The following is my homecoming talk - and before any or all of you think that I am super proud of myself - I am posting this for all those who actually asked me for a copy but due to extreme continued emotions from that day to the present, I have forgotten specific names - so here it is.
Once upon a time in a land far far away named Albania there was a missionary named Motra Boyer - Sister Boyer for all those english speakers out there - and her companion, Motra Bentli. These Motras were sitting in bed about to go to sleep when the lights turned on in both of their heads and the story of the brother of Jared was dissected. i will never look at this story the same again!
In the book of Ether the jaredites are sent across the ocean to the Promised land. The Brother of jared built some boats and we all know the story. These boats, guided and directed by the Lord, were not on a pleasure cruise though.
Ether chapter 6: verses 6-10 read: " And it came to pass that they were many times buried in the depths of the sea, because of the mountain waves which broke upon them, and also the great and terrible tempests which were caused by the fierceness of the wind. And it came to pass that when they were buried in the deep there was no water that could hurt them, their vessels being tight like unto a dish, and also they were tight like unto the ark of Noah; therefore when they were encompassed about by many waters they did cry unto the Lord, and he did bring them forth again up on the top of the waters. and it came to pass that the \wind did never cease to blow towards the promised land while they were upon the waters; and thus they were driven forth before the wind. and they did sing praises unto the Lord; yea, the brother of Jared did sing praises unto the Lord, and he did thank and praise the Lord all the day long; and when the night came, they did not cease to praise the Lord. And thus they were driven forth; and no monster of the sea could break them. neither whale that could mar them; and they did have light continually, whether it was above the water or under the water." …."And they did land upon the shore of the promised land. and when they had set their feet upon the shores of the promised land they bowed themselves down upon the face of the land, and did humble themselves before the Lord, and did shed tears of joy before the Lord, because of the multitude of his tender mercies over them."
No matter the tossing, and the powers of the sea thrust upon them, they were driven forth continuously towards the promised land and eventually reached their destination. We - are these boats - as we depend upon the Lord for guidance and help in this life. We are headed towards a "promised land" but it isn't easy sailing. Adversity is a part of life - any study of the fall of adam and eve would teach us that. Without that first opposition of the adversary, adam and eve would never have eaten of the fruit and we would never be here. we would never be able to choose and thus we would never grow and learn. The important thing is not a matter of learning how to run away from adversity but a matter of learning how to love it!
In April 2009 General Conference Elder Pino stated: Living the gospel does not mean that we will everlastingly escape adversity. Rather, it means that we will be prepared to face and endure adversity more confidently. (Prill 09) Just as the jaredites continually called upon God faithfully as they were tossed upon the sea, the only true way to overcome adversity is to face it with faith!
And for this reason, Joseph Smith is my hero. His example in enduring opposition is one of the hope in a better world spoken of in Ether 12:4 which states "wherefore, whoso believeth in God might with surety hope for a better world, … which hope cometh of faith, maketh an anchor to the souls of men, which would make them sure and steadfast always abounding in good works…" Joseph Smith's life was not an easy one. AND As he sat in one of his many dark and cold prison cells He called out, crying "O God where art thou?" (DeB 121) The Lord answered him, saying "And if thou shouldst be cast into the pit, or into the hands of murderers, and the sentence of death passed upon thee; if thou be cast into the deep; if the billowing surge conspire against thee, if fierce winds become thine enemy, if the heavens gather blackness, and all the elements combine to hedge up the way; and above all, if the very jaws of hell shall gape open the mouth wide after thee, know thou, my son, that all these things shall give thee experience, and shall be for thy good. The Son of Man hath descended below them all. Art thou greater than He? Thy days are known, and thy years shall not be numbered less; therefore, fear not what man can do, for God shall be with you forever and ever." This is the answer - the answer to the age-old question, how do we overcome adversity… in life, … as a missionary? We just endure with faith. This personal revelation strengthened Joseph Smith's resolve and his faith became unshaken.
The Lord continued further on saying, "My son, peace be unto thy soul; thine adversity and thine afflictions shall be but a small moment; and then, if thou endure it well, God shall exalt thee on high; thou shalt triumph over all thy foes."
Adversity is only a small part of life- it's still a PART but only a small part and it is overcomable -- Especially if we use our faith in the Lord as an anchor in this sea of tribulation and trial.
Throughout my mission I felt as if I could make my own list of tribulation and trial, as if the Lord himself would say, " And if the lessactives drive you up a wall, if the illogical traditions of albania keep hearts closed, if no one and their mother wants to listen to you, cell phones don't answer to make appointments, if feelings of contentment, fear and a loss of hope try to break your courage to stand tall, if everyone sees you as a jehovah's witness and thus does not want to hear the message, and doors continue to not open and those that open are shut in your face - s'ka problem, no worries - The Son of Man hath descended below them all. Fear not what man can do, for God shall be with you forever and ever. My daughter, know thou that all these things shall give thee experience and shall be for thy good.
Adversity allows us to be stretched and to grow. It might hurt in the process but our purpose in this life is to grow and learn - therefore, we should not run away from the adversity but let it work on us and choose to work with it. As a missionary, adversity was a serious part of everyday life. How was it faced? With trust in God. it is through him and his help that helped me press on when all forces were combined up against me. With Heartwrenching prayer for more patience. As Ada Bitner once said: "remembering who i'm trying to be like." With overwhelming LOVE for the people. Throwing my heart over the fence and letting the rest follow. Just doing it! and Sometimes we had treat ourselves to bring the Party back.
Along the way, my mom would send me quotes and they enlightened me on how to overcome the hard times that didn't seem to have an end. One quote was from a man named Samuel Lillman and he stated: Years may wrinkle the skin, but to give up enthusiasm wrinkles the soul. One had to have enthusiasm in the work, especially those times when you didn't understand a word someone spoke to you - or you stood on the street for hours trying to talk to people about the Book of Mormon and no one had time. Enthusiasm for the work was key. But as President Hinckley states "I do not suggest that you simply put on rose-colored glasses to make the world look rosy. I ask, rather, that you look above and beyond the negative, the critical, the cynical, the doubtful, to the positive. " It wasn't just a matter of faking it till we made it but rather, a serious search for the truly positive amidst the overpowering negative which comes as you tract 2 or 3 apartment buildings and no one gives you a second - the positive in this situation is that not speaking to those who are uninterested gives you more time to seek out the elect - those who will listen to the message.
Serving in Albania was hard - learning the language, even harder (and happened only through the gift of tongues) and sometimes I just wanted to sit down and be done - sometimes self doubt and fear came pounding really hard at my door. But something that Helen Keller once said bolstered my resolve and allowed me to wake up every morning, get dressed and go to work. This is what she said: I am only one; but still I am one. I cannot do everything, but still I can do something. I will not refuse to do the something I can do.
Overcoming adversity as a missionary came down to one thing and one thing only, a knowledge that God Himself called me to serve in Albania - He needed me there, and so I was there. Really, God just needed a willing instrument to do His own work - so I became that willing instrument and was there for Him to work miracles in the lives of Albanians! One of my favorite scriptures is DeB 123: verses 16 and 17 which reads "You know, brethren, that a very large ship is benefited very much by a very small helm in the time of a storm, by being kept workdays with the wind and the waves. Therefore, dearly beloved brethren, let us cheerfully do all things that lie in our power; and then may we stand still, with the utmost assurance, to see the salvation of God, and for his arm to be revealed." Thus the only true way to overcome adversity in any aspect of life is to cheerfully do all that lies in our power - and then stop and watch! And sometimes all that I could do was just put a smile on my face and make the world a better place.
As adversity is faced through faith in a loving God - He strengthens us for the facing of stronger trials And as Nefi states in 1 Nefi 1:20 "the tender mercies of the Lord are over all those whom he hath chosen, because of their faith, to make them mightier even unto the power of deliverance." I can scarcely count the many mercies God placed in my path these last 18 months: from being able to communicate in albanian, to awesome companion after companion; from becoming part of the big hearted Albanian family to a little 12 year old boy named Roni. the Tender mercies had no end.
Through the trials that i had as a missionary my love for the Lord deepened as my heart and eyes were opened and I was blessed to see a little more of how much He loves each and everyone of His children. Because of working with the adversity and not running away from it - I love Albania and as the line of an excellent song says, it will be with me forever like a handprint on my heart.