Friday, June 27, 2014

Why should YOU go on a mission?

So you're considering a mission? Maybe you're just considering considering a mission! Well, you've come to the right blog.

You can read all you want about how I decided to go on a mission here. But today, I want to talk about YOU. Why should YOU go on a mission?

Keep in mind, all missions are very different, but I can promise you with all my heart that you can experience the same spiritual growth and blessings, no matter where you serve.

Since I'm a list person, let the list making commence!

Why should YOU go on a mission?

1. Being a missionary is a commandment, whether that means a full time mission or not. "And now, behold, I say unto you, that the thing which will be of the most worth unto you will be to declare repentance unto this people, that you may bring souls unto me, that you may rest with them in the kingdom of my father. Amen." D&C 15:6. Heavenly Father wants all of His children to come back to Him someday, and He might need YOUR help to get them there. Maybe that means a full time mission, maybe that means you need to reach out to a neighbor or friend and share the gospel with them!

2. Seeing other people change changes you. Seeing other people turn toward Christ has a strong impact on your personal testimony. Seeing the sacrifices and changes other people go through to repent and come closer to Christ is extremely humbling and has helped me see how much more of my own life I could be giving for the gospel.

3. In addition to seeing other people change you get to see yourself change! Spending 16 hours a day (the other 8 sleeping), 7 days a week for 18 to 24 months thinking about and doing missionary work changes you a tiny little bit. Or a really big bit. You talk with thousands of people about religion, you have the privilege of being within sight and sound of one specific person 24/7, you spend hours and hours and hours studying gospel materials (553 hours {or over 23 full days} over a period of 18 months to be exact), you follow the Spirit in knowing how certain people can progress towards making covenants with Heavenly Father. All of these things (along with the other thousand things you do as a missionary) will bless your life and increase your knowledge of the gospel.

4. You can see what kind of return missionary you want to be. I've met a lot of return missionaries on my mission. As often as I can I try to get their advice and input on what it's like going home after a mission and adjusting to real life. When you come on a mission and see other people who have already been through their 18-24 months it helps put in perspective how short of a time we have to serve the Lord full time.

5. While you are gone, your family will be blessed. I know this may seem contradictory but I promise it's true. I see it in my own family and in other families with missionaries out. Your example of following Christ and serving Him will rub off on your family and friends and they will receive blessings as you are obedient and enthusiastic in missionary service.

6. Finally, last but not least, you will meet some of the best friends of your life on a mission! Companions, other missionaries, investigators and recent converts, the members, all of the people you get to interact with on a mission make for a lot of best friends and lasting memories. Look at Alma and Amulek in the Book of Mormon (Alma 8), they got to serve each other and preach the gospel together and they became the best of friends!

All in all, there are a lot of reasons you should go on a mission. But the bottom line is that you have to pray about it. Pray and ask your Heavenly Father what kind of missionary service He needs you to do. Maybe He needs you as a full time missionary, maybe He needs you as a service missionary, maybe He needs you as a member missionary, there are countless opportunities for you to help others come unto Christ!

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Was that MY voice?!?

To preface today's post I want to write a little bit about who the Holy Ghost is. The Holy Ghost is a member of the Godhead (Heavenly Father, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost). He does not have a body but he is one of God's spirit children. He plays many roles in our lives. He comforts, teaches, bares witness of truth, cleanses, warns us of danger, and so much more.

For the sake of simplicity and me actually being able to write this post, we'll use one specific example from my own life about when I felt the Holy Ghost influencing me.

Once upon a time I was out running. I planned out my run so it would take about an hour, but I left a lot later than I had originally planned so it was already dark about half an hour into my run. The trail I was running was mostly lit, but not always. Now I was running in Eagle, Idaho, a tiny little town that's extremely safe. I had never before felt like I was in any danger there. This time however, I was coming up on one particularly dark stretch of trail covered by some trees. Creepy, right? I was running along feeling fine when I suddenly jerked to a stop. I literally could not run any farther. I wasn't out of breath, my legs felt fine, but I could not make myself move forward. I wanted to run my full hour but something inside me was telling me to turn around and run home.

Question of the Day: Was that me or the Holy Ghost?

Now, let's evaluate. From one view point this could have been my body's natural fight-or-flight defense system kicking in, telling me that running in the dark wasn't the safest idea and maybe I shouldn't take my chances. But from another view point I thought something else had to have been guiding me. (Admittedly this is an extreme example, but hey, go big or go home right?)

Ok, I know you all are on the edge of your chairs with your noses an inch away from the computer screen. I'll let the suspense go. I turned around and ran home. Nothing happened and I was completely safe.

But anyway! When I got home I had time to think, "why did I receive that prompting? Was I being silly and scared? Or was there a real reason that I had to turn around?"

This seems to be the question of the dispensation! If you've never questioned whether a thought was your own brain making it up or an actual prompting from the Holy Ghost then I would like to meet you and learn all of your secrets to life and the universe.

"But behold, that which is of God inviteth and enticeth to do good continually; wherefore, every thing which inviteth and enticeth to do good, and to love God, and to serve him, is inspired of God.

For behold, my brethren, it is given unto you to judge, that ye may know good from evil; and the way to judge is as plain, that ye may know with a perfect knowledge, as the daylight is from the dark night.
For behold, the Spirit of Christ is given to every man, that he may know good from evil; wherefore, I show unto you the way to judge; for every thing which inviteth to do good, and to persuade to believe in Christ, is sent forth by the power and gift of Christ; wherefore ye may know with a perfect knowledge it is of God.
But whatsoever thing persuadeth men to do evil, and believe not in Christ, and deny Him, and serve not God, then ye may know with a perfect knowledge it is of the devil; for after this manner doth the devil work, for he persuadeth no man to do good, no, not one; neither do his angels; neither do they who subject themselves unto him.

Moroni 7: 13, 15-17

Ok, Moroni, enough with the run on sentences. Let's break this down.

How To Tell if That Thought Was You or The Holy Ghost:
(According to Moroni)

1. Will the results of the thought/action be good?
2. Will the thought result in service?
3. Is the thought inviting you to make the right choice?
4. Will the thought lead to any kind of happiness?
5. Does the thought lead you to Christ?
6. Does the thought lead away from Satan or anything he supports?
7. Does the thought feel good?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, most likely, that thought was from the spirit!

Bottom line: If the thought was positive, it was from God. If the thought was negative, it was probably Satan. If the thought was about how you could really go for some ice cream right now, it was probably from me.

So, using my example, the thought I had to turn around and run home was probably the Spirit. I'll never know if there was actually any danger waiting around the dark corner, but I'm happier knowing that I was 100% sure of my safety by turning around and running home.

"The voice of the Spirit is described in the scripture as being neither 'loud' nor 'harsh.' It is 'not a voice of thunder, neither...voice of a great tumultuous noise.' but rather, 'a still voice of perfect mildness, as if it had been a whisper,' and it can 'pierce even to the very soul' and 'cause [the heart] to burn.' Remember, Elijah found the voice of the Lord was not in the wind, nor in the earthquake, nor in the fire, but was a 'still small voice.' 
"The Spirit does not get our attention by shouting or shaking us with a heavy hand. Rather it whispers. It caresses so gently that if we are preoccupied we may not feel it at all. (No wonder that the Word of Wisdom was revealed to us, for how could the drunkard or the addict feel such a voice?) 
"Occasionally it will press just firmly enough for us to pay heed. But most of the time, if we do not heed the gentle feeling, the Spirit will withdraw and wait until we come seeking and listening and say in our manner and expression, like Samuel of ancient times, 'Speak [Lord], for thy servant heareth.'"
President Boyd K. Packer

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

My New Guardian Angel

On Monday, June 2nd, 2014, I received an email informing me that my grandpa on my dad's side had passed away that morning.

It was a beautiful day. Despite the tears and the sense of loss and longing I felt oddly comforted knowing I had gained a brand new guardian angel.

George Steve Sparhawk. The only way I can think to describe him is through my personal memories of him. I can remember countless boat shows and boating trips on many a sail boat and kayak. I can remember picking up the phone and being asked "Am I talking to a pretty girl? It sounds like I'm talking to a pretty girl!!" 

Before I left on my mission my family and I took a trip out to South Dakota to visit him and when we drove up in the mini van he teetered out onto the front lawn with his cane greeting us with his usual enthusiasm. During that visit I was allowed to take his sky blue '67 Mercedes Benz out for a short test drive. A few days later when we were packing up to leave he promised me that when I came home from my mission he would take me out on a real joy ride in the Mercedes.

After I left on my mission, I had been out for about 2 months when I got this picture in an email. My grandpa and his wife were baptized! And my little brother got to baptize them! It was the sweetest email I had ever received on my mission. 

The morning he passed away I was compelled to study the Plan of Salvation from Preach My Gospel. It was so comforting and strengthened my testimony that families are forever. I was also comforted knowing that my grandpa had made essential covenants in this life and that those covenants would allow him to live with our Heavenly Father again.

I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that my grandpa is in the spirit world making everyone laugh and helping others come to Christ. He loved the gospel and he loved the missionaries he got to work with. I know that I will see him again and that he won't be held down by the diseases that held back his mortal body in this life.

I know that he will be with me for the rest of my mission. He will be here to comfort me and encourage me when I need it. And I am eternally grateful for that.