I plead your patience as I commandeer the keyboard from my companion. The wonderful Sister Martinez has asked me to explain a little as to why I decided to serve a mission. I promise that I will answer the question, but it is definitely more than a one sentence answer. As with most things in life it is a story.
The story of my conversion is probably pretty boring to most people. I did not have a huge miraculous experience or some fantastic event that will be in the books for generations, or that could be marked as the 'changing point' in my life. I had no angelic visitations, or even a voice that I could hear. My conversion to the Gospel of Jesus Christ and His true church on the earth today came through repentance.
I think that many people in the world today think that repentance is a bad thing, a punishment, a way for God to condemn the sinners, possibly even as something for the world to condemn them by. This is not true. One of the most important and highlighted teachings of our church is that God is our loving Heavenly Father. He does not want to punish us.
We have laws and commandments because God wants to bless us and enable us to have all we need in order to bring true happiness in this life, but part of having laws is having consequences. We merit rewards for keeping the commandments of God, so too we merit our own punishments when we choose to disregard the divine mandates that God has given us. Sometimes we can feel the consequences of our actions and sometimes we cannot, but it does not change what we did and someone has to pay a price for our choices. If we can feel it or not, it does not change the fact that there was a law given and a punishment affixed. Whether we choose to pay the price personally, to carry around with us the burden of all of the bad choices of a life time, or whether we choose to give it to someone greater is a decision we all have to make.
I'm not a horrible person, but I am not a perfect person either. I have sinned, and there are many times that I can feel the pain of that. The good and glorious news of the Gospel is that we do not have to suffer under the weight of our choices, if we so choose we can turn to Christ and accept Him. There is One who suffered all so that He could relieve us from our suffering. There is One who carried all the of our sins so that He could alleviate the burdens that we build up in the confines of our hearts. There is One who can save us from the consequences of our sin, but only if we allow Him to do so.
The Savior gives all of us this promise in Matthew 11
28 Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.
30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.
I testify that the words here, the promise that Christ offers is true. I have felt the peace and love that come from the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ. It is a feeling of joy beyond measure. Truly God's love for us, as well as Christ's love for us, is divine. There is nothing in this world with which we can make a comparison. I feel that love as I repent, as I try to draw myself closer to God through the forgiveness which is made possible by His Son, as I work to overcome weaknesses through His grace. I still make mistakes, but in spite of all my imperfections the love and strength of my Lord and Savior is still there, enabling me to overcome my faults as well as giving me the courage I need to conquer natural inclinations of who I am and help me to become who I want to be.
Now to return to what the question of my companion, why did I choose to serve a mission. This same feeling of love and joy that I have felt needs to be shared. I know what it feels like to be in the dark, to feel lost, to feel weighed down, to feel like there is no hope or light bright enough nor strength sufficient enough to get me out of the hole I managed to dig for myself. I am here for all those who have ever felt that way, or who currently feel that way. There is hope, there is life, there is light, and this is the message that I am blessed to be able to share with the world.
And now, my beloved brethren, seeing that our merciful God has given us so great knowledge concerning these things, let us remember him, and lay aside our sins, and not hang down our heads, for we are not cast off (2 Nephi 10:20)