Monday, November 10, 2008

A Purpose in Life

Dear Family and Friends,

Last week, when I committed to the Lord that I was going to write my thoughts regularly, I wondered if I would ever find anything worthwhile to share with the world. He definitely kept good His word to prepare the way; I've had plenty of things about which to write.

On Monday I went to the MTC. I go once a week to be taught in Italian so that missionaries can practice their language skills in an authentic setting. Often I come home having learned something important... but this week was amazing.

Since I've realized that the Lord gave me gifts and talents, and expected me to use them, I've tried to be anxiously engaged in every cause I felt necessary. Volunteering, leadership roles, councils, church callings, athletics, music, writing, and everything else. But I realized I needed to do more than just use my talents. Alongside simply sharing my talents and gifts, there were times when I felt like I was truly fulfilling my purpose in life. Talking with a friend and seeing their eyes light up with a newly learned principle of the Gospel. Singing to a group of strangers in the middle of a Florentine Plaza. Writing and sharing my thoughts each week. But each of these events seemed disconnected – like the Lord had somehow given me a set of random talents and multiple unrelated ultimate purposes in life.

The turmoil came when I fielded my own question – if I were able to accomplish all my career goals in education in 5 years, what would I do next? Hence, for the last few weeks, I've wondered exactly what the Lord wanted my focus to be in life. When I went to the MTC this week I played the role of a Catholic university student. During the course of the lesson on the Restored Gospel, I told the missionaries of my plight. I was trying to do good, but felt there was something that would help me see a bigger picture – help to guide my every action... and I wanted to know what that was.

I'm not sure what I expected from those two Elders. The goal of the question (as part of the scenario) was to give them a reason to talk to me about personal revelation and the Restoration of the Gospel. But, deep down, I knew from personal experience that asking real questions leads to real answers... and I wanted the answer to my question. The lesson kept going in the normal route until one elder suddenly pulled out his scriptures and turned to 3 Nephi 5:13. "You talked about searching for your unique purpose in life. This is Mormon, a prophet in the Book of Mormon," he said... "and here he talks about his purpose in life. I feel that this might be your purpose in life, too." I took his scriptures and read the verse. "Behold, I am a disciple of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. I have been called of him to declare his word among his people, that they might have everlasting life." A surge went through me as his companion looked up and said, "I have a very strong feeling that this is your purpose in life, David. This is why the Lord sent you to this earth and gave you so many talents and abilities. And this is why we are here today - to let you know that your purpose is to share the Gospel."

In a moment, every question I had ever asked the Lord ran through my head. In past years, I wondered why I had been given talents. I wondered how to use them. I wondered what tied them all together. And suddenly it all made sense. Everything I've been given was designed to help me be a missionary. My ability to write, to sing, to think, to reason, to speak, to dance, to do anything... everything was to enable me to declare the word in every way possible.

The Spirit bore witness to me that this is my purpose in life – to share the Gospel with others and help them to come unto Christ, whether through writing, singing, dancing, or anything else. I guess the next logical question was: what do I do now?

In our Freshman Academy Peer Mentor meeting that afternoon, we talked about the importance of finding and achieving our own personal ministry in life. It's interesting to note that I didn't really appreciate the importance of my experience at the MTC until I wrote it down that evening to post on my blog. Had I known what I do now at my Freshman Academy meeting, I would have shared the experience with the group... and I can already see the blessings of keeping (and sharing) a record more often than once a week.

Saturday I attended the University Student Council Conference. President Samuelsen (President of BYU) spoke, and one of his first remarks was that the Lord had inspired him to leave his carefully prepared address in the filing cabinet. In addressing us, he said,

"I may not understand everything, but I do know that you are not here by chance. And you are not here for unimportant reasons. You have been commissioned to do some very important things in your lives. That's a very different thing than thinking you are better than others... but you have heavier responsibilities.... and you have gifts and talents that are very uncommon in the world."

I began to think about my own life, my own responsibilities, and my own commission to bring others unto Christ. The question I had asked myself at the MTC echoed in my mind: what do I do now? A few minutes later, President Samuelsen voiced a reply. "The Holy Ghost will teach and help us to know the next steps to know what we need to do and what we need to be." He talked about the importance of paying the price of excellence, relating the progress of finding and following each of our personal ministries to learning to play the piano. Are we proficient piano players without practice? How can we hope to be proficient in our personal ministries if we don't invest the necessary time and effort to achieve excellence?

I thought about my own purpose in life – to share the Gospel with His children here on the earth. The question that echoed in my mind was this: What things do I need to do in order to become a better tool for sharing the light? At once, I thought of the ways I share the Gospel. Spending time singing and becoming a better singer will help me to touch the lives of others through music. Becoming a better writer is something I definitely want to do – and I will need to spend time writing every day in order to really become great someday. The difference between those that have dreams and those that accomplish their dreams is a willingness to pay the price, no matter how high.

President Samuelsen continued speaking as he explained that many of our hopes and dreams go unfulfilled. "The thing that connects our ambition and our accomplishments," he said, "is dedicated discipline." I want to be a better person, so I hope that I will have the faith to dedicate myself to the cause, no matter how high the price.

He concluded his remarks with a reference to Doctrine and Covenants 11. Seek not to declare my word, but first seek to obtain my word... and I realized one more aspect of my life in which I could improve – obtaining the word. I think that having a great memory has possibly been a stumbling block in that respect. Since I don't have to work very hard to understand or remember key points in the scriptures, it's easy for me to be happy. ...But I've realized, as time has gone on, that there is so much more contained in the scriptures... so much more that I can understand, liken, and apply in my own life.

The breakout session during the conference was also somehow aimed at helping me fulfill my purpose in life. Now that I realized what and whyI needed to share the Gospel, it was time to learn a few ways how to accomplish it. Gibb Dyer, a professor in the department of Organizational Behavior, spoke about how to truly effect change in the lives of others. Extrinsic rewards and punishments lead to compliance... but don't cause a real change. Creating emotional ties with others can also lead them to make the right choices, but the best way to help others come closer to Christ is through helping them raise their vision to see greater heights... and then give them the tools necessary to accomplish that vision. Then they will change themselves.

I thought that my week-long course on my purpose in life had finished... but then I went to the BYU vs. SDSU football game on Saturday. Near the end of the game, the announcer asked the fans to stay in the stadium to recognize the graduating seniors from the team. As music began to play in the background, I watched the other players gather to form a pathway with the cheer squad... and then Coach Mendenhall and others shook hands with each player and their accompanying family members.

I smiled to see that some players were there with an entourage of followers... layered with Hawaiian lei's so you could barely see their faces... to the cheers of an enormous crowd. Some held hands of their sweethearts. Others simply walked down the pathway alone to Coach's warm embrace. As I watched the ceremony itself, I felt a pang deep inside me... a desire to be on the field, participating in the same experience. I didn't need the honorary blanket handed to each player... I didn't want the crowds to cheer when they heard my name. I just wanted to be a part of a team with someone willing to appreciate my life – to whisper in my ear a thanks for simply being.

I've been a member of lots of teams. I experienced a camaraderie with the other players, whether it was soccer, swimming, volleyball, or dance, but I often felt there was something missing.

The experience of seeing Coach Mendenhall's care and love for his players helped me realize yet another important direction in my own life. I need to try to be a mentor to others – to reach out and show that I care about them and esteem them for who they are... and to help them grow as individuals and sons and daughters of God.

I know that the Lord has given each of us incredible blessings, gifts, and talents. Before we came to this life, we agreed to assume a divine calling – a personal purpose in life that would help to accomplish His great plan. We are each unique and essential in His eyes... and He wants us to know that we are loved and esteemed. I know that as we ask in faith, He will teach us the things we need to know... show us the things we need to do... to return to live with Him someday. You are all incredible! Go out and be missionaries!

I love you all!


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