This is my paper I sent in for my end-of-mission report. As I spent considerable time writing it, please allow it to be my email for this week.
See you on Tuesday. I love you all.
Elder A. Conrad Crist
Stewardship : Alex C. Crist
Mission Chile Santiago West, September of 2010 to August of 2012
I’ve never really thought of myself as a spiritual person. I wasn’t sure what I would do as a missionary. I liked to think I was an intellectual – maybe even a little too intellectual to be a missionary. I supposed I’d wedge myself into the mold for the two years and come back and move on.
There’s a scripture in 1 Corinthians that’s proven to be absolutely true for me. It says something like, “Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard; neither have risen up into the heart of man the things that God has prepared for them that love Him.” (Pardon me; that’s an impromptu translation from the Spanish.) I had no idea what He did have prepared for me, nor could I have – I knew nothing about how to seek after Him. I could read the Books – I could read the words, at least. In fact, I did read the Books. On some level, though, it didn’t penetrate very much. (This isn’t to say I had no testimony before, but it certainly wasn’t much of one.)
One of the purposes of my mission that I can see now (of the great number or purposes I can’t see now) was put me in a position in which I had to rely on Him. All my previous activities were controllable by me. I am a studious person. I naturally see causes and effects. If I needed money, I could get it. If I needed to understand something, with some effort I could get it. Missionary work, though it is clear that work makes a great difference, depends on the actions of other people. Only by help from On High does a missionary have any chance of helping any person. Speaking personally, only by needing Him could I be made to seek after Him. When I finally found part of Him I began to change. My purpose here is not to try to communicate everything He’s taught me up to today’s date (as it would take several days to write), but I think I will be able to impress my most perspective-changing thoughts.
I would lie if I said my mission was completely bright and happy. At the beginning I felt many times crushed by difficult circumstances, difficult (in my estimation) companions, and a constant cold fear of what God thought of me and my lack of performance. I was branded in many homes as the serio, or the person who never laughs or makes jokes. I am not a depressed person; I’ve never been that way. The pressure I felt was so great (multiplied by language difficulties early on) at times that I felt like I was certainly damned, for there was no other thing that could produce such restrictive weight. I don’t know how many people have prayed prostrate in fear of His judgement, but I have. Like I said, though, He had plans for me. He presented me with each new level of understanding, which appeared to me to be the top of all knowledge I could receive, but as I arrived at that level without fail He showed me something even higher. That’s been the pattern. With each discovery the weight became less as I allowed Him to carry more of it until today. And today, my “confidence has waxed strong in His presence” and I fear Him no more.
In my mission we were allowed to read Lectures on Faith, which I felt impressed strongly to read. The book was originally printed with what we know as Doctrine and Covenants, and is an exposition of faith – how we get it, why we need it, its results, etc. When I finally was able to read it, it took me about a week to finish it. But in that short time it was as if my entire understanding of life and God was being razed and rebuilt with the same bricks, only this time higher and indestructible. Faith had always been taught to me as “believe because that’s just how it is.” I couldn’t figure out why God would want me to believe in Him without offering any reason. The truth is this: we trust in the testimony of another until we receive a confirmation of the Holy Ghost. The faith that the prophets have preached is made of three components, one being a belief that God exists, secondly a correct understanding of His attributes, and lastly that the course of life that one follows is according to His will. Without those things there is not not enough faith. It made sense to me for the first time. Christianity isn’t illogical. Anyone who wants to confirm God’s existence can do it. He knew we’d have doubts as to His existence, so He showed us the way. There’s a reason we dwell so much on the First Vision.
Like Moroni said, after faith comes, hope must follow. I started to form a real relationship with God by way of His Holy Ghost. It wasn’t a relationship of Deity and creation, at least how I’d understood it. At a General Conference I attended here a General Authority told a story about how he’d been somewhat hungry while walking home from work. He felt like he’d been good that day, and that if he could eat some fried chicken from a little drivethrough he was about to pass by. He prayed (almost a little sheepishly) that while he knew it wasn’t a big need, he did not have any money, so he would certainly enjoy finding a quarter on the ground to be able eat. As soon as he finished praying he walked right onto the coin he needed.
I think the hope I found in the mission is very similar. God is my dad! He’s like my dad here. He knows exactly how life’s going for me and He understands when all my skills are insufficient. He knows why He called me here. Unlike reading Lectures on Faith, it’s hard to put a line or bracket on when I started to understand this. In the daily life I had in Chile I just started seeing Him more and more – in what I read, in what I saw in people I taught, and in miracles that weren’t always that necessary – or, rather, that were just for me.
Thinking back to Moroni 7, first is faith, next is hope, but the most important – the only one that won’t ever “pass away,” even when the very earth and universe have – charity.
I came across a talk by the current President of the Chile Area when he was a mission president in Michigan called “The Fourth Missionary.” It speaks of four kinds of missionaries that exist – The First being one completely disobedient and sent home, the Second disobedient but more furtive, and the Third and Fourth, which are almost equal. The talk dwells little upon the disobedient ones. There’s a phenomenon in motives in the Gospel. To condense about thirty pages of text, the central blessing of life is change. This is change, not knowing more scriptures or learning to live alone. This is change that makes a human into a God. This is change that can only occur if the person desires it to occur. A lot of times one can think that those changes are worked by working hard or being perfectly obedient, but the reality is that God desires the very inside of His children – their money or talents do not interest Him. is a resounding line in the talk that I cannot forget: “You will make out of yourself a smudge. He will make out of you a masterpiece. You will make out of yourself and ordinary man – whatever it is that society makes of you. He will make out of you a God.”
The difference is so little – one must want to do God’s will instead of just force himself to do it. That’s the only difference. This echoing truth has changed everything for me. Since I really began to apply that principle, nothing has been the same. God has been closer to me, and I to Him. I have imitated Jesus Christ and I’ll never be the same. Jesus came not only to atone for sin – He came to show us the Way. The only Way. Making myself a missionary has only been difficult when I have been closed to it inside. There’s a line in one of my favorite songs that states the situation well: “Holy, holy, holy, merciful and mighty/ Though the eyes of the sinful man may not Thy glory see.”
I have thought of myself as a doctor for many years, for the idea has always appealed to me, and I am almost confident that I desire to pursue that career. Using that “instinct,” if you will, I learned to really care about people and listen to them to then be able to help them. Through various circumstances I learned that loving a person – really, actively, as a verb – is the secret to helping him, be it missionaries under one’s charge, investigators, members, or companions. I’ve seen the great help that leaders can be to people, as real conversion occurs after baptism in almost all cases. I am saddened sometimes because I know I could help much more some people as a normal member with a calling than as a missionary. I am eager for the opportunity to have those callings, especially Home Teaching and, fortune willing, Young Men’s. I remember once conversing with my trainer (an excellent missionary) about the purpose we served and he said, “I think they really send us on missions for the after-the-mission. We know who can be in trouble, and how to help – even how to be a good normal no-calling member.”
My future plans have not changed very much in the mission in a vocational sense. I still plan to work long and hard to obtain an education as a Medical Doctor in a high-level medical school, as that is the best profession I can imagine for myself. I will always seek the Lord’s will to follow it. I will always plan and work toward goals in every area of my life (I shall not bore the reader with all the details.)
I think it goes without saying that I will accept any calling from God and His Church, and magnify it as He will.
I will maintain my family as the highest priority next to God Himself. I have been convinced beyond all return that I must be married to be happy. It will have to be in the Temple. She will have to be someone who, honestly, is a very special, valiant, righteous woman. Her goals will have to be compatible with mine. I will give her myself, holding back nothing (similarly to the way I give myself to my Father)– and I will expect nothing less from her. However the family ends up working out I will defend them (both that which I already have and that which I will have) with everything I have and am and can ever teach them from our Common Enemy.
I will praise my God forever, for He is my Father. I will obey and love my Savior forever, for that it what He is. He is never in debt with me – His blessings are too many to count and too undeserved to reason. I know what I’ve done is right. I finally understand what Elder Holland is saying with, “My mission meant everything to me!” My mission meant everything to me. Every good thing that will happen to me is a result of this mission. I think it’s no coincidence that at the end of Matthew, as a triumphant Jesus ascends to heaven He gives a commandment – “Go ye and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost,” and right after, as an accompaniment to it, to all those who work in this Work – “I am with you, even to the end of the world.”
He is with me.
- 1. Temple Marriage to a very special, valiant, righteous woman, whom I will court daily
- 2. Raise children in a home that is safe from the World
- 3. Seek to be an excellent, dependable professional, most likely Medical Doctor
- 4. Avoid all debt except for education and a modest home if necessary
- 5. Pursue passionately my interests in outdoorsmanship, computers, vocal performance, piano, history, and manual work
- 6. Fulfill and magnify callings, not allow time to pass without callings, do all home teaching, participate actively in geneology, prepare to serve and serve a couple mission
- 7. Be well-educated in the works of God, studying daily from His word
- 8. Perpetually practicing exercise and diet habits with a goal in mind
- 9. Love Family and Friends fiercely, defending them from spiritual and physical dangers and manifesting often my love for them
- 10. Seek diligently and follow unhesitatingly the will of God