I am a space nut. I love the intricate formations of stars and planets. Last year, I entered a scholarship competition and won a week’s stay at a space academy in Huntsville, Alabama. I was thrilled! I would be part of a team of other young people from all over the country.
As I began making plans for the trip, a thought occurred to me: Why not try to plant some gospel seeds at the space academy? I had been taught that I could pray for missionary opportunities, and I was aching to share the gospel with others. So for days before my trip to Alabama, I prayed for “seed planting” opportunities. It was the first time I had ever asked for a missionary experience.
On the second day in Alabama I received the opportunity I had been praying for. I had set my scriptures on my bed, and one of my new friends read the title out loud as though it were a foreign language. I couldn’t believe it! My friend, Sophia, had never heard of a Mormon and didn’t know what LDS meant. I explained to her what the Book of Mormon is and what LDS stands for.
When it was time to climb into bed, we continued our conversation. The topic changed as four other girls in our room joined the discussion, and eventually we were discussing … can you guess? Boys. I casually said that I wasn’t going to date until I was 16.
As the week progressed, almost every night we’d discuss some of the Church’s standards and beliefs. We talked about language, fashion, boys, and a little about the temple, sealings, and baptisms for the dead. We talked about charity, the theory of evolution, and the big bang theory.
Now that I’m back from the space academy, I reflect on my time spent there and the friendships I developed. The most important things I learned at the space academy were not about science and space. I learned that missionary experiences are everywhere. If you open your heart and mind and listen to the Spirit, you can spread the gospel wherever you go.
Stepping into Service
When my bishop announced that volunteers were needed for the Nauvoo Illinois Temple open house, I was ecstatic. My assignment was putting on and removing foot coverings from visitors’ shoes so the temple floors would stay clean. As the day went on, I wasn’t thinking too much about the importance of what I was doing. I didn’t really think of it as service. But one visitor completely changed my outlook.
As I had done a thousand times that day, I leaned over to take the coverings off someone’s shoes. When I looked up, looking back at me was a woman with a sweet, warm smile on her face, tears welling in her eyes. She gently remarked, “This has always reminded me so much of washing someone’s feet.” She thanked me for the service, and she walked on.
Her words stayed with me. Every time I put on or removed the coverings after that, I thought about what she had said. She made a connection between what I was doing and something Christ did. Her words helped me to start seeing others in the way that the Lord sees each of us. I began to recognize in the people I met their incredible, divine worth. I finally knew what it was like to really want to serve others.
What a Feeling!
A scripture that always hits me with spiritual force is Enos 1:27. In this verse, Enos demonstrates his great faith in the Atonement and in Jesus Christ’s love for him: “I soon go to the place of my rest, which is with my Redeemer; for I know that in him I shall rest.” The rest of the verse really hits me hard: “I rejoice in that day when my mortal shall put on immortality, and shall stand before him; then shall I see his face with pleasure, and he will say unto me: Come unto me, ye blessed, there is a place prepared for you in the mansions of my Father.”
How awesome it would be to have such confidence! The reunion between us and the Savior can be an incredible experience. What a feeling it would be to know our unwavering faith and righteous actions have made our Savior happy.
Like Laman No More
Until recently, I had taken the Book of Mormon for granted. While I never questioned its validity or importance, I never appreciated it fully. I didn’t understand how significant and true it really is. I feel like I was born knowing the story of Laman and Lemuel. I used to think, “How could Laman and Lemuel have been so stupid? They saw angels and knew that God lives and that Nephi was always right, yet they still went against him and disobeyed their parents.”
I despised these two until I realized that I am a lot like them, and I need to hear their story and learn its valuable lessons.
My 10-year-old brother has often said, “C’mon, Laura, get off the phone. It’s time for family prayer and scripture reading.” And I didn’t always say, “You’re right, Dallas, I’m coming.”
I usually had a Laman or Lemuel attitude towards the situation and my Nephi-like brother. I would say, “I’m too busy right now. Tell them that I can’t come tonight.”
The Book of Mormon can influence anyone who reads it and ponders its teachings. It has taught me to not be so proud to think I am so righteous. I know without a doubt that the Church and the Book of Mormon are true.