I went in ready to be absolutely thrashed by the language. And it was hard. But it wasn't as difficult as I expected. I was expecting to be in a district full of Elders. But that didn't happen either. I thought it was going to be stressful. And it was for the first week. But then it started to feel like a vacation. Only two subjects to study! And I didn't have to make my own food, or wash my own dishes.
I felt so blessed.
But then I had surgery. And that was really hard.
And then I got sick. And that was even harder.
But I just kept saying to myself over and over again, "Come on. This isn't the hardest thing you've ever done. This isn't the hardest thing you've ever done."
After my hospital stay, I went back to the MTC, and that's when things got hard. It was still difficult to walk. I felt so behind in Korean. And there was still doctor's appointment after doctor's appointment.
And then came the day; the hardest day of my mission.The day I found out I would be delayed in the MTC.
I was devastated. That day, I'd had a visit with my favorite doctor. When I told him I still couldn't sit cross-legged, he told me I would have to stay at least another two weeks. At least. He then wanted to try a steroid shot in my spine to stop the pain I was in. So they sent me to the other side of the office for another doctor to do the procedure. It was a basic procedure. I was in and out. But it hurt, and I was just humiliated. And I was tired of being poked and prodded. I was so tired of needles.
I held in the embarrassment and tears the rest of the day. I tried to be ok. I didn't want anyone to see me in my weakness. So that night, after lights out, I sneaked out to the lobby of the Resident Hall.
And that's when the tears really started to fall. I read the section in PMG about how you know you're a successful missionary over and over. Was I doing all those things? Had I not focused enough? I just wanted to be a good missionary. But I felt so far from it. I finally admitted to myself, this was the hardest thing I've ever done.
I felt like I had to stay in the MTC longer because I wasn't a good enough missionary, because I hadn't learned the lessons I was supposed to learn. Maybe it was my Korean, maybe it was my teaching, maybe it was my knowledge in the gospel. I didn't know. And I begged Heavenly Father to just let me know that I was doing enough. That I was a "good missionary."
And then I began to read the conference issue of the Ensign. Just flipping through the pages, skimming through the words on the glossy pages. And then I came to Elder Hales' talk: "Waiting Upon the Lord: Thy Will Be Done".
It was exactly what I needed.
All my problems weren't fixed in that moment. There were still a few more hard days before I became ok, and later happy about staying in the MTC.
I toted around my copy of the conference issue of the Ensign every where I went after that, pouring over the pages, gleaning the comfort I so desperately needed.
In those quiet moments of personal study from those Conference talks, something I knew before my mission embedded itself more deeply into my soul: There are prophets on the Earth today. And the things they tell us aren't just good phrases to stencil onto our walls, they're meant to sustain our souls through the hard times. Those words are what we're meant to hear, the answers to our prayers, what God is trying to tell us if only we take the time to listen.
This weekend, General Conference is here again... I'm ready.
'I express gratitude that “in my Gethsemane” and yours, we are not alone. He that watches over us “shall neither slumber nor sleep.” His angels here and beyond the veil are “round about [us], to bear [us] up.” I bear my special witness that our Savior’s promise is true, for He says, “They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.'
-Elder Robert D. Hales