NOTE FROM AUTHOR: Joining our “Lose Ten Pounds in Ten Days and Get Paid $10” Challenge has been extended to accommodate an overwhelming response for product and getting started needs. There are over 75 Meridian friends participating!
You can still join through tomorrow, Tuesday, March 11 and complete the 10 weeks before Memorial Day! CLICK HERE FOR DETAILS.
Two long years of waiting are over for our own family as we welcomed home our son Cooper from the Santa Maria Brazil Mission last week. The waiting is also nearly over for the thousands of David Archuleta fans all over the world as he returns from Chile the first of April. (Our son Cooper sang in the MTC choir with David Archuleta at General Conference in the Spring of 2012, You can read the interesting article I wrote about it for MERIDIAN.
Is there any way to describe the two years of a mission for our young elders and sisters, most of whom are very young and famous only in their own families?
In many ways this intense 18 to 24 month experience is very symbolic of earth life itself. Like courageously leaving our heavenly parents and beautiful pre-mortal home at birth for a period of testing and growth that will determine our eternal outcome, our young missionaries have faithfully chosen once again to physically separate themselves from all they know and hold dear to serve the Lord full-time for two years. This time of personal testing, trial, endurance and growth usually sets the tone and course for the rest of their earthly lives, even as our time on earth determines the course of our eternal lives.
The anticipation and love for everyone who waits is undeniable. While David Archuleta will be arriving to literally thousands of fans, our missionary, as most, returned simply to his family.
While family, friends, former companions, mission presidents, investigators and converts will have their opinions and observations about those two years and the missionary, when all is said and done, those two years belong simply to the Lord and that missionary, even as the last judgment bar for each of us will be between us and the Lord.
As we walked to the car with our newly returned, exhausted but thrilled and shining son, I heard him quietly repeat out loud to himself again and again, “I did it! I did it! I did it!” I quietly marveled all the way home at how he had grown and mature. As we drove up to our home, I was stunned to see the words that our daughter-in-law had painted on our front door: “Returned with Honor.” Yes. “Returned” as a past tense
He has, indeed, returned with honor. He worked extremely hard, as all missionaries do, to prepare and depart two years ago. The highs and lows of 24 months of missionary life cannot be minimized and required every last measure of faith and determination. He lived for the first ten months in a remote area of southern Brazil with only native companions that spoke no English. There were no cars or even bikes in this mission: just their feet for daily transportation. One of the greatest surprises and frustrations of his mission was that after more than a year as a zone leader with like-minded and very skilled companions, his last transfer was to train a brand new 18 year old missionary with a marvelous testimony and personality, but in great need of learning to embrace the disciplined life of a set-apart missionary. Assuming that this last transfer would be spent as a leader in an area that he knew and loved, working with tremendous missionaries and wards, he received the greater opportunity to see himself at age 18 once again, and how much he had grown and changed.
His “I did it! I did it! I did it!” at the airport was as much for this last three difficult months as it had been for his whole mission, He had, indeed watched missionaries who quit and left home during the last two to three months of their missions. I asked him if he had thought about it, “Oh, yes. It was harder than ever to hang in there when it is so close to the end!” The work does not get any easier! You still have to do the basics and keep the rules, with even more diligence!”
Before departing Brazil he had a final interview and honorable release from his Mission President, where he received a certificate of service and a new temple recommend, then later the night of his return he met with our Stake President for a full accounting. His peace and complete satisfaction with how he had spent his two years were tangible.
The very next night he and his brother and sister who had also served missions joined my husband and I at our Missionary Prep class that we teach as part of the CES Institute program for our stake. We gave our children/returned missionaries an opportunity to share with our preparing missionaries “what you would have done differently.” As Cooper shared his thoughts, he concluded with, “When it’s all over, you just don’t want regrets that you didn’t do all that the Lord expected and that you could have done better. You’ve got two years that are set apart to serve Him full-time, and the rest of your life to remember how you used the opportunity. I had to keep telling that last companion – It’s YOUR mission, not mine! Did you spend $10,0000 to come and sleep in and take naps? I can’t make YOUR MISSION happen FOR YOU.”
As I have pondered it all, the great judgment bar at the end of our mortal lives has become much more vivid and real. Will I, as Cooper did, be able to walk through the front door of my own eternal home that has the words, “Returned with Honor” engraved upon it? Will I, as Cooper is with his mission, be perfectly content and at peace with how I have spent my time on earth, knowing that I have given my all for the right reasons and in the right way?
As I ponder on how badly we are told that we wanted to come to earth, and that we (as my Patriarchal blessing says) “shouted for joy when the plan of salvation was made known”, am I doing all I can to maximize my experience and please the Lord, as our missionaries do with their missions? Am I a greenie who is content to live beneath my privileges and opportunities?
We know the purpose of life: To obtain physical bodies and to be tested to see if we will obey God’s commandments.
We came to earth to prepare to have an eternal family, bless God’s children, and build His kingdom. Our experiences during mortality are meant to help us become more like our Heavenly Father.
To experience earth life only two things are required: 1) a desire in the pre-mortal world to follow the Savior’s plan and 2) a mortal body. By the fact that you are reading this article, you know you have fulfilled both requirements! What could be more marvelous, no matter the condition of your life or your earthly body. We are HERE with every opportunity to walk through the door marked “Returned with Honor.”
Though our earthly “mission” is hopefully much, much longer than two years to fulfill our callings and individual purposes, at this time would you be satisfied with how you had spent your time? Could you be at peace with your stewardship of all that was granted to you to this point?
Joseph Smith astutely commented: “You know, brethren, that when the Master (in the Savior’s parable for the stewards) called his servants before him he gave them several talents to improve on while he should tarry abroad for a little season, and when he returned he called for an accounting. So it is now. Our Master is absent only for a little season, and at the end of it He will call each to rend an account; and where the five talents were bestowed, ten will be required; and he that has made no improvement will be cast out as an unprofitable servant, while the faithful will enjoy everlasting honors. Therefore we earnestly implore the grace of our Father to rest upon you through Jesus Christ His Son, that you may not faint in the hour of temptation, nor be overcome in the time of persecution.” (Joseph Smith, Teachings, p. 68)
While those are inspiring words for our overall investment in earth life, the question for those who struggle with finding the desire and need to care for our physical bodies begs to be asked: How will I report on the stewardship of caring for and strengthening my physical body?
We deeply yearned for our physical bodies in our pre-mortal life, yet most of us, if we’re honest, take them for granted unless we are sick. The need to eat wisely and exercise demand not only time and money, but discipline and desire. How easy it is to neglect those needs for equally important matters in the pressing business of daily life!
Nevertheless, the question is a fair one: I asked it of myself and all of us:
Based on the state of my current physical body, could I peacefully and honestly walk through the door that says “Returned with Honor”?
If detailed questions about how you regarded this most precious physical asset were asked, how would I answer these questions?
YES or NO
1) I honored the decision I made in the pre-earth life to come to earth by showing appreciation and respect for my body through a healthy lifestyle of wise eating, exercise and adequate rest
2) I did my best to strengthen and build it in order to increase my energy and lengthen my days and ability to serve the Lord, my family, and those within my circle of influence.
3) I was diligent in keeping it free from the multitude of temptations that are part of the latter days to overeat and over-indulge.
4) I enjoyed the wide variety of foods within the Lords healthful eating plan, the Word of Wisdom
5) I welcome the opportunity to be rejoined with it for the duration of eternity in fulfillment of the divine principle of the resurrection.
If it’s food for thought, I’m sure you’ll agree! As Cooper said to his greenie companion, “Elder, it’s YOUR mission! I can’t make it happen for you! Will you spend $10,000 and two years to make something happen?”
Resources abound for launching and maintaining a healthy living lifestyle, and maybe today’s the day to prayerfully make some changes for you to be able to walk through the door marked “Returned With Honor.”
Once again, our “Lose Ten Pounds in Ten Days and Get Paid $10” Challenge has been extended to accommodate an overwhelming response for product and getting started needs. You can still join through tomorrow, Tuesday, March 11. CLICK HERE FOR DETAILS.
Carolyn Allen is the Author of 60 Seconds to Weight Loss Success – One Minute Inspirations to Change Your Thinking, Your Weight and Your Life, available at her website.
She has been providing mental and spiritual approaches for weight loss success both online and in the Washington, DC community since 1999 presenting for Weight Watchers, First Class, Fairfax County Adult Education and other community groups.
She and her husband Bob are the parents of five children and grandparents of eight. They live in the Washington D.C. area where they are delighted to teach Missionary Preparation for the Annandale Stake CES Institute program.