My topic was "Experiences and Practices that Helped Me Prepare to Serve a Mission." Easy-peasy, right? Eh...not really. It was just kind of a narcissistic topic. Pulling in quotes and scriptures was challenging, because I'm no general authority. But I think it worked out ok in the end. So, this is the outline of my talk. :)
I have never wanted to serve a mission... [insert "why I decided to serve a mission" story from below.]
Even though I have never wanted to serve a mission, the Lord was preparing me to serve and I didn't even realize.
President Spencer W. Kimball said "The Lord answers our prayers, but it is usually through another person that he meets our needs." This has been so true in my life. I'm so grateful to the Lord for sending certain people into my life who helped me get to this point.
First off, my parents. Whenever I think about the 2,000 stripling warriors and the way they talked about their mothers, I think of my parents. My parents are valiant, righteous, wonderful disciples of Christ and I love them. They always made sure we had family scripture study every morning, family prayer morning and night, and were always rounding the kids up for service projects. They also were great examples of sharing the gospel. From the big things like my Dad serving a full time mission in Japan, to the smaller things like my Mom always giving pass-along cards to the cashiers at Target. All I could think about the entire time I was filling out my mission papers were my parents and how I hoped they'd be proud of me.
Another big one for me has been church leaders, especially seminary teachers. Brother Snedegar was the best seminary teacher I ever had. I followed him from building to building. Brother Snedegar taught me the importance of starting your day off with God. He always said "I don't care if you don't get anything else out of this class, as long as you feel the spirit every morning." Ephesians 6:11 says "Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil." Notice that it doesn't say "Put on the armour of God and the devil will never come into your life again." Instead it says that when he does come, you will be able to stand. Brother Snedegar understood this and was so good at teaching me that starting your day with prayer, the scriptures and the spirit didn't make life a breeze. Instead it created a barrier, so when the trials come you can face them because you have an eternal perspective and the assurance that you have the Holy Spirit.
I think a really big one has been friends. Surrounding yourself with good friends is so important, and I have been so blessed to have lived with some of my best friends. Ashley Crosby and Kaity Pearl have always been such wonderful examples of righteousness, and helped teach me the importance of charity. Doctrine and Covenants 4:5 says "And faith, hope, charity, and love, with an eye single to the glory of God, qualify him for the work." The "work" means missionary work. Love is the heart and soul of missionary work. Without it, you cannot touch the lives of the people you teach. I have a really strong personality and tend to bull people over because I'm loud and energetic. So getting along with roommates has never been my strong point. But what a blessing to be able to watch my best friends and the way they got along with the roommates I couldn't seem to love.They helped teach me that I could pray for charity. There were several times where I couldn't stand a roommate and then she would leave for school and I would beg the Lord for charity. And time after time, she would come home and I would miraculously get along with her. I didn't want to punch her and we had great conversations.
As well as sending wonderful people into your life, the Lord plays a very personal role. He loves you and is interested in your day to day life. I know the Lord doesn't send any trials for no good reason. Pretty much exactly a year ago I almost got engaged. I was completely in love, and he loved me too. He was perfect for me and treated me wonderfully. We started talking seriously about marriage. But the more I prayed about it, the more I felt this sinking feeling and knew I wasn't supposed to marry him. Breaking off our relationship was one of the hardest things I have ever had to do. I didn't see anything that I had gained from it... until now. If I hadn't had this experience, I don't think I'd be serving now. As you can see, I am very very stubborn. I don't turn my will over easily. As painful as this experience was, I am now so grateful for it. It was my first big lesson in turning my will over to the Lord completely. My first time having give up something I wanted so badly and saying "Thy will be done" and just trusting. I'm so grateful the Lord knows us so much better than we know ourselves.
I know this church is the restored church of Jesus Christ and that we have his power and authority on the earth today. I know that Joseph Smith was a prophet of the Lord and that he truly did see God the Father and Jesus Christ in that grove of trees that day. The Book of Mormon is true and Joseph Smith translated it! I know that God is real and that he answers prayers. I know the atonement of Jesus Christ is real and it works. God knows us personally and I'm so grateful that he knows me well enough and loves me enough to send me on a this mission to France. I say these things in the name of my Savior, Jesus Christ, amen.