From time to time most people go through periods of trial and tribulation, feeling discouraged and disheartened. Even missionaries, who seem so joyful and positive, can go through a period of deep despair. One such missionary, Elder Kazadi, is serving in the Kinshasa DR Congo Mission.
He reports, “A few days before the 184th April General Conference, my companion and I had a negative missionary experience. We went to contact a family, and as we approached their property, we introduced ourselves by saying, ‘We are missionaries of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. We have come to share with you the message of the Restored Gospel.’
“Suddenly one of the women started shouting, ‘Oh, no you’re not! You’re a magician! We aren’t listening to you; you can’t bring your witchcraft in here!’ She grabbed a broom and literally chased us away, screaming epithets the whole time. Our last words over our shoulders were, ‘But we are testifying of Christ!’”
Elder Kazadi was dismayed. He and his companion could not understand what had gone wrong. They had experienced setbacks before, but they had never experienced the hatred and name-calling. Extremely discouraged, Elder Kazadi admits, “I think that was the darkest moment of my missionary service.” He began praying for a way to dispel his discouragement and carry on. He found it through General Conference.
Many members have noted a particular General Conference talk that seemed directed especially and pointedly at them. This was Elder Kazadi’s experience as he heard President Thomas S. Monson’s talk, “Be Strong and of a Good Courage.” From that moment on, he said, “That General Conference was just for me!”
President Monson mentioned many figures from the scriptures who faced serious obstacles as they served the Lord: “The prophet Daniel exhibited supreme courage by standing up for that which he knew to be right and by demonstrating the courage to pray, though threatened with death were he to do so.” (Daniel 6) Elder Kazadi had to admit to himself that he had never been threatened with death for simply praying.
“Courage characterized the life of Abinadi,” President Monson continued, “as shown by his willingness to offer his life rather than to deny the truth.” (Mosiah 11:20; 17:20) Elder Kazadi later reread the chapters in Mosiah and marveled at the courage of Abinadi.
When President Monson said, “Who can help but be inspired by the lives of the 2,000 stripling sons of Helaman, who taught and demonstrated the need for courage to follow the teachings of parents to be chaste and pure?”(Alma 53:20-21; 56) Rereading the war chapters afterward brought the images of a dangerous battle freshly to Elder Kazadi's mind. His own challenge, being chased away with a broom, seemed somewhat insignificant in comparison.
“Perhaps,” President Monson surmised, “each of these scriptural accounts is crowned by the example of Moroni, who had the courage to persevere in righteousness to the very end.“ (Moroni 1-10) Elder Kazadi later reflected that those ten chapters of Moroni were written by a lone man who said, “I make not myself known to the Lamanites lest they should destroy me.” Elder Kazadi knew that he was neither alone nor hunted. He had family, friends, and fellow missionaries to support and encourage him.
The final Conference example was of Joseph Smith: “Throughout his life,” President Monson said, “the Prophet Joseph Smith provided countless examples of courage. One of the most dramatic occurred as he and other brethren were chained together - imagine, chained together- and held in an unfinished cabin….” President Monson then retold the story of the hours they had listened to “…the obscene jests, the horrid oaths, the dreadful blasphemies and filthy language of [their] guards.” Nobody can tell a story like President Monson, and he described Joseph Smith’s thundering rebuke to the guards in an unforgettable way. (Autobiography of Parley P. Pratt, ed. Parley P. Pratt Jr. (1938), 210-11)
Elder Kazadi says, “Never had words touched my heart like these. I was at peace. I understood that though not all of my goals were attained, I could be strong and courageous as I go forth. I know that God speaks to us all by His prophet, and I know that General Conference is one way our Heavenly Father responds to our problems. I found my resolve to continue to serve the Lord like a Daniel, an Abinadi, a Moroni, or a Joseph Smith. I may not have their circumstances, but I am determined to face my own challenges with their strength and “a good courage.”