Thursday, February 12, 2015

Great Counsel on Getting Along with Companions (Or Anyone for That Matter) - January 19, 2015

Hermanas Johnson and Gardner with Presidente y Hermana Dester at the Mission Christmas Celebration!
Enclosed is a letter that our mission president sent us with great advice for how to get along with our companions, but I think it is applicable to a roommate, a spouse, or anyone else with whom we have to work out differences.

Dear Elders and Sisters,

Last week I wrote to you a little about what a blessing it is to have companions, and how the Lord expects companions to lift and strengthen each other and to look out for each other. Because I quoted so heavily from the Missionary Handbook, I´m afraid that I didn’t get to share a few other thoughts that I have about our relationships as companions. So here is installment #2 on the blessing of having companions in this work.

First, let me say that I love a number of stories from the scriptures about companions. In 1 Sam. 18:1-3 (and continuing in 1 Sam. 23:16-18), we read of the love between Jonathan and David, and how these two companions protected each other. In Alma 53:2, we read of the love and trust between General Moroni and his junior companion, General Lehi: “this Lehi was a man who had been with Moroni in the more part of all his battles; and he was a man like unto Moroni, and they rejoiced in each other’s safety; yea, they were beloved by each other, and also beloved by all the people of Nephi.” I feel that way about some of my missionary companions, and about some of the other great souls with whom I have been privileged to serve in the work of the Lord. In D&C 135:3, John Taylor wrote of Joseph and Hyrum Smith, “In life they were not divided, and in death they were not separated.” Joseph and Hyrum were brothers, but they were also companions in the Lord’s work, and their relationship was characterized by love and unity, harmony and friendship. Finally, I love the story of General Moroni and Governor Pahoran, who even after a serious misunderstanding, were knit together in unity and support one for the other (Alma 60-61).
Some of the Hermanas of the San Pedro Sula West Mission Christmas Celebration
Each of us is different in many respects from each of our missionary companions, yet each of us is a son or a daughter of God, and all of us have more in common than we usually realize. And our Father in Heaven, and our Savior who leads this work, expect us to work and live together in unity and love. “Be one,” said the Savior, “and if ye are not one ye are not mine.” (D&C 38:27) When differences arise between companions, we need to resolve them quickly to maintain the Spirit with us. Often, one of the best ways to maintain harmony is to serve each other. Spend more time thanking Heaven for your companion and thinking about his or her great positive qualities than dwelling on his or her weaknesses or the things that might annoy you about your companion. Satan would love to drive a wedge between you every chance he gets, so that you are unhappy, and so that you lose the Spirit. Don’t let him do that to you. One of the first things that the Savior taught the Nephites was that “there shall be no disputations among you, . . . for . . . he that hath the spirit of contention is not of me, but is of the devil, who is the father of contention, and he stirrest up the hearts of men to contend with anger, one with another. Behold, . . . such things should be done away.” (3 Nephi 11:28-30) I also like the sage advice of Sister Blanca Falabella to her husband, Elder Enrique R. Falabella, of the Seventy: “In order to contend, you need two people, and I will never be one of them.” (General Conf., April 2013)

In describing the people of Enoch, who were eventually taken up into Heaven, we read: “And the Lord called his people Zion, because they were of one heart and one mind.” (Moses 7:18) Alma counseled his followers to have “their hearts knit together in unity and in love one towards another.” (Mosiah 18:21) And, of course, the Master taught that we would be recognized as his disciples only “if ye have love one to another.” (John 13:35)

I have heard two or three missionaries say that they didn’t come on their missions to be friends with their companions. I think at times they use this as an excuse to not get along or find common ground with their companions. But I don’t think the Lord will let us take this position. In His work, we are to be one. We have to find the common ground. We have to resolve our differences and come to love one another, as He has loved us. This requires humility. It requires that we give up our pride. As a stake president counseling couples with marriage problems, I would often ask them, “Would you rather be right (about some little thing), or would you rather be happy? You can choose, but if you have to be right about everything, you probably won’t be happy.” I could also ask missionary companions, “Would you rather be right, or would you rather have the Spirit with you and have harmony in your companionship?” Let us be slow to take offense and quick to forgive, slow to judge and quick to give the benefit of the doubt. May you each be happy in your companionship. Try to find the common ground, try to see the best in your companion, try to preserve the Spirit in your relationship.

I love you very much, and the Savior loves you even more! May the pure love of Christ characterize your companionships! That is my prayer for all of you. And have a great week!

Pres. Dester


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