When I was a young missionary (19 years old) serving in the Hinterlands of the Ohio Cleveland Mission in Ashtabula Ohio in the Kirtland Stake, I remember after 3 weeks of knocking on hundreds of doors and visiting many, many people that I felt like I wasn't having an impact on anyone in my mission. I was homesick, I felt lonely and I didn't understand why we weren't committing anyone to baptism or bringing anyone to church.
I felt a bit like Joseph Smith, though my experience of loneliness cannot compare to his loneliness in a dungeon in The Liberty Missouri jail for a year. He said in the Doctrine and Covenants Section 121:1 "God, where art thou? And where is the pavilion that covereth thy hiding place?" I think many people feel this. Many young missionaries feel that way as they enter the mission field. For many, it's their first time away from home. It's a literal wake up to what real work is. A rigorous schedule that begins at 6:30am and concludes at 10:30pm.
I remember thinking 2 years was going to last forever. I had thoughts of my life back home. College, family, a girl, the mountains etc. seemed to pervade my thoughts. I came back to the apartment after another long day and knelt before God and cried out. "Heavenly Father, where art thou? This is harder than I expected and I feel alone! What shall I do? I'm sad, I'm fearful. Help me!" I was literally crying out to God. As I cried, a sensation started at my head and coursed through my body to my toes. Amy calls it "warm carbonation." An envelopment of love much like a warm blanket filled me. That sensation happened 3 times in a row. I cried more, but this time in the spirit of gratitude. God had answered my prayer in only a way he could.
From that day forward I was committed to working for Jesus. I laid aside the thoughts of home and I went to work. The days seemed to get shorter and we started finding people who wanted to come closer to Jesus Christ. I started feeling peace and then eventually joy filled my heart. I still had my ups and downs on my mission like all missionaries, but the work became much sweeter from that day forward.
These days in the Utah Ogden Mission with our family are beginning to blend into weeks. I'm sure the weeks will start blending into months. Time is moving along ever so fast.
We welcomed 16 new missionaries 3 weeks ago. In 3 weeks we'll welcome another 23. My prayer is that they discover quickly for themselves that we have a Father in Heaven who is God. He loves us and cares for us. He sent his Son to earth to die for us. They called a prophet Joseph Smith in these the last days in preparation for the 2nd coming of the Lord. To help people understand his plan for us, the Lord has given us a Bible. He has also given us another testament of Jesus Christ called the Book of Mormon. In it, His works are revealed. Jesus has called a prophet today, much like he called prophets of old. They lead us, guide us and help us.
We welcomed Elder Ballard of the quorum of the twelve apostles last weekend. He spoke to the entire mission and conveyed his love and testimony of Jesus Christ. He testified that the Savior is real, and that he lives. We are fortunate to have living apostles on the earth again.
Over the last 2 weekends I have spoken in 5 stake conferences. (Multiple congregations numbering around 1400 people each). I have enjoyed getting to know the people of the greater Ogden area. They are good. They are generous. They serve in their communities and they love the Lord.
Mackenzie and Emma started Bonneville High School today. They were visibly nervous last night. Much like the patriarchs of old, I asked my children if they would receive a fathers blessing. They agreed readily. I laid my hands upon each of their heads and through the priesthood of God, blessed each one of them. I'm grateful for the spirit that attended us during Monday family time and the renewed confidence each child had after their blessings. They had a good first day. Josh and Eliza start tomorrow. They are excited. Their school is a science magnet school which makes dad and mom excited. ;)