Wednesday, July 31, 2013
So I will be posting my mailing addresses on my Facebook soon for anyone that would like to write me. But, I just wanted to let you know about a same-day letter service that is available while I am at the Provo MTC. There is this website called DearElder.com. Basically, you can type up a letter on their site and they will print it up and deliver it to me that day! Even better, it's FREE! I wouldn't mind handwritten letters too...haha but this is a super easy and fast way to send a message to me if you'd like. Thanks!
Tuesday, July 30, 2013
So, it's official. My visa for Brazil has not quite come through yet, but I will still be leaving next week to begin my missionary training. The Church has a Missionary Training Center (MTC) in Provo, Utah (along with the many others in foreign countries) so I will be headed there next week. Basically, I could be in Provo for the whole 6-week training period, or I may only be there a few weeks until my visa comes. Either way, I'm so excited! Another possibility is that my visa will still not have come through by the time I have finished my training. If that occurs, I will be temporarily re-assigned to a mission in the United States until I receive my visa. Just goes to show that this is truly not my mission, it is the Lord's, and He will make sure that I am wherever I am needed.
Sunday, July 28, 2013
Here's my mission farewell talk for anyone who'd like to read it!
Good morning, brothers and sisters, friends, and family. I am so grateful to be speaking to you today about the Book of Mormon and its influence in my life and in my decision to serve a mission.
The Book of Mormon is an ancient record of scripture, similar in nature to the Bible. It contains the writings of prophets and followers of God. Just as Moses and others in the Old Testament prophesied of Jesus Christ's birth, life and ministry, and Atonement, the Book of Mormon prophets testified of Christ's coming to the Earth. In the Introduction of the Book of Mormon, it explains that the Book of Mormon “is a record of God's dealings with ancient inhabitants of the Americas and contains the fulness of the everlasting gospel.” Jesus Christ made himself known to His people in the Americas, as well as in Jerusalem. In John 10:16, Jesus says, “And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd.” The crowning event in the Book of Mormon is when Jesus Christ fulfills this duty by visiting the people of the Americas, some of His “other sheep,” after His resurrection. He taught them His gospel and about the Plan of Salvation.
I have grown up reading the Book of Mormon and learning about it. I think I have always sort of known in my heart that it is true, but I didn't understand how or why. Especially in the past year, as I have more intensely and individually studied the Book of Mormon and prayed about it, I have found truth in its simple message. The gospel of Jesus Christ is one of mercy, of grace, and of hope. Basically, we are to use our God-given free will in order to choose to follow Jesus Christ. Our life is a refining process in which we learn, grow, repent, improve, and make sacred promises. As we turn our lives towards Christ, He will make us better and provide the way for our salvation. The Bible and the Book of Mormon work together to testify of Jesus Christ. They show how straying from Christ leads to pain, suffering, and confusion, while striving to be more like Him will bring happiness, hope, and clarity to our lives. In the Book of Mormon, it explains that the Book of Mormon was written that we may believe in the Bible, and if we believe in the Bible, we will believe in the Book of Mormon as well because they both testify of Jesus Christ, of the power of God, and the miracles which He has done for us.
As a full-time missionary, I will be working with a companion to teach the people of Brazil in our area about Jesus Christ and His gospel. I want to share the truth that I have found in the Book of Mormon and in Jesus Christ's gospel and plan of salvation. Our humble invitation is for others to come unto Jesus Christ and obtain salvation and happiness through His gospel. In the Book of Mark, chapter 1 verse 4 it explains how John the Baptist preached “the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins”. The gospel that Jesus Christ taught while on the Earth was just this. To obtain salvation, we must have faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. This faith leads us to want to become better people, and to repent of our sins. As we repent, we turn our lives towards Jesus Christ and follow His commandments. This change in our lives is manifested by being baptized by immersion for the remission of our sins. When we are baptized, we make covenants with Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ that we will serve them, keep the commandments, be witnesses of Jesus Christ, and always remember Him. Baptism solidifies our commitment to Christ and shows that we are His disciple. It also allows us to be spiritually born again, and cleansed from all our previous sins. We are given a clean slate! Heavenly Father's promise to us is that we can receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. The Holy Ghost is a spirit who guides, directs, comforts, and inspires us for good. After baptism, we can receive the gift of constant companionship with the Holy Ghost if we live up to our promises. This makes it easier for us to live righteous lives and make good decisions, as we endure the trials and troubles of mortal life to the end. As long as we remain faithful to our covenants, or promises with God, we will live with Him again, alongside our families, in eternal happiness. God's “work and glory is to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.”
Everyone who came to the Earth knew about this plan before they were born, and it is my purpose as a missionary to invite God's children to come back to it and live their Heavenly Father's plan. The Book of Mormon outlines the purpose of life, the gospel of Jesus Christ, and Heavenly Father's plan for us to come back to Him. Not only does this plan outline our means for eternal happiness after death, but living the gospel in our lives now brings blessings of happiness, peace, and strength. As a missionary, I will do as the Book of Mormon prophet Alma taught, and “stand as a witness of God at all times, and in all things, and in all places”.
There are three major things taught in the Book of Mormon that testify to me that it is true. They are the principles of purpose, progress, and potential. I want people to know what I know about why we are here, what we can become, and how we can do it. God is a loving Heavenly Father, who has sent us all to Earth so that we may learn, grow, and become better people. In the Book of Mormon it says, “This life is the time for men to prepare to meet God” (Alma 34:32). Our purpose on Earth is to become worthy enough to live in the presence of God. Luckily, He has given us the means to do this. We know of the Plan of Salvation, in which we must live the gospel of Jesus Christ. Through faith, repentance, baptism, and living the commandments, we become refined and improved. We grow a closer relationship to our Heavenly Father and to His Son, Jesus Christ. Our lives will be happier, more fulfilling, and we will be better equipped to deal with the inevitable challenges of life. Though we will not become perfect in this life, or be happy at all times, living the gospel of Jesus Christ with diligence will give us an anchor to hold to. It is a foundation that if we build upon it, we cannot fall. The Book of Mormon helps us to know know of the divine and amazing potential that we have, simply by being children of a Heavenly Father. Just as children often grow up to become like their parents, we have the potential to become like God. Through His grace, forgiveness, and mercy, we can turn our lives around and become whole.
As part of our divine potential, I also am excited to teach others about the eternal potential of our families. God designed the family to be the fundamental unit of society. If mothers and fathers raise children in righteousness, teaching them to follow the gospel of Jesus Christ, and receiving the blessings of the temple, families can be together forever. A loving family is the most important support in our lives, and it is so exciting that we can have these loving ties for all eternity. Elder Robert D. Hales said: “The family is not an accident of mortality. It existed as an organizational unit in the heavens before the world was formed; historically, it started on earth with Adam and Eve, as recorded in Genesis. Adam and Eve were married and sealed for time and all eternity by the Lord, and as a result their family will exist eternally.”
Lastly, I would like to invite everyone to read the Book of Mormon. Whether you have read it several times, or have never even seen one, please read the Book of Mormon. It is a true book given to us from God and it's message is one of peace, hope, happiness, and salvation. Whenever I feel lost, confused, or upset, reading the Book of Mormon brings me peace, understanding, and joy. But, don't take my word for it. Find out for yourself if it is true. At the end of the Book of Mormon, in the book of Moroni chapter 10 verses 4-5 it says:
- And when ye shall receive these things, I would exhort you that ye would ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true; and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, He will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost.
- And by the power of the Holy Ghost, ye may know the truth of all things.
Heavenly Father is anxious for us to know the truth. But He cannot answer our questions unless we ask them. I testify that this gospel is true, in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.
Monday, July 22, 2013
Some people wonder why the Church sends 18 and 19 year old young people out to teach the people of the world, and are amazed by their success. I have been asked if I am nervous or worried about serving a mission. Especially since I will be teaching people in Portuguese, which I have never studied before these past few months, and which I am certainly not fluent in. To be honest, I am a little nervous. I know it will be the hardest experience of my life thus far, and the most difficult thing I have ever done. But, I have faith that it will all be okay because I am on God's side. If I put in my part, He will make up the rest. I will never be left alone or unable to do God's will if I am willing to serve Him with all my heart, might, mind, and strength. It is said that the fullness of the gospel will be proclaimed by the weak and the simple unto the ends of the world. I certainly am not qualified on my own to teach and serve others in this way. But, God will work with my weaknesses and my inexperience to make me a strong, powerful teacher and example to others. As far as the language goes, God has promised that “every man shall hear the fulness of the gospel in his own tongue, and in his own language, through those who are ordained unto this power”. I know that the Spirit of God will be with me as I speak, and that my mind will be enlightened to teach and speak the words which God would have me speak. There is no way that I would be able to fluently teach lessons to native Portuguese speakers with only a few months of studying behind me on my own. The Spirit of God most certainly is with the missionaries to guide them and help them. Through this power, I will be made an instrument in the hands of God to teach others and bring them to the truth. It is a humbling thought that God trusts me enough to go out and teach His children in Brazil and to follow His Spirit to be able to communicate with them. I am so grateful for this special call to serve Him, and am excited to get started.
Sunday, July 14, 2013
I have thought a lot recently about what it means to sacrifice something. Typically, the word "sacrifice" has a negative connotation in our minds, but it does not have to be so. To me, sacrificing one's time, effort, resources, comfort, and countless other things in order to promote a just cause will bless beyond measure. Sure, you may miss out on something you want to do or have, but I think this is outweighed by the impact you can have. For example, sacrificing an afternoon of watching television to volunteer at a homeless shelter. Temporally, there is no reason for you to do so. But, such service will help you grow, widen your perspective, and make you happier. It's amazing how giving up a small portion of what you have helps you to recognize how much you truly do have and how blessed you are. Here's the catch though, you can't just physically sacrifice something in order to be changed. If your heart is not in it, or you give it up begrudgingly or just to appease others' expectations, you will not be as effective as you could be. You may certainly help someone and meet their needs, but imagine how much sweeter of an experience it would be to sacrifice what you have with a humble heart and a loving attitude. In life, especially I think at my stage of it, we get so caught up in trying to plan our futures, take care of our needs, and make sure that we are getting everything that we want, that we forget to serve others. I know from experience that this state of mind is ultimately more stressful and unhappy. Helping others, making sacrifices, and giving service with love makes you feel more fulfilled and allows you to worry about others instead of yourself. Turning your thoughts to other people widens your view, puts your problems into perspective, and helps you learn that maybe you aren't as bad off as it seemed before. Of course, we do have to reasonably take care of ourselves, but there are many supposed "needs" that we attend to that are probably more like "wants" in our daily lives. Sacrifice takes trust in the Lord that He will help you and bless you to accomplish all that you truly do need to do, along with serving others. If you think about it, if everyone in the world gave service to those around them, everyone would have several people helping them and thinking of their needs and providing support, instead of trying to take on only their own worries all at once. Sacrifice brings people together and deepens their love and compassion. Jesus Christ made the ultimate sacrifice for all of mankind. This supreme act of love brings Christ close to us, as He has felt and understands all of our pains and sorrows. If Jesus Christ could suffer and sacrifice everything for everyone, how selfish is it of us to not give up a small, insignificant want for a fellow human's need? Finally, I believe the key to serving and sacrificing for others is respect. You may not agree with or be in the same situation as another, but they are still a person of worth and deserve to be treated with respect. It is easy to be angry, it is easy to be offended -- what is hard is to love someone despite the differences you have. I am definitely not any where near being good at this, but I understand now that I want to be. Everyone on Earth is God's child, and we all deserve to be treated as such. We all need love, help, and validation. I invite you to try sacrificing something for someone this week that you may have trouble dealing with, or that you usually do not get along with. Do something to serve someone who is not close to you, and see the change that can develop in both of you.
Tuesday, July 2, 2013
I can't believe how fast time has flown by! I leave for the MTC (Missionary Training Center) in 5 weeks!! As the time comes sooner and sooner each day, I am getting so excited! These past few months have also been some of the hardest, but I know that it will all be worth it. As I prepare to preach the gospel, I feel more capable to do so. Reading the Book of Mormon daily, along with praying, studying Preach My Gospel (the manual that missionaries teach off of), and learning Portuguese has been such a blessing. As I have built my life around preparing to serve God and teach others of Christ, I have been able to accomplish all that I need and want to. I have been blessed with the ability to deal with all the challenges thrown my way. It reminds me of the scripture Helaman 5:12 in the Book of Mormon. (See here: http://www.lds.org/scriptures/bofm/hel/5?lang=eng). No matter what forces of opposition may come upon me, if I build my foundation on Jesus Christ I will be able to get through it. Many little miracles have occurred in my life to allow for me to go on a mission. From the beginning, this whole process has been such a test of patience. Currently, I am still waiting for my visa to go through. Even though I may not get it on time to go to the MTC in Brazil, and I may end up going to the MTC in Provo, Utah instead, I know that whatever happens is for the best. I am content with whatever outcome and just hope and pray that my visa will come when God needs it to. I love the gospel and know that it is true. I am privileged to be able to serve a mission and share the truth with others!