I have never wanted to serve a mission. I remember once in my life sitting in Young Women's thinking maybe it would be cool, but that feeling soon vanished & never returned. I was fine with that. I know girls aren't mandated, so I didn't even feel pressure to serve. Thankfully, God knows me so much better than I know myself.
It all began on the day that the Brigham City temple was dedicated. Before the dedication began, I sat there reverently talking with some girl friends from my ward. My best friend (who is a year older than me) had just told us a few weeks before that she had decided that God wanted her to serve a mission. So as we sat waiting, we talked all about missions. As I felt the spirit so strongly, I began to realize how incredible missions are. I began to feel a little wish to serve. My obstacle? Girls couldn't serve until 21... and I was not even 20. The chances of that happening were so slim, I thought my exclamation of "They should lower the girls mission age!" though exciting, was nothing more than a vain wish. But God knew better.
2 weeks later, I sat down to watch the Saturday morning session of the Semi-annual General Conference for the church. As President Monson began to announce the age change for boys to serve missions, my jaw dropped. Yay! How exciting for boys everywhere! But wait, what about girls? I immediately raised my arms in the air, along with my voice, & proclaimed "Now change the age for girls!!" And then he said it. "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... We assure the young sisters of the Church, however, that they make a valuable contribution as missionaries, and we welcome their service."
NO. WAY. Tears poured down my cheeks as the spirit filled my soul to bursting. I knew immediately that our conversation 2 weeks earlier was no coincidence. I immediately texted the ward executive secretary & asked for an appointment with the Bishop. I was on top of the world. I called my Mom crying. I was so excited to serve! But Satan tapped his fingers together, & went to work on me immediately.
Millions of doubts began to fill my mind. "What about my missionary? He'll be back in a year. I have to be here or he'll marry someone else. What about this great job offer? It will get me on the road to my dream job. I can't pass this up. I can't pay for a mission. I have hardly any savings..." The monologue was relentless. "Maybe all you felt the morning of conference was excitement. I was excited too, & I'm not serving" said a well meaning friend. So the morning I walked into my appointment with the Bishop, my list of reasons not to serve was massive. I thought they were all very good & well thought out, & fully expected the Bishop to advise me not to serve. To my great surprise & frustration, the Bishop looked at my list, smiled, & said "If these are your reasons for not serving a mission, then I recommend you go." WHAT?! NO! The Bishop was supposed to give me peace of mind about the whole thing. Didn't he realize I wasn't supposed to go? I walked out of that meeting feeling more confused than ever. I did not want to serve a mission. Every desire I previously had was now crushed be the hand of the devil. There were so many other things I wanted to do with my life, a mission was not what I needed now.
And so... I fought it. I fought it like crazy. I fought it for a good month & a half. I told everyone I knew that I wasn't serving. I wasn't going to be part of the "mission serving fad." Every time people talked about missions, they made me so uncomfortable I would often walk away. My best friend tried to convince me to go to mission prep just once, but I absolutely refused. It wasn't for me. It wasn't for me. I had made my decision... why did I still feel no peace?
As time went on, God calculated a million little miracles to begin to change my heart. Too many to count. One of the reasons I didn't really want to serve is because I like dating. I like dating A LOT. So, God made me date. A LOT. I'm talking more dates in a month & a half than I had gone on in probably the entire year. Men were coming out of the wood work like you wouldn't believe. Eventually... I grew tired of it. Which if you know me at all, is a crazy thought. But I seriously grew tired of dating. I didn't want to get married & I didn't want a boyfriend, so it all began to seem very pointless. God knows me too well.
My roommate soon got her mission call to Canada. And it was PERFECT for her. "Huh" I thought. "God assigned that one perfectly." I was excited for her, but didn't like hearing people talk about it so much. It's just a mission, get over it. Then my best friend got her call. I was SO excited for her. I thought "Whoa, CHINA!!?? God knows her so well! I never would have thought of that, but somehow now that it's here, every other place seems so wrong." My best friend asked if I wanted to read her call letter. "Nah." The thought made me too uncomfortable. Then my other best friend got her call to Argentina. WHOA. That was planned by God. As the spirit filled the room that night, I began to let God soften my heart. As I watched girl after girl receive a call that was designed by heaven, I began to realize that this wasn't just the girls having nothing else to do with their lives. This was God calling these sisters to serve & feed his sheep. I looked over at my friends call letter sitting on the coffee table. I quickly grabbed it, went to a corner of the room, & began to read. Instantly the spirit filled my soul to bursting. Tears spilled down my face as I read all the promises contained in that sacred letter. As I read her name next to the words "called as a missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints" my heart ached. I wanted that letter. I wanted one of my own. I wanted my name next to Christ's name on that piece of paper. For the first time, I could see my life clearly. I saw myself at the end of my life, looking back on what I had accomplished, & realized when I'm a Grandmother I want to be able to tell my grand kids that I served a mission for the church. I had never wanted something so badly in my entire life.
That night I went home & talked to my best friend about missions & the spirit I had felt that night. She looked at me & said "I want you to serve with me so badly. Have you thought any more about it? Do you want to serve even a little?" As tears flooded down my face I finally said "Yes. I think I'm supposed to serve. I texted the executive secretary tonight. I meet with the Bishop on Sunday." She began yelling & jumping up & down. "I knew it! I knew it! I knew you just didn't want to follow the crowd, but I knew you would eventually see the light!" I grinned from ear to ear. Maybe. Maybe... this was right.
That Sunday, I practically ran to my meeting with the Bishop. Grinning from ear to ear, I burst in & said "Bishop, I think I'm supposed to serve a mission. I would like to start my papers, please!" We started them that very minute.
You would think that after overcoming Satan once, I would recognize him again. But for some reason... I kept letting that bozo get into my head. SO many people asked about my papers. "Yeah..." I would reluctantly respond. "I started them. I'm still not sure if that's what I'm really supposed to do, but starting your papers isn't a huge commitment. I can still change my mind." I still wanted to date, so wasn't too fond of telling boys I was working on my papers. Silly, I know. I just couldn't admit that I had received a definite "Yes" from God. That was too permanent. Too official. I wanted the right to change my mind. This wasn't REALLY my thing, remember?
3 weeks later, I was almost ready to submit them. The only thing I needed now was the papers from my doctor. There was just one problem... nobody knew where they were. I called everyone. The Bishop didn't have them, his wife had even searched high & low. I called the doctor again & they confirmed that they had mailed them several days before. I called the Bishop again. I called the doctor again. NOTHING. I was frustrated. More than frustrated. Why was this happening? I didn't even want to serve in the first place! Why, if God wanted me to serve so badly, would he let them lose my doctor papers? I was powerless. I couldn't think of anything else I could do, so I went into my room, knelt in front of my bed, & began to beg the Lord. "God. This is not ok. You can't change your mind now. I didn't even want to serve... & now I really want to. This can't just be one of those become-a-better-person-by-preparing things. I got a yes. You gave me a YES. I demand a miracle. I know that you know where my papers are. I don't care how it happens, but please get them to my Bishop's house today. Heavenly Father, I'm sorry if I'm being a little short. But you gave me this desire. You can't take it away now. I need that miracle." I ended my prayer. 10 minutes later, my Bishop called. He had my doctor papers.
I submitted my papers that night. As I walked out of the Stake President's office, I finally felt that long awaited peace.
I love how God knows us so much better than we know ourselves. He knew what I needed to change my heart. He knew what I needed to make me admit I had received a "Yes." As I sit here now, with my call to Paris France in my hands, I am so grateful for a God who never gives up on me. I know that girls are not mandated to serve. Making a decision to not go is in no way wrong. But girls, if you are called to serve him & you answer that call, I promise you that it will be the best decision you have yet made in your life. Sisters bring a special spirit to the field, & you will change lives all over the world by proclaiming this true & glorious gospel. You will grow to love those people more than you could ever imagine. You will bring families together for eternity. Can you imagine the grateful descendants of those families coming up to you in the spirit world & thanking you? I can imagine it. & I can't wait. Hurrah for Israel! Autumn Bradley