Monday, October 22, 2012

More Than Mortal

Last week was an amazing week here in Santa Rosa with Elder Lenon. We received our transfer information and found out that Elder Lenon will be going to my last area (Davis/Woodland) and I will be staying here in Santa Rosa for another transfer. We are both so excited for these upcoming weeks. We have had so many incredible experiences together and I am grateful for Elder Lenon and for all the things I have learned from him. He is such a diligent and obedient missionary and I know that there were people here that needed him and I know I needed him. I learned many life lessons serving alongside him and I will always consider him my brother. I know wherever he goes in this mission he will be successful because of his faith and the spirit he brings into the homes of the people.

"Be everything you were created to be."

This one line gives me the inspiration to believe in myself and believe in God. I know that no one is a mere mortal, but that we all have been created in the form of our Heavenly Father. We ALL have divine potential. We are ALL sons and daughters of a loving Heavenly Father that will do anything and everything to help us and comfort us. Here on my mission I have been able to strengthen my personal connection with my Heavenly Father through prayer. I love praying. I feel the light of Christ grow within me when I pray and I feel the spirit. I am so grateful that I have the knowledge of prayer, the way in which we link ourselves to our immortal Father above. We ALL have the opportunity to return to His presence once again after this life. I have found that it is through prayer that I can have a very personal and deep conversation with my Heavenly Father. I know that He is there and I know that He listens. He has given us this short time here on earth to prove to Him that, outside of His presence, we can still be worthy. This time on earth is shorter than a blink of an eye on the eternal scale of our lives. I know that we lived with Him before, and that after our 70, 80, or 90 years on this beautiful earth we can return and live in celestial glory forever, and live as exalted beings with our families forever.

Remember that we are literal children of God. We all have been given imagination, talents, and gifts.
Our Heavenly Father is a merciful God. He loves us. He hears our cries and sees our tears. He sent his Only Begotten Son, Jesus Christ, to suffer and die for us. I know that He sent Him because He loves us and He knew that an infinite sacrifice was needed to give all of His children an opportunity to return to Him again. Through all of the trials and afflictions of this earthly life, our Heavenly Father and His Son, Jesus Christ, are there for us. I know they both live. We all will stand before them and give an accounting of our life here one day. I invite you to pray and to strengthen that line of communication with our Heavenly Father. He wants to help us and He wants to bless us. Go to Him in mighty prayer to strengthen your faith and your testimonies. I love my mission and I love the people here in Santa Rosa. I ask you to pray for us so we can find the 101 of our brothers and sisters that are waiting for this message that will change their lives forever. Thank you all for your love and support. We are all more than mere mortals and we all have the same loving Heavenly Father. Be everything and all that you were created to be!

Los Amo,

Elder Vance

For all of my sisters out there in the world... I love this video:)

Sunday, October 14, 2012

I'm A Mormon Missionary

The last week has had its ups and downs. I think there are always little trials we deal with in life but the amazing thing is that we can grow so much from them if we see them in the right light. A highlight of this past week was General Conference! It was an amazing experience to have the opportunity to listen to our prophet, President Thomas S. Monson, and to apostles of the Lord. So many of my concerns and questions were answered. I know that these men have been called of God to lead and guide the church of Jesus Christ here on the earth. After all the talks were given, I felt a new energy and desire to continue on the path that Jesus Christ has paved for us.

Elder Lenon and I are doing great here in Santa Rosa. It's getting a little chilly as we head deeper into winter. I love the area in which we serve. We already have had so many memories and experiences that I will never forget. On Saturday, we met a man named Moises (Spanish for Moses). He told us we could come by again some other day. He is from Guatemala and was so nice the first time we met him. Last night we stopped by his apartment and talked to him outside. It was a chilly night but it was an amazing experience. We began talking to him about his life. He is probably in his early 40's, and he explained to us that he had 4 children in Guatemala, but his wife left him and he was alone. He came to United States and works here so that he can send money to Guatemala. I could see in his eyes the weight of his past draining him spiritually. He told us that he regretted doing some of the things he used to do and he wanted to change. I asked him, "How would you feel if all of your sins were washed away and you were given a new life." He replied, "That would be amazing." We explained to him that it is through baptism that all of his sins could be washed away; that he could be reborn spiritually and follow Jesus Christ and that baptism was the first fruit of repentance. He told us, "I want that, I want to come closer to God, and I want to do it." We invited him to be baptized on the 10th of November. He accepted and we explained to him that it was up to him to commit to this and that it was a promise he would make with God ... a promise to keep His commandments and follow Jesus Christ. He told us with all his heart he wanted to do it and that he would come to church, read, and pray. Moises has a humble heart. He wanted to change his life. The definition of change is repentance. When we repent we form a fresh view of our lives and humble ourselves before God. Today I would like to talk about the importance of making that change and how each and every one of us can do so.

I pulled a lot from General Conference last weekend and I want to apply the things I learned to three categories of people ... those that are active members of our church, those that are members but may be less active, and those that have interest or are investigating the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints

To all the active members

"We all have the responsibility to keep our lamps of testimony aflame".- Elder David A. Bednar
I love this quote because it is our OWN responsibility to keep ourselves not only afloat but to progress on the seas of life. I know that it is through prayer, scripture study, and attending church that we can continue to keep our lights bright.

"Your future is as bright as your faith."- President Thomas S. Monson
Faith is a hope of things that we cannot see. As our faith increases so will our hope for the future and for our lives. I know that as we go through trials and are tested that we will be strengthened and stretched. Faith is an anchor for all of us and it is important that we continue to grow our faith.

"Take inventory and see the blessings you have received."- President Thomas S. Monson
Let us look around us and see the miracles and blessings we have received. We are here on this beautiful earth, we have our families, and we have the gospel of Jesus Christ. We know where we came from, why we are here, and where we are going. We are a blessed people and all we must do is count our many blessings that the Lord has given us. Let us all live in a state of thanksgiving!

"Do you love me?"- Elder Jeffrey R. Holland
Do we love our Savior, Jesus Christ? Will we give anything or everything to follow Him? Our little sacrifices we make will never amount to that which He has already paid for us. I know that He lives and that He is there for us in our darkest hours. Let us partake of the sacrament in remembrance of Him and His sacrifice so we may become more fully converted to the gospel of Jesus Christ and become His disciples.

"How do we make this change? It is through one daily practice. In your morning prayer ask God to guide you to serve one of His children. You will be prompted by the spirit to pollinate the world with the love of Christ."- Elder M. Russell Ballard

I know that is through service that we come closer to our Savior, Jesus Christ. I have seen this very thing on my mission. We all can CHANGE the world for the better. We can change it one person at a time. Let us pray for service opportunities so that we may be lights to all those around us. I know people notice and that they will want that same light within their lives.

"We are to go to the lost, the last, and the least."- Elder Robert C. Gay
I know it is through this principle that we can help all those around us come into the fold of God. We are all missionaries forever. We have taken upon us the name of Jesus Christ and we represent Him. This life is for us to prove ourselves to our Heavenly Father that outside of his presence we may still be worthy to enter into His presence.

To those that are less active/or struggling

"We can avoid our biggest regrets of tomorrow by following the Savior TODAY." - Elder Dieter F. Uctdorf
I know that is by following our Savior TODAY that we can help ourselves get back on the path that leads to eternal life. It is through repentance and through a pure change of heart that we can have true happiness every day and at the end of our lives look back and see that happiness.

"With self justification, Satan triumphs." -Elder Robert C. Gay
Satan will always tempt us but we can overcome him by listening to the promptings of the Holy Ghost. It is through sincere prayer that we can overcome Satan.

"God forsakes no one." - Elder Robert C. Gay
It is never too late for anyone. You can change and come back. The Savior calls to all who are lost. I really know that God never forsakes us. He is will never turn away from us, but we have the ability to turn away from Him. That is why I am here on a mission. To help all turn unto God and come unto the Savior, Jesus Christ. I know if that those voids of darkness can be filled and those heavy burdens of guilt can be lifted. Come back.

"Distancing yourself from the church during a trial of your faith is like leaving a storm cellar right when the tornado is about to hit. During a trial of your faith, stay within the household of God."
- Elder Neil L. Anderson
Trials are "mini tests" that God gives us so that we may grow and come closer to Him. God gives us weaknesses to make us humble, but He promises us that if we turn to Him, He will make us stronger and bless us if we endure our trials well. Don't let trials in your life destroy you. We should all thank our Father in Heaven for the tough times and see them as blessings. In that light, we will come ever closer to our celestial Father above.

"Your Father in Heaven expects your love and loyalty in every stage of your life." - Elder Jeffrey R. Holland
The Lord expects us to show our love to Him all the days of our life. As members or this church we know that we worship one God and it is through being obedient to the commandments which He has given us that we show our love to Him.

"Take any necessary action to feel the spirit NOW." -Elder Quinton L. Cook
If you have sinned or if you have fallen away, I invite you to pray and to ask God for forgiveness. If the Spirit cannot dwell with you, do all that you need to do so that you can be worthy of it's presence once again. Repentance is something beautiful. We humble ourselves and allow the Atonement to clean us. God rejoices when we repent. He wants us to repent so we all can be clean and return to Him.  I know that when we were confirmed as members of this church that we received the gift of the Holy Ghost. That gift has been given to us to help us on the path to eternal life.

"Relight your lamps and deepen your testimonies."- Elder David A. Bednar
Talk with your bishops and call the missionaries. These men can help you to get back on track and help you feel the same feelings you felt before. I know that it is through the gospel of Jesus Christ that all mankind may be saved. We are your brothers and sisters. We welcome you with open arms to return back to the fold of God. I know that you can relight your lamps. There is hope that comes through repenting and changing through this gospel. I love this gospel and I have seen so many less active members come back. There is hope for you. Act now and make things right with God so you can participate in the fullness of joy that comes from living the commandments and the gospel that was originally taught by our Savior, Jesus Christ.

To those that are not members but may be interested in the church or are investigating it

"A mission is a voluntary act of service to God and mankind. Missionaries preach the gospel of Jesus Christ. They can be heavenly help to you. ASK THE MISSIONARIES, THEY CAN HELP YOU."- Russell M. Nelson

I know as a missionary that we are sent and guided by our Heavenly Father to help you; to help you understand more about what we believe and how you can find out for yourself if what we believe is true. I am grateful to be a literal representative of Jesus Christ. I have seen how God has used us to answer the prayers of many. I have witnessed miracles as a missionary and I know that ANYONE can change. The message that we bring is true. I have left my life behind because I know that Jesus Christ lives. I know that what I am doing now is more important than anything else I could be doing. I know I am helping God's children return back to his presence. I know the message we bring about the restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ through the prophet Joseph Smith is true. I also know that The Book of Mormon is true because I personally have read it and prayed to my Heavenly Father to ask and to receive an answer about it. I know that all of these things are true. I have received a testimony for myself and I know anyone that has a desire to know can receive answers directly from God. I know what we bring as missionaries can and will change your life forever. Your life will be filled with real joy and happiness that will last beyond this life.

I am grateful for my sister, Madeline. She has decided to serve a mission for our church in the coming months. I am so proud of her. She has such a strong testimony of The Book of Mormon and this gospel. I know wherever the Lord sends her, she will be an angel to them. I reeeally hope she goes to a Spanish-speaking mission! Fingers crossed! Santa Rosa?! She will change the lives of many, and I know that because she has changed my life. I know that she will be an amazing missionary and she will enjoy her mission just as much as I have. She will fall in love with the people because I know she will serve with all of her heart, might, mind, and strength. Even though I may not see her for a few years, I am so happy she has decided to put her faith in God and serve. She will be such a blessing to the missionary force in the world. I LOVE YOU MADZ!!!! She will be putting everything on pause for 18 months to serve our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. This is the Lord's work here on earth and I know that He is building His kingdom. My prayers go out to all of you and I thank you for your love and continual support. I invite you to refer EVERYONE you know that would benefit from the message we bring as missionaries on the right column of this blog under "MEET WITH THE MISSIONARIES"! I am a Mormon Missionary ... I am a Mormon for now, for life, forever.

Los Amo,

Elder Spencer Guy Vance

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Believe With Me

I learned and grew so much from my experiences of this past great week. Elder Lenon and I had a leadership meeting with President Alba and he told us that when Elder Gavarret came recently he saw our mission seal/logo (check the bottom of the blog to see our mission seal). When he saw it he saw the infamous 101 California Highway on it, and Elder Gavarret said, "101, the number of baptisms in a month!". It was a challenge that he gave to our mission, yet we are not just trying to reach a number; there is a name and a face that is behind every single one of those people. They are our brothers and sisters. The focus of our leadership meeting was about how we can do it and what we can do to help more of our brothers and sisters come unto Jesus Christ.

President Alba showed us a film called, "The Butterfly Circus". If you do not OWN this short film I strongly encourage you to find it and order it as soon as possible! It is an amazing film that teaches a valuable lesson about believing in ourselves and how we can help others see that they are "Magnificent". I don't want to give the movie away but I love one line from the film; "The greater the struggle, the more glorious the triumph". Afterwards, we talked about trials we all have and how the Lord tests us all in many different ways. I have been tested on my mission, and it is through trials that we prove ourselves to our Heavenly Father. It is also through our trials that we are prepared for the blessings and miracles that are to come. Without trials, blessings and miracles would mean nothing to us. I surely saw that this past week.

After our meeting I realized that I needed more faith. I needed to demostrate more faith in my life. I needed to believe that my Heavenly Father can do anything and that we can find, teach, and baptize 101 of our brothers and sisters in a month. I know the Lord is preparing these people and that this mission is going to see a lot of miracles and blessings in the near future because we are seeing them now! One miracle is that we already have 90 people that have baptismal dates for the month of October. What a blessing! Normally our mission averages between 20-50 baptisms a month. The Lord is blessing us immensely and I know it is because we are increasing our faith in Him.

"Hope is the understanding that ALL of God's promises will be fulfilled."- Sister Alba

The day after our meeting Elder Lenon and I were on our morning run and I felt like I could fly. I was filled with faith and with a strength that I know was given to me. I prayed the night before for more faith so that I could grow and strengthen my testimony of the things I know are true. I know that when God promises us something that if we have faith, those promises will be fulfilled. It was an experience I will never forget. I know that Heavenly Father can bless us with more faith in our lives. Faith is more that just a belief; faith is an action. President Alba said, "We want you to do anything you need to do to believe, and to act on the things you believe." My life has been changed once again. My faith has grown and I have a stronger hope for things to come. It is through the small things such as prayer, reading the scriptures, and going to church that our faith grows.

I love this quote as well that talks about faith...

"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

I would like to invite you all to come with me and BELIEVE. I would like to invite you specifically to pray for our mission so that WE CAN PREPARE ourselves for the blessings and miracles that are being poured out upon us from the heavens. The heavens are open and the Lord is blessing us with our brothers and sisters that are ready to accept the Gospel of Jesus Christ in their lives. They are out there; those that are humble and are ready to make that sacred promise with God to follow His Son by being baptized. Pray for us so that we can develop stronger faith in our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. I want you all to believe in yourselves. We are not just ordinary human beings. We all have been given gifts, talents, and skills. We have the opportunity to change the world with our faith and with the light that is within us. Believe in yourselves. Believe in your family and friends. Have hope that with God ALL things are possible, and that it is never over for anyone. We all have a divine purpose and we are all children of a loving Heavenly Father. I know that He lives and that His Son, Jesus Christ, came to this earth to give us the opportunity to rid ourselves of sin. I know that anyone can change and that it is only through Jesus Christ that those true changes can occur. We all can return to live with our Heavenly Father again. I know that all of these things are true; that faith is action, and that with faith we receive answers and see blessings. Having an eye of faith allows us to receive pure knowledge. Become a believer.

Los Amo,

Elder Vance