"Hello everyone. I want to start by thanking those who came to hear me speak today. You’re all lovely and I’m so glad you’re here. For those of you who don’t know me, my name is Kayla McEldowney. In just a couple short weeks though, I’ll be giving up my first name to serve a mission. For those of you who know me pretty well, that’s slightly ironic because I sort of wish I was giving up my last name to get married, but ya can’t win ‘em all!
In all seriousness though, I really am beyond stoked to serve a mission. I have been called to serve in the Brazil, Santos Mission and will be preaching in the Portuguese language. For the next 18 months I will be giving up Facebook, my phone, Pinterest, my own room, education and music that’s not produced by the church—so yes, that means no more country music for Kayla. More people than I can count ask why I’m doing this. Well, it’s really pretty simple. I get to spend those 18 months serving the Lord and that makes me happier than all of those things combined! Words truly can’t describe how incredibly happy being a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints makes me. Knowing that I will get to share that joy with people every day for a year and a half leaves me speechless and I am glad that I get to start sharing that joy with all of you today!
I have been asked to speak on Elder Jeffrey R. Holland’s General Conference talk entitled, “’Lord, I Believe’” from the April 2013 General Conference. I would invite all of you to read, or re-read, this talk, because I don’t know that I can say it better than he has, but I pray that as I speak, you will be taught by the Spirit.
Elder Holland, in his address, talks a lot about faith, believing, and knowledge. Much like the Book of Mormon and the Bible, those three words may seem, on the surface, to have little to no relation, but they all go together and work hand-in-hand.
Before getting into the deeper stuff, let’s look at what these words really mean, especially the words believe and faith.
The word ‘believe’ is a verb. It means to have a firm conviction as to the goodness, efficacy, or ability of something. So, when you believe in something or someone, you have been show proof previously that leads you to believe in them.
Faith is just a little different. Faith is a firm belief in something for which there is no proof. That’s the key! When you have faith in something, there is no proof that leads to that firm conviction of goodness or truth, or whatever it may be. Alma 32:21 says, concerning faith, that it is “not to have a perfect knowledge of things;” The last part of the scripture is what I really want to emphasize though—“therefore if ye have faith ye hope for things which are not seen, which are true.” Things that are not seen. That is the key difference between believing something and having faith in something.
When you believe in something, you are being given the proof of their abilities. Faith is a choice you and I both make. Bishop Richard C. Edgely, emeritus member of the Presiding Bishopric, said that “faith is not a free gift without thought, desire, or effort.” It is not handed to us on a silver platter, but something we must choose to have and exercise.
Knowledge is kind of like the final stage of a three step system. Knowledge is the fact or condition of knowing something with familiarity gained through experience or association. So when you know something, it’s concrete. You’ve experienced it and have no doubt of its truthfulness.
Believing, having faith, and gaining knowledge really can be looked at like a three step system. Let’s take me for example. Deciding to go on a mission was not easy by any stretch of the imagination. My first semester of school I ended up having a group of around 50 friends with 90% of them who either had their mission calls or were getting ready to submit their mission papers. Now, I don’t say that to brag, but imagine the pressure when you’re originally part of the 10% who weren’t going. I remember praying every day that Heavenly Father would help to know if I was supposed to go. I had a desire to serve, but I had never received confirmation that a mission was something I was supposed to pursue, so I didn’t. I sat through two semesters, both filled with friends opening mission calls what seemed like every week! I believed that this was the path that my friends were supposed to follow and that it would be an amazing experience. People don’t say it’s the best two years for nothing, right? Well, I continued to pray for an answer. I kept thinking “why do I have this strong desire if I’m not supposed to go? Why are so many of the people in my life on this path when I have no tie to it? I’m not going on a mission, so why are these the people I’ve spent every day with for months?” I loved my friends, but not going on a mission made me feel like an outcast—a loved one but an outcast nonetheless. As my second semester ended and I said goodbye to another wave of friends, knowing it would be much longer than a summer until I would see them again, my prayers started to change. It went from “am I supposed to serve?” to “I’m not going to pursue a mission. If that’s the wrong decision, please help me to realize that.” It was that weekend that it hit me like a ton of bricks. I remember walking through Temple Square being so happy that I was in Salt Lake showing my mom one of my favorite places on earth. I was showing her all the great things in the visitor centers and spouting off all sorts of Church history, and then I heard a voice so clearly tell me that I needed to start my mission papers as soon as I got home. That’s when the difficult part came in. I had finally come to terms with the fact that I wasn’t supposed to serve, and now I was? What the what? OK, What about the fall though? I had already made plans! What about my family? I already told them I wasn’t serving! It was the little things, and those really do add up. I had faith and knowledge though. I had faith that serving a mission would bless me in ways I could not comprehend. I had faith that serving a mission would bless my family. And I knew that Heavenly Father had answered my prayers before and that this was an answer to the prayers I had offered over the last seven months. From that first semester to now, my life was that three step system, and it had to happen in that order. I had to believe that missions were great, because if I hadn’t, I wouldn’t have developed the faith that it would bless me when I served. Without believing in the goodness and having the faith in its power, I would have never gained the knowledge that I have now of the gospel and of my mission being an answer to prayers.
Don’t just take my word for it though! There are scriptural accounts and other modern-day experiences of the same thing. In Alma 32, Alma the Younger testifies that if you have “even a desire to believe,” if you act upon that belief, your faith will grow. We learn in Alma 5 that as our faith grows, the Holy Ghost will testify to us and we will gain a knowledge of those things we have faith in. Believing is what starts it all! Without first believing in something, we cannot develop faith. A good friend of mine, who is serving a mission right now, said this of belief, faith, and knowledge. “I would almost say that belief is preliminary to faith, and knowledge is what comes of a test, or act of faith. For example…, I know that if it weren’t for a belief in the gospel before my mission, I would not have developed the faith or knowledge of the truthfulness of this gospel.” For this lovely friend of mine, he has seen the Holy Ghost in action. He has seen his simple belief in the gospel transform into a sure knowledge this the gospel is true.
I don’t think I can stress enough the importance of taking that leap and letting yourself believe and have faith. Acting on that desire to believe will bless you in ways you can’t comprehend. Believing is the first step to conviction, the first step to having faith. Sometimes it’s scary or intimidating because it’s easy to feel inadequate when you see these people who seem like doctrinal scholars, but to anyone who feels like that, Elder Holland says this: “The size of your faith or the degree of your knowledge is not the issue—it is the integrity you demonstrate toward the faith you do have and the truth you already know.” He continues on later saying, “I am not asking you to pretend to faith you do not have. I am asking you to be true to the faith you do have.”
All of this is so important. As a very close friend told me, “these things … help you know yourself better and help you become a stronger person as you act upon what you believe and have faith in and know.”
I have faith in Jesus Christ. I believe in Him. I know He is my Savior and Redeemer. I trust Him, I follow Him, and I know He loves me. I know that because of His Atonement, my sins will be forgiven. I know that Heavenly Father loves us and answers each and every one of our prayers. I know that The Book of Mormon and the Bible are the word of God and go hand-in-hand. I know that the gospel was restored through Joseph Smith and that he was a true prophet. I know that Thomas S. Monson is the true prophet, seer, and revelator on the earth today.