Sunday, August 18, 2013

A Decision to Serve

"Dear Sister Hall, You are hereby called to serve as a missionary of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. You are assigned to labor in the New York New York North Mission. It is anticipated that you will serve for a period of 18 months. You should report to the Mexico Missionary Training Center on Wednesday, October 2, 2013. You will prepare to preach the gospel in the Spanish nation... We place our confidence in you and pray that the Lord will help you become an effective missionary."

In October of last year, I sat in the Tabernacle at Temple Square when President Monson made the historic announcement which permitted girls over the age of 19 to serve missions. I cried. I was so inspired by the hastening of the Lord’s work in our day. He is calling more and more of His servants to aid the work of bringing the gospel into the lives of so many. “Wherefore, he will bring them again out of captivity, and they shall be gathered together to the lands of their inheritance; and they shall be brought out of obscurity and out of darkness; and they shall know that the Lord is their Savior and their Redeemer, the Mighty One of Israel.” (1Nephi 22:12). I am committing to 18 months of serving my Savior in accomplishing this great task. Why would I give up a year and a half of my life for this cause?

I debated it for a long time before I finally got my answer. I’ve always wanted to go share the “good news” with everyone, but I had to know if it was what God truly wanted me to do. I prayed for months and tried to better myself in order to be ready for a mission. Then one night I was reading in D&C and I came across Section 4:3 which reads “Therefore, if ye have desires to serve God ye are called to the work”. Right when I read that verse, the Spirit was so strong and I knew that I was supposed to go because I truly desired to share the word with all.

This desire to serve stems from three key experiences in my life. First, after watching the movie 17 Miracles I was filled with total gratitude for my pioneer ancestors. They gave up everything for the gospel. Before hearing the word of Christ, their lives were without purpose and without answers to life’s most pertinent questions. When they heard the “good news” of the gospel, their hearts leaped for joy and they knew that they had heard the true teachings of a Heavenly Father who loved them dearly. Just as Lamoni’s father in Alma 22:15, these faithful saints declared “What shall I do that I may have this eternal life of which thou hast spoken? Yea, what shall I do that I may be born of God, having this wicked spirit rooted out of my breast, and receive his Spirit, that I may be filled with joy, that I may not be cast off at the last day? Behold, said he, I will give up all that I possess, yea, I will forsake my kingdom, that I may receive this great joy.” The early pioneers truly did give up all that they possessed for the kingdom of God: their lives, their families, and in some instances, even their lives. They knew it was the glorious word of God and knew that nothing on earth was more important than this gospel. In modern days, I know that I do not have to give up my worldly possessions for this gospel, but I do know that I can serve my Lord with all my heart and show Him that I love His gospel. I can give 18 months to the Lord and serve Him by serving others. I hope to be able to emulate the examples of my early pioneer ancestors and those brave enough to stay true to their dedication to the Lord when life became unbearable.

“We must be sure that the legacy of faith received from the pioneers who came before us is never lost. Let their heroic lives touch our hearts, and especially the hearts of our youth, so the fire of true testimony and unwavering love for the Lord and His Church will blaze brightly within each one of us as it did in our faithful pioneers.”

“Can we somehow muster the courage and that steadfastness of purpose which characterized the pioneers of a former generation?” President Monson asks. “Can you and I, in actual fact, be pioneers today? A dictionary defines a pioneer as ‘one who goes before, showing others the way to follow.’ Oh, how the world needs pioneers today!” President Monson teaches that Latter-day Saints can be modern-day pioneers by being aware of the needs of others and then reaching out to rescue them and show them the way to Christ.

“Truly the Lord encourages us to walk in faith to the edge of the light and beyond—into the unknown,” Elder Ballard says. “After the trial of our faith, He once again shines the light ahead of us, and our journey of faith in every footstep continues. Now it has swelled into billions and billions of footsteps throughout the world.” I hope to be a force to bring this magnificent gospel into the lives of others, even if it means sacrificing schooling, friends, and years of my life in doing so.

Secondly, I am going on a mission because I love others. I went home for a week and was able to see my old friends from high school. Listening to them talk about their lives was so hard for me because I knew that they were missing out on the countless blessings which the gospel brings to us. These were my best friends during high school and now they have lost the most precious help in succeeding in this life. If only they understood that the gospel was not a list of rules to follow, but a support and key to eternal happiness. I wished there was a way for them to understand that the principles of the gospel would bring them truly happiness. I may not be able to change the lives of my friends, but I can serve with all my heart for 18 months to bring other people the gospel. Other people who have friends praying for them to accept the gospel, other people who have experienced loss and pain, all of which can be healed by our loving Savior, other people who are meandering through life without purpose, other people who feel alone and helpless who need to understand that we have a Heavenly Father and Heavenly Mother who love us unconditionally and want desperately for us to return home to them. These truths of the gospel change lives. They can save lives. If I can be an instrument in the conversion of even one person who is struggling, then my service to my Lord is complete. “O that I were an angel, and could have the wish of mine heart, that I might go forth and speak with the trump of God, with a voice to shake the earth, and cry repentance unto every people! Yea, I would declare unto every soul, as with the voice of thunder, repentance and the plan of redemption, that they should repent and come unto our God, that there might not be more sorrow upon all the face of the earth” (Alma 29:1-2).

Another story from the Book of Mormon highlights a group of missionaries who went about teaching many. “Now they were desirous that salvation should be declared to every creature, for they could not bear that any human soul should perish; yea, even the very thought that any soul should endure endless torment did cause them to quake and tremble” (Mosiah 28:3). I feel exactly the same way that these true missionaries felt. I truly want everyone in the world to feel the peace and joy that comes from living the gospel. I want everyone to know that they have a Heavenly Father who loves them. I want everyone to know that they have a Savior who died for them and has suffered all of their pains and afflictions so that they can be saved. I want EVERYONE to know. All I want to do is share the gospel with others so that they can have happiness in their lives and understand the plan of happiness that God has created for us.

My last reason for wanting to serve a mission is the most personal. When I was in high school I made some really stupid decisions. I remember at one point hearing the Holy Ghost speak loud and clear, announcing “I’m leaving now”. I didn’t care. I didn’t want to give up my worldly desires. And then I realized how much I missed the Spirit in my life. I have a testimony of the Atonement and know that it truly can cleanse us of our sins and bring the Spirit back into our lives if we are willing to humble ourselves before God and sincerely repent. I also know how horrible life can be without the influence and guidance of the Spirit. I have been blessed to have the Holy Ghost with me for the majority of my life, but there are SO MANY people out there who do not have the comforting feeling that comes from the Holy Ghost. There have been so many times in my life when I felt that my future was unsure and I was full of self-doubt, but when I felt the Holy Ghost guide me in the pathway which I should go, I knew I was doing the right thing and I knew that I could trust in the words of our prophets because I knew that the church was true. These confirmations only came because of the promptings from the Holy Ghost. In the Book of Mormon the people “did pray for that which they most desired; and they desired that the Holy Ghost should be given unto them” (3 Nephi 19:9). I want to be a part in bringing that gift to other people. Life is so hard without the personal revelation and comfort which comes through the Spirit. I want to ease the sufferings of others by offering them this precious gift which has been restored to this earth.

I know that God loves all of His children. He is always watching out for us. He knows our fears, our struggles, our joys, our pains, our hopes, and our dreams. He truly wants us to succeed in all that we do. He sent His Son to earth to die for each one of our sins. I know that the Savior suffered the Atonement personally for ALL of us. I know that God still speaks to His servants the prophets, and that we have a Latter-day prophet on the earth today. I know that he receives revelation for our day and that his counsel comes from God. I know that we have the word of God on the earth today found in the scriptures. This word is found in the Bible and the Book of Mormon, another testament of Jesus Christ. I know that Joseph Smith restored this gospel to the earth and that the priesthood is once again on earth, the ability to act in God’s name through His sacred power. This is my sincere testimony. I know that it is true without a doubt and I would DIE defending my faith.

But I was afraid.

When I started thinking about serving a mission, I told myself that I wasn’t good enough. I’m not a scriptorian, an orator, or Relief Society president and thought that I couldn’t serve because I wasn’t perfect. I make mistakes and know that there are many others out there who have much greater talents and capabilities than I. And then I received an amazing priesthood blessing. The Lord counseled me to not only rely upon the cleansing power of the Atonement, but also to rely upon Its enabling power. “Yea, come unto Christ, and be perfected in him, and deny yourselves of all ungodliness; and if ye shall deny yourselves of all ungodliness, and love God with all your might, mind and strength, then is his grace sufficient for you, that by his grace ye may be perfect in Christ; and if by the grace of God ye are perfect in Christ, ye can in nowise deny the power of God”. Christ died for us, and because of His sacrifice we can truly become perfect. He wants us to become perfect, and He is with us every step of the journey helping us to become better. We must simply recognize that He is there. In Ether 12:27 it reads “And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them”. I know that because I will be serving the Lord, He will strengthen me if I humble myself and come unto Christ and rely upon Him in all things.

A mission is not a light undertaking. I know there will be times of desperation, frustration, and heartache. But I am going to serve others and serve the Lord. I know that despite my weaknesses, through Christ’s Atonement I can be made strong and use my abilities to help others and invite them to Christ. I am sure of this and I am no longer afraid to share this wonderful message with the world.

I have been called to serve a mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. This is no light undertaking. I will wear Christ’s name on my name tag every day and represent Him in all that I do. I know that I can truly have all the blessings promised if I am obedient to the Lord and stay true to the work which He has called me to do. “I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain: that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it you” (St John 15:16). I know that is true and that the missionary effort is the greatest work on the earth today and will spread to all corners of the earth to bring people unto their Savior, Jesus Christ. This gospel is the greatest news anyone can hear and all of God’s children deserve to receive this light.
I am so excited to serve the people of and bring them to Christ.