My Voice & Testimony

From the life of a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints

My Story

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I am just under 30, married to a beautiful wife and father of two boys. If I have any moment to spare in a day, I find myself enjoying time with family. Although life has never been entirely convenient for us, we still find it easy to recognize the Lord’s hand in our life and the blessings we have.

I am a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints and worthily hold a current temple recommend. Many refer to our nickname, “the mormons”. Stereotypes of all shapes and sizes seem to go with that. Whatever your opinion may be I hope this blog may give you a better perspective of who we are, what we believe, and how we live. I’m certainly far from perfect, but I hope to be sincere in my message through this blog.

Although my loving parents and family played a major role in my development spiritually, I personally owe the spark and interest in the gospel to my wife back in high school – at the time she was then a cheerleader. Unlike what we stereotypically identify girls of that sort, she was a leader; sincere, caring, involved in seminary, had a strong testimony and seemed to hold her standard of values higher than most. I was greatly charmed by her character and gorgeous features. After we discovered our shared secret affinity for each other through a match-making friend, we spent most of high school dating.

She fostered my desire to live in such a way that I could be a worthy member of the church. As is common among young women in the church, among her list of requirements to qualify a potential candidate for marriage was: finding a return missionary. As twitter-pated lads are, I was willing to jump through hoops for the girl of my dreams. Although I always assumed a mission would be important, thanks to her, I hopped off the fence and whole heartedly embraced the idea of a mission under her influence. Through seminary, study of the scriptures, prayer, and living a conservative high school life (though I have some pretty entertaining stories), I found myself worthy to commit to serving a 2-year mission in France. We both shared a hope that things would work out upon my return, but realized that life could always change. As my personal faith had increased, I knew it was all worth the risk of possibly losing her for an opportunity to serve the Lord and find myself. My testimony and resolve was already firmly affixed.

He that findeth his life shall blose it: and he that closeth his dlife for my sake shall find it. Matthew 10:39

My older brother served a mission in Brazil for 2 years. He was also a motivation and inspiration for me to serve. We’ve always been, “buddies” growing up. We corresponded via letter, and it was remarkable to see the transformation in his character. It seemed in separation of my brother for 2 years, we shared a loving bond that only 2 brothers could understand. I admired and looked up to him in so many ways. Unfortunately upon his return from serving a mission, we had only 1 week to see each other before I was scheduled to part for my mission. I gave him a ride in my high school car w/ a sub woofer as we listened to the thumping of Kris Kross, of which my brother was quite uninterested. Before his mission, i’m sure he would have been quite comfortable. During that week I attempted a few times to glean any insight I could in hopes for an equally successful mission from him. His response to me was more or less, “You’ll have to figure it out for yourself – that’s part of the experience.”

His homecoming and my farewell fell on the same Sunday which made for a very entertaining Sacrament Meeting at church. It was thrilling to sit on the stand with my brother in that meeting. A very special opportunity. He shared profound insight and energy as only a return missionary could, and I boldly said a few things in relation to Jesus Christ and service that I felt were appropriate. Afterward we shook some hands, hugged a few people and retired to our home for lunch. Family and friends arrived to celebrate this point in our lives and we enjoyed our time together while observing the sabbath. My time with my brother was short-lived, because it quickly became 4 years since we really had spent any real time together.

Upon dropping me off at the MTC (missionary training center), my family had conveniently arranged a trip to see the Grand Canyon – of which I found a little unfair. My family attended me as we all gathered into a brief meeting, whereupon the person directing announced that missionaries would go one way and family would go out another. My 2 years away from family and home had begun after several sobbing tears & emphatic hugs. I was excited to begin.

I spent about 8 or so weeks in the MTC eating cafeteria food, absorbing the french language, studiously delving in the scriptures, and doing my best to stay on a spiritual high – besides the occasional basketball games I was fortunate to enjoy during limited free time. I also had the opportunity of serving with my companion as Assistants to the President, which involved keeping the boys in line at the dorm, going to a few meetings, and serving other capacities. Beyond the routine life of a missionary in the MTC, I sought a particular goal of my own: to grow my love & relationship with the Savior on a very intimate level. If I was going to be serving Jesus Christ, I certainly wanted to know not only more about Him and the Atonement, but to come to know Him. To really know Him. Scripture study, prayer, and solemn ponderous thoughts (even walking between classes and any time I had idle time) lead me to reach a new level of love for the Savior. I felt he was literally by my side, and this experience of coming to know the Savior was both profoundly important for my mission as well as my entire life afterwards. This scripture became the theme of my mission:

And whoso areceiveth you, there I will be also, for I will go bbefore your face. I will be on your right hand and on your left, and mycSpirit shall be in your hearts, and mine dangels round about you, to bear you up. D&C 84:88

After parting the MTC with a group of 12 or so missionaries going to France with me, we stopped in the Cincinnati airport. I was approached by a cunning man who was delighted to see new meat to take advantage of. He criticized us for serving a mission, being so unlearned. He then asked on what day of the week Christ was crucified and I did not know. He laughed in my face and scorned me for what would be a failure of a mission. I tried to hold my composure & as I tried to offer a few of my own typical missionary comments, he walked away briskly. Shortly after I quickly studied to learn that eventful day of the week – although I will still claim that, that alone is far away from one of the most important points of the gospel. Facts like that miss the heart of the “good news”.

Upon arriving in France I was eagerly waiting an opportunity to teach the people of France. I was, of course, very naive, but so willing to serve & teach. Several missionaries joined together to do a chante de ville in which we join together to sing hymns and allow a few of us to visit with those passing. I jumped out from the ranks and sat by a lady to try my french out and tell her about the gospel. She smiled and thoroughly enjoyed my enthusiasm, but explained that she was not interested. I’m really not sure how productive it was, but I was simply on fire.

The mission life was not all so glamorous. I had the burden of working with several companions who thought it best to sleep-in, find hobbies like lifting weights, running, tanning, music, & wasting time to say the least. Obvioulsy very few missionaries are this base, but I perhaps was perceived by the President as a hopeful influencer of good that I could make up the difference. However, during these stages I was a young missionary subject to a senior companion whom I certainly loved, but whom I struggled with. It is not easy to blame them so quickly, as missionary life in France is notably one of the more difficult proselyting missions in the world. At the same time, true servants of the Lord should have no other focus or resolve other than serving the Lord, of which most missionaries.

During this time with difficult companions, I found myself taking advantage of extra time to study the scriptures. Of which I became entirely engulfed with knowledge from the Spirit and exercising the faculties of my mind to understand gospel principles on new levels. I had color coordinated scripture passages, as well as underlining, highlighting, bolding text, and even tracing letters of every word. I found the scriptures extremely exciting as it had a way of completely expanding my mind and enriching my relationship with the Savior as well as understanding how revelation was received through the Spirit. The scriptures (particularly the Book of Mormon) for me became an incredibly important foundation for me throughout my mission as well as the rest of my life.

France is an absolutely gorgeous country. The history is so vast a person visiting the country could only scratch the surface of making a brief tour. The country-side and hills are beautiful, although I spent much of my time in centre-ville of the inner-cities. Even the cobblestone roads, sidewalks, cathedrals, and city parks are amazing. Let’s not forget about les patisseries and assortment of awesome pastries (particular favorites: tarte au fraise, pain au chocolate, millefeud, brioche avec Lindt chocolate) & les boulangeries (fresh baguettes w/ fromage, restaurants) of which we would visit regularly. On most days we would retire home with a fresh baguette and experiement new kinds of cheese. We would also calculate the date and time ovens had the freshest pastries and take advantage of les pain au chocolates at La mille Caline. Missionaries were always on the look out for the best kebabs in Southern France of which I was fortunate to find a few that were excellent.

The people in particular were so unique by culture from what I was accustomed to. At some points rude- even extremely offensive, but I learned to love those people unconditionally. Many were the most admirable I’ve ever met in my life. I had a few bible bashes in which I concluded were completely useless and turned down any other opportunity reserving my energies for those who sincerely wanted to listen to my message. We became both friends and enemies of Arabs, despite our attempts to earn their trust (our mission president often encouraged us to avoid eye-contact). We were friends with many homeless individuals and many “eternal amis de l’eglise” who consecutively invited missionaries to come visit w/ little progression in the gospel. A few kind-hearted people would invite us in for drinks, snacks, & even meals. Most of those would listen to our brief message. My success w/ people in teaching opportunities was usually through stopping individuals on the street, although we couldn’t resist from knocking doors for excessive periods – eventually covering every door in small city. We set a few appointments. Most fell through. Some made it as far as being willing to listen a second time, but quickly became unresponsive. Still I pressed on knocking doors, doing book towers (of book of mormons on a table), and stopping people on the street unrelenting.

I was tricked by a journalist at one point to give him all the info he needed to put us on the front page of a newspaper in the city. Which was somewhat respectful but in many respects incorrect as to our beliefs and message, certainly due to assumptions or misunderstandings.

On several occasions we would see out a destitute, homeless individual and do something special. One individual broke down in sobs as we sat down w/ him to give him an entire pizza. We just listened to his story share a few things about our message and gave him a Book of Mormon.

One special story started on a regular day of working as hard as I could. This was the first opportunity I had as a senior companion with a bleu (new missionary). I at this point knew the language somewhat well and my companion knew very little. We traveled out to an area by train to knock doors in the heat of the day with no success. Simply a challenging day with no fruits to even call success. As we were walking home completely exhausted, we realized that we had 30 minutes before it was time to retire to our apartment. I drug my new missionary on to contact a few more people on the street.

We snagged a fellow, who has since become a lifetime friend of mine. He was unfamiliar with the gospel, but was willing to listen. We taught him about our message which seemed to go over very well. We followed up with another great meeting followed by the next great meeting. This individual was later baptized (after I left the area) and he became an important figure in the church of that area, bringing in several other individuals into church. I look back and realize that my desire to be obedient and spend the last 30 minutes working, resulted in an enormous blessing.

As the mission progressed, I had several leadership roles as i continued towards the end of my mission as a district leader as well as zone leader in a couple areas, often times traveling to other missionaries for meetings and teaching. I feel that any companion I served with enjoyed my company. I love all those whom I served with. A few in particular that I served with diligently were extremely difficult due to personality clashes- after all you’re stuck w/ a companion for months on end, requiring each other to remain together inseparably. Those companions I struggled with, became those individuals I loved the most (when we were apart).

Even to the end, I tried my best to work hard and diligently serve the Lord. I felt like I had become fluent in french language, had intimately come to know my Savior Jesus Christ, baptized only 1 individual (whom was actually the Saturday before I left), and influence a number of individuals. In reality I gained far more than what I was able to contribute in 2 years. I had truly discovered my testimony of the gospel and undeniably recognize the Lord’s hand in my life. I had laid the foundation for the relationship with my Savior – which I hold dear, as well as a conviction of studious scripture study.

I returned from my mission to finally greet family & friends – to see kids that have grown up, meet my brother’s new wife and finally reunite with my sweetheart whom had faithfully awaited my return. We had written each other by hand throughout the mission nearly each month. Upon returning, she was twice as beautiful now. She also kept herself busy with college as well as pageants & serving the community. We waisted no time and were married 3 months after my return and before starting my 4yr bachelors program in College.

Our wedding day was the best day of my life. It symbolized the love my wife and I share for each other, as well as the sealing power of the priesthood authority performed in the temple which binds husband and wife together for eternity. She is the most important person in my life, of whom I owe my success, happiness, and affection. I continually try to keep up to convince my wife that her decision to be w/ me for eternity was a good idea. So far it is working and we love each other through thick and thin.

My mission was the most important part of my spiritual journey by far. It set the course for myself to live in such a way that I can be the husband and father I need to be. I am now the leader and teacher I am in the church, and find that I always feel that my blessings out weigh the service I render. I’m in that cycle of gratitude leading to service, leading to blessings and returning back to gratitude in life.

Living the gospel I preached on my mission isn’t as dramatic, although faithful endurance through hardships keeps life interesting. The next chapter in life has been about me finding direction in my occupations through prayer, experience greater love as a husband and father, as well as learning to keep myself in tune w/ the spirit on a regular basis. Although I am socially inept, service in general is what I want the most. Obvious temptations are not an issue, rather sins of omission (due to procrastination) that I am working to overcome. Through Jesus Christ’s atonement, He makes up for our weaknesses and enables us to become far more than we ever could by ourselves. To that obtainment is my ultimate mission in life for my family, my church, work, and society. In that light I find my studies often involve not only spiritual books from the church, but also biographies on notable people of whom I admire and aspire to become someday. I hope to create some meager attempt of a legacy to inspire others around me – especially my children of whom I pray will be much better of a person than I am.

Written by marshsned

September 11, 2010 at 1:23 am

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