June 08, 2014

Farewell Talk~ Why am I Going on a Mission?

Good morning everyone,
         I first want to start off by thanking all of my amazing family members and friends for supporting me and being here today.  It means so much.  And for having my roommate Chloe sing with me, and my high school music director play for us.  For those of you who don’t know me, I have been in this same ward my entire life, and I just completed my freshman year at BYU.  I have been called to serve in the México Monterrey East Mission, and I can’t believe that today is finally here.  I am so grateful for the opportunity that I have to speak to all of you and the opportunity that I am going to have these next 18 months in México.   I feel so unbelievably humbled and grateful for this chance that I have to serve a mission.  In all honesty, if you were to ask me a year ago if I was planning on serving a mission, my answer would have been no.  Yes, I’ve always believed in the teachings of this church, but the idea of a mission quite honestly scared and intimidated me.  It seemed like such a distant idea, and up until my senior year of high school, girls went on their missions at age 21.  When the age was lowered to 19 in October 2012, I was 18 at the time and I remember the announcement caught my attention.  This announcement was talking to my specific age group.  But even after this mission age change, I wasn’t sure what I was going to do.
         I love this quote by Dr. Seuss. You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose. You're on your own. And you know what you know. And YOU are the one who'll decide where to go...” This past year at BYU, I was put in a position where I was away from home and where I had to discover for myself who I was and who I wanted to be.  I knew that I was at a point in my life where I was going to have to make crucial decisions that would affect my future.  At BYU you are required to take religion credits each semester, and I took Book of Mormon as one of my classes both semesters. When I started this class, thoughts of a mission crawled into my mind.  My professor for this course began the semester by reading us the verse 2 Nephi 32:3 which says: feast upon the words of Christ, for behold, the words of Christ will tell you all things which ye should do”.  This was powerful for me to hear because I often forgot to turn to the scriptures for answers when facing difficult decisions. 
         This class turned out to be one of my favorite classes I took this year.  Never before had I the opportunity to learn so much about the doctrine and the Book of Mormon, and my eyes were opened to so many new truths and so many spiritual experiences.  I’ve been familiar with the Book of Mormon stories my whole life, but this was the first time in my life where I was thoroughly reading each page and gaining knowledge for myself that what I was reading was true.  I really did experience my own individual conversion.  For my talk today, I’ve been asked to focus in on the importance of the scriptures in my life, and this past year I truly recognized the significance of the Book of Mormon in my life and how it generates personal peace and happiness.   
         As a freshman at BYU, you are constantly asked the same question:  “Are you going to serve a mission?”  I really didn’t know what I wanted to do, but what I did know was that I needed to make this decision all on my own and not because of the social pressure to go.  I knew that through this decision making process, I needed to rely on one specific thing, and that was my personal scripture study.
         A key central idea of our religion is explained in this scripture: 3 Nephi 27:29 reads:  Therefore, ask, and ye shall receive; knock, and it shall be opened unto you; for he that asketh, receiveth; and unto him that knocketh, it shall be opened.”  We believe in a God who knows and loves us personally, listening to what it is that we need, and answering our prayers.  I know this to be true, for I have seen the hand of my Heavenly Father aid me through trials and confusing times in my life.  My answer to a mission came as I dedicated myself to asking Heavenly Father if a mission was right for me- if this is what I should be doing for a year and a half.  I remember one night, after many weeks of reading my scriptures with this one specific question in mind, I decided to just open to a random verse and start reading from there.  I opened my Book of Mormon, and went right to Alma 29: 9, which reads:  I know that which the Lord hath commanded me, and I glory in it. I do not glory of myself, but I glory in that which the Lord hath commanded me; yea, and this is my glory, that perhaps I may be an instrument in the hands of God to bring some soul to repentance; and this is my joy.”   After reading this, I knew I received my answer.  I was called to this work, and I knew that I needed to be an instrument in the Hand of the Lord to bring people unto Christ.   I knew I had the desire to serve a mission, but my desire wasn’t because I wanted “praise” or “glory”, but because I knew a mission would bring me 18 months of joy completely devoted to serving others and sharing this same happiness and knowledge that I have.  I know that turning to that scripture verse might seem coincidental, but I really do believe that God answers our questions in mysterious and obvious ways if we are sincere and ask with a full purpose of heart. 
         One of the most valuable things I learned this past freshman year is the importance of loving who you are and being yourself.  In high school, you go through a confusing period of your life where you don’t know exactly who you are and you’re afraid to be different from your peers.  As a college student, you begin to establish your identity and your concerns for what people think of you start to dwindle.  Like Dr. Seuss says:  Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don’t matter, and those who matter don’t mind”.  At BYU, I fully embraced who I was and the choices I made, and I glowed with confidence and bliss like I never had before.  I understood why I was a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  It finally hit me that this church really did bring me immense happiness and that I wanted others to feel and obtain this same happiness that I have had all my life.  It can be intimidating when people question your beliefs, but I’m now at a point in my life where I am more than thrilled to spend 18 months solely talking to people about why I live the way that I do.
         The reason I am even alive and up here today is because of missionary work.  As most of you know, my mom and dad are high school sweet hearts.  My dad was a member of this church and my mom was not.  Their relationship invited my dad to teach my mom about this church, and my mom had the opportunity to decide for herself if she wanted to join this faith.  She needed to know in her heart if this church was true, and when my dad went away on his mission, she was baptized at the age of 19.  My dad’s role as a missionary to my mom changed both of their lives and their posterity.  As I am now at the age my mom was when she was baptized, there is no doubt in my mind that this is exactly what I need to be doing these next 18 months.  I owe so much to my Heavenly Father for providing me with this gift in my life, and now it is my responsibility to extend love and hope to others. 
         From the scriptures, we know that the objective of missionary work is not to simply baptize and convert.  It is to invite others to come unto Christ.  The qualities I want to have as a missionary can be described in these verses:  Alma 7: 23-24 reads  And now I would that ye should be humble, and be submissive and gentle; easy to be entreated; full of patience and long-suffering; being temperate in all things; being diligent in keeping the commandments of God at all times; asking for whatsoever things ye stand in need; always returning thanks unto God for whatsoever things ye do receive.  And see that ye have faith, hope, and charity, and then ye will always abound in good works.”  I love those last three words- faith, hope, and charity.  As President Uchtdorf says- “Doubt your doubts before you doubt your faith”.  I have great faith in my Heavenly Father and I know that if I continue to rely on him, I will remain safe and directed all my life.  I have faith that the Spanish Language will come to me, and that I will be blessed every step of the way through out my mission.  I have a hope that I will touch the lives of those I come in contact with as they will also touch mine, and I hope that I leave a positive impression on them.  I don’t hope to baptize everyone I meet.  That is not the reason why I’m going on a mission.  I have hope that I can brighten someone’s day, I have hope that I can have the people of Mexico recognize that there is a Heavenly Father who loves them personally and who wants to comfort them and tend to their needs.  I have a hope that my investigators will know they are children of God and that they can return to live with God again someday.  I have a hope that the people I teach will come to know that they have a savior, Jesus Christ, who died and suffered for them and who understands the trials each of us go through.  I have a hope that the people I teach will know that all of their wrongs can be forgiven, and that God does not judge them but is waiting for them with open arms.  I have hope that my investigators will see the faith that I have, and that they can see in my eyes that I know for myself that what I am saying is true.  I know that I need charity and kindness in my heart for all those I come in contact with and that I need to uphold Christ-like attributes.  Although I will be teaching others about my own beliefs, I know I will be taught so many valuable lessons from the individuals I interact with as I listen to their life stories and experiences.  As a missionary, I am simply an instrument in Heavenly Father’s hand, as he directs me to those who need to hear the message of happiness that I have to share.  I am not a saleswoman trying to convince someone to buy a product.  I am just a teenage girl who feels so passionate about this gospel and the things I believe to be true.  My intent is to positively effect those around me and to have them develop a stronger faith in themselves and in a God who loves them.
            The keystone of our religion is the Book of Mormon, and I hope that the people I teach will find direction in their life as they grow to study this book along with the Bible.  Richard G Scott tells us that Scriptures can calm an agitated soul, giving peace, hope, and a restoration of confidence in one’s ability to overcome the challenges of life. They have potent power to heal emotional challenges when there is faith in the Savior.  Scriptures can communicate different meanings at different times in our life, according to our needs. A scripture that we may have read many times can take on nuances of meaning that are refreshing and insightful when we face a new challenge in life.”
         My outlook on life and what is important to me really changed this year, and I have developed a deeper understanding of how strong Heavenly Father’s love is for me.  I owe all of my ability and strength that I have to my Heavenly Father, and I know that without Him constantly being there for me I wouldn’t have the strength to take this leap of faith and dedicate myself to doing such hard work for 18 months.  The scripture Alma 26:12 reads:  “Yeah, I know that I am nothing; as to my strength I am weak; therefore I will not boast of myself, but I will boast of my God, for in his strength I can do all things; yeah behold, many mighty miracles we have wrought in this land, for we will praise his name forever.”  I fully believe in this, and I know that I’m not going to be alone on my mission.  Yes, I’m nervous to put myself out there.  Yes, I’m nervous about having to learn Spanish.  And at times I feel inadequate to hold this title as a missionary.  But I know that He is going to tell me what to say to my investigators and that I will be led every step of the way.   
         We spend our lives sharing with people our interests, sharing what we learn in school, and sharing advice to those who come to us.  I am so excited to spend 18 months simply sharing and telling people about this church that I know brings me the most happiness in my life.  I know that a mission is going to be the hardest time of my life.  I know that I am going to be the most frustrated and the most tired I have ever been in my life.  But I know that this time away from worldly distractions will be the best and most rewarding time of my life.  I don’t know all the answers, I’m not a master scriptorian, and I don’t speak Spanish, but what I do have is faith.   One of my favorite scriptures, Philippians 4:13 says: “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me”.  I know that if we all rely on Christ through strenuous times, our burdens will be made lighter and we will feel the love he has for each of us individually.  This is what I’m going to share with the people of México- that everything is possible through Christ. 
         Since I’ve received my call 6 months ago, I have thought about and prayed on a daily basis for the people of Monterrey, Mexico that I am going to meet, and I already love them so much.  I really do feel a connection with them already, and I know that their influence on me is going to make me a better person.  I want to end by testifying that I know prayer is real and that Heavenly Father hears and answers every single one of our prayers.  I know that through the atonement of Christ, we can be forgiven of all of our imperfections.  I know that the bible and the Book of Mormon are tools that can guide and direct one’s life to complete contentment.  I know that individuals who dedicate their time to asking Heavenly Father if the scriptures are real inspired works, they will receive an answer and know that they are legitimate.  I know that Joseph Smith, an illiterate boy of just 14 years old, translated the Book of Mormon through the Power of God, for no common, ordinary man could have fabricated those things.  I know that my call to serve in Monterrey México is an inspired call from God, and I know that there are people there waiting for me to answer their questions about life and their purpose here on earth.  I feel so honored to be a part of the 85,000 missionaries currently serving all over the world.  One last Dr. Seuss quote that I’ll end with goes like this: Today is your day, your mountain is waiting. So get on your way.” It’s time for me to get on my way and to start this journey of changing lives, and I know that among those many lives will be my very own.  And I say these things in the name of Jesus Christ Amen. 
l o v e
hermana riches   

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