President Henry B. Eyring, First Counselor in the First Presidency, has taught, “The Lord from the beginning of time has provided ways for His disciples to help. He has invited His children to consecrate their time, their means, and themselves to join with him in serving others.”
From March 2013 to March 2014, I had the wonderful opportunity of being a missionary at the Bishop’s Storehouse in Lethbridge and it was truly a life-changing experience. Some may think that missionary work is limited to going from door to door, preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ to those who do not have it in their lives, but there are many ways to be involved in missionary work. The four fold mission of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints is to proclaim the gospel, to perfect the Saints, to redeem the dead, and to care for the poor and needy. All of those missions need those willing to serve the Lord.
For those who may not know or what the Bishop’s Storehouse is and does, it is a place where those in need can go, after speaking with their Bishop and receiving assistance in filling out an order form, to receive food for themselves and their families. It is a safe haven that is run and carefully maintained by missionaries and volunteers and the Spirit is very strong there, as it is maintained and run very much like the temple; the work is done in a spirit of reverence and love and the facility is kept exceptionally clean so that the focus can be on having and giving opportunities for spiritual experiences.
Caring for the poor and needy is also charity and compassion; charity is the pure love of Christ and He needs people that are willing to carry out that work with a heart full of love and a willingness to be refined through the opportunity of missionary service. In order for people to have enough faith in Christ to want to emulate Him as much as possible, we first have to love the idea of Him enough to not only desire, but seek him out. As it says in James 1:5, “…if we lack wisdom, ask of God…” and caring for the poor and needy allows those giving the service to let the receivers see Christ through them, thereby giving the spiritually hungry a chance to become comfortable with the idea of seeking Him out and doing it.
God formed the whole Plan of Salvation because He loves ALL of us and did not want anyone to be forgotten who, even now, desires to be remembered. The Plan of Salvation was also created out of the love for the growth we could experience and for the potential we could achieve. Hence, the Church formed various outlets, including the Bishop’s storehouse, so that those who needed the help and love of they who had love to give could do so in way that would help those in need to feel safe and loved.
Many are fearful of love because they feel unable to understand or accept love of an unconditional nature. Sadly, many have only been exposed to love and compassion of a conditional nature and thus, they are afraid of Christ and His Atonement; they are afraid of the free offering of love of an unconditional nature because it is an unfamiliar concept to them. Nobody is immune from challenges that life may present, but everyone can have the love of God and Jesus Christ if they want it, which is something I tried my very hardest to share with patrons and fellow missionaries whenever I could, with the reasoning that if people were made to feel safe at the storehouse, they wouldn’t be afraid to come back if they needed help at another time.
If I were to be anything but compassionate and caring, would I be an effective missionary? No, I wouldn’t; for the Spirit only dwells with those who seek to be engaged in good works.
It was the Lord’s way of telling me to apply Doctrine and Covenants section 18, verse 10 in my life, “For behold, the worth of souls is great in the sight of God,” and I really took my time accepting that I was of worth. With patience, love, and the experience of being able to progress to financial and temporal independence through miraculous intervention, I was helped to be made aware and willing to explore the knowledge and opportunities unlocked by the power and love of the Atonement that allowed me the chance to change and become one who could learn to love others, but also show love unto myself under any circumstances. It’s easier now to accept that I am valuable even though some may not think so.
When we forget ourselves and go to work, we find ourselves experiencing joy through seeing the joy and blessings others receive through our sacrifice. President Thomas S. Monson says, “We can lift ourselves, and others as well, when we refuse to remain in the realm of negative thought and cultivate in our hearts an attitude of gratitude.” Gratitude for what we have and what we’re able to do helps us to not measure our efforts against those that others put forward and we can find joy in what we can offer the Lord.
Elder Robert D. Hales of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles says that, “In some quiet way, the expression and feelings of gratitude have a wonderful cleansing or healing nature. Gratitude brings a peace that helps us overcome the pain of adversity and failure.” There have been areas of my life where I have not been so successful, but my mission is certainly not one of them; the Lord, through his redeeming Atonement, has given me what I need to serve honorably in caring for the poor and needy.
In John 6:34-35, it says, “And Jesus said unto them, I am the bread of life; he that cometh unto me shall never hunger, and he that believeth on me shall never thirst.” I, and other storehouse missionaries, serve as a stepping stone; when we help fulfill temporal needs, that extending of love and compassion opens the way for those who are helped to see the possibilities and endeavor to fulfill their spiritual needs.
When one has gratitude for how they can serve the Lord, a sense of reverence develops in terms of realizing the importance of opportunities. As time went on, that sense of reverence became stronger and I was better able to connect with the spirit, thus helping me to be a more effective missionary. The spirit taught me how to take the gentle approach with patrons and fellow missionaries and the gentle approach is vital to missionary work because that’s what Christ was. It was also part of my job to show people through my example that Christ’s love is unconditional and that the Atonement’s purpose is to help ALL people.
Everyone needs a helping hand up now and then and that’s not horrible. I served with many wonderful people, both individuals and couples, and all of them had very valuable lessons to teach me about how I could become both a better missionary and a better person. Along with the people, all experiences I had during my year of missionary service had valuable lessons to teach me and I am grateful that I looked for what there was to learn.
A very spiritual experience that occurred was that I went to High River twice during my mission to assist with the cleanup following the flood in summer 2013. The first time, I went with the Raymond Stake and it was very emotional to see what the flood waters had done, but the Spirit was very strong because of the time spent cleaning out flooded basements and trying to offer compassion and hope to those we helped. Not too much later, I went to High River again with the Byam family and we went to an area known as ‘The Hamptons’ that had spent six weeks under water. It was a risky enough area to be in that nobody under 18 was allowed in there.
Even though I wasn’t on a proselytizing mission, I was still a missionary for a year and I came to realize some very prevalent truths that many, including me, may not be aware of or simply forget from time to time depending on a variety of reasons. A mission, whatever kind of mission it may be, truly changes a person’s life forever and it is very hard if not impossible to go back to being who you were before, as a mission is a paramount transformation to assist with the rest of one’s temporal and eternal lives. Doctrine and Covenants Section 4, verses 1 and 2 say, “Now behold, a marvelous work is about to come forth among the children of men. Therefore, O ye that embark in the service of God, see that ye serve him with all your heart, might, mind and strength, that ye may stand blameless before God at the last day.”
Now, we are the most grand of all works that Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ have created, but in order to become marvelous, we must be willing to “forget ourselves” and go to work just like President Hinckley’s father told young Elder Gordon Hinckley when the young man struggled to find joy in what seemed very difficult work, yet it was an opportunity to learn, grow, and develop character. Embarking in the service of God with all our heart, might, mind, and strength will help us grow into the marvelous work we are meant to become.
During the course of my mission, I had constant opportunities to better appreciate the variety that God gave to all of his creations, as I met and helped many people from all walks of life. We all come from different circumstances, but our circumstances do not have to define us and our choices can give us a better future from a difficult present and a harsh past. We are all beloved sons and daughters of our Heavenly Father and we need to remember that Christ died for us so that we could all have the chance to see and live up to the measure of our creation.
At the beginning of my mission, I figured that people would be curious as to what exactly my mission entailed, so I wrote a very detailed blog about my experiences and posted it so that people could have the opportunity to understand what I was doing for the Lord.
I made a special point of recording my experiences so that I would always be able to remember them and be able to use what I learned to make future experiences just as memorable. The experiences I have gained in my year of missionary service have left me with gratitude and a reverence for the hard work that missionaries put into engaging in the work of the Lord.
Every part of the Lord’s work needs to be done by someone and I am grateful to do whatever I can to help the work along because the Savior took the time to ensure my eternal future. It is only by the Atonement of Christ that I was able to rise above my past self and the limited expectations I and others had for that past self. I will forever be grateful for all that I can and will do for the Lord’s kingdom. For out of simple works come great miracles and that is a solid truth.
In relation to simple works producing great miracles, I am reminded of the saying ‘try your best’, which was looked upon with reverence at the storehouse because it was such a safe environment; we missionaries and volunteers all strived to just do better with each new opportunity and if we made any mistakes, we learned from them.
Focusing on just trying our best is something, not just missionaries, which we all need to remember and earnestly strive to apply in our daily lives. If we all make that effort, we are being reverent towards the Lord in that we are trusting His ability and desire to help all of us live up to the measure of our creation.
The Atonement, which made it even possible for me to rise above my imperfections and engage in missionary service, is there to help us realize that we are of infinite worth to Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ. As children of God, we have the right to act and treat both ourselves and others as precious treasures that need love, care, and growth opportunities to survive. By wholeheartedly serving those who came to the storehouse and bestowing upon them compassion, I, with the help of the Holy Spirit, helped those individuals planted seeds in their hearts that told them that they have value to God and Christ.
As I reflect on how I was able to help others as a missionary and will hopefully be able to help others in future opportunities that the Lord will give me, a question comes to mind; do we apply reverence to ourselves when we are engaging in works based on the gospel of Jesus Christ or do we neglect ourselves in favor of seeking perfectionism? Like my best was good enough at the storehouse, our best efforts are good enough for Heavenly Father and the Atonement gives us both strength and courage to endure in faith; we just have to earnestly seek after the help.
If we are invited to take on a role in helping the gospel progress or be brought forward, we need to seek courage from the Atonement and God will be there with us every step of the way if we just act in faith and just do it. Even though taking advantage of opportunities that God gives us may be going out of our comfort zone, we shall receive endless blessings and those who have our example to help guide them will also be blessed. The Atonement helps us go the distance and I am very grateful that the Atonement helped me go the distance enough to serve a mission and embrace any future opportunities that will come my way.