Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Why a Mission?

I figure one of the most common questions people have for me is "Why are you going on a mission?" After all, a mission means I'm away from direct contact with my family and friends for a year and a half, I stop going to school, and I wear skirts all day everyday. So. WHY?

In the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (the Mormon church), young men and women have the great opportunity to serve missions in their early 20s before they get married. To be a missionary means to go out into the world somewhere as an authorized representative of Jesus Christ to teach people--to teach EVERYONE--about His Gospel. I know having His Gospel, being a Mormon, has brought me so much happiness, and a mission gives me an opportunity to share that happiness with other people! 

To be a missionary means to bring people to Christ.

President Thomas S. Monson has said
“We affirm that missionary work is a priesthood duty—and we encourage all young men who are worthy and who are physically able and mentally capable to respond to the call to serve. Many young women also serve, but they are not under the same mandate to serve as are the young men. We assure the young sisters of the Church, however, that they make a valuable contribution as missionaries, and we welcome their service.” 
Meaning as a young woman, I am not required to serve a mission. The decision is up to me, my family, and the Lord. So why did I decide to serve?

I have a few stories to tell, and some may come out in later posts as well, but let's begin with the day I got my answer.

I lied. Actually, the story starts General Conference weekend of October 2012... If you're LDS, you already know what I'm referring to. That was when President Monson (the president of our church and who I KNOW to be the real and true prophet of the Lord today) announced the age change for missionaries--boys were now allowed to serve a mission at 18 and after high school rather than 19, while girls were allowed to serve at 19 rather than 21. 

Boy, did that change my life plan. I always thought to myself that I'd go to BYU, date, and if I happened not to be married when I was 21, sure, I'd go on a mission; I hadn't thought any farther than that. I didn't really need to. But when I heard I could now go two whole years earlier? My first thought was "Oh. Okay. Well, sure, of course I'll go on a mission!" For the next 9 months, that was my decision: "Okay, sure."

Flash forward to August 2013. I was getting ready to leave Virginia, my family, and my friends and go to BYU. Honestly, it scared me a little. Because I was scared to leave my family just to go to college, I started thinking about my mission. Going on a mission would mean I was REALLY leaving my family, and I wasn't sure I was ready for it. So I did what I always do in tough situations--pray.

I prayed to God, my Heavenly Father, and asked if going on a mission was still the right thing for me to do (after a year at BYU). But I didn't get an answer right away, and I definitely didn't have a vision or other crazy experience confirming my answer. I kept praying, knowing that I would get an answer, even if not in my optimal time. Hey, we all work on God's time. He's always and eternally patient with us, so sometimes we just need to be patient too!

I prayed though August and September with no answer that I could clearly see. Obviously, going on a mission wouldn't be a bad thing for me to do, but was it the best thing? In the meantime, I went to BYU, made friends, began living on my own and making all sorts of crazy memories. By the time October rolled around, I really wanted my answer. My roommate Stephanie and I were going to go to the Saturday Morning session of General Conference in Salt Lake City (where it is actually held and subsequently broadcast all over the world) with another of my friends and his roommates, and I just KNEW General Conference would be a perfect time for me to receive my answer, so long as I was doing my part. I prayed harder (more fervently, if you prefer) and asked specifically for my answer to come sometime during General Conference weekend (we Mormons are serious about our church stuff, you know ;) ), knowing that if I was faithful and trusted in God, He would give me the answer when I needed it.

The October 2013 General Conference was amazing. There were so many wonderful talks given. Although I was actually AT GENERAL CONFERENCE on Saturday, I didn't get my answer then. Still hopeful, I kept praying. Finally, I got my answer in the Sunday morning session.

I was listening to Sister Bonnie L. Oscarson's talk entitled "Be Ye Converted" (https://www.lds.org/general-conference/2013/10/be-ye-converted?lang=eng). She said "The Lord expects us to exercise faith." I had a distinct impression: "What better way to exercise faith than to go on a mission?" And that was it. As I wrote in my notes, "*I'm going to serve a mission!*"

If I trust the Lord, if I love the Lord, if I have faith in the Lord, then my personal way to show that is to serve a mission. Missions are NOT easy, they are not a walk around the park. They are extremely difficult, both emotionally and physically. But I choose to exercise my faith by giving up my time to serve the Lord and to hasten His work. I choose to exercise my faith so that I can help others gain some of their own. And THAT is why I am going to serve a mission.

D&C 4:3 says "Therefore, if ye have desires to serve God ye are called to the work;"

I know prayer is a real thing; we are always able to pray to God, our Heavenly Father, when we need comfort, guidance, answers, forgiveness, anything. (Stay tuned for my next story about prayer, comfort, and guidance!) He loves us so much. He loves YOU so much. I love you so much! I am extremely excited to serve a mission and share my testimony of His Gospel with all who will hear me. And in two short weeks, I'll know where I will be serving! Don't go away, we'll be right back after these messages {meaning a few hours/days} :)

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