Wednesday, March 21, 2012

17 - Tennessee

Good weather.
Good food.
Good values.
Good people.

There's a lot to love about Tennessee. And I love it all the more because I was called by a prophet of God to serve here. I have a purpose in being here. My Father in Heaven knew long ago that I would come to this place at this time to inspire and be inspired by the people I meet.

Every day as a missionary is wonderful, but some are just a little less wonderful than others. Understanding my purpose makes gloomy days bright and bright days even brighter.

My purpose is all about people. I love the people of Tennessee, and if I'm ever privileged to serve in Kentucky or Illinois I'll love them, too. 

I've learned so many important life lessons in Tennessee, but the most important thing I've learned is this—everyone I meet is a child of God, and I can learn something from everyone I meet.

Norman Tolk,
The Divine Call of a Missionary, Elder Ronald A. Rasband

Thursday, March 15, 2012

16 - Learning

Each Tuesday and Thursday morning my companion and I teach conversation classes for adults learning English as a second language. Our students hail from all over the world—Ukraine, Iran, Japan, Mexico, Brazil, Colombia, China, India, and Democratic Republic of the Congo, to list a few places. Their stories are fascinating and as diversified as the countries they come from.

One thing each of our students has in common is a desire to learn. Most immigrated to the United States of America knowing little or no English. Instead of retreating into a shell they've put themselves on the line. They exhibit that rare quality of humility as they work with teachers and volunteers to learn the complicated English language. And they work—hard.

My experience with our students reminds me that no one is ever too old to learn. We should learn something new every day of our lives. When we are teachable and willing to work hard we can learn and accomplish many things. These principles apply in both sacred and secular learning.

What is one new thing you learned today?

Two Principles for Any Economy, President Dieter F. Uchtdorf
Message to My Grandsons, President James E. Faust

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Notes from My Study Journal, Part I

For one hour each morning at 8 a.m. I study the gospel of Jesus Christ. My greatest resources—or friends—for this period of study are the scriptures and Preach My Gospel, a manual written by living prophets and apostles and directed toward full-time missionaries like me. Following are some things I've learned during these precious hours of study.

The Book of Mormon is a Book from God — January 19, 2012

I've just finished reading the Book of Mormon again. I feel impressed to record my testimony of this marvelous book now, while still filled with the peaceful yet prodding spirit of Moroni's words—"[C]ome unto Christ, and be perfected in him." (Moroni 10:32)

Make the Book of Mormon your best friend. You will never regret it

My study of the Book of Mormon this time around included an 87-page synopsis of its words. From start to finish, I summarized each verse of scripture and often recorded my feelings about particularly important verses. I included key words that will help me cross reference and correlate my study of this book in the future. It's been a rewarding experience, and I believe I've gained a greater testimony of the Book of Mormon because of it. More than at any other time of my life I understand and marvel at how this book and the prophets who authored it were prepared by God from the beginning.

I know the Book of Mormon is the word of God. It testifies of Jesus Christ with unique power and clarity. From 1 Nephi 1 to Moroni 10 there is not a chapter in this book that does not serve as a testimony or illustration or analogy of the Savior and His merciful mission.

I rejoice in this powerful promise penned by Moroni—
And when ye shall receive these things, I would exhort you that ye would ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true; and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you by the power of the Holy Ghost. And by the power of the Holy Ghost, ye may know the truth of all things. (Moroni 10:4-5)
With all my heart I declare: This promise is true! Anyone who will read and pray with sincere heart and real intent will receive an answer through the Holy Ghost. God is not selective in sharing His knowledge. Regardless of our circumstances or our perceived inferiority, He will answer. He rewards us openly for our faith and humility. Please do not pass up this sublime opportunity to learn God's will for you. Please do not disregard the beautiful simplicity of His plan and His promises. If ever you are tempted to stray from the truth you already know or are about to learn, pause to ponder God's supreme love for you. And then read the Book of Mormon, which offers the most powerful testimony of God's love I know of.

For honest and humble seekers of truth the Book of Mormon will engender or renew faith in Jesus Christ. Often more important than the words on its pages are the feelings which come into our minds and hearts and which inspire action, for a careful study of the Book of Mormon will always be accompanied by the Holy Ghost.

Make this book your best friend. You will never regret it.

Safety for the Soul, Elder Jeffrey R. Holland
The Power of Scripture, Elder Richard G. Scott
The Book of Mormon—a Book from God, Elder Tad R. Callister

Monday, March 12, 2012

15 - Prayer

As children of Heavenly Father, it is our privilege to address Him directly through prayer. Just as a good father on earth cares for his child and blesses him any way he can, our Heavenly Father loves us with a perfect love and desires to bless us abundantly. But because our own agency is such an essential part of God's plan, most blessings are conditional on our asking for them.

Each morning at 8 a.m. I study the scriptures for one hour. This personal study renews and refreshes my soul and gives me the Spirit and answers I need to teach throughout the day. Most days I approach study with excitement. I'm typically blessed with many answers as I study, and I feel like the hour goes by quickly.

But one day last week, for whatever reason, I approached study with confusion. I didn't feel like I was getting anywhere and after 20 long, wearisome minutes I began to wonder how much longer I could take it. I decided to pray. I asked Heavenly Father to help me change my attitude. Almost immediately the doubts and fears that existed in my mind were pushed away. They were replaced with feelings of peace, confidence and love as I was led to scriptures I felt were perfect to share with the people I teach. Many of these scriptures carried personal meaning for me as well.

I know God will hear and answer your prayers, too. Give it a shot. Test His promises. He is always faithful.

I Need Thee Every Hour, Hymns #98
Using the Supernal Gift of Prayer, Elder Richard G. Scott
The Privilege of Prayer, Elder J. Devn Cornish

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

14 - Spring

Spring arrived early in Middle Tennessee, and I'm not complaining. Outside of fall spring is my favorite time of year because the weather is mild and the days are gorgeous. Blossoming trees and flowers, longer days and shorter nights remind of the renewal we may have each day of our lives because of the atonement of Christ.

As I watch the birds fly, listen to the bees buzz, observe the tiny leaves and buds rustle in the gentle breeze, and smell the inviting fragrance of the flowers all around me, I cannot help but think of these words from President Thomas S. Monson, the Lord's prophet on Earth today—

Because [Christ] came to earth, we have a perfect example to follow.
Because He came, there is meaning to our mortal existence.
Because He came, we know how to reach out to those in trouble or distress, wherever they may be.
Because He came, death has lost its sting, the grave its victory. We will live again because He came.
Because He came and paid for our sins, we have the opportunity to gain eternal life.

I'm grateful for these gentle reminders of Christ. I know He lives and loves each one of us more than we can ever know.

And that is something to smile about.

Alma 30:44
Our Savior's Love, Hymns #113
Forget Me Not, President Dieter F. Uchtdorf

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

13 - Pain

You probably think I've gone crazy. How can I possibly be grateful for pain?

Pain is one of the thousand beautiful things we all endure. At times our pain can be finely detailed, complicated and almost overwhelming. While I do not willingly seek opportunities to experience pain, I am grateful for what my painful experiences teach me. Pain helps me appreciate the many things about life that are wonderful and beautiful. Pain gives me proper perspective.

I shall ever remember the counsel of a trusted ecclesiastical leader. When I focus on my pain, it is all I can see—just like the pain that fills this box (I've intentionally drawn the word colorless because we can each "fill" our pain with various hues and gradients according to what we experience)—

Not a very inspiring view, is it? When I choose to focus on other things in tandem with my pain, I gain a greater, more colorful perspective—

My pain seems much smaller now that it's coupled with wonderful emotions like joy, love and fun. As I extrapolate this even further by choosing to focus on the positive things in my life, observe how small my pain becomes—

Pretty neat, huh?

To make my long and meandering thoughts short, we can be grateful for pain without seeking it out. We can learn from pain what God intends for us to learn without becoming overwhelmed, discouraged or defeated. We can experience pain without being a pain.

Where Can I Turn for Peace?, Hymns #129
Adversity, President Henry B. Eyring
The Atonement Covers All Pain, Elder Kent F. Richards
"Come unto Me with Full Purpose of Heart, and I Shall Heal You", Elder Patrick Kearon

Saturday, March 3, 2012

12 - Time

[A]ll is as one day with God, and time only is measured unto men.

Time is one of God's greatest gifts to man. One of the most important reasons we're on Earth is to learn to manage our time wisely.

As of yesterday I've been on my mission for exactly a year. I've reflected lately on my experiences with time as a missionary. It's unbelievable how quickly time flies by when you're in the service of the Lord. It's often hard to consider that this precious time can never be recalled. I must—and you must—make the most of every moment, because there is no way to take back time once it's gone.

What is more valuable than time? Not much, really. Not money. Not power. Not prestige. In the end those things matter very little. I suppose the thing we'll each want most at the end of our lives is more time. But unlike many modern comforts, conveniences and commodities, time cannot be purchased at any price. 

The way we use our time in this life determines how we spend eternity. With that in mind, don't our priorities become much clearer? Aren't there many things that now seem pretty unimportant? And aren't there a handful of things—family, education, service and friends, for example—that we can instantly identify as mattering most?

How do you make the best use of your time? What is something you will start doing today to preserve your precious time for the things that matter most?