Thursday, April 26, 2012

Come Unto Yourself

This last week I was thinking about how I can help others more in their lives, whether that be my investigators, my companion, the missionaries in my district, my family at home, or my friends outside of the mission. I want to do all I can to bring ALL unto Christ. I really enjoyed the talk that Elder Robert D. Hales gave this past General Conference. He talks about the Prodigal Son and how he CAME home. These were some of the things he said that hit me and impacted my life.

"The Savior told His disciples about a son who left his wealthy father, went to a far country, and wasted his inheritance. When a famine arose, the young man took the lowly job of feeding swine. He was so hungry that he wanted to eat the husks meant for the animals.

Away from home, far from the place he wanted to be, and in his destitute condition, something of eternal significance happened in the life of this young man. In the Savior’s words, “he came to himself.” He remembered who he was, realized what he had been missing, and began to desire the blessings freely available in his father’s house.

Throughout our lives, whether in times of darkness, challenge, sorrow, or sin, we may feel the Holy Ghost reminding us that we are truly sons and daughters of a caring Heavenly Father, who loves us, and we may hunger for the sacred blessings that only He can provide. At these times we should strive to COME TO OURSELVES and come back into the light of our Savior’s love."

This last week we had a Leadership Training meeting. I love my mission president. I know President Bunker is an inspired man that has been called of God. He said something that really struck me. He said, "You see God in everything else. You see some God-like potential because that is something you feel in YOURSELF."

That is what we have always seen in Juan. Yesterday I had the opportunity to confirm Juan. It was an amazing experience and I could see that he has really changed. He wants to change his life around and follow the example of Jesus Christ. I felt the spirit so strong as I performed his confirmation. He received the gift of the Holy Ghost. Now he has that constant companion, that gift from our Heavenly Father to lead and guide him every day for the rest of his life. After his confirmation, I felt a sense of happiness that I have never really felt before. This last month Elder Lopez and I have been praying for him every day. It really was tough because we knew that Juan wasn't in a good place. He strayed off the path, but with much prayer and help from our Heavenly Father, we were able to help him come back, and come unto himself. Our job as missionaries is to do just that, to turn others to our Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ. We are the guides, we are the instruments. I know in my life I have had people like that, the ones that turned me around so that I could come back and be in the arms of my Heavenly Father again. I know that our Heavenly Father will always be waiting; waiting for us to come out of our darkness and back into His presence. I love my mission and I know that the gospel of Jesus Christ changes lives, because I have seen it. We are all children of God. That is who we are and we must ALL come unto ourselves.

Les Amo Muchisimo,

Elder Vance

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Live Your Life

This last week Elder Lopez and I did all we could to help Juan, Veronica, and Antonio get rid of the bad things in their lives. Juan has yet to be confirmed and we are teaching Veronica and Antonio. They all live together in the same apartment. We continue to teach them about our Heavenly Father’s commandments, and that they are meant for our happiness. We have blessed the home as a place of refuge for them and, while we sometimes are met with resistance, Juan has told us that it is good that we are helping him. We said a prayer with all of them and blessed the home so that they could feel the spirit and overcome difficulties in their conversions to the gospel. Veronica's faith has grown so much. She reads in The Book of Mormon with Antonio every day and they are doing well. Antonio told us at work the other day he was offered a beer and for some reason he passed it up. We were so happy to hear that! He is doing so well and has already seen the blessings from living the gospel of Jesus Christ.

As Juan struggles, all we do is invite and try our best to help him come closer to Jesus Christ, but the choice is ultimately his. I realize how much I do love him, because it is during those frustrating moments that I know I am a missionary called of God; that my responsibility is to do ALL I possibly can to bring these people unto Jesus Christ. I have found that, along with all the joy I feel on my mission, I feel great disappointment at times as well, because I just care so much. I know that Juan is better off because we have been in his life and I know that I will never forget him.

Veronica and Antonio are set to be married and baptized on May 5th! We are sooo excited. Cinco de Mayo!!! Haha. I hope and pray I can stay here long enough to have the opportunity to witness it.
As we work with Juan and others to show them all that this life offers them, I continue to realize that they choose to live these lives that are not their own. Just as the Lord shows us opportunities, Satan takes us to discouragement and despair by convincing us that the way of the world is our only choice. If we only remember WHO WE ARE and live OUR OWN lives, we can find true self-worth and progress the way God intends.

I love the following quote because it talks about the two ways we can choose to live:

“The Lord's way builds individual self-esteem and develops and heals the dignity of the individual, whereas the world's way depresses the individual's view of himself and causes deep resentment.”
- Spencer W. Kimball

The Lord has provided a way we can be happy, through His rules and regulations, and by magnifying the TALENTS we have been given from Him. I remember before my mission I looked up to certain famous figures … actors, artists, dancers, and musicians. They were amazing and I loved watching them and I would just sit on the computer or watch them on TV. I know that talents are something we all have and need to share with the world.

I love this scripture in the Book of Mormon … Ether 12:35.

35 Wherefore, I know by this thing which thou hast said, that if the Gentiles have not charity, because of our weakness, that thou wilt prove them, and take away their talent, yea, even that which they have received, and give unto them who shall have more abundantly.

We all have talents. Some are very different than others, but there are things in all of our lives that we love and are passionate about and if we don't share and grow our talents then those talents will be taken away from us. The world takes those sacred talents and throws drugs, immorality, and money in all of it to disgrace those beautiful talents given to us by our Heavenly Father. Satan wants us to use our talents to bring more wickedness into this decaying world. The world is getting worse, and we can see the evil around us, but I do know that those that share their talents and use them in the Lord's way will be a light in the world and will be blessed.

I love these following quotes...
 "Be yourself; everyone else is taken."- Oscar Wilde

"You are good. But it is not enough just to be good. You must be good for something. You must contribute good to the world. The world must be a better place for your presence. And the good that is in you must be spread to others."― Gordon B. Hinckley

We should always remember who we are because each and every one of us matters to Him. Our lives are what we make them. They shouldn't be influenced by the things of this world or changed for one particular person or reason. Be yourself. Be that person you were meant to be and never forget who you really are. Remember that you came from a loving Heavenly Father and we are His children. We all have divine potential and if we have faith and recognize that we can live OUR lives to the fullest every day, we will use what we have been given to make this world a better place. We will inspire others to build their own talents and to give thanks to God for the talents they have. I am grateful for all the wonderful talents and skills Heavenly Father has bestowed upon me. Before my mission I liked to do things to show off or to gain recognition, but over these last eight months my perspective has changed. I want to use my talents to bring others closer to Jesus Christ, to help everyone see the light of Christ and to bring them to that light. Always remember that your life has significant importance.  Press play on your OWN life. Now is our time to maximize those precious gifts that our Heavenly Father has specifically bestowed upon us every day. Live the Lord's way. Live your OWN life and live it to the fullest.

Les Amo,

Elder Vance

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Even Unto The End Of The World

It's crazy that I have been out for 8 months! My mission is 1/3 of the way over ... NOOO!!! I am grateful for my companion Elder Lopez because my Spanish is really taking off. I love him for how hard he works every day and for the patience he has for me. I had a really cool experience this last week. Elder Lopez and I were walking down the street and this man with a Green Bay Packers hat was walking into his garage. With hope, I went up to him and tried to talk to him, but he immediately said, "Nah, I'm not interested." Disappointed, I slowly walked away but then quickly turned and yelled, "I'm a Packers fan, Go Pack Go!” He then came out of his garage and said, "You're a Packer fan?" I said, "Well, I was born and raised a Cheesehead. I am from Wisconsin and will forever be a Green Bay Packers fan." He then looked at me for a second and said, "Come here I gotta show you something."  He then led us into his house and into his lounge. We found out his name was Chuck and to my astonishment when I walked into his house I was standing within a Packers’ shrine.  I saw famous framed jerseys, helmets mounted, and pictures of players covering the walls. My eyes just got huge and I said, "Wow this is awwwesome!" It was cool to see a jersey of one of my favorite quarterbacks of all time (Brett Favre) hanging on the wall. I was speechless. Not only was it his jersey but it was the last jersey he wore in a regular season game as a Packer. Of course, I had to get pictures and he told us that just that day he had talked some other missionaries. I told him there was a reason that he was in our path that day. He seemed like a happy man but I could sense that there was something missing in his life. I think he even felt it too, but he insisted that he wasn't interested in hearing anything about religion, but he was really a charitable and nice guy. As I walked out I was stoked that I got to see all of that stuff but at the same time I felt unsatisfied. I realized that those things will only last a lifetime and not for eternity. I wanted to do all I could to help him. I wrote my testimony on a pamphlet about the restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ and left it in his truck mirror. At that moment I felt good because I knew that I did all I could to bring him unto the true and everlasting gospel of Jesus Christ. While I too enjoy things like that in my life … sports, games, TV, music, etc., I know that the root of true joy is the gospel of Jesus Christ, because through Him we can be with our families forever after this life and receive our eternal salvation.

I really felt something special this past Easter Sunday, a special spirit surrounding those sacred days. I love this time of year because it gives us all an opportunity to gain a better understanding and testimony of our Savior, Jesus Christ. I read chapters 26, 27, and 28 in the book of Matthew over the weekend, which talks about the suffering of Jesus Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane, His death on the cross, and His resurrection. I love these chapters because they help me learn more about the life and purpose of Jesus Christ. What I loved most is what He says to His apostles after His resurrection in Matthew 28:18-20 ...

18 And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth.
19 Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:
20 Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, EVEN UNTO THE END OF THE WORLD. Amen.

Many people in today’s world focus so much on His death and how terrible and awful his pain and suffering was. We recognize that He did suffer for our sins and die for us, but we worship and know the LIVING Christ, the one that is and always will be with us. He LIVES. His ministry continues after his resurrection. I love the promise He gives to visit His "other sheep" in John 10:16 ...

"And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd."

Those other sheep He visited were the people here in the Americas. The Book of Mormon is a record of His visitation and ministry to the people here. I know that because I have read it. Every page of the Book of Mormon testifies of Jesus Christ. There were people here that knew of Christ's birth, ministry, atonement, death, and resurrection. There were prophets called of God here because people needed that sacred guidance from our Father in Heaven. God loves all of His children. That is why we have The Book of Mormon, because with it we have the full record of the life of Jesus Christ. The Bible occurred in the Middle East and events in The Book of Mormon happened here in the Americas. We have both of these records written by prophets so that we can gain a greater understanding and testimony of our Savior, Jesus Christ and His Gospel. The promise of The Book of Mormon is that ANY person that reads it and prays to our Heavenly Father about it with a sincere heart can know if it is true by the power of the Holy Ghost.  The Holy Ghost is the way our Heavenly Father reveals truth to us. It is like a still small voice, a warm feeling in your heart, a feeling of peace and comfort inside of you. Anyone can receive an answer. God is the source of ALL truth and He will reveal to you if these things are true. All you have to do is kneel, pray and ask Him if The Book of Mormon is true.

Veronica (the sister of our recent convert Juan) and her boyfriend Antonio have committed to being married and baptized on the 28th of April. We are so excited for them. They both continue to grow so much and increase their faith through living the commandments of God. Veronica came to church on Sunday and then, after we ate dinner with her at our branch president’s house, she told us that in that home it felt like she knew us from long before and that it felt like home to her. We explained to her that we are children of our Heavenly Father and before this life on earth we ALL lived together. She said she loved the feeling she felt there and was grateful for this gospel. She told us, "Yo quiero seguir adelante" (I want to continue onward). It is an amazing thing to witness this and be a part of these people’s lives. I feel that I have the privilege to love as Christ loves here in my mission.

Jesus Christ is important to me because He will always be standing there, beckoning unto me to come follow him, with arms wide open waiting for me. Through the good he walks beside me and through the bad He carries me. I know He will ALWAYS be there for me. I am forever in debt to the everlasting price He paid for me and for His drops of blood that fell because of me. I love my Savior, Jesus Christ and because of Him, it is NEVER over. He died for every sin I have committed, every pain I have felt, and for every sorrow that I have been burdened with in my life. We can return to live with our Heavenly Father again because Jesus Christ came. He will always be the light that penetrates my darkness. I know He is with me, not only in this life, but forever. I testify that HE LIVES and that He can be with each and every one of us if we allow Him to come in, Even Unto The End Of The World.

Les Amo,

Elder Vance

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

It's Never Over

Last week I had the opportunity to listen to the 182nd Annual LDS General Conference. General Conference occurs twice a year and it is a conference that is broadcasted around the world for the members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Members from the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and our Prophet, President Thomas S. Monson address the world. As prophets, seers, and revelators they receive guidance and revelation for all of us here on this earth at this time. I took some notes and the following are some quotes I LOVED from this General Conference.

"What God enjoys most about being God is being merciful. God is loving and merciful. Those that stand with Him receive all the blessings He has for us."- Elder Jeffrey R. Holland

"(The Prodigal Son) came to himself. (We have) an opportunity to come to ourselves and experience ‘a mighty change’ of heart - to remember who we are and what we most desire.  Let’s have a talk with ourselves in the mirror and see how we are doing with keeping the commandments of God. Remember who you are. Let’s come unto ourselves."- Elder Robert D. Hales

"A single mother was going home to her house full of children who had many needs. She was overwhelmed and thought to herself, ‘I can't do this. I really can't do this anymore.’ She then prays to God, ‘Father, can I just come and live with you?’ A peaceful feeling came upon her as she felt these words, ‘No little one, you can't come to me now, but I can come to you.’- David S. Baxter

"A testimony of the gospel must rely on Faith. NOT on external significance or proof."- Elder Quinton L. Cook

"We are more inspired when we think of others. Communication with our Heavenly Father is not a trivial matter, it is a sacred privilege"- Elder Richard G. Scott

"Wives are not only looking for priesthood authority, but for priesthood power."- Elder David A. Bednar

"Don't judge me because I sin differently than you."- President Dieter F. Uchtdorf

"Our Creator made us; we are part of His Divine Purpose; (regarding the Big Bang theory) could an explosion in a printing shop create a dictionary?"- Elder Russell M. Nelson

"We all depend on the Savior; none of us can be saved without Him. His atonement is infinite and eternal. It is required that we forgive ALL men, even though at times the one hardest to forgive, or the one that needs it the most, is the one looking back in the mirror. Lay your burdens at the Savior’s feet."- President Dieter F. Uchtdorf

"Family time is sacred time. Family is the basic organization in time and in eternity."- President Boyd K. Packer

"As you sacrifice for those you love and your children, the Lord will bless you."- Elder Dallin H. Oaks

"Act on the pure love of Christ. Faith in Him will lead to acts of Charity which will bring Hope. We are never alone. Trials are here to help us. President Monson is the prophet to the world."- President Henry B. Eyring

"Whatsoever comes from God overcomes the world."- President Dieter F. Uchtdorf

"We emphasize our FAITH, not our FEARS. Fear departs when FAITH endures."- Elder Quinton L. Cook

I loved all the General Conference talks. I just wanted to share these quotes that really stuck out to me and really helped me feel like a child of God. To have my testimony and spirit refreshed was such an amazing experience.

This past week was a tough one. I really saw how Satan has a destructive influence on the children of God. He is real and he tries so hard to lead us all down his own path; the path to unhappiness, sorrow, and misery. Juan, our recent convert, is struggling. He had some problems and addictions we did not know about before his baptism, some problems he kept secret, and now that he is baptized he feels bad because he continues to do those things to which he has been addicted. Last week he was avoiding us. He feels bad and all we are trying to do is help him. It was tough because I felt that I might have done something wrong; that I didn't do all I could to help him understand he had problems before his baptism that would carry over after his baptism. But then I realized that I am not the judge. I do not decide if someone is converted to the gospel of Jesus Christ because I don't think I am even 100% converted. Conversion is a lifelong process. It doesn't just happen in one moment. Juan had the desire to change his life and follow the example of Jesus Christ. It is up to us now to help him understand that we love him and that it is NEVER over; that no matter what we do,the Atonement of Jesus Christ stretches over us infinitely. God loves us. He has given us this way, that if we come unto Christ, we can be freed from ALL sin, our sorrows and guilt. 

Elder Vasconselos, a fellow missionary, gave me this scripture because he felt like I needed it. I am so grateful he was thoughtful and felt inspired to share this scripture with me. He knew about Juan and he knew I was worried about him. This scripture changed my week and it really raised my spirits. I am so grateful I have fellow missionaries that are looking out for me and care about me enough to help me out in times of need. This scripture applies to Juan. This scripture is in The Book of Mormon, 3 Nephi 18:32.

Nevertheless, ye shall not cast him out of your synagogues, or your places of worship, for unto such shall ye continue to minister; for ye know not but what they will return and repent, and come unto me with full purpose of heart, and I shall heal them; and ye shall be the means of bringing salvation unto them.

That is my duty as a missionary … to bring others unto Christ, and to help them, no matter what their temptations or problems may be. We are all imperfect, we all have problems. We have problems to help us grow and learn from our mistakes. I am going to do everything I can for my brother, Juan. He is struggling but I hope he understands how much I love him and how much our Heavenly Father loves him. I will never cast him out or forsake him, and I will continue to minister unto him. He CAN be healed and he CAN receive eternal salvation. For all of those out there with friends or family that are lost or gone astray, don't EVER give up on them. Always share your testimony and minister unto them so that they can feel the presence and love of our Heavenly Father. Through repentance they can be led back to the fold of God once again. President Boyd K. Packer said in this past General Conference, "Repentance will always be worth the effort."
It is. I know it is. I have gained a testimony of the cleansing power of the Atonement of Jesus Christ. At times I have messed up, and I have repented. I have been made clean. I have felt the arms of our Savior, Jesus Christ, around me. That is how I know ANYONE that follows the example of Jesus Christ can received a full remission of their sins. To everyone out there … with Jesus Christ it's NEVER over.

Check out to view testimonies and post YOUR own testimony of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ and why He is important to you.

EASTER!- To view an amazing video depicting the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ click on the following link.

Les Amo Muchisimo,

Elder Vance

p.s. For those that send mail to my personal address in Davis, please be aware that we moved to apartment #75.