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A Look Inside a Latter-day Saint Worship Service

Read the transcript of a recent sermon delivered in a weekly church service by an Australian woman currently serving as a senior missionary with her husband in Auckland, New Zealand

Adelaide mental health professional, Annette Rice, is currently serving as a missionary for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints with her husband, Mark, in Auckland, New Zealand.

Recently, Annette—or as she is referred to as a missionary, Sister Rice—was asked to give a sermon in her Auckland congregation during a weekly worship service.

Members of Latter-day Saint congregations are sometimes invited to pray or give a talk in Sunday worship services—called sacrament meetings.

Members of the Church, and visitors, are welcome to worship each Sunday in this important meeting for Latter-day Saints, where the sacrament ordinance is offered to those who wish to renew and reaffirm their commitment to follow Jesus Christ in their day-to-day lives.

Sister Annette Rice and Elder Mark Rice. January 2023. Auckland, New Zealand.
Sister Annette Rice and Elder Mark Rice. January 2023. Auckland, New Zealand.
Sister Annette Rice and Elder Mark Rice. January 2023. Auckland, New Zealand.© 2023 by Intellectual Reserve, Inc. All rights reserved.

Here is the transcript of Sister Rice’s sermon:

I have come to know that Heavenly Father is aware of each of us. We are His children, He loves each one of us, and He calls to us in our lives. How often He calls, like Amulek in the Book of Alma (The Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ), before we will listen, only He knows. I love what the Saviour says, “I know my sheep and my sheep hear my voice”.

In my family’s life, the missionaries rang our doorbell on a Sunday afternoon in 1969. We were surprised to hear the doorbell. Why? Because we had moved into this house the day before, having moved to Adelaide from the country and we didn’t know that we had a long, musical door chime.

I was 16, my sister, 21, and we answered the door to two American young men and agreed to have them come back to teach us, much to the irritation of other family members.

The short version of this story is that my mother and I were baptised a couple of months later, my brother a few months after us and my eldest sister about 10 years later. Some of my family never joined. Everyone’s journey is different.

I was immediately interested, as was my mother. We started reading and praying about it. The others were close minded and wouldn’t. I often wonder what people feel when they hear the word, but reject it.

In the Book of Mormon, Amulek said, “Nevertheless, I did harden my heart, for I was called many times and I would not hear; therefore I knew concerning these things, yet I would not know; therefore I went on rebelling against God (Alma 10: 6).

In my case, I didn’t want to change my life, didn’t want to join a church, but I was being called and I could hear His voice. I couldn’t sleep, it kept bugging me. I finally said to Heavenly Father, “Ok, I believe it, now leave me alone.”

Apparently it doesn’t work like that. The missionaries challenged us to be baptised. They had read Alma 32 with us and explained the process of gaining a testimony.

28 Now, we will compare the word unto a seed. Now, if ye give place, that a seedmay be planted in your heart, behold, if it be a true seed, or a good seed, if ye do not cast it out by your unbelief, that ye will resist the Spirit of the Lord, behold, it will begin to swell within your breasts; and when you feel these swelling motions, ye will begin to say within yourselves—It must needs be that this is a good seed, or that the word is good, for it beginneth to enlarge my soul; yea, it beginneth to enlighten my understanding, yea, it beginneth to be delicious to me.

29 Now behold, would not this increase your faith? I say unto you, Yea; nevertheless it hath not grown up to a perfect knowledge.

At this point, I knew that the things being taught were good; that they built upon the beliefs we already had about Jesus, that he is the Son of God, but we were not sure that there was a restored church, and did we need to join it?

We decided to join after some soul-searching. We stepped into the dark, in faith, not knowing for sure that it was the right step. And as I came up from the water, I knew I had done the right thing. It was a feeling in my mind and heart, which is somehow conveyed without words, which was indelibly printed in my memory. Was it a perfect knowledge? In that thing, yes. I knew I had done the right thing by being baptised, but that was just the beginning of our journey. There was so much to learn, and there still is.

What were the things that kept us in the Church? My mother was faithful and endured to the end. She always had a Book of Mormon next to her glasses and she read it constantly. My four sons born a few years later in life, took note of that. She played the organ in church for many years; she taught in Primary and was involved in Relief Society, did her visiting teaching regularly, worked on her family history and attended the temple. She made friends inside and outside of the Church, shared her beliefs with others and was overall happy and contented with her life. Like all of us, she had heartache and many sorrows. She had a stillborn child that she grieved for many years. She lived to see two of her children develop terminal illnesses and other heart-breaking experiences, but she never lost her faith, because she nourished it. No doubt, she talked to Heavenly Father in tears, in secret.

And so, we have a formula for how to gain a testimony and how to keep it. In my missionary calling, I have seen a pattern emerge, relating back to hearing the Saviour’s voice. I often ask a missionary whom I’m seeing, why did you come on a mission? I’m convinced that regardless of growing up in the Church or being a convert, there are defining moments in each missionary’s life.

There are a few different patterns. Often, it’s, “I had a prompting to go on a mission. I had a feeling I should go. My patriarchal blessing talked about a mission. I wasn’t sure, but I talked to my grandfather, my Dad, my Mum, a returned missionary, and felt the Spirit and I knew Heavenly Father wanted me to serve a mission. Or, I’ve always known I wanted to serve a mission and I knew it was the right thing. Sometimes, the teenager had not been fully involved at church, but His voice drew him back to serve.

When two of my sons were teenagers, they were influenced by a show on TV. One wanted an ear ring, one an eyebrow ring about the same time. I said, no, you are not getting piercings before your missions. Afterwards, you can choose for yourselves. Both of them said, "We’re not going on missions." I said, “Oh yes you are." Well, in plenty of areas, these boys did as they pleased and didn’t let my opinion get in the way. One of them went to a school next to the building of the Adelaide Temple and as he saw it being built, his heart softened and he was drawn to it. He served in Japan. The other had significant trials which turned his heart back towards the gospel and he served here in New Zealand. They never did get those piercings.

What is it that changes a life? We call it a testimony. What does this actually consist of? Quoting from Elder Stevenson’s talk, “It is your belief or knowledge of truth given as a spiritual witness through the influence of the Holy Ghost." These feelings are usually communicated quietly and described as a “still small voice.” The elements of a testimony are:

  • God is your Heavenly Father; you are His child. He loves you.
  • Jesus Christ lives. He is the Son of the living God and your Saviour and Redeemer.
  • Joseph Smith is a prophet of God called to restore the Church of Jesus Christ.
  • The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is God’s restored Church on the earth.
  • The restored Church of Jesus Christ is led by a living prophet today.

We bear our testimonies when we share spiritual feelings with others; also through righteous behaviour. Your testimony in Jesus Christ isn’t just what you say, it’s who you are. There are now many opportunities in the digital universe to share inspiring content of our own, or uplifting content prepared by others. It’s gratifying when I see members of other churches use our apostles’ and prophets’ messages online, not realising whose message it is.

Sometimes it is fear holding us back in sharing our testimonies. Feelings of fear come most often from the adversary. As Paul wrote to Timothy,” God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power and of love. "Be not thou therefore ashamed of the testimony of our Lord.”

How do we keep our testimonies? We need to nourish it with care, so that, as Alma said, “It will get root, and grow up and bring forth fruit."

As President Oaks reminded us, we need to partake of the sacrament each week, to qualify for the precious promise that “we will always have his Spirit to be with us”.

President Nelson said, “Feed your testimony truth. Nourish it in the words of ancient and modern prophets. Spend more time in the temple and in family history work. Make your testimony your highest priority."

Why does it need to be our highest priority? Because we have been told that if we don’t, we will not be able to withstand the fiery darts of the adversary. What are these fiery darts? Constant criticisms of Joseph Smith; of the Church’s stand on marriage between a man and a woman; of chastity before marriage and fidelity throughout; the weakening and soul destroying addiction of pornography; of modesty; and the Church’s healthy financial position. Just about anything that can be twisted, is twisted. All these things were foretold, but we need not fear if we have a testimony burning in our hearts.

I feel very privileged to be serving a mission for our Heavenly Father. Elder Rice and I applied to do a Member and Leader Support Mission, but that’s not the way it turned out. As it’s said, life happens while you are making other plans.

While we have been serving, we have had spiritually uplifting experiences, rubbed shoulders with spiritual giants and have hoped some of it has rubbed off onto us. I love the young missionaries who I have had the privilege to listen to and counsel with. It has been very humbling for me to have to seek Heavenly Father’s spirit every day, every interview, to guide me in what I say. I’m sure I don’t always get it right, but I also know that I have felt the Spirit guide me, many times. If He was not guiding and upholding me, and strengthening me, I wouldn’t be able to do it. As with most senior missionaries, we were comfortably retired, but the Lord had other ideas...again.

I want to bear my testimony, of the truthfulness of the restoration; that Joseph was and is, a prophet of the Lord. That Jesus Christ is the only begotten of the Father, the creator of Heaven and earth, that He died and was resurrected. That the Book of Mormon is truly the word of God and its truths satisfy the soul. We have a prophet today, President Nelson, and apostles, who guide us through the vehicle of the true church of Jesus Christ.

These are the things of my soul. In the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.

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