“After all that has been said, our greatest and most important duty is to preach the gospel.” Joseph Smith, TPJS, pg. 113.
So of course, as if on schedule, my Wednesday was another 'awakening' for me. It wasn't like last Wednesday when I was encouraged by the Young Women and had my prayer answered of feeling encouragement in my life.
It was an answer to a prayer of mine though.
Since the start of the week, I've been praying to have confirmed that it is my Heavenly Father's will for me to go and serve a mission. It's something that's been weighing on me after I spoke to another Young Woman about how one apostle and a prophet, Gordon B. Hinckley, have spoken about Young women serving missions. They welcome them, they encourage them, but if there are prospects of marriage, to follow that as our higher calling. I kept thinking...
'Well wait a moment there...you just said you need a lot of missionaries and that women can get into places Elders cannot...but you're telling me that if I was preparing for a mission and there suddenly came up a prospect of marriage, to get married instead as it is a higher calling for me?...I don't understand". I don't know if this revelation is still prominent now for us, since Gordon B. Hinckley died only in 2008. It would be pretty disappointing for me to prepare 2 years for a mission then never end up going.
So! I began praying a lot for guidance on this. I asked VERY specifically as I find that many specific prayers are answered instead of just, "I need encouragement".
I'm always really excited for Wednesdays because I get to go out teaching at the Chapel with the Elders. It's great practice for missionary work as I watch and observe the Elders teaching, but I've also grown close to the recent converts we teach.
I went to Seminary earlier that day, beginning at 7 AM. Honestly, as I think about it... the whole day seems to be delicately detailed for me by Heavenly Father. Our lesson in Seminary was about "Tolerance", and how in Luke 9:49-56, Jesus Christ taught the Apostles about tolerance, love and understanding.
It's interesting! Background of the chapter was that Jesus Christ was preparing to go to Jerusalem, so He sent His Apostles to prepare the way for Him. As the Apostles arrived, the people didn't accept Christ quite so peacefully. James and John saw this, and suggested to Jesus Christ that He call down fire from Heaven and BURN THEM ALL...really?
Jesus Christ saw this as a teaching opportunity and rebuked them, saying that they "knew not what manner of spirit they are of". They didn't know that they had the Spirit of the Lord with them, and because of that, they had to act accordingly. They had to be tolerant, understanding, loving and having all manner of fruits of the Spirit with them. It was a great lesson, I went away from the lesson with a new attitude and determination of love towards other who are not of my Faith.
The first lesson was with Aaron. We taught him about the organisation of the church and how all the callings of the Priesthood are organised. It was very funny and casual as Aaron's humour helped the atmosphere of the lesson. He only remembered certain Apostles and the Prophet by their first name, and kept mentioning them as "Thomas" and "Quentin", it was absolutely adorable :D
I find myself now being less the 'member' present in the lesson and more the 'third missionary' who just kind of explains if the person doesn't understand or if the missionaries look confused. Sure, I bear my testimony every now and again and I personally feel the power and conviction behind them as they strengthen my testimony even more as I bear it. But I find myself fitting the role of a third missionary of some kind...it's quite a miracle to see the transformation that has taken place in BOTH Aaron and I over the course of his journey to the gospel. I still remember the first time I came to Aaron's lesson. Elder Faulkner and Elder Wennerholm were teaching him about the Restoration. Mike was present with me and I was incredibly quiet and shy...until the missionaries began picking on me to bear my testimony of Prophets, Jesus Christ, etc. I felt like my face was swollen red and I am pretty sure I gave the Elders a murderous look. One in particular. Although it was tough...after the lesson, I craved that feeling again of bearing my testimony. It was a feeling that I loved having. After that, I continued attending his lessons.
I've watched his growth, Aaron has been a witness of my growth. He went from no Christian background to being a fully active Christian. I went from no missionary experience to being almost an everyday missionary. I didn't realize that much time had passed until I saw how much Aaron had grown in the gospel, and then I realized how much I had grown. I went from being super shy and not really knowing if I wanted to serve a mission, to dedicating my life for the next 2 years to preparing to the most I possibly can to serve when I am 19... I didn't realize until recently.
The second lesson was with Sophie. We taught her the same lessons as we did with Aaron, so it wasn't that big of a change except that we focused less on the Priesthood and more on Relief Society.
Then the strangest thing happened...potentially another critical moment in my conversion up until this point. As the Elders were teaching, I kept hearing male voices outside...I brushed it off as young men who had arrived early for Mutual but then I got a sense that it wasn't just that...so I looked quickly outside the window.
There I saw two young men, who were not members of the church, sitting on the front lawn of the Chapel drinking alcohol and just generally relaxing...I was a bit stumped :/ It's the church's policy that alcohol is not allowed on the property of the Chapel. For some reason, as soon as I saw the two young men, I excused myself and began walking towards them. Inside my head I was thinking, "WHAT. ARE. YOU. DOING?! They are most likely drunk and the situation could potentially escalate to something very bad very quickly...You're about to tell two tipsy young men to remove themselves from the premise...are you prepared for everything that might happen?" as I was walking, I felt a little hesitance. Maybe I should just get the Elders to speak to them? Maybe it's not my place? But as I continued thinking and was about to reach the front door, this sense of overwhelming peace settled me. My thoughts changed from negative to positive, these thoughts entered my mind; "You have the Spirit with you, I am with you, you are safe. Be thou an example of the Believers and I will take care of you. Walk and live by faith". I walked down the front steps and watched the young men until one of them noticed me. I felt this sudden immense fear, it almost felt like blackness, take hold of my chest and I felt my words catch in my throat. I began having this quick thought of everything that could possibly go wrong and I had a minor freak out. But as I remembered the words of Thomas S. Monson about seeing people are they can become, I squeaked out a little "Hello there" as I walked over to them. In a split second, all my fear fled from me and I felt this powerful confidence take its place. I walked over to the young men and introduced myself. They seemed polite enough to shake my hand in return, as I asked them if they were aware they were on church property. One of the young men, named Sam, was very polite. He looked shocked and said "Really? We're so sorry! We didn't know this was a church, we were about to go to a party and took a shortcut from the shops through your carpark. The party is just down the road but starts in 20 minutes, so we just decided to have a few drinks on your nice lawn, we're so sorry. We'll go, but do you mind us calling our friend first to let her know we're coming?". I kept in mind throughout the whole conversation to be polite but firm in my approach; this was a critical moment in his first impression of the Church and I wanted it to be the most positive one he could possibly have. I nodded and sat next to them, to make sure they were alright and also to make sure they would leave. As I sat with them, Sam looked at me and asked in a sarcastic tone, "So, are you going to try and convert me?" I smiled and said "Well, I'll invite you unto Christ but it's really your own choice" Both the boys chuckled. Sam then continued to ask me what type of church it was, and if I was Christian. I could clearly see they were tipsy, Sam's friend more so than he was. I responded with a big smile, "Yes! I am Christian" I was about to say The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints but because they were clearly tipsy, I knew it'd fly right over their heads so I responded with, "Have you heard of Mormons?" both their eyes lit up and they put their drinks down and exclaimed, "YOU'RE MORMON?!" I nodded with a smile. "You're the church that knocks on the doors right?" I nodded again. "Wow...that's so weird! A blonde one and an Asian one knocked on my door pretty recently and gave me a card" I smiled and explained that Elder Griffin and Elder Choi were just in the room above these young men who they had knocked on their door. Sam's friend whacked him and jokingly said, "Maybe it's a sign dude...". Sam then asked me if I worked at the church and I explained to him that I'm seventeen and was waiting for the youth activity happening later that night. I explained that we were playing Human Foosball and that it would be pretty fun.
It was such a wonderful conversation, it was pleasant, I was able to give them a good impression of the church (I HOPE!) and be friendly.
Unfortunately, two men (who are quite protective) arrived at the chapel for an appointment and saw me with the two young men. Instantly, one of the men got protective and went up to these two young men and asked them to leave the property with their alcohol. I was practically pulling at my hair saying, "NOOOOO!!! ALL THIS WORK OF BEING MY FRIENDLIEST AND YOU'RE UNDOING IT AAAALLLL!". Sam nodded and said "We're very sorry, this young lady already explained to us and we're about to leave". It's a shame, I know it was a critical moment in these two young men's lives to have their impression from the Mormon church members itself! I could see on their faces they were nervous and just wanted to get out of there. I got up and shook their hands, thanking them and saying how nice it was to meet them.
And that was the end. Ta-Da. Farewell.
I said bye to the missionaries and walked back to where Natalie and Sophie were. They had finished their lessons and were just talking. As I walked in, they asked to hear where I went and what I did. As I explained...they looked at me with such...awe? They both gazed at me and almost in the same way said, "You're such a great missionary already!". I never know how to react to that...it's honestly hearing someone state that they know your potential when you don't know it or realize it yet. So I just resort to 'thank you' with a gawky smile :P
I think it hit me once I sat down of what I had just done. Something that had just come second nature to me was something that I once feared so greatly that I used to be paralysed with fear. As Sophie and Natalie were sharing of what they would have done in my situation, how brave I was to go out there alone, how I am practically already a missionary without a badge...it just hit in one big wave. I've grown, all my preparation that I get frustrated with and think 'THIS HAVE NO USE!' has actually changed me. It's been helping me be the missionary and woman I can and will potentially be. It taught me a great lesson of patience and tolerance of others. It taught me that, even though we may study and work hard but not see the immediate blessings of it, the blessings DO COME. It may be now, soon, much later or in the next life, but they do come!
"Some blessings come soon, some come late, and some don't come until heaven; but for those who embrace the gospel of Jesus Christ, they come" - Jeffrey R. Holland.
I know that with a surety now, I know without a doubt that blessings do come in the Lord's perfect time table. We must remind ourselves that He is God and we are not. I'm grateful to be able to learn this for myself and now have a determination and positive attitude in patience for answers to my prayers for Heavenly Father knows the perfect time to answer them.
Also! While I was studying in my scriptures, I came across 'Living by Faith'. It's a concept I struggle with and I'm sure a lot of Saints do as well. To me, living by faith means to live day to day following Christ and having hope in Him to keep to the promises He has made to you. But, like a canoe with two paddles, Faith is the boat. One paddle is Belief and the other Action. As we believe in Christ and show that through our actions, we build faith upon him. If you only have Belief but no action, you only go around in circles. If you only have action but no belief, the same thing happens, you go in circles. If you have neither, you either stay in your same spot or are moved with the current in whichever direction. BUT! Using both belief AND action, we can move in the direction we want to as we use both paddles and build upon our faith.
I am trying to adopt this 'Living by Faith' currently as I feel that I struggle greatly in this department, especially concerning a mission. I worry so much about what I can do and how much I haven't done, focusing on how little faith I have and then I end up sinking my Faith boat. I'll be praying a lot for help with this, and I must belief and hope that Heavenly Father and Christ will come through on their promises with me :)
ANOTHER THING! I found this in the CES Young Adult Missionary Preparation guide book that I am currently studying. I'm studying the first chapter named 'Called to Serve'. As I was marking down scriptures and studying the assigned ones, I was reading in Doctrine and Covenants 65. As I marked it, my eyes glimpsed over to the other side of the page to Doctrine and Covenants 66. As I read a bit...almost as if the Lord was speaking to me, I read Doctrine and Covenants 66: 2, 4-5, 7, 11. It hit me hard. I feel that was Heavenly Father letting me know His will that I have been so anxiously praying to know for myself. It was comforting, it was a peaceful assured feeling. I knew that after I prayed to know if this was personal revelation, that that was exactly it was :) I grateful to have scriptures come to life through the Spirit. It's always been a source of power and inspiration for me, personally.
So yes! I had a few powerful moments the past 2 Wednesdays. They've taught me a lot about myself whilst I served others and focused less on myself.I love missionary experiences, and I feel that's why I want to serve a sister mission so badly. If someone were to tell me right now, "Ash, you're not going to serve a mission when you're 19" I'd be devastated! And that, to me, shows just how much I want to go and serve. It's not a question of, "Should I serve a mission, is that Heavenly Father's will for me?" it's more "How can I properly prepare for a mission and what can I do in my daily life to be a better every day missionary?".
I know I'll receive unimaginable blessings from only serving Him, not focusing on myself so much and all my weaknesses which causes me so much fear and doubt, but focusing on helping others like the Elders helped me so shortly ago when I was being baptised.