Brothers and Sisters, it’s good to be back. Serving a mission in Seattle, Washington was an amazing experience! For two years full-time I had the opportunity to “Invite others to come unto Christ by helping them receive the restored gospel through faith in Jesus Christ and His Atonement, repentance, baptism, receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost, and enduring to the end. (Missionary Purpose, PMG)”
On my mission I learned many things. I learned to keep a schedule, learn about and follow the promptings of the spirit, gain Christlike attributes, learn that God “will … make weak things become strong unto them, (Ether 12:27)” and many other lessons that will change me as a person. But one of the biggest lessons that I learned is that Heavenly Father is a God of Miracles. And that is what I would like to speak about today.
Early in my mission I received a letter from a friend. In it she added a scripture that I chose to make my missionary theme. Found in the 9th chapter of Mormon we learn, “And who shall say that Jesus Christ did not do many mighty miracles? And there were many mighty miracles wrought by the hands of the apostles. And if there were miracles wrought then, why has God ceased to be a God of miracles and yet be an unchangeable Being? And behold, I say unto you he changeth not; if so he would cease to be God; and he ceaseth not to be God, and is a God of miracles. And the reason why he ceaseth to do miracles among the children of men is because that they dwindle in unbelief, and depart from the right way, and know not the God in whom they should trust. Behold, I say unto you that whoso believeth in Christ, doubting nothing, whatsoever he shall ask the Father in the name of Christ it shall be granted him; and this promise is unto all, even unto the ends of the earth.” (Mormon 9:18-21). And with those simple verses we have the doctrine of miracles.
Of miracles, Elder Dallin H. Oaks once said, “many miracles happen every day in the work of our Church and in the lives of our members. Many of you have witnessed miracles, perhaps more than you realize.” The work of the Lord is one of miracles. Through faith, repentance, baptism, receiving the Ghost, and enduring to the end, one can experience the greatest of all miracles, a mighty change of heart, as natural and fallen people are transformed into faithful and noble children of God filled with the joy of the gospel.
Miracles are worked through faith. As Nephi taught, God “manifesteth himself unto all those who believe in him, by the power of the Holy Ghost; yea, unto every nation, kindred, tongue, and people, working mighty miracles, signs, and wonders, among the children of men according to their faith. (2 Nephi 26:13)”
When I first entered the mission field my mission president read us a simple phrase from Preach my gospel, the Church’s missionary guidebook, to “ Believe that people who are being prepared to receive the message of the Restoration will be placed in your path. God will also place you where your good acts and words will prepare people to receive missionaries and Church members… Have the faith that you can share the restored gospel. In every way you serve, you should do so because you love your brothers and sisters and therefore hope, pray, and earnestly desire to teach them the restored gospel. (PMG)”
Earlier this year my companion and I were walking home from a long, somewhat disappointing day. I saw a man crossing the street ahead and prayed in my mind that we could talk to him. He walked towards us and while we were talking to him he told us that he had been thinking about God lately and what God wants for him to do in his life. For weeks, until I left the mission, we met with him at his office on the Microsoft corporate campus. It showed me that God does watch out for us all and will provide miracles.
This man, like many of the people who work at Microsoft is from India, have a non-Christian background, but through the power of the Holy Ghost we were able to see a change in his life. We taught him how to repent and feel the cleansing power of the Atonement in all aspects of life. We read scripture and taught truth and the spirit was there. When we asked him to go home and look back on his life and ask the Lord to take away burdens, he felt he couldn't wait to try it and did it during his closing prayer, asking for forgiveness on how he has treated his parents and asking for strength to do better. It is amazing to me what the Light of Christ brings people to do even when we didn't specifically talk to him about that.
Although he hasn’t yet been baptized, He told us that since we began to meet with him he has been able to feel and be guided by the spirit. Many of his questions about life have been answered and he understands that understanding comes "line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little and there a little. (2 Nephi 28:30)" As he exercised and grew his faith, he was able to experience a mighty change in his heart, only made possible through the Atonement.
But true joy can only be felt through repentance. Early in my mission I was in a difficult area, but as we went out and worked diligently, we were blessed by the Lord. One Sunday, a recent convert's 19 year old step-daughter moved in with her, just after getting our of drug rehab and came to church, wanting to change her life. The step-daughter spoke up, "I actually want to be baptized!" Over the next three weeks until she was baptized, I saw a change in her heart. While in rehab, she gained a testimony of Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ. As she fought through her temptations, she felt the peace that she was longing for. She experienced what Alma the younger experienced, quoting from Alma chapter 36, “I could remember my pains no more; yea, I was harrowed up by the memory of my sins no more. And oh, what joy, and what marvelous light I did behold; yea, my soul was filled with joy as exceeding as was my pain! (Alma 36:19)” Joy! That is the purpose of living the gospel of Jesus Christ, to help one experience ultimate joy and happiness only through His infinite atonement because "men are that they might have joy!" As we repent and follow God’s commandments, joy and peace will come into our lives. God gives us commandments not to punish us, but because in his all-infinite wisdom, we will find the Joy that we are on earth to experience.
Now faith and repentance prepare us to make sacred covenants through baptism and confirmation into the Church. As we walk in obedience to the principles and commandments of the gospel of Jesus Christ, we enjoy a continual flow of blessings and supply of strength in times of need, as promised by God in His covenant with us. Moroni tells us, “And again, if ye by the grace of God are perfect in Christ, and deny not his power, then are ye sanctified in Christ by the grace of God, through the shedding of the blood of Christ, which is in the covenant of the Father unto the remission of your sins, that ye become holy, without spot. (Moroni 10:32)”
Early last year the Elmers, a retired couple, went on a month-long ski vacation to Utah, but what they found was more than just the best snow on earth. Their love for the outdoors and skiing took them to the mountains, but their enthusiasm for fine music, brought them to Temple Square weekly to attend the Mormon Tabernacle Choir’s Sunday morning broadcasts, often staying longer to see the sights on Temple Square. Sister Elmer described her experience on Temple Square like being “home,” meaning feeling like she was home with God. The spirit truly touched their lives on their visit.
Although I got into the area part way through their teaching process, I saw their transformation as they prepared and partook of the saving ordinances of baptism and confirmation.
The Elmers saw the blessings in their lives. About the blessings, Sister Elmer told me, “Because of these blessings my life has changed in so many ways, the greatest blessing is the teachings have brought me a great peace in my life. Our beliefs have provided [my husband] and I a stronger marriage, knowing that we have a friend in Jesus and the Holy Spirit will guide us as long as we are willing to listen and remain strong in our faith.” Sister Elmer told me that, caught up in the world, she was never truly happy, but that her trip to Utah was a changing point. The gospel truly changes people for the better and they are a testimony to me that no matter what walk of life you come from, EVERYONE needs the gospel. Sister Elmer recognized it too. Shortly after her baptism, she referred her sister who was struggling with life to the missionaries. Through many months of teaching, her sister too got baptized and confirmed and is now living the gospel with greater peace.
But once we have entered the strait and narrow path by our faith in Jesus Christ, repentance, and the ordinances of baptism and confirmation, we must exert every effort to stay on the path. We do so by continually exercising faith in Jesus Christ, repenting, making commitments and following the spirit. This process is called enduring to the end and the doctrine is clear, "Wherefore, ye must press forward with a steadfastness in Christ, having a perfect brightness of hope, and a love of God and of all men. Wherefore, if ye shall press forward, feasting upon the word of Christ, and endure to the end, behold, thus saith the Father: Ye shall have eternal life. And now, behold, my beloved brethren, this is the way; and there is none other way nor name given under heaven whereby man can be saved in the kingdom of God. And now, behold, this is the doctrine of Christ, and the only and true doctrine of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, which is one God, without end. Amen." (2 Nephi 31:20-21)
As missionaries we had many opportunities to work with those that had once partaken of the gospel, but due to their natural state, had fallen away from the gospel. Early in my mission I met a woman that had a lot of difficulties. A single mother of four kids she had many stresses and worries. So we gave her a challenge: to read the Book of Mormon daily. We would text her scripture reading assignments every day and saw increased faith in her life and more power to overcome temptations. Through the Lord’s power she was able to quit smoking and be worthy to receive her patriarchal blessing. Her testimony of the Book of Mormon has increased and in turn, my testimony of the Book's power to truly change lives has increased. I have learned a lot about "enduring" through trials throughout my mission. It teaches us charity, patience, and long suffering. In life we all have trials, but it is never an end to our eternal lives because, as it says in the Doctrine and Covenants, thine adversity and thine afflictions shall be but a small moment; And then, if thou endure it well, God shall exalt thee on high. (D&C 121:7-8)”
Of all the miracles I saw on my mission, the miracle of the Atonement is the greatest of all, both in my life and in the lives of those I met. The atonement covers all aspects of life. The Prophet Alma reminds us, “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. 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. 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.” (Alma 7:11-13)
Through the Atonement our sins, worries, doubts, pains, and all things that the world brings us can be overcome. Through the Atonement of Jesus Christ we can once again feel peace in this life. On my mission I gained a deeper appreciation of the Atonement. It is a very real thing. The atonement got me through some of the most difficult times of my life, especially on my mission. There were some times on my mission that only the Atonement could get me through. Of all the miracles I saw on my mission, the most joyful and amazing is truly when people use the Atonement of Jesus Christ in full force and truly experience a mighty change of heart. What an amazing message of hope, peace and comfort. That one can be cleansed of their former "natural man" life. And oh how sad it is when people choose not to accept it! But His Atonement is always there, infinite and eternal. And what a glorious miracle that is!
As I have reflected on my mission, I have remembered how the Lord truly does fulfill His promises. I have seen so many miracles on my mission. If I really did look back on my mission, I would probably see one every day, even on those days of no teaching, and what seemed to me as no progress. I have truly seen the Lord's promise fulfilled, that "if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them." (Ether 12:27)
I know that there truly does have to be opposition in all things, that you can't know true joy without feeling sorrow. A mission is like a mini lifetime, filled with the full range of emotions. But Christ's life wasn't easy either, and so must a humble disciple walk in His footsteps also. I'm not saying that I have felt everything that Christ Himself felt, but I feel that I have felt a minuscule portion of it. But, to personalize a scripture, “all these things shall give me experience, and shall be for thy good. (D&C 122:7)”
Throughout my mission, the Lord has provided miracles. And I know that the Lord will continue to provide miracles in our own lives. In the words of Moroni, “have miracles ceased? Behold I say unto you, Nay; neither have angels ceased to minister unto the children of men. (Moroni 7:29)”
My missionary experience in Seattle, Washington has changed me for the better. I know that God lives and is our loving Father. I know that He has a plan for each one of us. And I know that as we follow His ways, we will be blessed. I say these things in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.