From David A. Hall of Mesa, Arizona

My mission conversion

Posted by mesasmiles

My mission in Spain changed me dramatically. I ended up changing the paradigm through which I looked at the gospel, and made a decision halfway through my mission to change my very personality.

My primary motivation in joining the Church was that I wanted to be good, and I perceived that joining was my pathway to learn how to be good. I recognized weaknesses in my character that I attributed to my upbringing, and I wanted to immerse myself in influences from the Church to help me be better. That is the reason I wanted to go to BYU – to surround myself with gospel influences.

My view of the gospel during my early years of Church membership, however, was that it was a set of rules that God had laid down for us, and that I could be good by exercising greater and greater discipline. I also felt, as I went about my missionary labors, that if I could get close enough to the Holy Ghost it would tell me every little thing that I was to do. I worked very hard at this, and as such I was often a problem to those who tried to work with me, especially to my companion. So I was very rigid in my approach to the gospel. Added to that, I had developed as a young man a cocky attitude. I excelled in school, in debate, and in political organizing, which gave me an excuse to be arrogant.

On my mission, I was confident that I would have great success. When that didn’t materialize, it was a source of serious trial to me. I thought deeply about it and spent a lot of time in prayer. It came to a head about halfway through my mission when I was a companion with Elder Spackman. I accused him of breaking a mission rule and lying to me about it, and I made a big deal of it, which caused serious contention between us. When I was rebuked by the mission president for that, I was obedient and began to question my attitude. In that spirit of questioning, on April 2, 1970, near the halfway point of my mission, I wrote in my diary that I had prayed to know what should be our attitude of mind in order to keep our eye single to the glory of God. That was a phrase that had fired my discipline and asceticism. So I asked, “Can we keep our eye single and enjoy the riches of the earth – or is such enjoyment a diversion away from our true purpose?” That evening, in response to a thought that flashed into my mind, I pulled out Doctrine and Covenants, section 59.

Something struck me about what it said. It talked about the things the Lord had created, that they were made “for the benefit and use of man.” It went on in verse 20 to say, “And it pleaseth God that he hath given all these things unto man; for unto this end were they made …” The spirit of those words resonated with me, the feeling of love that God had for his children, that he had created the things of the earth for our enjoyment, and it pricked my heart to come to feel that my entire view of the gospel was distorted. God did not want to push us into conforming to a set of rules and dictate our every move. Rather, He wanted us to enjoy ourselves. This change in perception hit me very hard. I had been making extreme efforts in my rigidity and discipline, and the thought that I was misguided was quite unsettling.

It just so happened that right after that we had Elder Boyd K. Packer come visit our mission. I related the experience I had with him in a separate post. He helped me zero in on overcoming my arrogance and aloofness. These things, and meditating on these things, caused me to change my entire perception of myself. Where I had been cocky and arrogant, I now came to feel that I had serious defects that needed correcting.

I meditated on this time and time again throughout the rest of my mission, and tried to identify thoughts and behavior patterns I had adopted that were contrary to this clearer perception of the gospel. I even made a list of thoughts and attitudes that I wanted to incorporate into my personality. I kept that in my passport wallet, and would pull it out as we would walk from appointment to appointment and try to cement my new way of thinking into my mind.