“A perfect brightness of hope” (2 Nephi 31:20). Such a quality has seemed to escape me often as a missionary. Recently, I’ve pondered a lot on what success is in God’s kingdom. I’ve thought on our purpose here, scrutinized the way I work, and sought answers through prayer and scripture study. It was actually in my studies this morning that I found the conference talk that not only satisfactorily answered my questions, but gave me deeper insight.
Elder Maxwell’s talk “Hope Through the Atonement of Jesus Christ” is both spiritually edifying and linguistically enlarging (my dictionary got some good exercise as I read his talk). Speaking of hope, he says:
“Our everyday usage of the word hope includes how we ‘hope’ to arrive at a certain destination by a certain time. We ‘hope’ the world economy will improve. We ‘hope’ for the visit of a loved one. Such typify our sincere but proximate hopes.
“Life’s disappointments often represent the debris of our failed, proximate hopes.” (October 1998)
Lehi speaks of “opposition in all things” (2 Nephi 2:11) and Joseph Smith hears the Lord say, “My son, peace be unto thy soul; thine adversity and thine afflictions shall be but a small moment” (D&C 121:7). Life is a time of adversity and trying, as such was Job’s experience in the Old Testament. With this in mind, I find Elder Maxwell’s line insightful: “Life’s disappointments often represent the debris of our failed, proximate hopes.” With our hope placed in the things of this life, despair and depression will abound. (And to quote Elder Maxwell in brief interlude, “Alas, despair comes so naturally to the natural man!”)
So then how do I obtain “a perfect brightness of hope”? It often seems that in the storms of life, there’s only intermittent pauses where the waves calm and the sun shines through, just enough to inspire determination for what seems to inevitably be a long voyage at sea. But Nephi speaks of “a perfect brightness of hope”. Elder Maxwell addressed my concern perfectly:
“Life’s disappointments often represent the debris of our failed, proximate hopes. Instead, however, I speak of the crucial need for ultimate hope.
“Ultimate hope is a different matter. It is tied to Jesus and the blessings of the great Atonement, blessings resulting in the universal Resurrection and the precious opportunity provided thereby for us to practice emancipating repentance, making possible what the scriptures call ‘a perfect brightness of hope’ (2 Ne. 31:20).
“Moroni confirmed: “What is it that ye shall hope for? Behold I say unto you that ye shall have hope through the atonement of Christ” (Moro. 7:40–41; see also Alma 27:28). Real hope, therefore, is not associated with things mercurial, but rather with things immortal and eternal!”
I’ve recently taken an honest inventory of myself and have found that I have put my hope in things besides Christ and His atonement. For me, I’ve been so focused on bearing King Benjamin-worthy testimonies, looking for Ammon-like missionary experiences, or being that missionary that “has it all figured out”, that as I inevitably fall short of such expectations, I’m met with despair and discouragement (thus “failed, proximate hopes”). However, as I’ve instead had hope through the atonement of Christ, I’ve found an abiding peace. A REAL peace.
Though my knowledge isn’t a perfect knowledge, I do have the knowledge that Christ is our Savior. I have experienced the healing and joy that comes through His atonement. As I’ve placed my hope in Christ, I’ve seen real change in myself. More specifically, “I am confident that I will have a happy and successful mission (D&C 31:3-5), I feel peaceful and optimistic about the future (D&C 59:23), and I firmly believe that someday I will dwell with God and become like Him (Ether 12:4)” (Preach My Gospel, 126).
Less Active Look-ups
This last week, Elder Barker and I decided to start looking up all the less actives in our area.
There’s a lot.
Like, a lot.
And as you might imagine, we get a lot of mixed reactions. Here’s a few:
“No, no, no! Get off my lawn. I’ve told you all before: THEY DON’T LIVE HERE ANYMORE!”
“Get out. I’m not Mormon anymore. Get my name off the list!! GET OFF MY PROPERTY!”
*dogs barking, someone obviously watching TV* ….. *no answer*
So we usually don’t get the kindest reception. Obviously, occasionally there will be someone that’s pretty nice and we’ll get to talk to them for a second. But there’s been no one like what happened this last Saturday.
We were getting ready to go home, but decided to do one more look up. When we pulled up and got out of the car, we saw the husband look at us from the second story. We saw him start to head for the front door, so we made our way up. Usually, the husbands are the ones that yell and scream at us. This is how our experience went:
Husband: *opens door* “Hi Elders, it’s been a while. My name is [name].” *Shakes our hands*
Us: *Hi, I’m Elder Barker and this is Elder McConkie, we–“
Husband: “It’s a little late for us right now, but can you come back tomorrow at 12:30? We should be around. In case we decide to leave for the day, can I give you our phone number?”
Quite a different experience. Of course, we went back and of course we had a good time with them. We helped the husband out with his garden, we got to talk with the wife, and we even got a return visit for this Saturday. Nice, nice people. AND before we left, the 27 year old son said, “Before you leave, can we say a prayer?”
Pretty much a tender mercy to find this family.
A brother I’ve been working with for pretty much my entire time in Plainview came to church yesterday. For the first time in 20 years. How did he decide to come? Elder Barker and I both gave talks, so we told him to come and see us.
Joe has been one of my favorite stops each week. We’ve been able to open the scriptures with him and help him resolve his concerns, which has been a blessing for both parties (as it’s given us ample opportunity to bear testimony). Not to mention he takes us out to eat at the local Diner each time.
Joe is one of my favorite people here. And I’m excited to see him continue to grow.
Connecting with Heaven
It seems this has been a permeating theme ever since Lee Donaldson visited us. My talk on Sunday was about connecting with Heaven. I explained that missionary work is so much more than just inviting people to join a religion or to strengthen their faith or to find happiness, though they are part of the bigger picture. Instead, missionary work is about helping people connect to heaven.
I have found that as we’ve slowed down our teaching a little and focused on teaching who God is, how to communicate with Him, and how scripture study and church helps connect us with heaven, that the message of the Restoration comes naturally. It’s inevitable. And it’s much more organic. Besides, that’s what the Restoration was all about: connecting man with Heaven again.
And it works. I’ve watched people’s hearts soften, as we taught this and bore testimony of Christ. Most notable to me, however, is the change in myself. I now understand that I am out and about to help connect people to heaven. With this as my focus, the missionary purpose becomes natural: I can more easily “invite others to come unto Christ, by helping them receive the restored gospel through faith in Jesus Christ, repentance, baptism, receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost, and enduring to the end.” And what a wonderful privilege that is.
I hope you’ve had a good week and I hope this next week is your best week yet! Okay. I know that this ending is so generic, but hey, I still mean it. God bless!