A Song of the Heart…

Have you ever read the scripture that says “For my soul delighteth in the song of the heart, yea the song of the righteous is a prayer unto me, and it shall be answered with a blessing upon their heads”?

Well, this verse (Doctrine and Covenants 25:12) is one of my favorites because, as many of you know, music is a major part of my life. It’s something that has influenced me on so many levels throughout every stage of my life, and it’s something that I hold very dear to my heart. Because of this, I can honestly say that I have received many, many blessings “upon [my head]” through music. Today was just another one of those days.

I was asked to play a special musical number during sacrament meeting today. I absolutely LOVE to share my talent with others because it’s the one thing where I never have any doubt that I’m feeling the Spirit, the love of God, and the guidance, comfort and peace I need. Which brings me to another scripture in just a minute. While most people are terrified to speak in front of people, I’m almost equally terrified to perform in front of people. That’s kind of ironic, for those who know how often I do perform. So here’s my explanation of why I do something that pretty well scares me: “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love” (1 John 4:18). “Behold, I speak with boldness, having authority from God; and I fear not what man can do; for perfect love casteth out all fear” (Moroni 8:16).

First: I love Heavenly Father more than anything or anyone else. I would do anything I can to show Him that. And for me, that includes sharing a talent I have been so greatly blessed with. Do you know the parable in the New Testament about the three servants who were given talents? One was given one talent, one was given two, and the last was given five. When the lord returned, he asked to see their talents. The ones who had been given two or five talents presented their master with double the amount they had received from him. His reply to them was: “Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord” (Matthew 25:21). However, the last one who had been given just one talent returned to his master with the same talent. He was afraid that he would lose what precious gift his lord had given him, but (probably) much to his surprise, his master was not, in fact pleased. “Thou wicked and slothful servant, thou knewest that I reap where I sowed not, and gather where I have not strawed: Thou oughtest therefore to have put my money to the exchangers, and then at my coming I should have received mine own with usury. Take therefore the talent from him, and give it unto him which hath ten talents. For unto every one that hath shall be given, and he shall have abundance: but from him that hath not shall be taken away even that which he hath.” I don’t know about you, but I would much rather not be called a wicked and slothful servant. I want to show the Lord how much I love Him by multiplying the talents I’ve been given.

Second, because I know Heavenly Father and all that is in His power to accomplish, I do not fear man more than God. As long as I’m doing something the Lord would have me do, I know that the strength I have to do it is not my own. As long as I have the Spirit with me, I know that I am doing the Lord’s will and I know that I can do it boldly and without fear. One of my favorite talks was given by Elder Lynn G. Robbins of the Quorum of the Seventy in October 2014. It’s called “Which Way Do You Face?” and discusses the differences between fearing man more than God versus loving the Lord and always facing Him. Here’s a few sections from this talk because I can’t say it any better than Elder Robbins:

“When people try to save face with men, they can unwittingly lose face with God. While it certainly takes courage to face perils, the true badge of courage is overcoming the fear of men. Courage is not just one of the cardinal virtues, but as C. S. Lewis observed: “Courage is … the form of every virtue at the testing point. … Pilate was merciful till it became risky.” King Herod was sorrowful at the request to behead John the Baptist but wanted to please “them which sat with him at meat” (Matthew 14:9). King Noah was ready to free Abinadi until peer pressure from his wicked priests caused him to waver (see Mosiah 17:11–12). King Saul disobeyed the word of the Lord by keeping the spoils of war because he “feared the people, and obeyed their voice” (1 Samuel 15:24). To appease rebellious Israel at the foot of Mount Sinai, Aaron crafted a golden calf, forgetting which way he faced (see Exodus 32). Many of the New Testament chief rulers “believed on [the Lord]; but because of the Pharisees they did not confess him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue: for they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God” (John 12:42–43). The scriptures are full of such examples… The Savior, our great Exemplar, always faced His Father. He loved and served His fellowmen but said, “I receive not honour from men” (John 5:41). He wanted those He taught to follow Him, but He did not court their favor. When He performed an act of charity, such as healing the sick, the gift often came with the request to “tell no man” (Matthew 8:4; Mark 7:36; Luke 5:14; 8:56). In part, this was to avoid the very fame which followed Him in spite of His efforts to eschew it (see Matthew 4:24). He condemned the Pharisees for doing good works only to be seen of men (see Matthew 6:5). The Savior, the only perfect being who ever lived, was the most fearless. In His life, He was confronted by scores of accusers but never yielded to their finger of scorn. He is the only person who never once forgot which way He faced: “I do always those things that please [the Father]” (John 8:29; emphasis added), and “I seek not mine own will, but the will of the Father which hath sent me” (John 5:30).”

Now I know this isn’t exactly focusing on performing a piece of music, but let me show you how it relates. Performing on an instrument can be compared to how we perform in our lives. If we fear the opinion of man and worry how many people will notice our mistakes, we’re bound to do a lot worse than we would prefer. It seems to me that the more we’re focused on ourselves, the more mistakes we make. On the other hand, the more we turn our hearts to the Lord and remember that our purpose does not revolve around who has the best car, house or clothes, but it revolves around where your heart truly is. Are you constantly looking to serve others and bring happiness to your home and wherever you go? Or are you more worried about impressing your boss, your friends or even your family?

There are times where our performance isn’t quite what we were hoping for. We might be caught off-guard by unforeseen events and circumstances. We might not enjoy who we’re with. Whatever the case, sometimes, we aren’t doing our best, and unfortunately (or fortunately?) people see us at our worst! But it really doesn’t have to be the end of the world. We can’t let what other people think of us consume our lives otherwise we will never progress anywhere and we won’t come close to becoming all that we have the potential to become. The last little bit of the passage I shared from Elder Robbins spoke about Christ’s example. How many scriptures have you read that say something along the lines of “Therefore, what manner of men ought ye to be? Verily I say unto you, even as I am” (3 Nephi 27:27). “Be ye therefore perfect, even as (I or) your Father which is in heaven is perfect” (Matthew 5:48; 3 Nephi 12:48).”

Not only is following Christ’s example something that has been commanded of us by God, it is something that will truly bless our lives and show us who we really are – Children of God. We have the ability, the opportunity, the great blessing and miracle of becoming like our Omniscient, Omnipresent and Omnipotent Father in Heaven. He loves us each so dearly. Better yet, He knows us perfectly, and STILL He loves us unconditionally and without fail. Who doesn’t want to be like that?

So. “The song of the righteous is a prayer unto me.” I believe that can be taken both literally and figuratively. Music can bring the Spirit so strongly. It brings comfort, peace, joy, serenity, love, happiness and the list goes on of things that come from God. Those are things that inspire us to be better, to do more good. Alma 5:26 says “And now behold, I say unto you, my brethren, if ye have experienced a change of heart, and if ye have felt to sing the song of redeeming love, I would ask, can ye feel so now?” If you have experienced a change of heart, a touch of the Spirit, of God’s love and mercy and forgiveness, then you have probably felt so much joy or peace and happiness that all you’ve wanted to do is sing your thanks, resolve to always follow your Savior, and share what you’ve discovered with everyone you know. THAT, my friends, is the song of redeeming love. THAT is the song of the righteous and it is truly something that your Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ are extremely aware of.

I know that mistakes, hardships, bad times, and your worst are things that happen. It’s life and we’re human. But that doesn’t mean that you are a terrible person and can never be made clean and whole again. It doesn’t mean the end of the world or that everyone and everything on the planet hates you. It simply means that you are living and learning and growing. ESPECIALLY if you are happy through it all. Christ is your Savior. He is right beside you every step of the way. You need only to sing the song that is in your heart. Perform with all your heart and soul, with everything you’re made of. Remember who and what is most important every day. Happiness and joy is possible in every day, but only if you let it be through your actions and reactions. I know this because I know my Savior and I have my hand firmly clasped in His. And I’m loving every note of this song that my heart is singing because of it.

Fear Vs. Faith

Man. Life is so fantastic and full of happiness when you have the Lord in your life, let me tell you! I have been non-stop happy for weeks and months now and it is the best thing ever! 🙂

Warning: I am not married and have no experience with marriage myself at this point in my life. My opinions and thoughts on the topic are only those I’ve concluded through observation. But I feel confident in saying that many of the words I have to share are inspired, or at least, I’ve tried to let them be.

Tonight, I had the great opportunity to attend a Young Single Adult Fireside. As usually is addressed at YSA activities, the topic turned out to be centered on marriage. However, it was approached in quite a different way than you might expect. For me, I’m normally expecting it to be all “You need to date. Never say no. You should be going on 4 dates a week. Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah” followed by a discussion (and rebuke) of why guys aren’t asking girls out and why girls are turning guys down. And blegh to that, thank you very much. In my opinion, dating is all about finding someone to marry, so: LET IT HAPPEN IN THE LORD’S TIME. Marriage is extremely important, so I don’t want to do it just because. I want to do it the way the Lord needs me to! Yes I want to get married and yes I would like it to be sooner rather than later. I’m very excited to share my life and experiences and studies and everything with someone that I’ll be sealed to for the rest of eternity! I’m excited to start a family. But I’m not going to drop everything and make dating the whole point of my existence! There are other important things that I can do while searching for “the one”. Because that’s my opinion and because those examples are generally what you might hear at YSA get togethers, I was pleasantly surprised when they began addressing the question of why marriages are happening later in life and why young adults are putting it off.

The main reason? Fear. Because of what’s happening in the world with terrorists, wars, economic problems, natural disasters, sicknesses, divorces, same-sex marriages, etc, young adults are fearing what might happen as they imagine trying to raise children in such an awful world. They fear that they won’t find the right one. They may fear imperfection – they want their spouse to be “the perfect man” (or woman) and so they spend years and years searching for them. They fear that their marriage would be doomed to end in divorce. They fear that they aren’t stable enough financially to have a family just yet. They fear that they won’t finish getting through college if they marry young. They might even fear that the Church is going to fall into Apostasy and the truth and Priesthood will be taken from the Earth like it has before. While these are pretty valid concerns, let me share what I learned about it tonight.

First, this Church will never fall again. Since Jesus Christ fully restored the Gospel of Jesus Christ through His servant, Joseph Smith, it will always be on the Earth. It has been prophesied and confirmed many times that these latter-days will have the Gospel all the way to when Christ comes again. There is absolutely nothing that will keep this Church from progressing. This generation is the favored and chosen one, the one that has been saved for these days to bring the light of the Gospel to all the world, to bring about the latter-day glory. And oh, is it a wonderful day! 🙂

Second, yes. It might be quite scary to watch the news and hear about all the terrible things taking place in this world. But in 1 John 4:18 it says: “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love.” If you love the Lord and understand and know that He loves you perfectly and unconditionally, your fear will be replaced with faith. ” Just to re-state that, John 14:15 says “If ye love me, keep my commandments” and John 15:10 statesIf ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father’s commandments, and abide in his love.” Therefore, if you love and are obedient, you will always abide in a perfect love that comes from God. If perfect love casts out all fear, wouldn’t it make sense that in order to stand up to the world and face the craziness and horror of the day all you need to do is simply love, have faith and be obedient? That’s how I understand it.

Third, divorce. Now this is something that I have briefly wondered about as I see more and more families broken up by divorce or some other such thing – will my own marriage end up like that? But then, very quickly after that thought flits across my mind, I remember a quote that I’ve seen all over the internet at different points in time. It’s someone questioning how a marriage of 65 years lasted that long. The reply was: “We grew up in a time that when something was broken, we didn’t throw it away. We did everything we could to fix it.” Well now. THAT sounds like great wisdom. It sounds to me like there was a lot of faith put into that relationship – faith that all would work out. Faith that there was still love, despite the differences they may have had at the time. Faith that everything would turn out right if they didn’t just sit on their bums and expect things to happen without having to break a sweat.

Fourth, preparing for marriage. Many young adults post-pone marriage and family because they want to be sure they are financially stable and secure, that they have a good education and are able to immediately begin providing for a family. Elder Holland has some great words about that: “If being financially stable and secure and having an education were what I was waiting for, well, Sister Holland and I STILL wouldn’t be married!” Touche. He went on to talk about all the things, the memories, the happiness, even the children they might have missed out on had he and Sister Holland post-poned their marriage even for a day. They may not have had the experiences they had, and therefore learned the things they learned. They may not have even had the children and grandchildren they have today. When they were married, Elder and Sister Holland only had $300 between them. Their parents couldn’t help them out and they still had a lot of education to go. But they knew that the Lord had established marriage and families as the most important unit in eternity. Because of that knowledge, they took a leap of faith and were married despite all the circumstances of their day.

Marriage is not about how much money you have, or how far you’ve come in your education. It’s not about what job you hold or your goals farther down the road and how to start accomplishing them now. Marriages is about love, faith and the Lord. We can’t allow our fears to counsel us. That’s a job for faith, for your Savior and your Father in Heaven. We should always be looking forward to what the Lord’s plan is rather than what the world’s plan would be. The best things in life are going to be hard, and we need to fight for them and show that they are everything to us! We should be confident in our marriage and the love that it is based on. And I don’t mean just the love you have for your spouse and the love they have for you. I mean, also, the love that you have for the Lord and the understanding you have of the Lord’s love for you. Remember that God is at the helm. Never doubt that. Remember that following the counsel of the Lord is never impractical.

Faith is like a little seed. If planted it will grow. Once it begins to grow, it becomes stronger and stronger the more we cultivate it and work to keep it going. No matter if it’s still a seed or a giant tree that can give relief on a hot summer day, faith will protect you. It protects family, temples, love, joy and much more than that! If you’re not sure how to grow and be strengthened, how to cultivate your faith, ask yourself: Where are my priorities? Where should they be? What needs to change? How can I simply start to come closer to the Lord to help bring this change?

My suggestion on where to start: Act. Faith is a principle of action. Alma 32:27-28 says: “But behold, if ye will awake and arouse your faculties, even to an experiment upon my words, and exercise a particle of faith, yea, even if ye can no more than desire to believe, let this desire work in you, even until ye believe in a manner that ye can give place for a portion of my words.Now, we will compare the word unto a seed. Now, if ye give place, that a seed may be planted in your heart, behold, if it be a true seed, or a good seed, if ye do not cast it out by your unbelief, that ye will resist the Spirit of the Lord, behold, it will begin to swell within your breasts; and when you feel these swelling motions, ye will begin to say within yourselves—It must needs be that this is a good seed, or that the word is good, for it beginneth to enlarge my soul; yea, it beginneth to enlighten my understanding, yea, it beginneth to be delicious to me.”

Often times, we find ourselves searching for truth, searching for answers and what we should do with our lives. And, for me, almost every time, it has taken some sort of action for my prayers to be answered and answers to be confirmed. Heavenly Father is VERY aware of us. He ALWAYS answers prayers. But He also trusts us to make decisions on our own. We are agents unto ourselves, which means that we have the ability to make choices and act on our own will. There’s that word again: ACT. Nothing ever happens without us doing something about it, right? Do the dishes get done if you sit on the couch and do nothing? How about homework? Work in general? Cleaning? Relationships? Happiness? Faith? The answer is no. The more you fear, the less you do. The less you do, the more miserable you are. On the other hand, the more you have faith, the more you act. The more you act, the stronger and happier you become.

Because of these things I’ve learned, I have no fear when it comes to marriage. I trust the Lord and have faith in Him and His timing. I trust and have faith that He will guide me to find the right man who will make me the happiest and bring me closer to becoming like Heavenly Father. I trust and have faith that He will help me know what to do whenever things like finances, education, raising children in an awful world, and other things like those come along. I also trust that He is relying on me a little bit to do my part and be worthy of someone who will help me most in all of these things. If I’m not worthy, why should my spouse be? I trust, too, that the Lord is relying on me to make an effort, get off the couch and go searching. I know the guy isn’t going to fall into my lap if all I’m doing is eating junk food and watching chick flicks. But that’s the beauty of it. The harder I work to be worthy, to find him, to make myself better and closer to the Lord, the more I know how much greater my marriage will be, no matter what circumstances come my (our) way.

Do you remember how I started out this post? Happiness and excitement because of the Lord. I testify to you that exercising your faith brings so many wonderful blessings, including the happiness and love and excitement that I’m always talking about. As we learn to apply the knowledge we’ve gained, we become so much closer to the Lord and better off for it. The more that we decide to lift ourselves up off the couch and work, the more that we will experience joy rather than fear. Faith takes work. Marriage takes work. Life takes work. As I said before, anything in life that’s worth it takes work! I promise you that if you take time to plant your seed of faith, or to nourish one that’s already planted, wherever you are in life whether you’re single or married, childless or have a house full of children, working on a degree or not, financially stable or not, you WILL see the blessings of the Lord in your life and they will be pouring down faster than you can get on your knees to say a prayer of thanksgiving. This I promise in the sacred name of our Savior and Redeemer, Jesus Christ, amen.

What Happens Now? (From the perspective of a Return Missionary)

Before I begin, I just want to quickly say: Happy 24th Birthday to the best brother anyone could ever ask for! You are dearly missed, but I know that it’s really only for a short time and I know that you’re doing greater work on the other side. I love you!!!

Alright, on to my thoughts for today. This post is more aimed towards returned missionaries, or even those preparing to serve. But I believe it can benefit anyone who is wondering what to do with their lives, even if you haven’t served a mission, even if you’re not a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. You just have to know what to look for in between all this talk about serving a mission and returning home. 🙂

I probably should have written this post first, but I’m actually glad I’ve waited about two months. Before returning home, I was worried about a few things, and I think that most missionaries probably have this on their minds, which is a huge reason they don’t want to leave: What happens when I go home? How can I stay on this spiritual high? Is it even possible? Will I just go back to who I was before, though I really don’t want to? What happens now?

One of my wonderful companions wrote to me this week and asked about this. She said: “One thing I do have a question about. I feel like while I have been on my mission I all of a sudden see all of these miracles. I see the Lord in my life and in the lives of others. What happens when I get back? Do I still see the Lord in my life like I do now? I mean I know I can choose to change and not go back to the person I was, but I guess what I’m asking is how different is it being finished with your mission?”

You know, Sister, those questions are fantastic. And I’m so glad you asked them! Because now, I get to tell you what happens! If you are allowing your mission to change you completely all the way from start to finish, then yes. You still see the Lord in your life like you do now. I never saw things the way I do now before I served a mission. I mean, yeah, I saw a few blessings here and there, and occasionally I thought about how things in my life related to my beliefs or why things were happening. but not anything like I see now. You may not be serving the Lord as a full-time set apart missionary when you return home, but you now have the mind-set of one of the Lord’s servants, one of His disciples. You are still set apart from the world, in a way, because you now can see more clearly the way God sees. You are still set apart from the world in a way because now, you know how to really serve others, to see their needs, to bring them closer to God. The only difference between being on a mission and being in life is that a mission is where all you ever do is serve the Lord 24/7 – you’re ALWAYS thinking of others. Life is where you have to worry a bit more about yourself as well as others simply because you have to live – you need to work, get an education, find a spouse, have children, etc…

Before a mission, you’re trying to figure out who you are – you’re so wrapped up in yourself as a child and a teenager because you’re still getting used to having a body, being away from Heavenly Father. You have to explore the natural man and figure out how to control it. Your mission is when you learn to re-connect with yourself spiritually, who you were before this life when you lived with Father. Did I ever mention how I’ve felt my mission was more of an MTC (missionary training center – a place where missionaries go for a few weeks before going out into the world) for life than anything else? I see that now more than ever. Because now, I get to see that my mission truly taught me how to have that eternal perspective and love. It taught me how to forget myself and care for the welfare (spiritually and physically) of others. If you learn to start thinking the way your Father in Heaven and Savior do, then your mission is most definitely not the only time in your life that you recognize great blessings and are close to the Lord. 🙂 Your mission is only to train you how to BE – it’s simply just the beginning.

Mosiah 3:19 says: “For the natural man is an enemy to God, and has been from the fall of Adam, and will be, forever and ever, unless he yields to the enticings of the Holy Spirit, and putteth off the natural man and becometh a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord, and becometh as a child, submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon him, even as a child doth submit to his father.” After a mission, you now know yourself as a spiritual being as well as a physical being, a natural man. So now, your job is to figure out how to balance the two – worrying about yourself enough to keep yourself strong physically and spiritually, but still serving others more than yourself.

It’s quite the fascinating journey, but I love it so much! I’m SO happy to have this perspective, and that I haven’t lost it and am still thinking this way, even two months after coming home. Honestly, I think this is how it will be when we return HOME, when we finish our life mission and return to Father. Right now, we don’t know how we can continue to progress so much as we have while being here. But I think that we’ll be amazed at how much we keep learning once we’ve reached the goal we have now. It will be a wonderful time, but for now, we’ve just got to enjoy the journey and live in the now. Don’t hope or worry too much about the future. It’s all in God’s hands, but it also can sometimes depend on how you choose to live now, what you choose to let affect your life. Let it be awesome, in the full meaning of that word: Awe-some. Remember the Lord, always, and you will be happy. Once you’ve learned to Look Through Heaven’s Eyes,   then you will be amazed at how much simpler, how much happier, how much MORE life is. You don’t have to serve a mission to learn all these things. You just have to be searching for truth, peace and joy. And that’s what the Gospel of Jesus Christ does for us. It brings us that truth, peace and joy! It teaches us how to be like God in every way.

I know this not because I’ve served a mission, but because I have faith and hope in my Savior Jesus Christ. I know Him and my Father, and I look forward to strengthening that knowledge and testimony every day for the rest of my life. Life is awesome. The Lord is awesome. I love it and I love Him. This knowledge has blessed me. It has allowed me to look forward with excitement and joy to the future, to trials and hardships, to happy times, to LIFE. I know that it can do the same for you, if you simply start with an open heart and a contrite, willing spirit.

Blessings Come to Those Who Serve Him

As many of you know, I served my mission in the New Hampshire Manchester Mission. I loved every bit of it! I learned so much and have seen so many blessings. I know I’ll continue to learn and be blessed every day of my life because of my choice to serve the Lord. However, serving Him can’t stop simply because I’ve returned home and been released from being a full-time missionary. His work is hastening and because I have made covenants with Him and am one of His disciples, I will continue to dedicate myself to serving Him for the rest of my life.

I believe that everything happens for a reason. I know that we are put in certain places and situations because that is where we can make the greatest impact in the world concerning Jesus Christ, especially if we are following the Lord’s counsel. We can change the world through the gifts and talents our Heavenly Father has bestowed upon us. When we use our spiritual gifts to serve the Lord, to help hasten His work, blessings are poured out: We grow in knowledge and understanding. We grow in our ability to see the needs of others and we grow in our desire to help them meet those needs. We grow in our ability to love and bring the Spirit into people’s lives. As our faith and testimonies grow because of our service, diligence and desires to serve the Lord, we come to truly know what repentance and the Atonement are all about: Love. The Gospel is love. Love is the Gospel. Christ Himself taught that the greatest commandment was to love God, the second like unto it: to love our neighbor. When we live the Gospel, we are filled with love. When we are filled with love, we understand who Christ is and we have desires to follow His example and become like Him. As we strive to follow Him and fulfill our divine potential, we can overcome the natural man and learn to love God more than we love ourselves, more than we love the world. We learn to set aside our doubts and fears. We forget ourselves. Hastening the work of the Lord is not about us. It is about those around us, bringing them closer to Christ and helping them to find the path to eternal life. Sharing the Gospel isn’t just about sharing what makes us happy. It isn’t just another commandment. It isn’t a chore or another thing to add to our to-do lists. It is the work of Salvation. It is about saving souls. Saving them in a way that makes it possible for them to make it Home to not only see our Heavenly Parents again, but LIVE with them for all eternity. 

Being a full-time missionary is hard, especially if you’re an introvert. It’s hard to be rejected on a daily basis, at least five or ten times throughout the day. It’s hard to hear how people don’t believe in God, how they just know that Mormons are of the devil, or how they slam the door in your face. It’s hard. But there were, and still are, so many times that I saw many miracles and blessings simply because I was trying, because I was doing all I could to help the Lord hasten His work. I will touch on just a few of them. And you don’t have to serve a full-time mission to see these blessings in your life.

As you serve the Lord and help Him to hasten His work, you become more aware of His Spirit. You know what it feels like for you, how the Lord speaks to you. You feel a great desire to do His will, not your own, though there are times, days or even weeks, that you just want a break. But another blessing is that you understand just how important His work is. You can’t just take a break from it. Once you taste it, you want nothing more than to continue  incorporating it into your life. You find every way that you can to apply what you’ve learned from your missionary experiences. Because you feel the Spirit more. Because you are happier and you feel God’s love when you share the Gospel. There is SO much joy that comes from serving! You see the impact a small act of kindness has on a person. Even when it seems pretty insignificant to you, it might have just changed their entire life.

Serving the Lord teaches you what God’s love truly is: unconditional and absolutely perfect. You see people on the street, in the stores, driving their cars, everywhere, you see them in a new light and you find that you have a desire to help them find joy and happiness. You feel God’s love for them, and it shows you how your Heavenly Father feels about you, too.

There are two final blessings that I want to touch on. They are two blessings I feel are the most significant and rewarding. First, is the blessing of repentance. The Gospel teaches us how to apply the Atonement through faith and repentance. When we are cleansed by the atoning blood of Jesus Christ, we have an opportunity to receive Eternal Life, our ultimate goal. When we share the Gospel, we are giving others that chance to repent and receive Eternal Life.

The last blessing I have to share is possibly one of my favorites, and it goes along with the blessing of repentance. You will never know the impact you have on people you share the Gospel with. When you share your testimony with someone, it doesn’t just change them, and it doesn’t just change you. It can change generations! Abinadi is a fantastic example. He was a very diligent and obedient prophet who continued to preach, even in the face of death. I’m not sure he knew that anyone was changed by the words he taught as he stood before King Noah in chains while the king and his priests mocked him and condemned him to death. But there was one priest, Alma, who listened and was converted unto the Lord. Alma taught and baptized hundreds of people, who then continued to share the Gospel and teach it to their family, friends, and even entire nations. Abinadi was one man, yet he changed the lives of thousands of people. Doctrine and Covenants 18:10-16 says:

“Remember the worth of souls is great in the sight of God; For, behold, the Lord, your Redeemer, suffered death in the flesh; wherefore, he suffered the pain of all men, that all men might repent and come unto him. And he hath risen again from the dead, that he might bring all men unto him, on conditions of repentance. And how great is his joy in the soul that repenteth! Wherefore, you are called to cry repentance unto this people. And if it so be that you should labor all your days in crying repentance unto this people, and bring, save it be one soul unto me, how great shall be your joy with him in the kingdom of my Father! And now, if your joy will be great with one soul that you have brought unto me into the kingdom of my Father, how great will be your joy if you should bring many souls unto me!”

I look forward to the day when I can see the impact my missionary efforts have had and will have. When I get to meet those who joined the church because I had the courage, love and guidance from the Spirit to be obedient to my Father’s commandments and open my mouth and live the teachings of Jesus Christ in a way that  others can see and be changed because of it. And I so look forward to the joy that our Father will have on His face because of the children He has with Him in the Celestial Kingdom.

Sharing the Gospel is not just a commandment. It is a blessing and a privilege. It is something I am very honored to do because I know that one day, I will stand before God. I want to be able to tell Him that I did my very best to bring my brothers and sisters Home. I want to show Him how much I love Him and Our Eternal Family. I love to share the Gospel because I know that it gives at least one more person a chance to return Home.

I know this is His work, and I know that everything is in His hands. But I can’t just sit around and wait for things to happen. I am His disciple, and I know that I can change the world simply by sharing what I know to be true. And this church and His Gospel is absolutely, perfectly true.

I say these things in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

Trials: What a Blessing!

Over the last few weeks, I’d been struggling with a few things and finally found my answer of how to make it through any trial. I was at a youth devotional that the RMs in my ward were invited to. We did a Q&A session where the youth could ask any question they wanted. The last one was “Is there anything in your mission that you wish you could redo?” My first thought was “Well, there were those times with my companions that I wish I could’ve reacted differently” or “Well, I wish that I could’ve been better at street contacting.” But then, the more I thought about it, the more that I realized I wouldn’t change anything. Why? Because those trials I went through, they helped me grow. They taught me how to be better the next time around. Without those trials, I wouldn’t have been able to become what I’ve become. And I wouldn’t be able to become who I can become tomorrow.
My point: I’ve learned to love trials, and honestly, I am SO looking forward to the trials that will come in the future. Call me masochistic or morbid, but it’s true. Because I look forward to changing and becoming more like God.
Blessings come to those who serve full-time missions and those lives that each missionary touches, whether on the mission or back home. There may be trials that come along that make you question whether you’re really doing any good anywhere, sometimes especially back home. But because you are serving the Lord, He will bless you and your family immensely to be able to withstand and endure. I believe some of our hardest trials come just before, while serving or soon after a full-time mission because that is when we are closest to the Spirit and that is when we are most open to receiving guidance from God. We are more susceptible to receiving counsel that will guide us through the trial that’s happening right then and through the rest of our lives. I’m not saying hard trials won’t come way before or way after a mission. And I’m not saying hard trials won’t come at all if you don’t serve a mission. I’m just speaking from my own experience and from hearing about the experiences of others. Hardships teach us how to be better. They shouldn’t make us wish that it wasn’t happening to us. They should teach us and help us come to the point where we love trials because we come to know that that is when we learn how to be strong and how to stray strong and endure.
I recently experienced a particularly difficult trial that was very painful. There were a lot of feelings that I felt. At the beginning, it was shock, dismay, then love, compassion, grief. Later, and thankfully these were not my first feelings, after I’d had a few hours to let it sink it, I started to feel angry and betrayed, but I guess not so much anger as it was more of frustration, pain, and sadness. So many questions ran through my mind as I tried to understand and make sense of it. It was terrible. It was overwhelming. I hated feeling like that. So I began to pray, pleading with Heavenly Father for the people involved who I loved so much. It wasn’t an immediate feeling, but when I woke up the next day, my thoughts weren’t overwhelming. The topic didn’t fill my mind anymore. It wasn’t distracting and it wasn’t as much of a burden. I knew that everything would work out the way Heavenly Father wants/needs it to and that I can play a small part in helping these people to heal. The Atonement of Jesus Christ is real. The choices made in this situation don’t affect me in the same way it does the others who are involved. In fact, if I never knew about it, I don’t think it ever would have affected me. I’m only a friend. Someone just watching on the sidelines. And yet, there was so much pain that came from this experience that it became a trial of my own. And I’m so thankful for it. I’m thankful that I’ve come to love trials because they help me know what to do better in the future. And this trial… Well, it taught me more about Christ’s love. And Heavenly Father’s. In each of our lives, they are more or less sitting on the sidelines, watching. Occasionally they might shout something to us – encouragement, guidance, etc. But mostly, they let us make our own choices. When we make a bad choice, they experience so much pain, and Christ – He took it on as His own. I believe that trials are hard and painful because we have to know a little of what Christ went through in order for 1) our faith to grow and 2) our actions to change. If things weren’t hard and painful, would we ever change or grow stronger? No. This week, I learned a very tiny amount of what Christ felt in that Garden so long ago. The pain I’ve felt because of this trial and still will feel on occasion, is not mine. I didn’t do anything wrong. Nothing hurt me in particular. But something did hurt those people who I love. So my pain is theirs, the way our pain is Christ’s. I can only sympathize because I don’t know exactly what it’s like for this particular trial. But Christ can fully empathize. And that is a miracle that can heal and change.
The Refiner’s Fire is real. The Atonement is real. And oh, what a blessing they both are.
This life is the time for us to prepare to meet God. Christ is here. He is aware of each of us. He loves you. His hand is held out to you, His arms open wide. He wants to forgive. He wants to heal. I know this with all my heart and soul. And because I know this, I am changed forever.