Okay, I am going to share a few random stories. By the end though, they will all tie together…I promise! So hear me out.
My first story was actually shared in a previous blog post, titled, “Are you trapped in your own, personal Liberty Jail?” If you haven’t read it, I will give a little summary but more details can be found in that post. Right after I graduated high school, I went on the Church History Tour. It was life-changing in many ways but the most life-changing experience of the trip for me happened on the very first night. At this time, I was feeling the worst I had ever felt about myself, about my life, about God. I felt like God had abandoned me. I had never felt that way before. On the first night of the trip, we read Doctrine and Covenants 121-122, the letters from Joseph Smith in Liberty Jail to the church. Joseph, like me but obviously in a more extreme circumstance, felt like God had abandoned him. As he prayed in agony to God, Heavenly Father responded, “My son, peace be unto thy soul. Thine adversity and thine afflictions shall be but a small moment. And then if thou endure it well, God shall exalt thee on high…” In the next chapter, we read “Therefore, fear not what man can do, for God shall be with you, forever…” As I read those words I physically felt God tell me, “I have NOT forgotten you. I have NEVER left you, and I NEVER will.” The spirit was so strong as I read those words that I knew it was true. I knew The Lord would never leave me. I have never felt that God has abandoned me ever again, even though I have experienced far worse trials since that day. This scripture changed my life. I am much happier and understand–just a little bit more–the love God has for His children.
This next story is about my Grandma and Grandpa, my dad’s parents. My grandfather was a convert to the church, he was baptized after years of witnessing the blessings and happiness of his beloved wife and children in the gospel. They were sealed in the Temple for Time and All Eternity shortly after his baptism. When I was 17 years old, my grandpa passed away from complications with Leukemia combined with a car accident. At his funeral service, my grandmother–his wife–was emotional of course. However, she seemed oddly at peace and almost relieved to know he was with God and free of pain and suffering. She sat next to me on the bench of the chapel and told me a cute story, that also broke my heart. In the few days or so since his passing at the time, there were moments when something interesting, frustrating, or funny would happen. She would think to herself, “Oh! I have to tell Fred (my grandpa) about that!” Then immediately realize she could no longer do so. She told me about how the day prior to his funeral, she just sat in her car and felt the presence of God and my grandfather there with her. She said she just “told him” everything that had happened recently. She said she just “went down the list.” I have always remembered this story. I remember thinking, ‘I cannot imagine losing that person who you have been with everyday, who you told everything to, who you raised children with, who was your eternal companion and best friend.’ I wasn’t even married yet, and I was still heartbroken for her. To my surprise though, she still seemed more at peace than I imagined she would.
My best friend in the whole world is a convert to the church. Before she was a member she lost her only sibling, her older brother, to a drug overdose. After losing him, she became bitter and angry. According to her, she despised God. How could He let this happen to her? How could a loving God take away her lifelong best friend and leave her an only child? I remember attending the memorial services of her brother, and watching her shake and cry uncontrollably as she spoke from the pulpit of the funeral home. She could not even physically finish her speech. About a year later, she met the man who would later become her husband and eternal companion. He was a returned missionary of the church. She started taking the missionary lessons. At first she thought they were full of bologna! However, she gave them a chance. Eventually, it was her realization and strong spiritual confirmation from God that her sweet brother was okay and happy, that made her decide the Church was true. She was baptized by her then boyfriend, now husband. Right after she received her endowment in the Temple, she finished the work for her brother, so he can accept the gospel and go to the Celestial Kingdom.
The final story is about a time when I taught with the sister missionaries. I never went on a mission. I spent years praying and begging the Lord to let me go on a mission, but the answer for me was always ‘no.’ Here’s what I did instead: Before I got married, I went teaching with the sister missionaries in the singles ward ALL THE TIME…I’m talking…around 3-6 times a WEEK! I did this for over a year. I felt that if I was not supposed to serve a full-time mission, I would serve a bunch of mini-missions! I felt as if I was being rebellious and ‘cheating the system’ somehow, I thought “THAT’LL SHOW YOU, HEAVENLY FATHER! HAH!” (; Anyways, we had been teaching this young man for a few weeks. He read the Book of Mormon and said he believed it to be 100% true. However, when we asked him if he wanted to be baptized, he said no. He said he knew the Book of Mormon was true, but he did not want to join the church because he desired to keep living his worldly lifestyle. He said he did not want to change. He claimed to love the gospel and Book of Mormon, but refused to accept it fully by repenting and getting baptized. After a long talk with him and trying to understand him, we realized he would not be coming to church or accepting the gospel fully, at least not at this stage of his life. Normally after teaching with the sisters, I would feel amazing. This time, I felt absolutely drained. I was upset because I knew since he said he knew it was 100% true, he was going to be held accountable for rejecting it now and refusing to repent. It broke my heart. Even though I knew he would NOT likely be considered a ‘son of perdition’ and suffer those extreme consequences, I couldn’t help but feel like it would STILL have been better for him if we had never taught him the gospel at all.
I knelt down and asked the Lord, “Why do we even teach the gospel if it could mean accountability and suffering for those who leave or reject it? If we all go to some degree of a beautiful heaven anyways, what’s the point of having the gospel on earth?” The Lord answered me in the most beautiful way. I was immediately reminded of the time I received comfort from Heavenly Father through D&C 121-122, how God spoke to me directly, how it changed my life and brought me the most exquisite peace and joy. I would never have had that joy and peace without the scriptures, without the knowledge that we can speak to God and He back to us, without the the gospel. Then I was reminded of my grandmother. How peaceful she was even after losing her lifelong best friend, the person who took care of her, who she told everything to. She knew he was happy, free of suffering, reunited with his parents and family. Most importantly, she knew that she would soon be free from her pain, happy, and reunited with him and God for all eternity. I thought of the happiness she must feel knowing she can one day sit with him again and “just go down the list” and tell him everything. I was finally reminded of my best friend, how she unexpectedly lost her brother in such a tragic manner but is the happiest I have seen her now, knowing her brother is happy and that she will be with him again. I thought of so many times when peace was brought to my life, or the lives of those around me, even in the darkest of times…through the gospel. As I prayed for the answer of my heart-wrenching question, “Why do we teach the gospel at all? What’s the point?” I thought of these stories, and so many more. The answer came to me, “This is why.” Peace, comfort, happiness, knowledge, safety, etc. I mean, what is the other name for the Plan of Salvation? The Plan of Happiness.
I was also reminded of a quote from the Prophet Joseph Smith in Doctrine and Covenants Section 128: “Now, what do we hear in the gospel which we have received? A voice of gladness! A voice of mercy from heaven; and a voice of truth out of the earth…a voice of gladness for the living and the dead; glad tidings of great joy…Shall we not go on in so great a cause?”
Dictionary.com defines the adjective ‘great’ in two ways: “of an extent, amount, or intensity considerably above the normal or average” and “of ability, quality, or eminence considerably above the normal or average.” The cause of spreading peace, comfort, happiness, knowledge, safety, and truth, is great; by all definitions of the word.