In my junior high days a long time ago, I stumbled upon the amazing wonders of Japanese animation. I was intrigued that there was this other world out there with all these amazing stories to tell. I was not only interested in the animation but the music as well which has become a staple in my life. It has helped me though many hard times and struggles. As I delved deeper into these mediums I saw the beauty of their culture and wanted to experience it for myself.
In my journal on February 28th, 2006, I wrote (quote) I want to go to Japan, Japan is cool. Even though the language is so complex, in high school I wanted to take it. Japan is a cool place and seems to be the center of all technology. Most of my favorite games are made there (end quote.)
Now we fast-forward eight and a half years later to last October when I got my mission call. Everyone always said you will rarely go to the place where you want to go the most. So that day I was expecting I would be called somewhere I wouldn’t really enjoy—a place I would have to learn to love. But once I opened the letter from President Monson and it said “You have been called to serve in the Fukuoka, Japan mission” I was completely shocked.
That was the moment when I truly realized my Heavenly Father loves me and knows exactly where I needed to be. Though the hardest part was getting to this point—the point where I made a decision to serve a mission—it was all worth it. To get to this point I had to overcome many trials that put my faith to the test.
For years I struggled with trials that made me question my belief in the church. The environment I placed myself in was toxic, and made me neglect church, and put me in a bad place.
When I got laid off the job that was making my life miserable last year, I decided to change my life around in order to become a better person. I went to the bishop of my singles ward and worked with him in order to get me back on track. It worked and my life gradually became better. Initially I thought my faith was kind-of weak. And it was. But I also knew that my parents had lots of faith. And many of you had lots of faith. And all of that gave me hope that God would take care of me and would help me along the path. And that was all I needed to push me in the right direction.
In a talk by Richard C. Edgley in the October 2010 general conference, he said this about faith: (quote) I wish to suggest a single choice—a choice of peace and protection and a choice that is appropriate for all. That choice is faith. Be aware that faith is not a free gift given without thought, desire, or effort. It does not come as the dew falls from heaven. The Savior said, “Come unto me” (Matthew 11:28) and “Knock, and it shall be [given] you” (Matthew 7:7). These are action verbs—come, knock. They are choices. So I say, choose faith. Choose faith over doubt, choose faith over fear, choose faith over the unknown and the unseen, and choose faith over pessimism. (end quote) Can we look at ourselves and say we can choose faith over these things? No matter how hard our circumstances are?
In Alma 32, the prophet Alma taught us a lot about faith and how to make it grow. He said, (quote) “Now, we will compare the word unto a seed. Now, if ye give place, that a seed may be planted in your heart, behold, if it be a true seed, or a good seed, if ye do not cast it out by your unbelief, that ye will resist the Spirit of the Lord, behold, it will begin to swell within your breasts; and when you feel these swelling motions, ye will begin to say within yourselves—It must needs be that this is a good seed, or that the word is good, for it beginneth to enlarge my soul; yea, it beginneth to enlighten my understanding, yea, it beginneth to be delicious to me.” (end quote)
I have done that brothers and sisters. I had a desire to believe. I wanted to see if my faith would grow. But I worried that I would never have as much faith as my mom or dad and even the rest of my family, but then I read this. It is from verse 12 of that same chapter. (quote) “And now as I said concerning faith—faith is not to have a perfect knowledge of things; therefore if ye have faith ye hope for things which are not seen, which are true.” Knowing that I didn’t have to have a perfect knowledge of things helped. I just had to have hope, and then my faith would grow.
I struggled with my faith as I was going through the process of putting in my papers. During this long period of trying to get my papers summited I was bombarded by depression, thinking that this was not the right thing. I felt as though the Lord was holding me back because I wasn’t good enough. And my faith wavered.
But one Sunday morning, right before I woke up, I had a dream. This was a special dream. A sacred dream, but I felt impressed today to share it with you. In my dream I was riding around the neighborhood on my bike. During this ride I found something amazing so I went to go show others. But I could not find anyone. As I was searching I came upon an open field, everyone I knew was in this field and they were all singing “I Believe in Christ.” Then a voice said to me, “Chris, are you done running?” I then woke up and knew, truly knew, that I just had to trust in the Lord and exercise my faith in Him. Even though I didn’t know what was ahead and I really felt like I was taking a step in the dark, I knew I had to move forward and take a few steps. That’s what it means to exercise your faith.
Sometimes you just have to trust that God has your back. Sometimes it doesn’t make any sense at all and may even conflict with things you already believe in. That’s what happened to Abraham when the Lord asked him to sacrifice his son, Isaac. Abraham knew that killing his son was wrong, but he also knew that God had given him a commandment. But he trusted God, and build an altar, then bound his son up and placed him on the altar. Then, just as he was about to bring the knife down and kill Isaac, the angel of the Lord stopped him. That was a serious test of faith. And we all have tests like that in our lives. It may not be that bad, but we all have them. And we are better because of them.
In my own life I felt that if I just trusted in the Lord that these trials would end and I would be able to submit my papers. And he did. The Lord knows the best time when we all should serve, whether it is at 24 years old like me, or 18 years old, or maybe not even not at all. The Lord knows what is best for us and we just need to exercise the faith that he will guide us down the path we are supposed to go on.
We just need to remember that faith, as Richard C. Edgley described it, is an action verb. We have to search actively for ways to increase our faith. Whether that be going to the temple, doing family history or work or even the simple things like going to church or reading your scriptures. We have to show God that we are willing to change and edify ourselves to become better people.
We should never feel forced or guilted into doing the Lord’s work. That is not how He works. That is one thing that I love about my parents. When I was almost 19—and this was back in the days when guys had to be 19 to go on a mission—my parents asked me if I wanted to serve a mission. At that time I did not want to serve a mission at all. I wasn’t ready yet. But my parents were behind me 100% and let me choose the path I would walk down. I am not sure they were always happy about that, but I knew that they would always love me no matter what.
I’m not sure you should ever feel pressured to serve the Lord. Even though sometimes it feels like we are when we see our friends leave or a ward member asks you why you have not gone. We just need to realize that we need to go when we are ready to go and not to when others want us to go. While every priesthood holder has a duty to serve, there are lots of different ways and lots of different times when we are ready to serve. And that decision is different for every one of us.
I believe that Heavenly Father knows what is best for us. If we trust him and have a positive attitude, that will make all the difference in our lives. We will be happier. We will be at peace. We will feel more joy. And we will be right where we need to be at just the right time. The road is ahead for each of us, so let’s start out today and choose faith over doubt, choose faith over fear, choose faith over the unknown and the unseen, and choose faith over pessimism.
I’d like to bear my testimony that I know that God lives and I know Joseph Smith restored the gospel on the earth today. I know that Christ was resurrected from the dead and we can all be like him one day. I love all of my family and friends so very much. I am grateful for the chance to serve in Fukuoka, Japan. I say these things in the name of Jesus Christ amen.