Monday, August 15, 2016

But If Not...

This is Jeremiah's last letter! He will be home on August 23. We get to have him home for two days before he leaves for school at BYU-Provo on August 26th. We will have an Open House for Jeremiah on Wednesday, August 24th from 6:30-8:00 at our church building at 2771 Rochester Road, Cranberry Twp. We know he would love to see you, so please feel free to stop by for refreshments and say hello to Jeremiah. Thank you for all your support for our missionary over the past two years!

I had to think hard about what to share in this last e-mail. It was hard for me to really think about what I have learned. What have I learned? I've learned a lot, but what's the most important thing I've learned in these two years?

I remembered that in the MTC and during my first little bit in the field, I read the Book of Mormon focusing on a question: What does the Lord expect of me in the mission? I'd actually forgotten about the answer that I'd received, so long ago, at the very end of the book, in Moroni 10:

 32 Yea, come unto Christ, and be perfected in him, and deny yourselves of all ungodliness; and if ye shall deny yourselves of all ungodliness, and love God with all your might, mind and strength, then is his grace sufficient for you, that by his grace ye may be perfect in Christ; and if by the grace of God ye are perfect in Christ, ye can in nowise deny the power of God.

But honestly, that's a fantastic summary. Be perfected in Christ, and love Him and serve Him.

Being perfected in Christ has been a process throughout the mission and I've learned much more about what that means, and about what we're to inherit if we succeed - as Paul described it, "...heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together" (Romans 8:17)

I love the way President Kimball describes what we are meant to inherit, and the way he puts it in the perspective of our daily lives and decisions:

One man I know of was called to a position of service in the Church, but he felt that he couldn’t accept because his investments required more attention and more of his time than he could spare for the Lord’s work. He left the service of the Lord in search of Mammon, and he is a millionaire today.

But I recently learned an interesting fact: If a man owns a million dollars worth of gold at today’s prices, he possesses approximately one 27-billionth of all the gold that is present in the earth’s thin crust alone. This is an amount so small in proportion as to be inconceivable to the mind of man. But there is more to this: The Lord who created and has power over all the earth created many other earths as well, even “worlds without number” (Moses 1:33); and when this man received the oath and covenant of the priesthood (D&C84:33–44), he received a promise from the Lord of “all that my Father hath” (D&C 84:38). To set aside all these great promises in favor of a chest of gold and a sense of carnal security is a mistake in judgement of colossal proportions. To think that a person has settled for so little is a saddening and pitiful prospect indeed; the souls of men are far more precious than this.

One young man, when called on a mission, replied that he didn’t have much talent for that kind of thing. What he was good at was keeping his powerful new automobile in top condition. He enjoyed the sense of power and acceleration, and when he was driving, the continual motion gave him the illusion that he was really getting somewhere.

All along, his father had been content with saying, “He likes to do things with his hands. That’s good enough for him.”

Good enough for a son of God? This young man didn’t realize that the power of his automobile is infinitesimally small in comparison with the power of the sea, or of the sun; and there are many suns, all controlled by law and by priesthood, ultimately—a priesthood power that he could have been developing in the service of the Lord. He settled for a pitiful god, a composite of steel and rubber and shiny chrome.

...I am reminded of an article I read some years ago about a group of men who had gone to the jungles to capture monkeys. They tried a number of different things to catch the monkeys, including nets. But finding that the nets could injure such small creatures, they finally came upon an ingenious solution. They built a large number of small boxes, and in the top of each, they bored a hole just large enough for a monkey to get his hand into. They then set these boxes out under the trees and in each one they put a nut that the monkeys were particularly fond of.

When the men left, the monkeys began to come down from the trees and examine the boxes. Finding that there were nuts to be had, they reached into the boxes to get them. But when a monkey would try to withdraw his hand with the nut, he could not get his hand out of the box because his little fist, with the nut inside, was now too large.

At about this time, the men would come out of the underbrush and converge on the monkeys. And here is the curious thing: When the monkeys saw the men coming, they would shriek and scramble about with the thought of escaping; but as easy as it would have been, they would not let go of the nut so that they could withdraw their hands from the boxes and thus escape. The men captured them easily.

And so it often seems to be with people, having such a firm grasp on things of the world—that which is telestial—that no amount of urging and no degree of emergency can persuade them to let go in favor of that which is celestial. Satan gets them in his grip easily. If we insist on spending all our time and resources building up for ourselves a worldly kingdom, that is exactly what we will inherit.

I've come to really feel and understand those ideas here in the mission. I think I've really come to understand what really matters, what's really expected of me, and how much I really want to do what God wants me to do.

We have to give up everything, serve God with everything we have to be perfected in Christ. He won't take in half-measures. He wants everything. But the incredible thing is what we get in return. The gospel truly is the "pearl of great price," and we must be willing to sell all that we have to go buy it (Matthew 13:45-46).

We have to have the attitude that Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego had. President Murphy had interviews with us last week, and although he of course didn't spend much time with me, I did have a moment to ask him a few questions and talk about some challenges in the sector. I was wondering about humility, and he shared with me these scriptures from Daniel 3. King Nebuchadnezzar makes a golden idol and commands everyone to worship it or be thrown into a fiery furnace. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego aren't about to be fooled by that "pitiful god." They knew what awaited them if they were faithful, that they could become "joint-heirs" with Christ. So this is the way they respond:

17 If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of thine hand, O king.

 18 But if not, be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up.

What have I learned in two years? I've learned that I have lots of dreams and desires. I've learned also that God demands that I give everything to him, even my very best dreams and desires. I've learned what I'll receive in return.

When I get home I'm sure there are many things I want to do, lots of movies to watch and people to catch up with. I'll go back to doing a lot of the same things I did beforehand. But I will never be the same. From now on I will always try to remember who I am in every decision I take. But if it's not what the Lord wants, that's ok too.

I'm just grateful that the Lord is really patient with us as we try to perfect ourselves in Christ.

I know that Christ lives. I know that this is His true church and I know that Joseph Smith was a prophet. I know that Thomas S. Monson is a prophet today. And I know that families can be together forever.

That's what matters most to me!

Sorry, I didn't take too many pics this week. But here I am eating my last encebollado.

How I actually feel about this being my last encebollado.

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