Thursday, January 31, 2013

"So looks like he's gonna suffer ...but he's gonna be happy about it..."

Family!
You may be wondering about the quote in the subject line. I will get to that.
I have made it to week 2 in the MTC! It is great. The whole MTC is great. Speaking of which, Sister Johnson and I made a goal this week to verbally acknowledge all the positive things in basically any and every situation. It is our goal to be more positive. You can never be too positive, right? Well actually you can, but I can get to that later. Every time we're feeling a little tired, we sing a little tune. Goes something like, "The whole MTC is great, we can do anything good, we like our teachers, we like our classroom, we like our roommates, we like our district, we like the Gospel, we like the whole MTC! We can teach anything good, yeah, yeah . . ." You get the idea. For those of you who have no idea where this is from, look up Jessica's Daily Affirmation on Youtube. She is quite the inspiration, let me tell you!
So, quick items of business/news! I ran into Elder Reynolds and Elder Hall this week. They are both very happy to be here! They say they are both getting in the hang of things (I just spoke with them a couple days ago) and they are liking it here. So you can pass it on to their families if you so desire; they both seem really happy! Also. I got the package! Thank you so much!! I love the zuchinni bread, so major points to my amazing cook of a little brother. Who is also hilarious. His letter had me practically in tears. But I digress. The boots are also wonderful! They are super comfortable, they fit perfectly, and they keep me warm in my walks to the temple. So thank you! They are perfect. One last item of business before we get to some more good stuff, I am leaving Tuesday morning! At . . .4:00 am. "4:00 am is great . . .I can do anything good . . . at 4:00 am . . yeah . . yeah. . ." But don't worry. I just have to report at 4:00 am, the flight isn't until about 7:15 ish? 7:20? You know, I'm not actually sure. But I will be calling from the Salt Lake City airport probably between 6:00 and 7:00 am. Isn't that great?! I bet all y'all are super excited to wake up that early to listen to me. And I wish I could give you a better time frame, but that's all I've got.
Sister Johnson and I have had a good week this week! Full of ups and downs, but always full of joy. We progressed one of our investigators to baptism, but he still has a problem understanding Priesthood Authority, but we're getting closer and closer! Grandma had a question about the TRC. Basically, the TRC is full of staff members and volunteers who pretend to be investigators to give the missionaries practice. We have staff on Mondays and Wednesdays, and volunteers (usually college students) on Tuesdays and Saturdays. Our staff member is a super good actor. I actually wonder whether or not he's a member of the church. They tell us some staff members are and some are not, so it's difficult to really tell if they do believe in the Gospel or not. Our staff member's name is Daniel, as I mentioned last week, and we've visited him twice but haven't been able to teach him anything because he has a tendency to kick missionaries out once they start testifying. Sister Johnson and I had a pretty good lesson prepared for this week, but sadly, they cancelled TRC on us! For the rest of the time we're here! Apparently, there are too many misisonaries. This made me pretty sad, because I was excited to teach him. It was interesting, though. Sis. Johnson and I were waiting outside a classroom door preparing to teach another progressing investigator (Gregory) when we saw Daniel walk by on his way out of the building. His shift was over and he was on his way home. I called after him, "The Church is true!! :) " He paused and turned around. "Is it? How do you know?" Sister Johnson and I then talked to him about how we knew it was true through the Spirit. He asked why he didn't know it was true. That caught me off-guard. We hadn't even talked about the Book of Mormon with this investigator before. I asked him if he had read it, he said he had. I asked him if he had prayed about it, he said he had. I asked him if he wanted to know it was true. His face fell and said, almost in a tone of desperation and sadness, "I just want to know the truth. Why do you know? And not me? Are you better than me? More righteous? The Spirit talks to you and not to me, why?" That really caught me off-guard. Something told me he wasn't acting. With as much faith as I could, I told him that the Spirit speaks to us all in very personal, meaningful ways, and sometimes it takes time for us to learn to recognize it's promptings. But as we keep at it, we will be able to feel its presence and know the truth for ourselves. I don't know if he was convinced, but he said a quick thank you and goodbye as he headed out the door. Now I'm REALLY sad TRC was cancelled. What I'd give to have 40 more minutes with him. The MTC is certainly an interesting place.
I have learned so much this week, and I have seen tender mercies everywhere. My brain is still not quite used to the 10:30 - 6:30 schedule. For the first week he was like, "LOL nope!" and didn't let me sleep. Like, at all. This week I think my brain finally understands I need him to shut off at 10:30. So I have been getting better sleep, and that has been a huge tender mercy. Though the other day I was so tired that I got a skull-splitting headache of a lifetime. Like a knife to the brain. It was right before gym, and I kind of just layed on the ground in agony, praying for it to stop. I got the impression to go upstairs and run around the track. When you're head is throbbing, and you feel sick to your stomach just because the lights are too bright, the last thing you want to do is get up and run around, let me tell you. But, one thing about the MTC is that you learn how the Spirit talks to you, and I knew it was an impression. So I went upstairs and started to run. And it was really painful. But after a few laps I ran into the beautiful Sister Day, who asked me about my week. We proceeded to have an incredible discussion about the things we've learned and the hardships we have overcome in the past couple weeks. I think I said some things she needed to hear, and she, in turn, said some things I needed to hear. The gym whistle blew and I realized my headache was gone. Does exercising help headaches? I don't know. But I learned to allows follow the promptings of the Spirit. By doing so, not only was I blessed physically, but I was also blessed spiritually by learning from this incredible sister in my district, and feeling the joy that comes from helping her Spiritually. Yep, the Church is true! And now matter how much you want to ignore it, NEVER put off a prompting. Just do it. You'll be glad you did!
So, I should probably return to the quote in the subject line. It's from Harry Potter, for those who don't recognize it. Ron is trying to read Harry's tea leaves and sees a picture of a skull I think? Which means suffering. And he sees the sun, which  means happiness. "So he's gonna suffer . . .but he's gonna be happy about it..." That line has been running through my head all week. Because I feel like that's kind of the epitome of a mission. At times it can get painful. I'm not even out in the field yet, but I know it won't be all sunshine and daisies the whole way. It's hard. The three nephites were told they wouldn't feel any pain, except it be for the sins of the world. And it will be painful when people will reject the message. It will be emotionally and physically taxing. It has already been physically taxing. It can feel overwhelming, and sometimes frightening. It's demanding. As is life. But we are promised over and over in the scriptures that we can find joy in suffering. The joy that comes from serving a mission is so much greater than any pain or suffering involved. Like Alma 36, we can feel joy that can exceed our pain as we center our hearts on Christ. Through Him we can find joy in the midst of tribulation. He asks us to "take my yoke upon you, for my yoke is easy, and my burden is light." He wants to help carry the weight. And He does. No matter how hard life gets, Christ is always willing to walk by our side and help us feel joy. This joy comes from knowing we are living our lives in accordance with His will. Knowing that has been enough for me to feel incomprehensible joy in the face of fear and sorrow. And I know that is what will carry me these next 18 months. And I am so excited for it!
Another thing I learned comes from the Bible Dictionary. I encourage all of you to at some point today look up the word "faith" in the Bible Dictionary. It basically says that Christ has revealed to us all aspects of His character so that all of us can have confidence in Him. How incredible is that? We know Christ's character because of the way He lived His life. We know His character as we study the scriptures. Shouldn't that give us confidence? Knowing that Christ is willing to suffer all the pains of hell so that we can be happy? He is willing to help us through every point in our lives, no matter how difficult. He is loving and patient. He will help us through. One thing Sister Day told me yesterday is that one of the reasons the ancient prophets had so much confidence was that they could see the end from the beginning. When we keep an eternal perspective in mind, with an idea of Christ's character and what He has in store for us, we have every reason to put all our trust and confidence in Him. He has revealed to us what He has in store. We know who we can become and the blessings that await us. And through Christ we can get there. What an incredible blessing. The people of the world need to hear it. I cannot be more humbled, nor more excited, to help bring it to them. That is my mission, to invite people to Christ, and help them along their way. I am so excited to get out in the field next week. It is going to be hard, but I know it will be the most incredible 18 months of my life.
Two minutes left! I have one other quick thought from the hymn, "Love One Another." I sing it so many times I forget what the words mean. I love the line, "by this shall men know ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another." God gave Adam and Eve, and all of their children, a way to recognize messengers from God. How do people know we are disciples of Christ? If we show love towards others. This is what sets us apart and makes us different. So many people will tell conversion stories that start with them noticing that Mormons are different. They're loving and accepting. That's what we need to be. By promising to take upon ourselves the name of Christ, we are promising to love one another. As missionaries, we wear His name every day, and all our actions should emulate His. But even if we are not outwardly wearing His name, we still need to take His name upon us and love others as He did. That is how we can help people recognize us as true followers of Christ, by the love we show and the degree to which our actions emulate His.
Time is up! 30 minutes is not long enough. I love you all! Thank you for the letters, packages, love, prayers, and support! I appreciate you all and will talk to you soon! Next time I write I'll be in the field!! AAH! Until next week! Let the adventures begin!
-Sister Fox

Sunday, January 27, 2013

First Week at the "Empty Sea!" Part 2


Family!
      

             Ok. 30 minutes is so not long enough.  I wrote about half the things I wanted to.  So I'm writing this extra tidbit. And it's going to be wonderfully random.
     
              Firstly, Sister Day's companion's father went to Dad's high school and is his same age.  Does daddy know a Todd Burmingham by any chance.

             Secondly, I got your package!  Thank you so much, the snacks are perfect!  I've been craving sugar like no tomorrow because every day is hard and I like to reward myself with food so the dried apricots really help!  Also, I was telling my district several days ago that I love peanut butter so much I eat it by the spoonful.  Did I crack up when I saw the peanut butter and plastic spoons?  Yes. Yes I did.  Thank you all for your letters too.  I love them all, and they make me very happy inside!  :D   Dad's letter with the Facebook feed had me cracking up.  Y'all are hilarious.  I got the package the day I got sick so the letters really lifted my spirits.

             Speaking of, I hope mentioning that didn't worry anyone.  Wednesday morning I woke up feeling nauseated and then proceeded to lose my dinner from the night before.  But I got a priesthood blessing, got right into bed, slept for five hours, and felt almost normal by mid-afternoon.  The priesthood works!  I also have a loving district and awesome companion who brought me food and Gatorade.  I feel completely back to normal now!

 Aannd…can I get copies of a few talks?  By elder Holland? Specifically "Missions are Forever," his talk given at the M.T.C. devotional on January 15, 2013 (the day before I got here. Took a long time to get over that one) and the talk he gave at October 2012 General Conference?  And "Cast Not Away Thy Confidence" or something like that?  Please and thank you!  Oh, and a medium-tension grip trainer (red) would make me an even happier person than I am now, if you can imagine that.  I can even send you money for it.  Just sayin'.  :D

Aaannd…I think that's it for now!  Thanks again for the letters and encouraging thoughts.  They make me a very happy missionary!

One more thought before I retire, and that is about stress/anxiety.  I think I touched on this in my E-mail today, but my mind is so shot every day that I can never remember anything anymore.  Anyway, stress is normal.  It means we need to make  changes.  But too much, as we all know, is damaging.  During the 8 days I've been here, I have noticed a tremendous trick to combatting stress, and that is helping others.  People say that a lot, but it is so true.  Because when you're stressed out, a lot of the time you're stressed about yourself.  But when you start focusing on the needs of others, your stress vanishes.  I have seen this more apparent in my life now than at any other time.  When I feel overwhelmed, I visit someone, I compliment someone, I teach someone something, and the stress dissolves as the Spirit sets in.  It's magic.  Service is the antidote to anxiety.  It won't fix what you're anxious about, but it will help things snap into perspective.  So go serve someone this week when you're feeling overwhelmed.  I promise you all it will make a tremendous difference.

I love you all so much!  Thank you for the support and prayers.  I can certainly feel their strength!  I hope you know how much I love it here and find joy in every minute, despite how overwhelming or difficult.  It's the most joyful challenging I've ever experienced, and it has only been 8 days!  More adventures to come!
All my love, 
Sister Fox

Thursday, January 24, 2013

First Week at the "Empty Sea!"

Family!
     I cannot tell you how excited I am to write this letter! So much has happened in the last 8 days and I have so much to tell! So buckle up. Because this is gonna be fun. :)
     So all y'all heard about my first day at the MTC and how fun that was. I wasn't surprised to hear that Dad couldn't stop laughing at the F.O.X. story. Seriously though, that was super funny. And there's something about the MTC that makes everything you hear twice as funny, so I could barely suppress my laughter. It's been like that all week, actually. My entire district is hilarious, and I've already filled several pages of funny quotes people have said. But I'll get to that later!
     I thought I would tell you a little bit more about the people with whom I spend all day every day. My district is awesome; there are 6 Elders and 6 Sisters. Everyone is super awesome! We have all grown super close already. It's hard not to grow close to a group of people if you're studying with them 8 hours a day. But I digress.  My companion, Sister Johnson, is super cute and friendly. We have this unification thing down! It has only been 8 days, and we already share brain waves. I think we may have frightened one of our investigators when we both simultaneously said, "That was perfect!"  with the same voice inflection after he said a prayer for the first time. We also tend to cough simultaneously. It's almost frightening how synchronized we are. But we're told when you and your companion are unified, it is much easier to teach with the Spirit. And that has been pretty apparent with our investigators. Sister Johnson and I have three progressing investigators right now; Justin, Gregory, and Daniel. Justin and Gregory are actually our teachers; their names are Brother Stayley and Brother Curtis. They are an awesome pair! What's kind of strange is that Brother Curtis is the spitting image of Jason Dahl and Brother Stayley is the spitting image of Scott Shattuck. But I digress. Every lesson they teach brings the Spirit, helps me learn how to be a more effective missionary, and fills me with the confidence to put the principles we learn into practice. I love the Spirit they bring and the way they teach; I have learned so much from them already! They are also really good investigators too; it's almost frightening how they can switch over to their investigator role so efficiently. Sis. Johnson and I have learned so much by teaching them! We committed Gregory to baptism the first visit! That was certainly encouraging, especially because it was our first time teaching as a companionship. Justin has been a little harder, but he's progressing, and we've committed him to read the Book of Mormon and to pray if it's true.
     So after teaching Gregory and Justin for a few days, I started getting a little over-confident. I forgot our teachers were going easy on us. But everything snapped back into perspective when Sis. Johnson and I went and did TRC for the first time. The investigators here are super good actors. Some are members, some aren't, and you don't really know if you are teaching a member or not. Some are also more receptive than others. So, essentially, some are easy, some are difficult. We started teaching Daniel, and that was a humbling experience. Not only did it take about half the time to convince him to let us in the front door, but as we tried to share our Gospel message with him, he completely refused. He told us he's Catholic, is happy with his life right now, doesn't like Mormons, doesn't want our message, and doesn't like talking about God with strangers. Sounds a little disheartening, no? I came out kind of discouraged, worrying that a lot of investigators in the South would be that way. So many of them are devout and may not want to change. But I learned a really valuable lesson teaching Daniel. My purpose is not to go door to door shoving doctrine down people's throats. My purpose is to bring people closer to Christ. And in order to do that, they have to trust you first. You love them and serve them first. I learned to be persistent, but also very patient with the spiritual progress of others. When we went back for our second visit, Sister Johnson and I focused most of the time on Daniel's specific needs. We were more receptive to the Spirit, and let him tell us more about himself. He immediately opened up, and told us without hesitation we could come back for another visit. We have two more visits with him, and I'm super excited to see where they lead!
     Speaking of excited, Thursday night I got to meet my Branch President, President Gamette. He is an incredible individual, and I have already learned so much from him. We got to know the zone a little better too. Our zone is huge! There are 4 districts I think (we had 5 but one just left) with 12 in each district. And about half our sisters. Crazy, right? In every meeting the sisters are always asked to stand up if they are 19 or 20, and over half of the sisters in the room stand. Same goes for the 18 year old Elders. It's amazing how many younger missionaries have answered the call and are now here with me in the MTC. The excitement and energy they bring here is overwhelming. I have loved getting to know everyone and I am looking forward to working and serving among them!
     Anyway, Thursday was a bit overwhelming, but what really was overwhelming was a brief interview with the Branch President. The Zone Leaders and Coordinating Sister in the Branch left just this last Tuesday, and he wanted to call new missionaries to fill those positions. He extended the call to me to be Coordinating Sister! My second day at the MTC. Before he even knew who I was or what my personality was like. He said he made the decision the first night we got to the MTC, and he hadn't even met us yet. I am humbled, overwhelmed, and excited to serve in this calling. I know I have been called to it for a purpose. For those of you who are not quite familiar with what a Coordinating Sister is, she is basically the Zone Leader for the sisters. There are 2 Zone Leaders and 1 Coordinating Sister, but now that our numbers our even (there are 24 sisters in my Zone), it is more intimidating to be the only Coordinating Sister. But it has been a joy so far. I lay down the law and make sure everyone follows the rules, which can be intimidating, but my favorite part is serving the sisters. I visit them in the evenings and make sure they feel happy and that their needs are being met. I also get to take new missionaries on tours of the MTC and orient them. It's a really good thing I worked here for an entire Summer, so I know where everything is! Also, when the sisters are sick, they come to the Coordinating Sister after going to the Medical Center. We have had so many people get sick over the last few days. Sickness spreads here like wildfire; it's insane. You know that stomach bug that was here a week before I got here? Yeah, it's still here.
     So, Dad was wondering if there was a motherly figure roaming the halls in the evening with painkiller and other things to meet the needs of the insomniacs and others who have trouble sleeping. Well, that's kind of the Coordinating Sister. Which is myself. But I have found that as I have actively tried to meet the needs of the sisters in my Branch, my own needs have been met. I feel comfortable here, and well taken care of. So, what happens when the Coordinating Sister gets sick? Because that totally happened. Wednesday I got the stomach bug (I have lost faith in flu shots by the way) and was super sick all morning. Sister Johnson went above and beyond to take care of me. She never left my side, even though they made a new rule that companions can go to class because the flu is so common here. She made sure I had Gatorade and crackers, helped me move my mattress to the floor, and kept asking me if I needed anything or if she could adjust the temperature in the room. She was super patient and loving. I am so grateful to have her!
     Ah, there is never enough time to write everything I want to! I just hope you all know how happy I am here. There have been discouraging times, and I have gotten frustrated and tired. But I am always happy. It's such a blessing. Even in the midst of the hard times, I feel happy. After every lesson, whether it is good or bad, I feel an incredible amount of joy that comes from being on the Lord's errand. Finding joy in the journey has taken on a whole new meaning. After every negative emotion, the Spirit has a way of melting my heart. It is so strong here, and I have never felt more enveloped in the arms of my Savior. I feel God's love so strongly here, and He has given me so much strength. He is invested in everything I do, because I am here to do His work. As long as we serve Him and the people around us, all our needs are taken care of.
I love you all so much! Until Next week,
Sister Fox

Sunday, January 20, 2013

First Day in the MTC


Hello!  I am writing this at the end of my very first day in the MTC.  And I can tell you now:  it is awesome!  Seriously.  I love it here already!  The spirits so strong here and everyone is super happy.  Especially if you have that silly orange dot on our name tag.  You get an automatic “Welcome!”  Even from the Elders.  Wasn’t expecting that!
So I suppose I’ll start where I left off.  I go inside, I give them my last name to get my name tag, and the woman repeats, “F..O..X.”  I go to the next desk to get my room key.  “Last name?”  “Fox”  “*snicker* F..O..X.”  I go to the next room to get my study materials.  “Last name?  “Fox” “*snicker* F..O..X.”  Yep.  Three times!  That third person asked me if I get that a lot.  Why yes, yes I do. 
Then we met our teachers and district.  Sadly, Sister Day is not in my district, but she is in my zone, so we’ll be going to church and the temple together.  I also met my lovely companion!  Her name is sister Johnson, and she is a little quiet, but super cute and friendly.  It is a little strange being joined at the hip with someone, but I’ll get used to it.  I have the feeling we’ll be getting super close!
So, after class we met the MTC President and had a mini-devotional.  The best part was singing “Army of Helaman” –we changed the works “we will be” to “we are now the Lord’s missionaries.”  Cephulus Explodicus.  It is so cool to be in a room full of missionaries singing hymns together.  The Spirit is so strong here!
So!  P-day is Thursday.  Starting next week though, because tomorrow is orientation.  The Branch President told us to ask all y’all to email via Dear Elder, not myldsmail.  That way I can get mail the day you send it instead of waiting until Thursday. 
Cafeteria food is not that frightening.  They have lots of fresh fruits and bagels and salad and such.  So it is possible to eat healthy!  To an extent anyway.
I also get to use my climbing skills!  Cuz… my bunk bed has no ladder.  So I get to improvise!  Making the bed was a party and a half, especially trying to get the fitted sheet on the mattress.  Practicing my rodeo skills, I guess!
I love my district already.  We have 12- record high!  6 boys, 6 girls.  Also first time in history Elders and Sisters were half and half.  The work is expanding!
So, rest assured, I love it here already.  The spirit is strong, my roommates are awesome (all 5 of them), my teachers are fun, and I love my zone and district.  These next three weeks will be perfectly fantastic.  The schedule is crazy, but I love feeling so productive.  I love the feeling of being a missionary already.  The joy that comes from doing God’s work is already flooding my heart, and I cannot express my gratitude and excitement to be here.  I’m in good hands, and I can feel the love of the Savior more profoundly than ever before.  I cannot express it enough; I love it here!
I love all y’all too, and have been praying for you.  I hope you know how happy I am to be a missionary and how excited I am to do this for the next 18 months!  I hope all is well back at home and you are all in good spirits!  Love you lots!  Until next week,

Love/Sister Fox

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

My Farewell Talk

Hiya!

For those of you who wanted to read my talk and weren't able to make it to my farewell, I decided to post it to my blog. Keep in mind, I did use an outline when I gave the talk, so this isn't word-for-word what I said, but this is the gist of it. Enjoy! :)

                                                  Christlike Attributes

I would like to begin with a question. Honestly search your heart and ask yourself, "If I could change one thing about my circumstances, what would I change?" Perhaps you would like a nicer car, a better job, or a larger home? 
Then search your heart again and ask yourself, “If I could change one thing about my character, what would I change?” Perhaps you would like to be a little more friendly, or patient, or humble?
If given the choice between the two, which one would you choose? 

David O. Mckay taught that "Man’s chief concern in life should not be the acquiring of gold, or of fame, or of material possessions . . . but [his highest aim in life] should be the development of a Christ-like character."1 3rd Nephi 27:27 reads, "What manner of men ought ye to be? Verily I say unto you: Even as I am." Christ asks us to become like Him. Why? Because only through becoming Christlike in character can we find happiness and fulfillment in this life and in the life to come. 

How can we, as fallen man, subject to weakness and sin, become as Jesus Christ, who lived a perfect life and had perfect character? How can we make His character our own?
           
The answer is through the enabling power of the Atonement of Jesus Christ. In the April 2012 Ensign, David A. Bednar wrote an article entitled “The Atonement and the Journey of Mortality,” in which he talks about how the Atonement is not only for sinners, but for good men and women striving to change and become better. The enabling power of the Atonement is what gives us strength beyond our natural capacity to grow Christlike in character. As fallen man, we do not have the natural capacity to live a perfect life and become as God. According to 2nd Nephi 2:8, we need to rely on the “merits, and mercy, and grace of the Holy Messiah.”

What is grace? Grace is divine means of help or strength2. President Bednar teaches us that it is through the grace of God that individuals, through their faith in the atonement and repentance, receive extra strength beyond natural capacity to both cast sins aside and continue to grow Christlike in character.

This is exemplified in one of my favorite novels by C.S. Lewis entitled, “The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader.” One character, by the name of Eustace, transforms himself into a dragon through his greed. He meets Aslan, who leads Eustace to a well of water. Eustace knows if he were to enter the well, his pain and suffering would be alleviated. Aslan tells him he must shed his skin before entering the well. Eustace claws at the first layer until he is free. He feels clean, but finds as he looks at himself, he is just as rough and scaly as before. He scratches and tears again until he sheds another layer of skin, and although he feels clean, he does not change. After shedding a third time with the same results, he begins to feel discouraged and wonders how many layers of skin he must shed before he will be clean enough to enter the well. This is when Aslan steps in and says, “Looks like I must do it.” He makes a tear so deep, Eustace feels it right in his heart. And although it hurts above any other pain Eustace has ever felt, he finds that Aslan has freed him from his dragon form. Alone, Eustace did not have the capacity to free himself from the dragon form that had ensnared him.

So it is with us. Have you ever felt frustrated by your own weaknesses? Have you ever felt trapped by that sin you have tried over and over to cast aside and root out of your heart? When we understand the enabling power of the Atonement, we pray that we will be given the extra strength from on high to overcome our weaknesses. We pray that God will grant us the power, the strength, and the courage, beyond our natural capacity, to turn our weaknesses into strengths. It is through the enabling power of the Atonement that Christ lends us the strength to overcome our weaknesses. It is through this power that Christ helps us change our hearts, refine our characters, and become more like Him.

How is it that the Atonement grants us this power? Alma 7:11-12 reads, “He shall go forth, suffering pains and afflictions and temptations of every kind; and this that the word might be fulfilled which saith he will take upon him the pains and the sicknesses of his people. And he will take upon him death, that he may loose the bands of death which bind his people; and he will take upon him their infirmities, that his bowels may be filled with mercy, according to the flesh, that he may know according to the flesh how to succor his people according to their infirmities.”

He knows how difficult it is. He understands the weight of sin because he has carried it. He knows how hard it is to struggle under the weight of sin and knows exactly how to help. He will give us of this strength if we turn to him. For God will not suffer us to be tempted above that which we are able to bear3.

What, then, prevents us from accessing the power of Christ’s atonement?

While my best friend was in the MTC, his branch president taught him that "there is no limitation on our access to the power of Christ but us."

We limit ourselves. How? By failing, or refusing, to align our will with God’s.

In a talk entitled “The Fourth Missionary” (2010), Lawrence E. Corbridge teaches that “you cannot be spiritually changed against your will . . . [God] cannot work on what he does not have, and He cannot have you unless you give yourself to Him." It is only when we align our will with God's that we become changeable.

I have found this ring true in my own life. Deciding to serve a mission was the most rewarding, yet most terrifying, decision I have ever made. I knew it was the will of the Lord when President Monson gave the announcement, but I had plans of my own. I had hopes and desires I was afraid I would lose if I were to leave on a mission.
As my mission drew closer, I grew in fear and plead to God for courage and strength of character, but I felt no change. I tried to be strong, but I felt as if I were on my own. I was obedient in my mind, but my heart was not quite right. I still clung to the future that I wanted instead of the future that God wanted.
I knew I needed God’s help, and the only way to get it was to align my will with His. One night I wrote down the details of the future I wanted for myself on a piece of paper and prayed to God. I told Him that’s exactly what I wanted my future to look like. Then I asked for the heavenly strength to have the inner courage to put my desires aside, and that everything in my life be done according to God’s will, and not my own.
Then, through the enabling power of His atonement, I finally received the courage that I had been pleading for. I learned for myself that God will give us strength to overcome any obstacle or challenge, whether it be internal or external, if we are willing to give of ourselves to Him. Only then did He give me the courage to fold up the piece of paper, put it in an envelope, and stick it in a drawer, where it will stay until my work is done. And it was then I finally internalized the truth that God’s plan for me is far more grand and glorious than any future I could write on my own.

Now we may not all be going on missions, but there comes a time in all of our lives when we have to put our plans on hold in order to make room for God's plan. It is only when we give Him our whole heart, and trust in Him, that He can change us spiritually and refine our characters to become more like His Son, who was the perfect example of someone who was perfectly willing to submit to the will of God. John 6:38 reads, “For I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me.”

Bro. Corbridge urges us to "Trust Him that He will make of you, immeasurably more, than what you will ever, ever, in all eternity, make of yourself. He will create of you a masterpiece. You will create of you . . . an ordinary man. He will create a God."

Believe that you can change. Believe that Christ can and will change you as you yield your heart to His will. And line upon line, precept upon precept, grace by grace, you will develop Christlike characteristics through the enabling power of the Atonement until at that great day when you will be able to stand before God, clean and pure. Through His grace, He will save you, and make you into the God or Goddess that you now have the potential to become. 

1Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: David O. Mckay (2003), 215.
2 Bible Dictionary: Grace
3 1 Corinthians 10:13