Saturday, November 21, 2015

Baptism and The Gift of the Holy Ghost

I've been thinking about my mission so much lately. The people, the areas, the memories, all of it. I miss it more than I can even describe.

While on my mission, I had so many people ask me why baptism was so important. Or, if they had already been baptized, they would ask why it was important to be baptized again. We would always explain that it's because baptism needs to be done by the proper authority (the priesthood) and that we need to receive The Gift of the Holy Ghost. More often than not, people would tell us that they already received direction through the Holy Ghost and that they didn't see how being baptized would change that.

First of all, I think it's important to understand the difference between the Light of Christ and the Gift of the Holy Ghost. The Light of Christ is something in all of us. Everyone is born with the Light of Christ regardless of their culture, location, or religious beliefs. It's what helps us to discern good from evil and to have a desire to do what is right. The Holy Ghost speaks to us through the light of Christ. I love Elder Wirthlin's explanation of the difference in this video:

I also love this quote from President Boyd K. Packer, "the Holy Ghost can work through the Light of Christ. A teacher of gospel truths is not planting something foreign or even new into an adult or a child. Rather, the missionary or teacher is making contact with the Spirit of Christ already there. The gospel will have a familiar ‘ring’ to them"

Basically, the light of Christ is a part of us, then the Holy Ghost speaks to us through the Light of Christ. After we are baptized, we work and endure to the end which helps the Light of Christ to grow in us. As we nurture that light that is within us, the Holy Ghost will be able to further guide us in our lives. 

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

The Decision to Serve (Part Three)

Read part one here and part two here.
"Dear Sister Gapinski," she read. It was mid February and my best friend was about to read the letter that would determine where she would be spending the next 18 months of her life. I looked around and saw the faces of the ones that she loved; family, friends, neighbors, all with the same expression of love, excitement, and anticipation. As I watched and waited, a voice whispered in the back of my head. You could have this too, you know. I laughed at the silliness of the notion. Yes, the last almost-year of my life had been void of any feeling of significance, but I wasn't about to go on a mission just to feel important. As I did with all other mentions of a mission, I pushed it aside. "You have been called to serve as a missionary of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints," after an audible gasp, she continued. "You have been assigned to labor in the Korea, Seoul mission!" Everyone cheered and rushed to congratulate her. As I smiled and watched, the thought came again: you could serve a mission too. "Good one." I thought to myself, this time almost laughing aloud, "but I will never, ever serve a mission."

The next few weeks were filled with shopping trips and temple trips as I did what I could to help my friend prepare for her mission. I did what I could to forget about serving a mission myself, but the thought kept resurfacing. It didn't make any sense. Missions are something that boys did, or girls like my friend who had the aspiration to be a missionary from the time they were small. What did I have to offer? As I did with all of my questions, I took it to God. I didn't trust my own judgment anymore and I needed to be sure. "Heavenly Father, I don't want to serve a mission," I confessed, "but I can't help but think that I should. Is this what you want me to do?" I pondered the question over and over again, but never felt that I was getting any concrete answers. I thought that I would get a definite "Yes! You need to serve a mission!" or an absolute "No, you are needed elsewhere." But the answers I received continued in the manner of "You could serve a mission, or not. Really, it's up to you." I was confused and frustrated. Why wasn't God giving me the direction I sought?

 One day, my friend invited me to go to the temple with her. I knew that the temple was the House of God and that I felt the spirit strongest there. I figured that I would get a clearer answer if I was inside. Oh, was I right. Maybe it was the sanctified environment that I was in, or maybe God was getting tired of my constant pleas for guidance and direction, but my answer was clear as day. As we were sitting and waiting for our turns to do baptisms for the dead, I closed my eyes and again asked my Father in Heaven what He wanted me to do. My answer was obvious, but not loud or demanding. The voice I heard was not audible, but I distinctly heard the words of a wise, tender parent in my thoughts. "Look, Kaleigh, you have so many great options in front of you. You could go to school, or you could go on a mission. Either way is acceptable and I will be proud of you as long as you are doing what is right. But right now, you are doing neither. You need to make a choice." I was stunned. Me? Make the choice? Was He kidding? According to my choices in the past I was not in a position to be making a decision such as this. How could this be my answer? Wasn't God supposed to tell me what to do?
As the days past I started to weight the options that God had given me. School was my plan all along, but I clearly didn't have the money to afford tuition. Despite my pathetic efforts to save, I couldn't hold onto my money long enough to save up for much of anything. But a mission mean leaving behind friends, family, cute clothes, cute boys, movies, TV shows, electronics, books, etc. It would mean giving up practically everything that I knew for a year and a half of doors being slammed in my face and people yelling at me for sharing my beliefs. One option was clearly more appealing than the other and it was not the option to serve a mission. So I made the decision not to serve. I would continue to work and save and try to somehow get to school. But no matter how I tried to convince myself otherwise, I felt guilty for making that decision. I just couldn't put the idea aside.
April came and I found myself at another friend's mission farewell. As I listened to her talk about her desire to serve and love the people of Russia, something stirred within my heart. The more she talked, the more the feeling within my heart would swell, until I was to the point of tears. What was I feeling? Surely I didn't want to serve a mission, did I? Could it be that I was finally getting the direction that I was looking for? The thoughts continued turning as we sang the intermediate hymn. And then I knew. The words touched my heart in such a way that I can't describe and I couldn't stop the tears from coming. The lyrics were as follows: Go forth with faith to tell the world of Jesus Christ, the Lord. Bear witness he is God's own Son; proclaim his wondrous word.Go forth with hope and courage strong to spread the word abroad that people of all nations are children of our God.Go forth with love to tell the world the joy of families. That we may be with those we love thru all eternity. Go forth to serve and do your best with no thought of reward; then you shall know the boundless joy of serving Christ, the Lord. Go forth with pow'r to tell the world the gospel is restored, that all may gain eternal life thru Jesus Christ, the Lord. Go forth to preach his glorious truths of peace, of joy, and love, that all who heed his holy word may praise the Lord above. And that's when I realized; a mission wasn't about what I was going to give up. It wasn't about the time or the recognition or the places. It was about people. People who were children of God. People who had no idea what the truths of the gospel were - that they could see their loved ones again, that they could find peace and joy beyond comprehension through the atonement of Jesus Christ, truths that I had taken so for granted in my life. And in that moment I knew. Not only did I need to serve a mission, but I wanted to. I pulled out my phone and shot a text at my dad, who was a member of the bishopric at the time. "Dad, I need an appointment with the bishop. I think I want to go on a mission." The response came almost immediately. "Are you serious?" I think he was just as shocked as I was. But he set up the appointment for me. For once, I was following the counsel given to me by my Heavenly Father. And I was terrified.
Four weeks later I paced the walkway of my living room floor. It was here. My very own big, white envelope that held the course of my future in it's papery grasps. Dear ones gathered near and there was an array of digital devices with the faces of loved ones anxiously joining us over Skype. My hands shook as I slid my finger through the glue of the envelope. As I pulled it out, I immediately covered up the letter with another piece of paper and read line by line. "Dear Sister Martindale," I read, and then I glanced up from the piece of paper in front of me. Everyone watched from the edge of their seats as a grinned to myself. "We are pleased to inform you, you've been accepted into Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry!" everyone laughed and I took the opportunity to quickly glance at the next line of the letter. My knees buckled. The room went silent as I read "You have been called to serve as a missionary of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. You have been assigned to labor in the Washington D.C., South Mission!" Everyone cheered and the tears stung my eyes again. I felt finally felt the peace in my heart that I had been craving for so long, and I knew that my Heavenly Father was smiling down upon me. For the first time in a long time, I knew that this was right. The next four months were again spent with shopping trips, temple trips, and anything I could do to prepare to head to the other side of the country for a year and a half. It was a time of great excitement and anticipation, but also a time of trial and temptation. There were so many reasons not to go and at times I seriously considered staying home. But with the help of loving parents, both earthly and Heavenly, I made it. September 18th I entered the Missionary Training Center. Thirteen months later and I'm happier than I've ever been. My mission has by far held the most sorrow and heartache that I have ever experienced. But never have I experienced a sweeter, more exquisite joy than the time that I've spent helping others to come unto Christ.
It's always so amusing to look back. I was so sure about what I wanted and I was so certain that it was the only thing that would bring my happiness. But God obviously knew me better than I knew myself. I'm so grateful that he continued to guide this stubborn child of his to exactly what I needed. Giving my will to God is something that I'm still learning how to do, but I know that when we submit to God's will instead of our own, that he can take us and shape us into the masterpiece that he has envisioned.
I know that a mission is not for every sister. But if you feel that god is telling you to go, don't question it. Just go. It will be hard, but God will take care of you. You will learn and do and become more than you ever imagined you could, and it will be glorious.

Friday, October 31, 2014

The Decision to Serve (Part Two)

And the story continues. Read part one here.

 "Congratulations!" The email read. An unusual mix of adrenalin and utter defeat encompassed me. Contrary to what I wanted, I sent in my application to BYU-Idaho half hoping that I would be declined or that my application would be lost amidst the thousands of other blonde Utah Mormon girls that would apply. But there that email was, staring me in the face with full-fledged acceptance. "You've got to be kidding me." I muttered under my breath. I couldn't help but feel a little bit excited that someone deemed my disarrayed life to be somewhat acceptable, but I didn't allow myself to dwell on it. I walked into the kitchen to inform my mom of the news.

"So... uh... I got accepted to BYU-I." I said nonchalantly. I wanted to make this as insignificant as possible. "That's awesome!" she replied with enthusiasm. She then proceeded to ask me about what I was going to do next. "Ummm..." I hesitated. I couldn't deny that the spirit had prompted me to apply and that this was God wanted me to do. But I just couldn't get myself to want it. "I'll have to think about it." I responded, and left it at that. And think about it, I did. Days turned into weeks and that email sat in my inbox. Maybe I thought that Heavenly Father would change his mind if I waited long enough. But that never happened. He was unwavering and I was stubborn and so my predicament continued.

Meanwhile, my best friend was preparing to serve a mission. Ever since I met her when she was 12 and I was 11 she was one of those girls that always knew she would serve a mission and when the call came to serve at age 19, she responded immediately. I, on the other hand, had no desire to serve a mission of any kind. People would ask me if I was going to serve a mission too and I would immediately shut them down. I did not want to entertain the idea whatsoever.
I never would have admitted it then, but looking back, I think I was scared. Scared of another new place with more new people, scared of anything unfamiliar, scared of being forgotten by my friends at home, the list goes on. But mostly, I think I was scared because I felt like I had no control over my life anymore, and that terrified me. Ultimately I let my fear get the best of me. Regardless of what God had told me, I didn't go to BYU-I, something that I still regret to this day. I thought, "I know myself and I know what was best for me, right?" as many of us foolishly so often do. I continued to work at Chick-Fil-A and wait. What I was waiting for, I'm not sure. But my life was heading straight into a dead end.
And I was miserable. My job was miserable. My dating life was miserable (and oh, is that a story for another day.) I went to the local college and took a couple college classes, and then proceeded to fail those college classes. I couldn't understand why everything was going so poorly. I was being good, wasn't I? I wasn't doing anything wrong! I would plead to God for answers, but my prayers continued in a pattern of "why me?" and the answers continued to be what I didn't want to hear.

I felt that God was distant. I knew what I wanted and I thought that it would make me happy. If God really loved me and wanted me to be happy, he would give me what I wanted, right? At this point, I don't know if I was even sure what I wanted anymore. But I knew that it was going to take something big to get me out of this giant rut.

Part Three