This blog chronicles Matthew Staib's progress as he serves an LDS mission over the course of twenty-four months.

You can also read his personal blog at different, defined.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

In the End

(Typed up from a recording taken from the meeting. A rendition of "O My Father" had just been sung, and Ryan Woodfield, a soon-to-be Elder, just spoke before me.)

Thanks so much for that beautiful song. Ryan, it was missionaries like you that I looked up to as I served. I have also been asked to speak on serving Christ.

So, I was called to serve in the Arkansas Little Rock mission. When I got my call, I didn't know where that was. Just thought middle of nowhere – I had been to Kansas the previous spring and I thought it looked exactly like that: flat and barren. But I'm glad that I was wrong. It's such a beautiful place. There's so many trees; so many creeks and rivers. It's just a beautiful habitation. We kinda pass a joke around in Arkansas that the state bird is the mosquito, and I can't tell you how many churches there are in Arkansas because in one little town, West Memphis, Arkansas – population was a little over 20,000 people – there was about 55 churches. So it was quite the experience going from door to door, talking to each person about their beliefs. About what they knew about Jesus Christ. And for us to share the Book of Mormon and help them come closer in their faith to Jesus Christ.

Service has been something that many of our leaders, particularly our prophet, have spoken about recently. And I think it's very important that we get on this bandwagon, that we ride this wave of service for our fellow brothers and sisters. There are many ways that we can serve others, but the three ways I would like to talk about today are to serve the people that we teach (or serve our friends), to serve our companions and to serve Christ. Now I'm gonna be speaking in missionary terms today, but just know that when I talk about our investigators, or missionaries' investigators, that applies to the friends we know in our daily lives; that the companions that we have on a mission can be compared to the companions that we have in life: both our personal friends or our spouses; and then, of course, we serve Christ who is the ultimate source of love and of mercy.

So I had several opportunities to serve people through physical means. I prepared a short list. So I've up barbed wire fencing, filled potholes with asphalt, moved people out of roach-infested apartments, ran electrical wire, fixed dry wall, volunteered at food pantries, installed whiteboards for a college, helped with gardening, put up chicken wire to keep squirrels from getting into things, cleared a Boy Scout woodland trail, redirected traffic, given countless Priesthood blessings, visited nursing homes, helped others overcome drug addictions, and mowed lawns; and those are just a fraction of the things I was able to do to serve others on my mission. I bet anyone that looks at my resumĂ© is gonna be really excited.

Particularly as an Elder, I had been called to serve under my Priesthood authority. To prepare to serve my mission I was given the Melchizedek Priesthood, and I was able to give my first blessing on my mission as well as many other blessings. I would just like to share one particular blessing I was able to give that will stay with me forever.

We were friends with a recent convert family that had been baptized by the sisters in Jonesboro, Arkansas. This recent convert family was so steadfast in the gospel. They loved every minute of it. Sis. White, a member of the family, she had a friend named Tamara. Tamara was pregnant with twins. One twin was receiving a lot more blood flow than the other one was, and the twin that wasn't receiving that much blood flow – his kidneys were actually shrinking. I didn't know much about the circumstance before I entered into the White's home, but I was called into the room and they asked my companion and I to give a blessing. Tamara asked me to give that blessing. In the blessing – I remember this because Tamara said that a friend had told her the same exact thing before – but I told her to have faith in Christ. Exercise her faith, and that it is through her faith that all things were possible. 

Two days later, she had to go down to Texas to have a blood transfusion for the twins while they were still in her womb.I'm no doctor, but that sounds like an extremely difficult operation and it doesn't sound like there are too many successes. Before the procedure, they had a scan done, and they discovered that not only had the twins been recovering, but that the symptoms of the disease had completely reversed themselves. These twins were healing. I was given pictures of the twins just yesterday, and they're happy and healthy. They are growing as if nothing had happened. That was one of the great miracles I had seen on my mission as I exercised Priesthood authority that was only given to me through Heavenly Father's grace and mercy. That might not be God's will each time, but it was definitely his will at this time to strengthen Tamara's faith and mine.

As a missionary you are under certain obligations that you're not under in real life, such as being with your companion 24/7. That can be very difficult. I was just telling my uncle this morning that it's different to sleep alone when you're not worrying about shuffling through your bed and waking your companion and getting him all stirred up so you don't have the Spirit for the next day so you can't proselyte as effectively. It's a very different lifestyle but there's a reason why we have companions as missionaries. One of the great ways we can serve is to our companion. I've had many wonderful opportunities to serve my companion and I'm grateful that my companions were able to serve me and help me.

Ether 12:27 says, “And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them.” My weaknesses were made strong through my companions. I'm not the best finder. I'm not the best door-knocker. But I'm grateful that I had companions that were; that encouraged me to go out and to do that for myself.

But there was one particular time where I had to help out my companion. I was in process of sending him home, basically. He was in his last two transfers of his mission, and he was in an unusual circumstance because he had been driven out to his mission. I guess the church was having some interesting experiment where they would send missionaries directly out to the mission. He was from Texas; he got to get dropped off by his parents. They drove him to the mission home in Arkansas. He hadn't been on a plane since he was six years old. As he was preparing to go home he was freaking out. He just kept asking me, "How's it like on a plane? What do I have to do to get there? I'm just so scared that it's gonna blow up!" I just kept saying, "Elder, there's less percentage chance for you to crash on a plane than there is to crash in a car. It's ok!"I'm glad that I was there to help him; not to necessarily help him overcome his fear, but to be a temporary comfort to him. Especially just flying from Little Rock to Dallas, it's a little over an hour, so it really wasn't too much for me, because I had taken several plane flights in my time; but I'm glad that I was there to be his companion.

Now, as we serve Christ, I believe that the story we quote most often from Gordon B. Hinckley is very important for missionary work and for our own lives as we strive to serve Christ and serve others. As we know, Gordon B. Hinckley, when he was first out in his mission in England, he was very depressed and distraught because he wasn't seeing much success at all. He wrote a letter to his dad, and his dad replied back and said, "I got your letter. All I have to say is this: Forget yourself and go to work." As I served as a missionary, I was stressed multiple times about things that were going on in my personal life. But I found as I entered into somebody's home, and taught them the gospel, I was able to feel the Spirit and it was there as a comfort. It helped me know that what I was doing right then at that moment was right.

I had many more wonderful opportunities to serve and help people increase their faith in Jesus Christ by simply being there, inviting them to make decisions and to listen to them. As I listened to them I know that Christ was right there, listening to them as well. The Spirit was there to comfort the person as they were telling me what they wanted us as representatives of Jesus Christ to know.

One particular instance was my first area. I was only three weeks out. This was my second time meeting this young man named Blake. He was getting married to a young woman that was a member, and she was off to school. He was living with his soon-to-be parents-in-law. He had been reading the Book of Mormon; he had been studying; he'd been coming to church. His fiancĂ©e was doing a good job of staying out of the picture, so it was very much a personal conversion for him. I just remember my second visit with him, we sat down and we said, "Ok, Blake. How has your scripture study been going?" He said, "Yeah, it's been going good." "We've seen you at church, so it's good to see you there." Then I felt prompted to ask him how his prayers had been coming. He said, "I haven't been praying much." That's really, as Moroni 10:3-5 says, how we're going to get an answer – by praying; by asking God if these things are not true. And I told him that. I asked him, "Would it be alright if we knelt down right now and we asked Heavenly Father if these things were true?" He gave such a fantastic answer. He said, "It wouldn't hurt." So we all knelt down and we offered up that prayer. That was the first time in my life – well, I'll say on my mission – where I felt the confirming Spirit, not just for myself but for somebody else; helping them to know that this is true. And I knew it was there, so during his prayer, I said a personal prayer myself, saying, Please let him understand that this is the Spirit trying to confirm to him that these things are true. We just sat there after he finished his prayer. We were kneeling there for a couple seconds. Then I finally asked him, "How do you feel?"He said, "I feel like this is right." So we extended the invitation to baptism, and he was baptized three weeks after that moment on December 10th.

December 10th of the following year, he and his wife were able to go through the temple. I called him before he went into the temple. I said, "How do you feel?" "Oh, I'm really nervous. I don't know what to expect, but I'm so grateful for this church and for the many blessings it had given me." 

Blake, to me was a big testimony that the Spirit is what converts us. The best place we can find the power of the confirming Spirit is through the Book of Mormon. The South is a battleground. Everybody is fighting over the Bible, and it's very interesting to see that. You go from house to house and people start bashing you, asking you what you believe about this or this doctrine and saying that's not right because their Bible of a different translation, or what have you, says something else, or how their pastor said something else. So when they start reading the Book of Mormon, they feel something and see something that they have never felt before. It's really the Book of Mormon that, as we focus on it, we can feel the power of the Holy Ghost and the converting power that Jesus truly is our Savior and our Redeemer, and that Heavenly Father has revealed his gospel in these last days.

I want to end by bearing my testimony that I love the Book of Mormon. That I know that it is truly plain and precious scripture for us to understand in these last days, in a time of confusion. We were teaching somebody in my last area, and he said, "I just feel like they're scriptures based off the newspaper. Like it's news for our day telling us how to go through all these bad times." How many times did Moroni say, I know that there will be wickedness in the last days, so these things are for you? That is exactly what the Book of Mormon is. And how much more of a blessing is it that we have modern day prophets and apostles to help us guide us through these last days? That they know exactly how to conquer cigarettes, pornography – all these things that they didn't have back then.

I know that Jesus Christ is my Savior and Redeemer because he knows exactly what I have gone through in these last two years of my life, and has supported me and helped me in conquering my personal challenges as well as the challenges of those that I've taught and loved. I know that Joseph Smith truly saw God the Father and Jesus Christ, and that it was through that revelation that this building, these scriptures that we have today, our modern-day prophets and apostles are here today, and that we can learn and feel of God's Spirit.

I'm so grateful for my family. For the love that they showed me. And for my wonderful friends; for the continuous support they've given me. I hope that I can continue to build my life on this foundation that I have gained these past two years; that these miracles and revelations I have gained will never leave me and will always stay within my heart. It's very challenging to see someone who has served a mission, or who has gone through similar miraculous experiences, that don't attend church anymore. You wonder what happened, but you can't judge them because there are different experiences for each person. I'll admit; there was a time on my mission where I wanted to come home. Things were just too hard. 

There was a man that told me, "You're just another Utah Mormon boy coming out here thinking you can tell us what to do." But I testify that it's through my upbringing in this church that I had the strength to go on a mission like I did. I learned early on my mission that being born in the gospel is the single greatest blessing Heavenly Father can give us in this life. Never let anybody put down your heritage.

I'm so grateful for the Holy Ghost and its power in my life and its comfort.

I share these things in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

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