SO HERE IT IS! My homecoming talk:
I learned a lot on my mission. I learned how to drive on the left side of the road, how to fix a puncture on a bike tire, how to get anyone’s number, how to speak in about 5 different british accents (see me later for that one), how to open a coconut, etc.
Today I’m going to talk about the more spiritual things I learned. I’ve summed it up into 3 main points. 1-I learned how to love the scriptures. 2- I learned how to love other people. 3- I learned how to love God.
With each of these things it is not as though the love didn’t exist before my mission, but I know that my love grew to a whole new level with each of these things.
In my first area as a brand new baby missionary I had decided one day to just take a few minutes of my time to sit and read the Book of Mormon. As I was sitting there, I suddenly just became absorbed in the stories. I felt them come alive in my heart, and the spirit reconfirmed to me that everything inside was true.
This newfound love and excitement for the scriptures opened my eyes to how they could influence other people’s lives. Later on in my mission, I had moved to a new area and was given a new missionary as a companion. My responsibility was to help her learn the ropes of missionary work. Things were rough at the start. We were similar in some ways, both wanting to serve the Lord, but she had moments where she really struggled with homesickness. One day we were speaking to people in the middle of city center, and I could tell she wasn’t feeling the greatest. I remembered a scripture I had read that morning, and I turned to her and said “Hey, do you want to take a 5 minute break with me to read a scripture?”
In the middle of the street I pulled out my quad and read with her Doctrine and Covenants 123:17- it reads “Therefore, dearly beloved brethren, let us cheerfully do all things that lie in our power; and then may we stand still, with the utmost assurance, to see the salvation of God, and for his arm to be revealed.”
Immediately after we read that scripture we both felt uplifted by the spirit and ready to speak to anyone. The scripture came alive in our hearts.
The scriptures are essential to our spiritual survival. Later on in my mission my companion and I met a less active family. We had seen their names on a map, but we knew nothing about them. We showed up to the doorstep and spoke to the father for a few minutes, and he invited us back to teach him. He explained to us that his wife would not like to learn, and that she would not appreciate a visit, but he would. Later that week we found out from the ward mission leader that the Edwards family had specifically asked that no one from the church ever contact them, and that when we had gone by it was the first contact they had in about a year. As we returned again for our set appointment, Brother Edwards (the father) was at the door with his 11 year old daughter.
He told us how his daughter had accidentally told the mother that we were coming by, and that the mom was furious. I was a bit worried at this point that we’d be told never to return, but then he burst into a smile and said to us “She just called me a few hours ago, and she told me that she thinks the whole family should go back to church together.” That Sunday Brother Edwards and his daughter showed up to church. For 7 weeks after that Brother Edwards came by himself, and finally the next week the whole family came to church, and they have come every week since.
So what had opened and prepared this family to return to activity in the church? The second time we went to visit with them Brother Edwards told us that even though his family was not attending or having anything to do in the church, he would take any spare moment he could to read the scriptures on breaks at work.
The scriptures have real power, and I have seen how they influence and guide our lives for the better. I love the scriptures!
A few months ago in my journal I wrote “Every minute of your mission builds someone. You are always building someone else or building up yourself.” May I add, and oftentimes we are building both. As a missionary your whole life is dedicated towards helping others. We look to serve anyone in any way we possibly can. We pray for them constantly, we plan for them, we study for them, sometimes I would even have dreams about the people we were working with! The thing I love most about England is the people.
One of my all time favorite scriptures is found in both the Bible and the Book of Mormon. It says “But behold I say unto you, love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them who despitefully use you and persecute you;”
At one point in the middle of my mission, I was serving with a really great companion in a wonderful area. Things should have been going great, we had befriended the ward members and there were many people to talk to on the streets. However, we hit a rough patch. The people we were teaching were not progressing. One would constantly miss appointments, one would meet with us but never go to church, one spoke almost no English and school took priority over prayer, and one would call us constantly to complain about his drug-using house mate.
Don’t get me wrong, we definitely loved these people. We put our whole souls into helping these people come unto Christ, but sometimes people are not willing to accept commitments. My companion and I spoke about it and realized we felt a bit like the Saviour, Jesus Christ. He literally gave us everything, He offers healing, peace, hope, love- and yet, people still rejected Him. People still reject Him today.
My companion and I talked about how what we wanted was someone to teach who could be our friend. Someone who would be prepared and willing to listen. Missionaries are still human, and we still need friends! We knew that with God, nothing is impossible. That night we both prayed that Heavenly Father would lead us to someone who could be our friend.
The very next day we met Jessica. She is 23 years old, she has a car (which is incredible for people in Britain), she was Welsh, and she was golden. As soon as my companion and I had finished talking with her on the street, we knew God had answered our prayers. We met with her to teach her for the first time two weeks later. From the end of May through June, Jessica became one of our best friends. She absorbed the gospel like a sponge, and on June 27, 2015 she was baptized.
Not everyone was like Jessica and willing to speak. Quite often as we tried to stop people on the street they would respond with “Can’t you tell I’m busy? Do you mind? How dare you walk with me! You liars! You don’t know anything. Mormons? Oh no NOT Mormons.”
When this happened, I wouldn’t walk away hurt, but I would remind myself that they didn’t truly know what they were rejecting. I know that each one of them is a child of God. At one point I even wrote down the names of all the people we met, just in case we would run into them again I could remember them. I gained more of an understanding of Doctrine and Covenants 18:10 which says “Remember the worth of souls is great in the sight of God;”. We are so blessed to know that God loves us, no matter what.
The third thing I learned a lot about was my relationship with our Heavenly Father. I know my perspective on prayer has changed, and I am so grateful that He is always listening. One of my favorite things about teaching people about the gospel was hearing them pray for the first time. We taught people from all over the world, and many came from a non-religious backround. Some people have no idea that there is a loving Father above.
One time while I was in Wales we met with a lad named Jeremy for the first time. Jeremy was from China, and he had heard about God before, but he didn’t really know much about Him. We taught him about the restoration, and at the end we invited him to pray. He was hesitant, but he agreed. In the middle of the university library we all bowed our heads, closed our eyes and waited for Jeremy to pray. We waited, and waited, and finally I just opened my eyes a bit to see if he was going to pray. My companion and I made eye contact and we mouthed to each other “I think he’s praying!” We forgot to mention the pray “out loud” part.
We continued to teach Jeremy, and he would come to church, but he claimed that all he felt was “normal.” He liked what he was learning, but he still didn’t understand how God could be there. This went on for a few weeks, and finally we decided to just sit down with him and discuss the Godhead with him. We were talking about God for a while, and we shared some scriptures. Finally, I just felt impressed to tell him “Think of God like your father here on earth, but perfect!”
Instantly his face changed, he looked to me, then to my companion, and he went back and forth a couple of times. “You made me feel it!” He exclaimed as he pointed at me. “I can feel it!” We all began to tear up. The spirit was so strong around that little table in the library because that was the moment where Jeremy realized that he has a Heavenly Father who loves him.
In Matt. 3:17 it says “And lo a voice from heaven, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.”
God feels this way about each of us whenever we take the smallest movement towards Him. When we keep a commandment, when we serve others, when we reach out to others, when we stand up for what is right, when we speak to Him, when we take the sacrament worthily. As I have grown closer to Him through my personal prayers and experiences I know that He is there. I know that He loves me. I know that He loves all of His children. I know that He answers our prayers specifically and perfectly.
Words cannot sufficiently describe the experiences and growth I’ve experienced on my mission. I hope that the Spirit can testify to you that what I have said is true. I loved my mission. I love this gospel, and I know that it is the Gospel of Jesus Christ with my whole heart.
I say these things in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.
1. Going with my family to the Mormon Tabernacle Choir concert the day after getting home
2. On the flight home with Sister Thomson, Sister Lamb and Elder Ashcraft!