So I apologize about the rush last week. Things have been good, albeit cold. We are working, and things are awesome.
This Sunday I was asked to give a talk on sharing the gospel, but the speaker before me went long, so I just had a couple minutes to bear my testimony. Rather than let all that preparation go without being shared, here is the talk that I wrote! Remember, the audience was to the people who were at church, some of these things I have posted about before.
Many, many talks have been given about sharing the gospel. Prophets and apostles have taught us the doctrine, and I believe we have a decent understanding of what missionary work is and why we do it. My plan today, then, is to share from my experience, what I have found missionary work to be, and why I love it so much.
In the premortal existence, we "shouted for joy" (Job 38:7) as we learned about God's plan for us, "to bring to pass [our] immortality and eternal life" (Moses 1:39). We chose to follow this plan: to come to earth, to receive a body, and "prepare to meet God" (Alma 34:32). We knew that we could do it, but we also knew it would be hard. That this would be the hardest thing we would ever do.
Now we are here, and life isn't easy. Yet we have found a pearl of great price. We have found that only by choosing to follow God's plan can we find happiness and peace. As we keep the commandments and God blesses us, we prepare ourselves to return to be with Him. By knowing what God has asked us to do, we know how to return to His presence.
How did we come to possess this pearl of great price?
For most, if not all of us, it was through the ministering of another person, the missionary efforts of another.
True, we believe in angels and that God calls prophets and reveals His gospel directly to them in every dispensation, whenever it has been lost. For the majority of us however, this knowledge has come from someone sharing it with us. Maybe that person was a mother, a father, a spouse, a friend, a teacher, or a prophet. Whoever it was, because of that individual - or more appropriately, individuals - we have learned of our Heavenly Fathers plan for us.
I can look back on my life, and recall the family and friends that shared the gospel with me; foremost being my parents. My mother teaching me the simple and powerful truth that families can be together forever, instilling in me that desire to strive towards that great goal. My father teaching me about the importance of covenants, of the priesthood, and teaching me how I should act in accordance with those covenants. Seminary teachers who unfolded the scriptures to me in the wee hours of the morning, and I'm sure if I was more attentive and awake I could have learned even more.
I'm eternally grateful for the individuals who loved me enough to teach me, and to help me learn about God's plan for me, and where I fit into the big picture. Learning the gospel, as in the premortal existence, brings a profound sense of joy and purpose into our lives. A joy that is indescribable, and seemingly insurmountable.
However, because God loves all of His children, and wants them all to return to Him, He has promised us more. More joy and more peace, if we endeavor to share it. I've looked back on spiritual experiences in my life where I have thought, "it doesn't get any better than this." Well, brothers and sisters, it does. I can promise you it does.
I've seen it, I've felt it, and I know it.
There was a man in one of my past areas who we met through his wife. She has been inactive for many years, before they were even married, and so his exposure to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints was minimal, and not entirely positive. I had the opportunity of working with him for more than six months. We answered question after question, and helped him fight addictions that had been a part of his life for more than 50 years.
I had the honor of baptizing this man, and the Sunday before I left the area, seeing him ordained to the Aaronic Priesthood.
I remember writing home that week. I told my family, "This. This is happiness." If you would have asked me how I was feeling at that time, I would have told you a perfect 10/10. I still feel that same joy now, but since that experience, I have continued to share the gospel, and that joy has continued to grow. 10/10 has become 15/15, 20/20. It grows! The love and joy that we can feel when we share the precious truths we know is unfathomable. I have felt a part of that love that Heavenly Father has for His children, and I know that there is even more that I can still experience.
On my mission, I've been living the best years of my life thus far. We have all lived our lives up to this point. I can promise you that there is more. Still more that God has in store for us, more than we can imagine.
Ammon and his brethren went among the Lamanites, filled with the spirit and joy, as their souls had been redeemed, but I know that they returned home with greater joy, and stronger faith. As Ammon told his brethren:
"But behold, my beloved brethren, we came into the wilderness not with the intent to destroy our brethren, but with the intent that perhaps we might save some few of their souls.
"And we have suffered all manner of afflictions, and all this, that perhaps we might be the means of saving some soul; and we supposed that our joy would be full if perhaps we could be the means of saving some.
"Now behold, we can look forth and see the fruit of our labors; and are they few? I say unto you, Nay, they are many; yea, and we can witness of their sincerity, because of their love towards their brethren and also towards us.
"Now have we not reason to rejoice? Yea, I say unto your there never were men that had so great reason to rejoice as we, since the world began; yea, and my joy is carried away, even unto boasting in my God; for he has all power, all wisdom, and all understanding; he comprehendeth all things, and he is a merciful Being, even unto salvation, to those who will repent and believe on his name." (Alma 26:26,30-31,35)
I stand with the sons of Mosiah in knowing that sharing the gospel is hard. It has always been hard, and it will continue to be so. Because, as Elder Holland said, "I am convinced that missionary work is not easy because salvation is not a cheap experience. Salvation never was easy. How could we believe it would be easy for us when it was never, ever easy for Him?" (Missionary Work and the Atonement, Ensign Mar 2001)
Brothers and sisters, the gospel that we share is the gospel of Jesus Christ. His life, His teachings, and most importantly His Atonement. That great atoning sacrifice, as He stated through Joseph Smith, "which suffering caused myself, even God, the greatest of all, to tremble because of pain, and to bleed at every pore, and to suffer both body and spirit - and would that I might not drink the bitter cup, and shrink - nevertheless, glory be to the Father, and I partook and finished my preparations unto the children of men" (D&C 19:18-19).
I've seen that Atonement work in my life and in the life of others. The Savior didn't do it for Himself, but for us. I know that is true, in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.