I want to share a personal experience that I had shortly after I opened my mission call.
Everyone warned me that "satan would work really hard on me" after I made my decision to serve.
And to say he worked hard on me and continues to work hard on me is an understatement!
I thought that I would be tempted with the things I've always struggled with, and that I would easily be able to overcome these temptations because I was preparing to serve a mission and that meant I would be alright.
Well let me tell you,
I was WRONG!
Just a few short days after I had opened my mission call, I began studying preach my gospel and I started reading the book of Mormon over again. What happened to me was totally unexpected, and extremely frustrating.
I began to question everything.
Now, before you start to think that I don't have a testimony, let me tell you what I have learned from this experience, and how my testimony has actually been strengthened.
I had never questioned anything before this point in my life. Ever since I was in primary, I just knew that this church was true and I loved everything that I was taught. So here I am, preparing to serve a mission in foreign county, in another language, and I'm questioning what I'm supposed to go teach?! I was beyond scared now. After a while of feeling frustrated, and feeling like I should just give up and not accept my mission call, I decided to try and push through these feelings and these questions I had. I was reading through preach my gospel and I got to a point where it challenged me to memorize Joseph Smith History vs. 16-17. Although I had read and heard these verses many times throughout my life, I learned something that day that I had never before noticed, but from that day on, I would never forget. Just to give some background to these verses, Joseph Smith had some pretty serious questions regarding religion and what church he should join. He went to a secluded grove not far from his home to kneel in prayer and ask.
Vs 15-17 have some very important points that I think we can ALL learn from when faced with adversity and opposition:
15 After I had retired to the place where I had previously designed to go, having looked around me, and finding myself alone, I kneeled down and began to offer up the desires of my heart to God. I had scarcely done so, when immediately I was seized upon by some power which entirely overcame me, and had such an astonishing influence over me as to bind my tongue so that I could not speak. Thick darkness gathered around me, and it seemed to me for a time as if I were doomed to sudden destruction.
16 But, exerting all my powers to call upon God to deliver me out of the power of this enemy which had seized upon me, and at the very moment when I was ready to sink into despair and abandon myself to destruction—not to an imaginary ruin, but to the power of some actual being from the unseen world, who had such marvelous power as I had never before felt in any being—just at this moment of great alarm, I saw a pillar of light exactly over my head, above the brightness of the sun, which descended gradually until it fell upon me.
17 It no sooner appeared than I found myself delivered from the enemy which held me bound. 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!
I had never before realized that Satan was actually the first to visit Joseph Smith in the grove. He felt his darkness as he stated "I was ready to sink into despair and abandon myself to destruction." I could so easily relate to that feeling that day, as I had been feeling that darkness and was ready to quit myself. But I absolutely LOVE in verse 16 how he said he exerted all his powers to call upon God!
What do we learn from this?
That we cannot give up! Satan cannot win! I wondered why Satan was allowed to visit Joseph Smith. Why not Heavenly Father?
Well, I believe that this story is real life. Its a parable for our purpose in this life. We came down to this earth so that we could be tested and tried, and we were so very blessed to have our agency to choose! But if Heavenly Father always came first, we wouldn't have to have faith in him, and we definitely wouldn't grow.
I testify to you that God DOES come! He answered Joseph Smiths prayer, and he will answer ours!
One of my favorite talks of all time is called "Cast not away therefore your confidence" by Jeffery R. Holland. Please read it! If I could I would quote the whole thing, but I will leave it up to whoever wants to read it to find it on their own. But I will share one quote from it that hit me pretty hard.
"It is the plain and very sobering truth that before great moments, certainly before great spiritual moments, there can come adversity, opposition, and darkness. Life has some of those moments for us, and occasionally they come just as we are approaching an important decision or a significant step in our life."
Well there was my answer! I was preparing to go on a mission which is a pretty significant step in my life, and that was exactly why Satan was working on me. That was a testimony to me that my choice to go on a mission was the right one- because Satan sure doesn't want me out there! It is essential to realize that Satan is the influence behind the opposition to the work of God.
"The nearer a person approaches the Lord, a greater power will be manifested by the adversary to prevent the accomplishment of His purposes."
So I was VERY wrong in thinking that my decision to serve a mission saved me from temptation. In fact, I have come to find out that it is exactly the opposite. I'm never going to be free from the evil and cunning plan of Satan, especially when I am doing all I can to do what is right. I think we can easily get stuck in that "darkness" period and we give up or we finally give in to temptations because we feel like it's never going to go away. And its not. But I know that we have power over Satan if we do as Joseph Smith did and "exhort all our powers to call upon God." Heavenly Father will never force us to choose him, that was never his plan, as it was Satan's. Heavenly Father wants us to choose him and he will help us if we ask.
I testify that Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ live. They love us. They want to help us, and they will come! I have a testimony of adversity. That it is given to us in this life so that we can improve ourselves and become like God. I am eternally grateful for moments where I am able to use my agency to choose the right and to follow my Saviors example. I know that I will be tested by Satan for the rest of my life, but I am grateful for the atonement so I can have power to overcome.