Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Deciding to Serve

           In June of this year, I received my call to preach the gospel in the Arizona Tucson mission. And while this wasn't a surprise to many of my friends and members of my home ward, I've still had many people ask me why on earth I would “give up” a year and a half of my life, when I could be at college, having fun, dating, and enjoying having few obligations and responsibilities, to walk around in the hot desert and try to teach people about Jesus Christ. At first I wasn’t even sure how to respond to this question, not because I didn’t know, but because it is almost impossible for me to put my feelings into words. When my bishop asked me to share my experience on deciding to serve a mission as part of my farewell talk, I knew that I finally had to sit down and find a way to express this burning desire I have within me.
I grew up in the LDS or "Mormon" church. From the outside, I seem like the stereotypical Mormon girl. I was baptized at age eight, attended Primary, Young Women's, seminary, mutual, and attended BYU before serving a mission. I did well in school, was (mostly) obedient to my parents, and dressed modestly. So of course it seemed natural that someone like me would want to serve a mission. Some people thought my parents expected me to. Others thought I got caught up in the hype of the missionary age requirements being lowered and so many young men and women leaving. A few people even dared to suggest that I was going because the young man I had been dating left on his mission. All of those reasons are absolutely false. The question of why I chose to serve a mission goes back much farther and is much deeper than that. And the answer begins with how I gained a testimony of my Savior, Jesus Christ, and His restored gospel that is found in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
I never had an “Ah-ha!” experience where I suddenly knew this was the true church or the Book of Mormon is the word of God. I never had a vision. I never saw an angel. I never had a moment that I can trace the beginning of my testimony to. It just didn’t happen like that. My testimony grew with small moments and seeing the blessings that came into my life when I obeyed the commandments of God. I found that the best way to know if what I learned at church and from my parents was true was to try it for myself. And I did. I prayed, read my scriptures, paid my tithing and remained chaste.  Then, I looked at my life to see if these things made a difference. My findings were this: I was happy. I might be one of the happiest people alive - just ask anyone who knows me. And I don’t say that to brag, but because I honestly just feel happy 99% of the time. People frequently ask me how I am so happy so often. And I testify that I can directly trace my happiness to my efforts to follow the example of Jesus Christ. Once I realized that the gospel is what makes me happy, everything else began to fall into place.
 I think I started saying I was going to serve a mission when I was about 11 or 12 years old. Around that same time, I began having my first real missionary experiences. I remember talking to my friends in 7th and 8th grade, who were Catholic, Lutheran, Baptist, Methodist, and atheist, about our different beliefs, and being excited when we found things that we had in common. I invited friends to my home, to church, mutual activities, stake dances, and basically any sort of church activity. I saw my older brother do the same with his friends. Each year, I saw my desire to share the gospel grow as my testimony grew. Why? Because I was happy! The gospel makes me so happy, and I want everyone else to be as happy as I am. This desire for others to be happy is what drives me to serve a mission. I didn’t just wake up one day and know that I wanted to serve. I woke up day after day feeling so happy and blessed and then I slowly realized that I can bring this joy to other people. And that is exactly what I want to do.
I chose to serve a full-time mission, to dedicate 18 months of my life because I believe. I believe that there is a God, who is our loving Heavenly Father. I believe we are His children. I believe in Jesus Christ, the Savior. I believe that The Book of Mormon and The Bible are the word of God. I believe that there are living prophets on the earth today. I believe that families can live together throughout time and all eternity. And I believe that I can share this message with others and change their lives for the better.

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