Monday, May 27, 2013

Last Phone call until Christmas

Sister Smith called early this morning just before she boarded her plane for Denver.  We woke everyone up so we each could talk with her one last time before Christmas.   She said she is traveling with six sisters and one elder to the Denver North mission, but there are a total of 27 missionaries from her district who are on the plane with her.  Many are going on to Minnesota, some have been called to Brazil but haven't received their visas yet so will serve in Minnesota until they receive them.

She will spend the day in the mission home, then be assigned a companion and go to her area tomorrow.  She was only a little tearful, and she sounded strong and ready to go.  Because her sister Julie isn't at home (she is studying at BYU Idaho), she wanted to make sure Julie knew that she loved her. 

It was a sobering realization that I wouldn't hear my daughter's voice again for seven months.  I just wanted to keep her talking so I could hear that sweet sound.  But the plane was boarding and the pay phone wanted more money, so we had to say goodbye.  We love you, Sister Smith!  Our prayers and faith are with you always.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Life in the MTC

I leave the MTC Monday morning! I'LL BE IN DENVER BY 10am!! REAL LIFE????!!!!! This is crazy?! I wish I could spend at least a month here or something! It will be so hard to leave all my friends, the ones from BYU and home, and the ones I have made here.
My apartment is with 6 girls (all going to Denver North).  We laugh so much, and sing at night and pray together. We pray so much here at the MTC!! I pray with my companion so many times a day, that we sometimes forget who said the prayer last! It's great! 

Exact obedience is a huge deal here, and I'm working on it, but it's hard! I struggle mostly on getting to places on time!  My district (I spend hours upon hours upon hours with these wonderful 11 people-- 6 Sisters, and 5 Elders) is in a Guinea Pig class. My teachers are not the normal MTC teachers. They are the people who train the teachers. We also have a manager of teaching.... so our class is kind of a big deal. Most missionaries here don't start teaching until Monday (after being here since Wednesday), but we started teaching on Thursday (the FIRST FULL DAY OF BEING IN THE MTC)! They are trying a new style of teaching, and I'm part of it! It's actually pretty neat, and stressful. We teach about 3 lessons a day (2 are progressing investigators, so we have to plan a lesson for them), and 1 is just a one-time only visit/lesson.
I'll probably have to give a talk on Sunday. You prepare for a talk, and then they just call you up during the meeting, that's when you find out if you really are giving a talk or not

SUNDAYS are incredible! People have said, "make it to Sunday"-- it's true. The days before that are really long, and Sunday is super long, but it is so wonderful! We heard from a hilarious devotional speaker Sunday night (Mary Ellen Edmunds). And when the missionaries sing -- WOW!!!! The days since Sunday have gone by really fast! I can't believe it's Wednesday! I can't believe it's been a week since I said goodbye to you all! It seems like a life time ago, but yet it seems like yesterday! The Spirit here is AMAZING! I have just gotten used to the Holy Ghost being with me, which is incredible!  But you can sure tell when it leaves, or when I get down on myself, that's been hard. The MTC has been a humbling experience... I need to rely more on the Savior, and Heavenly Father more than ever in my life! You truly cannot teach without the Holy Ghost.

Tuesday night devotional: Elder Marcus B. Nash of the Seventy - INCREDIBLE! The Doctrine of Christ has been something that our teachers have focused on, and then Elder Nash hammered it into us in a loving, friendly, but definitely serious manner. 3 Nephi 27:13-22. He said something that really made me tear up. As his son left for his mission elder Nash whispered to him, "Don't hold anything back." When his son returned home, Elder Nash forgot he had said that. When his son got off the plane, after his mission, he embraced his father, and whispered, "I didn't hold anything back". I'm not going to hold anything back, or try to! I'm on the Lord's time! I know it will be hard, but if anyone can help me through, it is the Lord.

The day before I came to the MTC, Russell M. Nelson came for the Tuesday night devotional: "Obedience brings success. Exact obedience brings miracles." We all need miracles in our lives, but especially out here. The Lord wants to help me because I am trying to help bring souls unto Him!! I know that this is going to be hard. I mean, let's get real, you all know that I am not a big fan of waking up early, so that alone will be hard!  But I'm so excited to be a missionary, wait -- I am a missionary!

Please note:  Sister Smith tried to send pictures but the computer did not cooperate.

First Day in the MTC

We received a snail mail letter from Sister Smith yesterday.  She wrote it the first day she entered the MTC.  She was so excited about everything she did that day, except she reports the food isn't all that wonderful.  However, she is looking forward to the cereal bar, which apparently is open all day.  She really likes her companion, who is from Indiana.  And she was enthusiastic about the spiritual meetings she attended.  She sounds so happy!

More to come...  Her P Day (preparation day) is Wednesday, so we are anticipating her email!

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Off to the MTC!

Sister Smith left for the MTC (Mission Training Center) in Provo, Utah this morning.  We miss her already, but we know she is going to be an amazing missionary!  Here are our farewell pictures taken at 4:15 a.m. at the airport.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

So long, Farewell, Auf Wiedersehen Goodbye!!

Some of my wonderful, supportive friends!

Well friends, this is it! The next post will be made from someone in my family. I enter the Missionary Training Center (MTC) in less than 2 days!!! I will be there for about 2 weeks, and then off to Denver for the first time! On Sunday, Mother's Day, I was able to give a talk in church before I head out for a year and a half. Below is the talk I gave, more or less.

Good Morning!
My name is Kelly Smith and I moved into this ward about a month before I left for my freshman year at BYU. I still don’t know all of you, and would love to get to know you, but that might just have to wait till I get back home from my mission.
I got to speak in Rocklin 3rd Ward two weeks ago and my topic was “Missionary Work and the Atonement” based off of Elder Jeffrey R. Holland’s talk given in 2000 at the Provo Missionary Training Center. I emailed Brother Tanner, and this bishopric let me use the same topic! That was a relief, but I also was asked to speak on mothers. How appropriate that I am about to leave for a mission and get to speak on missionary work, and one of my favorite people in this world?!
I think Heavenly Father really wanted me to understand this topic of missionary work and how the Atonement plays into missionary work. While I was at school my friend, Chloe Shaw, sent me a video on missionary work and the atonement, and one of my favorite quotes from my mission prep manual happened to be from this talk, which I didn’t realize until I started preparing this talk!
I have been called to teach the gospel, to be a missionary of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The Lord has assigned me to an unknown land, a place I have never been before. To the wonderful state of Colorado! In the talk given by Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, he says that the central message that missionaries are supposed to teach is that of the Atonement. It is only through the Atonement that we, God’s children, are able to return to Him once more. This is the central doctrine that we need to teach. The main focus of the gospel of Jesus Christ is the Atonement. Because through it so many things occurred and blessings have been given to us. The message of the Atonement is the central focus of the gospel; all other points are only appendages to that doctrine as summarized by Elder Holland.
The word gospel means “good news.” Elder Holland says, quote, “The ‘good news’ was that death and hell could be escaped, that mistakes and sins could be overcome, that there was hope, that there was help, that the insoluble was solved, that the enemy had been conquered. The good news was the everyone’s tomb could be one day be empty, that everyone’s soul could again be pure, that every child of God could again return to the Father who gave them life” end quote.
I love this! I love how Elder Holland puts so much emphasis on each and every one of us. This gospel is a very personal gospel. Jesus Christ atoned for each and every one of us, individually! He atoned for me, Kelly Smith, and He atoned for you. He has felt your pains, sorrows, and afflictions. I can sympathize with you, and try to relate to what you are going through, but Jesus Christ is the only one who has ever lived on this earth that can truly sympathize with you, because He knows exactly what you are going through and how it feels. Rely on Him!
Later in the talk Elder Holland says, quote, “A convert’s new life should be built on faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and His redeeming sacrifice” end quote. This can be applied to all of our lives though, not just new converts! Everyone’s life should be built on faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and His atoning sacrifice for us. The first principle of the gospel is not just faith, but faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. He did not perform the Atonement for Himself! We need to have a firm belief and knowledge that Jesus Christ is our Savior. As Elder Holland said He is the one who holds the keys to our exaltation and salvation.
There are several ways to keep the Atonement, and the Savior, in the forefront of our minds. I definitely believe that Heavenly Father has provided us with these tools to help us gain a relationship with our personal Savior.
1.                          Have more spiritual sacrament meetings. Ponder on the sacrament, and what it symbolizes and means to you.
2.                          Try to have more spiritual baptismal services. Include appropriate songs and talks that should focus on the significance of the baptismal ordinance and the Atonement that Jesus Christ performed for us.
3.                          Missionaries should regularly testify while teaching. I LOVE this point.
This past semester I got to venture in to high security facility known as the Missionary Training Center. The MTC in Provo is not too far away from where I lived while at BYU and I tried to go once a week for most of the semester. While at the MTC I got to role play with the missionaries. I pretended to be an investigator or a less active member. After signing in and getting assigned to a room and would sit and wait. While waiting for the missionaries to “knock on my door” I would try to think of my “background” that I would use for the next 40 minutes or so, and pray to my Heavenly Father. During some lessons I was being given I knew that the missionaries were being guided by the Holy Ghost. The missionaries said things that were so pertinent to my life at that time, and the Spirit testified to me that what they were saying was true. There were some times where I would ask the missionaries, “So how do you know this is true?” Or some other question to guide them into bearing testimony that they had found out of the truthfulness of the gospel, or knows that a specific aspect of the gospel is true. During one lesson, I can’t recall one of the missionaries ever bearing testimony of a certain aspect of what they were trying to teach me. Now I don’t know if the missionary had a testimony or not yet. I hope he did, and I think he did but he didn’t let me know! As a pretend investigator I was getting kind of frustrated, because if the missionary can’t even tell me it’s true, and how he know it’s true, how could I know it’s true?! It is hard to open up and share something you hold so dear to your heart. Although I can be loud and love talking to people, sometimes it is hard for me to open up to people. I can feel for this Elder. But the difference testifying has in a lesson is HUGE! I went to other lessons and great experiences. Some missionaries are so willing and open to sharing how they know the gospel is true. The Holy Ghost can penetrate your heart when they do so. It is truly incredible! I really hope that I can remember this for myself when I go out and teach. I don’t ever want to leave a lesson without testifying at least in some point of the lesson that I know that what I am talking about is true.
When you testify, you can help bring the Holy Ghost in. You aren’t just spitting out doctrine, but you are letting people know that it is true.
The power that testifying has, has been apparent in my life. About two years ago I was a senior in high school sitting in Physics class with one of my friends. He is a very strong Christian, and one day we started talking about religion. He started shooting me down, and I started to fight back. I realized that this would go nowhere and that the Holy Ghost won’t reside when there is contention. I had to just stop and tell him that I know that Joseph Smith truly was a prophet of God and bore my testimony to him. He couldn’t really say anything back after that. You can’t fight with someone who just shares what they believe. I have had countless times that the Spirit has testified to me that different aspects of the gospel are true. People can’t break my testimony, and they can’t fight with it either.
            Elder Holland continued, quote, “…investigators are not only hearing our testimony of Christ, but they are hearing echoes of other, earlier testimonies, including their own testimony of Him, for they were on the side of the faithful who kept their first estate and earned the privilege of a second estate…. Every man, woman, and child, were among the valiant who once overcame Satan by the power of their testimony of Christ! So when they hear others bear that witness of Christ’s saving mission, it has a familiar feeling; it brings an echo of truth they themselves already know” end quote.
In that quote I just read, Elder Holland mentioned that we have overcome Satan once before. In the pre-mortal life Satan was probably pointing his finger and trying to put every doubt into our mind that we should not choose to follow our Savior, Jesus Christ. Satan has not changed from the pre-mortal life! He is still pointing his finger at us, and accusing us for choosing the right path. He will still try to put doubts in our mind of Heavenly Father’s Plan. Don’t let him get the better of you! He will try to let you know of your weaknesses and to remind you of the mistakes you have made in your past. If you have repented, let Christ help you take the accuser off you back! If you have been forgiven, hang onto that and forgive yourself as well. When Satan points his finger at you and reminds you of your past, stand up and firmly remind him of his future. His future is not a pretty one, and one I do not want at all! We can overcome Satan’s power through the Atonement of Jesus Christ. He truly atoned for us, and can help us out. We need to drop our burdens at His feet so He can help us lift them. Satan only has a short time span to get people into his grasp. We shouldn’t fear Satan and hell, but we need to be aware of his influence in our lives and stop it! We will generally go in the direction we are faced. When you are looking down with fear, you are probably headed that way, towards Satan. Why not look up with faith, headed toward our Heavenly Father and Savior, Jesus Christ? We have fought this battle once before, we can do it again! We can have the continual help of our Savior, let Him help you! In Revelations 12:10-12 it mentions that through our testimony and the Atonement we can overcome Satan and his followers again. I truly believe that is the case! Let’s stand and fight Satan. Let’s help in bringing others to our loving Heavenly Father, and Jesus Christ, our Savior, Redeemer, and Brother.
Elder Holland mentioned that investigators are hearing echoes of earlier testimonies. This doesn’t just apply to investigators, but anyone who is becoming converted to the Lord. My mother has been a huge influence on my life. I started tearing up when I went to write about this. She has become my best friend on earth, and I couldn’t have asked for a better, loving mother. Through her example, and testimony, mine has been strengthened. I would not be standing here, or be going on a mission if it wasn’t for my mother, and her strong desire to serve the Lord. One of the reasons I am going on my mission is because of her. My mom is a convert to the church, and I am SO INCREDIBLY grateful that she chose to join this gospel and follow our Savior, Jesus Christ. I love her immensely and I’m excited to share experiences from my mission with her. I am going to miss her so much. I will miss the little things she does for me, and the rest of my family. There have been many women in my life that have helped shape and mold me into who I am today. Through their testimonies mine has increased. Thank the women who have made a difference in your life today, ok not just today, every day, but especially today since this is the day that we get to honor our mothers. The testimonies of others truly can have an impact on yours! Strengthening and sharing your testimony can help someone else’s testimony grow.
            Bearing testimony has an enormous effect. It can bring the Holy Ghost, the Spirit of God, into the heart of someone you are talking to. The Holy Ghost is the real teacher and motivator. We can say anything and everything to help someone believe that the gospel is true, but if they don’t feel the Spirit they aren’t going to change or know it’s true for themselves. The Spirit is the real teacher, we just need to talk and be open with people so that the Holy Ghost can enter the hearts of others and let them feel of God’s love for them.
            I will now share an excerpt from the talk given by Elder Holland. Part of the quote I really liked from mission prep manual is found in this passage. Elder Holland states with passion, quote, “Anyone who does any kind of missionary work will have occasion to ask, Why is this so hard? Why doesn’t it go better? Why can’t our success be more rapid? Why aren’t there more people joining the Church? It is the truth. We believe in angels. We trust in miracles. Why don’t people just flock to the font? Why isn’t the only risk in missionary work that of pneumonia from being soaking wet all day and all night in the baptismal font?
“You will have occasion to ask those questions. I have thought about this a great deal. I offer this as my personal feeling. I am convinced that missionary work is not easy because salvation is not a cheap experience. Salvation never was easy. We are The Church of Jesus Christ, this is the truth, and He is our Great Eternal Head. How could we believe it would be easy for us when it was never, ever easy for Him? It seems to me that missionaries and mission leaders have to spend at least a few moments in Gethsemane. Missionaries and mission leader have to take at least a step or two toward the summit of Calvary.
            “Now please don’t misunderstand. I’m not talking about anything anywhere near what Christ experienced. That would be presumptuous and sacrilegious. But I believe that missionaries and investigators, to come to the truth, to come to salvation, to know something of this price that has been paid, will have to pay a token of that same price.
            “For that reason I don’t believe missionary work has ever been easy, nor that conversion is, nor that retention is, nor that continued faithfulness is. I believe it is supposed to require some effort, something from the depths of our soul.
            “If He could come forward in the night, kneel down, fall on His face, bleed from every pore, and cry, ‘Abba, Father (Papa), if this cup can pass, let it pass,’ then little wonder that salvation is not a whimsical or easy thing for us. If you wonder if there isn’t an easier way, you should remember you are not the first one to ask that. Someone a lot greater and a lot grander asked a long time ago is there wasn’t an easier way.
            “…When you struggle, when you are rejected, when you are spit upon and cast out and made a hiss and a byword, you are standing with the best life this world has ever known, the only pure and perfect life ever lived. You have reason to stand tall and be grateful that the Living Son of the Living God knows all about your sorrows and afflictions. The only way to salvation is through Gethsemane and on to Calvary. The only way to eternity is through Him – the Way, the Truth, and the Life” end quote.
I KNOW that this gospel is true. I am so excited to share this with the people in Colorado! Even though I am nervous to leave my family for 18 months, it will be worth it. I KNOW that my Heavenly Father knows me, Kelly Smith. There is no way that someone can ever shake that knowledge from me. An experience I had truly testified to me that Heavenly Father cares about me and knows me. He knows you too! He loves us individually. Jesus Christ atoned for my sins, has felt my sorrows and loves me! The Holy Ghost loves me too! The Godhead wants us to be happy! President Monson is truly a prophet of God and I am so grateful for modern day revelation. I am thankful and honored to be going on a mission. It has been something that I have wanted to do for years, and I’m so grateful that it is what Heavenly Father wants me to do as well. I get to be a 20 year old sister missionary and I am so excited! Joseph Smith was a prophet, and through him the Lord was able to restore this wonderful gospel of Jesus Christ. I am so grateful for him. I’m grateful for the knowledge I have of eternal families, and of the blessings of the temple. This gospel is so true. I love it with all my heart. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen. 

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Decision, Decision...

The weekend after the momentous announcement was made I got to go home to my wonderful family in California!!! Some friends and I took a road trip home and it was way fun! It was such a good weekend to come home (because my life plans just changed in the foreseeable future). While I was at home my friend and I were texting and she asked me if I knew that I was supposed to go on a mission. I thought I was, and was pretty sure that going on the mission was the right thing for me to do. But I can be a stubborn person sometimes, and I'm sure Satan was trying to persuade me not to go. I needed a pretty clear answer, even though I would probably have gone anyway! I happened to be at home alone for about an hour that weekend. I was playing the piano in between texting my friend. While I was sitting at the piano I prayed. I prayed to know if going on a mission was what Heavenly Father (God) wanted me to do. I TESTIFY to you that God answers prayers. I know that now, more than ever before! That day sitting at a piano, in a humble home, I got one of the most clear, perfect answers to a prayer I could have ever asked to receive. I'm so grateful that God knows me so well, and was willing to answer my prayer in the way He did.

After struggling to figure out when I should leave, and much more prayer, my mission papers (application process) were finally complete in January of 2013. On February 7th, 2013 I received one of the most important letters I might ever receive in my life! I got a letter from the Prophet of God, the President of The Church, Thomas S. Monson. In the letter it said where I will be serving the Lord for the next year and a half, what language I will speak, and when I report. One of the best days of my life!

If you want to watch me open my mission call you can click on this link:

Warning, I am very emotional while opening it! My parents and sisters are on speaker phone, while my roommate video taped it :)

My mission call!!!!!! It has my name on it!! I literally screamed when I saw it for the first time!

This is my wonderful roommate, Kaylee! She is such a supportive friend! I'm going to miss her! 

I'm going to the Colorado Denver North Mission, leaving May 15th, 2013. Oh, I get to speak English!!!!
Going to Colorado never crossed my mind, but I'm excited to serve the Lord where ever He needs me, and that's in Colorado! 

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Why a mission? Why right now?

Someone might ask, why do you want to serve a mission? Why right now? I have wanted to serve a mission for years! My desire to serve a mission definitely heightened when a lot of my guy friends left to serve missions at around 19 years of age! Young men used to be eligible to serve missions at 19 years old, and young women at 21. I was 19 at the time, and I still had to wait two years to go on a mission!! I was ok with it though. I had looked forward to serving a mission, that the wait was all right. I remember writing one of my friends who is serving in Brazil, "ONLY 18 MORE MONTHS TILL I CAN START MY PAPERS!!" Yes, I used capital letters! I seriously thought about when I could start the application process to become a missionary, even though it was years away! Going into my sophomore year of college I had my life planned out for the next couple of years (or so I thought). The only thing that was really standing in my way was the looming thought that I could get married before I was old enough to serve a mission. I mean two years, come on. That is definitely a possibility, especially at BYU living in off-campus housing! After being told by a friend that I should find out if a mission is what God had in store for me, I prayed. I prayed to know if I should serve a mission at 21 years old. Well starting October 6th, 2012 (only 2 months into my sophomore year at BYU) I didn't really have to think about marriage anymore...
I eagerly and excitedly traveled to Salt Lake City on the morning of October 6th, 2012. My wonderful friend Kenzi asked me the night before if I wanted to go to Salt Lake City with her to watch General Conference (a meeting my church has twice a year held in Salt Lake City). I jumped on her offer! Of course I would want to watch it live (although it is broadcast throughout the world)! To hear the prophet of God, to be in the same room as him, yeah I wanted to go! As we entered the Conference Center (where General Conference is held), I was so excited! There was a different feel going into this session than any other time I had listened/watched General Conference. I was genuinely excited to sit in a room for a couple of hours and listen to people speak. Anyway, we sat down, and President Thomas S. Monson opened the meeting. He opened this worldwide meeting with an announcement that would affect the rest of my life. President Monson announced that young men could now serve missions at age 18 instead of 19 (huge gasp in the Conference Center). He then said that young women could begin missionary service at age 19 instead of 21 (commence tears of joy running down my face)! I GET TO SERVE A MISSION! The announcement President Monson made, lowering the age that young women could now serve was an answer to my prayers! I know that this was revelation from God for me, and so many other people around the world who would now answer the call to serve at an earlier age. I no longer had to worry about marriage getting in the way of me serving a mission; but still needed to know if this is what my Heavenly Father wanted me to do, go out and serve Him. I will tell that story soon...

After the meeting, and after I found out I was now old enough to serve a mission, I ran into Natalie Savage, a friend and great example to me (who is a missionary on Temple Square)! She is the one on the right.