Conference Thoughts, Tender Mercies, & Missionary Nametags

Sunday, October 5, 2014

There's a story in Alma, shortly after the conversion of Alma the Younger. He's preaching in Melek and he's able to have this great success, this amazing and wonderful success in Melek and so many people feel the spirit and "they were baptized throughout the land". After Alma had finished preaching in Melek, he traveled to Ammonihah and was preaching in Ammonihah, but the people there were so wicked that they cast him out of the city and nobody heard his word or listened to him at all. In Alma 8:14-15, it reads:
14 And it came to pass that while he was journeying thither, being weighed down with sorrow, wading through much tribulation and anguish of soul, because of the wickedness of the people who were in the city of Ammonihah, it came to pass while Alma was thus weighed down with sorrow, behold an angel of the Lord appeared unto him, saying:
 15 Blessed art thou, Alma; therefore, lift up thy head and rejoice, for thou hast great cause to rejoice; for thou hast been faithful in keeping the commandments of God... 
That scripture has been keeping me positive, I think, when nothing else has been able to. I would be lying if I didn't say that this has been one of the most difficult times of my entire life. I go back and forth between being grateful to be home and have access to the medical care that I have... and feeling like a complete and total failure. A failure because I couldn't be a missionary. A failure because I couldn't fulfill my purpose, because I didn't baptize anybody, because I barely even made it out of the MTC before I had to go home.
I listened to this talk by John Bytheway in the El Paso airport on my way home from my mission where he mentioned this scripture in Alma. Alma, being one of the most successful missionaries in the book of Mormon, was discouraged by his lack of success. But the angel (the angel who had originally appeared to him in his initial conversion) appeared unto him and told him that because he had been obedient, he had reason to rejoice. Because he had been faithful, because he had followed the commandments of God, he had a reason to rejoice. It didn't matter that the people had rejected him, that no one had listened to him in Ammonihah. In my case, it didn't matter that I had only made it eight weeks in the mission before my health made me return home. Maybe someone is reading this who's in a similar situation to myself and who feels like they weren't a success on their mission because they didn't baptize or they didn't have many converts or they didn't even last very long in the mission because of health reasons. 
Heavenly Father cares more about your HEART than he cares about your STATISTICS. "God doesn't care nearly as much about where you have been as He does about where you are and, with His help, where you are willing to go.”  - Jeffrey R. Holland

"My dear brothers and sisters, it may be true that man is nothing in comparison to the greatness of the universe. At times we may even feel insignificant, invisible, alone, or forgotten. But always remember—you matter to Him! If you ever doubt that, consider these four divine principles:
First, God loves the humble and meek, for they are “greatest in the kingdom of heaven.”17
Second, the Lord entrusts “the fulness of [His] gospel [to] be proclaimed by the weak and the simple unto the ends of the world.”18 He has chosen “the weak things of the world [to] come forth and break down the mighty and strong ones”19 and to put to shame “the things which are mighty.”20
Third, no matter where you live, no matter how humble your circumstances, how meager your employment, how limited your abilities, how ordinary your appearance, or how little your calling in the Church may appear to you, you are not invisible to your Heavenly Father. He loves you. He knows your humble heart and your acts of love and kindness. Together, they form a lasting testimony of your fidelity and faith.
Fourth and finally, please understand that what you see and experience now is not what forever will be. You will not feel loneliness, sorrow, pain, or discouragement forever. We have the faithful promise of God that He will neither forget nor forsake those who incline their hearts to Him.21Have hope and faith in that promise. Learn to love your Heavenly Father and become His disciple in word and in deed.
Be assured that if you but hold on, believe in Him, and remain faithful in keeping the commandments, one day you will experience for yourselves the promises revealed to the Apostle Paul: “Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.”22
Brothers and sisters, the most powerful Being in the universe is the Father of your spirit. He knows you. He loves you with a perfect love.
God sees you not only as a mortal being on a small planet who lives for a brief season—He sees you as His child. He sees you as the being you are capable and designed to become. He wants you to know that you matter to Him. " - Dieter F. Uchtdorf, "You Matter To Him", October 2011 General Conference

I met a man, a wonderful man, in the MTC, named Marco. He sent me this very sweet email a day or two after I returned home. In the email, he said: "The Lord works in myster[ious] ways, He knows your heart and [desires] to serve him. Your Name Tag is in your heart, nothing can take from YOU. One missionary told me one day: You don't have a name tag in your shirt, but you have [it] in your heart." Heavenly Father GETS it. He UNDERSTANDS. He knows your heart. He knows your desires. He knows your capabilities and limitations and potential. All He wants is for you to follow Him- always. Be obedient. Keep the commandments. Live up to your covenants. Live the gospel every day of your life. That's where the true blessings are found. 

This weekend, I had the wonderful opportunity to listen and witness general conference. I felt of the Spirit. I was able to listen and write the word of God as spoken by the mouth of His prophets. I saw miracles happen, and miracles happened to me. What an amazing opportunity for testimony building. 

I had the chance, very last minute, to go to the Saturday afternoon session with my friends from high school who both returned home from their missions earlier this year, one from Thailand and one from Mexico. All three of us sang together in the Alta High School madrigals from 2010-2011, and I'm still pleased to be able to call them my friends. This was my first general conference that I had attended in person, and that's where the miracle happened. I won't go into detail, because it's more on the personal side, but I will share this- Heavenly Father HEARS your PRAYERS and He LISTENS. And He is so tender and He loves you so much and He wants the best for you, and He will answer your prayer in the way that will ultimately make you the happiest. I have a renewed testimony of this after Saturday. It was an amazing day filled with tender mercies and sweet friends who I know will support me to the very end.

My favorite quote from conference was (naturally) the wise words of our beloved prophet, President Thomas S. Monson. "Decisions determine destiny." Our loving and kind Father in Heaven did not send us to earth to wander aimlessly without purpose or direction. He has given us aid and guidance- whether that be through the scriptures, the words of the living prophets, our patriarchal blessings, or personal revelation. The decisions we make today, with or without the help of these divine aids, will determine where we go in the future, and ultimately where we end up. We can choose to follow His path, and end up in the arms of a very loving Savior, or we can choose to follow the path of the adversary, who will not be as welcoming. The decisions we make today, large or small, will impact our future in ways that we cannot even begin to imagine right now.

It's my prayer that we are all able to do as President Thomas S. Monson counseled in his last address in this October conference, and resolve to be a little better, a little kinder, and more thoughtful. Care for each other, and succor the weak, strengthen those with feeble knees. Be people of honesty, and do what is right in all times, in all things, and in all places.

Some updates on me, health-wise, for those of you who are worried. I'm doing OK. I was able to see my regular doctor last week and we started me up on some new pain-control medication, as well as a seizure medication that works well in migraine preventative measures. I've got appointments for blood tests early next week and an eye appointment with the office where I had my eye surgery a few years ago to get my eyes checked up and make sure that there are no problems on that front. 

It's not over yet. Steps are being taken in the right direction to get everything back on track. I honestly haven't thought much about what I will be doing in the future- a month from now, two or three months from now... if I will be ready to return to the mission field or working on getting a job and an apartment. I know I have some time to think about it and I know that as long as I stay close to the Lord, and close to the Gospel through prayer, church and temple attendance, and scripture study, I'll always be on the path He wants me to be on. 

I guess the moral of this story is... endure to the end. Perseverar hasta el fin.  I love you all. Make good choices, don't do drugs, remember who you are, and as always...  Make me proud.

My first live session of general conference with Jason and Joe.