My name is Makena Bauss. I am almost 20 years old. I am a student at Brigham Young University. I currently help teach the CTR 5 class here in the ward, which has truly been the highlight of my past three and a half months back from school. And most significantly to my talk today, I have been called to serve in the Canada Toronto mission speaking Mandarin Chinese and will be leaving in 9 days.
Several of you have asked me whether I’ll be speaking in Chinese at all during my talk today. And I have to admit, I was seriously tempted to do so. My figuring was that if I spoke in “Chinese”, I could just make a bunch of random noises and no one would know what I was saying and I wouldn’t have to worry so much about preparing this talk. My plan was foiled, however, when I remembered that there are some of you who do know enough Chinese to catch me on this, and I decided getting found out would be more embarrassing than giving a poor talk in English.
I was asked to speak today about why I chose to serve a mission, and as I got thinking about this, the more number of reasons I came up with. So let’s look at this chronologically.
I can trace my earliest desires to serve a mission back to when I was in Primary. I remember singing rousing choruses of “I Hope They Call Me On A Mission” eagerly awaiting the extra foot or two that missionary work promised (I’m still waiting) and brandishing a fake sword back and forth, pretending to cut my friends arms off while singing “Army of Helaman”, confusing the Stripling Warriors with Ammon. In my mind, missionary work was exciting. It was an eagerly awaited benefit of growing up.
During this time, my family frequently had the missionaries over at our house. As a kid, the missionaries were cool, and more importantly, they always made me feel happy. Really happy. As I grew older, I came to recognize that feeling as the Spirit. This interaction with the missionaries from a young age gave me a real-time object to look up to and aim for. The missionaries knew me by name and would greet me in the hallways, always letting me know they cared about me, and the drawings I would make for them.
While I knew that my father had served a mission, and I looked up to him for that, here were people in my life currently serving missions, making the idea of serving a mission much more conceivable to my young mind.
As I entered the Young Women’s program, new influences and reasons for serving a mission entered my life. I became closer with women serving as my leaders who had served missions and looked up to them. I heard how they spoke about their missions and the blessing that serving had been in their lives and I wanted that for myself. Their example taught me that missionary work was in no way only for boys, but was a viable possibility in my future to be prayerfully considered.
During this time, my grandparents also went off to serve a mission in Nigeria and Ghana. As I talked with them and heard about their experiences, my desire to serve grew. They spoke with me about not only the blessings that came with missionary work, but the challenges as well. This helped me to gain a more holistic view of missionary work, which helped me to better understand its value, because as we all know, the best things in life aren’t free, especially from trials and hardship. Ever since my grandmother entered the MTC and sent me my very own missionary badge saying “Sister Bauss”, I have kept it on display in my room as an active reminder of my goal to serve a mission.
But the most influential factor at that time in my desire to serve a mission was perhaps my friends at school. During high school, I was blessed to have close friends I could talk about religion with. While few of us held the same beliefs as each other, we were interested in what the others had to say and together would examine the beliefs of each other and ourselves.
I remember one particular instance where a friend and I began talking outside of our classroom at the end of the day. Through some course of conversation, religion came up. As we got to talking and other friends of ours got out of class and began to walk by us as they left school, more and more of them stopped to join in the conversation. Eventually, after we had been talking long enough to prompt us to sit down in the hallway and had continued for some time, a teacher walked out of their classroom and asked us what was so interesting that a group of ten or so students would be sitting in the hallway talking well past an hour since dismissal.
Discussions like these became commonplace between my friends whether at school, in the car, or at people’s houses. Through this process, and simply from being a part of my friends lives, I began to see what a profound effect the Gospel had on my life, and the beneficial knowledge I had as member of the Church and how the lack of that knowledge caused my friends grief that they unwittingly marked up to the natural pains of life. It was in this way that I practiced sharing the gospel and through a love of my friends wished to share it with them.
As I moved on to college, my love of the Gospel grew through my involvement in my ward, my religion classes, and weekly devotionals. The more I grew to love the Gospel, the more I wanted to share it. Throughout the next year, many friends left to serve the Lord, so much so that mission call openings became a near weekly event. Each Sunday these friends and others and I would go together down to the tunnel by the Marriott Center where we would gather with a wide number of other students from all across campus to sing hymns for an hour, rain or shine. Halfway through, the leader would ask for anyone who had received a mission call that week to announce it to the group. It was amazing to hear the places all across the world that the Lord was sending our peers. After this, we would all stand and sing “Called to Serve” at the top of our lungs. Experiences like this and the examples of those around me further increased my desire to serve.
Living in China, I grew to have a very new perspective of the Gospel and its importance. Here was an area starving for the Gospel. Even the knowledge of the reality of Christ as our Savior, of the existence of a Heavenly Father, was rare. This spiritual drought was never more evident to me than when my classmates and I entered the Muslim Quarter in Xi’an China and we were struck by the strong increase of the Spirit we could feel simply because we were around people who believed in the God of Abraham. We had truly been living in an area of spiritual drought. And for many of us this broke our hearts because as we came to love the people we met, we wanted to share the Gospel but couldn’t because of the restrictions of the law. My desire to serve a mission at this time had never been stronger as I realized how the Gospel is for everyone and how much God loves each of His children.
It was while I was living in China that the announcement was made allowing sisters to serve at a younger age. It was late at night thanks to the time difference between China and Salt Lake. I was in bed starting to fall asleep, as were most of my seven other roommates. One girl was up, however, quietly Skyping her boyfriend as he gave her a play by play on conference, the rest of us content with getting our sleep and watching conference the next week at Church. Right before dozing off, I was a suddenly woken up by a loud scream from my one conscious roommate. Rather perturbed, I asked her what in the world she was screaming about with all of us sleeping. Needless to say it wasn’t long before our apartment went from one screaming girl, to eight. Almost immediately my mom and I simultaneously began trying to Skype each other from across the world. I had been told in my Patriarchal Blessing that a great opportunity would be provided to me to serve a mission. In so many ways this announcement was an answer to prayers. I knew, more than ever that Heavenly Father wanted me to serve a mission, and that this was the time.
Now, throughout my life I’ve gathered many reasons for serving a mission, all of which I hold with me now and have helped lead me to this point in my life. In a talk given by Elder Dallin H. Oaks in a 1984 conference address, he said:
People serve one another for different reasons, and some reasons are better than others. Perhaps none of us serves in every capacity all the time for only a single reason. Since we are imperfect beings, most of us probably serve for a combination of reasons, and the combinations may be different from time to time as we grow spiritually. But we should all strive to serve for the reasons that are highest and best.
Of all the reasons anyone or I serve a mission, the highest and best can be derived from the two greatest commandments: to love thy God and to love thy neighbor.
The greatest motivation we can have for serving a mission is charity. Charity is the pure love of Christ. On LDS.org charity is introduced in this way:
The Savior wants all people to receive His love and to share it with others. He declared to His disciples [in John 13:34-35]: “A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another”.
Because charity is meant to be shared, charity and missionary work are inseparable.
In Moroni 7:45, it says:
Charity suffereth long, and is kind, and envieth not, and is not puffed up, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil, and rejoiceth not in iniquity but rejoiceth in the truth, beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.
All of these traits are traits that make up a successful missionary. If charity is made the center of your service your service will be more effective in bringing others (and yourself) to Christ.
In many ways we can look back to Charity as the reason we should follow all of God’s commandments. We should obey out of love. And while I’m not saying that everyone is obliged to serve as an official missionary for the Church, we are all commanded to serve as missionaries in some way in our lives. Whether it is through a calling at Church, a bible study class with friends, or simply discussing your observance of the Sabbath with coworkers, the motivation behind all of this should be charity.
It is our duty to serve as missionaries of God and we preach out of this duty and out of love. As is said on LDS.org:
Love is one of the chief characteristics of Deity, and ought to be manifested by those who aspire to be the sons of God. A man filled with the love of God, is not content with blessing his family alone, but ranges through the whole world, anxious to bless the whole human race.
I would like to close by bearing my testimony.
我想分享我的见证。 我知道耶稣基督的福要保佑你们的生活。 我知道摩尔们经是真实的经文。 我也知道小约瑟斯密是一个天父的先知之一。 我也知道我们都是天父的孩子也知道我们的情爱的天父真的爱每个他的孩子。 奉耶稣基督的名，阿门。