Hey family!!!! Im typing on a Spanish keyboard and its really different haha…Anyway the MTC here in Lima is beautiful! I love it. Both of my flights went very smoothly…way better than I expected! They didnt even seem that long to me. It was a bit of a drive on a big bus from the airport to get here and I wont lie, we drove through a pretty sketch area…it was just really dirty and everybody was right about all the stray dogs! It made me sad. I have two cute companions, Hermana Harrop from Layton, and Hermana Huppe from Maine. We all flew here together and I think we will get along splendidly. This place is tiny compared to Provo. And the weather is perrrrfect! I feel very American here though haha. We didn’t actually get here til about 1 last night so we just crashed and today were receiving our materials and all that good stuff. We passed the temple on the way here and I cant wait to go there on our Pday next Thursday! Its gorgeous, of course. I’m not sure how I feel about the food yet but so far we’ve only had breakfast.
Its still a little hard to believe Im a missionary! When we were all at the airport and before we got our nametags, everyone was asking each others names and I kept going “Ama…uhhh…Sister Villarini” haha. But Ive decided that I just need to be fearless. After all, the Lord is with me. 🙂
Well I think its time to go…talk to you next week, nos vemos!
Hermana Villarini

Farewell talk

Good afternoon brothers and sisters! Wow, I have to say, it feels good to finally be up here ready to give this talk. Although I am naturally a little nervous, I don’t have any stories for you about how anxious I was to receive a phone call from someone asking me to speak today – I’ve known I would eventually be giving this talk for a few months now – 151 days to be exact, in case anyone was wondering. Bishop Townsend gave me the freedom to choose my own topic and given how long I’ve been waiting to go on my mission, I guess patience would have been a good choice. But I’m not speaking about patience today. Choosing what to speak about was actually pretty difficult. I had the same problem trying to pick a topic that I do ordering at a restaurant- there were too may options that looked good so I was taking forever to decide. But when it came down to the basics of my testimony and what is most important to me that I thought about sharing, I finally decided on something. I’ll introduce it with a scripture.

Ether 12:4
“Wherefore, whoso believeth in God might with surety hope for a better world, yea, even a place at the right hand of God, which hope cometh of faith, maketh an anchor to the souls of men, which would make them sure and steadfast, always abounding in good works, being led to glorify God.”
One reason I want to share this beautiful gospel is because it brings so much joy into my life by allowing me to have this kind of hope. It seems at times the world would like to tell us there is no reason to have hope- wars wage, innocent children suffer, and bad things happen to good people. But what a blessing it is to know that Heavenly Father is in charge of it all, and He has promised us a better world and a happier ending than we can imagine through the Plan of Salvation. Our hope grows from the faith we build by trusting this promise. President Uchtdorf gave a talk in general conference of October 2008 about hope – I almost wish I could just read his whole talk because it’s so wonderful but I’ll at least share parts of it with you. He said,

“The hope of salvation is like a protective helmet; 11 it is the foundation of our faith 12 and an anchor to our souls.”

I consider being sent to a family that raised me in the gospel with a hope of salvation one of my greatest blessings, but I’m not sure if I really appreciated the plan of salvation until about a year and a half ago. A lot of you in this ward might remember my grandma, my mom’s mom, Darlene Palmer. For the most part my siblings and I grew up away from my mom’s family, but when we moved into my grandparents’ house a little more than two years ago we were blessed to be able spend more time with them and get to know them better. We didn’t know Grandma was going to pass away at the end of our first year in Utah, but I’m so grateful I had that opportunity to become a little closer to her before that happened, although it probably made losing her a bit harder. I had never been to a funeral before, and I honestly can’t remember a day in my life that I was sadder, despite the fact that I knew her life was not really over. I knew very well that she wasn’t sick anymore and that she was happy and with her family, and I didn’t have any doubts that I would see her again. I’ve had the privilege of being taught since my primary days that families can be together forever. But I was still upset and I missed her a lot. It made me wonder how so many of God’s children can go through such a loss or any other hardship without the same hope I have from knowing about the Plan of Salvation. When I was having a hard time deciding whether or not to serve a mission, thinking back on this experience made me realize how much I wish everyone could know that there is a way to true happiness in this life and the next because of our Father’s love and His plan for us.

At one point in my life I thought, if everything was hunky-dory when we were all happy and living with God in the pre-mortal life, why couldn’t it stay that way? Why did we have to come here? If our goal is to be like God, then our experiences here are necessary. Verse 25 in 2 Nephi chapter 2 reads “Adam fell that men might be; and men are, that they might have joy.” The footnote to this verse defines joy as “potential to become like Heavenly Father.” We need the Plan to reach our ultimate goal of enjoying eternal life. But how does it all work? This amazing plan cannot work without Jesus Christ’s role as our Savior and Redeemer. It is because of Him and in Him that we can have hope. In the same talk I quoted earlier, Uchtdorf tells us

“Hope is a gift of the Spirit. 4 It is a hope that through the Atonement of Jesus Christ and the power of His Resurrection, we shall be raised unto life eternal and this because of our faith in the Savior.”

In my opinion, it’s nearly impossible to describe how extraordinarily significant the gift of the Atonement is. I have a lot of respect for the prophets who wrote about it so eloquently in the scriptures and the prophets who speak to us today. I truly stand all amazed when I ponder it. What else can I say but isn’t it just amazing, that we are here on this earth, where we will go through all kinds of test and trials and make plenty of mistakes, but someone loves ME, and loves YOU, enough to save us from everything we might ever suffer so that we can return to our heavenly home! If we know this, and we know that God keeps his promises because He’s proved it in the past, how can we not have hope?

I’m not trying to discard the truth that we will experience moments in our lives that seem hopeless – sometimes really tough things get thrown at us. I’m not quite sure where this phrase originated, but I’ve heard it said often by many- both in and outside of church. They are familiar words, meant to comfort: God won’t give you more than you can handle. I guess I can’t really speak for everyone, but I’m pretty positive that most of us have at some point felt that is absolutely not true. When a trial or tribulation is particularly difficult, who wants to hear “well you must be able to handle it, so suck it up?”All of us have burdens that we at times feel we cannot bear. Two great men in the scriptures provide examples for us. While he spent months in horrible conditions as a prisoner at Liberty Jail, Joseph Smith cried “O God, where art thou? And where is the pavilion that covereth thy hiding place? Remember thy suffering saints, O our God.” The response to his plea is humbling – “My son, peace be unto thy soul; thine adversity and thine afflictions shall be but a small moment; And then, if thou endure it well, God shall exalt thee on high: thou shalt triumph over all thy foes.” When Christ himself knew he was going to suffer in Gethsemane, he “prayed, saying, O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me.”

When examining our lives and those of our friends, we know that sometimes God is going to give us more than we can handle. But there is a catch! He never said we had to handle it alone. Our Redeemer, Jesus Christ, already suffered every burden and pain that we cannot handle by ourselves – whether those burdens and pains are the result of our own sin or came by no choice of our own. Uchtdorf reminds us in his talk,

“Because of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, we need not fear, for we will live forever, never to taste of death again. 23 Because of His infinite Atonement, we can be cleansed of sin and stand pure and holy before the judgment bar.”

2 Nephi 31:20
“Wherefore, ye must press forward with a steadfastness in Christ, having a perfect brightness of hope, and a love of God and of all men. Wherefore, if ye shall press forward, feasting upon the word of Christ, and endure to the end, behold, thus saith the Father: Ye shall have eternal life.”

We may wonder at low points in our lives what the point of it all is – and those are the points that we most need to have hope in and remember our Savior. It can be daunting to “press forward with a steadfastness” or to “endure to the end,” but we have someone perfect to rely on.

Moroni 7:41
“And what is it that ye shall hope for? Behold I say unto you that ye shall have hope through the atonement of Christ and the power of his resurrection, to be raised unto life eternal, and this because of your faith in him according to the promise.”

Deciding to serve a full-time mission was not an easy choice for me like it seemed to be for a lot of my friends and people around me at BYU. During my back and forth of “I’m going, no I’m not going,” this scripture brought me some comfort and hope.

D&C 50:41-42
“Fear not, little children, for you are mine, and I have overcome the world, and you are of them that my Father hath given me;
And none of them that my Father hath given me shall be lost.”

I’ve been to EFY a few times and loved every experience. One lesson from the first year I went as a 14-year old has stuck with me ever since. We know that Heavenly Father loves all his children and wants us all to return to him through the Plan of Salvation. Ultimately, we want to reach the Celestial kingdom. But sometimes living there seems like an unreachable goal because the standard is so high. Maybe we think we’ll be good enough for one of the other kingdoms, but is it really possible to make it to the Celestial one? It is! Why would Heavenly Father create a plan that only allows a few of his children to return home? He wants ALL of us to make it back, and it is possible. There is ALWAYS hope of returning home…. “It is not possible for you to sink lower than the infinite light of Christ’s Atonement shines.” (Holland 2012)

Rom 8:35-39
“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?
As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.
Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us.
For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come,
Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

“God is hastening His work,” Elder Holland said, directing his remarks to the young men and women of the Church. “And He needs more and more willing and worthy missionaries to spread the light and the truth and the hope and the salvation of the gospel of Jesus Christ to an often dark and fearful world. … This isn’t about you. It is about the sweet and pure message you are being asked to bear.

I am so overwhelmed by the blessing it is for me to be able to serve a mission at this time. I know giving up 18 months of my life, temporarily pausing school, and leaving behind family & friends would usually be seen as a sacrifice, but when I think of all my Savior has done for me, I feel humbled to be able to serve Him in this small capacity.