Elder True DeMille

Elder True DeMille

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Dedication and Diligence

My trainer, Elder Chow always used to say to me: "Elder DeMille. Your dedication to the language shows your dedication and respect for the calling that Heavenly Father has given you.”

..To be honest, every time I think about how hard studying/learning the language is, his words echo in my head and I know that as long as I'm dedicated, and trying-- the Lord will see that and bless me accordingly.

In Preach My Gospel, page 128 it says, "Learning to teach effectively in your mission language requires diligent effort. Do not be surprised if the task seems hard at first. Learning a language takes time. Be patient with yourself." Among other comforting words, PMG says here that we've got to work to obtain this language by exercising "diligent effort”.
..But.. How do we know when we're being diligent? ..What is diligence again?
Elder Doyle, an Elder we live with, once said that "Diligence is an outward expression of our inner devotion". I'd say that falls in line pretty well with what Elder Chow said to me many moons ago. That, and if you go back to PMG on page 121 it reads, "Diligence is steady, consistent, earnest and energetic effort in doing the Lord's work.". I'd say 'diligence' could take on hundreds of different definitions, all relating to the specific task at hand - about learning a concept, overcoming an obstacle, studying the language, etc In the words of Elder Chow, "Keep your feet moving!" and "Don't plateau" were phrases that he'd often say, and in turn helped me personally understand diligence.
Third PMG reference comes from page 128, in the third paragraph. There, it says,
"Strive to master the language throughout your mission and after you return. The Lord has invested much in you, and He may have uses for your language abilities later in your life." Elder Jeffrey R. Holland then expounds, "We would hope that every missionary learning a new proselyting language would master it in every way possible. And as you do so, your proselyting and testifying skills will improve. You will be better received by and more spiritually impressive to your investigators. Don't be satisfied with what we call a missionary vocabulary only. Stretch yourself in the language, and you will gain greater access to the hearts of the people.”
When I hear E. Holland say "don't be satisfied" - I think of climbing to the top of a tremendous mountain. Hiking and ascending to the top.. never being content with anything but my goal of reaching the peak. I think that's what Elder Chow meant when he advised me to never "plateau". On a mountain, as you work towards the peak, of course you'll get tired, and there will be places to rest for a moment as you overcome different "peak experiences" on your way. However, on a plateau, there aren't any "peak experiences". There is no ascension at all after a certain point, and no where to go but.. well, where you've already been. A plateau provides nothing but rest. A sign of loss dedication, drive, and yeah -- you guessed it, diligence.
So, with that in mind, there are a few principles to language learning (and just progressing/diligence in general; feel free to replace 'language' with something else you'd like to improve on) that can help us climb our mountains - and avoid taking the far too anticlimactic "plateau" route. 

1. Take Responsibility.
If you want to regularly and consistently improve, you will need to regularly and consistently create or adjust your language study goals and plans, and strive to use the language at every opportunity. 

2. Make Your Study Meaningful.
If it doesn't mean much to you, you'll never really use or learn it, right? Ask yourself, "Why am I studying this?" "How will it help me communicate better?" Relate what you study to real life situations and daily activities. Be real with yourself.

3. Seek to Communicate. 
If you never speak.. or never try to speak, you'll find yourself on the oh so exciting flat of our friend Mr. Plateau. Take advantage of your opportunities! Don't be afraid of failure or correction -- they are two of the best methods for improvement and success! Find a balance between studying the structure of the language, along with speaking the language throughout the day. 

4. Learn New Concepts Thoroughly. 
..The more you practice, the better you get! They say it takes 600 hours of speaking a language to gain "adequacy" in the language. ...So, start now, and start doing it right! 

I've also learned that culture and language learning are incredibly closely related. Understanding the culture will help you understand why the language is used the way it is. One of the greatest things you can do to gain a people's trust and love is to embrace their culture in appropriate and positive ways. Think about Paul when he says, in 1 Corinthians 9:20,22-23:

" 20 And unto the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might gain the Jews; to them that are under the law, as under the law, that I might gain them that are under the law;
22 To the weak became I as weak, that I might gain the weak: I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some.
 23 And this I do for the gospel’s sake, that I might be partaker thereof with you."
Become as them, so you can understand, and gain them!
Finally, remember that the glorious "Gift of Tongues" is yours, but will not come without effort on your part. Though I promise and know that if you work hard with dedication and diligence to learning the language, you WILL receive it.

Part of seeking things is to labor and struggle and do all you possibly can to find it. ..Like my good friend, Elder Champion said just before he left, "Pressure makes diamonds.”

Whether or not we're all just lumps of coal is beyond me, but my simple message to you today is to encourage you in the quest of seeking the Spirit to help you understand and communicate with the people around you, whether in a foreign tongue or not. As you do so, you will learn the language of the spirit, and "[Though] it is not learned from textbooks written by men of letters, [or].. acquired through reading and memorization.. proficiency in this language permits one to breach barriers, overcome obstacles, and touch the human heart."

with all of that said,

..Go get 'em! 

Have a wonderful week! Climb those mountains!!

All the love,
Elder DeMille

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