Many years ago my twin brother and I left our home in Göteborg, Sweden, to serve the Lord as full-time missionaries in England. During our flight to London, numerous thoughts ran through my head. For one thing, my brother and I would have to separate in London, and for the first time in our lives we would not be together every day. But the thing that worried me most was that I didn’t know the English language well. At that time missionaries from Sweden did not receive language instruction or any other training; they were sent straight from home to the mission field. I thought of my twin brother, who was gifted in languages. My interests leaned more toward technical subjects, and for this reason I had not spent much time studying languages in school.
After I arrived in London and then finally in Birmingham, the headquarters of the England Central Mission, the mission president and his wife greeted me with huge smiles and all possible warmth. Everyone I met at the mission office was happy and enthusiastic and spoke with me about things such as study guides, tracting, companions, and so forth. But I could not understand much because their language was new and foreign.
Despite the kindness of the people around me, I felt overwhelmed. How could I ever testify of the gospel in this strange language? I spent much of that first night on my knees, asking Heavenly Father why He had sent me here and if there had possibly been a mistake.
The following day an assistant to the mission president showed me a scripture—Ether 12:27. I got out my Swedish Book of Mormon and read: “If men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them.”
If anyone had a weakness, I did. Questions arose in my mind: Do you believe what is written in this verse? If so, do you have the courage to exercise the faith required? And can you humble yourself before the Lord so that your weakness can become your strength?
My thoughts went back to the time when my twin and I were teenagers and our father challenged us to develop testimonies of our own rather than relying on the faith of our parents. I had decided to follow his counsel. I made an effort to carefully read and ponder the Book of Mormon, and then I asked Heavenly Father in prayer if what I read was true. I asked if Joseph Smith really had heard and seen the holy and wondrous manifestations he described.
In answer to my prayer, the Spirit of the Lord was poured out upon me. My heart burned within me in confirmation of the truth of what I had read and asked Heavenly Father about. At last I could testify that I had a testimony of the Book of Mormon and of the Restoration of the gospel through the Prophet Joseph Smith.
As a struggling young missionary, I thought back on this experience and realized that because I had received a confirmation from the Lord that the Book of Mormon is true, then what I read in the book of Ether was also true. I knelt in humble prayer before my Heavenly Father and expressed my inner feelings about my mission call and my language weakness. I promised Him that I would get up early every morning to study and memorize the 70 pages of lessons and scriptures we were to use to teach the people. I told Him I had faith that He, in return, would help me learn the language so that I could testify of Him and of His Son.
Early every morning thereafter, I prayed to Heavenly Father and said, “Here I am; let us start.” In a relatively short time I was able to testify that the scripture in Ether is true. My ability to speak English—a weakness when I first started serving my mission—became a strength to me.
This experience has been a blessing to me all of my life. Many times I have thought new Church callings were beyond my abilities. Then the Spirit has testified to me and reminded me of the experience I had as a young missionary in England. With great gratitude these many years, I have felt strength radiating from those words that are recorded in the book of Ether. Through the power of the Spirit, they can give each of us strength, guidance, and hope.