I am leaving to serve a mission for my church to San Fernando, California for 18 months! I will miss all of you- but don’t worry… I will be back I appreciate every like, and every comment, it really means so much to me!! Thank you for all of your love and support! If you are interested, I gave a farewell talk on gratitude and how I decided to go on a mission at my church a couple of weeks ago! Here is the talk below. See ya in 1.5!!
For those of you who don’t know me, my name is Erin Harker. I am scheduled to enter the Mission Training Center on November 4th to serve a mission in the California San Fernando Mission for 18 months. I am privileged today to speak prior to going into the mission field. My dad served the Ventura Mission and at the time the San Fernando Valley, which is my mission, was part of the mission he served in. He tells me Californian is the BEST place to serve! When I look back at pictures from his mission he actually had a super good tan, which is kind of shocking if you know him – as now he is the sunscreen king. So here’s to hoping that this pale girl might get a real tan – well at least a really good farmer’s tan.
It is fitting that we just celebrated thanksgiving a couple weekends ago because gratitude goes along perfectly with what I want to share with you today! I love the account of the Savior from the book of Luke, chapter 17,
Where Jesus healed 10 men of leprosy. What struck me about this account is that these men had all received such a marvelous blessing of healing and only one came back to thank him.
Jesus said, Were there not ten cleansed? but where are the nine?
“There are not found that returned to give glory to God, save this stranger.
“And he said unto him, Arise, go thy way: thy faith hath made thee whole.” (Luke 17:11–19.)
Through divine intervention these men were spared from terrible pain and what would have been an awful death as their bodies deteriorated from leprosy. Miraculously they were given another chance at living a healthy life. Sadly, although they all experienced the same miracle, only one returned to give thanks. I can’t imagine how disappointed the savior must have been. I like to think that if I was one of those that were cleansed that I would have wanted to give my thanks to the Savior.
A well known hymn, Count Your Many Blessings, always lifts my spirits, kindles my faith, and inspires my thoughts:
When upon life’s billows you are tempest tossed,
When you are discouraged, thinking all is lost,
Count your many blessings; name them one by one,
And it will surprise you what the Lord has done. …
So amid the conflict, whether great or small,
Do not be discouraged; God is over all.
Count your many blessings; angels will attend,
Help and comfort give you to your journey’s end.
This past February I underwent back surgery to fix some herniated disks that had given me intense pain for about 1.5 years. It is sad to say, but I feel like it took an experience this extreme for me to truly understand the principal of gratitude. I still don’t know how I injured by back, but up until the day of my surgery I was in constant pain. I remember days when I would scream just getting in the car, in social settings I could barely hold a conversation because I was in so much pain, it was hard to walk, on one particular day I thought my brother would have to carry me out of the mall because it was so difficult to walk without pain. For the first couple of months of my injury I was just annoyed because all I wanted to do was go on a run or do something fun! How I wish I would have read the Talk “The Divine Gift of Gratitude” by President Monson near the beginning of my injury. He asks “How can we cultivate within our hearts an attitude of gratitude? President Monson then quotes President Joseph F. Smith to provide an answer. He said “The grateful man sees so much in the world to be thankful for, and with him the good outweighs the evil. Love overpowers jealousy, and light drives darkness out of his life.” President Smith continued: “Pride destroys our gratitude and sets up selfishness in its place. How much happier we are in the presence of a grateful and loving soul, and how careful we should be to cultivate, through the medium of a prayerful life, a thankful attitude toward God and man!” President Smith is telling us that a sincerely prayerful life is the key to possessing gratitude.
After a couple of months of back and leg pain it dawned on me that I wasn’t getting better and there wasn’t much I could do about it. After a while my frustration started to turn to anger. I said to myself, “Why can’t my back just heal so I can be normal again?” I knew many people, including myself, who were praying for me. I had received blessings and I was trying to be the best person I could be- I thought the Lord would miraculously heal me. One day I was talking to my Dad on the phone and was pretty frustrated. He was making his best efforts to understand my pain but in the process he reminded me that his mother had had stomach cancer for years and when he was 9 years old she passed away leaving all of her children behind. This really hit me- yes I was going through something difficult but I had so much to be grateful for. Even though it was hard, I could walk, I had a healthy body, I had a family who loved me, I was still able to work, I was able to discover and develop new talents and hobbies and on and on. I recognized at that point how truly blessed I was.
A popular refrain from the 1940s expresses the way I tried to start living:
Accentuate the positive;
Eliminate the negative.
Latch on to the affirmative;
Don’t mess with Mr. In-between.1
Having faith and a positive attitude was really my saving grace the last couple of years. I eventually found myself saying if I am like this the rest of my life I can still be happy and it will all be okay! We live in a world of instant gratification so it took me a while to come to accept that my injury may not be an easy fix, or may never be resolved. I also couldn’t have done it without my mom by my side. There wasn’t a day that went by where she wasn’t offering to serve me or help me in some way. Although she couldn’t relieve the pain, her kind words, acts of service and even her just being there to cry with me helped me get through this trial. I don’t know where the time comes from, but it seems as though she is able to get through everything she needs to get done and then has time to help me with anything I need, and be completely content about it.
After a successful back surgery where my pain was completely eliminated I was so grateful to my Father in Heaven. The blessing of healing that I had received where I was promised a full recovery was being fulfilled. I then began to have impression that I needed some sort of change- I wasn’t really sure what that would be but I knew I wanted and needed something different and new in my life. In March of this year I attended my cousin Kirstina Turner’s mission homecoming talk. As she was talking about her mission, an overwhelming feeling came over me that I needed to serve a mission. I hadn’t even thought of serving a mission as an option for the change I wanted in my life, but I could not deny the feeling I had. I knew though that Heavenly Father was answering my prayers.
As I think about the account of the Lepers in Luke, I am sure that the 9 who didn’t return to thank Jesus were grateful, however they just didn’t take the time to sacrifice and return to give thanks. I believe that serving a mission is a way that I can show my gratitude to my heavenly father by serving him and his children.
I love the quote from President Gordon B. Hinkley- “Never assume that you can make it alone. You need the help of the Lord. Never hesitate to get on your knees in some private place and speak with Him. What a marvelous and wonderful thing is prayer. Think of it. We can actually speak with our Father in Heaven. He will hear and respond, but we need to listen to that response. Nothing is too serious and nothing too unimportant to share with Him.” END QUOTE. No matter what we need, Heavenly Father wants to hear from us but we need to be able to be in tune with the spirit so we can feel the promptings of the HG and receive answers to our prayers.
While growing up, going on a mission was probably the last thing I would have thought I would be doing at this point in my life. To be honest it was never something I wanted to do as a single person. During my teenage years my cousin Becca and I would make lists of what age we would be when we got married, how old we would be when we had our fist kid, the order of the gender of our kids, you know the things you can totally plan on…typical girl things. But things don’t always work out the way we plan or expect they will. I can stand up here today though and tell you that I am super excited to go on a mission! I know it is the right thing for me to do at this point in my life.
As you can imagine even though I had that initial impression, it was quite a process for me to decide to go on a mission. I needed to get confirmation that it was right. The scripture that gave me the most comfort during this process was Proverbs 3: 5-6 “ Trust in the Lord with all thing heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him and he shall direct thy paths.” For the first couple of days after my initial impression of the need to go on a mission I felt super confident and was really happy! But, then I started feeling very unsure and confused. I wanted to do what would be best for me at this point in my life and I kept asking myself “is going on a mission really what I have to do?” I started coming up with other ideas that would have been good options as well, but it was making me more confused. There were days when I would find myself at work totally spaced out trying so hard to make a decision! I continued praying about what I should do and as I look back on what I was praying for, I realize that what I was really asking for was what I wanted to do, which was to not go on a mission. Deep down I was terrified. I never felt pressure from anyone as a matter of fact I honestly wished someone would have told me what to do! I actually went to my mom and asked my mom if she would just tell me what to do, but she always said- whatever you chose to do will be a good choice, which wasn’t what I wanted to hear, but she did remind me how I had felt when the idea of a mission came to my mind and not to doubt that feeling. I find I always have the hardest time making decisions, but in the end I am glad that I was able to choose for myself to go on a mission. If my mom or anyone else were to have made the decision for me and told me what to do I know that wouldn’t have worked for me. I would have found reasons to blame them when things get hard or challenging. I eventually came to the realization that I wanted to serve Heavenly Father because he has given me so much and I owe everything to him. We can read in Mosiah 2:17 “learn that when ye are in the service of your fellow beings ye are only in the service of your God.” I want to be able to share with others what I know is true and what makes me happy. I remember when a good friend I had known since Jr. High was baptized a couple of years after we graduated high school. To see how happy he was and see how his countenance changed when he learned of the Gospel of Jesus Christ was the most amazing experience! It made me want to share my testimony with everyone! I look forward to this on my mission.
I also came to the realization that going on a mission will help me become the person I want to be. I believe it will help me be a better member of the church, teacher, friend, sister, daughter and someday mother. Although I don’t know the exact reason I felt so strongly to serve a mission or how it will bless my life, I remember reading a blog post from a missionary how they had a general authority come speak to them and he talked about the blessings of a mission. A few things that he mentioned were that as missionaries serve- they bless their own posterity, their future families, their parents, brothers, sisters, and all that has to do with who they are a who they can become. That is a very powerful blessing and really touched me. I hope that by serving a mission I, as well as my parents, brother and sister and others will be able to feel the blessings from the lord.
I am a person of few words, but my simple testimony is that I know that this church is true with all of my heart. I have read the book of Mormon and prayed about it and have gained a testimony of it. I know that Jesus died for all of us so that we can return to live with him someday. I know that because he did this, I can be forgiven of my sins and that I can be with my family for eternity. It is not by any means easy to be a member of the church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints- but I know that it is worth it. Being an active member of the church comes with lots of responsibility and commitment that can sometimes seem very hard, and overwhelming but I do know that I want to show my gratitude to the Lord for all my blessings and one way I can do this is by serving a Full Time mission. The gospel has brought me so much happiness and I have seen countless blessing from keeping the commandments and now I have the privilege of sharing it.