Tuesday, October 22, 2013

One Year Later... Looking Back On My Mission

Today marks my one year home from the mission. I'm blown away at how fast this year has flown by. I wanted to write an entry all about the blessings and lessons of my mission.

The day I went into the Missionary Training Center I made a video on my computer for my family. I wanted to leave them one last message before I left. I like to look back and see the growth in the conviction of my testimony. I was terrified and excited. I was unsure about what I had signed myself up for. I didn't know what to expect and I was relying completely on faith in my Savior. If He asked me to go to New York and share the Gospel, then I was going to do it. 

I remember going into the Missionary Training Center and feeling so vulnerable. You are constantly sharing your testimony, which meant I was constantly crying. I wasn't used to sharing my closest feelings with others. My district became my family. We learned to rely on each other during the difficult days and we became a strength to each other. I became more confident in expressing my beliefs. I started to see myself change little by little. I was frustrated that the process wasn't faster. I wanted to become the woman God wanted me to become and I wanted to become her right then. I realized pretty fast that it didn't work that way. Like all good things, change takes time. 

Then I got out to New York and I realized really quickly that missionary work is just that... its work. It was hard. I felt alone. I had days where I honestly wondered why on Earth I would have chosen to do this. I had days where it took everything in me just to smile because I missed my family so much. However, I started to get the hang of things after my first transfer. I realized that if I wanted to be happy I needed to forget myself. I needed to spend time thinking about the people of New York and how I could help them come to know their Savior. Ultimately that is what was going to make me happy. Service brings deep lasting joy. I remember the joy I felt as I watched people change. I watched them light up as they accepted Jesus Christ as their Savior and chose to be baptized. I watched them change their lives and I saw them radiate the light of Christ through their countenance. I learned early on that the light of Christ is a real physical thing. You can literally see it in someones eyes. I was given the gift to see how much the Savior loves the people I served. I could feel it so intensely that I knew without a doubt they were loved beyond words. I remember being so overwhelmed at times by that love that I couldn't even speak. I got a small glimpse of the compassion and love the Savior has for each one of us. He loved us so much that He died for us. He suffered incomprehensible things. He went below it all so that He could help us rise above it. He loved us so much that He was willing to do that in order to have us return to live with Him again. I was in awe by the things I learned about my Savior and my Heavenly Father. I will never forget those "Ah-ha moments." 

I remember learning that everything happens for a reason. If we are living the way we should then things will work out the way they should. I do not need to know everything right now. I just need to place my trust in God and things will work out. I saw miracle after miracle on my mission. I saw the impossible become possible through the grace of the Lord. I learned the Atonement is not just for my sins but for my weaknesses, my imperfections, my ignorance. The Atonement covers it all. I learned that I needed to rely on the Atonement daily. I learned that there is no place I could go where my Savior hadn't already been. I learned that ultimately He is the only one who will ever truly understand me. He is my best friend. He is my confidant. He is my brother. He is the reason I have hope. He is the way home. He is peace. He is joy. He is unconditional love. He is everything to me! 

I came home halfway through for procedures and I remember I had some days where I missed my mission so much it hurt. I wouldn't let them release me because I heard horror stories of how hard it would be to go back out once you were released. So for two months my mum was my companion. That was cool!  

When I finally got to return to New York I experienced major home sickness. Honestly I think for a month I was depressed. I had never felt so alone and sad in my life. I considered running to the airport in the middle of the night and catching a plane home. During that time I learned even more about my Savior. I learned how to rely on Him when I felt there was no way out and no way up. I learned that I could talk to Him and to my Heavenly Father because they understood. I learned that not everything comes with a "quick fix" and sometimes it takes awhile to fully get over a hurdle. I believe that in those times we have the opportunity to grow closer to our Savior then ever before. After a month things got better. 

I remember the highest high I've ever had was when Sally told us she was getting baptized. My heart seriously grew wings and was trying to come out of my chest. I couldn't wipe the smile from my face even if I wanted to. I remember thinking to myself..."If the only reason I came on my mission was for this one moment, it would totally be worth it!" I remember thanking Heavenly Father over and over again for allowing me to witness the miracle and change in Sally as she accepted the Gospel. 

I remember the long hot days and knocking on doors. I remember the total creeps we met. I remember falling asleep every time we got in the car because I was so tired. I remember being rejected by those unwilling to listen... again and again and again. That broke my heart every time. I remember the long late night chats with my companions about deep doctrinal things. I remember making lists with them about who we are and what makes us... us. I remember the struggles we all had and watching as we each overcame them with faith and prayer. I remember thinking "The Gospel is SOOO simple!! How did I not know this before." 

Honestly I could not write every blessing and lesson learned from the mission. It would take far too long. Overall however, I remember realizing that my mission was in fact the best decision I ever made. I felt like I was doing God a favor and in fact He is the one who blessed me so immensely that words cannot do it justice. 

So now, a year later, here I sit reminiscing about my mission. I still feel overwhelming gratitude at all I have been blessed with. I am still amazed at my Savior and His unconditional love for each one of us. There is always hope through Him. I KNOW without a doubt that He lives and loves each one of us. I KNOW it with my whole soul. I know He knows us perfectly. I KNOW that we can live with Him again if we live the Gospel. The Gospel is what sets us free. It is what brings us eternal happiness. The Gospel is the answer. I know that Heavenly Father answers our prayers. He hears every prayer we say. He loves us! I know that with faith all things are possible. I believe in miracles. I have witnessed them time after time after time. I know that even through our difficult times we can find peace in the Savior. We can know with a surety that we are NEVER ALONE! If we look we will see His hand in our lives daily. I know that through keeping our temple covenants we are blessed. We are protected. We receive clarity for our lives. I know that revelation and inspiration are real. I know that the Spirit will guide us and show us what the Lord would have us do. If we keep the commandments we can have the Spirit with us all the time. What a remarkable blessing!! I learned and have come to know without a doubt that obedience is the key to happiness. Obedience is what makes us free. Sin will always tie us down. Following Christ will set us free. I know that this is Christ's church on the earth today. I am SOO blessed to have it in my life. I am SOO grateful to have had the opportunity to share it with others. I loved being a missionary! It was the greatest experience I have had. I know that if we look to God and trust in His will, that things will work out. We can trust that things will work out in the way that is best for us. We can trust that He will be there with us every step of the way. We can KNOW that our lives are in His hands and we can surrender to Him. He can make more out of us then we could ever make of us on our own! I am SOOO grateful for my mission! 

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Helping Those Who Have Lost Their Way

This week I have spent a bit of time studying about Alma the younger. For those of you who are not familiar with the story in the Book of Mormon, Alma the younger was the son of a prophet. He rebelled against his father and sought to destroy the church of God. After much prayer from his father, the Lord sent an angel to speak with Alma the younger. He became converted to the Gospel. He then dedicated his life to preaching the word of God. (That is a very brief overview. I would recommend you read it if you don't know the story.)

I learned so much from studying this story. I seriously LOVE the scriptures. They are full of answers and knowledge that we are all seeking for. I think most of us have someone we know that is choosing to not live up to their potential. Most parents probably go through times like Alma's father, where they are worried and heartbroken over their children and they don't know what to do. This story taught me a lot about this subject. 

I will start at the beginning of what I learned. In Mosiah 27:8-10 it says:

 Now the sons of Mosiah were numbered among theaunbelievers; and also one of the sons of Alma was numbered among them, he being called Alma, after his father; nevertheless, he became a very wicked and an bidolatrous man. And he was a man of many words, and did speak much cflattery to the people; therefore he dled many of the people to do after the manner of hiseiniquities.
 And he became a great hinderment to the prosperity of the church of God; astealing away the hearts of the people; causing much dissension among the people; giving a chance for the enemy of God to exercise his bpower over them.
 10 And now it came to pass that while he was going about toadestroy the church of God, for he did go about secretly with the sons of Mosiah seeking to destroy the church, and to lead astray the people of the Lord, contrary to the commandments of God, or even the king—
I read through these verses looking for signs that someone is off the path. Here are a few of the things I found:
  • Idolatrous
  • persuading/tricking people to do after the manner of their iniquities
  • secretive
  • doing things contrary to the commandments
  • using flattery to get what they want

In the following verses (Mosiah 27:11-13) it says:

11 And as I said unto you, as they were going about arebelling against God, behold, the bangel of the Lord cappeared unto them; and he descended as it were in a dcloud; and he spake as it were with a voice of thunder, which caused the earth to shake upon which they stood;
 12 And so great was their astonishment, that they fell to the earth, and understood not the words which he spake unto them.
 13 Nevertheless he cried again, saying: Alma, arise and stand forth, for why persecutest thou the church of God? For the Lord hath said: aThis is my church, and I will establish it; and nothing shall boverthrow it, save it is the transgression of my people.
When the angel appears to Alma he fell to the earth. He tells him to "Arise and stand forth." I believe this was literal but could also be understood figuratively. I thought of it as the angel saying "Stand up, open your eyes, face reality and acknowledge your sins." He wanted Alma to see where he stood before the Lord at that moment. He was telling Alma that he knew better. He was asking him to take accountability for actions. He was showing him the wrong in the choices he was making. 

The next verse is the one that really hit home with me. 

 14 And again, the angel said: Behold, the Lord hath aheard the prayers of his people, and also the bprayers of his servant, Alma, who is thy father; for he has cprayed with much faith concerning thee that thou mightest be brought to the dknowledge of the truth; therefore, for this purpose have I come to econvince thee of the power and authority of God, that the fprayers of his servants might be answered according to their faith.

Heavenly Father heard the prayers of the people and the prayers of his father Alma. His father prayed with "much faith" that his son would brought to the knowledge of the truth. The angel came to convince Alma the younger of the error of his ways so that the prayers of the people who loved him would be answered. 

For those of you who have had a loved one go through anything like this, you understand the pain and the uncertainty. You understand how Alma (the father) must have felt. When you go through things like this, it is easy to doubt and lose hope. You don't see the end. You wonder if they will ever come around. You spend days and nights pleading to God for reassurance. You plead with Him to tell you what to do to help this person. You feel helpless. It is easy to doubt if doing the right things (scriptures, prayer, fasting, service, temple/church attendance...) will be enough to bring your loved one back. It can be so hard when you are dealing with others agency. That is why I believe this story brings SOO much comfort to those that are going through this. 

I'm sure Alma's father spent many nights pleading with God. I am sure this did not happen over night. He had to put his faith in God and trust that everything would work out. He did not know how it would happen, but he had faith that it would. He continued to pray for his son. I loved that the angel told Alma the younger that he came to see him so that the prayers on his behalf would be answered. Heavenly Father was aware of every prayer that was offered. He was aware of their faith in Him. He sent an angel to Alma because of the people that loved him. How powerful then is putting our faith in our prayers?! It is HUGE!! 

In verse 16 the angel gives counsel to Alma the younger saying:

16 Now I say unto thee: Go, and remember the captivity of thy fathers in the land of aHelam, and in the land of Nephi; and remember how great things he has done for them; for they were in bbondage, and he has cdelivered them. And now I say unto thee, Alma, go thy way, and seek to destroy the church no more, that their prayers may be answered, and this even if thou wilt ofdthyself be ecast off.

He tells Alma to "Go and remember..." I believe he is referring to remembering the great things the Lord has done for him. To remember so that he can go and change his very character. He needed to change so that the prayers could be answered. 

 19 And now the astonishment of Alma was so great that he became adumb, that he could not open his mouth; yea, and he became weak, even that he could not move his hands; therefore he was taken by those that were with him, and carried helpless, even until he was laid before his father.
 20 And they rehearsed unto his father all that had happened unto them; and his father rejoiced, for he knew that it was the power of God.
 21 And he caused that a multitude should be gathered together that they might witness what the Lord had done for his son, and also for those that were with him.
 22 And he caused that the priests should assemble themselves together; and they began to fast, and to pray to the Lord their God that he would open the mouth of Alma, that he might speak, and also that his limbs might receive their strength—that the eyes of the people might be opened to see and know of the goodness and glory of God.

When Alma's father heard what happened he rejoiced. I am sure he waited a long time to hear what he was hearing. I can only imagine how happy he must have felt and the gratitude he had for the Lord. He gathered people together so that they could also see the miracle that occurred because of their faith. Once again they turned to fasting and prayer! 

When Alma the younger wakes up, he talks about how he was born again. He talks of how he repented and was redeemed of God. In verse 25 it says:

25 And the Lord said unto me: Marvel not that all mankind, yea, men and women, all nations, kindreds, tongues and people, must be aborn again; yea, bborn of Godcchanged from their carnal anddfallen state, to a state of righteousness, being redeemed of God, becoming his esons and daughters;

After he says this, he goes on to describe his conversion process. Mosiah 27:28-29:

 28 Nevertheless, after awading through much btribulation, repenting nigh unto death, the Lord in mercy hath seen fit to snatch me out of an ceverlasting burning, and I am born of God.
 29 My soul hath been aredeemed from the gall of bitterness andbbonds of iniquity. I was in the darkest abyss; but now I behold the marvelous light of God. My soul was cracked with eternal torment; but I am snatched, and my soul is dpained no more.
From there Alma went and became an instrument in the hands of the Lord. He brought many people to the knowledge of the truth and to the knowledge of their Redeemer. He was very blessed! 
What have I learned from the story of Alma the Younger?
  • We need to take accountability for our own actions
  • The Lord hears and answers prayers that are backed by faith
  • miracles DO happen!
  • power in prayer and fasting
  • we need to ALWAYS remember what Heavenly Father and the Savior have done for us. We need to keep that always in our minds so that we don't revert back to those sins again
  • we must constantly be repenting and changing
  • faith + repentance= change of character
  • there is a sorrow, bitterness, and pain that comes from sin
  • as we repent we will see the marvelous light of God
  • when we experience the mercy of God and the power of the Atonement in our lives, we have a desire to share it
  • we become better missionaries
  • when we truly repent we have a desire to fix the wrongs we did
  • when we truly repent we want to make things right with the people we hurt
  • when we repent and increase our faith we become closer to God
  • when we repent and increase our faith we are BLESSED!!
I know the Lord hears my prayers. I have seen that over and over again. I know without a doubt that the Lord is aware of each one of us and our needs. He knows our hearts and our desires. I know that as I put my faith in Him, answers I am seeking for will be given to me. I know that things will work out even if I cannot see how that is possible. As we increase in faith and patience we will receive answers. We need to trust in those answers. I KNOW we have a loving, understanding, merciful Heavenly Father who desires to bless us. He knows all and he knows better than we do. There is much strength that comes as we put our faith and trust in Him and the answers He gives us. 

If you know someone that is struggling then please don't give up on them. Continue to turn to Heavenly Father. Put your faith in Him that it will work out on his timetable. Believe in miracles! I have been blessed enough to witness them in my own life and in the lives of the people closest to me. I have seen people struggle and I remember days where I thought my heart was literally going to break. There were times when I was so upset that things weren't happening the way I thought they should. There were times when I felt helpless and hopeless and I didn't see how it would ever get better. Sometimes you just have to take things a day at a time. It is hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel, but I can assure you with absolute certainty that it is there. We cannot see it, but the Lord can. He will guide us if we allow Him to. I have been extremely blessed from living the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I have felt peace and hope during times of uncertainty. I have seen the Lord guiding my life. I have received answers to prayers. I have felt the love of God carrying me through. I KNOW that our Savior lives. I know that He loves us. He will never leave us alone. Turn to Him because He is the only one who will ever truly understand you! 

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

My Personal Testimony of the Atonement of Christ

Ive been debating whether or not to write about this on my blog since it is very personal to me. Yet, Ive spent a lot of time thinking about it and if there is even a slight possibility that it could help someone else then it would be selfish of me not to share. So if you can learn from my mistakes then I beg you to do that. 

Several years ago I was doing things in my life that I knew were not consistent with what I knew to be right. I had justified my actions and excused my behavior so that I became numb to the spirit telling me it was wrong. I cared more about what the world thought than what God thought. I sought approval from men rather than from my Heavenly Father. I distanced myself from Him so that I wouldn't have to feel disappointment and guilt. I don't think I realized who I was as a child of God. I didn't understand where my value came from.  I sought attention from others that would reassure me that I was worth something, even if it was just to make them happy. I thought it was no big deal and I didn't see the harm in having a few moments of "fun." I thought that if I did certain things then they would like me more. 

I had one day where I went and met with my bishop. I wasn't happy and I knew that I needed to make some changes in my life. After meeting with him, he told me to go home and write in my journal about what was going on in my head. He told me that there would be times when I would need to go back and reread it. So this week, I found that journal entry and I reread it. I want to share with you some of the things I had written down. 

"I went and talked to the bishop tonight. It was my first time meeting him. He is a very nice man. I was trying to think of every reason why I shouldn't go and talk to him, but I knew I had to. The whole way over there I kept saying to myself 'have the courage.... have the courage...' I had been feeling sick to my stomach for the past month. I kept burying things and hoping they'd go away. Well I broke down at work yesterday and I just started sobbing.  My boss let me off early and I went on a drive up the canyon. I prayed to Heavenly Father for a long time.  I was crying so hard I couldn't breathe. I opened my scriptures and I read about how if you want to be forgiven you must confess and forsake. That's when I knew what I needed to do. I called Josh to set up an interview. Everything seemed to work out. My class got cancelled so I could have my interview tonight. Josh called asking if I could come in right away so I didn't have time to talk myself out of it. Heavenly Father was watching out for me! I went over for my interview. The Bishop had me start with a prayer. It took me a good minute to be able to speak because I had started crying. Afterwards, he told me he had me pray so he could kind of get to know me better. He told me he could tell I have a very strong relationship with my Heavenly Father and that he knows Heavenly Father loves me and is SOO proud of me! I told the bishop about where I was at. He was very blunt and direct and I am grateful for that. He told me I was standing in the middle lane of the freeway and I was hoping that I wouldn't get hit. He told me it was about time I got off the freeway and stopped learning everything the hard way. He kept telling me how proud he was of me and he knew it took a lot of courage to go in there. He said there is someone out there that is worthy to take me to the temple and I do not need to rush. He said if a guy calls/texts to hangout or come over then I should hang up right away because they are NOT being respectful. He said let the boys save up money and take me out and then make sure they bring me home at a decent hour. I feel ten million times better. I feel like a HUGE bag of bricks has been lifted off of me. I feel so light I could fly. All I wanna do is be better. It's incredible how the Atonement works. I know I am not there yet, but I am getting there. I'm in the right direction!"

It has been years since this encounter happened yet I can remember in vivid detail the night it took place. It was this experience that gave me the testimony I have today of the Atonement of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. The moment I confessed my sins, my burdens were eased immensely. It was as if the Savior came down and literally picked them up from off my back. I recall the smile that became plastered to my face as I left his office. I recall the spirit warming my soul and the world became brighter with hope. I recall having more feeling and the numbness fading away. It was easier to keep my head up and face the world around me. I no longer felt like I had things I was trying to hide from others. The warmth and love from my Heavenly Father and His Son were very apparent in my life in the days and weeks and months that followed. I cannot fully express to you the joy and peace that came to me as I let go of the person I used to be. I gravitated to all things good. I loved how I was feeling and I wanted more of it. I no longer felt alone or forgotten. I wasn't going from day to day in the dark anymore. I had clarity and I had direction. I saw the night and day difference between sin and purity. It was almost tangible. It is forever burned into my memory!

The happiness that came into my life as I strived to live the Gospel is indescribable. The interview I had with my stake president before finalizing my mission papers was another night not to be forgotten. We went over any past mistakes I had made and when he got to the end he told me that it was as if none of those things ever happened. I would remember them so that I would never do them again, but the Lord would not remember them anymore. He said I was completely clean and pure and worthy to go and represent my Savior in the mission field. I sat back and tried to fully absorb what he was telling me. Tears trickled down my face as I tried to comprehend the blessing and gift of the Atonement. I cannot explain the love and gratitude I have for me Savior. He means EVERYTHING to me! 

Then there were the moments in the mission when I got to bare my testimony of the Atonement. Without fail every single time I would cry. I would cry because as I told these people that they have a Savior that does indeed love them, my mind was taken back to my own personal experiences with my Savior. I love testifying of Him and all that He has done for us. I KNOW that He lives! I know it without a doubt! I know that without Him there is no way we could return to live with our Heavenly Father again. Christ came down and led a perfect life, he atoned for the sins, transgression, weaknesses, sufferings, afflictions, and pains of all mankind. He gave his life for each one of us because He loves us that much! He wants us to return to live with them again. The Atonement is real and through it comes hope and peace. There is nothing we can do that the Atonement of Jesus Christ cannot fix. 

I promise that if there is anything in your life that needs to be changed so that you can feel closer to God and Jesus Christ, then it is worth giving up everything for! Nothing can ever compare to the joy and peace and love that comes as we follow and keep the commandments of God. Let me repeat that... There is NOTHING that can ever compare to the joy, peace, and love that comes from following and keeping the commandments of God. Do not believe the world when it says "sin is happiness" because I assure you that it is NOT! That is a lie!! So take it from someone who has stepped a few steps too far in the wrong direction, take it from someone who believed for a brief moment that sin would bring happiness, please believe me when I tell you that "tears will inevitably follow transgression." Fleeting happiness will lead to long drawn out pleadings with God begging for forgiveness. I know that as we follow Christ that we will have joy. We will have clarity and we will feel the love of God on a daily basis. As we draw closer to Christ we will find more purpose and direction in our lives. We will be inspired by the Spirit to know of the things that God would have us do. We will receive inspiration and guidance from Him. I promise you that that is true!! 

There is a reason why Christ is called the light of the world. In the light you can see clearly. You can feel warmth and happiness. You feel hope. In the darkness you feel lost and confused. Turn to the Savior and you cannot go wrong. HE MEANS EVERYTHING TO ME!!! I owe Him my life and I want to constantly be in a place where I can testify of Him through my words and my example. I KNOW the Atonement is real! It has changed my life and it can change yours! 

Monday, April 8, 2013

All Education is Spiritual

Today I had some extra time to sit and really study my scriptures. I wanted to study a specific topic and see what I could find out about it. Usually I like reading the scriptures in a sequence, but today I felt inspired to study one item in particular. I wasn't sure what that would be. I said a prayer before I read. I asked Heavenly Father to inspire my thoughts and guide my reading to the topic he would have me learn about. I am teaching young women's right now in church and I told him it would be nice if maybe I could learn something that would help them. Then I started thinking about some of my friends that are not coming to church or that may not be of the same faith as me. I thought about friends of the family who may be going through difficult circumstances as well. I told Heavenly Father that I did not care what I studied but all I asked was that I would be able to share it with someone who may need to know.  I don't know who I will share this with and perhaps it will help some of you who read my blog. I trust that God knows better than I. So even if it was just for me, that will suffice. 

I finished my prayer and I reached for my scriptures. I had a thought that I should study listening. I looked in the Topical Guide of the scriptures and under listening it referred me to communication, learning, and understanding. I thought hmm... interesting. So I chose to look up understanding to see what it said. 

Some of the words used to describe understanding were: Spiritual discernment, edification, education, wisdom of God...

I really started to ponder what God was trying to teach me. Listening is understanding and some of the words used to describe it were referring to God. The more I thought about it, the more it started to make sense to me. I felt like God was opening my eyes and giving me more understanding on the subject. 

Ive always known the difference between hearing and listening... at least on a surface level. According to what I was reading, listening requires understanding. Understanding requires spiritual discernment, or education and wisdom of God. I let the thoughts work themselves out in my brain as I really tried to study this out in my mind. 

Then something happened and it just CLICKED! All of a sudden it made complete sense to me. This is what I learned:

The only way to fully understand is if you get the witness from God. We can hear things, but listening requires a spiritual discernment. We cannot fully comprehend until God has helped us to understand. ALL EDUCATION IS SPIRITUAL! It has to be that way because education isn't just for this life; it's for eternity. It has to be spiritual because it affects and concerns our spirits. 

In Proverbs 9:9-10 it says:

        "Give instruction to a wise man, and he will be yet wiser: teach a just man, and he will increase in learning.
         The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom: and the knowledge of the Holy is understanding." 

Also, in 2 Nephi 21:2 it says:

        "And the spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord."

Every one of those gifts is of the spirit. It is all through the Spirit!!

Then I started to ponder the HUGE importance of having the Spirit in your home so that you can teach your children Gospel Principles and have them UNDERSTAND. We have the ability to create the atmosphere where the spirit can dwell so our children can learn and understand. Learning within the walls of your own home will be vitally important for them. 

All education is SPIRITUAL! 

I really believe as we come to understand this we will be more aware of the surroundings we are in. We will be more observant of the atmosphere we create. If we really want to understand something we need God. Education is essential for us while we are here on Earth. It is one of the only things we take with us when we die. Heavenly Father wants us to learn and study while we are here. It helps us to progress and become more like Him. 

I absolutely love learning! I love studying my scriptures and understanding new ideas that I may not have thought of before. I LOVE the Gospel of Jesus Christ. It has changed me and molded me into the woman I am. I love my Savior and I cannot express the gratitude, appreciation, and amazement I feel towards him. The more I study and learn of him, the more I am in awe. I owe him everything! I KNOW that he came down to earth and he atoned for my sins. I KNOW that he died on that cross and was resurrected. I KNOW he lives and I KNOW he is coming again. I know that I am a daughter of Heavenly Father who does indeed love me despite my imperfections. I know that he is very forgiving and merciful and he is waiting for each one of us with open arms. We have to choose if we will turn to him. He will never turn away from us. I know that our Savior gave us his Gospel so that we can know what we need to do to return to live with him. 

We have a living prophet on the earth today and I KNOW without a doubt that he was called of God. He receives revelation for us from Him. I know he speaks the words God would have us know. I know it because the spirit bears witness to me again and again. Our prophet and apostles spoke to us the past two days. You can find their words on LDS.ORG. They are inspired men and I am grateful for the service they provide for me and for the church. 

I continue to see miracles daily. I see the Lord's hand in my life and in the lives of those around me. I am humbled by his love and grace. I am filled with his spirit as I live the Gospel and keep the commandments. I know that obedience brings happiness. I know that through the Atonement of Christ we can change and become new people. We are cleansed and made whole again. It is real! I KNOW it! Heavenly Father loves each one of us and he is aware of all that we are going through. Christ understands because he has been there before. I know that as we turn to him our burdens are made lighter and we are lifted up in his love. 

I am so grateful for the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I am grateful for the knowledge that I have been given from the Lord. I am truly blessed in more ways than I can count. I LOVE my Heavenly Father and my Savior Jesus Christ. 

Friday, March 15, 2013

"The Miracle of a Mission"

I found this AMAZING TALK online while looking up Elder Holland addresses given to missionaries. It was given in the MTC in Brazil over 12 years ago. I loved it so much it brought me to tears while reading it. I can relate to the things he says about missionary work. I think this is a great talk for missionaries who have already served, are currently serving, or plan to serve in the future. It is rather long but SOOOO worth reading. I loved it so much I sent it to a lot of my friends and had them read it as well. 

Missions are extremely hard, tiresome, and one of the most rewarding things you could ever do! I loved my mission more than words can begin to express. My mission is sacred to me. My soul literally changed over a course of 18 months as I taught the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I saw the Lord's hand in the lives of the people I taught and especially in my own life. I saw people experience hard things. I experienced hard things. I had my lowest days and my highest days on my mission. I learned what real joy is and the things that will truly make me happy. My perspective on life changed. My love of material things decreased drastically. I learned what is really important. I learned how much it means to me to have the Gospel of Jesus Christ in my life. 

I remember coming home on some days with my heart so heavy with sorrow for the people we were teaching and the hard things they were going through. However, no pain compared to the pain I felt as I watched some people receive a witness from the spirit of the truthfulness of the things we just taught, then turn around and deny the very thing that could change their lives forever. My heart broke as I heard people tell me they had done too much to be "worthy of Christ's Atonement." It almost did me in to watch them deny themselves of the very thing that could save them and relieve them of their own personal suffering. Never in my life have I shed so many tears for others. Never have I spent so much time pleading with God to let me know what I could do to help these people. I remember many discussions with my companions where at some point the thoughts would come out of my mouth "I just wish I could open my head, take out my brain and put it in their heads for just a minute or two, just long enough for them to know what I know! Then they would listen. They would get it! They would understand that this IS for them!" It never was that simple. Believe me there were people I would have given anything for to have them understand the Gospel of Jesus Christ. It just isn't that simple. There were days I told myself I hated that people had agency. It was so hard to watch people you love suffer and not be able to do anything for them because they CHOSE to deny your help. 

Then there were the days of people who GOT it! The miracles of the mission. They were the "Sally's" who made you feel like you could fly. They were the humble people, the ones who were so willing and ready to change, it was these people who made you feel like your whole mission was worth it just because you got to meet them. It was meeting these people that increased your motivation and your desire to be in a place far from home, living with people you didn't know, to share the Gospel and bless others through the things that you would teach them. It was these moments of meeting people that were prepared that carried you through the long stretches of time where it seemed like there was no one. 

There were days when you wondered if you were doing any good. Days when you doubted yourself and your own abilities. Days when you wondered if maybe this wasn't for you. There were nights spent soaking the pillow because of long drawn out earnest prayers seeking for guidance. Nights when you had several minutes to be alone in your head and needing reassurance from the Savior that you weren't alone and that He in fact did understand. There were moments of seeing a father hug his daughter and you longing to be home in your own fathers embrace full of security and comfort. There were moments, days, or even months of feeling completely alone. Stretches of time when you thought six weeks would never end. Times when you would be willing to give anything to be laying in bed with your mum and sharing your thoughts and worries with her. There were times when others expected you to know everything and you felt completely inadequate and you doubted your own knowledge. Times when you questioned if you knew enough to be out there teaching people much older and perhaps wiser than you. These were the moments when you got to experience a small portion of what the Savior must have felt. These were the moments that changed your very soul. It would be next to impossible to go through these experiences and not come out changed. These were my own "refining fire" moments. 

I think since I have been home people see me from the outside and assume I am the same person I was before my mission. They couldn't be more wrong. Sure, I am still goofy and out-of-the-box, and I may even look the same, but deep down, at my very core, I am a whole different person. I feel like I am starting to understand why when men go to war and come back they are changed. The things they saw and experienced changed them. They view the world differently. They have a whole new perspective and outlook on life. Because of my mission I am changed forever. The heartbreak was immense as was the joy, but I assure you that because of its intensity it is something I will never forget. Missions are hard. They were never meant to be easy. I find myself pondering quite often. When I am alone in my mind I am able to relive these experiences that changed me into the person I am today. I am able to recall the people I met and grew to love. I am able to look back and see why things happened the way they did. I am able to see God's hand in my life and in the lives of all those around me. I have never enjoyed time to myself as much as I do now. So when people ask me why I am so quiet, this would be my reason. I don't expect people to understand or even appreciate what my mission did for me. However, whether they understand it or not, the fact is that it did happen. I did become a new person. I can stand my ground. I can hold my own. I can move forward with faith knowing that God will lead me every step of the way. I can have an assurance that as I do the right things, God will put the right people in my life to help me achieve my goals. As I continue to study the doctrine I am blessed with more answers to prayers. Through thick and thin God will never leave me alone. 

At the very end of this talk Elder Holland shares an experience that I LOVE. He says, "I had a missionary ask me once if I would give my life for the Church. I said, “Elder, I am giving my life for the Church.” I know what he meant. What he meant was, “Would you die for it?” Well, that’s the easy part. That’s a snap! On some days it looks really appealing. That’s the easy part, to die for it. Well, what God needs is people who will live for it, people who will go the distance, people who are in this race we’re talking about that will go all the way to the tape. And some may die along the way and that’s wonderful, but He needs people who will finish the work. He needs people who will wrap this up, and that’s the pledge I make to you, and that’s the pledge He asked. We’re in this together."

So for all of you who have served, are currently serving, will one day serve, or anyone else, I hope you know that God LOVES you! He will never leave you alone. He is aware of you and your needs right now in this moment. He gave us His Gospel to make us happy; to bring us joy! He showed us the way. He IS the way! He is full of love and compassion and mercy. He desires for each one of us to return to Him. I KNOW this is true! Here is the talk I have been speaking of. Read it. I LOVE IT!!!

“The Miracle of a Mission” – Elder Holland – Brazil CTM – October 28, 2000
Brothers and Sisters, we feel it an immense privilege. I’m so proud of you. I’m so grateful that you’ve served. Maybe that’s the most important thing I can say to you. Tonight we don’t have a lot of time. There are 101 things that I would like to say. I wish we could, you probably don’t wish it, but I wish we could stay all night. And I do this humbly, this informally, and as lovingly as I know how to do. In the time that we have I’ll hit a couple of highlights and key things that I think you need to remember and hope you will.
More importantly maybe than anything, at least basic than anything else that I would say to you, is my expression and my personal love for you. I’m authorized to represent President Hinckley, President Monson, and President Faust, the Quorum of the Twelve and all the General Authorities; and I think literally and truly I’m authorized to represent the Lord Himself. I’m called to be His witness, His representative, and to speak by His right and His power, not of our own. Nothing of our own strength or privilege and preparation. We don’t have anything else. The only thing that matters, the only real preparation and spirit of authorization happens from Heaven. The same with you. You get that from the same source. But, I think in light of that authorization which sent you into the mission field, I have the same authorization to come to this MTC and to tell you that God loves you, is aware of you, and knows your name, knows your call and your mission field, knows your companion, knows your mission President. He knows the lessons you’re going to have and the challenges you’re going to face. We do love you for serving.
I’m grateful for the way you look. It’s very important that the messenger be worthy of the message. We ask you to look a certain way and act a certain way because of the message. This is more important than anything you’ve ever done in your life. However, we feel . . . and I’m sure you’ve been wondering . . . however significant your lives may have been . . . and I’m sure you’ve done very important things, . . . this is higher and holier and more sacred and more eternal than anything you’ve ever done. It is by definition the most important thing you can do in the world, in time or eternity. For this reason you are engaged in the saving of the human soul. And that is the highest and holiest work in the universe.
That is the thing that God Himself said was His work and glory. It is the purpose for which the Savior came to the earth and gave His life and was resurrected to open those possibilities and promises of Eternal Life. It is the purpose for which every prophet has lived and every apostle has spoken. It is the purpose for which every missionary since Adam and Eve has gone forth to declare the truth. You join those ranks! You join that brotherhood and sisterhood and it is as I said by definition, by theology, it is the most important thing you can do.
There will be other ways you will do this. There will be other ways you will do the most important thing in the world, not the least of which is to be a parent—that will engage you in the saving of the human soul. More tender because you get to raise that human soul and love it and take it on into eternity, but it will still be the same work in God’s eyes and in the records of Heaven and the economy of the Plan of Salvation. This work and parental work and church service for the rest of your lives and temple service will forever bring you into the eternal ranks of the work of angels, the work of the Priesthood, the work of the prophets and apostles, for as long as they have lived. And so forgive us if we are very serious with you about this.
It’s kind of “grown-up time.” This isn’t the seminary council. This isn’t being president of the teacher’s quorum or the laurel class, important as that is. We send you to the temple, we give you the most important covenants a man or a woman can make on the face of this planet at 19 or 21, and we invite you to come and do the work that God Himself has labored over and toiled over and wept over and pursued since before the beginning of time, since before the foundation of the world. It’s fairly serious business and it doesn’t mean depressing and it doesn’t mean discouraging. It doesn’t mean that you can’t be happy. But we are giving . . . as General Authorities, we’re giving everything we know to this. For as long as we live we will be bearing testimony of the divinity of the Church, and of the salvation of the Lord and of the Restoration of the gospel and of God’s love for His children. Until I cannot move my lips one more time, that is what we will do.
We’re asking you to join us in that for two years. We’re asking you to carry one leg of the race, one relay of the baton for two years’ time, or 18 months, as the case for the sisters, and to join President Hinckley and President Faust and President Monson and President Packer and all the brethren. And again I say, you only have to let your imagination move in the way that Sister Holland has suggested, that you join all the other prophets who have ever lived in doing this. It is a relatively short period of time. It may not seem short to you, but it is short to us who are doing this work for 40 or 45 years. We just thank you. We love you. We are honored and grateful that you have come. If fifteen of us had to do it alone, it would be a very, very hard work. If three members of the First Presidency and Twelve Apostles of the Quorum had to do the work you’re doing, it would kill us off sooner than it’s going to kill us. So, it is a very personal expression of gratitude that we make. Thank you for serving.
In doing that, I represent your Father, your Dad, your little brothers and your little sisters, your aunts, and your uncles, and your bishop and everybody who loves you and everybody who prays for you. You’re the most prayed for people on the face of the earth. I really believe that. I do not believe, collectively speaking, that there is any body of people that’s any collective circle of individuals are prayed for on the face of the earth than the LDS missionaries. I don’t think that other churches have the organizations we have or the missionary force to pray about and to pray for, and they’re not organized enough in their ecclesiastical organization to do the praying if they had the missionaries. And I used to think that you were the second, that the President of the Church was first, that he was the most prayed for man on the earth and you were second. But I’ve repented of that because I’ve never heard anybody pray for the President of the Church, who did not in the same breath, pray for the missionaries. So, it’s you and President Hinckley, neck and neck all the way down the line. And take comfort in that, take great satisfaction in that—I do!
There are days when I really need to know that each and every member prays for the Brethren. Hard days, long days, challenging days, troublesome days when Lucifer is real, when evil is rampant and problems abound and the Church is confronted, or the missionaries struggle, or the mission has a problem, or the people in their homes are having difficulties, or families are being torn apart. There are lots of reasons for us as General Authorities to get heartaches and to shed tears, and we take great consolation in the fact that the members of the Church pray for us.
And I really want to thank you for that, and I want you to know that we return the favor. That every Thursday of our lives, this is beyond our personal prayers, (Sister Holland and I pray for you personally.) That every Thursday of your life and of mine we pray for you in the Temple, and I want you to know that we have a little prayer experience in the temple, as General Authorities, just the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve, until the Brethren come in at Conference time, and then it’s everyone! Every week we have an experience. I don’t need to detail all the sanctity of it to you, but suffice it to say, it includes a prayer at a prayer alter, and it’s led by the President of the Church. It’s led by Gordon B. Hinckley, and you are prayed for. And on days when it’s hard, on days when it’s tough, and if you’re particularly new, on days when you’re homesick, you just know that the most beloved man I know in all this world prays for you because you’re the teammates! You’re understanding something of what we do, and for that reason we really understand what you do, and we’re kind of in it together. Maybe the folks back home do or don’t know so much about it. Maybe your little brother or little sister don’t really comprehend what a mission is. Really, nobody who hasn’t been on a mission understands. But nevertheless, from the President of the Church right down to the newest members anywhere who learns to pray and learns what a missionary is, you have that tremendous support and love and encouragement, and I’m authorized, I think, to speak for all of them, to speak for your family.
Some of you out here are new, and by definition, all of you are within nine weeks in this experience. Don’t be discouraged. Now that may be easy to say and hard for you to understand. The culture is new, the language is new, and you have every right and every reason, at least every understandable reason, to be homesick. Everybody’s been there, and if it gives you any encouragement, just remember that I did this once too, and that no young man in the history of the world could have been more affected by a mission than I was.
My father was a convert and my mother had not served a mission, as sisters usually didn’t then. No one in my family had ever gone on a mission. I didn’t know the clothing to buy. I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t know anything about it. I knew zero about a mission, but I knew that I wanted to go, and I knew that I wanted to serve. As inadequate as I was, as unprepared as I was . . . I didn’t look right; I didn’t act right; I didn’t know anything about it. We didn’t have an MTC, and I don’t remember people or even remember a sheet telling us what clothing to bring. I don’t know, I had a suit my brother handed down to me. You could shave by it! You could hang it up and it glistened, it was so worn and so shiny. I had that suit and a green corduroy suit with matching vest and okra lining. Boy, if you think my Mission President’s eyes didn’t pop out! What did I know? That’s all I owned, and my Mom said that I would probably be okay, and that’s what I took.
In two years my life was changed forever and forever and forever. Everything I hold dear, everything I cherish in one way or another, I owe to the experience that converged from my childhood, my lovely parents, and my good home. Converged and passed into my soul on a mission. Everything — my marriage to Sister Holland, my children, the fact that they have been on missions and all married in the temple and now are raising children to go on missions and be married in the temple, my education, and my chance to have a profession in education, my church assignments—everything that has ever blessed me I owe to the gospel, collectively, broadly, and to my mission specifically.
So don’t worry about being homesick. Don’t worry about being new. Don’t worry about the language. None of that matters. It will not matter. God loves you and this is the truth and you can do it! Just reach down, pull up your socks, and go to work. This is a time for you to go out. I plead with you. I plead with you, in the case of the Elders, to have a 24-month mission! Not 23, not 22, not 19, not 16, not 14…to have a 24-month mission! Sisters, have an 18-month mission—not 15, not 11, not 6. Start fast. Run hard, and to the tape! You can rest later.
I played for a state championship basketball team once, and we weren’t supposed to be there, and we weren’t supposed to be able to play. We were a rag-tag bunch from a very small school where there was hardly enough guys to put on jerseys. And somehow we made it to the championship game. And I remember the coach saying at half time, when we were behind…he came into the locker room and said, “I know you’re tired. We don’t have a lot of substitutes—we hardly have any. I know you’re tired. I know you’re giving it everything you’ve got, but the next 20 minutes is the most important 20 minutes of your high school career. Twenty minutes is all I’m asking, and then we’ll rest forever! Give me all you’ve got for 20 more minutes! Let’s go out there and do that.” And we did, and it worked, and we won. It was great, but matters not at all, matters not one iota. I don’t think I ever thought about it much in the forty-plus years since that happened. But in the gospel, I mean if it can matter for a high school ball game or a track meet or a dance review or a symphony recital, it can matter for things like that, that pass away in the night and dissolve in the air, how much more should that spirit of commitment count in the Gospel of Jesus Christ! We’re just asking for that slice.
Most of you had a reasonably comfortable life up to the call, and you can just have the most terrific, relaxed, wonderful life after, but right now we want you to run all the way, every day, every step until this is over. To give the Lord a full 24-month or 18-month mission, for your sake, for the church’s sake, for integrity’s sake, for the prophet’s sake. I can tell you he’s doing it! Ninety-one years old, (he will be ninety-one in June), ninety-one years old and going all day, every day, everywhere, all the time until he drops!
His only council to us, and he’s willing to do the same, he says, “Look, you know, you don’t work hard enough, you don’t go far enough, you don’t do enough,” (here we all are dying), he says, “Look, I don’t have sympathy for you. If you die, you die.” And clearly that’s his theory. I mean, that’s his position. He just said, “Look, what use are we then, what do we do at our level, at our time in life, with our calls…what else is there? We will just give and give and give until we are taken.” And we don’t want you taken. We don’t want you to pass out. We don’t want you to ruin your health. We just want two years from you. We just want 18 months from you. So start now. Just don’t look back. Just put your face to the sun and put your shoulder into this work, and give it everything you’ve got and savor every day! Now if anyone wants to go home, talk to me. I will not let you! I will throw my life before the barred door. I have chains in every room. I have skyhooks and cables. I have things you’ve never seen before. If you think President Palmer’s tough on you, you haven’t seen anything yet! If you have any feeling about going home, you cannot. You must not. Not for the Church’s sake, the Church wouldn’t miss you that fast! You cannot go for your sake!
Look at me and listen to me and see the fire in my eyes and the flame in my soul! You cannot ever go home! You’ve got to know what this means to me, what it has meant to my life, what is has meant to my family. The first missionary to go—a 180 degree turn for our entire family and its generations—to receive the gospel and go on a mission! I would do anything to keep a missionary in the mission field. I would hang on, I would grab your leg, I would twist your ankle, I would put a full nelson and a judo chop, and whatever it takes. I would make an absolute fool out of myself, which is about what I’m describing, just to have you know how much it matters. And someday, and someday soon, it won’t be long; you’ll laugh about the homesickness and smile about the necessitudes of the MTC or the shock of the culture, or the strangeness of the language. Every day and every way it will get better! That doesn’t necessarily mean that it will get easier, but it will get better.
This is hard work. It is the hardest work you will ever do. That’s why I say this is the most important work you will ever do. I think those two go together. It’s hard work, but every day, in every way, it will get better, and you will feel the Spirit of the Lord. You’ll know He loves you, and the language will come, and baptisms will come, and you will make new friendships, both with your companions and with investigators and with ward members and branch members and people with whom you serve. And someday, sometime, you will come back, husbands and wives, you will come back and preside over these missions, or you will send your sons or your daughters to serve in the same missions. You will tell them stories of those legends of your life in the mission field.
Plan right now! Plan right now for the stories you will tell your children about your mission. Live right now in every way to look them in the eye and put them on your knee and rock them on your lap and tell them as I am telling you, that you loved every day of your mission. That you worked your head off! That you’ve never worked so hard in your life. That you were tired and sweaty and dirty and hungry and you knew how Paul felt and you knew how Peter felt and you knew how Mormon felt and you knew how Moroni felt. And I promise you that your children will remember and never forget it, and they will cherish it and hold it dear for their mission and so the generations go. So life is lived and this dispensation is pursued, and the Kingdom comes and Christ does arrive, whenever that is.
Live now for those generations. Live now for the deacons and beehive girls who will one day have you return and sit up and watch you in Sacrament Meeting, who don’t have a blessed idea what a mission is, and have no idea what it means to go to Manaus or Belem or Belo Horizonte or Porto Alegre or wherever. And then you look them in the eye and say that they too can serve, that they’ve got to go take their turn in the relay race of eternity. They’ve got to step up and pace out their two years or eighteen months. You live right now in a way that you can pierce their hearts and touch their lives.
Without a big brother or father or an uncle to set an example for me in the mission field, at the very time I was wondering about a mission, I had no particular history or tradition to propel me that way or move me that way. A friend of mine a little older, just the way you have younger friends waiting at home, came back from his mission and testified of the hard work and real growth and problems and troubles and fun and laughter and tears and the whole package, and I was spellbound! I really think that day . . . I was 17 years old, near enough to start to think about, “Well, am I or aren’t I?”, and I think that day is the day I decided to go on a mission. I started to take the steps towards one. You have such a legacy to give. Already you’re just the newest of the new, you’re the newest team on the squad. Already from day one, you take your place with what is, I guess, the grandest fraternity or sisterhood, or brotherhood and sisterhood, in the Church—that of a missionary. It is the largest collective association of which people are known in this Church. He or she was a missionary! And the expectations are so high, people really believe you to be perfect. They want you to be perfect.
When I was at BYU and had new converts come, and sometimes their feelings were hurt, or sometimes something happened that wasn’t appropriate, and I would talk to them and this precious convert would say, “But she was a returned missionary,” or “He was a returned missionary,” as if to say, “You know, gosh, I thought I was with Moroni. I thought I was with Wilford Woodruff.” They have a right—everybody has a right—the Church has a right to see us that way, collectively, even if that is a tremendous burden to bear, and it is. It’s an overwhelming burden to bear. But the Church has a right, and these kids have a right—your little brothers and your little sisters have a right—to just think you’re perfect—that you’re out there doing something, and they don’t know exactly what. I know that all my life growing up, I heard “tracting”, which is knocking doors, and I thought they were saying “tracking”, like Indians through the woods, and I wondered, “What are the missionaries doing tracking?” But it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter what misconceptions exist, you just have an obligation to let people think you’re perfect. And I do think you’re perfect. I think you’re perfect because you’ve chosen to serve.
I know that some of you are struggling. I could see it in your eyes when I shook your hands. That’s what we do when we shake your hands—we interview you. And thank heavens for this calling—you can do it that fast! I can sit down with President Palmer now and identify the Elders and Sisters that we probably need to talk with a little bit. It’s okay, you’re alright, it’s no problem, but I can tell the ones that are struggling and just know that even then, even with that, we think you’re perfect because everyone struggles.
When President Hinckley stands and talks about his mission, as he did with me when I had a chance to write an article on him for the Ensign when he was made the President of the Church. . . I had the wonderful privilege to write the article on him for the Church magazine. I interviewed him and all he wanted to talk about was his mission, as if nothing else had ever happened! And in a way he’s trying to say what I’m saying—that nothing would have happened if it hadn’t been for that.
He got on his mission and hated it! I don’t know if he hated it, but he felt troubled by it. He was a little older, he’d finished college, it was the Depression, he didn’t have any money, his mother had just died, and he’d been through school because he didn’t have any money to go on a mission. So he’d go one more year and one more year. So he was a little older—he was 23, 24 years old when he went on his mission, and he had ambition, and he had things to do, and certainly wanted to save money, and his Dad had sacrificed to send him. He said, “If you go on a mission, your brothers and I will keep you on your mission.” And his mother, who had died, had saved a little bit of her house money, just a little bit of grocery money, and a little bit of her laundry money, and whatever, and she saved it, only a few dollars, but she saved it and left it for him after she died. And he was so touched by that he went on his mission.
But he got out there and he found what you found. It was hard work, just miserably hard work. And the days were long and sometimes it was cold and sometimes it was hot and the people rejected him. In his day he stood on a little soapbox, and he couldn’t . . . and they made fun of him and teased him and pointed and nullified the local Mormon missionaries. It was a nightmare for his first six to eight weeks, about like you would be, and he wrote his Dad and he said, “Dad, I’m coming home. I’m wasting my time and your money, and it’s just not paying off, and I’m coming home.” His Dad blazed a letter back! And President Hinckley said he had to read it wearing asbestos gloves. His father fired him a one-sentence letter back! “DEAR GORDON, FORGET YOURSELF AND GET TO WORK! LOVE, FATHER.” And he said the “love” was sort of figurative in that letter, that is what fathers are supposed to say. He said he went upstairs to his little apartment in Preston, England, and he knelt down and said, “I guess I’m supposed to stay. I guess I’m supposed to be on this mission. So help me. Help me serve. Help me work. Help me learn what I’m supposed to learn.” And then he said with tears rolling down his cheeks, the President of the Church, “That is the day when my life changed forever!”
Where would we be today without Gordon B. Hinckley? Well, I can tell you one thing—that Gordon B. Hinckley wouldn’t be the President of the Church if he hadn’t stayed on his mission. What for you and for me and for the Church and for destiny, what was hanging in the balance that day, that even somebody like President Hinckley, young Gordon Hinckley, wondered whether a mission was worth it or not. Because his Dad and a mission President and a companion and you and me and people who love him, figuratively speaking said, “You’d better stay there. This is a chance of a lifetime. This is the work of eternity. Don’t lose it now. Don’t blow it now. Give it all you’ve got.” Because of that, we have the President of the Church. We have the 103rd temple to dedicate in six more weeks. We have 60,000 missionaries around the world. We have a destiny and a dispensation in which he stands with Joseph and Brigham and John and Wilford and Lorenzo and Heber and George Albert and David and on and on to this fifteenth successor in an unbroken chair of prophets in this, the greatest dispensation in the history of the world.
Well, look, if President Hinckley can struggle, you can struggle. If President Hinckley can wonder whether it’s worth it, you can wonder. You just forget it, just say it and get on with it. Just write it in your journal and keep moving. Gordon, forget yourself. Go to work! And that’s collectively the message that God would give to all of us.
Remember above all, that this is a spiritual work. It’s the most important thing you can remember all your life. You cannot have a mission and you will not succeed on this mission and you won’t be happy and you won’t lose your homesickness and you won’t get the language and you won’t be acclimatized to the culture until you give over to God and say, “This is Thy work and I’m only the instrument. I’m on the pencil, but you’ve got to do the writing.” That is the most important thing for a missionary to learn ever. Section 50, a verse you all memorize and I hope you remember all your life, “Unto what you were ordained (or in the case of the sisters, unto what you were set apart by somebody who was ordained), to preach my gospel by the Spirit, even the Comforter, and if it is not taught that way, it is not God’s way.” If it is not taught that way, it is some other way, and any other way is not of God. You can’t do it your own way. Don’t even try. That’s part of the worry—you don’t have to do it, you can’t do it, you shouldn’t do it. Stop worrying that you have to do this. This is God’s work! He will watch you! He will answer your prayers! He has legions of angels and teams of chariots to run to your aid this very hour. He will bless you! This is His work, but you have to do it His way! That’s the contract.
I shared with the missionaries in Sao Paulo yesterday the story of Moses leading the children of Israel who had to ask that question saying, “Lord, I’ll do this. I’ll take on Pharaoh, I’ll face the soothsayers, witches and doctors and the serpents, and we’ll get blood running in the river, and we’ll part the Red Sea, but I can’t do it alone. I couldn’t even try. I’m the least adequate man alive. I can’t even talk. I need a companion to translate for me. I can’t do any of this, but we’ll do it, parting the Red Sea and crossing the River Jordan and claiming our inheritance, but I have to know that you will go with us. I have to know that you’ll be the divine comforter in this missionary service. Otherwise, we can’t go. We’re not even going to leave Cairo. We’re just going to stay here. We’re just going to stay here and stack bricks. We can’t do it. There is no way that we can fight Pharaoh or fate or sand dunes or water unless the very power of heaven, unless the power of Almighty God is resting on our shoulders and in our hearts.
That is a legitimate request to make of a missionary, and it is a legitimate answer that God gives saying, “You’re on! That’s a deal! You don’t have to wonder about me. Worry about yourself. Don’t worry about me—I can do it!” And He can! And He does! You will succeed in this work. You will succeed at this work because it is God’s to do, and all you have to do is say, “Here, use me. Take me. Just point me in the right direction. Where’s the tape and I’ll head for it? I’ll give you all I’ve got for two years.” And that’s all a missionary has to do, and technically all a missionary can do. And that’s all that God wants and He’ll do the work and He’ll give you the words to say and the language to say it and the testimony to bear and the places to go and the doors to knock on and the people to inquire of on the street. He’ll do all of that if you will pledge to live by the Spirit and be obedient and testify by the Holy Ghost and do the work His way.
Forgive us if we ask so much about obedience. We ask so much about rules. It’s because we’ve been at this for 170 years, just in this dispensation alone. We know what it takes to succeed. We’ve tried all the other ways. We’ve seen all the other ways that don’t work. We’ve had all the missionaries who have tried to do it their own way. And after 170 years, trust us that the information is pretty well in, and the documentation is pretty clear, starting with the declaration in the scriptures themselves. That we are called to preach the gospel by the Spirit, even the Comforter, and there is no other way and any other way is not of God. If you would just be that comfortable, actually it takes a lot of pressure off. It takes an incredible amount of pressure off of us individually. To just say it really is His work and He’ll do it and He can do it and He’s always done it and He will do it! These are His children to save. This is His work. He will do it, but He’s got to have an obedient and spiritually hungry missionary!
Do not look tired—this work can be done. That has been the work of all the dispensations since the beginning of time, and that’s the request that’s being made—accomplish! I love you. I love looking at you. I love seeing you. I know how you feel. I was once one of you and without this understanding once. Somehow, someday, somewhere, some of you will be asked to do this, and by that I don’t necessarily just mean the Apostleship, but preside over missions, preside over Stakes, preside over Relief Societies, be parents and raise kids and do that later part to build the kingdom that you’re starting to build now.
I’ve been your age and you haven’t been mine, but I do remember what it was like to sit here and have dreams and fears and hopes and wonder, wonder if you were about to do it, wonder if you’d be happy, wonder if you would work hard, wonder if you could succeed. Now, 38 years and one month later I tell you that it was the most important thing that ever happened to me in my life, that it’s brought so many blessings that have now become important and now take their place in my life, but which would not have happened, I’m absolutely confident they would not have happened, if it had not been for the privilege of a mission.
I love you. I testify of the Lord Jesus Christ, whose witness I am called to bear. I’ve born witness all my life, now I am a witness and so are you, for these two years we’re alike. All day, every day, full-time, full-bore, all we know and all we can do and all we can believe and all we can declare in the name of Christ, salvation of the children of men and the true and living Church. For these two years and these 18 months we’re alike. We’re all witnesses called. Mine goes a little longer, and I have some keys you don’t have. I belong to a quorum you don’t belong to, but in spirit and in effort, in the good we’re trying to do, and in the testimony we’re trying to bear, we’re the same. Part of your life is part of mine. Maybe that’s why I love you so much.
You look like future leaders of the Church, to testify of the divinity of this Church, of this work, and of God’s love, of His reality and His appearance to the Prophet Joseph Smith. And if there is anyone in the room who’s struggling with a testimony, you have one — mine! I’m giving my life to this. You’re giving two years. I’m giving my life! Everything I own, everything I possess is on the line. I would not come to Sao Paulo to tell you a fairy tale. I wouldn’t wear myself into the ground, nor would President Hinckley do the same for something we did not know beyond a shadow of a doubt was God’s almighty truth! Give me a little more credit than that! I’m not an absolutely stupid man. This is the truth! And I’m giving everything that I know to give for that declaration.
I had a missionary ask me once if I would give my life for the Church. I said, “Elder, I am giving my life for the Church.” I know what he meant. What he meant was, “Would you die for it?” Well, that’s the easy part. That’s a snap! On some days it looks really appealing. That’s the easy part, to die for it. Well, what God needs is people who will live for it, people who will go the distance, people who are in this race we’re talking about that will go all the way to the tape. And some may die along the way and that’s wonderful, but He needs people who will finish the work. He needs people who will wrap this up, and that’s the pledge I make to you, and that’s the pledge He asked. We’re in this together.
I wish we could give you all a hug. Sister Holland could hug the sisters, and I could hug the elders, but we don’t have time to do that either. But figuratively know that we would. Know that we do. Know that we love you and admire you and live for the day we’ll all be together in some big missionary reunion in heaven and we’ll invite Paul over and Peter and Isaiah and Alma and we’ll just have a good time talking about missionary service. It’s a great Brotherhood and Sisterhood and I express my love to you and declare the divinity of this work in the sacred, holy and redeeming name of the Lord, Jesus Christ, Amen.