I had a wonderful Mother's Day weekend as I was able to spend time with my entire family, including an hour with my sister Madeline via Skype. I am off to the Madrid Missionary Training Center for about six weeks and am more excited than ever about the blessings and opportunities that await me there in Spain. I have included below the talk I gave in church yesterday, and look forward to giving you an update from Spain next week.
Good morning Brothers and Sisters.
For those of you who don’t know me, my name is Lydia Vance. I have recently been called to serve as a missionary for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints in the Spain Barcelona Mission, where I will serve for a period of 18 months. I report to the Madrid Missionary Training Center this Tuesday.
Throughout my whole life, and especially over these past few months, I have come to understand how truly blessed I really am, how happy I am, and how I can help others experience that same joy and happiness as well.
As missionaries we are called and set apart to serve as representatives of Jesus Christ. For me, that didn’t just
start when I got my mission call, it doesn’t just start today as I get set apart, or it doesn’t start on Tuesday as I enter the MTC. It is something I have been preparing for my whole life. My family, my friends, different church programs and outstanding leaders have all had a great influence on me and my preparation. I didn't have a concrete goal to serve a mission when I was growing up, but as I have gained a testimony, with the help of my parents and their teachings and counsel, I decided that my goal would be to leave a mission call up to the Lord when the time came. But when I was a little girl, I set a goal to PREPARE to serve a mission, so I would be ready if the call came. My parents helped instill in me a fundamental gospel principle: We must PREPARE to serve … even if the EXACT nature of our service is unknown.
It reminds me of Helaman’s 2000 valiant warriors that we read about in The Book of Mormon. These inexperienced young men were SO spiritually and physically prepared, and so powerful, that they frightened their enemy into surrendering! Despite their youth, they were able to answer the call to service because they were prepared. Spiritual preparation allows each of us to become powerful instruments for good when a call to serve arrives.
Elder Waddell of the Seventy said, "Just as with missionaries past and present, the Lord knows YOU, and has a mission experience prepared SPECIFICALLY for you. He knows your mission president and his wonderful wife who will seek inspiration and direction on your behalf. He knows each of your companions and what you will learn from them. He knows each area you will serve in, the members you will meet, the people you will teach, and the lives you will impact for eternity. I promise you young people that if you will commit and prepare to serve a mission, it will be the most rewarding and exciting experience of your lives."
Part of that preparation has been in the choices I have made throughout my life. Although I grew up in a Latter-Day Saint or “Mormon” home and family, I am Mormon because I CHOOSE to be. That has been MY choice, and I have made it because I know that this is the Lord’s church on the earth today, and it contains the fullness of the gospel. I have gained my own personal testimony of its truthfulness through prayer, scripture study, and enduring everyday trials and experiences through faith. It has brought eternal happiness into the lives of my family members, into the lives of all those around me, and into my own life. What an incredible blessing.
I know that Jesus Christ is the Redeemer of the world and MY Savior. He is the way, the ONLY way, the Truth and the Life. He is the Son of our Father in Heaven, and I know how much He loves me and each of you. We are all His children, and He wants us to return to live with Him. He will NEVER abandon us, even if WE go astray. He is with us always. He is not expecting us to be perfect. How CAN he? We are all imperfect and inevitably flawed, but He IS expecting us to try our best to keep the commandments, do our part, and put our faith and trust in him to help and guide us along the way. Through Christ and his atoning sacrifice, ALL of our sins can be washed away. I am so grateful for this knowledge, and I can't wait to share it with the world. This is my rock and foundation, and will be for the remainder of my life.
I know I have a purpose here on Earth. Everything happens for a reason, even if we don’t know or may never know why in this lifetime. God knows us better than we know ourselves, and we need to just be obedient and trust Him. He will not leave us stranded and helpless. God will ALWAYS keep His promises, and will always be there for us. We just need to have faith. I have chosen to submit my will to His, to fulfill my purpose. At this point in my life, my purpose is to serve others and bring them unto Christ. THAT is my purpose and I am have given Heavenly Father the reins. He will steer me in the right direction, and set my course. People around me have always noticed how happy I am; ALL the time. It's because I know these things are true, and what everlasting peace, comfort and joy it brings me every day. People talk about all the things Mormons must do, or can't do … and as I think about the gospel and the standards and this church, I just ask myself these two key questions. First, "It's true, isn't it?", and second, "Then what else matters?”
In Alma 29:1-2, it reads, "O that I were an angel, and could have the wish of mine heart, that I might go forth and speak with the trump of God, with a voice to shake the earth, and cry repentance unto every people!
Yea, I would declare unto every soul, as with the voice of thunder, repentance and the plan of redemption, that they should repent and come unto our God, that there might not be more sorrow upon all the face of the earth." I hope as a missionary I can speak and proclaim the desires of my heart with as much conviction as Alma did in these verses.
Recently I have been going out with the sister missionaries serving in our ward, and it gives me so much joy to know that I will be doing this full time VERY soon. It brings tears to my eyes when I see the change in people, and the change in ME. I know Spain is where I am supposed to be. I love those people with all my heart already.
I know my mission is going to be hard, REALLY hard. Missions are hard. In fact, LIFE is hard. But I wouldn't have it ANY OTHER WAY. I want it to be as hard as it needs to be in order for me to be able to reach those who my Father in Heaven wants me to reach. At times I DO feel overwhelmed and quite inadequate thinking that I might not know enough, or that I’m not prepared enough, for what lies ahead these next 18 months. But then I am reminded of the Savior. He is the perfect example for each and every one of us. Jesus Christ, the only perfect being to walk the Earth, had those days of discouragement and those days HE was rejected. He had people that persecuted him and spat upon him, and eventually they killed the Redeemer of the world. In the Garden of Gethsemane, Christ even asked “Is there some other, less excruciating, way?” So those days when WE feel like we can’t do what must be done, or what the Lord expects, we can take comfort in knowing where He has been, and what He has done, for ALL of us.
God doesn’t call the qualified ... He qualifies the called. I know that our Father in Heaven has very specific plans for each and every one of us. He has been preparing me my whole life for THIS moment, and I will be reflecting on this for the rest of my life and into the eternities, so I’m going to give it all I’ve got, having no regrets.
The Doctrine and Covenants is filled with remarkable promises that God has offered to those who accept His call to share this tremendous gift of the gospel:
- You shall have power to declare His word
- He will go before your face. He will be on your right hand and on your left.
- You shall have blessings greater than the treasures of the earth
- You will be given a testimony of the words of the prophets
- He will bear you up as on eagle's wings
There will certainly be those who will reject me and our message. They will, in fact, reject the Lord. They will say to me, as they have said to my older brother and sister before me, and thousands of other young missionaries, “you are 19 years old, from a great family and a country of abundance … what do you know or how could you POSSIBLY understand anything about my problems and my life?”. To them, I will say that they are exactly right. I don’t know. But I DO KNOW one that does know them and their life; their pain and their potential. I am going to Spain to serve; to help show them and help lead them to the Savior of the World who HAS felt their pain and who HAS suffered so that they no longer need to suffer. That’s why I am going. THAT’S WHY. Because there are people in the world who don’t know Jesus Christ and what He did for them and how their lives can be better. I am going to serve my Heavenly Father by finding His children and leading them to someone who can TRULY help them, who REALLY knows them, and who loves them more than we can possibly imagine.Jeffery R. Holland said, “I am convinced that missionary work is not easy because salvation is not a cheap experience. Salvation was NEVER easy. We are The Church of Jesus Christ, this is the truth, and He is our Great Eternal Head. How could we believe, how could we THINK, that it would be easy for us when it was never, EVER easy for Him?”
As I help the people of Spain understand the purpose of this life … why we are here … it will begin and end with a testimony of Jesus Christ. He atoned for our sins and loves us each one of us unconditionally. I have felt His love in my life and I have seen His face in this life, more than anywhere, in the face of my mom. She loves me and our family in a way that, in my mind, can only be compared to that great charity we can feel from our Savior. She is my rock, my best friend and my hero. She has taught so much and has inspired me to fulfill my divine potential. She has inspired me by her incredible example every single day. She has ALWAYS been there for me, and I know she ALWAYS will be. Thinking about my mother, and my parents, and about how much they dearly love me, it makes me think about my Heavenly Father’s infinite and eternal love for me and for each and every one of us. Can you EVEN imagine that kind of love? I don’t think we can even begin to comprehend it. We are His children, the literal sons and daughters of the almighty God, royal heirs of the King of Kings. What glorious joy it brings to my heart to have that knowledge, and it helps me progress and want to become one of his most valiant and righteous daughters.
I know this is the true church of God. I know that families can be together forever, if we are obedient to the commandments and teachings of the Savior. This knowledge gives me such comfort, as I cannot imagine living through the eternities without my family. I know that The Book of Mormon is the word of God, and that it was translated by the modern-day prophet Joseph Smith. I know that if you take the opportunity to really read, study and ponder the words which are written within it, you will come to know of its truthfulness as well. I know that the power of prayer is REAL, and that miracles happen EVERY day, if we will just notice them. I know that Thomas S. Monson is a true prophet, and that he leads and guides our church today through modern-day revelation. Finally, I know that my Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ love me, and each of you.
I know these things to be true ... in the sacred name of Jesus Christ, Amen.