Sunday, March 24, 2013

My Farewell and Temple Experience

I know that I haven't posted in a while, but I am now!

Ashley, Tyler, and Me!
Last weekend, I had the opportunity to go home (to Chicago) for about 4 days.  While I was there I was able to go through the Nauvoo Temple and receive my endowments.  It was an amazing experience and loved it so much!  While I was home, I also had the opportunity to give an early "farewell" in my home ward because my family's moving this week to Castle Rock, Colorado.  I wanted to say bye to those I'd known practically my whole life before I left on my mission.  Here's the basic content of my farewell (when I actually gave it I changed a few things):

Wow! I just feel like it’s the Halliday show today…My dad’s conducting, Kirstyn gave a talk, Brittany sang, and now I’m addressing you.  Hopefully I’ll be able to say something that will touch your heart and allow you to feel the Spirit this afternoon. 

For those of you who don’t know me, I’m Sarah Halliday.  I’ve been at BYU for the past 7 months so that’s why I haven’t been around.  As some of you may know, I’ve been called to gather Israel in the California Ventura Mission speaking Spanish.  Although I don’t enter the Provo MTC until May 8th, I’m privileged to have the opportunity to speak today in this ward to you wonderful people that I’ve known the majority of my life since my family’s moving in a few short weeks and I won’t be returning here after this semester. 

Today I want to talk mostly to the youth as I’ve been asked to speak about preparing for a mission.  When I first heard this, I thought, well that’s easy.  I went to seminary, church, and mission prep classes. I read my scriptures every day and prayed twice a day.  The list goes on and all are important, but those are just the standard Sunday school answers (which by the way ARE the answers).  Most youth in the church already do all those things so I decided to dig in a little deeper. 

I want to start with why I decided to serve a mission.  Back on the morning of October 6, there were about 10 girls in my apartment.  We were still in our pajamas and all snuggled up with our blankets and eating hot cinnamon rolls getting ready to watch the Saturday morning session of General Conference on my little laptop screen.  The internet connection was rocky.  Every student in Provo was trying to access the live stream.  The session started out with a prayer and a song sung by the MoTab, but after a few minutes, the stream skipped ahead.  We didn’t think much about it until Aubrey, one of my friends, got a phone call from her cousin.  The next thing I remember was her telling us to, “Go Back! Go Back!” I quickly went back to before the skip.  None of us expected that what President Monson said next would change our lives forever:

“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.”

Everyone (and I’m not exaggerating) started crying with happiness and shock.  That crowded little apartment living room became one of the most spiritual places on earth. I knew right then that this announcement was directly from Heavenly Father and that I, without a doubt, wanted to serve a mission. 

On the first day of mission prep, my teacher, Brother Jackson, wrote Moses 1:39 on the board.  “For behold, this is my work and my glory – to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.”  He stressed how this scripture is one of the most important scriptures that we, as prospective missionaries should know.  As missionaries, our job is to help our Heavenly Father by giving investigators the opportunity to understand this important gospel principle.  President Gordon B.  Hinckley spoke in reference to this scripture in the April 1995 General Conference.   “Your obligation is as serious in your sphere of responsibility as is my obligation in my sphere.  Let there be cultivated awareness in every member’s heart of his own potential for bringing others to a knowledge of the truth.  Let him work at it. Let him pray with great earnestness about it.”

Today, I would like to focus on 3 key aspects on preparing for a mission that will help everyone become a better missionary and help fulfill our Heavenly Father’s work whether they’re planning on being a full-time missionary or even just a member missionary. 

FIRST, we need to prepare spiritually. 

One of the best ways to prepare spiritually is obtaining more spiritual knowledge.  In Doctrine and Covenants 11:21 it says, “Seek not to declare my word, but first seek to obtain my word, and then shall your tongue be loosed; then, if you desire, you shall have my Spirit and my word, yea the power of God unto the convincing of men.”  You obviously can’t teach until you know.  In mission prep this semester, my teacher, Brother Jackson, makes sure that each day we focus on a different gospel principle in addition to different techniques on how to effectively study.  We’ve especially focused on the 5 lessons found in Preach My Gospel.  In addition to learning about these more in depth in mission prep, in 2011, my family decided to have our Family Home Evening lesson one a month focused on each of these.  As I’ve been preparing for my mission, I realized that throughout my entire life, the effects of each of these five lessons have been present. 

Lesson #1: The Restoration
Time and time again throughout my educational experience, I’ve been able to explain to my friends and other peers the importance of what Joseph Smith saw in the grove of trees that spring morning. This was a great way for me to start sharing the gospel and get ready to go on a mission even if at the time I had no idea that I’d be going so soon.  If I had my scriptures with me then I’d even read Joseph Smith History 1: 15-20.  [READ JSH 1:18-21] I know that this really did happen and that if Joseph Smith didn’t go into the grove, none of us would be sitting here and have the gospel in our lives. 

Lesson #2: The Plan of Salvation
In sixth grade, I lost a dear aunt due to cancer.  Although it was hard on our family, it was comforting to know that we would see her again.  In the October 2006 General Conference, Elder L. Tom Perry talked about this wonderful plan, “Life on earth is of limited duration. There comes a time for all of us when the spirit and the body are separated in death. But because of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, we will all be resurrected, regardless of whether we have accomplished good or evil in this life. Immortality is the gift to every mortal child of our Father in Heaven. Death must be viewed as a portal to a new and better life. Through the glorious resurrection, body and spirit will be reunited. We will have a perfect, immortal body of flesh and bones that will never be subjected to pain or death. But the glory we attain to in the next life will depend on our performance in this life. Only through the gift of the Atonement and our obedience to the gospel can we return and live with God once again.”  I was able to find comfort in the death of my aunt and it was able to help me give one of my best friends comfort when her father passed away three years ago. 

Lesson #3:  The Gospel of Jesus Christ
The fourth article of faith says, “We believe that the first principles and ordinances of the Gospel are: first, Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ; second, Repentance; third, Baptism by immersion for the remission of sins; fourth, Laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost.”  Every single of these principles and ordinances have blessed my life at some point, but more recently, I’ve received blessings for participating in baptisms and confirmations for both the living and the dead.   Back in October, one of my roommates was able to be baptized a week after her eighteenth birthday.  It was wonderful to be a part of that important step in her life and get to listen to all of these lessons again with the missionaries as they were teaching her.  Her baptism was beautiful and I could tell that she knew she was doing the right thing.  In addition to her baptism, my calling in my ward in Provo is Relief Society Temple Coordinator.  Once a week we’re able to attend the temple, even if it’s just a few of us, and perform work for those who could not do it while on earth.  Going every week has definitely strengthened my testimony of the importance of doing such work. 

Lesson #4: The Commandments
In addition to the Ten Commandments, we’ve been instructed to keep others such as praying, studying the scriptures, keeping the Sabbath day holy, following the words of the prophet, obeying the word of wisdom, paying tithing and fast offerings, and fasting.  Most of us have been taught to obey these commandments since we were little in primary.  One of my favorite lessons in primary was when we were given ten pieces of candy and were told that we had to give one back or we couldn’t have any of them.  Ever since I was little I’ve always paid my tithing and have been able to receive the blessings of it.

Lesson #5: Laws and Ordinances
In mission prep, Brother Jackson put a diagram of stairs on the board.  Each step included a different ordinance of the gospel that is essential to returning to live with our Heavenly Father.  The first said Baptism and Confirmation, the next receiving the Aaronic Priesthood, then receiving the Melchizedek Priesthood, then receiving your endowments, then finally being sealed in the temple for time and all eternity.  Yesterday, I was able to travel down to Nauvoo with my parents and grandparents to go through the temple.  It was such a wonderful experience and I hope that each of you who haven’t had the opportunity to go yet will get to in the future. 

After applying these five lessons to my preparation for a mission, I realized that spiritual preparation is a process that starts when we’re small and continues throughout the rests of our lives. 

In addition to spiritual preparation, we need to SECOND be prepared physically.

Now I’ll be the first to say that I’m not the most active or athletic, but since I’ve been at BYU, I’ve kind of been forced to be more active.  Starting in August, I was involved in marching band, which is a lot more physically challenging than you’d think.  I also have to walk almost two miles each way to campus each day.  Although walking to campus is not the most fun thing to do, it has definitely helped prepare me for my mission.  Missionary work involves a lot of walking so I’m glad I got a head start even though both of my roommates take the shuttle every day.  Exercising and eating healthy also improves your attitude.  According to the American Psychological Association, “Usually within five minutes after moderate exercise you get a mood-enhancement effect.”  Having this mood-enhancement effect enables you to have a better day overall.  A happy missionary is a productive missionary.  We can’t work effectively unless we feel good about ourselves.  It’s important to get a head start now. 

Eating healthy is also an important factor of preparing physically.  Keeping the word of wisdom is extremely important.  Doctrine and Covenants 89: 18-21 says, “[READ SCRIPTURE]”.  We will be blessed not only on the mission, but throughout the rest of our lives as well if we heed this council. 

The THIRD aspect in preparation is that we need to prepare socially.

For those of you that have known me for a while, you know that I used to be pretty shy and not as outgoing as I am now.  Slightly into my junior year of high school, I was fortunate enough to get a job at Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory.  Having this job enabled me to converse easier with people.  Complete strangers would come into the store and I had to be friendly.  After a while it became a lot easier to talk to people I didn’t know. 

One thing that my dad has always told me is that you shouldn’t mainly communicate with people through text, but actually calling them up and talking on the phone.  I’m not saying that I don’t ever text, I text a lot, but talking on the phone has definitely added to my confidence in talking to people I’ve never met or don’t know as well. 

All three of these areas in my life have been strengthened as I’ve been preparing for my mission.  Through hard work and diligence I know that these will bless your life too.  In closing, I would like to bear my testimony that I know that this gospel is true.  It has blessed my life in so many ways and that it can bless yours too.  I know that Jesus Christ personally atoned for my sins and that he did it out of love.  Our Heavenly Father loves us and wants what’s best for us.  I want my family to know that I love them very much.  Even though it’ll be tough leaving them for eighteen months, I know that it will pay off.  I heard somewhere that a missionary only leaves their family temporarily so that they can bring another family together for eternity.  I cannot wait to serve the people of Ventura, California and bring them unto the knowledge of the gospel.  And I say these things in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.  

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