This week we had Zone Conference! Every other transfer, so about every 12 weeks, we have a special meeting for all the missionaries that serve in our zone when the mission president and his wife and the two elders that help him come and we learn about the gospel and missionary work all day ! Sometimes it’s nice to just sit back and listen to other people teach instead of being out and about teaching all day. But it’s not all fun and games of course; we as missionaries have a few things to prepare. We are usually given something to read and study, maybe certain scriptures or a chapter from Preach My Gospel, a Christ-like Attribute on which to study and prepare a five minute talk, and finally we have to be ready to present the Joseph Smith Story in front of everyone. What’s nerve racking is that no one except our mission president knows who will present the attribute talk or the Joseph Smith Story until the day of zone conference. The attribute talk is given in a missionary’s native language, but the Joseph Smith Story has to be in Korean with James 1:5 and The First Vision included.
My companion and I made extensive predictions about who would give the talk and story. Neither one of us were included in our predictions because whoever gives the Joseph Smith Story is always super brilliant at Korean – actually, at my two previous Zone Conferences, Koreans told the story – and we thought there were other missionaries who would be far greater at expounding on faith than we would be. Well, if you read the title of this entry, then you can probably guess what happened.
The two days before as my companion diligently prepared the Joseph Smith Story, I diligently prepared my talk on faith, the assigned attribute. I looked over my notes and the Korean a little bit, but I didn’t feel any concern or worry. I was so sure I wouldn’t be called on, especially because I am behind on our mission’s language program, which involves mostly memorization, my nemesis. I basically decided that if I got called on, I would just sing “Joseph’s Smith’s First Prayer” from the hymnbook. Well, as we were all sitting down and socializing before the meeting started on Wednesday morning, the worst happened. Our zone leader walked up to me and whispered that I would be doing the Joseph Smith Story. I might have laughed. I told him I wasn’t! that he was kidding! that I can’t! (Actually I might not have said that, just thought it) He just gave me his typical, “No, I’m not kidding face” and walked away.
It was a major moment of weakness. I mean, I didn’t sob or need to leave the room, but the feeling of inadequacy overwhelming me revealed itself in my eyes welling up with tears. I got out my language book and looked at a few things, hard to do through my blurry sight, but I had to do something! I couldn’t legitimately get up there and sing; that would be ridiculous. I said a prayer, and as I did so, the thought came to me that the Lord doesn’t call people that he doesn’t qualify, and that when he calls us, he provides a means whereby we can accomplish anything, even what seemed to me in that moment to be impossible. My excuse for thinking myself incapable was that in lessons when I had many times before told the Joseph Smith Story, when I ran out of words, I just passed it to my companion and they filled in the holes. Now, it was just me. I am never embarrassed to speak Korean to investigators or members, even other missionaries, but I felt like I had to be great and perfect for this room of missionaries and the mission president. That’s when I realized what I needed to do. I decided that I just had to pretend that I was speaking to a room full of new friends and investigators. I had to relate the gospel to them, answer their soul’s questions, bear testimony, and promise blessings, just like I do every day on the street and in lessons. I could totally do it! When my turn came, Sister Sheffield leaned over and reminded me that I don’t have to be Korean to bear my testimony. Her words were a confirmation not only that I c0uld do it, but that my plan of action was pleasing to the Lord. And so I picked up a Korean Book of Mormon and walked to the front of the room. This is approximately what I said:
Today I will share my testimony of the first modern prophet. In America in 1820, there were a lot of churches. Everyone was looking for truth. Today, Korea is the same. There are so many churches everywhere! Then, there was a particular person named Joseph Smith. He was looking for God’s true church. In his family, he had learned to pray and studied the bible intensely. He had a great testimony of Jesus Christ. While reading, he recognized that there should only be one true church, one faith and one baptism (Ephesians 4:5). He kept searching. One day he read a scripture from the bible. James 1:5. “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.” When you read this scripture, what do you think of? Joseph Smith thought of prayer. So he decided to ask God. For the first time, he prayed vocally. He prayed with all his heart. This is what he said about his experience: “I saw a pillar of light exactly over my head, above the brightness of the sun, which descended gradually until it fell upon me. … When the light rested upon me I saw two Personages, whose brightness and glory defy all description, standing above me in the air. One of them spake unto me, calling me by name and said, pointing to the other—This is My Beloved Son. Hear Him!”
Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ appeared to Joseph. Through him, Jesus Christ reestablished His true church, the same church He established when He lived on the earth. Because of this Restoration, we have the Book of Mormon, which testifies of Jesus Christ. I promise it is evidence of the truthfulness of our message. We, too, like Joseph can pray to know. Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ won’t appear to us, but through the Holy Ghost, we can receive a confirmation of the truth just as powerful. I know that our message is true. I know that Joseph Smith was truly a prophet of God. I know that God and his Only Begotten Son Jesus Christ live and love us. I know that because of the great blessing of this Restoration, we can live with them again and also live with our families forever. And all these things I testify of in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.
I wasn’t perfect. I’ll never be perfect! But, I was absolutely blessed through this experience to know that I can do it. “It” could be anything, but as long as I rely on the Lord, he will support me and show me a way. He’s given me the tools; I just need the confidence and faith to take a chance.