March 30, 2020


Paranavai, Brazil


Elder Standage

Em Casa...

Dear friends and family, what a week this has been! I can't describe the incredible bittersweet feeling as I stood with hundreds of returning missionaries in an airport in Sao Paulo. It was just indescribable the whirlwind of emotions that I was feeling and that I saw on the faces of my friends and fellow laborers in The Lord's vineyard as we were called home to await further direction. Some things I think we are feeling:

-Why? Why would this happen now? I know God's plan is perfect, but how does this sudden and drastic alteration in what I thought was going to happen fit into the plan?

-What now? What do we do? How do we use all the time in our two week quarantine? Will we be reassigned? How are we going to preach the gospel when everyone is stuck at home?

These questions are important to ponder and try to answer, but if we are not careful they can cause us to doubt and complain instead of looking unto the Savior in every thought and having faith that He will help us to have a bright future despite whatever difficulties we may encounter.

During the last few days I've been inspired by the faith and testimonies of my fellow missionaries as they face this difficult situation. Missionaries who faithfully preach the gospel through video chat in apartments and houses all over the world. Missionaries who reach out to give positive messages to others and lift them up as Christ would even though they have their own struggles. And so many other people that have reached out. COVID-19 can't stop the work of The Lord. It can't even slow it down. And if we will just have faith, and believe as Nephi did that The Lord will provide a way(1 Nephi 3:7), I know that we will see that this virus will open doors for us to share the gospel even better.

I remember the day they told us that we had to go home. I had to call the Zone Leaders just to see if it was really true, and then we packed all the bags and were standing there with the branch president and he said something like: "It's not right. This can't be from God. How can the work go forward. You guys (the branch's four missionaries) are my soldiers. And a captain with no soldiers?" And it was sad, but a couple of things came to my mind at that point. In the history of the church, there have been lots of moments that it seemed like world events were interfering in the sharing of the gospel but in truth they helped the gospel go forward. One great example is WW2. Most of the young men that could have been serving as missionaries ended up in the armed forces. And many church resources were used just to support the people. But it turned out that during and immediately after the war, a great many doors opened in new nations for the sharing of the gospel. I've been reading lots about it on the church website. Many member servicemen shared the gospel with locals in the countries where they were stationed, and the efforts of the Church to help Europeans in devastated nations opened a great many doors for the sharing of the gospel. Anyway, I'm not sure what the results of this trial will be in terms of us being able to share the gospel more, but I am certain, as Nephi was, that God will provide a way.

I've been pondering and reading the scriptures quite a bit during my quarantine, which is yet another example of why this whole adventure can be a good thing after all. In all of my reading and likening the scriptures to us, I think the overall best example in the scriptures that I have found would be Alma in Alma 29 of the Book of Mormon. Whether you are still serving within a quarantine or have been called home, see if you can insert yourself and your feelings in these words:1 O that I were an angel, and could have the wish of mine heart, that I might go forth and speak with the trump of God, with a voice to shake the earth, and cry repentance unto every people!

Maybe we could rewrite that and say: "that I could have the wish of mine heart, that I might go forth from my house or apartment, and speak face to face with the people I am teaching!" Now listen to the rest:
2 Yea, I would declare unto every soul, as with the voice of thunder, repentance and the plan of redemption, that they should repent and come unto our God, that there might not be more sorrow upon all the face of the earth.

3 But behold, I am a man, and do sin in my wish; for I ought to be content with the things which the Lord hath allotted unto me.

4 I ought not to harrow up in my desires the firm decree of a just God, for I know that he granteth unto men according to their desire, whether it be unto death or unto life; yea, I know that he allotteth unto men, yea, decreeth unto them decrees which are unalterable, according to their wills, whether they be unto salvation or unto destruction.

5 Yea, and I know that good and evil have come before all men; he that knoweth not good from evil is ablameless; but he that knoweth good and evil, to him it is given according to his desires, whether he desireth good or evil, life or death, joy or remorse of conscience.

6 Now, seeing that I know these things, why should I desire more than to perform the work to which I have been called?

7 Why should I desire that I were an angel, that I could speak unto all the ends of the earth?

8 For behold, the Lord doth grant unto all nations, of their own nation and tongue, to teach his word, yea, in wisdom, all that he seeth fit that they should have; therefore we see that the Lord doth counsel in wisdom, according to that which is just and true.

9 I know that which the Lord hath commanded me, and I glory in it. I do not glory of myself, but I glory in that which the Lord hath commanded me; yea, and this is my glory, that perhaps I may be an instrument in the hands of God to bring some soul to repentance; and this is my joy.

Sometimes I find myself wanting the wish of mine heart, that I might go back to Paranavai, Brazil. But I have to realize that the Lord "doth counsel in wisdom". He will make it so the people of all the world have the opportunity to receive the gospel "all that he seeth fit that they should have". I should not want to perform more than the work to which I was called. God will do His work, His way. It's not about me. I can leave His work confidently in His hands. One more missionary scripture: 17 Therefore, dearly beloved brethren, let us cheerfully do all things that lie in our power; and then may we stand still, with the utmost assurance, to see the salvation of God, and for his arm to be revealed.

I testify that He is God and that we will see His arm revealed if we pay attention with the eyes of faith here in the coming months and years. I love the Savior Jesus Christ. He is my Savior and your Savior. When He calls, I will answer. But until then I'll be here with my family, trying my best to preach the gospel over video chat and facebook. Love you all. Thank you so much for the many words of love and support here in these last couple days.

-Elder Wells


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