Good morning brothers and sisters. I would like to start with a little about me: My name is Sarah Pace, and I am from the Fillmore ward. I just finished my first year at BYU in Provo, and I have been called to the Texas Dallas mission. I will be reporting on August 20 to the Mexico MTC to learn Spanish. So of course, I will be talking today about missionary work.
A good place to start would probably be Preach My Gospel. The first chapter of this book is titled “What is My Purpose as a Missionary?” Right underneath this heading is a box that says “Your purpose: 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.” I had to memorize this explanation in my mission prep class at BYU. Our professor wanted us to have it memorized well enough that “if someone wakes you up in the middle of the night with a gun to your head and asks you what your purpose as a missionary is, you can say it just like that.” I believe this is referred to in the scriptures as having the words written on your heart. This is the core of missionary work, what I will be devoting my life to for a year and a half. So if you don’t get anything else out of this talk, please at least consider yourselves invited to come unto Christ.
I think that the next step, after inviting you to come unto Christ, is to convince you that it is your responsibility to also invite others. I know that it is easy to simply dismiss talks and lessons on missionary work when you are not called to be a missionary. It’s sort of like the “I’m not old, so I don’t have to do family history work” mindset. This is false. Family history work is awesome and for everyone. Missionary work is also awesome and for everyone. Any time you hear the words “missionary work”, think “inviting others to come unto Christ”. It is definitely your responsibility too.
Since I am going on a mission, in my home ward they will put up a little plaque with my name, picture, and a scripture that I choose on it. Even before I had completely decided to go on a mission, I knew what scripture I wanted to put on that plaque. It is Alma 26: 12. In the verses before it, the sons of Mosiah (some of the greatest missionaries in the Book of Mormon) are back together, talking about the success they have had in teaching the Lamanites. Ammon says that without their efforts, the Lamanites would have remained strangers to God. Then in verses 10 and 11:
“And it came to pass that when Ammon had said these words, his brother Aaron rebuked him, saying: Ammon, I fear that thy joy doth carry thee away unto boasting. But Ammon said unto him: I do not boast in my own strength, nor in my own wisdom; but behold, my joy is full, yea my heart is brim with joy, and I will rejoice in my God.”
And verse 12, which I love:
“Yea, I know that I am nothing; as to my strength I am weak; therefore I will not boast of myself, but I will boast of my God, for in his strength I can do all things; yea, behold, many mighty miracles we have wrought in this land, for which we will praise his name forever.”
I would like to be the kind of missionary who always recognizes how much I need God to be successful. My mission may not ever seem miraculous to anyone else, but I have faith that God knows what He is doing by sending me.
I haven’t mentioned yet my process for deciding to go on a mission. But, I am supposed to speak for 10 to 15 minutes, so I will do that as well. I wasn’t one of those people who knew even when they were little that they were going to serve a mission. I actually hadn’t even though much about it until a few years ago. I knew that I was going to go to college, and maybe a mission would fit in somewhere, but it was always far in the future. October 2012 was a huge turning point for me and many other people my age. Finding out that I could serve a mission at 19 years old instead of 21 made it so much more real. On top of that, I was planning on going to BYU, where many people leave to go on missions every year and deferring enrollment for that purpose is very easy. Going on a mission is a huge part of the culture there. I started thinking about a mission more, but I wanted to be sure that if I went, it wasn’t just because everyone else was doing it. The decision had to be personal. I fasted and prayed a lot, waiting for an answer. When I prayed, I would always ask “Should I go on a mission?” One day, I said, “Fine. I give up. WHEN should I go on a mission?” And the answer “July 1st” immediately entered my mind. So I started filling out my mission papers and wrote down that I was available to leave on July 1st.
But I feel like that was only the beginning of my answer. Days and weeks after that prayer, I would still ask God, “So is this far enough? I have learned a lot from this experience already. Should I still go on a mission?” Surprisingly, the answers I received were sometimes different. Sometimes I got distracted thinking about all the cool, exotic places I could be sent to and what awesome stories I would be able to tell when I got back. The answer I got on those occasions was, “You are not going with that attitude.” I found that extremely disappointing. Before that, I would have explained my reason for serving a mission as “I am doing it because God wants me to. It isn’t my decision” But when I got the feeling that I was no longer allowed to go, I realized that I did truly want to go. So I changed my outlook on the situation, started preparing, and now I am back on track.
I have been reading the scriptures quite a bit these past few months in preparation. Sometimes, instead of reading from a specific spot in the scriptures, I will just skim through the pages and read all of the verses that I have highlighted. When I have done that recently, I have discovered that many of the verses that I have highlighted are what I would call “Missionary Scriptures”. Some of them deal with going forth and teaching. A lot of them could also just be considered “Comfort Scriptures”. One that I want to share with you today is Doctrine and Covenants 84:88
“And whoso receiveth you, there I will be also, for I will go before your face. I will be on your right hand and on your left, and my Spirit shall be in your hearts, and mine angels round about you, to bear you up.”
I often think of comforting scriptures as “Missionary Scriptures” because that is what missionary work means to me: relying on the Lord for strength. Sometimes I think about all of the details that go along with being a missionary, such as not seeing my family, talking to people I don’t know, learning a language, not sleeping in at all for 18 months. Sometimes people ask me what part of going on a mission worries me the most. If I am in the wrong mindset, I would have to say the whole entire thing is completely terrifying. If I had to do all this on my own, it would be crazy and impossible. But when I am in the right mindset, I know that it is actually just crazy and extremely difficult. When I am in the right mindset, I know that God will be with me. I know that our Heavenly Father is not just a God of calming the sea or moving mountains. He is also the God of small, everyday miracles, like being in the right place at the right time, or being comforted by the Holy Ghost. While I am on my mission, I will try my best to live in such a way that I will be constantly guided by the Spirit of the Lord. I know that I will never convert anyone; that will be up to the Spirit. I will work as hard as I can so that I can be an instrument in God’s hands, “for in his strength I can do all things”.
I have had I bit of difficulty reconciling these two concepts in my mind. I will be spending every day of my mission working my hardest, BUT all success will actually be the Lord’s. One thing that has helped me figure out this conundrum is a lot of studying. I think that in any subject, you are only really learning when everything new that you learn shows you how much you still don’t know. The more I study my scriptures, the more I realize how many of the verses I memorized in Seminary I have forgotten. Through studying Preach My Gospel, I learn that I don’t yet know how to explain the concepts I have heard my whole life. And reading the Book of Mormon in Spanish is just humbling altogether. Then this endless loop begins in which studying only gives me the feeling that I need to study more. No matter how much I learn, I will continue to think “Is what I have learned enough? Is this going to be useful to the Lord? Am I going to be an adequate instrument in His hands?” Being a missionary requires a lot of hard work because we are imperfect, and yet, we are called to be ambassadors of Christ. In Elder Jeffrey R Holland’s talk entitled “Lord, I Believe”, he says, “Except in the case of His only perfect Begotten Son, imperfect people are all God has ever had to work with. That must be terribly frustrating to Him, but He deals with it.”
This leads into another topic that my mom always talks about: patience. Elder Holland continues “but He deals with it. So should we. And when you see imperfection, remember that the limitation is not in the divinity of the work. As one gifted writer has suggested, when the infinite fullness is poured forth, it is not the oil’s fault if there is some loss because finite vessels can’t quite contain it all. Those finite vessels include you and me, so be patient and kind and forgiving.” We shouldn’t get frustrated with our own shortcomings, or with the shortcomings of others. This applies to family, neighbors, and mission companions. One of the best ways we can serve others is by giving them both encouragement to choose the right and the time to do so.
I have a few closing thoughts.
First, studying is very important. For anyone who is interested in inviting others to come unto Christ, I would highly suggest reading Preach My Gospel. In my mission prep class I also had to memorize Doctrine and Covenants 11:21, which says:
“Seek not to declare my word, but first seek to obtain my word, and then shall your tongue be loosed; then, if you desire, you shall have my Spirit and my word, yea, the power of God unto the convincing of men.”
We have to study and prepare on our part. After obtaining the word of God, THEN we will be given the power and ability to teach what others need to hear.
Second, there are many things that I don’t know. Most of them have to do with the question “Why”. I think that Nephi sums this up perfectly when he is asked by an angel if he knows the condescension of God. He says, “I know that he loveth his children; nevertheless, I do not know the meaning of all things.” Even when we do not have all the answers, we can still bear testimony of what we do know. There are many things that I do not know, but I know without a doubt that we are children of God and He loves us. I may not know why He wants me to go on a mission, but I know that He does. And that gives me enough reason to take the first steps. There is a hymn that says
“Lead, kindly Light, amid th'encircling gloom;
Lead thou me on!
The night is dark, and I am far from home;
Lead thou me on!
Keep thou my feet; I do not ask to see
The distant scene--one step enough for me.”
If you are wondering what preparing to serve a mission feels like, that is it. At least for me.
Third, I think that direct instructions can give us the confidence or inspiration to act. This happened for me when I realized that we have been commanded by Christ in 3 Nephi chapter 23 to “search the words of Isaiah”. It made me feel a little guilty for not putting as much effort into that as I probably should have. So if you need a little more encouragement from the Lord to do missionary work, I think these verses are perfect for you. In Matthew 28:19-20 Christ is appearing unto his apostles after he has been resurrected to give them some final instructions. “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen.”
And last, I would like to bear my testimony of the Atonement and the role it has played in my life. I am very grateful to have had what many would call a blessed life, especially by having a loving family and being raised in the gospel. But there must be opposition in all things. So, pretty much all of my serious trials have been the result of my own poor decisions. The problems that have caused me to pray the hardest for strength from the Lord were in general partly my own fault. These experiences have strengthened my testimony of the Atonement. Without Christ’s Atonement, my mistakes would remain simply mistakes. But I have been able to learn and grow because I was not alone. I know that God answers prayers, even when you can’t find words to pray with and an answer doesn’t come for years. I know with certainty that there is right and wrong. Lehi explains this very well in 2 Nephi chapter 2, saying that “if these things are not, there is no God.” But I know that there is a law, and there are right and wrong choices with corresponding consequences. The Atonement is what changes everything. It does more than wash away our sins in the end. It does more than provide us with a Savior who knows our exact pains. The Atonement gives us the ability to change. Regret can be replaced with hope. This is what I want to bear testimony of: the transforming power of the Atonement. Before, I was not perfect, and today I am still not perfect. But every step I have taken on the right path was made possible with help from my Savior Jesus Christ. I know that His Church has been restored upon the earth and it is led today by a living prophet. I know that the priesthood is a wonderful gift from our Heavenly Father that enables this prophet and other leaders to perform miracles, receive revelation, and act in the name of God. I know that the Book of Mormon is the word of God, and I can’t wait to share it with those who I am meant to teach. And I say these things in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.