Are you preparing to serve a mission? Are you currently serving a mission? Did you just get back from a mission? Are you simply trying to figure out your life's mission? Then this book is for you!
I've always loved good mission stories. I grew up listening to my dad tell of his adventures in Italy, and then later listened to my brothers-in-law tell of their experiences in Louisiana and Brazil. I myself served in California and have quite a few stories to tell. The thing that's always struck me about mission stories is that people can serve in vastly different places, and yet learn the very same lessons.
In this book, Ben Bernards does a beautiful job at teaching those lessons through stories. From being chased through the jungle by angry tribesmen, to receiving golden name tags, there's a lesson to be learned on every page.
The subtitle of the book, "7 truths for your eternal mission," helped me realize that there's so much more I can be doing. My mission isn't over. While reading I was motivated to be a better missionary, a better friend, and to never stop strengthening my faith. There's so much we can learn from our experiences.
The truths taught in this book are life-changing. I'm confident that anyone that diligently learns from them and applies them will be well on their way back to their Heavenly Father.
I'm grateful Ben reached out and asked me to write this review. I'm going to read "Faith and a Life Jacket" several more times, making sure I mark all the things that I can personally do to better fulfill my eternal mission. Like Ben says, "It won't be easy, but it's so worth it."
You can purchase "Faith and a Life Jacket" here:
And if you like it, share it with a friend! :)
A letter I recently wrote to my mission president and his wife, which I would now like to share with all of you:
"Dear President and Sister Alba,
At our last mission reunion I shared with you some of the miracles I have seen while sharing the gospel online. I'd like to tell it to you now in a little more detail.
On my mission I developed a sincere love for the gospel and I wanted to share it with everyone, but my introverted personality made it difficult to talk to people on the streets. I remember Elder L. Tom Perry coming to our mission and saying 'When Mark Zuckerberg created Facebook he had no idea that he was hastening the work of the Lord.' When I became a Facebook missionary I instantly saw its potential and I knew it was something I could do.
The last few months of my mission I was determined to not get trunky (as Elder Spencer Davis will testify), and so I convinced myself that my mission would never end and my return home would literally just be another transfer.
With that attitude I returned home (August 6, 2013) and immediately began searching for opportunities to share the gospel. But, as I had discovered on the mission, talking to people wasn't exactly my strong suit. In my desperate desire to share the gospel with someone, I started a blog. I called it 'My Experience in Truth.'
I began posting short inspirational messages on it and it was read by a few of my friends, but then one day I felt a strong prompting to write about my experience with bullying in school and how I overcame it. I immediately began writing and the next day I posted it with the title, 'Just Be you.' I shared it with my friends on Facebook and then went on with my day. Less than an hour later my notifications started going crazy with people commenting on it and thanking me for being so open. I began to get messages from people who had experienced similar things and even some from people I had known in school who now wanted to apologize for not making more of an effort to be my friend. Soon people began sharing it on Facebook, and that's when the miracles started.
That week the post was read by over 1,000 people in seven different countries. I had a woman from Italy contact me to thank me for writing it. I had a someone I had never met come up to me and say 'You're the guy who wrote that blog, aren't you?' She then told me how much it had helped her daughter. My institute teacher came up to me after class one day and told me that the blog was circulating around seminaries and institutes and it was being recommended by teachers to students who were struggling.
I knew the internet was a great place for sharing the gospel, but I never dreamed my posts could reach so many people. As of today, April 14, 2016, my blog is being read in 17 different countries, including the United States, Russia, Germany, Italy, France, Portugal, Canada, United Kingdom, Sweden, Ukraine, Moldova, the Philippines, Singapore, South Korea, Greece, Belgium, Mexico, and the United Arab Emirates. Needless to say, I'm glad I followed that prompting. :)
But the miracles don't stop there.
Although I've made an effort to share the gospel via Facebook since I got home, it eventually began to dwindle as a priority. A few months ago as I was contemplating where I wanted my life to go, I received a very powerful prompting that I needed to consecrate all my online efforts to building the Kingdom of God. So, as I'm now learning to do when I receive a prompting, I immediately went to work. I purified my Facebook profile of everything that didn't uplift or inspire and I began sharing uplifting messages every single day. I also created a couple other pages called 'Testify of Christ' and 'Just Be you.'
Next I moved to Instagram and Twitter, where I've seen huge success. On Twitter each of my posts reach about 2,000 people, and I've seen some reach as many as 8,000. I also receive messages from people all around the world thanking me for what I post. One man from Hong Kong told me that he had seen missionaries but hadn't had a chance to talk to them. He had questions about the Book of Mormon, so he and I chatted for about 30 minutes. After that I moved to Pinterest, quickly attracting more than 5,000 followers. Just this week I also expanded to Tumblr and Google+, both of which I have good feelings about.
In all, there are over 15,000 people following these accounts. That means I literally get to share the gospel with 15,000 people every single day. How cool is that? God wasn't lying when He said He's hastening His work! Just think about it: the testimony of one average guy from Utah is reaching all across the world. Not a day goes by that I don't thank my Heavenly Father for giving me such a privilege.
I am so grateful for my mission. I will never be able to adequately describe it, but in the words of Jeffrey R. Holland, 'I loved my mission as I am sure no young man has ever loved one before or since.'
Thank you for being a part of it. Thank you for being such great examples to me. My life was forever changed the day God called me to Santa Rosa. No other mission on earth could have inspired me like ours did. God really does know what He's doing, of that I am sure.
-Elder Jordan M. Anderson"
Wonderful! Fantastic! Absolutely brilliant!
That is how I would describe Al Carraway's new book "More Than the Tattooed Mormon." Scriptures aside, I have never been more affected by a book than I was with this one. Let me tell you why:
First of all, I want to point out that this book is dedicated to the reader. That means you and me. Right from the start Al decided to make it personal. All throughout the book she reminds us that the book is not about her, it's about us and our relationship with God. She teaches us that life, although difficult, can be absolutely glorious if we put our trust in Him.
Next, this book made me feel incomplete. but not in a bad way. Maybe a better way of saying it is that it made me "hunger and thirst after righteousness." (Matt. 5:6) Reading this book made me realize that my life could be so much better than it currently is. It made me realize that when you put God first, He takes care of your needs and He blesses you more than you could ever imagine.
My third reason is similar to the previous one: it made me crave gospel knowledge. I was raised in the Church and was taught the gospel from a very young age, but this book made me want to start all over and study like I was an investigator. It made me want to give more priority to the simple things like developing my faith and saying more meaningful prayers. It made me want to appreciate the scriptures more and it has motivated me to study them every day. It reminded me that we are never done learning and there is always something more we can do.
My last reason for loving this book is that it gave me a new perspective on life. After reading it I wanted to live the gospel with every bit of my heart. I wanted to trust God more and appreciate the things that He does for me. I wanted to do more to be a light in the lives of those around me, I wanted everyone to see the treasure that I have found, for the gospel truly is a treasure worth sharing.
To me, "More Than the Tattooed Mormon" is more than just a book, it's a tool that God has given me to enrich my life and bring me closer to Him. I'm grateful that Al has heard His call and has chosen to answer with all that she has to offer. She has been a blessing in the lives of millions of people.
Thank you Al.
You can purchase her book here:
Read Al's blog here:
One day while serving an LDS mission in Benicia, California, my companion and I were knocking on doors looking for someone to teach. Anyone that has served a mission knows well the days of endless rejection. This was one of those days.
Near the top one particularly large hill we knocked on a door, and almost immediately we heard the sound of two young boys running to answer it. The following dialog is what we heard through the door:
(we assume they were looking through the peephole):
Younger Boy: "I want to see who it is!"
Older Boy: "I'm older so I get to see first."
Younger Boy: "I never get to see first!"
Older Boy: "You can see first next time."
(Older boy looks out)
Younger Boy: "Who is it?"
Older Boy: "I don't know, it's just a couple weirdos."
Younger Boy: "I want to see! I want to see!"
Older Boy: "I'm still looking."
Younger Boy: "Let me see! I want to see!"
Older Boy: "Okay, fine."
(Younger boy looks out)
Younger Boy: "Hey! Those aren't weirdos! Those are angels! Mom! Come look! There are angels at our door!"
Their mom came and opened the door, but when she saw us she just told us to go away. I remember walking away from that house thinking "If only she could see through the eyes of her son."
That day not a single person let us in, but what that boy said forever changed my perspective on missionary work.
Angels are messengers sent by God to declare glad tidings to the world. We usually think of them as heavenly beings, but we forget that they can be you and I. If we live good lives and do our very best to follow God, He will use us to bless the lives of many other people.
It is my prayer that each of us will seek out opportunities to love and serve others. God needs more people that he can trust as messengers of truth. He needs more of us to give Him our heart; to love Him more than anything else in this world. I promise from my own experience that He will guide you, and you will be a light in the lives of many other people.
So, if these angels do show up at your door, let them in. You have no idea how much they have sacrificed to be there. You very well may be an angel to them.
I have spent years trying to forget most of the things I am about to write. I'm going to tell you about the most miserable time in my life. My experiences during this time are the single worst memories I have. The only reason I am doing this is because I feel like there is someone out there that needs to hear it. There is someone out there that needs to know how I overcame the hardest trial of my life. This story does have a happy ending, but I went through hell to get there.
So here we go.
This is me in 2004:
I was a scrawny kid just out of elementary school, headed into junior high; scared, but also excited; pretty much your average 7th grader.
I remember my first day at Elk Ridge Middle School. It took me so long to get my locker open that I was late to my first period. Once again I was your typical seventh grader sprinting through the halls with a map of the school trying to find his class. I remember that I was especially excited for this one: Tech Lab. I'd always been good at building things and now I got to do it in school! I was beyond excited. By the end of the class I was ready to take on the world. These were going to be the best years of my life, I just knew it!
But I was wrong. What happened next troubled me greatly.
For reasons unknown, every one of my friends left me. Not only would they not talk to me, but they began to tease and bully me. These were friends that I had known since kindergarten, friends that had come to my birthday parties, friends that had been there through every one of my childhood adventures. And now they were gone.
I've always been a nerdy, clumsy, somewhat introverted person. I never had any interest in sports, but give me a computer and I'd be sucked in for hours. That's just who I was and I never thought anything of it...until that day in 7th grade.
When my friends left me I began to question who I was. They were quickly becoming the "cool kids" and I was left behind. I tried fitting in, but I just couldn't. I was nerdy, clumsy, and introverted, and it was beyond my ability to do so. It wasn't long before I was officially given the title of "loner," and that was when my self-esteem took a plunge into the mud. I didn't fit in. I wasn't cool. I couldn't throw a football or hit a baseball. I didn't know how to dance and had never been to a real party. No one wanted to be around me. I began to view my strengths as negative things. I felt absolutely worthless.
The bullying continued throughout middle school and into high school. I was constantly being told that I was weird and that I wasn't cool. My lack of social skills made me an easy target because I couldn't defend myself. I just took it. I soaked it in. I believed it. I wanted it to stop, I wanted to change, but I couldn't. I did my best to stay strong but it eventually broke me.
By the time high school came I had no hope. I hated school, I hated life, and above all I hated myself. I hated who I was. Life just wasn't worth it anymore and I stopped trying. Right when grades really started to count, I failed every class. Right when I was old enough to start dating, I didn't dare talk to girls. And right when I should have began preparing to serve a mission for my church, I stopped believing in God.
When I felt that I couldn't go any lower, I began to lie to make myself seem better than I was. I began to steal to make people think I had more than I did. I rebelled against everything I had been taught because it obviously wasn't working. My life was dark and full of hate. I was miserable and there was no cure. I was alone and there was no one who cared. 11th grade started and I resolved that this was the year that I would kill myself. I just couldn't take it anymore.
But this is the part when the hero enters the story.
Junior year, 2008:
Day one of 11th grade, seventh period biology. I walked in, took my seat in the corner furthest from everyone else, put my head down and sank into my own misery. Not a minute later I heard someone sit down next to me. I didn't bother to look up to see who it was, they were probably doing it on a dare; that was one of the many ways people mocked me and I was used to it by now. To my surprise, the person said, "Hi, what's your name?" I looked up to see a girl smiling at me. Not only did she seem happy, but she was glowing. No joke. She was actually glowing. Confused, I told her my name, to which she replied, "Hi Jordan, I'm Kelsi. Is it okay if I sit here?" Still confused, I agreed.
To my even greater surprise, she sat next to me the next day, and the next, and every day after that. She talked to me like I was a human being. She asked me real questions and listened when I responded. I had never met her before that first day, but she treated me like her best friend. And every day she continued to glow.
Kelsi Richardson probably has no idea that she literally saved my life that year; I never told her all that I was going through, nor that I was planning on killing myself. I don't know if she even remembers any of this. I haven't seen her since high school. She'll probably find out through this post exactly what her kindness did for me.
Change is not easy, and very rarely is it immediate. Mine sure wasn't. Kelsi's kindness gave me hope. She showed me that I wasn't worthless. 11th grade was a tough year, but it gave me the confidence I needed to begin rebuilding my life.
Senior year, 2009-2010:
My senior year was the first time in five years that I was actually happy. I wasn't one of the "cool kids," but I was finding more confidence every day. I started to get more involved and was even the president of the school's German Club.
With my newfound confidence I tried hard to fit in. By the end of my senior year I was literally able to change my personality to fit in with just about any of the major social groups, from the jocks, to the nerds, to the emo rockers. Now that might sound like the happy ending, but it's not. High school ended and my group-hopping skills were rendered useless. Once again I didn't know who I was.
A year passed and I was finally ready to serve a full-time mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I didn't have strong faith in God, but I had the confidence to try.
Those two years changed my life 100%. Once again, it was not immediate nor was it easy, but it was definitely worth it. On my mission I developed real social skills. Not only was I able to talk to my friends, but I was able to talk to complete strangers. As my faith in God increased, so did my ability to look beyond myself. For the first time in my life I was able to sacrifice my own desires and focus on the needs of others. It really is true, the saying that when you lose yourself in the service of others, you find yourself. I learned that I was special and unique. I have talents that I can use in many ways. For the first time in my life I actually believed in myself. I'm still nerdy, clumsy, and somewhat introverted. I still don't know how to dance and I've completely given up on an athletic career. But that's okay. That's who I am. And that's all that matters.
It's been a year since I returned from my mission and I have learned so much in that time. I tried living my life like people expected me to, but I just wasn't happy. I am a person that likes to break molds and disprove stereotypes. I don't like to just "go with the flow." I'd much rather forge my own path and do things that no one has ever done. That is who I am and that is what makes me happy.
In telling this story I purposely left out many of the details, mainly because it would take too long to write, but I will to discuss them with anyone that needs to hear them. As I said before, the reason I am writing this is because I felt like someone needed to hear it, and so to that person I say this:
You are amazing. You are loved. And you are worth it.
You can be whatever you want to be, but in your journey of self discovery don't forget to be yourself. You have talents and strengths that people may tell you are small, but I tell you that they are amazing, and I believe in you.
Now one final thing:
On my mission I met a woman that had been beaten down by an unfair and miserable life. She was weak and had very little hope. We did everything we could to serve her. We listened to her, we prayed for her, we showed her that she wasn't worthless. One day she told us that when we came she could literally see a light around us. It was what kept her going. My thoughts turned back to that day in biology class when I saw that very same light, and how it kept me going. I realized that it was the light of Jesus Christ, shining through someone who had taken time to serve someone else.
It is my hope that you will find your place in this world, but when it comes right down to it don't be afraid to just be you.
Because you are amazing. You are loved. And you are worth it.
I wrote this poem two weeks before the end of my mission. It is my witness of the reality of the Atonement of Jesus Christ.
"Whom Shall I Send?"
My head was high, my smile proud
My heart was hard, my laughter loud.
I loved myself, and me alone
My brother lacked, I had a throne.
I saw him lonely, with a frown
To build me up, I tore him down.
I laughed and mocked his lonely stare
The pain I caused I did not care.
The praise of man, my only goal
Caused me to lie, destroyed my soul.
To change my ways, I had no thought
In my own eyes I had a lot.
I spent my life on useless things
I gave my all to worldly dreams.
Then came the day when all was lost
With nothing left I felt the cost.
The pain was great, my soul was racked
I lost my strength, my body slacked.
I fell upon my knees to pray
"Dear God" I said "take me away.
I see my sin, I cannot bear
To stand beneath thy piercing stare.
I never knew such dreadful pain
But this I know: I am to blame.
Take me now and seal my fate
I can't be saved, it is too late."
Then in my mind I saw a tree
With olive leaves, Gethsemane.
I saw a man on bended knee
His head hung low, I heard His plea:
"Thy will be done, not mine" He said
And then He fell, His body bled.
From every pour how great the pain!
I heard His voice, He called my name.
I looked and saw another tree
Up on a hill called Calvary.
I saw Him there up through the fog
The Son of Man, the Son of God.
The King of Kings, a crown of thorns
With nothing more was He adorned.
I looked at Him, He looked at me
And then to God, I heard His plea:
"It is now done, I've paid the cost
That this poor soul will not be lost.
I've done the work thou gavest me
Now take my spirit back to thee."
His head hung down and then He died
With nail-marked hands and wounded side.
Back on my knees I changed my plea:
"How could this all have been for me?
I am not worthy of thy love
Thou art so great, the God above."
And then the voice I heard before:
"I came to earth among the poor.
The broken heart I came to mend
I am He whom God did send.
To show the world He loved it so
I told my Father 'I will go.'"
"Oh Lord my God I know it's true
You really lived and suffered too.
But if the price was really paid
And if you suffered on that day
Why must I still feel such pain?
What victory does my suffering gain?"
Another voice came in reply
My Heavenly Father told me why.
He said "My son, I called you here
To feed my sheep and have no fear.
You had to know what Christ went through
I have a work for you to do.
But pride had filled your foolish heart
And you could not fulfill your part.
Your head was high, your smile proud
Your heart was hard, your laughter loud.
You loved yourself and you alone
Your brother lacked, you had a throne.
You saw him lonely, with a frown
To build yourself, you tore him down.
You laughed and mocked his lonely stare
The pain you caused you did not care.
The praise of man, your only goal
Caused you to lie, destroyed your soul.
To change your ways you had no thought
In your own eyes you had a lot.
You spent your life on useless things
You wasted all on worldly dreams.
You are my servant and my son
There is a battle to be won.
I have some sheep for you to find
They lost their way, got left behind.
They need to know what Christ went through
And so to find them I sent you.
I need your might, your mind, your strength
I need a heart that has been changed.
So one last time I'll ask again
To these lost sheep, whom shall I send?"
"Oh Lord, my God, I love thee so
To find thy sheep, I will go.
I give thee all, my very will
I am so small, I know that still.
But now I know what Christ went through
For Him, O Lord, I'll go and do."
My name is Jordan Michael Anderson. My life's mission is to do as much good as possible.