Saturday was also my departing testimony at Trail Center Training. I really did think that this day would never come and I was completely unprepared for it....I prayed about what God would have me say, but I think a majority of what came out of my mouth was unplanned and in the moment. Sister Whittaker stood up to give the announcements and was already emotional...we were both goners from there. I am just so grateful for the opportunity I have had to serve- not only to serve the Lord as one of His missionaries, but to serve Him here, where the pioneers sacrificed so much. I have a testimony that this is hallowed ground, that this place is truly sacred.
I can't remember if I told you this, but when I was in the MTC I had a teacher who served here at the Trail Center. As we sat in a classroom in Provo, she promised us that Winter Quarters would be our healing ground. I have been so grateful to feel of that healing over the past year-and-a-half. I love the pioneers. I am so grateful that I have been blessed to learn about them and from them. I have been forever changed by their examples. My favorite pioneer story is about a woman named Eliza Cheney. This is what she says about her conversion and about her time in Winter Quarters:
Dear Parents, Brothers and Sisters, The last letter I received from you was dated January 25th. The general tenor the letter is to have us return, but I have not the most distant idea, neither has Nathan, of ever turning back. Our course is and must be onward. Think of the words of our Savior, “No man having put his hand to the plough and looking back is fit for the Kingdom of Heaven.” I did not embrace this work hastily, I came into it understandingly. I weighed the subject, I counted the cost. I know the consequence of every step I took. I have not been disappointed in the least. I compared this gospel with that which the Savior and the apostles preached and I saw what it cost them. I was convinced that the same doctrine must be preached at the same expense. It never did cost anything to support error, men can propagate error and be popular. But the truth always cost the best blood on earth, not excepting the Son of God and if I set my standard so high as to aspire to be a joint heir with Jesus Christ, of course I must not shrink from drinking the bitter cup."
I have gained a testimony over the course of my mission that my Heavenly Father loves me. I know that He truly is my Father and that He is aware of the desires of my heart. I know that He has a plan for me that includes my happiness and my joy. That plan will never change. It is constant because He is constant, and I am His.
I know that He sent His Son Jesus Christ to die for me and to atone for my sins. I know that He has forgiven me of my shortcomings and has filled the wounds that have come by way of sickness and sadness. I love Him. He truly has borne my griefs and felt my pains. Elder Bruce R. McConkie said it best, not long before he died. He said,
"And now, as pertaining to this perfect atonement, wrought by the shedding of the blood of God—I testify that it took place in Gethsemane and at Golgotha, and as pertaining to Jesus Christ, I testify that he is the Son of the Living God and was crucified for the sins of the world. He is our Lord, our God, and our King. This I know of myself independent of any other person.
I am one of his witnesses, and in a coming day I shall feel the nail marks in his hands and in his feet and shall wet his feet with my tears. But I shall not know any better then than I know now that he is God’s Almighty Son, that he is our Savior and Redeemer, and that salvation comes in and through his atoning blood and in no other way."
I too have been able to be one of His witnesses for the past 18 months. I have testified of Him and walked beside Him through the most wonderful parts of my trials and the most difficult times of my joys. I know that He lived, and more importantly, that He lives again.
I am grateful for the testimony that I have been able to gain of the prophet Joseph Smith. God used that young, humble, willing servant to bring to pass the most miraculous events that have ever occurred in this world with exception to the Savior's ministry and Atonement. His simple faith led him to become who God needed him to become- and that allowed us to have the blessings of the Restoration: eternal families, the Book of Mormon, and the priesthood ordinances that we need in order to return to Him once more, and so very many more things. We can have that same simple faith. It comes from reading from the pages of the Book of Mormon and learning about the Savior. When we do that we can fully understand His purposes and His desires for us to become.
President Weston has counseled us and challenged us to read from the pages of the Book of Mormon every day for 30 minutes. He promised us that if we did that, during our mission and after it, he will never have to worry about us. In other words, we will become and remain converted to Jesus Christ and our desire will be to serve Him. I know that promise is true. As I have immersed myself in the pages of the Book of Mormon (and as I will finish it again on the last day of my mission) I have learned about the doctrine of Christ. I have learned what He has done and what He would have me to do be more like Him. I love Elder Holland’s testimony of the Book of Mormon and would LOVE for all of you to watch it:
I have been changed by the power of my Savior Jesus Christ over the course of my mission. I have so much more change to go through, but I have been grateful that He has seen fit to take me for what I was and mold me into what He would have me become. He has cut me down and cut me back in all of the ways that I needed....it has been painful, at times, to say the least, but it has been worth every single step of it because it has brought me to Him. I don't have to let go of my conversion or the experiences that I've had here...I just get to add onto them and let them continue to change me and help me grow. This is just the very beginning of my journey with my Savior. This quote by Elder Holland has been on the back of my planner for the past 6 weeks. Sweet Sister Bowles picked it out, not knowing what it would really mean to me as I have carefully prepared to look to the future and all of the wonderful things that He has in store for me and for each of us. It is when we fully understand the concept behind this quote that we will aspire to much greater and grander things than we ever realized we could have. It says:
"Faith is for the future. Faith builds on the past but never longs to stay there. Faith trusts that God has great things in store for each of us and that Christ truly is the “high priest of good things to come.”
I love you all so much. I really have been blessed with the best family and friends that anyone could ever ask for. Thank you for being so wonderful, and thank you for being mine. I love you and I can't wait to see you!!!!!!!
Love, for the last time,