Melissa said that we were going to visit her new friend Karen. On the drive over to Karen's house Melissa explained to me that she talks a lot. I said, “So she’s weird?” and Melissa responded, “She just needs the gospel in her life.” I was now even less interested in visiting this lonely stranger. Karen was a member of the church, but hadn’t been active for quite some time. I had a really bad attitude about the whole experience until we entered Karen’s home. Melissa was right, not only did Karen talk a ton, but so did her boyfriend. Her boyfriend was not a member of the church ans was not interested in it at all. To make a complicated story very simple, by the time we left, Karen was making plans to return to church and her boyfriend had excitedly agreed to meet with the missionaries. I was flabbergasted.
When Melissa and I left the house I said, “Wow, I wasn’t expecting that!” Melissa said, “Can we say a prayer? I want to thank Heavenly Father for what just happened.” I was a little surprised because my friends don’t usually ask me to say prayers of gratitude with them, but we did. I was so amazed by the experience because our mere presence in their house had blessed their lives and I felt immensely stupid for not wanting to go earlier. As we were talking about the experience on the drive home Melissa said, “For the rest of my life all I want to do is be an instrument in God’s hands.” What she said is so simple and it gave me a new goal.
At that time I had just recently graduated from BYU and had not yet found a job. For weeks I’d been telling people that all I wanted was to get a job. I’d said, “All I want is to get a job,” so frequently and to so many people that when Melissa said, “All I want…” my mind immediately went to what I had been saying for weeks. And then when she finished her sentence with, “… is be an instrument in God’s hands,” I felt a need to change. My statement, contrasted with Melissa’s statement helped me to see how selfish I can be. I’d been focusing on me and on what I need when I should have been focusing on others.
This is the story that ran through my mind as I watched the first session of General Conference this morning alone in my living room. If you don’t know what General Conference is click here. In the very first talk President Monson announced that a temple would be built in my new home of Tucson (you can watch that clip here). It was a happy moment. And then he announced a change in missionary policy. Before, men could serve missions at the age of 19 and women at the age of 21. Effective today, men can leave at age 18 and women at age 19. I don’t cry much, but when President Monson announced this I started to cry. They were tears of joy, of course.
While Melissa was on her mission her mom forwarded her weekly emails to me and I read them every week. She was a marvelous missionary. I currently have two very good female friends serving missions in Taiwan and Russia. I read their emails home, too and they are stupendous missionaries. They had both wanted to serve missions for years and couldn’t wait until they turned 21. They would have left years earlier had they been able to. And now, women don’t have to wait until they are 21. I imagine a lot more women will be going on missions now.
When I was 18 and a freshman at BYU, my friend Aaron and I hiked to the Y on one of our first nights in Provo. It was our first time living away from home and we talked a lot about the changes in our lives and how much we wanted to go on missions. We both expressed that we didn’t want to wait until we were 19, we wanted to go right then. I was really impatient and didn't want to have to wait any longer. I felt ready for the challenge of a mission and couldn't wait to go. Had I been allowed to leave when I was 18 I would have, but I had to wait six more months. And now, those boys who are anxious to go out and serve don’t have to wait. It’s so awesome.
This policy change is going to be an enormous blessing to the young people who serve missions and to the people of the world who will be taught by them. I cried because this felt so right. The army of Helaman (who missionaries are often compared to) has always been young, but it just got a little younger, and I imagine it’s going to grow a lot, too. Today was a great day for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and I’m pumped for the final two sessions of conference tomorrow.
|The Morales family. They are very happy people,|
I promise. Mexicans often don't make cheesy
smiles in pictures like Americans do.
Note: I was going to add a picture from my mission, but I realized that I don't have any digital copies of my mission pictures (that's right, I had an old fashioned camera back then). So here's a picture from when I went back to visit my mission in 2009. This is the Morales family, some of my favorite people in the whole world.