How are y'all doing today? Today is such a beautiful day here in PTC... this morning we noticed that the leaves on the tree's are starting to change ever so slightly. It's getting to be that time of year again! One of my favorite times of the year.... especially here in Georgia. Luckily, we still have tree's with leaves on them! We had a HUGE storm the other day and it blew down some tree's.... and literally broke a tree in half just outside the mission office. It feel perfectly around the office Elders car, missing it on ALL sides by inches... so it that was a sight to see when we arrived back one night from trainings. It's true, the Lord protects His missionaries... and even their cars :)
We've had a wonderful opportunity this last week to sit down with and train nearly every companionship on the entire mission. It's been a wonderful experience... and I've learned SO MUCH from the opportunity. One of the things that I enjoyed the most was feeling the Spirit work through me so uniquely and differently depending on who we met with. The training meetings with each companionship only lasted about 15 minutes at the most and we had no breaks between trainings... but it was incredible how different each one would be. The Spirit will pull things out of you to fill the needs Gods' children and servants that are placed around you... but only if we're worthy, willing and we do our best to listen to the Spirit and act on the promptings we feel.
I could talk about a million different things that I learned... but the one predominant lesson I've learned that's pressed on my mind most of this week is the importance of obedience... EXACT obedience.
There's a story in the Bible of a group of people who are walking through the wilderness while carrying the Ark of the Covenant. The people are commanded to not touch the Ark under ANY circumstances or else they will be struck dead by the Lord. The story goes on and eventually comes to a point in which the people are walking across some rocky and rough terrain... as they do so, the men who had been assigned to carry the Ark (Think of Indiana Jones) begin to tilt and sway the Ark, and it appears as if it's about to fall to the ground. As this is happening, a man nearby notices and with good intent, reaches forth his hand to steady the Ark so that it doesn't fall... his hand touches that Ark and instantly the Lord strikes him dead.
Why did this happen? The man had a good intent and pure heart... he only wanted to make sure the Ark was steady and didn't fall to the ground... why did the Lord strike him dead?
It's because he wasn't exactly obedient. The Lord clearly commanded the people to NEVER touch the Ark... not under any circumstance... even if the intent was a good one.
So how does this apply to my experiences? Well, it became clear to me that the missionaries who had the most joy, the most happiness and the most light in their eyes and in their countenances were the ones who were being EXACTLY obedient to ALL of the things they had been asked to do. As a part of the trainings, we reviewed some of the basic missionary tools we're asked to use to assist us in our work... an example of this would be the daily planners we use to plan our days and weeks (track appointments, etc.) and a book called the "area book" (the area book is used to record the teaching of investigators of the church, etc.). As my companion and I continued our trainings and reviews of these tools, it came to a point where we would know whether or not the missionaries were using these tools and doing the other things they had been asked to do as soon as they walked through the door. Those who walked in and were using them were happy and upbeat and full of the Spirit... those you didn't do these things were always sad, gloomy and not so full of the Spirit. Even little things made big differences in the attitudes and behaviors of each of the missionaries.
Life is very much this same way... we're promised to be kept safe from ALL things and to be happy through ALL times as we're obedient to the gospel. I don't have much more time to expound upon these things or share more details of the experiences we had... but I want to testify that obedience is the first law of Heaven. Obedience is the great test of life... and that obedience is ALWAYS doing the right thing and then letting the consequences follow.
Luckily for us all, the Gospel doesn't have winners and losers.... it only has winners and quitters. As long as we never quit on trying to do the right things and we never stop trying to be exactly obedient... we are promised to be victorious in the end. This is only possible because Christ was victorious over all things... and conquered all things for us. Because of His perfect life and perfect sacrifice for ALL of us... we can all make changes and stop doing things that are wrong and start doing (and keep doing) things that are right. That's how we grow and progress and eventually receive all thins from God... and it's because of the restoration of the gospel through the prophet Joseph Smith that we can now enjoy the full blessings of this promise.
I invite you all to never give up! To always look for the ways in which you can be exactly obedient to all the things the Lord has asked us to do... and as you make those changes to start doing those right things that are needed to be made, I promise you will enjoy more and more light and happiness in your life... and eventually eternal life. Just never, ever give up! The Lord is patient and loves you! He just wants you to be the happiest you can be, and that will come as you do what He asks us all to do.... which is to follow Him.
I love y'all so much! Have a blessed week,