We are ending our mission. How weird! It just seems so surreal. I want to write more than usual in the next two weeks to share some of the ending experiences we are having. Here is one about learning.
I think the Lord is prompting many people to be very kind and generous to us. We have always felt very loved and accepted on this mission. But here at the end, more than usual, stake members and missionaries are telling us that they love us, what a difference we’ve made and how much they will miss us. It has been touching for us. I think these people are like little angels sent by the Lord to spread love and help us know that it has all been worth it.
I really appreciate those in our stakes who have expressed that what was said or taught touched or changed them, but I always feel a little uncomfortable too. The reason why is because I know learning is a very personal thing between the Lord and the heart of the listener. I never know how to respond. I think teaching is also a very personal thing between the Lord and the heart of the teacher. I try really hard to focus on the Lord before, during and after I speak. I try to focus on people’s needs and what the Lord wants said and then after if the Lord is pleased with what I said, but not if the congregation thought it was good. This helps me not feel nervous about speaking or anxious about what I said. Focusing on the Lord and not how people view me, has saved me in this assignment. I’m grateful when I feel the Lord is pleased.
But what I wanted to write about is learning, not teaching. Here are a few observations.
A funny experience: A new sister missionary came up to me after a training and said, “Sister Mullen everything you say is like gold to me.” I thought about that later and wished I would have pin pointed to her the deeper truth of that statement. I wish I would have said, “The spirit teaches you because you have a soft heart and open mind. When you listen and are focused, humble, teachable, soft and open, that is when the magic occurs. That is when gold happens to your learning, it has nothing to do with me.”
Now the funny part: The exact same training I asked another older, more experienced, sister missionary, “What did you learn today?” She said, “I am sorry Sister Mullen, I feel so bad, I just wasn’t present here today. I really didn’t get anything out of it. I was kicked out of an investigators house yesterday and I just couldn’t focus today.” We talked and laughed about missionary work being bi-polar; you have these incredible highs and some really bad lows and it can all happen within hours of each other!
But that is really true and I have had the same thing happen to me. I have stood up from a meeting and my husband has said, “Wow that was the best talk”, and I realize I didn’t hear a thing that was said. I feel I missed out and I want a re-do, but I don’t get one. My heart and mind were not present to learn.
The point is that sometimes we think our learning is based on how someone else teaches. When we learn something really good that touches our hearts we feel so much gratitude and go to the teacher and tell them how great it was. In reality I wonder if most thanks just goes to the spirit and the heart of the listener. The spirit absolutely taught, and touched when the heart has been changed! All good things come from Christ. That really is true. “Why call the teacher good, there is none who is good except God.”
One more funny thing: There has been quite a few times when missionaries will say, “When Sister Mullen taught…….. I learned……..” What is so funny is I will look over at Don and think, “I never said that.” Now it could just be I’m in the night and can’t remember stuff. But I really think, “No, I said something kind of like that but it got changed from my mouth to your heart.” I’m an innocent by standard in the process. This has happened so much it’s become funny to me. When people start a sentence with, “When Sister Mullen said…….” My eyes get big and I just kind of wonder what they are going to say. The important point is that this is evidence that the way things are said can be changed so that little precious spiritual moments can happen. The information needed is spiritually changed so that when they hear it, it is exactly what they needed for that magic to occur and then gold happens.
Why is this important? For me it is important because I love to learn and I have had some great teachers in my life. Steve Robinson was a gospel doctrine teacher in our ward when I was newly married, starting my family, and he taught me so powerfully. I loved that man!! What an amazing teacher. He motivated me to read the scriptures and love them. It was the first time in my life that I loved gospel doctrine more than relief society. He opened my eyes and got me to actually think. I had a beloved stake president Dan Judd. He taught me so much. I still think of the way he taught and things I learned from him. I remember specific things he said and the way he said them because they were “tags” in my brain. That is how powerfully he spoke to me. He opened his mouth and I felt the spirit. He spoke and it went straight to my heart. I love him! But I remind myself, it’s feeling the spirit that I love. It’s not the men themselves. Even when I listen to Elder Bednar, Pres Uchtdorf and Elder Holland, who are master teachers in my book, I remind myself, its God I love and His holy spirit. That is what I’m loving. I think it is ok for me to love them too, but I just always remind myself that it’s God and his holy spirit that I love; the teacher is just the vehicle to the real thing that is good.