Called to Serve

It is official!! On Sunday, February 24th 2013, I opened my call to serve a full-time mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I report April 10th to the Provo, UT Missionary Training Center, and then I’ll be heading to the West Virginia Charleston mission!!

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Line Upon Line

Note: Throughout this post, blue, underlined text is used to mark what I believed to be communication from the Lord through the Spirit, red, bolded text is used to accentuate a lesson I learned, and green, italicized text is used in place of Her name.

I feel electricity coursing through me right now, and have for the past 45 minutes. The Spirit has been so strong tonight as the Lord has taught me.

It started when She told me that she and her sister had work to do that would carry them late into the night and asked if I wanted to come help. I was working at the time, so I told her I couldn’t. When I got off work early, I considered going to help, but felt that I needed to stay home. Logically, it seemed to be because I have homework that I need to finish, but all I knew for sure was that I felt like I should stay home. I started working on my homework and then I received the second distress text from Her hinting that they could use some help. I told her that I couldn’t make it, but this time, I didn’t feel like I needed to stay anymore. I thought about it for a minute and asked if she thought she could use my help. She told me that the work would likely be done by the time I got there, but I decided that I would go to help anyway. As I got ready to leave I still felt nothing to compel me to the contrary, so, at around 10:12, I left my house.

After driving for about 20 minutes I started to feel a slight tug to turn my car around. At first I rationalized that it was simply because I had thought about home and tried to push it from my mind, but as I continued to drive, the tug became more recognizable. (Tonight I equated the initial tug to feeling a tickling in my heart, and the more forceful it becomes, the more it feels like someone squeezing my heart.) At this point I was starting to feel disappointed. I thought “how could he let me get this far only to tell me to turn around?”. My heart sunk as I accepted that I needed to turn around and head home, but as it sunk, I felt a Spiritual static wash over me and knew that it was the right thing to do.

As I turned around and headed back, I started to question if there was something I needed to learn. Recently I’ve had similar experiences to this. One came this past Sunday, as I thought about inviting Her over for Thanksgiving dinner with my family and then going with her to the temple afterward. I had the feeling a few times that I shouldn’t. In my mind, there was nothing wrong with it, but I knew I should obey. When I got home from church, I thought that I would wait until She got off church and then see if I felt it was ok to call and invite her. When 5:00 came around, I felt nothing either way, so I called and invited her, which she accepted. When we finished eating, I mentioned that I wanted to go with her to see the temple lights. She asked if it was ok for me to leave and I immediately had a small feeling that I should stay, which I promptly ignored and said “yes”. We drove separately, and when we were about halfway there I started to get the same feeling I experienced tonight, the one that said I should turn around and go home. I didn’t listen to it then. I thought of how she would feel if I turned around then and she had to show up alone. I knew it would only be a bit disappointing for her at worst, but regardless, I wanted to go and spend time with her. Shortly after we arrived and met with her friends, I could no longer deny that the Spirit was telling me to go home. After explaining to her and saying goodnight, I sprinted to my car and hurried home. I had no idea what was wrong, but it was now well into the clutched heart feeling. When I arrived home, nothing was wrong, my family was gone, and I was left feeling disappointed and confused. Nothing was the matter, so why was it so important for me to be at home?

As I drove home tonight, I started to realize the connection between these two experiences. I thought that maybe there was a principle I needed to learn. As I thought this, I made my first connection: the Lord should never have to tell me something more than once. When I receive counsel from the Lord, I should accept that as the final answer and act accordingly UNTIL I receive counsel otherwise. I remembered the section in D&C in which Oliver Cowdery goes to the Lord seeking counsel and receives this response:

D&C 6:22-23
22 Verily, verily, I say unto you, if you desire a further witness, cast your mind upon the night that you cried unto me in your heart, that you might know concerning the truth of these things.
23 Did I not speak peace to your mind concerning the matter? What greater witness can you have than from God?

I also thought of the experience that Joseph Smith had with Martin Harris in which he returned and asked the Lord the same question three times because the first answer wasn’t good enough for Brother Harris.

As I continued homeward, reflecting on what had happened, the warmth of the Spirit continued to wash over me. I knew that I was on the right track. As I drove, I passed by a car with it’s hazard lights on and nobody in sight. Immediately I had a slight tug to pull over and check on them, but it was gone in an instant and I thought that maybe it was just my instincts. I continued on and scanned the road for the next 2 miles for anyone who might need help. It was then that I made my second connection: what I was experiencing with these feelings was comparable to when someone in the scriptures knew or understood in their heart. As I thought this, I felt the tug to turn around and check on the car with the hazard lights on. After thinking on it for a moment I knew that I should turn around. I exited and started my second U-turn. As I sat waiting to make a left turn back onto the freeway, I made my third connection: my spiritual reflexes were being trained. I laughed at the thought and smiled as the Spirit washed over me more strongly. I no longer questioned that if the Lord urged me to make 100 U-turns tonight, I would make them all. I drove the 4 miles back and made another U-turn back onto the freeway. As I made that third U-turn, I started to rationalize and doubt. “Whoever it is is probably sleeping,” I said and scoffed. “I’m just going to disturb them and they’re going to be more afraid than appreciative”. When I passed the car a second time, I pulled over and stopped. I said a silent prayer and asked if I was doing the right thing. No response came, and I got out and walked slowly toward the car. As I neared, the driver side window rolled down. Inside was a man, probably in his fifties. “Do you need any help?” I asked. He smiled and said “I’ve already got AAA on the way, but thank you for stopping! I appreciate it,” he replied. “It’s no problem, so there’s nothing I can do to help?” I asked again. “Nothing at all, they’ll be here soon, thank you!” he said. I wished him luck and headed back to my car.

I felt invigorated as I walked back, grateful for this positive experience. As I climbed into my car, however, I wondered if the conversation would have been different had I stopped the first time. What if he called AAA after I drove by him? I knew that I couldn’t change it now, but I started to wonder again how I could tell the difference between my own feelings of sympathy and the Spirit telling me to stop and help someone. It was then that I made my fourth connection: as I realized that it doesn’t matter if the feelings I receive come from the Spirit or from my own sympathetic reactions to seeing someone in need, the result is the same. I need to go about doing good on my own, without having to be commanded to do so, and without arguing with myself or wasting time questioning the feeling. I remembered the words of D&C 58 as I thought this: “For behold, it is not meet that I should command in all things; for he that is compelled in all things, the same is a slothful and not a wise servant,” but it wasn’t until I looked it up and saw verses 27-29 that I realized just how applicable this scripture was.

D&C 58:26-29
26 For behold, it is not meet that I should command in all things; for he that is compelled in all things, the same is a slothful and not a wise servant; wherefore he receiveth no reward.
27 Verily I say, men should be anxiously engaged in a good cause, and do many things of their own free will, and bring to pass much righteousness;
28 For the power is in them, wherein they are agents unto themselves. And inasmuch as men do good they shall in nowise lose their reward.
29 But he that doeth not anything until he is commanded, and receiveth a commandment with doubtful heart, and keepeth it with slothfulness, the same is damned.

When I arrived home, I sat in my car before going inside and just felt. The entire drive home following my third connection had been electric. I felt the Spirit so strongly. I’m completely amazed by the way tonight unfolded, and so incredibly grateful that it did. Some of the things I learned tonight have been many years in coming to me. One step at a time, one level after another, the Lord steadily teaches me new principles.

2 Nephi 28:30
30 For behold, thus saith the Lord God: I will give unto the children of men line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little and there a little; and blessed are those who hearken unto my precepts, and lend an ear unto my counsel, for they shall learn wisdom; for unto him that receiveth I will give more; and from them that shall say, We have enough, from them shall be taken away even that which they have.

I could never express with words the gratitude I feel tonight.

“… yet trouble came.”

Today I studied in the book of Job. As I did so, two verses stood out to me. These two verses answered, in my mind, the question often asked: “Why does God let bad things happen to good people?”, as much in telling “why” as in telling us how we should respond. In Job 3:26, while Job is lamenting he says, “I was not in safety, neither had I rest, neither was I quiet; yet trouble came.” His words, “yet trouble came,” show that even though he was doing everything he was supposed to be doing, trouble still came his way. The righteous have as great a need to pass through the fiery furnace of mortality as the unrighteous.

The second scripture comes in Job 2:10 when we see the attitude of Job toward these trials he faced as he says to his wife: “What? shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall not receive evil?” Job acknowledges that if we accept the good things that God gives us, we must also accept the bad. In our being alive on this earth, we have all accepted the good things that God has given us. We must learn then to see our trials from God’s perspective. However difficult they may be for us now, we become more like our Savior and our Heavenly Father by facing and overcoming them. A lesson to be learned from Job is that, through all of his trials and tests, being abandoned by his friends and losing everything he loved and knew, he never denied God; he worshiped Him unfailingly with full purpose of heart. If we keep that same faith throughout whatever we are called to face, we have been promised that we will receive “all that the Father hath” and become “joint heirs with Christ”.

You think trials are unfair? Wait till you see the blessings.

“He put one foot on the edge and moved decisively forward…”

As I was talking with a work associate today, and listening to him tell about the second coming being so near, I had a powerful feeling come over me that these truly are the last days. I thought of what I was doing in my life, and knew suddenly and with great conviction that I needed to focus completely on preparing myself for the days to come. I thought of the fantasy book I had in my hand and knew that it was not the one I should be reading. I thanked my friend for what he had said, excused myself, and went down into the office to pray. When I walked in, I hesitated for a moment, and then threw my Shannara book away. In that moment I saw that book to be the same as what video games have always been for me. They are a distraction, an escape into a world other than this one, and as such, pull me away from my responsibilities as a bearer of the priesthood. I can’t afford to spend my time on adventures and stories of magic and faerie worlds. The power of God is real, and the scriptures are what I need to employ to learn how to call upon that power, to fortify myself and become who I need to be. I knelt and prayed for guidance, for understanding, and for the determination to move forward in what the Lord was calling me to do. It was clear to me that this was one of the moments of great decision in my life. This was a moment when I needed to put my foot on the edge and move decisively forward.

I opened the scriptures and prayed again for guidance, unsure of where I should begin. I sat for a moment and then looked down and began to read:

Alma 17:2-3 …yea, and they had waxed strong in the knowledge of the truth; for they were men of a sound understanding and they had searched the scriptures diligently, that they might know the word of God.
3 But this is not all; they had given themselves to much prayer, and fasting; therefore they had the spirit of prophecy, and the spirit of revelation, and when they taught, they taught with power and authority of God.

I felt the power of what I was reading, and I read it over and over again. My plea for guidance was being answered in a very direct way, and I saw very clearly what I needed to know.

Characteristics of the sons of Mosiah:
– Strong in the knowledge of truth
– Men of a sound understanding
– Had the spirit of prophecy
– Had the spirit of revelation
– Taught with power and authority of God

What led them to be so?
– They had searched the scriptures diligently, that they might know the word of God.
– They had given themselves to much prayer and fasting.

I followed the footnote at “searched the scriptures diligently” to the topical guide, to the heading “Scriptures, Study of”, and there I found:

Joshua 1:8 …thou shalt meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein: for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt have good success.

Deuteronomy 17:18-20 …he shall write him a copy of this law out of that which is before the priests and the Levites:
19 And it shall be with him, and he shall read therein all the days of his life: that he may learn to fear the Lord his God, to keep all the words of this law and these statutes, to do them:
20 That his heart be not lifted up above his brethren, and that he turn not aside from the commandment…

To do:
– Meditate in the scriptures day and night
– Observe to do according to all that is written

– Read therein all the days of my life
– Learn to fear the Lord my God
– Learn to keep all the words of this law and these statutes, to do them

Results:
– I will make my way prosperous
– I will have good success

– My heart will not be lifted up above my brethren (humility)
– I will not turn aside from the commandments

I am so deeply grateful for this experience I’ve had today. I know the direction I need to head now, and I finally have the conviction to do so. I remember a long time ago reading or hearing of a church leader who made the decision to turn his life over to the Lord—to do what the Lord would have him do and that alone. I have often thought back to that, and considered how difficult it would be for me to do so. Now that I think of it rationally, it isn’t difficult at all. You simply do, there is no question about it. I pray I will continue to look forward, and never look back beyond this point again. Most important in my life are study, prayer, and fasting; learning the will of the Lord, and then doing it.

There is a final point that keeps coming to me as I think over what I have learned. I consider the way that I have always seen missionary work and service as the most important thing for me to do, and my thoughts keep turning to the Doctrine and Covenants, in which the Lord tells Hyrum Smith:

D&C 11:21 Seek not to declare my word, but first seek to obtain my word, and then shall your tongue be loosed; then, if you desire, you shall have my Spirit and my word, yea, the power of God unto the convincing of men.
26 Therefore, treasure up in your heart until the time which is in my wisdom that you shall go forth.
27 Behold, I speak unto all who have good desires, and have thrust in their sickle to reap.