I am excited to call on Friday evening and hear from all of you! The missionary handbook says to keep the call short (preferably no longer than 30 or 40 minutes).
These past few days I have felt so full of love. I am overflowing with it. Singing Christmas hymns with the ward makes me feel like I have a family here. I feel their love and I love them.
I have never felt so full of the Christmas Spirit in my life! Christmas as a missionary is amazing so I'm glad I get to do it twice! On Saturday our ward had their Christmas Party and it was fantastic because this family that we just met came and felt very welcomed. We had been trying to contact and teach the McCormick family for weeks and finally we did. And then they came to the Christmas Party the next day! They are neighbors of the Wahls, a family that was baptized last summer, so Sister Wahl was so excited to see them and share the joy she has found at church with them. After the party, the McCormicks 11 year old daughter came up and said to us "We are definitely coming to church tomorrow." And they did! And they absolutely loved the Christmas program. The mom gave Sister Smith a hug and said "Thank you for opening my eyes." Sister Smith and I have were beaming the entire weekend because we felt the happiness of sharing something so precious and dear as the gospel of Jesus Christ with this family. The gospel has blessed us so much, knowing that our families can be together forever and that we can receive guidance through a living prophet, that we are so anxious to share those blessings with everyone around us.
The Spirit of Christmas truly is the Spirit of Christ. To me that spirit is the love or charity that he has for each of us and that we should strive to have for each other. And missionary work is all about sharing the love of God with others. God loves us and wants us to receive all the blessings he has. His whole purpose is to help us become like Him (Moses 1:39). So, He has provided a way (through our Savior, Jesus Christ, Mosiah 3:17) and commandments (2 Ne 9:23-24) for us to return to Him and receive that greatest gift of eternal life (D&C 14:7). And He did it all because he loves us (John 3:16).
As missionaries or members of the Church, we have received many blessings from God. When we recognize those blessings and feel God's love for us, our love for others increases, as does our desire to share those blessings of the gospel with them. Like God, we love them and want them to enjoy the same blessings that we have found in living the gospel of Jesus Christ. So, we invite them to keep the commandments upon which those blessings are predicated (D&C 130:20-21). We invite them to be baptized so that they can be clean and worthy to enter the kingdom of God (Alma 7:14-16, John 3:5). That is the greatest gift we can offer anyone, the gift of eternal life with God and our families. It brings me such joy as a missionary to see people accept that gift that God and Jesus Christ offer through me (D&C 18:10-23). And I offer it because I love them.
To those who feel the joy of living the gospel, I invite you to "pray unto the Father with all the energy of heart, that ye may be filled with this love," this charity, this Spirit of Christ and Christmas so that you can "be an instrument in the hands of God to bring ... [your] brethren ... to the knowledge of the truth" (Moroni 7:48, Alma 17:9).
To those who have forgotten the joy of living the gospel of Jesus Christ I invite you to remember and start anew to follow him. Think of those times when you felt God's love or recognized His hand in your life. Know that He is there, that He loves you and wants to bless you. His love is unconditional, but His blessings are conditional on our obedience. Because of the atonement of Jesus Christ we can repent, we can change, we can start new. And if we are sincere, God will forgive us and give us the strength to overcome all things. I have seen this happen in my life. Even when I have no idea how I can possibly overcome a certain trial or weakness, I trust that God knows and that He will provide a way. And He does! Because Christ suffered for us he understands us perfectly. He knows what we are going through and he can help us through it. Turning to our Savior Jesus Christ is the only way to have lasting happiness.
To "those who do not belong to the church I speak by way of invitation, saying: Come and be baptized unto repentance, that ye also may be partakers of the fruit of the tree of life" (Alma 5:62). The tree of life represents the love of God. As we follow the example of Jesus Christ by being baptized we are cleansed and the doors to the kingdom of God are opened. That is the only way to live with our Heavenly Father after this life. I know that the authority to baptized was restored through the Prophet Joseph Smith. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the true church of Christ once again on the earth. We will be blessed and have lasting happiness as we follow His teachings.
I wish you all a very Merry Christmas!
Sister Bailey Mortensen