I never used to read the book of Mormon much, I had seen miracles in my life, things that most people don't see, yet I never really paid attention. I went to church every Sunday when I was in town, however I spent the majority of the time on my cellphone or wandering the halls looking for people to talk to. I heard the names Nephi, Mosiah and Alma however I never really knew the stories behind every name, just vague outlines. Nephi built a boat and had two bad brothers, the brother of Jared had a huge name and Alma wrote the biggest book in the Book of Mormon. Through many previous experiences and miracles in my life, I was stubborn. It wasn’t until I had nowhere else to turn where I finally changed my ways and started to give heed to the most important things.
At 16 years old I tore my ACL while ski racing one year, after dealing with all the difficulties with the recovery I was still so stubborn when I went to church. In a wheel-chair I still managed my way into the halls to chat or to distract myself. I had not changed. Then one day I realized I had a hard time swallowing, my next trial was about to start. I was diagnosed with a rare disease called Achalasia, which entails the degeneration of all the nerves of the Esophagus prohibiting or limiting the food from entering the stomach at all. For the next year I fought now both my recovery and the development of the disease, yet, I still remained firm in my stubbornness. As I felt abandoned by God, although through the entire process I still refused to pick up my scriptures or pray with real intent. I started to feel rebellious, "how could God do this to me" I would think.
I had always been so active, however little by little my own strength began to fail me, I knew what I needed to do, though I was now caught in my own pride. I thought that I could figure this out on my own, that I hadn't reached pit-bottom yet, I didn't need Him to help me yet I wasn’t "so far gone". I knew what would help me but like how the snake bitten Israelites refused to look upon the golden asp to heal themselves, I could not bring myself to open my scriptures to look for solutions nor find my knees to ask for help.
More time passed, and one day I had stayed in bed due to the how malnourished I had become, even the easiest things like getting up and down were hard. I heard my parents talking about how they wanted to take me to a hospital so that I could receive an IV drip for nutrients. In that moment I realized that my life would amount to nothing if I could not find a way out of my situation. I was 17 years old and to live hooked up to an IV without energy to really even get out of bed is not the way I wanted to live my life. It was in that moment I remembered feeling completely alone, with nowhere to turn. It that moment I remembered something I had done one day in the primary when our teacher had taught us about the Holy Ghost. She had wrapped every one of us up in a blanket and asked us how we felt. She told us that that Holy Ghost does the same in our lives; it makes us feel like everything is alright. Such a simple lesson from the primary more than 10 years before is what brought me, a stubborn, rebellious 17 year old with no other choice to my knees. At that moment all I wanted to feel was the comfort to know that everything would be all right, I was scared. As I began to pray, one of the first prayers with real intent I had ever made, I felt exactly what I was looking for. I knew that my Heavenly Father loved me and that he is always there for me, but I had turned away from him. I told my Heavenly Father I would do anything he asked me to do if he would just give me my life back. I knew it would be alright.
1 week later I found myself in a distinguished surgeons office who told me he could possibly help me with a surgery, the effects of which would be irreversible, however I knew the Lord had put me there. I got the surgery that ultimately saved my life. Everything in my life took a 180 degree spin in a matter of days all because I had finally reached the corner, there had been nowhere else to turn, so I turned to my Heavenly Father. I started to read my scriptures, to take notes in church, learning on a spiritual depth that I had never permitted myself to do before. Two weeks later our stake president asked my Mom if she would like some tickets to General Conference, something told us yes. Only two weeks out of evasive surgery we strapped me in the car with a pillow on my stomach and made the 12 hour drive from Oregon to Salt Lake. We didn’t have tickets for all the sessions only for one. It was the first time in my life I had gone to General Conference and coincidentally we went to the Saturday morning session of General Conference in October 2012. When I sat down in my seat I began to think about how much I had changed in a matter of 2 weeks how much my heart had changed, when President Thomas S. Monson made one of the most memorable announcements, that young men could now leave on a mission at 18 years old and young women at 19 years old. In that moment I knew exactly what the Lord wanted me to do, why everything had occurred so perfectly since I had brought myself to my knees. I always had thought that I would never serve a mission that, I wasn't the type, but in that moment I knew that I was called to serve. Over the next few months I prepared myself to be the best missionary I could while finishing my senior year of high school. Many told me that I was too young, that I didn't know enough, that I need to prepare myself more, that I would lose 2 valuable years of my life. However all I knew is that the Lord had called me serve. 10 days after I graduated I left for the mission, although my family wasn't all on board I knew the Lord would prepare not only the hearts of those I would serve while I was gone but my own family as well.
6 months into my mission and I understood exactly why everything had happened, that my Heavenly Father had a purpose to absolutely everything in my life. My mission president called me one Sunday morning and told me that he was sorry to tell me but my father had passed away the day before in a cycling accident. I didn't understand, as I sank to the ground I began to think, "why? After so much, why? Have I not shown that I am changed that I am doing all that I can to build the Lords kingdom? God how can you do this to me!?" I immediately recognized these thoughts from before in my life, the stubborn young boy had changed, I kneeled and asked for forgiveness, when a scripture came to my mind in the book of Ether chapter 6. When the Jaredites had made their boats to cross the sea as God commanded, it is recorded that "God caused that there should be a furious wind blow upon the face of the water" and that they "were many times buried in the depths of the sea, because of the mountain waves which broke upon them, and also the great and terrible tempests which were cause by the fierceness of the wind." They were in the service of their God yet they faced so many problems, the reason why is found in verse 8: "the wind did never cease to blow towards the promised land while they were upon the waters."
In that moment I knew and understood that God had a purpose for me all along. Before I wasn’t where he needed me to be, so he had blown me ever closer to where I needed to be spiritually in order to support my family in that time. I know the decision I made to stay on the mission has strengthened both myself and my family, including my father as I know he is conscious of my choices here. When I get back from the mission we will be sealed in the temple so that my family can be together forever. Had I never been on the mission I would have not made it through with such a weak testimony or little understanding of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ. There will be trials, at times it will be difficult but as long as we look to the Lord he will push us to success. We will not be judged on the difficulty of our trials, but our ability to handle them. We cannot afford to "sleep" in these latter days or we will never support the winds that will drive us to our Heavenly Father. I know my Savior lives, I know that God listens to our prayers and always has a plan for us. He wants us to return to him. I know that families can be together forever. I know that Thomas S. Monson is a prophet of God. This is the church of Jesus Christ and we are the saints of these latter days. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.