Well, there is a really long list of things the Church asks you to do to prepare to serve a mission. But my preparation started even before I filled in my paperwork. And it runs deeper than that too. And when I think back at my life thus far, and what I’ve done and where I have been, I would have to say that making covenants with the Lord is what all of my actions and preparation has stemmed from. And I would like to share some of my thoughts on Covenants today. I especially want to focus on how I learned and prepared to make covenants, and how making covenants in turn has prepared me to serve a full time mission, and faithful life to continue past that.
So I’ll start by telling you a little bit about my family. Up in Alaska, my parents did not have an easy go of it raising me a long with two crazy sisters and one even crazier boy. And I think it can safely be said that of the four of us I was the most troublesome. My dad loves to tell stories about my younger years, most of which are not very flattering. Such as the time I ran around church in nothing more than a slip, or when I threw a fork at a very proper family friend. And I feel comfortable talking about it now because I like to laugh at myself, but I would like to say though in my defense that I was very young during both of those incidents. Despite me being a wild child my mom and dad always took care of me, and loved me, and taught me when I did something wrong.
One of the stories my mom told me that I was too young to remember, was of the time I learned about tithing. I had learned about it during Sunday school and when I got home I was so excited to pay tithing. I told my mom about it and she said, “Alright we will set aside some of your money so you can pay tithing next Sunday.” To which I was completely offended, when she asked me what was wrong I said, “Well I didn’t know it had to be MY money.” I didn’t want to use my money, just my moms. But she taught me that it was only special and done right if I gave my own money for it.
Covenants are the foundation for our relationship with Heavenly Father, and the foundation of our Church. We are taught even when we are very little the importance of making and keeping covenants with our heavenly father. And when we are little the covenants start out small, liking paying tithing, just giving a little of what we earn back to our heavenly father. And as we grow, these covenants become more meaningful and require more dedication. Each covenant builds upon the last. As we strive to keep our covenants we are worthy to make new ones.
I remember the day I was baptized. I was eight years old and so eager and nervous to make a covenant with the Lord and become an official member of His church. My dad was waiting for me in the font when I went in wearing a white baptismal dress. The water was freezing cold, because before my service another baptism had taken place. And when my dad dunked me into the font a part of my dress didn’t go under and I had to be baptized again. While I certainly did not like staying in the water for much longer I was impressed by the importance of the ordinance. My covenant with the Lord had to be made just right and it had to be done by me. I couldn’t have my mom go in and get baptized for me just because the water was cold, and in the same respect, I couldn’t use her money to pay my tithing. Our covenants are extremely personal, between you and the Lord.
The young women’s program provides a wonderful place to develop an eternal perspective. And even though we’re not as crazy as the young men, I definitely had learning experiences during our activities. And I credit those activities and leaders to helping me on my metaphorical road of progression. Sometimes in life it hard to see temptation for what it is when we are not aware how to avoid it; Girls camp and snipe hunting are a perfect example of what I mean. We are lucky in the 8th ward to own the privilege of going to Heber Valley for girls camp every year. It’s a wonderful place, there’s a fun lake and lots of trees and mountains all around. It has amazing challenge courses, cabins, and best of all, showers. But my favorite part always had to be when we would go out on a snipe hunt.
With toothpaste on our faces and pillowcases in hand our group of pajama clad girls would head out on a hunt, excited and for me at least with teary eyes, because two years ago I thought it would be cool to put toothpaste on my eyelids. Yeah, that hurt. Well, like I said, Heber Valley Camp is a wonderful place and during the daytime I’d say most of us girls were pretty comfortable walking around on the paths without fear of a bear attack or rogue snipe jumping out of the bushes. But you start wandering around that place at night? And it’s a whole different world. The snipe hunt itself calls usually the leaders of the groups, off the beaten paths and into the brush to try to catch a snipe for the group.
Two years ago during the snipe hunt three or four girls came back to the pavilion and went straight to the leaders for medical attention. It turned out in the excitement of trying to catch a snipe some of us ended up in the stinging nettle. I was one of those girls. And it was not fun to feel that sting and see the skin on my hand react and turn red. Luckily our leaders are wonderful and they attended to us immediately and there wasn’t too much damage, but here’s my point. We knew what stinging nettle was and in the day we could tell where it was and how to avoid it. But at night it was nearly impossible to stay out of the stuff. And it’s the same in life, when we go to church we learn what kinds of things to avoid and when we make covenants we learn even more and are even stronger. We’re in the “daylight” so to speak, and it is easier to stay on the path.
Well, sometimes we don’t always stay on that path, either its dark and we just didn’t know better. Or when night fell we decided to be foolish and put toothpaste our eyelids and wander into the brush. But here’s the good news. When we sin, or struggle to do what’s right and fall short. We can always repent. Always always always. And after we have made covenants, it is definitely worse for us to fall, because we know better. But as Jeffrey R. Holland said, “God doesn’t care nearly as much about where you have been as he does about where you are and with his help where you are willing to go.”
I have one last short story to use as an example of God’s love and how he acts in a covenant; this story has to do with my dad and my amazing dog Prince. Before my dad let me get prince I begged, pleaded, and negotiated terms that would satisfy him. I promised to take care of all of his needs, feeding him, walking him, and even paying for his medical costs, and in return my dad would let me have the dog. Unfortunately after prince became a part of our family I didn’t always do what I said I would. But my dad filled in where I didn’t. He walks Prince and our other dog Patches every day regardless if I do or don’t, he feeds them when I forget and he reminds me of my responsibility, but he still lets me keep the dog. In a way I think that is very similar to our covenants with Heavenly Father, we promise to keep his commandments and in return he blesses us. Well we fall short, but he still loves and blesses us and reminds us that we can try harder. But he never gives up on us, not as long as we are still trying to do the best we can.
Just last month I went through the Provo Temple to receive my endowments. That was special for me because my dad, mom and big sister all went through there. It was such a strong experience and I learned so much. And I can see how my whole life through little experiences; at home, or at girls camp, or at school or work, the things I learned have all helped me become stronger. So that when I made covenants in the temple I would be strong and confident enough to keep them.
Sometimes our lives get really cluttered with obligations, and plans, and goals. And it can be really easy to forget to read our scriptures, or go to the temple. But as we come to church and partake of the sacrament we renew our covenants, and it should be a time to step back and realize we could try harder and recommit to doing the best we can next week. Because we are not perfect, but we should always desire to be.
When I am set apart as a missionary and representative of Jesus Christ, I am covenanting with God to do his work and try my very hardest. And in turn he’ll help me out and bless me and my family. I am so thankful for my family. I have learned so much from them. I love each one of them. My dad, for his deep understanding of gospel principles. My mom, for loving me unconditionally and teaching me how to work hard every day. My brother Mike, for the love he shows his friends and family, he has such a big heart and I admire that. My big sister Brooke, and her husband Andy, they are wonderful examples to me and they give me the best advice. And my little sister Sarah, she’s full of life, she reminds me to relax and makes me smile and realize how ridiculous I sound sometimes. I am so thankful for my friends; to the youth in the ward I encourage you to be strong and particular in your friendships. Put yourself in situations that lift you up, not bring you down. Because true happiness is found when you are doing good things. I have been so lucky in my friendships, my gang’s always up for an adventure and we kept ourselves out of trouble in the most fun and creative and memorable ways. Without my friends I don’t know who I would be.
I’m nervous to leave my home and live in Canada for a year and a half, but my life has been so blessed by the gospel that I know I need to do my part and help others come unto Christ. I think of my mission with the motto of “Because I have been given much I too must give.” And I really and sincerely know this is what I need to do. I have a testimony of Jesus Christ that he lived and he died for us, and that the only way we can truly be happy and live forever with the ones we love is to follow him faithfully, to put aside the distractions of the world each day and refocus on what he would have us do. I would like to thank those who came for me for coming, and I would like to thank the ward for being so supportive and accepting throughout the years. I have a testimony of the principle of making covenants. I have seen the difference it makes in my family’s life, and my life. And I promise to you, that if you recommit today to trying your very hardest, the Lord will pour out such blessing to you. And without further ado, I will end my talk and this week join the wall of missionaries outside this door. What a fantastic group of missionaries come from this ward, it is a privilege to serve the lord with such righteous sons and daughters of god. And I say this in the name of Jesus Christ amen.