As you all know, I’ve been called to serve as a missionary of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints and I’ll be serving in the Sweden Stockholm mission. I’ll be speaking Swedish and living on the other side of the ocean, in a country that is partly in the Arctic Circle, and I couldn’t be more excited! I’m leaving my family for 18 months so that others can have the opportunity to be with theirs for eternity.
There are people in the world who don’t understand the importance of the family in God’s eternal plan. They don’t know that they will see their loved ones after death. Because of this and in order to state the church’s views on marriage and family, the first presidency released an article in 1995 titled The Family: A Proclamation to the World. In this proclamation, church leaders boldly state that the family is ordained of God and that marriage between a man and a woman is ESSENTIAL to his eternal plan. They go on to state that children are entitled to birth into a home where the father and mother are married and committed to each other.
The family is the foundation of God’s plan for his children. So it isn’t really surprising that it is so attacked in today’s society. Those supporting the sanctity of marriage solely between a man and a woman are accused of being closed-minded or behind the times. Even though national leaders are beginning to justify and legalize same-sex marriage we remember that man’s laws are not God’s laws. To speak very plainly Heavenly Father gave Adam and Eve a commandment to multiply and replenish the earth, a commandment that is still in place today. Natural law, God’s law, requires offspring to have parents, one mother and one father, and that law is something the LDS church will not change or apologize for. Neil L. Anderson said, “ While many governments and well-meaning individuals have redefined marriage, the Lord has not. In the very beginning, God initiated marriage between a man and a woman—Adam and Eve. He designed the purposes of marriage to go far beyond the personal satisfaction and fulfillment of adults to, more importantly, advancing the ideal setting for children to be born, reared, and nurtured. Families are the treasure of heaven.”
A couple weeks ago we had our ward primary program where the kids sang this really awesome song just as loud as they possibly could and to be honest I almost cried a little during it. With tiny voices at full volume they sang:
“Our Father has a family, it’s me! It’s you all others too we are His children. He sent each one of us to earth through birth to live and learn here in families. A father’s place is to preside, provide, to love and teach the gospel to his children. A father leads in family prayer to share their love for father in heaven. A mothers purpose is to care, prepare, to nurture and to strengthen all her children. She teaches children to obey, to pray, to love and serve in the family. I’ll love and serve my family and be a good example to each family member. And when I am a mom or dad, so glad, I’ll help my family remember: God gave us families to help us become what He wants us to be, this is how He shares His love, for the family is of God.”
And holy cow the spirit was there. The Holy Ghost testifies of spiritual truth and in that moment he testified that the words these kids were singing were true. It’s part of Heavenly Father’s plan that we are put into families, because they help us become something great. We don’t reach the celestial kingdom on our own. We get there through temple ordinances that seal families together for eternity. God loves us, so He gave us families to help us through this life and eternity.
I am extremely blessed to have been raised by MY parents. Like Nephi, I was born of goodly parents. I remember being maybe 4 or 5 years old kneeling beside my “big kid bed” with my mom. She would say “Dear Heavenly Father,” and I would repeat it. To this day I sometimes say the phrase “bless my aunties and uncles and cousins” because that was a part of every simple prayer I said as a child. I remember sitting on the floor in the family room with my dad a few years ago, stressed out of my mind because I had friends making detrimental choices and the weight of those decisions were starting settle on me as I empathetically listened to the things that had happened to them. And we just sat there on the ground with our backs against the couch and talked it out until nearly 2 in the morning. We talked about everything, and by the end of the night I was relieved at the weight that had been lifted from my shoulders. “Parents have a sacred duty to rear their children in love and righteousness, to provide for their physical and spiritual needs, and to teach them to love and serve one another, observe the commandments of God, and be law-abiding citizens wherever they live.” I am really grateful that I have younger siblings because with me leaving I know my mom would fall apart if she weren’t able to teach the importance of laundry sorting to somebody. Same thing goes for my dad but about cars and painting the house and gardening and stuff like that.
I am going on a mission. And I would not be able to do it without the support and encouragement I have received from my family. I’m not going on this mission for myself. If I were going for myself I would have probably given up a while ago, when I was having nightmares about receiving my mission call. I was really excited to speak on the family today because that is the whole reason I have decided to serve. And it took me a really long time to make that decision because I wanted to be sure it wasn’t just something I wanted to do. I wanted to be sure that it was a part of God’s plan for me. I had prayed about it and listened intently to conference this spring hoping to get some sort of answer. I received my patriarchal blessing, one of the most amazing blessings I’ve ever been given, but it didn’t explicitly say that I was going to be called to serve a mission. I went on a church history trip this summer, hoping to receive some answers to the prayers and questions I’d had for months.
I got really serious about the mission on this trip, and in the first week we went to the Whitmer farm where the church was organized, the first three general conferences were held, the three witnesses saw the plates, and the first sacrament meeting happened. It was amazing to be there in the place where the church had its humble beginning. At that time there were only about 60 members. We talked about missions, and all the places the gospel had been taken since the Whitmer farm: Chile, Japan, Guatamala, South Africa, Russia, Australia. I went off on my own knelt in a field at the farm asking Heavenly Father if I was someone He needed to take His gospel to His other children in the world and He told me to wait. And I said, “Well I’ve need to get my schedule into BYUI so I’d really like to know now.” And He said, “Wait.” At that point I got kind of impatient with him and said, “I’ve pretty much been waiting since January.” And he said, “wait.” So I asked Him, “How can I sit here on this sacred ground where the church was organized and everything started, feeling the way I do, knowing what I know about the gospel and loving my savior the way I do? How can I not serve a mission right now and tell everyone about this?” and He again replied, “wait.” So I waited. And I’m not the most patient person so waiting was hard.
The next day I asked again while sitting in the Sacred Grove. I poured out my heart to Him in prayer and told Heavenly Father all my fears and desires. He still didn’t tell me if I was going to serve a mission or not but I suddenly felt this overwhelming peace that whatever happened to me I would be all right. He would look after me and take care of me, I just needed to trust Him.
About a week later I was standing on the banks of the Susquehanna River. The priesthood was restored there and we were having a testimony meeting. I listened to the testimonies of others and felt the Holy Ghost when I suddenly felt a different spirit that I didn’t recognize at first. It took me a moment to realize that the spirit belonged to my Grandpa Everett, who passed away before my parents had even met each other. You have to know that nearly every story I have heard about my Grandpa was how he magnified his calling as a priesthood holder. He made sure he was always worthy of the power he held. He knew that he was trusted with a great gift. And he was there at that time to tell me how important this power was to him, and to our family. He wanted me to know that I shared responsibility to ensure that that power was always a part of our family.
After the testimony meeting I knelt by the waters edge and started to pray. I thanked Heavenly Father for allowing me to share that special moment with my grandpa and then before I knew what I was saying I asked Him to help me prepare for a mission. At that moment I was so excited and nervous because from that from that day on I knew I wouldn’t be looking back.
The reason I’m sharing this story is because my family has played a massive role in my decision to serve. The proclamation to the world says: The divine plan of happiness enables family relationships to be perpetuated beyond the grave. Sacred ordinances and covenants available in holy temples make it possible for individuals to return to the presence of God and for families to be united eternally.
When I opened my call and read that I was going to the Sweden Stockholm mission I knew that there was nowhere else in the world more perfect for me. My grandpa, whom I am connected to through the sealing power of the priesthood, has ancestors in Sweden who’s work is not done. The information we have for them is so incomplete that virtually all we know for sure is that they come from Sweden. I don’t know everything, but in the past few months I have been shown small glimpses of God’s plan for me. He told me to wait while I was at the Whitmer Farm because He knew that within ten days I would be at the Susquehanna River, where I would best understand the presence of my grandpa and the importance of the priesthood to our family. And then two months later it would all connect back together because I have been called to serve in a place where we have family without the gospel. “ spirit sons and daughters knew and worshipped God as their Eternal Father and accepted His plan by which His children could obtain a physical body and gain earthly experience to progress toward perfection and ultimately realize their divine destiny as heirs of eternal life.”
I know that God has a beautiful, complex plan for each of us, and part of that plan is that we build families and family relationships in Christ-centered homes. He loves us and gave us families to reach our highest potential. I know that Christ lives and is the true redeemer and Savior of the world. He restored the gospel through Joseph Smith, that each of us can have the opportunity to come unto Christ and be saved by His atonement. To the world I am nobody of particular importance. To the world I am a very ordinary person. But I know that God is looking out for me, He is the source of miracles and by His power I can create miracles. In Alma 26:36-37 Ammon said, “Now if this is boasting, even so will I boast; for this is my life and my light, my joy and my salvation, and my redemption from everlasting wo.” “Now my bretheren, we see that God is mindful of every people, whatsoever land they may be in; yea, he numbereth his people, and his bowels of mercy are over all the earth. Now this is my joy, and my great thanksgiving; yea, and I will give thanks unto my God forever.” I love this gospel and the joy it has brought to my life. I am so excited to bring that same joy to the Swedish citizens. I say these things in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.