Good morning brothers and sisters! I am so thankful to have the opportunity to speak to you all before I leave. I was given the choice to pick anything that relates to missionary work. After pondering/procrastinating for a month, I turned to my most reliable source: YouTube. Among all the Harlem Shake videos, I actually came across a video that has had a lot of impact on me over the last few months as I made the decision to go on a mission. You may have seen it before; it’s one of those Mormon Messages videos, called Patterns of Light by Elder Bednar and it was based off a talk he gave in General Conference in 2011. The video is divided into 3 parts: the Light of Christ, Discerning Light, and the Spirit of Revelation.
The first topic is the Light of Christ. Everyone on earth is born with the Light of Christ. In Doctrine and Covenants 93:2, the Lord states: I am the true light that lighteth every man that cometh into the world.
According to Elder Bednar, most people would refer to this feeling as their “conscience.” It’s the urge we get to help someone out, to make a righteous decision, and to act in a Christlike manner. Doctrine and Covenants 50: 24 says, “that which is of God is light, and he that receiveth light and continueth in God, receiveth more light; and that light growth brighter and brighter until the perfect day.” As a missionary, our job is to help people cultivate their own Light so that they may make more righteous decisions and come unto Christ. We must see people not as they appear in their current state, but how God would see them: as His children with eternal potential.
When we receive these promptings, it’s often easy to get confused whether they come from us, or whether they come from the Holy Ghost. This is where Discerning Light comes into play. In the video, Elder Bednar says that every thought or feeling that entices us to do good and to be good comes from God. Whether we remember our mother’s warnings in our head, hear some good advice from a friend, or feel the whisperings of our own conscience, if it follows righteous teachings, it is from our Heavenly Father.
The third topic is the Spirit of Revelation. Revelation is how our Heavenly Father speaks to us, directly, as his children. When I was little, I pictured revelation to be an experience similar to that of Alma the Younger or Joseph Smith: being overcome with a literal burning sensation, having angels appear to me with a direct message, or being knocked unconscious and remaining in a coma for several days. Unfortunately most revelations are a little trickier than that. Elder Bednar relates revelation to three different patterns of light.
The first is turning on a light switch in a dark room. Instantly the darkness is gone, replaced by a bright clarity. This is like receiving a message from God quickly, completely, and all at once. This is often the pattern of the stories we read in the scriptures or in church history. They make for incredible stories, but this method is probably the rarest form of revelation. However, we get a glimpse at this “big picture” revelation when we receive our patriarchal blessings.
The second analogy is that of the rising sun. There is a gradual, almost imperceptible change in light, but eventually the light overcomes the shadows and everything becomes evident in the sunshine. This is like when we learn lessons one step at a time. This is the Lord’s most common way of teaching. In 2 Nephi 28:30, the Lord declares, “I will give unto the children of men line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little and there a little; and blessed are those who hearken unto my precepts and lend an ear unto my counsel, for they shall learn wisdom; for unto him that receiveth, I will give more; and from them that shall say, We have enough, from them shall be taken away even that which they have.” In all things in the gospel, including God’s will for us, we learn a little bit at a time in order to establish a strong, unshakable foundation of truth. This foundation is what creates a strong testimony. Think of Laman and Lemuel or the children of Israel: no matter how many miracles they were blessed with, how many angels spoke to them, how many times they were chastised and punished, they continued to sin and stray away from the gospel. Because they didn’t have a strong foundation in faith, the miracles meant nothing. Once we have a strong foundation, we must continue to build on it. (escalator?) The more we submit our will to His and express our desire to follow Him, the more light we receive and the easier it is to continue along the right path.
In his talk, Elder Bednar warns, “We as members of the Church tend to emphasize marvelous and dramatic spiritual manifestations so much that we may fail to appreciate and may even overlook the customary pattern by which the Holy Ghost accomplishes his work…many individuals question the strength of their personal testimony and underestimate their spiritual capacity because they do not receive frequent, miraculous, or strong impressions…please know that you are quite normal. Just keep pressing forward obediently and with faith in the Savior.”
The third parallel is that of walking in the middle of a foggy day. We can see light around us, but we cannot see what is up ahead. We can only see far enough to take a couple steps into the cloudiness, and from that point take a couple more. Elder Bednar divulges that revelation works this way for him all the time. This happens when we are being obedient and trying the best we can and still we are faced with a trial or a choice. Heavenly Father may not make it clear right away the actions we should take. When the Lord was calling missionaries in the latter days, he said in Doctrine and Covenants 80:3, “Wherefore, go ye and preach my gospel, whether to the north or to the south or to the east or to the west, it mattereth not, for ye cannot go amiss.”
Why wouldn’t He make it simple and point us in the right direction? Because He trusts us. He allows us that agency to do the things we want, as long as our desires are compatible with righteous living. When we are already living virtuous lives, the Holy Ghost does not need to dramatically shake us. The prophet Joseph F. Smith said, “Show me Latter-day Saints who have to feed upon miracles, signs, and visions in order to keep them steadfast in the Church and I will show you members who are not in good standing before God, and who are walking in slippery paths. It is not by marvelous manifestations unto us that we shall be established in the truth, but it is by humility and faithful obedience to the commandments and laws of God.” When we are living righteously, we receive the knowledge we need in tiny segments, often without even recognizing that we have received that revelation.
All three of these methods of revelation had an especially big impact on me a couple months ago when I was deciding whether or not to serve a mission. Going on a mission was never really in my plans. I didn’t fully rule it out, but I never particularly wanted to go… a mission isn’t exactly a glamorous way to spend the remainder of my teenage years. So when I heard the announcement and first began thinking about this new opportunity, I was caught off guard by the tears in my eyes and possibilities flooding my mind. Here was a decision right in front of me and I didn’t know what to do with it. It took a couple weeks of prayer, fasting, and talking it out logically and…I still didn’t have a definite answer. I was expecting an overwhelming feeling telling me either to stay in school or to drop everything and go on a mission, but I wasn’t getting it. I envied my roommates and friends who, within minutes of the announcement, knew exactly what they were going to do. I couldn’t help but wonder why I didn’t have that clarity.
At this point my parents came up with some really good advice. My mom told me to break out my patriarchal blessing. I hadn’t read it in awhile, so it was good to get a fresh look at the blessings, warnings, and plans it contained. I made a copy and took a pink highlighter to it, trying to find all the things that could possibly mean that I should go on a mission. And I found quite a bit that I had never seen before. But the prospect of making a wrong decision still made me nervous about finalizing my choice.
As I was talking things over again with my dad, he told me I couldn’t make a wrong decision in this situation. Getting an education and serving a mission are both really good paths to pursue. He also suggested that I make a decision and go with it, and if I start to not feel good about it, then to go the other way. The next Sunday in our Sunday school lesson, my teacher showed the Patterns of Light video and I related to it completely. I stopped waiting for a “light switch” revelation because I realized that I was walking in fog. Although I couldn’t see what was ahead, I could see far enough to take a couple steps, and that was all I needed. My Heavenly Father was allowing me to make my own decision, and for that I am so grateful.
So I decided to start moving in the direction of serving a mission, and I haven’t felt wrong about it since. Sacrificing this time to serve a mission is something I know I’ll never regret. How could I turn down serving the Lord for just 18 months when he has blessed me my whole life? So here I am today, ready and willing to go serve the people of Tampa, Florida. I know it’s not going to be easy, there will be days when I’ll want to give up and come home. But I also know that I have the support and prayers of so many friends and family members, as well as the promptings of the Holy Spirit to guide me during my mission. I am so stoked to be part of this huge group of sisters that is taking advantage of this new opportunity we have been given. The Lord is hastening his work and I feel so blessed to participate in it.