As you all know I have been called to serve in the West Indies Mission, English speaking. The mission is located in the Caribbean (not India) and is made of several islands and three countries in South America. The main languages spoken are English, Dutch, and French. The mission home is located on Trinidad which happens to be where the term cannibalism came from. There are lizards that climb in your shoes, snakes in the trees, and monkeys. When I visited the travel nurse she told me to shower with my eyes and mouth closed, to soak my fruit in a bleach solution, and boil my water unless it is bottled. This semester I studied tropical diseases and lucky me I may get to see or experience some of these diseases including cutaneous larval migrans, dengue fever, typhoid fever, yellow fever, and malaria. Despite all this I am excited to serve the people in the West Indies and grow to love them.
I wasn’t planning to serve a mission and the announcement of the lower age didn’t really change my decision at the time. I have had a plan since high school to get me through college and into medical school in a decent amount of time. After the announcement I continued on with life and my plan: going to school, attending institute, studying. Throughout my studying for school and institute, missionary work kept coming up. At first it seemed coincidental, but it kept happening more and more which is how the idea was planted in my head. I kept debating whether a mission was the right thing, but then I realized that all the reasons I had to stay were selfish and worldly. Once I saw that, I was able to make a decision on what Heavenly Father wanted and not what I thought needed to happen. I will go into more detail later but without the lowering of the missionary age I probably wouldn’t have made the decision to serve a mission.
I was asked to talk about how I received my testimony. True to the Faith defines a testimony as “A spiritual witness given by the Holy Ghost. The foundation of a testimony is the knowledge that Heavenly Father lives and loves His children; that Jesus Christ lives, that He is the Son of God, and that He carried out the infinite Atonement; that Joseph Smith is the prophet of God who was called to restore the gospel; that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the Savior's true Church on the earth; and that the Church is led by a living prophet today. With this foundation, a testimony grows to include all principles of the gospel.” Each of us has the light of Christ with us when we are born and as we nourish that light we gain a testimony through our experiences here on Earth. I have had many defining moments in my life, both big and small, that have helped my testimony grow.
In 1999 my family was sealed in the temple for time and all eternity by the Priesthood authority of God. I don’t remember very much, but I do remember kneeling together as a family dressed in white in the temple. The spirit was strong that day and we were surrounded by loved ones. N. Eldon Tanner said “These scriptures indicate that celestial marriage, ordained by God and performed by his authority in his holy temples, is eternal, and couples so united are sealed for time and all eternity, and their children are born in the covenant of the everlasting gospel. They will be an eternal family according to their faithfulness.” This experience happened a long time ago, but whenever I see the Bountiful Temple it reminds me of that day. I know the work done in the temple is real and that it is important for us to do work for our ancestors. I have had many people in my life who have been very involved in family history work and who have helped me research my ancestors. I am grateful for the blessings of the temple. Because we were sealed together in the temple, I know we will be together forever as a family if we do our part.
I have paid my tithing for as long as I remember and I know I have been blessed both temporally and spiritually. My testimony in tithing has also grown by seeing the affect it has on my family. A few years ago my parents were faced with the decision of whether to pay the bills or pay tithing because money was tight. They decided to pay tithing first and pay the bills with what was left. This was a difficult decision because if there wasn’t enough money to pay the bills, our power and gas would be shut off. To their amazement, when they received the gas statement, the gas company owed them the about the same amount they had paid in tithing and they were able to pay more of the bills. I know the Lord recognizes when we keep his commandments and He keeps His promises. Obedience to the law of tithing provides protection, confidence, and peace. In October 2002 Elder Hales said “Tithing is a test of faith with eternal blessings. To those who faithfully and honestly live the law of tithing, the Lord promises an abundance of blessings. Some of these blessings are temporal, just as tithes are temporal. But like the outward physical ordinances of baptism and the sacrament, the commandment to pay tithing requires temporal sacrifice, which ultimately yields great spiritual blessings.” I know that when we keep the commandments things will be taken care of in the Lord’s time.
I know the Book of Mormon is true. I have read and studied it several times throughout the years and while I didn’t see an angel or anything, I did feel peace and the love Heavenly Father feels for me. Because I have received this witness every time I read I cannot deny the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon. It is the Word of God and Joseph Smith did translate it by the Power of God. It testifies of Christ. It testifies of his mission, his life, and his power. If you want to know it is true, take Moroni’s challenge found in Moroni 10:4 “And when ye shall receive these things, I would exhort you that ye would ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true; and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost.” I know if you do this you will receive a witness that the Book of Mormon is true and that it can bless your life. I know the Book of Mormon applies to our lives today because I have acted on the promptings I receive as I read. When I read the Book of Mormon daily I am more receptive to the spirit and my day goes better. My understanding of the gospel grows and my testimony continues to get stronger.
I know President Thomas S. Monson is the Prophet of God today. He receives revelation about how to proceed with the church and warns us against the dangers of the world. I know he is a prophet because I have followed the council he has given and I have been protected and blessed. The lord has given us a prophet to guide us and his words are important for us to study. Doctrine and Covenants 1:38 states “What I the Lord have spoken, I have spoken, and I excuse not myself; and though the heavens and the earth pass away, my word shall not pass away, but shall all be fulfilled, whether by mine own voice or by the voice of my servants, it is the same.”
I know Joseph Smith restored the Church on the Earth today and I know he saw Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ. In his own words he said “I saw a pillar of light exactly over my head, above the brightness of the sun, which descended gradually until it fell upon me. When the light rested upon me I saw two personages, whose brightness and glory defy all description, standing above me in the air. One of them spake unto me, calling me by name and said, pointing to the other—this is my beloved son hear him.” In institute last semester I was studying the Book of Mormon. My teacher emphasized the fact that it is impossible that Joseph Smith could have made the Book of Mormon up or came up with it on his own. There are facts that a boy with very little education would know about that show up in the Book of Mormon and I felt the Holy Ghost testify to me that Joseph Smith did translate the book. I have always been someone who likes to see the facts and this proved to me that he was a prophet of God.
I know the Holy Ghost is real and being worthy to have him with me is very important to me. I know he comforts, brings things to remembrance, and warns us of dangers. When I am disappointed about things that happen in life or I make a mistake the Holy Ghost comforts me and I can feel my saviors love. When I have studied for tests and I am stuck on a question, the things I have studied are brought to my remembrance.
I have a testimony of missionary work. I know that the Lord needs missionaries to share his gospel to all of Heavenly Father’s children. My testimony of missionary work grows every time I go to temple square and see the sister missionaries teaching the gospel to those who want to know. I started to consider a mission when I went to temple square for my cousin’s wedding. Our family walked around temple square and there were sister missionaries everywhere. Then we went to the statue of Christ in one of the visitors centers and I felt the impression that I needed to think about serving a mission. I thought about it a lot in the following weeks and every time I heard anything about missionary work I felt like it was the right thing to do. My testimony of missionary work has grown as I have prepared to invite others to come to Christ and I will use my testimony daily to motivate me as I have trials in the mission field.
I have a testimony of the power of fasting and prayer. When I have a purpose as I fast and when I use fasting and prayer together it is a powerful experience. I get more out of church meetings and I am more receptive to the spirit. Fasting isn’t a burden when I have a purpose, it is a privilege. I love reading the scriptures and my patriarchal blessing on fast Sunday because I get so much more out of my study than if I do it without. Doctrine and Covenants 59:14 says “Verily, this is fasting and prayer, or in other words, rejoicing and prayer”. I know that the Lord has given us the opportunity to fast to get closer to him and that when I do, I feel the spirit and my questions and prayers are answered.
I have a testimony of Revelation. True to the Faith defines revelation as “communication from God to his children. This guidance comes through various channels according to the needs and circumstances of individuals, families, and the Church as a whole. We can receive revelation to help us with our specific personal needs, responsibilities, and questions and to help us strengthen our testimony”. When I decided to serve a mission I prayed to Heavenly Father to know if it was the right decision. Immediately I felt the spirit stronger than I have ever felt before. I felt peace, excitement, and approval from God. My Patriarchal blessing is a great tool I use to communicate with Heavenly Father. Every time I read it I get new insights. My Patriarchal blessing helped me know that a mission was the right thing for me. I know that if I do what Heavenly Father asks, the promised blessings will be mine. I have received answers to my prayers and I know each of us is entitled to personal revelation if we live worthily.
I have a testimony that Jesus Christ lives and loves each one of us. He atoned for our sins so that if we repent, we can receive Celestial glory. He has made it so we can overcome physical death. He is the son of God. Heavenly Father wouldn’t put us on earth without having a way for us to return to him and that way is through Jesus Christ. It is the only way for us to have eternal happiness with our families. He never leaves us alone and we can ask for help. There is a poem one of my seminary teachers read to the class called “Footprints in the Sand” It says:
One night I dreamed a dream.
As I was walking along the beach with my Lord.
Across the dark sky flashed scenes from my life.
For each scene, I noticed two sets of footprints in the sand,
One belonging to me and one to my Lord.
After the last scene of my life flashed before me,
I looked back at the footprints in the sand.
I noticed that at many times along the path of my life,
especially at the very lowest and saddest times,
there was only one set of footprints.
This really troubled me, so I asked the Lord about it.
"Lord, you said once I decided to follow you,
You'd walk with me all the way.
But I noticed that during the saddest and most troublesome times of my life,
there was only one set of footprints.
I don't understand why, when I needed You the most, You would leave me."
He whispered, "My precious child, I love you and will never leave you
Never, ever, during your trials and testings.
When you saw only one set of footprints,
It was then that I carried you."
I know Jesus is the Christ because the spirit testifies of it to me as I study the scriptures, pray, attend church meetings, and serve others. I have had many trials in my life and he has helped me through them. Without the Savior those difficult times would have been unbearable. He felt my pain, my sorrow, my disappointments and everything else I have experienced so he can help me and he has done the same for each of you. I know the church is true. This knowledge has been in my heart since I came to earth and has grown as the years have gone by.
I have a testimony of the power of the priesthood. I have asked my dad for father’s blessings many times when I am worried or struggling in school. I am comforted when I do and I do better on the tests as long as I have done my part. God loves his children and his power is on earth today. I am grateful that there are men worthy to use this power on earth today.
I have a testimony that there is life after death. When my grandma died my family was comforted knowing that she was busy on the other side, continuing to serve the lord. When my mom came home after my grandma passed away, we talked about the plan of salvation and that my grandma was happy and wasn’t suffering anymore. This was a wonderful spiritual experience for my family that brought us closer together. We read in Alma about how not a hair on their head will be lost and that their spirits are taken home to Heavenly Father. Alma 40:11-12 says “Now concerning the state of the soul between death and the resurrection—Behold, it has been made known unto me by an angel that the spirits of all men, as soon as they are departed from this mortal body, yea, the spirits of all men, whether they be good or evil, are taken home to that God who gave them life. And then shall it come to pass that the spirits of those who are righteous are received into a state of happiness, which is called paradise, a state of rest, a state of peace, where they shall rest from all their troubles and from all care, and sorrow.” Though my family and I miss her a lot I have never felt like she was completely gone. I can still feel the love she has for us and that she wants us to continue faithfully in the gospel. I had the opportunity to go on trek this last summer. Those who have participated in trek know that one of the most spiritual experiences is the women’s pull. For those of you who don’t know what that is, the women’s pull is a point on the trek where the men leave and the women pull the handcarts alone. It is silent. It is hard. It is where everyone feels the helping hands of ancestors pushing the handcarts up the hill with them. It is where I felt the helping hand of my grandma. Death is not the end and we will see our loved ones again. I can’t wait until I get to see all of my relatives who have passed on and listen to their stories about what they did in this life and what they had accomplished after death. The plan of happiness is real and after we pass on, if we have lived righteously we will be free from pain and sorrow.
How can you gain a testimony? President Eyring said “we are taught to begin our quest for testimony with a particle of faith and with a desire for it to grow. Like a growing plant it must be nurtured or it will wither. Frequent and heartfelt prayers are crucial and needed nutrients. Obedience to the commandments is part of the nourishment that you must provide for your testimony.” By living the principles you are trying to gain a testimony of, you will know of the truthfulness. Joseph Smith, Nephi and many other people from the scriptures have asked God if these things are true and I can add my testimony to theirs when I say that gospel is true and Jesus is the Christ.
Things have fallen into place for me to serve a mission. The lowering of the age, the fact that I have enough school done that I won’t fall behind and attending seminary and institute have all made the possibility of serving a mission a reality. It is because I have a testimony of the gospel that I want to serve a mission. So that others can feel the same peace and joy I have felt from the knowledge I have.
I know that Heavenly Father and Jesus live and love each one of us. Joseph Smith restored the original gospel of Jesus Christ on the earth and translated the Book of Mormon. I know that Jesus Christ took upon himself my sins so that I can have the opportunity to repent. I am grateful for eternal families and for temples that allow us to be sealed together. I know President Thomas S. Monson is a prophet and that he and the other church leaders are called of God. I know my mission is a call from God and I am honored to accept it.
In the name of Jesus Christ amen.