Good morning, Brothers and Sisters. Today, I was asked to speak on preparing spiritually for a mission. To start off, I would like to tell you what made me decide to serve. I remember when my dad's sister came home from her mission, I was really little. My mom asked me if I was going to serve a mission and I said, "Yes." Since then, serving a mission has always been in the back of my mind, but only as something that wouldn't be happening for a LONG time. As I got older, I went from, "I'm going on a mission!" to "I'll serve if I am not married by the time I'm twenty-one." Well, I'm not married and I'm not 21. Last year, President Thomas S. Monson announced that the age for missionaries to enter the mission field had been lowered. 18 for the Elders and 19 for the sisters. When he made that announcement, I cried tears of joy. At that time, I knew that I wanted to serve. I started to pray about it, to know that that was what Heavenly Father wanted for me. I didn't receive my answer right away. I went to school at BYU-Idaho and was there for three months when I finally received my answer. I was in Sacrament meeting in my singles ward, when I noticed my roommate pull out her patriarchal blessing. I thought, "Oh! That's a great idea!" and pulled mine out and started to read. An overwhelming feeling filled my heart and I knew my answer. I needed to serve.
Mission preparation is hard to describe. I haven't really been thinking about "preparing". It's been more like, "I'm going on a mission in November and there are these things that I have to do." But it hasn't been easy (nothing worth doing ever is). It's actually been quite difficult. I could tell you what I did and what I wish I had done. I could tell you what others are doing and what I've been told to do. But really, what it comes down to, is that it's hard. One of my biggest fears is that I won't be ready. That I won't know all of the material and that I haven't been spending enough time reading my scriptures. That when it comes time to teach, the words won't come. That I won't be able to learn the language. I'm afraid that I won't get along with my companion and that she won't like me. I'm afraid that I won't be able to walk all the miles I said I would and that I won't be able to take the heat. I'm afraid of the bugs. I'm afraid that I will miss my family too much to concentrate. But what I am the very most afraid of is that I will disappoint my Heavenly Father. Because HE is the reason that I am leaving for 18 months and HE is the reason that I am facing all of these fears. Because of my love for Him.
So, what can a person do to prepare spiritually for a mission? One very important thing one can do is pray. Pray to Heavenly Father to learn from Him. Listen to the counsel of the prophet and apostles. Read the scriptures daily, because through them, Heavenly Father communicates to you. Go to the temple! Gain a testimony of temple work. There is no other place on earth where you can feel His presence so strongly. Gain a testimony of the atonement of Jesus Christ. Learn of Him so that you may be able to be like Him. Take the time to serve others. Be a missionary. In October 2005 General Conference, Elder David A. Bednar said, "The single most important thing you can do to prepare for a call to serve is to become a missionary long before you go on a mission." Pray for opportunities to share the gospel and you will be blessed. 1 Nephi 13:37 says, "And are they who shall seek to bring forth my at that day, for they shall have the and the of the Holy Ghost; and if they unto the end they shall be at the last day, and shall be saved in the everlasting of the Lamb; and whoso shall peace, yea, tidings of great joy, how beautiful upon the mountains shall they be."
We don't go to church just to go or to say we go. It's a committment. It is an opportunity to better oneself. It is a reminder of who we are and of who put us here. If anything, it helps us to know we're not alone. None of us are perfect. All of us, all of our leaders have flaws. There is only one thing that you will find at church that has no flaws and that is the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I'm not perfect and the people that I am going to teach aren't going to be perfect, but what I am teaching is. I, as an imperfect human being, am challenged with the task of teaching imperfect people of a perfect Gospel and a perfect God. I'm trying not to let that intimidate me. Why? Because there are people here that do it every day. There are people here that have done it, and lived to tell the tale. And there are other imperfect people like myself, all over the world that are preparing to teach Heavenly Father's children of the Gospel.
Notwithstanding the difficulty of this, there is one other thing that works against us. Satan. Satan works so hard to keep us from going, by putting doubts in our heads. "What if I'm not good enough?" "What if I can't think of anything to say?" And for foreign language missionaries like myself, "What if I say something wrong and they laugh at me?" Something I try really hard to remember is this: Satan lies. He lies! All the time! He doesn't love us! He doesn't want us to succeed! Any negative thought we have ever had about ourselves, comes from him. We are all good enough. We are children of a Heavenly Father that loves us and knows each of us personally. He will help us, if we only take the time to ask Him. When we are serving Him, He doesn't let us go out alone. We are given the Holy Ghost. As long as we keep ourselves worthy and are obedient, he will be there as a comfort and a guide. He will direct us in what to say, so that we can teach with his help. Not only do we have the Holy Ghost to help us, we are given companions that also have the Holy Ghost. He or she will be guided by the spirit so that we can work hand in hand. They might know what to say well before I do. Unfortunately, since I'm speaking a foreign language, I will probably get laughed at. One thing that I hate the most is being laughed at. What I try to keep in mind is that it's okay to mess up. It's not my first language and no one will be expecting me to be perfect. I have to learn to laugh at myself instead of being hurt or offended when someone else laughs at me. Something I have been doing to prepare myself is to study pronunciation. That way, if I use the wrong word, at least I will be saying it correctly. I have been afraid that learning the language will be too hard, but I know that with faith, it will come.
Something that has comforted me in preparing for my mission is the hope that there are members that will be willing to help me and my companion. It has been told to us time and time again that missionary work isn't just for full-time missionaries. Everyone that has a testimony of the Gospel of Jesus Christ has the responsibility to share it with all those who are willing to listen. Every person that has ever served a full time mission has probably been a "member missionary" at some time or another. Once, I basically taught the first discussion to a friend of mine, all because he asked me, "So what makes your church different from other Christian religions?" At the time, I hadn't had a good record with sharing the gospel with others. I wasn't very good at it. When I was done, however, he got a weird kind of impressed look on his face. (Coupled with a, "Hmm.") After he left, my sister looked at me, jaw hanging, because that had been the best I had ever done in explaining our religion. But you don't have to give a lesson or even speak to be a missionary. In the April 1972 General Conference, William H. Bennett said, "... members of the Church everywhere should remind themselves that the gospel is to be preached and taught by example and not just by word of mouth. The lives of all Church members should be shining examples of the gospel of Jesus Christ in action. ... as members of the Church, it is our responsibility to assist the missionaries in finding investigators to whom the message of the gospel can be taught. The missionary program needs the help of all of us—young and old—and it needs our help now." 1972. Forty years later, we are still receiving the same counsel from our church leaders, to teach by example and to help the missionaries. This alone can help any to reach the decision to serve a full time mission, if only they have the faith. Faith is the opposite of fear, and the foundation of testimony. With sufficient faith, anything can be accomplished.
I would like to bear my testimony that I know that this church is true. I know that my Heavenly Father loves me. I know that Thomas S. Monson is His prophet. I have a testimony of the Atonement, that through Jesus Christ, all may be saved. I have a testimony of the power of the Priesthood. I know that Joseph Smith was a prophet and that he did see Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ in the Sacred Grove and that through him, the Gospel was restored to the earth. I know that the Book of Mormon is the word of God. I know that callings are inspired. I know that the Temple is Heavenly Father's sacred house. I know that missionary work is hard, but I also know that it is worth every bug, every step, every drop of sweat, and every knock on every door. And I leave these things with you in the name of our Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.