I've been following the reactions of people to the news about the new age for missionaries. So many echo my feelings of elation and excitement for the youth of the church. I have no doubt that they have much good to do. As I've watched the reactions, I was surprised to find many people who, while excited for the news, also have been experiencing a sense of loss for missed opportunities. If only this had been the way things were when I was nineteen, so many women are writing. I read an article where a women expressed deep sadness and sorrow for what she felt she had lost. This sadness was echoed by many others.
I was troubled. Do women in the church really feel like they were denied opportunities to be instruments in the Lord's hands because theirs was not the same priesthood calling as their nineteen-year-old male counterparts? I do not deny that within the church there are pressures for certain things to happen at certain times. Missions. Marriage. Children. There is a pattern, an ideal, and we are taught to strive for it.
But we are not perfect. Our bodies are not perfect. Our minds are not perfect. Unfortunately, in places where we are surrounded by others striving to reach these ideals, it's so easy to compare, judge, and condemn. Why has that boy not left on his mission? Why is that girl not married? Why don't they have children?
I've seen this. I've been there.
I do not pretend to know all the answers. I can't tell my friends and this sad woman why this announcement came now and not seven or ten years ago when it would have been everything to them. One thing I do know is the Lord's ways are not our ways.
No matter where you are, no matter how weak, no matter what gender, we are all loved by our Father in Heaven. Our feet, our hands, our willing minds and hearts, however imperfect, are his tools. He will use us for good if we will seek His will and follow it.
What about the might have beens? What about my righteous desires for things I wanted so badly I ached physically to see them unrealized? What about missed opportunities?
Whatever you believe, do not fall into the idea that these things are some how unable to be compensated. That is a lie.
I know this. With my whole heart.
Watch what Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin had to say about this, over five years ago. I hope you pay particular attention to this part:
"The Lord compensates the faithful for every loss. That which is taken
away from those who love the Lord will be added unto them in His own
way. While it may not come at the time we desire, the faithful will know
that every tear today will eventually be returned a hundredfold with
tears of rejoicing and gratitude."
The Lord does compensate our losses. The Lord does fulfill his promises.
Over a hundred years ago, faithful saints left a beautiful temple and set out across a wilderness to a desert valley. The Lord made promises to them. Do we doubt that he will fulfill them? Do we think, after all they went through, that any portion of what they longed for will be denied them? Can we question that God will fulfill his promises to them? I have. And his answer was a resounding echo I've remembered to this day. "I will fulfill my promises. Every one."
Yesterday, I drove around the point of the mountain, heading north. Below me, from one side of the valley to the other were houses. Dotted between the houses, I saw temples. The posterity of these faithful saints sit in the basin of the Salt Lake Valley surrounded by the very covenants and blessings their parents received in a temple they left. We are the fruit of their labors. We are, in part, the fulfillment of many promised blessings. We are, in no small way, miracles.
If you feel like you've lost something. If you feel like blessings have been denied you, know this: You will be compensated. That is a promise given to us by the Lord himself. It's reechoed through the words of his prophets. It's a principle of the Gospel. It is a promise. And the Lord fulfills His promises.
My feet have been led down paths I didn't expect. Sometimes the places I find myself in are not what I want. Sometimes the things I'm asked to sacrifice are what I want with the deepest parts of my heart. But when I turn to the Lord, when I ask him to let me be an instrument for good, He opens doorways, He pours out inspiration and He lets me serve Him. No matter were I am. No matter how short I fall from the ideal. I can be His hands.
I like to think that my feet are making a different sort of trail across a wilderness equally as daunting as the pioneers' trail was. I like to think that my righteous life makes a difference in this world, to myself, my family, my posterity, and yes, even those beautiful youth that will so valiantly take up the call to serve missions at a younger age than ever before. I hope the steps I've taken are worthy for those after me to follow in.
I do not know what they will face. I do not know what losses they will experience. I can only hope that they never doubt that a righteous step forward will always lead to the promised land. A land far more beautiful that we can imagine. A place were all our tears will be wiped and every lost compensated by a loving Father and a merciful Savior in who's arms everything can and will be made right.