Category Archives: Mission Work

When You List Your Personal Strengths, Are You Remembering This One?

unspecifiedWe really, really look forward to Mondays. That’s “Email Day” around here. Each week I update our missionary-son, Landon, on our lives and share a short gospel principle that’s, hopefully, encouraging. I also ask him three to five questions about himself and his mission experience.

Last week one of my questions invited him to list some of the strengths, gifts, or talents he’s noticing he is developing. I thought I’d hear him talk about some newfound courage or ability to love others or a developed work-ethic. His answer (and what follows is all he wrote about it) caught me a little off guard:

“I think I’ve just realized my weak spots right now. I have noticed that now when things get rough the first thing I do is turn to the Lord. Which if you count Him as my strength, I guess there’s one.” (Elder Mickelson, January 2017)

Each of us possess talents and talents-in-embryo. We each have strengths and gifts. But when we’re in a covenant relationship with the Savior, He becomes our greatest Gift. Many of us take courage when approaching a challenge when we’re reminded of some gift that will give us an advantage in the sticky situation. But, doesn’t having the Savior as our Advocate, Redeemer, and Savior give us the ultimate advantage in mortality.

The next time you are facing a problem, remember to list all of your gifts, especially the ultimate Gift. He is our greatest source of strength…

Be Encouraging…

BJM

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One last “Dad Time”…

mic_6827-copyKinda weird to recognize “lasts” before they happen. Usually we don’t think of something as being our “last time” until after it has happened and then there is a death or something and we don’t get the chance to do it again, whatever “it” is. Not this time. I’ve known this “last” was coming for years.

I hold father’s interviews on the first Sunday of each month. We call them “dad time”. Our family has been holding these “interviews” since Landon, our oldest, was just a baby. We’ve missed a few months over the last eighteen years, but not many. I think we refer to them as “dad time” since “interviews” makes them sound much more formal than they were ever intended to be. Really, one child at a time, we hang out in one of the rooms of our home and just talk. We talk about whatever they want. These sessions don’t last more than about ten minutes each. There’s no lecturing. There’s a lot of listening. It’s been nice. A lot of laughing, as you can imagine if you know us.

Since Landon is the oldest, he’s been in on more of these than any of the other children. We used to lay on our backs in the hallway of our previous home and put our feet up on the walls and talk. He’d sing songs he was learning in church or school. He’d recite the alphabet. We’d laugh a lot. I’d ask him about school, friends, chores, mom. As he got older we’d sit in my room and talk about sports, school responsibilities, friend relationships, girls. We’ve talked about sex, the internet, alcohol, peer pressure, disappointments, triumphs. We’ve talked about serving as a missionary and worshipping in the temple. We’ve talked about marriage. Sometimes we’ve just talked about kind of nothing…just little things that were going on. We’ve done so many that very few of these interviews really stand out.

Once, when Landon was about five or six, he had kind of a letdown birthday moment, right in the middle of the party. Trying to be brave, he didn’t cry in front of the grandparents and cousins, but I could tell he was really sad and disappointed. During a quiet moment in the party, he walked over to me, climbed up on my lap and said, “Dad, could we do a ‘dad time’?” I guess he thought it would help him get through his struggle.

Today is the first Sunday of November, and the last Sunday that Landon will be in our home as a permanent resident. He’ll be off to Mexico in a little over a week, to serve that mission we talked about so many times. So…many…times. Today is our last “dad time” for awhile.

The goal wasn’t to hold eighteen years’ worth of interviews. It was to build a relationship. It was to make it so very clear that he, and each of our children, could come to us anytime and share anything. It was to express love and dedication and support. It was to make it crystal clear that no matter what had taken place over the course of the month–whether there were good choices or bad–Dad was always going to love them and want to hear from them. No matter what.

I’m excited for these next two years. We’ll communicate through letters and emails and a few treasured phone calls or Skype sessions while he is serving in Mexico. We’ll send packages and celebrate success and pray for help when there are the inevitable struggles. What a blessing, for sure.

But I can’t wait until that next “dad time”…

Be encouraging, as always,

BJM

The 25th Anniversary of Starting My Mormon Mission…

It has been 25 years, today.

mtcprovoJuly 3, 1991…I was 19 years old and my parents and brothers and I were at the Missionary Training Center (MTC) in Provo, Utah, saying our goodbyes. They were going to drive off and leave me there…

I had never lived away from home up to that point since my first year of college was spent at a local college. I don’t think I had been east of Utah in my life. Being the oldest, our family had never sent a missionary off. I was nervous. I’d imagine my parents were nervous. This was new territory. After a short presentation by the staff and leadership of the MTC, I hugged everyone, cried, and walked into a hallway with hundreds of new missionaries while my family walked back to the car with hundreds of families in similar situations.

First thing I learned as a missionary: I loved my family.

Then I hauled my bags to my room. Then I met Elder Evans who I would grow to love like a brother. Then I met the other missionaries going to my mission, and a few others going to other missions. I spent about three weeks in the MTC, learning, studying, playing basketball, eating (and immediately using the restroom), praying, praying…And eventually traveling to Texas where I served as a representative of my family, my church, and my Savior in bringing the restored gospel of Jesus Christ to anyone who would listen.

It has been 25 years since I embarked on that adventure. I served for two years. I’ve had 23 years to think about it. Here are some of the things I learned:

I learned that I could get along with anyone. I didn’t have to just stick with my friends like I thought I needed to do in high school. The mission president could stick me with any missionary companion and it wouldn’t be long before we were laughing and joking and working together. I even had one companion who didn’t speak any english (and I didn’t speak his language). We got along great!

I learned that I could work hard. I didn’t grow up on a farm or as an olympic athlete. It is doubtful that I would be remembered in high school as any other than an average worker. But very quickly I learned that I could go all day, so to speak. We were up at 6:30 AM, out the door by 9:00 AM, and gone all day until 9:00 PM that evening. And I liked it. I really enjoyed it. It was tiring, and could be discouraging, but we found ways to enjoy just working.

I learned that my intestines didn’t like 32-Bean-Soup.

I learned that my Samoan companion punched a lot harder than I did.

I learned that when you sense that a dog is going to try to bite you, it is because it really is going to try to bite you.

I learned that not everyone likes Mormons.

I learned that there was beauty and truth and great people in every religion.

I learned that there were incredible people who weren’t religious at all.

I learned to enjoy the friendship that developed with other religious leaders.

I learned that I enjoyed attended the Jewish Synagogue, Catholic Mass, and Baptist worship meetings.

I learned to let rejection, disappointment, and frustration bounce right off of me.

I learned that I could choose to be happy regardless of my circumstances.

I learned to get off of my bike, get out of my car, and get out of my routine to help strangers with no expectation of repayment. A person didn’t need to listen to our message to receive our help.

I learned to follow those quiet promptings, impressions, and feelings that come from a loving Heavenly Father.

I learned that obedience isn’t limiting or oppressive. Following the council of leaders doesn’t require that I become un-thinking or un-feeling. Just the opposite. And blessings and protection seem to follow.

I learned that Joseph Smith did, in fact, see God the Father and Jesus Christ. And that there was a lot to learn about that experience and from that experience.

I learned of the power of the word of God and the special relationship between the Bible and the Book of Mormon.

I learned that Jesus Christ really did live and die for all of us. He was resurrected and lives today.

I learned that God knew me very personally, and knows me today.

There’s certainly a lot more. Lessons were learned everyday. Over the last 23 years, since returning home and moving on with life, I’ve also learned that those two years as a missionary were not the best two years of my life. They set the stage. The mission ended up teaching me the patterns I would need to understand to make the next 23 years wonderful.

I will forever be grateful for parents and church leaders who encouraged me, but didn’t force me to serve as a missionary. I could have not served in that way and everyone would’ve loved me just fine. I had friends who didn’t go as full time missionaries and they were loved as much as me. So I learned that being a missionary didn’t make me any more special or loved by others or God.

But I’m grateful I went. I would go again. We’re encouraging our children to serve as missionaries because of the blessings and lessons that come. Those two years were critical in becoming who I am today.

Be encouraging…

BJM

“Best Practices” for an LDS Blogger…

Screen shot 2013-11-25 at 7.33.04 PM

One of my buddies from “over the mountain” wrote a very interesting and well-written post about being a witness. Before you read any more here, you really ought to take a few minutes and read his post. Won’t take long. I’ll wait…

There. And on we go…

Really, the main idea in my friend’s article is that there are three types of witnesses for Christ:

Type I: The Martyr

Type II: The Leader

Type III: The faithful “rank and file” of the Church. The saints…

If you’ve read my friend’s post, you know that you and I are Type III witnesses in most cases. We’re not called to die for our testimonies, nor to lead large groups of people in out-of-the-ordinary ways. We’re called to share our witnesses in daily, ordinary, faithful, consistent ways. Blogging is just one way to do that. Since my last post, a number of people have contacted me for a little help on blogging. So I want to share a few “best practices” for the LDS blogger.

True, this list is incomplete. Plus, it is just what I’ve found to work for me, currently, and the list will probably grow or change or shrink… Anyhow, here are a few basics that may be helpful if you’re working on sharing the gospel through blogging. Some of these are just things I do, and some are things that I think would work for a lot of people:

  1. I use WordPress for all of my blogs. It is free, easy to use, and easy to customize.
  2. Write regularly, but don’t overwhelm yourself. I find myself writing about two to three times a week. I’ll write more some weeks, depending on time and the ideas that come to me.
  3. I use other forms of social media to help spread the blog. You can find me on Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest.
  4. Personally, I avoid being controversial. I do a lot of research on religious topics, and I’m not afraid to share thoughts on topics that may be controversial, but I’m not here trying to stir up some argument. In fact, I won’t argue with people. I’ve never found that to be helpful.
  5. Write about things you know and love. What parts of the gospel are currently blessing you? Why?
  6. Spell things correctly. Use appropriate grammar. Don’t use all caps (that is like shouting…no one likes shouting). I know this part of blogging turns a lot of would-be bloggers off, but often we lose a little credibility when we don’t proofread and edit (but don’t look too closely at my blog…there are bound to be errors hiding all over the place).
  7. Comment on other people’s blogs. They’ll check yours out. Feel free to tell your friends, especially those curious about the Church, about your blog.
  8. Picture yourself reading the blog. If you weren’t very familiar with Mormonism, would your post be confusing or clarifying? Remember who your audience is and write to them.
  9. Tag your posts. What would people search for on Google to find your particular post? On my post about Elder Holland’s talk on depression, I used the following tags: , and . When people are searching for Elder Holland’s talk, Google brings my blog up as the fourth hit (as of today). Be careful to be honest. We’re not trying to trick people into the Church. Some people will add a million unrelated tags to their posts, hoping to lure some unsuspecting person to their blog. I don’t want to force my religion on anyone. If they’re interested, they’ll come looking…
  10. Pray about what you write about. 2 Nephi 33:1 talks about the Holy Ghost carrying the inspired written word to the heart of readers. Is there a story you think Heavenly Father wants you to share?
  11. Lastly, not all aspects of your religious life should be shared on a blog. Some things are just sacred enough that they should be protected and only shared under the influence of the Holy Ghost. Be careful. Be normal. If you wouldn’t share a certain personal story with some stranger you were sitting by on a bus, don’t share it on your blog.

Ok, well, there’s a list. Some of the ideas may be lame. Feel free to ignore anything you like! 🙂 Also, remember that you are under no obligation to be a blogger. There are other ways to share the gospel using social media including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc.

Good luck. Please feel free to shoot me any questions you have. I’ll try to answer them as soon as possible!

Be Encouraging…

BJM

The Aftermath of the Deseret News Article…

Screenshot of where the blog has reached...
Screenshot of where the blog has reached…

Well, last Thursday, Trent Toone from the Deseret News wrote an article entitled, “Blogging Bishops: 2 Mormon Men Talk About Sharing the Gospel Online” and featured my blog, along with the blog of a currently serving bishop from Idaho. It is a great article in a series of solid articles regarding sharing the gospel online in the LDS world. I’ve noticed some interesting things since the article went online.

1. The digital version of the article has spread to many parts of the internet. When I search blogging bishopsmickelson, and gospel all together, I find that the article has been linked on Facebook, and then on all kinds of pages around the web.

2. The number of messages I’ve received has increased drastically. I mean, I really don’t get many messages here on the blog, but I get a number of messages on Facebook. Since the article on Deseret News, I’ve received a number of emails, a number of Facbook messages, and a few more messages right here.

3. The number of people “following” the blog increased more than ever. Now, more people get an email notifying them when the blog updates (you can too, if you want…).

4. People have clicked on way more links from my blog. A number of people clicked on the link to get a free copy of The Book of Mormon or have gone to Mormon.org. Awesome.

5. The number of countries that are represented by visitors to the blog exploded. Here is the last 30 days’ report on countries where readers have come from (In order of popularity):

United States

Canada

United Kingdom

Italy

Australia

Mexico

Madagascar

Tanzania

New Zealand

Germany

South Africa

Guam

Malaysia

Costa Rica

Philippines

India

Switzerland

Korea, Republic of

Spain

Austria

Indonesia

Thailand

France

Peru

United Arab Emirates

Romania

Japan

Taiwan

Estonia

Argentina

Barbados

Ghana

Nigeria

Brazil

Uruguay

Bulgaria

Russian Federation

Hong Kong

Korea? Hong Kong? Russia? That’s awesome. Now, there is a reasonable chance that some of the visitors are just computers coming to the blog with no human attached, but I’ve received a surprisingly low amount of spam-comments, and a few messages from around the world.

6. The number of visitors and views increased dramatically. On the day the article went online, I had over a thousand views from over 400 visitors. That is a four-fold increase from normal. The numbers haven’t stayed there, but they are consistently higher each day compared with a couple weeks ago…

7. There have been a number of people who have inquired about how to do a blog or improve their blog.

8. There has been an increased number of people who have shared my blog online in one way or another.

Anyhow, all this is due to Trent’s great article and the power of the internet as opposed to my writing. I totally get that. But I’m thankful that more people have access to stuff that may be helpful or encouraging.

Be Encouraging…

BJM

These views are personal, and are not the official views of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints...

An Open Letter to a New Missionary…

handwritten-letter-to-a-friend

Not long ago one of my previous and wonderful students entered the Missionary Training Center…and wouldn’t you know it? It was tough. Just like it is for most of the missionaries there. And just like it has been for most of the missionaries who have ever been there. Including me to some extent. I sent a few thoughts her way, and hope there is some help for some other missionary out there…I’ve edited a few details to protect, well, whoever…

Dearest Sister _______,
You’ve been there a few days, and if you’re normal at all you’re probably feeling a little bit of discouragement…
 
I know. I felt it, too. In fact, long after your mission experience, you will feel discouragement, and you’ll feel it over a lot of things: dating, marriage, finances, school, employment, pregnancy, children, callings, neighborhoods, sin…everything. I wish it were different, but it just isn’t.
 
But…with all of the discouragement coming in the future, you have much, much, much more enjoyment coming. There will be so much more enjoyment than discouragement. In fact, there will be enough enjoyment and satisfaction to more than overshadow the frustration, I promise. The joy of marriage will overshadow the discouragement of dating. The happiness in employment will overshadow the toughest days of college. The love of being a mother will make up for the struggles you may have getting pregnant. The hard things don’t go away, they are folded up and tucked away and only remembered occasionally. Your focus will be on the joy.
 
Your mission will be a pattern of that. Though you might feel discouraged today, in about a week things will be balancing out. And in a month, you won’t remember feeling this discouraged. And your life will go much like that. So a mission is great practice for life. It is hard practice, but good practice.
 
Here are a couple things that helped me, and still do:
 
1. I try to picture discouraging moments as a future funny story. I can either feel discouraged, or I can shrug and laugh a little and pray for better “luck”. When I tell someone else about my frustrations and try to laugh a little, I feel better about it.
 
2. I often picture myself thinking about this in a week or a month. I ask myself, “Will I still feel this bad a week from now, or will I feel fine? In a month, will I be ok?” I can’t think of many instances where the answer was anything other than, “As bad as I feel right now, I know I’ll be all right in a week or so…”
 
3. I try to imagine myself telling my children (when they’re older) about whatever particular trial I am going through. What do I want to be able to tell them about my reaction and effort? What will they learn from my current situation? What can I teach them about “hard things”?
 
You probably have a dozen other emails to read, so I’ll end. Well, except for one thing: When Christ miraculously healed people during His ministry, it was usually when things looked the worst. He knew the people would be all right, but they didn’t. Christ knows that you will be all right, even if you don’t. But you will. Sooner than you think. There is a big difference between being alone and feeling alone. In Heavenly Father’s family, there is no such thing as being alone. There is a little voice inside of you that is telling you that you can do this, you can make it, you can learn the language, you can love your companion, you can, you can, you can…Just listen to that voice.
 
So many people love you and are praying for you, myself included. Missions are hard. But you are on the “front lines” so you have direct access to Heavenly Father. You’re His daughter, and that’s that
 
If, by chance, you’re not feeling discouraged, then this is awkward. File this email away and give it to a sobbing companion when she needs it 🙂
 
You’re great!
 
…And the letter ends… I hope it was helpful, and she is doing wonderfully, and not because of the letter. She’s doing great because she is great and she is participating, directly, in a great work. For all of you future (or current) missionaries…you are, too.
These views are personal, and are not the official views of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints...