Thursday, June 28, 2012

Here's to the Time

This past week was bittersweet. Yesterday, we had a mission conference and we all said our goodbyes to President and Sister Bunker and President Bunker gave his last words to us. I was full of emotion. It was an amazing feeling to be with all of my brothers here in the mission and to feel the love that was present there. A few return missionaries came back for the conference and what a joyous reunion that was; to see that they were still my brothers in the gospel. President and Sister Bunker have served so faithfully and they will always have a special place in my heart. President Bunker has changed my life. I look up to him so much and I have learned so much from him. I have learned how to become a better leader and how to have more Christ-like charity in my life. It was sad to give my last hug and say my last goodbye to him but I also know that our new mission president, President Alba, is going to be great. President Bunker gave us many words of wisdom and advice but I would like to share something Sister Bunker said ... "We can become the people we see in our dreams." I never thought that I would become the person that I am today.

20 years ago today, I was born. I was raised by goodly parents and I was born into this gospel. I don't know why I was given such an opportunity to grow up with Christ as the center focus of my home. Sometimes I wonder why I was given such a special opportunity and others were not. I am grateful to have this in my life. I have seen the blessings from living a Christ-centered life. I have been molded and changed by Jesus Christ and for that I can never go back to the person I was before. My mission has changed me because I have been able to see the difference between those that follow Jesus Christ and those that don't. The difference is pure joy; a happiness that lasts, a light that glows from within. Everyone has an opportunity to have it in their lives, and for that I know that what I am doing here in California is not a waste of time. I know that through helping others come unto Jesus Christ, I am bringing myself closer to Him as well. The focus of serving a mission is to help others, but in turn the one who is helped the most is yourself.

I was able to have a birthday dinner with Selena, Luis, and their family. It was the only birthday gift I needed. To be with them. These are the best days of my life. I love being with my people. At their house we had a spagetti dinner and a cake. They didn't have candles for the chocolate cake so instead they put a match on the cake, lit it, and that was my birthday candle. Being in their small apartment I recognized the love I have for this family. I know they are a big part of why I stayed here in Davis. They are still reading the Book of Mormon together and praying everynight. The Lord is truly blessing them and they know it. These moments are the precious moments that are making up my eternity and I am grateful.

Time goes by so fast. Our time on this earth is limited. It is not our time. We are given our time and our lives by a loving Heavenly Father. I know that serving a mission isn't even a fraction of all the wonderful things I have been given in my life. My heart is full of gratitude to live another year on this earth and especially to be here on my mission. For those that are debating to serve a mission ... DO IT! I had no idea how much a mission would change my life for the better. It is a blessing to serve and to be a representative of Jesus Christ. Everyone has a chance to choose their future, everybody has an opportunity to choose their destiny. I look forward to the experiences I will continue to have and for the lives I will be able to touch. There is a lyric that I love that says, "Givin' it all the only one who was and is and yet to come."

I know that Jesus Christ lives and I know He will come again. I do not know this because I have seen Him but because I have felt Him in my life. He has been next to me and to you every step of our lives. Only time will tell but I know that if we allow Him into our lives He is the one that will change us. I love my mission and I love the life that I am living because I feel the spirit of God in my life. It is that same spirit that testifies to me that this gospel is true. I love you all and remember that our lives are special in the sight of God.

Les Amo Mucho!

Elder Vance

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

On My Hero's Shoulders

Last week I found out that I am STAYING in Davis for another transfer! I am so excited to stay here for the next 6 weeks! That means that I will have served here for 6 months at the end of this next transfer. I know that the Lord kept me here for a reason, and I am grateful to Him for the opportunity to stay because it was really important to me. The more time I spend here, the deeper the love grows in my heart for these people, especially for Selena and Luis. They both are getting baptized on the 14th of July. Their family has become reactivated in the church and all of them are so much happier in their lives. The biggest change they have made is that they are all reading The Book of Mormon together. That has brought the spirit into their home and to their families. My heart is so full of gratitude, because a key reason that I wanted to stay here was so that I could be part of their baptisms. To all of you that are preparing to serve missions, are on missions, or are returned missionaries, this is why we serve; to help others come unto Christ. Through faith in Him, repentance, baptism by immersion, receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost and enduring to the end, we can bring others to our Savior. I love my mission. I’d like to share the following quote from Jim Valvano:
"My father gave me the greatest gift anyone could give another person, he believed in me".
In my own life that has been the case with my dad. While on my mission I have realized how big of a role both my parents have played in my life, and how my father has sculpted me into who I am today. From an early age, I knew that my father always believed in me. That is one of the many gifts I have received from him as my father. It never mattered what the situation was or how big or small the circumstance, he was always cheering me on. I would like to dedicate this blog post to my own father, the man I have looked up to for the last 20 years of my life and the one who I will continue to look up to forever.
I consider myself lucky to have a father, and to have had one for this long of a time. Many children and teenagers grow up without a fatherly figure in their lives and so I am grateful for the father I do have. I know that before this life he was called and he was chosen to be my earthly father; that has been God's plan from the beginning, to put us into families so that we could be loved, learn, grow, and so that we ALL could have an opportunity to follow Jesus Christ in our lives.
A latter-day prophet once said, "A father's calling is eternal and its importance transcends time. It is a calling for both time and eternity."- Ezra Taft Benson
I can remember numerous times when my father put me on his shoulders. When we were at a park or in the zoo, if I got tired he would lift me up and put me on his shoulders. That act alone is an act from a father. I will never forget the feeling of being on my father's shoulders. It seemed that I could fly, all my burdens were gone and there was a giant sense of relief, to know that he was there for me, carrying me upon his shoulders. It was one of the best feelings ever, to be on the shoulders of my hero. Together we were unstoppable. From that young age he had such a great impact on me. My father has been there for me just like that throughout my life and I know that his love for me will continue into the eternities. I know that my father is not a perfect man, but I do know that the love he has for me and my sisters is perfect.  He will always be my father and I will always be his son. My dad is my hero.
I know we all have a Heavenly Father, and He has given us a way so that we may be burden free and lifted up in our lives. He gave His only Begotten Son, Jesus Christ, so that we can be freed from the burdens and sorrows in our lives. Heavenly Father cares about the lowest ones on the ladder. He NEVER will abandon us because he is literally our Father. I know that I have an earthly father and a Heavenly Father who both love me and want the best for me. I know the role of a father is important, and because of that, I want to strive to one day be the best father I can possibly be. I am grateful for this last Sunday, and for the opportunity we had to celebrate the lives of our fathers, and for that, I LOVE YOU DAD! I hope you all say that enough to your own fathers because I know they love you. I love my time here and my mission!

Les Amo,

Elder Vance

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Lost and Found

This last week was a great week. Elder Richins and I are excited to see what happens to us this next week due to transfers. I hope I have the opportunity to stay here in Davis for one more transfer but we will see! Selena and Luis both came to church this past Sunday with their mom and dad. The work is going amazing here in Davis. We have five investigators right now with baptismal dates in July and we are so excited about that and I will keep you all posted on more of my experiences.

This was a story that one of my fellow missionaries posted. He found it and I loved it, and I want to share it with all of you. If you are interested, he has a blog too, and you can check it out at I was moved by this story and I hope you all thoroughly enjoy it.

 "In that place between wakefulness and dreams, I found myself in the room. There were no distinguishing features save for the one wall covered with small index-card files. They were like the ones in libraries that list titles by author or subject in alphabetical order. But these files, which stretched from floor to ceiling and seemingly endlessly in either direction, had very different headings. As I drew near the wall of files, the first to catch my attention was one that read "Girls I Have Liked." I opened it and began flipping through the cards. I quickly shut it, shocked to realize that I recognized the names written on each one.
And then without being told, I knew exactly where I was. This lifeless room with its small files was a crude catalog system for my life. Here were written the actions of my every moment, big and small, in a detail my memory couldn't match.
A sense of wonder and curiosity, coupled with horror, stirred within me as I began randomly opening files and exploring their content. Some brought joy and sweet memories; others a sense of shame and regret so intense that I would look over my shoulder to see if anyone was watching. A file named "Friends" was next to one marked "Friends I Have Betrayed."
The titles ranged from the mundane to the outright weird. "Books I Have Read," "Lies I Have Told," "Comfort I Have Given," "Jokes I Have Laughed At." Some were almost hilarious in their exactness: "Things I've Yelled at My Brothers." Others I couldn't laugh at: "Things I Have Done in My Anger," "Things I Have Muttered Under My Breath at My Parents." I never ceased to be surprised by the contents. Often there were many more cards than I expected. Sometimes fewer than I hoped.
I was overwhelmed by the sheer volume of the life I had lived. Could it be possible that I had the time in my 20 years to write each of these thousands or even millions of cards? But each card confirmed this truth. Each was written in my own handwriting. Each signed with my signature.
When I pulled out the file marked "Songs I Have Listened To," I realized the files grew to contain their contents. The cards were packed tightly, and yet after two or three yards, I hadn't found the end of the file. I shut it, shamed, not so much by the quality of music, but more by the vast amount of time I knew that file represented.
When I came to a file marked "Lustful Thoughts," I felt a chill run through my body. I pulled the file out only an inch, not willing to test its size, and drew out a card. I shuddered at its detailed content. I felt sick to think that such a moment had been recorded.
An almost animal rage broke on me. One thought dominated my mind: "No one must ever see these cards! No one must ever see this room! I have to destroy them!" In an insane frenzy I yanked the file out. Its size didn't matter now. I had to empty it and burn the cards. But as I took it at one end and began pounding it on the floor, I could not dislodge a single card. I became desperate and pulled out a card, only to find it as strong as steel when I tried to tear it.
Defeated and utterly helpless, I returned the file to its slot. Leaning my forehead against the wall, I let out a long, self-pitying sigh. And then I saw it. The title bore "People I Have Shared the Gospel With." The handle was brighter than those around it, newer, almost unused. I pulled on its handle and a small box not more than three inches long fell into my hands. I could count the cards it contained on one hand.
And then the tears came. I began to weep. Sobs so deep that they hurt started in my stomach and shook through me. I fell on my knees and cried. I cried out of shame, from the overwhelming shame of it all. The rows of file shelves swirled in my tear-filled eyes. No one must ever, ever know of this room. I must lock it up and hide the key.
But then as I pushed away the tears, I saw Him. No, please not Him. Not here. Oh, anyone but Jesus.
I watched helplessly as He began to open the files and read the cards. I couldn't bear to watch His response. And in the moments I could bring myself to look at His face, I saw a sorrow deeper than my own. He seemed to intuitively go to the worst boxes. Why did He have to read every one?
Finally He turned and looked at me from across the room. He looked at me with pity in His eyes. But this was a pity that didn't anger me. I dropped my head, covered my face with my hands and began to cry again. He walked over and put His arm around me. He could have said so many things. But He didn't say a word. He just cried with me.
Then He got up and walked back to the wall of files. Starting at one end of the room, He took out a file and, one by one, began to sign His name over mine on each card.
"No!" I shouted rushing to Him. All I could find to say was "No, no," as I pulled the card from Him. His name shouldn't be on these cards. But there it was, written in red so rich, so dark, so alive. The name of Jesus covered mine. It was written with His blood.
He gently took the card back. He smiled a sad smile and began to sign the cards. I don't think I'll ever understand how He did it so quickly, but the next instant it seemed I heard Him close the last file and walk back to my side. He placed His hand on my shoulder and said, "It is finished."
I stood up, and He led me out of the room. There was no lock on its door. There were still cards to be written." - By Joshua Harris. Originally published in New Attitude Magazine. Copyright New Attitude, 1995.

I found this scripture in the Old Testament book of Isaiah 55:7

 7 Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the Lord, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.

I love this scripture because I know that God has mercy. I know that He has so much love for us. I know in my life I have been lost, but one of the most important things I have learned in my life is that I can always be found. Just because you're losing, doesn't mean you're lost. I know that through Jesus Christ we can ALL be found. Heavenly Father is always next to us, even (and especially) through the darkness. It is we who decide to turn away from Him. My invitation to you all is to change ... allow Jesus Christ to find and change you. He has suffered for each and every one of us. I KNOW that; not just because I have read it in the Bible, but because I have felt it ... I have felt my sins wash away. As it says in the scripture above, "Let the wicked forsake his way" so that God can show his mercy and love. I am grateful for this gospel and for the knowledge I have that I am a son of God; that my Heavenly Father will never forsake me, even in my weakness. I love my mission and am grateful for the experiences that I have every day. It seems the people we teach begin to glow as the light of Christ fills their hearts and their souls. I love being a missionary and love bringing this special message to them. I know that we all have people in our lives that are struggling right now, but I know that it is possible for them to be found.

Les Amo Mucho,

Elder Vance

Friday, June 8, 2012


Over this past week I have had the opportunity to learn a lot from people I have met, my companion, and my mission president. The experiences I have had recently have helped mold me into who I am right now. The work here in Northern California is great. Erika, one of our investigators, continues to grow. She told us she was missing a spiritual connection with God. Elder Richins and I testified to her that it was through prayer that she could strengthen that link with our Father above. She is doing very well and has a baptismal date set for July 7th. Selena and Luis are also continuing to progress. It is amazing to see how much light has filled them. They radiate with the light of Christ and I really love them both. Their family is slowly starting to become active again in the church. It has been such a great experience to see how this gospel unites and blesses families.

Today I want to talk about freedom; how all of us can feel spiritually free in our lives. This past week at a Zone Leader Council, President Bunker discussed this topic. He talked a lot about the army captain, Moroni, from the Book of Mormon and why he was so motivated to fight for freedom and what freedom really means in this life. In Alma 60:34-36 it says:
34 And now behold, I, Moroni, am constrained, according to the covenant which I have made to keep the commandments of my God; therefore I would that ye should adhere to the word of God, and send speedily unto me of your provisions and of your men, and also to Helaman.
35 And behold, if ye will not do this I come unto you speedily; for behold, God will not suffer that we should perish with hunger; therefore he will give unto us of your food, even if it must be by the sword. Now see that ye fulfil the word of God.
36 Behold, I am Moroni, your chief captain. I seek not for power, but to pull it down. I seek not for honor of the world, but for the glory of my God, and the freedom and welfare of my country. And thus I close mine epistle.

I love these verses. I remember before my mission a lot of my friends would question why I don't do certain things and why I went to church and lived my life by the standards of the church. I have now come to know that it was because I kept my covenants to follow Jesus Christ and the commandments of God that I am here today. That was the motivation for Moroni too. He made a covenant to keep the commandments of God and he knew they were true. A covenant is a promise between us and the Lord. Moroni had a witness; he had a testimony that keeping the commandments of God was the most important thing he could do. Because of his covenant, his oath and his witness, he fought for the religious freedom of his people. He had a firm faith in Jesus Christ. He was afraid to go against what he knew to be true.
When we are baptized we make a covenant with God to take upon ourselves the name of Jesus Christ, to keep the commandments, and to always remember Him. I know in my own life I have not been perfect and have made mistakes that have caused me to stray me off the path. But I have a strong testimony that by keeping our promise to God and living the commandments, He has given us a promise in return that we all can be free. Sin is what binds us in this life. Satan tempts us and when we sin we become chained by him. But God has given us the privilege to choose. He has also given us this way to be free from sin and to stay out of the grasp of the adversary. True freedom comes from keeping the covenants with our Heavenly Father. I have family and friends that have gone astray. They have gone astray because they have forgotten the covenants they have made. Covenants are not made to bind us, they are made to free us and help us become more like Jesus Christ.

When I became a missionary I made a covenant. I made a covenant to live the missionary rules to the fullest and to serve the Lord with all my heart, might, mind and strength. I know that it is through that covenant that I will have these amazing experiences that will change my life. I will be happy through my obedience here on my mission. The same goes for those that are baptized. As a missionary we teach people about the atonement of Jesus Christ, so they can increase their faith, so that they can repent and make covenants with God through baptism, and so that they can be free. I love my mission because I can help people understand that it is not the church that saves people. The way people are saved is only through our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

If something is true today, it will be true forever. If you know and feel something is true today, you can know it is true forever. I know this day that the prophet, Joseph Smith, saw God the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ. I know that this gospel is the same one that Christ himself taught to the people here on the earth when He came; and that witness will stay with me always if I allow it. I can change, but this witness that I have will never change. My witness is what will help me stay strong forever and help me stay free.

Les Amo Muchisimo,

Elder Vance