When I was completing my mission I was looking forward to my departing words from my Mission President. When my Mission President arrived in the mission I had already been out a year. There were some false rumors about me, founded in actions of my companion after I left an area, spreading through the mission. Because of this, we didn’t really start off on the right foot and it was a rocky experience for the remaining 12 months.
I had heard great stories of sage counsel given to a missionary “returning with honor” and this was my moment as we sat in the airport terminal alone together. Finally boarding began. He shook my hand, looked me in the eye, and said, “Elder Kerr, don’t go inactive.” The words grate on me still today.
I am glad to report that, unlike some of the missionaries who served as AP’s and Zone Leaders, I have always kept the faith and remained a member in good standing. Recently I did an assignment for BYU-I about advice the Alma that gave to his son Shiblon at the conclusion of his mission. It was the message I wanted to hear! There were 5 points that really stood out to me in Alma Chapter 38:
1: v.11 “See that yea are not lifted up unto pride”
As evident in my comments in the previous section, this is something I struggle with. I did not have a lot of self-confidence growing up. I was overweight and didn’t have a lot of close friends. A year before my mission I made some wonderful friends at youth conference and I was motivated to lose my excess weight. As time goes on, I don’t fit in my mission suit anymore, but what remained was my self-esteem. Being proud of one’s self and taking confidence that I am a child of God is a powerful motivator in self reflection. But placing enmity between ourselves and God or others can temp us to tear down others and in addition tear down ourselves.
2: v.10 “I would that ye would be diligent and temperate in all things”
Although my pre-mission weight had returned, it has not done much damage to my self-esteem. As I reflect on my self though, I see it as a sign that I do not have excellent self-mastery. My practicum last term was on Proactively Living the Word of Wisdom. As I have exercised portion control and engaged in fitness activities I have not only slimmed down, but I have seen the control my physical desires can have on my spirit. It has not been easy, and I have tripped, but I am continuing to get up and try again.
3: v.15 “Teach the word unto this people”
What an interesting piece of advice to give at the conclusion of Shiblon’s mission. As I reflect though, I cannot say that I have been directly involved in bringing another person into the church since my mission. I spend two years becoming a master missionary with the hopes of converting all my family and friends back home. Sadly as life happened, missionary work has gone by the wayside. With my current calling of Ward Missionary, the work has been more pressing upon my mind. I have always been willing to talk about my faith and content to be the sower of spiritual seeds. But now I want to be the harvester. What that means is that I need to see my crops though. I cannot simply plant seeds then show up and the time of harvest expecting a bounteous crop. As in Alma 32:37 I must continually “nourish it with much care.” As I love those I share the Gospel with and bring them into my life I can walk with them down the road to conversion.
Today I was speaking to a mother who lost her 4 year old daughter 12 years ago. We were at a commemoration event of her death. As I spoke to the mother, who was a protestant, I compared the event as a physical representation of the faith that we have they Brittany lives on, and that we will see her again, that “little children are alive in Christ.” (Moroni 8:22) I felt the Spirit testify to me that these things were true and she shared that same belief. It would not be wholly appropriate and extremely cruel in the setting to then jump in and say, “but she won’t be your daughter anymore unless you get sealed in the temple!” But I hope through our continued interaction an appropriate opportunity to talk about the blessings of temples might present itself.
5: v.14 “Remember my brethren in mercy”
I have noticed our family prayers becoming a bit wrote. Even my 3 year old began every prayer with “Dear Heavenly Father, we thank thee for this day.” In an effort to make sure our prayers were heartfelt and thought out we have started to pray for each member of the family by name and ask God to bless them with something we noticed they might need in our interactions and observances that day. Although our 3 year old is stubborn and won’t accept much correction in prayer, even he has observed and adopted this tradition and even made some meaningful observations of the needs of his older brothers. We should have the same love and concern for all those around us, that same way we did for our areas when on a mission.
I may not have gotten the send off I was hoping for when departing Oklahoma for home, but with the blessings of the scriptures and inspired leadership I can get the direction I need to be happy and an effective disciple of Christ.
What advise did your Mission President give you? Was there anything from Alma 38 that has meaning to you?