Doctrine and Covenants 130:20-21
20 There is a law, irrevocably decreed in heaven before the foundations of this world, upon which all blessings are predicated—
21 And when we obtain any blessing from God, it is by obedience to that law upon which it is predicated.
Doctrine and Covenants 82:10
10 I, the Lord, am bound when ye do what I say; but when ye do not what I say, ye have no promise.
Oh if I could go back to the beginning of my mission I’d be better at one thing: obedience. Obedience brings blessings and I didn’t learn that for a long time. Obedience protects us as well, both physically and spiritually. Perfection isn’t required necessarily, but effort is and when a missionary (or a person) strives to be more obedient to Heavenly Father, that missionary (or that person) is blessed! Because I can’t go back to change my mission, I try to help other missionaries see what I see now. I tell them to be exactly obedient, and if they are, they’ll have no regrets.
When I got to Texas I wasn’t exactly the 100% obedient missionary. I was thrust into an unknown world of rules that were trying to rip “the world” out of me. And I fought that. I looked for ways to bend the rules or do things how I wanted them to be done. Mind you I wasn’t a disobedient missionary, just the little nit-picky kind of things are what got me. Either way, I wasn’t being as obedient as I should have been.
One day it clicked. It dawned on me that one of the reasons why I came on a mission was to be changed, but the mission couldn’t change me unless I did exactly what it required. I started being more obedient. The little rules I didn’t care for became important to me. My companion at the time thought I was going crazy because it was almost overnight that this change happened. I wasn’t perfect, I’m still not perfect, at being obedient but I was getting closer to perfection then I’d ever been on my mission. I loved it! I loved how I felt when I was obedient! I loved the blessings and success that I was receiving.
Then I had another “dawning” moment when I realized that I didn’t want to be obedient because of the blessings and the success, but rather I wanted to be obedient because I loved God. It was a process getting to that point, but I finally got there. I am obedient because I love God. Everyone should be obedient because they love God. John 14:15
Alma 5:7, 14, and 26
7 Behold, he changed their hearts; yea, he awakened them out of a deep sleep, and they awoke unto God. Behold, they were in the midst of darkness; nevertheless, their souls were illuminated by the light of the everlasting word; yea, they were encircled about by the bands of death, and the chains of hell, and an everlasting destruction did await them.
14 And now behold, I ask of you, my brethren of the church, have ye spiritually been born of God? Have ye received his image in your countenances? Have ye experienced this mighty change in your hearts?
26 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?
When I was going through the changes in my mission to become more obedient, these verses of scripture were shared with me by my favorite zone leader. This zone leader was a great friend and had been watching me change the entire time and had been wondering what happened to me! He shared this with me because he thought this is what took place in my heart. At first I was like, “wow, thanks man. So you thought I was going to hell before?” and he laughed and tried to take it back cuz it wasn’t playing out how he thought it would. So then he explained to me about why he thought it described my experience.
Starting with the first verse to the last, we talked about a change of heart because that is what I was experiencing. God had changed my heart. I awoke unto God. I was being illuminated by the light of Christ and his everlasting word. I was being spiritually born of God. I was receiving his image in my countenance. I was experiencing that mighty change in my heart. And I could in that moment still feel that change happening. I still feel that change happening every day as I continually repent!
A change of heart is so important to achieve. Everyone should strive for a “change” to occur within them so that they can be transformed into who Christ wants them to be. I desired that change at the beginning of my mission, but then I resisted it. When I finally gave my will to God, he was able to change my heart and truly change me.
There was a point on my mission where I felt sad and a little depressed because I wasn’t seeing myself progress. Then God opened my eyes and as clearly as I see this letter I saw myself back at my desk in my apartment, months before, writing in my journal. I was able to perceive who I was when I was the missionary writing in his journal and then who I was at that later moment in time. I had changed a lot in a few months! I was focusing on changing on a day to day basis and that was like watching a redwood tree grow. When I thought about the change that had occurred over weeks and months, that is when it became more realistic. It was a cool experience I’ll never forget.
My mission has in a way been a refiners’ fire, but I needed it to be that way. My mission president told us that when he was a mission he’d say this phrase: “Fire burns wood, and fire tempers steel. I am made of steel” I am made of steel, and the experiences I’ve had have tempered me to make me stronger. I have loved my mission and the experiences it has provided me with.
12 But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name:
17 Wherefore, I the Lord, knowing the calamity which should come upon the inhabitants of the earth, called upon my servant Joseph Smith, Jun., and spake unto him from heaven, and gave him commandments;
Doctrine and Covenants 121:7
7 My son, peace be unto thy soul; thine adversity and thine afflictions shall be but a small moment;
Sometime during the beginning of my mission I was told to compare the way Christ talks to Joseph Smith, and about Joseph Smith, at the beginning of the Doctrine and Covenants with the way He talks with him, and about him, near the end of the Doctrine and Covenants. I did what was asked and found this interesting yet subtle change of words. Christ addresses Joseph as his servant and then later calls him his son. I don’t exactly know why that is the way it is, but I think about what it says in John 1:12 and how we are given power to become the sons of God. Of course we are all the literal spirit children of God, but to become the sons and daughters of God physically we must be born of God and be changes; we must submit our will to the Gather, give him our heart and all that we have, keep his commandments and be born again, or in other words, be baptized. So there is my little gospel sermon on that matter, but what I really wanted to talk about is being a child of God.
“I am a child of God, and He has sent me here, has given me an earthly home with parents kind and dear. Lead me, guide me, walk beside me, help me find the way. Teach me all that I must do to live with him some day.” How many problems in the world could be solved if everyone knew this hymn and understood its meaning?! Yet for so many people, members and nonmembers alike, it’s so hard to remember this one simple trust: I am a child of God.
This knowledge has helped me in multiple ways during my mission. One thing that I do not like is endings. I hate endings. Well, ending to good things which the majority of my mission has had. It is hard to leave an area you truly love. It’s hard to leave companions you get along with. It’s hard to leave investigators and members that you love. It’s hard when good things come to an end. This cannot be truer than when we have to experience the pain and suffering that comes when a loved one’s life draws to an end. Why is this? Why is it hard? Because we are eternal beings. Eternal beings cannot comprehend endings because they are not a part of us! We existed before this life and we will exist after this life. But this life is full of endings that we have to endure and experience.
That’s where our knowledge of being children of God can help us. The time I serve in a certain area and the time I serve my mission will come to an end. The time I serve with companions and with fellow friends and members will come to an end. The time I serve in certain church callings and responsibilities will come to an end. The time I and everyone have in this life to live will eventually come to an end. So we should all be depressed right because everything will eventually end? No! Experiences end, but as children of God we will never end. I will have the opportunity to stay in tough and visit with those I have met during my 2 year mission. I will be able to still talk to my companions and missionary friends. I will be able to serve the Lord in additional callings and responsibilities. I will live again after this life. Though ends look dark and bleak, there is always a new beginning that follows. As children of God we can learn from our experiences and the endings in our lives and use the knowledge we have learned to help us later in life and even in the life to come. We need not fear endings but rather embrace them and joyfully wait for the beginning that will follow.
Let me be the first to say that people should not try to find out who they are during high school. Are you kidding me?! That’s the worse time to find out who you are! Now, on the other hand, let me be the first to recommend that people should try to find out who they are during a full-time mission where all of their time is spent serving others. What a great time to discover who you area as a child of God when your life is so full of the Spirit of the Lord! That’s what I feel like I did. High school didn’t help me figure out I was a child of God, in fact it tried to do the opposite. I would encourage every young man and young woman to serve a full-time mission for the Lord. It can and will help them to remember their sacred and diving nature as children of God.
I love my Father in Heaven and all He has done for me. I know I am His son and that He cares about me and that He loves me. I am glad that my knowledge of this has been reinforced while I have been on my mission because I know it will be a treasure for me and an anchor for my soul.
11 And he shall go forth, suffering pains and afflictions and temptations of every kind; and this that the word might be fulfilled which saith he will take upon him the pains and the sicknesses of his people.
12 And he will take upon him death, that he may loose the bands of death which bind his people; and he will take upon him their infirmities, that his bowels may be filled with mercy, according to the flesh, that he may know according to the flesh how to succor his people according to their infirmities.
13 Now the Spirit knoweth all things; nevertheless the Son of God suffereth according to the flesh that he might take upon him the sins of his people, that he might blot out their transgressions according to the power of his deliverance; and now behold, this is the testimony which is in me.
32 Yea, come unto Christ, and be perfected in him, and deny yourselves of all ungodliness; and if ye shall deny yourselves of all ungodliness, and love God with all your might, mind and strength, then is his grace sufficient for you, that by his grace ye may be perfect in Christ; and if by the grace of God ye are perfect in Christ, ye can in nowise deny the power of God.
The number one thing I have learned to appreciate during my mission is the Atonement of Jesus Christ. I have seen it work in my own life as well as in the lives of those whom I have met. I know and acknowledge that I still don’t understand the Atonement completely, but I know enough to be able to use it in my life and help others use it in theirs. It truly is glorious what the Savior and his Atonement can do for us.
I love this scripture in Alma. It is definitely my “go-to” scripture when talking about the Atonement. Personally, the reason why I like it so much is due to the things it mentions and the order it mentions them in. Pains, afflictions, temptations, sicknesses, death, infirmities, and then finally sins, are the things that Christ suffered for to save us; and that is the order in which they appear. Christ suffered for everything! Most people get caught up in how Christ saved us from sin, which is true and important, but look at everything else he suffered for. We can use the Atonement to help us endure any and every thing stated in that scripture. It is amazing and powerful to realize this because when we do we know that Christ has already felt what we’re going through and therefore can help us endure and persevere.
Moroni 10:32 is my favorite scripture and it has been since I was first asked, “What is your favorite scripture?” That is my “go-to” scripture for how to use the Atonement. In this scripture we are asked to do three things: come unto Christ, be perfected in him, and deny ourselves of all ungodliness. If we do these things, that is when his grace can take control and change us. I love Brad Wilcox’s talk on grace because he explains so perfectly what grace is and why it’s so important. We are all saved by grace, but what truly matters is if we are changed by grace. “Heaven will not be heaven for those who have not chosen to be heavenly.” Therefore, we must be changed by grace, by the Atonement, to be able to receive all the blessings and comfort offered by Christ through his sacrifice.
I haven’t even begun to scratch the surface of what the Atonement means to me, but it means a lot. I love my Father in Heaven and His Son Jesus Christ. I am so thankful for all that they have done for me. I know that my Redeemer lives and that knowledge truly comforts me. I am so grateful for the Atonement and for how it has changed my life. I know I can never repay Christ for what he’s done for me, but I’m grateful that I could serve him for 2 years to show him my appreciation for him and what he has done. It’s been worth it, every minute has been worth it.
My testimony is that I know that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, our Savior and Redeemer. I know the Father and the Son appeared to Joseph Smith in the year 1820 and that they called him to be the prophet to restore the true church to the earth today. I know that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the only true church on the earth today and that it has the authority and power of God to perform saving ordinances. I know the church is led today by a prophet, President Thomas S. Monson. I know that the Book of Mormon is the word of God and is scripture, just like the Bible is. I know that families can be together forever and I know that God loves each and every one of His children personally. I am so grateful for these two years I’ve had to serve my Savior and King in the Texas Fort Worth Mission. I share these things in the name of Jesus Christ,
Elder Joshua B. Andersen