So we started looked for a church service mission. It was hard to find just the right thing. Then we talked to someone who had served in the special needs seminary program and it sounded like just the right fit. We met with Sister Great at the Granite Seminary and she told us about the Young Church Service Missionary program.
It’s different from the Church Service Missionary program because missionaries have to get a call before they are 25 and usually they have reasons they aren’t able to serve full-time missions. I got to attend the first real meeting of Young Church Service Missionaries when we had a group picture taken for President Monson and then we had a fireside at the Conference Center. It was so interesting to see all of the different people who were serving as Young Church Service Missionaries like me.
While I was serving my mission, I was able to go to a few of those firesides and they always felt like zone conferences for us. You probably know that my sister, Teach, was also serving her mission at the same time I was serving mine. We talked a lot about the differences and the things that were the same about our missions. But I think the most important thing was that we were all trying to share the gospel with other people, be good examples, and build our own testimonies at the same time.
So ever since I started the mission, I knew I had to be a good example to the special needs children in the seminary buildings. My mom and dad were worried that I might not get the hang of children drooling all the time. However, I never had a problem with that, because when I was little, I was around lots of kids doing actions like that. And we’ve had lots of babies at our house…
Anyway, each of the children in the seminaries were very happy to see me be there every day. The teachers and the fellow missionaries were good to work with. At first, I wasn’t quite sure if I could remember the names of all the children, but with Heavenly Father’s help, I started to learn a lot of them. One of my favorite students was named Awesome Boy and he attended Kauri Sue Hamilton. I was so surprised that he moved onto our street and started coming to our ward! Now that my mission is finished, I still enjoy seeing him every week at church since I don’t see him at the seminary anymore.
When I was at the seminary buildings helping the children learn about the gospel, it made me feel like I was starting my whole life of seminary again. It was a blessing for me to start seminary over again, because when I was in high school, I slept through all of seminary. I was a miss-outer all right!
Somehow, the teachers had great ideas on how to help the special needs children understand the gospel, like using buttons called prayer aids. It’s when they push the button and it makes it sound like they’re praying. They made their own devotional boards with pictures of each job on them and then they do their part. They also have scripture mastery rhymes and they do their signs for them. For example, I liked doing the rhyme on Alma 41: 10. They say, “Alma 41, Unhappy Wicked One!” That reminds me that wickedness never was happiness. I knew all along that it never was, nor will it ever be, no matter how much Satan tries to make us justify that. That’s an important lesson for all of us to learn.
Now that I’ve told you about how a young church service missionary can serve, I have to admit that I’m actually glad that I don’t have doors slamming in my face or being persecuted in some other way. Although during my mission, I didn’t just go to the seminary buildings to help the students there, but I also served by doing splits with the other missionaries who were doing their full-time missions here in Utah. I didn’t know that part of my experience as a Young Church-service missionary was not just helping children with special needs, but I could also help other non-member families learn about the gospel. The missionaries were happy to have me teach the families about my testimony of the gospel and how it has blessed my life.
One time we had the opportunity to teach at Spigarellis, and the missionaries were having a hard time getting their name pronounced right. I was glad to be there to help them, since I knew the Spigarellis ever since they came to live in our neighborhood.
I also tried to share the gospel on my own whenever I got the chance. Mom bought me a stack of copies of the Book of Mormon and I carried them every day to school in my backpack. I don’t know if you all know I was going to Salt Lake Community College the same time I was serving my mission, but most of the time I had to wear my suit to school and people would ask me why I was always so dressed up. It was a good time to talk to them about the church. I got to give away a few books and sometimes even bear my testimony to them. I hope some of them will join the church.
Sometimes, during the mission, missionaries have to be transferred to a different location. For instance, the first months of my mission I helped at Hartvigsen in Taylorsville. I really enjoyed working with the teachers and students there. I only got to serve over there until the summer started and then I was transferred to Granite Seminary downtown. I sometimes hate policies, but the teacher from the Granite seminary told me that I shouldn’t be serving at seminaries that are further away from my home. I was a little disappointed about that, but I knew that it was part of experiencing what it’s like to transfer to a different location during my mission.
For the whole mission, I helped out at Kauri Sue Hamilton and then at the beginning of autumn, I started to help at Transitions Academy, which it’s not a seminary, but an Institute for children with special needs. One student named Annie, really liked me and wanted to follow my example by going on a mission in her future. I’m sure she would be an awesome Young Church Service Missionary someday.
There were a lot of other things that happened during the mission, besides helping the children. The seminary teachers, including the missionaries, got to do a special production called a Choirside. It’s kind of like a fireside, except there is more singing that talking because a lot of children can understand the gospel by music and lyrics. As missionaries, we also got to be in the Choirside but we had to rehearse a hymn by narrating the words. That means we never got to sing the verse, but we got to read the verse like a narrator while the music of the hymn is playing.
Sometimes, children and even adults have a hard time understanding the scriptures and why we read and follow them. I had a feeling that would be the same for special need children, since they might have hard times understanding things, just like I did in my childhood. So, I made a gigantic book full of pictures with scripture references at the bottom of each one as a way to better understand the scriptures. You can even compare the scriptures to family photos, church history sites, movies, etc. For instance, in one of my favorite movies, called The Lion King, I found a perfect reference that goes along with it. It’s found in Helaman 5: 12 of the Book of Mormon. “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 woe, because of the rock upon which ye are built, which is a sure foundation, a foundation whereon if men build they cannot fall.” That reference is an analogy of the character in which the devil bringing all those things to all men is like Scar bringing all those horrible things to Simba, but Mufasa tells Simba the most important advice, “Remember Who You Are.” All my life, that advice has been so powerful, it feels like Heavenly Father’s telling me that same advice and I try to always remember who I am, when I’m serving the mission and even when I’m not. I am a child of God and my Heavenly Father loves me and I love Him.
While serving as a missionary, even if it were easy to act like a Child of God with the special needs children, sometimes it was really hard to act like it at home. Sometimes, I end up having to deal with anger management issues with some of my younger siblings who are occasionally snarky and envious, but my mom would tell me that I should have a missionary voice instead of a coach voice. Most of the time I get along with my younger siblings, but sometimes I don’t. That helped me learn that sometimes it is easier to be nice to people who aren’t related to me, but I should still be nice to people who are related to me, because Heavenly Father loves all His children and He knows that we make mistakes. Even when serving the mission, I still made mistakes while serving, like watching a rowdy TV show or being angry when I’m not serving in the seminary or being on splits with the other missionaries. That’s when I try to find time to go to the temple. I love going to the temple and serving in the House of the Lord. I always wear my missionary badge when I am there and it makes me feel so close to my Heavenly Father that I never want to leave the temple.
As a missionary, I tried to influence and serve my family by giving them gifts that would help them to build their testimonies. For instance, I made each member of my immediate family scripture journals with a packet of references from the scriptures, the Friend, Family Home Evening, and much more. Every time I read the scriptures, I always write down in my journal what I’ve learned from the scriptures and see if it can help me in the future and I wanted my family to experience the same thing. To show my love on Valentine’s day, I bought Scripture Mastery cards to help everyone in the family to know the important things they can find in the scriptures. I hope I have made a difference in their lives by reminding them what is important.
Besides educational opportunities, I also had a fun mission opportunity to enter into Kauri Sue Hamilton’s Cupcake Wars competition. My idea of cupcakes was to make “Book of Mormon Blueberry” and I won the Most Creative award for it. That was an easy chance to remind everyone that I am a missionary and I am happy to give them a Book of Mormon.
I’ve also learned that missionaries can face trials, more than just being spiritually persecuted and causing contention. For example, last Christmas, when I was going throughout the week of serving the children, I started having an irritable headache and it wouldn’t go away for a few days. My mom tried to help me by giving me Ibuprofen, but it didn’t work out as well as I thought. Before Christmas ever came, and I still didn’t feel well, I had to stay home from serving the mission until I felt better and that made me sad. I asked President Happy, my Mission President, to see if he would give me a healing blessing. He brought a companion since my dad was out of town and they came when I asked and gave me the blessing. Right after the blessing, I started to feel almost better, until later that day, I was cured, because it was the Holy Ghost telling me that President Happy and his companion were called to help people. And that missionaries have been called to serve and teach the Gospel in the world and Heavenly Father wants his missionaries to be healthy and not sick.
I tried to write a letter every week to my mission president, just like a full-time missionary. Every letter I wrote to President Happy, I always asked for advice on how I could become a better missionary, especially when residing at home. I asked him for advice on controlling my temper and even how to find more appropriate comedies to watch while on break, like Studio C. By following his advice, it made me a happier missionary which is why I extended my 1-year mission to 18 months. Not because it’s awkward to end during a school year, but because it helped me realize that it has been a blessing for me to help children with disabilities. I decided to because a special education teacher mostly because I like working with these special people.
I would just like to bear my testimony that I know that the church is the only true church on earth. I’m grateful that our prophet Joseph Smith restored it and it continues on today, led by President Monson. I’m also grateful that I had the opportunity to make a difference for the children that Heavenly Father asked me to serve. I love them and I loved being a missionary. I love my family and friends who supported me during my mission. I love our Savior, Jesus Christ and our Father in Heaven. In the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.