Overdue, this post responds to question in the back of people’s heads, including my own. Have I changed because of my mission? Missions can have surprisingly dissimilar effects to different people. I could slowly forget it or discard it, like my wacky Western Civilization class I took at a community college five years ago. Or I could remember the odd events, food, people etc. forever and ever and bore EVERY unlucky person I’ll talk with to death with sentences that start with “when I was with my fourth crazy companion, who, as you remember me telling you about the other day….”\
At the other end, I also refuse to believe I haven’t changed.
On the visible surface I haven’t, as far as I can tell. I’m still 1/4th of an inch shorter than my dad, and still terrible dancer.
Perhaps you’ve caught on, but—to use some seismologic terminology—rumbling within the posts I’ve written in the past two years is an earthquake of experiences that have changed me within core. Like the city of Manila, I was on a fault line. I’ve been thinking over the past month what happened beneath the surface in those memorable two years, and I’ve found some groundbreaking changes. I’ll only mention three, though I could go on and on.
The first thing I’ll mention I’ve learned is to talk WITH everybody like this ßà. I don’t talk TO (à) anybody anymore, or just listen to (ß) somebody. Everybody (including myself and Thomas, my 1 ½ y.o. nephew) has something to say worthy of our attention. Even to the people who talk but don’t have anything more to say, I’m willing to listen; I want to show them I love them and respect them. It may be hard, but it’s always worth it. It also says in Preach My Gospel it says to “send a message of interest and enthusiasm by listening sincerely.” Interestingly, Christ’s most powerful teachings usually came he heard others.
Second, I’ve discovered the scriptures contain the answers or guide me to the answers. There are more than you think! We just have to view the scriptures as an answer book to our own life, and be willing to take some time to recognize that what we’re reading contains the answer.
Here’s a quick example: a thought entered into my mind repeatedly on my mission that missionary work is so grueling and long, and often wondered how I could be happy. Then one day I read the story of the Jaredite barges in Ether 6:8-13 (which you should read), and was struck on their response to being stuck in a boat for 344 days in vs. 9.
And they did sing praises unto the Lord; yea, the brother of Jared did sing praises unto the Lord, and he did thank and praise the Lord all the day long; and when the night came, they did not cease to praise the Lord.
Their gratitude and optimism carried them through those months, and I realized I, too, could sing when things get rough. Emulating their attitude made the rest of my mission not only doable, but pleasant and rewarding. As I read and applied some of the enduring truths found in the scriptures like in Ether 6, I feel like I’m adding layers of knowledge that provides the strength to become self-confident in a shaky world in several situations.
I can’t say I had that before my mission. Answers came from my head just as my problems did.
The last change I’ll mention is by far the most important. My capacity to love and serve has increased as I have come to know my Savior and His atonement. It has changed my view of
- my ability to change (or be changed)
- others and their ability to change
- trials and the reason they are so hard
- why we take the sacrament
- missionary work
- what the light of Christ can do
And now behold, I say unto you, my brethren, if ye have experienced a change of heart, and if ye have felt to sing the song of redeeming love, I would ask, can ye feel so now?
I remember using the computer I’m using right now to create my blog, anxious and excited for what the future had for me—wearing white button-up shirts, weird food, worn out shoes, and hundreds of adventures. I didn’t expect to be changed by something I already thought I knew. I knew of the atonement, just as I know of the Great Wall of China, but shallow knowledge is cheap and won’t change a person. My advice to anybody who wants to begin to understand the atonement is read Isaiah 53, 2nd Nephi 2, Alma 7, and D&C 19 very slowly, pondering the importance of every verse. Pray fervently about what you’ve read, and then work with the missionaries. If you are able to serve a mission, please do so. Don’t delay. I would do it again, but not only because it changed me forever, rather, because it put me in a position to be changed through the atonement of Jesus Christ.