Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Farewell Talk

On Sunday, May 4th, 2014, surrounded by family and friends, I read the words, “Dear Sister Tennant, You are hereby called to serve as a missionary of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. You are assigned to labor in the Washington Everett Mission. It is anticipated that you will serve for a period of 18 months. You should report to the Provo Missionary Training Center on Wednesday, July 16, 2014. You will prepare to preach the gospel in the English language. Your assignment may be modified according to the needs of the mission president.” This was my formal letter from the first presidency, calling me to serve, however, my real call to serve came much earlier.

I remember where I was when I found out the missionary age had been lowered. I think that as with many sister missionaries, the thought of a mission shifted from something that could potentially happen in the future, and became a question of how soon can I get my interviews and appointments scheduled and my papers in?

Shortly after the announcement, my older sister began filling out her papers and mission excitement had taken over our home and family. Before sisters could serve at 19, a mission had always been a possibility for me, if I wasn’t married by 21 or if I felt like that was something I needed to do, but that was a decision I wasn’t going to have to make for a while. Then suddenly, a few days before my 18th birthday, President Monson made the historic announcement, saying “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.” He goes on to say “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.”

I began seriously praying and considering a mission. Soon, not going on a mission was no longer an option. I knew then as I know now that I need to serve. I don’t know why I was called to Everett Washington, but one of my favorite scriptures on missionary work, Doctrine and Covenants 18:15 says “And if it so be that you should labor all your days in crying repentance unto this people, and bring save it be one soul unto me, how great shall be your joy with him in the kingdom of my Father!” Perhaps there is one person in Washington who needs to hear the gospel from me. So I will leave the comfort of my home, and teach the word.

Right before I had my first interview with my bishop to start my papers, I realized that even though I have such a strong testimony, I had never read the Book of Mormon all the way through just for myself. I’d read it a couple times for seminary and for family scripture study, but never all the way through completely for myself. I decided that there was no way I could go on a mission and preach the gospel without having read the Book of Mormon on my own. So I went on a bit of a reading marathon, and I read the Book of Mormon cover to cover in 10 days. After reading and pondering the book so intensely, I know without a single shadow of a doubt that this book is true. I have such a love and appreciation for the prophets of old and for the teachings of our Savior, Jesus Christ.

As I thought about what scripture I wanted on my missionary plaque, I realized that everything goes back to Christ. He is our creator, our savior and redeemer, and it is only by and through Him that we may one day return to live with our Father in Heaven. Because Christ is the center of everything, I want to add my testimony of Him, and so I chose Doctrine and Covenants 76:22 to be my mission scripture. It says “And now, after the many testimonies which have been given of Him, this is the Testimony, last of which we give of Him: That He Lives!”

Kelly- painting
-Letting everyone know that I was leaving in July for a church mission and that I am a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
-A girl I work with likes to paint and offered to paint a canvas for me as a going away gift
-With my mission weighing heavily on my mind, I knew I wanted it to be something about the gospel
-Sent her a picture with my mission scripture on it
-Was able to explain the Doctrine and Covenants
-Perhaps I planted a seed
In his April 2014 conference talk, Elder M. Russell Ballard taught the importance of following up. Doctrine and Covenants 115:4 says “For thus shall my church be called in the last days, even The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints” Elder Ballard teaches that while it is acceptable to refer to organizations and institutions as “Mormon” or “LDS”, it is important that we follow up and explain the full name of the Church. We are members of Christ’s church.

My freshman year of high school, we studied the Book of Mormon in seminary, and one of the scriptures that has stuck with me is on page 100 of the Book of Mormon and is 2 Nephi 25:26 and it says “And we talk of Christ, we rejoice in Christ, we preach of Christ, we prophesy of Christ, and we write according to our prophecies, that our children may know to what source they may look for a remission of their sins.” Some people have the false idea that Mormons are not Christian, but if we can make it a habit to use the full title of our Church, this confusion can be erased and all will know that Christ is the cornerstone of everything we do. Elder Bruce R. McConkie said that Christ “is the Eternal Jehovah, the promised Messiah, the Redeemer and Savior, the Way, the Truth, and the Life. By him immortality and eternal life become realities, and through his grace and goodness salvation is possible for all who will believe and obey”

As missionaries, we wear His name on our nametags, and invitation to come unto Him. President Henry B. Eyring stated that “The words “come unto Christ” are an invitation. It is the most important invitation you could ever offer to another person. It is the most important invitation anyone could accept.” Elder Ballard teaches that the purpose of missionary work is defined as inviting “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. While I don’t know the circumstances of the people I will be teaching, I can’t wait to be a tool in the Lord’s hands and watch peoples’ lives change as they come unto Christ.

The second point that Elder Ballard brought up is that we as members of the Church need to make more of an effort to seek out missionary opportunities. He invited everyone to pray to find at least one person to extend an invitation to meet with the missionaries and learn about the restored gospel. And because meeting with the missionaries and getting baptized is not the final step in a person’s eternal progression, we must go further and follow up with them, and help one another endure faithfully to the end. President Thomas S. Monson has said, “Now is the time for members and missionaries to come together, to work together, to labor in the Lord’s vineyard to bring souls unto Him.” We do not have to be set apart as full time missionaries to share the gospel. At baptism, we covenanted with Heavenly Father to “stand as witnesses of God at all times and in all things, and in all places.” Member missionaries, as well as full time missionaries share the responsibility of spreading the gospel.

My patriarchal blessing mentions that I will have the opportunity to teach people who are gaining their first knowledge and understanding of the mission of the Savior. As a missionary, I will be a tool in the Lord’s hands as His children are brought to the gospel.

At work, it was no secret that I am Mormon, and I was surprised by how many opportunities I had to talk about the Church and the gospel with my coworkers. Whether it be about missions in general or the Book of Mormon, I am so thankful for the many opportunities I was given to share my testimony with those around me. I even learned that one of the girls I worked with is currently meeting with the elders and is halfway through reading the Book of Mormon. While I don’t know where she will end up, I hope that I was a positive influence in her life as she gains her first understanding of the restored gospel.

I think a lot of people tend to pray for missionary opportunities, but when they come, we get scared and don’t really want to be in those situations. We may feel inadequate in our understanding of the gospel or uncomfortable explaining some of the principles and doctrines that we believe. For those of you who know me even a little bit know that I’m generally a pretty quiet person. It’s hard for me to talk to people and I struggle with putting myself out there. However, in Doctrine and Covenants 84:85, it says “Neither take ye thought beforehand what ye shall say; but treasure up in your minds continually the words of life, and it shall be given you in the very hour that portion that shall be meted unto every man.” I’m not eloquent when I speak, but I know that since I have been learning and preparing my entire life, I know that the Lord will be with me as I share His gospel with the people of Washington.

The 3rd verse of the version of Because I Have Been Given Much that Beth Ann sang says “Because of thy life’s mission, Lord, I too will serve. I’ll leave the comfort of my home and teach thy word. I’ll seek thy sheep who’ve gone astray. And those who’ve never known the way. I will make thy work my work today.”

I know that I am a daughter of Heavenly Father who loves me and that we are all His children. I know that because of Christ’s atonement, all of our sins may be washed away, that we are never alone in our trials, and that we can all return to live with our Heavenly Father someday. I know that Joseph Smith was a true prophet and with Heavenly Father’s help, was able to translate the Book of Mormon. I know that the Book of Mormon is the true word of God, and is the most correct of any book, and that we truly can grow nearer to God by abiding by its precepts. I am so thankful for this gospel. I can’t image my life without it. I’m thankful for my family and what a blessing they are to me, and for the knowledge I have of the Plan of Salvation and the fact that I get to be sealed to my family forever.

I’m so thankful for the love and support of my family, friends, and this ward and I can’t wait to share the gospel with the people of Everett Washington.

I say these things in the name of Jesus Christ, amen. 

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