Saturday, March 29, 2014

My Interview with Ellen Degeneres: Prophets

Having been raised in the LDS faith I have encountered many of the same questions over the years.  How many moms do you have?  Where is your horse and buggy? Do you know you're going to hell?  So you worship Joseph Smith, right?  Why are you so weird?  These are just a few of my favorite gems.  I've decided to dedicate one post a month to answering a frequently asked question.  Here's the thing though, FAQ lists are for college admissions websites and door to door vacuum sales pamphlets.  I figured a (fake) interview with Ellen Degeneres would get my point across and be a little less like reading a manual on how to put together your IKEA nightstand.  Ellen, if you read this and ever want to do a real interview, I would love to grace your program with my presence (and give every member in the audience a free Book of Mormon! I'd even throw in a red marking pencil #bigspender).

Ellen:  I hope you are all excited for today's program; it is going to be one to remember.  We have a very special guest that I can't wait for you to meet.  It's Channing Tatum!  But before we get to the dessert of this program we have to eat our less delicious vegetables.  We are going to have a recurring guest at the end of every month who will come and answer a question about the Mormon faith.  Please welcome Sister Poppe, a full time missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints--otherwise known as the broccoli of today's broadcast.

(mild awkward clapping; a few hisses; a few boos; a cat's meow; one exuberant cheer--from my mother)

Sister P:  Thank you for having me on today, Ellen.  It's a pleasure.

Ellen:  It's nice to have you.  Today I would like to focus on one question that many people have about Mormonism.  What is this business about prophets on the Earth today?

Sister P:  I'm glad you asked that Ellen.  The belief that there is a prophet on the earth today is a unique message that only the LDS faith offers.  A prophet is someone that acts as the mouthpiece of God on earth. Think of the prophets in the Bible; Abraham, Moses, Jeremiah, etc.  They were all individuals called of God to teach people and guide them.  That is what the current prophet, Thomas S. Monson, does.  He is called of God to lead humanity.  We believe that President Monson has the power to receive revelation from God to help people on their journey to return to Heavenly Father.  The prophet doesn't rule our lives.  He gives us guidelines that will lead to a happy lifestyle that is in accordance with God's plan.  Picture this: Dumbledore and Elsa have a baby that has all of their greatest qualities AND the ability to communicate with Heavenly Father and that is a prophet.  Someone kind, wise, humble, and a little baller.

Ellen:  Don't you think it's a little crazy to believe that there is a man on earth today that communicates with God directly?  I mean, even Dory is skeptical of this principle and she's a dingy true blue.

Sister P:  If you truly believe that God is the same yesterday, today, and forever then it isn't that outlandish to believe that there is a prophet on earth today.  Christians across the planet believe that there were prophets during the Biblical era. If Moses could lead the Israelites across the Red Sea, then why can't a man today lead me through the treacherous times we live in? Why wouldn't there be a prophet today?  Heavenly Father loves all of his children equally.  He wouldn't provide a leader for his sons and daughters millennia ago and not do it today. There have been periods of time without prophets on the earth, but that's a discussion for a different day.  I believe that Thomas S. Monson has been called of God to direct people today and that after he dies another man will be called of God to direct in his stead.  I can't make you believe it, but I can promise that if you learn more, read the Book of Mormon, and pray to know if there is a prophet today that you will receive a personalized answer from Heavenly Father.  That is how prayer works.

Ellen:  Thank you, Sister P.  We definitely have a lot to think about after your visit.  I am looking forward to your April visit where you will talk some more with us about the intricacies of the Mormon religion.  Alright. We are going to have a quick break before a big dish of Channing Tatum dessert!

Saturday, March 22, 2014

6 Things You Should Do Before Assuming Mormons are Crazy

A few months before I left on my mission there was an internet phenomena that blasted the nation. I prefer to call this craze the "Infinite Number of Highly One Sided Things You Should Do Before You Hit a Certain Age" lists.  Bloggers from across the nation responded to one another about the most important things people should do in their 20's.  A firestorm of disrespect mounted on Facebook news feeds from Baltimore to Berlin as individuals argued for responsibility or frivolity during one's early adulthood.  In the short 6 weeks I've been out on a mission I have decided that a blog post needs to be dedicated to the 6
 Things You Should Do Before Assuming Mormons are Crazy:

6.  Get to know a Mormon in your community.  
If you don't know much about Mormonism chances are your perception of an average Mormon is skewed.  I imagine a creature that is 1 part Mitt Romney, 2 parts quiet Mennonite kid (for some reason people think we're the same), and 1 part Donny and Marie Osmond sprinkled with a few sister wives is what springs to mind when you think of a Mormon (or a citizen of Utah).  While entertaining, that simply isn't what most Mormons are made of.  There are approximately 6 million members of the Mormon faith in the United States. Though most of them live West of the Rocky's, chances are if you look hard enough you can find one in your community.  They most likely have a front yard, a small SUV or minivan, hobbies, a grill, and some children; just like you.  

5.  Learn the real name of their church.
Mormon is actually just a nickname that members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS) have been given.  Often individuals of the LDS faith will call themselves Mormons because it is more recognizable, but at the end of the day the most politically correct term for these individuals is Latter-day Saint.  When you take the time to recognize that the name of the religion actually bares the name of Christ and not Mormon, it is easy to see that Jesus Christ is at the center of everything we do.

4.  Learn more from a reliable internet source.
Check out  It's run by the LDS church and has a lot of valuable information. You can see member profiles (like mine) and chat with missionaries in Salt Lake City.

3.  Meet with some missionaries.
Maybe this point is a little selfish.  As a current full time missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints I am eager for people to teach.  I want to answer people's questions and I know that any other good missionary will want to do the same.  We're not out to baptize you. We're out to teach you of the truth of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ.  Would you ask Miley Cyrus to help you with your biology homework?  No.  Then don't ask your Baptist minister to tell you about my faith.  

2.  Attend a church meeting.
Latter-day Saints respect Sunday as the Sabbath day and worship in congregations across the globe. Every chapel has a three hour block of meetings that includes a sacrament meeting (akin to mass), Sunday school, and another gospel related class geared toward specific age and gender demographics.  I hate to disappoint right off the bat, but there will be no sacrificial goat killings, awkward chanting, or Kool-Aid.  Find out where your closest meeting house and meeting time is here.

1.  Read the Book of Mormon
Beneath the title of every Book of Mormon is listed the sentence, "Another testament of Jesus Christ".  Many people don't know anything about the Book of Mormon, let alone that it is literally another book to testify of the divinity of Jesus Christ.  It is a companion to the Bible, not a replacement.  No one threw a fit when J.K. Rowling decided to write Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, because Harry Potter is awesome and everyone wanted another book that testified of his awesomeness.  The same is true for the Book of Mormon.  Why wouldn't you want another book that proclaims the gospel of Jesus Christ?

I know that I often rely on wit and humor in life, but I can be serious as well.  I know that the Book of Mormon isn't a book that some mere man wrote.  It was written by prophets in ancient times for our day.  Though the messages are old, they are universal and apply to each and every person that has been, will be, or currently is on earth.  Jesus Christ is our savior and the Book of Mormon testifies of that on almost every page.  The message of the Book of Mormon is centered on Jesus Christ and is of great value and importance.  It will enable you to improve the quality of your life and will help you face the problems and challenges that we all face.  We all have agency in life and no one can make someone read the Book of Mormon, but I can promise you that if you sincerely read with a desire to learn more, you will find happiness.  So stop googling Mormonism, watching HBO shows about polygamous families, and singing songs from a blasphemous Broadway show about my faith, and find out about the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints the right way. 

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Ugly Cake

There are two things people should know about me if our relationship is going to function properly.  These facts will also be important for the sake of this blog post.  

1.  I love to bake.
2.  I love my birthday more than anyone else on the planet loves their's.  

As my birthday was approaching last year I had a friend tell me that I should just make my own birthday cake because it would taste better than anything anyone else baked.  I decided to heed that advice and set out to construct two delicious cakes I had seen on Pinterest.  My birthday always falls during or right after finals week.  I had already finished all of my finals, so I went to work for a few hours and then came home to bake away my 22nd birthday until my friends were done with class and work.  One of the cakes was a simple cream cheese pound cake with fresh fruit garnish.  The other was a salted caramel hazelnut cake.  The pound cake slid out of my coveted Nordic Ware bundt pan perfectly, but the salted caramel hazelnut cake (heretofore called ugly cake) had some challenges.  

I greased the pan with butter and a dusting of cocoa as I had done many times before for various different recipes, but when I went to remove the cake from the pan it stuck in some areas and was an abomination to my Food Network standards.  I was so angry I wanted to just throw it away.  Luckily I received a text message from a friend at this point asking if I wanted to go get some dinner for my birthday.  I gave ugly cake a look of exasperation and left it on the counter as I bounded out my apartment to celebrate my birthday with another dinner (I celebrate my birthday the entire month of April, so while this was the only dinner I ate on my actual birthday, I had already celebrated at many an eating establishment in the Provo area throughout the month).  

After eating dinner, running to Target, getting some Cold Stone, and listening to Taylor Swift's 22 against my will, we went back to my apartment to figure out the fate of ugly cake.  I decided to frost it with the delicious Nutella frosting I had whipped up to see if it would look prettier.  It didn't.  I soldiered on anyway and started to make the homemade caramel drizzle for the top of the cake and left that in a storm of frustration after I spilled caramel on my favorite skirt.  My friend jumped in and dealt with the simmering pot of diabetes, at which point he spilled some on his pants as well. Somehow we finished every aspect of the cake and assembled it into the ugliest cake that was ever baked west of the Mississippi. 

Ugly Cake in all of its glory.
As the first guests arrived to wish me a happy birthday I warned them about ugly cake.  People began eating it and pointed out that while it was kind of ugly it was delectable.  The Nutella and sea salt caramel complimented each other perfectly as they graced the top of the homemade cocoa cake.  I was going to throw ugly cake in the dumpster, but instead it was entirely consumed and thoroughly enjoyed by the end of birthday week.  The beautiful pound cake didn't have the same fate because it just wasn't as tasty as ugly cake.  As I was reflecting on ugly cake a few weeks after my birthday I realized that too often people look at themselves like I looked at ugly cake.  When I was thinking about serving a mission I told Heavenly Father I couldn't do it because I didn't have the talents a mission requires.  He quickly brought ugly cake to my remembrance.  I have flaws and I'm not a perfect missionary or follower of Christ, but I have talents that make me meaningful.  My frosting is dripping, my caramel is a mess, my cake fell apart on its way out of the pan, and my hair rarely looks good, but I still taste good.  We're all a little rough around the edges, but like ugly cake we have a lot to offer if we give ourselves the opportunity to bless others' lives.  We all have something that we believe we're unqualified to do, but we need to remember the words of Thomas S. Monson, "When we are on the Lord's errand, we are entitled to the Lord's help. Remember that whom the Lord calls, the Lord qualifies."  This quote doesn't just apply to those who are working full time on the Lord's errand.  If you're trying to uplift others, serve your community, or be a good member of your family you're on the Lord's errand and he will qualify you.  Sometimes we tell ourselves that we aren't as good as the perfect pound cake because our very visible qualities aren't up to par.  But at the end of the day it's what makes up the cake that makes it delicious, not how well it slid out of the pan.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Can I Speak to a Supervisor Please?

A little over a year ago I sold my old laptop on Ebay to a gentleman (and by gentleman I mean a good for nothing con artist) from South Africa.  Shortly after I paid the exorbitant international shipping fee I realized that the confirmation email I received from PayPal was false and that I had just been scammed out of a partially working Dell Inspiron laptop and 60 hard earned dollars.  I immediately began researching ways to rectify my situation.  In less than 24 hours I had called Ebay, attempted to track my package through the BYU shipping office AND the campus accounting office, emailed the US customs and border control department, the US embassy in South Africa, the South African customs and border control department, and local government officials and mail service providers in South Africa, and called the United States Postal Service package recovery hotline.  I was frustrated with myself for being naive enough to be scammed and was even more frustrated at the lack of voice I had.  I was trying everything within my power to recover my property while fighting the urge to become a victims of internet fraud vigilante. I would have given my younger brother's left arm to just recover the shipping fees I paid.  I hated the laptop I was selling and was honestly indifferent about that; I just wanted to be able to buy groceries that week.  Some punk in Nelson Mandela's homeland was reaping the benefit of my string cheese, flour tortilla, and Nutella money!

My hatred for bureaucratic red tape was heightened as a consequence of this debacle and I vowed to take down fraudulent Ebay accounts for good when I found myself in a position of governmental power one day.  I often wondered aloud why I didn't have a direct line to the UN. What good is the UN anyway if they can't help a normal global citizen out?  How often do humans demand to speak to a supervisor or someone in charge when something goes wrong?  All of the time.  But even then you're only likely to get a lower level teenage manager or the shift lead at your local Target.  You're never going to get to talk to the CEO about a problem you're facing or in my case, the leader of a country.

There is one situation in which you can communicate with the man at the top of a corporate hierarchy though; prayer.  Heavenly Father is the ultimate CEO, government official, family patriarch, and general leader of literally everything.  Why should I care that President Obama wouldn't answer my phone calls about my stolen property about to exit the US border when I was praying to someone much higher in the food chain than him?  I can assure you that there aren't any angelic interns that listen to our prayers and then forward the important ones onto Heavenly Father. He takes his own calls and offers every customer assistance.  I have seen the blessings of prayer in many different ways throughout my life.  One of which being the return of my computer quite a few months after I originally shipped it.  I have also felt the gratification of the supreme creator intently listening to every word I udder in gratitude, sorrow, frustration, and joy.  He never puts me on hold.  He never hires someone with a thick accent to talk me through solutions.  And he never discounts my opinions, fears, and stories as irrelevant.  He nods along, interjects, and fulfills his side of the bargain.  "Ask, and it shall be given unto you; seek and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.  For every one that asketh, receiveth; and he that seeketh, findeth; and to him that knocketh, it shall be opened." (3rd Nephi 14: 7-8)

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

He Lives to Hear My Soul's Complaint

Every morning we recite our missionary purpose, a quote about missionary work, and the Arizona Mesa mission statement.  I'll spare you the entire recitation, but want to share what our purpose is:

Our purpose is to invite others to come unto Christ
by helping them receive the restored gospel
through faith in Jesus Christ and His atonement,
repentance, baptism, receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost,
and enduring to the end.

We frequently ask people during our lessons basic questions to gauge where they are in their understanding of and relationship with Christ.  Common questions are "How have you felt Jesus Christ in your life personally," "Do you have a personal relationship with Christ," and "What can you do to draw closer to Christ?"  Unfortunately this isn't a question I have been asking myself lately.

Writing is more than a hobby for me.  It is a way by which I learn more about myself, process emotions, and receive personal revelation.  As I was struggling this past week I decided I was going to write a letter about the trials I am wading through because I knew it would help me pinpoint the crux of my emotional instability.  I ended up composing the letter and sending it in a rather lengthy email to a good friend of mine because I knew she would care and would have valuable input to give me.  The response she sent was full of love and comforting reminders of things I know to be true but that are hard to remember when you're having a difficult time.

She encouraged me to sing the hymn I Know That My Redeemer Lives and focus on a few of the lines.  The text she shared with me was meaningful, but while I sang through the lyrics in the shower this morning, different ones actually struck me; He lives to hear my soul's complaint.

I pride myself on my self-sufficiency.  Pride is the negative focal point of that sentence.  I get so stuck on being independent and not accepting help that I often don't even rely on Christ when I should.  How can I invite others to come unto Christ when I am not actively pursuing a stronger relationship with him? He lives to hear my soul's complaint!  Why have I been complaining to myself by way of journal entries instead of complaining to the one person who wants to hear it and can do something about it?  I am foolish, that is why.

As I took the time today during my personal study to inventory my relationship with Christ I recognized that my pride and stubborn nature will be my downfall.  I have never done anything harder in my life than what I am doing now.  Daily I am faced with situations that push me beyond my comfort zone and demand my diligent improvement.  I frequently find my mind wandering to my former life and the future beyond my mission and I've been in Arizona for an entire month. While I'm actively attempting to put everything on the sacrificial altar for 18 months while I serve The Lord, I often come up short.  Clearly I have a lot of areas in which I should be seeking the help and comfort of Christ to improve.  

I'm going to be honest.  I have no clue why I'm in Mesa, Arizona of all places in the world and I struggle with that.  There are literally 405 missions on this earth and I don't know what made this one the special one.  Sometimes I think I've been given more than I can bare because of the many connections and memories that I have here.  It would be much easier to forget everything if I was in Uruguay, Connecticut, or one of the other couple hundred missions I have no relatives, friends, or memories in.  While I continue to pray and figure out what my individual purpose is here in Arizona I have to rely on Christ to help me with the burdens I am laden with and remember that I can do hard things.  After all, in the words of one of my good friends, I am Amanda Poppe.

I decided today that I am going to rely on Christ more because that doesn't make me weak, it makes me stronger.  I have relied on Him before and know that He has the power to relieve my guilt, mend my broken heart, motivate me to change, and just love me.  I promise to all of those reading this post that if you sincerely pray and actively build your relationship with Christ you will notice a difference.  He doesn't require much of us, just a humble heart and a desire to change. Even if we can't offer those things He will love us, and sometimes love is all we need to make it through the storms that will inevitably attempt to drown us.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

It's My Blessing and I Want it Now!

A little over a year ago my younger brother proposed to his now wife.  This took place on the eve of my 22nd birthday month and 8th semester of college.  I was an unhealthy mixture of irate, depressed, confused, and bitter.  I often hid my desire to be married through the early years of college because I didn't want to be pegged as a girl who went to BYU to find a spouse and not to attain higher education, but I was starting to get nervous that my anti-marriage facade was the reason I had never found anyone.  The combination of my college career quickly ending and my younger brother popping the question before I had even ever seriously dated someone lead to a quarter-life crisis.  I was the oldest.  I was the only daughter.  I was the kid who was almost done with college.  I was the child that went to BYU.  I was the teenager who abstained from everything and strictly adhered to curfew.  I was the good example.  I was the Poppe child who deserved to be planning a wedding and a future.  I. I. I. My life quickly became a J.G. Wentworth commercial where instead of "It's my money and I want it now," the thought, "It's my blessing and I want it now!" often circulated through my inner-dialogue.  My attitude about my brother's upcoming nuptials was so sour that I couldn't even find a small space in my heart to be happy for him.  One day I was studying trials and read Jeffrey R. Holland's talk, The Laborers in the Vineyard, and was immediately chastised when I read, "We are not diminished when someone else is added upon."

My brother was getting married to a wonderful young woman and I had spent months being bitter because he found happiness before I did.  I knew the trials he had gone through in life and the struggles he had and saw those as making him unworthy of the one blessing I wanted but wasn't receiving.  I failed to notice that getting married was a blessing, but more importantly it was the motivation my brother needed to come back into the fold.  While a spouse was something that sounded nice to me, it was much more to my brother.  It was a symbol of repentance and the mercy of God.  He found someone to grow with.  We don't always know why things happen in life.  I don't know why I'm almost 23, single, and on a mission while my brother never served one and was married shortly after he turned 20.  I do know that he being blessed with a beautiful wife doesn't diminish me in any way because "the worth of souls is great in the sight of God (D&C 18:10)".  Marriage didn't make my brother any better than me because we are both equal children of the same Heavenly Father (well, and the same earthly father).

How often do we compare our blessings with others and dwell on how Heavenly Father put one more shiny toy in someone else's basket than our own?  Haven't we all received the most important blessing in the form of Jesus Christ?  All the other blessings we receive are just trifles compared to the salvation offered to us through the faithful sacrifice of God's Only Begotten.  All the other gifts we receive are just stocking stuffers compared to the real present, the Atonement of Christ, under the tree. 
June 8, 2013.  My brother, Bryce, and I with Brandon and my beautiful sister-in-law, Brianna.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Power of Personal Prayer

I tend to be a person of extremes.  I love something or I hate it.  I am really good at something or I’m downright awful at it.  I work very hard or am very lazy.  There are very few middle of the road areas in my life.  My ability to talk about and share my emotions falls into this category as well.  If I’m over the moon about something frivolous, you’ll know about it through multiple mediums.  If I have a strong political opinion, you’ll probably hear it.  If I detest a product or celebrity there will be a very public blog post about it.  On the other hand if I’m upset about something close to my heart, you’ll likely never know.  If I’m upset at a close friend or family member I’ll cover it up.  In this same respect, I haven’t shared with many people the long list of events that lead to me deciding to serve a mission.  I believe now is as good a time as any to tell the whole story.

In September of 2011 I had just started my junior year of college and was 20 years old.  I was living with two of my closest friends and was loving everything about my life.  I made a goal to attend the temple twice a month and started in mid-September.  While I was there I felt the urge to pray without knowing what to say.  This isn’t normal for me; I usually know what I want to converse with Heavenly Father about before I start.  I began my prayer and skirted through my mind unsure of what topic to land on.  I never really settled on anything and decided to end my prayer and read from the Pearl of Great Price.  I was reading from the book of Abraham about The Creation when I had the strongest impression that I should serve a mission.  This struck me as odd for two reasons; first, nothing about the scriptural passage I was reading had anything directly to do with missionary work; second, I never ever ever wanted to serve a mission (as badly as T-Swift never ever ever wants to get back together with whoever the other half of her we is).

There was a long line for baptisms that day so I had plenty of time to ponder on my recent spiritual prompting.  Having a topic to discuss with Heavenly Father, I decided to pray again.  We went around and around, He and I.  I reminded him that I didn’t want to serve a mission and that you should never serve a mission if you don’t want to.  He countered by whispering that sometimes we don’t know what we want. I also pointed out that I would be a terrible missionary—I hate talking about feelings and don’t like approaching strangers.  He gently reminded me that we are qualified to do any task we’re asked to do.  I rounded out my logical offense by letting him know that I had student loan debt and therefore I couldn’t afford a mission or a break from school.  He quietly spoke peace to my financial worries. 

I left the temple and called my mom in tears and relayed my experience.  Naturally she was excited because she, “always knew I would serve a mission!”  I was discouraged, exhausted, and confused after this experience and unsure what to do.  After all, I was only 20.  I was still seven months too young to serve a mission as girls still had to be 21 at this point in time to go forth and serve.  I continued to read my scriptures, attend my church meetings, go to the temple regularly, and really ponder what I was supposed to do with my life.  I started to warm up to the idea of a mission as 2012 rolled around and started to tell people I was planning on going on one. 

Shortly after my 21st birthday I met with the bishop in my home ward, as I was home from college for the summer, and began the missionary application process.  Throughout this entire endeavor I had severe anxiety, doubts, and depression at the idea of going on a mission.  I never would have chosen to do this on my own.  I tried very hard to convince myself that The Lord knew what was best and that I had to do this, if only because my parents were so proud of me for making the decision.  I completed everything for my application and was awaiting my call when my stake president phoned me to let me know he had some news about my mission call.  My assignment hadn’t been made, and wouldn’t be until I lost 15 pounds, bringing me to a healthier weight to serve a physically demanding mission at. Having battled with my weight since childhood I quickly became discouraged and started to doubt again why I was trying so hard to do something that I never wanted to do in the first place.

A few weeks after this phone call I broke down on my way home from camp for a weekend long break and called my friend/former roommate.  During the two hour car ride, she calmed me down and told me that I needed to do what was right for me and if I felt that going on a mission wasn’t right anymore then I shouldn’t do it.  I got home and didn’t get two sentences into a conversation with my mom about my week at camp before I started sobbing and told her I didn’t want to go on a mission.  My parents still loved me despite my disappointing news and I excitedly started to plan my return to BYU at the end of August for my senior year of college.  For the first time in almost a year I felt at peace, though it was short lived.

I constantly battled feelings of inadequacy and guilt throughout fall semester 2012.  I felt that I wasn’t worthy of any blessings because I should have gone on a mission.  I felt alone and unloved and like a disappointment to everyone who had been excited for me to go on a mission.  These feelings subsided slightly when in October the lower mission age was announced and I felt that I definitely wasn’t needed in the mission field because zealous young men and women were submitting mission paperwork left and right.  By the end of Christmas break in January of 2013 I was starting to believe that I was forgiven for not serving a mission.  I went on to have the most fun and fulfilling semester I had ever had in college and really began to believe that it was in The Lord’s plan for me to be at BYU at that point in time, and not on a mission.  I did well in my classes, interned at a law firm, got closer to a recently acquired best friend, and was getting really good at baking new things. Again I was at peace.

The semester ended and I got a new job and was working 50-60 hours a week to save money for the upcoming semester’s tuition and a June trip to Disneyland.  I was so busy I never had time to think, but I randomly decided to set a goal to study Preach My Gospel every day for half an hour.  In the back of my mind I knew I was preparing for a mission, but I really didn’t want to admit it to myself. 

The end of June rolled around and I set out on a vacation to California with some friends of mine from college and a few friends of theirs’ from high school.  For the first time in months I had time to think.  I still don’t know how it happened, but on one of the last rides we rode at Disneyland of the night I realized I wasn’t living my life according to Heavenly Father’s plan.  While floating through the fake Pirate’s of the Caribbean village I suppressed tears and frustration.  My friend miraculously sensed that my attitude had abruptly changed, though I didn’t vocalize anything, leaned over and quietly asked if I was doing okay.  In true Amanda fashion, I plastered on an authentic looking smile and said, “Of course!  I’m just tired—it’s been a long day.”  And it had been a long day, we arrived at Disneyland before the gates opened and the park was about to close at this point in time.  He let it go and I mustered enough energy to act happy long enough to get me to my hotel room. 

I ignored the prompting I received at Disneyland and went about my trip for a few more days.  As I got into bed after a day in the exhausting heat at Seven Flags I decided I needed to pray about a mission.  I waited until my friend fell asleep and then quietly wept as I told Heavenly Father in defeat that I was tossing in my towel.  He was in charge now and I wasn’t going to try to change His mind anymore.  Despite the fact that our Inglewood neighbors were blaring mariachi music outside of my hotel window, I felt the quiet, but clear voice speak to my heart; it was finally time for me to serve a mission.  As my weary legs throbbed from my whirlwind day of tourism, my heart throbbed with them to the Mexican music's beat because I realized how much faith it would require for me to actually go on a mission this time around.

I woke up the next morning and instead of watching television and resting like the others were doing, I snuck into the hallway to call my mom.  For half an hour I sobbed as I told my mom about my revelation to serve a mission.  How could Heavenly Father expect me to do something I didn’t want to do?  How could he expect me to do something I was going to be so bad at?  How could he ask me to give up the life I had grown to love—the friends, the new job at the rec center, the school?  I got more than one awkward stare as hotel patrons passed my hot mess of a self with my knees pressed to my chest on the telephone with my mother.  After comforting me for a few minutes she finally told me to buck up; Heavenly Father doesn’t ask us to do things we can’t do and he definitely doesn’t punish us for following His will (one of my main arguments against serving a mission was that by the time I got home I would be 24 and old by Mormon standards and clearly would never be married.  I truly felt like I was being punished for something, but I wasn’t sure what).  

Again I mustered enough strength to act like I was happy and embarked on a day trip to the beach with my co-vacationers.  This time I couldn’t control all the tears and had to artfully hide them behind sunglasses in the very back row of my friend’s mother’s car.  As everyone argued about which beach to go to, I tried to keep the tears rolling down my cheeks to a minimum.  We stopped at a mall and I trailed behind the group a bit and sat down on a bench by myself as one of our party stopped for a Jamba Juice.  The same friend who questioned me at Disneyland about my feelings asked again if I was doing okay.  I actually responded truthfully and said I wasn’t.  I briefly mentioned that I had decided to graduate in December of 2013 instead of April of 2014 and put in mission papers with an availability date of January 1, 2014.  I told him doing the right thing doesn’t always come easily and that for the first time in my life I was having a hard time accepting that The Lord’s idea of right differed greatly from my own.  At this our friends were ready to go and we headed back to the car and set off for the beach.  He smiled and said things would work out and that a mission was exciting and then we both acted like our exchange hadn’t just happened.  The second we got to Huntington Beach I separated from the group and called my younger brother and cried openly among the strangers strewn on beach towels and the horrid seagulls as I told him my news.

After this conversation I decided to quietly lie on the sand for a moment and gather myself so I could convincingly appear happy the rest of the day.  I went on to have a really great time at the beach and successfully distracted myself the last 24 hours of our trip.  Somewhere along the line my plan to graduate in December leaked and I was met with questions that I successfully avoided.  I wasn’t ready to talk openly about my new plan so I just always changed the subject.

I got back to Provo the first week of July and waited a few weeks before I met with my bishop to start my mission papers.  To help with the flurry of feelings I was experiencing, a good friend gave me a blessing and I was promised a lot of beautiful things if I heeded The Lord's prompting.  I had started coming around to the idea, though I still had an emotional few weeks as I accepted what I needed to do.  Around the end of August, amidst other trials, I finally felt good about serving a mission.  I was excited and finally turned the most important corner I’ve ever turned.  I realized that The Lord has given me everything in life; the least I could do was give him 18 months AND be happy about it at the same time.  I changed my perspective and shared the most sincere testimony I have ever shared during my bishop’s interview a few weeks later.  I honestly told him that I wanted to serve a mission because I had felt the power of Christ’s merciful saving grace in my life and wanted to share that with others.  His atonement had picked me up when I was at my absolute lowest and everyone deserved the knowledge that He would do the same for them.  I went on to tell him that the Gospel of Jesus Christ is perfect, even though it is administered by imperfect beings—myself being one of them—and that if someone was looking for it, it was my duty to share it with them.  Tears streamed down my face as I told my bishop that Christ has the power to soothe a broken heart, as he recently had started to do with mine, lend understanding, offer peace and love, and be the only person when no one else seems to be around.  I shared that I don't understand The Lord's plan, but I know there is one and I knew I had to submit mission papers in accordance with this plan.  I told him I believed in Jesus Christ, every living prophet we’ve had on this Earth past and present, and in the power of the eternal family.  And I believed every word I said and knew that that was why I had to serve a mission.

By the end of September I had once again completed all of my paperwork, medical and dental visits, and interviews and was awaiting my call.  Having had a stressful second semester of college that year I had actually lost about 20 pounds since the first time I submitted my mission papers the year before and my weight wasn’t a deterrent in me getting a call this time around.  My attitude had also changed by October 9th, the day I received my call to the Arizona Mesa Mission—literally the last place on Earth I thought I would be called to.

At this point it had been over two years since I had first been prompted to serve a mission.  I grew exponentially during that time and finally reached a point of clarity.  I was never intended to serve a mission in 2012 when I first submitted my paperwork.  All along the plan was for me to serve the people of Mesa, Arizona from January 29th, 2014 until approximately July of 2015.  Heavenly Father, being the wise creator that he is, knew it would take two years to soften my very hard heart and thus planted the seed long before the harvest was required.  In my lack of wisdom I automatically assumed I had to go right after I turned 21 instead of when The Lord needed me to enter the field.

Despite getting my assignment to Mesa, Arizona, of all places, I was excited when I opened my call envelope and it all felt right.  I went on to have a few doubts throughout the semester and at times I still worry that I won’t make it to the MTC on January 29th, but I have the assurance of understanding The Lord’s plan better now.  I also still find myself worrying that every eligible bachelor will magically find himself wedded by the time I return home at the ever-ancient age of 24, but I remind myself that if I am to be single forever that is all a part of the plan, not a bi-product of my mission’s timing.

Really? Why Did You Start Another Blog?

As far as blogs go, I have started more than my fair share.  Now that I have finished my online missionary training I can preach the good word via the world wide web.  There are specific rules I have to follow in doing this and one of them is creating a new blog that isn't from my pre-mission life.  My mom will continue to post my mission letters on my personal missionary blog, I will post uplifting messages on this blog, and when I'm home from my mission my typical sassy editorials will be on my personal non-spiritual blog.  I will occasionally do some throwback posts on here from my pre-mission spiritual blog as well.  Like Nephi, this blog will function as my small plates; purely spiritual messages.  My other blog is more like my large plates; scriptural happenings mingled with shenanigans and mission life.