With All Your Heart

In our devotional we had on Tuesday, Elder Whiting’s wife (Jeri Whiting) talked about giving missionary work our all. She said, “There will be other days to sleep in, other times to talk with family, other times to listen to music, other times to study at school. But for these next 2 years or 18 months, you’ve promised yourself to the Lord. You might as well make the most of that time. Consecrate yourselves to missionary work. Whatever you do, do it with your whole heart.”
That hit me so hard. Yes…friends, family, music, sleep, Netflix, and college are difficult to give up. But it’s possible. And what’s more, it’s possible to do it with a smile. Elder Whiting also mentioned the difficulty of giving up the comforts of home. He suggested that we must give up these things so that we can learn to turn to the true comforter: the Holy Ghost. He said, “When you have the Holy Ghost with you always on your mission, you’ll find yourself enjoying your mission rather than just enduring it.”
We must learn, especially as missionaries, to find joy in exact obedience and give our souls fully to our Heavenly Father so we can be instruments in His hands. Sister Whiting also told about how when she was released, the “mantle of missionary work” was lifted and she felt a literal, physical weight being lifted off her shoulders. However, she was sad about that weight being gone because she bore it with a smile and with the help of the Savior during her entire 18 months as a missionary. She encouraged us to devote ourselves so fully to our duty as missionaries that when it came time to be released, we were devastated.
I love that. This is really the only opportunity we have in our lives to completely forget ourselves and consecrate ourselves entirely to the same matters that the Lord concerns himself with always. Every day we wake up thinking, “What can I do to help in the salvation of another human soul today?” That is our purpose. That is His purpose. And that is why missionaries feel so close to God during their calling. One of the missionaries in my district brought up a quote: You have 2 years (18 months) to serve your mission and your entire life to think about it. Don’t have any regrets to look back on. Give it everything you’ve got, every single day.
So that’s the goal: consecrate myself fully to the Lord and be an instrument, always at the ready, in His hands.
I’d encourage everyone to do the same though: whether it’s school, work, sports, raising children, being a friend, do it happily. And give it your all. Put your whole soul into your efforts.
If there’s one thing you’ll never regret, it’s doing your job with all your heart.
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With my two wonderful MTC companions and our other two sweet roommates!

With my two wonderful MTC companions and our other two sweet roommates!

Hermana Morgan Lewis and Hermano Mike Needham

Hermana Morgan Lewis and Elder Mike Needham

Laughing My Way through the MTC

It’s interesting to see how Heavenly Father answers my prayers.
Like, He really has a sense of humor. For sure.
So I was born with my great-grandma Jensen’s tear ducts. Translation: I cry…a lot. I swear it’s genetic, all the girls on the Lasson side of the family have them. When we get together it’s like a tear-fest. Seriously. Occasions when it’s common to find me crying: when I’m happy, when I’m sad, when I think too much, when I’m stressed, when I feel the Spirit, etc. It’s something I’ve been working on controlling for a really long time. I was so worried that on my mission I wouldn’t even be able to handle it because of all the strong emotions at them MTC and my tendency to lose control of my tear ducts at any sign of emotion.
I was reading one sister missionary blog the week before I reported to the MTC, and I noticed one thing: this girl finds humor in everything! Street contact turns her down? So funny. Companion doesn’t laugh ever? Even funnier. It’s frigid cold where she’s serving so she slips and falls on ice every day? HILARIOUS. She laughs at herself and at the situations she’s in, and her blog is so fun to read because it seems like she’s just having the time of her life serving the Lord out in the mission field.
So, that was my goal for my mission:
instead of crying when I’m sad or frustrated or stressed,
I’m going to find the humor in the situation and laugh.
I guess Heavenly Father liked that goal.
I literally don’t think I have ever laughed more in my life! Awkward silence in a lesson because I can’t remember how to say something in Spanish? I laugh. Get called to say the closing prayer (IN SPANISH) in my 2nd sacrament meeting here? I laugh. Unproductive companionship study? Probably because we’re laughing. It’s awesome!
There was one night when I hit my breaking point because I kept feeling like our lesson was going the wrong way. Tension and emotions were high, and we were all so tired and I wanted to cry. It was weighing on my mind so much at bedtime when we were all talking about the most random things. One of my roommates made the tiniest comment and we all laughed! Only I kept laughing. For a solid 15 minutes. By myself. While my roomies stared at me incredulously. Which made me laugh more! But when I finally stopped, I wasn’t worried about my lesson the next day anymore. I got to sleep fine, and we figured out where we were going wrong the next day and had one of our best lessons yet.
I honestly think this is my Heavenly Father answering my prayers and helping me with this goal. Marjorie Pay Hinckley said, “The only way to get through life is to laugh your way through it. You either have to laugh or cry. I prefer to laugh. Crying gives me a headache.” How inspired is she?
I could cry about the stresses that come with being a missionary (and there are many) or I could laugh about them. I’ll probably laugh about them later so why not laugh now. Plus you get an ab workout. Plus you’ll live longer. (Marjorie died at 92. Just saying.) Plus you’ll be happier. Plus you skip the headache. There are no downsides.
So try it.
When you feel overwhelmed with anxiety and doubt,
when you’re ready to give up, when you’re offended or sad, just laugh.
It works, I promise.
Learning su proposito in espanol!

Learning su proposito in espanol!

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Some missionaries from my zone on our temple walk.

Some missionaries from my zone on our temple walk.

My first week in the “Empty Sea” — the MTC!

¿Como Estan? So, I’ve officially been here at the Missionary Training Center (MTC) for a week and a day now. Our P-Day (Preparation Day) is on Thursday, only they don’t give you a P-Day your first week here.  It feels like I’ve been here for a month at least! Esta bien though. The MTC is a really good place to be.  When I arrived, I literally didn’t have time to cry any more than like two tears before I was surrounded by happy missionaries telling me that the MTC is the best place ever! Who am I to argue?  It’s probably for  the best.  There have been so many people around me constantly, and they rushed me off to get books and drop off my luggage and I went straight to class. I still haven’t fully unpacked…

I really like not being the youngest group of missionaries here though. It was so fun yesterday to say “Bienvenidos” and “Hola hermanas” to all those poor new missionaries with dork dots. It feels like forever ago that I was in their same position: just wanting to sit down and cry and feel sorry for myself and go home. It’s easy to forget that feeling here though because they get you right into working and serving and learning. The days are like weeks and the weeks are like days here, between the 3-hour classes, teaching investigators, gym time (my FAVE), and temple trips (we just got back from doing a temple session…so amazing!), it’s hard to find time to miss home.  But, I do.

Mis compañeras are so sweet! I am in a triplet companionship.  One of my companions is from Colorado Springs and the other is from the SLC area. Our room overlooks BYU and we can see the Harold B. Lee Library from our window!  We share a room with two other sister missionaries. They are so sweet, and it’s so fun that we’re all going to Tampa together! It was funny meeting all of them though because we knew each other from Facebook, so we already knew each other’s first names when we met.

My district is so sweet, and we have a lot of fun together….and we study sometimes too. The elders in our district are all going to Monterrey, Mexico East!  I’ve seen so many people I know here…it rocks!  I love it!  It makes me feel a little more at home. But it is SO HARD not to hug people. Okay Elders mostly. Hugging is a hard habit to break and you don’t realize how much you need those hugs til you can’t have them anymore! My zone is awesome too. They are all so fun and friendly and everyone gets along so well.

We’ve been teaching a fake investigator named Cristina, but we have to teach in all Spanish so that’s really hard. But, it’s really starting to come back for me. Yesterday we asked Cristina to be baptized and she accepted! It was our 4th lesson with her. One of the guys companionships didn’t go so well though, one elder said “Christ suffered for our fish” instead of “Christ suffered for our sins” in the middle of his testimony. Hahahaha poor guy!  Everything is funny in the MTC…

I hit my lowest point on Sunday I think. I knew there would be highs and lows here but I never thought I would want to just give up and cry. I mean the Spirit is here all the time, right? So how could you possibly have doubts? But the thing is Satan is working just as hard on us, and out of nowhere on Sunday I just got so down on myself and started questioning my reasons for being here. It was even harder because everyone was on such a spiritual high on Sunday (because Sundays are the next best thing to P-Day here) so I just felt lower than low. But then I had an interview with my branch president and he told me that when I pray next I should ask 2 questions:

1. Please help me to know that my work was satisfactory to you today.

2. Help me to find someone to serve today.

And then to wait and watch for people to serve and pay attention to how I am feeling. When I do that I will be able to see the Lord’s hand in my life and know that he is aware of me and loves me. I also made more of an effort to focus on the investigators and my companions and losing myself in the work.

That is the #1 lesson you learn in the MTC: When you lose yourself in the Lord’s work, that’s when you really find yourself. And it’s so true. How could you not be happy when you’re fulfilling your purpose on earth? Setting goals and being your best self? It’s easy to feel inadequate with all the amazing people that are here (they are seriously SO talented!) but everyone has something special to give.

We are told here to stay true to yourself… and not to lose your personality, because the Lord called you on a mission and you can reach someone in a way that maybe no one else can. I know that there’s a reason I’m going to Tampa. There are no accidents. The Lord has prepared those people to hear the gospel or to come to Christ, or maybe just so we can share a message of comfort in their time of need. It’s different for every person. But that’s what a mission is about. Spreading happiness to Heavenly Father’s children because that’s what he wants for all of us.

con mucho amor, Hermana Lewis

The night before entering the MTC.. our family went to Yogurtland after I was set apart as a missionary for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day-Saints.

The night before entering the MTC.. our family went to Yogurtland after I was set apart as a missionary for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day-Saints.

Our first temple visit with my awesome district! It was a great P-Day!

Our first temple visit with my awesome district! It was a great P-Day!

 

 

Farewell

Good morning brothers and sisters! I am so thankful to have the opportunity to speak to you all before I leave. I was given the choice to pick anything that relates to missionary work. After pondering/procrastinating for a month, I turned to my most reliable source: YouTube. Among all the Harlem Shake videos, I actually came across a video that has had a lot of impact on me over the last few months as I made the decision to go on a mission. You may have seen it before; it’s one of those Mormon Messages videos, called Patterns of Light by Elder Bednar and it was based off a talk he gave in General Conference in 2011. The video is divided into 3 parts: the Light of Christ, Discerning Light, and the Spirit of Revelation.

The first topic is the Light of Christ. Everyone on earth is born with the Light of Christ. In Doctrine and Covenants 93:2, the Lord states: I am the true light that lighteth every man that cometh into the world.

According to Elder Bednar, most people would refer to this feeling as their “conscience.” It’s the urge we get to help someone out, to make a righteous decision, and to act in a Christlike manner. Doctrine and Covenants 50: 24 says, “that which is of God is light, and he that receiveth light and continueth in God, receiveth more light; and that light growth brighter and brighter until the perfect day.” As a missionary, our job is to help people cultivate their own Light so that they may make more righteous decisions and come unto Christ. We must see people not as they appear in their current state, but how God would see them: as His children with eternal potential.

When we receive these promptings, it’s often easy to get confused whether they come from us, or whether they come from the Holy Ghost. This is where Discerning Light comes into play. In the video, Elder Bednar says that every thought or feeling that entices us to do good and to be good comes from God. Whether we remember our mother’s warnings in our head, hear some good advice from a friend, or feel the whisperings of our own conscience, if it follows righteous teachings, it is from our Heavenly Father.

The third topic is the Spirit of Revelation. Revelation is how our Heavenly Father speaks to us, directly, as his children. When I was little, I pictured revelation to be an experience similar to that of Alma the Younger or Joseph Smith: being overcome with a literal burning sensation, having angels appear to me with a direct message, or being knocked unconscious and remaining in a coma for several days. Unfortunately most revelations are a little trickier than that. Elder Bednar relates revelation to three different patterns of light.

The first is turning on a light switch in a dark room. Instantly the darkness is gone, replaced by a bright clarity. This is like receiving a message from God quickly, completely, and all at once. This is often the pattern of the stories we read in the scriptures or in church history. They make for incredible stories, but this method is probably the rarest form of revelation. However, we get a glimpse at this “big picture” revelation when we receive our patriarchal blessings.

The second analogy is that of the rising sun. There is a gradual, almost imperceptible change in light, but eventually the light overcomes the shadows and everything becomes evident in the sunshine. This is like when we learn lessons one step at a time. This is the Lord’s most common way of teaching. In 2 Nephi 28:30, the Lord declares, “I will give unto the children of men line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little and there a little; and blessed are those who hearken unto my precepts and lend an ear unto my counsel, for they shall learn wisdom; for unto him that receiveth, I will give more; and from them that shall say, We have enough, from them shall be taken away even that which they have.” In all things in the gospel, including God’s will for us, we learn a little bit at a time in order to establish a strong, unshakable foundation of truth. This foundation is what creates a strong testimony. Think of Laman and Lemuel or the children of Israel: no matter how many miracles they were blessed with, how many angels spoke to them, how many times they were chastised and punished, they continued to sin and stray away from the gospel. Because they didn’t have a strong foundation in faith, the miracles meant nothing. Once we have a strong foundation, we must continue to build on it. (escalator?) The more we submit our will to His and express our desire to follow Him, the more light we receive and the easier it is to continue along the right path.

In his talk, Elder Bednar warns, “We as members of the Church tend to emphasize marvelous and dramatic spiritual manifestations so much that we may fail to appreciate and may even overlook the customary pattern by which the Holy Ghost accomplishes his work…many individuals question the strength of their personal testimony and underestimate their spiritual capacity because they do not receive frequent, miraculous, or strong impressions…please know that you are quite normal. Just keep pressing forward obediently and with faith in the Savior.”

The third parallel is that of walking in the middle of a foggy day. We can see light around us, but we cannot see what is up ahead. We can only see far enough to take a couple steps into the cloudiness, and from that point take a couple more. Elder Bednar divulges that revelation works this way for him all the time. This happens when we are being obedient and trying the best we can and still we are faced with a trial or a choice. Heavenly Father may not make it clear right away the actions we should take. When the Lord was calling missionaries in the latter days, he said in Doctrine and Covenants 80:3, “Wherefore, go ye and preach my gospel, whether to the north or to the south or to the east or to the west, it mattereth not, for ye cannot go amiss.”

Why wouldn’t He make it simple and point us in the right direction? Because He trusts us. He allows us that agency to do the things we want, as long as our desires are compatible with righteous living.  When we are already living virtuous lives, the Holy Ghost does not need to dramatically shake us. The prophet Joseph F. Smith said, “Show me Latter-day Saints who have to feed upon miracles, signs, and visions in order to keep them steadfast in the Church and I will show you members who are not in good standing before God, and who are walking in slippery paths. It is not by marvelous manifestations unto us that we shall be established in the truth, but it is by humility and faithful obedience to the commandments and laws of God.” When we are living righteously, we receive the knowledge we need in tiny segments, often without even recognizing that we have received that revelation.

All three of these methods of revelation had an especially big impact on me a couple months ago when I was deciding whether or not to serve a mission. Going on a mission was never really in my plans. I didn’t fully rule it out, but I never particularly wanted to go… a mission isn’t exactly a glamorous way to spend the remainder of my teenage years. So when I heard the announcement and first began thinking about this new opportunity, I was caught off guard by the tears in my eyes and possibilities flooding my mind. Here was a decision right in front of me and I didn’t know what to do with it. It took a couple weeks of prayer, fasting, and talking it out logically and…I still didn’t have a definite answer. I was expecting an overwhelming feeling telling me either to stay in school or to drop everything and go on a mission, but I wasn’t getting it. I envied my roommates and friends who, within minutes of the announcement, knew exactly what they were going to do. I couldn’t help but wonder why I didn’t have that clarity.

At this point my parents came up with some really good advice. My mom told me to break out my patriarchal blessing. I hadn’t read it in awhile, so it was good to get a fresh look at the blessings, warnings, and plans it contained. I made a copy and took a pink highlighter to it, trying to find all the things that could possibly mean that I should go on a mission. And I found quite a bit that I had never seen before. But the prospect of making a wrong decision still made me nervous about finalizing my choice.

As I was talking things over again with my dad, he told me I couldn’t make a wrong decision in this situation. Getting an education and serving a mission are both really good paths to pursue. He also suggested that I make a decision and go with it, and if I start to not feel good about it, then to go the other way. The next Sunday in our Sunday school lesson, my teacher showed the Patterns of Light video and I related to it completely. I stopped waiting for a “light switch” revelation because I realized that I was walking in fog. Although I couldn’t see what was ahead, I could see far enough to take a couple steps, and that was all I needed. My Heavenly Father was allowing me to make my own decision, and for that I am so grateful.

So I decided to start moving in the direction of serving a mission, and I haven’t felt wrong about it since. Sacrificing this time to serve a mission is something I know I’ll never regret. How could I turn down serving the Lord for just 18 months when he has blessed me my whole life? So here I am today, ready and willing to go serve the people of Tampa, Florida. I know it’s not going to be easy, there will be days when I’ll want to give up and come home. But I also know that I have the support and prayers of so many friends and family members, as well as the promptings of the Holy Spirit to guide me during my mission. I am so stoked to be part of this huge group of sisters that is taking advantage of this new opportunity we have been given. The Lord is hastening his work and I feel so blessed to participate in it.