Thank you so very much to all that came to my farewell to support me, I am overwhemled by how much love I feel for all of you. I admire each one of you, and I know that you've each taught me so much. Thank you for being my friend along the way.... You're so wonderful! (Send me letters! ;)
Below is a copy of the farewell talk that I wrote in preparation for last Sunday. Forgive me for the errors (puctuation, grammar, spelling, etc.)... I didn't write it with the intention of it being read by anyone but me, but several people have asked for access to it/copies. :) Just know that I mean every word.
I LOVE YOU!
Why do I want to serve a mission? – Farewell Talk 3/17/13
Exactly five months and eleven days ago, during the Saturday morning session of General Conference, President Thomas S. Monson made an announcement that has, and will change my life forever. He declared that the age requirements for missionaries for the LDS church had been adjusted, and that “able, worthy young women who have the desire to serve may be recommended for missionary service beginning at a 19 instead of 21, which had been the previous protocol. I had turned 19 just two months before this announcement, so this was particularly striking to me. The mission decision had previously been something I had been contemplating and preparing for, but with an attitude a little along the lines of "anything could happen between now and when I turn 21". Suddenly the decision of whether or not I was going to serve a mission was right before me, and not in some distant time in the future.
Obviously, choosing to serve a mission, putting your entire life on hold for a lengthy period of time to serve the Lord, is a HUGE commitment, sacrifice, and decision. For a few weeks after the announcement I thought long and hard about what it was that I was supposed to do. I prayed to God, telling him that I was willing to do whatever it was that he wanted me to do, and that I trusted Him to guide me. After a lot of thinking, prayer, and discussion with my parents, I made the decision to begin the process of turning my recommendation papers in. Two weeks later I received my call, to the lovely Canada Montreal mission. This Wednesday I will enter the Provo Missionary Training Center to begin working hard to become the missionary that I know Heavenly Father wants me to be.
This decision is huge for me. I can imagine that many, particularly not of the LDS faith, are confused as to why I would decide to do such a thing. In so doing, I am making a lot of sacrifices. I will be leaving my family and friends behind, keeping in contact only through handwritten letters and access to email once a week. I’m leaving my phone behind, my computer, all access to the internet except for the sole purpose of emailing, or helping with family history work. The music I listen to will only be mission approved, I’ve promised to put any forms of dating on hold, and overall… Commit myself 100% to the Lord’s work. To many of you, and at one time or another to myself, this seems like so much to ask, especially of a 19 year old girl. Why would I voluntarily make this choice? Today I am grateful for the opportunity to speak, and explore in depth, the exact answer to that question… why I want to serve a mission. What you have to understand, is what being a member of this church means to me. It isn't merely just a really great organization that I'm a part of. It's not just an awesome support system that teaches good morals as to how to be a good person. It's so much more than that. My beliefs, my knowledge that this is the one true church and the glad tidings which it contains… is an absolutely fundamental component of who I am. So in considering what it is that has driven me to make this choice in my life, I seem to have thoughts that fall into three components.
I mentioned before that once the announcement was released, I immediately started pray, and converse with Heavenly Father, asking what it was that he wished for me to do. As my testimony and conviction of the truth of this church has developed, I have discovered the validity of a comment by the prophet Ezra Taft Benson, that “men and women who turn their lives over to God quickly learn that he can make more of their lives than they can”. I have learned, time and time again, that when faced with decisions in my life, if I turn to God and consult with him, things will always work out. As members of the church, we constantly try to align ourselves more and more with His will instead of ours. And so in praying about the decision to serve a mission, I was doing just that. I asked to know of His will concerning me and the choice to serve. The response was overwhelmingly, “yes”! I received such a strong witness that He wanted me to serve, and that a mission at this time in my life is definitely included in His plan for me. When we are baptized, we make a promise with God that we will stand as witnesses of Him, and the way that He wants me to do that is by leaving my family for a year and a half, to serve and testify. I think the words of the hymn “I’ll Go Where You Want Me To Go” sums up this point pretty well. It reads: It may not be on the mountain height or over the stormy sea, it may not be at the battle’s front my Lord will have need of me. But if, by a still, small voice he calls to paths that I do not know, I’ll answer, dear Lord, with my hand in thine: I’ll go where you want me to go. I’ll go where you want me to go, dear Lord… Perhaps today there are loving words which Jesus would have me speak; there may be now in the paths of sin some wand’rer whom I should seek. O Savior, if thou wilt be my guide, tho dark and rugged the way, my voice shall echo the message sweet: I’ll say what you want me to say. There’s surely somewhere a lowly place in earth’s harvest fields so wide where I may labor through life’s short day for Jesus, the Crucified. So trusting my all to thy tender care, and knowing thou lovest me, I’ll do thy will with a heart sincere: I’ll be what you want me to be. And so, the first component of my desire to serve a mission can be explained by simply saying that I know it’s what God wants me to do.
To explain the second component, I ask you to put yourself in an imaginary scenario for a moment. Imagine that you have just discovered the cure for cancer. What would you do once you’ve found it? Would you share it with others? How urgently would you do so? Who would you share this momentous discovery with? Today there are so many rampant and unrelenting illnesses. Not all of them are physical. A lot of them are spiritual or emotional in nature. Addictions to drugs, alcohol or pornography, family struggles, pains from the loss of a loved one, tough challenges in relationships with others, a lack of a sense of purpose, loneliness, purposelessness, emotional pain, hunger, disease, abuse, hate, depression… The list is absolutely endless. All of these are different ailments that many, if not all of us, suffer from at one time or another. I am here to tell you today, and in three days I will be leaving my home to boldly declare to all who will listen, that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Christ’s church restored to the earth, the one and only true church is the absolute cure for all of the ills in the world today. As I grew up, read the Book of Mormon, attended church, and studied the teachings of the church… I came to know, to discover this cure. Why I am serving a mission, is to share this cure with everyone within my reach.
Some people out there suffer from the affliction of loneliness, self-esteem problems, or a lack of identity. The message of the true church provides comfort for these people. Revelation given to Joseph Smith in the Doctrine and Covenants declares that “the worth of souls is great in the sight of God”(D&C 18:10). Through the restored church we can know that each of us are sons and daughters of a Heavenly Father who loves each of us unconditionally. He loves us and wants to help us and guide us in everything that we do. As you learn about Christ, you begin to understand what God sees in you, and what you can become. Heavenly Father and His spirit can be your constant companion, guide, and comforter. The church structure itself can serve as a healing balm for these ailments. Stakes and wards provide strong supportive units, with home teachers and visiting teachers constantly loving and looking out for the welfare of others.
Sometimes families are subject to disease and corruption, sometimes with symptoms that may include contention, unkind words, divorce, abuse, neglect or abandonment. Again, the church lends a hand to help. Strengthening marriages and families is of utmost importance within the church. The family is the most basic unit of the church, and so much of the church’s daily efforts are aimed at strengthening and improving family relationships. In 1995, the prophet Gordon B. Hinckley revealed The Family: A Proclamation to the World, which articulates the importance of the family, stating that “the family is ordained of God. Marriage between man and women is essential to His eternal plan… Happiness in family life is most likely to be achieved when founded upon the teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ. Successful marriages and families are established and maintained on principles of faith, prayer, repentance, forgiveness, respect, love, compassion, work, and wholesome recreational activities”. We know through the restored church that families are forever, and that the bonds we have with our loved ones will not be broken by death.
Some people lack purpose in this life, or perhaps a peace, happiness or hope that they wish they had in their life. Again, the good news of the gospel provides a solution. God’s plan for us is even often called the plan of happiness. Missionaries know that every person is precious. We know that that all Heavenly Father wants is for us all to return to him. That’s what I want, and that’s what missionaries want. We want for all of us, every single person no matter who you are or where you are to be happy and return with God. That is our purpose. We know that the gospel, the plan of redemption through Jesus Christ, is the only way to achieve peace in this life, and eternal salvation and joy in the next. In Elder Jeffrey R. Holland’s talk, Safety for the Soul, he states “Love. Healing. Help. Hope. The power of Christ to counter all trouble in all times—including the end of times. That is the safe harbor God wants for us in personal or public days of despair. That is the message with which the Book of Mormon begins, and that is the message with which it ends, calling all to ‘come unto Christ” and be perfected in him’”. The Book of Mormon was given to bring happiness and hope to the faithful in the latter days. That is its purpose. In Elder Holland’s talk he even says explicitly that the Book of Mormon is one of the Lord’s powerful keystones in the counteroffensive against latter-day ills.
There are many other ‘cures’ that the gospel of Jesus Christ provides. The church, the scriptures, and prayer can provide answers to thoughts concerning who you are, where you came from, and where you’re going next. “The word gospel as we use it in English comes down to us through early scriptural language which meant literally ‘good news’ or sometimes ‘glad tidings.’ The ’good news’ was that death and hell could be ecaped, that mistakes and sins could be overcome, that there was hope, that there was help, that the insoluble was solved, that the enemy had been conquered. The good news was that everyone’s tomb could one day be empty, that everyone’s soul could again be pure, that every child of God could again return to the Father who gave them life.” (Jeffrey R. Holland- Missionary Work and the Atonement)
Today I want to testify that I have had challenges in my life. There are experiences that I have had that I’ve struggled with and that have been hard for me. But I have also experienced the cure, the amazing healing power of Christ’s church upon the earth. For this purpose I have accepted the call the serve. I go to serve a mission with the sole hope of making life better for other people. I want to witness to the world that I know it is true, I know of its healing power. The analogy that I have used today, discovering a cure for cancer, is a little similar to one of the allegories contained in the Book of Mormon. I’m speaking of the story of the prophet Lehi’s dream of the Tree of Life. In it, Lehi dreams that he comes across a tree, “whose fruit was desirable to make one happy”. He tastes of some of the fruit, and remarks that it is more sweet than any he has tasted. Partaking of the fruit filled his soul with great joy, and immediately he had desires for the rest of his family to come and partake. In this allegory, the fruit represents Christ’s atonement and tells of its extraordinary sweetness and joy that comes from partaking of it. The Atonement is really the center of God’s plan; it is what enables us to return to live with Him again. The Atonement, and by consequence, the ability to repent is what gives us the ability to overcome our sins, constantly striving to become perfect so that we can achieve salvation. Partaking of the Atonement, and making it a daily part of our lives, gives us the ability to overcome the pain and sorrow we experience. In my life, I see repentance as a constant thing I am trying to do, constantly working on fixing the mistakes I make, and trying each day to be a little better, a little more Christlike. The Atonement is truly what contains the ultimate healing power. I have tasted of this delicious fruit, and I feel an extremely strong and insatiable desire to share it with everyone I meet. I know that for many of you this may not make sense, but ever since I found out that I was to serve in the Canada Montreal mission, and began to pray for the people within my mission I have felt an overwhelming love for them, none of whom I have met. I am excited to meet those who I will cross paths with, and I already desire for them to know of the truth, to partake of the fruit, to let Christ heal their injuries and cure their sicknesses. Love is what it’s all about. Love for others. I read a scripture earlier that states that the worth of souls is great in the eyes of God… That chapter goes on to say “if it so be that you should labor all your days in crying repentance unto this people, and bring save it be one soul unto me, how great shall be your joy with him in the kingdom of my Father!” Growing up I took that scripture to mean that if you labor and bring one person to be baptized, your joy will be great in heaven because of the reward which you should receive. However, since I have received my call, and have experienced a glimpse of how much Heavenly Father loves those who I will have the opportunity to teach… My perspective of that scripture has completely changed. My joy with him in the Kingdom of my Father will not be because of my reward. Bringing that one soul unto Christ will be the reward. I will have joy because I will have brought a fellow brother or sister unto the loving arms of my Father. I will have the opportunity of seeing them become a changed being in Christ, and obtain happiness, and knowledge of their true worth. I now know that becoming a missionary does not entitle me to some great material reward in heaven, I know instead that being a missionary means being a humble servant of the Lord and carrying out His will. I’m going out to serve others, and to serve Him.
This brings me to my last, and perhaps strongest driving force that has compelled me to make the decision to serve a mission, which is ultimately, to become like Christ. That is my ultimate purpose in this life, as it is for all of us. We are to follow and come unto him, to become like him through adapting His attributes such as love, patience, hope, humility, charity, faith, virtue, knowledge, diligence and obedience. I know that if Jesus Christ were ministering on the earth today, the work that he would be doing would be missionary work. President Dieter F. Uchtdorf explained in his talk “You Are My Hands” that “Christ did not just speak about love; He showed it each day of His life. He did not remove Himself from the crowd. Being amidst the people, Jesus reached out to the one. He rescued the lost. He didn’t just teach a class about reaching out in love and then delegate the actual work to others. He not only taught but also showed us how to ‘succor the weak, lift up the hands which hang down, and strengthen the feeble knees.’ Christ knows how to minister to others perfectly. When the Savior stretches out His Hands, those he touches are uplifted and become greater, stronger, and better people as a result.” That is my goal, as a follower of Christ. To follow in His footsteps, to serve others. The missionary handbook, Preach my Gospel promises that “as [I] follow this example, [I] will find those who will receive [me]. Through service, [Me] and those who are prepared for the restored gospel come together in a powerful, inspiring way.”
One of the neat things about being a servant of the Lord is that in reality, I am merely an instrument in God’s hands. Because I realize that He has given me everything that I have, I am willing to give him everything that I have in order to carry out His purposes. As a missionary, what we do every day is strive to be a vessel through which the spirit can work. The spirit is the true teacher. In one of my missionary preparation classes I have been attending, one of my teachers explained to me that when I meet with someone who is investigating the church, there are three groups in the room. Myself and my companion, the investigator, and the spirit. My companion and I are the least important out of these three. What the spirit and what the investigator has to say is the most important. In reality, a missionary is nothing without the spirit. Without the Spirit, he/she has lost their ability and authority to teach the message of the gospel. But with the spirit… Anything is possible. That is how testimonies, or a knowledge that the church is the true church, is obtained; through the spirit. That’s what I think it absolutely amazing about this church. We, as missionaries, are not out there tricking people or using fancy language to convince people to get baptized. We’re saying “Look. Here is this book. Read it! Read it, take some time to really think about it, and pray with an honest heart to know if it is true… And He will tell you that it is. Your life will be changed forever.” The gospel testifies of itself! I love it. I love it so much. I’m so grateful to know of the truth of it, and experience it blessing my life every day. I love my Heavenly Father, and I am grateful that I can pray to him always to receive help, guidance and comfort. I know and love my brother, savior, and redeemer, Jesus Christ. I’m grateful for the healing power that he gives to us, because of him every trial in life is temporary, no pain is permanent. I have happiness I knowing that I can be with my family, those that I love the most, forever. I love my life, and as long as I remember to keep the truths of the gospel in the forefront of my mind, I am truly happy. I’m so excited to go to Canada to find people there that are looking for someone like me to help them find the truth… To figure out who they are, why they’re here, what their purpose is… I’m excited to witness their experience as they feel the love that Heavenly Father has for them, and come to know that they are His sons and daughters and He wants them to be happy. I truly believe and know, without a doubt, that Christ’s sacrifice enables us to all change a little, each day, to become a little better, a little kinder, a little more loving, a little more trusting… I know that through that process, we can obtain complete happiness. I know that, and I want to share it with the world. I’m really just sharing truth that brings absolute joy, light and everlasting happiness, and I can’t wait to witness God change people’s lives.