Tag Archives: missionary work

The Gift of Tongues, Courage, and Our Son the Missionary (a letter to Landon)…

unspecifiedI 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!

Be Encouraging…




A Letter to Our Missionary Son…

mickelson-and-coronadoOur oldest son has spent 6 weeks in the Missionary Training Center in Mexico City and recently flew to Guadalajara where he will spend the next 22 months or so. We email him each week and I try to write a letter to him each week as well…Here is a recent letter I sent, hoping he’d receive it close to when he arrived in his new area:

December 20, 2016 (Pouch)

Dear Landon…

This is my first letter through the Pouch system and I’ll be interested to see how it works. I’m writing this on Tuesday, December 20 and will mail it today so keep track and let me know how long it takes for this to get into your hands. My guess is that it will go from here (Logan) to Salt Lake, to your mission office and then must be hand-delivered by an office elder to you, right? So that may take some time. I know that I can email you each week and I will always do that, but I like writing these so that you have a physical copy of some of the things I would like to share with you and teach you that I think will bless you. I would imagine you will not be able to print the emails so you don’t have access to them throughout the week. Anyway, let me know how this goes and how often do these pouch letters are delivered to you.

I can’t believe you are in Guadalajara!!! You’ve met President and Sister Clayton, been interviewed, met the APs, and met your trainer! You’ve also been assigned you first area and are meeting ward or branch members and a few of the people in your teaching pool I would imagine. So awesome. You may also feel a little overwhelmed with it all and a little frustrated with the language, even though I think it has been coming along pretty well according to your reports from the MTC. So, you have a few decisions to make. In case you’ve not already made them, here are some ideas:

  1. Decide right now that obedience is the first law of heaven
  2. Decide right now that loving your companion doesn’t depend on what he’s like as much as on you choosing to love and serve him
  3. Decide that the Book of Mormon isn’t only central to your investigators’ conversions, but to yours
  4. Decide to follow the council of the Mission President no matter what
  5. Decide to trust in the Lord

You’ve already learned how to overcome frustration or discouragement or homesickness while in the MTC, or at least part of how to do that. And to be honest, you’ve learned things that most parents only dream of their son learning as an 18-year-old. Where else can this kind of growth happen? I love where you are and what you’re doing! You have already learned how to lean on the Lord for help and I promise you, Heavenly Father knows exactly where you are and what worries and excites you! I promise that is true.

We are so excited to hear the details of Guadalajara and the Claytons and your trainer and district and zone. This is it. You’re the real deal now. It is high adventure from here on out. Elder Neal A. Maxwell shared this: “Now we are entering times wherein there will be for all of us as Church members, in my judgment, some special challenges which will require of us that we follow the Brethren. All the easy things that the Church has had to do have been done. From now on, it’s high adventure, and followership is going to be tested in some interesting ways” (“The Old Testament: Relevancy within Antiquity,” in A Symposium on the Old Testament [Salt Lake City: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1979], p. 12) There will be boring moments in the missionary field and slow times for sure, but you out there, in the middle of the Lord’s work!!! You have a family that loves you and thinks about you all of the time and misses you and prays for you multiple times a day. You have a companion who loves you. You have a mission president who loves you. You have friends who love you. You have people from the other side of the veil who will help you and whisper to you and encourage you through the Spirit (2 Nephi 32:2). And, you are blessed with talents and gift more than most. Use them.

I love you more than you can know!



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,


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…


“Practicing” Living the Gospel…

baseballI was searching for a few verses regarding the law of chastity (for a lesson) a few days ago and came across a very, very hopeful verse.

In March of 1831, the Lord admonished Joseph with these words:

“And ye must practice virtue and holiness before me continually. Even so. Amen.” (D&C 46:33)

The obviously important word might be “continually”. But the word that stood out to me was “practice”. Surely, there is a chance that the word practice can be understood like “practicing medicine” and that makes sense to me. But I love the idea of practicing, as in “I’m going to go out and practicing hitting a baseball.”

If I played baseball this weekend and only hit the ball once in four at-bats, I would feel a bit discouraged (which is normal), but I think I would spend this next week practicing my hitting. I’d analyze what wasn’t working for me. I’d determine what adjustments could be made. I’d set some goals and I would go into next week’s game with some realistic expectations about my hitting. After hitting the ball twice in four at-bats, I’d celebrate my improvement and would adjust my next week’s practice. Luckily, since most baseball seasons consist of 162 games, I have some time to practice. I have the whole season to “practice batting…continually”.

Years ago, while serving as bishop in our ward, a ward member and I talked about some failures he had experienced with a certain aspect of the law of chastity. He had struggled for years — over a decade — with this problem. After our first meeting, he went roughly two weeks living a virtuous life. Then he fell back into the old pattern. He came right in a visited with me, sharing his struggles. He was surprised when I congratulated him on his success. I explained that after more than a decade of struggling, almost daily, with keeping this commandment, he had gone two entire weeks with success. That was a new triumph. And, he had time to improve. I wasn’t suggesting that he go too easy on himself for breaking a commandment. But I was suggesting that he allow himself some time for improvement. After all, for him, we were only halfway through the season. 80 games to go.

You and I have a little time. We have time to practice being who we want to be and who God wants us to be. We may be batting .147 today, but we can practice, train, learn, grow, and bat .300 by next month. And .350 in a year. And we can bat .400 soon enough.

I’m not advocating turning a blind eye to our sins or poor choices. I am thinking that life is, in part, about practicing.

Practice forgiving. Practice being patient. Practice being a good spouse or parent or child or sibling or neighbor. Practice keeping your thoughts clean. Practice. You’re not going to be perfect. You’re not going to hit every pitch today. But you and I can practice…

Be encouraging…


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…


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...

Broc, the missionary…

I’ve known Broc since he was around 10 years old, because I’ve been friends with his father around 8 years or so. I’ve taught Broc in seminary, announced his name during football games, and now I was able to do a missionary photo session with him as he prepares to leave for Canada as a missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. I couldn’t have enjoyed a session more than this one. This is a powerful young man in many ways, and he is going to be an instrument in the hands of the Lord. Thanks for the great session!





These are a couple of my favorites of the evening. For more information on a missionary photo-session, click here for details…