Today was our last day in New Zealand. We went in to the office for our last Monday morning devotional. We both shared our testimonies with the group. Then I asked those who we had helped to find a family name to take to the temple to please stand. My heart skipped a beat as I saw many of that group rise to their feet.
The beauty, the friendships, the good times and adventures have all been amazing. But in the end, this is what it has been all about. We have had the privilege of taking the message of eternal families throughout New Zealand and the Islands of the Sea.
We have had the opportunity to assist people in learning about their family heritage and giving them the tools to take family names to the temple to perform sacred saving ordinances.
Literally hundreds of souls have been baptized vicariously by their descendants because of our mission. Testimonies have been strengthened, among them my own.
One of the things we did in this last few weeks was to write our testimony into a whole case of copies of the Book of Mormon. Those books will be distributed around the Auckland Mission by the young Elders and Sisters in the months to come. I will probably never know whether any of those books will lead to specific conversions. I doubt I will ever know in this life if the words we wrote had any impact on someone having a desire to read the book or to pray to know if it is true.
But this I know for sure - the words I wrote in those many copies of that precious book are carved deep into my heart and soul. I know that the Book of Mormon is true. We read the book all the way through five times during the course on our mission. We finished it again just a few days ago and have already begun reading it again. Every single time I found new insights, new answers to specific questions that I had, new layers of understanding that have deepened my love for this book.
So many times throughout this mission I saw the hand of God at work in our lives. There were miracles galore that gave solid evidence to us that He is truly in the details of our lives. Prayers were answered. Comfort came when it was sorely needed. Over and over again we were led in what to do or say far beyond our own abilities. We cannot take credit for all the successes. This is truly God's work.
I know that we are led today by prophets called of God. I know that the work we do in Temples really does bind on earth and in heaven the generations of families into eternal chains.
I think I had a pretty strong testimony of the Gospel before we left on this mission. But the experiences we have had over the past 22 months of this mission have blazed it into my life for keeps.
I do not know what the future holds for us when we return back to Boise. We will take off our badges and no longer spend the bulk of each day teaching this work. I will find some sort of job and we will get back into a "civilian" routine. But I hope I can always live my life in such a ways that it will be very clear that I am a representative of Jesus Christ, even when my mission is done.
I am so deeply grateful for these experiences.
Good bye New Zealand.
It's time to go home.