Many of us forged our view of life while still apprenticing in the Smithy's shop. During our teen years we constructed a way of dealing with life that seemed to work - even if it was dangerously self-centered and self-protective. Through trial and error we found a way of responding to the insecurities, insults, put-downs, peer pressures, and performance expectations. The point was to protect oneself from pain, humiliation and comparison. We also learned to feed the appetites and passions that play to our weaknesses. And as part of this we became experts at blaming others for our weaknesses and failures all while rationalizing our indulgences without guilt.
The Smithy had a hot forge. We welded our own designs. And the Smithy would say, "Good design...bad design...it don't matter...a weld is a weld."
As a Mission President, I receive 60 new missionaries each year. Each comes with his or her pre-established view of life. Some see things clearly and are on a good track. Others are very confused, yet they have no sense of the confusion because they've been living it so long that it has become who they are.
And thus I marvel at the undeniable "fix-it" power that a mission can have in the life of a young adult. Serving two years as a missionary (or 18 months for our sister missionaries) can be the best, most powerful, most potent, most cleansing rehab program on the planet.
Missionaries who choose to "let go and let God" experience the reality of the true Refiner's fire. Missionary service requires self-sacrifice and obedience to a set of rules that most young adults would refuse to follow: 1 hour each day of scripture study; a strict daily dress code; no TV, radio or other forms of entertainment; no Internet, cell phones, text messaging or email to friends; arising promptly at 6:30AM every morning and in bed by 10:30PM each night. And during the day missionaries are encouraged to be highly reliant upon spiritual impressions to guide them in their work as they teach the message of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ to all whom will listen. This requires frequent, sincere prayers for it is a difficult assignment!
Recently one of our missionaries was struggling with everything. He was deperately unhappy and yearned for his old life as a free and unencumbered teenager. Meeting with him late into the night, I offered to get an airplane ticket home within 48 hours. And I also invited him, as an alternative, to take part in a three week experiment. I promised him that if he would be willingly obedient to the mission rules for three weeks that he would experience freedom and happiness that he has never before felt. It seemed counter-intuitive: "obey a strict set of rules as a restless 19 year old and I'll be happy??"
How could I make such a promise? Because I have great confidence in the teachings of Jesus Christ -- that He desires us to be truly happy and to have peace of conscience and clarity of purpose while on the earth. And that the only path to this outcome is through obedience to His way of life.
Please enjoy reading the words of this missionary, now three weeks into the experiment: “This last week has been an interesting one for me. I have come to realize some things. I have never even thought that such a point in life would ever come when your views on everything would revolve around your religious beliefs. I never took time to think about how important the Gospel Of Jesus Christ really is. It is the foundation. Everything else is built on it. But all to often we put aside the things that should govern our decisions for something else. A Gospel view on life is essential to progression I believe. Because I have been reading so much from the Book Of Mormon, I have become to think differently. I believe that when we aren't thinking right it is because we are not as involved in the Gospel as we should be.”
Daily scripture study and sincere prayer opens one to a softening of the heart. The scriptures teach that when one approaches God with a "contrite spirit and a broken heart" they are rewarded with a cleansing of pain, imperfection, deception and afflictions of all kinds. This is one of the promised gifts or blessings that come from the Atonement of Jesus Christ.
We see it in our missionaries. And we see it regularly in the people we teach who "come unto Christ" and begin to "think differently" about who they are and what life is all about. It is a joy to be a witness of this profound change.
Sunday, April 6, 2008
On Saturday April 5, forty-six Philadelphia-based LDS missionaries joined thousands of other city dwellers in a big spring clean up. Mayor Michael Nutter sponsored this hands-on event that had the following goals:
* Recruit over 10,000 volunteers
* Clean up 5,000 neighborhood blocks
* Clean more than 50 commercial corridors along major thoroughfares
* Clean 10 neighborhood recreation centers
* Clean 10 areas in Fairmount Park
* Remove over 1 million pounds of trash and litter from across the city!
Our missionaries wore bright yellow "Mormon Helping Hands" t-shirts and were assigned to 6 different projects in various parts of the city. One of our missionaries exclaimed, "If the people living here would obey the Word of Wisdom (our health code) and the Law of Chastity (our 'no sex outside of marriage' principle), there would be very little to clean up!!" And how true he is. The parks of Philadelphia are full of used drug paraphernalia, empty alcohol containers, left-over condoms, etc. Not only are many people continuing to mess up their lives, but they still aren't cleaning up after themselves!
at 11:15 AM