I'm trying to sound bouncy and fun and all the rest of it BUT a few changes have been made in my missionary service that have more or less thrown a wrench into what I had been hoping to accomplish in the next two weeks (transfers are in two weeks, heads-up). First, a missionary that I was close with whom I had the privilege of serving with has gone home early. The circumstances of his departure shall remain with me, as will his name, but suffice it to say that I was greatly saddened when I heard he was leaving. His companion, Elder L, who has been out for as long as Elder H (about 4-5 months now) is now my third companion for at least the next two weeks. It is difficult and my patience is being tested. The two of them aren't getting along very well- it's a clash of missionary styles and neither one is willing to give up what they have been taught previously, adapt and change what they know into something new that still works, or even yield to a better way. It's making my job a bit difficult, being the senior companion and all. We cover both Evandale and Glenside areas now (we call it Glendale-Evanside), and there are a LOT of decisions that need to be made. We've been given a car, thankfully, but we still have to plan a lot smarter so that we stay within our K's limit (kilometre limit), and with all our very separated investigators and whatnot, planning logistically as well as logically has become much more detailed. Elder H's frustrations seem to be at some sort of pre-climax, and Elder L appears to be slipping into some sort of mild depression because of the confrontations. He mentioned that I was one of the most fun missionaries he had ever met and that he loves being my companion, but if I'm the most fun missionary he's ever met, I fear he's just not been exposed to what really fun missionaries are, because I'm no fun at all. xD Anyways, such is the minor whining of the senior companion of polar opposite people. Why do I get the feeling that I'm in this situation because I will eventually have two children in my life who will fight like cats and dogs? Sometimes I wish I couldn't connect spiritual dots like that...
I'm jealous of everyone back home right now because you've all seen Conference already and I haven't! Any big announcements made are going to be old news by the time I get to watch Conference (this coming weekend for myself). [Click here to watch any talk from any session of General Conference.] I was very displeased to hear about an "Ordain Women" group that tried to detract from the sacred nature of the conference by protesting, however. I had thought about focusing my letter home on that subject and letting a bit of bottled emotion (stress from being senior companion to two elders that silently dislike each other) release... but I decided that, as my mother said, one should feel more God-like sorrow for them and instead of utterly smashing them with all points of doctrine that they've already been taught, to instead pray for them. Truly the Adversary is leading away very carefully even the elect. So, in response to such news, I thought I might just share this- "True doctrine understood changes attitudes and behaviours." If you feed on that for a little bit, perhaps even prayerfully, a whole plethora of spiritual knowledge will be granted to you.
My mother recently told me that sometimes people hear the conference talks and get down and grumpy because they don't feel like they are doing all that is expected of them. I can honestly say that sometimes I feel the same way. However, as a missionary I've come to love Conference SO much and I am SO excited when I get to see it! I'd like to relate a story to this situation and hopefully it helps someone out. We had a very emotional District Meeting last Wednesday- many testimonies were shared, very honest and pure in nature, and many missionaries confessed their anxieties about the work, or said that perhaps they did not know why they were still serving. After the meeting went on for a time, Elder L (different from above) -and I love Elder L; I've never before met such an inspired leader who loves his missionaries more than he does and he truly is inspired- procured a classic LDS painting of the Saviour, clothed in a red robe. We talked about the Saviour for a time, and Elder L said something that I too, have thought sometimes. He recalled how when he did something wrong, he would oftentimes pass that painting in their house back home and it almost appeared as if the corners of Christ's lips were frowning, perhaps out of disappointment or just sadness. On other occasions, he recalled that when he did good things, he would look at the painting and see the Saviour almost smiling. He said it was all in the eyes of the Saviour- though just a painting, he said that he felt as though the Saviour was telling him something every time he looked into the eyes- sometimes it was good and sometimes not as good, depending always upon Elder L's own actions.
I would submit that perhaps the same can be said when we hear the General Authorities speak. They oftentimes exhort us to change, to better ourselves, and they do this without even directly telling us that we need to do these things. That is the working of the Spirit within us, and means that we are not dead to the Spirit (ten points to Griffendor for still being spiritually aware xD). These promptings to do better are God-given and must be looked at with spiritual eyes- Father loves us, and does not rebuke us so that we will feel badly, but he does so to help us become better than we currently are- they are the simple pains of growing, the pains we feel when Father says "Okay, you're ready to move on to the next level." Satan knows that these opportunities which we are given to become even better, after hearing such exhortations by ordained leaders of Christ's church, could greatly increase our spirituality and help us move towards more spiritual refinement- the kind that Heavenly Father wants to see take place in us, because He knows what will best bring us happiness. With this knowledge, Satan knows that if he can interject, and twist these spiritual burnings within us into thoughts of self-hate, or thoughts of inadequacy, he can draw us away from God, and hinder what Father would have us learn. The Lord does not chastise us without reason- He knows our potential, and He wants to see us become all that we were created to be.
As a missionary, I get told to do things better a LOT, and I get to receive a near constant flow of improvements from all the missionaries I serve with- I've come to the conclusion that I'll not be a perfect missionary in this life, but that's okay. Something Elder L has taught me recently is to use a phrase that his mother taught him: "What an opportunity!" When I am told that I need to teach more simply, instead of shutting off and shutting out everything and everyone, I know that I have been given the improvement so that I can become better. Thus, I say, "What an opportunity to grow as a teacher!" Sometimes I'm told that I need to make more decisive decisions as the senior companion (especially with two missionaries now), and all I can say is, "What an opportunity to increase my ability to lead!" Without these opportunities for growth, there would be no point to living life- it would be contrary to God's purposes if we did not have room to grow.
A scripture that I read just this morning that I think might help some feel more adequate is found in Alma 41:5-6, which reads: "The one raised to happiness according to his desires of happiness, or good according to his desires of good... And so it is on the other hand. If he hath repented of his sins, and desired righteousness until the end of his days, even so he shall be rewarded unto righteousness." The whole chapter is a very good one and I would highly recommend it for reading, but if I may expound upon the scripture, I should like to. Father knows that we are not perfect, and He knows that we will not attain His level of perfection in this life, though we might achieve our own perfection according to our own sphere of existence (I've been reading Jesus the Christ...). We do that by constantly applying the Gospel of Jesus Christ in our lives- we continue to have faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and His Atonement, we repent when we make a mistake, we partake of the Sacrament to recommit, we follow the promptings of the Spirit, and we do so for as long as we can. Then we'll most likely make a mistake, have to show our faith once more by repenting, recommit by taking the Sacrament again, and repeat as necessary. In the end, the Lord will judge us according to our desires. It is my desire to be an exactly obedient missionary, and so I do my best, but in the end I slip up. But the desire is there, and I try again. This cannot be used to rationalize sin of course, as God will not be mocked, but at the end of the day "it is by the grace of God that Man will be saved, after all we can do" (or something like that).
I hope that kind of helps.
I love you all and wish you a great week!
-Elder Jeffrey Schomburg