While I was having a conversation with my dear friend, Eva, last week, she mentioned that the things we were talking about would make a good blog post -- so this one's for you, Eva. Thank you for your friendship and love. You are a great example to me!
I've been doing some reflecting lately. Don and I both agree that we've learned a lot during the past (almost) two years while we've been serving missions. Even though I still have a lot of rough edges that could be smoothed, I've been shaped and sanded as I've served. Lately, I've come to realize that there are three important qualities that bring great joy into the lives of those who possess them. I want to have them! I've been working on them. Through the example of wonderful young people around me, I've seen the blessings that come to someone who acquires one or all of these attributes. They are worth every effort to obtain.
The first quality is unconditional love. It's a quality that I've learned more about than ever before from Edward, the young man in his mid-20's who lives next door to us in The Lodge. He works as a gardener on the temple grounds. Edward is a person without guile and without judgment. He just loves everybody. If you happen to find Edward around the temple somewhere and he isn't down on the ground with his hands in the dirt, you will probably find him giving someone a hug. Well, not just a hug, but a big, genuine bear hug! Edward doesn't care whether you're young or old, where you come from, what you've done with your life, or where you are going. If he knows you, he will just love and accept you the way that you are -- and he'll tell you what a good person you are. We all need to hear that once in awhile, don't we? When Edward is around, we hear it often. Edward makes me think of our Savior, Jesus Christ, who loves us more than anyone else could and accepts us no matter what. If I was in His presence and felt the kind of love and acceptance Edward gives, I would know I was in a safe place. It has been said that love is the only force that can erase differences between people. Since meeting Edward, I understand that more than ever before. We tend to get so caught up in our expectations of each other. The world needs more Edwards. I'd like to be one.
Another quality that brings great blessings is respect. I've learned a lot about respect from Jason. Jason is a young man (also in his mid-20's) who just left here a few weeks ago to serve a mission. I think I've mentioned him before. He met a couple of our Visitor Centre sister missionaries one evening about a year and a half ago when he opened his front door. In despair, he had been praying for God to help him, but he was too drunk to listen to what the sisters had to say. They made an appointment to come back a couple of days later. They began to teach him. Though he looked pretty rough with spiked hair, tattoos, and too many earrings to count, the sisters were wise enough to treat him with respect and look on the inside instead of judging his exterior. It was a long road (with zig-zags) from where he was then to where he is now. We saw it with our own eyes. It was exciting to watch! He often came to talk to Sister Casasola and Sister Burrows at the Visitors' Centre and to be taught there. They treated Jason with respect when it would have been easy to do otherwise. They patiently helped him learn that there is more to life than just living in the moment and there is a better, happier way to live. One of the most touching moments of my mission was watching Jason and Sam (another recent convert preparing to go on a mission) come to the Visitors' Centre just before Sister Casasola and Sister Burrows left to return home. It had been several months since Jason was baptized by then. Together, Jason and Sam gave a missionary lesson about the gospel of Jesus Christ to the two sisters who had taught them. Both young men are now serving in different parts of the world. Both young men have new respect for themselves because two young sister missionaries respected them enough to see their potential. There's a powerful message there for all of us.
The third quality I admire is obedience. Nowhere have I seen the blessings of being obedient more than in the life of Sister Cardona. Sister Cardona has not always had an easy life. When she was only a few years old, her mother died and her grieving father left her in the care of others. She was mostly raised by her grandparents, but as a teenager, when she decided to join the Church, it became evident to her that continuing to live with her grandparents was not going to be an option. A young family with three children took her in and made her a part of their large, extended family. One of the things she learned from their example was that obedience to the will of God blesses our lives. She might have had lots of reasons to feel sorry for herself or complain, but instead, Sister Cardona has learned to rely on God and find her strength in Him. She has been one of several sister missionaries we've known who practices exact obedience to God's commandments. She has also been exactly obedient to the mission rules. We have seen the power that decision has brought into her life. She doesn't have to make a new decision every morning about what time to get out of bed. If the missionary handbook says 6:30, then she's up at 6:30. If she is asked to do something, she does it 100%.
One of the things we have observed on our mission is that those missionaries -- Visitors' Centre sisters, senior couples, and elders -- who obey true principles, follow mission rules, and accept the counsel of Church leaders and their mission president are happier, more optimistic, better adjusted, and more successful than those who don't.
Obedience is the great law of missionary work. It is also the great law of life. No wonder it is called the first law of heaven. Everything is based upon obedience to law, and proper obedience comes from love, faith, and trust in God. For this transfer period, we've had our missionaries memorize the following scripture:
There is a law, irrevocably decreed in heaven before the
foundations of this world, upon which all blessings are
predicated -- and when we obtain any blessing from God,
it is by obedience to that law upon which it is predicated.
Blessings come to us from obeying the laws upon which they are based. President Ezra Taft Benson said it best: "When obedience ceases to become an irritant and becomes a quest, you will be endowed from power from on high." That's not just true for missionaries, it's true for all of us. When we learn to embrace God's commandments as communication from a loving Father rather than thorns in our own selfish path, great blessings come.
Well, there you have it. Three qualities that I have watched bring great power and blessings into the lives of those who choose to live them. I am working on developing them because I can see their importance. What are the qualities you admire most? ~Pat~