All young men over the age of 18 in Finland are required to serve in the military for 6 to 12 months. As I began my required service, I found that the opinions and attitudes of many of my army buddies conflicted with my principles. As a result, I took steps to stay close to the Spirit, praying at least twice a day and reading the scriptures.
At first I was nervous because I didn’t know how my buddies would react, but they didn’t seem to care, so I relaxed. After a while my bunk mates asked what I was reading. “The Book of Mormon,” I told them directly. Their next question, of course, was whether I was a Latter-day Saint. I told them I was, and for a while, they let the matter drop.
In time a few of my army buddies began to ask about the Book of Mormon—its origin, contents, and so forth. Later their questions ranged from the purpose of life to principles of the Church. My religion became a natural part of our discussions, and it popped up in almost any situation.
One fellow in a neighboring bunk asked if he could read from my Book of Mormon. Of course I said yes. On another occasion, after a roommate had returned from attending a funeral for a friend, he told me that the funeral had raised many questions in his mind about life and its purpose. He asked me what the Church believed about those things. We had a long discussion about the purpose of life, the Atonement, the Creation, and other gospel topics. Afterward, other roommates became interested in the Church’s teachings and standards.
During the rest of our time together, we had many discussions that always seemed to turn to the Church’s teachings. My roommates called these discussions “Ask the Mormon” sessions. Later, after we had graduated from our training, one roommate told me he had decided to quit swearing.
Throughout my time in the military, I noticed that the more open I was about my Church membership and the more faithfully I followed gospel teachings, the more open others were toward me and the more opportunities I had to share the gospel.
I am thankful for the blessings and opportunities I had to talk about the gospel during my army service. I testify that if we are bold in standing up for our values, we will be blessed with opportunities to do missionary work. And if we let the light of the gospel shine freely in our lives, we can protect ourselves from darkness and have a positive influence on the world around us.