Sojourners on Earth

 

Sacrament Meeting Talk – July 27, 2014

Meridian South LDS Stake Center

I have been called to the Guatemala Guatemala City Central Mission.

I will report to the MTC in Guatemala City on the 20 of August.

I’ve been asked to speak on preparing for a mission, so I wanted to explore the mental, emotional, and spiritual aspects of mission preparation, in that order.

                Mental preparation involves our formal education, and practical skills. Practical skills can include soft communication skills, like making polite conversation, or developing good phone etiquette. It can also range to skills like cooking, cleaning, laundry. These are all things that are easier to learn with a mother’s help than on-the-fly and in-the-field.

In our formal education, we should follow the advice of the brethren of the Quorum of the Twelve and the First Presidency to ‘obtain as much education as possible.’ This helps develop knowledge about the world our father has created and helps foster the ability to solve problems, plan, and prioritize while completing assignments. Leadership in church and other activities can help a young person develop these skills and the ability to care for and organize for those working with us, or those placed under our charge.

Though it might as easily be included in spiritual preparation, seminary also has an important part of mental preparation. Seminary helps by providing instruction in basic gospel principles, and a greater familiarity with the Standard Works. Seminary, and other instruction times, like Sunday school, should be a time to become familiar with scripture, and other truths of the gospel. The most important part of learning from these programs is to gain personal confirmation of their teachings. The second is to progress by acquiring greater knowledge and understanding the application of these principles. Learning and reinforcing gospel principles should be an integral part of mental missionary preparation.

One further piece of advice on the subject of our mental preparation and education that has come from the apostles is, if possible, to apply to college and defer admission or scholarships. I personally did this, and I can promise you that it removes the burden of worrying about the future from your mind, and helps you fulfill the admonition that every missionary receives in their call letter; ‘to devote time and attention to serving the Lord, Leaving behind all other personal affairs.’ It’s much easier to leave our personal affairs when we have taken the responsibility to set them in order.

On to the emotional aspect of serving a mission: a mission is a time of great joy in life because of the message we are called to share. The Savior says in 3 Nephi; “Hold up your light that it may shine unto the world. Behold I am the light which ye shall hold up (3 Nephi 18:24).” The missionary carries the Savior’s message of hope. The “truth of God [that] will go forth boldy, nobly, and independent. Until it has penetrated every continent, visited every clime, swept every country, and sounded in every ear…”

But it also is a great transition in a young man or woman’s life. This transition can be stressful no matter where the missionary is called. To gain some insight into this, I have been doing some personal reading of literature about cultural transition. The transition is a challenge because “The ways in which we have been programmed by our culture to solve problems or think, no longer work effectively. The environment makes new demands on us. Finally, we are overwhelmed by the bombardment of stimuli and demands, and must temporarily experience the sense of confusion of not knowing what to pay attention to or how to solve problems.”

                To distill that, a missionary will be challenged by the unfamiliarity of the place in which they find themselves. Previously successful strategies like saying ‘what’s for dinner mom?’ do not produce the response they once did.

                Learning to love a new place and people, and developing into the role of a Representative of Christ is difficult. But the aid in this task and the blessings it will provide are worth any difficulty faced. President Gordon B. Hinckley promised “that the time you spend in the mission field, if those years are spent in dedicated service, will yield a greater return on investment than any other two years of your lives.”

We will now proceed onto the aspect of spiritual preparation, but because truth may be found in many places if we are diligent seekers, I would like to compare the emotional challenge of transition already discussed to our experience and spiritual growth on earth. This life itself can be thought of as a transition point in the plan of salvation. It has been described by Alma as a ‘probationary state,’ or in the book of Abraham as the time that “…we will prove them herewith, to see if they will do all things whatsoever the Lord their God shall command them.” The secular literature of Cross-cultural Orientation often uses the name ‘sojourner’ for those individuals, like missionaries, who find themselves in a foreign land. I would submit, brothers and sisters, that we all are sojourners in this life, to quote Eliza R. Snow; “For a wise and glorious purpose/ Thou hast placed me here on earth/ And withheld the recollection/ Of my former friends and birth/ Yet oft-times a secret something/ Whispered, ‘You’re a stranger here,”/ And I felt that I had wandered/ From a more exalted sphere.”

All we sojourners then, are here for what purpose? We are here to face challenges, which break down barriers to our personal growth. I like this metaphor to describe this; “…we human beings are similar to hardy crustaceans. ‘The lobster grows by developing and shedding a series of hard, protective shells. Each time it expands from within, the confining shell must be sloughed off. It is left exposed and vulnerable until, in time, a new covering grows to replace the old.” This life, and within this life, a missionary experience, is a time when the shell is ‘sloughed off.’ We are exposed to the world, and all of the dangers- yet we are also exposed to all of the good. The barrier, though it protected us, also inhibited our growth. In life, our agency and our obedience help us grow spiritually, and eventually create a new ‘shell.’ We have faced trial and challenge, but have emerged as beings moving farther along the path of progression.

In spiritual preparation for a mission, a young person must discover truth, and confirm it to themselves, by prayer, by study, and by reflection. This is listening with your heart to promptings of the spirit. Our experiences in life are to open our minds and our hearts; to make us humble enough to listen to the still small voice of the spirit. It is only by facing the enormity of the world; coming face to face with our mortality and weakness, and from that working to realize our potential as servants, instruments, and children of our father.

It is because of that promise that I can feel adequate for the call I have been given. The country I go to is well acquainted with pain. I am not. Guatemala is familiar with physical deprivation, and hardship. I am not. I have a great deal to learn from a nation and people that I might have paid little attention to without this call. And all that I can truly teach is the Gospel of Christ. Of myself I am nothing. By the love and power of the Savior; by service and longsuffering; only by these can anyone teach, and also learn.

I would like to close with my testimony. I know that Jesus Christ atoned for our sins. That he is the Savior of the world, and He and our Father love us, because the Book of Mormon testifies of their love. I know that because they love us, they appeared to Joseph Smith and restored the fullness of the gospel for our dispensation. I know that in that restoration came the keys of the priesthood, which power and authority are traced back to God, and are passed down to our prophet, Thomas S. Monson. Our call to missionary service is to show those who have been prepared the love of Christ, by our words and even more by our actions. I close in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

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