First, my new companion!! It's Elder Riggs!!!! My MTC Companion!!! It's been a blast this past week!! We always joked about how cool it would be to be comps again, and here we are, not only companions, but assistants to President Riggs! Which brings me to the title of this email... this past week, Elder Riggs was assigned as an assistant, and Elder and Sister Riggs, and senior couple were reassigned as an office couple! that's 5 Riggs serving in some capacity of the office!!! pretty funny...
I wanted to just let you all know I'm well, happy and working hard. Elder Riggs and I really want to get out and get our area going, and we are!!! We've seen miracles already. I'll hopefully provide a couple more details tomorrow when we aren't running off to the temple, but until then, know I love you and Merry Christmas!!!
Elders and Sisters, I would like to preface today’s keystone by telling you that the experience I am sharing with you today is one I hold very close to me. I feel to share it in order to validate my testimony that the Lord will keep His promises to you. Until today, I had intended to go my whole mission with the greater part of you never knowing about any of this experience. The Spirit, it seems, had other plans.
You see, I should not be here.
I have no reason to be here.
I should still be in chemotherapy.
At least that is what my doctor told me.
When I close my eyes, I can still feel the familiar prick of the needle in my arm. Blood tests had become commonplace now and my mind could run free on the events of the last day or two. Just prior to my departure for my freshman year of college, I decided to get my medical done for my mission papers. Everything passed with flying colors except one thing: my blood test. Upon viewing my test results, it appeared I was mildly anemic. I let them take more blood for further tests and went on with life, thinking nothing of it.
The next day, my doctor called sounding disturbed. He insisted I come in and bring my medical form with me. I arrived in the examination room just as my results were being pulled up. After a brief look at the screen, my doctor’s face drained of color and he commanded me to sit. Once I was situated, he turned the screen around. The iron levels in my blood were represented by a zero and my ferretin (which serves as a backup reservoir for iron) was 1/15 what it should have been. He announced that with results like that, I should have been bedridden for a month already, and should have been incapable of standing.
More tests were run to determine the cause of the state of my blood, and it was not long before the source was found. I had, in my leg, a chain of swollen lymph nodes - 5 or 6 of them - that descended down my leg very reminiscent of a toy train that had been surgically implanted in my thigh. And after minutes of typing into a computer and a very grim announcement, I was sent for yet more blood tests.
That brings us to the familiar sting of a needle in my arm. I sat, watching 6 or 7 vials being taken with the suggested diagnosis prancing around my mind: Stage 4 Lymphoma. The doctor said he couldn't think of anything else it could be. He had instructed me to go home and tear up the medical form he had signed. I was not to leave for school, and I would not be going on a mission - at least for three years or so until I was in remission.
After getting my blood drawn I went outside to meet up with my mom. As I went, I prayed for courage to help her keep her strength. As I walked outside, the word "Lymphoma" was completely flushed from my mind. Instead, my thoughts were filled with other words; words from my patriarchal blessing. Words that spoke of my mission, my future wife, family, even some details of my future life in general. Then came words that were not from my blessing. They came as distinctively as they could without being audible: "Matthew. I hear you. I am aware of you, and I will fulfill my promises to you. You are not done here. You have much more to do in this life."
That afternoon, my parents and I were found at the home of some dear friends so I could receive a blessing. As my father prepared to seal the anointing, he prepared in his mind things he thought he felt the Spirit whispering to him: blessings of competent doctors, and quick cures to this serious illness I had. Instead, the moment he laid his hands on my head, he said other words. These words I recognized, for they were the same words I had heard that afternoon. Almost word for word, my earthly father relayed the same message from my Heavenly Father: that He was aware of me, that He would fulfill His promises to me, and that I had more to do here on earth.
Two days later, I arrived for a biopsy, so a lymph node could be removed for closer examination. As I waited for the biopsy, the surgeon examined the lymphs in my leg to become familiar with the situation as the operation room was prepared for my arrival. In what seemed to be a dream, the surgeon told me that the swollen lymphs had decreased in size, and I was to go home and not worry because it was likely something else. Soon, it was identified as a simple parasite, and three months later when I was home for Christmas break, I had more blood tests done, all indicating perfect levels of iron.
What happened during those short days I do not know, but I testify that the Priesthood and the Hand of God both preserved me so I could be here. And with these events fresh in my mind as if they were yesterday, I declare boldly that the Lord knows the promises He makes to us, and He intends to keep them.
Think for a moment of the powerful promise given to us by the Lord that “whoso receiveth you, there I will be also, for I will go before your face. I will be on your right hand and on your left, and my Spirit shall be in your hearts, and mine angels round about you to bear you up.” (Doctrine & Covenants 84:88) Those are not just words, Elders and Sisters, those are promises given to us by a God. He will fulfill those promises as we do our part in His great work.
“No unhallowed hand can stop this work from progressing” we are promised on another occasion. “The truth of God shall go forth nobly, boldly and independent until . . . Jehovah shall say the work is done.” We cannot fail. We will not fail. As long as the Lord is with us, then who else even stands a chance?
Elders and Sisters I know the Lord keeps His promises. He told me so Himself, first through His Spirit, then through the mouth of a righteous priesthood holder. Long before the situation was resolved, I knew I would be okay. I did not know what stood between me and wellness, but I knew wellness would come. I was ready to proceed through whatever form of hell the adversary could throw my way, because I knew the Lord would not forsake me. I knew the day for my mission would come and that I would be called to declare His word. And now as long as that day is here I will declare it.
In the course of my mission, I have made memories with many of you. You have seen me in moments of victory and defeat. You have seen me make mistakes and you have seen me strengthened by the power of God. Of all these memories, I ask only to be remembered by one. That is my testimony that the Lord’s promises are sure. I know it.
I invite each of you to consider the promises the Lord has made to you, and then to uphold your end of those promises so you may pursue the blessings that follow. But as you do, remember this: You cannot fail. With Christ, the question is not what you can or cannot do, but what you will or will not do.
This I know, for He has promised it.
In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.
Elder Matthew Hodgson