Monday, June 30, 2014

What a beautiful day it is a an exciting one as well! I am glad I am able to speak to you guys one last time before I head off for my mission. I’d like to thank everyone who is here to support me today and those who have taught me so much and influenced me. I am grateful for my church leaders, family, friends, and my swim coach, who came out today. He has played a big part in my life as I swam competitively. He has taught me things and helped me develop characteristics that will help me in life and on my mission! I appreciate all the love and support I get from everyone and it means a lot to me!
Okay! So I have been asked to speak on testimonies. I’ve decided to answer the basic questions, what, why, and how about testimonies today. I pray that something that I say will be of value to each of you and that the spirit will be with me.
Joseph B. Worthlin, in a talk given in General Conference October 2000 called Pure Testimony, defines a testimony as being “The assurance of the reality, truth, and goodness of God, of the teachings and atonement of Jesus Christ, and of the divine calling of latter-day prophets. … It is knowledge strengthened by divine personal confirmation by the Holy Ghost.”
Testimonies are important to gain and work on strengthening so that they can be foundations for us. My favorite scripture, the one that will go on my missionary plaque, is Helaman 5:12 which reads, “and now my sons remember, remember that it is upon the rock of our redeemer, who is Christ, the son of God, that ye must build your foundation, that when the devil shall send forth his mighty winds, yea his shafts in the whirlwind, yea, when all his hail and his mighty storm shall beat upon you, it shall have no power over you to drag you down to the gulf of misery and endless wo, because of the rock upon which ye are built, which is a sure foundation, a foundation whereon if men build, they cannot fall. “
We all know that we have the power to overcome Satan but at times we may feel like He is 10 times stronger than us. These moments of weakness, temptations, or trials, are when we need to have a testimony. We can pray to be reminded of our faith and we will be able to stay strong through any storm.
I’d like to read verses 1, 3, 4, 5, 7 of the hymn how firm a foundation.I skipped around in the hymn
I testify to you that foundations are so important and our testimonies are so important. I know that the book of Mormon is the source of that firm foundation. I know Heavenly Father will always be there for us and he will help us to stand up against the evils of the world and that when he has us go through trials or hardships, He is always there with us that he is standing right next to us the whole time ready to carry us when needed. I know that we are strengthened by trials. Trials can test our testimonies but they ultimately make us stronger. I know that when we have strong testimonies we will have the desire to do what is right. 
We all know the parable of the 10 virgins, where it was time for the bridegroom to come and some of the virgins didn’t have enough oil in their lamps. This is another reason why we want to have a testimony. We don’t want to run out of time and suddenly have to scramble to find our testimonies because we weren’t prepared. If we are constantly working on our testimonies, we won’t have to worry about not having enough oil in our lamps.
In the book “The Continuous Conversion” by Brad Wilcox, he talks about how true conversion is not instantaneous. It is continuous which is like building our testimonies. They are not suddenly there. Like a seed, you cannot plant it one day and have a large strong Oak tree the next. There are things you always need to do to help your testimony grow continuously.
Now that we know what a testimony is and how important they are, we need to know how to develop and strengthen one.
The first thing you need is a desire to gain a testimony, along with faith. I loved Ward Conference last week. President Spackman talked about bearing testimony to your children through word and action. I gained the desire to know after seeing and hearing my parents testimonies. Although I remember my parents sharing their testimonies with me, I remember that I first had the desire to know for myself when I realized that my mom and dad were going to church because they believed. I wanted to go to church because I genuinely wanted to and because I knew it was right.
A song by Jenny Phillips called Live Like You Believe has helped me in my youth when I feel like I am not sure or I am on uneven ground. It says:
You have felt the warmth of the fire
You have seen the glimmer of light
It’s something that you have been missing inside
Something that you have been longing to find
Hold on to the yearning
And wherever you are on the journey
Live like you believe
Live like you know
It’s one sure way your faith will grow
Listen to your heart
Searching your soul
And you’ll find the strength that you need
When you live like you believe
There are some times when you kind of just have to fake it until you make it but I testify that it works. When I moved from Utah one of my good friends took it pretty rough. I later heard through the grapevine that he wasn’t participating in many church activities. We emailed back and forth, because that was how we communicated back then, and I encouraged him to at least attend young men’s, to spend time with his friends and to try to feel the spirit and then, later, he could slowly add back in everything else. I promise that if you read the scriptures because you have to and pray because you have to but also because you want to know for sure the spirit will testify of the truth to you. As it says in Ether 12:6, “Dispute not because ye see not, for ye receive no witness until after the trial of your faith.” You have to take your faith and test it out before you will receive your witness.
When questions, doubts, trials, and temptations come up it can be hard to stay firm. I know this through personal experience and from watching loved ones struggle as well. Sometimes it is necessary to remember the things that started your testimony, to remember the foundation. Whether that is the articles of Faith, the Book of Mormon, Joseph Smith, or the power of prayer, it will be a reminder to you and help you stay strong and keep the faith.
Because a testimony is a continuous thing, we need to be anxiously engaged in building it up. The little things like scripture study, personal prayers, and going to church are actually the big things. As we continue to do these things, our testimonies build little by little. It can sometimes seem like a waste of time but the growth is happening without you even seeing it. When I was at BYU-Idaho I had Book of Mormon class once a week for 2 hours and that was it. This meant that there was more out-of-class work to be done. I dove right into the scriptures and did my very best to meet the assignment requirements but I felt like it was just another class and I wasn’t making any spiritual growth. As I look back on the high school me, I have realized that my 2 semesters of long, consistent, and purposeful scripture study has built up my testimony without me noticing in the moment.
Moroni’s promise, in Moroni 10:3-4 says simply that if we pray to know if what we have read is true, we will receive a confirmation of the truth. Prayer is an essential part of gaining or strengthening a testimony. Through prayer, we can receive answers to doubts and questions and we can more firmly know. It is often through prayer that I receive answers to my questions or have my testimony strengthened. I remember many instances where I have received answers or comfort through prayer and it has played a big part in my growth.
Boyd K. Packer gave a talk at a seminar for new mission presidents in 1982 called the Candle of the Lord, and it is just packed full of good things. One of the things he says is, “A testimony is to be found in the bearing of it! … It is one thing to receive a witness form what you have read or what another has said; and that is a necessary beginning. It is quite another to have the spirit confirm to you in your bosom that what you have testified is true.” 
I have gained my testimony through reading my scriptures, praying to know if it is true, and by bearing my testimony. I remember when bearing my testimony was a taunting thing and I was embarrassed when I would get emotional because of the feeling in my heart but now, I want more than anything to have that feeling constantly.
My roommate at BYU-Idaho was Cassidy Cook who was my best friend when we moved from Utah and right around her 19th birthday in October last year she decided she wanted to serve a mission so we were able to prepare together and discuss our mission prep classes. One thing her mission prep teacher said was to bear testimony on one topic at a time without stories so the investigators don’t get lost. He said that knowing isn’t always enough when you are working with investigators so you have to state how you know. For example, I know that the Book of Mormon is the word of god and that it was translated by Joseph Smith. I know this because I have followed Moroni’s promise and I have prayed to find out for myself if this is true. I have born testimony like this for the last 5 months with various topics and I have felt the spirit warm my heart to reassure me that I really do know.
President Packer also says, “you can create a climate to foster growth, nourish, and protect; but you cannot force or compel: you must await the growth. Do not be impatient to gain great spiritual knowledge. Let it grow, help it grow, but do not force it or you will open the way to be misled.”
Patience is a huge part of our lives. We must wait for trials to end, for blessings to come, to receive answers to prayers and for testimonies to grow. Like I said before, sometimes our spiritual growth is happening, it’s just small enough that you don’t notice.
In the other talk, Pure Testimony, Elder Worthlin reminds us that “a testimony of the truth of the gospel does not come the say way to all people. Some receive it in a unique, life-changing experience. Others gain a testimony slowly, almost imperceptibly until, one day, they simply know.” I personally think that many have both. I feel like I have grown slowly in the gospel but there a few moments that I remember specifically receiving a burning witness. These moments have strengthened certain areas of my testimony instantly while other areas have grown and are growing slowly.
The Church is amazing at providing opportunities where we may have big spiritual experiences. I attended EFY all 4 years I was able to and I attended Girls camp 5 times, I participated in Trek and a special girls camp in Utah called Oakcrest and I attended a church university. Each of these experiences has taught me something. Whether I have learned of the importance of scripture study or felt the love of God so strongly that I knew that I was His daughter, my testimony has been strengthened.
We need to build up our testimonies for ourselves but also so we can share them with others. President packer, in his talk, said “now, do not feel hesitant or ashamed if you do not know everything. Nephi said, “I know that he loveth his children; nevertheless, I do not know the meaning of all things.” There may be more power in your testimony than even you realize.” I love this! This is something I want to remember on my mission. It is like the scripture in Doctrine and Covenants that says that the gospel will be shared by the weak and simple. It doesn’t take a mighty giant to share testimony but just a sincere and spiritual person. A testimony that has convincing power is sincere. In Preach My Gospel it says that a “powerful testimony is not dependent on eloquence or the volume of your voice but on the conviction of your heart.”
People will still question. Having a fervent testimony doesn’t mean much when you are speaking with someone who is “stuck in their ways”. President Packer shares the story of what salt tastes like. For those of you who don’t know, it goes like this. This is where I read the story from the talk. I love this story because I can so easily relate. I simply know, I can’t explain how I know but I also can’t deny that I know.
In president Packer’s address to the new mission presidents, he says that he is going to teach them as if they were missionaries and he says, “now as a missionary, you will mature, develop a confidence, learn to speak up, to organize, to set goals, you will learn about people and places, you will learn to learn, and many other things. These are lasting benefits that come as something of a reward for your dedicated service. But these things do not compare with the most lasting reward. The choicest pearl, the one of great price, is to learn at an early age how one is guided by the spirit of the lord- a supernal gift. Indeed, it is a guide and a protection.”

I know that as I am obedient, the Lord will bless me. I am excited to be more in tune with the spirit and to witness its influence and direction more clearly in my life. I am so excited to serve a mission. I can’t fully wrap my brain around the fact that it is happening and that tomorrow night at 6:00 it will be official and I will be a missionary. That Tuesday night at midnight I will land in Lima Peru and that Wednesday morning I will start my training to be a missionary. I am ready to show others my love of the gospel and I desire so badly for the people in Chiclayo Peru to come unto Christ and to be as happy as I am because of the gospel. I know that this is the true church and that it was restored by Joseph Smith. I know that Joseph Smith translated the Book of Mormon by the power of God. I know these things because I have prayed and I have felt warm inside as the Holy Ghost has reassured me. I know that Thomas S. Monson is the prophet of this church and that He is called of God. Him, and the apostles, receive revelation and they guide us in these latter days. I know this because when they speak at General Conference and when I read their messages I cannot deny the feeling I get. I know that Jesus is the Christ, that he died for me personally as well as each of you. I know that He loves me and that he gave me the gift of the atonement so that I never have to feel alone and so that I can be forgiven and made clean. I feel so much joy and peace as I say those words. I know that Heavenly Father knows me individually and loves me for me. I know that He hears my prayers and answers them in the right way, at the right time. He has literally been the only one that is there for me at all times and he is the only one who understands what I am feeling. I am so grateful for this gospel and everything that it has taught me. I am grateful for my blessings that have come through my knowledge in the church. I am grateful for my testimony and for the simple things that I am able to do to ensure that I have a firm foundation. I know that this church is true and I am so grateful for this opportunity to share my love of the gospel. I say these things In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.  

Friday, June 20, 2014

The Journey

I want to share the adventure I took to get to this point, about to head off to Peru!
I have always wanted to serve, it's been in the back of my mind for about 5 years. I didn't think it was very likely that I would be willing to drop school or a boyfriend when I finally turned 21 so I never really thought this would happen. In October of 2012, President Thomas S. Monson announced that worthy young women with a desire to serve were able to serve at age 19. My whole life changed! I then decided that no matter what, I would serve a mission.

While I attended school at BYU-Idaho I met with my bishop often to discuss missions. on December 8th, 2013 I officially opened my mission papers! I worked hard and completed all of my part, including doctor appointment- a physical exam and shots, dentist appointment- cavities and wisdom tooth pulled, and all the paperwork. I left for Christmas break and the only thing left was the portion for my bishop. Because of the busy season and the start of a new semester, my papers were officially submitted January 21st, 2014. After a taunting wait, I received my mission call on February 6th, 2014. As I read it my heart was warm and I couldn't help but smile all day long!

Dear Sister Pilling
You are hereby called to serve as a missionary for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. You are assigned to labour in the PERU CHICLAYO mission. you should report to the Peru Missionary Training Center on Wednesday July 2, 2014. You will prepare to preach the gospel in the spanish language. 

to this day I am still shocked and it doesn't seem real that I will be living in Peru for 18 months. I am beyond excited! I know that this church is true, I know that it can change lives and bring peace and happiness to any soul. I'm excited to share the joyful message of this gospel to those I meet and to strengthen my own testimony as I serve.