The world persuades us to look from the inside, out through self-centered mentalities in hope of finding the “true you”. The gospel teaches us to look from the outside, in through selfless service and loving others. We then are given the promise from the savior himself, “he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it”. For this reason I am convinced there in no university, camp, academy, retreat or program that exposes ones capacity to learn like serving a faithful 2 year mission.
With that being said, lately I have struggled to come to the realization of reality. Sometimes as I look back at what I was and what I’ve become, I stop and think to myself, “wait, did that really just happen?!”. Trust me, never did I imagine myself reaching such heights! Neither was it even in my plans to serve a mission. However I now know that it was thanks to those thoughtful prayers from many loved ones that had God anxiously waiting for me to knock.
Even though two and a half years may have flown by since that door was swung open, those series of events that changed my life have yet to diminish. I vividly remember that unexplainable feeling I had as I witnessed a close friend get baptized and listened to his remarkable testimony after. I remember the day after kneeling down by my bedside and for the first time voluntarily offering a prayer. In that moment I gave thanks and asked a simple and sincere request, “father in heaven, whatever that was, please help me to feel it more often.”
That same day as I often did while bored, I started cleaning and reorganizing the house. As I shifted through the clothing in my drawers, at the bottom laid a piece of paper that caught my eye for some reason. I reached down to grab it and it turned out to be an ancient bookmark from 1998. On the back it reads:
“Jacob, I know you can’t read this but I know someday you will be able to. When you do PLEASE REMEMBER to go on a mission and serve heavenly father. A mission is the most valuable time you can have in your life. I love you! Andy, Merry Christmas! Dec. 1998”
To this day I still cherish that decaying bookmark my uncle dedicated to me while he was in the mission. As I had read that note, the spirit once again struck me. I mean come on, if that’s not an answer to my praper I don’t know what is. Sadly for stubborn 19 year old Jacob it wasn’t sufficient enough. I began to second guess myself with doubt. “How could I possibly go on a mission? I know nothing!” I was like alma the younger. My parents were active members in the church but I kept my distance from that “stereotype” of seminary, mutual, boy scouts or church. I would only show up for church basketball haha.
One night while sitting down at the kitchen table, out of the corner of my eye something on the bookshelf caught my attention (those that know me, well know that I hate books!). So I curiously walked over and grabbed this foreign object. Well you guys probably already know where this story ends… It turned out to be a Book of Mormon. Although, I had no idea how to work the thing so I just randomly opened up and started reading. This time the answer had came with priority overnight shipping with a bow on top. As I read along it wasn’t too long before my prayer was finalized. In 1 Nephi 3:7 it reads,
“And it came to pass that I, Nephi, said unto my father: I will go and do the things which the Lord hath commanded, for I know that the Lord giveth no commandments unto the children of men, Save he shall prepare a way for them that they may accomplish the thing which he commandeth them.”
The average mormon knows this scripture like the back of their hand. But for me in that moment, it was EXACTLY what I needed. It gave me the reassurance that if I would decide to serve a mission, the Lord himself would prepare me a way. After being practically K.O’d by the spirit not once or twice but three times, I came to the conclusion that this wasn’t a coincidence. I went to my mom and told her, “mm I think I want to go on a mission”. She gave me this confused look and said, “well first you’ve gotta go to church and talk with the bishop.”
That following Sunday I rushed to find this bishop I had never met before to explain to him my experience. After church in my interview with me, he too was startled when I broke the news. Weeks later my papers were sent off to salt lake and before I knew it I was opening my mission call. It was like Taylor Swift winning a Grammy Award when people found out the news that I was going on a mission. Jacob?! Missionary?! Wuuuuh?
To prepare myself, every now and then I would hang out with the missionaries from our ward. Sometimes they’d come over Sunday nights to play poker, or I’d take them to the gym with me in the morning or on rare occasions I’d go out with them to teach. I remember when I’d go to pick them up, we’d pull up to the appointments with our windows down blasting rap music. So I went out on the mission with these unrealistic expectations and vacation mentality. Little did I know that I was in for a rude awakening.
When I got to the CCM (missionary training center) in Peru, one of the first things I was handed was a tiny booklet with over 80 pages of rules as a missionary and then a Preach My Gospel manual to study. As I began to study it through the course of a few months, slowly but surely, the puzzle pieces started to come together. As my compression expanded, it was like the dials on a pad lock rotating into place. Line upon line, precept upon precept was I converted. (for example I had thought Joseph Smith had written the Book of Mormon, or that God and Jesus Christ were the same person etc.)
Throughout this adventure my first companion had a huge impact on me. His name was Elder Meik, a beach bum from Cali (haha). This dude was just a straight machine! Super chill, smart, hard worker and spoke Spanish perfectly. We got along great and he helped me a ton by setting the bar high. I wanted to be that type of missionary.
As the days went by (some a lot slower than others), as the 21 companions came and went, ward by ward, little by little was I able to learn a little there and a little here. I worked hard and tried to take other’s advice. It was extremely difficult at times but more than anything was I blessed and converted by such great examples around me. Not to forget to mention my excellent Mission President who had a huge role in all of this because he refused to let me me give up on myself.
Words can’t describe how soooo extremely grateful I am for these two years I’ve had to serve my father in heaven; To have been taught things I could have only learned here in the mission, To have met so many amazing people I’ll never forget, To have healed families with personal experiences and changed the lives many, To have made others smile by just being me. To have experienced different cultures and delicious food and more than anything the testimony I’ve obtained.
I now know that coincidences don’t exist, because everything in this life is part of this perfect plan our father in heaven has prepared for each and everyone of us. I now truly know the importance of repentance. It’s not some physiological philosophy. I KNOW Jesus Christ suffered for me and you. Also even though I hate reading, I know the Book of Mormon is true. For this reason I too know that Joseph Smith restored the church, that Thomas S. Monson is a Prophet called of God and that this is the TRUE church of Jesus Christ. All of this I know to be true and much more, because I’ve asked in sincere prayer. I know I’m not perfect and that I still have muuuuuch to learn, but that’s the beauty of this life; only you can control your destiny!
p.s it’ll be a loooong flight back home, but I’ll see you guys soon 🙂