Hello Brothers and Sisters. I have been called to serve in the Dominican Republic, Santo Domingo East Mission. The DR is on the same island as Haiti in the Caribbean, south east of Florida. I will be speaking Spanish. 95% of the DR is Roman Catholic and the people are very loving. The weather is tropical and sunny, averaging 77 degrees F year round. In my mission some challenges (especially for myself) include that I may have more than one companion at a time- my companion sister and 100 insect companions as well. It is also in the middle of the hurricane belt and is a lot more humid than UT. My good friend, Elder Tate, is currently serving in my mission and said he was, “workin in the sauna”. However, I’ve looked at these challenges as an opportunity to literally break a sweat in the work of the lord and conquer my bug-phobia. I will be reporting to the Dominican Republic MTC on September 24th.
My topic today is, “How I can be a light to others”. Sometimes in the simplest places we can find lessons for real life. For example, I found an important life lesson in the Disney movie “tangled”. In this movie a young princess named Rapunzel is born. When she is born, she has magical healing powers within her that not only heal injuries, but can keep others young forever. Mother Gothel, a woman crazed by the want to stay young, recognizes that the baby has these powers within her. Because of her obsession, she steals Rapunzel. Gothel raises Rapunzel and locks her in a high tower in an isolated area. She tells Rapunzel that she is a “nobody”. Far away, to symbolize their love and motivation to keep seeking for Rapunzel, The King and the Queen celebrate the birthday of their lost daughter every year by releasing lanterns to the sky. Rapunzel dreams of leaving the tower to see these floating lanterns up close. Mother Gothel forbids it. Rapunzel’s curiosity leads her to run away and eventually she makes it to the castle to see these lights. These lights help her discover that she is a lost princess, who is loved by her real parents who never gave up on her, and ultimately is able to leave the tower behind and return to her real home, the castle.
Like in this movie, and from my own personal experiences, I have concluded that to be a light to others is to help them see Heavenly Father’s love for them, to help them recognize that they are children of God, and to help lead them to their future “castle” or the Celestial Kingdom. I believe that as we strive to become lights in other’s lives, we will find lasting joy as the Lord can express to us, as peter did to the saints in Ephesians, “
There are three distinct ways I thought of for us to be lights to those around us. The first is by being a good example, the second is through service, and the third is through missionary work.
Just by being a good example we can be a light to those around us. The Lord explains this in 3 Nephi as he says, “
One of the more obvious ways to be an example is through the way we act. Elder Uchtdorf stated, quote “If we live according to our beliefs, people will notice. If the countenance of Jesus Christ shines in our lives…people will want to know why.” Close quote. Elder Holland also powerfully declared, quote, “Above all else we can live the gospel. Surely there is no more powerful…message we can send to this world than the example of a loving and happy Latter-day Saint life. The smile and kindness of a faithful member of the Church brings a warmth and an outreach which no missionary tract or videotape can convey” close quote.
If you are being a good example by the way you act, you really can influence those around you. Through the past year I’ve had a lot of little trials in regards to my decision to serve- and a lot of times I felt totally inadequate. However, from some prominent examples from my family I was able to act enthusiastically and respond to the prompting to serve a mission. In my family, my sister Caroline has been through very difficult times and has shown me that you can pull through even the darkest of times by holding onto hope through the gospel. My mother who was a convert and has been so strong since she was in her 20’s, and also my older sister Lara, who have shown me what it means to be converted and never waiver in your faith. And perhaps the most important examples to me this past year were my Dad, my sister sarah, and my brother Dave, who all answered their own promptings to serve a mission and shared with me advice and stories about their missions. Because of their example and the way they acted in regards to their own promptings, in my moments of doubt or inadequacy, I was able to hold strong to the prompting I got to serve a mission. As many of you know I have many siblings, so that could have been my whole talk just talking about them, but I have also been blessed that all of my brother and sister in-laws and younger siblings have all been positive examples in my life of living their faith.
Another less obvious way of being a good example, is to endure well in our trials. The Lord can use those who endure well in their trials as examples to others facing trials. This principle reminds me of the mission call of the sons of Mosiah in Alma 17: “And the Lord said unto them also: Go forth among the Lamanites, thy brethren, and establish my word; yet ye shall be patient in long-suffering and afflictions, that ye may show forth good examples unto them in me, and I will make an instrument of thee in my hands unto the salvation of many souls.”
I found hope through an example of endurance from one of my best friends, Elder Tohi Heimuli. I was having an extremely hard time at BYU. School was stressing me out, specifically American Heritage tests, and I was in the process of doing my mission papers so you can imagine the amount of pressure I was feeling from the Adversary. My good friend, Elder Heimuli, called me from his mission and after assuring me he was allowed to call whoever he wanted, started discussing with me about his older brother passing away just days before. I was amazed at the strength Elder Heimuli had in this difficult time. In one of his first emails back home after he heard the news of his brother he said, quote: As to what I feel right now I cannot describe, but what I do know is that through the atonement I can be healed… I felt as though I should go home at first, but I realize that in these tender moments Satan will try his best to place within us feelings of hatred and bitterness. He
can't touch me because I am on the Lords side.” Close Quote.
Tohi was a light and example in my life. Because of his strength he had during his trial, I found my own strength with my own trials with school. I’m also sure that at hard times in my mission, I will reflect on his words and be able to find strength and light through them.
Service is the second way that we can bring light to other’s lives. Spencer W. Kimball said, quote, “God does notice us, and he watches over us. But it is usually through another person that he meets our needs.” Close quote. Doing service doesn’t always need to be super expensive or time consuming, it can be just trying to make someone else’s day a little better.
Back in October I tutored little kids at the South Franklin Community Center. Some children really enjoyed us tutors as we taught them, others just enjoyed our company so they could throw pencils at us and run around, forcing us to sprint after them. There was a girl that I would hope I wasn’t put in charge of her. She would sit there and put her head up and down for 2 hours while I tried 100 different techniques to get her to focus and do homework. Feeling overwhelmed one day as I tried teaching her, I asked her if she wanted to go outside and play. It was the first time I had seen her smile, and she nodded in approval. I said, “Okay! But we have to do school work when we are done!” She hesitated but agreed. After playing outside I told her it was time to go inside and do work. She sat down discouraged and looked at me and said, “I’m not smart. Everyone in my class tells me I’m stupid so I’m stupid.” I told her that I believed that she was smart, and with time she would be able to understand all that the teacher was teaching the class. I asked her if she would be willing to let me really try and help her with her school work. Beaming, she accepted. I could see light in her eyes and her confidence building because of the school lessons I was teaching her. Through that experience, I learned that service can be as simple as telling someone you think they are smart, or helping them with schoolwork.
Choosing to be a member missionary is the third way we can be a light to others.
You don’t need an official mission call to participate as a missionary in the last days. From the hymn, we are all enlisted we read, “Hark! The sound of battle sounding loudly and clear, come join the ranks! Come join the ranks! We are waiting now for soldiers, who’ll volunteer? Glad to join the army, we will sing as we go, we shall gain the victory by and by. We are all enlisted tell the conflict is over! Happy are we, happy are we.” The battle is raging in the last days, and the Lord is asking us all to participate in hastening his work. When we choose to participate in the work we are choosing to also follow our Heavenly Father’s will, as D. Todd Christofferson said in this month’s ensign, quote “Sharing the gospel is not a program; it is a cause-the cause of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.” Close quote.
Member missionary work has also been crucial for me and my family. Before my parents were married, my mom worked in the same company as my dad. My mom asked my dad about the church, and he referred her to missionaries to help her with her questions. Without my dad doing this little bit of member missionary work by referring her to the missionaries, my mom might not have joined the church and later married my father to later be sealed in the temple. I might not have grown up learning the gospel, and maybe wouldn’t be now serving a mission- to teach others the gospel.
Because of my mission prep courses with the Lindley’s, I felt inspired to give more time in my life towards member missionary work. In the past year, I have been able to see miracles happen as I have prayed for missionary opportunities in my life. Perhaps one of the biggest miracles I was able to witness, was in the life of one of my best friends Leda.
I went to Marine Biology camp in San Diego 2 years ago and met Leda. Leda was a member of the Catholic Church. I had told her a little bit about our church, especially as she questioned why in the world I wouldn’t accept the coffee she had so kindly offered me. About 6 months later, in mission prep with the Lindleys, we were challenged to pray for missionary opportunities. I had stayed connected with Leda and knew she was going through extremely hard times in her life. Right there in class I knew that Heavenly Father wanted me to share the Book of Mormon with Leda. Conveniently my friends and I would be going on a senior trip to California a couple of months later, close to where Leda lived. After sharing my prompting in mission prep with my friends, we decided that we would invite Leda to church. That Sunday in California many challenges happened, the hardest being that Leda had pulled an all-nighter at work and was very exhausted. After talking with her she, by some miracle, hesitantly agreed to go, but only if we left after the first hour. After the first hour she turned to me and said, “Well, maybe we can stay for the next hour too!” The bishop of the ward talked to us right after that and told her, “You are more than welcome to come to our ward anytime!” And she said, “Oh, I’m catholic.” The Bishop said, “I don’t care! You could be a monkey and I’d still invite you!” We stayed for second hour, and after that hour she said, “Let’s stay for third hour!!” I was mind-blown. This was not the same hesitant Leda I had seen enter our car only 2 hours earlier. As we dropped her off after church, I handed her a Book of Mormon and told her it was for her, and promised that if she read it, it would bless her life. In a little under the next two months she did read it, connected with missionaries, and committed to baptism on my birthday, August 31st. Exactly one year ago today I got to see Leda covenant to take upon herself the Name of Christ in the waters of baptism. Since then, Leda has been through intense trials because of her decision to join the church, especially with her family. Although life was brutal for her, Leda, as a new member, made a bold move and filmed a video on Facebook about being LDS and what she believed in. I can’t adequately explain how I felt when I watched that video, all I can say is that it was one of the happiest moments of my entire life. Now she is sitting in front of me today and preparing to enter the temple in the next year! I believe God could have reached Leda without me, because she was ready to hear and accept the truth, but I feel privileged that God allowed me to assist her in coming to know the truth. Devin Lindley discussed in his homecoming talk that he knows that God could do his own work, but he allows us the special privilege in participating in it instead. I would like to add my testimony to that, that he was right and that is true. And that is how I feel about all of us sharing the gospel as members, it is always a privilege. Alma 30:9 states quote: Now if a man desired to serve God, it was his privilege; or rather, if he believed in God it was his privilege to serve him. Close Quote.
I know there are people out there being prepared to hear YOU teach them the gospel, or YOU to refer them to the missionaries. As Elder Holland stated, quote, “the missionary opportunity you want is already being prepared in the heart of someone who longs for and looks for what you have. “ Close quote. The difference members can make, reminds me of Alma and Amulek- Alma, a missionary, was cast out and ignored when he was alone. But when he joined forces with Amulek, a member in town, the "people began to be astonished, seeing there was more than one witness who testified of the things... And many of them did believe on his words, and began to repent, and to search the scriptures."
In conclusion, every time that we find ways to help others, through our examples, service, and missionary work, I know that we can find lasting joy and give others lasting light. D&C 18:15-16 And if it so be that you should labor all your days in crying repentance unto this people, and bring, save it be one soul unto me, how great shall be your joy with him in the kingdom of my Father! And now, if your joy will be great with one soul that you have brought unto me into the kingdom of my Father, how great will be your joy if you should bring many souls unto me.
Now I would like to challenge everyone here to either find ways you can be a better example, find small ways to serve more often, or pray for missionary opportunities. I promise that if you really do so, you will find true and lasting joy in the work of Salvation.
As Albus Dumbledore put it in Harry Potter, quote “Happiness can be found in the darkest of times, if one remembers to turn on the light.” Close quote. Happiness can be found in this difficult life, if you remember to turn on your light.
We were all born to be a light. Jenni Johnson shared a beautiful quote last week in her homecoming talk. One part of that quote says, “We are children of God…We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us; it's in all of us. And when we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.” Close quote.
I can’t wait to serve my mission and help bring souls unto Heavenly Father in the Dominican Republic. My mission goal isn’t to baptize every single person I talk to, although that would be amazing but most likely impossible. However, my goal is to let every single person know that they have a Heavenly Father who loves them, and a Savior who can change and help them.
In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.