Well, the first day is complete! I can't believe all that has happened in just a few short hours, and all the new thoughts and impressions that have been given to me. I first wanted to express my sincere gratitude to our dear prophets for making the wonderful decision to build a new temple right here in my beloved home state. Hearing that news has made me so joyful, and I am so grateful to my Heavenly Father for knowing the needs of the people of AZ. Plus, a fun little fact for you... Since there will be 6 temples in AZ, each of my siblings could get married in a different one! Neat, yes?
I also wanted to address the reduced age limit for missionaries. First off, I am so, so grateful that the age has been reduced to 18 for boys. I think this will help them so much in getting out in the field. I know of some young men who, after graduation, have lost their motivation to serve a mission and have abandoned the idea. This will help erase that in our young men, I hope. Also, the decision to lower the age of young women serving missions has changed MY life monumentally.
In the past, I have thought that serving a mission would be nice, but not for me. I want to get a head start on my education, and prepare for a family, and having a mission in my twenties has seemed... diruptive, if you will. Please don't think less of me for having that thought, because I want to have a successful education and career, and I know that Heavenly Father would not judge or think less of me for focusing on that specific aspect of my life.
That being said, with this age change, it has brought a new light into consideration. Serving so young would hardly disrupt my education, would it? I would still have a chance to get a good education, and I won't feel "disrupted" by leaving in the middle of college. I've begun serious contemplation regarding serving a mission now. I could be a force for good in this world that is so full of sin and sadness, and I could be an aid and a servant to my Lord in bringing back His children.
I still do not know if I will end up serving a mission, because I want to put in a good amount of research, fasting, and prayer into this before making this decision- because it is a decision not to be taken lightly. I am planning on fasting for an answer in addition to talking with sister missionaries, both returned and currently serving. I know that the Lord will answer me and steer me in the right path as long as I seek His answer in earnest and fervent prayer. This is such a life-changing thing, I still need to get used to the idea.
I was particularly touched by Elder Shayne M. Bowen's talk. Recently, I found out that earlier this week, my cousin Jill gave birth to a boy when she was only 24 weeks along. Born October 1st at just 1 pound, 10 ounces. After three days of struggling, he returned to his Heavenly Father on October 3rd. This was a really hard blow for me, because babies are so precious to me. Life is such a fragile thing, and it broke my heart to hear such a sad thing. Because of this, I've been having a hard time staying upbeat and cheerful, because my heart feels so heavy with the loss of this precious little boy. I've been praying for their little family and struggling with my own emotions, and this talk has helped put things into perspective. While the pain will never fully go away, we can be reassured that little Sampson will be with his family forever through Christ's atonement. They are sealed together for time and all eternity, and the time they have missed with him will seem but a small moment compared to the eternity that lies ahead of them. I'm still hurting over this loss, but I know that if I put my trust in Christ, I will feel better and not have to dwell on this loss forever. Throughout his talk, I couldn't stop crying because so many prayers had been answered. This family is not broken. We are together forever, and nothing can shake that, not even death. I am so grateful for this church, and this knowledge. It's what keeps me going when I feel so hopeless.
I am so eternally grateful for these messages. We truly have living prophets who love us and are looking out for us. Take a minute today and thank your Heavenly Father for all he's given you.