Sunday, August 2, 2015

Coming Home

First of all, I just wanted to say.  It is a little strange that for the first time in a long time, I am the one updating my blog, not my mom.

This means many things, but in the end it basically means that I am home.  I am no longer in Honduras, and I am now in my own house, with my own family.

When I was in my final interview, my mission President told me that my transition home would be harder than my transition to the mission.  For me, part of that meant saying goodbye to many friends and adopted family in Honduras.  It was difficult knowing that it is very difficult for me to see them again.

The last few days in the mission and the first few days home I passed in a daze.  After so much time telling everyone that I only had "a little more than a year" in the mission, and trying with all my heart to be "baggy", it had finally arrived.  That strange day when you go to changes, and yet you don't leave.  You stay until everyone else has left, and then it is only you and your group.  It all felt surreal to me, like a dream.

We were able to go to the temple as a group, and some last moments in the most sacred ground in Honduras.  I was able to feel the comfort of the Lord, giving me peace when my soul was troubled.

We had one final dinner with President Bowler and his wife, and then it was off to bed, in preparation to arrive to the airport the next morning.

We almost didn't return to Utah due to heavy fog and rain in Tegucigalpa. That airport is dangerous anyway, but the pilot wasn't sure he was going to be able to land.  When he finally came in, everyone in the airport headed for Atlanta cheered loudly.

After more than a 12 hour journey, we arrived at Salt Lake City.  We collected our bags and we finally arrived to see our families.  There was lots of cheering and crying.  It still felt surreal to me.  I wasn't quite sure how to react.  But one fact settled in...I was home.

Homecoming Talk

And know ye that ye shall be judges of this people, according to the judgment which I shall give unto you, which shall be just. Therefore, whatmanner of men ought ye to be? Verily I say unto you, even as I am.
(3 Nephi 27:27)

God has always put a very high bar for his children.  From ancient times he has motivated us to be like him.  This is something that although we want to achieve it,  we sometimes feel like we are so far,  and that it is impossible. It is important that we really understand what he wants.

In the last General Conference, one of the speakers explained it this way:

This statement—“a saint is a sinner who keeps on trying”—should reassure and encourage members of the Church. Although we are referred to as “Latter-day Saints,” we sometimes flinch at this reference. The term Saints is commonly used to designate those who have achieved an elevated state of holiness or even perfection. And we know perfectly well that we are not perfect.
Our theology does teach us, though, that we may be perfected by repeatedly and iteratively “relying wholly upon” the doctrine of Christ: exercising faith in Him, repenting, partaking of the sacrament to renew the covenants and blessings of baptism, and receiving the Holy Ghost as a constant companion to a greater degree. As we do so, we become more like Christ and are able to endure to the end, with all that that entails. 3 In less formal terms, God cares a lot more about who we are and who we are becoming than about who we once were. 4 He cares that we keep on trying.
Conference April 2015

God wants us to become like him,  but he does not expect us to be like him...yet. He provides his love and grace to help us. He uses it to lift us up.  As we understand it more and more, it gives us a reason for our existence and gives us lasting peace and happiness.  It changes us.  

President Uctdorf said:

Trying to understand God’s gift of grace with all our heart and mind gives us all the more reasons to love and obey our Heavenly Father with meekness and gratitude. As we walk the path of discipleship, it refines us, it improves us, it helps us to become more like Him, and it leads us back to His presence. “The Spirit of the Lord [our God]” brings about such “a mighty change in us, … that we have no more disposition to do evil, but to do good continually.”28
Therefore, our obedience to God’s commandments comes as a natural outgrowth of our endless love and gratitude for the goodness of God. This form of genuine love and gratitude will miraculously merge our works with God’s grace. Virtue will garnish our thoughts unceasingly, and our confidence will wax strong in the presence of God.29
Dear brothers and sisters, living the gospel faithfully is not a burden. It is a joyful rehearsal—a preparation for inheriting the grand glory of the eternities. We seek to obey our Heavenly Father because our spirits will become more attuned to spiritual things. Vistas are opened that we never knew existed. Enlightenment and understanding come to us when we do the will of the Father.
Conference April 2015

I have always been a perfectionist. I want everything about myself and my actions to be perfect.  My problem is that I carry it to an extreme.  In my life I have had many times where I have doubted my testimony,  more than anything because I didn't feel that mine was as strong as other people's.
In my mission,  my testimony was tested more than it ever had before.  I felt acutely what I perceived to be a weakness in my own testimony.  I felt lost,  and somehow I could sense that I hadn't quite arrived at my potential. But I couldn't figure out what I lacked. God has a promise for those that want to change.  He said:

27 And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them.
Ether 12:27

I prayed to strengthen my testimony.  I read the scriptures. In the end,  my answer came in another form. Through one of God's servants.

As I listened to the general conference in October of 2014, one talk caught my attention. It impacted me and helped me to see one area in which I needed to improve.  I will only share a small part:

President Boyd K. Packer has taught “that our spirit and our body are combined in such a way that our body becomes an instrument of our mind and the foundation of our character” (“The Instrument of Your Mind and the Foundation of Your Character” [Church Educational System fireside, Feb. 2, 2003], 2; Therefore, please use good judgment in what and especially how much you eat, and regularly give your body the exercise it needs and deserves. If you are physically able, decide today to be the master of your own house and begin a regular, long-term exercise program, suited to your abilities, combined with a healthier diet. Spiritual confidence increases when your spirit, with the help of the Savior, is truly in charge of your natural man or woman.
Elder Jörg Klebingat, Conference October 2014

These words impacted me greatly.  I felt that it was God speaking directly to me.  For the first time in my mission,  I started an exercise program.  I started getting in better shape. As i did,  something interesting happened.  Add my self esteem and confidence grew,  my testimony did as well. I finally realized that my doubts were not so much in God,  as in myself. God used that talk to help me become more of what his vision was for me.

I saw so many other examples in my mission.  I remember that there was a girl that needed permission to be baptized from her guardian. She wasn't too interested in giving it from strange things she had heard about the Church.  I remember that I asked her if she had seen a change in her child since she had begun to go to church.  There she changed and her outlook changed as she begun to ponder the change.  When people become closer to God, they automatically change.

I would like to testify with Moroni. We can become like God if we let him in, and thus we will be prepared to live with him.