I want to report at this time that that prophecy has been fulfilled. Out of all the people I've taught and lives I've seen touched by Jesus Christ and His gospel, the biggest transformation I've seen truly has been the one I've personally undergone. Helaman 3:35 describes that change better than I could, though:
“Nevertheless they did fast and pray oft, and did wax stronger and stronger in their humility, and firmer and firmer in the faith of Christ, unto the filling their souls with joy and consolation, yea, even to the purifying and the sanctification of their hearts, which sanctification cometh because of their yielding their hearts unto God.”
Although I'm definitely still in the process of stripping myself of pride, I have gained an incredible understanding of my constant dependency on the Lord and the fact that all miracles that occur, blessings that are received and successes I see come from His merciful hands and not from the works of my own.
While many a shot have been fired at my testimony and it has suffered some serious battle wounds over the course of the last 18 months, I have received very clear answers from Heavenly Father that Jesus is the Christ and this IS His church—answers with roots that are firmly planted.
Though my heart may need to undergo a lifetime of purification before it meets the Lord’s standard, I feel much like those in the Book of Mormon who were present for King Benjamin's address and experienced a "mighty change" in the sense that I "have no more disposition to do evil, but to do good continually".
I am so eternally grateful for the opportunity I had to serve the Lord as one of his full time missionaries. I'm really struggling to put the emotions I'm feeling into words, so I'm going to continue to let my scripture heroes do it for me:
“1 And now, these are the words of Ammon to his brethren, which say thus: My brothers and my brethren, behold I say unto you, how great reason have we to rejoice; for could we have supposed when we started from the land of Zarahemla that God would have granted unto us such great blessings?
2 And now, I ask, what great blessings has he bestowed upon us? Can ye tell?
3 Behold, I answer for you; for our brethren, the Lamanites, were in darkness, yea, even in the darkest abyss, but behold, how many of them are brought to behold the marvelous light of God! And this is the blessing which hath been bestowed upon us that we have been made instruments in the hands of God to bring about this great work.
11 ...I do not boast in my own strength, nor in my own wisdom; but behold, my joy is full, yea, my heart is brim with joy, and I will rejoice in my God.
12 Yea, I know that I am nothing; as to my strength I am weak; therefore I will not boast of myself, but I will boast of my God, for in his strength I can do all things; yea, behold, many mighty miracles we have wrought in this land, for which we will praise his name forever.”
At the beginning of Preach My Gospel, it says "The Lord will reward and richly bless you as you humbly and prayerfully serve Him. More happiness awaits you than you have ever experienced as you labor among his children." At the beginning of my mission, I thought "Ha. Yeah right." But now, as this chapter of my life comes to a close, I can confidently testify of the 100% accuracy of those two sentences. My heart is brim with joy. I've never experienced more happiness in my entire life. And I will be FOREVER thanking and praising God in prayer for allowing me to have this incredible experience.
“16 Therefore, let us glory, yea, we will glory in the Lord; yea, we will rejoice, for our joy is full; yea, we will praise our God forever. Behold, who can glory too much in the Lord? Yea, who can say too much of his great power, and of his mercy, and of his long-suffering towards the children of men? Behold, I say unto you, I cannot say the smallest part which I feel.”
I can't say the smallest part which I feel, either. Words don't even begin to do my joy, my love and my gratitude justice. I want to leave you with my testimony, though, that this the church of Jesus Christ restored to the earth. Joseph Smith saw our Heavenly Father and our Savior and through the power of the Holy Ghost, he translated the Book of Mormon. I know it's the word of God. He has communicated with me through it countless times. Thomas S. Monson is a prophet and his counselors, along with the quorum of the 12 apostles, are spiritual giants called of God. Heavenly Father loves His children, and He's ready to shake the heavens for those who obey His commandments and follow the example of Jesus Christ. I'm so grateful for the Redeemer. Through the enabling power of his atonement, I was able to overcome those first few months of darkness and depression and end up having an experience that couldn't have been more beautiful had I dreamed it up myself. I feel so blessed to have spent the last 18 months as one of the Lord’s full-time missionaries, and feel especially privileged to have been able to labor in Germany. I love this country more than I can express and will miss it & its incredible people deeply.
Just for the record, whoever said "you'll shed many more tears leaving the field than you will entering it" hit the nail right on the head.
I love y'all lots.
See you on Friday
Love (for the last time),
PS Richards’s baptism went great!! Couldn't have asked for a bette r end to my mission (: