Here is the message that Presidente Bruce wrote for our Camina Conmigo Newsletter in July.
"Where There is No Vision, The People Perish"
It seems that recently our mission mantra has been “ Where there is no vision, the people perish”.Stealing this mantra from Proverbs, it really does have a lot of meaning to us here in the mission field as we daily seek guidance and direction from on high in order to pursue our missionary efforts. Thomas S. Monson once said: “ Work without vision is drudgery. But work coupled with vision is destiny.” Wow, this certainly applies in our continuous efforts as missionaries as we work steadily to bring souls to Christ and hopefully all have the vision of the importance of this work.
After returning home from my mission several years ago, I played college basketball. At the time I could tell that my eyesight was getting worse but I thought that maybe I just needed more sleep or just needed to blink my eyes a few times and my vision would be restored. I recall that my vision actually started to diminish while serving my mission as we would drive around in a car and when looking at street signs, store signs or other billboard material, I found that I could no longer read the words! I thought to myself, wow, I am really falling behind on my sleep because I cannot get my eyes to focus! My vision is terrible. Upon my return home I was looking forward to maybe getting a few hours more of sleep but it was to no avail, my vision continued to struggle. Naturally, when this happens we go the optometrist, obtain an eye exam and ultimately receive a prescription for either glasses or contacts. I did so and was amazed at the clarity that contacts brought to my vision once again, thus restoring to me what had previously been a blessing in my life. With increased enthusiasm, I returned to basketball practice the following afternoon and remarked to my coach that I was going to be even better in basketball because my vision had been restored and I could see things better on the court. His response has stayed with me my entire adult life when he remarked: “ Leland, the way you play basketball you don’ t need great vision (my initial thought was my goodness, he really thinks I am terrible and has no hope that I will ever get better) because you are a scorer” . As I was pitying myself in a disastrous attempt to understand his words, I looked up at my coach and said “ Coach, I have no idea what you are talking about” ! He said, “ You are a scorer, you have a great feel for the game. You think, feel, understand, see, create and move with a great knowledge of the game. Certainly seeing better will help you but your vision of the game is what is important, not the vision of your eyes” . Now, I studied Finance in college and thus was not too learned about philosophy, but it came to my mind that my coach was teaching me some sort of philosophy lesson that could really be helpful to me if I could just capture the essence of his words.
At times as a Mission President, I feel the same way as my coach and oftentimes I believe that you as our missionaries feel as though I did back in college. The words, “ Your vision of the game is what is important, not the vision of your eyes” ring true every day in missionary work as we attempt to see the greater landscape of what lies ahead of us, and not just see the obstacles that are in our way. My vision of our mission is so big, so great, and so incredible; I just wish that you could see a glimpse of where we can go as a mission. Long ago, President Ezra Taft Benson said something similar to the following: “ If you knew, what I know, you would run from door to door to share the gospel” . Now that is vision! The prophet Joseph once said: “ I could explain a hundred fold more than I ever have of the glories of the kingdom manifested to me in the vision, were I permitted and the people prepared to receive them” . When President Hinckley said that with “ sincere prayer and interested investigators, we could double our baptisms” I believe he meant it! Unfortunately, not all of us capture the same vision that the prophet has and at times, we are not prepared to receive the counsel and visions of our leaders. Furthermore, we do not exercise the faith that is needed to see the visions that our leaders have. Joseph Fielding Smith (son of Joseph F. Smith and grandson of Hyrum Smith) once said: “ Faith is the knowledge that transcends ordinary boundaries. The range of the physical eye is sharply limited, it reaches only a part of the material world; but the vision of faith perceives the mystery of the invisible world and its limits are ever expanding.” How true are these words. When we see only with our natural eyes, we are overwhelmed and can see no way to accomplish our goals. It is my hope that we can open our spiritual eyes, exercise great faith and hope, and have the “ vision of faith” as described by Joseph Fielding Smith and “ perceive the mystery of the invisible world.”
During the lifetime of the Prophet Elijah, he had a companion that was always striving to be in his presence. This young man (although how young we don’ t know, but we do know that he was bald!) named Elisha asked the prophet for a double portion of Elijah’ s spirit once Elijah left the ministry and returned back to his Heavenly Father. (By the way, he did receive the double portion of spirit and doubled the 8 miracles performed by Elijah by fulfilling 16 miracles!). One of the great lessons that Elisha taught is found in 2 Kings 6: 15-17 wherein Elisha is teaching the principle of the “ vision of faith” to his young servant where it says:
15: And when the servant of the man of God was risen early, and gone forth, behold, an host compassed the city both with horses and chariots. And his servant said unto him, Alas, my master! How shall we do?
16: And he answered, Fear not: for they that be with us are more than they that be with them.
17: And Elisha prayed, and said, Lord I pray thee, open his eyes that he may see. And the Lord opened the eyes of the young man; and he saw: and, behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire round about Elisha.
At times I have to be reminded to “ open my eyes that I may see” because just like you, I get caught up in the day to day work of missionary life. I think, I have to prepare a talk, a conference presentation, a lesson, a Camina Conmigo message or whatever it may be; nonetheless, I to need to stop, meditate, pray and open my eyes having a vision of faith that we can do greater things in Antofagasta Chile. My heart rejoiced this past month when I shared with our Arica zones that our baptisms for the month of June were 78. Now, 78 is a very good strong number of souls! But the leadership from Arica bowed their heads and sighed when they heard the number and they all agreed, “ President, we can do so much better” ! Now that is the vision I am talking about!
Elders and Sisters, I can bear you my witness and vision that we are not here to baptize 60, 70 or 80 converts per month. The Lord expects so much more. He has blessed each of us with the opportunity to be here in a wonderful country that is ready and willing to listen to our words of salvation. We cannot walk, speak, teach, pray, work and convert with the idea that our mission can only baptize 78 converts per month. We need to “ open our eyes that we may see” and become acquainted with faith and shun fear. We need to see things as they really are and demonstrate the power and authority within us to do all things. Our vision of who we are and what we can do has to empower us to great action and success reaping even greater rewards and happiness in the work. We will arrive at a time when we are baptizing 120, 130 and 150 converts per month and will look back and say that the Lord has opened our eyes and our vision of faith, and “ they that be with us, are more than they that be with them.”
I can honestly say that even with new contacts and two Lasik surgeries to help my vision; I never got any better at basketball! My coach was right, I already had a vision of the game and my eyesight vision wasn’ t going to help me. Sure, I could “ see” the court better, could “ see” my teammates better and could even “ see” Sister Bruce in the crowd as she cheered me on (when she wasn’ t reading a magazine…) but my vision had not improved. I already had a vision for basketball and could see, touch, feel and understand the game better with or without my increased eyesight. It is my prayer that we can capture the vision of our leaders, see with our spiritual eyes, understand the vision of faith as taught by President Joseph Fielding Smith and welcome the blessings that are sure to follow. Let us “ become,” as Elder Dallin H. Oaks says, great missionaries and be empowered to accomplish the great vision of this great mission.