Coming Home From A Mission
I know, I know, this blog post is waaaaaay over due. I’ve got a good list of excuses ready for you though!
- I just HAD to catch up on all the One Direction music videos I missed
- My twin sisters forced me to watch The Fault In Our Stars with them on repeat
- I’ve been too busy dating everyone with four limbs and dollar movie tickets
Okay…so none of those excuses are actually true. The real reason this post is a wee bit late is because I’ve been working on the new website. I thought I would wait until it’s completely finished, but that’s going to take some time and I can’t wait that long. So please bear with me and my “in construction” phase of The Lady Lena.
Returning home was exactly what I expected…I had no expectations. I suggest all missionaries who are about to return home do the same. No two experiences will be the same, and we can’t all have the same expectations of our personal realities. My plane arrived earlier than expected so I arrived in America to an empty airport. No friends or family to be seen. WELLLLLCCCCOOOOOOMMMMME BACK! Since that very first moment, it’s been an awkward transition.
Because I know you’re just dying to get the juicy details of my awkward so called love life, I went on my first post mission date that Friday. It was a blind date. Yada yada ya. I went sailing on my last date before the mission, SAILING people! So as you can imagine, this blind date was a bore because how do you compete with sailing? You simply can’t. At least I was able to catch up on the Hunger Games. #life’slittlevictories
What else have I done with my life? I found myself a place to live for college, I’m working off those extra Germany enjoyment pounds, and today I started applying for jobs. Are you hiring?! Oh, I’m also planning weddings for everyone and their dogs. Seriously guys, people have dog weddings!!
But enough of that time consuming waste, let’s get to my homecoming talk. This is gonna be a loooooooong post.
Good morning brothers and sisters. I was asked this morning to talk about keeping the commandments. Conveniently, this was my topic for the talk I gave 18 months ago. Inconveniently, I’m almost positive a few of you came to hear mission stories so I just had to write a new talk instead of rereading the last one. But in all honesty, I am very excited to speak to you about this topic.
I’ve learned a lot about keeping the commandments on my mission. I’ve witnessed firsthand the blessings one receives by willingly following God’s commandments. In some of the best advice to his son, Alma said “wickedness never was happiness”. In this digital age we are all too often fooled into thinking elsewise. One most not scroll long on Instagram or Facebook to find friends participating in an activity not in harmony with God’s commandments. The pictures aren’t just filtered in mayfair, Hudson, or lo-fi. They are also filtered in deception. Satan tricks us into believing that because they look happy, they are happy. I suppose in order for us to understand the importance of keeping the commandments, we must first understand the meaning of true happiness.
Happiness and Fun are like ice cream and nutella. They taste fabulous together, but they are not the same thing. One must not eat ice cream with nutella and vice versa. Like any cliché Mormon talk writer, I pulled out my Webster’s dictionary and defined the fore mentioned words. Fun: an enjoyable experience or person: an enjoyable or amusing time: the feeling of being amused or entertained. Happiness: state of well-being and contentment: a pleasurable or satisfying experience: joy. This reminded me of 2 Nephi 2: 25 “Adam fell that men might be, and men are that they might have joy.” Our loving God truly wants us to be happy. It’s no coincidence that the plan by which we are saved is called the plan of happiness. The best part is when we keep the commandments we are not only investing in our present state of happiness, we are also investing in God’s eternal plan of happiness.
Elder Costa of the 70 once taught us “All who seek full happiness can find it in the gospel of Jesus Christ, taught in His Church. Through Christ’s doctrine, we are taught that we can be part of the great plan of happiness that He has prepared for all of us, His sons and daughters. As we keep His commandments, we are blessed and come to know true happiness. We learn that happiness lies in doing small things that build us up, that increase our faith and testimony.”
I think a great visual for this is a candle. The wick represents our testimony, and the wax surrounding is our actions. Together they make up our conversion and they house the light of Christ, the one that will guide us thru the dark. A wick is completely useless without wax. It cannot sustain a flame. The more wax, the longer the flame will last. When one makes a candle, one must dip it in and out of wax. I watched a few youtube videos, and once made a candle at youth conference, so as a self-proclaimed candle prodigy, I can assure you this process can’t be rushed. You have to dip the wick in and out of wax, slowly building upon the actions you’ve already done. When we read our scriptures, attend church, say heartfelt prayer, and serve others, we are dipping our wick into wax. These are the small things that build us up, that increase our faith and testimony.
Back to Elder Costa “In short, we can feel happiness every day in our lives through little things we do, and we are fully happy as we keep the commandments of a loving God who cares about us.” I saw and felt this happiness on my mission. I spent my entire mission in East Germany. As many of you are aware, we just celebrated the 25th year anniversary of the wall coming down. That means we also celebrated 25 years of proselyting privileges in East Germany. From the 1940s to 60s only members living in the area could serve as missionaries. Eventually it was altogether banned until 1989. I met with many inspirational members during my time there. One in particular is named Bruder L.E. We just celebrated his 81st birthday, but he probably has more energy than you and I combined. L and his sister served missions in the German Democratic Republic. Food was tight for everyone back then, but especially for the missionaries who weren’t recognized by the government as working citizens. L recalled times when he had to bike for 2 days for a mission conference with a few rolls and some cheese. He told me stories of having companions who were married with children, yet they still went out to fulfill the mission they were called to. The struggles that came with living a gospel centered life didn’t stop after his mission. As a young father, L was called to be in the district presidency. When news came of a temple in Freiberg, L worked closely with then Elder Monson in constructing the temple. L’s life wasn’t a walk in the park, but he wouldn’t have traded it for any other. L is the happiest man alive. He is the closest thing to magic, and the walt Disney of east Germany. L is never found without a smile and a big bowling alley laugh. L represents just one of the thousands of members in east Germany who demonstrate what true happiness means.
We all long for a deep rooted happiness. One that will not desert us when fun does, one that will comfort us when we lose someone we love, or face unimaginable trials. We know there needs to be an opposite in all things. I think missionaries experience such wonderful happiness because they also experience bitter disappointment, feelings of inadequacy, and sadness on a deeper level I never understood. Alma the Younger describes these opposites, and the role of true happiness to his son. Feel free to turn with me to Alma 36. I’ll start reading from verse 6. (6 until 22)
6 For I went about with the sons of Mosiah, seeking to destroy the church of God; but behold, God sent his holy angel to stop us by the way.
7 And behold, he spake unto us, as it were the voice of thunder, and the whole earth did tremble beneath our feet; and we all fell to the earth, for the fear of the Lord came upon us.
8 But behold, the voice said unto me: Arise. And I arose and stood up, and beheld the angel.
9 And he said unto me: If thou wilt of thyself be destroyed, seek no more to destroy the church of God.
10 And it came to pass that I fell to the earth; and it was for the space of three days and three nights that I could not open my mouth, neither had I the use of my limbs.
11 And the angel spake more things unto me, which were heard by my brethren, but I did not hear them; for when I heard the words—If thou wilt be destroyed of thyself, seek no more to destroy the church of God—I was struck with such great fear and amazement lest perhaps I should be destroyed, that I fell to the earth and I did hear no more.
12 But I was racked with eternal torment, for my soul was harrowed up to the greatest degree and racked with all my sins.
13 Yea, I did remember all my sins and iniquities, for which I was tormented with the pains of hell; yea, I saw that I had rebelled against my God, and that I had not kept his holy commandments.
14 Yea, and I had murdered many of his children, or rather led them away unto destruction; yea, and in fine so great had been my iniquities, that the very thought of coming into the presence of my God did rack my soul with inexpressible horror.
15 Oh, thought I, that I could be banished and become extinct both soul and body, that I might not be brought to stand in the presence of my God, to be judged of my deeds.
16 And now, for three days and for three nights was I racked, even with the pains of a damned soul.
17 And it came to pass that as I was thus racked with torment, while I was harrowed up by the memory of my many sins, behold, I remembered also to have heard my father prophesy unto the people concerning the coming of one Jesus Christ, a Son of God, to atone for the sins of the world.
18 Now, as my mind caught hold upon this thought, I cried within my heart: O Jesus, thou Son of God, have mercy on me, who am in the gall of bitterness, and am encircled about by the everlasting chains of death.
19 And now, behold, when I thought this, I could remember my pains no more; yea, I was harrowed up by the memory of my sins no more.
20 And oh, what joy, and what marvelous light I did behold; yea, my soul was filled with joy as exceeding as was my pain!
21 Yea, I say unto you, my son, that there could be nothing so exquisite and so bitter as were my pains. Yea, and again I say unto you, my son, that on the other hand, there can be nothing so exquisite and sweet as was my joy.
Brothers and Sisters, we must not break the commandments to experience the joy that comes from keeping them. I stand with Alma when he says “I swear unto you, that inasmuch as ye shall keep the commandments of God ye shall prosper in the land.”
I recently witnessed a fulfilling of this promise. My companion, Sister Miller, and I were at a ward party where we met Anja and Kristin. They had been living in New Zealand the past year and had met with missionaries there. They felt inspired to pick up and move back to Germany, but when they arrived there was little waiting for them. Due to documental problems, they told us they would soon be living on the streets. They also told us not to worry about that, but that they wanted to continue the lessons and be baptized as soon as possible. Anja and Kristin cared more about keeping the God’s commandments, mainly to be baptized, than their housing situation. In turn, they were greatly blessed. During one of our lessons, they received a call that they could move into an apartment with the first month of rent free. Shortly thereafter, they were both able to find jobs. They had hectic work schedules and we were worried if they would be able to make it to their own baptism. Anja, one of the most faithful women I know, said “if I can’t get work off on Saturday, I will just have to quit my job. Baptism is far more important.” They were baptized that Saturday in freezing cold water because the heater broke, but it was the most beautiful baptism I had ever witnessed because I had witnessed firsthand the blessings God shed upon them for keeping his commandments.
It was not easy for them, and it will not be easy for us, but anything in this life worth having doesn’t come easily. Proverbs 3 tells us to “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.” Keeping the commandments is a way to light the straight and narrow path we must walk in order to return to our Heavenly Father. I taught many people who, because of their own fear, stubbornness, or pride, didn’t commit to living the commandments. I’ve heard countless excuses and reasons why they are exempt from such a commandment. I saw the difference it made in their lives, and the lives of their families. The apostle John taught us “If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them.” (St John 13:17) Brothers and Sisters, these people knew the commandments. We know the commandments. If we don’t, ask the missionaries. We know that keeping all of God’s commandments will make us happy. I pray that if there is anything holding us back from doing us, we can exercise even a seed of faith and turn to the Lord for his help. He didn’t set us up for failure; He is here supporting us on this journey. I know that, because He supported me throughout my mission. He truly turned my weaknesses into strengths, and He can do the same for you when you’re willing to dip your wick into wax.
~~~~~Thank you for coming on this journey. I’m so excited about the new project I’m working on, so stay tuned!