Monday, November 11, 2013

Leaving the Beautiful Virginia

As many close to our family will know, our youngest (and last of eight full-time missionaries) is wrapping up her mission in the Washington D. C. South Mission this week. We depart on Wednesday to meet her back there and bring her home next week after spending some time meeting the people with whom she has labored. Her final testimony is worth sharing with everyone:

Sister Woodbury (l), Sister Goates (r)
Oh my goodness! I can't believe today is here.  My last Preparation Day as a missionary. What an incredible 18 months it has been! It truly has been the best of my life. I have been refined and molded. I am so grateful for the experiences and the miracles the Lord has blessed me to witness for the past year and a half.

I know God truly is our loving Heavenly Father and He truly does know each of us personally and perfectly. I know He ALWAYS has our best interest in mind. He wants us to be happy. We are His children and He has sent us here to be happy and find joy, but also to have trials and to be tested so we can become more like Him and learn more about His attributes so we can gain them as well.

I am so grateful for the perspective a mission has given me for my life. I have learned so much. I am grateful for the weaknesses the Lord has revealed to me so I can work on them and He can refine me and help me become stronger.

This past week has been bitter-sweet. Mostly, it still hasn't hit me that I'm really leaving and that this is the end of my mission. Nonetheless, it has still been a very special week. I was able to go to the temple with the other departing missionaries, and what a sacred experience that was. I am so grateful for the temple and I'm grateful for the knowledge of the significance of the temple in my life and the blessings that come as we keep the covenants we make there and as we become a "Temple Going and Covenant Keeping" people. I know the temple truly is the House of the Lord. I know it is there our families truly are sealed together for time and all eternity. There is NOTHING greater in this life than that knowledge right there. There is NOTHING that brings greater joy or peace in this life, than the knowledge of the Restoration of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. There really isn't.

It is because of the events Joseph Smith had in his life that we have the gospel today. How grateful I am for his sacrifice and for his humility in offering that sincere and humble prayer that day in the Sacred Grove. I know without a shadow of a doubt that he truly did have that experience. I know through that experience we truly do have the fulness of the gospel of Jesus Christ. With that knowledge, we have been promised never again will we be in darkness and never again will we not have a prophet on the Earth. What an incredible promise!

I know President Thomas S. Monson is our living prophet today. I know it is through him we have all of the Preisthood Keys so we can partake in ALL the ordinances needed to return to live with our Heavenly Father and with our families again.

We had an INCREDIBLY powerful stake conference this past weekend. We had Elder David F. Evans of the Seventy come and it truly was a spiritual feast! Also, apparently he knows the Goates family well. [Editor's note: His mother and mine served in the Federal Heights Ward Relief Society Presidency, then later as members of the Relief Society General Board under Sister Barbara Smith.] He is part of the Missionary Department and it was a powerful weekend here in the Oakton Stake. We were told we have some of the finest leaders in the Church in this stake and it was encouraging to hear we have such great potential in performing so many incredible miracles with a combined effort. It was inspiring and I felt the Spirit so strongly.

It made my heart hurt a little when I realized with all this fire the members have now that I won't be able to help keep that fire ignited and continue to encourage them much longer as a missionary, but I know I still can as a member missionary.

I received very specific and wonderful revelation for what I can do to continue to be a missionary. It was wonderful. It was humbling to be called before the stake to share my testimony my last Sunday as a missionary. It was an incredible opportunity and I was so grateful for it.

I know this work is real. I also know it is truly hastening. I have felt that for a long time, but the urgency was so apparent this weekend as we listened to Elder Evans and President Monson, a prophet, seer, and revelator, talk about it in our conference. It is happening, the signs of the times are here and we don't have much time. Now is the time to prepare. Now is the time to be more engaged than ever. It is my prayer each of us will be, and continue in our missionary efforts until our Lord and Savior returns.

I love you all. I thank you for your constant love and support for me. I can't express and thank you enough for the help to get me on a mission, whether it has been contributing money, your time, or the experiences we've had together. Each of you has been a support to me and has helped bless my life so much in helping me be in a position where I could have this incredible experience. I am so grateful to my loving Heavenly Father for the invaluable experiences He has given me and lessons He has been able to teach me during this sacred time in my life. Thank you for all you've done to help in any part or form in that.

I love you all. I love my Savior and I love His work.

All my love and gratitude,

Sister Merilee Goates

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