Sunday, November 22, 2015

The Parable of the Marshmallows

By Rodger Dean Duncan

We live in a world of instant gratification. Young couples often start marriage expecting to enjoy the same conveniences and material things it took their parents decades to acquire. Some students seem to believe that real learning requires only a quick scan of a Cliff Notes booklet. In this age of smartphones, millions of people have come to regard "communication" as a series of 140-character tweets, brief bursts of texts punctuated by smiley faces and other emoticons.

With spiritual things, some people seem to regard prayer as little more than a perfunctory pass through the drive-up lane to place and order and then pick up the requested blessing at the check-out window.

One of the most important lessons we can learn is that blessings come on God's timetable, not ours. Part of the test of faith is learning to wait. Learning to be patient. Learning that miracles come in various sizes and shapes and forms. Learning that our spiritual development cannot be rushed like a microwave dinner.

In addition to being a great metaphor in learning the power of faith, delayed gratification has some interesting scientific applications. In a series of studies in the 1960s and 1970s, scientists at Stanford University explored the long-term effects of delayed gratification. In the studies, a child was offered a choice between one small reward (usually a marshmallow) provided immediately or two small rewards if they waited for a short period. In follow-up studies, the researchers found that children who were able (and willing) to wait longer for the desired rewards tended to have better life outcomes as measured by SAT scores, educational attainment, body mass index and other life metrics.

That same principle applies to spiritual development. People who willingly "pay the price" of faith, patience, and devotion tend to have excellent outcomes. Oh, they are not insulated from life's bumps and bruises. They are not immune to disappointment and heartache. But they are better prepared to weather the storms.

Click here to see a brief message (2:41) about applying this principle in your own life.

What We're Teaching

Some readers of this blog have asked about what we're teaching during our mission.

Much of our work has involved "public affairs" activity, building relationships with various nonprofit organizations in the Waco area. As reported in previous posts, that work has focused on organizations that serve the poor and needy. Some of this service has involved providing leadership and change management training. We love this no-strings-attached service and we've met many good people in other faith communities.

When we work with "investigators" (people who express an interest in exploring our faith), we use a course of study called "Preach My Gospel." (We think this should be a focus in every Latter-day Saint home.) Prior to baptism, an investigator receives at least five lessons. The baptismal candidate is expected to attend church multiple times (why would you join a church if you weren't willing to attend?) and make specific commitments regarding devotion to the Lord's commandments.

The first three lessons we teach are the Message of the Restoration of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the Plan of Salvation, and the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Investigators typically experience an "ah ha" with these lessons. Why? Because as children of God they have a sense of "homecoming." They sense that their Father in Heaven cares about them personally and that He has a plan for helping them find their way back home. It's a wonderful sight to behold, and a privilege to carry the message.

To learn more about what we've been teaching, click on any or all of the following links: The Restoration, The Plan of Salvation, The Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Entering the Final Laps

It's really hard for us to believe, but in three weeks our mission ends and we'll return to our home in Liberty, Missouri. But there's still plenty of work to do here in Waco. We're preparing for the Stake LeaderSHOP that we've organized for December 5. We're expecting 400 or more church leaders to participate in training that will help them in their leadership roles.

Our friend Jeannette Lane is a charming, highly intelligent
women, certainly the feistiest and most able and
independent 81-year-old we've ever known.
Meanwhile, as the Savior taught, the key to the ninety-nine is the one. We treasure the friendship we've developed with Jeannette Lane. Sister Lane, a native of Wales (you can only imagine how her accent compares to the way other people talk in Central Texas) joined the Church ten years ago. She went inactive about two years ago. We met her when we first arrived in Waco and took her under our wing. She is now fully active again, deriving personal meaning from the Apostle Paul's proclamation that "[we] are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints, and of the household of God." (Ephesians 2:19) This past week we took Sister Lane to the Dallas Temple. It was her first visit to the Temple in eight or nine years.

Our young missionary friends are very fond of Rean's cooking, and they
especially appreciate the yummy (and healthful) treats she provides at our
weekly training meetings.

On nearly 70 occasions over the past 11 months we have welcomed young
missionaries and others (local church leaders, people from the community,
etc.) into our apartment for meals, teaching, and friendship. This past week,
four missionaries spent the night with us before going to a training
conference in Fort Worth with a General Authority.

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