Honestly, I never know where to start with these things, so I guess I should start at the beginning…. When I chose to serve a mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.
Growing up I heard stories from my mother about when she served her mission in France. I loved hearing her stories but never seriously considered serving a mission. Traditionally, the age women could serve a mission was 21, so I had a while to make up my mind. However, that changed in October 2012, when the historic announcement was made that the age was lowered for when young men and women could serve missions. For young women, the age was lowered from 21 to 19. At the time I was almost 20 1/2, right in between. When the announcement was made I actually was on a study abroad program in the Kingdom of Jordan, so I was able to postpone thinking about what the implications of the age change had for me until I returned to the states. However it was at the back of my mind.
My mother told me that shortly after the age change had occured, people started asking her when I was going to put in my mission papers. When I heard this I was so angry and outraged. In my mind I was thinking, “How dare these people automatically assume that I even want to serve a mission? How dare they try to predict and determine what I want to do with my life?” Obviously, serving a mission was not an idea on the table at the time and my heart was hardened so that it would not be for some time.
I returned to BYU in January 2013. I had two roommates, both of whom were freshman (and I was finishing up my junior year). One of them, Robin, and I became particularly close. Robin was so excited to serve a mission. She didn’t turn 19 until September, but she had already made up her mind to serve. She would light up every time she talked about going. I on the other hand would shut down, and do what I could to change the subject.
Well, my life had become stagnant. I was losing interest in my classes, which is something I had once loved. I was bored and it was a trial to study, I had to force myself to do my homework and to go to work, I functioned that semester through sheer will power. I was taking three religion classes, which I think helped to give me the strength to make it through the semester. I also had a calling in my ward that required me to go to several meetings and leadership trainings. These things were not connected at all, and yet one thing kept coming up. Missionary work.
I was constantly being pounded with phrases like “Serving a mission” or “When you serve a mission”, people in classes would bring up serving a mission, or even in the material, and none of my classes were missionary oriented, would bring up missionary work. After some time I was kneeling in prayer and finally took the hint. I asked my Father in Heaven if serving a mission is what He wanted me to do with my life. The answer I received was not one of an overwhelming affirmation, but it was rather a neutral feeling. Ultimately, the choice was mine, God wasn’t going to tell me what to do one way or the other.
So, I went back to studying, going to classes, doing homework, trying to have a social life, but things kept coming back to this overwhelming question of what I should do. I was nearing the age of 21 and one of my friends in particular (who had already served a mission) would ask me a lot about whether or not I had decided (I had told him of my dilema and he never pushed, just listened and made suggestions). By this time, it was March and I needed to decide if I was going to look for housing for the Fall or get a deferrment and hold my place at school.
I finally broke down and read in my scriptures and then I pulled out a blessing I had received and had not read in a long time. In it, it specifically mentions being a “Missionary in the Kingdom”. I had my answer. I got back down on my knees and told the Lord that I was ready to do what he wished of me, I was ready to put my life on hold to serve Him. That time I received a feeling of comfort, and in the back of my mind the thought came, “Sister Elliott, you have known all along what you were supposed to do, you have known since you were almost 14 years old. You just fought it, and I am glad and proud that you have stopped fighting”.
So, with that choice, my plans completely changed. I only had 1 year of school left before I would graduate with my bachelor’s degree….yeah, that got put on hold. I went home for the summer and worked. I filled out all the paperwork, had the appropriate interviews, had my picture taken (that actually was the hardest thing for me to do and for about a month was the only thing stopping me from putting in my papers…..I really don’t like pictures that much 🙂 and finally subitted my papers. Two weeks later on October 31st 2013 I received an envelope in the mail. Enclosed was a letter that said “Dear Sister Elliott, you have been called to serve as a Missionary in the Florida Jacksonville Mission….”
And with that, my future was decided. I entered the Missionary Training Center on February 5th, 2014 and arrived in Jacksonville, Florida on February 18th. That was almost 4 months ago. At the beginning I had my doubts as to whether or not this is truly what I should be doing, and if this is where I am supposed to be. But, I now know that all the things that happened transpired to get me to this point and this place.
Like Jesus Christ, I am going about my Heavenly Father’s business, spreading the Gospel to all who will listen, and building the Kingdom of God on the Earth. And I wouldn’t trade this time for anything in the world.