Judy to hear about the Plan or to have us meet with her. It was seriously like a battle between Satan and us. However, just like it always will be, good will triumph.
While all this was going on, Judy remained totally focused on the lesson and was feeling the Spirit. We extended our first baptismal invitation since being here and she gladly accepted.
Satan definitely became a sore loser that night. I think that’s why I sadly got a little surprise at the very end of our lesson. We had finished the lesson and were just talking about church or something when all of the sudden this large fuzzy mass fell on me and Sister Cummings. She screamed and jumped off the bench, which made me jump a second time. My first thought was, “Oh no, there is a large giant spider on me”. “Please don’t kill me”. I then looked at my arm and leg and realized it was just this green fuzzy like stuff. Since we were just sitting underneath a tree, I thought it was just like the green fuzzy stuff the honey locust trees drop every year at home. I just brushed it off not thinking anything of it. It wasn’t until three minutes later, when we tried to take a picture that we realized there was something moving in the tree. I then realized that this is what caused the green stuff to fall and that it was definitely no tree pollen—but rather bat guano. Yes, a bat poohed on me. Can’t say that was on my bucket list, but I have definitely marked it off!8
This next report is from Elder Jacob Kimball who just finished his service in the LA California Mission:
We took the Tamayo family to the visitor’s center this week (and their cousins, who live in a different area). The sister missionaries there worked their magic again like always. It was a very powerful experience. We had to split them up into three groups because there were so many of them. We ended up with Stephanie, Victor, Martin, and Martin’s friend. (Love it when investigators turn into missionaries). Jason and Miriam (the grandma), are the only ones eligible to be baptized this weekend. We are going to do everything we can to help them and we are expecting miracles. Miriam is out of town visiting her father until Wednesday, and Jason starts school on Wednesday. We are expecting things to get complicated because the adversary will be really active, especially this important week before baptism. We will be emphasizing that light cuts through darkness.
We took another family to the visitor’s center this week as well. Last week, at dinner with the Contreras family, Hermana Contreras told us that a woman came up to her in Relief Society and said, “I want to get baptized. What do I have to do?” Hermana Contreras asked her if the missionaries were visiting her, and she said they were, but that she didn’t really understand what they were saying. She had been attending the English ward (which meets in our building) for a month or two in hopes that it would help her kids who don’t speak that much Spanish anymore. She knows a little English and could make do, but it was not sufficient. Entonces, we stole the English Elders’ investigators. Sorry Elders!
The first time we met this woman she said her (almost) husband wasn’t really interested in the whole religion thing and that her kids weren’t too keen on it either. We met two of the kids, Yezel is fourteen, and Lio is ten. Yezel has been struggling with her belief in God due to past circumstances. However, in my two years of experience as a missionary, I have learned that sister missionaries get the work done. So, the whole family minus the third child came with us to the visitor’s center. Now Yezel is very open and so is the dad. Working on some marriage details and that family should be baptized by the end of the month.
Now I just have to give everything I have left.9
I have reached my limit that I set for myself for the length of this message. I really am trying to cut down. There is just so much I am learning that I want to pass on. I do have a few more short stories that I want to include and hope that you don’t mind.
Coming to the end of her mission, Sister Heather Gross, serving in Italy, reported the following humorous story:
We were on some borrowed bikes from some members of the church here and, I’ll just say it, they are a piece of work. Well, we rode outside the city about 10 miles. When we were riding back home I noticed that my companion wasn’t following behind me, so I turn around to see her on the side of the road looking over her bike. I rode up next to her and she said her back tire wouldn’t move—it was jammed. Finally some guys came over to help us fix it.
We got back onto the road and she was telling me that it was constraining to ride and felt dragging. I was like “okay, if you want we can switch”. She was like, “no we only have three miles until we are home, I can do it.”
We are riding down the little Italian streets when this gangster, creepy guy comes out from an alley-way with his big dog and yelled something at us that wasn’t Italian. I was like “okay, we will just ride faster through this street.” I started picking up speed and all of a sudden I hear, “BOOM!” It sounded like a gunshot and then I heard my companion scream. I freaked out and tried to get off my bike, but bike + skirt = difficulty dismounting and I fell over. As I was on the ground I looked over at my companion and saw she was on the ground. I was like “freak, she got shot, that guy just shot her! Oh no!” I got up and ran over to her and she was on the ground just laughing. She said, “My tire popped!” But seriously, it sounded just like a gunshot. That creepy guy walked passed us just laughing. We walked the rest of the three miles home. haha. Oh goodness.10
This next short miracle story comes from Sister Nicole Berriman serving in Argentina.
This week, we witnessed a miracle, like one of those miracles that you read about in the Liahona. :)
We were walking trying to find a certain direction and we couldn’t, so we gave up and started contacting. We went down a street that I knew had a private bridge so I said, “We can’t pass here, and so let’s go to the other street.” Sister Kelemen said that she wanted to anyways. So we crossed over. We had to kind of jump a fence type thing—then I pointed to a random house and said lets go there. A girl opened up who wasn’t really interested, but was nice to us. Then we hear from further into the house “aguantenme un momento!” Um, okay—this girl comes out of her room with a Principios del Evangelio book, an El Libro de Mormon, and almost all of the folletos. She just sat down and looked at us. I had to take a phone call, but I overheard that she met missionaries in Buenos Aires and went to church with them about a month ago but had to come here to study. She wanted to go to church but didn’t know anyone. She told us that the missionaries called her just the day before and said that they were going to send the missionaries closest to her over. We had no idea! The missionaries hadn’t called anyone, but there we were. I know that God puts us EXACTLY where we need to be. It was so cool!11
Just prior to returning from the Ukraine, Sister Karly Sink was in travel to the Mission Home for her final days. She sent this inspirational story home with her final email:
The reason we had to be in Kyiv on Friday night is because the sister I am serving with has a connection with a former prominent political figure of Ukraine, and we would all be having dinner that night at President Packer’s home. I have never felt so out of place. I just thought, man I lucked out to be here. I felt awkward as everyone else talked and I listened and commented once in a while, knowing I was a nobody in comparison to these people and I had no real reason to be there. This man was very quiet throughout the meal, and then President Packer asked if it would be all right if he shared with him a few verses of the Book of Mormon he’d come across that morning that had made him think of Ukraine. Upon doing so, the man opened up and started telling us about different meetings he’d been in that day and how difficult it was for him to watch what was happening there. He needed some serious comfort. President Packer was very bold and asked, “May I share with you my mission call?” He then told him how he’d been called to Temple Square from the middle of Disneyland and how President Eyring had called him to be a mission president in Ukraine. He remembered distinctly noting there was a war going on here, and President Eyring responded by saying, “The borders may have changed lately, but that doesn’t matter. We’ve been there, we’ve been with those people, and we can tell you God loves the people of Ukraine.” The spirit entered the room, and it was so strong that tears filled all of our eyes. Including this man’s.
Then the sister who I’m serving with starts to share her feelings with this man and his wife. She shares a story about the kindness some of the Ukrainians have shown to her, and how she knows that those type of people are definitely remembered by the Lord. Then the conversation changed, but I felt a very clear prompting as it did so. I heard the following words press upon my mind. “You are here because he needs to hear your testimony of this work.” I felt like Moses as I thought, “Who am I that he should need to hear my testimony? I’m a 20 year old, scrawny, nobody.” But the prompting came again, stronger, and with the understanding that he needed the testimony of a nobody to show forth God’s power to work through it all.
My hands shook under the table as I interrupted his wife to ask if I could add something. Suddenly all eyes were on me, and I looked him right in the face, and I said the following words, which came so smoothly, but in no way from me. “I know that I am not someone important, but I have served your people for the last year and a half, and I love them so much. I have seen hearts change. I’ve met people who tell me that God can’t be real, and after talking with them, seen them change their mind. I have seen God’s work, this faith, growing, especially in the last 3 months, and I just can’t believe that he would invest so much in a people He doesn’t have a plan for. I know that the sacrifices your people are making are written in the books of heaven. And I know that God remembers every man.” He just stared at me for a little while before speaking again.
The night ended as this man, through tears, quietly whispered, “my heart hurts.” I know his heart is burdened with the recent events, but I can’t help but feeling that he said that because the spirit was burning in that room, and for the first time, maybe in his life, he was feeling what that was.
It was, maybe the coolest experience of my life. I felt like we were all Aaron, and Omner and Himni. Just for a few moments. And that felt so cool!12
Elder Krstyen, I know that God will keep His promises to you as you keep your promises to Him. As you reflect upon them from time to time, look for the blessings that have and will come. Use those blessings to strengthen your testimony of this sacred work and to help bless the lives of those around you. You are a special missionary and will bring hope, peace and love from Our Heavenly Father to the many whom you serve.
“Be not troubled, for, when all these things shall come to pass, ye may know that the promises which have been made unto you shall be fulfilled (D&C 45:35).”
1. See Jay E. Jensen, of the Second Quorum of the Seventy, “Remember the Promises”, Ensign, November 1992
2. Elder Spencer J. Condie, “Claim the Exceeding Great and Precious Promises”, Ensign, November 2007.
3. President Thomas S. Monson, “Precious Promises of the Book of Mormon”, Ensign, October 2011.
4. Jay E. Jensen, of the Second Quorum of the Seventy, “Remember the Promises”, Ensign, November 1992
5. Sister Emma Hancock, Moscow Russia Mission, 11 August 2014
6. Elder Dallin Crowther, Atlanta Georgia Mission, 11 August 2014
7. Sister Allison Brown, Cauyan Philippines Mission, 11 Aug 2014.
8. SIster Maddison Taylor, Australia Brisbane Mission, 12/01/13.
9. Elder Jacob Kimball, LA California Mission, 11 August 2014.
10. Sister Heather Gross, Milan Italy Mission, 20 August 2014.
11. Hermana Nicole Berriman, Resistencia Argentina Mission, 1 Seprmber 2014.
12. Sister Karly Sink, Kyiv Ukraine Mission, 1 September 2014.