Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Farewell Talk

Good morning brothers and sisters. For those of you who don’t know me, my name is Erica Moore and in 15 days I will be set apart as a missionary for this amazing church, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. I still can’t believe this is real. Can I just say first, I know that Jesus Christ is my Savior. He made it possible so that I can have joy for eternity. And He is my best friend.

I feel so incredibly blessed to be standing here at this pulpit right now—regardless of how nervous I may feel! I am truly overwhelmed when I think about all of the people, events and choices that led me here and continue to direct me everyday. Its funny how the smallest things in our lives contribute so largely to our destiny. Today I want to share a few moments in my life that prepared me for what will be the greatest adventure of my life thus far. And of course I am talking about serving as a full-time missionary.  

Alright, let’s go back to August 2011, I think that is when this whole journey started. I had just started my freshman year at BYU. It was such an amazing, fun experience. Everything about college just enthralled me! So many new people, fun classes, a huge campus to explore, roommates, dessert for every meal! It was crazy to say the least. And then during the first week of school, amidst all of this, I got my first real world calling from my singles ward bishop. I still remember the confusion I felt when my Bishop called me to be the Ward Mission Leader along with another student in my ward. However, this confusion lasted about 3 seconds and then I just felt this calm excitement, if that even exists? As my Bishop explained my duties I became more and more excited, and by the time I left his office I was sure that I had just been called to the single greatest calling in the church. And honestly, that was the most perfect calling for me my freshman year of college. I was introduced into this new exciting world of missionary work.

Normally, people in this calling would work with the full-time missionaries in the ward on missionary work. However in a ward where every person within the ward boundaries was an active member and there were no missionaries assigned to our ward, my calling was a little different. As part of my calling I taught the mission preparation class on Sundays for anybody who wanted to attend—but specifically for the young men in the ward since all of them were headed off on missions of their own at the end of the year. Teaching that class was such an incredible experience. My favorite part was when we did role-play missionary discussions.

I was going through my journals while preparing for this talk and found an entry that I would like to read. And just a caution, I am an AVID journal writer so I am going to read a few excerpts in my talk today. So this is from October 2011

“Have I ever told you that I love missionary work? Anyways, in mission prep today we let everyone teach each other. It went great! I stepped in on one and attempted to show them an example. I was so astonished at how much came out. I didn’t even know what I was saying. The spirit truly works wonders! It was incredible. I can be a missionary now.”

I also was encouraged to find missionary opportunities for members of the ward outside of the mission prep class. This led me to volunteer as an investigator at the Missionary Training Center, which was only a 5-minute walk from my dorm. Basically I would go in and pretend to be a non-member while two brand new missionaries would teach me the gospel. I think I must have been taught the “first discussion” over 50 times during my time there. And let me tell you, every single lesson was different! There was even a few times when the missionaries would teach me, the fake investigator, about something that I needed to hear in my own life. They always followed the spirit no matter what persona I took on. They seemed to always teach me the perfect gospel truth for my particular made up scenario. I hope that when I'm on my mission I am able to follow the spirit every time I teach someone like those missionaries did.

Now, my freshman year wasn’t all rainbows and butterflies as I have made it sound. Along with this incredible and honestly, overwhelming enthusiasm came some other emotions—namely frustration and impatience. During the time that I held this calling I was 18 years old. 3 whole years shy of being eligible for missionary service since the age requirement was 21 for women. I saw countless friends open mission calls and prepare to serve in the immediate future. And here I was, expected to just wait around for three years? I felt so ready to go. I had these righteous desires, why couldn’t I go?

After many prayers, lots of temple visits and reading my patriarchal blessing I came to a conclusion. My journal entry from November 5 2011 reads this:

“I think I am slowly accepting that I may not go on a mission at this time in my life, something that I do NOT want to accept, but I think I need to… Priorities. And no matter what my priorities are, the Lord kind of has a say. And His say counts to me. So if this is as close as I am getting to missionary work in my life, so be it. Ouch that hurts to say.”
            I know, I know… I sound real thrilled about my conclusion. But, as time passed over the next few months I began to focus on other things and search out my next big adventure in life. If I wasn’t going on a mission, then there must have been some great work the Lord had in store for me, right? The missionary fire inside of me did not die, it was just tamed a little bit. During this time I learned so much about myself and had countless experiences that molded me into the person I am today. For example I learned a lot about my divine nature as a woman. Last time I spoke in this ward a little over a year ago, I talked about what motherhood means to me. In one of my journal entries I talked about how much I loved the gospels emphasis on families because women have such an integral role. With this, came a new and enriched understanding of the priesthood too. I love how everything in this gospel fits so well together. My testimony has grown so much and I am actually grateful for the time I had to wait to serve a mission…Never thought I’d hear myself say that! But, I tried to fill my life with goals and plans that all led me to my happily ever after.

One of these plans was a study abroad to Spain. This had been my dream since I first took a Spanish class in 7th grade. Finally, I was getting to a time in my life where I could actually go. But yet, it seemed like every problem or obstacle that could get in the way, did. By the time my sophomore year at BYU begun, I found myself very frustrated… AGAIN. Again I was faced with the dilemma of wanting something so badly that just didn’t have a place in my life. I was also facing some confusion on my major. I remember It got to a point in September of 2012 where I had given up on doing a study abroad and I was talking to my mom and I just said, “mom, I am not working towards anything anymore. In high school I was working towards BYU. Up until now I have been trying to work towards this study abroad. I have no idea what to work towards now.” I felt directionless. I even stopped journaling for a time because I just didn’t feel like I had anything to say. Being the goal-oriented person that I am I just didn’t know what to do.

I was sitting in church one Sunday in early October and someone talked about a general conference talk from President Eyering from October 2007. He told a story about how, when he was going through a hard time in his life, everyday he would write down an answer to this question: How have I seen the Hand of God in my life today? The result in his life was miraculous. Of the experience he said,

“More than gratitude began to grow in my heart. Testimony grew. I became ever more certain that our Heavenly Father hears and answers prayers. I felt more gratitude for the softening and refining that come because of the Atonement of the Savior Jesus Christ. And I grew more confident that the Holy Ghost can bring all things to our remembrance—even things we did not notice or pay attention to when they happened.”

When I heard this, I decided that this was something I needed to do, so I went to the bookstore the next day and bought this journal. On the front it has a quote by Marjorie Pay Hinckley that reads, “Everything you are learning now is preparing you for something else.” how appropriate.

Lets see, I started this journal on October 1,2012. Just 5 days later was The General Conference of our church. My roommate and I had kind of made it a tradition to attend at least one session of General Conference live at the conference center in Salt Lake since we were only 45 minutes away. We decided to attend the Saturday morning session, even though we didn’t have tickets. We scalped tickets outside the conference center and somehow scored the best seats I have ever gotten!

I remember driving down to conference that morning with Lindsey. We were both so looking forward to conference and the answers we would receive there. I felt like I was wrapping up my problems in a bag and giving them to the speakers at conference, knowing that I would receive an answer. Lindsey and I were talking about this and other things on the way up when we started talking about how cool the sister missionaries at temple square were.

While waiting in line to get in we were like “ahh how cool would it be to be missionaries right now!”  We got to our seats and we were surprised when the ushers kept ushering us forward. By the time we got to our seats I realized that we were 20 rows away from the Prophet. We felt pretty lucky. We were sitting next to this sweet lady from the Phillipines and it was her first time attending conference. We chatted with her a little bit about how awesome it is to see it live. So we sat and conference started. I had this journal in hand and I pulled it out to take notes on the talks. I'm going to read to you guys what I wrote that day.

But first, I want to read something. As many of you know, President Monson, our prophet, was the first speaker that day. He made a huge announcement that young men could begin missionary service at age 18 instead of 19. When he said this I freaked out. I'm pretty sure my jaw literally dropped. And then the idea of lowering the age for sister missionaries popped into my head. And then, as if he heard my question, President Monson said,
“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.”

In my journal I wrote…

I remember sitting there after he said those words and not being able to stop the tears. Our newfound friend next to us from the Philippines leaned over and said, “how old are you?” and I responded “19.” I, at that moment, was suddenly old enough to serve as a full-time missionary. I honestly don’t remember what any other speaker said during that session. The entire time I just felt this peace and a knowledge that I was supposed to serve a mission.

After the session ended, I looked down at my phone and had about a million messages from my family. So, Lindsey and I came out of the conference center and split up for a little bit to call our parents. Before I called them I sat down for a minute on a bench right next to the Salt Lake Temple and I said a prayer and asked if this was the right thing for me. I have never felt a stronger YES in my life. I sat there just overjoyed looking at the temple. I called my parents and it was just the sweetest moment because I didn’t have to say anything and my mom and I just cried on the phone to each other. When we could finally talk my mom said something like Erica, you are going on a mission. And I said, I know.
In the months following that day I have had hundreds of confirmations that this is the right thing for me to do. Its funny how easy it felt to prepare for my mission during the past few months. And I truly believe that this was because I had been so prepared throughout my life.

If I were to attribute all of the things in my life that prepared me for my mission it would be Proverbs 3: 5-6, which says:
Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.
In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.

This scripture helped me so many times during this process. Especially on a night this past January when I had been expecting my mission call for two days… and it still hadn’t come. I was pretty devastated; looking back I'm like uhm why were you so sad it was in the mail! But it was a really sad day for me. Its actually kind of funny, when I checked the mail that day for my call, all I found was a letter from a friend on a mission with Proverbs 3:5-6 on it. Little did he know that that scripture would get me through not only the next 24 hours until I got my call, but basically every day since then. When I read it that night it was like the biggest light bulb moment ever! Lean not unto thine own understanding. YOU don’t know what ahead. But you know who does? The Lord. And He would LOVE for you to talk to Him about it. I truly believe that when we align our will with the Lord, We will find more joy than we have ever experience before.

Thanks to my experience teaching and being in mission prep classes I haven’t really worried about teaching or knowing how to teach effectively. I have just been so prepared! In my volunteering at the MTC I got to experience missionary-work firsthand and it made it so much less foreign to me.

Even with the language I haven’t worried much. I always wondered why I had such a desire to take Spanish classes during middle school, high school and college. I honestly think it was so that I could spread the gospel in that language. I am hoping that learning the language won’t be too hard since I have a pretty strong foundation of the language.

One amazing part of my preparations to serve a mission was realizing how much support I had, which really enabled me to reach new heights in my spirituality. When doubts came my way, they didn’t stand a chance because I always felt so surrounded by positivity and support. I have amazing friends and in my moments of frustration, which, as you heard, occurred quite often over the past two years, their support has gotten me through. I could never thank you guys enough for your words of wisdom. I feel like a completely different person than I was before I started college—and it’s all thanks to the amazing examples that I am privileged to call my best friends.

And most importantly I know that I will have a successful mission because I know how to receive help from the Lord! My parents taught me from day one to involve the Lord in every part of my life through prayer. Having to make such a huge decision of whether or not to serve a mission couldn’t have even happened without my parents. I was so guided by my parents to turn to the Lord. With their help and support I received my answer. Without them, this journey would have been so much harder. I have never doubted that every member of my family supported me in my desires to serve a mission. And that, is a huge blessing. They have been my rock always, and I know that they will continue to support me while I am in Guatemala.

Even though I didn’t know it, the Lord has been preparing me to serve a mission now my whole life. I never even thought it was possible! The day I opened my mission call was truly the happiest day of my life. Until I went through the temple, then that was the happiest day of my life. I have never felt so guided, confident, happy and close to the Lord in my life. I can truly testify that as we align our will with His will, we are the happiest we could ever be.