Sunday, June 1, 2008

2008 06 01 - Zone Conference Week

Hi Everyone!
We just completed all but one of the zone conferences for this cycle. The theme was the Prophet Joseph Smith, and it was really good. Steve has been studying literature on Joseph Smith for weeks - especially Truman Madsen's book. He gave a great talk full of true stories that the missionaries (and the mission president's wife) had never heard. I'm going to add the talk as a ps to this blog, for anyone who'd like to read it.
The assistants gave well-thought our thoughts on what we know because of Joseph Smith, and on Joseph's personality traits. Then Elder Sessions taught the elders about the School of the Prophets. (I need to read Lectures on Faith again.) The DDMs are going to be more School of the Prophets-ish: should be interesting!
I did my presentation for zone conference before all the serious stuff started, so I wouldn't ruin the Spirit... no, seriously. I had to do a reminder talk on proper haircuts, grooming, manners, cleaning cars and boardings... boring stuff. So we had a Singing Time. After a brief powerpoint/photos overview, I used the Orchestra Song some of you may know, and the elders sang about their "temporal responsibilities (see visuals above). They many not have changed any behaviors, but they're all humming a lot more!
On the home front, Hunter has torn his ACL. Apparently, in adults you tear the cartilege right through. With kids, it tears away from the bone. It's not hurting anymore, but he says it feels very unstable, and he has a severe limp. He'll be having arthroscopic surgery on July 7th, during the three week school holidays. Nice way to spend a vacation, eh?
On the flip side, Thursday and Saturday were casual sport days at school. On Thursday there were inter-house (you know, like Slytherin and Gryffindor?) rugby matches at the various age levels. They were only 15 minutes long, and each team had 7 members instead of 15. Morgan made 3 tries (goals) in one of his games. His house won 2 out of 3 of their matches. On Saturday there were hockey, soccer and rugby games, Old Boys (former students) against the First Team. Some of the old boys have gone on to play for the provincial and national teams, so it wasn't as mismatched as it might sound. In fact, the Old Boys won the rugby match. There were a lot of boys out of town, so the interhouse matches were even more informal, and Morgan played for five different houses - including and Under 16 match (he's on the Under 15). He made a try after "stiff arming" a potential tackler, and sending him flying. This is sounding more like football all the time, but I'm told it's legal.
So this week is interviews and mini-training for Steve and the Assistants, end-of-term projects for Hunter and Morgan, and crisis control for me. I'll let you know what comes up.
Love to all of you! Fill out your mission papers today, wonderful potential missionary couples!
Mom/Grandma/Susan/Sue/Sister President Mann

(Thanks to Truman Madsen and his book Joseph Smith the Prophet.)

We think often of the young boy Joseph kneeling down in the sacred grove to seek an answer to his simple question of which church to join, or we think of him in Carthage jail.

We do not as often think of him as a father or brother or friend. Nor do we often picture him talking with Jesus, Paul, John, the Nephite apostles, and many others, perhaps because it is more difficult for us to imagine.

We think of his work in major events such as the First Vision, translating the Book of Mormon, and organizing the Church.

We do not, as often, think of him changing in countenance and receiving direct revelation, day after day, and week after week, as the doctrine of Christ’s original Church was being restored,
handling the daily pressures of temple and community construction and organization , and dealing with the constant needs and requests from the saints

We recognize his courage as he went off to Carthage knowing his days were numbered.

We do not, as often, remember the pressures of a life filled with physical threats, injuries, illnesses, law suits, beatings, demands, requests, and betrayals.

Brigham Young said,
“I do not think that a man lives on the earth that knew [Joseph Smith]
any better than I did; and I am bold to say, that Jesus Christ excepted,
no better man ever lived or does live upon this earth”.
(Journal of Discourses, 9:332).

It is not just three or four key events that so endeared Joseph to his friends and associates,
it was the whole, the totality of his life. It was his daily conduct. He lived his life as close as possible to that of the Savior, and that is what transformed this unlearned New England farm-boy into the prophet of the Restoration.

The Prophet’s life changed and challenged those who knew him. The way he lived his life
impacted everything:
· What they thought of themselves and of God.
· Their understanding of life and its purpose.
· Their method of learning and thinking.
· Their concept of family and community life.
Literally every aspect of their lives was changed by the revelations and the example of Joseph Smith. And what was true for them, is also true for us. The life that Joseph led, his willingness to submit to all, and follow the Spirit, has changed us and the world forever.
As missionaries of the Lord Jesus Christ, we have a special connection to the Prophet Joseph, for we too have been called to minister unto the world and declare the gospel of Jesus Christ to all who will hear. There are hundreds or even thousands of lessons we could learn from the life
of the Prophet Joseph. Here are just 10 that will help us be better missionaries.

#1. We are taught in Preach My Gospel, and throughout the scriptures, that we should live and teach by the Spirit. It is one of the basic attributes of the Durban mission, and it is the key to our success as missionaries. Where did this truth come from? It was taught by Christ and Peter and Paul and then lost, until Joseph Smith brought this beautiful truth back to our dispensation. We know that Joseph began his revelatory life with a simple request. He was tutored, in a way, through the use of the Urim and Thummim. In later years, almost daily revelation was his norm. It is said of him that after emerging from the vision
on the three degrees of glory with his companion, Sidney Rigdon,
“The prophet looked strong, while Sidney was limp and pale. To this the Prophet said, with a certain humility and also perhaps with a little condescension, ‘Sidney is not as used to it as I am’”.

He grew daily, as a man and revelator. Later in life he was able to dictate revelations such as the 132nd Section of the Doctrine and Covenants. This section is 66 verses long, with verse 19 alone being over 200 words. Truman Madsen, explains that this section, which explains the
conditions of the everlasting covenant,
“...was filled with terms as an attorney might use who had spent days thinking up every possible synonym, nuance, and contingency so that no loophole would remain. For example, it says. ‘All covenants, contracts, bonds, obligations, oaths, vows, performances, connections, associations, or expectations, that are not made and entered into...”
And so on. Not only did he reveal these sections, but he could remember them and quote them with exactness.

We may not be called upon to dictate long passages of revelation but Joseph gave us some very specific advice on promptings and listening to the Holy Ghost that applies directly to
our work. He said,
“If you will listen to the first promptings you will get it right nine times out of ten.”

He is talking here about impressions. As Madsen points out
“All of us tend to second and third guess these promptings.”
For instance, we see a house and think, “I should go knock on that door”. Then we argue with ourselves saying, “Oh, that is nothing”. Or we are teaching and think, “We need to talk about the Word of Wisdom” and then quickly think, “But we are in the first lesson: I don’t want to get out of order.” We begin to analyze and doubt. What did Joseph counsel us to

#2. Joseph turned philosophical and religious thought upside down, and so too do we when we teach the doctrines of the Kingdom. It is no wonder there is so much anti-Mormon literature. While to us the doctrine of the kingdom is pure, clear and logical, it was radical then,
and it is radical now.
· We teach that God is real and knows and cares for each of us individually.
Ridiculous, impossible, unrealistic
· We teach that we lived with God before this Earth and have the opportunity to live with him again after death and that this life is a time and place of testing and learning.
Self-serving, a mental narcotic
· We teach that revelation continues, that miracles occur, and that the power to act in God’s name has been restored.
Sacrilegious, absurd, prideful
· We teach about the power and wonder of the atonement.
Mystical, fantasy, vain hope

Joseph had to be patient and loving as he tried to explain these simple truths that seemed to the people of the time incomprehensible, even irreverent. We too must be patient, clear, and precise, and must recognize that the truths we are sharing, that seem so clear to us, may, UNTIL THE SPIRIT BEARS WITNESS, seem revolutionary or incomprehensible to others.

#3. Joseph was, more than anything, an instrument in the hands of the Lord, and so are we. He did not start out as a fully formed prophet, he learned and he grew. He used to say of himself,
“I am like a huge, rough stone rolling down from a high mountain; … with all hell knocking off a corner here and a corner there, and thus I will become a smooth and polished shaft in the quiver of the Almighty.”
He was always drawing the distinction between himself as a man and his calling of a prophet. Madsen says,
“He was a genius, he was a brilliant man...he was a man of superb intelligence.”
But it was not Joseph the man that made Mormonism: it was Joseph the prophet.

So it is with us. When we arrive in the mission field we are not, most of us, great orators or gospel scholars, or persuaders of men. We, like Joseph, are servants; rough stones. We are powerful, not when acting for ourselves, but when acting in our callings as representatives of the Lord Jesus Christ. Let us put pride, and fear, and worldly knowledge aside and open ourselves to being instruments of the Lord.

#4. Joseph lived by faith and so must we.

What a life he led! Miracles were a normal part of his daily life. He expected them, he lived worthy of them, and they came. At one point he and Brigham were stymied. They knew they needed to build a temple but knew of no one who had the design and construction ability to do it. Joseph Young said he knew a man in Canada, by the name of Artemus Millett who could do it, but that he was not a member of the Church.
Joseph turned to Brigham and said,
“Brigham I give you a mission. You are to go to Canada. You are to convert Artemus Millett. You are to bring him back to Kirtland with his family and tell him to bring at least a thousand dollars in cash.”
Brother Brigham said, “I’ll go, and he did. He converted Artemus Millett and his family. Artemus came to Kirtland with the thousand dollars and oversaw the construction of the Kirtland and later the Manti Temple. Such was the daily life of the Prophet Joseph.

Live your life so as to be worthy of and to expect miracles. Many of you have experienced them. Obedience, hard work, and faith equal miracles. It is what our mission is made of. It is part of your calling to expect miracles.

#5. He knew how to endure loneliness and discouragement , and sometimes so must we.

Joseph’s life was a hard one. Just because he was a prophet does not mean he was shielded from
the tragedies and inhumanities of the world.
· He had a slight limp caused from the painful operation he had on his leg as a young man.
· He had a lisp coming from a broken tooth caused as his enemies tried to poison him after tarring and feathering him.
· On one occasion he was beaten with guns in a wagon until he had eighteen inch bruises on each side.
· He endured all the common diseases of the time, including cholera.
· He was turned on by his friends and hunted by his enemies.
· He lost children and seldom had a home to call his own.
· He was illegally thrown in prison in appalling conditions
· In the King Follett discourse toward the end of his life he said,
“You don’t know me...You never knew my heart... I don’t blame
anyone for not believing my history. If I had not experienced what
I have, I could not have believed it myself.”

Imagine the loneliness of being the Prophet Joseph; of knowing so much and not really having any earthly person who could comprehend either what he had learned or what he had experienced. and yet he never wavered, he simply moved forward, being of good cheer, and doing what he was commanded to do.

When the days are long, the bunks are many and the open doors are few; when the sun is hot, and your best investigators tell you not to come anymore; when there are troubles at home: think of Joseph. Move on, be of good cheer, follow what you know is right. As the Lord told Joseph while he was in prison in Liberty jail,
“Know thou, my son, that all these things shall give thee experience, and shall be for thy good.”
Joseph himself counseled,
“Never be discouraged. If I were sunk in the lowest pit of Nova Scotia, with the Rocky Mountains piled on me. I would hang on, exercise faith, and keep up good courage, and I would come out on top.”

#6. Joseph, in his maturity, was not an ignorant school boy. He was informed, intelligent and enlightened. This transformation came not from books or universities but through revelation and prayer.

Joseph counseled,
“The best way to obtain truth and wisdom, is not to ask it from books, but to go to God in prayer and obtain divine teaching”.
Part of your being on mission is to learn the doctrines of the kingdom so you know them for yourself, and so you can teach them to others. You do this in part through personal and companionship study, in part through studying the scriptures; but if you want to really grasp even a part of what Joseph came to understand, you must seek truth and wisdom as Joseph did, through prayer and divine teaching.

#7. Joseph was courageous.

Sheriff Reynolds and Constable Wilson accosted the prophet without legal process, pointed their pistols at his chest and threatened to shoot him if he stirred. Joseph, baring his breast, said:
“I am not afraid to die. Shoot away. I have endured so much oppression, I am weary of life; and kill me, if you please.”
He then said,
“I am a strong man however, and with my own natural weapons could soon level both of you.”
They left.
In Far West Missouri a mob of about 3500 men were lined up preparing to attack and destroy two or three hundred Mormons including a few Mormon sympathizers. Aware of the sympathizers the mob sent a man with a white flag to say,
“We understand that a few of you aren’t Mormon: they can come with us”
The Prophet said,
“Go back and tell your general to withdraw his troops or I will send them to hell.”
The man went back and the militia withdrew. Years later, President John Taylor, who was present that day, said
“I thought that was a pretty bold stand to take.”
What an understatement!

It did not matter whether it was an army, a mob, or an individual, Joseph never made decisions out of fear. He knew his mission and the vagaries of men could not deter him. In the Wentworth letter he said:
“No unhallowed hand can stop this work from progressing; persecutions, may rage, mobs may combine, armies may assemble, calumny may defame, but the truth of God will go forth boldly, nobly, and independent, till it has penetrated every continent, visited every clime, swept every country, and sounded in every ear, till the purposes of God shall be accomplished, and the great Jehovah shall say the work is done.”

Elders, we may not be asked to turn back an army, and we need to be wise with the political unrest and crime that surround us, but just like Joseph we need never fear in doing the Lord’s work. The Lord called you and he will protect you. We need not fear big houses or Mercedes, we need not fear fatigue, we need not fear dogs, or curry, or rain, or big babas, or Jehovah Witnesses, or our own inadequacies. We are about the Lord’s work and nothing can stop it.

#8. Joseph was fully and totally committed to the cause of building the Kingdom in this dispensation. He gave his worldly goods, his time and eventually his life. He shared all that he had. In Madsen’s words,
“Many came to him bearing burdens of sin and pleaded for him to intervene for them, to help them. There were also those who came and pleaded for other kinds of help. It was as if he could not avoid being servant of all.
One evening after all were asleep there came two black women who had travelled over eight hundred miles mainly across the countryside, not daring to use the highways lest they be apprehended.They were converts to the church and had escaped from some who had threatened their lives. What can they do? Joseph calls Emma and says, ‘Haven’t we got a home for them?’ “

Jane, one of the two, stayed with them for the rest of the Prophet’s life. She records that she was part of family prayer and was never treated as a slave or servant but as part of the family. The prophet did not pre-judge, nor turn away. There was always room and always something
to share. Says Madsen,
“He shared until he was impoverished.”
The prophet did not just translate the words of King Benjamin. He lived them. Elders, do we too often make judgments about; gogos, & babas, about those drinking on the weekend, about ethnic groups, areas, and other religions? Do we withhold our time, our message, our effort? Or, do we become daily more like the Prophet Joseph and always have time for:
one more message,
one more helping hand,
one more testimony,
one more kind word of encouragement
no matter the person or the situation.

#9. He was humble.
A sister came to Joseph and wanted redress. She wanted the Prophet, now, to go to the person who was the source of a story being told about her, and properly take care of it. He enquired of
her in some detail, and then counseled her in terms something like this:
“Sister, when I have heard of a story about me” (and he could have said there had been many), “I sit down and think about it and pray about it, and I ask myself the question. ‘Did I say something or was there something about my manner to give some basis for that story to start?’ And, Sister, often if I think about it long enough I realize I have done has told that story, and a resolve that I will never do that thing again.”

The question was once put to him, “is the principle of self-aggrandizement wrong?” Or in other words, “Should we seek our own good?” What do you think he said?
“It is a correct principle, and may be indulged, upon only one rule or plan.. and that is to elevate, benefit, and bless others first. If you will elevate others, the very work itself will exalt you.”
When I ask that you constantly try to think of how you can help your companion become the missionary he wants to be, it is because when you do, companionship issues disappear and the spirit comes into your companionship. When I ask you to plan and pray every night for your investigators and the people in the area it is so you can forget yourselves and the Spirit can guide you. Be humble, Elders, and lose yourselves in the work.

#1O. Lastly, Joseph was foreordained to be a prophet, just as you were foreordained to be a missionary.

When the prophet calls for every worthy young man to prepare for and serve a mission, he is simply calling us to fullfill the calling to which we were foreordained. Joseph revealed that
“Every man who has a calling to minister to the inhabitants of the world, was ordained to that very purpose in the Grand Council of Heaven before this world was.”
WOW! That is you and me he is talking about!

Toward the end of his ministry on earth Joseph had such a concern to teach all that had been made known to him, that he worked tirelessly with the Twelve and with others of the Church leaders sharing, summarizing, reiterating restored truth and ordinances.
Said Wilford Woodruff,
“It was not merely a few hours but he spent day after day, week after week, and month after month, teaching the Twelve and a few others the things of the kingdom.”
“You give us no rest,” said Orson Pratt

Brethren, I am so very grateful to live in the dispensation of time that was ushered in by the Prophet Joseph Smith. I am in awe of his life and his legacy, and I pray that I can live as worthy of my ministry as Joseph did of his. Joseph was an extraordinary man and an extraordinary prophet. Remember these lessons from his life and apply them. It is now time for us to do extraordinary things.

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