An Exciting Month at the MTC
Hello, Elders and Sisters. Forgive me for not writing for most of the month of December. For a choir director, December is not only the most wonderful time of the year, but also the busiest. It has also been quite a busy month at the MTC. In addition to the wonderful Christmas activities prepared by the MTC Presidency, the missionaries were visited by two apostles, Elders Oaks and Holland.
Elder Holland came for a Tuesday night devotional; Elder Oaks and his family presented a special Christmas morning program. I can’t tell you much about the visit from Elder Oaks because I spent the morning with my family attending our ward sacrament meeting and Christmas program. But, the visit from Elder Holland was one of the most memorable in my time at the MTC. I took careful notes so I could share with you some of his impactful teachings.
You are a Miracle
Before beginning his prepared message, Elder Holland took time to speak in a personal way to the missionaries. If you have ever wondered about your decision to serve a mission, listen to these words by one of the Lord’s special witnesses; “We love you. You are a miracle. You are in your own way the message we intend to give. The first message any investigator will ever hear, is your appearance at their doorstep or on the street corner. This initial message is without words, memorization, or preparation. It is simply your life. In a real and personal and direct way, you are the message. We could not be more proud of you.” Wow! Isn’t that awesome!
During my time at the MTC I have seen for myself the truthfulness of Elder Holland’s statement, “You are a miracle.” For most young people in the world, the years between 18-25 are spent experimenting with those things that are base and degrading. For those who choose a higher path, they might be filled with years of “self-improvement,” focused on personal gain and preparation for their future lives. You, however, have chosen to leave all of that behind and give 18 or 24 months of your “prime-time” living to the Lord and His Kingdom. That truly is a miracle. As Elder Anderson told the missionaries some months ago, the fact that you are on a mission makes you one in a million. Never worry about comparing yourself to another missionary. Just give the Lord the best that is within you.
The Book of Mormon as You’ve Never Seen it Before
For the remainder of his talk, Elder Holland spoke about The Book of Mormon. I have read the Book of Mormon consistently since I returned from my mission 25 years ago. But the passion with which he spoke about the Book of Mormon has caused me to look closely at how I am treating that book in my own life. He began by asking the missionaries to consider the Lord’s timeline in the life of Joseph Smith. With the 1st Vision occurring in 1820, and the martyrdom in 1844, the Lord knew he only had 24 short years with the Prophet. So much to restore in so little time. With that considered, it is amazing that the first 10 years are spent nearly exclusively on The Book of Mormon.
Elder Holland quoted D&C 5:4 several times, which reads, “And you have a gift to translate the plates; and this is the first gift that I bestowed upon you; and I have commanded that you should pretend to no other gift until my purpose is fulfilled in this; for I will grant unto you no other gift until it is finished.” To this Elder Holland said, “The God in Heaven is saying, ‘I want you to do one thing, get the Book of Mormon published and get it in your heart.’ Really, he [Joseph] is going to learn the gospel by translating the book. It is not a coincidence that The Book of Mormon goes on sale, 28 March 1830, and the church can be organized [approximately] 10 days later.”
Elder Holland continued, “I want to talk about a return on investment. I want to talk about you using the single greatest missionary tool that God has ever given to this work. Missionary in and missionary out, nothing is ever going to compare to how God feels about the Book of Mormon as a missionary tool.” Is that how we feel about The Book of Mormon? If I were to return to the mission field today, I would use The Book of Mormon more, and I would use it better! President Benson used to say that it is “THE” instrument for converting “Jew” and “Gentile”—which really means it is the instrument for converting each one of us.
As I sat listening to Elder Holland I couldn’t help but contemplate what this means for my life–outside of missionary work. I am one of those who needs to be converted! I am reminded of what President Harold B. Lee was fond of saying, “Testimony is as elusive as a moonbeam; it’s as fragile as an orchid; you have to recapture it every morning of your life. You have to hold on by study, and by faith, and by prayer.”
According to Elder Holland, there is nothing better to strengthen our personal testimonies and protect us from being some of the very elect who are deceived, than a thorough and consistent study of The Book of Mormon. I have had many young adults in my office lately wanting to discuss what they have described as “a crisis of faith.” I can tell you that without exception they have not been nourishing their testimonies with a daily feast from The Book of Mormon! When you come home from your mission you must continue to study The Book of Mormon.
As Elder Holland put it, “You have to come to grips right now with The Book of Mormon. If The Book of Mormon is true then Joseph Smith was a true Prophet. Do not go on your mission and neglect The Book of Mormon. DO NOT Neglect the first gift that God gave to this dispensation. Come home and teach it to your children, your children’s children–as long as you have voice, and breath, and a lip to move.”
Dear Elders and Sisters, with such a tool as this, you cannot fail! When you find someone who is an honest seeker of the truth, and you get this book into their hands, and help them learn to study and understand it, they will be converted. That’s the promise!
Remember that you are offering those you teach the most wonderful gift in the world. Again from President Lee, “Now when our missionaries go out, we say to those among whom they labor, ‘We are not asking you to join the Church just to put your name on the records. That is not our concern. We come to you offering you the greatest gift the world can give, the gift of the kingdom of God. This is here for you if you will only accept and believe.’”
I conclude with a final statement from Elder Holland. “So, get with it. Invest yourself. Study through the day and study through the night. Do not deny the Spirit and power of this document. DO NOT underestimate what it will mean in your life and in your investigator’s life.”
We love you and pray for you daily. You are a miracle and will continue to be so as you follow the Spirit, work in obedience, and use The Book of Mormon as the Lord intended. Have a wonderful week. Be safe, be smart, be happy.
Brother and Sister Eggett