While I attend BYU, I’m a mentor for a number of students on various athletic teams, and a tutor for several subjects for the athletic department. One night during football study hall, I called in one of my sweet little linemen to write a paper I knew was due for one of his classes, and I later found out it was his first college paper. So we began the writing process… and then it came to the next step, and I said, “K, let’s write a thesis statement.” I might as well have said that I was going to dump a vat of scalding hot water over his head for the reaction I soon received. I thought he was going to keel over and die right in front of me. In a little bit of a panic, I quickly said, “Nevermind! Nevermind, we won’t do that!” I was trying to be reassuring. “Instead, we’ll just write just one regular sentence to tell your teacher the main idea of your paper.” The immediate change in his countenance stunned me almost as much as his fit had. He resumed the usual slouching position in his chair, smirked playfully, looked at me, and said, “Ight, gimme dat pen.”
As I recalled this experience this morning, and then replayed it several times, I felt like I was seeing myself overreact instead of my much larger “fit-throwing” student. Instead of being assigned to write a thesis statement, I saw myself have the tantrum as the Lord asked me to go on a mission. I have felt an amount of promptings I cannot number, but I have never wanted to go, and since the prophet stood up in conference and said, “able, worthy young women who have the desire to serve may be recommended for missionary service,” I thought I was safe, because I didn’t have that desire. That was the usual reasoning I used to get out of my own personal “thesis statement.”
Sometime during the beginning of my third semester at college I made a list of traits I wanted acquire or improve in myself. My “topic sentence” alternative turned out to be the calming, comforting sensation that I should, indeed, work on those traits and self-improvement. I was thrilled, until I realized that a great way to achieve that self-improvement was to do what the Lord had already been telling me to do for some time. The answer remained that at the end of the day I was just going to have to go.
We live in a world of instant satisfaction for want. (Obviously not EVERYTHING) What do you want for your birthday? What do you want for Christmas? Where do you want to go for lunch? Do you want paper or plastic? What do you want to watch? Hard or soft shell? “I’ll just google it”… it goes on and on. And for the most part we get what we want. I get what I want too.
As a child I was lucky to have parents who told me, “no,” frequently, (they also told me yes), but they told me “no” a lot, so I would come to understand the value of patience and self-discipline. One of my mom’s best phrases was, “we all have to do things we don’t want to do.”
During this most recent process of deciding what to do with regard to a mission, I heard my mom’s voice multiple times in my head, “Sara Marie, we all have to do things we don’t want to do.” That rarely eased any of the stress I was feeling at the moment, as I would plead with the Lord to ask me to do anything else.
But it seemed that the Lord had been preparing my mind with that phrase my whole life with my own set of “goodly parents” who instructed me in the way of the Lord. He knew that it would take a principle that had been put into practice, and engrained in my heart since I could begin to understand what those words even meant. At first, “we all have to do things we don’t want to do” meant things like unloading dishes, practicing the piano, going to bed, or getting in the crawl space when a tornado siren would go off. Later, it meant coming home by curfew, putting sleeves on prom dresses, missing dance class to have family home evening, you can’t take a road trip with your friends when you’ve only had your license three days.”
That conditioning was done so consistently out of love. Then later I saw the wisdom of parents who knew that there would initially be a bit of resistance (from their strong-willed child). That has prepared me to know that when a parent asks, you obey. That runs parallel to the gospel principle that they taught of being obedient to the Lord. I think my parents, as well as the Lord, would have appreciated a little less kicking and screaming along the way. But something familiar stirred in my heart even the first time I felt prompted to go on a mission. It was that engrained feeling of obedience. And I knew that inevitably I would have to humble myself enough to realize that I don’t always know what is best for my safety, happiness, and growth. That’s why parents are so important – both earthly and heavenly. I knew when I felt a tiny nudge over two years ago that it was only a matter of time before I would cave… in the best of ways.
Still, I tried to fill my time with every other good thing I could think of, hoping that somehow that would all cumulate to take the place of going.
I highly doubt Abraham was very thrilled to lay his only son upon an altar, or that Alma and Amulek were eager to watch their families be burned because of their own belief in Christ. Of course, my Savior was not attempting a great dramatic script for us to read (as my professor, Brother Wahlquist, put it). When He plead with our Heavenly Father, “Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me,” (Luke 22:42) He meant it. However, the next words, which are so tender and meek, stand as a witness of what His entire Godhood and sacrifice is: an obedient son. “Nevertheless, not my will, but thine, be done.” (Luke 22:42) A son that was obedient, because He was given the proper tools to understand life situations (in this case, an eternal life and death situation) by a wonderful parent. No one on Earth is capable of reproducing that same kind of obedience or wisdom, me, least of all, but we have been commanded to strive to do our very best - our real best, as both a child, and for some, as parents.
I am in no way on the same level with the aforementioned examples, because I know that the scriptures don’t read “kicking and screaming” consecutively anywhere. But from their examples, countless others, and especially from the words Christ spoke, I have learned the importance of obedience and self-discipline.
It is no longer a matter of, “Sara, stop kicking your sister,” or, “don’t sit on your violin bow,” or, “your cousin Amanda doesn’t want her bangs cut right now,” or, “next time, don’t test the air pressure of your BB gun on your hand, even if you think you dumped all of them out.”
It’s a little harder leaving scholarships, dreams, tours, accomplishments, and long-awaited opportunities.
I will go and do… (1 Nephi 3:7)
Obedience and self-discipline are priceless. They are not visible, but they are tangible within our hearts as the Lord changes us into something better than we have been so far.
I love the movie, The Lion King. President Monson came and spoke at BYU my freshman year and used this example that I love so much. Mufasa profoundly compels his son, “Look inside yourself, Simba. You are more than what you have become. . . . Remember who you are. . . . Remember.”
Each of us is someone more than we have become.
When you do what someone tells you to, usually, that limits your own freedom. In the Lord’s case it is not so. There is nothing more liberating than allowing the Lord full access to your life. He will never take your agency, and He stands as an anchor with which He helps us establish a life of fulfillment and complete happiness.
The sacrifices that seem heavy right now will turn out not to be sacrifices at all, but rather, a merciful opportunity to develop my talents more than I could have by myself. And to learn to do it with a smile on my face, and gratitude in my heart, even when there are disagreements and differences in opinion, and every kind of opposition.
Now, the Lord isn’t telling everyone they should all go on missions. His charge to each of His children is different, but always founded on the same, sure, eternal principles.
In an increasingly questioning, argumentative, and unsure world, I have found a safe place, a peaceful place. I was taught from my infancy that God loves His children, and the exercise of our returning love is loyalty and charity – two significant points of obedience.
The Lord, Himself, said, “if ye love me, keep my commandments,” (John 14:15) that’s loyalty. And also, when inquiring of His apostles regarding their love, He said, “feed my sheep.” (John 21:15-17) That’s Charity.
I am so blessed to have an anchor in Christ. I know that it is not a hard thing to find, because the Lord beckons us all to come unto Him. The only hard part is the change that coming unto Him requires.
Perhaps my favorite discourse ever given was by Elder Jeffery R. Holland, appropriately titled For Times of Trouble.
You can change anything you want to change, and you can do it very fast. That’s another satanic suckerpunch—that it takes years and years and eons of eternity to repent. It takes exactly as long to repent as it takes you to say, “I’ll change”—and mean it. Of course there will be problems to work out and restitutions to make. You may well spend—indeed you had better spend—the rest of your life proving your repentance by its permanence. But change, growth, renewal, and repentance can come for you as instantaneously as for Alma and the sons of Mosiah. Even if you have serious amends to make, it is not likely that you would qualify for the term, “the vilest of sinners,” which is the phrase Mormon uses in describing these young men. Yet as Alma recounts his own experience in the thirty-sixth chapter of the book that bears his name, his repentance appears to have been as instantaneous as it was stunning.
Do not misunderstand. Repentance is not easy or painless or convenient. It is a bitter cup from Hell. But only Satan, who dwells there, would have you think that a necessary and required acknowledgment is more distasteful than permanent residence. Only he would say, “You can’t change. You won’t change. It’s too long and too hard to change. Give up. Give in. Don’t repent. You are just the way you are.” That, my friends, is a lie born of desperation. Don’t fall for it.
I believe that wholeheartedly. I like to dream about the things I will be able to do, and what I can become, but that will require continuous change, and not just any kind, but change that is wrought from the inside out. Obedience to Heavenly Father is the greatest opportunity we are given.
And now, my sons… (Heleman 5:12)
I choose to be an influence for good, and to stand as a witness of God at all times, and in all things, and in all places. Not just as a missionary, but for my entire life. Because my efforts will not end “till the purposes of God shall be accomplished, and the Great Jehovah shall say the work is done.” (The Standard of Truth)
We are the Lord’s hands. Not because He cannot do His work Himself, but because He loves us enough to allow for the opportunity to act in His name, and feel of the love that such work and service will bring into our lives. “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:13)