As all of you know, you have been sent to the greatest mission in the world. This calling is not be chance, circumstance or happenstance; it is from God as delivered to his holy prophets. Your ability to accept, follow and fulfill your calling as a missionary is a sign of your faithfulness and a prediction of how you will behave regarding spiritual matters in the future. Having faith requires that you live a faithful life as shown by your actions, thoughts, behavior, attitudes and attributes.
Several years ago after just having received my driver’s license to operate a car, I went surfing with my brother and the two of us went by ourselves. My brother was younger than me and had a mind of his own, but being his older brother I could control his actions and behavior in most instances. After a few hours of surfing, I told my brother that it was time for us to leave as I needed to go home and prepare for my very first date with a young girl. His reply did not startle me as he remarked: “You go on without me; I want to stay and surf”. I knew that this was a ploy to get me to stay longer; however, I was really excited about my first date so I exited the water and left my brother chasing behind me. That will teach him a lesson I thought.
After returning home without my brother, my father remarked “where is your brother”? Now I was only 16 years old at the time and my gospel scholarship was still weak at best so I mustered up the best scripture that I could recall and said: “Am I my brother’s keeper”? My father without hesitation replied, “Yes you are, where is your brother”? Unimpressed by my scriptural wizardry, and knowing that asking a question would not be the appropriate response in such an occasion, I remarked: “I left him at the beach because he would not get out of the water”. I could have lied. I could have made up a story. I could have been less than truthful with my father, but it’s never been in my nature to be so. My father commanded me to return to the beach to find my brother and as Jacob said to his father Isaac: “I obeyed”. To this day my father recounts this story often to others indicating that the moral of the story is that when pressed for an answer, I told the truth. Its never been in my nature to be less than truthful, less than faithful, less than what the Lord would expect of me (and by the way, Sister Bruce is the same way if not more so).
I am very fond of the words spoken by Adam in the Pearl of Great Price (Moses 4: 6) when he has the following encounter with an Angel:
6: And after many days an angel of the Lord appeared unto Adam, saying: Why dost thou offer sacrifices unto the Lord? And Adam said unto him: I know not, save the Lord commanded me.
Oh the faithfulness of Adam! Look at the previous verse (5) where it states that “Adam was obedient unto the commandments of the Lord”. Many may think that Adam was merely being blindly obedient to the Lord and oftentimes as missionaries we feel as though we too must be blindly obedient to the words of our Mission President, Preach My Gospel, Missionary Manual, schedule, etc. in order to witness the blessings that the Lord may deliver to us. I would suggest to you that the action taken by Adam when he stated that “I know not, save the Lord commanded me” was anything but blind obedience. They had walked and talked with God in the garden, knew his voice even after their expulsion from Eden and retained in their memory a knowledge of their close association with their Heavenly Father before the Fall. They knew God, and they had chosen to obey him. Like Adam, you are gaining in testimony, gaining in gospel scholarship, gaining in relationships with people, making a difference not only in your own life, but in the lives of countless others. You may not have all of the answers but I witness to you that your obedience is anything but blind obedience. We obey because the Lord commands us to obey!
The story of Nephi sheds forth great doctrine on this principle of following obediently and how we can exercise faith in the words of prophets and leaders to receive the blessings awaiting us. In 1 Nephi 11 we have the account where Nephi desires to “know the things that my father had seen”. In verse 1 we learn many aspects of gaining a testimony. Desire, belief, pondering, and the influence of spirit. Nephi then begins his testimonial journey with the spirit as he is questioned several times over and begins to receive confirmation of his feelings on certain aspects of his testimony. The most marvelous words to me are found in verse 17 after which he is asked about the “condescension of God”. He remarks: “I do not know the meaning of all things”. The humility, power and truthfulness of these words are very powerful to me personally. I often find myself saying, “I do not know the meaning of all things” but my nature is one to have all answers, at all times, this very instant! I often hear from many of you such questions as: Why am I in this sector? Or, why did the Lord send me here? Or, why do I have the companion that I have? Or, how can I help my companion? Or, what does the Lord expect of me? Don’t be offended if I have captured one of your questions! I get all of these questions from every missionary, all the time! Nephi’s example seems to be the pattern of learning for the prophets and it is my witness that this same form of scriptural learning applies to all of us as well. We do not know the meaning of all things but like Adam we will obey even though we “know not” why!
Remember the interaction between Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon as they knelt at the window in John Johnson’s farm house whereupon they received the Vision of eternities knows as Section 76 of our Doctrine and Covenants. Sidney would say: “this is what I see” and Joseph would reply: “I see the same”. In this continuous revelation of over an hour, Joseph and Sidney received an answer to their question about eternal life which was a response to their question about John 5:29 as they translated the New Testament. Witnesses say that Joseph “wore black clothes, but at the same time seemed to be dressed in an element of glorious white, and his face shone as if it were transparent. Joseph seemed as strong as a lion, but Sidney seemed as weak as water”. The prophetic process of receiving revelation, questioning and answering, a constant search and confirmation of things eternal was the same pattern as described by Nephi.
Think of Brigham Young and his reaction to this same vision seen by Joseph and Sidney. This vision of the degrees of glory in Celestial worlds whereby the sons and daughters of God may be saved from their sins. Quite easy for us to accept but think of Brigham having grown up in a Protestant home, schooled in the tenets of Christianity and a strong belief in a simple concept of Heaven and hell as found in John 5:29. How did Brigham respond to such a vision? His response is a testimony of faithfulness, devotion, acceptance and discipleship. He said: “It was a vision contrary to my beliefs. However, I did not reject it but I could not understand it. Joseph continued to receive revelation upon revelation, ordinance upon ordinance, truth upon truth, until he obtained all that was necessary for the salvation of the human family”. What a great example of patience, wisdom, followership and obedience. And we all know what a great prophet and leader Brigham went on to become. Again the words, “I know not save the Lord commanded me” come to my mind.
Elders and Sisters, you may find a day when you don’t know why you wake up on time, why you work the hours that you do, why you are required to follow the President exactly in all of his counsel, why you are in the city you are in, why some of your investigators don’t progress, why your companion says the things that he or she may say, why you don’t feel the spirit at every moment of every day. But I promise you that as you follow the pattern of learning as shown by the prophets that the Lord, in his time, will bless you with divine power and shed forth blessings that you may not fully comprehend. My counsel today and for the past several months is to find, visit, reconvert and activate the less active members in your ward or branch. Through this activity, you will find the blessings of baptisms and bringing new souls and souls once again to the blessings of the eternal gospel. You may not yet have the same vision that I have, but that is fine! Remember the words of Adam, “I know not, save the Lord commanded me”. Let us be like Adam, Nephi, Joseph Smith, Brigham Young and all others that have faithfully followed without first knowing the final outcome of their decisions. It is not blind obedience. It is faithful obedience as shown by faithful followers of the true and living God.