The last few days have been a whirlwind, but I'm so happy and proud of my Mom and Bob! As of yesterday, they became full-time missionaries #4 and #5 for the year 2012 to serve from my immediate family (Skylar, Tanner and I all overlapping for the first 4.5 months of the year). Their setting apart blessings were beautiful and exactly what they each needed to hear. I know they have each struggled in their own way to make the necessary sacrifices in order to serve full time for 18 months. But I also know that the Lord has great need of them individually and as a couple, for their prompting to go was strong and persistent enough to cut through the worried thoughts of a mother faced with the idea of leaving children with unsettled lives behind for so long. I am grateful for their example of faith, sacrifice, and service.
It is absolutely true that one need not be set apart as a full-time missionary in order to share the gospel with those around us. President Uchtdorf says, "Share the Gospel at all times. If necessary, use words." I've always loved that quote. It summarizes everything my dear parents drilled into me from as long as I can remember. Always be kind. Always offer a smile or a helping hand when possible. And if ever given an opportunity to share with others what makes me so happy and confident, embrace the chance to plant a seed, soften a heart, and possibly change their lives for eternity. Ok that was never given to me in a lecture during Family Home Evening or anything. But it WAS drilled into me by the incredible example my parents set for me. As a youth I thought I got embarrassed if one of my parents brought up the Church, the Gospel, or even religion with random people we didn't know. The cashier at the grocery store. The box boy at Barnes & Noble. The prize booth attendant at Chuck E Cheese. And yes, that REALLY did happen. I thought it was embarrassment because my chest would feel tight and my face would get hot. Now I realize that every time I heard them offer a simple testimony to a stranger, those weird sensations were the Holy Ghost testifying to my own heart simultaneously, building my own testimony line upon line.
By the time I got to junior high and high school, I had no doubt in my mind that the Gospel was true, and that the Church of Jesus Christ had been restored upon the earth in its Fulness. My high school had 4000 students. I honestly can't remember a single day when I wasn't asked at least one question about the church, my beliefs, of why on earth I would go to a religion class that started at 5:50 am every school day. With one question a day, every year for 3.5 years (I graduated early), that means I answered at least 630 questions about my beliefs before I had even graduated high school. I don't know if that's the usual for an LDS youth, but it was for me. Sharing the Gospel was a part of me because my parents had made it part of our family. The missionaries assigned to our ward called my mother "Mama B." We accompanied them to lessons, gave rides to and befriended investigators, and gave them as many referrals as we could think of. Our lives have been so enriched, and eternally blessed, by making missionary work a part of our lives.
As both a returned missionary and member missionary, I'll shout from the pulpit that one need not be a set apart, full time missionary to be an instrument in the Lord's hands, to be an example, to plant a seed, to extend an invitation, or to declare simple restored truths and the opportunities arise. In fact, one Gospel Truth that I can't seem to shout loud enough is that MEMBERS do the FINDING. MISSIONARIES do the TEACHING. It takes ALL of us to help our brothers and sisters all return to live with our Heavenly Parents. There are two kinds of conversion, and both are ABSOLUTELY NECESSARY: Social conversion and Spiritual conversion. I hope it's clear to everyone that members are to help especially in the social conversion, and that the full-time missionaries' responsibility is primarily the spiritual conversion. See? There is expedient work for ALL OF US!!! However, I can also say that there is an incredibly sweet power and authority that comes from being set apart as a full time missionary for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The Spirit is palpable. The mantle is real. It transforms an ordinary, faith-filled member of the church into a Representative of Jesus Christ, a prophet filled with the power and authority to declare the Gospel of Jesus Christ to God's children in your assigned area, and an angel bearing good tidings of great joy to all who will hear. I can't put into words how powerful and how humbling the weight of that mantle feels. It has been many months now since that mantle was removed from me. In the following months it felt as if it had taken half of me with it when I was released. But then, life got in the way and I forgot the sheer magnitude of the privilege it was for me to serve a full-time mission. Yesterday, I was reminded once again. The reminder has been bitter-sweet, but in the best possible way, like dark chocolate. It's left me craving once again the opportunity to share the Gospel with others. So this new year, I'm going to make more determined an effort to let my light shine. My patriarchal blessing says that I'll be able to radiate the peace the Gospel brings. THAT is who I'm meant to be.
I am not sharing this to boast, or make it sound like my family had tried to single-handedly change the religion of every acquaintance. That has never been what missionary work is about to my family. It's about sharing our peace and joy, sharing the fulness of truth that has been restored. It's about helping others have the peace of an eternal family, which has been our single greatest blessing of having the gospel in our lives. I am sharing this because I am so overwhelmingly grateful that my parents made our family a missionary family. My parents' simple testimony shared often with others was absolutely the foundation to everything I have become.
May we all radiate the peace and joy of the Gospel at all times, and if necessary, use words. Happy 2013!
P.S. For those of you interested, here is the link to my Mom and Bob's mission blog. http://bobandvickie.blogspot.com