Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Dear Senior Missionaries:

John, chapters 13 through 16, records the events of the last supper with Jesus. As you read these passages, you can almost feel the heightened anxiety of all in attendance at this, the Last Supper.

Despite the challenges and persecution of the previous three years, it appears the Apostles felt safe with Jesus whom they understood to be the promised Messiah and the Son of God. After all, they had seen Him calm the wind, help the blind to see and raise the dead. However, He now informs them He is leaving and they will be left to continue the work without Him. They seem to be reeling at this thought. Several wanted to know why he had to leave and why they couldn’t go with Him. There was genuine confusion on the part of the Apostles.

In John chapter 14 we read of the Savior’s reassuring words to His Apostles that the Father will send the Holy Ghost to teach them all things and bring to their remembrance whatsoever thing He had taught them. He begins with the tender statement, “Let not your hearts be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me.”

He then begins to teach them of the sacred role of the Holy Ghost and then issues these encouraging words, “Peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.”

Twice he tries to persuade them to not be troubled and offers encouragement. We learn later that the peace He was speaking of was not the peace that implies a lack of conflict or trouble or persecution. Remember, the apostles suffered terrible persecution and were ultimately executed (except for John) for following Christ. The peace He was speaking of is the peace of mind or assurance of His promise of immortality and eternal life for those who follow Him and make and keep His sacred covenants.

Like the Apostles of old, I think too often we suppose that if we follow Christ we will be blessed with fewer conflicts, persecution and heart ache, yet this was not the design of the great plan of happiness. We have to have opposition in all things (2 NE 2:11) and all these things give us experience (D&C 122:7).

I appreciate all you have left behind in order to serve here in the Virginia, Richmond mission. I know you have spouses who have graduated to Paradise, family you have left behind and a myriad of physical challenges. Despite the obstacles, you have gained perspective on the promised peace spoken of by our common Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. You understand the blessings promised to those who keep their first and second estate. You hear the still small voice that reassures the sons and daughters of God that the challenges we experience here in mortality shall be for a season. Therefore, be of good cheer and press on in the peace (or assurance) of our Lord and savior, Jesus Christ.

Kind regards,

President Perry

President's letter March 2011

Dear Elders and Sisters:

The Virginia, Richmond mission has awakened from its slumber of status quo. We have baptized 41 more people in the first two months of this year than for the same period last year. We are awakening to increased faith individually and in our districts and zones. We are weaving unity into the fabric of the mission. This is evidenced by a remarkable statistic; 80% of our companionships have baptized over the past 13 weeks. We are claiming the promised blessings of power and validity, in our unity (D&C 107:27).

We have been blessed with too many miracles to count but I believe it is because we followed the council of Helaman and yielded our hearts unto God (HEL 3:35) through fasting and prayer. We prayed for 3 things during our mission fast, 1. Greater unity in our companionships and in the mission 2. Greater personal conversion and 3, an increase in convert baptisms. We are now enjoying the fruit of that fast.

I’m thrilled to see the great diversity among our newest members. They come from all walks of life and from many different countries. I have met many of them and they express gratitude for you and your willingness to come here and share with them, the ultimate message of hope (Moroni 7:41).

Meeting these wonderful converts reminds me of a quote from President Benson found in “Preach My Gospel”, he states, “We are commanded by God to take this gospel to all the world. That is the cause that must unite us today. Only the gospel will save the world from the calamity of its own self-destruction. Only the gospel will unite men of all races and nationalities in peace. Only the gospel will bring joy, happiness, and salvation to the human family” (PMG page 1).

The baton of preaching the gospel has been passed to us and we are moving the work forward. It is our time and our responsibility to build a legacy of the gathering of Israel within our mission boundaries. We have an individual and collective purpose to bring souls to Christ.

President Benson’s statement should be our vision. I pray we will continue to be steadfast and immovable in this work and that through our unified efforts, the world around us may know that the Father has sent his Son (John 17).

I testify that the work in which we are engaged is divine. Sister Perry and I are thrilled to be shoulder to shoulder with you in this sacred endeavor.

Thank you for all you do. Let us set a new standard for excellence in the Virginia, Richmond mission!

Kind regards,

President Perry

President's letter February 2011

Dear Elders and Sisters:

You may be aware that one of my favorite quotes regarding missionary work comes from President Brigham Young, he stated, “I have Zion in my view constantly. We are not going to wait for angels, or for Enoch and his company to come and build up Zion, but we are going to build it.” (Discourses of Brigham Young. Pp. 443-444)

Brigham Young had vision; he understood well the words, “Where there is no vision, the people perish.” (Proverbs 29:18). . He never lost sight of his “purpose” in building the kingdom of God. He also understood the difference between testimony and true conversion.

We often speak of individuals who recently entered the waters of baptism as new converts. However, we know there is a difference between having a testimony and true conversion. Conversion is a longer process and always takes action. Conversion is more than a belief or a testimony.

Many believe accepting Christ as our Savior will save us. However, James reminds us that we must be doers of the word, and not hearers only lest we deceive ourselves. (James 1:22). Think of where you were before your missions. You may have had a testimony back home, but today, the daily discipline of prayer, scripture study, and proselytizing in spite of the obstacles, have enlightened your minds and hearts with greater understanding of the Savior and His Atoning sacrifice. Therefore, you press forward in faith every day. This is evidence that you are becoming more fully converted.

President Marion G. Romney explained the difference between testimony and conversion as he taught: “Membership in the Church and conversion are not necessarily synonymous. Being converted and having a testimony are not necessarily the same thing either. A testimony comes when the Holy Ghost gives the earnest seeker a witness of the truth. A moving testimony vitalizes faith. That is, it induces repentance and obedience to the commandments. Conversion is the fruit or the reward for repentance and obedience.”

He continued, “Converted means to turn from one belief or course of action to another. Conversion is a spiritual and moral change. Converted implies not merely mental acceptance of Jesus and his teachings but also a motivating faith in him and his gospel. A faith which works a transformation, an actual change in one’s understanding of life’s meaning and in his allegiance to God in interest, in thought, and in conduct. In one who is wholly converted, desire for things contrary to the gospel of Jesus Christ has actually died, and substituted therefore is a love of God with a fixed and controlling determination to keep His commandments.”

“Conversion is the fruit or the reward for repentance and obedience. Conversion is the result of, or the fruit of, faith and repentance and obedience. Conversion is affected by divine forgiveness, which remits sins and heals the spirit. Remittance of sins is the therapy which heals… Remittance of sins and healing are the same thing.” (Marion G. Romney, General Conference Oct 1963 )

Did it ever occur to you that you are spiritual therapists?

The counsel the Savior gave to Peter applies to each of us, “when thou are converted strengthen thy brethren.” (Luke 22:32).

I pray the Lord will guide each of you in your journey of Discipleship, in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen

President Perry

President's letter December 2010

Dear Elders and Sisters:

“The angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.” For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.” (Luke 2:10-11)

This exiting message, delivered by an angel, was the long awaited and anticipated news that the Messiah had finally come. Isaiah promised, like many before him, that the Messiah would “swallow up death in victory” and the Lord God will wipe away tears from off all faces”. : And it shall be said in that day, Lo, this is our God; we have waited for him, and he will save us”. (Isaiah 25: 8-9)

It had been promised since the beginning of time that the coming Messiah would claim victory over the grave and then all the sons and daughters of God could have confidence of life after death.

We are blessed to know that Jesus was and is the promised Messiah, the Christ that broke the bands of death when he completed the sacred Atoning sacrifice. This fulfilled the prophecy that he would wipe away all tears. There would no longer be despair at the passing of a loved one, but hope in a sacred reunion after death.

As authorized representatives of Christ, you good Elders and Sisters, have the same privilege allotted to you as did the angel, to declare the good news that Jesus is the Christ and that all should come unto Him, be perfected in him and find the joy that comes from following Him into the waters of baptism.

You, like the angel, know more about the Plan of Salvation than most that walk the earth. You therefore, having been commissioned of Jesus Christ, have a sacred responsibility placed upon you to solemnly declare the divinely revealed truth that Jesus will come again and fulfill all righteousness. You, like the angel need to declare to “all people”, that the gospel of Jesus Christ is restored to the earth in its fullness and by making and keeping sacred covenants and receiving His ordinances, all can enjoy the fruits of resurrection and the promise of eternal life.

Sister Perry and I wish you a Merry Christmas and are very grateful to be associated with you, in such a sacred and divine work.


President Perry

President's letter November 2010

“Counting blessings as well as blemishes will show many more blessings” -Elder Neal A. Maxwell

Dear Elders and Sisters:

Thanksgiving is a time to reflect on our many blessings. I am most grateful for the knowledge that regardless of the opposition, challenges or frustrations that come our way, we all have equal access to the blessings of the Atonement of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

No matter our station, circumstance, or condition, we can exercise faith in Christ, repent of our sins, enjoy the blessings of His ordinances; then claim the hope and promise of immortality and Eternal life as we endure to the end. For this I am most thankful.

Amulek encouraged all to “Live in thanksgiving daily, for the many mercies and blessings which he doth bestow upon you” (Alma 34:38)

We need to take time each day to count our blessings and express gratitude for the breath of life, food, clothing, and shelter. We need to give thanks for all our experiences that help us develop Christ-like attributes.

The first line of the hymn, “Count Your Blessings” reads, “When upon life’s billows you are tempest tossed. When you are discouraged, thinking all is lost, Count your many blessings; name them one by one, And it will surprise you what the Lord has done”.

Do we take time each day to express our gratitude to our Heavenly Father and count the blessings He has bestowed on us? If we do, it will help us to keep the sacred covenants we have made with Him and then we can reap the promised blessing that, “the riches of eternity are yours” (D & C 78:17, 18)

As we cultivate the virtue of gratitude and thanksgiving, our perspective will change for the better and we will become more hopeful and optimistic; happiness will follow. We all know someone that exudes light and optimism despite their circumstance. We enjoy being in their presence. This individual radiates light and we wish to share in their light. We too can become a light of optimism for others as we develop and cultivate daily thanksgiving. You will observe that the most optimistic people express thanks often. They count their blessings and appreciate what they have even if by the world’s standards it may appear very little.

President Monson stated, “We can lift ourselves, and others as well, when we refuse to remain in the realm of negative thought and cultivate within our hearts an attitude of gratitude. If ingratitude be numbered among the serious sins, then gratitude takes its place among the noblest of virtues”. (Ensign, May 1992, 54)

My prayer for this season of thanksgiving is that each missionary will look past individual challenges and set backs and become a beacon of light to others as you share your testimony of gratitude and thanksgiving. Resolve to be more thankful for each blessing, no matter how small, and witness for yourselves the light that will draw people near to you, as you spend more time on blessings not blemishes.

With love and gratitude for all you do and who you are becoming!

President Perry

President's letter October 2010

Dear Elders and Sisters,

I have been pondering the success we have been enjoying in the Virginia, Richmond mission. I have noted that along with our success has come plenty of opposition. I am satisfied that we are moving in the right direction and the increase of opposition, only confirms it.

Opposition comes in many forms including discouragement, health, homesickness, frustration with self or a companion, anti-Mormon myths and misunderstandings, self doubt, temptation and many more. There is not enough room to make a complete list of the challenges that plague a missionary.

I would like to offer a thought or two regarding opposition and the spiritual cures for the challenges associated with opposition.

Nephi teaches his son, Jacob, “For it must needs be, that there is opposition in all things”. (2 NE 2:11) We grow and learn through opposition. James teaches that the “Trying of your faith worketh patience”. (James 1:3) Ether reminds us that we “receive no witness until after a trial of your faith”. (Ether 12:6) Joseph Smith taught the early Saints, “after much tribulation come the blessings” (D & C 58:4) He also reminded, “These things shall give the experience”. (D&C 122:7) Additionally, the Lord through the prophet, Joseph, taught, “My people must be tried in all things”. Moses gave clarity to the last testament with this understanding, “taste the bitter, that they may know the prize”.

“Preach My Gospel”, chapter 6 offers some solutions to the challenge of discouragement and opposition as we learn to develop Christ like attributes. Please review it individually and with your companion.

The best way I know how to overcome my opposition or challenges is to remember my purpose. To define my vision and keep it in front of me at all times. Like Brigham Young, I try to keep Zion in my view constantly.

A few quotes I keep around to encourage and keep me focused are the following. I hope they help…..

"Never, never, never give up!" ~ Winston Churchill

"Great works are performed not by strength but by perseverance." ~ Samuel Johnson

"When you reach the end of your rope, tie a knot in it and hang on." ~ Thomas Jefferson

"Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing in the world is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent." ~ Calvin Coolidge

"When one door closes another door opens; but we so often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door, that we do not see the ones which open for us." ~ Alexander Graham Bell

"Fall seven times, stand up eight." ~ Japanese Proverb

“Joseph Smith’s perseverance made possible the Restoration of all things.” - James E. Faust

Kind regards,

President Perry

President's letter August 2010

Dear Elders and Sisters:

As I read your weekly letters, I can’t help but compare your general condition and the challenges you face daily, to that of the humble Nephites, as recorded in the third chapter of Helaman.

The more humble part of the Nephites where subjected to persecution and had to “wade through much affliction”. Despite the daily challenges and difficulties of their condition it is recorded, “Nevertheless they did fast and pray oft, and did wax stronger and stronger in their humility, and firmer and firmer in the faith of Christ, unto the filling their souls with joy and consolation, yea, even to the purifying and the sanctification of their hearts, which sanctification cometh because of their yielding their hearts unto God”. (Helaman 3:35)

Like you, this group of Nephites were not perfect, but had yielded their hearts to God and were becoming sanctified in the process. Your prayers, scripture study, and spiritual understanding, have matured well beyond your pre-mission life.

Take time to look back and see how far you have come. When you have made an inventory of your remarkable progress, don’t forget to express gratitude to your Heavenly Father and then quickly re-commit yourself to this same pattern and principle of sanctification, which will bring you even greater joy and satisfaction in the months and years ahead.

Sister Perry and I are so grateful for our association with each of you and have learned much from your examples of faith and devotion. We love each of you and pray daily for your success and happiness.

President Perry

President's letter July 2010

Dear Elders and Sisters,

Sister Perry and I are thrilled to be here in the Virginia, Richmond mission! We have had the opportunity to shake your hands and look into your eyes and see of your goodness and desire to be effective missionaries. You are to be commended for your conduct and kindness to our family as we met together this past week. We are very grateful for your warm welcome.

We have a great desire to help you become more powerful teachers of the doctrine in your ministry. We have a sincere desire to help you succeed in your “purpose” of inviting others to come to 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.

I have a strong testimony of the power of prayer and the role it plays in softening the hearts of those we teach and those with whom we associate in this great work, and most importantly, our own hearts. I also believe prayer and fasting is the antidote to the pride cycle (see Helaman 3:34, 35).

We pray daily for your health, happiness, safety and success. We love you and look forward to our association together here in the mission and beyond.

Remember, we are on the Lord’s errand; therefore, we are entitled to His help. I testify this is His work and His glory in which we are engaged. He will help us if we are humble and obedient. As we exercise faith in Him, He will guide our steps and we will enjoy the company of His Spirit, of this I testify in the name of Jesus Christ, amen…

With love,

President Perry