Thursday, October 10, 2013

Remembering Cory Monteith - The Quarterback

Up until this point, I've used this blog for gospel/inspirational related posts, and although I do plan on returning to writing more posts like that again soon, I felt the need to break the mold tonight in honor of a man who has been a role model in my eyes for many years since I first saw him on the very first episode of Glee. Tonight's episode of Glee on Fox was completely dedicated to remembering Cory, and I just wanted to take a moment to voice my feelings about tonight's episode and Cory. I know not many people will probably read this, but it's worth it to me. So here it is....

- It opened up with Kurt's words about how the cause of Finn's death wasn't at the heart of matter. They rang painfully true to the actual passing of Cory Monteith, and I knew this was going to be a tear-jerking hour.
- Mercedes's rendition of "I'll Stand By You" was breathtaking, and her reference to Finn singing it to the sonogram of what he thought at the time was his baby left me feeling tears welling up in my eyes.
- The dialogue between Kurt, his father (and Finn's father) Burt, and Finn's mother Carol was the moment I swore I was going to just start bawling. I held the tears in as Kurt put on Finn's letterman jacket and recalled how Finn was like a knight in shining armor every time he saw him wearing this jacket. I felt the tears continue to come as I listened to Burt lament about how he just should have hugged Finn more and now he can't. A tear or two managed to escape my eyes though upon listening to Carol's heartbreaking words about how much of a hole Finn has truly left in her life - She has to wake up every morning and remember all over again that Finn is gone. She will forever be a parent, even though her son is gone.
- Then came Puck... hard on the outside, raw, emotionless Puck. It struck my heart strings to see how much he was struggling with losing his best friend, but the moment he let it all out in the locker room with Coach Beiste was the moment I almost let it all out too. I'll never forget the words Coach Beiste said: "All we've got left is his voice in our heads. You've gotta make it good enough, because that's all we have left." That's when it struck me... that's all any of us have left. From his family to the cast to his fans to Lia, all we've got left is his voice in our head.
- Santana was almost a tougher nut to crack then Puck. She felt like she couldn't be "soft" because she was known by everyone as such a cold-hearted person. Her rendition of "If I Die Young" was heart-wrenching, but it was what pursued afterwards that broke peoples' hearts. The words she wrote about Finn weren't flashy or special, but they were from her heart, the heart that up until that moment was supposedly cold and lifeless. Turns out it wasn't. Kurt's words here were deep as well: "Guilt is a wasted emotion."
- Sue Slyvester, or the cold heartless emotionless b**** as Santana referred to her as, had a moment of her own too. We all knew Sue had emotions, but I had no idea they could be so deep until she spoke of her heartache about Finn's death. She gave him such a hard time all the time, but deep down, she thought Finn was amazing. She thought she had plenty of time to teach alongside him and tell him later, and now.... she doesn't.
- Okay. Honesty hour. If you watched the episode tonight and DIDN'T cry during Rachel's performance of "To Make You Feel My Love" then you are the one who has no heart. There are not words to describe the emotions that coursed through my body and the rest of America as Rachel belted out this song. That's why Rachel didn't speak, she did what she does best. She sang, and sing she did. The dialogue after this with Schue and the plaque placed in the glee club room at the end of this sequence was the cherry on top of Rachel's grieving process. When you heard Rachel say "and we'd live happily ever after," you knew it wasn't just Rachel speaking. That was Lia grieving too. Rachel and Lia had lost "their person." It was heartbreaking. The quote on the plaque cemented Finn in the minds of America the way he should always be remembered - carefree, fun loving, and an all around great guy. "The show must go... all over the place... or something." AMEN.
- Glee couldn't end the episode without having Mr. Schue break down too. He had been the rock for everyone in this time of great sorrow and hardship, and I knew from personal experience it was only a matter of time until he broke down himself. He was Finn's father figure before Burt married Carol, and there is not a doubt in my mind that Mr. Schue saw Finn as his son too. That's why he took Finn's letterman jacket when no one was looking. I knew he took it because he more than anyone else needed to have a part of his "son" that he could hold close forever because he would never again get to hold Finn himself close ever again. The last thing we hear in this heartfelt episode are the pain-driven sobs of Mr. Schue as the screen fades to black. His sobs match the pain-driven sobs of Cory Monteith's family, friends, cast mates, fans, and Lia once they too realized they would never again get to hold Finn himself close ever again.

Say what you want about Glee as a television show or the fact that I still watch it, but tonight's episode was something for everyone to remember and for television to be proud of for quite some time. Fox and the producers of Glee put together a truly beautiful tribute to Cory Monteith, and I am grateful for that. Thank you Fox and Glee for allowing me to say goodbye to Cory Monteith, a man who will remain as a role model in my eyes for years to come.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

A Very Special Thank You

     We've all been there before. You're sitting in sacrament meeting in some ward you've never been to before. You might be there to see your older sister's newest baby being blessed, you might be there because your cousin is getting the Holy Ghost, or you might be there for a good friend's missionary farewell. It doesn't matter why you're there though because we all end up doing the same thing - people watching. You see that deacon who's wearing a suit two sizes too big and try not to giggle; you notice the tie some guy is wearing and decide you have to ask him where he got it after the meeting is over; or my personal favorite, scouting out the attractive members of the opposite sex who might be available next Friday night. 
     This last Sunday I found myself in this same position once again. There I was all alone sitting in some ward I'd never been to before, and before I knew it, there I was people watching. The thing is my eyes weren't drawn to the nice tie their bishop was wearing or the beautiful young woman sitting up by the podium. I instead found myself focused on the young mother sitting in front of me with her young son. Now before you call me "creepy" or anything of the sort, hear me out. I was not scouting out an attractive member of the opposite sex in this situation. I had no intentions of ever uttering a word to this mother or her son and I never did, but the words that I felt the spirit uttering to me as I sat in that sacrament meeting and the thoughts/memories they provoked cannot be ignored.   
      I watched this mother and her son throughout the entire sacrament meeting. I watched as she helped him take the bread and water for the sacrament meeting; I watched him sit next to her and read a book; I watched her play peek-a-boo with him; and I watched them munch on cheddar goldfish together. The moment that I will never forget though came as I watched this mother slowly hold her son in her lap and kiss his forehead as the primary sang their annual Mothers' Day songs. The love I saw between these two radiated brighter than the sun on a warm summer day. Sitting right in front of me was an exhibition of the pure love a mother has for her child and the bond that is created between the two. A tear or two slowly rolled down my cheeks as I realized just why I had been drawn to this mother and her son.
     Watching this mother and her son was like looking into the past for me. This mother chose to bring her young son with her to church even though she had to do it alone because she knew it was important that her son be raised in the church from a very early age. This mother was exactly like my mother. My mother knew it was important for me to be raised in the church from a very early age, so she brought me to church every Sunday even though she had to do it alone. I know that what my mother did and what this mother was doing right in front of me was not easy. There must be moments where they stumbled or roadblocks they thought they'd never get through, but they keep going. My mother kept going for me, and this mother kept going for her son too. The sacrifices women like these mothers make everyday can never truly be repaid. They gave us life. They give us food, shelter, and love; and then on top of all of that, they sacrifice everything they possibly can to make sure that the gospel is in our lives. 
     As I sat and watched this mother slowly hold her son in her lap and kiss his forehead as the primary sang their annual Mothers' Day songs, I realized just how much I truly owe my mother. What she did was not easy, but I would not be who I am today if she had not chosen to do that which was hard. You often hear people say that "the mission is harder on the missionary moms then it is on the missionaries." This couldn't be closer to the truth. Our mothers have sacrificed so much for us to get to this point, and what is their reward for all of the sacrifices they made? They have to let go of our hands, and let us go out on our own to some place most of us have never been to before. There we will stay for 2 YEARS trying to bring the gospel they worked so hard to instill in us to others who need it too. 
     As I think about how hard these sacrifices must be, I look back upon the end of that sacrament meeting last Sunday. At the end of the sacrament meeting, the mother I had been watching was called on to give the closing prayer. As she got up to walk to the pulpit and say the prayer, she entrusted the care of her son to the kind couple sitting next to her. I watched her son climb up on the chair and watch his mother as she walked to the podium. From the moment this mother left her son to the moment she returned to his side after saying the closer prayer, her son never took his eyes off of her. It was the perfect example of the inseparable bond between mother and child. I can see this bond in my own life as I envision my own mother carefully watching over me throughout the next two years of my life as I make my way to New York, and just like that  mother's son, I know she will never quit watching out for me until I have safely returned back to her side. 
     I owe my mother a very special thank you and then some. I know that I would never be where I am today if it wasn't for her and the sacrifices she made to help me get here. I hope that I can go to New York and show people just how much I love this gospel that my mother sacrificed so much to give to me. 

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

The Bronson Prayer Challenge

     I know it's been awhile since my last post and many of you were probably wondering when I was going to make the last post about the third missionary farewell I attended on that Sunday over a month ago. Well, have no fear for this is it. I saved the best for last, and that's why I took me so long to actually get this post up. This post and the subject it covers means more to me than anything else, so I wanted to get it perfect. I can't tell you how many times I had this post ready to go and then decided to scrap it because it wasn't good enough. I finally feel confident enough about this one for all of you to read though.
     This mission farewell was the second of the three I attended that Sunday, and to be honest, I had forgotten about it completely when I woke up that morning. If it wasn't for my friends reminding me, I would have missed it completely. How grateful I am that I didn't miss it because the lesson I learned meant a lot to me. Now I'll be honest as he got up to start his talk, I had no idea what to expect, but I can honestly say that I was forever changed by the things I heard in that sacrament meeting. He stood up and gave a very good talk, but the thing that shocked me was when he stopped for a moment and began to tell the congregation about how he had never originally planned on serving a mission. I was speechless. I know there are many people out there just like him, but I didn't think he would ever be one of them. Then again, many of you know that a mission was not in my future plans originally either, and yet here I am with a mission call to the New York Utica mission. I can't explain the feelings I felt when I heard I wasn't the only one who had gone through most of high school with the idea of serving a mission already basically dismissed in my mind. I felt a sense of peace and comfort knowing I wasn't the only one who had struggled with this situation, but even more than that, I felt my testimony being strengthened.
     Now before you write me off on this one, hear me out. My testimony was strengthened because here was another living testament of the miracles God can work in ordinary people when they put all their trust in him. I don't know all the details of just what made this young man change his mind about serving a mission, but I know without a doubt that God's hand was working hard in this situation. I know this because it was the same for me. I allowed myself to trust in God completely, and He showed me the way. Now, this is where the title of this blog comes in. I know this young man and I are not the only ones with doubts about a mission. There are many people out there with doubts, and I want all of you to know there is no doubt in your mind that God can not help you with. You just have to trust in Him completely, and He will show you the way just like he did for me and my friend.
     What I'm about to give you is one way to help rid yourself of doubts and put your trust in God. I've decided to call it "The Bronson Prayer Challenge" naming it after one of my best friends in the whole world who was the one who originally presented this challenge to me when I admitted I had doubts about a mission. The challenge itself is quite simple. The difficult part comes in truly believing that it will work. Here's how it works.
The Bronson Prayer Challenge
#1) Take your doubts about a mission and get on your knees. God knows the hearts of all men which means he already knows you're having doubts, but He can truly help you once you come to Him for help. Present God with your doubts. Explain everything to Him. He's there to listen, and that is what He will do - listen.
#2) Tell God the desires of your heart. In other words, make up your mind, and give him a clear cut answer. We've been told many times by general authorities that this gospel is not for "fence sitters," and the same is true for this challenge. It is much harder for God to help you if you are "wishy-washy" on the subject. Be honest with Him. I told God: "A mission is not for me. As of right now, I am preparing my future plans, and a mission is not included in them. If I'm supposed to serve a mission, I have the faith that you will show me the way." Present Him with your choice, and if it's the wrong one, He will help you make it the right one just like He did for me.
#3) HAVE FAITH. There's an important line I wanted to highlight in step two which is why I had it italicized. "I have the faith that you will show me the way." In my opinion, this process draws many similarities to that which people go through when they seek to know for themselves if the Book of Mormon is true. The end of Moroni 10:4 reads: "...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." Those who desire to know the truth of the Book of Mormon must have faith that God will show unto them, and the same applies to you looking for your answer. God can only truly show you the way when you have faith.
#4) I can think of many times when I have heard that this gospel is not for the faint of heart, and neither is this challenge. I said earlier that the difficult part comes in truly believing that it will work. This comes from having faith but it also comes from continued diligence in seeking your answer. Once is never enough, and neither is twice, thrice, and so on. In other words, getting on your knees once isn't going to do the trick. God will see the strength of your faith through your continued diligence in searching for an answer. We're supposed to do our best to pray to God every day both morning and night, and there is nothing wrong with including something as important as this in every prayer you offer up to God. The more you pray to God about something, He will recognize and acknowledge your diligence. Don't get discouraged. Don't become fainthearted. Don't give up. God may decide to test your diligence like He did mine, but as long as you never quit praying, He will reward your diligence.

     I have a testimony that this process works, and I can't stress how much I believe in this process with my whole heart. When I overcame the barriers in my life and truly believed that this would work, it did. I got on my knees and told God about all of my doubts concerning a mission; I was completely honest with God and showed him the desires of my heart; I had faith that God would show me the way; and last but not least, I exercised diligence and never gave up. I know I quote her in almost every single one of my blogs, but this quote fits too perfectly not to use it. "We are blessed from our efforts of trying. Not perfection." - Al Fox. I know that this is true. God doesn't expect perfection in anything including this process. If He did, I wouldn't have gotten my answer. God gave me my answer because I tried. I truly believed God would give me an answer, and when I merely tried, God blessed me for it. This challenge isn't unique to just me. If you have doubts about whether or not a mission is for you, or doubts about anything else for that matter, I challenge you to just merely try "The Bronson Prayer Challenge," and I promise you God will bless you for trying.

Friday, April 5, 2013

A Change You Can See

     My last post (The Footprints in My Sand) was about one of three missionary farewells I had attended the past Sunday. I promised you I would write about the other two too, and this is the next post in the trilogy. This time I'm writing about the first farewell I went to on that Sunday. This farewell was really special to me. Throughout high school, I hung out with this big group of guys who are still my best friends today. They mean the world to me, and I wouldn't trade the friendships I have with them for anything in the world. The first farewell of this Sunday was for one of these guys. It was special because he is the first one out of this group to be leaving on his missions. Almost all of us have our calls now and we will all be leaving soon, but he was the first. It proved to be very hard for me to hold back a few tears as I sat there in that chapel listening to him speak. Sure, I had friends leaving on missions left and right every week, but this was different. It's as if everything was becoming so real now. I was no longer a sophomore in high school watching my older friends leave on missions; I was no longer a college freshmen just watching friends I had known throughout high school leave on their missions; this time I was a future missionary myself watching one of my best friends in this whole world give his farewell talk. He will be leaving for the MTC in 5 days, and the rest of us will be following him one by one as our departure dates get closer and closer too. All of this just began to sink in as I was sitting there in that chapel listening to him speak.
     I know that the Lord knew the feelings that were going to be running through me as I sat in that sacrament meeting that morning though, and He had also been listening to the prayers I had been giving for the past couple of weeks. What occurred in that sacrament meeting was a living breathing testament to the fact that Christ knows me, hears me, and answers prayers. My friend was not the only "missionary" speaking in that sacrament meeting that morning. There was also an elder returning from his mission who gave his homecoming talk right after my friend's farewell talk. As you listened to this elder talk about the experiences he had had while on his mission, the spirit completely enveloped the chapel. I could feel it all around me, and I could hear the words "Listen up. This is what you were looking for. This is what you need." The Lord was speaking to me, and I have no doubt he was speaking through that elder too. The words he spoke were just simple yet powerful stories about his mission, something you would hear in every missionary homecoming talk, but these simple words brought me so much comfort too. I could feel in my heart that I would be okay. The Lord knew about the nerves I had been feeling, and the nerves I was feeling that very morning while listening to my friend give his farewell talk. The Lord was quietly reassuring me that although it was going to be hard to watch as all of us slowly began to leave for our missions, we were making the right decision to serve the Lord and become a valuable part of his army.
     Other than bringing peace and comfort to my soul in a time where I needed it, the Lord also used this sacrament meeting to answer the prayers I had been offering up to him lately. A mission is no easy decision to make no matter what. I know that and so do others. My non-member roommates here at college ask me if I'm crazy sometimes, and to be honest, I don't blame them. Leaving everything you know for two years, journeying to a different state or even country, devoting your entire heart, mind, might, and strength to preaching the Lord's gospel, and paying for it yourself is not something every one would do. The idea of actually leaving has always made me nervous, and the closer I get, the more nervous I get. This was something I know every future missionary must feel every so often though, so I asked for the Lord's help. Every night I would pray. The one thing I felt myself saying more than anything else was "show me the difference, show me the difference between who I am now and who I can become by serving my mission."
     As I sat in that sacrament meeting and listened to this returned missionary speak, I knew the Lord was quietly answering those prayers. I had just watched my friend who was about to depart for the MTC get up and give his talk. You could tell he was nervous. Who wouldn't be? This was the last thing many people would hear from you until you gave your homecoming talk in two years. I could see me in him. In a few short months, that would be me. I'd be standing up in front of my ward, family, and friends, giving my farewell talk. I'd be nervous as can be thinking about how I would soon be leaving all of this for two years. That's when the returning missionary got up to give his talk. As he talked I felt the spirit, but I also saw in him the answer the Lord was giving me. It was right there in front of me. I had asked the Lord to "show me the difference," and here it was. Just like I said, my friend was me. The nervous future missionary who was only a few weeks away from entering the MTC, and the returned missionary was the future me. He was what I would become as I served the Lord for two years with everything I had. It wasn't just an answer to my prayers. It was a change you can see. 
     Yes, going on mission is a hard decision to make, but the blessings one can receive from it are incomprehensible. The Lord knows how hard it is, and He will be there with you every step of the way. You have him on your side, you have the constant companionship of the Holy Ghost with you, and you have the support of everyone back home too. You will grow and change on your mission in a way that you could never have imagined before your mission. The person you were versus the person you will become is the greatest change the Lord could ever evoke upon your life. I'm not crazy for choosing to serve a mission like my roommates might think sometimes. The only thing I am crazy about is the Lord and His gospel. That's why I've chosen to spend the next two years of my life sharing it with others. The Lord has blessings and promises reserved just for me, and I know going on a mission is the next step I need to make on the path to becoming closer to Him and receiving those blessings and promises.
      I want to close with a quote from Al Fox's most recent blog post. "This gospel is for you. These blessings & promises are for you. You belong to a part of this.  This- what we’re a part of- is real. What you do does make a difference. His ways- His promises- are worth it." The second half of the quote resembles the change I want myself and others to see in me after my mission. "And how grateful I am that I decided to keep going. How grateful I am that I made the decision to trust. The decision to have faith. How grateful I am for the decision to choose God. I do not have words adequate enough to express my gratitude I have for how I feel. For who I have become. For what my life is today. It would not be have I not made those decisions. Choose. Choose Daily. Choose God." As I future missionary, I chose. I choose daily. I choose God. I will always choose God.   

Friday, March 29, 2013

The Footprints in My Sand

      My initial goal when I started this blog was to post at least once a week, and it's been almost two weeks since my first post so I figure I owe you guys a couple posts in the next few days. Lucky for me, I've had quite a few memorable experiences since my last post. I just had to decide which ones to write about first  and then make time to type it all out. This last Sunday, I went back to Idaho for one missionary farewell, but I ended up going to three. Each one of these missionary farewells was different from the others, but I left each missionary farewell feeling extremely blessed and full of the spirit. I've decided to write a post about each of these missionary farewells and how each one had an impact on me spiritually. 
     This post is going to be about the last of the three farewells I went to Sunday. This farewell was for one of my best friends. I didn't plan on going at first though because it was just his YSA ward farewell, and I was already planning on going to his home ward farewell a few weeks later. I initially turned down his invitation to come, but eventually after some nudging, something inside me told me I needed to go so I did. 
     When I first got to the sacrament meeting, I could tell that the atmosphere of this ward was different from anything I had experienced before. Compared to my singles' ward back in Salt Lake City, there was hardly anyone here. The place was quiet, and there was barely anyone there. We were welcome with a smile by the bishopric though, and we took our seats in the pews as my friend went to take his seat up on the stand. After the sacrament, the time had come for my friend to give his talk. I can honestly say I didn't know what to expect at first. My friend was a funny guy when he wanted to be and he was pretty smooth with the ladies, but I hadn't had many opportunities to hear him talk in church or in seminary. He admitted to me earlier in the day that he had written the whole talk last night, but his talk was fantastic though! Not that I would say I didn't see it coming, but he really knew his stuff. He's definitely a spiritual giant of sorts in my book. 
     There was one part of his talk that struck a chord with me though. This was when he read a poem most of you are probably very familiar with called "Footprints in the Sand." Just like the rest of you, I had heard this poem plenty of times before. I even gave a volunteer devotional in seminary about it during my sophomore year in high school using one of my mom's key chains that had the poem inscribed on it. I have never had such a power spiritual experience with it though then I did that day in that almost empty chapel as my friend read it to the congregation. I can count the times I have seen this friend cry on one hand, and yet here he was up on the stand trying not to choke up as he read this simple poem many of us have never even given much thought to at all even though we hear it quite often. The spirit I felt as he struggled to get through this poem was so powerful. I went home and reflected upon the poem and what it meant to me. 
     "Footprints in the Sand" is initially about one man's reflection of his life and his realization of just how much the Lord has helped him throughout his life. After reading through the poem again a few times, I reflected upon my own life. I can see times in my life where there are two sets of footprints in the sand as I walked with the Lord, and I can see times in my life where I only see one set of footprints in the sand because the Lord carried me. As I thought more about the footprints in my sand, I realized there was more to it than just those two examples. As I looked deeper, I saw times in my life where there were still two sets of footprints in the sand, but my footprints were far away from his because I had chose to stray away from Him. Sometimes these instances were short-lived and my footprints quickly returned to the spot next to his, but there were also times when this was not the case. During these times, my footprints were far away from his for quite some time, and it appeared as if they had no intention of turning back. That was until I slowly began to see more sets of footprints appear in the sand. These footprints didn't belong to the Lord. He was still out of my reach. These footprints belonged to the people in my life who the Lord had sent to help slowly bring me back to Him. They were the footprints of the people who I am privileged to call my friends. As I look at the footprints in the sand, I can see how these people clung to both sides of me and held my hands as they slowly showed me the way back to the Lord. The best part of this entire story is that I can still see those footprints walking next to mine. My friends brought me back to the Lord, but they never left me either. Not only do I stand tall and walk next to the Lord again now, but I also have my friends there standing next to me and supporting me every step of the way. There aren't just two sets of footprints in my sand. There are too many to count, and I couldn't be more grateful for all the different people in my life that these footprints belong to. As each one of them reads this post, I want to thank them for everything they have done. Thank you for coming to get me when I had strayed too far from the Lord. Thank you for helping guide me back to Him. Thank you for staying with me once I found the Lord again. Thank you for being the footprints in my sand.

Footprints In The Sand
--Author Mary Stevenson--
One night I dreamed I was walking along the beach with the Lord. 
Many scenes from my life flashed across the sky. 
In each scene I noticed footprints in the sand. 
Sometimes there were two sets of footprints, 
other times there was one only. 
This bothered me because I noticed that during the low periods of my life, 
when I was suffering from anguish, 
sorrow or defeat, 
I could see only one set of footprints, 
so I said to the Lord, 
“ You promised me Lord, 
that if I followed you, 
you would walk with me always. 
But I have noticed that during the most trying periods of my life 
there has only been one set of footprints in the sand. 
Why, when I needed you most, have you not been there for me?”
The Lord replied, 
“ The years when you have seen only one set of footprints, 
my child, is when I carried you.”

Monday, March 18, 2013

My Conversion Story

I spent over 3 months filling out my mission papers. There multiple bumps in the road, times where I felt defeated, and even a moment where I seriously considered giving up, but I didn’t. Last night was evidence to me that everything I had done was completely worth it. Last night I opened up my mission call! I have been called to serve as a missionary in the New York Utica mission, and I couldn’t be happier. I’ll leave for the MTC on May 29th and soon after that I’ll be off to New York to spread the Lord’s gospel for 2 years.
As I think about spending the next two years of my life sharing the Lord’s gospel with the people of New York and converting them, I think about my own conversion. Now I know what many of you are thinking. You were born and raised in this church. What do you mean by your own conversion? Let me explain. I always believed in this gospel and in this church, but I cannot say that I always lived this gospel and its teachings. Yes, I showed up to seminary and participated like a good student; I went to mutual every Tuesday night and participated in the activities; and I went to church every Sunday and fulfilled my priesthood callings. Despite all of this though, I felt like I was just “going through the motions.” I never fully understood why I felt this way back then, but I look back on it now and understand what was happening. I was doing everything the Lord asked me to do, but that was only part of it. I needed to put my trust in the Lord and allow his gospel and the things I was being taught to change me and to change my life.
My lack of trust in the Lord was never more evident than in my decision to serve a mission. From the time I was a freshmen in seminary, I was constantly asked the question I dreaded so much. “Are you going on a mission?” I knew the choice was mine to make, but the pressure just felt so overwhelming. That’s why I always just “went through the motions” answered with something like “Yes” or “Of course” even though in my heart the answer was always “No.” The one thing I can find comfort in is that I never gave up on God despite the way I felt about a mission, and I owe this to a very close friend of mine. From the time she found out I didn’t want to go on a mission to today, she never gave up on me even on the days I had given up on myself. She told me to put my faith in God, to tell him all about my fears about a mission, and to pray to him for help and guidance. She guaranteed me that if I would do all of this with a sincere heart that the Lord would show me the way I needed to go.
I can’t explain why, but I believed her. I did what she said, and I turned myself over to the Lord. I prayed day in and day out for almost four years. Throughout those years, I never got an answer, but I never gave up either. Something inside me told me to keep praying and eventually God would answer, so I kept praying. It took me quite a long time, but I realized why the Lord wasn’t telling me anything. You see, the whole entire time I had been praying to God about my mission, I had been praying with the intent that I would get the answer I wanted not that I would get that answer God had in mind. I realized I needed to humble myself before the Lord if I ever wanted to receive an answer to my prayers, so I did. I changed my attitude, and I changed my prayers. I was no longer praying for God to give me the answer I wanted, but I was praying for God to give me the answer he needed me to hear. Although the answer to my prayers didn’t come immediately, the Lord did answer my prayers, and I know the answer to my prayers came about because of the changes I had made to my search for answers to my prayers.
When God answered my prayers about a mission, the answer was so definite and resounding that there was no way I could ignore Him any longer. Despite all my fears and worries, God showed me that not only was a mission something I was capable of doing, but that a mission was something he needed me to do. I’ll admit that this was a hard concept for me to grasp at first. I was just another young man from a small town in Idaho. I tried to talk my way out of things by asking myself questions like “What difference would it make if one young man didn’t go on a mission?” or “It’s just too hard. If God really needed you, don’t you think he’d make the pathway easier?” Little did I know, God had an answer to these questions as well as an answer to my prayers.
 I had a lot of work to do in order to go on a mission, but God was there for me. He showed me that even if I was just another young man from a small town in Idaho that he needed me. He showed me that even though the pathway looked rough, he was going to be there with me every step of the way. I’ll be honest with you. My life was quite a mess up until this point because I hadn’t been living like a future missionary, but I couldn’t let that stop me from cleaning it up and starting to live the right way. Throughout the whole process of cleaning things up, God was there for me. The pathway was rough, but he was there to help me out when things got hard. I can even say that I felt him carry me at times when I just felt like giving up.
I can’t repay him enough for what he has done for me. Throughout this entire process, I have felt my burdens become lighter, and I have felt the chains of temptation being lifted off of me. I was in the dark, but he showed me the way. He led me out of temptation and brought me back to the light. I can see now what I was missing in my life all along. I can see the difference between the young man I was and the young man I am now. I am who I am today because I trusted in the Lord, and I allowed his gospel and his teachings to change my life. I trusted in the Lord, and I’m happier than I have ever been. To steal a few words from one of my favorite speakers ever, Al Fox – “This… this is happiness. This is real happiness.”
I know a mission isn’t going to be easy. I know it’s going to try me physically, emotionally, mentally, spiritually, and so much more, but I also know that the Lord has prepared me for this. He needs me in New York. He needs me to help him bring the same real happiness he brought to my life to the people of New York. I may be nervous about leaving everything I know for two years to go to New York, but I trust in the Lord. I know he will always be with me as long as I trust in him. The Lord took my MESS and turned into a MESSAGE. Now, it’s my job to go spread it. New York here I come!