I am so so so happy to hear that Spencer got his Patriarchal Blessing, and that Madi was able to do baptisms in the temple for the first time. There are a few indicators we use to measure the progress of people here in the mission, and both those events are among them. It is so important to always have a spiritual goal in mind, be it the next ordinance, be it doing ordinances for your family, be it receiving your patriarchal blessing, if you don't have a goal, you won't progress. Sometimes it's super hard to help people set these goals, or to help them realize how important they are, but when they do, it is absolutely amazing. I am proud of my siblings for making choices that allow them to advance in the gospel and the plan of the Lord. I love them and my parents, who have sacrificed a lot to teach us after the manner that the Lord would, and can't wait to go to the temple as a complete family when I get home. I'm especially excited to be able to baptize Madi for some of our ancestors :)
I've actually become something of a family history guru in the mission, being (as far as I know) the only one who has helped someone take their family names from photo albums and journals to the baptismal font, and soon the more sacred ordinances only available inside the temple. I love my family history so much, and can't wait for the time in my life when the Lord will inspire me and put things in order so that I can devote a greater amount of time to searching for my ancestors who are waiting for ordinances.
This week my zone got to have our first interview with President Reynolds, and Sister Reynolds talked to people who were waiting by district to get to know us better. I love them very much, and am so thankful that we have been given such great leaders who love the Lord.
I can tell that we're going to be great friends. I have a funny feeling that 1. I'm outtie this next transfer, meaning that I'll get transferred to a new area, and 2. A calling within the mission is approaching. I have mixed feelings about a calling. On the one hand, it's a lot of responsibility, and the spotlight will be on me. I also don't want to be one of those missionaries who just have to have one of those callings, for a multitude of reasons. On the other hand, I really feel like I have something to offer as a leader or
trainer, and that the Lord could use me well. I also believe that such an experience would make me a far better missionary, and give me a lot of confidence, and a feeling that I'm on top of everything, or rather that I can handle everything I'll come across in the mission. As in all things, though, I will follow the Lord's instruction to His servants, and go where He wants me to go.
Lately I've felt a strong urge to be able to rebuke wickedness with power, like Joseph Smith did in the 'fiends of the infernal pit' story. To be able to stand in defense of the gospel, and those who follow it, is, to me, one of the greatest callings I can have, besides that of parent and spouse, and perhaps teacher. There is a promise in my patriarchal blessing concerning this matter, and I am excited for the future. I just pray that I will be ready if and when the Lord calls upon me.
I implore each of you to stay true to the faith, for there are but two sides in life: that of the Lord, and that of Satan, that great deceiver. I like to think of it like this:
Every person's life is like a game of Go. This ancient Chinese game is played on a grid of 19 lines, by each player placing their black or white stones on the intersections in turn. The goal is to capture the most territory and as many of the other's stones as possible. This is done by surrounding the stone or formation on all four sides. Now, each and every action we make, every thought we think is either of God, or of Satan. These are the stones. There is no such thing as a neutral stone, just as there is no such thing as a neutral thought or action. We learn through principles of truth and light that Satan
would make it so that we cannot discern between the white stones of Heavenly Father, and his own black stones, and replace this clear image with grey everywhere, that we might be miserable, confused, and know not where to go. Now, in Go, territory can change hands very quickly, and concentration and patience are rewarded far more than offensive and 'decisive' strategies. This is exactly like life. We
cannot rush or force anything. We must be patient with ourselves, with others, and, in a way, the Lord. We know that He is a 'last watch God,' who tries our faith before He blesses us. Also, if we are not
walking forward, we are slipping back. We cannot allow our concentration on living up to our covenants to slip, for to do so would grant unto Satan power over us, and he will use it, however small it is. Also, the small moves in Go tend to add up, and sometimes there will be lingering formations or stones that are abandoned to be captured, but an equally threatening move has shifted attention away from them. It is wise to dispatch such lingering formations as quickly as possible. Similarly, it is the small and simple things that determine our salvation and spiritual health, rather than the large acts and events. Examples of those lingering formations are: friends making poor choices, who might influence you to compromise your standards, using technology too much, or in a way that invites temptation (this is a technique Satan uses a lot these days). Forgetting to read your scriptures and falling out of habit, failing to attend church, and all of it, or falling out of habit of praying daily, and fervently. Those last three are examples of how Satan will slowly drain your spiritual energy until you are weak enough for him to attack the previously unassailable formations like your testimony and your ability to feel the spirit and receive revelation. Quitting in the middle of a game of Go is taboo, and players are expected to play out the whole game. The game of our life is not over until we leave this mortal coil at the time that God has appointed. We are expected to endure to the end. One of the coolest things about this Go of life is the Savior. He can come in with the atonement and advise you on where to go, so that you can clean up your board and fill it with white. I promise you all that no matter how bleak the game of our lives may seem, no matter how large the sea of black on our boards may appear, there is absolutely nothing that the atonement cannot heal, save it be denying the Holy Ghost, and rejecting the Atonement and the Savior Himself. If you feel you are loosing your game of Go against the devil, please talk with your Bishop. He is divinely appointed to stand as a representative of Christ, and he will help you.
I love you all. Stay strong, and hold fast to the rod, for it is the way to happiness.
I say these things in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.
Elder Richard Brandt Hull 헐