Sunday, November 2, 2014

Why You Should Not Serve a Mission

ALERT: These here writings are my opinion.  You don't have to like it.  You don't have to agree with it.  All I ask is that you respect that it's okay for me to possibly think differently than you do.  

Alrighty folks.  I want you to know that at this moment in time, I am not going to serve a mission.  Nor am I currently getting married.  I know that right now, being 20 and at BYU, this is highly unusual.  But I have spent many hours talking this over with my Heavenly Father and this seems to be the right thing for me to do.  It took a long time for me to reach that decision, and I hope that my experience might help somebody else.  So let's go back in time for just a few moments...

It was October 2012.  I had just started my freshman year here at BYU.  I went home for the weekend so I could watch General Conference with my family.  I'm sure everyone remembers this day as well, so I won't go into too much detail.  But when I came back Sunday night, Provo had caught fire.  Like, everywhere.  The mission age change was all people talked about for weeks and weeks and weeks.  All of my roommates quickly made the decision to serve and began their papers right away, along with everyone else.  To put things in perspective, there were 120 kids in my freshman ward, and at Christmas, there were 90 open mission applications.  It was crazy.  

During this time, I began to think about a mission for the first time in my life.  It had always seemed very far away, and I had decided that I would start to think about it once I got there.  But suddenly, that changed.  

It was a mad frenzy.  As I started to try to think about a mission and prepare to serve, I began to realize that I had been riding the coattails of my parents' testimonies.  It was hard to watch all those close to me bury themselves in preparation for missionary work, so sure of what they were doing, and I hardly even knew if the gospel was true.  That process of gaining my very own testimony for myself is a story for another day.  But back home, I was the "perfect" girl from the "perfect" family, and everyone expected me to either go on a mission right away, or get married right away.  Yet neither was happening.  I had never experienced pressure like that before.  

So now we're going to jump back to present day.  I'm still not going on a mission, nor am I getting married.  And that is okay.  The pressure is still there for me to serve though.  But as I've been going along my merry way, I've both observed and been told reasons why I am supposed to serve a mission, and I do not agree with those reasons.  Now, this is your final warning.  This is all my opinion based on my experiences.  These are the reasons I have come up with for not serving a mission:

     1. Serving a mission is the best way to prepare for wife and mother hood.

Is a mission going to help you be a better wife and mother?  Yes.  Absolutely.  Is it the only way to prepare to be a good wife and mother?  Certainly not.  For example, I don't believe that Sister Hinckley ever served a mission.  Do you think she was able to serve as a worthy wife and mother for President Hinckley without missionary experience?  Of course!!  You can still be strong in the gospel, sustain your husband, and set an example for your children without missionary service.  Your spirituality depends upon what you do to strengthen it, not whether or not you can check the "RM" box.  This is meant to be a benefit of a mission, not a cause for one.  As long as you are living righteously, you and your family can be just as worthy of the blessings of the celestial kingdom without you serving a mission.  

     2. Everyone else is going, so why not me?

I fear that some girls will go on a mission simply because of the social pressure.  It can be hard to not be sharing in the same experiences as everyone else your age.  It can be hard to have people question why you are not serving.  However, decisions like this are meant to be between you and your Heavenly Father.  For some people, a mission is the right thing right at 19, and that's wonderful.  Some will serve later, and that's wonderful.  Some will not serve, and that's wonderful.  What matters is that you are doing what's right for YOU.  You are Heavenly Father's precious child, and His children will never get a one-size-fits-all treatment.  You are His greatest creation, and you deserve much more than that.  I promise He has a plan just for you, all your own, and as long as you are living righteously, you will figure it out.  

     3. Guys only want to marry RMs.

I'm starting to hear some gentlemen saying that they will only be interested marrying girls that are returned missionaries.  If that is the case, I hope they realize that they could very well be missing out on a bunch of great girls.  Some girls may want to serve with all their hearts, but can't for medical reasons, or simply that it's not in the Lord's plans.  The type of man you want to marry will be one who will make you want to push yourself to be a better person.  He will appreciate you for how Christ-like you are with or without being able to share mission stories.  

     4. My marriage is more likely to fail if I haven't served a mission.

Out of all of these reasons, I think this one bothered me the most.  The first thing that came to my mind when I heard this was my dear mother.  She and my dad have been happily married for over 27 years now, and they still love each other very much.  And guess what?  Plot twist!  My mother is not a returned missionary.  

In the end, it will all come down to agency.  The reason female RMs might have a more successful marriage is because they are the type of people who will make the choices needed to have a happy marriage.  However, are there RMs who go inactive in the church?  Yes.  Are there girls who haven't served missions who are still happily married?  Yes.  It all comes down to the choices you make.  

     5. I want to come back at the same time as my high school crush.

A lot can happen to someone in 18-24 months.  Especially when they've spent it serving the Lord everyday.  Don't serve a mission simply because it's a way for you to "save yourself" for that guy you kind of dated in high school.  If you've prayed about it and it's the right thing to do, that's great.  Go for it.  However, I ask that you have faith on this one.  I promise that if it's meant to work out, it will find a way.  Heavenly Father always makes a way for things to work out for the faithful.  

     6. Getting an education is a selfish thing to do.  

I will be honest in saying that I don't understand this one.  The prophets and apostles have told us to get an education.  We're told to be life long learners and to try to improve ourselves.  As I'm still learning, it's perfectly okay to just be going to school right now.  It's actually a perfectly wonderful thing to do.  Just because you are not furthering the plan of salvation by being a full tim missionary or having babies at this moment absolutely does not mean that you are being selfish or doing something wrong.  Going to college will help you to learn about yourself, how to interact with all sorts of people, and will allow you to provide for a future family if need be.  

Now, as a final piece of advice from an oh-so-wise 20 year old, the most important thing to remember is that Heavenly Father has a plan for you.  If you are living righteously and doing all the things you should be doing, that plan will eventually be revealed to you.  Serving a mission for the Lord is a wonderful thing to do, and I love those who choose to do so.  I admire their spiritual strength.  But it can take strength to stay behind too.  Someone needs to hold down the home front, and that's okay.  You can't always know what goes on when a girl prays to her Father in Heaven.  

Do I really know what the plan is for me right now?  No, not really, to be honest.  I'm going to play it by spiritual ear for now, you could say.  But I promise I still love the gospel.  I still do my best to serve the Lord here at home by being an example of Christ, magnifying my calling, and helping to lift those around me.  But I hope you will turn to your Heavenly Father to find your own path.  I hope you will not fear for the future.  I hope that you will be able to feel even the slightest bit of His love for you.  And I hope this helped somebody out there.  Stay strong sisters!

Monday, April 14, 2014

Above All Else

There are some parts of scripture that people tend to always skip over simply because they are too confusing.  I will admit, I have been now of these people, especially with the Book of Revelation.  One of the main reasons I took this class about the second half of the New Testament was so I could learn more about this book.  One thing that the book mentions is that there was a war in heaven.  That war did not end there, however.  It has simply changed battlegrounds.
But we already know who wins.  The only thing that's left to decide is what side you will be on.  Here is how we are going to do it.  Revelation 12:11

"And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death."

The way to win against the enemy is to focus on our greatest ally.  By keeping our focus on the Savior and working to keep our testimony strong, we will be able to overcome the attacks that Satan throws at us.  We will be on the winning side of this great war.  Through our Savior's sacrifice, we are able to win against sin.
This is possibly my last post.  Now that the semester is ending, I don't know if I will be keeping up this blog.  But there is one thing I have learned from this whole experience.  The more I bear my testimony, the more it grows.  Through writing about my Savior, the more I feel I have come to know him and gain an understanding of the Atonement.  I still have a long ways to go, but everyday is another chance to improve.  Everyday is another chance to come to know the Savior.  I hope that you realize that.  He will always be there for you.

Monday, April 7, 2014

For Your Own Good

Please tell me I'm not the only person who has woken up on some mornings and not had much to work with in terms of looks.  There are definitely days that I feel like I'm not amounting up to very much.  That's when I have to remember how much I really am worth: an infinite price.  Read here 1 Peter 2:9

"But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness unto his marvelous light."

Usually people take the word "peculiar" to mean strange or odd.  Which, sometimes, we may seem that way to other people.  But there is a footnote for this word.  It says that peculiar in this sense would mean purchased or preserved.
Folks, we are something special.  We were bought by the Savior's Atonement.  We were saved for these times on this earth.  Now I want you to read 1 Peter 1:7

"That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honor and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ."

We have trials because we are worth it.  We mean something very special to Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ.  While it may be hard to see in the moment, I can guarantee that one day, you will be very glad of the person you have become, and so will your Father in Heaven.  If you do what is right, all things will work together for your good.

Monday, March 31, 2014

How to Succeed in Life

Throughout my vast nineteen of years of life, I have learned some things.  Not a lot, but a few.  And I'm definitely still learning.  But let me tell you what I do know.  I know that the power of the Atonement is very real.  And it is there for each one of us, available at all times and under any circumstance.  Hebrews 8:10,12.

"For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, saith the Lord; I will put my laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts: and I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people... For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more."

We have the chance to be the people of God!  We have the chance to use the Atonement to become like our Heavenly Father!  Isn't that just wonderful?  If we can put God first, we can be forgiven of our wrongs and become like Him.  We can always wipe our slate clean and return to the fold of God.
There is one more scripture that I really love.  As we try to be like the Savior, our faith and love for Him will grow.  Read James 2:19

"Thou believest that there is one God: thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble."

While Satan and his followers also know who the Savior is, they fear the power that allows Him to be our Redeemer.  We would do well to believe in Him and His Atonement.  The key to real success is following the Savior and trusting in Him.  As we try to be more like Him, things will continue to fall into place.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Be of Good Courage

Have you ever been trying to make a decision, and haven't had the slightest idea about what the right thing is to do?  If you haven't, keep living.  But for those of us who have, I love this short and sweet little verse.  2 Timothy 1:7

"For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind."

I want to rely on the Lord when I'm making my decisions.  But a big part of that is actually being able to recognize the Lord's answer.  I'm learning that Heavenly Father won't make you fearful.  He doesn't want you to be scared.  His Spirit will bring you hope and light.
One thing that helps me is that I have to remember that my Savior knows what I'm going through.  I know this one is a little long, but read it.  I promise, it's good.  Hebrews 2:9-11

"But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honor; that he by the grace of God should taste death for every man.  For it became him, for whom are all things, and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons unto glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings.  For both he that sanctifieth and they who are sanctified are all of one: for which cause he is not ashamed to call them brethren."

I love the phrases that I have put in italics.  Jesus Christ chose to put Himself below all else for us.  I especially love the last line.  I hope that Christ considers me as someone worth associating with.  I want to have that kind of relationship with my Savior.
We have no reason to be afraid.  We will always have our Savior's love.  I hope I can one day be like Him.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Where You Stand

In Ephesians 6, Paul gives us the armor of God lesson.  I have heard this lesson in Sunday School many a time, but it was one of those things where I never actually went past the surface level.  Yes, dressing up a class member in tin foil battle gear can be great, but I think there was supposed to be more to it than that.
I guess we could start with why this analogy was given.  Ephesians 6:11-12

"Put on the whole armor of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.  For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places."

While most of us won't be accosted by swordsmen in our day to day lives, we are constantly being attacked by Satan.  The adversary will always be trying to fight against us and pull us down.
Now, we certainly don't want that, do we?  So here's what you're gonna do.  Verse 13:

"Wherefore take unto you the whole armor of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand."

We shouldn't cower in the corner, hoping that the devil doesn't find us.  We must take a stand.
I would love to review each of the parts of the armor individually, but that would take a year and a half on here, and I don't quite have that much time to spare.  But I encourage you to look it up and learn for yourself.
Heavenly Father will not leave us defenseless.  He has given us the tools and power we need to succeed in this life.  But we must take the action to put on the armor and put it to good use.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Raindrops were Falling on Their Heads

I have been on a boat once.  At Lake Powell.  It was awesome.  But at busier times on the lake, the water would be really choppy and not fun to ride on.  I can't imagine what it's like trying to survive a storm on a boat like Paul did.
In Acts 27, Paul is on his way to Rome.  He has been taken prisoner and they're traveling by boat.  It's early winter, and Paul predicts that there will be a terrible storm.  The owner of the ship is likely an experienced sailor, and he says that there's no chance of a storm, and even if there were, he probably thinks he could handle it.  Plus, Paul was a prisoner, so they probably weren't too excited to listen to his opinion.  So they set sail anyways. 
Cue Acts 27:15

"And when the ship was caught, and could not bear up into the wind, we let her drive."

The wind was so strong that the sailors could hardly control the boat.  Paul was right, and it would almost cost them their lives.   Verse 18-19:

"And we being exceedingly tossed with a tempest, the next day they lightened the ship.  And the third day we cast out with our own hands the tackling of the ship."

The storm is so fierce, the sailors start throwing supplies overboard for survival.  Not just the extra stuff, but the tackling as well!  There have been some storms in my life, and I'm sure you've had some as well.  During those times, the only way we can really survive is to throw out the extra cargo.  Get back to the basics of the gospel and our Savior.  Focus on those to keep you steady. 
We should also follow the counsel that our church leaders give us.  If we are choosing the right and leaning on the Savior, even during the hard times, we will not be forgotten.  We will be preserved and live to see another sunny day. 

Monday, March 3, 2014

No Matter What

It would seem that I have fallen in love.  With the New Testament, that is.  It's amazing to me just how much you can find the Savior in the scriptures.
I didn't know this, but Romans is considered the most doctrinal of Paul's epistles.  It's got some great stuff!  I like the first six verses of chapter 5, but I especially like Romans 5:3.

"And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience."

I don't know about you, but I'm not always the best at being patient in my tribulations.  But it says here in Romans that patience will lead to experience, experience will lead to hope, and hope will lead to not being ashamed.  One day, when I return home to my Father in Heaven, I would love it if I could stand in front of Him, unashamed of the way I lived my life.  I want him to be well pleased with me.
I also love chapter 5:11.

"And not only so, but we also joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the atonement."

Fun fact about this verse.  This is the only time in the New Testament that the word "Atonement" is used.  The more that we embrace Jesus Christ as our Savior, the better off we will be.  I have noticed that the more I embrace the gospel, the happier I feel.  I feel more joy when I am  doing what is right, and I don't think that is a coincidence.
Finally, these verses are incredible.  Romans 8:37-39.

"Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us.  For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord."

God loves us.  I believe that is part of the reason why he gives un tribulation.  He wants us to grow and be strong.  He wants us to appreciate the joyful times in our lives.  But He will never stop loving us.  No matter what.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Where Much Has Been Given, Much Will Keep Being Given

I know that God loves me.  And I know that He loves each of us perfectly as well.  This is something that I have just been learning for myself recently.  Now that my testimony of this principle is growing stronger, I am starting to see it more in the scriptures, and I love that.  I love finding those little places where I can throw myself into the scriptures.  It is very fortifying.
One of my new favorite places happens to be in 2 Corinthians 1:21-22, which read:
"Now he which stablisheth us with you in Christ, and hath anointed us, is God; Who hath also sealed us, and given the earnest of    the Spirit in our hearts."
I would like to point out that I have italicized the word "earnest."  During this time of the Lord's church, earnest is a financial term.  It refers to a down payment.  In other words, each time we feel the  Spirit in our hearts, God is making a down payment of sorts on our souls.  He gives us a small taste of what it is like in the celestial kingdom and how it will be if we live righteously.  He does this over and over again for us.  And when you make a down payment, it is done with the intention that you will at some point pay everything in full.  I know that the Lord has wonderful things in store for us, especially when we strive to be like our Savior Jesus Christ.
I love feeling the great care that my Heavenly Father has for me.  He wants me to be happy now.  He wants me to make the right choices now so that, hopefully one day, I can live with Him again.  What a wonderful moment in time that will be.  I hope I can always live up to His expectations.

Monday, February 17, 2014

The Refiner's Fire

I think one of the most painful and inconvenient things is getting a paper cut.  That probably sounds silly, but really.  They're very possibly the worst.  But when you do get a paper cut, do you proceed to smash your finger with a hammer, telling it that it's so stupid for getting itself cut?  Nope, I don't either.
The same should go for people.  When people mess up, including ourselves, we shouldn't just give up on them.  It says in 1 Corinthians 12:23, "And those members of the body, which we think to be less honorable, upon these we bestow more abundant honor; and our uncomely parts have more abundant comeliness."  Through the Atonement, we can be spiritually healed of our mess ups.  Jesus Christ can heal everything from spiritual paper cuts to major bruises.
Another scripture I really liked was verse 24.  "For our comely parts have no need: but God hath tempered the body together, having given more abundant honor to that part which lacked."  Tempering is a process using heat and pressure to refine metal.  As it would turn out, Heavenly Father likes to use that process on us as well.  Who knew, right?  Sometimes in life we must go through the refiner's fire.  But we need to have faith that our Father in Heaven is helping us to become something wonderful and useful.  I know that is something I need to remember in my life.  I hope that I can be somebody wonderful, and I know that Heavenly Father has great plans just for you.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Dancing Through Life

One great thing that I have been working on is gaining a testimony that I am a daughter of God.  I have always thought that there is no way that little old me could be a child of the Almighty.  But there is a scripture in 1 Corinthians that has helped me as I have been learning and thinking about this.  
In 1 Corinthians 6: 19-20, it says the following: 

What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own?  
For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God's.  

My spirit is of great worth unto God.  But not just my spirit, my body as well.  I suppose that is one of the reasons why I love dancing so much.  It it a way that I use my strong and healthy physical body.  It is a way of expressing myself.  It is a moment when my body and my spirit can be fused, working together as one and giving glory to my Father in Heaven.  
I feel very fortunate to have a knowledge of a loving Heavenly Father, and that I chose to come to this earth and receive a body.  Even though it is imperfect, it is still a place for my spirit to reside.  It is a place for the Holy Spirit to reside.  I hope I can treasure my temple more, and all of things that it does for my spirit.  

Monday, February 3, 2014

*See Blog Title

I'm sure you've heard the term "decade of decisions."  Or at least something similar.  As it would turn out, I'm in that very period of my life right now!  It's still a little strange.  It's almost feels like I'm playing house or something.  
But with the way I am, I am a planner.  I like knowing that I'm heading in the right direction.  And being in this decade of decisions will determine what direction I go in, so I want to make sure I'm doing it right.  
Something I've been thinking about lately is if I'm headed in the direction that my Heavenly Father wants me to be going.  I wonder about His will for me and what exactly He wants me to do.  Fortunately enough for me, I came across this in 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18.

Rejoice evermore.
Pray without ceasing.
In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.

This wasn't quite the answer that I was expecting or even looking for.  I'm going to have to keep working on relying on the Lord and having faith that things will work out the way they should.  I'll need to play it by my spiritual ear for a while.  But the one thing I do know at this point is that Heavenly Father wants me to be happy.  And I know the same goes for each of us.  I guess I've been guilty of spending too much time looking at the map, and consequently forgetting to enjoy the scenery around me.  
I hope you remember that now is a time for us to have joy, not just someday.  Even if you have to fake it til you make it, that's a start.  And now, looking at the top of this page, I can see the title of this here blog of mine.  I hope you choose to find joy in your journey too.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Unique, Just Like Everyone Else

At this particular moment in time, my life is pretty dandy.  The plans I thought I had all neatly set out for myself are no longer there, but they've been replaced by something much better.  I'm quite content with where I am right now.  In fact, I haven't dealt with anything really hard for quite some time now.  That always worries me a little.  Maybe that it's the calm before the storm.  I don't know.  But anyways, there's gotta be someone out there who's having a tough time, so hopefully this will help someone.
In Acts 7, Stephen is giving a not-so-brief history lesson.  At least that's what it looks like at first.  But if you look at little closer, Stephen is describing lots of the major characters in the Old Testament.  He talks about trials they went through and how they each reacted.  One of those "bitter or better" sort of things.
Well, as it would turn out, I've heard that people today also have to deal with hard things.  While our problems are different than those of Moses and Abraham, we all run into those rough patches.  I hope I can be strong enough to withstand my personal storms when they come, and I hope that others will find that strength too.

Monday, January 13, 2014

New Life Resolutions

Usually around New Year's, I spend some time reflecting on my past and what I've accomplished with 365 days.  I've also been given another 365 more to fill, hopefully with many wonderful things.  I've decided that one of those wonderful things shall be actual scripture study.  Old fashioned scripture reading is great!  Love it.  But scripture study is where it's at.  I certainly still need to work on that, but this being the case, I want to continue learning about the New Testament this semester, beginning with the book of Acts.
Let's start at the very beginning.  A very good place to start, yes?  In Acts 1:1, Luke addresses this book to Theophilus.  While he was likely a real person, here's a fun fact for you.  "Theo" means God, and "philus" means lover or friend.  So, the name Theophilus is translated as Lover or Friend of God. I like to think of my Heavenly Father as one of my closest friends, and I hope you feel the same.  So really, this book was written to you and me!  Cool, right?
I suppose the next reasonable question would be why this book was written.  Cue verses three and eight.  Using the "infallible proofs" (v. 3) that Christ gave, the book of Acts "shall [help us] receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me." (v. 8).  I have been so blessed to have a knowledge of the Savior in my life, so I suppose the least I could do in return is to help share my happiness with those around me.  I guess a good way to start is to continue to learn about my Savior.  You can't teach what you don't know.
So, cheers.  And here's to a New Life.