As I reflect on these past 2 years of my life, I am left with a heart so full of gratitude, feeling, and love. Yet my heart feels empty at the same time because I feel like I need to wear this plaque for a life time and more to learn and become what the Lord would have me learn and become. I would find it very difficult to tell each of you what I have learned in my mission because I have learned something new each and every day. But I can express 6 things that that I have felt. They are 6 things that I believe every missionary to have ever served, is serving, or will serve in the future felt, feels, and will come to feel.1- I have truly felt over these past two years that I have been more blessed that any other existing human being alive for simply being permitted to wear Jesus Christ's name on my heart. "And if they desire to take upon themselves my name with full purpose of heart, they are called to go into all the world to preach my gospel unto every creature" (D&C 18:28). There is no greater calling that the calling to be a representative of the Savior of all mankind and put His name over your heart. I often feel like this white shirt is His white robe. Sometimes I think of my tie as His shepherd's staff and this plaque as if it were His very hand and His very own heart touching the lives of others. What a blessing it is to be permitted to be His hands and help others to feel His heart and His perfect love. WE ARE HIS REPRESENTATIVES.
3- Alma, as a missionary, "labored much" and "prayed mightily" but the people still "hardened their hearts". He was reviled, spit upon, and cast out. He was "weighed down with sorrow, wading through much tribulation and anguish of soul". Despite "laboring much" and "crying out in mighty prayer" my soul too has been tormented from time to time. The mocking is real. Being spitted upon and cast out really does happen. My being weighed down with sorrow has often times led me to my knees at night only to bathe my pillow with my tears. But despite the rejecting, the spitting, and the anguish..."behold, an angel of the Lord appeared unto him (Alma)". I promise that the tribulation will come as a missionary...but along with the tribulation will always come an angel. I have been blessed with so many miracles in my life over these past two years. Angels, or divine miracles from God's loving grace, have attended me since day one of this journey. WE WILL NEVER FAIL TO RECEIVE HEAVENLY HELP.
4- "Therefore what say ye, my sons, will ye go against them to battle? And now I say unto you, my beloved brother Moroni, that never had I seen so great courage, nay, not amongst all the Nephites.
For as I had ever called them my sons (for they were all of them very young) even so they said unto me: Father, behold our God is with us, and he will not suffer that we should fall; then let us go forth; we would not slay our brethren if they would let us alone; therefore let us go, lest they should overpower the army of Antipus.
Now they never had fought, yet they did not fear death; and they did think more upon the liberty of their fathers than they did upon their lives; yea, they had been taught by their mothers, that if they did not doubt, God would deliver them.And they rehearsed unto me the words of their mothers, saying: We do not doubt our mothers knew it."
This group of "very young" men with "such great courage" teach us such a great message. They did not "think more upon the liberty of their fathers that their own lives" until they were to fight. They were also taught their entire lives by their mothers that "if they did not doubt, God would deliver them", but did not rehearse, believe, or love these words until they were tossed into battle. Every single missionary will come to "think more upon the liberty of their fathers than they do of their own lives" and will come to respect the sacrifices that were made by their father's. Each missionary will come to understand a little bit more of the love that their father's have towards them and will come to develop a love quite a bit more powerful towards their father's than they thought they had before.
Every missionary will come to KNOW that "their mothers knew it". That their mothers know just about all of it! The teachings, hugs, succors, and love of a mother really come to impact the heart and soul of a missionary and the love of a missionary towards his mother will grow to a more passionate and powerful love that is un-explainably deep. I have been able to come to love my family more than I ever thought possible although I am thousands of miles away. WE WILL DEVELOP A MORE POWERFUL LOVE FOR OUR FAMILIES.
5- In the second book of Nephi and in the 1 chapter, father Lehi exhorts to all that they should repent, keep the commandments, and believe in the Redeemer who was to come. That is the role of a missionary, is it not? Invite others to come unto Christ through faith in Him and obedience to His gospel teachings. But I love what Lehi comes to feel through completing his missionary duty because it is something that every missionary will come to feel as they preach repentance and exhort all to come unto Christ. "I have beheld his glory, and I am encircled about eternally in the arms of his love".
I make a promise to all youth preparing to serve a mission and to those who are still of age...if you desire to feel the Lord's loving arms holding you, succoring you, and protecting you...you will come to feel just that as you serve a mission. The Lord has never once failed to wipe my tears, hold my hand, hug me tight, or leave me forsaken. I have come to feel encircled about eternally in His arms. WE WILL FEEL HIS ETERNAL HUG.
6- "The carpenter stretcheth out his rule; he marketh it out with a line; he fitteth it with planes, and he marketh it out with the compass, and maketh it after the figure of a man, according to the beauty of a man; that it may remain in the house" (Isaiah 44:13). There are quite a few verbs used in this verse that explain to us just what a carpenter does to a worthless block of wood. Stretching, ruling, marking, lining, fitting, planing, compassing, directioning, making, and figuring. All of this was done to a piece of wood so that it could be made into "the figure of a man, according to the beauty of a man".
I testify that the Lord is our Carpenter. He stretches, rules, marks, lines, fits, planes, compasses, directs, makes, and figures missionaries...blocks of wood...into "the figures of men or women" that He desires us to become. A full time mission is His shop and the experiences within that mission are His tools to help us reach our potential as His children. Not only does He make us and form us into the earthly men or women that He would have us become. But He builds us "according to the beauty of man". The beauty of man is the perfection and glory of God, the Eternal Father and His Son, Jesus Christ. The mission will not only form us into the earthly men and women that God hopes for us to become...but a mission will form us into the eventual God that we are able to, one day, become. WE WILL BECOME WHAT GOD WANTS US TO BECOME.
Brothers and Sisters, my mission has been the best two years for my life. It will be the best 2 years or 1 1/2 for you as well.
I look forward to writing you all one last time next week. I love each and every one of you so much!