In the beginning, I was forced down from the top of a very high mountain. A man at the bottom convinced me I needed to go back up the mountain, that it was crucial to my well-being. I started back. I crossed over a bridge that would lead to my mountain. In my mind’s eye, I could see the man watching over the progress of my journey from elevated ground. I found the trail that led up the mountain and made my way up about half way. There I met someone who tried to talk me out of going further up the mountain and wanted to convince me that he had the prize right there in his hand. It was a giant, delicious muffin (I had been working for Sam’s Club previous to this time). I thought he was right. What an amazing prize. Then, the man appeared and showed me the true value of this imaginary prize. In his hand, it looked tiny and bland, and I realized that this was only a counterfeit and nowhere near the glory of the real prize. I continued up the trail and then had to climb a rope ladder. Only, the ladder was like a tunnel, and it was lined with giant books that I had to climb over. It was challenging and it took a lot of work getting through. Once I was finally through, I had reached the top of the mountain. There I observed the Savior’s tomb. I went inside. On the stone bed where He would have laid were photographs of the Man, but he was not there. While I combed through the pictures, I knew why He was not there. I began to weep at the realization of what He had done for me. Then I was beckoned out of the tomb by a woman who I knew for her Christlike characteristics that I admired. She shined, she was fun and faithful, and kind. She was what I thought I wanted to be, and I knew she had served her mission in Hawaii. She led me out onto a tier in the back of a large church. The lower level was full of people wearing colorful clothes. When we walked out, the whole congregation turned and looked back at us as we each testified of what we had witnessed in the tomb.
When I woke from this dream, I knew instantly that I had had a vision. I knew that through my life’s challenges I would gain the character and the testimony of Christ that would prepare me to serve a mission, and allow me to grow in the light of Christ throughout my life.
Then, I got my mission call – to Hawaii. I knew that was where the Lord needed me to be. As soon as I walked off the plane and could feel the humidity (a stark contrast from the dry air in Provo), saw the palm trees and the beautiful sky, I knew I was going to love my mission. I wanted to be a good missionary with all my heart. I knew my goal was to learn to know my Savior and have a personal relationship with Him as my Brother and my Redeemer by serving the people of Hawaii.
I arrived after dark on Christmas Eve and drove up Temple View Drive while the temple was lit in all its beauty. I knew I was going to love my mission.
I really did love my mission. I loved the sisters and senior couples, the people, and that beautiful place. I have many fond memories, met amazing people, and watched people grow in the gospel and be baptized. I loved my daily study, and testifying of the gospel to anyone who would listen as I gave tours at the Visitors’ Center. I even met someone when I returned home whose journey to finding the gospel began on a tour I conducted from the Polynesian Cultural Center! I look back on my mission with great fondness and many great memories.
That being said, I want you to know that my mission was also the most challenging experience of my life. As I am now coming out of some years of depression, I am able to come to terms with the reality that I suffered from depression on my mission, even if I didn’t realize it at the time. My anxiety was overwhelming! I was constantly bombarded with negative, doubtful thoughts about myself, my worth and my abilities. I was crushed by these feelings, and beat myself up most days with the fear of all my failure. I was inauthenic, self-conscious, awkward.
Nevertheless, I worked hard. My mission has been the only time in my life I have been able to wake up on time, early in the morning, consistently, with hardly an alarm (I am not a morning person). I pushed myself to do things that were intensely challenging for me, especially when coupled with my severe self-doubt. There were many, many times when I was able to overcome my fears and even did it cheerfully, and gained wonderful, memorable experiences!
Still, when my mission was drawing to a close I was overcome with angst that I was not the missionary I could have been, and I longed to return to the beginning and start it all over again. I still wish I could go back knowing all that I know now.
However, my mission president gave me a blessing before my departure that I knew was inspired. He told me that my mission literally saved my life. Whether that was in a temporal or a spiritual sense is all the same. I knew that by serving my mission I had served the Lord with all my “heart, might, mind and strength” (D&C 4:2), and I did all I could with what I had at that time, in spite of all my weaknesses. And because of that service, I would be saved in the Kingdom of Heaven because of how my service had, and would influence my choices throughout my life.
The moment I arrived home and was released, the dark spirit that plagued me on my mission was gone. My confidence soared. I was immediately called to serve as the temple committee co-chair in my singles ward, teaching temple prep classes, and becoming an ordinance worker. Soon, I was called to serve as a chair on the “transition committee” serving new-comers to our ward and making sure they were not lost in the mix. With confidence, I was sincerely extroverted and was even described as having an “electric personality.” I loved my life. I escorted my dear friend through the temple for her own endowment – the one who went on my tour of the Hawaii visitors’ center! I went to school. I worked in the temple. I went on dates, determined to learn whether the guys in my ward were marriage material (because I couldn’t honestly say so without getting to know it for myself – see Elder Oaks’ talk summarized in the Ensign, June 2006, Dating Vs. Hanging Out). Each of the guys I went on dates with had incredible talents: writers, musicians, dancers, even a mathematician. But soon, my husband returned from his mission and we started dating before he had been home one month. The Lord knew we were meant to be, and he is better for me than anyone I would have chosen for myself. Everything that has happened since my mission has been incredibly rewarding! The decisions I have made have been inspired, and influenced by my experiences there.
Now as I reflect on my mission, and I see all the good that came out of it – my dear friends whom I served with, memories of teaching amazing people that I grew to love, my personal gospel study, that obedience brings blessings, all the things I learned about the church organization and all that the church does to strengthen families, and yes, even the challenges I faced – have indeed been the source of my salvation. I have learned more about grace, repentance and forgiveness, and countless principles of the gospel than I could have ever learned by not serving. I learned deep lessons of obedience, charity, sacrifice, work, service, and priesthood. This is why I urge anyone (who is able) to serve a mission. And my advice for anyone who serves is the same as the advice President Hinckley received from his father when he despaired on his mission: “forget yourself and go to work” (Ensign, May 1995, Sweet Is the Work: Gordon B. Hinckley, 15th President of the Church). The Lord needs whatever it is you have to offer. Your unique qualities will touch lives. Let your light shine in whatever capacity you have, and just love the people you are with.
“Aloha” in Hawaiian means hello, and goodbye, but it also means love. My mission gave me another new perspective of that beautiful word. We had a mission motto that went something like this:
We are called to serve in the Hawaii, Honolulu mission, the “Aloha” mission. The atonement of Jesus Christ is our message, love of God and others is our motivation, and obedience to the commandments and mission rules is our strength. By sharing the gospel with others, we give them the “ha” – the breath of life, even eternal life. Aloha!!
My journey to the top of this mountain may be over, but I see many peaks in my future I have yet to conquer. But from now on, I am armed with a testimony of the Plan of Salvation, the Atonement, and all of the appendages of the gospel of Jesus Christ. I have been given the gift of “alo-ha”.
If you are preparing to serve a mission, my suggestion is that you make the temple your goal. Go to the temple often, and do the things that will keep you worthy of that goal. Don’t give in to the counterfeits that may try to keep you from reaching that mountain summit. Study the gospel. Know the scriptures in and out if you can. Serve whenever you can in any capacity. And, learn life skills like cooking and cleaning, money management, and proper diet so you aren’t distracted by those things while you serve. Learn the true meaning of charity, faith, and obedience. Then, be authentic, and lose yourself in the work (Mark 8:35).
Here are just a few of the special moments on my mission: