Santa Fe, Argentina 1992
I was twenty years old. I had been a church-goer with my family most of my life. My mom was baptized in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints when I was three years old. My dad's activity soon followed. I had experienced many positive influences through church attendance: gospel teachings, a supportive church family and opportunities for some service. At this time in fact, I was "serving" as the secretary in a youth group (12-18 year old girls). It was standards night and the book "For the Strength of Youth" had just been released and we were presenting it to the youth for the first time.
As I listened to this meeting I had a clear realization that church activity had been a strong part of my life and upbringing...yet the gospel of Jesus Christ seemed weak. Did I have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ? As I sat in the large room with many friends around me I made a determination- I wanted the gospel of Jesus Christ to sink deep into my soul. I wanted to know for myself. I wanted to attend to my meetings and service because I loved my Savior- not because it is what my family did. I decided that night that I would read the Book of Mormon every day. This is a book of scripture that I had studied every four years in seminary and Sunday school but I had never read it seriously and sincerely for myself. I started that night.
The words and the stories within the book were familiar, I had heard most of them many times, but something was happening to my heart. I felt it softening. As I read one night I was so overcome with grattitude. This feeling had never happened to me before. I felt such joy and I was humbled by it. What did I do to deserve to have this in my life? I wanted to share. I knelt by my bed to thank my Father in Heaven. I felt so grateful to know this peace and feel this gospel. The next thought and words that came to my mind surprised me---"If you want me to go- I will serve."
Had I really just said that? Friends and church members had asked me many times if I had plans to serve a mission. My answer was always "no." And a quick "no" at that. I didn't have any interest in being called away from those I love for 18 months to an unknown location, I could have been sent anywhere. That next day I thought about that prayer I offered at the side of my bed all day long. How would I know if He wanted me to go??? As I returned home that evening from work I saw a letter that I had received in the mail that day. My friend had written from his mission in Argentina. (A country I would be called to.) As he completed the letter he wrote something like this:
Carin, I strongly feel that you should serve a mission. It has blessed my life and strengthened my testimony like I can't describe in words....
As I read his words a strong feeling overtook me. I knew it wasn't my friends words...but a calling to serve. I knew my answer. I walked down the hallway to my parent's room and told them the news- I was going on a mission.
As I listened to Elder Holland's message he gave last Sunday in General Conference this experience, from twenty years ago, came flooding back to me. He shared the apostles experience found in the New Testament when Jesus returned after his resurrection. Peter and several apostles returned to fishing. Jesus needed them to be His disciples...Lovest thou me? Lovest thou me? Lovest thou me?
Where is my heart today?
I am busy, active and participating in church service---but where is my heart?
Is it focused on serving others?
Have I let go of pride?
Is it focused on Him?
"To all within the sound of my voice, the voice of Christ comes ringing down through the halls of time, asking each one of us while there is time, 'Do you love me?' And for every one of us, I answer with my honor and my soul, 'Yea, Lord, we do love thee.' And having set our 'hand to the plough,' we will never look back until this work is finished and love of God and neighbor rules the world." Elder Holland
I am left, after listening to these beautiful words, with a desire to do better...so much better...not only in deed...but instead in my heart.