Hola mi amigos y familia! Como estas?. I have been called to serve as a missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latterday Saints to the Arequipa Peru Mission. Arequipa is the second largest city in Peru with an elevation of about 9,000 ft. As I have googled it the past few months the temperature never gets below 45 degrees and doesn’t go over 75 degrees, but people that have been there either tell me that it is super hot or they got frostbite. So, I’ll have to let you know about the weather later. I have been so humbled by the support and encouragement that I have received the past few months and just want to thank all of you for being here today. It means a lot.
Well I have dreamed and pondered about the farewell talk for quite some time now and I came to a conclusion that the reason I am standing here is because I made a decision so I am going to share with you all my experience of deciding to serve a mission. Before I start, however, I would like to invite you all to pray for me to be able to speak my mind clearly and that you will all feel the spirit here today.
Once Upon A Time I was a young girl sitting in sacrament meeting listening to Jami Dunfords homecoming and the only thing I can really remember her saying was, “Every girl should go on a mission”. In my garden of missionary work a seed was planted. I didn’t think much about it because I was so little, but it doesn’t surprise me that I remember her saying it. Fast forward to high school when all my brothers had served a mission and it became the family joke that I was going on one. Along came the infamous general conference where President Monson announced that sister missionaries could now serve at the age of 19. Alone in my living room, I began to prance around the house saying oh my gosh oh my gosh is this for real? . Now at this point I wasn’t thinking of going I was mostly just happy that the option was available for others at a much earlier age than 21. Although I did find this in my journal, “It is hard to believe that a 30 second announcement is changing my future plans. In about a year I could be filling out missionary papers. I always thought and saw myself seeing how life were when I was 21, then I would go but this means to me that the lord wants me to go and share my love for the gospel.” The seed in my garden was getting watered and nourished. After this announcement the whole LDS community was buzzing away with plans to go on missions and I believe that this is where I began to get bugged with the question that I was asked a zillion times but now have an answer to. “So, do you think you’ll serve a mission?” Here are a few of my responses: I don’t know yet, My family has had enough missionaries, and I am semi-embarrassed to admit this next one. Missions are the worst I hate them. But then the next day I would say, Ahh missions are so great, they are just the best. A part of me was always hesitant to be a sister missionary because living in a house of three returned elders, they would often have stories of the sisters usually ending with an “oh the sisters, bless their hearts” phrase.
College came and a lot of my friends had already left on missions. This was the beginning of me wanting to know if my Heavenly Father wanted me to. I enrolled in Mission Prep my first semester hoping that it would help me decide. As I sat in my seat with many other prospective missionaries I would feel the spirit in the lessons and it didn’t make me feel that I needed to go on a mission. Rather, I would often tear up just thinking I LOVE JESUS! I LOVE HEAVENLY FATHER so much! Often times I would think to myself, you know I AM worthy and I AM able. I like talking to people, and I love talking about the gospel. What the heck would stop me from doing that? Some days I’d be so grateful for being born into a family with the gospel and it filled me with the desire and obligation to serve BECAUSE I’ve been so blessed.
I got so sick of my internal battle of thoughts that over Christmas break I decided to meet with the one and only Bishop Alder to bounce ideas off of him and just chat about what I was going through. Basically he said that going to school is a good decision and going on a mission is a good decision. The thing that is hard is making your decision right. You have to make a choice and make it right within yourself so you won’t regret anything. I just want to testify to you all that if you are ever in a pickle, it is really nice to just talk to the bishop, he won’t make a decision for you, but you feel the saviors love through him and are left with a feeling of hopeful peace.
I have also been blessed with amazing parents who have always talking me through situations and decisions. I remember one night talking with my parents and I told them that I hadn’t decided but that I felt inadequate to serve and that I would be terrified to go on a mission. I can’t stress how real these feelings of inadequacy were, This was a strange feeling, because I have never been one to be scared of much, but I was frightened of the thought of having a mean companion, not knowing a language if I had to learn one, the schedule alone, the heartache. So many things. As I talked with them, they told me, “Alex, you have been preparing your whole life for a mission.” Satan can imitate many feelings but the only one he can never fake is peace.
The next week, I was on lds.org and found an article on answers you can get from prayers about the decision to serve. I had been praying for eight months and I didn’t feel any different about my decision. Some answers in the article said, Yes you should serve, but not now. No you don’t need to serve, or Not now but maybe later. As I was reading the descriptions, nothing seemed like the answer I was getting until I read the last response. NO ANSWER. I knew that this was my situation. It went on to explain, that having NO ANSWER didn’t mean that Heavenly Father wasn’t hearing my prayers or didn’t want to answer my prayer, but that he trusted me to make the decision on my own. After seeing this, I knew that I needed to change my prayers from “Help me to know if I should serve a mission,” to just making a decision, telling Heavenly Father what my plan was then ask if it is the right thing for me.
The following week my weeds or scared reasoning’s crept back in my head and I continued thinking why I wasn’t ready for a mission and then this scripture really stood out to me as I was reading. Moroni 7:33. “If ye will have faith in me ye shall have power to do whatsoever thing is expedient in me.” Again, the spirit was tangible and I didn’t feel the need to go on a mission still, but it was a blessing to know that my fear was answered with direct revelation through scripture. I am so grateful for the Holy Ghost and how he confirms feelings through our mind and our heart. I have had many experiences with the Holy Ghost but one sticks out in particular to me.
I had an experience with a roommate that didn’t tell us how things were in her life and was pretty private. She opened up and was upset about a situation that had been going on in her life for a long time, and after a few hours of talking I finally decided to ask her, Have you ever thought to pray and tell your Heavenly Father how you are feeling or asking for help. Her response broke my heart, she said, “I’m not good enough to pray.” I’ve been surprised at how many people feel this way, but I know the spirit guided me to tell her of our Heavenly Father’s love for us. I don’t remember much of what I said that night, but I remember thinking that experience was for me. I knew I was in tune with the spirit and that I could be bold, open my mouth, and teach. I sat back and for one of the first times my desire to go on a mission increased. I decided to go to the temple the next day, to confirm my new decision! After baptisms I read my patriarchal blessing with a mindset of missionary work. I had read it many times before so I anticipated what was coming, but this time it made so much more sense. I left the temple that day knowing that the battle in my head was over!
When I got home I was reassured of my decision as I looked at my phone and I had a text from Bishop Alder saying We need to talk. Will you be home this Sunday? How perfect was that!
You may be wondering why I keep using words like Garden, seed, and weeds because you all know I’m not close to a gardener or a farmer. The law of the Harvest found in Galatians 6:7 reads….”Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.” As I have looked back and analyzed my past year, I realize that the reason I got my answer was because I worked and sowed for it. I prayed, read my scriptures, talked to church leaders and parents, pondered in my heart and now I have reaped the benefits!
Alma 32: 43 says, Then, my brethren, ye shall reap the rewards of your faith, and your diligence, and patience, and long-suffering, waiting for the tree to bring forth fruit unto you. This scripture is the epitome of what I went through. I have already reaped many rewards from this decision to serve a mission. Every few days I get reassuring feelings and moments and I know this is what I need to be doing. I know that with missionary work I will reap what others have sowed before me in Peru. Likewise, who knows how many seeds will be planted while I’m there that I won’t be able to see come to a harvest. The only thing I can plan on the next 18 months is to continue sowing and give everything I have to the Peruvians. They have a lot more troubles than I do.
My whole life I have grown up feeling like I never had any trials. My life was pretty easy and all I worried about was a homework assignment or a golf tournament. This concerned me because you hear all the time that you grow from your trials and that’s how you become stronger.. I got the impression that I couldn’t become stronger and I couldn’t grow without getting through a trial. Now, I realize that I’ve been growing my whole life without trials and it is okay to not feel like you have to be going through something. They will come, but for now I’m going to enjoy my time and be happy in knowing that I can still become better through Jesus Christ.
I have a testimony of this gospel. I love my Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ. I’m thankful for the Atonement and the power that comes from using that incredible gift in my every-day life. It is not just for repenting, but as a comfort in knowing that someone else has been through what you have. I had a seminary teacher who would always say I wouldn’t dare live a day of my life without reading the Book of Mormon. I understand and agree with him. We are incredibly blessed to have it in our lives and I have learned a lot from reading, questioning, and praying about it. I’m thankful for Joseph Smith who restored the gospel in the Latter-Days. I know President Monson receives revelation from the Lord. I wouldn’t be speaking right now if we didn’t receive revelation through the prophet. I don’t know everything, and that is okay. Sometimes it is good to just believe. However, I do know that I can come to know a lot more as I continue planting the good seeds of praying and reading my scriptures.
I’ve really appreciated everyone’s support not only today, but also my entire life. Coaches, Teachers, ward members, YW leaders- you are all superstars. To my friends: you all provide light and happiness in the heart. I’ll never forget the examples that you’ve been to me. What can I say? You’re all givers! My family: You guys are the reason I will soon become Hermana Larsen.
The roller coaster of emotions has been quite crazy the past few days, but I came across a quote that Elder Eyring used in a talk that pretty much sums up my feelings in a nice eloquent way.
I am part of the fellowship of the unashamed. The dye has been cast! I have stepped over the line. The decision has been made; I am a disciple of Jesus Christ. I won't look back, let up, slow down, or be still. My past is redeemed, my present makes sense, and my future is secure. I'm finished and done with low living, small planning, smooth knees, colorless dreams, tainted visions, worldly talking, cheap giving, and dwarfed goals. I no longer need pre-eminence, positions, promotions, plaudits or popularity. I now live by faith, lean on His
presence, walk with patience, am uplifted by prayer, and labor with power. My face is set, my gait is fast, and my goal is Heaven. My road is narrow, my way is rough, my companions are few, my guide is reliable, my mission is clear! I cannot be bought, compromised, detoured, lured away, divided or delayed. I will not flinch in the face of sacrifice, hesitate in the presence of the adversary, negotiate at the table of the enemy, ponder at the pool of popularity, or meander in the maze of mediocrity. I won't give up, shut up, or let up, until I have stayed up stored up, and paid up of the cause of Christ. I must go till He comes, give till I drop, preach till I know, and work till He stops me. And when He returns for His own, He will have no problem recognizing me. My banner will be clear.
Henry b. Eyring
There has been so much love my way and I can’t wait for 16 more days to redistribute all the love to those in Peru. I won’t know the language, and I don’t have much to give them except my heart. I love you and the Lord loves you too. I say these things in the name of Jesus Christ Amen.