Thursday, March 28, 2013

Single Digits

You're free to listen to that song on repeat as you read this because it is so perfect! Cheery, happy, and wonderful. 

I got my mission call in December! The very beginning of December to be exact and I have had to wait so very long... but guess what? SINGLE DIGITS! That's right. 

It has been a long, cold and lonely winter but today it is warm and sunny. I wore a t-shirt and rolled the windows down (not all the way, but I'll take it). My windows are open in my room and although there is some snow still on the ground, there is enough grass that proportionally I am just pleased as a peach! 

Finally I can say next week. That brings a few emotions. The excitement of finally being a missionary and also the panic. But for the time being, I'm more excited than panicked. Yes, I am 100% excited about being a missionary for all of the missionary reasons, but here are some other reasons I am excited: 

1) I am hoping to be so excited about being a missionary that I no longer feel sad about Boyce Avenue coming to Utah in April... and the fact that I have to miss it. 

2) My roommate of 1.5 years is in the MTC and I miss her a lot... so seeing her will be happy. 

There were a lot to choose from, but this is the only picture I have of us that made me laugh so hard I cried.

3) Gas prices won't make me cry anymore. 

4) While I like Facebook for fun and practical things, I'm happy that I won't have to deal with it for a long time. Too many pointless and uneducated arguments and insults over opinions. It keeps me up at night. 

5) I get to be the one that is "too busy to write back" ... for 8 months. I love to write letters, but karma is real. #suckstosuck 

6) For almost four months I have had almost nothing to do except watch Scrubs, 30 Rock, Scrubs again, White Collar, Glee, New Girl and the Office. Oh, and Spongebob. I'm happy to say that here soon I'll always have something to do. 

7) Pants are stupid. I can't wait to wear skirts all day. Skirts are as close as you can get to no pants o'clock without offending people. 

8) That being said, I'll actually have a reason to get dressed every day... honestly, today is the first day that isn't a Sunday that I have actually put on make up. I haven't gotten back into actually trying to make my hair look okay. I'll start that tomorrow. 

9) I'm looking forward to comparing how it is to be a missionary to being in college. Aside from always having to be with your "roommate" and no Youtube (among other things) and wearing a name tag and maybe more rules (I lived in Heritage with a very keen RA, so I know what rules are)... it can't be that different. Unhealthy food and laundry days. Classes. Staring at the Y when I'm outside. Plus I worked at the MTC. It'll be just like the good old days! Just less greasy. 

10) I actually have a legitimate reason to ignore boys that I don't want to talk to! As a normal college girl, I guess I'm fair game. But stick that name tag on and when someone shows interest I'm not rude, I'm just obedient.

Needless to say, being a missionary is going to be awesome. Hard? Yes. But totally worth it. Being a convert, I am so excited to be on the other side. Teaching the doctrine that was being taught to me just 3.5 years ago! Cool. 

Since I said why I'm excited about being a missionary, here are some things I'll miss: 

Chipotle. English. Google. My cat waking me up every morning by sitting on my chest (maybe my companion will do that for me). Ridiculous nail polish colors. My car (aka freedom). Working. Ke$ha. Food recipes on Pinterest. Creeping on everybody's mission calls. Wearing my Spongebob hat. Eating brownies from the pan every night with my roommate (those summer... niiiiiights). Blah blah blah a million other things and photo booth so we can dress up like boys and make videos.

Click here if you're interested.

But the blessings of missionary work far outweigh the things I'll miss... and thankfully I get to come home to them all in just 18 months! I have my whole life to re-fall in love with Chipotle every week, but only a short amount of time to serve as a missionary. I'm so ready. Five days!

The Church is true and the book is blue! (L'Eglise est vrai et le livre est bleu!) 

Of course in English it rhymes so I'll stick with that one :) Bonne chance! 

Sunday, March 24, 2013


I had the privilege of speaking in my ward today, and on one of my favorite topics too! Enjoy :)

I was assigned to speak on one of my favorite topics: the Atonement and Resurrection of Jesus Christ. This is my favorite topic because it touches every single aspect of the Gospel. I just love pondering and studying this topic because it really reaches far beyond my understanding. It is hard to comprehend what our world would be like if the Atonement did not take place simply because, it wouldn’t exist. The Atonement was a KEY part of Heavenly Father’s plan from the very beginning and without it; there would be no plan.

I wish I could just read an entire chapter in “Jesus the Christ” because it says so perfectly what I want to speak of today about how necessary the Atonement really is. Our Heavenly Father wanted us, His spirit children, to progress and return to Him but he knew the only way that could happen is if we were subjected to good and evil and exercised our ability to choose for ourselves. He knew that some would not progress and choose evil and that His commandments would be broken. This line says perfectly what had to happen, “It was necessary that a means of redemption be provided, whereby erring man might make amends… the power of death was to be overcome, so that, though men would of necessity die, they would live anew, their spirits clothed with immortalized bodies over which death could not again prevail."

An essential piece of the plan is that the sacrifice had to be made by one who was completely without sin. Heavenly Father knew that because we would be born of mortals, we would inevitably succumb to sin. However, while Christ was born of a mortal, He had an immortal father that chose Him to complete the Atonement. Christ lived a sinless life and because of that, He was worthy to make the sacrifice on behalf of all mankind.

The first important part of the Atonement is when Christ suffered in Gethsemane. He had the burdens of all mankind on His shoulders. He felt every drop of pain and sorrow that we would ever feel, and that alone would be too much for any mortal. Once this sacred part was complete, He was taken and walked through the streets carrying the cross on which He would be crucified.

The Atonement was a voluntary sacrifice, but this assignment was accepted with love. Our perfect Savior knew what was expected of Him and that if He completed it, mankind, although rebellious and sinful, could accept it as a means of deliverance. How beautiful! But what I find most beautiful in the doctrine of the Atonement is that our Savior, on the cross and suffering beyond comprehension, chose to stay and complete the Atonement even though at any moment He could have given up. He was born of an immortal Father and could have escaped death easily, but He did not because He knew if he did not complete the Atonement one hundred percent of the way, we would be lost. So when He says, “It is finished,” the Atonement for all mankind is truly finished. That is a true sacrifice of love and because of it we can break the chains of death that bind us as mortals.

Then, because Christ suffered and died, He could be resurrected. While we are promised abundantly in the scriptures that we will be resurrected someday with perfect bodies, Christ still bears the marks of the cross that we may know with a surety that it is Him who atoned for us. By walking the path of death and resurrection, the Savior provided the same way for us and it is the only way we could return to live with our Heavenly Father. The Resurrection is just as important to our eternal progression as the Atonement, “for behold, if the flesh should rise no more, our spirits must become subject to that angel who fell from before the presence of the eternal God, and became the devil, to rise no more" (2 Nephi 9).

That states clearly that, without Christ’s death and resurrection, when we would finally die, we would not rise anymore. Mankind would simply be trapped in a fallen state and our eternal progression would be lost. Without the help of a divine Savior, no soul could ever find the way back to Heavenly Father. The simple fact that Christ died and then returned to us provides that we will all be resurrected regardless of how we spend our lives. Although we cannot live perfect lives, Christ did, and His Atonement covers our imperfections so we can still be worthy to receive the promised blessings of eternal life.

The Atonement is a tremendous blessing and our Heavenly Father evidently loves us so much that he would sacrifice His Son in the most heartbreaking way so that all of His children might have a path to return to Him. The best part about this is that every human being that has ever lived or will live has access to the blessings of the Atonement. Our God is a just God and would never deny His children all the blessings of His kingdom, but we must choose righteously in order to receive the highest blessings that He has promised to us.

Because of the Atonement, we are promised beautiful blessings such as eternal families. Because we can be resurrected, we can be with our families forever and ever in the presence of Christ and our Heavenly parents. If Christ had not died on the cross and then been resurrected, we would not have that promise. We would not be able to access the blessings of eternity.

That being said, there are millions of people that go about their lives every day not knowing anything about Christ and their eternal potential. In the pre-MTC training videos there was a man from China who said he was literally taught that after this life there is nothing. What would be the point of living here, building relationships and lifestyles if when we eventually die… there is nothing. Are we here by random chance just to live a short time and then disappear never to rise again? Thankfully the answer is NO. We know that, but people all over the world do not. They do not know of life after death, about resurrection or the beautiful place waiting for us when our time comes to leave this earth.

We don’t realize how blessed we are to have this knowledge. We live every day taking for granted what we have, let alone sharing it with others! If we know this to be true, what do we have to fear? We have good news and promised blessings for all the children of God, and that is worth sharing. 

I’m excited to be able to teach this sweet doctrine to all those I meet as a missionary and also throughout my life. The Church is so true. Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ live and love us so much. The Atonement is real and because of it we can return to our Heavenly parents to live with them and our families for all eternity. 

Friday, March 8, 2013

What do you mean... "missionary"?

I cannot describe to you how I was feeling watching this live in October. I was so happy that my male friends awaiting missionary service could be recommended at 18 rather than 19. My FHE family and I talked excitedly until we heard it

"We've also given consideration to the age at which young women might serve." 

My heart stopped and I put my hand over my mouth. I had no idea what he was going to say next. 

"Today, I am pleased to announce that able, worthy young women that have the desire to serve may be recommended for missionary service beginning at age 19 instead of age 21." 

There are no words that can accurately describe how it felt to go from at least a year before we were eligible... to right now. Many of my friends desired to serve missions but had the same thoughts. We all wanted to serve, but none of us knew where we would be when we finally could! This changed everything in less than five minutes. 

So you decided to serve a mission! What next? 

Everyone goes through the same basic system. Once your bishop determines that you have things in order financially and spiritually, they put you into the missionary recommendation system where you fill out endless information about yourself (languages you studied, what your parents do, where your ancestors are from) and find forms to do a missionary physical and dental exam. A doctor and dentist must do the exams and determine if they honestly believe you are capable of serving without problems. Once everything is completed, you submit everything to your bishop and meet with him again. You then meet with a stake president who will determine, overall, if you are worthy to be recommended as a missionary. If you are (yay!), he writes a recommendation for you and sends your papers to Salt Lake City, where they decide where you are to serve. 

That is another process in itself, but if you're interested read more here!

Then... you wait. It's a huge relief to have your papers completed, but the time between submitting them to Salt Lake and actually receiving your call... it's hard to describe. My roommates and I had dreams about getting calls to real and fictional places or dreams that our calls were lost. It's hard and can cause serious anxiety, but the moment you find that beautiful envelope in your mailbox... it's worth it. 

The two videos I have posted here make me cry, legitimately cry, any time of any day no matter how many times I watch them. 

Here is where I get the most questions and, as the time comes closer, I've been thinking a lot about them. 

France, huh? Neat!

I know! I opened my call in my bedroom and I thought I might pass out. Nobody was there but I tried to read it slowly in my head. They all start the same. "Dear Sister Loder, you are hereby called to serve as a missionary of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints." That is the entire first line and I knew my mission was on the next line. I just had to slide the paper... down... and... FRANCE! I couldn't believe it. 

Some people have a feeling about where they might go or what language they might study, but in the 10 days between submitting my papers and finally touching that sweet envelope... I had no idea. 

What do you do after you find out where you are going? 

First, every single person must write an acceptance letter. It is easy and simple and you can write whatever you want! Your bishop signs it and you send it to Salt Lake. 

After that, it really depends on your mission! For me, I got another big envelope a week later with paperwork (all in French, I might add), that I had to fill out for a visa. I also had to apply for a passport since I did not have one before. All of this is a long process. Once I finally got my passport, I completed the visa paperwork and submitted tons of stuff back to Salt Lake where they work on getting you the visa you need for your mission. 

You also get a book that tells you ALL the things you need to have in your mission. Clothes, supplies, mission specific things (like voltage converters or special licenses) and medical information. Some missions require special immunizations, but most are standard. Mission shopping is expensive and often difficult because there are specific clothing guidelines we have to follow. Sisters and elders must be modest in their appearance, and in today's world, that can be really hard to come by. 

What are you doing in France? Any sightseeing? 

France is a beautiful country with much to see and yes, I'm sure I will see a lot of breathtaking things... but that isn't why I'm going. The missionary purpose is simple and can be found in Moses 1:39. For behold, this is my work and my glory — to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man. 

Many missionares are called to labor in incredible places all over the world, but a quote I love that sums it up perfectly says, "The call is to the people, not the place." We are all God's children and missionaries teach the same Gospel to everyone. Those serving a mission in Montana are teaching the same Gospel truths that I will be teaching in France, and those are the same that my roommates will be teaching in Cape Verde, Belgium, Portugal, Chile, etc. 

We'll all be working hard all day every day to find anyone and everyone that is willing and teach them about Christ and help them to receive all the saving ordinances that will bring them back to their Father in Heaven and life eternal. 

So... are there a lot of rules? 

Yep. There is a white handbook that all missionaries have that state plainly what we can and cannot do and I'll be honest... they're strict! But they are there for a reason. We are not set apart as missionaries and sent all over the world to do exactly what we do at home. We have goals and responsibilities and everything else is set aside. These rules are in place to help us focus on our purpose (bringing to pass immortality and eternal life... you know), and nothing else. Not skiing. Not watching TV. Not texting. Not dating. Only missionary work, and we are so blessed for following these rules and being obedient. They make the work more meaningful and it progresses faster! 

MTC? What?

The Missionary Training Center. Missionaries to go these training centers all over the world (there are about 15, give or take as they open new ones), and they are dedicated to teaching brand new missionaries how to preach the Gospel and how to speak the language they are called to speak. The time spent there depends on your language! If someone from Utah is called to Illinois speaking English, they stay for a very short time (10 days), but someone learning Russian will probably be there 3 months. It all depends on what you speak and what you are called to speak. For French, I'll be there for 6 weeks starting on April 3. I'll eat, sleep and breathe the Gospel (and French) before I fly to France.

I've been asked lots of questions and I'm not going to type them up because, let's be honest, who is still reading? :) I like answering questions, so I'm willing to take any that anyone has!

I'm so thankful to have the opportunity to serve a mission. Total understatement, but what am I supposed to say? Excited. Nervous. Happy? I just can't wait to and serve the Lord as His missionary. 

The Church is true and the book is blue. Bonne chance!