The eight months leading up to my mission were pretty busy. I was working three jobs and was trying to fit in interviews with the bishop and stake president as well as all the doctor and dentist visits I had to have. I also had to find time to shop for clothes and the other things I would need.
During that time period I had wrecked the car I had been driving. Luckily nobody was seriously injured. I had some minor illnesses and a few instances where my anxiety got a little out of control. When my stake president was getting ready to submit my papers, he told me that I might have to see a mental health counselor before I got my call, but that everything else looked good. A few weeks later I received my call. I was nervous, scared, and excited all at the same time.
Two weeks before I was to enter the MTC, tragedy struck our family. People began to ask me if I was still planning to go. I told them of course I was and wondered why I wouldn't. It had been a hard decision for me to make at first. I had never imagined serving a mission. However, once the decision was made I knew without a doubt that that is what I was supposed to do. I was at peace with the tragedy and didn't doubt that I should still go.
When the day arrived I was a nervous wreck. I had been given a wonderful blessing when I was set apart the night before. That morning my dad and grandpa gave me another blessing. The rest of the day I tried not to think to hard about the reasons I was nervous and tried to concentrate on what I needed to do to serve the Lord. I didn't even cry that much when Mom and Dad left, although I did cry that night when I went to bed.
The next weeks were completely overwhelming. I felt so completely inadequate and kept comparing myself to my companion and the other missionaries in my branch who seemed to know so much more and have so much more confidence. I had a wonderful branch president, Bruce Dickerson, who seemed to take me under his wing and do everything he could to help me have a good experience. One day, as the time was getting closer for me to leave, he pulled me aside and asked what he could do to help me feel like I was ready to serve. I told him I didn't know. I kept thinking that maybe I should just go home, that maybe I wasn't supposed to serve a mission after all. President Dickerson asked me if I would like to stay a couple weeks, if it were possible, and get more familiar with the things I would be teaching and also to get some mental health from the counselor I had started seeing there. As we talked I felt one of the most peaceful feelings I had had since entering the MTC.
The next few weeks were still tough but I felt a reassurance that I was where I was supposed to be. I had the opportunity several times to bear my testimony of the Plan of Salvation to my districts and others as I taught. I was trying hard to draw nearer to my Savior and put my trust in him. President Dickerson had several sayings that he would use as he taught or as we would visit. One was, "When things are hard, then things are good." He seemed to use that one a lot. I decided to write it down and hang it in my room where I could see it all the time. He also called me his hero for being able to work through the challenges and try my best to do what the Lord would have me do. I would the tell him that he is my hero. He became like a surrogate father and I came to love him as such, He set such a wonderful example in everything he said and did.
A few days before I was supposed to finally leave for Arizona, I got sick. On a Saturday night in March 2007, Pres. Dickerson came in and saw me as I was sitting in the hallway with my studies trying not to throw up. He told me to go to the main desk and get something and then go back to my room to sleep. When I got to the front desk they had me call the doctor who then sent me to the ER at Utah Valley. After several hours it was determined that I had gall stones and that I needed surgery to have my gall bladder removed. The doctor planned to do the surgery on Tuesday, the day I was supposed to finally fly to Arizona.
Pres. Dickerson and his wife, Marci, came to the hospital to be with me. Things went well, but I ended up staying the night because I had a hard time coming out of the anesthesia. I spent most of the remainder of the week in the sick room at the MTC. By the following Saturday I was still not bouncing back and was sent to the ER again due to dehydration.
On Sunday afternoon, I was asked to speak with Pres. Dickerson and also the district president. I was informed that my parents were on their way from Nevada and would pick me up the next day to take me home. They felt that I could recover faster there. I was devastated!!! I had felt like I was finally getting the hang of things. It was hard but deep down I knew that it was for the best.
I cried the most when I had to say good-bye to my teachers and especially Pres. Dickerson. I had grown to love he and Marci very much. When my parents arrived I didn't want to leave but most of my district helped me take my things to the car and to say good-bye. I am sure they went on to be amazing missionaries. The hardest time was when I met with my stake president at a Denny's in the Salt Lake Valley so that he could release me as a missionary. I cried so hard. I think I probably cried most of the way to Nevada.
I spent the week in Nevada recovering and then returned to Emery County, Utah so that I could see my doctor and hopefully get cleared to go back out and serve. I got the okay from the doctor and the called my stake president, Allan Sharp, to let him know I was ready to go. I wasn't able to get hold of him so I left a message. I was getting anxious to be on my way. When he finally returned the call I was told that I wouldn't be returning right away as I had thought I would. They felt like I needed to have some more counseling and that then they would see about sending me on a trial mission if the counselor felt like I could handle it. I was devastated once again.
I did learn a lot during my time in the MTC. I strengthened my testimony of my Savior, Jesus Christ. And I gained a friendship with a wonderful man and his wife. I know that I was called to the Arizona Tucson Mission, if for no other reason, so that I could be a part of a wonderful branch and come to know these wonderful people, Bruce and Marci Dickerson. They are my heroes!
--Doctrine & Covenants 9:8-9, 13-14
"...you must study it out in your mind; then you must ask me if it be right, and if it is right I will cause that your bosom shall burn within you; therefore, you should feel that it is right.
"But if it be not right you shall have no such feelings, but you shall have a stupor of thought that shall cause you to forget the thing which is wrong...
"Do this thing which I have commanded you, and you shall prosper. Be faithful, and yield to no temptation.
"Stand fast in the work wherewith I have called you...and you shall be lifted up at the last day. Amen."
(Scripture I learned in the MTC.)