|A-5 on the left
My name is Aaron Vaughn. Recently, I've returned from serving a mission in Nagoya Japan. I grew up down the street in the Centerville 3rd Ward. This summer, I've just been working with the Bountiful City Parks and Rec, and I will be going down to BYU this next week to play trumpet in the marching band and to study Physics and Japanese.
I'm grateful for this opportunity to speak and share some of the experiences I had on my mission regarding how the gospel changes lives.
First, I want to ask, what is the Gospel of Jesus Christ? The first answer that often comes to mind is the 4th Article of Faith. “The first principles and ordinances of the Gospel are: first, Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ; second, Repentance; third, Baptism by immersion for the remission of sins; fourth, Laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost.” While those are all very important parts of the Gospel, in True to the Faith, we can find a more compact definition. It reads, “The gospel is our Heavenly Father's plan of happiness. The central doctrine of the gospel is the Atonement of Jesus Christ.” In Japanese, the word for Gospel, 福音, is made from two characters. “福”which means happiness, and “音”which means sound. So literally, the gospel is a sound of happiness.
President Benson taught us,
(quote) “The Lord works from the inside out. The world works from the outside in. The world would take people out of the slums. Christ takes the slums out of the people, and then they take themselves out of the slums. The world would mold men by changing their environment. Christ changes men, who then change their environment. The world would shape human behavior, but Christ can change human nature.” (end quote)
The power by which we are changed by the gospel comes from the Atonement. The Atonement was the sacrifice made on the behalf of all mankind by our Savior and Redeemer, Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ is the Only Begotten Son of God, and He alone was able to perform the Atonement. Because of the Fall of Adam and Eve, it was necessary that an Atonement be made. Because of the Atonement of Jesus Christ, we are able to overcome not only our sins, but also our weaknesses.
Moroni teaches us in the Book of Ether that
“if men come unto [God He] will show unto them their weaknesses. (Note that it is after we have come unto God that He shows us our weaknesses.) [God] give[s] unto men weakness that they may be humble; and [God's] grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before [Him]; for if they humble themselves before [Him], and have faith in [Christ], then will [He] make weak things become strong unto them.”
Life is hard. We all have challenges and obstacles to face. While sin always slows our progression and causes trials of sorts, not all bad things in life are due to our own mistakes. We live amongst other human beings who also have shortcomings, sins, and weaknesses. And on top of that, we live in a fallen world, meaning that life is going to be hard regardless of whether or not it is your fault or someone else fault. The beauty of the Atonement is that it reaches and covers everything.
“All that is unfair about life can be made right through the Atonement.” (PMG)
Before I share some stories from my mission, I would like to share some background about where I served.
There are about 20 million people living within the boundaries of the Nagoya Japan mission. I spent my whole mission in the countryside, where I did not see millions of people everyday. The climate in my mission was very humid with temperatures ranging from very hot subtropics to very cold mountainous areas. I guess my mission president thinks that Elders from Utah like the cold and the snow, because I served in the middle of the Japanese Alps, both winters. And somehow I ended up in one of the hottest areas for the summer as well. Oh well. Our primary modes of transportation was by foot, bike, and train. We ate rice with every meal, and always took off our shoes before entering a house or our apartment. And yes, we do bow.
Recently, the Church has not been growing as quickly in Japan as it is in other parts of the world, but
“God is mindful of every people, whatsoever land they may be in; yea, he numbereth his people, and his bowels of mercy are over all the earth.”
On my mission, it took about a year before I had the opportunity to witness a baptism. My good friend who received baptism was Yingzi. She is from China, but attended college in Japan and also speaks excellent English. She was contacted by a member who was out working with the missionaries. In Japan, Elders weren't allowed to talk to women on the street. So thanks to this member, she was invited and came to the Christmas party. She was very interested by the members of the Church, who were so nice and friendly. After about 6 months from initial contact, she received baptism on her birthday. I emailed her and told her that I was giving this talk in Church and asked her how the gospel has changed her life. She responded, “I think I'm stronger now, coz I know God will always (be) around me when I need.”
In that same ward where Yingzi received baptism is one of my favorite people, Fabio. His grandparents are from Japan, but they moved to Brazil, so Fabio and his parents were born and raised in Brazil. At about 21 years old, Fabio moved to Japan, and about 6 years later or so had missionaries knock on his door. I am impressed with those missionaries who found him, because Fabio lives on the top floor of a 5 story apartment on top of a mountain. He was taught in Portuguese, though he speaks Japanese and English fluently, and after reading on his own in Alma 32 about how you don't need to receive a sign from heaven to have faith, he committed and received baptism. For the last 3 or 4 years, he has been serving as the missionaries personal chauffeur and Ward Mission Leader. I asked him the same question I asked Yingzi. He responded,
“Since the gospel entered my life, I lost interest in a lot of material things... And kind (of) got interest in what matter most... things that are not sold, feelings, knowledge, faith... (the) gospel really put meaning in my life, instead of just surviving to have comfort.”
Another good friend of mine, who is a recent convert of about two years now is Bruna. She is Brazillian, but has lived in Japan since she was a young teenager. She was introduced to the Church by a friend and later referred herself to the missionaries. This is what she shared with me about how the gospel changed her life.
“I can say it changed a lot. And its amazing. Before (I) met the church I was a Christian but I wasnt at the same time. I had (an) idea what God and Jesus Christ was but my faith was weak. I always heard that God loves us the way we were, so we didnt (have) to change much. Just being kind and help people sometimes just was enough. So my weekends were going to parties and clubs, drinking a lot of alcohol. For me, that was living life happy. And now I see a lot of friends going to the alcohol to drugs to have fun in parties. They think that is happiness. If I hadn't met the church, maybe I would be like them now. But I met the church and I can say that I met true happiness. I know what forgiveness is and what is the true happiness. I could have hope and everyday is so amazing through the scriptures and going to church. I can learn and I can change little by little to be a better person. Before I met the church I gave up on going to college. Before I met the church, I was always giving up on things before they start, but now I have hope and faith that God will help me in everything and that everything is going to be okay. My choice to be the mormon girl on my family at first wasnt easy for me or my family. But its so worth it. My Mom is reading the Book of Mormon and is changing little by litter. The missionaries even came to visit us the other day.”
The last story I would like to share is that of the Okada family.
- Found by inspiration
- Believed in Christ
- Invited self to Church/First time at Church
- Overcoming WoW
- Letters and phone call
- Final Transfer
I know that our Savior and Redeemer, Jesus Christ lives. He loves us. As we rely on His Atonement, we can overcome all of our sins, weaknesses, and shortcomings. I say these things in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.