Monday, July 20, 2015

Shall We Not Go On In So Great A Cause?

The View from Ohio: Sometimes it seems very close to Heaven
Reflecting on the beginning of my mission I distinctly remember having this view of the missionary I wanted to be. I wanted to be this perfect, fearless, Aaron or Ammon missionary. Let me let you in on a little secret. I'm not perfect. Sometimes I fall. Sometimes I even struggle to get back up. Sometimes I'm nervous or scared to talk to people. I've faced doubts and I've had questions. And on occasion I've had feelings of inadequacy and wonder why Heavenly Father allowed me to be one of His servants. But the other day I realized something.  I didn't come out here on a mission to become the person I am supposed to be. I came here to learn who I am supposed to be. Let me explain what I mean by that. Conversion doesn't happen overnight nor does it happen fully or completely during my 18 month portal. I haven't become some godly person during this time I have been away, but I have changed step by step by small and simple means and will continue to change and give anything and everything to become more like my precious Heavenly Father. Progression in the gospel is a lifetime pursuit and how grateful I am for that simple principle. I came on a mission to learn to be the person I was meant to be and to plant the seeds within myself to become that person. I am laying the foundation for my future and each day I am molded by His hands as I work to change myself in a way that will align myself with my older Brother. I feel closer to the Spirit, to my Heavenly Father, and my older Brother and Savior Jesus Christ than I ever have. I have changed in many ways and it has been the most beautiful process of becoming. I know the gospel is true. I feel it with everything I have and everything I am but mark my words, my progression is not yet finished and neither is yours! What a beautiful continuous journey called life our Heavenly Father allows us to embark on. 

President Ezra Taft Benson said, "we must be careful, as we seek to become more and more godlike that we do not become discouraged and lose hope. Becoming Christ-like is a lifetime pursuit and very often involves growth and change that is slow almost imperceptible. The scriptures record dramatically in an instant, as it were: Alma the Younger, Paul on the road to Damascus, Enos praying far into the night, King Lamoni. Such astonishing examples of the power to change even those steeped in sin give confidence that the atonement can reach even those deepest in despair. But we must be cautious as we discuss these remarkable examples. Though they are real and powerful, they are the exception more than the rule. For every Paul, for every Enos, and for every King Lamoni, there are hundreds and thousands of people who find the process of repentance much more subtle, much more imperceptible. Day by day they move closer to the Lord, little realizing they are building a Godlike life. They live quiet lives of goodness, service and commitment...The Lord is pleased with every effort, even the tiny daily ones in which we strive to be more like Him. Though we may see that we have far to go on the road to perfection, we must not give up hope." Keep on, hope on and continually strive day by day to become more like our loving Heavenly Father.

With that being said in one of my last emails I invited you to share your conversion stories with me. I'd like to take this time to share mine with you. For me my conversion story has been a process. It's hard to pinpoint a specific time when my "conversion" took place. 

Growing up I never really remember questioning the gospel and the many principles found within it. I had many wonderful spiritual experiences however that allowed my testimony to grow in the principles of the gospel and that allowed me to become more converted to it. I have always had a love for the gospel and a desire to become more like my Savior. Being my stubborn self however, I knew that I could only coast off of borrowed light for so long and realized I needed to understand more fully what I was claiming to believe so I took action to strengthen my faith in the gospel teachings. 

I grew up in a home where gospel principles were stressed and encouraged. I felt the love of my parents and also very often the love of my Heavenly Father. I sang songs at a young age that testified of who I was and of the reality of my Heavenly Father. One of my favorite children's songs is "I am a Child of God." The words to a part of the song read, "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 someday." I remember knowing even as a young girl that I could pray to my Heavenly Father for love, help, and guidance and that my ultimate goal was to make it back home to Him. How fortunate I was for parents who set the example for me and helped me to know and understand that I had a Heavenly Father who loved me, who loved me enough to send me and all of you His only begotten Son.

When I was around 15 I had the opportunity to go to Nauvoo, IL, a well-known church historical sight. It was there that I had the opportunity to finish the Book Of Mormon for the first time on my own. It was there that I prayed with my whole heart and soul to know if this precious book was true. I hungered for an answer. I had believed it was true, but had never fully sought that confirmation for myself. As I sat in front of the temple and read the last few verses In Moroni I remember opening my heart to my Heavenly Father and asking Him if the Book of Mormon was true. I looked at the temple and at a statue of the Prophet Joseph Smith and his beloved brother Hyrum as they were mounted on horses and preparing to take their last fateful steps toward Cathage. I remember an overwhelming feeling of peace and admiration for the Prophet come over me. I knew in that moment more fully than I had before that Joseph Smith was a chosen Prophet of the Lord and that through Him the Book Of Mormon was brought forth. I realized that what I was holding in my hands truly was another testament of Jesus Christ and it contained the fullness of the everlasting gospel. How lucky I felt to hold a copy of such a divine book in my hands, and not only hold it but feel and know of its truthfulness. 

As a junior in high school I remember receiving a painful text at a Friday night football game from my mother that said "you and your brother need to come over to grandma and grandpas. It may be the last time you'll see grandpa." I remember cherishing those last moments with my papa and telling him how much I loved him. My sweet Grandpa, Papa Dave, passed away early the next morning with a smile on his face. It was the first time someone I really knew and loved passed away. As I reflected on the plan of Salvation, the plan of happiness, I discovered great comfort in knowing that families are forever and that if strive to do everything I can in this life, then I can see my Grandpa again. I gained an unwavering testimony of the Spirit World and how important this preparatory state is. These verses in Alma 40 in the Book of Mormon gained new meaning for me as I experienced his loss:

11 Now, concerning the state of the soul between death and the resurrection--Behold, it has been made known unto me by an angel, that the spirits of all men, as soon as they are departed from this mortal body, yea, the spirits of all men, whether they be good or evil, are taken home to that God who gave them life.

12 And then shall it come to pass, that the spirits of those who are righteous are received into a state of happiness, which is called paradise, a state of rest, a state of peace, where they shall rest from all their troubles and from all care, and sorrow.

 I understood the importance of the resurrection and how one day my grandpa along with all of us will be given a perfect body.

When I went away to college I learned more about the pure love of God. I remember a specific time feeling quite lost and alone. I was away from family during a hard time and I felt there was no one I could turn to. Instantly I resorted to prayer. I felt the loving arms of my Heavenly Father embrace me as I prayed. I knew so distinctly in that moment that on this journey we never walk alone. That our Heavenly Father hears every desperate plea and knows every desire of our hearts. I know That "we love Him because He first loved us." I also remember a strengthening time when I felt the love of God In great abundance. My mom shared scripture verses with me found in the Doctrine and Covenants, Section 50 at a time when I desperately needed to feel God's love.

40 Behold, ye are little children and ye cannot bear all things now; ye must grow in grace and in the knowledge of the truth.

41 Fear not, little children, for you are mine, and I have overcome the world, and you are of them that my Father hath given me;

42 And none of them that my Father hath given me shall be lost.

As a full time missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints I have come to know of the reality of the infinite and enabling power of the Atonement of Jesus Christ. It can and will carry us. It will link us to the Savior and to our Father. It will provide forgiveness for our sins, our weaknesses, and shortcomings. It will provide the power and the strength to do His sacred work. 

Elder Holland has said, "If He could come forward in the night, kneel down, fall on His face, bleed from every pore, and cry, “Abba, Father (Papa), if this cup can pass, let it pass,” 11 then little wonder that salvation is not an easy thing for us. If you wonder if there isn’t an easier way, you should remember you are not the first one to ask that. Someone a lot greater and a lot grander asked a long time ago if there wasn’t an easier way.
When you struggle, when you are rejected, when you are spit upon and cast out, you are standing with the best life this world has ever known, the only pure and perfect life ever lived. You have reason to stand tall and be grateful that the Living Son of the Living God knows all about your sorrows and afflictions. The only way to salvation is through Gethsemane and on to Calvary. The only way to eternity is through Him—the Way, the Truth, and the Life."
I love my Savior. Words can not adequately describe how grateful I am for the atonement and how much I have learned about it especially these last 18 months. I have come to learn of the potential I can have only through Him. I am grateful for the amount of courage it took for Him to leave His royal courts above and dwell in the most humble of circumstances. To be despised and rejected, to be spat upon and cast out, rejected and betrayed. I cannot wait for that day when I will kneel before His face with tears rushing down my face and gratitude in my heart. I think I will truly be amazed with how familiar He feels to me, with the very scars He acquired for me. I look forward to that day and strive to live in a way that I can hear those uttered words "Well done thy good and faithful servant....thy faith hath made the whole."
Wherever you are on your road to conversion, may you press forward with courage and great faith. Do not get discouraged. "Live like you believe. Live like you know. There's one sure way your faith will grow."
I absolutely love being a missionary. Nothing brings me greater and more pure joy than being able to share what I love with others. 
The last Ohio Columbus Mission Fireside for Sister Mathis
I love you guys!
Sister Mathis

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