Thursday, May 31, 2012

Together We Stand

This last week went great! Elder Richins and I were able to find and teach a lot of new and great people. We are teaching this young woman named Erika. She has been studying with the Jehovah's Witnesses for many years now. It has been great to see the light of Christ grow within her. She is reading and praying about the Book of Mormon. That has been the difference. The people that read and pray about the Book of Mormon change because Heavenly Father sees their desire. Everything starts with the Book of Mormon, because if the Book of Mormon is true everything else that follows is true as well. It has been a neat experience to be a part of Erika's life. She is amazing and soaking in all that we are teaching her. We are hoping and praying that she continues to progress. This last week I was thinking about Heavenly Father and how powerful, yet merciful, He is. We are His children and I know that He loves each and every one of us. We are here to be tested, and if we pass that test, we have a way to return and live with Him. That is what I would like to talk about today.

Last week I found these two verses of scripture that really made me think.

Romans 8:16-17
16) The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God:
17) And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together.

I love these verses of scripture because they tells us that we can be joint-heirs with Christ. We are here on earth so that one day we can stand with God and Jesus Christ. All of us have different talents, jobs and duties that we do day in and day out. But God's work is US. My mission president said, "God is the most powerful being in the universe and we don't need an appointment to talk with Him. God answers your prayers 100% of the time. It may not be the answer you want, or in the right time frame you want, but He answers ALL of them. If you involve Him, He can become a big part of your life."

In the bible dictionary under "Prayer" it talks about how important prayer is in our lives. I loved this paragraph from the description.

"As soon as we learn the true relationship in which we stand toward God (namely, God is our Father, and we are his children), then at once prayer becomes natural and instinctive on our part (Matt. 7:7–11). Many of the so-called difficulties about prayer arise from forgetting this relationship. Prayer is the act by which the will of the Father and the will of the child are brought into correspondence with each other. The object of prayer is not to change the will of God, but to secure for ourselves and for others blessings that God is already willing to grant, but that are made conditional on our asking for them. Blessings require some work or effort on our part before we can obtain them. Prayer is a form of work, and is an appointed means for obtaining the highest of all blessings."

We kneel in prayer so that in the moment when we meet God we can stand with Him and His Son, Jesus Christ. It is through this form of "work" that we secure the blessings of heaven for ourselves and for others.
I have seen in my life how prayer creates a connection between me and my Heavenly Father. I know that it is through prayer that we ALL can stand together in the last day and be joint-heirs with Jesus Christ. I know that because I have felt it in my personal prayers here on my mission. Prayer is a part of who we are and is our connection to the powers above. He is waiting to hear from His children. I invite you all to pray and to strengthen your connection with our Heavenly Father ... to pray within your homes and families so that they can feel the presence of Heavenly Father and receive the blessings that await them. I love this gospel because it illuminates my heart, mind, and soul. I love my mission and these people. This is the greatest thing I can ever be part of, and we all have that same great opportunity to prepare to stand together in the presence of God.

Les Amo Mucho,

Elder Vance

Thursday, May 24, 2012

True Sacrifice

This last week I was thinking a lot about how I view my mission. I remember before my mission I really thought that the 2 years I am going to serve is going to be such a sacrifice. I am giving up 2 years of my OWN life to go out and talk to people about Jesus Christ. But recently that mindset has changed. As my mindset has changed I have seen my mission change. I hope that I can truly put into words what has changed my mission.

First I would like to share a quote from Eliza R. Snow

"His precious blood he freely spilt; His life he freely gave, a sinless sacrifice for guilt, a dying world to save."

Jesus Christ gave his life for us. He could have saved himself but He knew His sacrifice would save ALL who would have faith in him and come unto Him. He suffered so we don't have to. It is through His sacrifice that ALL mankind may be saved. Jesus Christ is the epitome of the word SACRIFICE.
I love this quote about sacrifice that my mission president said.
"The day that sacrifice is no longer part of our lives, is the day we lose our connection to the Savior."
I love that quote because I have seen that in my life. We have been given so much and I know that it is through sacrifice that we become more like our Savior, Jesus Christ.

Elder Dallin H. Oaks spoke at the last General Conference in April. He talked about the importance of sacrifice. He said, "Perhaps the most familiar and most important examples of unselfish service and sacrifice are performed in our families. Mothers devote themselves to the bearing and nurturing of their children. Husbands give themselves to supporting their wives and children. The sacrifices involved in the eternally important service to our families are too numerous to mention and too familiar to need mention.
I believe that Latter-day Saints who give unselfish service and sacrifice in worshipful imitation of our Savior adhere to eternal values to a greater extent than any other group of people. Latter-day Saints look on their sacrifices of time and means as a part of their schooling and qualifying for eternity. This is a truth revealed in the Lectures on Faith, which teach that “a religion that does not require the sacrifice of all things never has power sufficient to produce the faith necessary unto life and salvation. … It is through this sacrifice, and this only, that God has ordained that men should enjoy eternal life.”

I have seen the sacrifices that have been made for me in my life. The sacrifices of my parents have greatly impacted how I have been raised, the life I have had, and who I am today. For that I am eternally grateful because I know that they have always sacrificed for the sake of me and my sisters. Because of their sacrifices in my home, the love and light of Jesus Christ has always been present within the walls of my home.

I would now like to share a story with you all. The picture below is me with a member here in our area. She has been through a lot in her life. This story I am going to share with you is one that has made me ponder on why I am here on my mission. This woman is married and has five children. Only one child is a member of our church and he is less active. Her husband is also a member but does not come to church anymore. This family lives in a rough neighborhood. Three and a half months ago when I came here to Woodland she, along with the rest of her family, were not very receptive to us missionaries coming over. Over time, we gained her trust and now meet with her frequently. Her teenage children were never very open to the gospel, but we continued to try and teach them. It was hard because we saw how unhappy they were and their children were not involved in good things. Over these last three and a half months I have really developed a deep love for this family. We have seen how the spirit of God changes people's hearts. I started talking to their daughter, Selena. She loves to draw and is about 11 years old. She has had a hard life and has been neglected in her home. At times it pained me to see how much she struggled at her age. I thought of my own sisters and the love I have for them. I just wanted to give this girl a hug because I wanted her to feel the love that our Heavenly Father has for her. We continued to talk to her and over time she has warmed up to me and my companion. We have also begun to teach Luis, one of the sons. He has made some bad decisions in his life but because of those things he wants to learn more about the gospel and change. This last week we had a lesson with Selena and Luis and we talked about repentance and why baptism was important for them. Elder Richins invited them to be baptized on the 30th of June. When they both accepted to be baptized, a rush of joy and love filled my soul. I did not realize how much I had come to love this family. I bore my testimony that this was the way that they could be cleansed from their sins. I got choked up and said, "Luis and Selena. This is the way you and your family can return to live with our Heavenly Father again. I am filled with joy because I know Heavenly Father is looking down and smiling right now. I know that every bad thing that has happened in your lives can be fixed through Jesus Christ. We love you and your family and we are grateful to be here with you." It was an experience that I will never forget. The spirit was so strong. After the lesson their mom came up to us and gave us unexpected hugs and with tears in her eyes said, "Thank you, thank you. I never thought they would want to be baptized." That experience has made me think about my mission and how meaningful it is to me.

"As we give, we find that 'sacrifice' brings forth the blessings of heaven' and in the end, we learn it was no sacrifice at all." -President Spencer W. Kimball

Before my mission I thought that my mission was "a sacrifice" because I was giving up two years of my life to go and help others. My friends would say to me, "Well, that's a pretty big sacrifice you are making. Two years out of school away from your friends and family. That's a long time." But with some of the experiences I have had, I have come to realize that my mission is not a sacrifice at all. Heavenly Father has given me life, my family, my talents, clothes, money, and time. I have been given these things already. My time is not a sacrifice because God has given it to me. That is what has changed within me. I know now that true sacrifice is not doing something with the expectation of blessings, but doing something purely out of love. I know Jesus Christ loved the world before He suffered and died for it. He is perfect and I hope I can continue to expand my love for those that I serve so that I can become more like Him. I love these people and I love my mission. I thank my family and friends for all the wonderful sacrifices they have made for me so that I could be here for these two years on my mission. To sacrifice is to give something up for something better.

Les Amo,

Elder Vance

Monday, May 14, 2012

Saving Grace

Yesterday was Mother's Day and I was able to call home to my family. Most of you might not know that missionaries in our church get to call home twice a year (Christmas and Mother's Day). It was so wonderful to talk to my family. I am so grateful for my parents who have loved and supported me throughout my life. I know that my mom is one of a kind and she has raised me the right way. Even though I have the ability to choose what I do in this life I know that most of my decisions have come from the example that has been set by my mother. She yearns to grow closer to Jesus Christ. From my youth I have seen that, and I have yearned for the same because of her. I know that I have not been the perfect son to my mother but I know that she has been the perfect mother to me. I love my mother because I know she wants the best for me and for my future. She is one of my guides and she has kept me on the straight and narrow path back to my Father in Heaven. Thank you Mom for all that you do and I LOVE YOU!

In Zone Leader Council this past week President Bunker said something that really struck me.

"It is not healthy to seek perfection. We should strive to seek for grace."

Grace is a gift given to us from above. It is granted to us from our Heavenly Father through Jesus Christ. Grace gives us the ability to do things we can not do by ourselves. In this life we will not achieve perfection. That is why Jesus Christ came, to provide a way for us to overcome our weaknesses, temptations, errors, and mistakes. I would not be here without the grace of Jesus Christ. Life would be too difficult and I would be burdened with guilt, pain, and sorrow. A few synonyms for grace that I found are forgiveness, charity, and love. I love these synonyms because it describes Jesus Christ perfectly. He suffered for us, He died for us, and He rose on the third day. It is through Him and Him alone that we can be saved.

We went out with a return missionary named Jesse this past week. He went on his mission to Mexico and got home about a week ago. The light that beamed from within him was so strong and he was so eager to go and talk to people with us about the gospel of Jesus Christ. He had such a firm testimony about Jesus Christ and His saving grace. It was a testament to me that after my mission this really is not over. There are still going to be challenges and temptation, there always will be, but we all can still have the light of Jesus Christ and have the desire to follow him, forever.

I love this quote.

"We do not prove our love for the Savior only by doing "some great thing". If the prophet personally asked you to go on a mission to some strange and exotic place would you go? You would probably make every effort to go. But what about paying tithing? What about doing your home teaching? We show our love for the Savior by doing the small acts of faith, devotion, and kindness to others that define our character."

-President James E. Faust

I have seen that throughout my life … within my home, with friends, and out in the world. Faith is an action. That is why I love my mission, because I have the opportunity to bring the saving grace of Jesus Christ to all of these people here. They change their lives to follow the example of Jesus Christ and then they receive more blessings. I know that Jesus Christ lives and that ALL can come unto Him. I challenge you all to do a small act of faith and share with others your testimony of Jesus Christ so that they may be lifted up in their lives.

Les Amo,

Elder Vance

Monday, May 7, 2012


This past week I found out that I am going to be staying here in Davis for another transfer! I have also been assigned to be a Zone Leader here with Elder Richins. My companion Elder Lopez will be making a minor move down to Woodland with Elder Vasconcelos, but they are still here serving in the same branch so I will still see them both a lot. I am excited to have the opportunity to serve as a Zone Leader. It is a privilege to have this opportunity to love and serve more of my fellow missionaries. I know that the Lord will help me fulfill my new assignment and that He will be there every step of the way.

Elder Russell M. Nelson from the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles once said, "Moments are the molecules that make up eternity."

This last week I had some awesome experiences that I would like to share with all of you because I know that you all will be able to feel the spirit and hope that you will grow from these experiences as I have.

On Saturday, Elder Lopez and I were contacting and walking down the street when we saw a few kids playing basketball. We walked up to them and I said, "Hey, how are you guys doing?" They stopped playing for a second and said, "Good." We introduced ourselves as missionaries and then I asked them their names; they were Dominic (13), Andrew (15), and Diego (13). I then asked, "Well, can I play?”. They said, "Yea, let’s play 2-on-2”, and they wanted Andrew and me to play together. I took my backpack off and took a few warm-up shots. Before we started, I said "Hey, let’s play for this ... if we win you all have to listen to me and Elder Lopez for 10 minutes about why we are missionaries and what we do. If you all win, well, hmmm …we'll give you guys a dollar each." They were pumped! I have never seen kids so enthusiastic to play for a dollar! Haha. They agreed and the game began! We were playing to 10 and Dominic and Diego (the opposing team) took a quick 2-0 lead. At first I was just messing around, until I realized that I actually had to get into it and win!  I started to really play and due to our height advantage Andrew and I soon took home the gold by winning 10-5. After the game ended I said, "Alright, you remember the deal!" I took the basketball and I began to teach them simply about our beliefs; about how we know that the true church that Jesus Christ established when He came to this earth has been restored in fullness in these latter days through a modern day prophet named Joseph Smith. I shared with them my testimony that I know that this gospel could change their lives in every aspect, forever, and about how I know that Joseph Smith was a prophet and we have a living prophet today named Thomas S. Monson. It was one of the coolest experiences of my mission. Elder Lopez shared his testimony as well, that he knows this gospel is true and that this is something that could bring more happiness into their lives. It was hard to hear that none of them really knew what Jesus Christ has done for them and that they didn't know that they could be with their families forever after this life. I know that those young boys were put in our path for a reason that day. I felt an instant love for them, because I knew that they are my brothers. Diego asked, "Where do we go after this life?" I explained to him that our Heavenly Father has a plan for each and every one of us. It is a plan that, if we follow Jesus Christ, allows us to return and live in His presence forever in the Celestial Kingdom of heaven. The plan is called “the plan of salvation” or the “plan of happiness”. I bore testimony that I know we all accepted that plan before this life, to come to earth and be born into families, receive knowledge, and follow Jesus Christ. It was an experience that I will never forget. I hope that Andrew, Dominic, and Diego never forget the spirit they felt on the day they had an opportunity to talk with representatives of Jesus Christ. I know they felt it, because I felt it. That moment changed my mission because I realized that I only have a limited amount of moments to use, and how important it is to magnify each of them and make them become a part of me.

Early last week Antonio and Veronica were on track to get baptized, but unfortunately they told us they needed more time to figure out a date that works for them to get married and baptized. They want to do both (be baptized and get married), but they just told us they need more time and didn’t want to feel pressured to do it. Elder Lopez and I were a bit down on ourselves because we thought, "What did we do wrong? They were so on track and in the last week they pushed it off." We didn't see them too much after that during the week but they came to church on Sunday and that is when everything changed. It was fast and testimony meeting, a meeting where the members come to church fasting and have time to share their testimonies with the congregation. The spirit was so strong during that meeting and Veronica got up and bore her testimony. She said, "I am so grateful for Elder Vance and Elder Lopez. From the first moment they knocked on our door our lives have been changed. I used to have so many problems before they came, but I have changed. I love them. They are angels from God sent to me. I know that to be true. I know that this church is true. I want to get married because I want to be baptized. I want this for my family because I know that this is true." The love I have for Veronica and Antonio has grown so much. In that moment I felt the love of my Heavenly Father testify to me that I am making a difference. I am a vessel that brings this light to all the people here, and for that I am grateful. Veronica and Antonio are going to get married and baptized soon. I just know it. I love these experiences; these moments that make up my mission.

I love all the beautiful things my Heavenly Father has put around me … my family, my friends, this gospel, and this earth. I know that moments ARE the things that make up our eternity, and these are only a few of the moments that make up my life and who I am. Moments are the start of special memories we can all take with us, even after this life. Cherish them and make the most of them, because they can only last as long as you want them to last. I love my mission. Thank you all for being a part of the precious moments of my life.

Les Amo Muchisimo,

Elder Vance

Tuesday, May 1, 2012


This past week was a roller-coaster with plenty of ups and downs. A definite highlight was going to the Sacramento temple this past Thursday. It was a special experience because one of my cousins, Alissa Manning, got married there a little over a year ago but I was unable to attend. It was a neat experience to just be there and know that her and her husband got sealed there for not only time but for eternity last year, that they made that special covenant to live the commandments of God and to always be faithful to one another. Now they are on their journey into eternity together, and it was such a tender experience to be there where it started. Love ya’ Sissa! In the temple, as I opened up a The Book of Mormon in Spanish, I randomly flipped it open to 3 Nephi 26 where Christ visits the Americas after His resurrection. I love verses 15 and 17 where it says:

15And it came to pass that after he had ascended into heaven the second time that he showed himself unto them, and had gone unto the Father, after having healed all their sick, and their lame, and opened the eyes of their blind and unstopped the ears of the deaf, and even had done all manner of cures among them, and raised a man from the dead, and had shown forth his power unto them, and had ascended unto the Father.

17And it came to pass that the disciples whom Jesus had chosen began from that time forth to baptize and to teach as many as did come unto them; and as many as were baptized in the name of Jesus were filled with the Holy Ghost.

I love these verses because it shows the love that Jesus Christ had for the people. He healed them and cured them. He provided a way (baptism) for them so that they could all be filled with the spirit of God. “Love” in Spanish translates to "Amor". I love that word because I use it often as I tell people that the "Amor" God has for each and every one of us is incomprehensible. God knows us, He listens to us, He loves us. With Him, it's never the end of the road. By the time I left the temple I felt spiritually uplifted. There is nothing like going inside the temple and feeling the special spirit there. There you truly feel loved; loved by our Heavenly Father.

Veronica and Antonio are doing well but they didn't come to church and I just felt down. They are doing well and are still planning on getting married and baptized this upcoming Saturday and we are hoping and praying the Lord provides the way for that to happen. At the end of a rough day last week, I had a leadership meeting with Elders Van Wagenen, Gifford, and Anderson. Elder Van Wagenen shared a scripture that struck me really hard. It's in the Doctrine and Covenants 112:13.

13And after their temptations, and much tribulation, behold, I, the Lord, will feel after them, and if they harden not their hearts, and stiffen not their necks against me, they shall be converted, and I will heal them.

The Lord will FEEL after us. Think about it as if you were looking for an object in the dark and you use every sense of feeling in your hands to find that object. I picture Christ doing the same with us. He is there to FEEL after us and to bring us out of darkness. Our lives are not supposed to be easy, and they never will be. But after trials come the blessings, because Christ loves us, and no matter what we do we can always turn to him.
My Zone Leaders, Elder Gifford and Elder Anderson (the two other missionaries I live with), helped me through that tough day last week. In that meeting they told me why they loved me, and at that moment my day went from a dark crummy day to a great one. That is exactly what I needed. I needed to feel that Christ-like love they have for me. Then they asked me what I loved about my companion, Elder Lopez. With tears in my eyes I said, "He is one of the most humble people I have ever met. He is an example to me, and that's why I love him." That meeting was amazing because I realized that it is through the love of Christ that we all grow and feel good about ourselves. We all have things to work on, but the best feeling ever is someone telling you that they love you. El amor de Cristo (the love of Christ) can be spread and shared to all those around us. Share that love you have for others and tell the people around you why you love them. If you do that, I can promise you that you will make their day and the light of Christ will beam from within you. I LOVE my mission and I LOVE all of you for the incredible support and wonderful friendships I have in my life.

Les Amo Mucho,

Elder Vance