"Do You Love Me?"

The past three weeks have been extremely busy. We have been interviewing missionaries. With 185, it takes some significant time! In between interview days, we have traveled three weekends in a row to stake conferences; two in Savai'i and one in American Samoa. Yes, you guessed it; I start feeling sorry for myself during times like these. Ridiculous, I know, but true, none-the-less. It always seems when I start feeling this way I get a little reminder of what is most important and we rub shoulders with one whose commitment is greater than ours. As we attended stake conferences, we accompanied two Area Seventies and their wives, Elder and Sister Dudfield and Elder and Sister Tarati. These area authorities live at home and continue to provide for their families while maintaining a rigorous schedule for the Church.  We also accompanied President Pearson, Pacific Area President and a member of the First Quorum of Seventy. The members of area presidencies live away from home and devote their lives to the work of the Lord full-time.  As I watch them and learn of their schedules and responsibilities, I wonder if we, as members of His Church, can even grasp the magnitude of their callings. I know I have been guilty at times believing that they have a pretty good life. After all, the area presidencies get to live in exotic places and travel the world. The area authorities live at home, but get to travel throughout their assigned areas. They are treated with great respect and honor. From a distance, their lives seem to be pretty amazing. I have come to see in a very real and personal way the sacrifice that they are making for the Lord and His work. It is remarkable, breath-taking really. It makes me think of Elder Holland's conference talk from October 2012:

"After a joyful reunion with the resurrected Jesus, Peter had an exchange with the Savior that I consider the crucial turning point of the apostolic ministry generally and certainly for Peter personally, moving this great rock of a man to a majestic life of devoted service and leadership. Looking at their battered little boats, their frayed nets, and a stunning pile of 153 fish, Jesus said to His senior Apostle, 'Peter, do you love me more than you love all this?' Peter said, 'Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee.'

The Savior responds to that reply, but continues to look into the eyes of His disciple and says again, 'Peter, do you love me?' Undoubtedly confused a bit by the repetition of the question, the great fisherman answers a second time, 'Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee.'

The Savior again gives a brief response, but with relentless scrutiny He asks for the third time, 'Peter, do you love me?' By now surely Peter is feeling truly uncomfortable. Perhaps there is in his heart the memory of only a few days earlier when he had been asked another question three times and he had answered equally emphatically--but in the negative. Or perhaps he began to wonder if he misunderstood the Master Teacher's question. Or perhaps he was searching his heart, seeking honest confirmation of the answer he had given so readily, almost automatically. Whatever his feelings, Peter said for the third time, 'Lord . . . thou knowest that I love thee.'

To which Jesus responded . . . perhaps saying something like: Then Peter, why are you here? Why are we back on this same shore, by these same nets, having this same conversation? Wasn't it obvious then and isn't it obvious now that if I want fish, I can get fish? What I need, Peter, are disciples--and I need them forever. I need someone to feed my sheep and save my lambs. I needs someone to preach my gospel and defend my faith. I need someone who loves me, truly loves me, and loves what our Father In Heaven has commissioned me to do. Ours is not a feeble message. It is not a fleeting task. It is not hapless; it is not hopeless; it is not to be consigned to the ash heap of history. It is the work of Almighty God, and it is to change the world. So, Peter, for the second and presumably the last time, I am asking you to leave all this and to go teach and testify, labor and serve loyally until the day in which they will do to you exactly what they did to me. . ..

I am not certain just what our experience will be on Judgement Day, but I will be very surprised if at some point in that conversation, God does not ask us exactly what Christ asked Peter: 'Did you love me?'" (Jeffrey R. Holland, October 2012)

It has been an incredible blessing to learn from those who have boldly and courageously declared their unfailing love for the Savior. They leave home, family, comforts, friends, and wards. They go to places unfamiliar and sometimes unsafe to carry His hope-filled message to all the world. 

There are times I know the Lord wonders how I will answer the question, "Do you love me?" I wonder if I have enough love, enough courage--can I boldly declare "Lord, thou knowest that I love thee?" I am ever so grateful for the example of those who, like Peter, declare their love and understand that the Master Teacher needs disciples and needs them forever. 

Elder Dudfield (I didn't have a brain and forgot to get a picture with Sister Dudfield)
They are from Melbourne, Australia.

Elder and Sister Tarati (from Tahiti)

President Pearson and some missionaries serving in Savai'i

New Missionaries Bring New Energy

We welcomed new missionaries last week. They come with energy and purpose. As we send them on their way with their new companions, we witness the excitement that they take with them into the field. We are grateful for their decision to join us!

New missionaries and trainers. Make sure to see other photos on the page Life with Missionaries.

We also said good-bye to some great missionaries. We miss them already and know they will go on to do great things.

I have been thinking about the day we left the heavens. Did we leave with energy and purpose? Were we excited for the challenges ahead of us? As these missionaries who leave us reunite with their families, there is great reason for celebration. They have sacrificed for the cause of Him who saves us all. I am sure as we return to the heavens there will be great rejoicing. Through our efforts to live a repentant life and allow the Savior to complete us and perfect us, there will be much to be celebrated. 

Which Way Do You Face?

We had a surprise visit from one of President Tolman's Missionary Training Center teachers, Vaitu'u Kaio. I have heard many times over these many years how much Brother Kaio was loved by the young missionaries he taught. He instilled in them a great love for Samoa before they ever arrived. Brother Kaio was famous for playing basketball barefooted. Brother and Sister Kaio and their two sons dropped in at the mission office to see us this week. They came on a day when we were dealing with some difficult issues. Their visit lifted our spirits and reminded us of one of sweet blessings of missionary work. Friendships developed in the Lord's service are unique.

We said good-bye to a lifelong friend this week. One of our assistants, Elder Si'ilata, returned home. It was difficult to say good-bye. He has been an incredible strength to both of us. We asked him to extend for a month to help us get things settled. We will forever be grateful for his help, his wisdom, his respect and certainly his love. We miss you Elder Si'ilata!

Our new assistant is Elder Moe. He and Elder Shepherd will carry on in a powerful way. When we were on our way home from the airport after saying good-bye to Elder Si'ilata, I made the comment that our assistants are our guardian angels. I truly meant it. Trying to describe what an assistant does is almost impossible. I truly don't know what we would do without them. They do everything from organizing a transfer to ministering individually to missionaries. They look for ways to make our lives easier even when they are overworked and exhausted. Assistants understand their purpose and work to embrace that purpose in everything they do. Watching these assistants manage all that is in their charge is a testimony to the teaching that "the Lord qualifies those he calls." Other young men of their age are in college learning and playing; they are generally concerned about themselves and their own needs. Missionaries, and most certainly assistants, are concerned only for the welfare of others. Always looking for ways to serve, they walk in the footsteps of the Savior. We have learned much from them. They help us to understand when our expectations are out of line. They see and hear things that we do not. They carefully and thoughtfully help us understand other missionaries.

The assistants are representative of the good in every missionary. We have some remarkable missionaries who understand "which way they face." Today in General Conference Elder Robbins asked us to consider which way we face.  He taught that "trying to please others before pleasing God is inverting the first and second great commandments. It is forgetting which way we face." He continued and then gave this example, "Some young missionaries carry this fear of man into the mission field and fail to report the flagrant disobedience of a companion to their mission president because they don't want to offend their wayward companion. Decisions of character are made by remembering the right order of the first and second great commandments. When these confused missionaries realize they are accountable to God and not their companion, it should give them courage to do an about face." We have tried to help all of our missionaries understand that protecting a companion means helping them to live the rules. The one soul they may save is their companion.

If every missionary would enter the mission field with nothing more than knowing which way he or she faced, beautiful and breath-taking events would occur.  Parents, please help your missionary to understand what it means to face God. As you correspond with them teach them the importance of keeping the first and second commandment in the right order. Plead with them "when others demand approval in defiance of God's commandments"  to remember "whose disciples [they] are and which way [they] face." When we first love God and then others, we begin to understand His work in His way.