At the risk of boring everyone at church this morning, I'm going to share my sacrament meeting talk with you. It's about Elder Dog Walker and his mission. I hope you like it.
Last summer I was invited to speak about Teach’s mission in Texas. That talk was easy to give because she had written most of it in her letters home. One thing you may not know about Young Church Service Missionaries is that they also write a letter about once a week to their mission presidents, and in Elder Dog Walkers’s case, that is our stake president.
I have been fortunate to stay in the loop with Elder Dog Walker’s letters and he has given me the opportunity to read each one before it is emailed. When his mission began, Elder Dog Walker was focused more on himself and his own needs. Let me give you an example from one of his letters.
“It was really great this Sunday. As a Young Church Service Missionary I was invited to go to the Conference Center to attend a devotional to hear John Bytheway speak to us. We could even bring our parents with. John did a very good job talking, especially about how we should listen to our spiritual alarm, a small sound that convinces us to do something, even if it may not sound like a physical alarm clock. I thought it was great hearing about the alarm clocks. I felt like I want one of those alarm clocks that John showed on the projector screen, and it helped me to remember that I need to listen to my spiritual alarm clock.
He also talked about an amazing African American singer named Gladys Knight. Have you ever heard of her? I haven't, but I feel like some day I want to hear some of her songs. Some of her fans at Disney World, Florida kept asking her about why she looks so bright from the stage. She told them that it is because she is a member of the church. Her fans waited for a second and then they burst out in applause.
Even though John was hilarious, I still think it was amazing even though everyone laughed when he made some part of his talk amusing and serious. Do you think a devotional like that will happen again? If it does, do you think I could attend?”
Elder Dog Walker had a testimony and he loved to share it in Sacrament Meeting.
“You probably never got to hear what my testimony said in fast and testimony meeting yesterday. So I thought that I'd drop you one. I told everyone in sacrament that the mission is still going great and all the special need kids love me to be in the seminaries with them. I also told them that I do believe that the church is totally true and that President Monson is our true prophet of today and that prayers can be answered, just not the way that we want them to be answered.
I’ve been praying that all the seminary kids will be able to understand the church a lot more. Some of them can be a little confused about what is being taught to them, but with a little bit of attention to the Church lessons, the kids will be able to understand that the church is true.”
Elder Dog Walker was writing to Teach in Texas most weeks as well and he wanted to experience some of the same things she was doing. We had several long discussions about that.
“I just wanted to write a quick letter to you about what I did last week that might sound like one of the challenges that I came up with myself. I never have told you about how I wanted to do a challenge that would be part of being a missionary. Did you tell me before that missionaries should ride their bikes during the mission? Well, here's this crazy thing that I did. I rode my bike from my house to the Kauri Sue Hamilton seminary in Riverton and then from Kauri Sue Hamilton to home. My mom thought it was a dangerous idea because I didn’t tell her where I was going, but I just felt like I needed a lot of exercise and everyone has been telling me that riding a bike is part of a mission for lots of missionaries. Sometime I want to do the other bike challenge by riding from the house to Hartvigsen in Taylorsville. Don’t you think that’s a great challenge that I came up with? If you think so, then I feel supported. Mom did support me on that a little, but she was a bit upset when she asked me where I was and I told her where I was, but that I was on my way back home.”
Over the past year while Elder Dog Walker has been wearing that missionary nametag, he has gradually changed. You might not notice it at first, but if you spend a few minutes talking to him about his mission, you will see that he has learned (and shared with his family), some very valuable missionary tools including prayer and scripture study.
“I'm not quite sure what I should be talking about. But I think it got in my head that I should tell you that the mission is still going great. I haven't gotten used to just serving at Kauri Sue yet, but I have a feeling that it kind of is helping a lot, even though I'm going to miss serving at Hartvigsen also, but that's just how transferring is like when serving a mission. I've been praying that it actually is where Heavenly Father wants me to be for the rest of my mission. I was almost feeling like it wasn't true, but I still think that is actually where I should be. I know it's going to be hard to get used to just serving in one area, but it'll be worth it. It's kind of like committing a sin and trying to repent from it is hard, but it actually helps to know that you feel it's better to just repent and promise not to sin again. Even though I haven't got to the story in the Book of Mormon, I still think Alma the Younger is one of my favorite Book of Mormon stories. Because it helps me remember that repentance requires more than just stopping the sin, but also to change and feel like it never was a happy thing to do. It reminds me in Alma 41:10 "Wickedness never was happiness."
Flexibility has never been easy for him. He loves set patterns and change is difficult, but his mission has taught him that change is necessary and if he is patient and waits on the Lord, his prayers will be answered.
“Even though I thought I was never going to be able to help at more than one seminary, I've just been assigned to help at a seminary class inside a Stake Center in Sandy at a school called Transitions Academy. The teacher, named Sister Sunshine, was very glad to have me there to help. She told me that she doesn't have many missionaries coming to her class and she said she has some students who come, but aren't members of the church yet. I guess I've been praying that I'll be able to serve at more than one seminary on the mission and my prayer had been answered. Heavenly Father is glad I'm at the Transitions Academy seminary to help with the students there, because He loves the students and hopes that the students will be able to follow Him and Jesus. I hope I'm feeling the same way on the mission.”
He has learned some hard lessons and to my surprise and delight, rather than asking me to help solve those problems, he has turned to the Lord and his scriptures.
“Something a little tragic has happened just this week. Do you know Fajita, Gamer’s daughter in Bossy's family? She's been a member of the Church for a year and she's doing a lot of good things. It's just that, I own an iPod touch that was given to me by Mom and Dad as a high school graduation gift. I was worried when I noticed that both my iPod and charger have gone missing. I tried asking the immediate family members if they've seen it. They said they haven't, but then I got a call from Fajita who said that she took the iPod and didn't know that it was mine. She gave it back to me, but I noticed that it was way different from last time I had it. The iPod looked like it's been cracked and it made me feel like it wasn't fair to have a cracked iPod when I didn't abuse it.
She apologized and I forgave her, but then some revenging thoughts came into my head and I almost thought that Fajita would know that it's wrong to take something without asking. Mom told me that forgiving others for their wrongdoings is hard, because sometimes you feel like you want to keep humiliating them for what they've been doing. I tried to play "Did You Think to Pray." It almost made me feel better to get revenging thoughts out of me, but I still felt like they kept coming to me. I just wanted to ask you if you have any ideas on how I can try to be more forgiving to Fajita, even though she didn't know about the iPod. I want to keep being a missionary, who has integrity and who can forgive other people who've done something wrong. I know it's going to be hard to do, but I know that Heavenly Father can help me have a forgiving attitude and move on to other things in life.”
He has also learned that his personal faith and prayers can have a huge impact on those around him, particularly those seminary students under his stewardship.
“I want to tell you about one seminary student at Transitions Academy who’s going to have surgery on her thyroid. She’s feeling a bit nervous about it, but Sister Sunshine and I encouraged her that she can have a father’s blessing so that she won’t feel nervous when she goes through the surgery. We also promised her that we would pray for her to be okay while going through the surgery.
Thing's have been going great throughout the mission, and I'm still planning to serve until June of 2015. This mission has been a blessing for me and for the seminary kids. We’re still hoping that this student I told you about will be okay through the surgery and we promised her that we would pray for her.”
And his faith extends to his own health as well. Before his mission he would have never thought to ask for a Priesthood blessing when he was ill, now it is his first line of defense.
“The mission is going great. However, ever since Monday, I got really sick, I was cursed with a stomachache, sore throat, cruddy nose, headache and dizziness. It felt like I was going to faint and/or maybe lead to final breath. I've been praying to Heavenly Father to help me feel better, since I missed almost two days of serving him at the seminaries. I never wanted to miss serving the mission for the last two days, since they'll be able to go for their Christmas break and I don't want to miss the last two days. I never slept very well last night. I kept on waking up almost every two hours feeling like I needed to toss the cookies in the bathroom. Every time that happened, I kept praying to Heavenly Father that I would feel better and sleep well. The prayer was answered, but it never was answered the way I wanted it to. By the crack of dawn, I was feeling mostly better, since I never felt dizzy.
I was hoping that I would feel better all the way, but for right now, the only sickness I have is a sore throat, and I feel like I need a healing blessing so that I can still serve at the seminaries. Is there a good time this week, if you're not too busy that you would give me a healing blessing? If you do, then that would be a great honor since my dad is out of town. None of us want to spend the rest of Christmas feeling sick and we're hoping that we'll be better before next Thursday.”
And he was right; the blessing did work! Our loving President made time in his busy schedule to come over, along with Bright, to bless one of his Elders. There is definitely power in the priesthood.
A few months ago Elder Dog Walker started doing splits with the full-time missionaries. Elder Smile confided to me that Elder Dog Walker is fearless! He is not afraid to ask the hard questions and his straightforward, innocent inquiries are generally well-received because he sincerely wants to know the answers.
“Today something has happened that would be the first time I've done for my Church Service Mission. I've been asked by Scottie to help out with the full-time missionaries at a few houses around our ward. The elders thought it was great that I'd help them a little with their services. I even convinced them that we could meet Lollipop, next door to my house. Lollipop said that she believes that there is a God and she also believes that the Book of Mormon is true, it's just that she feels a little inactive, because she couldn't understand how the Church was organized or how it was restored by Joseph Smith Jr. She said that almost her entire family is very religious, even her father does temple work at the Manti Temple. The Elders and I thought that Lollipop has been nice and that we should pray for her so that she can understand that the Church is true and to know how it was organized and restored. I felt that it was easy to start preaching the gospel to a few families around town and it made me feel like I was really on a full-time mission.”
Elder Dog Walker, I want you to know that you are a missionary in every sense of the word. I couldn’t be more proud of you. You are becoming the Priesthood man that our Father in Heaven knew you would be. You are a wonderful tool in his hands and he loves you and wants the best for you.
Thank you for your bright and beautiful testimony and allow me to share it with all of you.
“I should at least know that I can be able to change the world more and so can every other servant of Heavenly Father. Most times, I feel like I’m doing the wrong thing, probably because I’m being tempted every time. But sometimes, I feel like I’m doing the right thing. Maybe I just need to listen more to the still small voice and then I’ll know how I’m feeling each day.
I just want to testify to you, President, that I know that the Church is true and I know that Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ live in the Celestial Kingdom and my family and I want to go there together forever.”
What more could any missionary mom want for her son? I just want to add my testimony to his. I know this church is true! Our Heavenly Father does hear and answer prayers. He loves us all. In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.