Sunday, January 19, 2014

Homecoming talk

"Attitude. A little thing that makes a big difference" That quote was painted on my wall for about 10 years. I woke up and looked at it every morning. I read it over and over and yet… I never really understood it until the mission. For those of you who knew me growing up, a mission was always something within my life plan. It was never really something I questioned. It was never something I doubted. It was just something I was going to do at one time in my life or another. I had always wanted to serve a mission. Day by day and moment by moment life took place. It had its ups and its downs. Slowly I began to approach the age in which the dream of serving a mission could become a reality. Each little triumph, as well as each tragedy preparing me for the journey that would lay ahead. Each little thing making a big difference. The moment finally arrived. It was finally here and I thought it was going to be so different from what it was. I thought the MTC was just a place where I learned how to teach. It's not. It's a conversion center. It's a place where if you begin the true conversion process for yourself. While there I learned things about myself that I never would have known had I not served. I learned new techniques of problem solving and I began to seriously study The Book of Mormon for the first time in my life. I had read it. I had thought I studied it but not in the same way. I learned that in order to help others come to Christ you have to be there yourself. Nothing major happened while I was at the MTC. Nothing life changing happened. Well… It didn't happen all at once. But my life was changed during those 6 weeks. Then comes my adventure into Iowa. I'll take from my journal an entry from the first day out into the real world. "today I woke up really early, got on the bus, got to the airport, and talked to my family on the phone. After I got on the plane and flew to Denver colorado where some amazing things happened. I sat down and began talking with this one young man. He didn't look like he was in the greatest moment of his life. He looked like he had struggled a lot. He was turning 19 in a week. He had dropped out of high school October of Sophomore year. He got involved in some drugs and alcohol early in his life and was currently going in and out of some different rehab programs. He had just received his 90 day sobriety chip. As we talked he opened up. He came to a point in his life where he felt lower than he ever had. He had reached what he saw was rock bottom, He needed to clean up his life and he was ready for change. I felt prompted to give him a Book of Mormon before he got on his plane. Urged him to read Alma 36 where a man named Alma, who had a similar past to this young boy, tells his son of how he straightened up his life and ended up becoming a powerful missionary." I don't know what happened later in his story. I don't know if he read the Book of Mormon or thought I was just some crazy religious person but I know that the story he told me has forever changed me. It's something I will always remember. Those little decisions he made got him to where he was and it would be little decision that would get him to the next stage of his life as well. Later on as I got assigned to my first area and began getting to know the people there another curveball was thrown my way. No more than 6 weeks in the mission field and health problems began to arise. My companion and I took it day by day. Some days were better than others. Each day when I wasn't in pain I saw as a blessing. It was my tender mercy of the day. The little things that make a big difference. While in this area I had the opportunity to meet a lot of amazing families. Many from this branch were either converts themselves or they were closely related to the convert in their family. Often times the conversion story began with a story like "Life wasn't going the way I had planned and then everything changed." One brother had gone to a lot of different churches looking for one that he liked and couldn't find one until one day he walked into an LDS chapel and someone was talking about agency, or the ablility to choose. A little thing that made him continue to listen. Eventually it lead to him getting baptized and then later introducing his wife to the gospel, her getting baptized, and eventually them getting sealed in the temple. Another family I got really close with. The husband's family came into the church at a very young age. The wife had just been baptized a few years before. They had a beautiful daughter and when I met them, had another on the way. They had wanted to keep coming to church but life just got in the way. When the drive to church is 45 minutes one way and you have a toddler to get ready for 9am church sometimes it's hard to see the point. They kept meaning to come. They kept meaning to have scripture study… but.. it just never seemed to happen. It was just those little things that kept getting in the way. Until one day when everything finally clicked. Their daughter, only 3 years old, kept telling her mom that she wanted to go to church and would pick out a dress on Friday that she could wear on Sunday. They made it to church for the first time right after their second daughter was born and that began the process. We helped them download things like Children's scripture stories to their ipad. And told them ways that they could study their scriptures. Helped them realize that even reading one verse a day will slowly change their lives. Since then, things haven't been easy for them, but they are sticking with it. They are trying their hardest to keep doing the little things because now they realize that the little things become the big things. While I was out I was blessed to have some amazing leadership. From teachers at the MTC to Mission presidents and everything in between. Because of the health challenges that I faced I was also blessed to receive quite a few priesthood blessings. I knew they were powerful before the mission but I can now say without a doubt that I know that they are in fact Heavenly Father talking to His children directly. I am so grateful for Priesthood leaders who were worthy to hold the priesthood and who responded to the promptings of the spirit. Who listened as they gave me the blessings. It was during those times that I knew more than ever that I was on the right path. That the little things I was doing were the little things that built up the path of where I needed to be. Every blessing that I received had one thing in common. It was the subject of my farewell talk, and it was one of the biggest lessons that I learned while I was out on the mission. It was that of the Atonement of Jesus Christ. As a young missionary, Elder Orson F. Whitney, who later served as one of the 12 apostles, had a dream that forever changed his life. This dream explains more fully something that I couldn't put into my own words. He says"One night I dreamed … that I was in the Garden of Gethsemane, a witness of the Savior's agony. … I stood behind a tree in the foreground. … Jesus, with Peter, James, and John, came through a little wicket gate at my right. Leaving the three Apostles there, after telling them to kneel and pray, He passed over to the other side, where He also knelt and prayed … : 'Oh my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless not as I will but as Thou wilt.'

"As He prayed the tears streamed down His face, which was [turned] toward me. I was so moved at the sight that I wept also, out of pure sympathy with His great sorrow. My whole heart went out to Him. I loved Him with all my soul and longed to be with Him as I longed for nothing else. "Presently He arose and walked to where those Apostles were kneeling —fast asleep! He shook them gently, awoke them, and in a tone of tender reproach, without the least show of anger or scolding, asked them if they could not watch with Him one hour. … "Returning to His place, He prayed again and then went back and found them again sleeping. Again He awoke them, admonished them, and returned and prayed as before. Three times this happened, until I was perfectly familiar with His appearance —face, form, and movements. He was of noble stature and of majestic mien … the very God that He was and is, yet as meek and lowly as a little child. "All at once the circumstance seemed to change. … Instead of before, it was after the Crucifixion, and the Savior, with those three Apostles, now stood together in a group at my left. They were about to depart and ascend into heaven. I could endure it no longer. I ran from behind the tree, fell at His feet, clasped Him around the knees, and begged Him to take me with Him. "I shall never forget the kind and gentle manner in which He stooped and raised me up and embraced me. It was so vivid, so real that I felt the very warmth of His bosom against which I rested. Then He said: 'No, my son; these have finished their work, and they may go with me; but you must stay and finish yours.' Still I clung to Him. Gazing up into His face—for He was taller than I—I besought Him most earnestly: 'Well, promise me that I will come to You at the last.' He smiled sweetly and tenderly and replied: 'That will depend entirely upon yourself.' I awoke with a sob in my throat, and it was morning." As He suffered the most agonizing thing anyone will ever suffer, His best friends slept. No little thing and yet… His response. So gentle, so kind, so loving. A little thing that shows His character. Later Judas, someone who should have been one of His closest friends, betrays Him with a kiss on the forehead for 30 pieces of silver. In the process, one of the men trying to take Christ gets his ear cut off with a sword and Jesus heals him. A little thing that once again, shows His character. That even though He had just gone through the worst things He could have possibly endured, He still turned outward and helped those who hurt Him. Over time, the little things in our lives shape our character. Little things make up the whole. The grass doesn't spring up full grown by eruption. It rises up and increases as noiselessly and gently as not to disturb an angel's ear. The rain does not fall in masses, but in drops. The planets do not leap in their orbits but inch by inch, line by line, they circle their orbits. Intellect, feeling, habit, character all become what they are through the influence of little things. In morals and religion it is by little things; little actions, that everyone of us is going. not by leaps, but by inches to reach our eternal goals. In order to reach the goals Christ has for us, we must be obedient to the prophetic teachings Christ would have us follow. Don't rationalize away future happiness by taking shortcuts instead of applying sound gospel principles. Remember little things lead to big things. Seemingly insignificant indiscretions or neglect can lead to big problems. More importantly however, simple, consistent, good habits, lead to a life full of bountiful blessings. I know that by small and simple means are great things brought to pass.