Sunday, May 20, 2012

Follow the Spirit (My Homecoming Report)

After being home for almost the equivalent of another transfer, I've posted my homecoming talk. I never had a script for my talk, just notes, so it's not exactly the same, but it tried to express the same ideas. In any case, these are some of the most important things I learned while serving as a full-time missionary.

When I left on my mission I was blessed to “return safely with an even stronger testimony.” I would like to share how my testimony of the gospel of Jesus Christ was strengthened through experiences on my mission using principles we can all apply.

I’ve learned that the most important thing we can ever do in our lives is follow the Spirit, because it is through the Spirit that we can receive individual help with the problems we face. In Preach My Gospel it states, “You will succeed in your work as you learn to receive and follow personal revelation,” so I really tried to understand how the Spirit works. I felt like Elder Scott was a mentor for me on my mission. Since he speaks a lot about the Spirit, I studied his words frequently and carefully. I was so blessed to listen to him speak at the MTC and I tried to apply his words throughout my mission. He said, “Spiritual guidance is direction, enlightenment, knowledge and motivation you receive from Jesus Christ through the Holy Spirit. It is personalized instruction adapted to your individual needs by One who understands them perfectly. Spiritual guidance is a gift of incomparable worth bestowed upon those who seek it, live worthy of it, and express gratitude for it.”

The first thing I learned about personal revelation on my mission is that prayer is more than talking to God, it’s talking with Him. My dear companion Sister Brownell taught me that principle through example. As we finished companionship prayer before going to bed she would often turn to me and say, “You know what I thought of during the prayer?...” and then go on to say how we could help an individual, or something we needed to remember to do, or even a nice compliment. Many times it didn’t have much to do with what we were actually praying about, but it would always be meaningful and relevant and many times sparked a conversation that helped us deal with particular issues at hand. I decided to follow her example and listen more during prayer, not just to the words, but to any feelings or thoughts that came to mind, and write them down, no matter how irrelevant they seemed. I never felt more like I was talking with Heavenly Father than I did when I listened and wrote my impressions while praying.

Some of my most spiritually intense experiences were in response to acting on those specific impressions I had received through prayer. I remember one really hard time when I was crying on my bed at night. Sister Brownell was so sweet and sat on my bed comforting me. I felt out of touch and was wondering what I could do to get back in tune. Sister Brownell asked, “Well, what are you going to do about it?” and I replied, “I don’t know.” But then a thought popped into my mind, find a scripture for Lu Jie Mei (one of our investigators at the time). I wrote that down and immediately felt calm. I kept thinking about what else I could do to help our investigators, and I received very specific instruction and felt very peaceful. I learned from that experience that sometimes we think we’re more lost than we actually are, and if we’ll listen to and act on even the tiniest thought (especially when it has to do with serving someone else), we can get right back in tune.

I soon learned the importance of putting those impressions into action. My dad, in one of his letters to me, shared a line from President Uchtdorf’s talk in the April 2011 Priesthood Session, which has become one of my mottos: “Turn your DO IT switch to the NOW position.” I also love Elder Scott’s similar words. “When you have been prompted by the Spirit to do something, inherent in that prompting is the assurance that you will be able to do it.” Promptings are not to be delayed. When Sister Brownell and I put all the impressions we wrote down into action, miracles started happening almost faster than we could take them! I literally felt my burdens being carried by the Lord. I remember one time kneeling in prayer and thinking, this must be what “Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden. Take my yoke upon you, ...for my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” feels like (Matthew 11:28-30). It was the busiest and most intense part of my mission, but it was not stressful.

Additionally I learned that when things come to and press on your mind, you should take care of it NOW. Don’t let it weigh on your mind anymore. So many times we have thoughts, “Oh, yeah, I’ve been wanting to call so-and-so,” or “I’ve always been meaning to do that.” Those thoughts, though seemingly insignificant or trivial enough to procrastinate are precisely the impressions that answer other people’s prayers, or even your own. I know when we write impressions down and put them into action NOW, that is when miracles happen.

I know sometimes when we feel we’re giving all we can, our trials still seem to be overwhelming and we may feel abandoned. At our Departing Missionary Devotional, each missionary shared their testimony and one Sister’s testimony expressed exactly my feelings at times during my mission. This is applicable to mothers who are weary or anyone who may not be feeling the Lord’s love and sustaining influence at the time. “There was a time when all I wanted was to feel the comforting power of the Atonement, to bear me up, to bind my wounds. I was pleading for it on my knees and in my heart daily but I wasn’t feeling it. Then I felt even more like a failure because I couldn’t feel it! But after a period of time I came to an epiphany: Christ had been by my side the whole way, not lifting me out of my troubles or binding my wounds, but giving me the strength and encouragement to get through it.” I learned more than anything that no matter what we’re feeling at the time, Christ is always there. I learned that there really are angels on your right hand and your left to bear you up. Trust in that, even when it seems they’re not there.

Through these experiences and many others, I have gained an undeniable witness of the truth of the Gospel. I know without a shadow of a doubt that Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ are always there, listening, and responding through the quiet whispers of the Holy Ghost. I know that when we put those feelings into action we can be perfectly in tune with what the Lord would have us do and experience great joy. He loves us. He has given us the fullness of the Gospel, restored by Joseph Smith so we can have a clear path to eternal happiness. Let us always seek to follow the Spirit, who will help us resolve our personal challenges and lead us to know how to give meaningful service to those around us. I know these things are true, in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

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