Monday, November 25, 2013

November 25, 2013

Hey y'all :)

So now you guys know that my p-day is Mondays :) I'll probably be sending emails around this time every p-day, just so you know :)

So, being a missionary is SOOOOOO amazing! I absolutely love it! I'll give you the quick run down of my adventures over the last 5 days.

Wednesday was crazy. After I was dropped off, they took me into all these different buildings and I found out that I would be staying at the MTC WEST CAMPUS! (AKA: Wyview) Home sweet home! That's where (almost) all the Spanish-speaking missionaries are, which is really cool because we all can just speak Spanish to each other at mealtime, walking to and from classes, etc. It was a little weird at first, living in an apartment just like my old one, doing laundry in the same place...but it's all good now :) My companion is Hermana Linford and I just love her to death! She is 19 (just barely though), from Counsel, Idaho, plays the flute, youngest in her family... and we have discovered that we are pretty much the exact same person! Except for the fact that she can speak WAY more Spanish than I can. I am actually the only person in my district who didn't take Spanish in high school, so I'm definitely the furthest behind. But it actually works out really well. We are learning so much together, and we are just getting started! My district is so awesome. We are ALL going to Mexico Puebla South, which is totally awesome! Most districts aren't like that! There are two other sisters in our district, Hermanas Jones and Bowers-Nunez (we also share an apartment with them), and then 4 elders, Elders Autin, Werber, Thorne and Anderton. We are all SO close, and we do everything together (even the things we aren't forced to do together!)

On Thursday, we started working so hard. My teacher, Hermano Rasmussen, only speaks in Spanish, so we had to learn how to pay attention very quickly. My day consists of waking up around 5:30 (we have breakfast at 6:30), and we start studying at 7. Then we have lunch at 11...then more studying or class. Then dinner is at 4 and then we study some more, until 9:30. We live in our classroom. They are really long days...but it has been going by so fast. We have gym time everyday too, in these giant white "burbujas" (bubbles) I'll attach a picture of them :) They have basketball, soccer, volleyball and four square courts, but we mostly run laps and do strength training. 

On Friday, Hermana Linford and I taught our first lesson to "Ana" SPANISH. To say the least...we crashed and burned! But it's all uphill from there, right? I am so amazed at all the Spanish I have learned in the last 5 days. It is so amazing, and Heavenly Father has truly blessed me when it comes to picking up the language. 

Saturday was my hardest day this week, but it was also the best day. The other days were hard, but Saturday really got to me. We taught Ana again Saturday morning, and Hermana Linford and I felt SO prepared going in there. But Ana asked us questions that I could answer in English, but I just couldn't in Spanish. Hermana Linford just amazed me though, and was able to answer her questions good enough, and said so many words that she didn't even think she knew! I was so happy for her! The Spirit was so strong when we bore our testimonies though. But I walked out of that lesson feeling super discouraged. And I felt super bad for Hermana Linford, because she was stuck with a companion who can't speak Spanish. All day, negative thoughts stirred in my mind and I was so frustrated with myself. But then that night, during class, Hermano Rasmussen decided to boycott learning grammar and phrases...and instead taught the lesson that I think we all needed to hear. He talked to us about the worth of souls, and had us study some scriptures in Alma 26. He then told stories from his mission in Chile, and the Spirit was so strong, and his message was so powerful. Then we read Alma 13 together as a class, and that was the first time I completely lost control of my emotions (don't worry, Hermana Jones was crying too). We are called by God to be His missionaries. We have been fore-ordained. We have been preparing our whole lives and pre-mortal lives for our missions. We have the potential to become ANGELS, declaring His gospel in Puebla, Mexico. But it requires, faith, applying the Atonement of Jesus Christ, and being sanctified through the power and grace of God. No one is perfect, and no missionary is perfect. The Lord does not expect me to be perfect, he only asks that I try my best. ...But the miracle of Saturday night was as Hermano Rasmussen talked in flawless Spanish for that last hour and a half...I understood every word he said. The gift of interpretation of tongues is real! The language of the spirit is universal! The gospel is true! I went home that night with so much gratitude in my heart - to be able to have a district so focused on the work that we can invite the Spirit into our classroom, for a teacher who understands the importance of teaching the lessons we need, and for my loving Heavenly Father, for loving me and comforting me, even when I feel like I least deserve it. 

Sundays are pretty awesome :) We have Sacrament meeting in the bubbles, relief society, district and zone meetings, devotional at the main campus, and films that night. I was super sick Saturday and Sunday that put a downer on things. I had a really nasty cold/cough that kept me up for most of Saturday night, and on Sunday, my head just felt like a giant beach ball got stuck between my ears. But I'm better now, no worries! :) Prayers and medicine go a long ways!

I love you all!  I am so happy to be a missionary. There is nothing else that I'd rather be doing with my life right now, than serving and inviting others to come unto Christ. God loves each of us so much, and I feel so blessed every day to have the gospel in my life. I can't wait til I can help the people in Puebla to feel of his love, and learn of how to return to live with him again. This is a beautiful work, and I'm so blessed to be a part of it. You're in my prayers!! 

Love always, Hermana Smith

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Sister Smith's Farewell Talk

This is the copy of the farewell talk I gave today. I didn't say it word for word, but this was the basic outline of it. Thank you to all of my friends and family that came today! It was a fantastic day!

The Parable of the 10 Virgins

“Then shall the kingdom of heaven be likened unto ten virgins, which took their lamps, and went forth to meet the bridegroom
And five of them were wise, and five were foolish
They that were foolish took their lamps, and took no oil with them;
But the wise took oil in their vessels with their lamps.
While the bridegroom tarried, they all slumbered and slept
And at midnight there was a cry made, Behold, the bridegroom cometh; go ye out to meet him.
Then all those virgins arose, and trimmed their lamps.
And the foolish said unto the wise, Give us of your oil; for our lamps are gone out.
But the wise answered, saying, not so; lest there be not enough for us and you: but go ye rather to them that sell, and buy for yourselves.
And while they went to buy, the bridegroom came; and they that were ready went in with him to the marriage; and the door was shut.
Afterward came also the other virgins, saying, Lord, Lord, open to us.
But he answered and said, Verily I say unto you, I know you not.
Watch therefore, for ye know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of man cometh.”

The parable of the 10 virgins was given by Jesus Christ, and is recorded in Matthew 25:1-13. There are multiple interpretations of this parable, which is understandable because everyone understands parables differently. However, it is known that the bridegroom spoken of represents our Savior, Jesus Christ, and that the time of His coming indicates the Second Coming. Today, I would like to talk about the lamps and the oil that the 10 virgins possessed, what it means to me, and how you and I can apply this parable into our lives, so that we can be prepared to meet the Lord again. I am hoping that the Spirit can be with me as I speak to you today, and that your hearts will be touched.

All ten virgins in this parable were ready to meet the bridegroom, or thought as much. They knew who he was, and they were patiently waiting for His coming. They had their lamps, ready to light their way. However, as the parable indicates, half of the virgins were wise, and half were foolish. What separated these two groups? The amount of oil that was in each of their possession. As I have pondered on this parable, I have found that I relate the lamps that the virgins had to a basic testimony, a knowledge that each of us here have, or hope to gain, and the oil to  true conversion.

A testimony is available to all of God’s children, through the power of the Holy Ghost. It requires exercising a small seed of faith, sincerely seeking, knocking, and asking for the truth. And it brings happiness, increased accountability, and the knowledge of our purpose in this life. Testimonies are a beautiful blessing from our Heavenly Father, and they spark the start of our journey towards eternal life.

But they are not enough. So why is conversion so important to being prepared for the Second Coming and living with God again? We cannot stand on a testimony alone. If we try to, we will not be able to resist the storm of temptation or withstand the forces of evil that is already here, and increasing every day. True conversion however will give us the endurance we need to stand up to wickedness and to avoid it. True conversion leads us to becoming more like our Heavenly Father

In the scriptures, we are told that we must become even as He is, to be “spiritually-minded” and to put off the “natural man”. In Mosiah 3:19, it says, “For the natural man is an enemy to God, and has been from the fall of Adam, and will be forever and ever, unless he yields to the enticings of the Holy Spirit, and putteth off the natural man and becometh a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord, and becometh as a child, submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, willing to submit all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon him, even as a child doth submit to his father.”

In True to the Faith, it says this concerning conversion: “Conversion includes a change in behavior, but it goes beyond behavior; it is a change in our very nature. It is such a significant change that the Lord and His prophets refer to it as a rebirth, a change of heart, and a baptism of fire.”  Elder David A. Bednar puts it this way. “True conversion brings a change in one’s beliefs, heart, and life to accept and conform to the will of God and includes a conscious commitment to become a disciple of Christ... Conversion is an offering of self, of love, and of loyalty we give to God in gratitude for the gift of testimony…. Knowing that the gospel is true is the essence of a testimony. Consistently being true to the gospel is the essence of conversion.”  Conversion is personal. When the 5 foolish virgins asked the 5 wise virgins for their oil, I don’t believe the wise ones were just being selfish. The oil, oil of conversion, cannot be shared, it cannot be taught. It must be “bought for ourselves”. It also cannot be purchased at the last moment, not in time for the coming of the Bridegroom. The wise virgins with the extra oil were invited into the wedding with the bridegroom, but when the foolish women came back, the door had been closed to them. It is something that we have to be preparing for our entire lives, and can’t be left for the final hours before the Savior comes.

So how can we become converted unto the Lord? How do we obtain that extra oils to fuel our lamps? Again, as Elder Bednar said, consistently being true to the gospel is the essence of conversion.  So what is the Gospel? It is the plan of salvation, made possible through the Atonement of Jesus Christ. It is following the principles and ordinances set forth in the scriptures: faith, repentance, baptism, the reception of the Gift of the Holy Ghost and enduring to the end. When I was younger, I used to think that these first principles and ordinances of the Gospel were just a one time deal, applicable before I was eight, then once I was baptized and confirmed, all I had to do was “endure to the end”. Except, my little 8 year old mind didn’t understand that phrase. I didn’t know what that meant.  To me, the word “endure” meant that I had to withstand suffering and trials, which we do in this life. But the word “endure” can be more simple than that. It can mean “to continue” or “to remain”. And to me, that means to continue to apply the principles of faith, repentance, baptism and living in a way so we can keep the Spirit with us always. We have to continually “seek for the things of a better”. We must be constantly trying to become more like the Savior. Conversion truly requires our whole heart, might, mind and strength. We need to fuel that fire with daily prayer, scripture study, service, weekly attendance at church, sharing the Gospel with others and regularly attending the temple, being true to the sacred covenants we make there.

None of us are perfect, and we will make mistakes. I know that I have. But through the Atonement, we can and will become clean again, if we put our faith and trust in the Savior. I know that the Atonement is real. I know that with my whole heart, for I can see how it has changed me and blessed my life, and continues to bless my life every day. The sacrament that we take each week cleanses us so we can start on a clean slate again, just like baptism. It gives us the opportunity  to prayerfully contemplate what we need to change in our lives, and gives us the chance to do so.

We can not be converted by ourselves - it requires the grace and power of God. It requires humility and faith. In 3 Nephi 9:20, it says, “Ye shall offer for a sacrifice unto me a broken heart and a contrite spirit. And whoso cometh unto me with a broken heart and a contrite spirit, him will I baptize with fire and with the Holy Ghost.”  

One of my favorite examples of conversion comes from the Book of Mormon. The Anti-Nephi-Lehies are amazing examples to me on what it means to be truly converted. In Alma 23:5-7 it says, “And thousands were brought to the knowledge of the Lord, yea, thousands were brought to believe in the traditions of the Nephites; and they were taught the records and prophecies which were handed down even to the present time. And as sure as the Lord liveth, so sure as many as believed, or as many as were brought to the knowledge of the truth, through the preaching of Ammon and his brethren, according to the spirit of revelation and of prophecy, and the power of God working miracles in them - yea, I say unto you, as the Lord liveth, as many of the Lamanites as believed in their preaching, and were converted unto the Lord, never did fall away. For they became a righteous people; they did lay down the weapons of their rebellion, that they did not fight against God any more, neither against any of their brethren.” The Anti-Nephi-Lehies had testimonies of the Gospel, just like you and me. And through belief, personal revelation and “the power of God working miracles in them”, they became converted and they never fell away. I love what they teach us in the next chapter even more. When their brethren came to destroy them, they stayed true to the covenant they made with God to never fight against any of their brethren. They buried their weapons as a testimony of their faith, as a witness of their conversion. In verse 19 (Chapter 24) it says, “And thus we see that, when these Lamanites were brought to believe and to know the truth, they were firm, and would suffer even unto death rather than commit sin; and thus we see that they buried their weapons of peace, or they buried the weapons of war, for peace.” Brothers and sisters, that is conversion. Being firm in your faith, never wavering. Burying our own weapons of war that we have inside us, to become more like our Savior and Heavenly Father. As we put off the natural man and hold true to the covenants and promises we’ve made with the Lord, a mighty change will come into our hearts. When we do this, oil will be added to our vessels, day by day, drop by drop.

It is important to remember that conversion never ends. We will never reach a point, at least not in this life, where we can stop and say, “I have reached my max level of conversion. I don’t need to work on it anymore.” Conversion is an ongoing, daily process. Once we have become “converted”, we must continue to strive for “greater conversion” and so on and so forth.

We have been blessed with the knowledge of the gospel on the earth today, and Christ’s church has been restored through the Prophet Joseph Smith. We are all like the ten virgins, knowing that Christ will come again, and we are waiting for that day. But are we preparing as we wait? Are we foolish, or are we wise? Are we continually seeking to become truly converted to the Gospel of Jesus Christ or are we relying only on the testimonies that we presently have, no matter how large or small they may be? Do we have an abundance of oil to fill our lamps, or are they about to run dry?

I would like to end with one last scripture, found in D&C 33:17. “Wherefore, be faithful, praying always, having your lamps trimmed and burning, and oil with you, that you may be ready at the coming of the Bridegroom.” I invite all of you today to think of one thing you can do to become more converted to the Gospel. I know that if you do this, and strive for it with all of your heart, might, mind and strength, you will feel of God’s love for you, and your testimony will grow. In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

10 Must-Read LDS Talks

"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.
But now hold your peace; study my word which hath gone forth among the children of men, and also study my word which shall come forth among the children of men, or that which is now translating, yea, until you have obtained all which I shall grant unto the children of men in this generation, and then shall all things be added thereto."
~D&C 11:21-22~

 I am so grateful that we have the direction of a living prophet, apostles and other church leaders in our lives, who are the mouthpieces for the Lord in these latter-days! These 10 talks have changed my perspective, my actions, my attitude and my life. I would encourage everyone to take time to read even just one of these talks. I promise that the Spirit will impress you with thoughts on how to improve your own life, as it has done for me.

"The Hope of God's Light"
President Dieter F. Uchtdorf
General Conference April 2013
Favorite Quote:
“God’s light is real. It is available to all! It gives life to all things. It has the power to soften the sting of the deepest wound. It can be a healing balm for the loneliness and sickness of our souls. In the furrows of despair, it can plant the seeds of a brighter hope. It can enlighten the deepest valleys of sorrow. It can illuminate the path before us and lead us through the darkest night into the promise of a new dawn.”
Read it HERE

"Being A More Christian Christian"
Elder Robert D. Hales
General Conference October 2012
Favorite Quote:
"This is the call of Christ to every Christian today: “Feed my lambs. … Feed my sheep”—share my gospel with young and old, lifting, blessing, comforting, encouraging, and building them, especially those who think and believe differently than we do."
Read it HERE

"His Grace Is Sufficient"
Brother Brad Wilcox
BYU Devotional July 2011

Favorite Quote:
"Jesus doesn't make up the difference. Jesus makes all the difference. Grace is not about filling gaps. It is about filling us.”
Read it HERE

"Missionary Work and the Atonement"
Elder Jeffery R. Holland
MTC Address June 2000

Favorite Quote:
"I promise that because of your faithful response to the call to spread the gospel, He will bind up your broken hearts, dry your tears, and set you and your families free. That is my missionary promise to you and your missionary message to the world."
Read it HERE

"We Are Daughters of Our Heavenly Father"
Sister Elaine S. Dalton
General Conference April 2013

Favorite Quote:
"As daughters of God we are each unique and different in our circumstances and experiences. And yet our part matters - because we matter."
Read it HERE

"The Great Commandment"
Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin
General Conference October 2007
Joseph B. Wirthlin
Favorite Quote:
“Nothing you do makes much of a difference if you do not have charity. You can speak with tongues, have the gift of prophecy, understand all mysteries, and possess all knowledge; even if you have the faith to move mountains, without charity it won’t profit you at all.”
Read it HERE

"Put Your Trust in the Lord"
Elder M. Russell Ballard
General Conference October 2013

Favorite Quote:
"It is impossible for us to fail when we do our best when we are on the Lord's errand. While the outcome is a result of the exercise of one's agency, sharing the gospel is our responsibility."
Read it HERE

"An High Priest of Good Things to Come"
Elder Jeffery R. Holland
General Conference October 1999

Favorite Quote:
"Even if you cannot always see that silver lining on your clouds, God can, for He is the very source of the light you seek. He does love you, and He knows your fears. He hears your prayers. He is your Heavenly Father, and surely He matches with His own the tears His children shed."
Read it HERE

"Your Happily Ever After"
President Dieter F. Uchtdorf
General Young Women Conference 2010

Favorite Quote:
"It is your reaction to adversity, not the adversity itself, that determines how your life's story will develop."
Read it HERE

"We Never Walk Alone"
President Thomas S. Monson
General Relief Society Meeting October 2013

Favorite Quote:
"Your Heavenly Father loves you - each of you. That love never changes. It is not influenced by your appearance, by your possessions, or by the amount of money you have in your bank account. IT is not changed by your talents and abilities. It is simply there. It is there for you when you are sad or happy, discouraged or hopeful. God's love is there for you whether or not you feel you deserve love. It is simple always there."
Read it HERE