Church News

From Playing Softball to Serving a Mission

Despite uncertainty in the world, Hermana Smith is confident in God's plan for her

By Hannah Mortenson

Despite all the uncertainty in the world, Hermana Audrey Smith of the California Sacramento Mission has never been so confident about what is happening in her life.

One year ago, Hermana Smith was a “Wildcat,” a sophomore catcher on the Weber State University softball team in Utah. Last May, the Wildcats won the Big Sky Conference tournament in Sacramento and then went on to set a record in the NCAA tournament as the first team from the Big Sky Conference to win a regional match.

Smith, who had been playing softball since she was six years old, never expected to be serving a mission one year later — let alone serving in the place where her team achieved a huge victory the year before.

But the decision to serve came through clear impressions from the Lord.

After wrapping up her sophomore year at Weber State, Smith began to feel that it was time for a change in her life. She thought the urge meant it was time to transfer schools and play softball for a new team. “Softball had always been something that I wanted to do. … And I was just sure that with [a] true righteous desire, that Heavenly Father was going to help me find a way to do it.”

She began talking with recruiters and coaches, but “it still didn’t feel right, even after praying for it.”

A mission had never seriously crossed her mind because softball was her passion. However, when her father brought up the idea of serving a full-time mission, things changed.

“He asked me if I would be willing to serve a mission, or if it was something I would at least think about,” Smith said. “I remember hearing those words and … I physically felt a burden lifted off of my shoulders.”

Looking back, Smith realized that Heavenly Father had been nudging her in the direction of a mission for months.

From the MTC to Quarantine

Smith never looked back after she got her answer to serve a mission. She left her catcher’s mitt behind, submitted her papers, received her Spanish-speaking assignment to Sacramento and reported to the Provo MTC on March 11, 2020.

It was then that her story took another unexpected turn. On the drive to the MTC, Smith learned that she would be in the last group of missionaries entering before the campus was closed due to COVID-19. “I didn’t think it was going to be a big deal,” she recalls. “I thought the MTC would just get really small. If anything, the cafeteria lines would be a lot shorter, so I don’t have to worry.”

However, on her second day at the MTC, the First Presidency announced the closure of all church meetings and things grew serious. Social distancing was implemented across the MTC, and the missionaries were told they would likely get sent home or reassigned. As a brand-new missionary, Smith was sure that she’d be sent home.

She remembers getting a blessing from her district leader and feeling that everything would be okay. Even during a pandemic, with no idea whether she would even make it to California, Smith knew that whatever happened was God’s will. From that experience, Smith learned that “when we’re willing to submit to Him and follow the plan that He has for us, He will carry us through.”

Hermana Audrey Smith Purple Missionary Sacramento
Hermana Audrey Smith is serving in Sacramento California Mission. Photo by Rhea Styers.All rights reserved.
  And it did work out. Smith was sent out to California. When she arrived, MTC training continued online with her old district, combined with work in the field. When she finished her online training, she had three weeks of “quarantined” proselyting experience in the field.

Smith said, “It doesn’t even feel like we’re in quarantine because time still goes by really fast.” Despite not going out to meet with people, they’ve been “super busy.”

According to President Scott Hymas of the California Sacramento Mission, the missionaries are “teaching more than ever before.” Coronavirus can’t stop the work from progressing. Smith and her companion have found creative ways to use social media and contact those who had previously been interested in hearing the message of the gospel. However, their best success has come from working with and teaching local members.

Additionally, they have had frequent referrals from people interested in a copy of the Bible or the Book of Mormon. “I think a lot of people during this time are realizing that … having a close relationship to God can bring comfort,” Smith said.

Despite the unusual mission she’s had up to this point, Smith loves serving the people of Sacramento. More than anything she wants the people she serves to know that “Heavenly Father does have a plan for each and every one of his children, and its individual. It’s perfect, just for us.”

Planting Seeds of Faith

Her former softball team has a tradition that graduating seniors plant a tree near the stadium to represent their legacy on the team. Now that her plans have changed and her softball days are over, Smith admitted to a few moments where she’s reflected on the future she likely won’t have. “I thought my legacy was going to be playing softball, [that] I was going to be seen as a softball player,” she said.

Instead she’s embraced the eternal legacy that comes from missionary service. “I’m not just planting a tree — I’m planting seeds into the hearts of people. Their tree is going to grow to have fruit … that we’ll be able to harvest. Generations and generations will be able to obtain the gospel and have that in their lives,” Hermana Smith said. “That’s a lot cooler than a tree at a ballpark.”

Three months serving amidst a global pandemic, and Hermana Smith is looking to the future with excitement. Following God’s will hasn’t stopped now that she’s physically on the mission. Smith found that obedience is the key to discovering God’s will for her. Through her obedience to the mission rules and the gospel of Jesus Christ, she is already noticing positive changes in her personal discipleship.

Smith also recognizes the valuable skills she’s developing in the field. After her service is complete, she plans to go back to school and become a history teacher. Her teaching experience in the mission field is helping her prepare for a future career.

While plans may change and the future is uncertain, Smith knows that she “can rely on God [and] the gift of the Holy Ghost … to make big decisions and to feel comfort and peace.”

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