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Sunday, March 3, 2013

My Wrestle With God

My name is Colten Mortensen.

I was a little reluctant about going to Nauvoo. Even at times a little rebellious, but it all started about 2 months ago…I was asked by one of the drama kids from high school if I would be interested in running the sound equipment for the Nauvoo Pageant. I was kind and said maybe I might (with a thought in the back of my mind...there is no way!), so after we talked for a little bit he said he would have Elder Camp call me. After a few weeks, I got a call. He asked me a little bit about my background in the "Sound Productions." He was very excited and said he felt strongly that I was the one to come to Nauvoo, in the back of my mind, though, I was thinking that he was mistaken…all that I’m feeling is hungry, with Mom’s cooking filling the air! He told me to pray about it and, in the meantime, fill out an application. (Note: you need to apply to be a part of this program, and 100s of people apply. I did not know this little fact.) Well, I put it on the back burner and forgot all about it for a couple of weeks, then it popped back into my mind, and I came up with thousands of excuses of why I should not go. And most of them were doggone good reasons, and by now a month had gone by, and I thought that I was in the clear. It was on a Thursday…I was just driving home after school…and I got a phone call. It was Elder Camp’s wife! She said that I needed to fill out my application so they could issue my call. I told her that I didn't think I would be able to go, and began telling the thousands of excuses I had. She then said... "You know, any time the Lord calls you on a mission, the Lord requires sacrifice."

I thought to myself, oh no you didn't! I used that on all of my investigators, and I knew the counter response. I said, “Well I think the Spirit is telling me I need to stay.” Then Sister Camp said, “Well, if that is the case, then you definitely listen to the Spirit...” Although I think she could tell I was bluffing. She then said she would take me off of the list. We then said goodbye and I hung up the phone. Well as you could imagine, I felt guilty, so I called her back and said, “OK, here’s the deal, I will go and pray about it.”  I went to the temple that Saturday with this prayer in my heart, and as I was going through the temple the law of consecration hit me hard. I thought, is this my answer, that I am to give all that I am to the Church? As soon as we had gotten to the end, I felt like it was my answer. So I prayed and prayed and told the Lord, “If this is your plan for me, then I will do it. But if it is not your plan for me, then please stop me.”

I left the temple that day on a cloud. I felt that the Lord had answered my prayer, so I went home and began to look for Sister Camp’s phone number.  But as I looked, it was nowhere to be found. I went to church the next day and saw the Drama Kid and thought to myself, “Oh goodie, I will just get her number from him!” Well, just as I said that he got up in the middle of sacrament meeting and left. Oh, great! I thought to myself, Maybe I am not supposed to go. If I can’t get hold of her then I definitely can’t go. As I sat thinking about this a high school friend (who had nothing to do with drama) grabbed me and pulled me out of sacrament meeting and said, "There is a meeting that you need to be in!" I was totally confused but thought maybe it had something to do with my new calling. So I went into the room where there were two Senior Missionaries. And to my surprise they said, "We are with the Nauvoo Productions!" I later found out that they have never traveled around to talk about the show before, but this time they decided to meet with all the people in Cache Valley, and they chose my building as a good location for everyone to meet. Talk about the right place at the right time. It was then that I knew that I was called to go to Nauvoo.

A Change of Focus

The last year has been a roller coaster of emotions and decisions. For me it's been one of the best and one of the worst years of my life. Last year in February I started dating an amazing girl and life was the best it's ever been. In October we were engaged the day after President Monson's announcement to change the missionary age for Elders and Sisters. After talking together for a month and her own soul-searching, she decided that she needed to go on a mission. It's been a life-long dream of hers and I knew that I needed to support her as well. The months that followed have been difficult for both of us, but especially for her. As I've seen her struggle, I've been saddened and also tempted. I decided I needed to focus more on my school, work and my own problems.

A few months later my friend Devin announced that the Church was looking for a few more Elders to go to Nauvoo as Tech Missionaries. When I saw what he wrote I felt that I needed to learn a little bit more. He said, "If you're interested even slightly let me know." So I got a hold of him and we talked for a while on the phone and then met in person. As I talked with Devin I felt that he had a light that I had been missing in my life. For too long I had been thinking about myself. My problems, my homework, my job, my money, my life. I realized that I couldn't go on like that. The only way for me to get better and follow Christ is to forget myself and lose my life. I had thought about working this summer and earning money but that didn't feel right. I had thought about pursuing my hobbies but that didn't feel right either.

Suddenly I felt like what I really needed to do was forget myself and serve the Lord. Ever since returning from the mission field I've always wanted to go back. I think of my time as a Missionary every day and how much joy it brought into my life. Truly that was where I was happy, and that was what was missing. I called Elder Camp and a week or so later I met with him and others in Hyrum. I sang for Sister Camp, but felt that I didn't want to or need to perform if called to Nauvoo. Although I don't have much experience in tech work, I felt like I needed to be behind the scenes and not have the spotlight on me. If I did serve, I felt I shouldn't be a performer. A few days later I was at work driving around running errands for my boss. As my phone rang and I looked who was calling my heart skipped a beat. As I spoke to Elder Camp that day I suddenly felt hope and peace in the future.

Although scared, nervous, anxious, and even a bit worried for everything ahead, I remember that I both thought and felt that this was the right thing and that the Lord was giving me an opportunity to find true happiness and forget myself. I'm grateful for this amazing gift the Lord has given us to use our talents to help His children feel the spirit and grow closer to Him. Although inadequate, weak, and imperfect, He can make me able. He can make weak things strong. I know he watches out for me and through this call I feel that even more strongly.

More Than Performing

Nauvoo has always had a special place in my heart. I’ve visited ever since I was young, and always knew it was sacred ground. The spirit is so strong, and the atmosphere is filled with the testimonies of saints that sacrificed so much for the church. I always knew I wanted to be a performing missionary in Nauvoo. My sisters did it, my friends did it, and every summer I longed to be on the stage with them. But little did I realize that it’s so much more than singing and dancing: you are being a musical instrument in the hands of the Lord, to bear your testimony of His gospel, and be a witness of His glorious work. I am so humbled to be able to perform for the Lord this summer, and bring joy to those who visit. I feel like I have been given my talents for this purpose- to serve. As soon as I accepted the calling to be a YPM I felt the Lord do His work in my life. Confusions I had about my future were cleared and sorted out, and I had so much joy and peace. It’s amazing what happens when you put your complete faith in the Savior… everything works! It’s hard and confusing at times, but when you know you’re doing exactly what the Lord wants you to do, it all comes together and makes sense. I am overjoyed, and cannot wait to serve with amazingly talented and spiritual folks this summer. I love Nauvoo, I love music, and I love the Lord and His gospel. Here’s to dancing with the mayflies!!

Angels Were With Me

As cliché as it may sound, it is very difficult for me to put into words my feelings about this mission. Eight years ago, my oldest sister, Dani, was called to this same mission. I didn't really understand what she was going to be doing all summer. That is, until I came to visit. Nauvoo truly is the City Beautiful. The spirits of the people there, both past and present, make it home. I knew from the day I left there that I would be back someday, no matter what it took.

This past year has been a blessing in disguise for me. It's been a chain of events including getting turned down for productions and opportunities that allowed me to join a choir where I would meet a very immensely influential person. One of my best friends now, Devin Davis, who was a YPM last year, helped me to get my audition tape in.

I knew it was a long shot and that there would be many applicants. That call back was shocking to me. It was at callbacks where I knew, not wanted, but knew that I needed to go on this mission.

I want to share a really dear moment that happened at the callback. I was really scared. I mean REALLY scared going into this. I didn't feel confident in picking up the violin again after all these years and I had barely learned to clog three days before this audition. I cannot deny the Spirit that lifted me in those moments. The only thing I could say to my parents when I got home was that I truly had angels in my fingers as I fiddled, and angels in my feet as I clogged.

I can't even comprehend myself what joy and light is waiting for me in Nauvoo.

And I can't express my eagerness and longing to be there now. My testimony will not waver. I have had too many witnessing moments. I love this Church. I love missionary work. I cannot wait to work with my brothers and sisters this summer in the beautiful city of Nauvoo for my Savior!!

On Parley Street

Three months ago, I had never heard of Young Performing Missionaries.  I didn’t know that there was a performing mission centered in Nauvoo in which young adults participate every summer.  To me, Nauvoo was an incredible spiritual place that stands as a powerful testimony of the sacrifice of those that gave quite literally everything they had to further the Lord’s Kingdom on the earth in the last days.  The thought had never crossed my mind that I would ever do more than just visit the City Beautiful.  However, the Lord has long been preparing me for this journey he knew I would undertake, and I already have a deep and abiding love for the city.

I will never forget that day.  On Wednesday October 21, 2009, I slowly paced down the length of Parley Street, Nauvoo. With me were my father, mother and little sister.  We were nearing the end of a week my parents had long planned and looked forward to. They had wanted me to experience the spirit that is so abundant in Nauvoo before I set out to preach the gospel in whatever part of the world to which I would be called to serve my mission.  Just a week before we left home, I had sent in my mission papers.  The days we spent visiting the church history sites were very touching for me, as I was able to witness so many places in which so many sacrifices were made for the gospel’s sake.  I remember walking along the street, reading the plaques depicting those that had unshakeable testimonies of the true church of Jesus Christ and of the prophet Joseph Smith.  It was at that moment that my phone rang.  Answering it, I was greeted by the happy, yet emotional voice of my older brother.  “Remember today, David,” he counseled me.  He then told me of a letter he currently held in his hand.  A letter signed by a prophet of God.  A letter addressed to me.  The most calming and peaceful feeling I had ever experienced until that time washed over me; the Lord had called me to serve him, and I was only days away from finding out where.  That feeling and that day have since been burned into my memory, and I can’t wait to stand on Parley Street again.

I was called to serve in Brazil.  For two years I devoted myself to my Father’s service, teaching his people.  For two years I was taught what it truly means to love unconditionally, and to have charity for someone that I barely knew.  For two years I witnessed the joy that the gospel brings into the lives of those that have wandered for so long in darkness.  For two years I testified of the veracity of the Book of Mormon, and that there is a living prophet on the earth today, who guides the one and only true church of Jesus Christ.  For two years I learned lessons that I would carry with me for much, much longer than two years.  My mission meant everything to me, and I will never forget how special it was to be a servant of the Lord Jesus Christ, and to bear his name on my chest.

I returned from my mission in February of 2012.  I had the next few years of my life all planned out in finite details.  But sometimes the Lord plans things a little bit differently for us than the way we see them for ourselves; and the influence of a friend that is living the way they should can and does make all the difference in the world.

I sing in a choir at the institute on the campus of Utah State University.  Every day, the music we sing has a perfect ability to bring the spirit sufficiently to flood my heart and make my days better.  One day before class, a friend and fellow choir member asked me if I wanted to audition for something that he was helping another student with that he thought I might be interested in.  I said no thank you, I didn’t want to.  Several more times he asked me, to all of which I responded that I wasn’t interested.  Over the course of the entire rehearsal period he told me that I needed to make an audition tape, and that he would help (make) me do it.  At the end of an hour of denying, I finally conceded.  He filmed as I completed the necessary steps to make an appropriate video.  After the video was complete and he explained how to send it in, I asked the simple question of what it was that I was auditioning for.  My friend’s jaw dropped slightly as he realized that he had neglected to tell me exactly what it was that he wanted me to participate in.  He quickly told me that I would be performing during the summer in Nauvoo.  He told me that I would have the opportunity to be a missionary again, if selected.

In that moment, all of the love, peace, and happiness that I had experienced as a missionary in Brazil flooded into my heart.  I recalled in that instant the day I had been standing on Parley Street over three years prior, and the elation that the simple knowledge of having a mission call had brought.  The Spirit whispered peace to my heart, and as my eyes brimmed with tears of joyful remembrance I knew that my plans didn’t matter, and that I was to set my sights on Nauvoo.

I look forward to serving my Master again as a full-time missionary.  I relish the thought of praising his name through music in such a special place as Nauvoo.  I am thrilled to stand again in the very spot that I first felt like a missionary on a crisp day in October, long ago.

I can’t wait to feel the Spirit that I know will accompany me as I walk Parley Street once more.

My Life On Hold

When I was sixteen, my brother had just left on his mission. He was my best friend, and the best example. I was lonely, and depressed, and I was just plain ANGRY at the Church. I hated this group that stole my brother away from me. A few months after he left, my parents took me to Nauvoo. I remember LOVING the cute shows the YPMs put on (because I love musicals, as do we all!), and when they sang "Invocation" in the visitor center, I remember a distinct feeling of peace. I knew that the Church was true, and it was ok that my brother was gone for a little while.

They YPMs were all on the balcony, and I made eye contact with one girl, who was gorgeous. She kept looking at me, and smiling at me. Then I saw them again at the sunset on the Mississippi show, and she found me after the show, and gave me a big hug. She said she felt like we knew each other. She told me that I should definitely audition to be a YPM when I was old enough.

Then I forgot about it all. I started having all these huge projects in the summer, study abroads, internships etc., and THIS summer, I was planning on starting my own theater company with a friend of mine back home. We had petitioned for the rights to a show, we had most of the cast, and were just waiting to hear back from investors and the venue.

Sometime around November, I got a facebook invite to a Nauvoo performing mission information session. It was on campus, and it was on a Sunday night, and I remembered how much I had wanted once, those very many years ago, to be a performing missionary. The meeting was lovely, the Camps seemed fantastic, and I knew a couple of the last years' YPMs through choir. But the moment that got me, was when all the YPMs from previous years got on the stage and sang Invocation.

I felt a flood of joy and peace, and remembered that moment, 5 years ago, when I fell in love with Nauvoo because of the spirit there.

I auditioned. I never thought in a million years that I'd get a call-back!

I couldn't SLEEP the night I got the email about call-backs. (I jumped up and down for 15 minutes to try and get out some of that energy).

After auditions, I normally feel very anxious, and I second-guess everything. But that next day, after call-backs, I just felt like I was going to go. I was nervous, of course, as were we all I'm sure. I checked my phone at least 60 times during church for any missed calls or email notifications--I drove my roommates crazy. But I just really felt like I was going to go. When I found out, I called my theatre partner, and told him we couldn't produce the show this summer. And I called my stage manager for a show I was going to be in that opens in May. I found Amber on facebook too, and she said that my going to Nauvoo was an answer to a recent prayer of hers.

It all just felt right. And it was wonderful.  I couldn't be more thrilled for the opportunity to serve the Lord in this capacity!

Closed Doors

This is going to be a little difficult for me. I always have a hard time talking about the things that are very near and dear to my heart, as Nauvoo most definitely is. It’s not that I don't want to share my experiences with others, it’s that I don't feel I can express myself in a way that fully describes my feelings and experiences, and in trying to do so I feel as though I cheat their value by describing them as less than they really are. But I will do my best and hopefully I can capture a little bit of what I feel.

I feel as though the Nauvoo experience is something that sticks with those who go for the rest of their lives. As satisfied as they may be with what they are doing in their lives in the years to come, I feel that there will always be that little piece of their heart that longs to be in Nauvoo. I am just one of the lucky few who get to go, experience the miracle of Nauvoo, feel that need after returning, and then indulge that desire by going again. I certainly wasn't planning on going a second time. Luckily for me, the Lords plans are not my plans and as I trust His will, things work out really nicely.

After I got back from my full time mission, I had a lot of plans of what I wanted to do and where I wanted to be. As I pursued those plans and intentions they one by one crumbled around me and did not come to fruition. I found myself a bit lost and confused, wondering why my righteous desires were not being fulfilled. The Camps had asked me if I would consider trying out again and as path after path closed before me I began to wonder if it was because I just wasn't going down the right one for me at this point in time. So very last minute I decided to go ahead and audition to test the waters a bit and see if this turned out any different. As I was accepted, I realized that this was the only thing I had really pursued since returning home that was working out for me. I began to see the Lord's wisdom in closing off the other avenues for me because if I had gotten my way in the beginning, Nauvoo would not have been an option.

So that is where I stand. It is a bit of a leap of faith for me right now. I know that I am supposed to go to Nauvoo and that this is what the Lord wants for me right now. I do not know why or what lays in store for me but I know that it will be exactly what I need.

He Did Not Reject Me

I was watching General Conference when I heard the announcement about the mission age change, and I nearly lost my mind with excitement and texted my parents “I’M GOING ON A MISSION.” I stood motionless and silent in my Salt Lake apartment and thought the Lord was telling me directly to serve a full-time mission. My mind was made up and I was so excited.

Then...I prayed about it. As I prayed, letting the Lord know my plans, I realized I had completely forgotten to include Him in them. Finally, I broke down and asked if it was the right thing for me to do; suddenly, I lost all power to articulate... I couldn’t focus my thoughts. This was especially aggravating because I needed to tell Him all the reasons I should go on a mission before He gave me my answer. The only problem was, I couldn’t think straight long enough to remember them. I wrestled for an hour trying to tell Him how things were supposed to go. The ringing in my ears gave me a real headache and I decided it was time for a break--it wasn’t until this short reprieve that the term “stupor of thought” came to me.

Imagine my dismay.

How could the Lord tell me no? I was offering to serve Him! I was willing to give up all the things I had going for me here: my Musical Theatre Program, my scholarships, my job, my friends, Lake Powell! None of it made any sense. Later that very day I was grappling with my feelings when I remembered someone had mentioned Nauvoo to me earlier that month at a cast party at Chili’s. I whipped out my iPhone and Googled it on the spot. I realized the Lord didn’t specify no service missions and as they were still accepting audition videos for another month, the whole thing seemed very fortuitous.

Not unreasonably, following the catastrophe with my full-time mission decision, I was not about to do anything without a complete affirmation from the Lord. Since I didn’t feel conclusively that it was the right thing to do, I procrastinated making my video. I was waiting for some cosmic sign that it was my destiny to go to Nauvoo. Weeks came and went and I thought about it, but never made that video. The due date came and with some measure of dismay, I realized I hadn’t done a thing. I became truly distressed wondering why my normally motivated, hard-working self let this happen and felt no inclination to get it done. I was so afraid me not being moved to make that video meant I wasn’t meant to go to Nauvoo. I prayed, called my mom, read my Patriarchal Blessing, and to my dismay, I never found the words “Kirsten, thou shalt audition to be a Young Performance Missionary.”

What I did find was the promised blessing of “clarity of mind” and my track record of having made good life decisions in the past. When I looked at the situation rationally I realized I’d rather put in the work and keep the option open and let the Lord tell me where I’m supposed to be then forgo the opportunity because of fear. This realization came to me at 4 p.m. The tape was due at 5.

I ran to my friend’s house (who is not a member and could not figure out what I was auditioning for) and filmed in his basement, kneeling in the bathroom for my monologue because that was the only plain white wall I could find. I made the DVD on my laptop, prayed for a miracle and had my sweet sister and brother-in-law drive the DVD directly to Elder Wortley’s house around 8 that night. That was a miracle.

Since I rushed in that blasted tape, everything became smooth sailing. Everything happened quickly, I didn’t even have time to be nervous. Honestly nothing has ever felt more right. I look forward to Nauvoo every second of every day and continually look for ways to bring it up in conversation. I have a hard time remembering I’m not leaving for 2 months and realizing I have to plan for life after Nauvoo as well. I couldn’t be more ready to work and play and grow.

Rediscovering My Future

My Nauvoo story begins before I was born, when my grandma and grandpa were called to run the YPM program. Growing up, I visited their home in St. George often and browsed through pictures from their many years of service. Seeing pictures of cousins and friends surrounding my grandparents, I always thought I would join them one day. And my fascination with Nauvoo only grew when my family spent two weeks there in 2005.

Among all my performing experiences in junior high and high school, my favorite was the Nauvoo Pageant. The friends I made there, the stories, the feeling and love of the experience, were matchless in my limited experience. And somewhere around this same time, something dissuaded me from being a Young Performing Missionary. Perhaps it was the replacement of my grandparents as directors, or my wonderful experience with the Nauvoo Pageant core cast and my desire to be part of that, or the focus on career and business that came later in high school and after my mission. But whatever it was, the years directly before and after my mission were occupied by anything but the YPM program. High school consisted primarily of musicals, singing groups, soccer, and academic pursuits, and it was closely followed by a mission to Spokane, Washington, speaking Spanish. Upon my return, I was ready to graduate quickly, marry quickly, and set out to conquer the world. The changes that came instead could not have been less expected.

My college career began with a major in Business Management, which fascinated me less and less the more I studied it. The principles were sound but very routine, lacking the depth and purpose that other disciplines seemed to carry. I even got an incredible job and several internships in the field of Human Resources, which I seriously considered, but I decided that I wanted something more. After a difficult winter in 2012, I spent the last summer in Mexico on an internship/study abroad experience that changed my perspectives. Face to face with cultural contexts, the ambiguity of life, sorrow, joy, spirituality, darkness, and my God, I learned much about myself that surprised and humbled me. I came back with my head whirling but my heart more ready to listen. In the following months, I changed my major to Philosophy, gave new effort to my performing and service opportunities, and decided to audition for the Nauvoo YPM program. I’m so grateful to be going, and hope to learn and grow tremendously this summer.

I Almost Forgot

The past three summers, I’ve had at least two friends called to be YPMs. I’d heard nothing but the best about the experience.  When a sister from last year, Megan Knell, posted a link about auditioning for this summer, I thought, “Why not? It’s my turn, right?”

So, I decided to send in a tape. Now, I’m a HUGE procrastinator. I kept saying, “I’ll put it together this weekend.” And then when the weekend came I said, “next weekend, I’ll do it then.” I was depending on other people for help in putting the video together, and things kept falling through.  I became a bit discouraged, and thought that maybe I wasn’t meant to go because nothing was coming together.  However, that was not the case. The week before the video was due, everything fell into place.  There was finally a time that worked out when everyone who I asked to help—an accompanist and a friend to hit the “record” button—could meet. 

Upon arriving to the practice room we were going to use, we found two more friends who happened to be theater people! They gave me pointers and confidence and I was able to quickly record my songs.

The taping of everything else went smoothly as well. I almost forgot to include my scales, but the thought suddenly struck me, “Aren’t you missing something? Something having to do with your range?” I believe it was a nudge from the Spirit. Simple little things came together though the Lord’s hand, the video was quickly assembled—scales included—and sent off to HQ. 

Throughout the whole experience, I kept the attitude, “If I’m meant to go, I’ll go.” It was a blessing to have that knowledge, and my faith kept me strong through the process.  The thought of serving in Nauvoo brings a smile to my face and makes my heart swell with joy. I can’t wait!

Sacred Ground

Anyone who has had the blessed opportunity to visit Nauvoo, and then the doubly-blessed miracle of returning will know something; they'll know the feeling of coming home again.  There is a legacy of faithfulness left there, that literally dedicates the ground and gives it a spirit rarely felt elsewhere. Those who visit Nauvoo are invited by the early Saints and Brother Joseph --for it is a rare and beautiful privilege-- to learn from them and carry on their legacy.

While I longed to return after that wonderful time when I was seventeen and I went as a YPM the first time, I didn't think that it would be possible.  Now I know that, in spite of everything, I've been called to perform again. I am so grateful!  I will do so with all my heart.

This IS Worth It

As a senior in high school, I remember specifically a voice lesson in which my teacher mentioned the Nauvoo Young Performing Missionaries. She thought I would love that experience and urged me to audition. At the time I thought it sounded interesting, but was not serious about auditioning. I tucked the idea safely in the back of mind and forgot about it.

Freshman Year at BYU, I thought of it again and looked into auditioning. I was scared by the competition and decided not to try. Sophomore year was the same story.

In January 2012, I began thinking seriously of having my under-bite fixed by surgery. Braces were put on my teeth and surgery scheduled for April. In about March, I learned that the surgeon thought April was too soon and I could have surgery in May or in the fall, which would interrupt my junior year at BYU. One night, I knelt in prayer pleading with the Lord to know if May was right and whether I should have the surgery at all.

I wanted to be in choir again-would my voice experience problems? What about complications to my face? As I prayed, I felt a great calm and peace settle in my heart and mind with such a unified force I could not deny my answer. I went ahead and had surgery in May and then spent the summer recovering in Manila, Philippines where my parents are currently living.

At the conclusion of the summer, I was planning for fall semester and pondering my desires to serve the Lord. I was about to turn 21 in September and I was praying about a full time mission. I received a father's blessing and the impressions I received during it were to call my voice teacher and start lessons again and prepare for the Nauvoo mission auditions. These impressions startled me because I assumed I would never serve in Nauvoo, that it was only a dream I could wish for in years to come. However, when I returned to the U.S., I started voice lessons and immediately began researching audition requirements for Nauvoo.

In October, I had practiced a few times a week but had not seriously been preparing for the audition video. I distinctly remember, while I was in my room preparing for sleep one night, thinking "Maybe it's not worth it. Maybe I'll just audition next year, like the past two years." Immediately following this thought, I felt an added strength and determination with the thought, "No, this IS worth it and I can do this. How will I know if I don't try?" I determined to keep going and to increase my efforts to practice my audition pieces every day and continue in praying to be led to do the Lord's will for me.

Not long after that personal decision, I learned my best friend and folder partner in Women's Chorus was auditioning as well. We helped encourage each and knowing she was auditioning too helped motivate me to continue practicing.

On Friday night of October 26, 2012, I was home studying for an upcoming exam. At about 10 pm, I was bored of homework and remembered a ward member's birthday party in the apartment below mine. I casually thought I could stop by for a moment and then return to studying. I put on my BYU Women's Chorus jacket and went to the party. As I picked up a slice of cake, a blonde-haired girl with a kind smile came up and asked me, "You're in Women's Chorus? So am I!" We chatted for a while, and eventually a boy in my ward came up to join our conversation. I learned he was new in the ward and his name was Jake Slater. I asked Jake, "So how did you two meet?" They smiled at each other and Eden Brown said, "Well, we actually served in Nauvoo as performing missionaries this past summer...." No way. Excited to meet these two experienced YPMs, I told them I was considering auditioning. Happy by this exchange, they both told me of a fireside that Sunday in Salt Lake for prospective performing missionaries. Jake promised to send me the information via facebook. When I returned to my apartment, I prayed in gratitude for this tender mercy.

That Sunday, my best friend in Women's Chorus joined me in driving up to Salt Lake an hour before the fireside at 7pm. While in the car, I felt anxious and felt the need to pray. Nauvoo is a mission and I wanted to go in the name of the Lord with His Spirit, especially with the Spirit to discern if this is His will for me. I interrupted our conversation and asked if I could pray aloud while driving. My friend agreed. After the prayer, I felt a great peace in my heart that settled in my car. We were silent for a moment and we both felt the spirit enter our hearts. It was a neat experience! The fireside was wonderful and it was a great blessing to meet people and learn about Nauvoo.

After that experience, I continued to practice daily. I went to a second fireside given in the Harris Fine Arts Center at BYU by the Camps. I was grateful to have gone to both firesides, as I learned tremendously from both experiences.

Thanksgiving quickly approached and I planned to film my DVD over Thanksgiving weekend. The weekend before Thanksgiving I realized I needed to film then because the people I needed to help me create the DVD would be on vacation and unavailable. I found a student teacher of clogging to help me film my clogging routine and the Lord blessed me to find what I needed-a video camera and help filming. I thought of my cousin who knows how to create DVDs and I asked for his help. He was very busy, but the Wednesday before Thanksgiving he offered his help and while I was working with him, his other obligations that day were cancelled, one by one. Because of that, he was able and willing to give me hours of his time to finalize my DVD.

When I finally sent my DVD for the November 30th deadline, I prayed over it and reviewed the past few months. Learning I was called back was so exciting and evidence to me that I knew the Lord had been leading me along. The call-backs were an incredible experience and I felt so joyful and explicitly happy by the end of the day. I can't deny that I felt a push and a need to prepare an audition DVD. I felt like the tender mercies extended me were so clear and I feel very blessed and led along.

I am so grateful for the opportunity to serve in Nauvoo! I know that the Lord knows our righteous desires and leads us to where He wants us to be. I am so grateful!

I've Waited Years For This!

To start at the beginning, eight years ago when I was ten, my brother auditioned and became a YPM and he made it in. It was the first time that I had heard of the YPMs and later we went and visited him in Nauvoo. The wonderful experience I had going to Nauvoo, visiting the places from the Doctrine & Covenants, and being around the great sisters and elders influenced my life very much. From then on I wanted to try out when I was older, I also grew to love music and dancing.

I am positive that God has helped for a long time to accomplish my Nauvoo YPM goal. About 6 years ago my grandma decided to give her guitar to one of her grandchildren if they wrote an essay saying how they would use it, why they wanted it, etc. Well time went by and weeks later, thinking I was too late, I wrote the essay and ended up getting the guitar. That started me out on the guitar which has led me to the banjo, which I never thought I would play.

My banjo is another miracle that helped me with Nauvoo. I really wanted to get a banjo so I could play it for my YPM audition. However, banjos can be very expensive even if they are used or broken and being in slight financial hardships I could not find one anywhere that would work. Then after some days of looking for a good affordable banjo, a sale came up where Amazon was selling a brand new banjo including the picks for the perfect price. I was able to get it in time to learn some stuff for the auditions.

Even now that I have made it in to the YPMs I can still see Gods hand helping me with my struggles. For example, I have been able to sing in a barbershop group and one of the members ended up being LDS as well and he came up to me and offered to help me with expenses that I might have with the YPM and my full time mission. This came as a blessing to me because I was talking with my parents a few nights before about how we might be able to afford all of the expenses and still be able to have them come and visit Nauvoo.
After auditioning for the YPMs I felt that I did the best that I could do. I also felt satisfied with the experience of the auditions that I was already okay if I did not make it in. After the audition I felt very calm and did not end up worrying about it the whole drive home to Washington from Utah. I know that God was helping me because I have usually worried about things like that from choir and other singing festivals.

After I received the call that I made it in, I was so happy! I also found that I started thinking about all the things that I should do to prepare for Nauvoo, or my lacking in different areas that I need to improve. I cannot, however, sum up all of the emotions that I felt, because I was just flooded with so many I was just…full! I am still excited for Nauvoo and I am so ready for this school quarter to end so that I can put all of my time and effort into getting ready to share the wonders of Nauvoo with the people that come.

He Gives and Takes...And Gives Again

I was first informed about the Nauvoo performing service mission back in the fall of 2011. I had a very dear friend who had gone and, one day, she told me about her entire experience. Before we knew it, we had been talking about it for almost 5 hours straight. After this, I knew Nauvoo was something I wanted to strive for.

I was stressed to find out that I only had about a week to turn in my application before the deadline and so I quickly made my video and sent it all to Salt Lake. To my excitement, I had made the callbacks and traveled to Salt Lake that December and experienced a day full of the spirit and love Nauvoo gives to people. To make a long story short, I had made it! I was called to be a Nauvoo YPM for the summer of 2012. I couldn't have been happier. I was preparing myself and really working at doing everything I could to be spiritually, mentally, and physically prepared for Nauvoo.

March 15th, 2012 was a day I will never forget. It was a day my life was changed forever in so many ways. I had been diagnosed with cancer called Hodgkin's Lymphoma. Finding myself in a situation where I had no idea what the future held, I tried my hardest to call upon the Lord for help, guidance, and support. I knew at this point I could no longer fulfill my duty in Nauvoo that summer and I was literally heartbroken. There were many times, after realizing I couldn't go, when I would think, “Why would Father do this to me? He told me I was supposed to be in Nauvoo this summer.” But I learned so many things in result of that; the importance of patience, the value in trusting that The Lord understands the big picture, even if we don’t, and the confidence that the atonement is real and works in so many ways, even more than just dealing with sin.

So I lived my life, and went through chemotherapy and, finally, found myself cancer free and ready to continue with my lifelong plans. There was a time when I really wasn't sure if Nauvoo was right for me again. Sometimes I thought maybe I had missed my opportunity. But I decided to audition again anyway because if the Lord wanted me there than I would follow His will, and I wanted His will more than anything.

It wasn't until the second callback this year when I really felt that Nauvoo was really where I was supposed to be this summer. The spirit of Nauvoo was so strong at that callback, and after I made it again, my heart sang. The Lord had taught me so many valuable lessons throughout all of this. But one important one is that the Lord knows what is going to happen. I was given many personal experiences that proved to me that the Lord always knew I wasn't going to be in Nauvoo in 2012, but he gave me the knowledge of knowing I was worthy and accepted to go. And that is so powerful to me. He taught me the importance of working on the Lord's time, and not our own. I struggled with this, and struggled to see all my new friends I had made go out to Nauvoo and serving the way the Lord wanted them to. But I knew that the Lord had called me to serve in a similar action, but to serve in my home town, and to be an example to those around me while going through this hard time. I know my Heavenly Father loves me and is constantly building me up to be the best person I can be.

I am overwhelmed with humility that The Lord would call me to be in Nauvoo (twice). It is a sacred and holy place. It has been, and forever will be, a place I will cherish and love. I pray that I will do the will of the Lord to bless and influence those who need me out there this summer. It has been a long time coming for me, and I cannot wait. (:

God's Brushstrokes Leading Me To Nauvoo

Elder Bednar compares our everyday happenings and habits to a painted landscape full of individual brushstrokes that when looked at close up may not have any special pattern or relation.  However, when you look at the landscape from a distance, those individual brushstrokes transform into a wonderful, ordered masterpiece.  This describes my journey to Nauvoo—a combination of individual brushstrokes or experiences that, when looked at together, show the Lord’s picture for me in Nauvoo.

Beijing streets are synonyms of claustrophobia.  The sheer masses of people can be overwhelming and will eventually cause anyone not accustomed to them to quip at minor agitations.  I had just come from Provo where my job, calling, and life were surrounded with opportunities to serve others.  My work in China was fantastic—a chance of a lifetime—but I was left with no occasions to assist the people I came to meet, the Chinese.  While temporally, I was on Cloud 9, I was feeling somewhat spiritually frustrated.  Over a few days of thought, I was inspired with the remembrance of what I learned on my first proselyting mission, the best way to love a group of people is to serve them.  But how would it happen?  I didn’t have a calling, my work was from morning til evening, and I was a stranger to them.  Aware of my situation, I realized all I could do was to ask God to serve them—and for me to be a tool in His hands daily for the Chinese (Mosiah 8:18).  How can God refuse such a request?  My daily prayer was answered and I was given small chances every day to help those I met feel the love of their Heavenly Father, despite being legally barred from sharing anything about my religion.  Helping in airports, chatting with a cashier who was visibly unhappy, or simply saying “sorry”—whatever it was, I promised the Lord to do it.

I didn’t realize how these acts of kindness had blessed me until one day when my Chinese boss came to my cubicle and told me to pack my bags for a business trip to the Northeast.  He mentioned something about a bank and family history—his Beijing accent was awfully strong.  The flight was pleasant but I could tell something was up when I got in the car with a government official and heard the words, “Oh, so you’re a Mormon?”  This would come up multiple times in the trip. (Apparently the Chinese do background checks!)  As we pulled up to a huge museum shaped building, I asked my boss Martin one more time why exactly I was here.  He replied, “Oh, my family history record is stored here in the archives, and recently I’ve felt that I need to get it published, I thought you may find it interesting.”  The light bulb hadn’t lit up yet.  We were greeted and guided down long hallways by men in lab coats—it seemed like some kind of Sci-Fi movie.  Finally, we entered a room with a metal table which had a large rectangular object covered in felt lying on top.  The lab technicians uncovered it, and before me was a large yellow silk book.  My boss looked at me and said, “You are probably the first Westerner to ever see this…this is the family history record of the Qing Royal Family.  They are my ancestors and I’m one of the few that have access to it—I don’t know why, I just feel these records need to be published.”  At this point, I still didn’t understand what my role in all of this was.  Then my boss said in a confident voice, “Westin is going to help us find a publisher.”  I could tell the men around me were skeptical as to how a 22 year old American could help publish their national treasure.    My mind went blank.  I said a little prayer, in fear that I may not be able to produce what they needed.  After all, I was just an intern from the advisory office, I knew nothing of publishing!  Then it dawned on me.  What organization in this world has the specialized tools for scanning ancient records? The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  With divine help along the way, the Chinese government was connected with Family Search.  They are currently negotiating a way to scan all 9,000 pages of the royal family history and the Lord allowed me to be part of it!  My simple prayer to be His tool yielded the chance for me to participate in the salvation of possibly thousands.  Can you think of all those names being prepared for salvation?  Somehow I, an American Mormon 22 year old, ended up in Martin’s office—somehow he picked me to go on this business trip with him—how in the world did this happen?  As I pondered this fact, I thought of the many thousands of Martin’s ancestors that are on the other side of the veil leading him and others to the right place at the right time to complete their temple work.  However, this was only one of the blessings.  I could feel a new desire, a new interest stewing inside my fibers.  Deep in thought, I started to wonder what role we can play in their salvation.  Brushstroke #1.

I was in China with the expectation that I’d be working in Washington DC that fall semester.  A full-time internship had been offered to me and I was prepared to accept.  As I was preparing to leave Beijing, there was no way to deny the answer I had felt—I needed to be at BYU in the fall.  One can imagine the slightly rebellious attitude I had toward the answer to give up a fantastic job opportunity.  However, I knew that the Lord had a reason for me to be in Provo and I obeyed with faith.  Brushstroke #2.

About a month into the semester, my heart continued to contemplate what tool I could be in the salvation of my ancestors.  God says He will give to men liberally, and that is just what He did.  Within a short period of time, four former YPMs came into my life.  At the time, I didn’t know that they were YPMs or what that even meant.  They told me of the fantastic growth that came from their missions, yet I considered them simply as nice experiences.  Nauvoo first caught my attention in Men’s Chorus when Nathaniel Gardner put up an advertisement for auditions.  I glanced at it and thought, “Hmm, probably not for me.”  A week later, I saw the advertisement again.  Without any real plans to try out, I inquired of Nathaniel.  A small something pricked my heart and I felt I needed to try. Brushstroke #3.

Meanwhile, as the Lord promises, He continued to place His helpers to “turn [my] heart to [my] fathers.”  I met Marie (name changed) in October and we hit it off immediately.  As we came to know each other better, she encouraged me to pay attention to my forebears.  She seemed so aware of their reality and love for the Lord.  Through her, I began to develop deep gratitude for their sacrifices in this life, their astounding faith, and relevance today.  Brushstroke #4.

It was a week before Nauvoo audition tapes were due and I was feeling a bit apathetic toward to the project.  The phone rang and my friend in Washington DC needed a partner to drive cross-country that next week.  With excitement, I agreed to fly out that Monday.  We planned our drive across the vast United States—something every American hopes to experience.  Nauvoo popped into my mind, and we determined it was a must see.  After we decided, I smirked and thought to myself, “This ought to be a good trial run to see how the great city of Nauvoo and Westin get along.”

Indianapolis was a bit chilly that morning as I called my Grandma from the car to inquire about possible family connections I had to Nauvoo.  “Why yes, my son, Jeremiah and Sarah Leavitt were your great-great-great-great-grandparents.  They lived there and received their temple ordinances in the Nauvoo temple before escaping west.  You must go find their information.”  My interest was suddenly piqued.  Brushstroke #5.

We arrived in the afternoon.  It was November, cold, foggy, and almost no one else was there.  The senior missionaries were grateful to have visitors and treated us with love.  As we walked around, the fog and tranquility seemed to create an even more sacred surrounding—the Spirit was there.  The sites were closing and we had time to see one more area.  My friend and I started down the Trail of Hope (the path that the saints took to the Mississippi River while being expelled from Nauvoo).  We soon separated and I found myself enveloped in the reverence of the situation.  “How hard it must have been to have left such security—and with only the things they could carry or pack,” I repeated to myself.   I walked plaque by plaque reading the solemn yet hopeful testimonies of those early brothers and sisters.  In a grove of trees I came to one plaque that read, “Sarah Leavitt”.  I stopped very suddenly.  Gazing around, I realized that this was the testimony of my progenitor.  As I read through her testimony, the tune to the hymn, “Come Let Us Anew” came to my mind.  Her plaque read:

“As Sarah Leavitt and her daughters tried to comfort her sick husband, he began to sing, ‘Come, let us anew, our journey pursue…’ He sang the hymn as long as he had strength to sing it and then wanted Elisa (one of his daughters) to sing it. He died without a struggle or a groan.” Sarah Leavitt

I closed my eyes in silent prayer.  What would I pray for?—Gratitude for righteous ancestors who endured so much for me.  I paused, and then asked Heavenly Father to let me know of their goodness.  There was no doubt in my mind, at that moment, they were with me.  I couldn’t see them, but I could feel them.  I could feel their testimonies—I could feel of their awareness of me—I could feel their love for the work!  I could feel that they had a special task for me!  Brushstroke #6.

My Mom and Dad were gems to help me record my audition video.  When I heard I was accepted to call-backs, I was ecstatic.  The day came and I rushed to the Joseph Smith Memorial Building with racked nerves but a calm soul.  Anyone that was there can attest that the Spirit that was present.  Everyone was encouraging, positive, and filled with the love of Christ.  It wasn’t until the group interview, however, that I was to discover my reason for being there—it would be my first look at the beautiful landscape that the Lord was painting for me in Nauvoo.  Elder Camp asked each of us to share about our personal journey to the Nauvoo YPM auditions.  As I reflected on the events that had carried me there, the Spirit brought me to a remembrance of my past.  Suddenly, seemingly unrelated “brushstrokes” or experiences in last six months of life came together and I saw just how long the Lord had been preparing my heart for Nauvoo.  While I told of my journey, I expressed my feeling that my wonderful ancestors had some kind of task for me in Nauvoo.  That is when the thought came to me, “They need you to testify of Christ for them.”  That is the task they have for me.  They need someone to testify of their sacrifice for Him—their love for Him—their dedication and joy in Him.  While I don’t doubt that any worthy disciple of Christ could do it, I feel the Lord wants me there for them.  What an exquisite privilege.  Brushstroke #7.

As of today, we have 61 days until we leave for Nauvoo.  I would suspect that our Heavenly Father is painting a Nauvoo landscape for us all.  Although I’ve been able to capture a peak of mine, I know that many brushstrokes remain.  We have this time to prepare and understand what His task for us is in Nauvoo.  What started as a simple prayer to serve in China has led me here.  He lives, and He has chosen us.

Save Me A Seat?

It is still amazing to me that everything happened the way it did.  There are some times you can see why and how Heavenly Father shaped events in your life to open up a great opportunity for you…and this isn’t one of those times.

I have a friend who served as a young performing missionary last year that started practically begging me to audition to serve in Nauvoo this summer because he knew how much I would enjoy it.  This was back in September.  I had just been to Nauvoo two years previous during a family trip just before I left for my two-year full-time mission in West Virginia.  I vividly remembered how I felt when the young performing missionaries sang "Invocation."  The tears in my eyes swell just thinking about the heartbreak I felt as we left Nauvoo on the Trail of Hope to head back home.  I longed to stay.

However, at that time, I had no job and no money, I had other commitments during the summer that I needed to keep, and I was looking into getting paid to be an EFY counselor.  To top it all off, because of previous experiences of mine, I’ve never had a whole lot of confidence in my voice.  To go to all that effort when I had so much going on and no means of paying for it, when I knew that there was no way I would be chosen out of the however many hundred that might apply from all over the country and elsewhere, to fill one of the ten spots for a performing stage elder, I rejected the offer.  Multiple times.

Fast Forward.  Auditions were long over, the future missionaries had been called, and I’d just forgotten about the whole thing.  I had also found a solid job.  And my commitments for the summer had fallen through.  And my computer crashed every time I tried to send my EFY counselor application.  All coincidences…  My friend approached me again in February and said that now they were looking for tech missionaries to serve in Nauvoo, and that I should come to the meeting.  All of a sudden, I had a very strong drive to go, even though the meeting was at an extremely inconvenient time for me.  At the meeting, I found out that they had only called nine out of ten of the stage elders, and just weren’t sure if they were even going to fill the last spot.  They just hadn’t felt like they had met that person yet.  They said they would hold very brief auditions for anyone there that was interested in performing on stage rather than doing the technical work.  My heart leaped inside my chest.  Had God saved a seat for me?

Long story short, one week later Elder Camp called me and asked if I would accept the calling to be the tenth performing stage elder in Nauvoo, Illinois this summer.  At the time, I was in the middle of a dark street covered in snow, walking at night alone.  I just fell to the wet ground in shock and gratitude.  I knelt in prayer out in the middle of nowhere and poured out my soul to Heavenly Father for how humbled I felt to have so graciously been given such an incredible opportunity. Within a matter of a week, the Lord had altered my course from planning beach parties to planning to serve as a Church Service Missionary.  My heart is so full!!

I know I am meant to be in Nauvoo this summer.  Heavenly Father set everything up to make that one pretty obvious.  I don’t know why I am meant to go, and I don’t know how this even happened, but I will always accept a call from the Lord to do His work.  I am ready to not only learn of miracles, and experience miracles, in Nauvoo…I am ready to be an instrument for miracles in Nauvoo.

Two months of waiting just might kill me.

Mission Prep

What motivated me... well first off Devin Davis.  He's the one that initially got me to look into it by inviting me to meet with the Camps.  Up until that point I had heard about it and thought it sounded interesting but wasn't something I was going to do because I was getting ready for my full-time mission, but... when I met with the Camps, Elder Camp said something that really made me think.  He said, "If you haven't served a mission come to Nauvoo first.  It’s really the best mission prep you will ever get."  All of the sudden the prospect of Nauvoo became extremely appealing and I decided that I would at least audition.

I began putting together my materials for my audition DVD but as the due date approached I was nowhere near ready, and Devin became my saving grace again as he helped me put together a few pieces of my DVD.  I then went home to finish the rest and got really frustrated with myself not being able to get it how I wanted it and finally I just dropped down and asked Heavenly Father what He wanted me to do because I couldn’t do it on my own.  I sat down and just pondered for a while on who I was and who I wanted to be and how Nauvoo would tie in to that vision.  I realized something about myself is that I love to be able to serve, always.  Nauvoo was going to be four months straight of service to the Lord in a capacity that I love as well.  As I came to that conclusion the Holy Ghost filled me with peace and assurance that at least finishing my application, with no other expectations was the right thing to do.  I knew that if I just kept pressing forward in faith, step by step, that whatever happened would be the what the Lord willed.  I let go of my fears and feelings of inadequacy and offered my time and talents to the Lord to use if He willed and the feeling of peace and assurance never left throughout the auditions and call backs.

Later I learned that Devin very easily could have not been to Nauvoo last Summer.  But, because he followed the spirit he was able to go and have a life changing experience so profound he wanted everyone he could talk to to at least make an attempt at it and apply.  Without his motivation I know I wouldn't be going to Nauvoo this summer and am so grateful for him being an instrument in the hands of God to change my life.

Nineteen and Prepared

For the last few years I had a strong feeling that I should put in an application to be a Young Performing Missionary. I knew that I wanted to do it, performing is my greatest passion! Besides performing, missionary work is something I’ve always strived to do. I enjoy telling people about the gospel, or even just sharing with them my testimony. I think the strongest missionary experiences I have had were the ones where people noticed what I did not necessarily what I said. People remember actions, and how you made them feel; not always what you say. I always have wanted to serve a mission. When the October 2012 conference announced that 19 year old girls would be able to serve full time missions, my thoughts shifted. I thought, maybe I’ll just put in my papers and not even try out for Nauvoo. But, I had the strongest feeling (and longing) to put in my application still for Nauvoo. I would have never expected that the Lord would want me here at this time in my life-but he knows me and cares for me, and wants what is best for me. I feel extremely humbled by this experience and for receiving this blessing. The Lord knows how to humble us, and to take our lives to what they can become. I am so incredibly grateful, I could not ask for something any better. I am looking so forward to this summer, it’s hard to think about anything else.

Something Better

The Lord is into the details of our lives, He knows our hearts, He knows our desires, and He will always guide us as we follow Him. When Elder and Sister Camp called me to extend the call, these were the feeling and truths that swelled in my heart. There is no denying the Lord is in all things.

A couple of year ago, I was about to enter into my senior year in high school. I was an active member of our musical programs at school, and I was eagerly awaiting the next year’s performance. My drama teacher had told me that she had great plans for me in the musical and I was extremely excited.

It was then when I found out that my parents were called on a mission, and I was to go with them for my senior year. I was heartbroken, seeing that my opportunity to be in the musical was now gone. When I arrived in the new area where my parents were serving, I came in too late to be in the drama program there, and once again, I was devastated. I missed drama, but Heavenly Father, being the merciful Father in Heaven that He is, filled my life with other opportunities that helped me grow in a different way.

Fast forwarding four years, I then received the call to go to Nauvoo to serve as a stage performing missionary, and to be an ambassador for the Lord-- A gift and a blessing that my wildest dreams could not have thought up. It just goes to show me that the Lord knows me. He knew that a silly little girl would miss performing, and He knew what I needed and at what times. This experience has been a blessing for me to see that the Lord will never have you sacrifice something good unless he has something better planed for you! He is my Father, my King, and He loves and guides His children perfectly.

I feel that I could go on forever about how I was led to apply and how it was a miracle that I was even able to get an application video in, but the same message is intertwined within each event...The Lord’s hand is in all things. We are never alone, and as we turn to Him, He will guide us and enrich our lives eternally! The gospel of Jesus Christ is one of hope, light and eternal happiness! I cannot wait to serve my Master and Friend and be able to spread the truth and brightness of this message through performance! This is His work!

Miracles Again

As we were turning northbound onto Mulholland Street from Highway 96 in Nauvoo, I caught my first glimpse of the temple. I felt chills run all over my body. I was so full of joy that I didn’t even know how on earth I could contain my happiness. In the summer of 2012, I spent my time there serving as a Young Performing Missionary with the temple as our backdrop. That was one of the best summers of my life. I often reflect on the joy and light that I felt while I was serving then. My Journey started way before that though. In February of 2010 I received an invitation from President Monson, to serve as a full-time missionary in the Yerevan Armenia Mission. In my call packet, it said that I was to report to the Missionary Training Center on June 23rd.  About a month after I got my call in late February, I got a phone call from Church Headquarters and they presented me with the option to come into the MTC 3 months early. They said my report date, if I chose so, would be March 31. ... ... ...  Done and done. I knew that it was my obligation to serve as soon as I could. So, I dropped all other things that I was occupied with and got ready to go. I unfortunately had to quit two theatrical productions that I was involved in to do so, but I knew that the Lord had bigger things in mind; even if those things didn’t come into my knowledge until nearly a year and a half later.

As my mission in Armenia was coming to a close, I was transferred to a companion who had been a Young Performing Missionary in the summer of 2010. He did this before he came to serve in Armenia. He told me all about it and how much I would love it. So, while I was a full-time missionary, I turned in my application to be a YPM for the summer of 2012. Miraculously, I was accepted and planned to go on May 4th after returning from Armenia in April. After I was accepted, I realized that this opportunity would not have been possible if I would not have accepted the invitation to go to Armenia early way back in 2010 - in March instead of June! A wave of gratitude passed over me as realization hit me, and I knew I was doing what the Lord wanted me to do. Sometimes the Lord’s plans take a couple years to accomplish, but they are what are best for us.

After returning from Nauvoo last summer, I immediately missed it as I returned back to Utah - for those of us who have been to Nauvoo, this sacred city REALLY becomes our true home. I wanted to go back and serve again, but I knew that it was far out there and kind of out of the question. Eventually, fall came around and I was in the temple one day. As I sat praying about decisions that needed to be made about my life, I was prompted to just flip open the scriptures and start reading. I thumbed across a scripture in the Old Testament that said, "And ye shall praise him with song and with dance." Tears just about came to my eyes as I basked in the mercy of God. I was so grateful for that revelation, but whether to audition was still a rather difficult decision. I didn't want to take the opportunity away from someone who had not yet been. I decided to just put it in the hands of the Lord. As I had learned previously, if I was supposed to be there, I would be. I pressed forward and sent in an application and went to the callback auditions. On January the 5th, when Elder Camp called me to let me know that I had been called to be a YPM again, I knew that it was no mere happenstance. Heavenly Father has a plan for me in Nauvoo this upcoming summer and I know that it all has a purpose. I am so grateful that already I have been an instrument in the hands of the Lord in encouraging others who I know to audition/apply to come to Nauvoo as well. It truly has made me realize how much Heavenly Father and our Savior Jesus Christ love each and every single one of his children! This summer will be full of wonderful experiences. Trials will obviously present themselves (as they always do), but with the help of the Spirit, we will take courage and conquer all that comes in our path. Miracles happen in Nauvoo; those of healing and those of extraordinary wonder. I look forward to the summer of 2013 with utmost excitement and know that all who have been called to go, will be there for a reason. "There shall he be in the midst of them who love him."