Holy Cow!! Is this real life!?!? haha Now I know that I have been in the MTC longer than I really should have been, but looking back on it now it seems like I have not had NEARLY as much time as I truly need here!! I have come to realize over the past couple days that this place truly is amazing!! Not many places in the world have the Spirit present 24 hours a day, 7 days a week! It has been such a blessing to have the time that I have had here! Although the food is probably something I will never miss, I am going to miss the wonderful Spirit that is felt here. Having the opportunity to gain a stronger testimony each and every day in class is something that I will never be able to repay my Heavenly Father for!! I know that everyone says that this is "giving up" your life for 2 years or that this is a lot that Heavenly Father is asking us, but really it's not!! In fact, I have come to realize it is quite the opposite!! What an opportunity I have to be able to put away all the worldly things and the cares of the world for 2 years and dedicate myself to bringing some of God's children back into His fold!! It does not get too much better than that!! For those of you reading this who are return missionaries, don't worry… I know missions are hard!! I am not saying that this is going to be easy by any stretch of the imagination!
I want to share with you a few thoughts from one of my recent devotionals. I had the unbelievable opportunity to hear from Elder Holland… I bet you can all guess how good that was :) One thing that he said that I absolutely loved was that during his life he had always asked himself the question, "Why is it so hard?" He was not just referring to a mission. He went on to say that sometimes it is hard to follow all of the commandments, and it's hard sometimes to stand up for what you believe in and always follow the example of Jesus Christ. It's hard!! Why is it so hard? Well, what he said touched my heart and I will never forget it. He said that over the years he has come up with one conclusion to this question, and that is, "It was never easy for Christ." When he said this, it hit me like a ton of bricks! He asked us if we could recollect any scriptures when Jesus was laughing or joking around, and the answer was no. Of course Jesus laughed in His life and of course he had times of great joy, but this is not what we needed to hear, which is why it's not found in the scriptures. Christ suffered beyond anything we will ever have to overcome. He cried to His God countless times in the scriptures, constantly asking for help and strength. He cried for the people in their behalf. He stood boldly when people denied the God that He truly was. He loved all men. He loved those that persecuted him; He loved them so much that when they had beaten Him and tortured Him and nailed Him on the cross, STILL, His last words were, "Forgive them Father, for they know not what they do." It was never supposed to just be easy. There will be trials in our lives and there will be hardships, but we are so unbelievably blessed to know that there is someone who has gone through the exact same stuff that we have been through. No matter how hurt we are, we have someone that we can ALWAYS turn to. I never realized how lucky this is, and I still can't understand it, but I feel like I am just beginning to understand the importance and significance of having a Savior to turn to.
Anyway, sorry I went off on kind of a tangent, but to all of you who think I am crazy and I don't even know what I am about to get myself into, you're right!! haha I know it's going to be hard and I know that there will be trials, but man I am so grateful and humbled that Heavenly Father trusts me with these trials and knows that I can make it through them! I want to talk a little bit more about Elder Holland's talk. I wish so much that I could just have you guys listen to it because everything was just so amazing, but I will do my best to pick out the parts that I feel touched me the most!! For those of you who are not familiar with Elder Holland, the man is truly from God! I have noticed that each of the apostles have a little bit different traits, and all of them are good and I think if you could put all of their personalities together you would have Christ. But Elder Holland's personality is spitfire! haha He speaks with so much power and so much emotion it is truly amazing and scary all at the same time!! ha I love it! The first thing he said is the importance of missionaries getting their purpose! He said, "I will flatten your bike tires or put my knee into your neck… I am not above anything to make you all realize the importance of your calling!" haha It was so awesome! I am sure some people were kind of scared, but I thought that it was so cool! ha He is not afraid to put the fear of God in you, which every missionary needs every once in awhile! That's why we've got Elder Holland! :)
He then went on to talk about the importance of never falling away. It was awesome to hear him talk about his mission. He could hardly even start talking about it without tears coming to his eyes! He claims, and says he always will claim, that his mission changed his life more than any other missionary in the world! He loved his mission and you could tell by the way he spoke about it with such sincerity! He talked about never forgetting the memories that you gain on your mission. He talked about the importance of devoting our lives to God! These 2 years are once in a lifetimes, and we will not have this opportunity again (until we are older) to truly be able to dedicate our entire life to the Savior… but we cannot just call it quits after the mission. I loved another quote he had that pertains to this. He said, "I can't stand to lose any of the sheep, but I cannot conceive of losing any of the shepherds." The importance of enduring to the end is huge! We cannot forget about all that God has given us and all that He will give us if we continue to endure to the end! Like he said earlier though, it's not always going to be easy! Things will be hard and you will want to quit sometimes, but every time I am down, my heart always turns to the scripture when Joseph Smith was in Liberty Jail. Times were hard for him and he did not understand why times were so hard for him, so he asked and in D&C 127:7 it reads, "My son, peace be unto thy soul; thine adversity and thine afflictions shall be but a small moment; and then, if thou endure it well, God shall exalt thee on high; thou shalt triumph over all thy foes." I love that scripture so much because it shows me that no one is immune from hard times! Even the Prophet had hard trials, and even he didn't understand why such awful things were happening to him. But he gained the knowledge that we all have to gain at some point in our lives, and that is that sometimes things are hard. However, if we are willing to bear our burdens and help bear the burdens of others, He will exalt us on high! What more could we ask for?!
I am so blessed to be able to go and share this message with the people of Cambodia! We think we have hard lives! It is the culture in Cambodia to ask, when you greet someone, if they have had something to eat. They do this because sometimes people don't even have enough money to buy food for themselves, let alone their family. So if you haven't eaten, people who are already in extreme poverty will give you food and help you make it to just the next day. In Cambodia, you are one big family; you refer to everyone as brother, sister, mom, dad, uncle, aunt, grandma, grandpa… They are all just one big family that love and look out for each other and I get to go be a part of that for 2 years! I will never be able to thank my Heavenly Father enough for this opportunity! This is the best mission in the entire world and I get to go be a part of it for 2 years!!
I love my family and I miss them so very much, but I want you all to know that I have another family that I need to go and teach and love just as much as I love you! This week is Mother's Day and God has given me the best mother any son could ever even dream of asking for! She has been with me through thick and thin and I will never be able to repay her for all of the things that she has done for me, and the person that she has turned me into!! I would not be anywhere close to the person that I am today without the influence of my mom!! She is my everything! Mom, I love and miss you so very much! I love your sweet smile and I miss your cute laugh! This week has been super hard being away from you! It's true that you really don't know how good things are until they are gone! I would be absolutely nothing without you! You are my best friend and you always will be!! I hope you know how much I love you! :) Happy Mother's Day :) Anyone and everyone who sees my mom this next week, please give her a BIG hug and a kiss from me and let her know that she is the best mom in the whole world, because she really is! :)
Thank you all for the support and love you have all shown me since I have had a longer stay here in the MTC! It really means so much to me and has kept me going every day!! To close, I want you all to know that this is the Church of Jesus Christ, once again fully restored back onto the earth! I know this with all of my heart and soul!! I know that through the gift of prayer, we can ALL have this knowledge! I testify that the Book of Mormon is true! I know that it is a book given to us from God for this last dispensation. I know that if you read it, it can only bring you closer to Christ! I love this church and I LOVE being a missionary!!!
Until next time… IN CAMBODIA!!!! :) :) :)