July 17, 2016
Westland 9th Ward, Westland Stake
Westland 9th Ward, Westland Stake
This must be what heaven is like—being surrounded by family, friends, and the people you love the most in all the world.
Buon Giorno Fratelli e Sorelle. In Italian that means “good day brothers and sisters”. It’s one of the first phrases I learned in Italian. Whenever I say it, it reminds me of the little mice singing in the movie Cinderella. I knew I was going to be in trouble because it’s very difficult to keep a straight face when I say it. I actually did pretty good—except for a few times when I laughed.
I had a difficult time learning Italian. It just never clicked with me. I know lots of words and phrases, but I never did really learn to speak Italian. When Elder Rasband set me apart, he said I would learn to communicate with the Italian people. I thought “Yeah, I’m going to be able to learn Italian”. After three years, I never did learn the language. What I did learn was to communicate with the Italian people—just like Elder Rasband said I would. I couldn’t communicate with words, but I learned to communicate with the spirit. I learned to communicate as God would have me communicate. It’s the Holy Ghost that is the teacher, not us. If I ever did get anything right in Italian, the missionaries cheered for me. They’re great!
In Italy we always said “Gelato is our Motto!” The missionaries eat a lot of gelato.
The theme of our mission was “Bee the best you can bee!” Our desire for each missionary was to be the best they could be. There are many kinds of “be’s”.
Bee-lieve in their mission
Bee a little bit better tomorrow than they are today
Bee like Jesus
Preach the gospel
Bee a good example to the people of Italy
Bee like honeybees - dedicate this season of their lives to building up the hive
Bees are industrious and produce honey, the purest food on earth.
How many of our returned missionaries are in the audience today? Will you please stand and recite “Nostro Scopo” in Italian.
Nostro Scopo e’ invitare le persone a venire a Cristo alutandole ad accettare il vangelo restaurato mediate la fede in Gesu’ Cristo e la Sua espiazione, il pentimento, il battesimo, il conferimento del dono della Spirito Santo e perseverando sino alla fine.
In English it means:
Our Purpose is to invite others to come unto Christ by helping them receive the restored gospel through faith in Jesus Christ and His Atonement, repentance, baptism, receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost, and enduring to the end.
Recently Elder Nelson has simplified our purpose even more. The missionary purpose can be stated in four words.
Teach repentance, baptize converts
Our goal is to help people repent and become truly converted to the gospel of Jesus Christ. The number of baptisms isn’t important. What is important is that those who are baptized are truly converted.
How do 18 and 19 year old young men and women accomplish that? It’s really quite a remarkable process. These young missionaries are much like the 2000 Stripling Warriors. They have been taught correct principles by their mothers and fathers. We have many missionaries who have only been members of the church for a year when they come on a mission. They learn the principles of the gospel right along with those they teach. Their testimonies are strengthened and their knowledge increases.
Sometimes these young missionaries are very childlike. They laugh and giggle and we really wonder about them. The next minute they are bearing powerful testimonies and giving priesthood blessings and being the voice of God. They have been taught well. The Young Men and Young Women programs do a great job of preparing them to be missionaries.
We went on our mission the same time the wave of 18 year olds stared going out. When he called us into his office and extended the call as Mission President, Pres. Eyring – said “We have no idea what is going to happen.”
This is the Lord’s work. It will progress as He would have it progress. It is called missionary work because it is work. Missionaries work hard and they play hard.
The Lord’s work is never done.
After Christ was crucified, he reappeared to his disciples who were fishing and having no luck at all. He instructed them to cast their net on the other side of the boat. When they did as he instructed, the net was full of fish. Jesus then sat down and had a meal of fish with the disciples. When they were through eating, Jesus had a very poignant conversation with Peter.
15 So when they had dined,
saith to Simon Peter, Simon, son of Jonas,
lovest thou me more than these?
He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee.
He saith unto him, Feed my lambs.
16 He saith to him again the second time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me?
He saith unto him, Yea, Lord;
thou knowest that I love thee.
He saith unto him, Feed my sheep.
17 He saith unto him the third time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me?
Peter was grieved because he said unto him the third time, Lovest thou me?
And he said unto him,
Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee.
Jesus saith unto him, Feed my sheep.
Peter listened to the words of the Savior and went on to become one of the greatest missionaries the world has ever known.
We went to Italy to help “feed the sheep”.
Most of the nurturing of the sheep came in the form of miracles.
One night we received three phone calls in the middle of the night. Nobody was on the other end of the line. At the end of three phone calls, I was wide awake. I wondered why those calls had come. I decided to read my e-mails since I was awake anyway. One of the e-mails was from a mother who was concerned about her son’s companion. I read it and went back to bed but couldn’t go to sleep because I kept wondering why we’d had those phone calls. I finally told Michael I didn’t think those phone calls were a mistake and that we needed to find out why that mother was concerned about her son’s companion. We got dressed and drove over an hour to the apartment where they lived. When the missionary’s alarm clock went off at 6:30 in the morning, President rang their doorbell. When they answered the door, he said “Why am I here?” After talking to the missionaries, he determined it wasn’t the companion who needed him there, but the son who needed a blessing.
President kept saying we needed to go to Leece to church. I fought it because Leece was and 8 hour drive each way and we didn’t have an extra 5 minutes, let alone 8 hours. He just kept saying we needed to go, so after the last zone conference of the transfer cycle in December of 2014, we were in Bari and it was only about 2 ½ hours from there to Leece. We decided to drive on to Leece and see why we needed to go there. On Saturday night, President did an exchange with the missionaries who were serving there. They told him about a young man they had started teaching. He had had the first lesson and really liked what he had learned. His name was Daniel. Daniel planned to go to church the next day. During the night, Daniel had a dream and in his dream he saw a white tablecloth and a man. When he walked into the Mormon church the next morning, he saw a sacrament table with a white tablecloth. When we walked into the church a few minutes later, he looked at President Waddoups and said “That’s the man in my dream.” That’s why we needed to go to Leece. Daniel was baptized soon after that and now holds the priesthood.
Our mission was one of the first missions in the Europe Area to receive Ipads. Niether President Waddoups nor I are really tech savvy. We wondered how we were ever going to manage training 200 missionaries how to set up and use Ipads. We kept praying for guidance. About a week before we got the Ipads, a new senior couple arrived in the mission. That night we invited them to the villa for dinner. During the conversation, we asked what he had done in his former life. His response shocked us. He had been a computer salesman. We looked at each other and said “The Lord doth provide.” Our prayers had been answered.
Through the course of attempting to help “feed the sheep, we were able to assist in blessing the lives of many missionaries. Some of the missionaries came on missions with real challenges. Some of them had health, emotional, and unresolved moral issues to deal with.
Some of the missionaries had health problems we were able to help resolve that they never would have gotten the help for if they hadn’t come on missions. Some of them had some severe emotional challenges and we were able to have them talk to the mental health specialists who were serving in Germany. Some of them had unresolved moral issues that we were able to help them repent of.
I have always had a testimony of the Atonement and have been grateful for the sacrifices made in my behalf and for an older brother who hung and suffered on the cross for me. During our mission, I gained a much greater testimony that the Atonement is real. I have seen the lives of individuals change dramatically as they have allowed the Atonement to work in their lives. We don’t have to be perfect. We only have to be the best we can be. The Atonement takes over when we have done our best.
After three years, my testimony is the same as that in the Doctrine and Covenants.
22 And now, after the many testimonies which have been given of him,
this is the testimony, last of all, which we give of him:
That he lives!
For this is life eternal that they might know thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom thou has sent.
We went to Italy to help feed the sheep, but in reality it was us who were spiritually fed. We received much more than we gave.
Io dico queste cose,
Nel nome di Gesu’ Cristo,