As of today, March 21st, I have officially been on my mission for 5 months! I'm still a pretty new missionary compared to a lot of people I am serving with, but I feel like 5 months is a huge accomplishment. I have learned a ton, so for this week, I wanted to write about the top 5 things I have learned on my mission so far.
1- Always have the Savior's Name on Your Lips.
I feel like this one is so obvious, but it is so true. We can talk about any gospel topic- the Plan of Salvation, the 10 commandments, family history, even the scriptures, but nothing can bring the Spirit into a conversation like testifying of our Savior, Jesus Christ. He is the center of our message and our work, and the reason why we are doing this in the first place! (Look up the song "There is a Reason" by Alison Krauss)
2- The Importance and the Reality of the Restoration.
A few weeks ago we had the opportunity to go to a regional conference for a bunch of the western states. One of the talks we heard was from Elder Renlund, an Apostle. His whole talk was about how you can relate anything to the gospel, and to the restoration of the gospel. He gave a bunch of examples, and it really got me thinking, and I started to realize how truly important the restoration is. We had the truth on the earth a long time ago. The Savior was here, and He established His church, the way He wanted it to be. He gave His apostles the Priesthood--the power of God--to perform miracles and saving ordinances like baptism, with God's permission.
After He was killed, and all of His apostles were rejected and killed as well, that power was gone. It was lost from the earth. Sure, people still had the scriptures and the teachings of Jesus Christ, and a lot of people were still doing their best to follow him, but over time the Gospel became like a puzzle. People would get one or two pieces of the gospel and form a church around it. Churches were popping up everywhere, people doing their best to follow Jesus Christ with what they had. But nobody had that ability to put the whole puzzle back together without that all important missing piece, the Priesthood. That is, until one day in 1820, when a young boy asked a question.
I saw the power of the First Vision last night in a lesson. We had received the name and address of a young single mother, Emma, from some of the English missionaries who had knocked on her door. They said she was very sweet but didn't know much English. We went to meet her last night, and started getting to know her, and sharing with each other about what we believe. We started sharing the message of the restoration, but something felt off. It seemed like the lesson was kind of rocky, we were struggling with our Spanish, we were tired, etc. But then we got to the First Vision. Hna D started reading the First Vision in Joseph Smith's own words, and a powerful spirit entered the room. Suddenly, I could speak Spanish again, I wasn't tired, and Emma began to cry. She said "I never knew this story before..." she told us she has been Catholic her whole life and felt like there was so much missing and she didn't understand. Think about all the things we have now because the full gospel is restored to the earth! The Priesthood, the authority to baptize, the temples, the Book of Mormon, modern prophets, etc. The list goes on and on, and it is truly amazing. My favorite part of the first vision is at the end when he says "calling me by my name" Heavenly Father knew Joseph Smith, just this random 14 year old kid in New York. He knew him, and He knows each one of us, individually. It's amazing.
3-The Power of Charity.
Charity, as probably a lot of us already know, is the pure love of Christ. I have definitely seen its power these last 5 months. The more charity I develop, the easier it gets. Before my mission there is no way I would have or could have done the things I do here! I wouldn't go inside disgusting houses, I wouldn't keep talking to someone who was smoking or using foul language, I wouldn't stop to talk to random strangers on the street! But I do! Because I am starting to understand just a little bit, the worth of every single soul in the sight of God. (D&C 18:10) I'm starting to feel just a teeny bit of the love that Jesus Christ feels for them. One of my all-time favorite scriptures is 2 Corinthians, 4:6-10. That last part, where it talks about how not only his death (which by the way was the most important thing to ever happen, ever) can be made manifest, or testified, through us, but also His life. We can show that perfect Christ like love to others. Being on a mission is HARD, okay? Like walking miles and miles every day, knocking on doors, missing your family, sometimes working with other missionaries you don't get along with, etc. The only way to make it through is with Charity. (Look up "The hardest thing I ever loved to do" by Nashville Tribute Band)
4- It's not about Me.
This one kind of goes along with Charity, but it is specifically something that has been huge for me. I never thought I was really selfish or anything before my mission, but now that I am here, I am becoming more and more selfless all the time. Sometimes even just writing these emails or writing in my journal is hard because I actually have to stop and think about myself for a minute. Now, don't get me wrong, I am most definitely not perfect, I mean, I'm still only 20. I'm still right in the middle of that "decade of decisions" when people tend to be very self-centered, but I've noticed how unimportant it really all is. I am not here for me. If I was, I probably would have gone home by now. I am here for Heavenly Father, and for others to share this happiness with them. Even my picture wall is getting less selfish! I keep taking down pictures that I am in, and replacing them with pics of other people. It’s funny, the little things that you never knew were a problem, and aren't even bad, but how you can still improve anything. (Like that talk about Character of Christ by Elder Bednar).
5- The Atonement is for REAL.
I was reading in the Bible dictionary this morning about the word "atonement". It pointed out that the word "atone" is a combo of the words at and one. Atone= at one with HF again. Through the atonement of Jesus Christ- meaning His suffering and death in Gethsemane and on the Cross, we can overcome literally anything. It's not just for sins! It's for everything! Our pains, our sadness, our illnesses, our weaknesses, literally everything. There's this line in Preach my Gospel that I LOVE. "Everything that is unfair in this world can be made up through the atonement of Jesus Christ". Isn't that just amazing? It's so hard to believe sometimes. I have worked with so many investigators that seemed so beyond help. In the world's view they were a lost cause. They were an addict, a convict, a sinner, terminally ill, etc. But NOTHING is too far for Jesus Christ's reach.
I can't believe 5 months has already passed. Sometimes it seems like I just left yesterday. At the same time, sometimes I think about home and it seems like years ago. I am so grateful for all the amazing experiences I have already seen, and for this opportunity to share the teachings of Jesus Christ to others who are lost or confused. I can't wait for the next 13 months!
I love and miss you all so much. Don't forget to pray and read and go to church. CPR Saves physical lives and spiritual lives! CHURCH PRAY READ. The real key to success in this life. It's that simple people.
And now...my 5 favorite pictures from my mission so far!