Friday, December 28, 2012

Obedience

In light of my most recent post on the importance of the Christ-like attributes, I've decided to do a series on them. With each one, I hope to share valuable insights from my personal study as well as personal experiences from my mission, in order to SHOW what being a missionary is like as opposed to merely explaining.

First on the docket is the missionary bread and butter: Obedience

Starting with Preach My Gospel is most effective, page 122 in chapter 6:

Obedience is one of the most important principles in missionary work, and it's the principle we hear the most about. Our meetings, our training materials, our handbooks, the scriptures we study, the schedule we keep--everything we do as missionaries is carefully organized to maximize our ability to be obedient. Our obedience, more than anything else we do, will determine our success as missionaries. It is impossible to reach your full potential as a servant of Jesus Christ without obedience to the commandments and the mission rules.

To illustrate this, I remember an incident from my mission that left a lasting impression on me.

My trainer and I were scoping our some distant and unfamiliar parts of our area in order to scope out new teaching opportunities. We were on the far side of our area, trying to make sense of our map in relation to the streets around us. Paved, organized streets began to give way to favelas and pathways off the beaten track. The spirit of discovery was with me in every step, and I was genuinely happy to be seeing new places after several weeks of talking to people in familiar places all the time.

At one point, we began looking for less active members with the hopes of being able to have a quick lesson, sit down, perhaps ask for something small to eat before continuing on our way. As we approached the end of a large street, I had an odd sensation come over me. Even though we were merely at the end of a normal street, I felt as if I were approaching the edge of a cliff. The closer we came to the end of the street, the more pronounced that feeling became. I didn't know exactly where I was, and I questioned myself if we actually were coming to the end of our area. I felt embarrassed to ask my companion about it or to say anything to her because I was a new missionary--I already questioned her enough as it is. But when we came to the end of the street, my feet simply locked into place and would not go another step. I may have reached out in front of me and knocked on an actual wall, and it would not have surprised me in the slightest.

My world simply ceased to exist beyond the edge of that sidewalk.

What was in those lovely green apartment complexes across the street, or beyond them, or in any other part of São Paulo, it simply didn't matter. I realized that for the entirety of my time in Santa Teresa, they didn't exist anymore. My world was instantly reduced to the size of a piece of paper as I thought about our map. I felt confined and slightly claustrophobic. How do we, as missionaries who are still normal people, survive within such a small space? My desires to be obedient and to be independent were at the same crossroads as I was in that moment--one safe in my area, the other over the edge of cliff.

I made a decision in that moment to never go over the edge. Independent nature aside, I had a purpose to complete, a mission to accomplish. There were people who needed me HERE, the Lord would bring them HERE, and I had nothing more important to do than what was going on RIGHT HERE in this moment. When it came to obedience, I was staying in my area--and that small decision had eternal consequences on the rest of my mission.

In time, I discovered some scriptures that expressed the true spirit of obedience I needed to seek after. They're in Philippians 2:

5 Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus:
6 Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God:
7 But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men:
 8 And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto ddeath, even the death of the cross.
9 Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name:
10 That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth;
11 And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Jesus Christ was never AWOL. He was never anywhere He should not have been, doing things He should not have been doing. He was obedient. Serving Him requires that we pay the same price, with the same love and faithfulness. One of the most valuable assets we can have as we prepare to serve missions is not just a testimony--it is the sincere, heartfelt desire to be obedient. I testify that this spirit of faith and humility brings success more than anything else a missionary can seek after. This is the type of missionary the Lord can and will use to perform His miracles in the lives of His children.

I testify that Jesus Christ is the Savior and Redeemer of the world. He lives, and He is intimately involved in every aspect of our lives. He is constantly seeking to help us, and that fact is never more apparent than when we are in His service. His Church is restored again to the earth. The Book of Mormon is true. Joseph Smith truly was a prophet of God. The Lord has called His servants to do His work in His vineyard for the last time. As we go forth valiantly to bring souls unto our Father, He will bring us safely home. In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.