Thursday, December 31, 2015

Holy Nights

My Beloved Family and Friends,

I find myself here, at the edge of a new page, ready to turn.  I have thought a lot about today and what I'd like to tell you all as the only full year of my mission comes to an end - and I think I finally have found the words to say.  I sincerely pray that the Spirit may convey my words to your hearts, that you might know the love and gratitude and sincerity that I wish to express.  I have thought a million times that a single weekly letter can do little for a person - but perhaps a yearly letter might have more worth.  So, if I had to write a letter to summarize an entire year of a life - of my life - this would be the letter.  

When I began this year, I entered in a prayer.  I begged my Heavenly Father to allow this year to shape me as I dedicated myself to Him.  I had many doubts about myself being a missionary - I felt as if I would never be the kind of missionary that could actually do the work of the Lord.  I didn't know how to work.  I couldn't speak the language well.  I didn't feel like I was good enough.  And as the year went on - I realized... I was right.  I DIDN'T know how to work as a representative of the Lord.  I DIDN'T speak the language well.  And frankly, I WASN'T good enough.  Now, I make none of these remarks to degrade myself or make it seem like I was useless as of a year ago - that would be a mistake, and a lie.  I had potential.  I had nerve.  I had a firm, great desire to be better.  And THAT.... That is all that was required - and that has been 2015.  Let me explain.

Christ, in one of His many parables, compared the Kingdom of God to a mustard seed.  He explained that such a tiny, humble seed, if properly nurtured, would eventually grow to become a great tree.  Alma, a prophet in the Book of Mormon, taught a similar comparison, as he elaborated the manner in which we nourish our faith as if it were a seed.  He explains that if one only has the DESIRE to believe - God could make that faith stronger.  In another parable, Christ explains that we ought to be cautious of putting our love in things of the world, explaining that worldly desires lead to disappointment (as explained by a remarkable playwright, 'you can't take it with you', in the end), recognizing that such things can be attacked by time and outside forces.  Christ then explains that wheresoever we put our treasure, then, our heart would most surely follow.

These two parables have had a great impact on me during this year.  As I consider the implications of both parables, I have come to realize that they are deeply intertwined.  Any given desire that one decides to plant will always begin to grow - be it a righteous or evil desire.  As Christ also stated, the world rejected the light because it loved the darkness more - and this love was a result of it's own continued wicked acts and works.  Thus - we see that if one plants a seed of evil, it will definitely grow, if one continually gives it opportunity to do so.  And as one places their treasure in those evil things - their heart, in a very real sense, slowly grows more evil.  Slowly, but surely, all desire and love turns to, simply said, bad things.  I'm sure you've all seen this, be it in yourself or a loved one - it seems that one bad decision rapidly leads to another, until so many decisions are winded together, it seems impossible to escape.  

This is what the adversary wants us to think.  He wants us to feel trapped and lost, as if there is no hope.  He would have us convinced that once the seed has began to grow, it has all been lost.  'Now there is no chance,' he would say, 'you've already made the decision far too many times.  Now there is no turning back.  You are now one of THEM - one of the BAD ones.  Therefore, just keep doing those bad things.  It will be too hard to change now...'  

My Beloved Family and Friends, I have been blinded by these same dirty, filthy lies far too many times.  And now, having had those dark seeds cleaned from my mind and heart, I can testify before the world that those words are exactly that - lies.  So now, allow me to explain what 2015 has done for me - and I will do it by continuing the parable.

When this year began, I had many bad seeds that were still planted in my heart.  I had been smart enough to have torn away the branches of bad habits that had formed, and I had believed that I was done with those dark seeds that were planted, even years and years before.  So, what was the problem?  As we all know, you can tear away the leaves, but if you do not uproot the seed, the leaves will always grow back.  But HOW?  How was I to rip out those hated and cursed seeds that had destroyed my peace for so many years?  I had spent so many nights broken and hurting and felt as if I had no way to make it end.  What was the secret?

What occurred is nothing short of a miracle for me.  Until now, even as I've been writing these words have I come to understand.  Those seeds are NOT the acts we commit.  Any seed planted is not planted by making any kind of outward decision.  When a seed is planted, it is because one planted something much more simple than an act - one only needs plant a desire.  So, I planted several desires.  I desired to know how to work.  I desired to speak the language well.  I desired to be good enough to represent the Lord Jesus Christ.  And those desires were planted in my heart, and even when I failed to do the things I wanted, I had trusted in someone much more experienced to make sure that the seeds had chance to grow.

Finally, after years of searching for answers - I found them. I had planted good seeds.  I had been taking care of them to the best of my ability, and I felt as if my heart itself had started to change.  I was almost there.  But I was confused.  I had spent years before trying to plant the SAME good seeds.  I had tried to find peace in many different ways, but FINALLY it worked.  And How?  What was the difference?

The answer is the same answer I give when one asks me why I'm serving a mission.  The answer is simple, and it is an answer that is now deeply rooted in my heart.  I declare it before all the world, that what we look for comes in no other way.  

The Gospel of the Saviour of the World, Jesus Christ.  

It changed everything.  There are many beliefs in this world.  At times we feel lost and confused, due to the many seeds that are planted in the hearts of many.  But the Gospel has not changed, nor will it ever.  Through the Gospel, purpose is found.  Hearts are cleansed and healed.  Peace is achieved.  Love becomes the center of all we do.  Every question that one could have and every doubt that will arise can be answered through Him and the great plan that He made possible.  It is personal.  It is REAL.  It is POSSIBLE.  And it does not require anything more than what's possible.  All that the Gospel requires - is the desire.  A single, tiny, humble seed of desire to do better.  

To conclude my thoughts - I have fallen many times, even during my mission.  I have made mistakes and I've felt like giving up.  But what carried me through all those moments?  Well.... The exact thing that began the journey.  With every bad decision I've made this whole year - I have never let a day end without fixing it with my Heavenly Father during those silent, holy nights knelt by the side of my bed.  I'm not yet all that I hope to be - but I'm much more than I ever was before.  Because finally I've found what I was looking for - I'm Happy. 

Allow yourselves the opportunity to try.  Allow yourself to fail.  Allow yourself to learn.  Allow yourself to plant another little seed - by just having a simple talk with He who knows all that you need and hope.  I promise, it can, and will, all change. I love each and every one of you.  These have been my experiences of this year - and now I hope that these trees that have began to grow will help others as they search for the fruit that I hope to give.  That was my 2015, and that will be my 2016.  Thank you for your support - I love you all.  And remember - He lives. And you can know as well.

Elder Kristian Huff

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