Monday, 21 May 2012

'And now my sons, remember...'

I've been thinking... a lot! 

It seems that, since receiving my mission call, every part of my body has plotted to refuse me sleep and, as soon as rest seems imminent, throws a deep thought (often consisting of 'I wonder why I'm going to Virginia...') into the forefront of my mind to sabotage any chance of sleep I had! Not that I'm complaining... having the early hours of the morning to ponder spiritual things is always nice (:

Anyway - since my mission call, there has been so many opportunities to talk about the church to those around me! I have random people at college congratulating me in the hallway, distant family members declaring how proud they are of my decision to serve and endless discussions with random people that I meet about how it all works! And, to date, all I have encountered is support and sincere curiosity... it seems that people, despite having no faith in Jesus Christ, understand the reasons why an eighteen year old would sacrifice two years to teach others!

Let me give you an example.... last Friday, a group of students and me went out for lunch. I knew the majority of people there but there were several people who I didn't know that well! Inevitably, the subject of missions came up - I'd had this discussion a million times before and felt ready to answer their questions! The normal questions came up of course...

'So, you can't listen to normal music for two years?!', 'you can't talk to your family the whole time?!', 'can you date whilst on a mission?!'... the list goes on...

I answered them the same way I always do; those things are insignificant to me when placed in the perspective of eternity - the God I worship has asked me to serve and, in return, has promised to bless me beyond measure. And, usually, people are puzzled by the concept behind missionary service but, this time, this group were really receptive to my testimony of missionary work... Soon, this conversation had lead onto other subjects; many of them talked about having a 'faint feeling' that there was something, although they were unsure if this was the concept known as 'God'. Several also shared that they had prayed in some form during their lives, even if their belief in what or whom they prayed to wasn't enough to commit to a religion. In fact, the conversation turned pretty deep in a short amount of time - in a matter of minutes, the subject transformed from dating to Deity, eighteenth birthday parties to eternal life and gossip to God. And all this at a table in KFC...

This has been one of the thoughts robbing me of sleep. As a missionary, I will teach so many people about the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I will invite them to receive a witness for themselves of the reality of the Atonement and God's plan for happiness. But why would they listen?!

The answer isn't simple BUT it isn't inexplicable either. In fact, it's evident in just five words of scripture...

'And now my sons, REMEMBER..' - Helaman 5:12

To remember something, we must have a previous knowledge or understanding of it. We are taught in the scriptures that all mankind was taught the process of returning to Heavenly Father (these steps being faith, repentance, baptism and confirmation through the Holy Ghost - see Article of Faith 4), and that we all understood how it affected us. However, in order for us to be able to fully exercise our agency (or ability to choose for ourselves) and for the plan to work, we needed to have that knowledge taken away. This was accomplished through a 'veil' over our thoughts and minds - for our entire mortal lives, we would be separated from God UNLESS we exercised faith. That is why we are not born with a surety of His existence.

Why do I mention this? Because this doctrine teaches us that we all knew the truth and thus, that every person that has lived, will live or is living today knows the truth. Our Father has invited us to simply 'remember' those things! In fact, deep inside every human being there is a basic understanding of Jesus Christ - a basic belief that there is something, somewhere that listens to prayers. This group in KFC were no different! And neither are the people of Virginia...

It may seem a simple thing but, in reality, this is the answer to my question! When truth is taught with humility, sincerity and love, that knowledge inside each person is brought to their rememberence. This manifests itself in intrigue, peace or respect (which, according to the Apostle Paul are all gifts of the Spirit). So, although many people will ignore those feelings or just never recognize where they originate, one person might... and that is the one I'm looking for on a mission!

I'm grateful that I have met people that have helped me remember those eternal truths that have changed my life. Although I have been brought up in the church, I have had to work hard to gain a witness and be converted. But I have come to know these things for myself and can firmly add my witness to the millions of others who have come to know our Saviour, Jesus Christ. I feel blessed to be given two years to dedicate my every action to the Lord and to bear my testimony at all times, in all things and in all places! This IS His work; we ARE His children; He IS the way...

I say these things in the name of Jesus Christ,

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Weds 16th May 2012 - The Day I Got My Mission Call

Today, my mission call arrived! which sounds weird when I say it... 

You see, I've been waiting for that letter for eighteen years! I was the Primary child who had one of those personalised missionary badges saying 'Marcus Pelham, Future Missionary' (in fact, I still have the one I was given when I was eight!); I was the young man who idolized the elders in our ward and spent every day in the summer of 2009 with them, teaching (or trying to at least) and seeking out a testimony! Missionary work for me is more than just teaching and serving in the hope for baptisms - don't get me wrong, they're important! but baptism is part of a bigger plan; we are baptised to 'come unto Christ'. and in the same way, I want to invite the people I have been commissioned to serve to make steps - no matter how big or small - towards our Saviour. And, if I could sum up what I want to achieve as a missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saint, it would be exactly that - to help someone, anyone, THE one to come unto my Saviour!

My letter said this:

'Dear Elder Pelham, you are hereby called to serve as a missionary of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. You are assigned to labour in the Virginia Richmond Mission and report to the Provo MTC on Tuesday, July 31st'

Yes, you read that right; Virginia! Virginia! VIRGINIA ha! who the heck has ever gone to Virginia?! the only reason I know that it exists is because it's a Ron Pope song (which I highly recommend btw!). As I read those three words, my first reaction was disappointment to be honest... I always expected some abstract land with a heathen people who still worship Beelzebub and eat raw meat! and here, on my letter, was the exact opposite; an Eastern state in the United States of America! surely, the Lord wanted me to experience a new language, not just stick with English?

BUT after it had begin to sink in, all I could feel was excitement... it's not what I expected, no, but it isn't just the Virginia Richmond mission either...


It all goes back to the idea of 'the one' really; Jesus Christ himself has called me to serve in that area - why? I do not know yet! but I'm determined and excited to find out! I really believe that there is someone who, right now, is being prepared for that moment when I can play a part in inviting them to come unto Christ... I just have to keep myself worthy of being part of that!

Since I put my papers in, I've been looking for a scripture that will become my personal mission 'motto'. This is what I've decided:

'but behold, how many of them are brought to behold the marvelous light of God! And this is the blessing that has been bestowed upon us, that we have been made instruments in the hands of God to bring about this great work'

Alma 26:3

I sincerely hope and pray that I might be an effective instrument in the hands of God. This is His work, the people of Virginia are His children and I am, and forever will be, His servant! I testify that Jesus Christ lives and takes an active role in bringing every single person back home to live with Him. I feel humbled to have been called to be a part of this work and I will strive to be the best I can be, having faith that Christ will make up the rest!

I say these things in the name of Jesus Christ,

ps. oh, and as a little warning to the people of Virginia- GET READY! I'm coming to get 'cha!