A missionary’s purpose is to “invite others to come unto Christ by helping them receive the restored gospel through faith in Jesus Christ and His Atonement, repentance, baptism, receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost, and enduring to the end”
There really is a lot that you need to do to prepare for a mission. There’s a lot of physical preparation in just getting clothes and things together as well as physical preparation in getting yourself ready to endure the physical rigors of mission life. There’s a lot of preparation regarding teaching. There’s preparation regarding worthiness. There’s preparation to work on memorizing scripture’s and quotes. There’s the issue of financial preparation in saving money. Going anywhere for year and a half isn’t a small endeavor so lots of preparation needs to take place.
However didn’t Christ say “Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your Heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.”
One of my roommates from BYU is on a mission currently in the Philippines. Two weeks ago she wrote a letter home telling us about her new companion. “My new companion is Sister Penaflor! She’s fresh from the MTC! She’s from Northern Samar. Northern Samar got hit by a typhoon a few weeks ago. It’s actually really sad, Sister Penaflor’s house got completely destroyed the week she reported for her mission. She told me how she’s the only active member of her family and literally she packed 3 skirts, one pair of shoes, and faithfully reported to the MTC despite her family not having a house. She hasn’t been able to contact her family at all so far on her mission. She couldn’t call her family on Christmas. But despite all of that, she is so happy to be here in the field and happy to work hard! What an example of optimism, faith, and sacrifice!” I thought this was such an amazing story that even though she lost all of her physical possessions she still faithful reported to be a missionary to sacrifice her life for the Lord. She wasn’t physically prepared- she only had three skirts and one pair of shoes but she was prepared in the ways she needed to be because she had learned throughout her life that the Lord would keep her safe if she trusted in Him. The Lord did take care of her she was able to get everything she needed physically after she exercised faith. Preparing physically is the easiest and the least important part of mission preparation and it has the least effect on the success of a missionary.
Truly the most important thing that I did to prepare for mission was to gain a testimony of my Savior Jesus Christ. And a testimony that everyone’s life is made better when they have the Gospel and live it. Without that testimony one would fail as a missionary. President Harold B. Lee said “You cannot lift another soul until you are standing on higher ground than he is. You cannot light a fire in another soul unless it is burning in your own soul.” I would like to make a clear distinction between knowing doctrine and believing doctrine. Higher ground is not achieved solely through learning. You must have a personal relationship with the Savior. There are lots of people in the world that know and understand the Gospel that don’t believe it. Just because you know and understand it does not mean that you are prepared to teach it. If you try to teach something that you don’t believe people will see right through you and they will not listen to you.
I would like to focus my remarks today around the Savior and around gaining a personal relationship with our Savior, for that is why am serving a mission. I believe that the gospel is for everyone because the Savior died for everyone and knows us individually.
I fear giving a list of what helped me draw closer to the Savior because I believe that a relationship with the Savior is a personal experience and because of that it’s different for every person and I don’t want people to think that what worked for me will definitely work for them because it may not. It’s important to know yourself well enough to know what works for you. It’s called personal revelation for a reason. However here are a few things that facilitated my growing closer to the Savior.
- Study the Gospel. Studying the Gospel seems very much like a primary answer and in some ways it is, in another’s it is very much not. The prophet Joseph Smith “The things of God are of deep import; and time, and experience, and careful and ponderous and solemn thoughts can only find them out. Thy mind, O man! if thou wilt lead a soul unto salvation, must stretch as high as the utmost heavens, and search into and contemplate the darkest abyss, and the broad expanse of eternity—thou must commune with God. How much more dignified and noble are the thoughts of God, than the vain imaginations of the human heart!” I have been deeply blessed by the ability to study the gospel in a very real way. I’ve been able to study academically as well as spiritually. I think that a study of the gospel is crucial to gaining a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. If God is all-knowing, and we are supposed to become like him the best step I see is to learn as much as we can.
- Recognize Christ’s divinity. Recognizing Christ’s divinity comes in a lot of different ways. For me a lot of it came through a deep study of who Jesus Christ was as a person as my Savior. However being more grateful for what I have been given and seeing the world as the wonderful creation it is played a huge role in this as well.
- Learning that God loves me. I’m usually the type of person if I don’t know or understand something I really seek out the answers and I’ve found in my life I’ve usually been able to find those answers. I have been blessed with parents and teachers that help me to find answers. However there is one thing growing up that I always struggled with. I never understood how God could love me. I knew that he did because I had a testimony of the Scriptures and they said he loved me but I didn’t feel his love. I knew that God loved his children but for some reason I was excluded that love. I guess (like most people) I didn’t love myself enough to believe in his love but slowly, very slowly I began to feel his love in my life and was able to feel like a daughter of God. I can now say with Paul “For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come. Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:38-39
- Utilize the Atonement. The atonement is not just for the big sins it’s for all the sins. It cleans us but it also (if we allow it) refines us. Elder Bednar said, “I frankly do not think many of us ‘get it’ concerning [the] enabling and strengthening aspect of the Atonement, and I wonder if we mistakenly believe we must make the journey from good to better and become a saint all by ourselves through sheer grit, willpower, and discipline, and with our obviously limited capacities.” If there is anything that I know in the world it is that the Atonement is the greatest gift we’ve ever been given. We can use it when we sin in little things and in big things. I have grown more in my relationship with my Savior through the refining power of the atonement to help me become the person I want to be.
- Sacrifice. “Sacrifice truly brings forth the blessings of heaven,” Sacrifice seems like a very uncomfortable word. Sacrifice is the act of giving up something valued for the sake of something else of more value. However we don’t always know what the thing of more value is until after we have given up the thing of less value. I think everyone sacrifices in different ways. But through that sacrifice you’re able to learn and understand the power of God. We are able to understand that when you sacrifice a little bit for God he repays you infinitely. Choosing to serve a mission is a sacrifice of 18 months but once I decided I was showered with unexpected blessings and peace. “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you. …”
- Making the Gospel a part of my life. Elder Holland “It is a characteristic of our age that if people want any gods at all, they want them to be gods who do not demand much, comfortable gods, smooth gods who not only don’t rock the boat but don’t even row it, gods who pat us on the head, make us giggle, then tell us to run along and pick marigolds. Sometimes—and this seems the greatest irony of all—these folks invoke the name of Jesus as one who was this kind of “comfortable” God. Really? He who said not only should we not break commandments, but we should not even think about breaking them. And if we do think about breaking them, we have already broken them in our heart. Does that sound like “comfortable” doctrine, easy on the ear and popular down at the village love-in? And what of those who just want to look at sin or touch it from a distance? Jesus said with a flash, if your eye offends you, pluck it out. If your hand offends you, cut it off. “I came not to [bring] peace, but a sword,” He warned those who thought He spoke only soothing platitudes. No wonder that, sermon after sermon, the local communities “prayed him to depart out of their coasts.” No wonder, miracle after miracle, His power was attributed not to God but to the devil. It is obvious that the bumper sticker question “What would Jesus do?” will not always bring a popular response.” The Gospel of Jesus Christ isn’t a Sunday only gospel. The gospel must become an integral part of your life in order to come closer to Christ. This certainly is not easy however I found that it is worth it.
- Teach the Gospel. I have always been grateful for living in the south- for many reasons. The main one is that I had so many opportunities to share the gospel with people. Not only were these good opportunities to learn how to teach people who aren’t already members but it really strengthen my testimony because I was challenged. it also shed light on different perspective’s that helps me on my own beliefs. In high school I can say that I was not the most popular person probably the fact that I was Mormon had a good bit to do with that however me being the stubborn person that I am was committed and persistent in trying to get people to listen to me. One person in particular became a great friend to me. We certainly didn’t start out as good friends because we had very contradictory beliefs. She understood the Bible very well and she knew what she believed. I was blessed to spend a lot of time with her and discuss some pretty in-depth doctrine with her. I think both of us benefited greatly from that experience even though neither of us change your mind on what we believed. However we were able to see a different side. By really seriously pondering and discussing my beliefs I came to know them more fully.
- Have faith in the God’s plan and timing. Getting my mission call was a very weird experience for me. It came in the mail and I didn’t even wait to get back inside before I opened it up. I looked down at the letter and read (I completely skipped the whole “Dear Sister Smith you have … Part”) and simply saw “Idaho Boise Mission. You will prepare to preach the gospel in the English language.” Honestly I’m embarrassed to say it but I covered it up. And just started to cry. I kept covering it up and uncovering it just hoping that it would change. That somehow I read it wrong. I wasn’t disappointed, in fact I was kinda happy- I would be fed well, have normal meals, have AC, drive a car and work with lots of members. But I felt confused. I’ve felt I’d go foreign for a long time. My patriarchal blessing says I will be given the gift of tongues while serving my mission. My blessing says I’ll speak to the people in their own language- not in my language. I wondered if I wasn’t good enough for a foreign mission or if God didn’t have faith in me to succeed while learning a language. Then I started telling people and it was really hard to see the fake excitement in people’s faces. And obviously I was not a fan of Singles Ward. But I had been taught my whole life that I needed to have faith in God’s plan so I started to search for answers. I don’t know that I’ve ever prayed so hard for a specific answer in my life. I talked to SO many people about it trying to get their opinions. I did searches for “gift of tongues” and read dozens of talks. I started to see the bigger picture but wasn’t fully convinced. I finally went to see my religion professor and he explained to me that Patriarchs get feelings and those have to translated into words and sometimes that don’t translated into the perfect phrase. The he shared with me 2 Nephi 32: 2-3 which has become my mission scripture. “Do ye not remember that I said unto you that after ye had received the Holy Ghost ye could speak with the tongue of angels? And now, how could ye speak with the tongue of angels save it were by the Holy Ghost? Angels speak by the power of the Holy Ghost; wherefore, they speak the words of Christ. Wherefore, I said unto you, feast upon the words of Christ; for behold, the words of Christ will tell you all things what ye should do” I realized that my gift of tongues was not to speak a different language but to speak with the tongue of angels or with the spirit and that was just as powerful. If I listened to the spirit I could communicate in a way that would touch people’s hearts.
I am so excited to be a missionary and to speak the words of Christ. I love my Savior, Jesus Christ! He truly is the reason I am going on a mission. I know that because of him we have hope. I know that everything in the world is because God loves us! The scriptures are the words of the Lord and we can learn so much from them. I testify Joseph Smith was a prophet. He really saw Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ and he really did bring back Christ’s church to the earth. We have a living prophet today who speaks for God. We can also receive help from God through prayer. He loves us and we can become like him.
In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.