Good afternoon, Brothers and Sisters!
As you already know, I have been called to serve in the England Manchester Mission, Mandarin Chinese speaking. Yes, you heard right. I will be speaking Chinese in England—a mission I did not even know existed until 6 or 7 months ago. From what I understand, this means I will be speaking in not one, but two foreign languages. One being Chinese, of course, and the second language being a very hard to understand Manchester accent. In just 10 short days, I will be reporting to the MTC and I will be there for 9 weeks so feel free to send me a package or two.
Bishop Brown asked that I would speak today on preparing for a mission. Unlike most of the Sisters who have received their mission calls since last General Conference, I did not always have the desire to serve a mission. Yes, it was on my mind, but I had more reasons not to go then I did to go on a mission. Nevertheless, I think Heavenly Father has been preparing me to serve since I was born knowing one day I would finally make the choice to go on a mission. I feel like I have been a two year old wanting to put my left shoe on my right foot and vise versa, while my Heavenly Father has encouraged me to put my shoes on the right way. When I still thought I was wearing my shoes correctly, He has stood by, not to intervene, but to allow me to come to know for myself that my shoe was indeed on the wrong foot.
Therefore, when the announcement was made last October that sisters could now serve at age 19, a mission became more of a reality and not just something to think about when year 21 rolled around. The morning after that announcement I found myself praying to know if it was the Lord’s will for me to serve a mission. That is when I received not only an answer, but also a desire to serve. I was relieved to have an answer, but fearful that I was inadequate to take on such a heavy task. Just as instantly as doubt overcame me, a thought of comfort and assurance came to me when the scripture 1 Nephi 3:7 came to my mind which reads:
“I will go and do the things which the Lord hath commanded, for I know that the Lord giveth no commandments unto the children of men, save he shall prepare a way for them that they may accomplish the thing which he commandeth them.”
This scripture assured me that the Lord would be by my side every step of the way and that he would prepare a way for me to be a successful missionary. Thinking back to that moment of confirmation, I realized how preparation methods fall into two categories: as I just mentioned, The Lord “prepares the way” and then there is our own personal preparation to receive those blessings that he has prepared for us.
In more ways than I can imagine, the Lord has prepared a way for me to serve a mission, and here are some things that came to mind as I prepared this talk:
· One of the things that used to scare me away from serving a mission was the fact that the sisters would wear clothes that were well… something I am not too interested in ever wearing. This was a shallow reason that kept me from committing to a mission but all my excuses were of this nature. Fortunately for me, the dressing standards for the sisters was updated a while ago and we are now encouraged to wear colorful and attractive outfits. It was a challenge, but I assure you that it is possible to find cute missionary clothes.
· Another way the path to serving a mission has been prepared for me is the fact that I was able to take three years of Chinese in high school. It was not until before my entry into high school that they started to offer Chinese as a foreign language. I always wanted to learn Japanese but Chinese was close enough and I quickly decided to enroll in the newly offered Chinese class my freshman year. And look at me now! My Chinese experience is coming in handy!
· I also remember my father planting the seed of considering a mission during one family home evening years ago. It was from that day that prepared by mind to be ready for the announcement last October.
· I have also been blessed with health that I might be able to meet the demands of missionary work.
· My freshman year at BYU I was called to be a Sunday school teacher. I am so grateful for that calling because it has prepared me to teach.
· Additionally, the Lord has blessed me with amazing Sunday school and seminary teachers, EFY counselors and speakers, religion professors, and Young Women leaders that have taught me line-by-line, precept upon precept to the point where I have waxed strong in the knowledge of the gospel.
· There has been the example of return sister missionaries, through out my life that have demonstrated the choice to serve even when they did not have to.
· I have also had the example of friends willing to drop everything they had to serve the Lord after the announcement was made. They have paved the way for other missionaries like me who maybe needed a boost of courage to make such a big decision.
· I also think that the lowered missionary age to 19 was a big way of the Lord preparing the way for me to accomplish a mission because it has dramatically decreases the likelihood that I would be married and unable to serve. This is probably my mom’s favorite point since she would have had a heart attack if I would have ended up engaged by this next year before I was 21.
· Most importantly, the Lord has prepared the way for me to serve a mission because He has strengthened me with trials and adversity. My trails have taught me to stay positive when things do not go my way and to push forward.
Like most things in the gospel, we must put forth effort on our behalf to receive blessings. Otherwise, we will miss the opportunities that have been and will be opened up to us. The things I have done to prepare for serving a mission are simple but they have made a big difference. I would also like to point out that the Lord has done much more for me than I think I was able to do for myself to prepare…
Since I go to BYU in Provo, there is a temple only 10 minutes away. This has allowed me to attend the temple just about every week this past semester. I have found that regular temple attendance has helped me to grow spiritually because the temple is a house of learning. Every time I went to the temple, I left understanding a gospel principle or doctrine more fully.
Another way I have tried to prepare is by praying for help and guidance and the companionship of the Holy Ghost. I have come to understand how important the Holy Ghost is in our lives and how it is even more so to missionaries. I know that I will not be the one teaching investigators because the Holy Ghost is the true teacher so we must learn and teach by the Spirit. I will definitely need the Spirit, as I will prepare to learn and speak Chinese.
The last thing I would like to talk about concerning my personal preparation is coming to better know the Book of Mormon by reading and studying it all the way through. Doing so has strengthened my testimony in the atonement and has helped me to better know the true nature of God. Aided by going to the temple, reading the scriptures has made me realize how much we need our Savior, Jesus Christ, and his atonement. The atonement allows us to change. The atonement helps us heal. The atonement makes everything possible. I have witnessed the power of the atonement in my life because, by myself, I know that I am weak, but with my Savior, I know I can overcome anything. Reading the Book of Mormon has also retaught me the true nature of God. Since Jesus Christ has patterned his life after his Father, we can come to know our Heavenly Father by coming to know His son , Jesus Christ. There are many instances in the Book of Mormon of Christ extending his arms and mercy unto everyone. Heavenly Father does likewise and He desires everyone to return unto Him. I think we all want to be wanted and needed, but we tend to forget that we are wanted by a Heavenly Father from on high that loves us more than we can comprehend. When we forget this truth, we can fall into the trap of seeking this attention from the wrong places and in the wrong ways. Avoid this despair and remember that each and everyone of you have a Heavenly Father and Savior who love you so much and will do everything they can to let you feel that love and partake of their goodness if you would just turn unto them.
Brothers and Sisters, I hope we will all acknowledge when we need to change our attitudes, actions, and aspirations and put the right foot in the right shoe. May we follow the wise words of Gordon B. Hinckley to “try a little harder to be a little better.” I know that God lives and that He is invested in every detail of our lives. I know He loves us. I know that we also have a Savior who loves us and that he died for our sins so we would not have to suffer any more than the necessary pains and sadness of life. The opposite of sadness is happiness and that is obtained by living this gospel. Give faith a chance. I leave my testimony with you in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.