As “full time” missionaries, we almost glimpse the reclusive life. Isolated from the usual business of living, we have no regular jobs to take us out by 6:00 or 7:00 am, no walls to paint or garden to plant, no family nearby to entertain or visit, no shopping, concerts, or pedicures. We live in an isolated mountain community where the electricity, water, phones, and certainly internet often fail. Cowboys on horseback herd cattle down the international highway, and women with bowls on their heads vend rice or homemade cheese in the village streets. Barefoot children come into the church and say, “I want to learn to play the piano,” and their fathers stop by and ask, “How can I help my marriage?”
At home in the mornings, we pore through handbooks and lesson manuals that the members have, but never open, we talk our way through lesson plans for people who do not ever participate in a discussion, and we make sample lessons, discourses, or lists of ideas that we end up using the very next day.
And we study the scriptures. Not just the 15 minutes of sleepy reading every night before bed which has characterized most of my life, or the purposeful searching and cross-referencing which have often accompanied an assignment to teach a lesson or explain a concept. As important as those habits have been in guiding our family and anchoring daily decisions, they haven’t offered the same consistent spiritual feast that being a full-time missionary has allowed. Nearly every morning, we have an hour or more to read and talk about the scriptures.
We are both on our second time reading all the scriptures cover-to-cover, and we find that they have the answers we need to respond to every day’s challenge. As President Boyd K. Packer taught in October conference, 2013, “it really doesn’t matter” which scriptures we read. In whatever we read, we stumble upon exactly the message we need that day.
For example, a few weeks ago I was thinking about all the problems that the members here have with keeping the commandments and applying the principles that they know are true, when I read Mark 4: 26-28.
“And he said, So is the kingdom of God, as if a man should cast seed into the ground; And should sleep and rise night and day, and the seed should spring and grow up, he knoweth not how. For the earth bringeth forth fruit of herself; first the blade, then the ear, after that the full corn in the ear.”
I realized that I was the one who lacked vision and faith. I don’t have to know how the church will grow and change the lives of the people here. I just need to have faith that the wonderful, good seed of the gospel of Jesus Christ will grow in the hearts of the people here and transform them and bless their families. This is Heavenly Father’s work, not mine. Now that I have greater faith in the kingdom of God, I can teach with more confidence and do a better job helping the members have a vision for their future.
A few days ago, I was planning a talk about the blessings that come to us when we give service to one another, in both our daily actions and in more formal church assignments as teachers or leaders. My daily reading brought me to the parable of the sower, and I read it and the Savior’s explanation differently than ever before. In Luke 8:14, the Lord explains:
“And that which fell among thorns are they which, when they have heard, go forth, and are choked with cares and riches and pleasures of this life, and bring no fruit to perfection.”
In the context of my talk, I realized that these people are not those who reject the word of God or even become inactive in their church participation; they are the people who don’t bring forth any fruit. They are the people who come to church, but don’t contribute service. They are Christians in name only, who don’t have time to visit the sick or don’t think it is pleasant enough to take a turn in the nursery. They believe in the word of God, but they don’t have enough faith to give and receive all that the Lord has promised.
Even as I write this, I realize that other people might not read these scriptures the same way I do today, which is why everyone needs to read and study and pray about the scriptures for themselves every day. One of the great gifts of our mission is the time to immerse ourselves in the scriptures and gain new insights and personal inspiration to direct our work here.
“Wherefore, I said unto you, feast upon the words of Christ; for behold, the words of Christ will tell you all things what ye should do.” 2 Nephi 32:3