May 7, 2010

The Mission

Below I have the map of the Chile, Santiago North Mission. It covers the northwest part of the city as well as a little bit of the countryside outside of it. It's not a very big mission, at least in terms of area.

The population of Santiago is approximately 5.5 million people. I figure since my mission covers about a quarter of the city, about 1.4 million of those 5.5 million are in my mission. Below are the populations of the other major cities in the area:

Lampa: 29, 250
Colina: 65, 082
San Felipe: 59, 294
Los Andes: 56, 859

This would make the total population of my mission to be around 1,610,485 or 1.6 million people. Granted, that is a very very rough estimate, since there are also small towns and villages all over the mission. It's one of the most densely populated areas in the country.

This is the link to my mission president's blog. I'm really excited to meet him and the rest of the missionaries there:

Chile Santiago North Mission

Now, normally I wouldn't do this because it would require math (yuck!), but I was really curious to see how many Chileans there are to the number of missionaries in my mission. There are about 175 missionaries serving in the Santiago North Mission, making the ratio roughly 9,000 Chileans to every missionary. I would have subtracted the number of Chileans that are already members from that number, but the LDS members make up less than 1% of the population, so I didn't bother with it.

I did quite a bit of research about Chile, and found that the name "Chile" very possibly came from the indigenous word "Chilli," which means "where the land ends," or "the deepest point on earth." The country has dramatically different climates in every direction: from deserts in the far north, to lakes and glaciers in the far south, with forests and farmland in between. It then has the Andes to the east, and the Pacific Ocean to the west. Think of all the different climates in the United States condensed into a 100-mile wide strip of land.

A vast majority of Chileans are Roman Catholic, and they are a very family-centered culture. They love Christmas, and any other reason they can have for the family to get together. In the 1970s and 1980s Chile was ruled by a harsh dictator, Augusto Pinochet, and many of the people still remember when they lived under his military regime. They officially became a democracy in 1990 and are rapidly modernizing, with Santiago being the center of all the development. They currently have one temple in Santiago and another one under construction farther south.

I'm excited beyond words to come into this country and begin serving the Lord. As I learn more and more about this country I am filled with this desire to teach them the gospel of Jesus Christ so that they and their families can be blessed by living God's law and by fully receiving His blessings. I know that during these months, as I am preparing my heart and mind to teach the gospel, Heavenly Father is humbling them, softening their hearts and preparing them to receive the words that I will say, so that they can feel the Spirit and know for themselves that this gospel is true.

That is one of the best parts of this gospel, being about to know for ourselves the truth of all things. It's one thing to listen to the prophets teach about the Book of Mormon being the word of God, but when we experiment upon their words and exercise faith, and come to know for ourselves, it is such a thrill and a blessing. I am so grateful for that. I know that this gospel is true, in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

May 5, 2010

The Call

"Dear Elder Wilkes:

You are hereby called as a missionary of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. You are assigned to labor in the Chile Santiago North Mission. It is anticipated that you will serve for a period of 24 months.

You should report to the Provo Missionary Training Center on Wednesday, June 16, 2010. You will prepare to preach the gospel in the Spanish language. Your assignment may be modified according to the needs of the mission president.

You have been recommended as one worthy to represent the Lord as a minister of the restored gospel. You will be an official representative of the Church. As such, you will be expected to maintain the highest standards of conduct and appearance by keeping the commandments, living mission rules, and following the counsel of your mission president. As you devote your time and attention to serving the Lord, leaving behind all other personal affairs, the Lord will bless you with increased knowledge and testimony of the Restoration of the truths of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Your purpose will be to invite others to come unto Christ by helping them receive the restored gospel through faith in Jesus Christ and His Atonement, repentance, baptism, receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost, and enduring to the end. As you serve with all your heart, might, and strength, the Lord will lead you to those who are prepared to be baptized.

The Lord will reward you for the goodness of your life. Greater blessings and more happiness than you have yet experienced await you as you humbly and prayerfully serve the Lord in this labor of love among His children. We place in you our confidence and pray that the Lord will help you become an effective missionary.

You will be set apart as a missionary by your stake president. Please send your written acceptance promptly, endorsed by your bishop.


Thomas S. Monson, President"

I received that letter on March 31 while I was at BYU, just about a month ago. The next day I went over to my grandparents' house in Orem and opened the letter with my parents listening on the phone. It was such a happy event. I remember feeling that Chile was really the place I was supposed to go. I felt a confirming feeling from the Holy Spirit that Chile is where Heavenly Father wants me to go to teach His children. I already feel a love growing in my heart for the Chileans, and for my mission president. I know he is an inspired man that will watch over me while I am serving the people in South America.

Now I am home and I'm preparing to be ready for when that MTC date June 16th comes around. I've made a copy of this letter and the map of my mission. I look at them whenever I feel low or discouraged, because then I again receive that confirmation that I am called of God. God does love me, and He will look after me and bless me beyond my imagination for being His faithful servant. I am thankful beyond measure for this opportunity to serve the Lord in this country. I love Him very much. I am thankful for Christ and his Atonement. I am thankful for the scriptures, for they point me towards Christ. I am thankful for every good thing I have received on this earth, and I'm anxiously looking for ways I can give back to Him that gave me so much. I testify that that is the true way to live your life. If you feel something is missing from your life, then take a step back and consider what Moroni says in his last exhortation to us:
"Behold, I would exhort you that when ye shall read these things, if it be wisdom in God that ye should read them, that ye would remember how merciful the Lord hath been unto the children of men, from the creation of Adam even down until the time that ye shall receive these things, and ponder it in your hearts."
Remember how merciful He has been to you. Remember all the good things in your life, and how it has all come to pass because of God's great love for us. Then live so that you can show Him how truly grateful you are for those things. If you do this then you will be happy and blessed. This I promise to you, in the sacred name of Jesus Christ, amen.

Mar 28, 2010

"It's Not in the Letter That I Can't Wait to Open"

Today my entry is going to be short. My bishop emailed me yesterday and told me that my mission call is on its way. It should be here this Wednesday, and I plan to open it the next day at my grandpa's house. The EFY 2006 song "All Times, All Things, All Places" describes exactly how I'm feeling today. It's one of my favorite songs now. :) I'm excited about this call, but I also realize just what I have to do in order to qualify representing the Savior. I'll put the lyrics below:

It’s not in the letter I can’t wait to open
It’s not in the badge that will carry His name
It’s not gonna grow in just 3 weeks of study,
Or magically come when I get on a plane,

So today I’m becoming who I’m meant to be
The worthy, unshakeable witness He needs
At all times, all things, all places,
I will sing and shout His praises
I will tell the whole world that I know what His grace is
At all times, in all things, in all places.

It comes as I study the words of the prophets
And think about all that those words mean for me
As Abraham’s son I am part of the promise
That all of the earth will be blessed by his seed.

I know what my Savior expects me to be
The faithful, unchangeable witness He needs
At all times, all things, all places,
I will sing and shout His praises
I will tell the whole world that I know what His grace is
At all times, in all things, in all places.

All eyes, all ears, all hearts, all faces,
All rich, all poor, all life, all ages,
All roads, all doors, all lands, all nations
All earth, all kin, all tongues, all races,

At all times, all things, all places,
I will sing and shout His praises
I will tell the whole world that I know what His grace is
At all times, in all things, in all places.
At all times, in all things, in all places.

- Chad Neth

Mar 21, 2010

My Testimony in Pictures

For this entry I wanted to bear to you my testimony, but I wanted to do it in a different way than usual. I am going to bear my testimony to you through 14 pictures. With each picture I’ll include a scripture that demonstrates a different aspect of the gospel of Jesus Christ, and then bear my witness of Heavenly Father through it and how it has testified of Him in my life. I pray that you may be able to feel the spirit through this testimony.

1) “Verily I say unto you, except ye be converted, and become as a little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven. Whosoever shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” – Matthew 18:2-3

I believe this picture was taken when I was in preschool, while I was on the playground with my fellow preschool scholars. Though I don’t have this memory, I know that it really wasn’t all that long ago that I was playing on this tire swing. One of the miracles of when I pray to Heavenly Father is that my heart can remember the feelings I felt when I was tiny, when my mommy and daddy would teach me how to pray to Heavenly Father. A quiet reverence, a hopeful plea, a confirmation of love from a Being I could not see, but that I knew was there. I feel like a little child when I’m in the presence of my Heavenly Father: small yet loved, and in never ending wonder and fascination at His grace and mercy. Even when I am chastised, I can feel an increase in love and a knowledge that I am learning, and that I need to overcome and progress in order to get back into Heavenly Father’s bright, shiny kingdom.

2) “Therefore repent, and be baptized in the name of Jesus, and lay hold upon the gospel of Christ, which shall be set before you.” – Mormon 7:8

This is my whole family when I was baptized and confirmed a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. I know that Heavenly Father was happy this day, because I came to Him and became baptized. I received His first ordinance of the many that were soon to follow. I’m so glad that my dad was a righteous man so that he could baptize me, give me the blessing of the Holy Spirit, and later ordain me to the Aaronic and Melchizedek Priesthoods. Through priesthood authority come all the ordinances of Heavenly Father, and I am thankful that I now in turn have been entrusted with the authority to perform these ordinances, just like my dad. I know Jesus Christ has ordained baptism by immersion as a necessary ordinance for becoming one of his sheep, washing away our sins and becoming a new soul.

And yes, that is my little sister sticking out her tongue. :P

3) “See that ye love one another… learn to impart one to another as the gospel requires…. And above all things, clothe yourselves with the bond of charity, as with a mantle, which is the bond of perfectness and peace.” – Doctrine + Covenants 88:123-124

This was taken during Band Camp during the summer before my junior year. I had just moved to Michigan a month before this picture was taken, and during that week of band camp I made friends with these three girls in my clarinet section. From left to right they are Taylor, Emily, and Annelle. What I love about this picture is that during my two years in Michigan I became great friends with all three of them. Though none of them are LDS, they have such a glow to their personalities, such loving hearts. They are such beautiful daughters of God. I testify that uplifting friends are blessings from God. God wants to bless us with friends. I testify of God’s tender mercies, which are open for all of us.

4) “For my soul delighteth in the song of the heart.” – Doctrine + Covenants 25:12

I took this picture when I got my new clarinet for Christmas of senior year. I’ve been blessed to play clarinet since I was 10, and over the years I’ve grown a deep love for music that stirs inside my soul. To have this ability to shape sound, to create melodies that move inside my heart and harmonies that send chills down my spine… it is another testament to me of Heavenly Father’s desire to bless me. The artistic urge to create beautiful things is a God-given trait to remind us of the absolute divine, wondrous nature of Heavenly Father and all that He can do.

5) “For in that day, for my sake shall the Father work a work, which shall be a great and a marvelous work among then; and there shall be among them those who will not believe it, although a man shall declare it unto them.” – 3 Nephi 21:9

I took this during my last Youth Conference this last June, where we visited Carthage Jail and the Nauvoo temple. This window is the one that the Prophet Joseph Smith fell out of when he was martyred. You can feel a certain spirit in that jail, a solemn feeling knowing the sacrifice that the prophet made for bringing forth the Restored Gospel. I know Joseph Smith is indeed a prophet of God, and that he translated a sacred record called The Book of Mormon through the power of almighty God. The book is powerful, and has touched my soul many times with its doctrine. I am so thankful for Joseph Smith for having the courage to ask our Heavenly Father a question when he was 14. Because of him I can know of Heavenly Father’s divinity for myself, and can know of all the truthfulness of the gospel for myself.

6) “In thee shall all families of the earth be blessed.” – Genesis 12:3

That scripture in Genesis was the promise Heavenly Father made to Abraham when Abraham made his covenant with Heavenly Father. It is a vital aspect of the Gospel: through the covenants and ordinances Heavenly Father made, every family on the earth can be blessed through the Commandments of Heavenly Father and the Atonement of Jesus Christ. This picture was taken during our family reunion in Utah the summer before my senior year. She is an excellent sister, silliness aside, and so is the rest of my family. I’m so happy to know of all the blessings my family and I have experienced because of the covenants and gospel of Jesus Christ that we have made. I love them so much, and throughout this semester I’ve missed them a lot. Though it’s going to be hard to leave my family to serve a mission, I know they will be blessed for it.

7) “And it came to pass that Moses looked upon Satan and said: Who art thou? For behold, I am a son of God, in the similitude of his Only Begotten.” – Moses 1:13

This was taken at the end of my Priesthood High Adventure in July of last summer. During that trip we went up to this island in the middle of Lake Michigan called North Manitou Island. No bathrooms, no showers, just us men and the rugged wilderness. It was a blast. While up there I got to lead the other priests through discussions in Preach My Gospel, and taught them lessons about preparing for a mission. At the end our bishop gave us dog tags for us to remember we are enlisted in the Lord’s Army. It says,

Wilkes G
NMI 2009 (North Manitou Island)

On My Honor

Duty to God

The phrase “On My Honor” speaks to me. When I think of my priesthood, I feel both humble and noble at the same time. I can’t describe how that happens, but it does. I know that I have a divine role as a son of Heavenly Father, that I have a mission to fulfill on this earth that is specific to both my gender and my individual spirit. I am a son of Divinity, a prince of righteousness, an heir to Heavenly Father’s kingdom. “On My Honor” is a promise, both to Heavenly Father and to myself that I will fulfill that noble role.

8) “Who can find a virtuous woman? For her price is far above rubies.” – Proverbs 31:10

This is Brittany and I before the Winterfest (girl’s choice) dance. In high school I got to know this wonderful daughter of God and date her for a while. Though she isn’t LDS, she is an uplifting Christian girl who has a testimony of Jesus Christ, and she is wonderful to be around. Whenever I had doubts, she encouraged me. She wants me to serve Heavenly Father and go on a mission. She has healing in her heart, and brightness in her spirit. Though we have gone our separate ways since high school, we’re still good friends and keep up with each other. I learned a lot from my relationship with her. A lot. With all my heart, I want her to be happy in this life. I want her to find a guy who will respect her and make her happy, even though I am not that person for her. And the world has it totally backwards about all of this, because all the world can see is the outside appearance. A girl’s true beauty is on the inside, in her kindness and spirituality.

9) “I will make a covenant of peace with them; it shall be an everlasting covenant with them… my tabernacle shall also be with them: yea, I will be their God, and they shall be my people.” – Ezekiel 37:26-27

I took this picture during the Nauvoo trip last summer as well. We did baptisms for the dead there and later sang in front of it. I could feel the Holy Spirit literally burning as I sang and listened to people bear their testimonies. Though you can’t see it from here, the temple is actually on top of a hill that overlooks the Mississippi river. As we walked up the hill to the temple, I couldn’t help but be in awe of its whiteness. You may not know this, but a Catholic church is actually right next to the temple. And while the church is nice enough, it can’t compare to how bright the temple is. You can literally see the difference. I testify that the temple is the Lord’s house, a sacred spot where heaven meets earth. I feel so close to Heavenly Father while I am in the temple, and I am so grateful that I can come there and partake of such wonderful feelings in my heart and knowledge in my mind. I am humbled to think that the early saints sacrificed so much to have such a temple in their midst, and now these holy buildings dot the earth, as sanctuaries from the world. If there were a reason to give glory to God, it would be for the temples.

10) “I will remember my covenant unto you, O house of Israel… And then the words of the prophet Isaiah shall be fulfilled, which say: Thy watchmen shall lift up the voice; with the voice together shall they sing… Sing together, ye waste places of Jerusalem; for the Lord hath comforted his people, he hath redeemed Jerusalem.” – 3 Nephi 16: 12-18

This is Talya, my best friend from Michigan. After I graduated last summer, Talya asked me to take her senior pictures, and I couldn’t have asked for a better honor. Her name in Hebrew means “Dew from God,” and it’s a beautiful name. She is Jewish, a daughter of Israel. We had an interesting friendship, where we shared our faith with each other and found a wonderful bond between faith and friendship. My exposure to the Jewish tradition and culture has helped me better understand the Savior when he speaks of the gathering of Israel and the restoration of all things. I can’t help it; I love the Jewish people, and it’s because of her that I do. I know that Heavenly Father will remember His covenants with His children and undertake a marvelous work to fulfill those covenants. I am humbled to think I will play a small part in this as I serve a mission and unfurl God’s holy banner to the nations of the world.

11) “For my soul delighteth in the scriptures, and my heart pondereth them, and writeth them for the learning and the profit of my children. Behold, my soul delighteth in the things of the Lord; and my heart pondereth continually upon the things which I have seen and heard.” – 2 Nephi 4:15-16

I took this about a month ago, during a warm Sunday afternoon after reading from the scriptures. I got these scriptures as a gift from my Grandparents when I was eight. All they wrote inside was the simple phrase “1998. Merry Christmas, Garrett! We love you very much. Mimi & Papa Wilkes.” I can tell it’s in my Mimi’s handwriting, I can tell her cursive a mile away. It is one of the greatest gifts I could have ever received, because through these scriptures I have come to a knowledge of the divinity of God’s Word. It amazes me how the scriptures, especially the Book of Mormon, will cut right to the core of my heart and divide asunder any doubt or sorrow. Many answers came to me when I was searching and pondering the scriptures. I know that The Bible is a divine work, written by the hand of ancient prophets. I know that the Book of Mormon is also the word of God, another testament of Jesus Christ published to bring people to the Restored Gospel. I plan to finish the book before I get my mission call, and then to reread it before I go to the MTC this summer. I am thankful for Heavenly Father for doing so much so that we could have this book to read, ponder, and understand for our sakes.

12) “Surely the Lord God will do nothing, but he revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets.” – Amos 3:7

I took this picture during the October 2009 General Conference. We were lucky enough to get seats this close. To hear the prophet speak in person, to see all the saints gathered around Temple Square and inside the conference building… it was astounding. I know that President Monson is the Prophet, Seer, and Revelator ordained by God to preside over this church and the world. When I listen to the words of the Prophets and Apostles, past and present, I feel a penetrating force inside my heart, doing much of the same things that the scriptures do. When I apply what these men teach, I find myself happier and more aligned with God. I am humbled to think that soon I will be approved by the Prophet to preach the gospel and take a stand in the Army of God.

13) “I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.” – John 8:12

I took this picture last August in the Appalachian Mountains of Virginia. It is beautiful countryside, filled with rivers and serene hills. I want to end my testimony with a testimony of God’s light. Like the sun, God’s light can be seen everywhere. Through both our trials and our blessings we can find God’s grace, no matter where we are. The Atonement has always been a bright hope in my life. Through the Atonement and my agency I can become like the Savior over my lifetime, placing my burdens and weakness in his hands, and choosing works of righteousness. All my life I have felt this light. Every trial, every experience has been for my good in God’s light. I feel like gold in His light, and I will witness to the world about this light at all times, in all things, and in all places. I will end this testimony with my last picture, a drawing I made a long time ago when I felt this wonderful light stirring inside of me. I bear to you this testimony in the name of our Savior Jesus Christ, amen.

Mar 11, 2010

Missionary Work is Like...

Hello everyone! Over the past few weeks, I've been taking notes here and there about the roles of a missionary, what missionary work does, and just how it blesses and how it works in Heavenly Father's plan. Here's a list of what I've found so far:

  1. Missionary work is a Priesthood calling. It is literally following the Savior when He says, "let your light shine before men." Like all other priesthood callings, it is an act of selflessness, an act of service, an act of perfect, Godlike love. It is to be treated with sacredness, with hope, with goodness.
  2. Missionary work is a sacrifice. Brother Bott once said that I will suffer when I go out on my mission. I will be persecuted, reviled, rejected, rebuked in the name of Jesus. I will have physical hardships, spiritual hardships, emotional hardships. It is work, sweat, and pain, and it is all given to the Savior as a sacrifice for righteousness.
  3. Missionary work is a transforming experience. It kills the carnal man and brings out the Celestial Beings that young men need to be. I know I need do serve in order to continue on my spiritual progression. It teaches faith, virtue, knowledge, temperance, patience, brotherly kindness, godliness, charity, humility, and diligence.
  4. Missionary work is helping families become happy. Once a family can come into the light of the gospel, they can be blessed with a priesthood holder, with a Christlike mother, with children alive and happy in the light of Christ. Missionary work is bringing love back into these families. Mother, Father, and child can be sealed together, happy and pure, forever. Heaven literally comes on earth when that happens.
  5. Missionary work is giving people a second chance. Through the sacred Atonement of Jesus Christ, these people can repent, have their hearts changed, feel their holy spirits stirring inside of them, become purified, feel Heavenly Father's love, and change their lives. It is the invitation of the Savior, for all to come unto him. No matter what kind of past they have had, the sacrifice of the Savior can heal them. They are new people, claimed by the Atonement. When I think of how much he has done, when I think of the Savior and how wonderful a being he is, I can't help but want to sing Alleluia. He lives. He is very much real. His love is so complete that he takes all our mistakes, our sins, our burdens, our weaknesses, our deformities... He will heal all of us.
I testify Jesus is the Savior, and through his almighty grace we are saved, after all we can do. Heavenly Father's love is so complete that he gave us His Son to do this for us. Most important of all, missionary work is letting Heavenly Father know that we love Him, too. Though I am imperfect, I'm going to give what I have. There's a song that describes the feeling I have:

"No one told me how bad I need you,
But I somehow arrived at that conclusion all by myself.
And I want all you have to offer,
So I'll offer myself, and I'll give until there's nothing else."

I hope my sacrifice is a worthy sacrifice for Him.

Feb 18, 2010

"I Am a Disciple of Christ"

Of all the characters in the Book of Mormon, Mormon the Prophet is my absolute favorite. He had to endure seeing unbelievable wickedness among his own people, and yet his testimony of Christ and his faith in God were unwavering. Not only that, he accomplished a lot for Heavenly Father's kingdom during his time on earth. I decided to make a list of tasks/roles that he had to fill:

1) He got to take all the records of the prophets and the kings and compile them into one book. Think about it–this would be like taking every talk from every General Conference, Ensign, New Era, and Friend ever published, every Church book ever written, as well as an American History textbook, and then condense it all into one book.

My AP U.S. History textbook in high school felt like a brick to carry around, and the U.S. is only a little over 200 years old. Mormon, on the other hand, had over 800 years of history. That task must have been immense. Whose sermons would you include? Which events in your country's history would be the most important? And yet, at the same time, I think he enjoyed doing that work. He probably found the records of his ancestors fascinating; I know I would have.

2) He was a general in the Nephite armies at an extremely young age. He was knowledgeable in the military strategies of his ancestors, and used this knowledge with his faith in order to defeat the Lamanites. Granted, he later resigned from this position, but nevertheless was a well trained fighter and military leader.

3) He, like the prophets before him, was a writer. Granted, he was charged with writing scripture, which is a little different than your everyday writing, but he still wrote the feelings of his heart and his experiences as directed by the Holy Spirit.

4) He was a father, and a pretty good one at that, seeing as his son Moroni was faithful enough to become the next prophet after him.

5) He was a priesthood holder, one worthy of immense trust from Heavenly Father. I don't think he could have done the things he did without the Holy Spirit to guide him through all of it.

If you know me, then you'll understand why I want to meet Mormon when I get to Heaven. :) Yesterday I was reading through 3 Nephi chapter 5, where Mormon briefly interrupts his narration of Nephite history in order to share a bit of his testimony. In verses 12 through 14, he states,

"And behold, I am called Mormon, being called after the land of Mormon, the land in which Alma did establish the church among the people, yea, the first church which was established among them after their transgression.
"Behold, I am a disciple of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. I have been called of him to declare his word among his people, that they might have everlasting life.
"And it hath become expedient that I, according to the will of God, that the prayers of those who have gone hence, who were the holy ones, should be fulfilled according to their faith."

And in verse 20 he says,

"I am Mormon, and a pure descendant of Lehi. I have reason to bless my God and my Savior Jesus Christ, that he brought our fathers out of the land of Jerusalem... and that he hath given me and my people so much knowledge unto the salvation of our souls."

I feel a special connection with Mormon. I, too, have reason to praise and rejoice in my God. He is able to come to me and bring me peace, He gave me my family and my friends... He forgives me and loves me when I repent. When I am near Him I feel pure, and special, and humble. I love praying to Him, because I get to talk to Him, and He gets to answer me and help me. I feel a kinship with Mormon, because I can feel his faith in the book, and it uplifts me.

I'm making an edited version of these verses, making them just a little more personally applicable:

"Behold, I am called Garrett Frane Wilkes, my first name being given by my father Kellen Wilkes, and my middle name coming from my grandfather, Doran Frane Wilkes, both of them being righteous, just, and uplifting men.
"Behold, I am a disciple of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. I have been called of him to serve a mission, to declare his word among his people, that they might have everlasting life.
"And it has become expedient that I prepare myself for this mission, according to the will of God, so that I can fulfill the prayers of those on the earth who are searching for the truth, so that all of God's words can be fulfilled."

Despite my weaknesses, despite the influences that the world is trying to make to convince me to stray, even just a little bit, from my standards and covenants, I know Jesus Christ is the savior prophesied for thousands of years in ancient times. I know that Heavenly Father loves me and has given me commandments, and He will not give a commandment save He provides a way for me to keep it. He will provide a way for me to prepare for an honorable mission. And He has also laid out a plan for me to repent when I forget and fall short. See, everything about Heavenly Father is right, and just, and good. Mormon knew this. I hope someday I can, like Mormon, have a record of my earthly life and ministry that is able to bring the spirit to all who read it.

I'm about to finish my mission papers! Soon they will be in the hands of my Bishop, then Stake President, and soon enough into Salt Lake, where the Bretheren will receive by revelation where I am to serve on this good earth.

I am a Son of God; I have been, and always will be, a follower of Christ. I may not have always been the best example of a follower of Christ, but that is where repentance, forgiveness, and faith come in.

This is not about me–it never was about me. I hope to remember that in the trials to come as Satan set up his opposition, and I continue on as a Son of God, as a disciple of Christ, preparing the earth for Jesus' second coming.

Jan 31, 2010

Showing His Marvellous Light


I, Garrett, being nineteen, and on the verge of serving a mission for the LDS Church, hereby invite you to my blog. Normally my mommy will keep track of this blog, especially when I finally get out serving, but I wanted to put down the first entry.

My theme is found in 1 Peter 2:9, "But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood... that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvelous light."

I chose this verse because each part of it has stood out to me in my life. It also resembles the kind of person that I want to become, both during my mission and after.

This semester I am auditing a class at BYU called Mission Prep with Professor Bott. This man is amazing. He is hilarious, he tells great stories, and he brings the Spirit so strongly with every lecture. He really brought home the fact that to be a missionary for the Lord is not simply a thing that all Mormon boys do when they turn 19; it is a sacred calling. Out of the 6+ billion people on the earth, only 50,000 are LDS missionaries. We are given a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. We get to devote 2 complete years to teach, convert, serve, and uplift the world around us. Those years are God's, not ours. It is a unique chance to grow and come close to Heavenly Father like never before.

I know He wants me to serve a mission. Time after time, during quiet moments in my life, it comes as this gentle yet firm feeling: This is what I am supposed to do. This is my calling. It pierces through all confusion and anxiety, and overtakes my heart with this solid, firm resolution.

I know Heavenly Father bestowed upon me His royal priesthood. God found something in me that earned His trust, and has called me to carry the holy priesthood and to be a blessing for others. He has given me authority to do His will on earth. It is both the greatest gift and the greatest responsibility He has ever given me. I am His son. I know He has a purpose that He wants me to carry out through this priesthood.

I have felt God's light all throughout my life. I trust Him. Though I am not perfect, Heavenly Father has helped me overcome so many of my faults, and I know He will continue to help me overcome them. His love is so complete and pure that nothing else in the world could be compared to it. There is no way I would be the person I am without that love. And I love Him so much. That's why I decided I'm going to dedicate myself to Him.

So I will be spending the remainder of this winter break at BYU to 1) work in my school classes, and 2) prepare myself to serve Heavenly Father once the summertime comes. I have a quote from one of the leaders in my church that describes how I feel about missionary service:

“The Lord works from the inside out. The world works from the outside in. The world would take people out of the slums. Christ takes the slums out of people, and then they take themselves out of the slums. The world would mold men by changing their environment. Christ changes men, who then change their environment. The world would shape human behavior, but Christ can change human nature…. Christ changes men, and changed men can change the world.” – Ezra Taft Benson (1989)

I testify that is true. I know because it has happened not only to me, but to all who trust Heavenly Father. This isn’t about me; it’s about helping, serving, and shining the light Heavenly Father has given me. And you know the funny thing is, I can’t keep this light to myself. My heart longs to share it. I hope that by reading this blog, your heart will come closer to Heavenly Father, or at least you will receive a little more happiness in your life.

- Garrett