A little bit of love goes a long way.
When I was in the Provo Utah Missionary Training Center before serving as a missionary in the Philippines Baguio Mission of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, I was worried. What worried me there when I stood on hallowed ground with the rest of the world all but silenced, you ask? The language.
I was expected to learn a language that I had just discovered to exist in 6 short weeks! Can you believe it? What was I to do?
I brought my worries before a member of my MTC branch presidency and when I told him “I’m worried about the language”, he told me “You shouldn’t be. Learn the language of the Spirit. That’s all you need.” At the time, I had little to no idea what he was talking about. Don’t worry about learning the language? I was called to preach the gospel in this language and you’re telling me not to worry about it? How am I supposed to connect with these people?
Once in the mission field, I began little by little to understand what he meant by that. Going out with Elder Joel Manning day after day made me hot, sweaty, and tired as all get out, but it was good for me. Truth be told, before the mission, I lived a near sedentary lifestyle. Biking up the side of a mountain on a 90° day without a cloud in the sky is healthy, I guess. I’m still using up the vitamin-d I took in these 4 years since I left Sudipen La Union.
Anyway, Elder Manning taught me that the most important thing you can do as a missionary or even just a person in general is to reach out to people. When in Sudipen (a fairly new area), we didn’t have much to go off of, so we did a lot of finding and a lot of exploration.
During one of these expeditions, we were looking for the far-off barangay of Porporiket. When upon an exceedingly high mountain, we met a fairly tall, and good looking Filipino man with really dark skin leading a cow, if I remember right. We asked him for directions and then the Spirit told Elder Manning that we needed to stop and go no further up the hill at that time. We started talking to this man, who was named Hudsen Alac-ac and shared a few things with him.
Elder Manning set up a return appointment with Hudsen. I wasn’t too sure how forthcoming Hudsen would be on future visits considering how he seemed super uncomfortable to have us there with him. But, it was set up and we went back and taught him. I actually felt a change start taking place in him.
We went back a few days later and met his darling wife, Angie. Because Elder Manning spoke a few words of Ilocano to Hudsen, Angie thought we were both fluent. I was back to square one. Not only did I not know Tagalog, but Ilocano was something the MTC didn’t even prepare for, yet for some reason, I didn’t care. The Alac-acs brought us in so warmly into their home on that second visit of ours. It was wonderful.
After that, things started to change, I started looking forward to going out, I did my language study without much anxiety and more according to necessity. One thing led to another and the Alac-acs were baptized into the Church.
Two transfers later, it was my last day in that area and Elder Benitez and I were taking a tryke out of Barangay Castro and as we drove through the archway, I was overcome with emotion. I let out a few tears and the Spirit spoke to me. I was there not for me, but for them. Why worry about the fact that I am not the most scripturally knowledgable person or the most cunning of Filipino linguists? I really should have been worrying about whether my investigators were reading the Book of Mormon and asking God if it is true. I really should have been worrying about if my investigators knew that Christ’s atonement is infinite and how God is their Father.
So, that’s what he meant by that. Love first! I learned that as I loved the people I was serving, that everything else got easier. How do you learn the language of the Spirit? Simply put, you be exactly obedient. How does one be exactly obedient? The Savior Himself said:
Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.
SO, to learn the language of the Spirit, we must love our God and our fellow man! Sounds simple? Well, it took me climbing a concrete mountain in the middle of a sweltering Luzon jungle 3 times a week for week before the message was engrained into my thick skull.
You don’t need to sweat and ache in a different hemisphere to learn this simple lesson. All you need is love. If ye love Him, keep His commandments. If ye love eachother, keep His commandments. The promise is that if you do that, then He will bless you in literally every aspect of your life. Professionally, academically, romantically, you name it.
A little bit of love goes a long way.