Now, I gotta start with this. I'm trying to think of things I can share that won't take away from things I want to put in my homecoming talk! But, I guess it wont hurt to hear some things twice, right?
A few funny experiences to start I guess.
A few weeks ago, we were doing a workshop at a zone meeting on creating visuals based out of Preach My Gospel to find new people to teach. While elders and sisters were reading the paragraphs in Preach My Gospel and calling out things we could put on our visuals, me and my companion were writing the points up on small white boards at the front of the room. I was writing sideways because of the awkward position, and very quickly to keep up with the comments, so my writing was starting to slope downwards slightly. During a pause in the calling out, a missionary on the front row said, "Elder Esplin, your writing is making me have to slant my head to read it!" I turned over my shoulder and said to him, "Elder, you should already know that I have a tendency to turn heads."
That doesn't have much to do with anything, but you'd probably get a laugh from sharing it haha.
Ok here's some meat you can use Mom. Use as little or as much as you want. I'll probably share all of these in my homecoming talk.
Points for future missionaries and members alike.
Don't be fearful of change. Changing has a central purpose to our existance. (The parables of the acorn and the rubber band would both fit in here).
-Application: In my second area (Waterville), there was a woman who had attended LDS services for over 10 years, yet wasn't baptized. She attended mainly because her husband was a member and she went to spend time with him. She was a practicing 7th Day Adventist, so she'd go to her church on Saturday, then go to the ward on Sunday. One night, she was praying because she was feeling torn-The church she attended was giving her a hard time because she would attend the LDS services, yet the LDS church was so warm and friendly, and she had many friends there. She said a prayer for guidance to know what the Lord would have her do. That night, she had a dream. She saw the faces of members of the church that she had known her entire life. Then she was suddenly in the presence of God, and she asked what way she should go. He replied that He had shown her the way and had dropped signs through members she had known her entire life. She woke up and knew it was time to fully investigate the church. She contacted us and asked to go through the lessons for the first time in the 10+ years she had been attending. The lessons were very intense. She was undergoing an immense conflict between the doctrines we were teaching versus the doctrines she had grown up being taught her entire life. But, she was firm in her belief that God had given her guidance to the faith and she was willing to stand firm in that revelation. She was willing to change her perspective from something she had been set on her entire life. But because of her faith in God and humility to do WHATEVER it took to please Him, she was baptized 2 months later and is, today, a faithful gospel doctrines teacher.
Another life-changing principle I've learned:
Don't put happiness off to another day.
-In all honesty, when I first got out on my mission, I had a hard time adjusting. I went from being at the university I had always wanted to attend, having many close friends, spending time with my family, listening and performing music, all those things I had loved...to living in a strange place (Maine) with someone I had never met, spending all day walking through snow in freezing rain having door after door slammed in my face. More than once did I say to myself, "Man, life was a lot better back home." And the more I thought about the things back home, the less happy I was. I found saying to myself things like, "I'll be happy when we find a new investigator" or "I'll be happy when I get a letter from a girl" or "I'll be happy when I get transferred." In short, I wasn't happy because I was choosing to be happy on some other day than the day I was living in. But then I read a series of talks ("consecrate thy performance" by Neal A. Maxwell, "The Fourth Missionary" by Lawrence E. Corbridge [Dad, if I could give any advice to the stake to prepare missionaries, it'd be to have them all read that talk. It's not on LDS.org though, so you may have to hunt for it. Let me know if you can't find it- I'll get it for you], and "Bloom where you're planted," which was an article in some random ensign I read). The basic lesson I learned about happiness was this- it's all about where your heart is. My heart at that point in time wasn't on the present- on missionary work or the Lord. It was on the past- on the memories of the things I'd left back home! No wonder I was miserable- I wasn't even living with a heart- it was 2,800 miles away and two years into the past! I determined that the only way I'd ever be happy and be able to serve others effectively would be to learn to bring my heart to the present and to give it over to the Lord. So that's what I did. Every night, I would kneel and tell the Lord that my heart was his, that I'd go where he wanted me to go. I focused on making what I wanted to be what the Lord wanted. And as I did so, the Lord began to want exactly what it is that I wanted. Miracles followed. I saw lives change as soon as I was willing to pull my heart out of the past, into the present, and give it as a present to the Lord. It isn't a one time deal either- I have to work hard to keep it there. There are some times that I let my heart wander out of the Lord's hands into the hands of other things, and it's those times that I'm not very happy. But as long as I'm able to keep my heart in the present and in the hands of the Lord, I've been able to experience happiness constantly instead of on some unknown day in the future.
So. My advice to future missionaries and to everybody who will listen- don't let you heart reside in the past or in far away places. Keep it in the present and give it over to the Lord. You'll find that once you do, you'll be happy NOW instead of later.
Well, there's a few tidbits for you Mom. Hopefully they'll help. I'd write more, but you have over 75 letters to back track through! Hopefully it goes well- let me know what you shared and how it went! Good luck! Love you!