Monday, December 11, 2017

True to the Faith

Hey everyone! Happy Christmas! And happy birthday yesterday to my incredible mother! It has officially been all sun and no clouds for 9 days now. It’s amazing! I mean, it’s always FREEZING, but man is it gorgeous! I’ll send pics.

So this week was just a lot of zone leadering stuff, so pretty mundane, pretty boring. But I have a few things to talk about so don’t worry!

We had our ward Christmas party this week and it was a ton of fun! Our incredible ward got Elder White and I some amazing stockings and it was so sweet. I am so thankful for them! I got a little emotional. I love this ward. 

On Saturday we did a free hot chocolate stand with some other missionaries! We did it on the busiest street in Milwaukie on a late Saturday afternoon. I was designated as the sign holder/dancer and it was so fun! I danced so hard I’m actually still a little sore! Haha that’s actually just sad... We talked to a lot of people, had hundreds of cars honk as they drove by, and even had people ask to take photos with us. It was so fun! We had a sister play her violin while we all danced and talked to people. I’ll send pics!

Well, I got to speak in church yesterday and if you know me, you know I LOVE public speaking. But every time I speak in church, I feel a heightened responsibility to be a worthy vessel for the spirit. I spoke on a topic very important to me, one that I feel very passionate about, and that is enduring to the end. I hope you feel the spirit of my words because I know they are true!

Have a good week! Love you all!

Elder Hall 

True to the Faith
Elder Bridger Hall 
Sacrament Meeting 10 December, 2017
Alder Creek YSA 

Brothers and sisters, it is so good to be with you. I am beyond grateful that Ammon is here today so we can actually enjoy the hymns instead of cringing at them. I regret not listening to my mother when she told me to not give up piano lessons. Thank you for sharing your talents Ammon. 

When you hear the words, enduring to the end, what do you think of? Maybe you think of making it through Thanksgiving dinner. Maybe you think of getting through a long day with an annoying coworker. Maybe you’re like me, and you think of the famous explorer Ernest Shackleton, braving the first expedition to the South Pole in his ship, the Endurance. 

Now, what’s the problem with all of these scenarios? You might wonder why I think these are poor displays of enduring to the end. That’s because the end we endure to isn’t somewhere we collapse with exhaustion or heartache. You probably gained 5 pounds at Thanksgiving dinner. You most likely drove angrily home from work, upset at your obnoxious coworker. And for Shackleton, the Endurance sank when they arrived at Antarctica. 

So, what is a good example of enduring to the end? Let’s turn to the scriptures. It was somewhere between 90 and 77 BC, and the Anti-Nephi-Lehies had found the joy that comes through Christ and the desire to endure to the end. In Alma 24 verses 15-17 we read: “Oh, how merciful is our God! And now behold, since it has been as much as we could do to get our stains taken away from us, and our swords are made bright, let us hide them away that they may be kept bright, as a testimony to our God at the last day, or at the day that we shall be brought to stand before him to be judged, that we have not stained our swords in the blood of our brethren since he imparted his word unto us and has made us clean thereby.
And now, my brethren, if our brethren seek to destroy us, behold, we will hide away our swords, yea, even we will bury them deep in the earth, that they may be kept bright, as a testimony that we have never used them, at the last day; and if our brethren destroy us, behold, we shall go to our God and shall be saved.
And now it came to pass that when the king had made an end of these sayings, and all the people were assembled together, they took their swords, and all the weapons which were used for the shedding of man’s blood, and they did bury them up deep in the earth.” Later we learn that many innocent Anti-Nephi-Lehies were slaughtered because they would not pick up their weapons of war. 

Now you’re thinking, “But Elder Hall, how is this different than thanksgiving dinner, or Shackleton’s ship?” Well quiet down and listen, we aren’t finished with our story yet.

Shortly after the devastating loss of innocent blood, the Anti-Nephi-Lehies (later known as the people of Ammon), were sheltered and protected by the Nephites, so they could live and not break the covenant they made to not shed any more blood with their weapons of war. 

Fast forward to about 64 years before Christ was born, when the people of Ammon were having children starting to come of age, 2,000 boys to be exact. The war for liberty was raging, and the fearless Helaman needed soldiers to fight. While recruiting for the war, Helaman went among the people of Ammon. After realizing he could not ask them to break their covenants, he was about to move on. Then in Alma 53 we read: “But behold, it came to pass they had many sons, who had not entered into a covenant that they would not take their weapons of war to defend themselves against their enemies; therefore they did assemble themselves together at this time, as many as were able to take up arms, and they called themselves Nephites.
And they entered into a covenant to fight for the liberty of the Nephites, yea, to protect the land unto the laying down of their lives; yea, even they covenanted that they never would give up their liberty, but they would fight in all cases to protect the Nephites and themselves from bondage.
Now behold, there were two thousand of those young men, who entered into this covenant and took their weapons of war to defend their country.
And now behold, as they never had hitherto been a disadvantage to the Nephites, they became now at this period of time also a great support; for they took their weapons of war, and they would that Helaman should be their leader.
And they were all young men, and they were exceedingly valiant for courage, and also for strength and activity; but behold, this was not all--they were men who were true at all times in whatsoever thing they were entrusted.
Yea, they were men of truth and soberness, for they had been taught to keep the commandments of God and to walk uprightly before him.” They were men of truth who loved God, faith unwavering. 

Later, in chapter 56, we find out more about these boys turned warriors. “Now they never had fought, yet they did not fear death; and they did think more upon the liberty of their fathers than they did upon their lives; yea, they had been taught by their mothers, that if they did not doubt, God would deliver them.
And they rehearsed unto me the words of their mothers, saying: We do not doubt our mothers knew it.” After a ferocious battle, Helaman was in deep sorrow, assuming these untrained boys were killed in battle. He recounts, “But behold, to my great joy, there had not one soul of them fallen to the earth; yea, and they had fought as if with the strength of God; yea, never were men known to have fought with such miraculous strength; and with such mighty power did they fall upon the Lamanites, that they did frighten them; and for this cause did the Lamanites deliver themselves up as prisoners of war.”

Brothers and sisters, this is the kind of enduring to the end we need to learn from. May I suggest a revision to the term “endure to the end” and that is, true to the faith. At times we will have to endure. We may feel like the people of Ammon; strong in testimony but getting slaughtered nonetheless. But that time has passed. It is time for us to take up arms like those 2,000 stripling warriors, and be true to our faith. We will never look for a fight, but defend ourselves WE MUST. 

Now, sometimes being true to the faith feels a lot like painfully enduring. But when faith is involved, I can assure you that endurance is not passive. Perhaps I can illustrate this through a short story called, “Pushing Against the Rock”.

There once was a man who was asleep one night in his cabin when suddenly his room filled with light and the Saviour appeared to him.
The Lord told him He had a work for him to do, and showed him a large rock explaining that he was to push against the rock with all his might. This the man did, and for many days he toiled from sunup to sundown; his shoulder set squarely against the cold massive surface of the rock, pushing with all his might. Each night the man returned to his cabin sore and worn out, feeling his whole day had been spent in vain.
Seeing that the man showed signs of discouragement, Satan decided to enter the picture - placing thoughts in the man's mind, such as ``Why kill yourself over this?, you're never going to move it!'' or ``Boy, you've been at it a long time and you haven't even scratched the surface!'' etc. giving the man the impression the task was impossible and the man was an unworthy servant because he wasn't moving the massive stone.
These thoughts discouraged and disheartened the man and he started to ease up in his efforts. ``Why kill myself?'' he thought. ``I'll just put in my time putting forth just the minimum of effort and that will be good enough.'' And this he did or at least planned on doing until, one day, he decided to take his troubles to the Lord.
``Lord,'' he said, ``I have labored hard and long in Your service, putting forth all my strength to do that which You have asked of me. Yet after all this time, I have not even budged that rock even half a millimeter. What is wrong? Why am I failing?''
To this the Lord responded compassionately, ``My friend, when long ago I asked you to serve Me and you accepted, I told you to push against the rock with all your strength and that you have done. But never once did I mention to you that I expected you to move it. At least not by yourself. Your task was to push. And now you come to Me, your strength spent, thinking that you have failed, ready to quit. But is this really so? Look at yourself. Your arms are strong and muscled; your back sinewed and brown. Your hands are calloused from constant pressure and your legs have become massive and hard. Through opposition you have grown much and your ability now far surpasses that which you used to have. Yet still, you haven't succeeded in moving the rock; and you come to Me now with a heavy heart and your strength spent. I, my friend will move the rock. Your calling was to be obedient and push, and to exercise your faith and trust in My wisdom, and this you have done."

There will be times in our gospel journey when an enormous rock is placed in our path. For some, enduring the trial of that rock is to sit with your back to it, and wait for the day the Lord decides to move it. While this option may look attractive and seem easier to endure, it isn’t what the Lord asks of us. We must be as the man in this story, and push until our strength is spent. This is true endurance, this is being true to our faith. As we continue pushing, the Lord will not abandon us. He will, in fact, do all the moving as we do all the pushing. 

After the ship Endurance sank, Ernest Shackleton and his crew rowed a small lifeboat 800 miles through the worst ocean currents in the world so they wouldn’t perish in the Antarctic climate. You can lose those 5 pounds after Thanksgiving dinner thanks to the invention of the treadmill. You can learn to love that difficult coworker. 

One thing is certain, however, and that is it is not just endurance that is required of us now. We must remain true to the faith! President Thomas S Monson said, “It is not enough to want to make the effort and to say we’ll make the effort. We must actually make the effort. It’s in the doing, not just the thinking, that we accomplish our goals. If we constantly put our goals off, we will never see them fulfilled. Someone put it this way: Live only for tomorrow, and you will have a lot of empty yesterdays today.” 

Elder Robert C Gay visited the Oregon Portland Mission over a year ago. He said something I will forever remember. He said, “Don’t sit, get the vision. Figure it out.” 

The hymn, True to the Faith, captures my feelings perfectly.

Shall the youth of Zion falter
In defending truth and right?
While the enemy assaileth,
Shall we shrink or shun the fight? No!
True to the faith that our parents have cherished,
True to the truth for which martyrs have perished,
To God’s command,
Soul, heart, and hand,
Faithful and true we will ever stand.

While we know the pow’rs of darkness
Seek to thwart the work of God,
Shall the children of the promise
Cease to grasp the iron rod? No!
True to the faith that our parents have cherished,
True to the truth for which martyrs have perished,
To God’s command,
Soul, heart, and hand,
Faithful and true we will ever stand.

We will work out our salvation;
We will cleave unto the truth;
We will watch and pray and labor
With the fervent zeal of youth. Yes!
True to the faith that our parents have cherished,
True to the truth for which martyrs have perished,
To God’s command,
Soul, heart, and hand,
Faithful and true we will ever stand.

We will strive to be found worthy
Of the kingdom of our Lord,
With the faithful ones redeemed
Who have loved and kept his word. Yes!
True to the faith that our parents have cherished,
True to the truth for which martyrs have perished,
To God’s command,
Soul, heart, and hand,
Faithful and true we will ever stand.

I testify as we watch, pray, labor, cleave, strive, and work with fervent zeal, we will be found worthy of the kingdom. With Christ on your side you CANNOT fail. He has overcome all, and He will encourage us every step of the way back to Him. May we ever be true to the faith that burns within us is my prayer. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.




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