Monday, January 28, 2013

Tarry With Me

This past week with Elder Cosman was great. We are seeing many miracles here in our area and we are praying for families to find and the Lord is blessing us with them. 
Last week I went on a 24-hour exchange with another missionary in our zone. We typically do exchanges to help other missionaries out and to learn from one another. I went to his area and they are on bikes (luckily I had no severe wrecks or accidents while on the exchange). When we went out to start the day, it was pouring down rain. When you see that and you are on a bike, in a suit, with a rain jacket and a clunky helmet, it doesn't look like the best day. But we said a prayer, asking Heavenly Father to bless us with those people that were ready to receive us.  Off we went into the torrential downpour, and to my surprise, there were a lot of people out with their umbrellas and rain boots on. We began talking with everyone, and as we talked with more and more people, the day seemed to get brighter and brighter. The rain did not stop, nor did the sun start to shine, but there was something inside of both of us that warmed us. Not all the people were interested, but there came a feeling of joy and happiness as we spread the gospel with all those around us. There was a light that grew within us. We ended up taking down 8 names … 8 children of God out of the 25+ we talked to that day that were interested in hearing the gospel of Jesus Christ. At the end of the day we were drenched to the core, but we both felt uplifted … and for that I know that this is the Lord's work and we are His true servants. Our message was so important that day … just talking to people and hearing about their problems brought me to the realization that I am so blessed to have the gospel in my life. I saw their eyes light up as we told them how much this message could truly bless and change their lives forever. Many are out there looking for light and truth, but they know not where to find it. It was a special day for me to be a missionary.

I am brought to 3 Nephi 17 in The Book of Mormon, when the Savior is in the Americas. He teaches the people all day and says;
3 Therefore, go ye unto your homes, and ponder upon the things which I have said, and ask of the Father, in my name, that ye may understand, and prepare your minds for the morrow, and I come unto you again.
 4 But now I go unto the Father, and also to show myself unto the lost tribes of Israel, for they are not lost unto the Father, for he knoweth whither he hath taken them.
 5 And it came to pass that when Jesus had thus spoken, he cast his eyes round about again on the multitude, and beheld they were in tears, and did look steadfastly upon him as if they would ask him to tarry a little longer with them.

I can just picture the people, deep in their hearts, reaching out to Him and, with tears rolling down their cheeks, desiring Him to stay just a while longer. I know that we can come to know our Savior through His teachings and through prayer. That is why I am here as a missionary. I know and love my Savior, Jesus Christ. Many people have asked me about that in letters and out here in California. They ask, "Why did you decide to serve a two year mission?" My response is always, "Because I love my Savior, Jesus Christ and I want others to know Him as I do." This message we share as missionaries is not some cheesy sales pitch nor is it something to simply be brushed aside like a Saturday morning chore. It is the message that the Savior of the world came to the Americas and that He has restored His church through the prophet Joseph Smith once again upon this very earth. I know that He lives and that He leads and guides His church. I speak from the bottom of my heart and soul to all with boldness because I know it is true. It is something that is so special to me and it is literally who I am. I love my mission and I hope you all know that this has changed my life forever. I want Jesus Christ to tarry in the lives of all the children of God as He has and does in mine. Thank you for your letters of love and support, I appreciate it greatly.

Los Quiero

Elder Vance

Saturday, January 19, 2013

The Adventure

 Hello everyone!! 

I feel like I haven't shared enough personal experiences lately, so I want to share a few things that happened this past week or so. Things
are going so well here in Napa with Elder Cosman, and I continue to grow every day and learn new things from the experiences I am having here on my mission. I will be staying here in Napa for another 5 weeks and am so grateful to stay! I love the members and they are so amazing. I love serving with Elder Cosman. He is a great missionary and helps me in so many ways. He is diligent and helps me see the things I can work on in my life and for that I am grateful. He is like my brother and we become closer every day. We both are working hard to help out the Napa 3rd Ward. There is so much work to do and so little time, but we know that the Lord is on our side and we hope we can reach our full potential here in Napa. Time continues to fly by ... in a couple weeks I will be out on my mission for 18 months! Ahh! It is going by way too fast. I am doing everything I can to not only work hard, but to love all the things that are happening around me; to love my life here on the mission and to become a "celestial missionary". There is no better feeling than to find someone that has an open heart and is willing to let us share our special message with them. Life is hard, and so is a mission, but I have found it is an amazing adventure that has already changed a my life forever.

This past week I had a humorous experience. Elder Cosman and I were riding on our bikes through the woods here in Napa and there was this super big hill. We both have mountain bikes so I said to him, "Okay you gotta go first". So he went and got to the bottom of the hill with no problem. Well when it was my turn to go down I didn't realize that my seat was set too high, so as I began to descend down the ravine I couldn't balance my weight out and I slipped forward and rode down the ravine on the rail of my bike ... and the story continues. I realized I was out of control and there were two jumps at the bottom. I veered to the right of the first one but smacked into the second. I flew off my bike and was launched into the air. While airborne, I did a 360 degree spin and landed on my left shoulder. Luckily I was wearing my helmet and I had my backpack on which took most of the impact. I was shook up for a second but when I knew I had no major injuries I just started laughing. I shouted, "Hey Elder Cosman! Why weren't you filming that!"  I can say that I am truly a biking missionary. That is one of the two major wipe outs I have had while I have been here. Luckily we have recently been blessed with a car, so for the time being there should be no more wipe outs! I have found you can never take yourself too seriously. 

I got to return to Santa Rosa last week and baptize my brother, Saul. The first time I met him was 4 months ago while I was in Santa Rosa at General Conference. His father (who is a member) had just picked him up from the airport and brought him back to see General Conference. When Saul entered the church, he was alone and I could tell he didn't really want to talk to anyone. I went over and sat by him and I began to talk to him,  and I immediately knew that he was someone special. I felt that he was a special son of God ... my brother that had been put in my path for a reason. He lived outside of our area, so the other Spanish elders from our branch began teaching him. But every Sunday we would talk and over the weeks we became best friends. He played soccer (futbol) with us on our Prep days and he loved being with us. I later got transferred here to Napa and a little while later on Facebook (I am a facebook missionary as well) he asked me to baptize him. It was such a special moment for me to return last Saturday and baptize my friend, my brother, Saul. This is what it is all about. There are more of our brothers and sisters waiting for the missionaries ... waiting for angels to minister to them. I love being a missionary and I love my adventure here in the Santa Rosa, California mission. Your life, your adventure is what you make of it. 

Los Quiero Mucho,

Elder Spencer Vance

"A good life is when you assume nothing, do more, need less, smile often, dream big, laugh a lot, and realize how blessed you are."

Friday, January 11, 2013

Purity: A Life With Christ

Elder Cosman and I are loving it here in the Napa 3rd Ward. We are being so blessed and are grateful for all the miracles that continue to happen in our area. We know and feel that as we purify ourselves through Jesus Christ we will see more blessings from heaven and see more changes within ourselves. Sometimes it is not easy to change, but life was never meant to be easy. We are all here to pass the test of mortality and to decide to accept and be purified in Christ.

"His atonement is the most transcendent event that ever has or ever will occur from Creation’s dawn through all the ages of a never-ending eternity. It is the supreme act of goodness and grace that only a god could perform. Through it, all of the terms and conditions of the Father’s eternal plan of salvation became operative."
To obtain purity in our lives we must first recognize how our burdens and sins can be taken from us. We find our answer in the Atonement of Jesus Christ. Because He suffered in the Garden of Gethsemane for all of us, died for us on the cross and rose on the third day, we can rid ourselves of our sins and the things that hold us back from returning to and becoming like our Heavenly Father. Recently I have seen how, through repentance and using the atonement, I have changed and been turned more to my Father in Heaven. I have prayed to ask God for forgiveness for my mistakes and also for strength ... strength so that I can overcome my shortcomings and weaknesses and so that I can become a stronger and better son of God.

"We do not know, we cannot tell, no mortal mind can conceive the full import of what Christ did in Gethsemane. We know he sweat great gouts of blood from every pore as he drained the dregs of that bitter cup his Father had given him.

We know he suffered, both body and spirit, more than it is possible for man to suffer, except it be unto death. We know that, in some way, incomprehensible to us, His suffering satisfied the demands of justice, ransomed pentitent souls from the pains and penalties of sin, and made mercy available to those who believe in His holy name.

-Elder Bruce R. McConkie-
We must have a humble heart to obtain purity in this life. We must be willing to allow Jesus Christ to take our sins from us. We must do our part and take advantage of the Atonement in our lives. This life is the time to prepare to meet God and live with Him again. If we don't repent and change and become more like Him, we will be stained and weighed down by our sins; not just in this life, but forever. We can be made pure, there is hope for every fallen man, and heavenly joy awaiting all that come unto Christ. 

How grateful I am to know that Jesus Christ's purpose was to come to this earth to save all mankind from sin. I am so grateful for His sacrifice. I know that any guilt or anything we have done can be taken away from us because He came. I love my Savior, Jesus Christ. I know we can all live with Him and our Heavenly Father again after this life with our families. I know that this church contains the gospel that Jesus Christ taught. I  know that He is the head of this church and one day soon He will come again. I am a believer and I promise you all that you can be made pure through His sacrifice. This is the greatest knowledge to have in this life; that He died for us and that He lives. I am grateful for His Atonement and I know that, even though I am far from perfect, I can become like Him in the end. Live your life knowing that He is watching you, and that He is there walking beside you step by step. As you lay aside your sins and go to Him you will be embraced by his open, loving arms and feel the miracle of forgiveness. 
I testify of these things in His sacred name, even Jesus Christ, Amen. 

"And through it, all who believe and obey the glorious gospel of God, all who are true and faithful and overcome the world, all who suffer for Christ and his word, all who are chastened and scourged in the Cause of him whose we are—all shall become as their Maker and sit with him on his throne and reign with him forever in everlasting glory." 
Los Quiero Mucho,

Elder Spencer Guy Vance

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

The Pursuit of Happiness

"Discipleship is the pursuit of holiness and happiness. The older we get, the more we look back and realize that external circumstances don't really matter or determine our happiness. We do matter. We determine our happiness. You and I are ultimately in charge of our own happiness."
- President Dieter F. Uctdorf -

In this life we are on the pursuit for happiness. We all desire happiness. There are many people in this world that believe that money, cars, fame, and houses are the true generators of happiness. But those things bring short term enjoyment and we know that it can often only last a moment or two. True happiness comes from following the One who was chosen to lead us back to our Heavenly Father.

"The world changes people from the outside in, while the gospel of Jesus Christ changes people from the inside out."  
- President Ezra Taft Benson -

I consider myself to be a happy person. I don't think it's because everything in my life is perfect, because it's definitely not. I attribute my personal happiness to the decisions I make daily to follow my Savior, Jesus Christ. I know that with those decisions I make in my life come the blessings from heaven. I am so grateful and so happy to know where I came from, why I am here, and where I am going. I know that Heavenly Father wants us all to be happy. Happiness is a choice; it is our outlook on life that can change how we feel, but more importantly how we live.

It is my testimony that many of the deepest regrets of tomorrow can be prevented by following the Savior today. If we have sinned or made mistakes—if we have made choices that we now regret—there is the precious gift of Christ’s Atonement, through which we can be forgiven. We cannot go back in time and change the past, but we can repent. The Savior can wipe away our tears of regret and remove the burden of our sins. His Atonement allows us to leave the past behind and move forward with clean hands, a pure heart, and a determination to do better and especially to become better.

On my mission I have seen a lot of happy people and a lot of unhappy people. I believe one of the main reasons for unhappiness in this world is lack of knowledge about who we really are. There are so many people that are lost and don't know who they are. There was a man that we taught this last week named Nick that told us that he just felt so lost and so dark in his life. He was haunted by his past and desired to feel happy. He wanted to escape the darkness and enter into the light. He wanted to feel joy, peace, and happiness in his life. We explained to him that it was through prayer and through learning more about God and Jesus Christ that he could escape the darkness. I remember telling him that Jesus Christ liberates us from feelings of sadness, sorrow, and darkness; that we can experience happiness by keeping the commandments God has given us and through repentance.

Many are led away from God and Jesus Christ by the things of this world, but we are all children of God and He loves us. We all have been given gifts and we all have divine potential. The ultimate test is whether we will follow Jesus Christ. If we do that in this life we are promised the purest and truest happiness that will last not only in this lifetime, but in the life to come.

"We shouldn't wait to be happy until we reach some future point, only to discover that happiness was available all the time!"

We all CAN be happy! It is a choice to be happy and I know that it is so much easier to be happy when we are choosing the right. We feel that we are coming closer to our Heavenly Father through our daily actions and choices. We are ALL on the pursuit of happiness. I know that I am helping many of God's children get on that path that leads to eternal life. I know that God lives and that Jesus Christ is His Son. As we enter year 2013, I invite you all to to pursue happiness by following the example of Jesus Christ in your lives. I promise you that as you change, create meaningful goals, and fulfill those goals, you will see the blessings from heaven. I am so grateful for my mission and for my family. I am excited for year 2013! I'm on the pursuit of happiness!

Los Quiero,

Elder Spencer Vance