Some of my wonderful, supportive friends!
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.