21 November 2011

Brazil--2nd Transfer, week 2

Things I have figured out so far in Brazil:

5. You can hide the taste of anything with prayer and enough rice.
2. How much water it actually takes to flush a toilet.
3. It's more important to have things that are clean and work well than things that are new.
4. Every time is a good time for: a.) a party b.) loud music c.) a banana d.) all of the above.
7. The hard things you don't want to do are the things most worth doing.
5. Everything is better in Português, including Sorvetes.
192. Brazilian has one "L."
194. Lesson learned from hills: an up now is a down later.
14. The more you wear, the more you wash.
5. Now you know how the mail man feels when he's looking for house number 5.
197. Pride may be the root of all evil; but it's planted in distraction and watered with excuses until it sucks all of the common sense out of our heads.

15. Clotheslines have a weight limit.
16. Blankets are heavy when wet.
17. Droga, 1 interj. (coll.) darn it!; crap!; 2 the word you use when the blanket you just washed is now on the ground.
198. Blisters on your feet build character. Blisters and mosquito bites on your feet are a new form of "interrogation" I'd like to submit to the Pentagon.
199. The true measure of your character is how you treat someone who can't do you any good.
201. Number of times I have willingly taken a cold shower: 5 (and counting...)

19. My new favorite sound is rain on a tin roof.
20. Things I will never own after my mission: a dog, a motorcycle, a rooster,
21. Miracles happen every day. Also, things I now eat on a regular basis: tomatoes, onions, garlic, fish, cabbage, peppers, yogurt.
23. The reward of listening when you would rather be talking is wisdom.
26. Going to the bank is a lot like playing Monopoly. You wait 6 turns, waste a lot of time, and end up walking away with useless money because no one can break a R$50.
13. São Paulo is the best thing that ever happened to my testimony.
14. Isaiah/ 2 Nephi are my favorite places in the scriptures.
15. By the end of my mission, I want to be able to say that the most important thing in my life is Heavenly Father. That's how I will know if I really was a representative of Jesus Christ.




What I really do here all day is bearing my testimony of the Book of Mormon. I've given 18 months of my life to tell people that the Book of Mormon changes people. I did it because it changed me. But now that I'm here and I'm surrounded by people who have sacrificed more for their faith than I ever will for mine, I know now that the Book of Mormon doesn't just change people. The Book of Mormon has changed the world, and I watch it happen every day.

I love this work. I love my mission. This is the best and the hardest thing I've ever done in my life. I know the gospel of Jesus Christ is restored, I know Joseph Smith was a prophet, and I know the Book of Mormon is true. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen. 

--
I am, as ever, your humble servant and never-deviating friend,
Sister Doyle

07 November 2011

Brazil--Week 3

I bought a bottle of bleach today. But don't let the simplicity of that statement deceive you. I now say bleach with the awe and reverence of new discovery. Today, somewhere in the streets of Brazil, I decided that a good man--the modern continuation of all the ancient Charming virtues--is like a bottle of bleach.

He's clean. In fact he's so clean, the only way to show how honestly clean he is demands that we dress him in a white shirt and give him a shiny bald head. Spotless.

He never lets you down. I open my kitchen cabinet to put my life back into some semblance of logical, working order and there he is--a constancy I never appreciated until I had to recognize such comfort by a new, exotic name. Agua sanitária. That even SOUNDS romantic.

I don't have to ask twice. I don't have to ask once. I don't even have to ask in Portuguese! If he's real bleach, he cleans my bathroom, my kitchen, my clothes every time--same results. He is a help meet, or equal to, the task of dedicating a home to the Lord. To the language of Deity, the scriptural injunction to "Organize yourselves; prepare every needful thing, and establish a house... a house of glory, a house of order, a house of God," my bleach can always respond, "Here am I, send me." I expect that when I combine the devotion of my arms with the potency of his strength, we will get the job done together. With him I can annihilate millions of unseen malevolent microorganisms by the second.

To me, that's real power.

He gives me sparkling new things every time I see him--not because he buys a replacement we can't afford--but because he takes care of what we already have, so my things always seem new to me.

He's gentle enough to clean my vegetables, and effective at getting rid of bugs. And he's not to be underestimated--he could kill a man if I needed him to do so. But most of the time he's to be with me by the sink; quietly leaving me to my own private wonderland to which cleaning and other general housewifery permit me entrance. He is ready to tackle anything and everything life throws at me with everything he's got.



My Prince Charming goes by another name--and no, it's not Captain Moroni. It's Mr. Clean.

Words can't really do justice to the relief I felt here--surrounded in foreign language, food, customs, and culture--once I finally found some help I could recognize. I prayed for strength, and I'm still exhausted. I prayed for wisdom, and I'm still largely confounded. I prayed for a miracle, and nothing in my situation has changed for the better.

So I went back to the basics. In a Nephi-esque moment of last resort if I've EVER had one, I asked for ore--the stuff by which the tools to forge miracles are made. (See 1 Nephi 17: 9-10)

And what was the response, the mercy which God extended to me?

I thought I knew miracles--then, today... I bought a bottle of bleach.

--
I am, as ever, your humble servant and never-deviating friend,
Sister Doyle

24 October 2011

São Paulo, Brazil--Week 1: Going to Santa Tereza



Greetings from Brazil!

It's true. I'm finally in Brazil. My visa came like the shock of my life, and before I could really process what that would mean for me, I was on my first international flight to a foreign country. As I fight with this keyboard in my first ever experience in an internet café, I can't help but be reminded that São Paulo is very different from Temple Square. But I'm growing more and more accustomed to it all the time.




The longer I'm here, the more I realize I desperately needed this experience. Brazil is everything I hoped it would be and so much more. After working here for only a few days, I can see in my mind what ancient Jerusalem was like--houses stacked on top on top of one another, with a maze of stairs that go in every direction that I could never navigate on my own. But add in bright colors--every shade of pink, green, blue, and brightly colored tiles in orange and purple--mixed in with crumbling cement hovels patched with old plywood. In Brazil, the rich and the poor are mixed in together completely, so there isn't a moment that goes by that I don't see both. In just a few days, I have experienced things that have broken my heart right where I stand. I have seen the poorest people of my life, and it has humbled me in ways I can't even describe.




But what has really stood out to me is the power of the message I'm carrying. It's one thing to talk about the power of the Book of Mormon in the comforts of my own hometown, in my familiar church setting where I know everyone and they understand where I come from. But to be HERE, to have a companion who speaks no English, in a place I have to work to understand and be understood, where I see things I never imagined before--to have my heart stretched, broken, changed, and stretched again--I've realized again why I did this.

Joseph Smith was a prophet. He saw God the Father and Jesus Christ. He did everything to restore Christianity to how it was when Christ Himself was on the earth. And this message has power to change people's lives, to bring a hope and a connection to God that wasn't there before. This message is the most important anyone could ever hear, and it was important enough for my Father in Heaven to send me here--to preach through the power of His Spirit the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Joseph Smith wrote what we in the Church refer to as the Standard of Truth, and it has deepened my love for Joseph Smith since I've been here because he simply could not have known how true it would be unless he was inspired. He wrote:

"The Standard of Truth has been erected; no unhallowed hand can stop the work from progressing; … the truth of God will go forth boldly, nobly, and independent, till it has penetrated every continent, visited every clime, swept every country, and sounded in every ear, till the purposes of God shall be accomplished, and the Great Jehovah shall say the work is done."

So when I climb hill after hill until my whole body aches, when I go deeper and deeper into the earth to small, one-room houses made entirely of crumbling cement, it's because what Joseph taught was true. When I struggle to express what means more to me than life itself in a language that comes in short bursts of stumbling brilliance (the brilliance being God's, the stumbling being mine)--it's because God lives and He does call us to perform miracles in His name. And when I see the change that comes over these wonderful, wonderful people whom I love more and more every day--when I see the relief that comes into their lives because God has spoken to them, I know it's because only the truth was strong enough to set them free.

I know the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the true church of Christ on the earth today. I know that God is very actively involved int he lives of His children, and there's nothing He wouldn't do to help His children to receive this message. He has sent me here, and it has changed my life. As difficult as this is for me now, my heart will break when I leave because Brazil will change my life forever.

I love my work. I love these people. I love everything about this mission. I bear my witness that these things are true in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.
--
I am, as ever, your humble servant and never-deviating friend,
Sister Doyle

21 October 2011

Temple Square: Where Every Day is a Goodbye




212 Forever! 143 143 99999

Counting our Referrals during General Conference

Each piece of candy was a referral we received

Sister Kinman, for those who remember; or perhaps like me, could never forget.


Total referrals received for October 2011 General Conference:
9,222
Portuguese Language Meeting


Sister West: "Sister Doyle, you got your visa!"
Me: "Sister West. I like you and all, but if you're joking I will punch you in the face."
Sister West: "No, it's really here!"






"You will leave with some sorrow..."

Too true President Holmes... too true.

29 September 2011

Temple Square--Week 6

In my studies of the Book of Mormon, I've arrived again at the sections I have struggled most to be nourished from or apply into my life. Most people I've met struggle to appreciate the poetic and prophetic qualities of the Isaiah chapters in 2 Nephi.

The bane of my Book of Mormon-based existence has long been the war chapters in Alma. However, as a missionary I finally have an application in my life for these chapters.

Being a missionary is a lot like being in an army. We're men and women under authority who follow very specific orders to bring about the objectives and visions of our leaders. We each play a role in those visions and objectives, and the role we play depends entirely on the character of our leaders. I have more reason now to care about the wisdom expressed in the war chapters because they lay out so clearly the difference between good leadership and evil leadership—good leaders and evil leaders.

Alma 47 and 48 give a nearly side-by-side comparison for good and evil leadership. Chapter 47 focuses on Amalickiah, a wicked and deceptive man in the histories of the Lamanites. Chapter 48 focuses on Captain Moroni, one of the most righteous men in the entire Book of Mormon. Mormon as a historian doesn't just focus on the events in which these men had remarkable significance. He focuses on their qualities, which helps us as readers to avoid and apply their examples, respectively.

I want to comment on some of these differences and apply them to missionary work because I believe they apply so completely to members and missionaries alike today. Because Amalickiah was a tool in the hands of Satan, and Captain Moroni in the hands of Jesus Christ, we learn things about them respectively as leaders as well.

Mormon establishes the comparison he's making when he says, "Now it came to pass that while Amalickiah had thus been obtaining power by fraud and deceit, Moroni, on the other hand, had been preparing the minds of the people to be faithful unto the Lord their God." (Alma 48: 7)

  • Amaleckiah begins his deception by playing off of the division between his people and the Lamanites who don't want to fight the Nephites anymore. He specifically tries to gain favor with those who are disloyal and disobedient to the king. Captain Moroni gained favor with his people through loyalty to the gospel of Jesus Christ and being true to the Title of Liberty (Alma 47: 5 & Alma 48: 10, 12) 
  • Amalickiah was double-minded, giving the appearance of serving the king, while also trying to achieve his own agenda by going against the will of the king. Captain Moroni has one purpose which is apparent in everything He does--to truly help his people by bringing them closer to Christ (Alma 47: 8 & Alma 48: 13) 
  • Amalickiah works through secrecy and persistence--two of the elements of temptation. Captain Moroni relies on revelation from God to best care for his people (Alma 47: 10-12 & Alma 48: 15) 
  • Amalickiah was perfectly willing to sacrifice his men to his opponents to accomplish his own selfish objectives. Captain Moroni protected ALL of his people, giving special attention to those who were most vulnerable. (Alma 47: 13-15 & Alma 48: 8-9) 
  • Amalickiah murdered his commanding officer by means of deception (poison). Captain Moroni lived the laws of God regarding warfare and only used war to protect himself and his people. He did not delight in bloodshed at all. (Alma 47: 18 & Alma 48: 14, 16) 
  • Amalickiah betrayed and murdered the king of the Lamanites, then covered it up through conspiracy. Captain Moroni defeated such evil through personal righteousness and relying entirely on Jesus Christ to save him and his people. (Alma 47: 22-24, 27, 34 & Alma 48: 17) 
  • Amalickiah instigates war and causes others to sin and break their covenants. Captain Moroni encourages everyone to follow the Lord, to keep their covenants, and to pursue peace wherever possible. (Alma 48: 3 & 23-24) 
  • Amalickiah's only strength is in numbers. Captain Moroni's strength is the power and promise of Christ. (Alma 48: 4 & 18-19) 

When I read this list I liken Amalickiah to Satan, and Captain Moroni to Christ. It helps me to understand how to be a better missionary, a better soldier in the cause of Christ. I understand better who I'm up against, and how to fight smarter against my enemies. I know to whom I should look for guidance, and the power He has to save me from destruction. I find this list to be entirely consistent with my experiences from both the Adversary and the Savior.

My favorite realization was what I saw when I likened Alma 48: 17 to Christ Himself:

"Yea, verily, verily I say unto you, if all men had been, and were, and ever would be, like unto [Christ], behold, the very powers of hell would have been shaken forever; yea, the devil would never have power over the hearts of the children of men."

I know that by keeping the commandments of Jesus Christ, we find that power in our lives. Satan has no power to tempt us because we find no appeal in anything he offers, and the methods he encourages us to use are despicable in our sight. Some might be dissuaded from missionary service because they think there is a lack of freedom in our decision making. Some resist the call from prophets to live lives of discipline, honoring the commandments of Christ.

But if we do not serve Christ as He has instructed, who then do we serve?

I know that Christ lives and He loves us. I know He has the power to guide us and protect us, and I've received that protection from Him too many times to count. I know that as we live the gospel of Jesus Christ, we accomplish the purposes of our Father in Heaven. For Christ, there was nothing more important than the will of the Father. When we truly live our lives in the same way, we can liken Alma 48: 17 to ourselves, with our own name.

For me, there would be no greater reward.

--
I am, as ever, your humble servant and never-deviating friend,
Sister Doyle

23 September 2011

Temple Square--Week 5

I was on the Square today, and we saw a family at the Christus statue. After a really hard morning of being turned away abruptly from everyone we spoke to, this family was such a joy to see.

She was a mother, a member of the Church, and she had two young sons--they must have been about 3 and 4 years old. As soon as her children saw the Christus statue, they were so excited! Their little bodies were just an explosion of happiness, jumping and stomping their feet. Their smiles took up their whole faces, and their gazes were fixed on the face of the Savior. The youngest yelled, "JESUS!" and his little voice echoed and pierced me to my very soul. The feelings of my heart as I watched them both run up to the Christ statue and touch His feet... I can't describe in words the tenderness I felt. It brings me to tears now even to think of it.

In a moment, my soul was lifted up and nourished by the faith of these small children. I realized in a new way what Christ meant when He was teaching the twelve disciples this same lesson:

1 At the same time came the disciples unto Jesus, saying, Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?
2 And Jesus called a little child unto him, and set him in the midst of them,
3 And said, Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.
Matthew 18: 1-3

In the Book of Mormon, He taught the same thing to the Nephites when He appeared to them:

I say unto you, ye must repent, and be baptized in my name, and become as a little child, or ye can in nowise inherit the kingdom of God.
3 Nephi 11: 38

The faith of children is exactly what I saw in those small boys. They didn't have that reaction because their parents taught them to do that. They have that reaction because they know Jesus Christ--they knew Him before they came to this life. In their pure and innocent state, they remember him better now that they will for the rest of their lives. Seeing them, I see what Christ was talking about. We aren't just supposed to believe in Him as some far away person who just happened to die for our sins. The faith of a child is exactly like the faith of those small boys--to be totally overcome with joy not just at the thought of Christ, but the memory of Him. To immediately run to His feet because that's where our greatest joy--our home--is found.

I've personally experienced how being obedient and keeping the commandments has helped me to remember the Savior, and to remember the things I knew in my heart before I came to this earth. I wouldn't trade that knowledge, that memory, for anything in the world. And just when I needed that reminder the most, the Lord provided the perfect messengers to help me--two small boys who have no idea how much their souls have just blessed mine.

I know Jesus Christ lives. I know He is my Savior, and I couldn't serve this mission without Him. He leads me continually to my Father in Heaven, who strengthens me beyond my own abilities to do the things He has asked of me. Even though this mission is the hardest thing I've ever done, I'd do it again and more for Him. Experiences like the one I've had today remind me that all of this--everything I'm experiencing now--is worth everything I will pay for it.

--
I am, as ever, your humble servant and never-deviating friend,
Sister Doyle

16 September 2011

Temple Square--Week 4

Here is a list of my favorite things I've seen, heard, experienced and learned so far on Temple Square:
  • The two year old girl who says "Nebuchadnezzar."
  • There are about half a million creative ways to eat tortillas. And also, peanut butter.
  • The bride with the zebra-stripe bolero for her wedding dress, with matching bridesmaids.
  • If you say "Panda bear" in Mandarin with the wrong tones, you will say "Chest hair."
  • The round windows on the Salt Lake Temple actually open.
  • Members who see us walking, poke their small children and say, "Look! Missionaries!"
  • Inside jokes with other sisters because of the goofy things we experience in the call center. ("I don't have a brother.")
  • What is this man's name?!
    Trying not to laugh about aforementioned inside jokes when you pass other sisters on the Square.
  • The picture of the man on top of the Temple Spire in the South Visitor's Center. I've made it a mission within my mission to find out what his name is.
  • Accidentally seeing President Packer. And by "seeing," I mean "almost plowing into the security detail of."
  • Randomly humming the music from different Visitor's Center displays.
  • Also, recognizing when other sisters are doing this.
  • The little boy who introduces himself as "Batman."
  • D&C 60: 15
  • The Plan of Salvation summed up by the convert from New York: "So you're a god, eventually. But can you pay rent?!"
  • The techno version of If You Could Hie to Kolob. With violins.
  • Trunkytown = the place I go when a wedding party comes out of the Temple.
  • Working in constant sight of the Temple is only a blessing if you take the time to see it often.
--
I am, as ever, your humble servant and never-deviating friend,
Sister Doyle

09 September 2011

Temple Square--Week 3

I just realized today that I'm passing through the valley of the shadow of death, also known as the three month mark of my mission.

Because I was trained to go to serve a proselyting mission in Brazil and I ended up at a Visitor's Center on Temple Square, there's a large gap between what I was trained to do and what I'm actually doing every day. I try very hard to be receptive to the guidance and the changes so I can adapt to all the things I didn't expect. It's a lot to take in, and sometimes I struggle with the constant correction. I know this isn't unique to me--it's a huge part of what it means to be a missionary. Receiving correction well from the Lord is a huge part of the refining process that every missionary experiences throughout his or her mission.

I was feeling particularly discouraged last night, so I decided to deal with how I was feeling this morning in my personal study. I didn't quite know where to start, but a scripture one of my companions shared from Proverbs 3 came to mind. That's how I found this counsel:
11 My son, despise not the chastening of the Lord; neither be weary of his correction:
12 For whom the Lord loveth he correcteth; even as a father the son in whom he delighteth.

Our Heavenly Father does not give us correction because He hates us or is displeased with who we are or how hard we're trying. He loves us for who we are and He believes in us. He wants us to be successful, and He knows that we can do anything with His help. His correction is meant to help us and guide us so we can be successful. Whether we choose to feel good or bad about ourselves because of that correction is our choice, not His.

I was happy to receive that guidance, but I still craved the comfort of the Spirit--to see what I was still missing in my understanding so I could feel close to Him again.


I felt like I needed to read the Book of Mormon, and I opened to where I had left off last time. I opened to Alma 29, which is a chapter where Alma was struggling with the same desires I was feeling. Many people in the Church--including missionaries--see the first two verses...
1 O that I were an angel, and could have the wish of mine heart, that I might go forth and speak with the trump of God, with a voice to shake the earth, and cry repentance unto every people!
2 Yea, I would declare unto every soul, as with the voice of thunder, repentance and the plan of redemption, that they should repent and come unto our God, that there might not be more sorrow upon all the face of the earth.

...but they don't see the realization he makes afterwards:
3 But behold, I am a man, and do sin in my wish; for I ought to be content with the things which the Lord hath allotted unto me.

I've been struggling to understand what my role is here. I was trained to actively proselyte, which is what I expected to do. But being in a Visitor's Center, my role is one to extend invitations for others to meet with missionaries, but also to buildgood relationships with members of other faiths and to promote a good image of the Church. I've really struggled to know how I can show other faiths the same respect they show us by visiting us in Temple Square, but still fulfilling my responsibility as a missionary to share what I know to be the truth.

Alma answers that question in verse 4 when he says:

4 I ought not to harrow up in my desires the firm decree of a just God, for I know that he granteth unto men according to their desire, whether it be unto death or unto life; yea, I know that he allotteth unto men, yea, decreeth unto them decrees which are unalterable, according to their wills, whether they be unto salvation or unto destruction.

The Lord does not force people to come to him. He will give faith, knowledge, peace, and strength to those who want a relationship with him. For those who do not actively seek to build that relationship with Him, or to build one further, He does not force that upon them. Ultimately, He respects their choices and gives them exactly what they ask for--what He extends to them is always in harmony with the decisions they make to come closer or pull away from Him.

Alma went through this, and I love the conclusion he comes to of why he decided to serve a mission, even though he knew he couldn't convince people, nor was it his job to do so. He says:
12 Yea, I have always remembered the captivity of my fathers; and that same God who delivered them out of the hands of the Egyptians did deliver them out of bondage.
13 Yea, and that same God did establish his church among them; yea, and that same God hath called me by a holy calling, to preach the word unto this people, and hath given me much success, in the which my joy is full.
That's why I decided to serve a mission--because even the chance to help someone who wants my help reminds me of everything I've been through. I remember how it felt to walk into a Church building and feel as if I was coming home for the first time in my life. I remember how it felt to have my prayers answered. I remember how it felt to see my life changing, to see a power so much greater than I was come into my life. I remember feeling God's love for me, and knowing that He is my Father, and the first time I realized He had loved me all of my life.

Realizing that I have a relationship with the same God that delivered Moses and the Israelites out of Egypt--that I can rely on Him for help, comfort, and guidance--it brings such peace to my heart and soul. I love Him so much more than I ever could have had I never served this mission because I see more clearly how He works and how much He cares about every single person He brings to this Square.

Correction does bring wisdom, and wisdom helps us to see through the eyes of God. For now, while I'm new, those glances are only brief glimpses. But I know that as I grow, it will change. I love Him for that. I love the Book of Mormon and how it blesses my life. I love the Prophet Joseph Smith and the sacrifices he made to restore the Church of Jesus Christ to the earth again. I love my Savior and His atoning sacrifice. I love my Father in Heaven, and I know that every good thing that happens to us is because of His love for us all.

--
I am, as ever, your humble servant and never-deviating friend,
Sister Doyle

26 August 2011

Temple Square--Week 1

The next time you visit Temple Square, imagine an entire world of women beneath your feet making the place run. I'm convinced that the entire reason the mission is run solely by sisters is because men simply couldn't keep up with the changes or the pace here.




Another sister who serves here is from a tiny island called Kiribati, and she is amazing. She has so much success all the time, more referrals and tours than she knows what to do with, and I asked her recently what her secret is.

"You just gotta move yo' bawdy."

I fell in love with that. I've thought about it a lot the past couple of days. The only way to keep up with things here is to keep moving, keep teaching. Keep testifying. Don't stop, don't stand still. Just keep moving and the long day will eventually end.

I've grown to appreciate the pioneers as I've thought about that too. They never stopped. Whether they were walking or pulling handcarts, riding in wagons, or burying their dead. They kept moving. And when they had nothing else to give, they prayed. God picked them up, put them on their feet, and told them to keep moving again.

To me, that's faith. It doesn't take a strong person to ask for help. It doesn't take a strong person to ask for what is obviously needed. It doesn't take a strong person to ask for God to step into our lives. It only takes humility to do that. But to learn about strength, about faith to move mountains--and then to take those mountains and build temples out of them--it takes moving when you think you have nothing left. It means going to the edge of everything you ever knew or understood about yourself, and digging deeper.

"Move yo' bawdy."

I hope I never forget it.

--
I am, as ever, your humble servant and never-deviating friend,
Sister Doyle

19 August 2011

Goodbye is a Word Best Served before Breakfast

My visa to Brazil still has not arrived. For missionaries going to Brazil, this means a temporary reassignment to another U.S. mission.

I've been called to serve part of my mission on Temple Square in Salt Lake City. I don't think anyone was more suprised by that assignment than I was. And now that I've arrived and I see what my life will be like for as long as I'm here, no one could be happier about my assignment than I am now.

The most amazing thing I've seen so far is that the mission is run entirely by sisters, with the exception of the Mission President--the assistants to the president, the zone leaders, the district leaders, all of them are sisters. I went from the MTC being surrounded by Elders and men, to being surrounded, greeted, hugged, hugged again, and introduced to more sisters than I've seen in almost two months. I absolutely adore my new assignment, and I'm eager to get to work and begin serving.




I had my first interview with my mission president, President Holmes, who is a kind and loving man. His perceptiveness to his missionaries is phenominal, and my interview with him was a sacred experience I will always treasure. He asked me direct questions about my life that only inspiration from the Spirit could prompt him to ask. He assigned me to my companions, a trio, whom I love already. I'm learning quiet lessons from their examples already, and I know the impact they will have on my life will change me forever.

Temple Square is a very busy mission. Much will be expected of me--that much has been made plain to me by the Lord, as well as in everything I see here. I need to decide now what kind of missionary I want to be, and always live up to that expectation of myself. How well I do this will determine the kind of missionary I become and the mission I will serve. I've received a lot of private correction in my heart from the Spirit already, and I see more clearly than ever what I have to change to be the sort of missionary who can change the world.

And I know that's exactly what the Lord intends for me to do. In my personal study of the Book of Mormon this morning, I was reminded of this simple fact:

"For behold, I am God; and I am a God of miracles; and I will show unto the world that I am the same yesterday, today, and forever; and I work not among the children of men save it be according to their faith."
2 Nephi 27: 23

Everything about Temple Square testifies of the fact that Heavenly Father loves all of His children. There is no nation, no kindred, no tongue or people that He has forgotten. There are sisters here from more countries than I could list, speaking languages from the furthest reaches of the globe. They regularly teach investigators from all over the world, and it's all because Heavenly Father loves all of His children. He knows where they are. He knows how to help them. He calls His servants because of their faith to come and teach His children. He brings them here in great abundance so they have the opportunity to learn the truth and to be saved.

Being a convert, my heart sings with joy to see others beginning their journey home to our Father in Heaven--even if they do not recognize that He has brought them here. The only thing I can do now is to do my best to teach with clarity and power the message Heavenly Father would share if He were here.

I know that Jesus is the Christ. He lived to teach us a perfect example, He died to bear our sins and heartaches, and He lives again that we might be saved. I know the Book of Mormon is a true testimony of Jesus Christ. It teaches us His gospel and, together with the Bible, helps us to discern between good and evil. I know that Joseph Smith was a prophet, and I am honored to serve as a missionary in the Dispensation of the Fullness of Times.

I know that we have a living prophet today, President Thomas S. Monson. If we follow the council of the prophets and apostles, we will be prepared for the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. We will not be led astray by Satan and his angels, and we will have the power and the wisdom to resist all temptation until the day our Lord returns.

I bear that witness with all the love and sincerity of my soul in the sacred name of Jesus Christ. Amen.

25 July 2011

MTC--Week 4

Today, my companions and I are beginning to speak solely in Portuguese. I've not done a very good job of it so far, but my dictionary isn't here so the only thing I can really do from memory is testify or teach a rudimentary lesson. I've been focusing a lot of my language study on conjugation in preparation for today, and I can see the blessings of the Lord in my life helping me to recall what I've studied so I'm able to speak properly.



It has been my blessing to see how the gift of tongues works in the life of a missionary. If you can imagine being able to recall something after you've studied it once, and being able to use it without difficulty--that is essentially what my experience with the gift of tongues has been. I've studied Hebrew and French in my life, and I've never had an easier time with a language that I'm having right now, and I know it has absolutely nothing to do with any skill of mine. My ability to speak is limited only by what I have studied and what words I make the effort to use on a regular basis. The thought of what else I could be accomplishing with such a capacity boggles the mind.

In my time in the MTC, I've heard a great deal about obedience. That's pretty standard, and it became much more understandable to me when I realized that there are new missionaries coming in on a regular basis who need the same instruction on the subject that I needed as a new missionary. But as I've taken the time to think about obedience in its proper context, alongside the grace and mercy of God, I've learned great lessons on how the Lord accomplishes His purposes.

Something that illustrates my point is in Lehi's dream. A lot of times we focus on and emphasize the symbols of the dream--the iron rode, the great and spacious building, the mocking crowds, and of course the tree. What we don't focus on is the beginning of the dream. Around verse 8, we see Lehi wandering for hours, as he describes it, in darkness and despair. The thing he does to instigate the dream--the spark to the whole experience--is when he prays to receive the mercy of the Lord, (see 1 Nephi 8: 8.)

The only way that Lehi could understand the great love that God has for him, his family, and for all of humankind, is through the mercies of the Lord. If Lehi had never called for those mercies to come down uponhis head, he enver would've had that vision. He never would've become the man God intended him to be, the gospel head of two nations in a new land. Without mercy, there can be no love--and certainly no understanding of the love of God. Without mercy, there is no hope--no hope of redemption, no life. Lehi would've remained in the darkness he described in his dream.

That is exactly the life we live when we rely on the law to save us. Lehi was brought to and understanding of his standing before God, and it was hopeless and helplessly dark because he did not yet know or understand the mercies of the Lord. Everything that happened to his family after this vision is because of one prayer--a prayer for mercy which only the Atonement of Jesus Christ has extended to the entire human family. Nothing else has provided for that redemption.

We sometimes think that we need to be obedient because through obedience we have greater merit in the sight of God, and that is what allows us to perform greater miracles, or to have greater faith. This, however, is false. In the sermon of King Benjamin, specifically from Mosiah 2, we learn in powerful word the truth of the relationship between mercy and obedience. If we served God with everything we have to give, giving all of ourselves according the laws God has set, we will still be unprofitable servants because our contribution is still miniscule in comparison to the great and eternal gifts God has given to us. We couldn't earn our happiness even if we tried. We certainly could never pay back the great debt we have to God for our very lives and all the great blessings we have received.



But deserving our blessings was never the point. That's not why they were given to us, and that's not what we should be doing with them. We have the ability, even in our imperfect state to share those blessings--to magnify their influence in the lives of others. Through the mercy of God, our efforts are complete, no matter how imperfect. I'm convinced that the greatest blessings no more automatically belong to those who blindly and unwillingly follow the requirements of laws than to anyone else. That is not what obedience and mercy are about.

Mercy and obedience together create within us a deep love and gratitude for what the Lord has done for us. Those who embrace this appreciation with sincerity are better off than the blind and grudging obedience of one who hopes to get something out of acting a part instead of changing himself/
herself. Obedience for obedience's sake is a lie and an act, and must be carefully rooted out of the heart of every disciple who truly wants to serve God and keep His commandments.

That is why the first two commandments are and always will be to love the Lord with all our hearts and to love each other. Breaking those commandments bring the greatest condemnation under the law, and nothing else we do can justify us if we lack that love in our hearts.

I know that God lives, and I know His love and mercy is the purpose for everything we do. As we increase in obedience, our love for others and for God must also increase. That is the testimony and experience of my life, and I bear that witness in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

--
I am, as ever, your humble servant and never-deviating friend,
Sister Doyle

18 July 2011

Things I have Learned So Far at the MTC

  • You know you love your companion when  you dive at the closing door between you like it's the difference between life and death.
  • It's impossible to yawn and smile at the same time.
  • The tree next to the Samuel Smith statue smells like red cream soda.
  • Never give Elders balloons. Ever.
  • There's a special corner of outer darkness reserved for parents who don't write their missionaries.
  • Singing Bohemian Rhapsody together is always a surreal experience, especially before teaching a lesson in Portuguese. Also, no one ever remembers all of the words.
  • Portuguese is better than French. (The evidence is in the conjugation. I love it!)
  • Your teachers fall asleep during your lessons.
  • Sharing your conversion story in Relief Society will get you a lot of free hugs.
  • You come in with no brothers and leave with 7.
  • Dying watch battery = having to do a door approach when you're late to class
  • Cannibalism trumps chivalry. An Elder would honestly rather chew his own arm off than let a sister get in front of him in the breakfast line.
  • Chuck Norris jokes and song lyrics are funnier when applied to other missionaries (Ex: "Chuck Norris wears Elder Brown pajamas," or "Elder Brown is the reason for the tear drops on my guitar.")
  • Hair dryers at 6:15 in the morning are the root of all evil. Conversations in the bathroom at 5:45, doubly so.
  • You haven't lived until you have been serenaded by Tongans or Samoans.
  • There are a million ways to break the rules, but only one way to obey them.
  • You know you're a missionary when you know which song in the media library is "the Mormon High School Musical song," and you think the Mormon.org videos are better than YouTube.
Most importantly of all, however, I've learned that prayers are powerful. I can feel the prayers that members all over the world say for the missionaries, and I've felt those prayers sustaining me as I train myself for the days I have ahead of me. Those prayers mean everything to me, and to everyone who ever reads this who has prayed for the missionaries, thank you from the bottom of my heart. It means more to me than you will ever know.




I love the Lord and I love His restored Church. I love the gospel and how it blesses families. I know that Jesus is the Christ, that Joseph Smith was a prophet and that the Book of Mormon is true. I'm sorry I only have one lifetime to give for this work, but glad I get to spend the one I have serving the Lord and His children.

--
I am, as ever, your humble servant and never-deviating friend,
Sister Doyle

11 July 2011

MTC--I've lost count completely

The MTC continues to be a place of great change and challenge for me. In many ways, I feel as if I'm being prepared for greater things than I've ever dared to imagine. I've been on the receiving end of many answered prayers and private miracles that have been essential to many of the lessons I've learned.

Being a solo-sister, a coordinating sister, a visa waiter, and a convert is a very interesting combination here at the MTC. The uniqueness of my position and the influence I have (specifically) upon elders because of it has given me a deeper appreciation for Deborah from the Book of Judges, that "mother in Israel" who stood beside men in battle, whose courage inspired them to prepare themselves, to go and fight to preserve what mattered most in life. The reality has been impressed upon my mind that much of what I'm doing here is like combat training, only instead of training for literal warfare, we train for spiritual battle instead.  The rigor of the planning of our days is essential to our success, and stepping up to that standard of wasting absolutely no time seemed unattainable to me until I began to see it through the lens of life and death. Success that is planned for in the Lord is victory. Anything short than that is sub-par, and will feel like a defeat simply because the greatest blessing was not obtained, the best performance was not given to the Lord. If I learn nothing else from the MTC, if I relay nothing else to my comrades in arms, I would wish to impress upon the minds of my fellow servants the importance of inspired planning.

I've also been given an assignment to share my conversion story in Relief Society, which gives me a special chance to speak to all of the sisters serving in the MTC at this time. Thinking about the number of people, the caliber of hearts and souls within the angels to which I will be testifying is daunting to consider. But we are brought to our positions and assignments through the wisdom and will of the Lord. I believe that now more than I ever have in my life. I've seen how my experiences here have helped me to have a rough idea of what I need to say and what aspects of my experience will bless the lives of my fellow sisters.

I know that the word we're preparing to do here in the MTC is the most important work on the face of this earth. Noting short of victory is acceptable. My life is my testimony to that truth, in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

--
I am, as ever, your humble servant and never-deviating friend,
Sister Doyle

04 July 2011

MTC--Week 2... Or 3

I read Catch-22 back in high school, and there was always this question as to whether or not anything that
was happening in the book was real, or if the narrator was just crazy.

Being in the MTC is a lot like that, especially when you're a solo sister. A member of my branch presidency acknowledged that the MTC is a lot different than the mission field in a way that really is artificial, and I can't really express how much of a relief that was to hear. Knowing that my entire mission isn't going to be like the MTC is one of the best balms of Gilead I've received since I've been here.

Things are going well. I'm learning a lot about what it means to teach simply. And even though the take-home lesson from everything we do here is supposed to be obedience, I spent enough time in Utah at BYU to know that obedience to the law never compensates for a lack of love for others in the heart of a disciple. So, the aim I've chosen for my time here is to learn how to teach with love and through the Spirit. I trust that if I do that and somehow don't get around to shining my shoes, I'm not going to ruin my mission or go straight to hell.

Do they say that openly? No. But is it implied in almost every setting we go to? It has been my experience so far, especially since I was made coordinating sister. A coordinating sister is basically the female equivalent of a zone leader, and it's my job to help new sisters in my district adapt well to the MTC, and to make sure sisters in my residence hall are abiding by the MTC rules.

I appreciate that this position exists, because the dissemination of information at the MTC is really tricky. Having a chain of communication for all the expectations and rules is useful. But I admit, I didn't realize that such a leadership position was basically a hall monitor/babysitter, and would include asking sisters to put their hair dryers away after 10:15 every night.

In a lot of ways, I'm beginning to understand what a mother goes through. She spends all of her time trying to take care of others, making sure they're doing what they're supposed to do. And the price she pays is to essentially have no time to herself, except what time she can steal as she says her prayers at night--sometimes through tears because she's just so tired.

Realizing, though, the kind of influence I have here though, and seeing what it has already taught me about the kind of woman the Savior wants me to be, I would trade any of this for any other experience in the world.
I'm here because I love my Heavenly Father, I love my Savior Jesus Christ, and I know that the message of His gospel is worth every price we pay to share it. I bear that witness in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

I am, as ever, your humble servant and never-deviating friend,
Sister Doyle

27 June 2011

MTC--Week 1

After much confusion at the airport, I finally arrived at the Provo MTC. From the moment I shook the host's hand, there has been a new happiness that has entered my life that I can't describe as anything other than the Spirit of God.

I'm grateful for that abiding joy because it has helped me to adapt to everything I've had to face here.
I soon discovered that I've entered the ranks of special sisters called solo-sisters--sisters who are alone in their districts, and who therefore are not able to have conventional companions. I have two companions from the ESL program, two sisters preparing to serve in the Temple Square mission--one from Japan, and one from Brazil. I love them both, but with the exception of P-day I almost never see them. I spend the majority of my time with the Elders in my district.




For the first day or so I was here, I felt like a drop in bucket--a rare female face among a sea of Elders in white shirts and suit jackets. The lack of time I spend with my sister companions made the difference even more pronounced, and for several hours I felt alone--even though I was surrounded by people.

But since my first day, my Elders and I have come to grow in respect and Christ-like love for each other. They treat me with sensitivity, chivalry, and respect and I've come to love being a solo-sister. I've had and will have an experience that few other sisters in the MTC ever get to have.



The influence that I have on my elders is important, and I've come to appreciate how important it was for me to come here instead of going to the Brazil CTM. I wouldn't trade the experiences I'm having here for any other I could've had. As has been true in so many other times in my life, the Lord gave me what I really needed instead of what I thought I wanted, and it has made all the difference in how He has been able to bless me and others.

I know that God lives. I know that Jesus is the Christ, that the Book of Mormon is the word of God, and that the Church of Jesus Christ is the restored church of Christ on the earth today. I bear that witness with love and gratitude to my Savior, and in his name, even Jesus Christ. Amen.

--
I am, as ever, your humble servant and never-deviating friend,
Sister Doyle

20 June 2011

Farewell

Brothers and sisters, I’m not one for long introductions. Suffice it to say, the last time I was a member of this congregation, it was the Rising Sun branch and I was a teenager.

I love this place. I received my testimony of the restored Church here. I was baptized here. This ground is holy ground for me, and I pray that it will always be to every heart and soul who enters this sacred place.

I’ll be leaving shortly on a mission to the Brazil São Paulo Interlagos mission, and I’m here today to deliver a farewell message to you. I pray that the Lord will help me to have the courage to deliver this powerful message, and that we all might have the Spirit to be lifted and edified together on the subject of talents.

The talents we’ve been given are gifts from the Lord to increase our spirituality. They make up our unique identity as a child of God. If you wonder what makes you different from everyone else that Heavenly Father has created and brought into His fold, look to your talents. If you think the purpose of the gospel is to make you into something you’re not, look to your spiritual gifts. Your talents were given to you in the preexistence, and developing them is not forcing you to become someone you’re not. They’re hidden treasures of your soul that will help you to more fully become the person you were then—the amazing, beautiful son or daughter of God you already are.

Our talents have been customized and given to us based on our personalities. Heavenly Father gave us specific talents and capacities we need to be happy, and to make our contribution to His kingdom. It was true of our first parents, Father Adam and Mother Eve, and it’s true for us today.

Look at Mother Eve. Of all the things Lucifer could have used to persuade her, he chose knowledge and wisdom. He compelled her with the assurance that she would become like God. Out of all the ways he could have chosen, why did Lucifer choose those particular ways?

12 And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it became pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make her wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and also gave unto her husband with her, and he did eat.
Moses 4

If she had not yet fallen, and could not yet know good from evil, how could she understand knowledge and wisdom enough to desire them? Even in her innocence, she felt desires for wisdom—to use those talents which God had given her. They would show through regardless of whether or not she knew about them. They drove her towards her roles and responsibilities in the gospel, towards her motherhood and her greatest happiness. If Eve had never fallen, she would have remained a stranger to herself, to her great power and potential as a divine daughter of exalted parents.

Adam’s motivation was different because his talents were different. In 2 Nephi 2: 25, Lehi teaches us that:

“Adam fell that man might be, and men are that they might have joy.”

I always understood that to mean that the Fall was imposed upon Adam because it was necessary. He needed to stay with Eve, and everyone who has ever lived on the earth needed to be born and receive the gospel. Until very recently, I thought that because of God and because of Lucifer, Adam fell.

But Adam fell willingly and deliberately. He took a bold and fearless step into the unknown, Adam FELL, caused himself to fall, that man might be. To him, transgressing the law was a real act of faith because everything in him desires so much to be obedient. I personally don’t believe the commandment to multiply and replenish the earth and the law not to partake of the fruit are contradictory. They work together to accomplish the same one purpose of the Lord—to allow us all to come to mortality. But to Adam, they would have been a test to see if He could distinguish which law was more important to obey. If he was going to be the father of all living, he needed to be able to choose his children before his own security, his own blessing. To say that Adam fell that man might be is a statement that tells us why Adam chose to Fall, and what we all mean to him.

Adam and Eve’s talents were essential to the Fall. They came to earth, and discovered talents and capacities they never dreamed they could have. Adam begins by doing much of what he did in Eden, caring for the grounds and the animals. Eve labored with him, and they learned to appreciate hard work. Then the Lord begins to institute and organize his priesthood among them, and they begin to grown in their spiritual talents.

Adam and Eve needed to learn how to live separated from God, and the Lord teaches them what He expects of them so they can return to Him. The truths that Adam and Eve learn from the Lord at this time are simple and complete. They focus on repentance and the redemption Adam and Eve will find in Jesus Christ. The truths, doctrines, and power they received were never more simple and unified than they were in Adam and Eve’s hands at that time.

In Moses 5: 5, we see that Adam and Eve first learn to sacrifice. The angel teaches them:

…This thing is a similitude of the sacrifice of the Only Begotten of the Father, which is full of grace and truth.
8 Wherefore, thou shalt do all that thou doest in the name of the Son, and thou shalt repent and call upon God in the name of the Son forevermore.
Moses 5

Adam and Eve both have their eyes opened, and the voice of the Lord tells them of their redemption from the Fall.

…I am the Only Begotten of the Father from the beginning, henceforth and forever, that as thou hast fallen thou mayest be redeemed, and all mankind, even as many as will.
Moses 5: 9

Nothing could’ve been a greater comfort to them than to realize and remember that they and their generations were not lost forever in their mortal state. What Adam and Eve say then are two of the most beautiful statements in all of scripture.

Adam says, “Blessed be the name of God, for because of my transgression my eyes are opened, and in this life I shall have joy, and again in the flesh I shall see God.”

Brethren, do you live in the joy of knowing you will see God again? Does being strictly obedient bring you joy? If not, how can you use your talents to make obedience a more pleasant experience for yourself, your families, and for others?

Eve says, “Were it not for our transgression we never should have had seed, and never should have known good and evil, and the joy of our redemption, and the eternal life which God giveth unto all the obedient.”

Sisters, do you treasure your children and grandchildren, even if you are not yet married? Do you actively grow in your understanding of good and evil, and share your wisdom with your children? Have you used your talents to become a better gospel teacher? Do you exercise your talents through visiting teaching to help other sisters grow?

Adam and Eve progress in their covenants for the rest of their lives, and every time they do so, it’s because they grew sufficiently in their individual talents. But how is that accomplished? What do our talents do to bring us closer to the Lord and His Spirit?

Developing our talents is a crucial part of genuine repentance. If we are not including our talents in that repentance, we are not giving the Lord all of ourselves, and our repentance is being frustrated. We may learn the wrongness of our actions, and we may even feel remorse for what we’ve done. But we need to change our behavior and our hearts. This happens as we make powerful personal sacrifices, and I know of no better way to do this than by consecrating talents and abilities to the Lord.

When that is the kind of repentance we live by, a greater capacity to be obedient comes into our lives. That obedience allows us to progress towards the work of our day. Just as Adam and Eve had great purposes of the Lord attached to their talents, we too have a work to perform which depends on us growing in our talents.

After Adam blesses Enoch, he began to build the holy city of Zion. It’s a city built entirely of consecrated talents, where the inhabitants “had all things common,” (4 Nephi 1: 3) and were “of one heart and one mind.” (Moses 7: 18) I bring him up because Enoch’s work in his Zion is inseparable from our work today in this dispensation. The Lord told Enoch of our great work when He said:

…As I live, even so will I come in the last days, in the days of wickedness and vengeance, to fulfil the oath which I have made unto you concerning the children of Noah;
61 And the day shall come that the earth shall rest, but before that day the heavens shall be darkened, and a veil of darkness shall cover the earth; and the heavens shall shake, and also the earth; and great tribulations shall be among the children of men, but my people will I preserve;
62 And righteousness will I send down out of heaven; and truth will I send forth out of the earth, to bear testimony of mine Only Begotten; his resurrection from the dead; yea, and also the resurrection of all men; and righteousness and truth will I cause to sweep the earth as with a flood, to gather out mine elect from the four quarters of the earth, unto a place which I shall prepare, an Holy City, that my people may gird up their loins, and be looking forth for the time of my coming; for there shall be my tabernacle, and it shall be called Zion, a New Jerusalem.
Moses 7

We have each been given talents which will help us to stand in our place in our day—to build Zion to our God. We are progressing as individuals and families in positions to which every previous dispensation has looked and eagerly anticipated, hoped and waited. They knew the talents that would be extended to us specific to our positions, and they wanted to be a part of our day. (Alma 29: 1-2)

Do we have talents specific to our work in Zion? Absolutely! Read any prophecy about the latter days, and you will read about the righteous and the power they will possess.

…I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions:
29 And also upon the servants and upon the handmaids in those days will I pour out my spirit.
30 And I will shew wonders in the heavens and in the earth, blood, and fire, and pillars of smoke.
31 The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and the terrible day of the Lord come.
32 And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be delivered: for in mount Zion and in Jerusalem shall be deliverance, as the Lord hath said, and in the remnant whom the Lord shall call.
Joel 2

That description is powerful because the potential of our talents is a marvelous sight to behold. Visions, prophecies, miracles—these experiences do not belong solely to prophets, apostles, or general authorities. You can have them too if you prepare yourself in righteousness, as they have; and if you have real need of them, as they do. And I promise you and warn you this day, you will never have greater need for inspiration than you will as you strengthen and bless your families, and build the kingdom of God.

Visions, prophecies, and miracles attend those who have the gift of the Holy Ghost. Use your talents as the Lord directs, and you will magnify the gift of the Holy Ghost in your life.

If you ponder, in all honesty, what it means to have the Spirit to be with you—to have a member of the Godhead under binding covenant to dwell with you and guide you—it is exciting, and daunting, and humbling all at once. It awakens us to a sense of our greatness in the sight of God. But it is only a precursor to the talent and defining blessing of Zion and her inhabitants.

What is the talent which all men and women in Zion possess—the thing that makes Zion different from any other place on earth—so difficult to build, but worth hoping and sacrificing for, even unto death?

What is Zion?

And Enoch and all his people walked with God, and he dwelt in the midst of Zion;
Moses 7: 69

To walk with God means to see Jesus Christ exactly as He is, and to be able to speak with Him, “even as a man talketh one with another, face to face.” (Moses 7: 4) It is the talent which is extended to the inhabitants of Zion who have earned it through sufficient repentance, honoring their covenants, and consecrating their talents. As we discover, explore, and develop our individual talents, that great talent of Zion will become a clearer and more attainable reality.

Adam-ondi-Ahman in Daviess County, Missouri
There is a reason I’ve spent so much time talking about Adam and Eve this morning as a precursor to talking about Zion and our latter-day work. It’s because our return to Zion and their return home to Eden is the same journey.

Everything we need to build Zion was originally extended as a blessing to Adam and Eve, which they handed down to their generations. Those blessings were changed, lost, taken away, restored, lost again, and fragmented many times throughout the history of this earth. A restoration, not a reformation, is the only thing which has ever reinstated those blessings. A restoration of truth, of priesthood, of the gospel of Jesus Christ is exactly what we claim to have here today.

But sometimes we think of that Restoration as something that happened once in 1820 and ended after the First Vision. That is when the Restoration began. The Restoration continued on as the offices of the Priesthood were restored, the temples built, and the keys restored. It continues today, and will continue until Adam returns to Adam-ondi-Ahman “the place where Adam shall come to visit his people, or the Ancient of Days shall sit, as spoken of by Daniel the prophet.” (D&C 116)

Joseph Smith never intended to hide that fact, which is why we find it clearly stated in the Articles of Faith:

10 We believe in the literal gathering of Israel and in the restoration of the Ten Tribes; that Zion (the New Jerusalem) will be built upon the American continent; that Christ will reign personally upon the earth; and, that the earth will be renewed and receive its paradisiacal glory.

When the Prophet Joseph Smith entered Jackson County, Missouri in July of 1831, I have no doubt that he understood where he was standing was a deeply significant place. It’s the place where Eden once stood, and the Lord revealed that to him and to us in D&C 57:

“This is the land of promise, and the place for the city of Zion.”
D&C 57: 2

About two weeks later, the Saints who were gathering wanted to know what the significance was of Missouri. The Lord reveals it to them, which we read about in D&C 58:

6 Behold, verily I say unto you, for this cause I have sent you—that you might be obedient, and that your hearts might be prepared to bear testimony of the things which are to come;
7 And also that you might be honored in laying the foundation, and in bearing record of the land upon which the Zion of God shall stand;
8 And also that a feast of fat things might be prepared for the poor; yea, a feast of fat things, of wine on the lees well refined, that the earth may know that the mouths of the prophets shall not fail;
9 Yea, a supper of the house of the Lord, well prepared, unto which all nations shall be invited.
10 First, the rich and the learned, the wise and the noble;
11 And after that cometh the day of my power; then shall the poor, the lame, and the blind, and the deaf, come in unto the marriage of the Lamb, and partake of the supper of the Lord, prepared for the great day to come.

The marriage of the Lamb is the feast of the faithful—the Sacrament Meeting to end all Sacrament Meetings. The righteous in attendance will return to Eden, to the New Jerusalem, in preparation for the Savior to begin His reign on the earth. Those who have received their celestial inheritances will be gathered there with Adam and Eve into the rest and service of the Lord forever. Among the rich symbolism behind the Sacrament we partook of this morning, one of the most important layers of meaning points to that feast. By partaking of the Sacrament, we promised to be at that feast of the faithful—having given all we possess, talents included, to be there.

Brothers and sisters, I hope we meet again in that holy place. I hope we all are counted worthy to stand in the presence of God. I pray we will all seek that redemption and live in that hope. As hard as things may become for you, as much as you may be tried, be strong. Know that God loves you, and He is leading you to that good place.

I know that God lives, and I know that Jesus is the Christ. He is the reason for everything we do here today. We love Him. We worship Him. We believe that He atoned for our sins in Gethsemane, died for us on Calvary’s cross, and rose on the third day that we might rise, conquerors over death. He bids us to follow Him, and by making and keeping covenants with Him, we are saved.

I bear you my witness that this Church is true, that the gospel is real, that Joseph Smith was a prophet and a good man. I am so happy and excited to serve a mission wherever the Lord will send me in addition to Brazil, and I bear you my witness in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.

18 June 2011

Called to Serve

Because I had such a great time making a temple prep playlist, I thought it only appropriate to make one for mission prep. However, I feel like such an undertaking needs to come with a disclaimer.

The temple is a beautiful representation of everything that is best in life, in eternity, in mankind, and in righteousness. It's beautiful in every imaginable way--serene, quiet, and approachable. That constant peace and calm, the comfort of the Spirit, is among the many reasons why the temple is such a pleasant place to be.

Missions are not like that.  

Going on a mission is a very different experience from going to the temple. That is why I find it so odd that even to this day, some members of the Church associate qualifying for a temple recommend with being mentally and emotionally prepared to serve a mission. The whole purpose of raising the bar for missionary service was to eliminate this assumption because a mission requires so much more than the spiritual bare minimum.

I've never heard anyone anywhere say that their mission was perfect--totally devoid of all problems, a season of perfect peace, enjoyment, and relaxation. If I ever heard a returned missionary say such a thing, I'd be strongly tempted to ask them if they were called to serve in a cardboard box.

What you do with the gospel in powerful, meaningful ways is infinitely more important than what you know about it. As such, these talks I've assembled are not meant to impart information in the same way my temple playlist did. This list is meant to inspire action--changes of habit, heart, and mind. They give meaningful, important suggestions for how we can become better missionaries--not just how to go on a mission.

Materials and Resources:

Talks:

Scriptures:
  • D&C 4
  • D&C 11
  • D&C 79 (The mission call of Jared Carter, who would bring John Tanner into the Church)
  • Luke 9: 59-62
  • Acts 1: 6-8
  • Acts 3: 11-15
  • Acts 9: 1-31
  • 1 Peter 3: 8-16
  • Alma 19: 16-18, 28-29
  • Alma 22: 13-18
  • Alma 26
  • Helaman 5
  • Judges 4 (It occurs to me that in the mindset of the Old Testament, missionary work and idolatry are both totally synonymous with military might and conquest. Therefore, reading about the armies and battles of Israel in the Old Testament is like reading about the great missionaries of the ancient world.)
  • Judges 7: 1-9 
  • Joshua 1: 9-11
(As always, feel free to leave your favorites and suggestions in the comments.)

This is only a cursory look at one of the most important responsibilities we have in the Church. Missionary work has such a rich history, with so many men and women working together at the battlefront. I have waited for many years to be able to join them, and in a few days time I will begin my own ministry in the Lord.

I've been reassigned to the Provo MTC until further notice, due to delays with my visa. If it comes before the end of my training, I will go straight to the Brazil CTM and finish my training there. I was disappointed about the change at first, but have since embraced the idea of returning to Utah to train with my comrades in arms there. I know that as long as I serve with willing men and women who desire to bring others to Christ, it doesn't matter where I train.

I know that the ministry I'm about to enter is for the true and living Church of Jesus Christ upon the earth today. His authority and power have been restored, and all who will seek those blessings can receive them if they will follow Jesus Christ and be baptized in His name. I know that the name of Jesus Christ is the only name under heaven by which we can saved, returning home to the presence of our Heavenly Father.

That desire to return home, having given all, is the defining expression of my faith--the greatest desire of my life. I am privileged to take my testimony to the world, and I do so in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.

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