June 19, 2017
Genesis 45:10 “And thou shalt dwell in the land of Goshen, and thou shalt be near unto me, thou, and thy children, and thy children’s children, and thy flocks, and thy herds, and all that thou hast.”
After 6 months, the age of Camelot has come to a close for me, and I am being transferred to Goshen, Connecticut, the area furthest west in the mission. Quite a change from urban Cambridge! I will continue my district leadership there, and will be follow-up training Elder Smith from British Columbia, Canada.
I worked hard in Cambridge. I unfortunately leave the area with a handful of regrets, but I honestly believe that I couldn’t have had much more impact than I had.
Bishop Romney of the Cambridge 1st ward gave me a chance to bear testimony in sacrament meeting, as it would be my last. What I will share with you expresses some of the feelings I shared there.
I will forever be grateful for the time I spent in Cambridge. When I was assigned to labor in the Massachusetts Boston Mission, and then the Cambridge area, I was at least a little prideful about the whole thing. I colored myself something of an intellectual, and imagined that somehow I would be able to teach people that others could not because of it.
How wrong I was to think that the Gospel could be taught through intellectualism, particularly in an area where you would be undereducated only having a bachelor’s degree. How could I have forgotten Nephi’s warning about this manner of teaching? “And they shall contend one with another; and their priests shall contend one with another, and they shall teach with their learning, and deny the Holy Ghost, which giveth utterance” (2 Nephi 28:4).
Growing up, I always thought missionaries were perfect. I remember the missionaries that came to my house and taught some of my friends, and the intense spiritual power I felt as they taught. I’ve often looked at the kind of men I envisioned them as, and thought I had to be that kind of man, that it was even possible for me to be that kind of man. I was continually disappointed with myself as I strove to never make a mistake, and constantly did anyway. I fell for one of Satan’s traps; comparing yourself to perceived perfection. Surely, those missionaries weren’t much more obedient or spiritual than any missionary in the Boston mission. I only saw 1% of their lives, and created an image in my head that they were perfect, and I had to be too.
In Ether Chapter 12, we read a classic verse that has become deeply meaningful to me in the past 6 months: “And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them.”
It is one of Satan’s lies to believe that we can ever be perfect. And when I say that, I don’t mean “we can never be perfect by ourselves.” I mean that we can never be perfect in this life. Ever. No matter how hard we try.
Now, I have often been tempted to look at that fact and ask myself, “why should I even try? I’ll never be good enough. Why not just give up on it all and live a sinful life and ultimately go to hell anyway?” All-or-nothing thinking is just another one of Satan’s lies, one of his flaxen cords designed to ensnare the “imperfect, but still striving in the house of Israel”.
Christ has told us, “be ye therefore perfect, as your Father in heaven is perfect.” I am so grateful that Moroni has expounded upon Christ’s teaching: “Yea, come unto Christ, and be perfected in him, and deny yourselves of all ungodliness; and if ye shall deny yourselves of all ungodliness, and love God with all your might, mind and strength, then is his grace sufficient for you, that by his grace ye may be perfect in Christ”
We of ourselves can never be perfect in this life. We cannot do it by ourselves, and Christ never intended for us to try by ourselves. This is what he asks us to do: Come unto Him, deny ourselves of ungodliness, love God with all that we have, and truly believe that despite our imperfections, His grace will carry us to Eternal life. After all, Eternal life is a gift we can never earn! It is a gift freely given to those that love the Savior, and keep his commandments, and those that earnestly seek to do so.
Elder Crandall often says, “thank goodness for the gospel of repentance.” I join my voice with his. I am so grateful that God will give me chance after chance to try again when I fail.
p.s. my new address is 174 New Litchfield St. Torrington, CT 06790.