Exchanges happened. I'm now with Elder Aaron Bigelow from Blackfoot Idaho. My suspicions from last week were correct, so yes, he is the missionary I described who got hit by a car and was out of the mission for 10 months (instead of the 9 I mentioned).
So let's get this elephant out of the room. Conference. Missionaries may now come out at younger ages. That's awesome, and I can't wait for this new wave to come through. I can see both pros and cons to the situation, but more pros. Great conference, though. You can imagine what one of my favorites was: "ASK THE MISSIONARIES!"
As I write, I look back on the past couple of weeks, and notice a miracle has taken place. Elder Mortensen and I were going through the branch roster two weekends ago. There was a name I didn't recognize. We went to visit this man, he opened the door, we introduced ourselves and asked if we could come by and visiti him and get to know him some time. He told us that he had only sat through Sacrament meetings, but that he was still coming pretty often. I felt pretty bad about not knowing him, but nonetheless, he allowed us to come back and see him the next week.
So fast forward to this last Thursday. We met with him, got to know his situation and his career. He had lived a very good gospel-oreinted life until a divorce and some bad decisions. He really opened up to us, desperately seeking a spiritual light in his life to guide him back to church. That's honestly the first time I had seen something like that.
This man who had once had the gospel in his life cast it aside for a time -- that's pretty common. But this sudden realization that something that was once there is missing, and wanting it back, that was a tender moment for me. There's no doubt in my mind this man is sincere about his decision to make his life better and receive the full blessings of the gospel. He's been wandering back to the path alone for too long, so God had us step in to finally take his hands and show him the way.
Another wonderful part of this relationship is that the man has found many friends outside of the church that he shares the gospel with. We left him with a Book of Mormon last night that he can place at work. He loves this church, knows it's true, and isn't afraid to let others know. We're excited fror him.
Well, this week I hit ONE YEAR since I became a missionary. I could write pages and pages of what I've learned and how I've changed and all those good things here, but I will save them for my journal.
All I want you to know is that I am not the same I was before. I'm spiritually stronger. More spiritually intelligent. More spiritually-aware. In all, my spirit, which only lived inside my body before, now commands my body, and I have a desire to strengthen it and keep it lively always. That is the biggest change I've seen in myself this past year. Not only that but I know how I can receive knowledge from God. Many hidden and obscure truths have come to light as I've climbed over trials and tribulations, and my understanding of the Atonement has increased in depth and love.
My favorite one-liner from conference came from Elder Holland: "The crowning characterisitc of Love is Loyalty." That's something we can all apply, not only to God, but to the people around us; including ourselves. I'm reminded of the scripture in the Doctrine and Covenants that says that your joy will be full if you bring one soul to Christ. I find joy in bringing my own soul to Him. As for more souls, which will only bring more joy -- I'm working to find and teach them.
I'll end with a quote I got from Elder Levi Stannard. He said something to the affect of, "Share what you know, and eventually others will know that you know it!" His play on words and other things was more fantastic, but you get the idea. I know this gospel, this church, this priesthood and the Book of Mormon are true, otherwise I wouldn't have the incredible friends and family I have today. I love ya guys. Thanks for all the letters, packages, prayers and pumpkin bread. :3