A little over two years ago, I received a call to serve in the Canada Toronto Mission, Mandarin speaking. I was surprised, but thrilled, and so I went to serve with faith that I was called by a prophet of God, and that if anyone had faith in me, it was Him. And so I served. And that brings us to here.
So. I have put no mental preparation into this moment. Absolutely zero, and I apologize in advance if my remarks here are inadequate for what the situation deserves. Mom, Dad told you right when he said it's a mix of emotions. For the last couple weeks I've been striving really hard to just focus on the work (despite the innumerable trunky jokes from the other elders and sisters), and although I feel it was probably a good thing to stay focused, it definitely didn't help with the shock of realizing this is the end of the mission. This is bizarre.
To begin my thoughts, let me just say that missions are incredible. In the hope that some potential future elders will read this, let me make it clear that you should serve. Though I have nothing in my power that can make you serve, just know that if it wasn't wrong to infringe on another's agency, I would make you serve. But only because I love you :)
In speaking about such an influential and incredible experience, it would be impossible to write down everything that I want to say within these short 2 hours allotted for emailing, so let me just talk about why I served.
I served because I saw a difference in those who had returned. I saw young men who I had grown up with return with a light in their eyes and a fire in their hearts that I - for lack of a better term - coveted! I wanted that, and I understood that maybe it was going to take a bit more work than occasional scriptures and prayer to get something comparable in my own life.
I served because I had never heard a single person talk about their mission without gratitude for the privilege of serving their Savior. Growing up in Utah, where there's no lack of returned missionaries, it can get repetitive hearing the phrase "On my mission..." but I hope that one day when I grow older, someone will have the patience to listen to me as I start to tell mission stories that I know will forever be a part of my life.
I served because I know that for every person out there who knows about the gospel, there are millions who don't. For them, their only chance is those boys in white shirts and ties with two names on their chest - their own name, and the name of their Savior. They are in desperate need of a truth that they don't know they lack, and if I'm not willing to give to them truth that has changed my life so drastically, what kind of Christian am I?
I served because I knew I would learn things that would bless my life. That I would learn more about how to be a good man, father, and husband from serving than I would from any other place in the world. That serving my mission would bless their lives and that even though I don't know them yet, I want them to have the best chance possible of embracing the gospel I love.
I served because I believe in a prophet of God, and that he called me to serve where I did. I served because I saw so many miracles testifying that I was where I needed to be when I needed to be.
I served because I have a sister on the other side of the veil who is cheering me on, and who motivates me to live better each day. When days are hard and my faith is weak, she helps me to remember that the things that really matter are the things we'll have in this life, and in the life to come. She helps me to always live worthy of returning to be an eternal family again.
I served because back home, I've got a brother who I love, and who I hope with all my heart will choose to give two years to wear the Savior's name on his chest. I served because I have sisters back home who, though they're not under the same obligation to serve, need to know that their brother loves the Lord and will do anything for Him. They need to know that, as imperfect as their brother is, he love's them and wants them to know where true happiness can be found.
I served because I'm the son of a good man who taught me from a young age what it really meant to be a man in the eyes of God. Who provided a home where love could be felt and where the gospel could be learned. Who taught his son, despite ardent opposition, how to get up on Saturday morning and mow the lawn, and work hard, and do well in school. Who was the the perfect example of a worthy priesthood holder who presides over his home in righteousness and who made it very clear that he loved me. Dad, thanks :) I love you.
I served because I've got a mother who raised a good family with all the patience and love she could muster, and who I want to make proud because I love her for what she did and does. I hope she knows the role that she played in my life went much further than finishing eagle projects and teaching me to drive in the church parking lot. She kept a home where Christlike love could be felt and where, despite all the imperfections of our family, we could come together in the end and decide we love each other. That doesn't come naturally. That comes from years of hard work and waking grumpy kids up for scripture study and managing 5 kids during church and helping a discouraged child with homework. It takes hard work and a kind of love that more closely resembles the love of Christ than any other of which I know. Love ya mom :)
But maybe most importantly, I served because I have a Savior who asked me to. Those words are so true. I testify that there is more to Christmas than Santa and more to Easter than a bunny and eggs. That Jesus is the Christ and He, and He alone, is the reason we celebrate his Resurrection and birth. He is the light of the world, and though I may not be the source of that light, I can shine it into someone else's life. I know He lives and that He loves me. He died for me and He lives for me. I am grateful for this chance I have had to give something back. As small as it was, I was able live for Him for a short two years, and though that gift is incomparable to the scope and size of what He has given me, it was something I could do.
The longer I have served, the less it has seemed like a sacrifice, and though it has been hard, I cannot in good conscience say that I sacrificed my time. Yes, I gave two years, but what I gained in return was something worth so much more and for which I will always be grateful. The knowledge that Jesus is the Christ and that He stands at the head of His church is something priceless. Two years has been a small price.
I love you all. See you soon.
P.S. for those interested, my homecoming talk will be on July 30th at 1:00 in Lehi. I'll send out the specific times and address later. No one needs feel obligated to come, but everyone is welcome.