I can remember being 11 years old, praying fervently to ask if serving a mission would be the right choice for me, and I can remember feeling that a mission would be the right choice. I remember anytime I started to wonder if it was still the right choice I'd have an experience that would remind me why I wanted to go. Pretty soon, there was no doubt in my mind. I even told my bishop in an interview. He said something about "in case you ever decide to serve a mission..." and I interjected, "I've already decided and I'm going." He sort of smiled, encouraged me, and advised me to get a cop of Preach My Gospel (which I of course already had! :D).
His repsonse was fairly different than the responses that others gave to me. So many people would say to me, "Oh Alyssa, you say that now, but you know you might want to get married before then!" Sometimes I would shrug them off or smile and laugh, but as I became more confident about the decision I would illustrate my determination, I am going to serve a mission I would tell them, "no matter what." I knew of the confirmation I had felt. I know that God has a plan for me, and for sometime I've known that my plan involves a mission.
Especially within the past year, the idea of serving a mission has been a great source of joy, and it still is! I get so excited at the idea of serving a mission! It has been especially exciting as my friends prepare to serve missions. I remember talking to (now) Elder Smith at our Waterworks Orientation about serving missions! He told me, "Today is the first day I can put in my mission papers!" He was obviously exstatic as he asked me if I thought it would be too soon to ask President Price if his papers had been sent. I couldn't help but laugh fully understanding his enthusiasm. I remember when he talked about how much he couldn't wait, and I told him I didn't know how I could possibly wait 4 years! It seemed so long, but I was determined to prepare myself for something I desired so greatly. I remember saying, "I feel like a teenager when I say that I cannot wait to turn 21, but I want to for such different reasons. I just want to serve a mission!"
As many of my friends submitted their papers, we'd talk about wondering where they were going, and I couldn't help wondering where I would go in four years! I wanted to badly to leave sooner. I would fantasize about the idea of them letting me go at an early age for some special program because I wanted to go soooo badly! (Sometimes I would even worry that I would find a husband and find out that the mission I would be called on was a couples mission when I'm old, which would be awesome, but I was already dying to serve. How many Mormon girls do you know who worry about finding a husband too soon? Anyway...) Everytime I felt the spirit, or heard a good talk, or spoke to a soon-to-be, serving, or current missionary my desire to leave increased! I would feel giddy at the idea of sharing the gospel and serving the Lord. It has been such a central desire in my life for such a long time.
In case I haven't illustrated this: I WANTED TO SERVE A MISSION MORE THAN ANYTHING! Waiting four years felt like such a trial, I would pray for guidance and strength, and I always felt a sense of comfort. I knew it was His plan, that things would workout the way they needed to and that I just had to have faith and keep my sights on my goal for the coming years.
Then today a historic announcement was made during General Conference... President Monson talked about how in certain countries missionaries were allowed to leave at age 18 because of special circumstances. These missionaries worked out so well that the church wanted to make it so that all young men could leave at age 18. I held my breath wondering if there would be a change for young women. I didn't dare hope for it, I thought, maybe they'll let us go when we're twenty? Then the life-changing announcement was make:
"Young Women Can Leave On Their Missions When They Are:
I started crying with a smile as big as the sky on my face. I was elated. I can serve a mission for the church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints in 1 year and about 3 months. That means I could be on my mission before many of my friends currently on their missions come home. I cannot wait to go and the idea of going sooner was just too much, not to mention the amazing conference and addresses that followed the news. The world is changing my friends, and I am going to serve a mission. However, I will add this. The change has been made, but it is up to each individual to pray and decide for themselves when or if they will go. If I pray about this and feel prompted that I shouldn't go yet, I will wait. I will still wait until I am twenty one, but I will be serving a mission, you can count on it. (:
I would like to end this post with my testimony. I know that this is the gospel of Jesus Christ restored upon the earth today. I know that we are God's children, He knows and loves us individually, and He has a plan for each of us. If we live worth of the spirit, we can have personal revelation to guide and help us in our lives. I know that God hears and answers our prayers. I know that the one true way to eternal happiness is through living the gospel, and there is nothing on this world worth losing the eternal blessing of Heaven that we recieve through living our lives according to God's plan. I know that the Book of Mormon is the world of God. Read it. It will change your life. I know that Families are central to God's plan and that we can live together forever as families! I know that Christ suffered for our sins as well as our sufferings. We can always have hope because of him, and we are never alone because He has experience every trial we will encounter. Most of all, I know that if you want to know that any of these things are true and you sincerely ask God, He will confirm these things to you, just as He has for me. Take the chance and ask him, your life will never be the same. This is His church and His gospel. My life wouldn't be the same without it. You can be happy if you live the gospel.
In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.