Monday, January 27, 2014

First Week at the MTC

What a fabulous experience we just shared with 146 other Seniors (hate that word)this past week at the Missionary Training Center. Now I can truly understand what my missionary children were talking about; the long days, the amazing teachers, the abundant food, the truly powerful spirit 24/7 and the closeness of your district. What an amazing,spirit-filled, efficient, organized institution the MTC is. We have loved every minute of it.

On the first day we were put into districts and initially I was disappointed. All the couples seemed quiet and reserved. Oh how wrong I was. By the second day we were having a love-fest. It's amazing what happens when your hearts and focus are all on the same goal. I will love these couples forever. It was magic!

One of the highlights of the week was getting to role play a discussion (it felt way more like real play) with "investigators" (volunteers who are VERY GOOD at being non-members). Both sessions ended in hugs and tears (one investigator broke character and sobbed in our arms. We have that effect on some people!) After doing these sessions all I can say is I have the BEST COMPANION IN THE CHURCH!!! Jim is an amazing missionary with amazing skills. I'm just grateful I get to hold on to his coattails and go along for the ride!

One sad thing in this week has been concerning Jim's health. For the first time in our lives we got flu shots required by the MTC, even though we've not had flu in 30 years. Then on Wednesday, upon the advice of our district we went and got a Pnemonia shot. That night Jim got a horrific case of the chills and ran a high fever. We were sure it was a reation to the shot he'd just received. He went to the MTC on Thursday, but that night once again got chills and the next morning was running 103 fever. He has a horrible flu that has lasted now for 5 days and he is still running 101 fever. We have two fervent prayers; one that he will be better in time to leave on Thursday and second that I WON"T GET IT!!! Today is the first day of Institute Training and I will be going alone. So much for flu shots!!!

I wanted to share one story that was told to us by Sister Curtis. She and her husband have been called to Megan's mission Micronesia Guam and will be serving on the island of Kosare. Sister Curtis shared an experience she had on her first mission in Germany in the 1970's.

She and her companion were out tracking and knocked on a door. When the door opened, to their amazement, there stood a Catholic Cardinal in full regalia! Sister Curtis said he was fairly young, maybe 50, and very handsome. They were shocked but he kindly explained that he had just traveled from the Vatican for a rest in Germany and had only just walked into the door. They talked for a few minutes and Sister Curtis felt inspired to offer him a Book of Mormon and asked if he would read it. To her surprise, he agreed and told her to come back in a week and they would discuss it.

The next week Sister Curtis came back to a black wreath on the door. When the housekeeper answered the door she informed the missionaries that the Cardinal had passed away the week before. Sister Curtis began to turn away when she felt to ask the housekeeper if she knew if he had had a chance to read the book they had given him the week before. The housekeeper got a funny look on her face and then related what had happened.

She told the Sisters that after they left the Cardinal went in and without changing his robes sat down and begin to read. She advised him that he should change his clothes and shower before he begin reading. He said that he would in a minute but he just contintued to read. Two hours later she came in and found him in the exact same place, having never moved. Again she told him to go change his clothes and rest. Two hours later, when she brought him his dinner he still hadn't moved. Finally leaving him there in the chair the housekeeper went to bed.

The next morning when she got up she found the Cardinal had never moved. Sometime in the night he had passed away. When she went to take the Book of Mormon out of his hands she realized it was open to the final page of the book.
Sister Curtis had a burning conviction he was called home with a knowledge he had found the truth!

I'm so excited to add our own personal stories to this one as we begin our own adventure in spreading the gospel and our mission of rescue.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Letter of Introduction to Our New Mission President

Starla's Letter to President Jordan:

Dear President and Sister Jordan;
We are so excited for this opportunity to serve with you and the Young Single Adults residing in the England London mission. We are anxious to meet you and get to work!
President Jordan you asked us for a brief introduction.
I was born in the covenant to goodly parents. I have 2 brothers and 2 sister who have all remained faithful in the gospel. I grew up in San Luis Obispo, California. When I was only 15 I became best friends with a wonderful Catholic boy who would later join the church at 19, come with me to BYU on scholarship (his in football, mine in music), graduate and then serve a mission to his beloved England. After his return he became my eternal husband. We have been married 40 years this March and have had a grand love affair our whole lives.
We have lived in both California and Utah. The last 21 years we have resided in Orem Utah. We are the parents of 4 daughters and 1 son. Our children have given us the greatest joy of our lives in our 8 grandsons and 3 granddaughters (with another granddaughter being born 2 weeks after we leave the MTC!) We are richly blessed.
I have served in every auxiliary, mainly as a teacher or member of a presidency. I have also been involved with music in one way or another my whole life. I have played the piano since childhood and graduated from BYU in Voice and Music Education. My greatest passion is choral conducting. For 40 years I have conducted ward, stake and regional choirs in the 4 different stakes we’ve lived and put on an annual production called “Sing Noel”, a musical tribute to Christmas. An added blessing; all our children sing and perform.
A favorite calling was serving on campus with Jim as he served students as Bishop. The past two years we have had the privilege of teaching together Institute for BYU 14th Stake. We LOVE single adults and would choose to serve them over any other calling. That’s why this call is such a delight. We are truly grateful for this opportunity to work with them and for the blessing of excellent health and energy to be able to keep up with them!
As I stated in the beginning I was born into the church. I have always loved the gospel and have always believed. But meeting Jim, a strong committed catholic, at such a young age motivated me to dig, search and pray until I found my own testimony independent of others and could testify to Jim that I KNEW it was true.
I testify that with all my heart I know the gospel has been restored through the prophet Joseph Smith. It is in living its precepts that we can find true joy and safety. I love my Savior. He is my redeemer and friend. Because of His offering of the Atonement and the blessings of the holy temple I can come home to Father, with my husband and family and live together eternally.
I’ve recently had conversations with other women who have asked me how we could leave our home, our children, our grandchildren and go for two year. My answer is how can we NOT go! We acknowledge before the world that every blessing and talent we have is because of Him. We will never be able to repay all the tender mercies He has extended to our family, but we can make this mission our offering, an expression of our deepest gratitude. We are anxious to begin and so grateful for this opportunity to do His work full time. WE ARE COMING TO SERVE! Sincerely, Sister Starla Phillips

Jim's Introduction Letter to President Jordan:

Dear President and Sister Jordan;
It is an honor and privilege to be called to the England London Mission. I agree with President Hinckley regarding his view of London being the jewel of the British Empire. We look forward to meeting you and the Young Single Adults we have been blessed to serve.
Starla has given you an overview of our life together so I’ll focus on some of my background she hasn’t covered.
I was born to be a missionary once Father knocked me off my Catholic horse like Paul. I use Paul as the example because we just returned from the Holy Land following Paul’s missionary journeys. It has been a dream of ours to go walk where the Savior walked so we could better testify of the Master and His extraordinary sacrifice for each of us.
I have served in every missionary calling for the first 20 years of my church life. I have served as a ward missionary, ward mission leader, a Seventy over missionary work and on three High Councils responsible for missionary work. Even when I was called as a Young Men’s President twice I felt my most important assignment was to give them a burning desire to serve a mission. I believe it’s the foundation for a successful life.
Any success I’ve had in my life I credit to the foundational lessons taken from my mission. I learned of faith and obedience to the Father and listening to the still, not so small Voice on my mission. The lesson of trusting the Spirit guided me while building four successful businesses. My business life has taken me all over the world giving me invaluable experience and a love for all cultures and people. I’ve had factories in the Orient, a business in Europe for five years that exposed me to all the different countries and cultures of Europe. On another path Father took me down I was blessed to work with some of the best people /leaders running some of the finest companies in the world like Proctor and Gamble, Ford, IBM and NASA. They taught me how important Vision, Mission and Strategy is to the success of a business no matter what the size. I want to use any experience I may have to serve the Young Adults and you, President. We hope to be anxiously engaged in the greatest vision and mission of all that is found in Moses 1:39. “For behold, this is my work and my glory-to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.”
I have waited for over 40 years since I served my last President in the England Central Mission to come back with a companion I have always loved and get to serve again. My first mission to England was one of the most important decisions I’ve ever made. It set the foundational lessons of my life. I am a living witness of how crucial it is for every missionary that is called to learn to sacrifice their all for the Kingdom.
When I was baptized at 19, my very Catholic family threw me out of the house and disowned me the day of my baptism. After graduating from BYU, I was going to travel the world with my best friend before we started a business together. But instead I had a powerful experience that let me know I was supposed to go on a mission. To pay for my mission I had to give Father everything I’d saved and sell everything I had in the world to be able to go. The Lord was not done yet. I was stunned by what Father was going to ask of me next. He required that I’d be willing to risk losing Starla, the love of my life, to go serve Him also.
The week before I was to enter the Mission Home, Starla was asked for her hand in marriage and it wasn’t me doing the asking. I knew Father was requiring the only thing in the world that I wasn’t sure I’d be willing to give up to obey Him. I got on that plane to England with a broken heart and a shaken spirit, knowing the probable outcome of choosing Father first would be that Starla wouldn’t be there when I got home.
I pulled a blanket over my head as the plane took off and wept. I pled with the Father to help me understand why, after giving him my mother, all my money and my plans for travel and business, why He would ask me for the ultimate sacrifice. I will never forget the experience of my Savior’s spirit joining me under that blanket and wrapping his loving arms around me in my time of need. He made a promise to me that day, which He kept. From that experience I learned one of the most important lessons of my life. The lesson was that when the Father or the Son makes a promise they always keep them, eventually. I honestly never worried again about whether she’d be there when I got home because as long as I did my part He’d do His. That knowledge of putting Father’s will first has been the key to every aspect of my life. I was promised that if I served with all my heart, might, mind and strength Starla would be there when I came home. It will be my privilege to introduce you to this wonderful women who is my missionary and the mother of my children.
My greatest test this time around is leaving those amazing little people that call me Grandpa. I admit it is like leaving Starla behind, but this time I have a lifetime of gospel experience to soften the blow. I know that with each test comes an increase of testimony. I know there is no greater legacy or gift I could hope to give my children and grandchildren than our example of sacrifice and service in the building up of the Kingdom.
President, I know the Gospel of Jesus Christ has been restored to the earth by the Father and the Son. I know that Joseph saw what he said he saw and it changed my life. I also know that the Priesthood of God is on the earth and all the keys are held by his modern day Prophet. My mother wanted me to be a priest. Because of the restoration of the gospel I’ve been able to become a High Priest who was able to bless my dying father to live another 15 years (but that’s another story).
The knowledge that was taught to Joseph in the Sacred Grove about the Father and the Son has changed my life forever. I know that I have a Father in Heaven that hears and answers my prayers. He also gave us His only begotten son to pay for all my sins, and that knowledge has again driven me into the mission field. I love the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
President, we stand ready to serve the Lord in the England, London Mission.
Warmest regards,
Elder James K. Phillips

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Sister Phillips' Farewell Talk Outline December 2013

Show Ashlee’s quilt she made us for Christmas
This quilt caused me to remember a very significant experience that happened 19 years ago!

First some background:
When praising the “unfeigned faith” he found in Timothy, Paul noted that this faith “dwelt first in thy grandmother Lois and thy mother Eunice.”

Growing up with Mom and Grandma
When we moved here 21 years ago my grandma had died only a couple years before and my mom was moving into the final stages of Alzheimer’s.
Soon after moving here I was asked to be the mother of 4 daughters in the musical “Quilters” Using different blocks of quilts to symbolize how the stiches and patterns of our lives are passed down from grandmother to mother to daughter through generations of time.
Crying in bed one morning to Jim- broken hearted that my daughters would never know the influence of these fabulous women. His profound precious answer to me, “But Starla, they know you.”
Elder Christofferson said to women in the last conference “Your intuition is to do good and to be good and as you follow the Holy Spirit your moral authority and influence will grow.”
Now years later there are the 3 essential truths that I can testify to that were first influenced by my mother and grandmother’s example. I can testify these truths not only to my daughters but to every woman striving to become a woman of God. These things I KNOW to be true!

First “As women of God our greatest calling and sphere of influence in mortality is being mothers in Zion”

President Gordon B. Hinckley stated ”God planted within women something divine”. That something is the gift of, and the gifts associated with, motherhood. Speaking to women, Elder Matthew Cowley of the Quorum of the Twelve taught that “you belong to the great sorority of saviorhood…Men are different, men have to have something given to them in mortality to make them saviors of men, but not mothers, not women. You are born with an inherent right, and inherent authority, to be the saviors of human souls. You are the co-creators with God of his children. Therefore, it is expected of you by a right divine that you’re the saviors and the regenerating force in the lives of God’s children here upon the earth.”

Story of going to Jim’s training for CEO’s; “Jim might be CEO of this company, but I am President of our home! They thought that was “Cute” but I wasn’t kidding.

Married 3 daughters and Tanner left on his mission within 15 months of each other
I was Lost. Realized that every other endeavor or purpose pales in comparison and significance to being a mom
Beautiful example acting as a mother in Zion last week on my daughter Bri’s blog

We get a free Issaquah newspaper a couple times a week, and I find it annoying. We don't read it, and it ends up in the recycle. Such a waste of resources. Caleb loves it though. He gets so excited to get it and put it on Dan's desk thinking that Dad will be excited to read it.

Yesterday morning I got a knock on my door. It was my neighbor. She was ticked. She went on to tell me that Caleb has been stealing their newspaper a couple times a week. They finally found out who was doing it when they saw him run across the street. It all made sense why there were sometimes thick papers on Dan's desk. I. Was. Mortified. I apologized profusely. I headed upstairs to find Caleb. He was hiding under his bed and I'm pretty sure he heard the whole conversation.

We started talking about it, and he was shaking. I knew I didn't need to get mad because he was so embarrassed and feeling horrible already. I asked him why he did it. He was doing it for Dad. I asked him why it wasn't OK to take their paper, and he understood that it was because he was stealing. I knew he would not do it again, and went in to talk to Dan (who was still sleeping) about it.

Caleb was beside himself. He could not handle the emotion he was feeling. He was running around hiding in our closet, then coming out, going into our bathroom, roaming. We kept trying to calm him down so we could talk. He could not sit. He was devastated. Dan finally forced him to come into bed with us. He had to physically pick him up (while Caleb resisted and squirmed to get away) and bring him into our bed. We kept telling him that it would be OK. He made a mistake, but he can be better. We went on to share times where we made mistakes as children. He finally calmed down, but was visibly shaken from the experience.

The lesson in YW later that day was on how to create a Christ centered home. The teacher handed out scripture verses for each of us to read. The one I was given was not by chance. I knew it the second I read it.

2Nephi 26: And we atalk of Christ, we rejoice in Christ, we preach of Christ, we bprophesy of Christ, and we write according to our prophecies, that our cchildren may know to what source they may look for a dremission of their sins.

This was one of my favorite and most used verses on my mission. Little did I know the impact it would have on me on this Sunday morning in the future.

I felt strongly that I needed to share the experience of what had happened this morning with the Young Women. Especially the part about how he was so devastated and how he was hiding. My heart was sad, yet filled with the spirit. My prayer and probably one of the greatest hopes of my heart is that my children will know as to what source to look to for a remission of their sins. My hope is that my sweet son will not allow the pain and anguish to overtake him and force him into hiding.

God spoke to my heart. I am so grateful for the atonement. I am so grateful that through Christ, we can stand tall and be forgiven. We do not have to hide. I am grateful that I was given this message today, and I pray that we were able to teach this to our son. This was such a great reminder during this time of year when we get to celebrate His birth. God is good.

The power of being a mother in Zion!

Second: As women of God we can know who we truly are as we serve in His kingdom and knowing that, influence not just our family but the world.

Sister Sherie Dew gave a beautiful talk to the women of the church called “Stand Tall and Stand Together”. She closed her talk with these words,
“My prayer is that we can be equally clear about our mission as women of god. This isn’t just a really nice church that teaches really nice ideas so that we can live really nice lives. This is The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, endowed with His power and charged with carrying His truth to the ends of the earth…We are the most blessed of all women to have such a vital part in it.
Powerful example in my life of this: Story of Barbara SmithPowerful example in my life of this:

Story of President Barbara Smith
(It's the experience Mom had riding to the airport with General Relief Society President Barbara Smith during the early 1980's after she came and talked to 3 stakes in California and calmed all the women's minds and brought peace to their hearts amidst the storm of the clamoring strident voices of the National Organization of Women, Sonia Johnson, women's rights etc. She spoke with authority, calm, and knowlegable on all the current issues. My mom called her "Magnificent". When Mom was driving home with Sister Smith, one of the counselors in the Stake R.S. Presidency asked where Barbara Smith had gotten her college degree. Sister Smith's surprising answer, "I hold no degree. If I have achieved anything it is because of what I have learned as I have served in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints." Powerful lesson on what we can become as we serve the Lord.)

LOVE THIS QUOTE BY Sherie Dew: When we live like Disciples of Christ should live, when we aren’t just good but happy to be good, others will be drawn to us because we are “distinct and different –in happy ways”, as President Kimball prophesied. Happy about the way we’ve chosen to live, happy because we’re not constantly reshaping ourselves in the world’s image, happy because we have “the gifts and the power of the Holy Ghost, happy to stand tall so that we will stand out.”

Third: As women of God our greatest influence will be to bring others to Christ

Last month I had an unforgettable experience in the Holy Land. As we were driving to the Sea of Galilee our guide pointed to a city that literally was built on the top of a hill. That visual image of a city that cannot be hid was stunning and as I pondered the symbolism I had an overwhelming impression that as a woman of God I can be like that city. As I leave behind the things of the world and come unto Christ so that the Spirit radiates through my life and from my eyes, I can be a light to the world.
How exciting that WE can be part of this final closing up dispensation, that we have been reserved for this very time. What a responsibility we have to influence not only our families but the whole world

Elder M Russell Ballard: “None of us can afford to stand by and watch the purposes of God be diminished and pushed aside. I invite particularly you sisters throughout the Church to seek the guidance of heaven in knowing what you can do to let your voice of faith and testimony be heard. The Brethren of the General Authorities and the sisters who are general officers cannot do it alone. The full-time missionaries cannot do it alone. We must all defend our Savior and testify that He is the Christ, that His Church has been restored to the earth, that there is such a thing as right and wrong.”

Last couple weeks I’ve had women (mothers and grandmothers) ask how we can leave our family, especially our grandchildren

My answer: ”How can we NOT go. The Spirit has whispered to me that it’s not enough to just love our children and grandchildren. We need them to see our devotion, sacrifice and commitment to our Lord in our actions. Last week I as I once again made a covenant with the Lord in His holy house to put it ALL on the alter I was brought to tears that we had the opportunity to do just that as we go forth to serve. Like my mother and grandmother I want our influence and legacy to be one of faith and sacrifice to our Savior.

As Diana testified to me a few weeks ago our sacrifice will have efficacy in our families’ lives in ways we don’t begin to even understand yet.

From Ashlee’s blog written the night we opened our mission call:

Tonight my parents got their mission call. We have been waiting for six weeks for it to finally arrive. Prior to submitting their papers they were recommended by Elder Bruce Hafen to serve in the young adult center in London, England so when they received this call we were not surprised. They will be serving young adults by creating a place, activities and missionary opportunities for those living in and around London. They have certainly been prepared for this calling by teaching institute to young adults, serving as a BYU young adult ward bishop and by constantly having a home filled with young adults who were friends of their children. They will be perfect. Those youth in London are in for a real gift! The only surprise was that the call was for two years (23 months to be exact) rather than the eighteen months they had requested.

As my five prospective missionaries huddled around the phone listening to their grandparents read their call I was a bit overwhelmed; to say the least! I was full of gratitude for the example of my parent's willingness to leave all behind to serve the Lord. The intense range of emotion from ecstatic to sorrow is something I am going to have to get used to. Tonight was a little taste of what I will get to go through five times with my boys. I cannot wait for those calls to arrive, but in the same instant my heart breaks to think of it! So exciting, such an opportunity, such a gift. Yet, such a sacrifice.

The reality that my boys won't have their grandparents around for two whole years of their lives breaks my heart. They will miss a significant portion of my boys' growing up, but the blessings that will come for my future missionaries will be worth the sacrifice. My two big boys were thrilled with the call to London because it is a place they have been. A place they can easily imagine their Babs and Mags being. The second they heard two years however, they broke down.

I sat in the next room listening to my Tanner sobbing in the shower for 15 minutes. He later asked me with tears streaming down his cheeks, "Mom, I can barely stand being away from Baba for five days! How am I going to be able to handle two years?!" What can I say to that? I tried comforting Little Lukey by promising him we would still go on trips while they are gone. To which he said through his sobs, "But it won't be any fun without them!" Again, what can I say to that?

I have been thinking in preparation for this call that the example of my parent's sacrifice is what will bless my boys the most. After tonight I think it goes further than that. This mission call requires a sacrifice from my boys as well. They will have to test their own developing little testimonies by letting their grandparents go. They will be far better prepared to one day leave themselves because they are learning while they are young to sacrifice. They are giving up one of the most important things in their lives: their Baba and Maga. I am so grateful for this lesson, for this chance to sacrifice. I am so grateful for my parents. I am so grateful for my own testimony that confirms to me that while this is hard, it is right and good and worth it!

Jim and I know we have great direct influence in the lives of our family, but we KNOW even more surely that the Lord’s influence is so much more powerful than ours. We KNOW that as we serve we will be able to beg the Lord in a more perfect way and with greater power to distill His blessings upon the heads of our children and grandchildren.
On this we can rely to make up the difference of us being gone.

Close with the words from this song I pulled out this morning to calm me:
Second verse:
Lifting the hand that hang down in sorrow.
Strengthening knees that bend in despair.
Reaching the hopeless hearts who do not know His love.
Seeing their lives begin to change I know I’ll never be the same.
How can I keep this gift to myself when I can lift somebody else.
I am a witness of His miracles and His mercy.
I put my future in His hands Knowing He’s made me all I am,
When I put my faith in Him the truth begins to speak.
His power is real. It moves me until I cannot be still.
His power is real I trust in His will. I will not be still.

I pray we will all desire to lift our “voices as with the sound of a trump”. And may we “cheerfully do all things that live in our power, and then stand still to see the arm of God revealed as His work goes forward boldly and nobly until “it has swept every country, and sounded in every ear, till the purposes of God shall be accomplished, and the Great Jehovah shall say the work is done.