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.
Elder James K. Phillips