This is a message that I have prepared thinking of the young men and women of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who are about to be or have reached the age of being full-time missionaries who live in Canada and are overwhelmed with this decision.
Like you, I had difficult moments that made me hesitate to make the decision to be a missionary and leave the comfort of my home, my girlfriend, my friends, and possibly the beginning of professional studies. However, I was obedient to the whisperings of the Spirit that told me to leave my father, mother, and siblings and go do what the Lord had commanded me to do as a missionary (see Luke 18:29-30). For two years I sought to find, teach, and baptize converts who were ready to receive the restored gospel of Jesus Christ. It was actually a sacred time, but you must know that the first convert of all was me.
Gaining a Testimony of the First Vision
The Restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ through the Prophet Joseph Smith was one of the reasons for my conversion to the gospel. Although I was baptized at the age of eight, it was not until I served a full-time mission that I obtained a testimony through the Holy Ghost that the things I was taught about the Prophet Joseph Smith and the First Vision were true (see Joseph Smith History 1:16-20). During my childhood and later in my youth, I listened to my father, my teachers in school, and at Aaronic priesthood classes and other Church meetings I learned that Joseph had been the Prophet of the Restoration. I believed all of them and felt in my heart that their teachings were true, but there was no testimony in my heart with only their own light. I needed to learn for myself that they were true.
The Prophet Joseph Smith’s First Vision experience touched my heart when on one occasion I was next to my companion teaching a family the First Vision, and I had the confirmation that Joseph had really been a prophet and that he had seen the Father and the Son. In truth, They had called him by name and had given him the direction of what to do in response to his prayer in the Sacred Grove. Apparently, that family and I received a testimony of this truth at the same time. Two or three weeks later we stopped by to take them to a river to receive their baptism.
Face Doubts with Prayer
Upon arriving at his house, the father of the family told us that everyone in the family would be baptized that day, only he would not do it because he did not believe in Joseph Smith being a prophet of God. My partner and I had fasted and prayed a lot for the Lord to touch the heart of this family.
Listening to this brother telling us that he would not be baptized, we kindly invited everyone in that family to kneel and ask God one by one if Joseph Smith was the Prophet of the Restoration.
My companion offered a beautiful prayer; then I prayed in second place; and then we asked the youngest to the oldest of the children to pray and to ask the same question until we finally reached the father of the family. When he began to pray, he had already heard at least seven prayers asking the same question: Was Joseph Smith a prophet of God? When the father began to pray and asked the same question, the Spirit we felt was so strong that there was no doubt in his heart that yes, the Prophet Joseph Smith was a prophet. At the end of his prayer, he stood up and said, “I am ready, let's go to the river to be baptized (see Moroni 10:3-5).”
Strengthening Faith in Jesus Christ
This and many other spiritual experiences during my mission strengthened my faith in the Savior Jesus Christ and increased my testimony of the truthfulness of the restored gospel and living prophets. I invite you to pray and follow the pattern which we learn from Joseph’s first prayer in the Sacred Grove where he came with a question after reading and pondering on the scriptures (see James 1: 5-6). I invite you to read and ponder the “The Restoration of the Fulness of the Gospel of Jesus Christ: A Bicentennial Proclamation to the World” (ChurchofJesusChrist.org) presented to us by President Russell M. Nelson at the April 2020 general conference (“Hear Him,” Liahona, May 2020, 45). Then, ask our Heavenly Father of the things you need to do to get prepared to go and fulfill the charge that the Savior gave to his disciples and to all of us as members of His Church: “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen” (Matthew 28:19-20).
I am grateful for the great opportunity to have served a full-time mission in my youth and learn of the love of Heavenly Father for all His children.