Tonight I will be set apart as a missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I cannot believe that the day I have waited for is finally here. I will be spending the next year and a half of my life in the countries of Belgium and the Netherlands spreading a gospel that I know to be true. A gospel full of the joy and love our Heavenly Father has for us. I want to take this opportunity to explain why I have made this decision to serve. To give of my time to a cause that is truly inspiring and crucial to the salvation of men.
There was a time when I felt like a fish in a fish tank. I would swim around all day, hang out with my fish buddies, eat food that is somehow provided for me by some mysterious source and was completely content in my own little world. But then I began to wonder what was going on around me. Who was taking care of me, even though I was ungrateful and oblivious to their care, and what my purpose was in this big fish tank called earth. The truth is, we have all been put here for a reason, for a specific purpose. Some of us may be sharks, others tuna, others sea cucumbers. We each have our own special qualities that allow us to help others to survive and to return to where we came from. We have a purpose, to return to our Heavenly Father.
Our Heavenly Father loves us so much that not only did He provide the means for us to live and thrive here on this earth, but He gave us the means necessary for each of us to return to Him. "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life."(John 3:16) In my scripture study this week I was led to a section in 1 Nephi. In this book, the prophet Lehi describes a vision he had of the tree of life. This tree had fruit that was desirable above all other fruit and Lehi had desires that his family should partake. As he beckons them to come and partake, he sees many others trying to reach the tree of life. Amid darkness and temptations, there is a rod of iron, that if one would grab ahold and not let go, led to the tree of life.
This particular parable from the Book of Mormon is one that I have been taught since my youth, but I found something particularly interesting in 1 Nephi 11, where Nephi asks to see this same vision. As he is given the opportunity to see what his father saw, he asks for an interpretation of each of the items described by his father. When he asks about the tree of life he is shown the Baby Jesus with his mother Mary in Bethlehem. The love between a mother and son is shown, not only a mother and son but THE son who was sent to redeem us all. Nephi is asked if he understands what is being shown unto him and he replies, "Yea, it is the love of God, which sheddeth itself abroad in the hearts of the children of men; wherefore it is the most desirable above all things." (1 Nephi 11:22)
Nephi is then shown a vision of Christ's ministry to represent the rod of iron, which Nephi interprets to be the word of God proclaimed through and of Christ. Over and over again, Nephi is given glimpses of Christ's ministry and learns of the truth. How cool is that? The only way that Nephi was to learn and understand the love of God is through the only begotten of the Father. The only way Nephi was to understand the beauty of the word of God was through Christ and by observing the love that Christ had for every man. Likewise, it is through Christ we understand the love of God. Through Christ we learn of the beauty of the word of God. It is through Christ that we learn of our purpose on this earth and in the life to come. And it is through Christ that we learn how we can be happy and achieve our goal to return to our Heavenly Father.
"And, if you keep my commandments and endure to the end you shall have eternal life, which gift is the greatest gifts of all the gifts of God." (D&C 14:7) As I have followed the commandments and guidelines given to me by my Heavenly Father my life has been filled with joy and comfort. It is the message of Christ's life, the message of His love, that brings this comfort.
That is why I am going on a mission: because I know that God loves His children and that through His Son are they saved. Nephi says," I know that he loveth his children; nevertheless, I do not know the meaning of all things." (1 Nephi 11:17) I, like Nephi, do not claim to know everything; nor do I understand everything that I am asked to do but the fact that God loves me gives me the confidence, and even more the desire, to do His will. "I will go and do the things which the Lord hath commanded, for I know that the Lord giveth no commandments unto the children of men, save he shall prepare a way for them that they may accomplish the thing which he commandeth them."(1 Nephi 3:7)
I know that in 1820, a young man named Joseph Smith was guided by the word of God to pray and ask which church to join. "If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him"(James 1:5) I know that he saw God, the Father and Jesus Christ and that they, through Joseph, restored the full truthfullness of the gospel and the message of love given through Christ that have allowed millions from that point forth to be comforted by the knowledge of the truth.
So, why am I going on a mission? Because God loves me, because God loves all of His children and because of the love of Christ. "Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends." (John 15:13) I am not being asked to lay down my life, but I am giving a year and a half for Christ, who laid down His life for all of us. My purpose is to spread this word so that my fellow brothers and sisters may know of the truth that I have been blessed with. I know that Christ lives and that through Him all things are possible.
"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." (Moroni 19:32)