28 September 2010

Diversity

I am currently taking astronomy and chemistry, and I'm learning to love science in ways I never knew how to before. Seeing how the precise interplay between planets and forces, chemicals and light contribute to mortal life and the existence of our earth has been an inspiring experience. It's amazing to listen to the whisperings of the Spirit as He uses chemistry and astronomy to explain the Plan of Salvation to me in new ways--the design behind the science from the Master of it all.

I was preparing for an exam earlier today, and was studying the physical and chemical design of the planets in our Solar System. I learned that Earth's liquid core is what provides for magnetism, but Jupiter and Saturn have an even stronger magnetism because of their liquid metallic hydrogen. Venus and Mars have atmospheres heavily composed of carbon monoxide, while Jupiter and the other Jovian planets are mostly composed of hydrogen and helium. Earth is the only one in our Solar System whose atmosphere is made predominantly of nitrogen and oxygen. And it's because of our atmosphere's unique composition of elements that we are shielded from the harmful parts of the electromagnetic spectrum.

In other words, the only reason the Sun doesn't kill us is because our planet is different in exactly the right way to keep us alive.

My book also explores the moons of many different planets, and makes an observation that you can scour the Solar System and never find two heavenly bodies that are exactly the same. And there's really something to that when you think about it.

There is a lot of diversity in our Solar System. That's true of the planets and the stars, and the chemicals from which they're made. The ebb and flow of the universe as those chemicals interact on atomic levels--and how those interactions have huge and cosmic consequences in the lives of planets and stars--is simply breath-taking.

However, it's important to remember that diverse and life-sustaining are two very different things.

You can't change a planet without changing what it's made of temporally, no more than you can change a person without changing what he or she is made of spiritually. Changing the spiritual make-up of a person is possible through the Atonement of Jesus Christ, but that change cannot be superficial. There is no superficiality in chemistry, as far as my 101 experience has shown me. Changes start from the inside, and work their way out.

On an atomic level, the innermost reaches of person or a planet, you either sustain life, growth, (and I would add) truth, knowledge, faith in God and testimony of his Church... or you don't. And sure, if you don't, that might make you different. But if those differences do not sustain life, they're completely useless to you at best, will destroy you if you're lucky, or will cause you to destroy others if you're unlucky.

After all, Mercury is solely unique--sort of like the Earth. It's the only planet in our current Solar System without an atmosphere. And it might have even had some "bragging rights" as being the planet closest to the Sun. But it has no protection from the most harmful electromagnetic waves of the Sun, which might for the analogy be rendered S-O-N.

And because of that, nothing grows there. And one might argue that nothing ever will.

(Gee, who does that sound like?)

But don't we kind of need Mercury to have balance, which ultimately allows for life to continue?


With the gravitational forces at play, I can believe Mercury the planet is part of how we have life right now on Earth. I have no beef with Mercury the planet.

But I'm talking about the misery and desolation that would cause someone to self-destruct--to try and steal someone else's faith. I'm talking about the kind of treachery that goes against what man, woman, and child were born to be, for no person was ever designed to be damned.

We exist to be exalted. That is God's plan of happiness, and always has been. We are divine sons and daughters of Heavenly Parents. Just as nebulae give birth to stars, so do divine Parents give birth to divine children. It's not difficult or unnatural to believe it. To believe anything else, in my mind, would be the only unnatural thing.

I rejoice to say with Job:
"The Spirit of God hath made me, and the breath of the Almighty hath given me life." (Job 33: 4)
From what I've seen in my latest experiences in science, my breath of life right now is supposed to be oxygen. I don't have to fight against God to make my life interesting--because if you're going to do that, you might as well pick a fight with the air you breathe.

With the greatest happiness we could ever know being tied so completely to God's plan of salvation, choosing eternal life really can be as intuitive as breathing, if we will allow it to be so. That all of my brothers and sisters will come to know this joy is my prayer in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

24 September 2010

"Are You Going to Serve a Mission?"

Sister Kinman saw me twice before we actually spoke to each other, but I could tell she wanted to speak to me. I didn't know her, but I could feel even from her passing glance her need for... something. Something from me. Something I could say to her.

But my roommate and I had just come from the South Visitor's Center, where she had tried to page another Sister missionary--one who had served the outbound portion of her Temple Square mission in Pennsylvania where my roommate is from. We were standing outside of the Tabernacle, waiting for the Sister to finish her tour so we could say hello.

While my roommate waited for her, I was reminiscing on the conversation I'd just had with another Sister. She was from Hawaii, and I didn't know her. She asked me, seemingly from nowhere, a question that shocked me where I stood.

"Are you going to serve a mission?"

Through a smile that touched the secret of my heart, I told her, "I wanted to, and I still do. But I don't know if I will any time soon."

When she asked why I wasn't going to serve, I proceeded to tell her about the missionary I'm currently waiting for. I told her sincerely that his mission has been my priority and in many ways has been like a mission to me. She understood. She showed me the ring on her left hand, and I knew there was nothing else I needed to say. We smiled at each other knowingly, and I felt comforted once again that I had done all the Lord had asked me to do up to this point in my life. I had made sacrifices, and they had been perfectly terrible to me at the time, but had turned out wonderfully in the end.

I could wait, I told myself. So familiar. How many times had I told myself that? I would serve a mission someday, and I could wait until then.

I looked up and saw two Sisters approaching me. Sister Kinman was one of them. She smiled at me and walked up to me and started talking. She didn't mistake me for an investigator at all. Instead, she also asked me what I hadn't yet recovered from.

"Are you going to serve a mission?"

I want to, I thought to myself. I really want to. In fact, I want to do that with the same intense aching, the same desire with which I want to be sealed to my family. To say I want it doesn't quite do it justice. It's a longing I could die from if I'm not careful.

"I'd like to," I said, still smiling. And I told her my conversion story. I told her that I hadn't had any missionaries to teach me because there weren't any assigned to our part of the stake. I told her I'd been converted "by members being good people," who weren't afraid to share that goodness with strangers. I told her I had been drawn to that goodness, and through mistakes of my own I had nearly lost that light. But when I got it back, I decided I couldn't live without it and I would never let it go.

I told her, "I am a missionary, and I will always be a missionary."

She looked at me, eyes shining with light of her own, smiled and thanked me.

"I needed to hear that," she told me. I was glad to be there for her, and realized again that being a part of this--this precise art of God's serendipity--is why I want to serve a mission.

She proceeded to tell me that I could serve a mission, that all the things going on in my life shouldn't stop me if it's what I want to do. And there are no words to describe how much I wanted to believe her, and I found myself believing her against my experience and judgment.

The bitter part of me--the one who was hurt the most when God said "No"--wore a cruel smile then. You may chain me here, but you'll never be rid of me, her expression read. I jabbed her as hard as I could, and she closed her eyes again. There was a tear on her cheek. And I turned away by looking outward. I'm not cruel enough to find joy in anyone's suffering, not even my own.

Sister Kinman walked away then, and her work inside of me was finished. She may not know what she has reawakened in me, or what it means for me to be here again. How long I've waited, and how painful the weight has been. When I first saw her, I thought she needed something from me. But now I see that what she gave to me was of more worth than anything I could've said to her that day.

But it didn't end with her. Several minutes later, my roommate met up with the Sister she had been searching for. That Sister's companion began speaking to me. Her accent was thick, and her last name was impossible for me to pronounce. She was from Ukraine. And in broken English, full of the beauty of revelation, she asked me the question I now have to answer.

"Are you going to serve a mission?"

She told me how she decided to serve a mission. She encouraged me to proceed in faith, and told me about the blessings her family had received since she had begun serving. She told me about the miracles she had experienced in trying to serve those whom the Lord brings to her on Temple Square. Her eyes were bright with faith and strength.

In just a few short months, I will be old enough to serve a full-time mission. And I have never wanted anything in the same way as I have wanted to serve a full-time mission. It wasn't until I fell in love that I was even sure I wanted to get married--but even when I wasn't sure of that or anything else, I knew I wanted to serve a mission. And now I see in myself that the desire has not changed.

The question remains, despite my certainty of many things: "Are you going to serve a mission?"

Am I?

Am I going to step up and begin the process which has been so difficult for so many of the strongest people I have ever known? Am I going to make the eternal covenants of the endowment in order to become who I must be in order to be a Sister--knowing I will have to bear my portion of that weight alone? Am I going to postpone my marriage even longer in order to do this wonderful thing which has such a power for good in the lives of others? Am I strong enough, brave enough, and wise enough to finish what I've wanted so much to do? Am I willing to go wherever the Brethren assign me to go, no matter how difficult, no matter how dangerous? Am I willing to go forth, knowing that I must forgive myself, then forget myself in order to serve others with all the love and strength of my heart? Am I able to live for Christ in every moment of every day, honoring Him and cherishing Him, and filling my soul with His light?

I knew the answer to these questions long before the Sisters asked me. That's the reality of what President Julie B. Beck was talking about when she said that preparing for a mission should be "a review and not a revelation."

I don't have to wonder if I'm able. I don't have to wonder if my testimony is strong enough. I don't have to wonder if I know enough. I don't even have to wonder if I want it desperately enough yet.

All I've ever wondered is if God will let me serve Him--if, in all He asks of me and my life right now, there might be a black badge somewhere with my name on it. A genuine smile I might learn to carry with me through all things, and eyes warm with testimony strong enough to liberate people from fear. Some words I might say in a right moment to a soul in need of someone like me. A handmaid to my Lord in His loving kindness and everlasting salvation.

To walk among my Father's kingdom, healing wounded souls, declaring:
"Come, my brethren, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters; and he that hath no money, come buy and eat; yea, come buy wine and milk without money and without price."
2 Nephi 9: 50
That is still my dream.

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