The Greatest Decision of My Life

“Our 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 tho the end.

Doctrine and Covenants Section 4: Now behold, a marvelous work is about to come forth among the children of men. Therefore, o ye that embark in the service of God, see that ye serve him with all your heart, might, mind and strength, that ye may stand blameless before God at the last day. Therefore, if ye have desires to serve God ye are called to the work. For behold, the field is white already to harvest; and lo, he that thrusteth in his sickle with his might, the same layeth up in store that he perisheth not, but bringeth salvation to his soul; and faith, hope, charity and love, with an eye single to the glory of God, qualify him for the work. Remember faith, virtue, knowledge, temperance, patience, brotherly kindness, godliness, charity, humility, diligence. Ask, and ye shall receive; knock and it shall be opened unto you. Amen.”

If you had come to the church building every week for any missionary meeting in the New Hampshire Manchester Mission, you would have heard at least 8-10 elders and sisters standing and reciting those words with excitement and valor.

Two years ago, I officially began the adventure that would change my life and who I am forever – I entered the Provo Missionary Training Center as a set-apart full-time servant of the Lord. But it really was about eight months before that when that adventure truly started. It wasn’t until October 6, 2012 that I realized how much I really wanted to serve a mission. Before that day, I hadn’t thought a whole lot about it. Not seriously anyway. I knew I wanted to help people be happier and I wanted to serve them, but it hadn’t clearly crossed my mind to do that by serving a full-time mission. However, when my brother was on his mission, it became a little more of a possible reality. Tyler influenced my desire to serve as he shared his own missionary experiences and showed improvement and progression as his testimony and conversion to the Gospel of Jesus Christ grew and strengthened him. He changed in ways that aren’t possible outside of serving the Lord with all your might, mind and strength. And that was something I wanted to see in myself. I also loved hearing the stories of how sharing the Gospel changed other people and brought them greater joy and peace in their everyday lives. So, the day came where I realized I’d already made my decision to serve.

It was in the morning session of the October 2012 General Conference – the session where announcements (like new temples) are usually made. I was satisfied as President Monson announced that there would be two new temples built in Arizona and Peru. I settled down to listen to the rest of conference, ready to receive inspiration that I would need in the coming weeks and months. I was not disappointed.

“Brothers and sisters, I now turn to another matter—namely, missionary service. For some time the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles have allowed young men from certain countries to serve at the age of 18 when they are worthy, able, have graduated from high school, and have expressed a sincere desire to serve. This has been a country-specific policy and has allowed thousands of young men to serve honorable missions and also fulfill required military obligations and educational opportunities. Our experience with these 18-year-old missionaries has been positive. Their mission presidents report that they are obedient, faithful, mature, and serve just as competently as do the older missionaries who serve in the same missions. Their faithfulness, obedience, and maturity have caused us to desire the same option of earlier missionary service for all young men, regardless of the country from which they come. I am pleased to announce that effective immediately all worthy and able young men who have graduated from high school or its equivalent, regardless of where they live, will have the option of being recommended for missionary service beginning at the age of 18, instead of age 19. I am not suggesting that all young men will—or should—serve at this earlier age. Rather, based on individual circumstances as well as upon a determination by priesthood leaders, this option is now available.”

My jaw dropped in disbelief and I braced myself – when I look back on this experience, I have no doubt that I already knew what was coming next:

“As we have prayerfully pondered the age at which young men may begin their missionary service, we have also given consideration to the age at which a young woman might serve. Today I am pleased to announce that able, worthy young women who have the desire to serve may be recommended for missionary service beginning at age 19, instead of age 21.”

My cereal bowl almost went flying across the room, but I managed to set it down before I started screaming with excitement and jumping up and down. I scared my roommate in the next room with this burst of craziness and basically shouted at her what had just happened, declaring in the process that I could serve a mission now instead of waiting until I’d graduated college. As soon as those words were out of my mouth, I knew that’s what was going to happen. I immediately texted my mom and best friend to tell them that I was going on a mission, and I could hardly believe what had just happened. After the session, I called my mom and dad and explained what was going on. I wanted to get my papers started that week and go immediately, but I decided to wait until the end of the school year. And what an inspired decision that was! I truly believe that Heavenly Father watches out for us, and I completely and 100% believe in the beauty of God’s timing.

Until that moment, I had no idea how badly I wanted to serve a mission. Like I said before, it had never really been a priority or actual reality. But I can say that it was the best decision I’ve made so far in life. It hasn’t been easy preparing or serving or coming home, but every step has been completely worth it. I had obstacles that made it difficult to remember why I wanted to serve or even to remember how strong my answer was during that Conference. When I received my call, I was terrified of being disappointed. I wanted to go foreign, and I let my hopes get up too high. Most people gather their family and friends around and record their reaction when they first open their call letter. Not me. That official white envelope sat on my bed for an hour while I stared at it, prayed, studied scriptures and prayed some more. I knew just by looking at it that it was stateside but I also knew it was a call from the Lord and that it would be wherever I was needed most. My talents and experiences would give me what I needed to best serve the people wherever I was sent in the world. I finally opened it by myself in my room. I’d been called to New Hampshire.

I will admit there was still some disappointment, but I immediately had it confirmed to me that it was where I was supposed to go. My friends and family were so excited for me. Over the next couple weeks, I realized that I was happy I wasn’t going foreign and that if I were to choose myself, that was probably the mission I would’ve chosen anyway. Throughout that time of preparation, during my entire mission, and even now, six months after returning home, I still receive the same confirmation. I touched lives of people who needed to hear my story. I was touched by each of them. It became a great honor to serve the people of New England. The history – both U.S. and Church histories – that is a part of New England is now a part of me. I walked in the footsteps of Joseph Smith. I walked in the place where this dispensation started. I walked in places where it was made possible for us to freely worship our Heavenly Father.

But more importantly, I also learned that no matter where you serve in the world, full-time or not, you are in exactly the place that the Lord needs you to be. None of us will ever realize how great an influence we’ve had on the people around us until we are in the next life. The prophet Abinadi in the Book of Mormon was commanded by the Lord to go to the city where Noah was a wicked king and preach repentance to the people there. I’m not sure Abinadi thought anyone would be converted or changed very much since he’d been there before and been kicked out, but he had faith in God. So he went. He was brought before King Noah and the wicked priests and he said the words given to him by the Lord. For preaching against what the people wanted, Abinadi was put to death – burned at the stake. He testified until the very end. It seemed that in a city full of wicked people, Abinadi’s words hadn’t done much good. But there was one priest named Alma who’s heart was open and he accepted what had been taught by the prophet. He ran from King Noah and eventually gathered hundreds of people where he taught the words he’d heard from Abinadi. The people were baptized and lived as followers of Jesus Christ. The Church of Jesus Christ was built up and generations were blessed all because of the efforts of one man – a faithful servant of God. Abinadi went where he was told, whether he wanted to or not, because he knew that God had a plan. He may not have known what would happen at the time, but I’m sure he knows now what a great and marvelous work he did to build up the kingdom of God.

Mosiah 2:17 says “And behold, I tell you these things that ye may learn wisdom; that ye may learn that when ye are in the service of your fellow beings ye are only in the service of your God.” Lift is a Mormon Message about a woman with MS who needs the help of the people in her ward. At first, it was difficult for them and they wondered how long they’d have to serve her. But as they opened their hearts and recognized that they were serving God by serving this woman, they came to love the service and recognize the blessings that came.

I want to be more like Abinadi. I want to be like these men. I want to serve the people around me no matter where I’m at, no matter how hard it might be. And I know that that’s not going to happen unless I seek and ask for those opportunities, then act on the answers and direction I receive. Heavenly Father loves each of us. He wants us to share the truths that we know so we can all receive the blessings He has to offer.

Now, as I share my own testimony and missionary experiences and show improvement and progression as my testimony and conversion to the Gospel of Jesus Christ grow and strengthen me, I hope to be an influence in at least one person’s life the way my brother is an influence in mine. I have changed in ways that aren’t possible outside of serving the Lord with all my might, mind and strength. But that change isn’t going to stay if I stop giving service and doing all I can to bring others to the truth. I served for 18 months of my life doing exactly that, but just because I’m no longer a set-apart full-time missionary doesn’t mean I can’t still serve the Lord every chance I get. There is nothing more important in this world than bringing others closer to Jesus Christ and sharing the good news of His Gospel. 

“My 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 tho the end.

Doctrine and Covenants Section 4: Now behold, a marvelous work is about to come forth among the children of men. Therefore, o ye that embark in the service of God, see that ye serve him with all your heart, might, mind and strength, that ye may stand blameless before God at the last day. Therefore, if ye have desires to serve God ye are called to the work. For behold, the field is white already to harvest; and lo, he that thrusteth in his sickle with his might, the same layeth up in store that he perisheth not, but bringeth salvation to his soul; and faith, hope, charity and love, with an eye single to the glory of God, qualify him for the work. Remember faith, virtue, knowledge, temperance, patience, brotherly kindness, godliness, charity, humility, diligence. Ask, and ye shall receive; knock and it shall be opened unto you. Amen.”

Departing Missionaries from the New Hampshire Manchester Mission, December 2014

Departing Missionaries from the New Hampshire Manchester Mission in front of the Boston Temple, December 2014

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