Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Not Even Once

Hola Everyone!! I have two weeks left in the MTC! Sooo crazy. Days feel like weeks, but weeks feel like days. It's a good thing I have kept a journal because everything is a blur. After October 10th I will be in Santa Rosa, California, so if you want to write me, send it to my Mission Field Address listed in the blog’s right column. I have enjoyed receiving mail from all of my friends and family. To hear and feel the love and support from all of you has been amazing. Thank you all so much for that.
Last Tuesday, we heard from another Apostle!!! Elder Russell M. Nelson! Insane! That never happens at the MTC! Three apostles in four weeks! It was amazing. Every time an apostle of the Lord steps into our huge conference room to speak to us, it reaffirms my testimony that THIS GOSPEL is the Lord’s church on the earth, and is led by a prophet and apostles. The focus of Elder Nelson’s devotional was The Book of Mormon. The October Ensign was all about the Book of Mormon, and the significant role it plays in all of our lives. I always participate in the choir because there is such a special spirit when you sing on Tuesday nights for the Elders and Sisters here. So we went to the devotional and we sang prelude, not knowing an apostle was coming, and then everyone stood up and it was Elder Nelson and his wife. We then sang as a choir, "Consider The Lilies of the Field". The spirit was magical and I could feel it being burned into my soul. Sister Nelson then gave a wonderful talk on obedience. She said, "Being obedient will save you. Obedience brings blessings, EXACT obedience brings miracles. YOU want to be the missionary that the Mission President can send to ANY area, and that area will flourish. BE TOTALLY FOCUSED on the Lord, Jesus Christ.  NOT EVEN ONCE should you be disobedient. BE EXACTLY OBEDIENT".  Such an amazing talk. Elder Nelson spoke on The Book of Mormon and the Book of Mormon Ensign articles. He had four missionaries come up and tell everyone what they knew about The Book of Mormon. One of them ended up being his granddaughter, which was really cool. Some of the things they knew about The Book of Mormon were:
-It was written for us.
-We got the royalties.
-God speaks through it.
-The Book of Mormon proves our church is true.
-That Jesus Christ is our Savior.
-The Book of Mormon is the conversion tool.
-The Book of Mormon is used for the gathering of Israel.
He then said, "What is the purpose of the Book of Mormon? Start reading it at the Title page; that is where it begins. You should never start at “And I Nephi” This is the ONLY book God has testified is 100% correct. Joseph Smith, an illiterate young man, translated 8-10 pages per day. Years ago, translators that were translating the Kings James version of the Bible, could only translate 1 page per day. That shows the Power of God. The Book of Mormon has been translated into 107 languages. We have distributed more than 150 MILLION copies. Without The Book of Mormon there would be no Gathering of Israel. WE are the connection for the people of this world to their ETERNAL GLORY. The purpose of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Days Saints is to:
1. Increase faith in Jesus Christ.
2. Gather Israel.
3. PREPARE THE WORLD for the Second Coming of Jesus Christ, The Messiah.
The Book of Mormon is a GIFT to all mankind. We have the privilege to be the messengers of this great work. Approach your assignment with JOY." Wow....what an amazing message to the missionaries of this church. I love this gospel with all my heart.
I had a cool little experience last week. My companions and I were contacted by some Portuguese missionaries. I have figured that Portuguese is basically dirty Spanish (haha). It is Spanish with a lot of "Jscha" sounds. But it was so cool because I could understand every word of that different language and I could feel the spirit, which was the most important part. It's great to know that these languages were created by our Heavenly Father and He is fluent in all of them! (haha) One day I definitely want to learn Portuguese, Italian, and maybe even some French. Who knows?! Maybe even some crazy Mandarin or Creole or something like that. I guess we will see, but gotta learn Spanish first (haha).
We have been concerned about Elder Tarver in our zone this last week and we had a neat experience with him. Elder Tarver is this 6'6" African American elder from Cleveland, Ohio. He is 25 years old and has only been a member for a year. He has been struggling with everything. He got in a few weeks ago and he has been contemplating going home. Elder Latham and I talked to him to see how we could help him. We told him that we love him and what HE needs to do to gain a desire to work hard and to receive the Gift of Tongues. We then proceeded to give him a blessing and the spirit was incredibly strong. Elder Latham and I blessed him with comfort and strength. It was an incredible experience. After he received the blessing, he just sat there for a couple minutes, not saying a word and just basking in the love of our Heavenly Father. He seems to be doing better :) and I have already been able to see him grow. The Priesthood is REAL. We are merely the instruments in the Lord's hands.
Being here at the MTC has really changed "who I was", if that makes sense, I can honestly say that I am already a different person. I feel my Savior's love and I have had my eyes opened to the importance of this work and to "WHO I NEED TO BE". Looking back at the last 19 years of my life, I never felt like I was a bad kid. I have ALWAYS had a strong testimony of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ, but there were times where I wasn't doing all the best things. I did my fair share of dumb things and there are things that I regret doing. I have also gone through ruts and difficult (and even dark) times in my life. But in that darkness, there was always a light. Because light always prevails through darkness. In that light was a hand and all I had to do was trust and take it. Jesus Christ LIVES. That's why I am here, because I love Jesus Christ. I want to help free others from that darkness and put them into the arms of our Savior and Redeemer. As imperfect as I am and even though I am not happy about some of the choices I made in my life, I am grateful for those experiences. Because I have learned so much from them. Without messing up in this life, and feeling that guilt and regret, I would not have a testimony of The Atonement of Jesus Christ. I know He can take our sins, our grief, and our pains away because He has with me. All we have to do is take His hand. There is no way I could possibly teach others about The Atonement of Jesus Christ if I did not have a testimony of it first. As low as I have been in my life, I know He has been lower. HE HAS SUFFERED so we don't have to. In my trials and guilt I have always had a LOVING HOME to come HOME to. And I am forever grateful for that in my life. I want to continue to strive to go back to our true home, to live with our Heavenly Father. The best decision I have made besides serving a mission was being “born of goodly parents”. Without them teaching me about Jesus Christ and His Restored Gospel from the start, and keeping me on the straight and narrow path, I don't know where I would be. I am grateful for them, because they taught me everything. I remember my first Especially For Youth experience; I was 14 years-old and I will never forget the message I learned that week. The name of that year’s EFY was called "The Greatest Gift". Jesus Christ is giving us that gift, to return to live with our Heavenly Father and His son, Jesus Christ, through his Atonement. All we need to do is open that gift, use it and rejoice! Because Our Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ LIVE!
A few days ago I watched a Mormon Message on Virtue. By the way if you haven't seen Mormon Messages, you must check them out on or You Tube ASAP! They are incredible. Anyway, I watched the one on Virtue, using different parts from Elaine S. Dalton from the General Young Women's Presidency. She said this in the video, "Virtue comes from the Latin Root word virtus, meaning strength. Virtue is based on high moral standards. I TRULY believe that one virtuous young man or woman, led by the spirit, CAN change the world. But in order to do so we must return to virtue. Cleave to your covenants, Stand in Holy Places, lay aside the things of this world. Never underestimate the power of YOUR righteous influence. RETURN TO VIRTUE." What a great message. I do want to change the world and change peoples' lives. I remember I had a conversation with my good friend Kent Thalman before I left on my mission. We talked about the things we love like acting, animation, screen writing, and dancing. And we said to each other, “let’s change the world, for the best”. Let’s be an influence to all those we come in contact with and let us raise or recreate the virtue in the things we love. I know WE ALL can change the world, even if it's not in big ways, and that “WE can be the Lord's missionaries, to bring the world its truth” … I believe it.
On Saturday, Elder Green, Elder Latham and I went to go teach our investigator. We planned to teach about prophets and I was in charge of reciting the First Vision, in Spanish of course. So we began our lesson and we began talking about prophets. We had already taught him lesson #1, but we never recited the events of the first vision. So we talked about prophets and then I started to talk about Joseph Smith. I began by saying "Jose Smith fue un propheta de Dios." Joseph smith was a prophet of God. I then went on to tell him that he saw Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ. I said "En sus palabras, estos fue lo que paso" In his words this is what happened. "Vi una columna de luz, mas brillante que el sol. Directamente arriba de me cabeza, y esta luz gradualmente descendio hasta descansar sobre me. Al reposar sobre me la luz, vi en el airre arriba, cuyo fulgor y gloria no admiten descripcion. Una de ellos mi hablo, llamadome por mi nombre y dijo, senalando al otra, esto es my hijo amado, Escuchalo." I could barely get through the first vision. The spirit was so strong, and that was my first time reciting it in a lesson. My testimony of this restored gospel was reaffirmed and I know that Joseph Smith was a true prophet of God.
My mission means everything to me. I am so grateful to be a representative of Jesus Christ. Thank you all for your love and support, and for all the letters, packages, and Dearelders. I love hearing from you all and I am going to be in Santa Rosa, California in two weeks! Hasta Luego!
Les Amo y Amo mi mision,
Elder Vance

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Walk With Me, Carry Me On

This last week was just amazing. I know I probably say this every week, but time is just flying. Everything is such a blur. I am glad I write in my journal at night because I would not be able to remember anything! Last Tuesday, we heard from an apostle of the Lord AGAIN!! Elder M. Russell Ballard! Two apostles in three weeks! That’s unheard of in the MTC. They tell you in your time here you might be able to hear from one. But two?! Tomorrow there is a bunch of hype of another one coming. I am keeping my fingers crossed. :)
So on Tuesday, my companions and I were waiting at the devotional in our choir seats. Then everyone just stood up. I felt overwhelmed by the spirit of the Lord as I realized we were going to hear from another apostle of the Lord. I took tons of notes on his amazing talk but here are the highlights. He said, "Learn everything you can about committing people and overcoming objections. God Almighty is guiding the course of this kingdom and it will never be rooted out of the earth again. He talked about what the early members sacrificed to establish this church. Go out as the most well-equipped, prepared, and prayed-for missionaries ever. We ALWAYS pray for you missionaries. We ask the Lord to bless you with strength, diligence, and courage. As we learn to put our self-interests aside, the Lord learns how trustworthy we really are. You all go out clothed with POWER and AUTHORITY. With you young men and young women I see the future of this church. I see potential bishops, stake presidents, general authorities, and maybe even apostles. But I don't know that. All I know is that the baton needs to be passed to YOU. No matter what may come upon you, round up your shoulders and bear it. HOLD up the Kingdom of God. Teach with simplicity and clarity. You will then have a better opportunity to create that connection between you and them. BE a “Preach My Gospel” missionary. Have confidence you can teach any principle in your own words. Exercise your faith in Jesus Christ. Heaven is close to you and your mission. Missionaries always suffer with rejection. You can overcome it, if you stay focused on the Atonement of Jesucristo. Keep a picture of the Savior with you; look at it and you WILL REMEMBER. The gift of tongues will ultimately come. Pray, Elders and Sisters, with Faith and Determination. Don't lose companionship study. Study the doctrine, treasure it up, and get it inside you. When they were creating “Preach My Gospel”, President Hinckley said, ‘Teach the Missionaries to be themselves and to stop giving ‘wooden discussions’. Teach them how to carry on a conversation and to be themselves.’ PREACH THE GOSPEL. The best thing on my mission was that I could bear witness that Joseph Smith was a prophet of God. Get it in your mind and heart. Don't be afraid to ask God if you are true messengers of God. Let God help us with the work. Do EVERYTHING in your power. Get close to everyone around you. I have asked this question to several new converts all around the world. When did you know this church was true? The answer is always, ‘when the missionaries were teaching me I FELT; when reading the Book of Mormon I FELT; in Sacrament Meeting I FELT’. Conversion happens through what we FEEL. The message is true; you are going on the Lord's errand. I am a servant and I am a missionary for the Lord, Jesus Christ. Be wise and don't compromise, follow the guidelines. If your testimony ever gets shaken, remember this. I know Jesus Christ is our Savior. The resurrection is REAL. This time on earth is the middle of the ETERNAL QUEST we are on. I bear this testimony with you my fellow missionaries; I say fellow missionaries because that's what we are. Trust, Serve, Pray, Dedicate, Commit." 
That was an incredible talk and how inspiring that was to hear that from an Apostle of the Lord. I hope Apostles keep coming! I am really soaking up every word they are saying and I can feel the sacred spirit they carry with them. I am so grateful for that and for this gospel because without THIS, without THIS RIGHT HERE, I would be nowhere. I would be lost, begging to be found. I know that Our Savior, Jesus Christ can and will ALWAYS find us if we go to him.
After that devotional on Tuesday, we had our district devotional. Everyone bore their solid testimonies of Jesus Christ. Elder Henstrom, our new District Leader, led the devotional. He is becoming one great district leader and he has ALWAYS been an example to me. I was the last one to bear my testimony. I bore my testimony on how I know the atonement of Jesus Christ is REAL. Because I have fallen and He has been there to lift the burden, and I have fallen again and He still helped me. I know that we were all born to be Celestial Missionaries. I know that Joseph Smith was a prophet of God. My testimony is sacred to me and I get all emotional because of that. I also get that from my mother. Jesus Christ has come, and He will come again. I was balling halfway through because of the spirit of the Lord within THAT room. I know angels in Heaven wrote our testimonies down that night.
After District Devotional we had some spare time and I told my other two companions, Elder Latham and Elder Green, to go practice teaching in another room and I would take Elder Black, Elder Henstrom's companion, and teach with him in another room because Elder Henstrom had a DL meeting. So Elder Black and I taught each other in Spanish; about how to receive revelation through church attendance. We had a few minutes left and I felt prompted to talk to Elder Black. Elder Black has been struggling a bit. He is shy and not very outgoing. It was hard for him to teach and a hard adjustment to live the ways of a missionary. But we were always encouraging and loving towards him to help him in our district. He studies hard and usually knows the words we don't in Spanish, but it was still hard for him to teach and talk with confidence. So I felt prompted through the Spirit to say, "Elder Black, Heavenly Father loves you. I don't think you realize how much Spanish you really know. You are great at Spanish; you just need the confidence to talk in Spanish. You probably know more Spanish than anyone in our district. Whenever someone needs a word you are the first one to either know the word or to look it up. Heavenly Father is looking out for you. The Gift of Tongues is REAL because I have seen it in YOU. I pray for everyone in our district. I know you have a special spirit that no one else has. You don't know it yet but you are going to be a great missionary. I always see you studying in your verb book; you probably study the hardest out of anyone. I promise you, we will all be on the same level when we leave if you continue to work hard. Keep doing what you are doing and BURST into the Kingdom with your prayers. Look at how far you have come." With tears streaming down his face he said, "thank you, I have needed to hear that for a long time." I told him he is my brother and what I said was ALL inspired by the spirit.
Last Thursday I received some news that literally changed my life and will change my life forever. I know that it was all done through my loving Heavenly Father. I got accepted to Brigham Young University. Yes!!! My mom “Deareldered” me that, and it was the best news ever. When I read that letter I almost cried, because I know the Lord has a plan for me and I am a son of God. I have always dreamed of going there, but when I got rejected my senior year of high school it was hard for me. Most of my friends were going to BYU and I was going to BYU-I. It turns out that BYU-I would change my life and would become my second home. I LOVE BYU-Idaho. I have friends, memories, and experiences there that have changed me for eternity. BYU-Idaho taught me many things and I learned many things there. BYU-I was the best stepping stone I could have had right out of high school. BYU-I helped me ease into college life and will always have a special place in my heart, FOREVER. So right before I came on my mission I applied to BYU. With a 3.4 GPA from BYU-I and not even being a returned missionary yet, I thought my chances were next-to-nothing. So when my mother sent me that news I knew that not only was it an answer to my prayers, it was an answer to my parents’ prayers. I need to be at BYU to further my education and to be with my family. I am positive that all of my sisters can and will graduate there and it would be amazing to be there to see that. I just feel like that's where I am meant to be and I thank my Heavenly Father every day for this opportunity. It is amazing to see how God is changing my life and helping me become better. I was planted at BYU-I for a reason, and now I am being uprooted to grow more at BYU when I return! :) BYU Fall 2013!!!
Hermano Culbertson, our first teacher, came and taught us on Saturday because Hermano Regehr was proposing to his girlfriend (haha). Hermano Culbertson has not been our teacher for 3 weeks and it was great to have him back and subbing. He taught us his formula for companionships:
1. ALWAYS, ALWAYS love your companion.
2. Make sure he understands that YOU always want to keep the rules and to work hard.
He said, "No matter who your companion is, or how bad of a missionary you think he is, you will ALWAYS learn something from him."
Gotta love Herman Culbertson!
This Sunday, the last district that was "Senior" to us left, I was called to be a Zone Leader with Elder Latham. It's weird because a week ago I was a District Leader and then I was released. Now I am a Zone Leader. Crazy, but the Lord has called me for a reason and I am going to do all I can to be the best example to those in my zone.

The Sunday fireside was by President and Sister Wilkinson. Sister Wilkinson talked about how much it rains in Brazil, and how an umbrella can protect us just like the Lord enables us to do our work. She said, "Miracles happened because we believed they could happen through faith in Jesus Christ. The Lord is giving us enabling power to carry out our work here on this earth. The rains will come, but we have the opportunity to open the gift of the Atonement, The Greatest Gift, and use its enabling powers."
President Wilkinson started with an awesome intro. He said, "The reason why my mission was so special to me is because I knew my mother was home on her knees praying for me." I know that is true in my case 100% as well. I know my mother is at home thinking about me and praying for me every day. I can feel her love every day. :) We then sang "I Hope They Call Me on a Mission", my favorite primary song growing up. It was the BEST. He also said, "All of you have left something, to come here. You have received the right to represent Jesus Christ.  You have been set apart from the world. Leave the worldly things behind. Being GOOD is NOT enough, but obedience is the key. The Lord sees the whole picture, not just part of it. We must be completely obedient. Do NOT live on the edge. It cannot be selective obedience; it must be 100% obedience. Be a part of the solution and not part of the problem. We must SEE the RESULTS the Lord wants. We must have our heart in the work. We need to be willing to do hard things. The Lord never apologizes for asking us to do hard things. He has done the hardest things. On your mission you have no PROBLEMS, only OPPORTUNITIES. You must have the language of the spirit to inspire you what to do. Teach by the spirit. Don't do it on your own! We can't get through all of our challenges by ourselves. There is nothing you have experienced that Jesus Christ has not experienced or gone through. He knows all of that. He has been LOWER than that. He will stay in a room if you put him there. He will not force His companionship on you. Ye are free to choose. As we invite others, invite YOURSELF to be part of all He is about. “The keys of the kingdom of God are committed unto man on the earth, and from thence shall the gospel roll forth unto the ends of the earth, as the stone which is cut out of the mountain without hands shall roll forth, until it has filled the whole earth.” (Doctrine &Covenants 65:2). What you are about is significant and The Lord will bless you forever for your diligence. It is YOUR TURN and YOUR TIME to make your mark on eternity." That talk was incredible by President Wilkinson, the President of the MTC District.
This inspiring poem is one I am sure many of you have heard, but it really struck me deeply this week.
Author: Unknown
One night a man had a dream. He dreamed he was walking along the beach with the Lord. Across the sky flashed scenes from his life. For each scene, he noticed two sets of footprints in the sand: one belonged to him, and the other to the Lord.
When the last scene of his life flashed before him, he looked back at the footprints in the sand. He noticed that many times along the path of his life there was only one set of footprints. He also noticed that it happened at the very lowest and saddest times in his life.
This really bothered him, and he questioned the Lord about it. "Lord, you said that once I decided to follow you, you'd walk with me all the way, but I have noticed that during the most troublesome times in my life, there is only one set of foot-prints. I don't understand why when I needed you most you would leave me."
The Lord replied, "My precious, precious child, I love you and I would never leave you during your times of trial and suffering. When you see only one set of footprints, it was then that I CARRIED YOU."

The Lord is ALWAYS with us. He has carried me through different parts of my life and I have seen him carry others in their lives. We may forget Him, but He will NEVER, EVER forget about us. We are His children. He is perfect and He is perfect in the LOVE for His Children. He has been carrying me since Day 1 of my mission, helping me learn a totally new language and helping me strengthen my testimony of this gospel. I know that Jesus Christ and Our Heavenly Father LIVE. I have felt His spirit and His love every single day. I know that if we go to Him in sincere prayer, He CAN walk with us, and He WILL carry us. En el nombre de Jesucristo. Amen.
The reason I created this blog was to share my experiences with my family, friends, and all who would like to read about an LDS missionary experience. Not only am I striving to be a missionary in the field, but I am also trying to be a missionary back home as well. I have family members that are going through hard times and I have friends that I want to help understand why I BELIEVE in the restored gospel of Jesus Christ.  I hope all of you feel the spirit while reading my blog because THAT IS MY GOAL. I love you all and I want you to all know you are ALWAYS in my prayers and that I do think about you often. This is His work and His glory, to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.
Amo mi mision,
Elder Vance

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Be A Star

Well, I am halfway done with my time here at the Missionary Training Center! Where has the time gone? This last week was bittersweet in a couple areas. I was released as a District Leader because you can only serve 4½ weeks. Elder Henstrom is our new district leader and I know he is going to do an excellent job. I loved serving as the District Leader and I have grown so much in that position the last 4 weeks. My Spanish is starting to improve dramatically. My pronunciation and grammar have improved tremendously. It is truly a miracle of God. It is hard to believe that there are almost 2700 young men and women learning languages and training here. I am so happy I am speaking Spanish. First, because it is the easiest language to learn next to Mandarin and Finish (haha), and second, because I know Heavenly Father called me to speak Spanish for a specific reason. I don't know why yet, but hopefully I can answer that question at the end of my mission. I have a testimony of the Holy Priesthood of God. Hermana Bailey in my district, has been sick since her first day here in the MTC. So Elder Latham gave her a blessing our first week here. It is now week 4 and she is still sick. On Wednesday she was very ill and was going back to her room to rest, but she asked me to give her a blessing. So my companions and I had the opportunity to give her a blessing. It was an amazing experience. It was only the 2nd blessing I have ever given and I could feel the Lord working through me to bless her by the Holy Melchizedek priesthood with health and strength. Sometimes as priesthood holders we forget that we are merely instruments in the Lord's hands. We are the vessels that carry His priesthood and His work here on the earth.
At choir last week we sang "Marvel at the Miracle" - such amazing lyrics. I love the third verse, "I pled with God to shed His grace and take away my sin. He did, and yet I turned away and stumbled again. At last I knelt before His throne and offered Him my soul. He wept, then gave back to me renewed and washed and whole".  I applied this to my own life. As many times as I mess up and however imperfect I am, God still loves me enough that he sent His only Begotten FOR ME". After we sang we had a devotional by Elder Jay E. Jensen of the Seventy. He talked about submissiveness and harmony. He said, "How do you think we know this? Because Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ DID appear to Joseph Smith. Conversion is about what we feel, not what we know. Go into your missions so you can submit vertically to the Lord and the Savior, Jesus Christ. Carry the Convincing Power of God." After devotionals we have district devotionals where everyone goes around the room and says what they took away from the devotional and bears their testimony of this gospel. The spirit in that room is amazing, every single week. I love my District. They are ALL special to me and they are like my family to me. There is something about sharing spiritual experiences together that link you back to your premortal friendships. Our District Devotionals are incredible and I love the spirit they all bring into my life. After our district devotionals for the district and zone leaders we have a leadership meeting with a member of the branch presidency. Last Tuesday it was with Brother Mosher. At the end of the meeting he turns to me and asks, "Elder Vance, you know you are going to be a great missionary, right?" Caught off guard, I gave a weak, "Yea". He asked me again, "Elder Vance, you know YOU ARE going to be a great missionary, right?" With tears quickly coming to me eyes I responded, "Yes." He then went around the room and asked everyone that question. I know that everyone in that room has been called in the premortal life to be missionaries and to come at THIS time. We will ALL be great if we do ALL we can. Doctrine and Covenants 138:56 "Even before they were born, they, with many others, received their first lessons in the world of spirits and were prepared to come forth in the due time of the Lord to labor in His vineyard for the salvation of the souls of man."
I grow here every day, why would I NOT want to be here and be a part of helping people come unto Christ and give them a purpose in their lives? Decisions DO make destiny. This decision to serve a mission WILL change my life and IS changing my life. Brother Heaton said last Sunday, "We have a front row seat to the biggest miracle on the planet".  It's so true, and I am so grateful for a family that loves me and supports me in all I do. Without them I would not be here today. No wonder God gives us families; families MAKE us who we BECOME.
The other day, my companions and I were out walking past the MTC entrance and saw a missionary with packed bags leaving with his parents. I could tell something was wrong and they all seemed terribly sad. I saw the missionary with the help of his father put his suitcases in the back of the van. They all got into the car. We watched as his parents started the car and drove past us. His mother was balling her eyes out in the passenger seat. I looked at my companions and said, "That is the worst!"  I used to tell my companions, "I am never going to go home early. None of us are - we are here to do the Lord's work. The only way I am ever going home is in a coffin. If they wanted me to go home for a surgery or something I would fight them every step of the way.”  But right then I told them seriously, "None of us should ever do that to our mothers." It was one of the saddest things I have ever seen. We had no idea why this missionary was leaving and we didn't assume anything. It could have been for any number of reasons.
Last week I got my jaw checked out because it kept popping. (Mom and Dad don't worry it’s all good, just got it checked out) It didn’t hurt, it was just more of an annoyance. So they sent me off campus with my companions to see a specialist. I talked to the dentist and he said, "Well, we have a couple of options. Your jaw is too big for your skull young man. We could send you home to get 3 years’ worth of orthodontics and corrective jaw surgery..."  I stopped him and said, "Doctor Wilson, I don't think you understand, there is no way I am going home, or going home for this."  He then said, "Well that's not what I would have had you do anyway. If it’s not bothering you, you will just have to live with it and be careful chewing."  I was relieved. Then as my companions and I were waiting for our shuttle ride we were opening doors for people by the dental office and people would walk in and say, "Thank you, Elders."  The best thing though was when young families would walk by and the parents would stop their little children and say, "Look kids, the Missionaries!"  I used to be one of those little kids who ALWAYS looked up to the missionaries. It was an amazing feeling. I am so grateful for parents that taught me the importance of serving a full-time mission. That made my day.
Yesterday we had choir practice. We sang a special arrangement of "Jesus Once of Humble Birth".  Our director talked about the song and some of the things he said hit me so hard. He said, "Heavenly Father had to send the star into orbit that was a sign to the Nephites millions of years before the earth was ever created. He had to send the star so it would appear on that one special day to the Nephites. If he cares that much about a star, imagine how much He cares about us. BE THAT STAR going into orbit for those you teach! Don't fail them and go home. You don't know what you could have helped them change in their life if you leave. There will be no salvation for them. We all have stars in our lives; be a star for someone else. Bring ALL unto Christ and talk to everyone. There is not a single person on this earth that can drop SO LOW that the Atonement of Jesus Christ cannot touch them. Jesus Christ went as low as possible so we can have happiness in our lives. He suffered so WE DON'T HAVE TO. Do all you can."  I loved that. BE A STAR for people!
For our devotional we watched a video on 9/11 and the attacks. I got choked up because I remember that day like it was yesterday. I was in the 4th grade at Hillside Elementary in Wisconsin. My teacher told the class what had just happened and I just remember when I got home my mom was watching the news and they kept showing the planes flying into the twin towers over and over again. 10 years really does fly by. We also watched, "Music and The Spoken Word" by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. That was so uplifting. The message was the beauty of earth and the joy of life. One of the lyrics touched me, “And I'll return to you somehow."  President Brown spoke after the video and said, "More people found themselves closer to God after 9/11. But most people have turned from Heavenly Father once again. It is our challenge as missionaries to bring peace to people. The only antidote to overcome wickedness and terrorism is the Restored Gospel of Jesus Christ. What we have is for ALL of God's children. We have a responsibility to teach people about Joseph Smith and The Gospel of Jesus Christ. The people who died on 9/11 should NOT die in vain; they MUST not die in vain. Go forth now and teach the Gospel of Jesus Christ. NEVER be ashamed to be a missionary."
I am so happy I am on a mission. I get to take 2 years to gain a true knowledge of the Book of Mormon and the Gospel of Jesus Christ and bring people unto Christ. I AM RESPONSIBLE for the sins of the people in my area. I AM RESPONSIBLE for their salvation (Jacob 1:19- AMAZING SCRIPTURE). My companion and I are the ONLY people that have the authority and power to do this. The Lord will always meet us halfway. If we do our best, the Lord will do the rest. :)
Thank you everyone for the love and support. I have never been happier. AMO ME MISION.
Elder Vance

Monday, September 5, 2011


Wow, almost to the 4 week mark! This last week has been incredible. Some days are harder than others, but I wouldn't want to be anywhere else. Every week I learn so much and the spirit testifies to me so strongly that this is the ONE and ONLY true gospel here on this earth today. This past Tuesday in choir for the devotional we sang "Faith of our Fathers". During the rehearsal earlier in the day, however, our choir director talked to us about the song and it really made me think about some things. It made me think about my father. I have 2 names to live up to; my father's and Jesucristo. Our director told us to think about who we are, where we come from, and who we have to live up to. Without the faith of my father I would not be on a mission nor would I be alive. I hope I can live up to the Vance name on my badge next to His. I hope I can not only live up to my father's faith, but my forefathers as well. Hopefully I can be THAT name for my kids and grandkids someday. That song is so amazing!

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland spoke at our devotional!!!! It was the best feeling in the world to be in the same room as an apostle of Jesus Christ and wow his talk hit us hard. This may be a little lengthy, but let me share a few of the most important things he said. I am just writing some of the things I  liked best, but all of it was phenomenal. He started his talk with plainness and boldness, but also with love. A few minutes after his intro he banged the pulpit with his fist and said, "You do NOT have the right to DENY/DEFILE your missions. People are entitled to think you are perfect, you DO NOT have the right to make them think otherwise. You represent the whole dispensation. If there was a symbol/icon for the church it would be a picture of 2 missionaries. You have to be true to that. I want this to change your life FOREVER. Go in for the full experience. I have thought about my mission EVERY DAY. We are the most prayed for people on this earth. We are the chosen dispensation. We are carrying all the work of the people in the scriptures upon our shoulders. The earlier prophets have THOUGHT and DREAMED about you. They knew they would not succeed, but they kept going because they knew OUR day would come-that kept them going. People have died for this, and the last one just 4 hours ago. (He didn't tell us, but I found out later that a sister missionary died in the NY south mission in a car crash. So sad, but she was faithful and I know she was a Celestial Missionary). You can trust in the Lord with ALL thy heart. You are going to help people NOT suffer. He suffered so we don't have to. Claim the blessings of the Atonement. The best source to feel the spirit is to dive into the word. The Book of Mormon was designed to be an agent of the spirit. True of all scripture. James 1:5-one tiny verse of scripture and all mankind, those dead and alive, will be changed forever. BURST into the Kingdom with your prayers. What is the most important thing Christ wants you to know? That He told the truth. Everything He said was true. Every word Christ said was true. You are all apostolic with a lowercase "a" - because missionaries are the closest thing to being a General Authority. We are going to find ways to save the children of God. That's what you do. LOVE your apostolic service. What is the greatest thing we can give Jesus Christ? Give Him your heart. Our job is to unleash the power of the spoken word. Joseph Smith said, ‘Men's greatest work is done by the spoken word’. The gospel of Jesus Christ has to be buried in the marrow of your bones. It must be BURNED in your soul. Why does God love us? I am perfect in love for my children. If that is true for me, what does that mean for God? Who IS perfect!!! HE knows all of us. To care about the lowest ones on the ladder...THAT is a TRUE FATHER. During the atonement, when bleeding through every pore and in anguish, Christ cries out "ABBA", which, best translated, means "Daddy". A son to a father, a father to a son. I can't look out at all of you without seeing myself. God couldn't look at us without seeing HIS children he raised and carry them through eternity. WE LOVE WHERE YOU ARE. Joseph Smith said, ‘Every PROPHET, PRIEST, and KING have wished to have the success of the people of this generation’. My mission means everything to me and Thank You for all who you are." BOOM. What an amazing talk by an apostle of the Lord. That day was incredible.

After that devotional on Tuesday we had our district devotional afterward. We all shared what we took away from the talk and bore our testimonies. That testimony meeting was one of the best ones I have ever been to. After I went out in the hall for my Zone Meeting, I heard softly, "I WILL ALWAYS BE WITH YOU. Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ LIVE”. The Holy Ghost has testified that to me numerous times over the past 19 years. My zone “sang off” two districts from our zone last week. They are going to Chile. In the guys’ residency we sing them off by singing "God Be with You Till We Meet Again" in Spanish. It is one of the coolest things, because we sing so loud and go crazy. It was sad because even though I have only known them for 3 weeks they seem like my brothers. I definitely will have to keep in touch with them. They missed Elder Holland’s' talk by one day! Aghh - they were here for 9 weeks and missed him! My Spanish is coming along great and every lesson I teach with Elder Green and Elder Latham, we get better and better. This Sunday was Fast Sunday and we took up Brother Zevic's challenge as a district. His challenge at our fireside a few weeks ago was for next fast Sunday to make a list of the things you need to "leave behind" in your life and put on hold for the next 2 years or 18 months. So as a district we did that. We fasted and prayed to the Lord to help us with our distractors here at the MTC. When I ended my fast, I felt rededicated to the work and "my distractions" were fading in my thoughts. It has been hard to leave the things of this world behind. Especially the things I love and am passionate about such as my family, friends, dancing, acting, sports, college, girls, music, movies, and dating. But I KNOW with all my soul that I will be blessed for my service to God. Those things will still be there when I get back and I believe I will even be better at some of those things because I served a mission. I would give everything in the universe to be here. THIS, RIGHT NOW is the best feeling in the world. To be a representative of Jesus Christ and to help bring lost souls unto Him. This last Sunday was fast and testimony meeting. I KNEW I had to bear my testimony but it had to be in Spanish, of course. That is the cool thing about learning a language - you realize the gospel is true everywhere, all around the world. So about 10 minutes into the testimony meeting I just went up. I have only been here 3 and a half weeks; how much Spanish did I really know? I got up there and introduced myself. Me Llamo es Elder Vance. Soy de Cincinnati, Ohio. Voy a Santa Rosa, California. Then the spirit took over. I know the gift of tongues is REAL. I see it EVERYDAY. But right then the spirit overwhelmed me, for I knew that He was with me.  I talked about how I know God and Jesus Christ live. How I know that Joseph Smith is a prophet of God and how God listens to our prayers. How I know that my familia and I can be an eternal family. How I love my mission and how special it is to me. It wasn't a terribly long testimony, but probably the most powerful experience of my mission thus far. That was my first time sharing my testimony in Spanish in sacrament meeting.

What an amazing work this is and how I do love my Savior and Redeemer, Jesus Christ. Like I have said before, I LOVE MY MISSION! There is no way ever in my life I can deny the work I am doing. I love you all and thank you for all of your support.
Le Amo Ustedes,
Elder Vance

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Don't Give An Inch

It's the end of August and this past week has been tough; but I love every minute of it. Some days I wake up feeling pretty good, then half way through the day I am exhausted. Starting to feel like this is the way that I am going to feel  for the next 2 years,  but I know it means I am working hard. He is with me. Without Him, there is no way I could be doing these long 16 hour scheduled work days on  7 hours of sleep for 2 years. But that's why I am here - to learn to Depend and Trust in the Lord and because Le Amo Jesucristo (I Love Jesus Christ). There was a day this last week I really struggled with Spanish. But I soon realized it was because I thought I was getting a grip on the Spanish and because I thought I was "getting good" and didn't need as much of His help. My confidence was high, but I was soon humbled very quickly. Life brings us down to only have the Lord take us higher. We ALWAYS need Him in our lives and to let Him know what we need. He is our literal Father and like our earthly fathers he worries about us and likes to hear how we are doing. We can communicate with Him through prayer. I know that if we all humble ourselves and turn to the Lord He will help us with ANYTHING in our lives. He is our Heavenly Father, and He knows us better than anyone. One of my teachers, Hermano Herman said something that hit me hard yesterday. He said, "If you are not preparing to teach your investigators, The Lord will not prepare the people for you to bring them salvation." Missionaries are the only people that can bring salvation and true happiness into people's lives. On Saturday I kind of had a spark that adjusted my whole vision of my mission. I was in class and my teacher Hermano Herman was going over how to do our Language Study Plans efficiently. I was confused and getting frustrated because we went over it again and again and I still did not understand how to do it right. It seemed like all my emotion of frustration, of learning the language, all my emotions in general began to build up.  Up until this point I hadn’t been really frustrated at all, but that day it all began to hit me. It was coming to the end of class and my teacher could tell that we were all frustrated and that I was especially. He stopped us and said, "Why are you all getting so frustrated? You all are trying to BECOME that perfect missionary for yourself, but you have not looked at who you were 2 weeks ago. You all have come so far!" He said that it didn't make sense when people got frustrated about their missions and the language because all he can remember was that the mission was the best experience of his life. He said, "Sure it was hard, but I was happy. Don't be a worrier. The language will come I promise, BE HAPPY". He then had us read some scriptures that just destroyed us in a good way. He had me read Jacob 1:19 out loud. I could barely get through it, because the spirit was so strong and I realized what it was talking about. Jacob 1:19-"And we did magnify our office unto the Lord, taking upon us the responsibility, answering the sins of the people upon our own heads if we did not teach them the word of God with all diligence; wherefore, by laboring with our might their blood might not come upon our garments; otherwise their blood would come upon our own garments, and we would not be found spotless at the last day." As missionaries and representatives of Jesus Christ, we ARE responsible for the sins of the people we serve. If I don't do EVERYTHING I can to bring them to Christ and help them repent, it will be upon my own head at the last day. So powerful. He then talked about the Sons of Mosiah and how they pleaded with their father to go and serve. And they did for 14 years, through starvation, prison, and fatigue. Even after being released from prison they continued to go and preach the word. It made me feel ungrateful and selfish for getting frustrated about a language study plan after he shared that with us. It realigned me to be as focused and obedient as I can be, so that I will be prepared for the people in Santa Rosa, California. I am on the Lord's time not mine. We had an amazing fireside last night by President Mciff from the MTC presidency. He talked about how we as missionaries are on "The Road Less Traveled".  We are the only people with the true authority to bring people unto Christ. He said, “Missionaries are builders, they should make people feel better about themselves when they are around you." "CHOOSE TO BE HAPPY" He also talked about Colonel Chamberlain at Gettysburg when Chamberlain told his Union soldiers, "Don't Give An Inch." We all must strive to ALWAYS practice exact obedience and to Never Give an Inch. At the end of the fireside we all sang "Called To Serve" together...first verse-soft, as if we the army of Helaman were just out of sight, second verse-medium loud as if we were just coming over the hill, and last time- loud. "God our strength will be, press forward ever called to serve our KING!". I loved that experience and I love this gospel. If I didn't have a firm testimony of Jesus Christ I wouldn't be here right now. He is with us always. Half my zone left today and I just want to say that they are my brothers for life and I will truly miss them. God be with them and all of you till we meet again. :)

Elder Vance