The Book of Mormon Changed Our Missions

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June 1997 Ensign

With frustration welling up in my heart, I sat on my top bunk desperately praying and searching the scriptures.  Sitting just below me on her bunk was the person I believed to be the cause of all my distress: my missionary companion.  How could this be? I asked myself.  I only want to do the work we were called to do.   But today, as I look back on that experience, I recognize that I truly learned in a beautiful way the great power the gospel of Jesus Christ can bring into our relationships with others, particularly at those times when we could allow contention to grow between us.

A convert of three years, I had entered the mission field with a great desire to share my new found testimony with the people of Chile.  Four months into my service, my mission president had assigned me to a companion who was struggling with desires to go home early.  My assignment as her junior companion was to help her regain the spirit of missionary service and honorably finish her remaining six months.

At first I felt honored to be entrusted with such a responsibility.  My enthusiasm soon dwindled, however,  as the difficulty of my task became apparent.

My companion would not participate in finding new families or working with investigators, even though my Spanish was limited and I needed her help in teaching lessons and answering questions.  Before long, she refused to leave our house at all.  Because few sisters from the branch were available to accompany me, my missionary service became limited to studying at home while my companion slept.

She is ruining my mission, I thought as I lay on my bunk.   Suddenly a gentle, familiar feeling of admonishment broke through my anger and despair: perhaps I was ruining my own mission. I mentally reviewed the case against my companion and angrily recounted her failures, but the feeling persisted that I also was in need of repentance.

Indignantly, I gave my scriptures a shove.  The pages fell open to 1 John, chapter 4.  As I read the chapter, I felt my spirit gradually soften and submit, especially as I considered verse 19:   "We love him, because he first loved us."  Love my difficult companion?  I pondered.  But how? I pleaded with the Lord to help me.

Swiftly and surely came the needed direction.  I felt impressed to read the Book of Mormon with my companion.  I began fasting from that moment and resolved that the next morning we would begin studying the Book of Mormon together.

The next day, my companion was unresponsive when I placed her scriptures in her hands. Nevertheless, I read a chapter aloud to her in Spanish.  The subsequent morning she greeted me negatively, but again I read another chapter aloud.

After about a week of this routine, I was overcome with emotion one morning when my companion opened her scriptures on her own and followed along.  As the next days went by, her attitude improved until one glorious morning she suggested that we alternate reading five verses each until the chapter was finished.

From then on, the rebirth of my companion's spirit was clearly evident.  Each day the light of Christ shone more brightly in her eyes as the scriptures came alive in our hands.  My own spirit was affected as well:  I marveled at how each verse touched me more in Spanish than it ever had in English.

Finally, one morning after we had read and prayed, my companion closed her scriptures and headed for the door.  Looking back at me with mock impatience, she asked, "Pues, iva's a venir conmigo?"--or, translated, "Well, are you coming with me?"  Tears filled my eyes as I grabbed my scriptures and followed her.  As we left the house for a day of missionary work, I marveled at the change the Spirit had wrought in my companion.  I also noted with immense satisfaction how I too was changing.  My outlook was brighter and my feelings toward my companion were less critical and more tempered by understanding, patience, and love.  I was reminded of the great blessings in store for those who cultivate the habit of working through challenges with faith as they seek the eventual fruits of their labors (see D&C 58:3).

Before long I was again transferred.  During the long bus ride to my new area, I opened my scriptures and was surprised when a handmade bookmark fell out.  I noticed "Alma 5:14" written on the bookmark.  Looking up the passage, I read, "Have ye spiritually been born of God?  Have ye received his image in your countenances?  Have ye experienced this mighty change in your hearts?"  Inside my scriptures, I also found a dried, pressed rose petal carefully inscribed with these words:  "I loved reading the Book of Mormon with you.   I love you.

Several months later, I received a letter from my mission president informing me that my former companion had finished her mission "in a blur of baptisms." The president declared that I had been a tremendous blessing in her life,  but I knew that the blessing had come from the scriptures, from the Spirit, and from our Heavenly Father.  Nearly 16 years later, I still cherish that rose petal as a reminder of the mighty change that can occur in a person's life--in two persons' lives.