Sunday, May 27, 2012

Never To Forget

Today I got my first adult church calling! I had given myself a cut off date to stop going to the Young Women's meetings, because if I didn't I knew I would never stop going. Now I have the great opportunity of teaching the Sunbeam class with my good friend, Matilda. It's going to be a new experience, but I am ready for it. Even though I am leaving the Young Womens I know that I will always need the lessons learned from it. Though I am an "adult" I will always carry my Strength of Youth and Personal Progress with me.

Unlike High School I wasn't eager to leave. With High School I was counting the days until graduation, making summer plans (working), and was just ready to never again walk the hallways of my school. This was different. Though High School has given me a foundation in a working and technical knowledge the church Young Womens program has given me much more. The knowledge that god loves me, my divine nature, how to have true benevolence, how to love, teach, be worthy to enter into the temple, and so much more. These are the lessons I will never forget.

Young Womens is why I am strong person. I know that even when faced with the hardships of life I can always trust in the Lord!

I always remember the awesome youth I have spent the last six years of my life with. I will remember the lessons I've learned from them and my leaders. I have been so blessed to have the leaders I have had.

I will miss laughing,  crying, singing, learning, dancing, and just being weird with them. They are my family and they are never to forget!

[insert cute picture of us that I currently don't have.]

Sunday, May 20, 2012

The Best Two Years

It's a guest! This is my brother Jonathan who recently returned from a two year mission for my church!

Durn near forgot to write this for my sister! (yes, yes, he did)
I served a 2 year mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints from March 2010 – March 2012. I was privileged to serve in San Bernardino California, which at first was a big disappointment. My ancestry hails from the Islands of Samoa and the Far East country of China. My father served in South Korea. Anyone for bets on where I wanted to go? Points in SoCal’s favor = My uncle served there 30+ years ago. Not a whole lot to take pride, but I eventually got excited about going. There was just one slight problem………. I didn’t have a testimony of my own. That’s not to say I didn’t believe that Christ is our Savior or that the Book of Mormon is scripture, but as for knowing without a doubt? Nada, zilch, zero. Let me give you a mental picture: We will compare a testimony to a length, let’s say Inches. Now “knowing with a surety” is somewhere around a yard, so 36 inches. My testimony was hanging around 10- 12 inches. Just enough to stay in the game, but nowhere near where it should be.

So of to the Missionary Training Center I go with this noticeable lack of testimony stature. Amazing feelings of the Spirit there, especially when I participated in the choir. If you care to, read Alma 32 and see what Alma tells us about how faith is like a seed. Well that is exactly what I was feeling as I learned how to be a servant of the Lord! As the time to go to our respective mission fields neared we were doing an activity that involved us asking what we term “Questions of the Soul”, you know like “Will I be with my family in the next life?” and ”Does God know me personally?”. Our opposite number would sit back, listen to the Holy Ghost for a minute or two, open up the scriptures, and answer the question. What I asked is very personal to me, so I won’t share it, but let me say that it was worded in such a vague manner so that Elder Seeley wouldn’t know what I was talking about. When he answered, it was with the power and authority of one speaking with the Holy Spirit, and knowing exactly what I was talking about and how to answer it with the Book of Mormon. I had also been touched earlier by Elder Jackson’s account of how he went hunting and took a copy of the Book of Mormon and prayed for himself to know if it was true. I realized at that moment that I had never put forth my own honest effort to ask God if it was true and that I couldn’t go to the people of San B to share this wonderful message and not really be sure of it myself.

If you think I’m to the part where I proclaim that I went to a secluded point and prayed in great earnestness and received a knowledge of these things and went forth and preached mightily to the ghettos and slums and converted hundreds, nay, even thousands, then you are in for a big letdown. I did pray about and get an answer, but my testimony still had plenty of growing to do.

Among many things learned is that 1) when the Lord wants you in a new area it’s rather useless to be petulant about it, and I got moved a lot. Gradually came the realization that the Lord knows all things (Duh!) and would know better than I (retard) where I would be most needed. 2) It’s easier to follow the rule book than to emulate the Savior’s example. There are some who believe that paramount above all other things is Obedience, with a thought process that if you do not follow the white handbook to a T then you are a bad missionary. Really people? Jesus didn’t follow the rule the rule book to a T either, instead following a higher standard, and that is what we are called as saints to do! So this is the path I chose, although not even close to being so successful. 3) And one of the most important! No matter the pain and the shame that comes of it, repenting is always worth it! I have, since I can remember, always

had a problem with ‘fessing up to whatever wrong I had accomplished and making it right. Yet I saw the people I taught do exactly that and describe to me the joy and the freedom it gave them to know that they were clean. That same feeling I wanted for so long. I still have a problem making right my mistakes, but I still shoulder on in the hopes that soon, I will conquer my personal pride.

A mission is not just about the people that you serve and teach. It is also a journey of self-discovery and evolution of talents you already possess. I worked at a BSA summer camp for several years before going on a mission, and so had a good set of teaching skills already. Although that’s what I based my teaching style off of, I always sought ways to improve and progress them so that I could be as good as the Lord saw me to be. You also find out that your character grows immensely. I had this epiphany near the end of my mission when one of the brethren from the Ward I was serving in used this example during a Youth Education seminar. He had the blank outlines of flags and explained that in Medieval times knights would have on their shields and standards what they thought best reflected or represented them. Things such as a Lion to show bravery, books to show that they were scholarly, or maybe a fife or lute to show musical talent. At any rate, as I mentally drew my own I looked back on my life and saw how I had grown. An Elder that had come out with me shared this comment learned from someone he looked up to. He remarked about how his mentor had counseled him to find simple powerful statements to explain points of the gospel that we teach, such as “Joseph Smith is the prophet of the Restoration” or “Jesus Christ lives!”. He then wondered about himself and how his life, if summarized in a simple statement, would say. That got to me, having never thought about it, and I began to wonder the same thing. Would it say “Jonathan followed the Savior’s example”, “Jonathan was ever faithful”, or “Jonathan loved as the Savior would”? I don’t have the answer to that question at this time, nor will I in this world. Not until I make my accounting before my Heavenly Father firmly hoping that I have the Savior image engraved in my countenance.

Let me end with what I think my sister was actually asking for, which is my testimony. While it has taken its share of lickings and beatings, grown large only to shrink again, and ultimately grown from the seed that had lain dormant for so long, my testimony stands strong today. I know my Savior lives and is there for me when I fall with love that I cannot comprehend the depths of. I have learned that one of the greatest ways to love like our Redeemer is to serve those around us, “My life is like my shoes, meant to be worn out in the service of others”. Heavenly Father looks after us just waiting for the opportunity to bless us at every turn, if we would just follow as he commands. He has never left us to be alone and has never denied anyone the right to be redeemed by our Savior and become clean. I say again that it is worth all the perceived pain to become clean.

The world in its vain logic cannot even come close to comprehending why we serve, preferring its party line of “it’s all about you”. It does its best to pander to our vanity by saying “Why look at what you’ve done! You’ve accomplished so much because you are so amazing and you don’t need any one else.” But it is about so much more than us. Many people we taught also gained their own testimonies and have grown as children of our Heavenly Father. We are never alone so long as there are saints around us “Verily, verily, I say unto you, as I said unto my disciples, where two or three are gathered together in my name, as touching one thing, behold, there will I be in the midst of them—even so am I in the midst of you.” D&C 6:32. This is our story and theirs. For we were missionaries once, and young.
One day, if we prove worthy, we will be able to greet our brothers and sisters in the presence of the Father, joining hands and singing the words of that old Negro spiritual “Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty we are free at last!”