Tuesday, February 18, 2014

My Farewell Talk

I report on Wednesday to serve in the Honduras Tegucigalpa mission.  The story of how I decided to go on a mission right now has lots of tiny details, the most important of which are the examples I have had in my life.  My parents have both served missions, I have a cousin on a mission right now and one who just returned home, and I have a lot of friends out on missions... I have a lot of people I can look up to to recognize that going on a mission would be the right decision for me.

 I have a very strong testimony of the power of a good example.  I believe that by trying to be a good example to someone, you are a light in their life.  I love that in the darkest room, if there is just a tiny speck of light, you will see it. 

Someone with the light of Christ can brighten up a room with their happiness in knowing that Jesus is our Savior and his Atonement was for us. 

The light of Christ [is] another source of inspiration [in addition to the Holy Ghost], which each of us possesses in common with all other members of the human family. If we know about the Light of Christ, we will understand that there is something inside all of us, and we can appeal to that in our desire to share truth.
The more we know about the Light of Christ, the more we will understand about life and the more we will have a deep love for all mankind. We will be better teachers and missionaries and parents, and better men and women and children. We will have deeper regard for our brothers and sisters in the Church and for those who do not believe and have not yet had conferred upon them the gift of the Holy Ghost. -- President Boyd K Packer

There have been so many people in my life with the light of Christ that have influenced me to be who I am today.  My parents and siblings have been a big part of me, some members in my ward, even the little 5 year old primary children I got to teach for just 2 weeks while I've been home.  There is just something so special and precious about such a huge testimony being shoved into a tiny tiny body.

I want to talk about the biggest role model I have in my life, my grandma Steele.  Now she passed away almost a year ago, but that hasn't taken away her influence here.  She was my example because she is the strongest woman I will ever know and that is why I look up to her.  Two years ago almost to the day, my grandma took me out to lunch.  At that point, I had no idea what I was doing with my life.  I listed all these options and she listened to me for a while, but then she told me “you know what Elizabeth, you just need to make a decision.  Those are all good options, just pick one!”  And I don't remember if I did “pick one” or not about whatever we were talking about, but that has stuck with me and although I didn't know it yet, it would later influence my decision to serve a mission.

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. -Thomas S Monson
I had the very unique opportunity to be 18 years old at BYU when the mission age was changed.  It was amazing to be around all the women who suddenly could go on a mission in a month, or tomorrow, or immediately.  This was the first time I started to seriously consider a mission.  Time went on and I went back and forth a lot between yes and no.  But ultimately after my freshman year ended last April, the decision was “sort of yes.”  I had prayed a lot about it, and I didn't get anything! I didn’t get any answer, nothing, which was really hard for me, because this was something I needed to know!

My second year at BYU began this last fall and in New Testament class, my professor one day was explaining something.  He was saying, yes, you need to pray about the righteous choices in your life, like missions or marriage, but sometimes you need to make a decision on your own, and those “sometimes” are different for everyone. 

Well I went about that day thinking a lot about this.  I hadn't received an answer about serving a mission, so was this something I needed to move forward with on my own? Did I need to take the first steps in the dark and wait for confirmation? And then I heard my grandma's voice telling me to just make a decision!  And I figured that going on a mission would be a good decision, so I chose it, and here I AM. 

Now I started my papers and decided to go after that semester, but I was still not sure if this was the right thing. I had not received any confirmation, but at least I was doing something and not sitting around thinking about it. 

I figured Heavenly Father would stop me if he needed me at home.  I didn't receive confirmation that this is what I should be doing for quite a while.  It wasn’t until I had my unopened call in my hands that I received a very personal spiritual confirmation that this is what I was supposed to be doing.

In telling you that very short version of my missionary story, I hope that at least one of the youth in this stake will hear me.  My way of realizing I needed to serve a mission is really unique, and chances are yours will be too.  You just need to know that not everyone receives spiritual prompting and confirmation to serve a mission in the same way.  You can't give up when you haven't received an answer.  “Going on a mission” is not something you can say no to on your own.  You have to ask Heavenly Father if it is the right thing for you.  It does not matter if you don't want to go.  My mom told me she was upset when she got her confirmation that she needed to serve a mission.   If Heavenly Father wants you to go, then you will.  I've noticed soooooo many times in my life that if I'm going this way and Heavenly Father wants me going that way, somehow I will find myself on the path he wants me to be on. 

Please look for that in your own lives.  Life a worthy life so when the confirmation comes, you can serve right when the Lord and his people need you, without unnecessary trouble and pain.  If you don't know how to do that, strive to be an example.  Think of the Lord and think of others before you think of yourself.  I have found that trying to be a good example is what has kept me on the right path the most.  I know that there is a youth here that needs to hear this. Trying to be a good example is what has kept me on the right path the most.  Look at your siblings.  Look at your friends.  Look at the youth and primary children in your own ward.  You want them to have happy lives, so become someone they can look up to in order to grow into their divine potential.  “Let no man despise thy youth; but be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity”

Alma 28:14 And thus we see the great call of adiligence of men to labor in the vineyards of the Lord; and thus we see the great reason of sorrow, and also of rejoicing—sorrow because of death and destruction among men, and joy because of the blight of Christ unto life.

A roommate wrote me a letter when I left Provo.  In it she said something very special to me.  She said “I am honestly so filled with sadness that you're leaving, but I also know that you need to go.  The people in Honduras need you, and you need them.”

It's true.  I need them, and some of them need me.  I don't know why yet but that's all part of the adventure.  I encourage every single one of you youth to prepare to serve a mission.  If you're not supposed to, Heavenly Father will tell you.  But if you need to, you have to be prepared to go.  Someone needs to hear your voice.

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