Here I am on the eve of my mission and I am feeling a lot of emotions. I especially feel grateful to my Heavenly Father for helping me get to this place in my life. It hasn't always been easy, but He has always been there for me. I'm also grateful for all those who have helped me along the way, both family and friends (you know who you are :) ). I'm also excited to finally get to Spain and meet my friends there. And yes, there's a bit of sadness at leaving friends and my family (esp. the littlest ones) and of trepidation - it'll be a big change, and a very long plane ride, but that will soon be behind me. I KNOW I am doing what the Lord wants me to do, and that makes all the difference.
To go back to my MTC experience, to top off Elder Andersen and President Uckdorf, Tuesday Elder Dallin H. Oaks and Sister Oaks came to speak. I was very touched to hear Sister Oaks - she cares so much about the missionaries that she came to speak, even though her mother is on her death bed. As she said, "This church is true! And if someone asks you how you know, you can just say because Sister Oaks told me so!" She also gave a few pieces of advice: 1) We are not alone - angels attend us. Don't be too tired or discouraged! Be humble and faithful, keeping the spirit of the Lord. Don't turn away from the still small voice - it will guide you. 2) Be persistent! Life is a calling - what you make of it is up to you. You will make mistakes - use the atonement and never give up! 3) This is our time to unplug. When you go back home, make sure you leave time to listen to the Holy Spirit. and 4) Love your companions (there were knowing looks and a few snickers between the seniors at that one). She urged us to cultivate Christ-like attributes, then bore her testimony of the truthfulness of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I was very impressed by her - a great lady for sure.
Then Elder Oaks spoke, calling us his "fellow missionaries" :) and in true Elder Oaks fashion, clearly and plainly outlined our purpose: to 1) Proclaim the doctrine of Christ, 2) Establish the Church, and 3) Affirm and demonstrate with our actions the need to press forward and endure to the end in order to gain eternal life. To do this, he challenged the younger missionaries as they transitioned from teen to mature missionaries. Most apply to those of us a year or two out of our teen years too :) I'm sending this to my son, Elder Nielson, so I'm going to be as complete as I can...
1) Challenge to change. Break free of prior patterns, work hard, use time effectively, and shed bad habits.
2) Challenge to achieve specific skills and particular responsibilities (learning the gospel, perhaps a language, learning to teach many different kinds of people, and preparing and giving effective talks).
3) Challenge to BECOME. To become a missionary is more than just doing - you need to have a "mighty change of heart", become truly converted, and become what Heavenly Father wants us to become.
If you're doubting, be of good cheer; as President Monson said, who the Lord calls, the Lord qualifies! It won't be easy, but it will be possible. Desire what is right, and ask/pray for help. Labor diligently that you may be perfected in your ministry (D&C 88:84). You need faith and performance as a missionary (which comes from US! Our heart, where you are, how well you've prepared).
The Savior is the Ultimate Good who paid for the ultimate evil of all the sin in the world. Offer all you can offer. We're not here to be thanked, but to serve. Learn doctrine, and how to keep alive (like how to cook), but first you need vision; you need to see the big picture, who you are, and what you are called to do. You are Sons and Daughters of God! Royalty! Don't get bogged down in the little things. Keep your eye on your calling, which is to introduce righteousness and the laws of heaven on earth, and to bless and save the people on the earth, both living and dead. You are here for the salvation of mankind! Pray for this vision and for understanding.
Elder Oak's council:
1) Physical Health: Take care of yourself! Think safety, nutrition, physical exercise, take your medications if needed, and follow the safety rules to prevent accidents. We need to do all that we can do before depending on the Lord's help.
2) Instruments in His hands: Alma 17. Have no desire than to do His will. Do His work and do it in His way!
3) Prepare yourself to act in His service:
- Keep yourself clean and worthy. Keep the commandments and obey your leaders.
- Study the scriptures.
- Be intense and consistent in your prayers for assistance.
- Keep away from pornography, course language, loud music, etc.
- Honor and listen to your two lines of communication with your Heavenly Father, your personal line, and your priesthood line (through which you are guided and directed). Be worthy and obedient so that you can be taught and directed.
4) Remember who you are! (No silly pranks.)
5) Work to establish the church. This isn't measured by baptisms (although they are important), which is an incomplete measure. Think of this in all of your activities: teaching, retaining, and reactivating.
6) Teach and testify. Brigham Young said that only a testimony brings light, knowledge, and repentance. Carefully prepare and learn the principals of the restored gospel. Act under the Spirit. Use the language that fits the needs of each individual investigator. Teaching must be individualized, in the order they need them to be.
7) Get commitments. Sometimes you need to lovingly leave those who aren't really interested
8) Nurture. Teach them to study pray, pay tithing, and go to church each Sabbath day. Help converts and immature converts especially to overcome addictions (which takes several months to totally overcome).
Conversion is not an event, it is a process that is ongoing throughout our and their lives.
This is "The only True and Living Church", but that doesn't mean being arrogant, nor that God loves members more, nor that there is no truth elsewhere. It is "true and living" because it has the fullness of His doctrine and the power of His priesthood, needed to bestow the Gift of the Holy Ghost and other ordinances. It is also a unique testimony of Jesus Christ.
Then Elder Oaks went over some of the lessons, specifically the fullness of doctrine, Priesthood authority, and his testimony of Christ and His relationship to Heavenly Father and us. Christ is the Savior who cleanses us and is the source of strength to bear the burdens and infirmities of this life.
Remember the fundamentals of the church are embodied in Christ. We are the followers of Christ and we are His servants. Work and testify in His name!
I absolutely love the MTC - it was a great experience and I'm already plotting my return ;). I learned a lot, made a lot of good friends, and absolutely feasted on the strong spirit there. Like I've said before, I highly recommend it!
So - next post will be on the other side of the ocean! Have a good one!