Monday, July 30, 2012

The Bittersweet

As of right now I am in a tornado of emotions. Everything is whirling around me because I found out that I will be leaving the Davis area. I am headed to the heart of my mission ... Santa Rosa! I have been assigned to be a zone leader in the northern half of Santa Rosa with Elder Lennon. I feel like I am being ripped out of here. It is so hard to leave a place where you have served, especially if it has been for 6 months, but I knew that my time was up. My 6 month stay in Davis has probably been the hardest time of my life, but it also has been the sweetest and most rewarding time, and has been filled with the most joy I have ever felt in my life. Selena and Luis both got baptized on Saturday, which was such an amazing experience. It was my last weekend here and I was able to be part of their baptisms. I had the opportunity to baptize Luis and Elder Richins baptized Selena. The Lord has truly blessed me. They were so excited about their baptisms, and to see their faces after they were baptized was priceless. That is what missionary work is all about. You can't put a price tag on the feelings and joy I have experienced. There is no substitute. Yesterday they both were confirmed members of the church and received the Gift of the Holy Ghost by the laying on of hands. They now have the Holy Ghost as a constant companion to guide them in their lives and to help them choose between right and wrong. It was a great day to be here. I love this family so much and I know that, more than they needed me, I needed them. I saw how this gospel changed their countenances and their hearts. Through teaching them, I learned how to love and how to be more like Jesus Christ. They are being so blessed for the decision they have made to come into the fold of God. They will forever be in my prayers and have a special place in my heart for them. I feel like I have fulfilled my purpose here, which is to invite others to come unto Christ. I do this by helping them receive the restored gospel of Jesus Christ through faith in Him and His atonement, and through repentance, baptism, receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost, and enduring to the end.

The next chapter of my blog will be taking place in Santa Rosa. It will be a new adventure and I am so excited to go and serve there. I have only heard great things about the people in Santa Rosa and I cannot wait to dive into the work. The best way to determine your future is to create it, and that is one thing that I have seen in all of the transfers and areas. Attitude really is everything. Bad areas in missions do not exist. If there are people there, then there is opportunity for the Lord to use you as an instrument to help bring His children back home. In the mission there is always change, and you are regularly being transferred from place to place with new people and new companions. I really enjoyed this quote about change:

"You cannot control what happens to you, but you can control your attitude toward what happens to you, and in that, you will be mastering change rather than allowing it to master you." -Sri Ram

I just love being a missionary. A piece of my heart will always be here in the Davis/Woodland area. This place has changed my life forever. I feel privileged to have had the opportunity to love these people and be their guide. This whole experience has helped me catch a glimpse of the eternal perspective; of what is really important in this life and how I can help others see that as well. I will definitely be back to visit, whether it is by receiving another assignment to come back here during my mission or if I have to wait until after my mission, I will be back! These are my people and I love them. I loved the people in Fairfield and I love the people here in Davis. It is such a blessing to gain charity in my life, to ask for charity and then to see how much your love grows for those in your area is a testament to me that God bestows that which is asked for, if it be for the cause of righteousness.

Tonight I leave and it pains me to do so. I know that God has much in store for me, and I look forward to that, and to the experiences ahead. I hope you all enjoy these blog entries; they help me recognize how, with the assistance of prayer, trials turn into blessings and that God is literally my Heavenly Father. He is always waiting to bless us; all it takes is a humble heart and a call to the heavens above. This is real. This is who I am becoming. A change every day in the right direction is a step toward dwelling in the presence of God and our Savior, Jesus Christ, for eons to come. Our lives on earth are but a small moment of eternity, and our actions determine who we are forever. Thank you all once again for the love, support, prayers, and letters.

Les Amo,

Elder Vance

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Lay It Down

Last week we had a Zone Conference here in Woodland and it was so uplifting. Our new mission president, President Alba, has such a love for the missionaries here and I am grateful to have him as my mission president for the second half of my mission. This Saturday, Luis (16 yrs old) and Selena (11 years old) are going to be baptized!!! Elder Richins and I are so excited to have this opportunity to witness their faith in following the example of Jesus Christ. This family is so special to me. Satan, the adversary, has tried their faith and attempted to halt their progression but they are doing so great. Luis and Selena are so excited to be baptized. Luis has expressed to us that he wants to serve a mission when he turns 19. What joy filled my soul when I heard those words! Here is a kid that hasn't even been baptized and yet he wants to serve a mission. He has so much faith and such a love for The Book of Mormon. Luis, his mother, and Selena read and pray every night. I know it is because of this family that I have been here for six months. When I first came here, this family was less active and struggling a lot. None of them had a desire to even talk to us, let alone talk about to us about Jesus Christ. That change is nothing for which we should be credited for, because I know it is the Lord that humbled them and caused their hearts to be softened. We merely turned them to the source, our Heavenly Father and to Jesus Christ, where they could go to be so inspired. This family is a living testament to me that this gospel of Jesus Christ, that we bring to everyone we see, blesses families. As time goes on in my mission I realize how blessed my family was and is because of this gospel. I know it is real because I have felt it and seen it. That is something I can never deny.

The Lord is truly blessing Elder Richins and me here in the Davis/Woodland area. Transfers information comes in this Friday, so we will see what happens! If I do get transferred, it won't be until next week. I would love to stay another six weeks, but I don't know if that is what the Lord has in store for me. I know wherever I may go it is for a reason. I know I am here for a reason, and I know that there are things I need to learn in every chapter of my mission here in Santa Rosa, California.

At Zone Conference, President Alba talked a lot about sacrifice and obedience. He explained the significance of sacrifice and obedience not only in here in our missions, but forever. I loved this quote he used about sacrifice.

"Real personal sacrifice never was placing an animal on the altar. Instead, it is a willingness to put the animal inside of you on the altar and letting it be consumed." -Elder Neal A. Maxwell

Before Jesus Christ suffered and died for the sins of the world, people would offer sacrifices to God for their sins. They would sacrifice the firstlings of their flocks or the unspotted lambs to show a pure sacrifice to God in turn for forgiveness of their sins. The law in which they followed, The Law of Moses, was fulfilled with the blood and death of our Savior, Jesus Christ ... the only perfect being to walk the face of this earth, The Lamb of God. Since his Atonement for us, we know that we receive forgiveness through His sacrifice for us.

We all have a different animal inside of us (figuretively). We all have different problems and things we deal with on a daily basis. But like that quote says, real personal sacrifice is a willingness to lay that animal inside of us on the altar and let it be consumed. It is a willingness to humble ourselves before God and give up sin, bad habits, and those things that go against the very heavenly being that created us. We are here to be tried and tested. It was never supposed to be easy but we are here to find out who we really are and whose side we are on. Every week at church we partake of the sacrament, the bread and the water that represents the body and blood of Jesus Christ. We take the sacrament to help us remember the sacrifice of Jesus Christ and through that we are made sacred. By purifying ourselves we become One with our Savior, Jesus Christ.

Over this last year I have seen the old "Spencer Vance" put on the altar and the bad parts slowly consumed. There is still more to be consumed but the Lord has molded me into someone new and improved. Every day it is a continual process of repentance, a change of heart. The sacrifices I have made to be here are so small compared to what my Savior, Jesus Christ has sacrificed for me. It is because He died that I am here today. I have laid my burdens upon the altar and felt the pure joy of repentance. Lay down your burdens, take that animal out from within yourselves. Whatever it may be, big or small, I know that Jesus Christ can free you.

"To do it no more is the truest repentance." -Martin Luther

Lay it down ... go to our Heavenly Father every day in prayer. Ask for forgivness. I know as you do you will feel his arms of mercy outstretched towards you. Become sanctified, and be made holy through the blood of Jesus Christ. I know that they both live. I know that they are separate beings and yet one in purpose in every way possible. I love my mission. The greatest joys have come from seeing others accept the gospel of Jesus Christ into their lives. I love my family and friends that continue to support me through my time here on my mission. Always remember to lay down you burdens, lay down that animal within you and let it be consumed.

Les Amo,

Elder Vance

Tuesday, July 17, 2012


This past week had it's ups and downs. Elder Richins and I saw many miracles last week and it has been such an amazing blessing to be here in the Davis/Woodland area for another transfer. Six months ago I was just entering this area and my love for the people has grown beyond what I ever could have imagined. I know the Lord has blessed me with charity on my mission, and with that I have learned to love people in a way I never have before. Being a missionary is not always easy. I try to stay as positive as I can but I know for a fact that there are days that are tough. I guess the reason I don't often talk about those days is because the moments of joy that fill my life as a missionary far exceed the trials that I face. The only way I remember them is when I look back in my journal that I write in daily and read about those difficult days; the days when I experienced fatigue, rejection, disappointment, weariness, sorrow, or pain. Yet I know that those were the days that I grew the most; those were the days my faith in God was tested.

My mission thus far has been a roller coaster, filled with thrills, highs, and lows, I am definitley not content because I know that there is much that I still need to learn and experience. I always wanted to serve honorably and serve my mission with no regrets. I am not a perfect man, but I do know that the Lord has used me as an instrument to fulfill his work. It is an amazing feeling to have the spirit working through you.

My father sent me an email last week that said, "Thanks for the note and update … I am always inspired by the spirit of your letters and your blog, but sometimes I really just like to hear how my son (inside the missionary) is doing too." I was thinking about that and I was brought back to my own testimony. How am I doing? How have I grown and where do I stand?

I was reading in The Book of Mormon this week, in Alma 30, and it helped me answer my questions. Korihor, the anti-Christ, ridicules Christ, the Atonement, and the spirit of prophecy. He teaches that there is no God, no fall of man, no penalty for sin, and no Christ. Alma testifies that Christ will come and that all things denote there is a God. Here, Alma is speaking to Korihor:

40 And now what evidence have ye that there is no God, or that Christ cometh not? I say unto you that ye have none, save it be your word only.

After this Korihor asks for a sign, a sign that God exists. This is Alma's reply.

 44 But Alma said unto him: Thou hast had signs enough; will ye tempt your God? Will ye say, Show unto me a sign, when ye have the testimony of all these thy brethren, and also all the holy prophets? The scriptures are laid before thee, yea, and all things denote there is a God; yea, even the earth, and all things that are upon the face of it, yea, and its motion, yea, and also all the planets which move in their regular form do witness that there is a Supreme Creator.

I love the words of Alma. As I read The Book of Mormon, they hit me so hard and gave me such clarity. We talk to people daily. Unfortunetely some of them choose not to believe in God. After reading this I asked myself, "What evidence is there that God does NOT exist?" There isn't any. Like Alma told Korihor, "Save it be your word only." That strengthened my testimony of my Heavenly Father, that He exists and He is there. At one point in our lives we have to have God because we have nothing else.

I don't believe in God and Jesus Christ because I have see them. I believe in them because I see EVERYTHING else. I see my family and how this gospel has blessed each one of our lives. I see the difference in the level of my own happiness according to the degree and depth I am following Jesus Christ and the commandments of God. I see this beautiful world that has been created for us so that we may all have a chance to pass this test of mortality and return to live in the presence of our Heavenly Father. I have felt the love of God in my life when I have felt alone or afraid. I have gained spiritual knowledge and a testimony through the Holy Ghost. I have felt the joy of forgiveness and the healing powers of the Atonement.  I have never seen God or Jesus Christ but I know they live. To me, there is too much evidence to ever disprove it. I am grateful for the perspective my mission has given me about what is important in this life and what I must personally do to obtain eternal life and live with God again.
"God expects you to have enough faith and determination and enough trust in Him to keep moving, keep living, keep rejoicing. In fact, He expects you not simply to face the future (that sounds pretty grim and stoic); He expects you to embrace and shape the future ... to love it and rejoice in it and delight in your opportunities. God is anxiously waiting for the chance to answer your prayers and fulfill your dreams, just as He always has. But He can't if you don't pray, and He can't if you don't dream. In short, He can't if you don't BELIEVE." -Elder Jeffrey R. Holland

To answer the question my father asked me above, I feel the best and happiest I have ever felt in my life. My testimony of this gospel has grown exponentially and my faith continues to grow. I am in the service of my fellow men and in turn I am in the service of my God. I love my mission and the good person inside of me has changed and become someone new, something better. The gospel enhances us, it makes bad men good, and it makes good men better. Every day is a new challenge and a new day to learn and grow, and for that I am so grateful.

I know that having faith is having a firm belief in something we cannot see. To know if there is a God one must kneel and pray, because I know all spiritual truths and answers come through the power of prayer. We must humble ourselves and align our will with His. Thank you all for the love and for your prayers. I promise you that they are felt. We ALL are children of God and we ALL have an opportunity to return to live with Him again.

Les Amo,

Elder Vance

"You may already know, deep in your soul, that God lives. You may not know all about Him yet and do not understand all His ways, But the light of belief is within you, waiting to be awakened and intensified by spirit of God."

-Robert D. Hales

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Leave It All Behind

This last week has been amazing. We were able to meet our new mission president, President Alba, on Wednesday. From the first moment I met him I could feel his love for me. He is such an inspired man. He knows four languages too! He knows Chinese, English, Spanish, French, and some Portuguese. He and his wife carry such a brilliant spirit. I instantly loved them both and I know they are going to lead this mission to even more success. President Alba was born and raised in Mexico and I feel that the Spanish work here in California is going to explode because he is here. He is different than President Bunker, which is a great opportunity for me to learn from two amazing leaders here in my mission. President Alba wants to help us continue to grow from the experiences we have here and he wants to stretch us. One thing I really loved that he said in our meeting on Wednesday was, "The Lord is stretching us ... He is tightening our strings, to create a melody, and our music will be beautiful." The Lord knows our limits, and I have seen how He has stretched, molded, and transformed me throughout my life. I know that if the Lord brings us to a trial, He is the one that will help us through it.

Elder Hyde, one of the district leaders in our zone, shared these verses last week in a district meeting. These verses impacted me and it helped me understand why I am so different today in so many good ways than I was a year ago.

Romans 6:4-6
4 Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.
 5 For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection:
 6 Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin.

I have seen how Jesus Christ has changed my life. About a year ago I left everything behind to come out and serve a mission. I know that I left my "old man" behind as well. That is why I am different. I have left my body of sin and it has been crucified with Jesus Christ. The person I was before is forgotten, He is no more, and exactly like it says, I am walking in a newness of life. It is because of Jesus Christ that I am a new person; and it is because I know that Jesus Christ has changed me, that I can never go back. I will never go back.

I would like to share a quote from an Apostle, Elder Jeffrey R. Holland.
"However late you think you are, however many chances you think you have missed, however many mistakes you feel you have made, or talents you think you don't have, or distance from home and family and God you feel you have traveled, I testify that you have not traveled beyond the reach of divine love."

I would like to promise you all that no matter what you feel you have done wrong or how far away you feel from God, you CAN come back. There is a way. God will never give up on any of His children. He cares about the lowest ones on the ladder. He is a true and loving Heavenly Father. I have a testimony that God does love us. He has given us His Only Begotten Son, Jesus Christ, who suffered for us so that we don't have to walk with our sin, shame, and guilt. I do know that a repentant person can become a transformed person. You can become a new person. I have experienced that process in my life through repentance. I have felt the arms of my Savior around me. I have seen others change their lives ... and I know that no one is left out. I know that He died for me and because of that I am here today. I would like to invite you all to reach out to those in need and invite others to come unto Christ, to leave behind their bodies of sin and to walk in a newness of life. I can say that I am different and I hope that I can continue to change every day for the better so that one day I can look into the eyes of my Savior and say, "I left it all behind to follow you."

Les Amo,

Elder Vance