My mom, my aunt Lee, and my uncle Jonathan are seminary teachers. For those who don’t know, teenage members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints attend a seminary class everyday. In this class they read, learn from, and discuss holy scripture from the Old Testament, New Testament, Book of Mormon and Doctrine and Covenants. Seminary provides an environment for teenagers to grow and increase their testimonies, or basic beliefs, and firmly root those beliefs in the doctrine of Jesus Christ contained within the sacred writing of the prophets. Many of these classes take place early in the mornings requiring many sacrifices from both the teachers and students. I know that seminary teachers offer freely and voluntarily significant portions of their time to teach and prepare lessons from these religious writings. I am grateful for the time, effort, preparation and love they all put into teaching.
This year, seminary students are studying from the Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ. Soon they will be learning about Ammon, a great missionary of faith, service, and love whom I am named after. My mom asked me to write to her class what it means to me to be a missionary but I feel prompted to share with you all why I am giving two years of my life to serve as a missionary.
Serving a mission allows me to show my gratitude towards God. He has given me everything in my life. I was born into a family. I was taught the Gospel. I learned to work. I learned to study. I was encouraged to question and seek for truth. I was taught to love and serve those around me. Most importantly, I learned the reality, beauty, and importance of the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ. Similar to Ammon and the Sons of Mosiah I was, for years, rebelling against what I knew was right and true. Through my mistakes and actions I put myself in an awful and empty place. I was lost and afraid. But because of the love my Father in Heaven and my Savior, Jesus Christ, I was able, as we all are, to repent and bring myself closer to God. When speaking of such a past, Ammon explains in Alma 26:20:
“…Behold, he did not exercise his justice upon us, but in his great mercy hath brought us over that everlasting gulf of death and misery, even to the salvation of our souls.”
I was spiritually dead and decaying but because of a friend who reached out to guide and help me I was able to take part in the Atonement of Jesus Christ and be rescued from that “everlasting gulf.”
When I finally took part in that Atonement and repentance, I was able to exclaim as did Alma the Younger:
…I could remember my pains no more; yea I was harrowed up by the memory of my sins no more. And oh, what joy, and marvelous light did I behold; yea, my soul was filled with joy as exceeding as was my pain! Yea, I say unto you that there could be nothing so exquisite and so bitter as were my pains. Yea, and again I say unto you that on the other hand, there can be nothing so exquisite and sweet as was my joy. (Alma 36:19-21).
The joy and strength I now feel after having partaken in that redeeming sacrifice is indescribable. I know that it is available to all, and that is why I am spending these two years preaching the gospel. There are people all around us who are “encircled about with everlasting darkness and destruction” and as missionaries we help bring them to the everlasting light and salvation of the Atonement that they may be “encircled about with the matchless bounty of [God’s] love.” And I rejoice because I am an “instrument in his hands of doing this great and marvelous work” (Alma 26:15).
I have seen the power of the Gospel of Jesus Christ firsthand. It has changed my life in a way I cannot begin to describe. It has helped me grow closer to a loving Father in Heaven. It has rescued me from the torment and destruction felt as a result of sin. It has brought me to the light and life of Jesus Christ and I wish to share that feeling with all whom I come into contact.
“Yea, and from that time even until now, I have labored without ceasing, that I might bring souls unto repentance; that I might bring them to taste of the exceeding joy of which I did taste; that they might also be born of God, and be filled with the Holy Ghost” (Alma 36:24).
I will continue to labor and to forward the work of God. I know that Heavenly Father knows you personally. I know that He has an immense love for you and that He wants, more than anything, for you to return to His presence. I know that regardless of what you’ve done, you can repent. You can become better and you can be forgiven so long as you turn to Christ and let Him carry the load you bear daily. I know the weight of that load and I know how tiring and painful it is. But I know more than anything the relief and joy you can experience if you repent and apply the Atonement of Jesus Christ to your life.
“Behold, I am a disciple of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. I have been called of him to declare his word among his people, that they might have everlasting life.” (3 Nephi 5:13)