When I was a junior in high school my parents invited my very best friend, Joe, to live with us. Joe’s parents moved away when he was about to graduate. He did not want to leave, so my parents welcomed him into our home so that he could finish high school.
Joe came from a different background than I did. His family had their struggles, and the principles of the gospel were not emphasized as much as they were in our home.
Joe and I shared a room together in the basement of my parents’ house. Every night before I went to bed I would make it a point to read my scriptures. Joe, on the other hand, had not developed a habit of reading his scriptures every day. There were nights when it was late and we were tired. Joe would often complain and tell me to turn the light off and go to bed, but I persisted, knowing that the Lord would bless me if I read my scriptures as He had commanded. Eventually, Joe moved into the room next to mine, but he always knew when my light was still on.
Joe had told me that he wasn’t sure if he wanted to go on a mission, but once he was 19, he surprised us all by announcing that he was going to serve. He turned in his mission papers and received a call to the Toronto Canada East Mission.
The Sunday came for him to give a talk in sacrament meeting. He said a few things that were a surprise to us all, particularly me. Joe said that one of the biggest influences in his decision to serve a full-time mission was the example that I had set for him in reading my scriptures every night. He said that although I might have not realized the impact it was making, he had thought about it a lot. My scripture reading had impressed him to turn his life around and serve a mission. He said that if it weren’t for me and my family, he probably wouldn’t be going. As I listened to him, I felt the power of the Holy Ghost flow through my body. I had no idea of the impact I had made on Joe’s life.
Joe was the first in his family to serve a mission. Later, his younger brother also served. Joe’s family has been greatly blessed ever since through active service in the Church. Great blessings come to those who keep the commandments of the Lord. We may never know how they will come, but they will come.
What Would You Change?
Some time ago, I had experiences that caused me to stray. I stopped going to church and reading my scriptures, and I started doing and saying things I shouldn’t. I didn’t care at all. I put God at the back of my thoughts and out of my heart.
Then my seminary teacher brought up a question that changed my perspective. He asked, “Would you like to know when you’re going to die? And if you did know, what would be some things you would change?” Most of the students in my class said they would be more charitable, read their scriptures more consistently, and make up with people they were mad at.
As I was pondering about this, I thought, “Shouldn’t we already be doing those things? It shouldn’t take the matter of death for us to decide to do them. And if we do them, we don’t have to worry about our salvation.”
Then I thought about the things I was doing and how, if I continued to do them, I probably would not end up in the place I wanted to be. I told myself that I won’t have to worry if I try harder to do the things I need to and should do, but first I had to give my heart back to God.
I know that we are children of our Heavenly Father and that bad things happen for a reason: to strengthen us and our faith. If we continue to do the things we should and remember that God always loves us and wants us to be eternally happy, then we will be happy.
In my studies of the Book of Mormon, I was reading in Jacob and came across these verses.
“I cannot write but a little of my words, because of the difficulty of engraving our words upon plates. … But we can write a few words upon plates, which will give our children, and also our beloved brethren, a small degree of knowledge concerning us. … Now in this thing we do rejoice; and we labor diligently to engraven these words upon plates, hoping that our beloved brethren and our children will receive them with thankful hearts” (Jacob 4:1–3).
As I read these words I remembered my commitment to keep a journal. I made this commitment in an amazing mission district meeting where we were to draw principles from Elder Bednar’s talk “The Tender Mercies of the Lord” (Ensign, May 2005) and also President Eyring’s talk “O Remember, Remember” (Ensign, Nov. 2007) and apply those principles to us. I committed to write in my journal daily of the tender mercies of the Lord, and I have kept that commitment faithfully.
Sometimes it is difficult, as Jacob points out, but I rejoice that one day my future children will read and see that the Lord has blessed me with tender mercies every day. I know that when you keep a journal and write those tender mercies you see during the day, not only you but also your children will see the hand of the Lord in their lives, and they will receive it with thankful hearts.
Illustration by Sam Lawlor; photograph by Jed A. Clark