I was reminded today of a story that my uncle told me during his time as my mission prep teacher. If you are wondering what time that was, it was 3 semesters. Yes. It took me 3 semesters to finally get my booty on a mission. Nobody ever said I was the smartest cookie in the box, and it takes me a long time to make decisions. But when I do make decisions, its because I know they are the right one, and I stick to them.
Anyways, the story.
My uncle, who by the way is an amazing mission prep teacher, served as a mission president in Campinas, Brazil. During his time there, he participated in this following conversion story that reminds me of how important the atonement is in ALL of our lives.
There were two missionaries that were out tracting on a Sunday night. For those of you who didn't serve missions, Sunday night tends to be a pretty stressful time because its when you turn your numbers in and have to report on the week. Its when you meet your goals or you don't. When you don't meet your goals it is so disappointing. You feel like you have let not only yourself and your leaders down, but Heavenly Father. These missionaries needed to place just one more Book of Mormon to meet their goals for the week. This particular Sunday evening found them in a city square talking to people. As they attempted to make conversation with people in the square they became more and more desperate to place that last Book of Mormon.
Looking across the square, the junior companion (it always seems to be the jr that has the faith!!) saw a man who had been selling coffee from a large thermos sitting on a step, smoking a cigarette like it was his last. The young missionary turned to his companion, and insisted that they talk to the man. The older protested saying, 'Elder, talking to him will be a waste of time and even if we do talk to him, it would just be to fulfill a number, not because he wants to talk to us or know anything about the church.'
'I really feel like we need to talk to that man!' was the jr companion's reply. So the senior companion relented, and they went to talk to the man.
As the story goes, the man didn't say much, listened to their message, took the Book of Mormon and gave them his address, but didn't really respond much more than that. The missionaries walked away, the senior feeling as though he had taught his young companion a very important lesson.
Three weeks passed, and the missionaries found themselves in an area of town they did not normally go without any plans because their appointments had fallen through. They flipped through their planners looking for someone who lived near by that they could teach. The junior companion realized that they were very near the coffee salesman's house, so he begged his companion to go there. Seeing that there wasn't many other options, they set out to find this man's house. They were surprised to find the man home, and even more surprised when he let them in.
As they sat down to teach, the junior companion turned to the senior companion and said, 'Elder, we need to teach him about the word of wisdom.' This was not normal, and the senior protested saying, 'Elder, we can't teach him that! He probably breaks every part of it and will kick us out. We need to start with something else and ease our way into that!' Again, the junior companion would not back down, so the senior companion allowed it, but insisted that he do most of the teaching.
The junior companion taught with clarity the importance of our earthly bodies, and what we needed to do in order to keep them holy. He explained that because they were so important we kept them from being defiled with substances that blurred our judgement and then promised the man, that if he made the decision, the Lord would help him to change. During the entire lesson, the man had made no noise, no comment, and had dutifully smoked cigarette after cigarette. At this comment, the man stopped. Tears welled up in his eyes and he looked at the young missionary saying, 'You think that I can change?'
The young missionary sensing the spirit, and knowing that this was why they were there promised the man that he could, that he WOULD and that he wouldn't do it alone. Hearts were touched, and the man and his whole family were baptized. A few months later he was diagnosed with cancer and told that he would only live a few months later. He swore to the doctor that he would live long enough to be sealed to his family, which he was.
For whatever reason, that story has been running through my mind all day. We had really awesome meetings in my ward today. I have a lot on my mind and I felt like I was being spoken to and that things just seemed to become clear to me where they hadn't been before. Before Paul was a great apostle, he was Saul, a great persecutor of truth. In a talk entitled The Power To Change the late Elder James E. Faust said the following:
Transgression brings pain and sorrow. But there is a way out of “the gall of bitterness and bonds of iniquity” (Mosiah 27:29). If we will turn to the Lord and believe on His name, we can change. He will give us the power to change our lives, the power to put away bad thoughts and feelings from our hearts. We can be taken from “the darkest abyss” to “behold the marvelous light of God” (Mosiah 27:29). We can be forgiven. We can find peace.
I want you to know that I know that the atonement of Jesus Christ gives us the power to change. I am not perfect, never have been. But the atonement has given me the strength and the ability to make myself better. I am so glad that I have that, and that even when I mess up, I can pick myself back up, and try again. I can change!
And I think that you can change too.