Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Transfers Again: An Experiment

The time for transfers has come again. And I have high hopes for it. So, I'll be working on various things I've learned over my mission and applying them all at once, and we'll see where it goes!

The first thing I'll be applying is what I've learned about charity. I intend to keep up with it. As you've seen in previous posts, charity is the pure love of Christ. It involves feeling sincere love and concern for others, even those you don't know, and showing
that love through service, through truly listening to others, through kind words. The list could go on. This transfer, I'm being moved into a new area with a companion I haven't really worked with before, so I'll be surrounded by strangers in the ward at first. And so it is a perfect opportunity to really put to the test what I've learned these last two months and see if I've truly learned it or if it's only words.

Second I will be working effectively and consistently--diligently. For me diligence means giving it your all and being consistent and driven by a strong motivation to do your best. And so that's what I intend to do. My current companion has taught me a lot about using every spare moment and not letting a second go to waste. So I plan to do just that. I'm going to study a bit more about what diligence really means, and then apply as I learn.

Third will be the value of listening to the Spirit. I've had a number of experiences where I knew the Lord was speaking through me as His representative, and I want to make that a more regular occurrence because the message I carry is always more powerful when carried by the Spirit into the hearts of the people. As a missionary I'm not here to convince people that this gospel is true, but to help them learn for themselves, through that Spirit, what path the Lord wants for them. And that can only happen if I am that instrument through which the Lord can touch their hearts.

These will be my three main focuses this transfer, over the next six weeks. The most important thing I've learned, though, is that without help from God, I can do nothing. So this next transfer I will be relying a lot on my Heavenly Father and my Savior to help me overcome my weaknesses and help me become strong. Tomorrow I go into the unknown, but with the Savior by my side. Wish me luck!

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Being Charitable Brings Blessings

The last few months, I've been working on developing charity. And I've seen changes. I've seen blessings. And not only in my life, but in the lives of others.

As I've worked to develop charity, I've found my love for the people I work with grow, little by little. Before, it was sometimes difficult for me to pay attention when other people talked for a long period of time. I also often found myself wanting to give my two cents, not considering that what the other was saying might be important to know. It was also sometimes difficult to get along with people because we had different ways of doing things and, I'm rather chagrined to admit it, I wanted things to go my way. But as I've concentrated on being "long-suffering" and "patient," and really listening to the other person rather than just wanting to say what I had to say, I've come to know each person better. I feel like I have a greater understanding of their needs and how help them understand, so they get what they need and what they're looking for. And my relationships have improved a lot since I first set this goal for myself.

But that's not the only change I've noticed. As I focus more on them rather than on myself, the Spirit speaks to me more easily and I can be inspired to say what the investigator needs to hear. The other day we taught a lesson with an investigator and a member, and we were teaching a longer lesson and only had an hour to get through it. And I felt myself getting impatient because I wanted to get through the lesson and move on. But I realized before long that I was being selfish and I wasn't feeling charity for either of those people. So I made a conscious decision to listen and try to love them both.

Almost instantly I noticed a difference. The story the investigator was telling was an important one from his youth that made it easier to understand why he was the way he was, and the member was teaching well, just not in the way I would have taught it. And it didn't matter if I wasn't the one doing the majority of the teaching, because true doctrine was being taught and the Spirit was there. By the end of the lesson, the investigator had understood the doctrine well and was excited to keep learning, and the member had made a valuable contribution. And I know that lesson would not have turned out as well had I not made the effort to have charity for each person in the room.

Truly the quest for charity is worth it. I've seen not only with this particular investigator, but with all of them. My love has grown and my desire to serve and help them has increased. And even with strangers on the street, I have more desire to serve them and help them come to the knowledge of their Savior. And this is only after a few weeks. I'm going to keep working on developing this divine attribute so I can experience and then share the pure love that Jesus Christ has for each and every person on the planet. I know that with His help it is not only possible, but probable.

I invite each of you to make an effort to be more kind to those around you. Show your love and consideration for them, even in the little things, and I promise you will have a happier, more positive outlook on life, even when things are difficult.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

How Do I Develop Charity?

As mentioned in my last post, charity is the pure love of Christ, the perfect way he loved others. And we have been commanded to develop it: "the Lord God hath given a commandment that all men should have charity, which charity is love. And except they should have charity they were nothing" (2 Nephi 26:30). That's a rather difficult mandate, isn't it? But it's not impossible.

To start, it helps to understand a little more about what charity is and how it is showed. A good place to start is by studying Moroni 7 in the Book of Mormon or 1 Corinthians 13 in the New Testament. Moroni defines it this way: "And charity suffereth long, and is kind, and envieth not, is not puffed up, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil, and rejoiceth not in iniquity but rejoiceth in the truth, beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things."

Now I'm going to substitute in some antonyms to reflect better what charity is rather than what is is not, along with a translation to modern English: "And charity suffers long, and is kind, and [tolerant], is [humble], [selfless], [patient], [virtuous], and...rejoices in the truth, bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things."

That seems a little easier, right? It will still require effort, but at least you know now what it means to not be "puffed up." The next step is not to try to develop it all at once--that would be too overwhelming. So you start by picking one and working on it until you've gotten pretty good at it, then start on a new one. The root of it all is something very simple--service. As you start to focus on helping others, you will find that almost without noticing those other attributes will develop as well. The reason for that is because your love for them will grow.

"We can all come to be like the Savior as we serve God's children."
The best thing about developing charity is that we aren't alone in the process. Our Savior Jesus Christ is there to help us and strengthen us and allow us to go beyond our normal capacities and reach new heights. The most amazing thing about the gospel is that it always comes back to Christ and his Atonement, or his suffering and sacrifice for each one of us. As we pray for strength, little by little we will be able to develop those attributes of charity that will bring great blessings into our lives.

The next post will be about the blessings that come as we strive to develop charity, and I will also report on blessings I have personally received as I strive to develop this Christlike attribute. So stay tuned!

Monday, October 6, 2014

What is Charity?

No, not the charity where you donate all your old, unwanted, and broken things to the poor so you can get rid of it (and I have done that). I'm talking about charity, the love of Christ. What is it? A prophet from the Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ, defines it this way:

"And charity suffereth long, and is kind, and envieth not, and is not puffed up, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil, and rejoiceth not in iniquity but rejoiceth in the truth, beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things." (Moroni 7:45)

Those are just a few aspects of charity, but it still doesn't really explain it, does it? It's true. There's a lot more to charity than just the outward expressions of it. The most basic explanation is also given by the Book of Mormon prophet Moroni: "charity is the pure love of Christ, and it endureth forever" (Moroni 7:47). In short, charity encompasses the type of love that Christ possesses, and that he showed to everyone while he was on the earth, culminated in his great atoning sacrifice for us, as well as the love he continues to extend to all of us who are imperfect, broken, conceited, sorrowful, lost, prideful, unsure, and everything in between. It is a perfect love that never ends.

Even more than that, though, it is more than just showing love for those around you, more than little acts of service and kind words. Properly interpreted, it is the love we feel for those around us which then motivates those little acts. We cannot in this life attain to the perfect love that Christ showed, but we can start. It might not be easy--in fact, I promise that it will not be easy--but it is possible and it will be worth it.

How do we develop charity? A possible solution will be given in my next post, so stay tuned!

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

A New Beginning: Follow-Up

Okay, so I know it's been more than six months since the last post about this, and I've had three different companions since then, but here is my follow-up (the best I can remember).

The first week was a bit rough. I didn't know the area, I didn't know my companion, I didn't know the people. Basically, I had no idea what I'd been thrust into. Plus, my new companion was Mexican, and so her culture and simply her manner was very different than I was used to. I assumed as senior companion that I had to be the one in charge of everything and I was the one to teach, not be taught. And I thought my way was better, because I had more experience in the mission field than she did (though only by six weeks). And so we clashed several times, especially over planning. And it took a while to resolve those differences.

Finally, we went on exchanges. That means one companionship of sisters, known as sister training leaders, exchanges companions with another companionship in order to help each sister learn from watching the way others work and teach. So my companion went with another missionary named Sister Luna and I went with another named Sister Ricks (who, coincidentally, happens to be my current companion). I went to her area, and learned a ton from her. But the thing that stuck with me the most was what she said about senior companions--that titles like that don't matter at all, because we are all equal and learning together. All we need to be concerned about is the work and the people. I thought about that a lot, and decided to apply it.

I stopped worrying about being senior companion and started worrying about simply being a better missionary and a good example. During this time I spent quite a few nights on my knees, asking sincerely for help from on high. I studied hard about the Atonement of Jesus Christ, which is the instrument of change. I tried to improve my teaching skills. I applied the things I learned--that the Spirit told me what I needed to improve on. I worked for the people, trying to have sincere love and concern for them and really trying to do what was best for them. I set goals to improve and made plans to do it. As I studied and worked, I strengthened my testimony. And as my understanding of the gospel increased, I found myself changing. Little by little, and it was hard, but it was happening, slowly but surely.

I was with this companion for just about three months, or two 6-week periods, and I grew the most I ever have on my mission to this date in such a short amount of time. I feel so blessed for that challenging time in my mission, because I have come out the better and learned to be good friends with someone who at first seemed completely different from me. It was completely worth it, and I'm so glad I still have time on my mission to become better every day.

A Different Perspective

Have you ever looked outside and felt that the weather reflects your mood? I have. It's really an interesting thing, how our mindset seems to reflect on the world around us. And it's completely true. We see the world differently depending on how we're feeling any particular day. People seem ruder or nicer depending on whether we are discouraged or happy. But that's only our perception. The people don't change; only the way we see them does.

It seems odd, but I know from personal experience that it's true. So, if the world seems to be against you, it means you're not feeling too good about yourself or you're focusing too much on what's wrong with your life. I'm sure most of you would like that to change. So, you change your outlook. Because "the world we look out upon only reflects the world we nurture within."

Now the big question is, how can you do that? It seems hard, especially if you may not realize it's a problem at first. You can start by realizing that whatever negative emotion you're feeling is only temporary and doesn't have to last forever. It's only a passing moment. To counter it, you can then try looking for the things that are going right. Count your blessings instead of what you lack or what keeps going wrong. And after doing that, there's one thing that is a cure-all for any kind of blues. At first it may seem contradictory, and for sure it is contrary to human nature, but I've learned through experience that it works! That cure-all is simply this: unselfishness. Service. And at the root of it all is charity.

I'm currently working on developing charity for those around me, and so the next few posts you see will be explanations of charity and experiences I've had. So keep an eye out for upcoming posts!