Thursday, June 30, 2011

Twelve Men

Before I came out on my mission, I heard it said that in the two years you serve a mission you learn lessons that would otherwise take you twenty years  to learn.  When I heard that I did not believe it, but having served I can say that is true.  

As my full-time missionary service is drawing to a close, I have been reflecting on the past two years and all the things I have learned from my experience here.  I have decided that I want to share some of those lessons through a couple of blog posts.

I was privileged to serve with some of the greatest missionaries here in Montana and Wyoming.  The twelve companions I had on the mission have done so much for me and taught me so many things.  Some of them I was with for only six weeks and others I spent longer; however, regardless of how long we were companions, I was taught and edified by each and everyone of them.  Here are just a few of the lessons I have learned from them, in no particular order.

  • What genuine service means.
  • Humility means trusting in the Lord and letting him guide your life.
  • How to be a leader through example rather than words.
  • Some of the biggest regrets you will have in life are how you treated people.
  • Miracles happen as you pray and have faith.
  • You cannot always wait for someone to give directions.  Step up when you know what is right.
  • Expect the unexpected, especially in the people whom you call friends.
  • Nothing drives the Spirit away faster than disobedience and contention.
  • Everyone has personal issues.  Some are obvious and some are hidden.  The trick is to love no matter what.
  • It is ok to have fun and be crazy every now and then.
  • You will have to be patient with others a lot of the time.  Just know that people feel the same way about you.  
  • There is no lasting joy nor pleasure in disobedience to the commandments.
  • You cannot do everything by yourself all the time. 
  • You never stand taller than when you are on your knees.
  • True repentance is a continual process that changes lives.
  • How to have true love for people you serve.
  • Give it your all and get out to work!
The Lord truly blesses us with the lessons we need to learn and the people to teach them to us.  I am grateful for the chance I had to serve with each and every one of these missionaries, as well as all the missionaries whom I served around.  Without them, I would not be the person I am today, a dedicated disciple of our Heavenly Father and our Savior, Jesus Christ.

Elder Mortensen
MTC: July 15th - August 4th, 2009

Elder King
Worland: August 5th - September 14th, 2009

Elder Cook
Missoula: September 15th - December 7th, 2009
Elder Isham
Great Falls: December 8th, 2009 - January 18th, 2010
Elder Wardell
Great Falls: January 19th - March 1st, 2010

Elder Orton
Great Falls: March 2nd - May 24th, 2010

Elder Murillo
Great Falls: May 25th - July 5th, 2010
Elder Senior
Stevensville: July 6th - August 16th, 2010

Elder King (round 2)
Bigfork/Lakeside: August 17th - September 27th, 2010

Elder Carlson
Bigfork/Lakeside: September 28th - December 20th, 2010
Elder Moore
Shepherd: December 21st, 2010 - April 25th 2011
Elder Ika
Billings: April 26th - June 6th, 2011
Elder Garcia
Billings: June 7th, 2011 - present (will end on July 18th)

Thursday, June 23, 2011

"The Very Jaws of Hell..."

About a year ago, my life changed significantly.  No it was not when I graduated high school or when I came out on my mission.  June 26, 2010, changed my life because of this moment...

My kitchen is where the big fireball is coming from

That house on fire, that was mine...

After a lesson we had in Great Falls, my companion and I noticed we had missed a call from President Gardner, our mission president.  Jokingly I turned to my companion and said something to the effect of "A surprise phone call from President is never a good thing."  I could not have been more accurate in that statement.  When I called him back that evening, he told me the news that my home in La Verkin had been burned to the ground.  A neighbor had been burning some weeds when the wind picked the embers up and lit the hill my home was on ablaze.  In a matter of minutes the house was consumed.  He told me that my family was safe and told me to call them.  I did so, and then found out my mom had been taken to the hospital due to smoke inhalation and that the fire was still smoldering.  As far as my family knew, we had nothing left.
The remains of the house

At first, my mind could not comprehend it all.  Soon I began to register everything and I became an emotional wreck.  I went out into our garage and did what missionaries do...I prayed.  I literally just poured out my confusion and anxiety and frustration and all my emotions to our Heavenly Father.  As I did so, three verses of scripture came to my mind.  They were...
  • Therefore, thrust in your sickle with all your soul, and your sins are forgiven you, and you shall be laden with sheaves upon your back, for the laborer is worthy of his hire. Wherefore, your family shall live.  Behold, verily I say unto you, go from them only for a little time, and declare my word, and I will prepare a place for them. (D&C 31:5-6)
  • Thy friends do stand by thee, and they shall hail thee again with warm hearts and friendly hands.  Thou art not yet as Job; thy friends do not contend against thee. (D&C 121:9-10)
  • ...If the very jaws of hell shall gape open the mouth wide after thee, know thou, my son, that all these things shall give thee experience, and shall be for thy good. (D&C 122:7, emphasis added)
The basement walls
I then felt the calm reassurance that all would be well.  Not a moment after I finished my prayer, an inspired ward mission leader called to check on how the work was progressing, and I was able to report all the good things that were going on in our area.  I then walked back into the house to be greeted by three of my best friends and fellow missionaries.  My family was safe and I realized that that is truly the greatest blessing of all.

Miracles abounded and love was felt by both myself here in Montana as well as my family back home.  People from all over the community began inundating my family with gifts of clothes and food and shelter.  My brother said it best in an essay he wrote for school when he said,
For weeks after the fire my family was asked everywhere we went how we were doing. And we would always say we were fine and thank them for their concern, but in truth we were far better than fine, because we had so many people there for us that we were just overwhelmed with love. (Wixom, Wil. "The Worst Day". West of Zion.)
Construction as of Jan. 2011
We may have lost almost all our material possessions that summer day, but the experience has truly been a blessing for my family.  We are closer and more united.  The doubts and concerns we had about the goodness of humanity were replaced by the knowledge that people care, are genuinely kind,  and have an innate desire to serve and to help.

The Lord truly watched out for my family and prepared a place for them.  My family was able to rebuild on the same lot that our home once stood.  Life has continued to go on as time keeps its steady beat.  My dad one week after the fire stated "Our life before was great, we couldn't imagine it being better. Right now life is good, but it will be great again. ("From Ashes-Blessings". West of Zion)"  I can now say that life has reached that unimaginable level of better, because we have grown and we ourselves have become better; for as the Lord says in 1st Nephi, "Behold, I have refined thee, I have chosen thee in the furnace of affliction. (1st Nephi 20:10)"

The new home, a beacon of life and hope on the hill

Friday, June 17, 2011

The Lesson He Probably Thinks I Forgot

Right before I came out on my mission, I was asked to give a talk in church on Father's Day.  The topic I was assigned was "Traits my father has that I hope to have as a dad one day" and then to give examples of stories.  Needless to say, I relished the opportunity to share some stories, some maybe embarrassing, about my dad that not many people knew.  I shared lessons from camping trips, his example of taking care of his family, and others that have helped set me on the right course.  With Father's Day this weekend, I wanted to add a story to that list; a lesson my dad taught me.  I do not know if he remembers this encounter we had, but I sure do...

My sophomore year in high school I decided I wanted to get involved with the cross-country team at our high school.  In all honesty it started off because I really liked the coach and I felt that cross-country was the only sport I could do decently in.  Well, the first day of practice came and went and I was sore beyond all imagination.  I had never ran like that before and my legs did not enjoy it at all.  I felt terrible and did not want to keep pursuing the running.  My parents in an effort to help, which I was completely and utterly against at the time, decided that I needed to practice.  Their logic to me was..."You're sore, go run, feel better."  Needless to say I did not get it nor did I really want to at the time; however, they "strongly" convinced me to put the shoes on and go running while my dad followed on his bike.

I did not get very far before I gave up and started walking in rebellion.  My dad then began into the lecture about how I would not get better unless I practiced and how I would feel better.  All the while I was trying to ignore him and not happy with what I was doing and saying how I was giving up.  Then my dad, with all the simplicity and bluntness that fathers can produce, said in effect, "If you think this is hard and are going to give up, you are in trouble.  Your mission will be the hardest thing you do.  Are you going to give up when it gets hard then too?"  In my defiance I said no.  Besides, I thought that it would not be as hard as he made it seem.  Needless to say...I was wrong.

I did continue running with the cross-country team (I was manager my sophomore year and then ran with the team for two years), and my legs finally got the point.  I was tired but I kept going and got better.  One of my greatest memories is crossing the finish line of the Regional meet my senior year, knowing I had given it my all that race.  Likewise, I have grown and been strengthened on my mission in ways I did not know were possible.  I am grateful for the patience and support my dad has given me in all aspects of my life and for the lessons he taught me, even when he thought I was not listening. 

Happy Father's Day dad!
My dad
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