Why I Am Going On A Mission

This is a the talk I gave at our farewell on September 26:


Ron and I have been called to serve a mission as communications specialists for the Mexico area, and we leave in two weeks.

            Roughly four decades ago Ron proposed to me. At that time, we didn’t do things like couples do now where the date is set and the temple reserved before they officially become engaged. The first time we even discussed getting married was when Ron proposed to me. I’m sure that was pretty intimidating for him because he had no idea what I was going to say. As he was working up to the big question, he went into what I can best describe as a “sales pitch” by telling me about all his goals in life. I believe that was the first time he told me that he wanted to one day serve a mission with his wife.

            At that time I was so head over heels in love that if he had asked me to go to Mars with him, I would have headed to the launch pad. Also, I was very young, so it seemed like it would be eons until we’d be old enough to go on a mission as a couple. That made it very easy to say, “Count me in!” As the years passed, we’d often talk about going on a mission, but the day we would be old enough to serve a mission continued to seem ages away, so it was still always easy to say, “Yes, we are going to go on a mission…someday.”

            About a year ago it hit me how close we were getting to “someday,”and suddenly the idea of serving a mission got very real. I thought about all it would involve, not as an abstract “someday” concept, but as my actual life in the very near future.

            I knew Ron wanted to request a mission in a country south of the U.S. because he served in Peru when he was young and speaks Spanish fluently. So I knew I was probably looking at going to live in a foreign country where, although I’ve been working really hard at learning, I don’t speak the language very well.  It would also mean living in a place I’m not familiar with, doing things I’m not used to doing, and would probably involve a very steep learning curve.

            I thought about all the stuff we would have to do to prepare. What would we do about our house and our car and who would take care of our cats? What would we do about our finances, and paying bills, and doing taxes, and how would we manage our bank accounts and credit cards while we were away--all that practical kind of stuff that has to be tended to.

            Then there was the emotional aspect. I knew serving a mission would mean leaving my family behind—my children and grandchildren. We do a lot with our family, and we love the time we spend with them. We love playing with our grandchildren and watching them grow. I will miss them terribly. Going on a mission would also mean leaving our friends, our ward, and our community. I feel so blessed to have the privilege of living among all of you. Your friendship, support, and examples have blessed my life immensely. And serving a mission would mean leaving this community. To me, Shelley feels like a safe, sane haven in a world that has gone crazy, and going on a mission would mean leaving that, and doing so in the middle of a pandemic.

            In other words, what I’m saying is, I have a really wonderful cushy life. I love my cushy life. AND I could see that going on a mission would mean walking away from that life for a time. It sounded scary, and hard, and well outside of my comfort zone.

            So the question is, that being how I felt, why did I go ahead and fill out a mission application form? Why did I click that submit button on the computer, and when the call came, why did I accept it?

            The answer to that is like what Shrek said about ogres—it’s like an onion, it has layers.

            The first layer to my answer—the thin papery outside layer—is that I have always said I would serve a mission with my husband. It’s really important to him, and they won’t let him go without me, so since I love him and want to be a woman of my word, I’ll go.

            That is not a very deep reason; that’s why it’s like the thin papery, easy to pull off layer of the onion. By itself, it would not be enough to compel me to go. But I have to admit that there are a lot of times when that is the level I’m functioning on—I’ve always said I’ll go, it’s always been the plan, so just keep my head down and keep moving forward, because we are going to do this.

  


         Now lets pull that layer off and go a little deeper. To do this, I would like to tell you about two women I’ve thought about a lot in the past few months. The first one is Camilla Dorothy Jacobsen, who
is my great great grandmother on my mother’s side. When Camilla was young, her family was well off, and she had a nice, cushy life in Denmark. Then when she was about 12 years old, she and her mother began attending meetings held by missionaries from our church. They did this in secret because her father was very opposed to the church. They would put on black cloaks and veils so they would not be recognized. In time they both they both gained testimonies of the truth of the restored gospel and were secretly baptized. But secrets don’t always stay secret. When it became known that Camilla had joined the church, she faced the bitter disappointment of her father who she loved very much. She also faced persecution at school, and not just from the other students. The teacher would encourage the other children to “kick the dirty Mormon.” Things became so bad that her parents had to take her out of school.

            This persecution did not dampen Camilla’s testimony, and at the tender age of 16, she made what had to have been a gut wrenchingly difficult decision to leave Denmark and her family, to cross the ocean, join a handcart company, and go to Salt Lake--a place where, unlike everyone else in the handcart company, she had no family or friends waiting to welcome her and take her in. She was alone. She did this because of her strong faith and testimony, and her determination to follow the call of the prophet to gather together in a place where she could practice her religion among others who believed the same as she did.


            The second woman I want to tell you about is Rebecca Englesby Olin King, whois my great great great grandmother on my father’s side. She and her husband, Thomas Jefferson King, joined the church in September of 1830, just five months after it was organized. They went through many of the trials heaped on the early church members, and eventually moved with the church to Illinois.

            They bought a farm at Morley’s settlement just outside of Nauvoo. But then the persecution which had driven the church out Ohio and Missouri came to Illinois. After the martyrdom of the prophet Joseph Smith, the persecution intensified, and anti-Mormon mobs began roaming the countryside outside of Nauvoo.

            One of these mobs came to Rebecca’s door and demanded that she and her family leave immediately. Thomas was too sick at the time to be of any help, so she moved some of their furniture into the cornfield and loaded what she could into the family’s small, one-horse wagon. Then the family all climbed into the wagon, and as they drove away, the mob set fire to their home. The family found refuge at a house in Nauvoo which was already occupied by three other families.

            Then despite being warned that it was dangerous to do so, Rebecca took her twelve-year-old son, Alma, and went back to the farm to get their furniture out of the cornfield. As they did so, Rebecca looked at all that ripe corn and realized she had nothing to feed her children. After taking the furniture to Nauvoo, she and her son returned to the farm to pick corn. This time, the mob saw them there and began shouting threats. Rebecca called back to them that she had no food for her children and she had to have the corn. This did not appease the mob, and they began threatening to shoot her if she did not leave.

            I do not know how tall Rebecca was, knowing the King descendants I would guess not very, but I imagine her pulling herself up to her full height, whatever it was, as she replied to these thugs. She told them to go ahead and shoot if they were going to because she would prefer that to starving.

            This courage seems to have set back the mob a bit, because Rebecca and Alma were able to finish filling their wagon. They took the corn into Nauvoo and then returned to the farm again to pick more. This time, one of the men from the mob came over to them, put a gun to Rebecca’s chest, and told her he would personally shoot her if she returned again. After that load, Rebecca thought they had enough corn, so they did not return.

            Her son, Thomas Franklin King, who is my great great grandfather, was just a small child at that time. In his life history he wrote:

“The first recollection I have in this life is was the parching of this same corn that my mother risked her life to get for the sustenance of her children. The corn was parched and ground into flour in our coffee mill and was eaten with milk on our journey westward.”

            Both Camilla and Rebecca were strong women who were called upon to do hard, scary things that I’m sure were well outside their comfort zones. Because of their testimonies, they faced those challenges valiantly.  I am aware that their faith and courage helped to build the foundation of the cushy life that I now get to live.

            As I’ve thought about my great grandmothers and their sacrifices, I’ve asked myself “how will I ever live up to the heritage they left for me if I’m not also willing to step outside of my comfort zone and do hard things for my faith and testimony.”

            This leads to the next layer, the deepest layer of my onion, the core of why I’m going to serve a mission, and that is my testimony of, faith in, and gratitude to my Savior Jesus Christ. His atonement and gospel have blessed my life in too many ways to recount. Because of Him, I am able to live a life filled with peace and hope in a world that offers little of either of those things.

            I don’t kid myself into thinking that by serving a mission I can in anyway or to any degree “pay back” the debt I owe to Christ. King Benjamin in the book of Mosiah taught:

“I say unto you that if ye should serve him who has created you from the beginning, and is preserving you from day to day, by lending you breath, that ye may live and move and do according to your own will, and even supporting you from one moment to another—I say, if ye should serve him with all your whole souls yet ye would be unprofitable servants.”  (Mosiah 2:21)

            He goes on to say that all the Lord requires of us is to do as He asks and whenever we do that, He immediately blesses us for doing so, so we can never get out of debt to Him.

            I’ve experienced how generous the Lord is in showering blessings in return for my meager efforts to be His follower. I am counting on those blessings to help me as I serve a full-time mission and to bless and care for my family while I am away.

            I have already felt some of those blessings during the past few months as we’ve gone through the application process and received our mission call, and now as we’ve been preparing. One way I’ve seen those blessings has come as I’ve read the scriptures, several times I have had words that had a footnote mark on them stand out to me. I’ve gone to those footnotes and they’ve led me to other scriptures that have been just what I’ve needed at that time.

            One in particular came right after we got our call, and I was feeling very apprehensive about my ability. The footnote I turned to led to Joshua 1:5, “As I was with Moses, so I will be with thee: I will not fail thee, nor forsake thee.” 

            Even though the Lord was speaking to Joshua in that verse, but we are told we can liken all scriptures to ourselves, and as I read those words, it was if the Lord was speaking to me and promising to be with me as I serve. I have no doubt He will be able to magnify my efforts, and for that knowledge, I am very grateful.

            As I thought about how to express my feelings and testimony, the words of Charles H. Gabriel came to me. He wrote a hymn I’m sure you are familiar with, and which expresses my feelings beautifully. So as my testimony, I am going to borrow his words.


I stand all amazed at the love Jesus offers me,

Confused at the grace that so fully he proffers me.

I tremble to know that for me he was crucified,

That for me, a sinner, he suffered, he bled and died.

 

I marvel that he would descend from his throne divine

To rescue a soul so rebellious and proud as mine,

That he should extend his great love unto such as I,

Sufficient to own, to redeem, and to justify.

 

I think of his hands pierced and bleeding to pay MY debt!

Such mercy, such love and devotion can I forget?

No, no, I will praise and adore at the mercy seat,

Until at the glorified throne I kneel at his feet.

Oh, it is wonderful that he should care for me

Enough to die for me!

Oh, it is wonderful, wonderful to me!

(“I Stand All Amazed”, Hymns of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Hymn #193)

 

            I have felt the comfort and influence of the Spirit frequently in the past few months. I can now say that although I’m still a little nervous, I am excited to serve the Lord as a missionary and to do my small part in helping to build up His kingdom here on earth.

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