My Proclamation to the World

Normally, I refuse to share my political opinions for everyone to see and judge me by. I don’t enjoy arguing or debating about serious topics in which nobody on either side is willing to budge, only to push and slight others into sharing that same opinion. It often ends up with nasty insults and disrespectful words being shot in both directions, which really only ends in both sides being extremely defensive of their opinions, whether they’re right or wrong. However, when it ends up being a debate between truth and untruth or morally right versus immorality – a topic where God DOES, in fact, have an opinion, I have to take a stand. The topic I’m going to address today is a touchy one, but I can’t stand idly by and let the world take over if there’s even a slight possibility I might make a difference for even just one person.

Before I start, though, I’d like to say that these are my thoughts and opinions, my beliefs and my standards. I’m trying to say this with love and respect because it’s not my intent to degrade, demoralize, or insult anybody, ever, neither is it my intent to start a debate or argument. I may say some things a little forcefully or loudly, but I am simply exercising my right to believe and say what I feel is right and true, and I’m not about to apologize for it because it’s truth. Truth is truth and it isn’t going to change simply because people resent it. If you’re offended by anything in this post, feel free to exit out of it and never think of it again. I truly am not trying to hurt anyone. To me, this is about standing for what I believe, standing for truth and fulfilling the covenants that I have made with God throughout my life. If I were to keep my opinion to myself on such a serious issue simply because I don’t want people to hate me for it or just because I didn’t want to get arguments and debates started – to keep my opinion to myself for fear of the people, I would be failing in my responsibilities as a disciple of Jesus Christ. And because I am a faithful and devoted follower of Jesus Christ, believe me when I say I truly do love everyone, or at least I’m doing my best to – I’m not perfect. I simply choose to follow the Lord, so whatever He says, I wholeheartedly agree with. I’m hoping and praying that I’ll be able to share what I know and believe in a kind and loving way so that others who are willing to read and approach this subject with an open heart and mind might begin to understand my viewpoint and see it in a way that only helps us all learn to love God and love one another.

I do apologize for the length of this post, but I believe everything in it is needed by someone, and I’m not about to keep the Spirit from working through me. I’ve thought long and hard, read and re-read what I’ve written in order to be sure it’s accurate and something that the Spirit is telling me to say. I’m not an official representative of of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints anymore, but I am a disciple of Him and I do have the ability to share my testimony. So that is what I’ll do.

For the past couple of days, my family and I were on vacation and when we came back, I saw a whole array of things on Facebook concerning the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent ruling concerning same-sex marriage. Some articles I agreed with, others not so much. Most are very biased and opinionated, as are any topics of this sort, but many of those biased and opinionated articles are quite rude, derogative, and very judgmental to the opposing view. So while my opinion is, I’m sure, also biased, I’m going to do everything I can to keep it positive, loving and nonjudgmental.

A few years ago, I had the opportunity to be friends with a guy who was gay. I didn’t know it at first, but eventually, I put things together and realized how he felt. I’d always grown up with the opinion that we should love everyone, no matter our differences. I was taught that homosexual people are still people like everyone else and that there’s nothing ‘wrong’ with them. I completely believed that and always thought that I wouldn’t treat them any differently. Well, when the time came for me to have a gay friend, I really struggled with that. I knew that I was supposed to love him, just like any of my other friends, but that wasn’t exactly the reason for my struggle. It was more the fact that I didn’t know how NOT to act differently towards him. I’d never encountered this before, at least not this closely. I loved him enough to not want to make him feel different or weird or like a freak because he wasn’t really any of those things. But the other part of my beliefs was that homosexuality isn’t right. It’s not how it’s supposed to be, according to God. But aren’t we supposed to love everyone? Doesn’t everyone have agency? Why can’t they be happy, too? And that was the real reason I struggled with not treating my friend any differently than other people. Because I didn’t understand exactly what God’s stance on this sort of thing is, and I wanted to be in line with Him, but I also wanted to be friends with my friend. Now I understand better that it’s more the action rather than the person. We can still be friends and interact with gay people because they really are still people with feelings and everything. And quite honestly, there are some pretty flipping cool gay people (like Ellen DeGeneres!). It comes back to that quote I’m sure we all know: “Hate the sin, not the sinner”.

I recently read an article called “Why Homosexuality Is Not Like Other Sins”. It’s very well written and one I actually enjoyed and agreed with pretty much everything there. Here’s a piece of it, though I encourage you to read all of it:

“As Christians, we believe with deepest sincerity that the embrace of homosexual practice, along with other sins, keeps people out of the kingdom of God. And if our society celebrates it, we can’t both be caring and not say anything. Too much is at stake. This means it is an oversimplification to say that Christians — or conservative evangelicals — are simply against homosexuality. We are against any sin that restrains people from everlasting joy in God, and homosexual practice just gets all the press because, at this cultural moment, it’s the main sin that is so freshly endorsed in our context by the powers that be. Let’s hope that if there’s some new cultural agenda promoting thievery — one that says it’s now our right to take whatever we want from others by whatever means — that Christians will speak out against it. The issue is sin. That’s what we’re against. And that’s what should make our voice so unique when we speak into this debate.”

Before I continue on with more from that article, let me clarify something. I believe that homosexuality is real. It truly is a thing for people, not something they choose just for fun or because they want to be different from most people. Something about their brain is different than those who are heterosexual. So it is not the FEELINGS of homosexuality that are sinful. It’s the act itself that’s wrong. It is sexual sin to act on those feelings because Heavenly Father has commanded that there are to be no sexual relations outside the legal bond of marriage between a man and a woman (The Family: A Proclamation to the World). Continuing from the same previous article:

“The current debate is plagued by this binary lens. Those on the left try to lump everyone who disagrees with them into that right side. If you don’t support, you hate. Meanwhile, those on the right see compromise and spinelessness in anyone who doesn’t get red-faced and militant. If you don’t hate, you support. But true followers of Christ will walk neither path. We have something to say that no one else is saying, or can say. Distancing ourselves from both the left and the right, we don’t celebrate homosexual practice, we acknowledge God’s clear revealed word that it is sin; and we don’t hate those who embrace homosexuality, we love them enough to not just collapse under the societal pressure. We speak the truth in love into this confusion, saying, simultaneously, “That’s wrong” and “I love you.” We’re not the left; we say, this is wrong. And we’re not the right; we say, you’re loved. We speak good news, with those sweetest, deepest, most glorious words of the cross — the same words that God spoke to us — “You’re wrong, and you’re loved.””

I love this because it’s true. Jesus Christ was the same – He loved the sinner, not the sin. Consider the woman taken in adultery (John 8:3-11). She was accused of sexual sin – one of the more grievous of sins – yet He did not condemn, shun or hate her. He simply loved and forgave her. And though He told her to “go and sin no more”, do you think he stopped loving or forgiving her after that, even if she made the mistake again? No. He always loved her and gave her as many chances to repent and be forgiven as is possible. It may not be written specifically, but that was Christ’s nature. He loves and so He forgives. He does not condone sin. He does not approve, support, love or agree with sin. Nor will He ever. But He loves everyone.

In another article I’ve recently come across titled “Quit Acting Like Christ Was Accepting of Everyone and Everything”, the author talks about Christ’s example when it comes to sin – anything against the commandments of God. He discusses the fact that in today’s world, people are searching for a God (or a church) that tells them what they want to hear rather than telling them what’s truth and what’s not, what’s right and what’s wrong. He says:

“I don’t care whether you’re Mormon, Catholic, Protestant, or any other type of Christian…one thing is for certain. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is not a ‘buffet’ that you can compile your perfect plate from. There is no salvation in building your own religion or customizing Christ to suit your needs and wants. The popular trend is to determine how you’d like to live your life and then to conform Christ to that lifestyle. At the base of this movement is the feeling that Christ was so loving and accepting of everyone, that He would never stand for any kind of exclusion or discrimination. This could not be farther from the truth. Yes… it is true that Christ loves everyone and yes it is true that we should practice the doctrine of inclusion, but Christ was far from accepting behaviors that were not in accordance with the commandments… Mormons aren’t trying to be exclusive or discriminatory toward anyone. If they are…then they are not living their religion. Elder Quentin L. Cook stated, “As a church, nobody should be more loving and compassionate. Let us be at the forefront in terms of expressing love, compassion and outreach. Let’s not have families exclude or be disrespectful of those who choose a different lifestyle as a result of their feelings about their own gender.” We should be “loving and compassionate” but we should never allow ourselves to believe that Christ just accepts us how we are. That was never in the program. He’s always asked us to change, to repent, to get better, and to overcome the things that we struggle with. When we quit trying to align our wills with God, and start trying to get God to align His will with ours…that is when we start to lose our way.”

I can’t testify enough of how true that last statement is – as long as we fight against God’s will, our lives will be even more challenging, terrifying, frustrating and sad than they are if we choose to follow God’s will. That isn’t to say our lives will be easy if we follow the Lord. It just means that we will have greater joy, more clarity of mind and more peace if we choose to do  right. I know this because I’ve done both. And boy… My life is SO much better the more I choose to follow my Heavenly Father! Not only me, but prophets have also stated, specifically concerning the deterioration of families as God has decreed it (i.e. one man and one woman legally and lawfully wedded as husband and wife): “We warn that the disintegration of the family will bring upon individuals, communities, and nations the calamities foretold by ancient and modern prophets.” (The Family: A Proclamation to the World).

One of everyone’s favorite apostles, Elder Jeffrey R. Holland gave a talk in the April 2014 General Conference entitled “The Cost and Blessings of Discipleship”. It’s similar to the article I just talked about, but says it in a little different way. And it’s powerful:

“So here we have the burden of those called to bear the messianic message. In addition to teaching, encouraging, and cheering people on (that is the pleasant part of discipleship), from time to time these same messengers are called upon to worry, to warn, and sometimes just to weep (that is the painful part of discipleship). They know full well that the road leading to the promised land “flowing with milk and honey” of necessity runs by way of Mount Sinai, flowing with “thou shalts” and “thou shalt nots.” Unfortunately, messengers of divinely mandated commandments are often no more popular today than they were anciently, as at least two spit-upon, potato-spattered sister missionaries can now attest. Hate is an ugly word, yet there are those today who would say with the corrupt Ahab, “I hate [the prophet Micaiah]; for he never prophesied good unto me, but always [prophesied] evil.” That kind of hate for a prophet’s honesty cost Abinadi his life. As he said to King Noah: “Because I have told you the truth ye are angry with me. … Because I have spoken the word of God ye have judged me that I am mad” or, we might add, provincial, patriarchal, bigoted, unkind, narrow, outmoded, and elderly. It is as the Lord Himself lamented to the prophet Isaiah:

“[These] children … will not hear the law of the Lord: [They] say to the seers, See not; and to the prophets, Prophesy not unto us right things, speak unto us smooth things, prophesy deceits: Get you out of the way, turn aside out of the path, cause the Holy One of Israel to cease from before us.”

“Sadly enough, my young friends, it is a characteristic of our age that if people want any gods at all, they want them to be gods who do not demand much, comfortable gods, smooth gods who not only don’t rock the boat but don’t even row it, gods who pat us on the head, make us giggle, then tell us to run along and pick marigolds. Talk about man creating God in his own image! Sometimes—and this seems the greatest irony of all—these folks invoke the name of Jesus as one who was this kind of “comfortable” God. Really? He who said not only should we not break commandments, but we should not even think about breaking them. And if we do think about breaking them, we have already broken them in our heart. Does that sound like “comfortable” doctrine, easy on the ear and popular down at the village love-in? And what of those who just want to look at sin or touch it from a distance? Jesus said with a flash, if your eye offends you, pluck it out. If your hand offends you, cut it off. “I came not to [bring] peace, but a sword,” He warned those who thought He spoke only soothing platitudes. No wonder that, sermon after sermon, the local communities “pray[ed] him to depart out of their coasts.” No wonder, miracle after miracle, His power was attributed not to God but to the devil. It is obvious that the bumper sticker question “What would Jesus do?” will not always bring a popular response. At the zenith of His mortal ministry, Jesus said, “Love one another, as I have loved you.” To make certain they understood exactly what kind of love that was, He said, “If ye love me, keep my commandments” and “whosoever … shall break one of [the] least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be … the least in the kingdom of heaven.” Christlike love is the greatest need we have on this planet in part because righteousness was always supposed to accompany it. So if love is to be our watchword, as it must be, then by the word of Him who is love personified, we must forsake transgression and any hint of advocacy for it in others. Jesus clearly understood what many in our modern culture seem to forget: that there is a crucial difference between the commandment to forgive sin (which He had an infinite capacity to do) and the warning against condoning it (which He never ever did even once).”

I couldn’t have said it better myself. God is love, but love is not setting down rules and then ignoring them. Love is setting rules and upholding them to help everyone to get stronger, better and (eventually, if not immediately) happier.

I need to share with you one more thing. Sharing my opinion on a topic where I’m obviously a minority isn’t exactly always the easiest thing to do. I don’t like to be hated – nobody does. Righteousness has never been easy because the devil is doing everything he can to tear it down. But as I said at the beginning of this post, it’s the truth. And I know what truth can do for me and for everyone – it can lift, inspire, uphold, and include everyone who allows it to do such things. Truth is meant for everyone. We cannot change it or mold it to fit our likes and dislikes. Instead, we must mold ourselves to fit the truth through much prayer and study. I have promised my Father in Heaven that I will always stand for truth and righteousness, even if it might cost me my friends, family or even my life. And I love Him enough to actually do it. I’m not afraid to stand by my Savior and support whatever doctrines and truths He teaches. I’m not afraid to give my life for Him. I’ve thought about this a lot in the past year or so and honestly, I think it would be easy for me to die if someone told me “Deny Christ or die”. I would not hesitate to declare that I proudly follow Jesus Christ and nothing anyone could say or do would ever change that. Or at least, because I am human and I do fear sometimes, I wouldn’t hesitate to pray for strength and courage in that moment to be able to proudly stand and declare that I am a follower of Jesus Christ. Because I know that faith is more powerful than fear. There was a man on my mission who asked what we would do if that situation happened. I said “Well, I’d hope that I’d just tell the person to shoot me.” His reply? “That’s what you think, but you wouldn’t. I would, though.” And I’ve had others tell me “You don’t know what you’d do in a situation like that.” Well, let me tell you. I may not have a perfect knowledge of the exact reaction I’d have, but I do know this: I have faith. I have faith in God and in Jesus Christ that they will give me the strength to do whatever is necessary whenever the need arises to stand for truth and righteousness. I could lose all my friends and all my family and have only enemies in my life who hated me for my opinion, but if I have Christ and if I know His truths, then I would still find reasons to be happy and rejoice. And to die for the cause of truth? It’s not the end. There’s a life to come and my choices here will determine what happens there. I make mistakes, as anyone else does. But I have felt the love of God despite my shortcomings, my weaknesses and my sins. I have felt the Spirit testify to me time and time again of the truthfulness of who Christ is and of the doctrines He has taught. In the words of Joseph Smith “I know it, and I know that God knows it, and I cannot deny it, neither dare I do it; at least I know that by so doing I would offend God, and come under condemnation” (Joseph Smith-History 1:25).

So what’s my point of this post that might seem kind of spastic? First, it’s to share my testimony of what I know to be true doctrine of Jesus Christ. And second, it’s to promote love and respect among everyone. We can have a difference of opinions, no matter the topic, but we can still love and respect one another. There’s a difference between you and your actions, love and acceptance – I can still love you but not accept your actions as right. You can still love me and not accept my beliefs as right. There doesn’t need to be a shouting match or the start of World War III over a difference in opinions. I will love YOU and respect you no matter your opinion, beliefs or lifestyle, but don’t ask me to condone, support or love it if I don’t believe it’s right. All I ask is for the same in return – love and respect. Whatever the case, I proclaim that I am trying every day to do better than yesterday. I proclaim that I am not perfect, but am trying to become more Christ-like. I proclaim that everyone has a right to choose what to do with their lives and a right to stand up for their beliefs. But as for me? I proclaim that I am choosing to stand with my Savior, Jesus Christ, and I am never backing down.

“And if it seem evil unto you to serve the Lord, choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Ammorites, in whose land ye dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” – Joshua 24:15

Daddy, I Love You

This past week has been filled with experiences that are all very simple, very small and very insignificant to anyone else. But to me, they’ve helped me find strength again to try harder at staying on the path I’m needed on at this point in my life. These experiences have helped me recognize answers to my prayers, and they’ve given me the motivation I need to serve the Lord as much as I can. That was something I’ve let slip in the past few weeks or so, and I’ve been struggling to get it back. But the people in my life – family, friends and missionaries – have reminded me of what my goals were coming off the mission six months ago and the excitement I felt having just served the Lord with everything I have for 18 months of my life.

When weeks like this past one happen, it makes it a lot easier to recognize the Spirit and to get even more excited about learning more about the Gospel and finding ways to share it with the people around you. So today at church, I learned a lot. And I found a few things I’m going to work on during the week so I can continue progressing every day. I could probably write a couple novels about those things today, however, in light of the holiday today here in the US, I wanted to focus on what has recently become one of my favorite things.

Me and my dad!

Me and my dad!

Growing up, I often felt like my family was different than a lot of my friend’s families at church, which it was in a way. But I’m not sure it ever really bothered me the way it might have bothered other people in a similar situation. See, my mom is the one who always brought us kids to church every week while my dad went to his own church. I knew all my friend’s dads but none of my friends knew my dad unless they came to my house in the evening when he’d returned from work during the week, which wasn’t especially often since that was family time. Sometimes I wished it were different. But as a kid, I never really thought much of it. Then, as I got older and started to think more of it and look back, I could only see how much of a blessing this came to be. Especially now.

Before my mission, I’d just barely started to see a side of my dad that I didn’t really know – a compassionate and caring side. This isn’t to say he’s never been that way, just that it’s never come easy for him (or any of us, for that matter) to show how much he really and truly cares for his family. I vaguely remember bits and pieces of memories from my childhood and teenage years when I saw him interacting with other kids (it’s easier to recognize when it’s outside of your own bubble) or at the dinner table he’d tell us stories of his childhood or ask us to guess what he saw on the way home from work. Whenever he came home from business or hunting trips, he always brought us treats and more stories that left us laughing until our sides hurt! I remember him bringing me to work a few times, shopping for Mom for Christmas or Mother’s Day, going on Daddy-Daughter dates. He even made a list of 10 reasons why he loves me and gave it to me when I was about 10 years old!

But I specifically remember two times, before my mission and after I’d gone to school, that he took time to make sure I knew how much he cared without really having to say it – once when I’d failed a test (my first failure ever) and he called to tell me some of his experiences in college and encourage me to keep going, and again when he had to tell me that Tyler had died and instead of focusing on his own pain, he made sure I would be okay. Those two experiences were what started to change me because they were two of the more extreme times of my life when I needed my dad the most.

Since serving a mission, I’ve gained a greater appreciation for my family, present and future. And since returning home, I’ve noticed more and more how amazing and wonderful my dad really is. I’m sorry it took me 21 years to really recognize it, but often you don’t see something like that and really appreciate it until you’re isolated from it for a while. In the past six months, I’ve come to see just how much my dad loves me and my family, but more importantly, I can see how much he loves the Lord and is doing everything he can to come closer to Christ every day. He puts so much effort into recognizing his faults and doing his best to become better. Conversations with him are always enlightening and uplifting for me. He makes decisions carefully with his family and the Lord in mind.

So even though my dad only comes to church with us for special occasions, and even though he doesn’t have the exact same beliefs as me, I wouldn’t ever wish he was any different. The more I see who my dad truly is, the more I love him and learn from him. The more I recognize his love for us and for the Lord, the more I want to marry someone just like him. For me, my dad has become one of the greatest examples I have in my life of who Jesus Christ would have us all become. My dad isn’t perfect yet, nor is anyone I know, but he is trying to make progress. His example is one I look up to every day of my life. And I wouldn’t change him for anything.

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The Greatest Decision of My Life

“Our purpose is to invite others to come unto Christ by helping them receive the restored Gospel through faith in Jesus Christ and His Atonement, repentance, baptism receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost and enduring tho the end.

Doctrine and Covenants Section 4: Now behold, a marvelous work is about to come forth among the children of men. Therefore, o ye that embark in the service of God, see that ye serve him with all your heart, might, mind and strength, that ye may stand blameless before God at the last day. Therefore, if ye have desires to serve God ye are called to the work. For behold, the field is white already to harvest; and lo, he that thrusteth in his sickle with his might, the same layeth up in store that he perisheth not, but bringeth salvation to his soul; and faith, hope, charity and love, with an eye single to the glory of God, qualify him for the work. Remember faith, virtue, knowledge, temperance, patience, brotherly kindness, godliness, charity, humility, diligence. Ask, and ye shall receive; knock and it shall be opened unto you. Amen.”

If you had come to the church building every week for any missionary meeting in the New Hampshire Manchester Mission, you would have heard at least 8-10 elders and sisters standing and reciting those words with excitement and valor.

Two years ago, I officially began the adventure that would change my life and who I am forever – I entered the Provo Missionary Training Center as a set-apart full-time servant of the Lord. But it really was about eight months before that when that adventure truly started. It wasn’t until October 6, 2012 that I realized how much I really wanted to serve a mission. Before that day, I hadn’t thought a whole lot about it. Not seriously anyway. I knew I wanted to help people be happier and I wanted to serve them, but it hadn’t clearly crossed my mind to do that by serving a full-time mission. However, when my brother was on his mission, it became a little more of a possible reality. Tyler influenced my desire to serve as he shared his own missionary experiences and showed improvement and progression as his testimony and conversion to the Gospel of Jesus Christ grew and strengthened him. He changed in ways that aren’t possible outside of serving the Lord with all your might, mind and strength. And that was something I wanted to see in myself. I also loved hearing the stories of how sharing the Gospel changed other people and brought them greater joy and peace in their everyday lives. So, the day came where I realized I’d already made my decision to serve.

It was in the morning session of the October 2012 General Conference – the session where announcements (like new temples) are usually made. I was satisfied as President Monson announced that there would be two new temples built in Arizona and Peru. I settled down to listen to the rest of conference, ready to receive inspiration that I would need in the coming weeks and months. I was not disappointed.

“Brothers and sisters, I now turn to another matter—namely, missionary service. For some time the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles have allowed young men from certain countries to serve at the age of 18 when they are worthy, able, have graduated from high school, and have expressed a sincere desire to serve. This has been a country-specific policy and has allowed thousands of young men to serve honorable missions and also fulfill required military obligations and educational opportunities. Our experience with these 18-year-old missionaries has been positive. Their mission presidents report that they are obedient, faithful, mature, and serve just as competently as do the older missionaries who serve in the same missions. Their faithfulness, obedience, and maturity have caused us to desire the same option of earlier missionary service for all young men, regardless of the country from which they come. I am pleased to announce that effective immediately all worthy and able young men who have graduated from high school or its equivalent, regardless of where they live, will have the option of being recommended for missionary service beginning at the age of 18, instead of age 19. I am not suggesting that all young men will—or should—serve at this earlier age. Rather, based on individual circumstances as well as upon a determination by priesthood leaders, this option is now available.”

My jaw dropped in disbelief and I braced myself – when I look back on this experience, I have no doubt that I already knew what was coming next:

“As we have prayerfully pondered the age at which young men may begin their missionary service, we have also given consideration to the age at which a young woman might serve. Today I am pleased to announce that able, worthy young women who have the desire to serve may be recommended for missionary service beginning at age 19, instead of age 21.”

My cereal bowl almost went flying across the room, but I managed to set it down before I started screaming with excitement and jumping up and down. I scared my roommate in the next room with this burst of craziness and basically shouted at her what had just happened, declaring in the process that I could serve a mission now instead of waiting until I’d graduated college. As soon as those words were out of my mouth, I knew that’s what was going to happen. I immediately texted my mom and best friend to tell them that I was going on a mission, and I could hardly believe what had just happened. After the session, I called my mom and dad and explained what was going on. I wanted to get my papers started that week and go immediately, but I decided to wait until the end of the school year. And what an inspired decision that was! I truly believe that Heavenly Father watches out for us, and I completely and 100% believe in the beauty of God’s timing.

Until that moment, I had no idea how badly I wanted to serve a mission. Like I said before, it had never really been a priority or actual reality. But I can say that it was the best decision I’ve made so far in life. It hasn’t been easy preparing or serving or coming home, but every step has been completely worth it. I had obstacles that made it difficult to remember why I wanted to serve or even to remember how strong my answer was during that Conference. When I received my call, I was terrified of being disappointed. I wanted to go foreign, and I let my hopes get up too high. Most people gather their family and friends around and record their reaction when they first open their call letter. Not me. That official white envelope sat on my bed for an hour while I stared at it, prayed, studied scriptures and prayed some more. I knew just by looking at it that it was stateside but I also knew it was a call from the Lord and that it would be wherever I was needed most. My talents and experiences would give me what I needed to best serve the people wherever I was sent in the world. I finally opened it by myself in my room. I’d been called to New Hampshire.

I will admit there was still some disappointment, but I immediately had it confirmed to me that it was where I was supposed to go. My friends and family were so excited for me. Over the next couple weeks, I realized that I was happy I wasn’t going foreign and that if I were to choose myself, that was probably the mission I would’ve chosen anyway. Throughout that time of preparation, during my entire mission, and even now, six months after returning home, I still receive the same confirmation. I touched lives of people who needed to hear my story. I was touched by each of them. It became a great honor to serve the people of New England. The history – both U.S. and Church histories – that is a part of New England is now a part of me. I walked in the footsteps of Joseph Smith. I walked in the place where this dispensation started. I walked in places where it was made possible for us to freely worship our Heavenly Father.

But more importantly, I also learned that no matter where you serve in the world, full-time or not, you are in exactly the place that the Lord needs you to be. None of us will ever realize how great an influence we’ve had on the people around us until we are in the next life. The prophet Abinadi in the Book of Mormon was commanded by the Lord to go to the city where Noah was a wicked king and preach repentance to the people there. I’m not sure Abinadi thought anyone would be converted or changed very much since he’d been there before and been kicked out, but he had faith in God. So he went. He was brought before King Noah and the wicked priests and he said the words given to him by the Lord. For preaching against what the people wanted, Abinadi was put to death – burned at the stake. He testified until the very end. It seemed that in a city full of wicked people, Abinadi’s words hadn’t done much good. But there was one priest named Alma who’s heart was open and he accepted what had been taught by the prophet. He ran from King Noah and eventually gathered hundreds of people where he taught the words he’d heard from Abinadi. The people were baptized and lived as followers of Jesus Christ. The Church of Jesus Christ was built up and generations were blessed all because of the efforts of one man – a faithful servant of God. Abinadi went where he was told, whether he wanted to or not, because he knew that God had a plan. He may not have known what would happen at the time, but I’m sure he knows now what a great and marvelous work he did to build up the kingdom of God.

Mosiah 2:17 says “And behold, I tell you these things that ye may learn wisdom; that ye may learn that when ye are in the service of your fellow beings ye are only in the service of your God.” Lift is a Mormon Message about a woman with MS who needs the help of the people in her ward. At first, it was difficult for them and they wondered how long they’d have to serve her. But as they opened their hearts and recognized that they were serving God by serving this woman, they came to love the service and recognize the blessings that came.

I want to be more like Abinadi. I want to be like these men. I want to serve the people around me no matter where I’m at, no matter how hard it might be. And I know that that’s not going to happen unless I seek and ask for those opportunities, then act on the answers and direction I receive. Heavenly Father loves each of us. He wants us to share the truths that we know so we can all receive the blessings He has to offer.

Now, as I share my own testimony and missionary experiences and show improvement and progression as my testimony and conversion to the Gospel of Jesus Christ grow and strengthen me, I hope to be an influence in at least one person’s life the way my brother is an influence in mine. I have changed in ways that aren’t possible outside of serving the Lord with all my might, mind and strength. But that change isn’t going to stay if I stop giving service and doing all I can to bring others to the truth. I served for 18 months of my life doing exactly that, but just because I’m no longer a set-apart full-time missionary doesn’t mean I can’t still serve the Lord every chance I get. There is nothing more important in this world than bringing others closer to Jesus Christ and sharing the good news of His Gospel. 

“My purpose is to invite others to come unto Christ by helping them receive the restored Gospel through faith in Jesus Christ and His Atonement, repentance, baptism receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost and enduring tho the end.

Doctrine and Covenants Section 4: Now behold, a marvelous work is about to come forth among the children of men. Therefore, o ye that embark in the service of God, see that ye serve him with all your heart, might, mind and strength, that ye may stand blameless before God at the last day. Therefore, if ye have desires to serve God ye are called to the work. For behold, the field is white already to harvest; and lo, he that thrusteth in his sickle with his might, the same layeth up in store that he perisheth not, but bringeth salvation to his soul; and faith, hope, charity and love, with an eye single to the glory of God, qualify him for the work. Remember faith, virtue, knowledge, temperance, patience, brotherly kindness, godliness, charity, humility, diligence. Ask, and ye shall receive; knock and it shall be opened unto you. Amen.”

Departing Missionaries from the New Hampshire Manchester Mission, December 2014

Departing Missionaries from the New Hampshire Manchester Mission in front of the Boston Temple, December 2014