Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Email Seis - The Week of Gratitude

This entire week has been centered around our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ for me. Every day I strove to strengthen my relationship with Him. With as much as I need the Atonement, I'm going to need to come a lot closer to Christ.  A few Sundays ago one of the members in our Branch presidency said that a lot of the time we associate repentance with immoral and unclean things, so that is a sort of dirty word in our minds. However, repentance should be as what it is; and opportunity to improve. I don't know about y'all, but I could definitely use improvement. And actually I was kidding. I do know about y'all, y'all need it too. We all do. One of my duties is to call others to repentance. Therefore I say unto ye: REPENT. You'll thank me later.

Going back to Jesus Christ, if y'all haven't heard “I Stand All Amazed” by Vocal Point, it is a must listen to. Made me cry. A lot. As y'all know I don't typically cry at all. This week was different. I cried a lot. Every day. I feel like Dad right now, this is weird. 

My homies from Summer Term
The two times where I totally lost it 1) We watched an old church video about the life of the Savior in Spanish, I swear the Spirit is stronger is Spanish. As they showed the part of Him ascending up to Calgary with the cross, I thought that with every agonizing step, He must of thought of us, and that was His motivation to keep moving forward. 2) On Sunday we watched 17 miracles, at first I was excited because I had already seen like 10 times or so. This time I bawled my eyes out. I was sitting in the back of the cafeteria BY MYSELF (I promise I wasn't being disobedient, I had gone on splits with my buddy Elder Austin Simkins to watch a talk by President Uchtdorf that was being played in a different building, while Elder Ibarra went to choir practice and Elders Lundquist and Villareal went to watch 17 miracles. By the time the Uchtdorf talk was over, Elder Simkins took me back to the cafeteria to meet up with those two.  The only problem was that there were over 1000 missionaries in the cafeteria, not great chances of finding two people. So I sat in the very back by myself) a total mess. I used the table napkins as tissues because it was coming down, and people were wondering why is this weird Elder by himself crying like a baby. The part where they show the men carrying others across the river got to me the most. That made me think of the Savior, how He carries us, and sacrificed His life in doing so. 

I'm reading in 3rd Nephi right now and let me tell ya, the Savior teaches like a champ, my purpose here is to learn to teach like Him.

Guess who's here?  Elder Jaxon Porter from NJ
At this point a bunch of people are complaining about the food here. I don't know why. The food here is awesome. And especially after watching 17 miracles, you will never hear me complain about food. Ever. I made the decision before I came here that I wasn't going to complain about anything and for the most part I've stuck to that resolution. I think we all could use a little more gratitude attitude. 

So if you are ever tempted to complain about ANYTHING, 1) think of the Savior 2) think of the Pioneers and 3) repent and offer a prayer of thanks. You have it so good you punks. The Savior and the Pioneers suffered more than you will likely ever have to, so suck it up. For the Pioneers, their suffering allowed them to come to know the Savior and His suffering. What are you willing to endure to come to know the Savior? Hopefully I can completely submit to His will so that He can trust me enough with trials that will help me come unto Him.
Just ran in to Elder Rylan Barron from my good ole days at Providence Hall Junior High. Man this is a small MTC world. He's going to Vietnam, the mission opened 3 months ago, and one district covers the whole country, pretty sweet stuff.

Folks this Gospel is true. I know for myself. I have seen the Hand of God far too many times to deny it. I will give my witness that Jesus Christ is our Savior, that the Book of Mormon is a testament of Him, and that through Him we can find true joy and be with our loved ones for all eternity, as long as I have the breath to do so. I am forever grateful for the opportunity I have to bring others unto this same knowledge. I want my service to be acceptable before the Lord. 

Saying GoodBye to Elder Saez
On Friday Elder Saez left for Argentina, he finally got his medical clearance. Friday morning he and I went on splits to teach Viri. The Spirit was so powerful. We taught about the commandments and she committed to be baptized. I could get used to that feeling for two years.

This work and this Gospel are true folks! If you don't know that yet, do what I did: ASK! (Heavenly Father). 

I love y'all, have a great week, stay in school, be good, and REPENT!

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Email Cinco - The Missionary Trying Center

September 20, 2016

Hola Y'all!

This week has gone by much faster, haha!  Ever since high school, my concept of time has pretty much been thrown out the window, and I still haven't fully come to terms with the fact that I'm graduated now, so I just kinda roll with things these days.

Tuesday night, Elder Cook came and spoke to us, 3 APOSTLES IN ONE WEEK!  Talking to others here, I've found out that pretty much never happens, so I feel extremely lucky and blessed.

So this was my first remotely hard week. Notice I didn't say bad, just harder. In this past week, I've learned about a bunch of weaknesses that I have, which has been hard. I have never considered myself a super prideful person, but I've learned when I feel I being chastened and corrected, I won't get super defensive, but instead I'll keep those negative feelings inside and hold a grudge. Eventually these grudges turn into prejudices against others that only hinder my ability to be a good servant. So I need to let go of my pride. For a long time I've believed that my way of doing and saying things is the best way, and that needs to stop. The best way is always the Lord's way, which is through following the Spirit. It’s also very hard because I don't like having weaknesses. But Saturday night before bed, I got on my knees and thanked Heavenly Father for blessing me with so many weaknesses. I am learning that weaknesses are not a bad thing, simply opportunities to grow and rely more on Jesus Christ.

As Elder Holland said, missionaries need the Atonement every bit as much as investigators do. Well good, because without the Atonement, there would be no way I could be here right now. For the first time I've learned to truly ask how to change, not simply ask for help overcoming mistakes or challenges.  Well folks, if for some reason you don't see the Atonement as the most important resource in your life, you're dumb (just like I was before I came here).

I also am learning that I am super hard on myself. I want to change now. I need to have more patience in this adjustment period of time. I am not going to be perfect, but I need to be perfect in trying, hence Missionary Trying Center.

It's funny because before I left all these people told me I would be such a great missionary. I am not, nor will I ever be, a great missionary. I can't. Neither can anyone. Without Christ we are nothing. Through Christ I can be enough.

I had an awesome chat about all of this Sunday with President Price. Man I love that guy!  Dad, you choose your friends wisely.  President Price is one of the coolest old guys I've ever met.  Having a Branch President that knows my Dad has been a tender mercy for me.  He's kinda filled in that father role a little bit. Don't worry pops, I'm not forgetting about you, and thanks for the letters.

One other thing I have learned is that I AM NOT A MORNING PERSON. When I wake up, I get SO dang grumpy. Elder Ibarra is a very up and about kinda guy, and I may or may not be low-key verbally abusive when he starts getting ansty to get going. I'm convinced Satan has more power over me in the mornings.

So this Sunday during my temple walk, I saw Christian again, as well as my homie Carp! We got to hang out for a little bit and since Carp is friends with Elder Lundquist it was a good time.

So there's this kid in my district named Elder Villarreal, as you can tell from the name he's half Mexican, but he's not a light-skin like Elder Ibarra, haha. He doesn't speak Spanish very well, but he's one of the goofiest guys I've ever met. To give you a feel of what Elder Villarreal is like; he ate a ghost pepper as a dare, then when the heat got to him, he ran to the toilet and DRANK OUT OF THE TOILET to cool his mouth down. The man is a madman. He also has these super goofy glasses that make him look like he's blind, so sometimes he'll walk around with his glasses on feeling walls and stuff, and I cry from laughing every time. Elder Lundquist, he, and I go crazy together sometimes haha. Also we have had a new Elder in our district for about a week named Elder Saez.  He broke his foot playing bball so he had to stay for another two weeks.  So he'll stick around for another week.  He's awesome though. He's half- Argentine and going to Argentina.

Also Mom, I know you'll be super sad about this, but I won't be able to sing in the General Conference missionary choir.  On the application it asked two things: can you sing well and can you read music? Because you raised me to be honest, I must confess I can do neither of those things, so I didn't even bother filling out an application.  It stinks, but I want to be honest more than I want to sing in General Conference.  Elder Ibarra got in though!  He'll be missing out on a bunch of class and exercise time for practice. I'm excited for him! He's never been to Conference before and his first time he gets to sing!

Our lessons with Viri are going great!  She even went to church on Sunday!  She's been keeping all her commitments and she's progressing well.  Earlier this week I was frustrated because she straight up told us the reason she is meeting with the missionaries is to help her out with her Book of Mormon class at BYU... Not gonna lie, I was not to pleased after that lesson, but things have turned around and I think she wants to know more for the right reasons now.

My challenge for y'all this week is to prove your love for the Lord, what are you willing to give up in your life to come closer to the Lord? Ask yourself that.

Love y'all so much, hang in there folks!

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Mi Primer Bautismo!

September 13, 2016

So after another week here I've pretty much decided that the MTC is the coolest place on this earth. I absolutely love it here, I know I've already said that, but I just want to be clear: I love it here! Real quick I want to do some weekly shout-outs: Spencer Payne, Eyleen Kendall, Jenn, McKay, Mom, Dad, and Megan Thomson are all champs for writing me, especially Megan because she sent a beautiful poem about remembering the Savior during the trials on our mission. We can never complain with what we are given, because our Savior went through so much more. Also I want to say I don't have anyone on the email list saved as contacts, so if you want to hear from me; email me please. 

On Sunday during our temple walk, I saw good ole Christian Hall from BYU, so that was cool! He told me ma boi Jaron Quirante got his mission call to Oakland! Jaron, email me man! Also I wanna know where Madysen Hallman is going as well. 

So Tuesday night after emailing, (Pdays really are so blessed btw) we had a devotional from Elder D Todd Christofferson!!!! The man is like the Morgan Freeman of the apostles! His voice is so soothing and I wish I could just listen to it on tape all day long. Plus he's also from Jersey so he's also a capo for that too! He said a lot of time we focus on trusting in the Lord, but does the Lord trust us? That really impacted me: when my Savior is counting on me, can I be trusted to do the things he asks of me? Can He give me certain trials and and opportunities because He knows I can handle it? I hope so. 

Wednesday through Friday I was sick. Don't worry Momma Smalls, it wasn't nothing too bad, I was just super congested and my nose was like Niagra Falls. I didn't even have a cough! I got to skip out on exercise time and sleep because I was sick which was HEAVENLY. 

Friday we had our last lesson with Sophia and we committed her to be baptized! There's just one problem: She already is. She will actually be our teacher from here on out. I didn't take it too rough, we had found out a few days before (Elder Ibarra may or may not have logged on to our other teacher, Hermano Allred's, computer and looked through his notes to figure that out....😂.) 

Anyways on Saturday when she came in to our class on Saturday to teach us, everyone in our district started yelling: "IMPOSTOR!!!" She busted out laughing -  it was hilarious. I really loved teaching Sophia, the Spirit was always so strong and it showed me that through the Holy Ghost, I CAN teach in Spanish.  

One thing that was challenging about this week is that for the first time I haven't understood 100% of the Spanish. I don't think there's any difference in the level of speaking, I think it's because I haven't been as diligent lately in my personal studies. When I first got here I could understood and speak better than the departing missionaries who had been here for six weeks, and I really let that go to my head. I started goofing off and fooling around because speaking and teaching seemed so easy to me. Everything about the MTC has felt ridiculously easy so far, even constantly being sleep deprived isn't too bad. After being cooped up in a class all day, when there's no teacher around, it's way too easy to get distracted and forget your purpose. I need to be better and I'm so grateful for the atonement and my Savior who help me to do that.

Sunday: Everyone loves sundays here. You get up and have 2 and a half hours of personal study time, then you have a morning devotional, then sacrament meeting, then lunch, then second and third hour with your branch and district respectively, then more study time, then dinner, then more study time, then an evening devotional. Guess who spoke at that: Elder M Russell Ballard! TWO APOSTLES IN 5 DAYS😱 QUE CHIDO!!!!! It was awesome, he talked about being in Baton Rouge (Holla at ma boi, Elder Michael Jensen!) and helping the humanitarian (however the heck you spell that word lol) efforts down there and how we need to be the rescuer of souls. He promised us that if we forget ourselves then we will never have a bad day on our missions, I'm really trying hard to do that, but I feel it's harder to forget yourself here at the MTC where everything you do is for your betterment, I just need to remember why I'm doing it ;). But so far I haven't had a bad day so that's good👍

After that we watched three stories from the new Meet the Mormons, and there were all so good! Really felt the Spirit strong, but honestly if you seek it you can feel the Spirit 24/7 here, that's what I love about the MTC. 

Also the more I find out about Elder Ibarra, the more I like this guy, he's a total capo, and he's good at basketball too, so we get along really well even though our personalities are so different. he's also incredibly smart, he passed the AP Calc test, and that in itself is intelligence I can't comprehend (I got a one), also he can solve a rubik's cube like a capo. I can tell he has such a strong desire to serve the Lord, and we may have stupid little arguments sometimes, but we can always build off that common denominator. 

Yesterday we taught our first actual investigator named V, and it went really good! We committed her to read the Book of Mormon, so I think we have something to work with!
I absolutely love being a missionary, I love teaching, especially in the beautiful Spanish language! I'm so grateful my Heavenly Father and Savior trusted me enough to give me this sacred call, now I need to give back and earn their trust and completely submit my will to their's. 

Elder Smalley


Tuesday, September 6, 2016

September 6, 2016 - I'm really not dead

Hey everyone!

Thanks for all the letters! And by everyone, I mean MOM!  BTW, HAPPY BIRTHDAY MOMMY!  TE AMO TANTO. Seriously the only people I heard from this week was Mom and Elder Jimenez. I just want to clarify that I am not dead and would love to hear from you. This means you! I'm not going to give any names... Joel. Juan. Nathan. Everyone.  Email/send me Dear Elders,  ya doofuses!  Also Mommy, I want you to know I did get your Dear Elders Thursday night and I love them. Sorry My District leader is a stinker and is bad at getting the mail sometimes. He's also sitting next to me and reading this threatening to not get my mail now. Love ya Elder Lundquist!

Seriously our district is the best!  We get along too well!   A lot of the time, we get super distracted during ciclo and district meetings, but we make sure we have fun. I cry from laughing everyday. If any of you don't want to take the time to send me Dear Elders because you don't love me enough, I guess an email would be fine... But really if you can, Dear Elders are the best and ITS FREEEEEE! Just go to dearelder.com and select Provo MTC!

Everything here is going well, being cooped up in a classroom for 12 or more hours of the day kind of makes you crazy, so if you saw how our district acts sometimes for entertainment, you would probably be pretty freaked out.  When we don't speak in english to each other, we talk in Mexican gangster accents, it's hilarious!  And we've figured out how to play our name tags like kazoos.  But getting to teach makes all the crazies worth it. Man, I love teaching Sophia.  She is so amazing and I have so much love for her!  She is so full of light and she is so close!  The other day we were only supposed to teach for 20 minutes but Elder Ibarra and I went off and taught about the Plan of Salvation for over an hour.  The gift of tongues is so real!  I can understand 100% of what Sophia says, and I have been able to speak not knowing beforehand what I would say and been able to clearly get my point across.  I love Spanish!  Teaching in Spanish is so awesome, it honestly isn't that scary and feels pretty natural.  I love it.

Sunday was like "a spiritual monsoon" to quote our zone leader Elder Schelly. We had a evening devotional where CHAD LEWIS spoke. And ya know, Chad is basically my hero because he played for both BYU  and the Eagles, so that was pretty dang sweet!  Then we went and watched on a projector Character of Christ by Elder Bednar. I don't know if y'all have access to it back home because it is an MTC address but I definitely recommend because it changed my perspective on my whole mission.

Alright you guys -  I love ya, even if you've forgotten I exist.  I'll send some photos later today, have a great week everyone!

Elder Smalley

Saturday, September 3, 2016

September 2, 2016 - It was so AWESOME!

Holla amigos y familia, 
Things here at the Provo MTC are just dandy!  I have already seen Elder Brodie Brown, Elder Josh Augenbaugh, Elder Jake Theriault, Elder Austin Simkins from BYU, Elder Jake Cottle from EFY last year, and so many other people I know. 

So my district is LEGIT. Mi companero es Elder Ibarra, he's half Mexican, but he looks como un gringo, you'd never know without the last name - jaja.  He's from Salinas, California and going to Richmond Virginia, and he's seriously cool!  We get along great, we laugh our heads off cada noche!  Our district leader is Elder Lundquist, straight outta TEMECULA, California, home of Cameron Carpenter (holla at ya boiiiiiiiiii!) So yea, he knows good ole Carp and Jonathan Segura also!  I love all the Elders en nuestro districto!  Mom remember that one future Elder going to Chihuahua, Mexico at missionary mall?  Well, HE'S IN MY DISTRICT!!!!  What a coincidence! His name is Elder Ramon and he's an OG. Anyways, the food here is bomb, all you can eat por dias! People say you get sick of it, so we'll see over the next 5 and a half weeks. (I apologize this keyboard does not allow me to put question marks or apostrophes) 

The Spanish es muy bien! It all came back super quick and I have continued to learn a lot, el don de lenguas es verdadera!  This place is seriously the coolest!  You get to hang out all day with people your age, feel the Spirit and learn so much, and also we played bball este manana, Elder Cottle and I balled these nillas up!  Seriously, this is so cool!  

I'm doing alright with the homesickness and trunkyness, not really too bad at all! I miss y'all but when you go to work and invest yourself, you begin to lose yourself - which is totally sweet! 

So today I taught mi primer lesson, EN ESPANOL! It was super scary at first, but I was tan emocionado! Nuestro investigadora se llamada Sophia. She is so sweet and kind I wanted to give her the biggest hug (but I refrained, don't worry!)😋 Her familia es de Mexico, but she is from Cali and speaks ok English. She goes to BYU and wants to know more about our church. Her family is Catholic, but she has drifted from that and doesn't know if God exists, but she said she wants to know, so I was like BOOM!  And whipped out Moroni 10:4 and shared Moroni's promise! You could tell she felt the Spirit! I then bore testimony of my conversion and then promised her that if she read El Libro de Mormon and prayed and asked Dios if it was true, that she would know for herself!  I then gave her my own Spanish Book of Mormon and Elder Ibarra and I wrote nuestros testimonios en el libro. It was soooooooooo awesome! This church es verdad ladies and gents, yo se esto!!!!!

Hope y'all have a great week, know I love ya!😍
PS... my Pday will be Tuesday so I'll email ya then!
Elder Smalley

September 1, 2016 - I'm Good and I'm not dead!

Hola Mommy! 
Estoy bien y no muerto!  Things here at the MTC are awesome, I love it here!  I have been so blessed, I have never felt so much peace and spiritual reassurance en mi vida!  Literally in my first ten minutes here, I met five of my friends from Herriman and BYU, SUCH A TENDER MERCY!  Being able to see familiar faces was so helpful in my transition.  After those ten minutes I already knew that I was going to like it here. I miss you guys, and I love you more than I can even express, pero estoy tranquilo.  Yo se que Cristo sabe mis necesidades.  I am so grateful to be here!  In one and a half days I have learned so much, especially about myself.  I know that this is His work, these are His two years, and I'm going to give Him my best.  Only have 15 minutes today so sorry this is short, but love y'all sosososososo much!  Also while I'm here at the MTC, DON'T EMAIL ME,  DEARELDER.COM HAS FREE DELIVERY TO THE PROVO MTC!!! That means I can read it right away, same day delivery, it's totally boss.  Also, if you so desire to send me a package (I'll love you forever) our district is mailbox 142! Anyways outta time, email you tomorrow!😄
Elder Smalley

August 28,2016 - Spencer's first missionary talk

Elder Spencer Smalley
Farewell address Autumn Hills Ward, Herriman, Utah
Sunday, August 28, 2016
Personal Conversion

Personal conversion is just that: personal. It is different for all of us. According to dictionary.com, conversion is: a change in character, form, or function, a spiritual change from sinfulness to righteousness, a change from one religion, political belief, viewpoint, etc., to another, or a change of attitude, emotion, or viewpoint from one of indifference,disbelief, or antagonism to one of acceptance, faith, or enthusiastic support, especially such a change in a person's religion.

According to the Bible Dictionary: “[Conversion] denotes changing one’s views, in a conscious acceptance of the will of God. If followed by continued faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, repentance, baptism in water for the remission of sins, and the reception of the Holy Ghost by the laying on of hands, conversion will become complete and will change a natural man into a sanctified, born again, purified person—a new creature in Christ Jesus. Complete conversion comes after many trials and much testing. To labor for the conversion of one’s self and others is a noble task.”

Drawing from these two definitions, if one word embodies conversion, it is change.
Such a change is addressed by Alma the younger (who might know a thing or two about conversion himself) to the people of Zarahemla in Alma chapter 5: 

11 Behold, I can tell you—did not my father Alma believe in the words which were delivered by the mouth of Abinadi? And was he not a holy prophet? Did he not speak the words of God, and my father Alma believe them?
 12 And according to his faith there was a mighty change wrought in his heart. Behold I say unto you that this is all true.
 13 And behold, he preached the word unto your fathers, and a mighty change was also wrought in their hearts, and they humbled themselves and put their trust in the true and living God. And behold, they were faithful until the end; therefore they were saved.
 14 And now behold, I ask of you, my brethren of the church, have ye spiritually been born of God? Have ye received his image in your countenances? Have ye experienced this mighty change in your hearts?
15 Do ye exercise faith in the redemption of him who created you? Do you look forward with an eye of faith, and view this mortal body raised in immortality, and this corruption raised in incorruption, to stand before God to be judged according to the deeds which have been done in the mortal body?
 16 I say unto you, can you imagine to yourselves that ye hear the voice of the Lord, saying unto you, in that day: Come unto me ye blessed, for behold, your works have been the works of righteousness upon the face of the earth?

Skipping ahead, Alma says: 

26 And now behold, I say unto you, my brethren, if ye have experienced a change of heart, and if ye have felt to sing the song of redeeming love, I would ask, can ye feel so now?

This change of heart Alma speaks of is telling as to whether or not we have been converted. When our hearts change, our thoughts and desires will change. As a direct result our actions, our choices, and the way we live our lives will change. Conversion begins within, and is manifested in the way we exercise our agency.

Conversion is much like water becoming ice; in order for that ice to remain as ice it needs sustained cold, otherwise it will melt and return to being exactly what it once was. Therefore for us to remain converted we need to continue to put into practice the things which gave us a testimony in the first place. We need to stand in holy places and seek the guidance of the spirit.

There is a difference between having a testimony and being converted. The scriptures testify of individuals, such as Korihor, who had a knowledge of the truth yet lived contrary to that knowledge. Thus it is crucial that we not only attain a witness of truth, but adjust our lives accordingly. The beautiful thing about the Gospel is that we can always give more. We can always find ways to better serve, and to improve ourselves spiritually. We can always become more converted.

This is where the personal aspect of personal conversion comes in. It is important to be self-reflective and look at our lives as a whole. What can we improve? What can we change? What more can we give? As we seek that answer through the guidance of the Spirit, we can make the necessary adjustments and allow ourselves to become further converted.

Conversion is not only a destination but a process. Never at one point can we be content to say “okay, I’m converted.” If conversion were not a process, we would have no need to attend church every week, partake of the Sacrament, go to the temple often, or serve others as much as possible. It requires, steadfastness, diligence, and faith. Conversion is a lifelong pursuit, and is crucial to our eternal progression.

Christ said to Peter: “When thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren.” When we have experienced a change in our hearts, our Savior has asked us to strive to help others experience this same change. Doing this will in turn deepen our conversion. This is the Spirit of missionary work.

A missionary’s purpose, as found on page one of Preach My Gospel is to “Invite others to come unto Christ by helping them receive the restored gospel through faith inJesus Christ and His Atonement, repentance, baptism, receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost, and enduring to the end.”
I would like to focus specifically on the last phrase: “endure to the end.” As I have stated, conversion is a lifelong process, so wouldn’t enduring to the end be a crucial element of conversion? Returning to the Bible dictionary definition: “Complete conversion comes after many trials and much testing.”

As we faithfully endure the challenges and struggles of our mortal experience, our conversion will continue to progress. As the Lord said to Joseph in Liberty Jail:
 7 My son, peace be unto thy soul; thine adversity and thine afflictions shall be but a small moment;
 8 And then, if thou endure it well, God shall exalt thee on high; thou shalt triumph over all thy foes.”

There are promised blessings if we but endure. This is crucial to missionary service. News flash: serving a mission is not easy. For 18-20 year old boys, serving a mission will the hardest thing they have done in their lives up to that point. All missionaries experience mental, emotional, and spiritual hardship to some degree, many suffering physical trials as well.

 In a talk entitled “Missionary Work and the Atonement”, given to missionaries at the Provo MTC, Elder Jeffrey R. Holland said: 

“Anyone who does any kind of missionary work will have occasion to ask, Why is this so hard? Why doesn’t it go better? Why can’t our success be more rapid? Why aren’t there more people joining the Church? It is the truth. We believe in angels. We trust in miracles. Why don’t people just flock to the font? Why isn’t the only risk in missionary work that of pneumonia from being soaking wet all day and all night in the baptismal font?

“You will have occasion to ask those questions. I have thought about this a great deal. I offer this as my personal feeling. I am convinced that missionary work is not easy because salvation is not a cheap experience. Salvation never was easy. We are The Church of Jesus Christ, this is the truth, and He is our Great Eternal Head. How could we believe it would be easy for us when it was never, ever easy for Him? It seems to me that missionaries and mission leaders have to spend at least a few moments in Gethsemane. Missionaries and mission leaders have to take at least a step or two toward the summit of Calvary.

“Now, please don’t misunderstand. I’m not talking about anything anywhere near what Christ experienced. That would be presumptuous and sacrilegious. But I believe that missionaries and investigators, to come to the truth, to come to salvation, to know something of this price that has been paid, will have to pay a token of that same price.

“For that reason I don’t believe missionary work has ever been easy, nor that conversion is, nor that retention is, nor that continued faithfulness is. I believe it is supposed to require some effort, something from the depths of our soul.

“If He could come forward in the night, kneel down, fall on His face, bleed from every pore, and cry, ‘Abba, Father (Papa), if this cup can pass, let it pass,’ then little wonder that salvation is not a whimsical or easy thing for us. If you wonder if there isn’t an easier way, you should remember you are not the first one to ask that. Someone a lot greater and a lot grander asked a long time ago if there wasn’t an easier way.

“The Atonement will carry the missionaries perhaps even more importantly than it will carry the investigators. When you struggle, when you are rejected, when you are spit upon and cast out and made a hiss and a byword, you are standing with the best life this world has ever known, the only pure and perfect life ever lived. You have reason to stand tall and be grateful that the Living Son of the Living God knows all about your sorrows and afflictions. The only way to salvation is through Gethsemane and on to Calvary. The only way to eternity is through Him—the Way, the Truth, and the Life.”

I testify that Jesus Christ lived the only perfect life this world has ever known, I testify that in following His perfect example, and accessing the power of His atonement when we fall short, will lead to total conversion.

Now I wish to speak to speak to all the young men: You need to serve a mission. If for whatever reason you are unable to, you need to at least try. If you are not worthy, you need to become worthy, whatever that requires. If you are not at the right place spiritually to serve, start changing now. If you do not have a testimony, put Moroni’s promise to the test. It doesn’t matter whether you are 8 or 18, make the decision to serve NOW. Begin preparing NOW. There is nothing you can leave behind at home that is worth sacrificing the blessings that will come to you through your dedicated full-time service. The Lord is preparing the world for the Second Coming, and He needs YOU on His side. There are those out there who need the truth brought to them, specifically by you, because of the talents and abilities and experience Heavenly Father has blessed you with. Your Savior has extended a call to you to serve. It is your duty. If you ignore that calling, you deny those whose hearts you would change and yourself the blessings of conversion.

Now I would like to speak concerning my own personal conversion. I made the decision to serve a mission around the age of seven. My main motivation in making that resolution came from my mother telling me that a girl would only marry me if I served a mission. The idea of serving a mission seemed terrifying, sacrificing material things for two years, to me it sounded like two years of Sunday school, which I definitely did not want. But I always knew I was going to serve a mission, even if it was initially because I was concerned about my love life.

When I was 13 years old I read the Book of Mormon all the way through for the first time, and I followed the counsel of Moroni: I knelt down and prayed, asking my Heavenly Father if it was all true. I felt the Holy Ghost testify to me in my heart that it was true, and from then on I could say that I knew for myself.

As I got into middle school I began to take the Gospel less seriously, focusing mainly on sports and what others thought of me. I began to make poor choices and surround myself with the wrong people. I had a testimony, but I was not converted. Then, freshmen year, I began seminary, and I learned about the teachings of Jesus Christ and His apostles throughout the New Testament. As I began to immerse myself in the scriptures and truly study them for the first time, I felt a change of heart. My desires began to change.

As I went throughout High School, things like sports and popularity and impressing others took less and less importance. Not to say these things went away all together, but I slowly realized, that these things were of little significance in terms of who I was and what I wanted to become.
My motivation to serve changed.  I had experienced first hand the blessings of the Gospel, felt the literal strengthening, redeeming, and enabling power of the Atonement, and felt greater joy than I had at any other point in my life. I wanted the Gospel to bless the lives of others the same way it had blessed mine.

Considering all of this, I will gladly give two years of my life to serve my Heavenly Father and Savior. A mission is not, and never has been, about me. Though I know that serving will tremendously bless me as a person and will forever change my life in the best way, I choose to serve because I love my Heavenly Father and my Savior. I know that they are real. I know that this Gospel leads to everlasting and eternal joy.