I wrote to Landon today and sent the letter through the Church’s “pouch” system, which is great but slow. Not knowing exactly when the letter will arrive in Mexico, I tried to share some ideas with him that will not be “old” no matter when the letter arrives. Here’s part of the letter:
“Dear Landon (sent through the Pouch on Jan. 3, 2017) (sorry for the small font size and spacing…gotta keep it under a page!)
“Man, I wish these letters could make it to you the next day like in the MTC! I loved knowing you could hear from us in just 24 hours most days. Knowing this letter may take a month to get to you isn’t very fun! But, I want you to get physical mail every once in while and the emails are more “conversational” so these letters will be more just me sharing things about the gospel as if we were sitting on the couch downstairs. I miss our gospel conversations!
“I learned a pretty important truth from one of my students and I know we’ve talked about it before but I want to share it again. In fact, I’ll be sharing two things today and both are important to missionary work and the work of salvation in general [I’m not including the second idea in this blog post]. Here’s the first truth…
“I was asking my students about the “gift of tongues” and what was required to receive that gift. Of course, the students mentioned praying for the gift and studying the language which are obviously important and I’m sure you’re working on those two. But one student surprised me a little with her answer. She said, “Courage is the most important thing. Once I decided to just try to speak to people in their language, knowing that I’d mess it up and a few people would laugh a little or make fun, my language skills took off and I really noticed the gift of tongues.” Most of the class nodded. When I pressed them a little, they all said that they had to just get over the fear of messing up in front of others. Interestingly, trying to use the gift before they had the gift was actually part of receiving the gift. They saw real growth when they showed the Lord that they weren’t going to let fear dictate their progress or actions.
“I think it is true of all gifts, and there are more gifts available than just the ones listed in the scriptures in 1 Corinthians 12 and Moroni 10 and D&C 46. In fact, there are endless gifts to help us overcome endless mortal weaknesses. If we are trying to develop the spiritual gift of forgiveness, we have to be a little gutsy and forgive someone who may hurt us again. Or if we are trying to develop the gift of service we have to go out of our comfort zones and offer help even when it is uncomfortable. So here’s the principle: Qualifying for the gifts of the Spirit requires courage. When I was a bishop, I prayed for the gift of discernment which means, in part, the ability to know the thoughts and intents of the hearts (through the Spirit) of those I was serving. I prayed for it, a lot. There were times when I would sense someone was struggling after passing them in the hallway or seeing them in sacrament meeting. I would worry though that if I asked them, they’d look at me weird and tell me that they were fine and then I’d look like a overly-worried, nosey bishop. But after a while, I decided to just ask people when I had those moments and hoped that they’d feel my love and God’s love and even if I was wrong, they’d know I was asking because of that love. So, I got brave and started opening my mouth more. And 9 times out of 10 they were struggling. Maybe 9.5 times out of 10. And that gift grew and developed and was a real blessing to certain ward members and to me. But it wouldn’t have developed had I not got over myself and my fears and started just acting. I’m grateful the Lord was willing to bless others through that gift, but courage was a key.
“So, how can you take your courage up a notch? What can you do today to show the Lord that you won’t get in your own way when it comes to the gift of tongues? How can you muster even more courage to just go and talk, open your mouth, regardless of your current skill level?
“I know that as you continue to show the Lord your courage (and I know you are courageous, or you wouldn’t be out there in Mexico surrounded by strangers!), He will literally fill your mouth with His words, in the language of the people you’re serving…”
There’s a few more paragraphs in the letter and the font was so small he may not even be able to read it. I hope the idea of developing courage is a blessing to him and the missionaries around him. It has been to me!