Good Afternoon Brothers and Sisters.
My name is Calla Chamberlain, and I leave Tuesday morning to serve for 18 months in the Brazil Fortaleza Mission.
I have pondered over Elder Jeffrey R. Holland’s conference address “The Cost and Blessings of Discipleship” in preparing my thoughts today.
Some of you may wonder what being a missionary entails, so I thought I would briefly outline a typical day.
Every morning missionaries are to wake up at 6:30, exercise, and prepare for the day. They then study the scriptures by themselves for one hour, and then with their companions for another hour after that. During this time, they may share things they have learned and prepare messages to teach people during that day. Missionaries who are learning a language, in my case, Portuguese, are instructed to spend an additional 30 to 60 minutes of study time studying their mission language. After all of this studying, the day really begins. Missionaries spend the rest of their day proselyting, giving service, teaching people on the streets, eating dinner with people in their specific congregation, and attending and teaching lessons that have been set up with people interested in learning more about the church. The companionship is expected to return to their home at 9:00 at night, plan for the following day, and prepare to go to bed at 10:30.
This rigid schedule leaves little room for personal affairs, but that is one of the many costs of being a full time disciple of Christ. I know from my own life, that there is a price for discipleship. As a missionary, the price is postponing higher education, devoting every ounce of time and energy to God for 18 months, sacrificing money, family contact, and pride to serve the Lord and proclaim His beautiful message.
A good friend of mine was recently traveling home from a study abroad in Fiji when she met two returning missionaries on her flight. They both had completed their 2-year missionary service on the small island country of Vanuatu. As they recounted some of their humbling experiences, my friend was surprised to learn that the elders had to regularly bathe in the ocean because there was no running water. As if it wouldn’t be hard enough to not have a real shower for two years, these elders often had to hunt for their own food, sometimes for months, if the quarterly ferry bringing food never made it to their island. On top of all of these physical hardships, the missionaries of Vanuatu had had zero family contact since they had left on their missions due to their remote location. Hearing about missions like these Elders’ make me feel much more comfortable about going to Brazil. These Elders truly experienced the cost of being a missionary.
That being said, the blessings that come from the sacrifice are insurmountable. My wise grandfather reminded me of the teachings of King Benjamin, who taught you will always get more than what you give when you are dealing with the Lord. The blessings of being a missionary are maturity, understanding, love, greater faith, and learning to rely on the Lord. The promise is even written in the Missionary Call Letter extended by the First Presidency, “as you devote your time and attention to serving the Lord, leaving behind all personal affairs, the Lord will bless you with increased knowledge and testimony of the Restoration and of the truths of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.”
The Book of Mormon prophet Alma detailed the blessings of entering the fold of God in Mosiah chapter 18, which I will paraphrase a bit. He essentially says to the people seeking baptism, that a life of religious devotion asks you to “bear one another’s burdens, mourn with those that mourn, comfort those that stand in need of comfort, and to stand as witnesses of God at all time and in all things, and in all places.” And if you are willing to do that, the painful part of discipleship, then how much more joyful the part that asks you to teach and encourage. You are welcomed into the waters of baptism, being redeemed of God and more abundantly filled with His Spirit.
Several friends of mine who are currently on their missions have expressed their joy and gratitude of being Christ’s Disciples. One friend told me “the blessings [of discipleship] are worth it because they are eternal.” Another Elder reported “it is so hard to not be happy when you are serving the Lord.”
Discipleship is not always pleasant. Elder Holland recognized it’s challenge, and empathized specifically with young members of the Church: “You may wonder if it is worth it to take a courageous moral stand in high school or to go on a mission only to have your most cherished beliefs reviled or to strive against much in society that sometimes ridicules a life of religious devotion.” To which he promptly answered, “Yes. It is worth it.”
Being a devoted and faithful disciple of Christ is not a part-time gig. It requires courage and courtesy to stand up for your faith. I have, as have many before me, had to defend my choices and my beliefs in many settings, professionally and personally, which has given me spiritual strength. Being a disciple of Christ requires endurance to the end.
Elder Richard G. Maynes taught in his conference address The Strength to Endure, “Endurance is an important principle found within the doctrine of Jesus Christ. It is important because the quality of our eternal future is proportional to our ability to endure in righteousness.” In short, we must “endure it well” as taught in Doctrine and Covenants Section 121. It is difficult to live a Christ-like life and make Christ-like choices every day when it seems as if our hearts will break and our spirits are completely worn from our constant battle with the Adversary and our natural man. But as we nourish our testimonies and build up spiritual stamina, we will develop a greater capacity to endure.
Enduring to the end is a principle that played a large part in my road to mission. Some of you may know that missionary visas to the country of Brazil are known for taking many months awaiting approval. For this reason, missionaries called to serve in Brazil are given about 6 months of waiting period between the time they receive their mission call and when they are asked to report. Even with this lengthy time cushion, it is very common for missionaries to temporarily serve within the United States while they are waiting for their visas. Knowing I had a long summer of waiting ahead of me until my report date in September, I got a summer job, tried to plan some fun trips, and tried not to fret about leaving on a mission. But my friends, 6 months is a long time to stew. As the date loomed closer, I worried and worried about going. I allowed my fears and anxiety to rain on my excitement parade and begin to instill doubt in my decision. I was crippled by my thoughts of inadequacy and fears of the unknown. It was not until recently… last night, in fact… that I learned, from a caring, knowledgeable stake president, not to take counsel from my fears. And I am happy to report that with this reminder, I am as excited as ever to be on the Lord’s errand. There are highs and lows to enduring to the end, but if we just take a faithful step into the darkness and trust in our abilities and in the Lord, He will see us through.
The last plea in Elder Holland’s address is to “be strong. Live the gospel faithfully even if others around you don’t live it at all. Defend your beliefs with courtesy and with compassion, but defend them. [The path of discipleship] is a strait path, and it is a narrow path without a great deal of latitude at some points, but it can be thrillingly and successfully traveled, “with … steadfastness in Christ, … a perfect brightness of hope, and a love of God and of all men.”
In courageously pursuing such a course,” he promises, “you will forge unshakable faith, you will find safety against ill winds that blow, even shafts in the whirlwind, and you will feel the rock-like strength of our Redeemer, upon whom if you build your unflagging discipleship, you cannot fall.”
Brothers and Sisters, though I still feel a bit anxious about leaving on Tuesday morning, I am very grateful for this opportunity to serve the Lord. I have a testimony of the possibility of eternal families. It is my most desperate desire, and it is the reason I decided to serve a mission. I could not imagine a life without those three back rows. I look forward to bringing the peace of the Gospel to the homes of Brazil. I know that missions are hard, but I am excited to give everything I have, and with the help of the Lord, share the message of Christ. This Church is true, and it’s keystone, The Book of Mormon, is true. I know that God lives. He loves all of his children, and He loves to pour out His blessings upon them. I’d like to leave you with one of my favorite Elder Holland quotes from his talk “An High Priest of Good Things to Come” which gives me comfort that even in times of uncertainty, we will be rewarded if we endure. He says: “Some blessings come soon, some come late, and some don’t come until heaven; but for those who embrace the gospel of Jesus Christ, they come.” I echo his witness.
I know that the Lord has a plan for each of us…. Well probably actually a million different plans because He knows we are going to screw up a few thousand of them. But all of His plans end with us entering into His eternal rest. We just have to follow Him. I am so thankful for all of the love and support from this ward, my friends, and my wonderful family. I leave these things with you in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.