BYU-Hawaii student Yee Olive Mon shared her conversion story to the LDS Church and how she is striving to get an education to become an advocate for her country and help her people have better lives.
Mon, who goes by her middle name, Olive, is a senior studying social work from Myanmar. She said she started attending the LDS Church after the senior missionaries offered to teach her piano lessons for free. She said the missionaries then asked her if she wanted to learn more about the church.
Mon said she thought, “I have to say yes now because I’m taking free lessons and eating their food.
“So, I did it, and that’s how they got me. Heavenly Father knew how to get me. But because my heart was not open to the gospel, it took a while. I felt so much love and peace when I went to church. I kept coming back to church because of the senior missionaries. I didn’t become a pianist, but I think I got more than that,” she said.
The missionaries asked her to start translating church writings from English to Burmese because she spoke a little bit of English from her Baptist high school. She said she was translating Gordon B. Hinckley’s talk, “A Prophet’s Counsel and Prayer for the Youth,” in which he teaches about the six ‘be’ attitudes.
“That talk changed my life. I thought, ‘This man is a true man. So, this man must be a true prophet. If this man is a true prophet, then the church must be true.’ That means the gospel must be true and that means Joseph Smith must be a true prophet.”
At the age of 16, Mon formally became a member of the church. “I was baptized on Feb. 14, 2004, and I was the 38th member of the church from my country,” said Mon.
Although Mon’s parents were very supportive of her joining the church, her extended family were against it. “My uncle didn’t start speaking to me until I went to school (BYUH).”
She shared an experience when she was soaking wet as she came home from church.
“[My uncle] lives really close to the church so I decided I would just go to his place. I was knocking and knocking, but my cousins couldn’t answer the door because I was a Mormon. He said, ‘We don’t want Satan people inside the house.’
“It was really difficult at that time. I told my mom about it who told my uncle, ‘If you don’t like my daughter, then I’m not going to be your sister.’” She said her uncle didn’t invite them to any family reunions anymore.
As Mon became active in the church, she said she had a very strong-willed Young Women’s leader who served in Brazil, Cleia Peterson, who encouraged her to go on a mission despite her scoliosis. “My Young Women’s president encouraged me to go on a mission. She told me I could do it.”
Mon also said she watched “The Best Two Years” and thought it made serving a mission look fun.
Although Mon had the desire to serve a mission, she said, “We didn’t have any young missionaries at that time. We did not have any returned missionaries [from] the country to tell me what it was about or what the mission life [was like].”
After making the decision to serve, Mon said, “I was really worried, to be honest. I was going to be the very first female ever.” Despite her fear, she said she proceeded to move forward with faith.
Admitting it was “so scary,” Mon said, “I was born and raised in a family that if you start [something] you finish it and you finish it good. So even if I started [my mission] and hated it, I would finish it.”
Mon received her call to serve in the Pocatello Idaho Mission, English speaking, and would become the first sister missionary to serve from Myanmar and the fifth missionary to date. “In my country, how we see the United States is Washington, D.C., New York City, and L.A. I had no idea where Pocatello was.
“All we see in the movies [about the United States] are people shooting people and [everyone] killing each other. So, as soon as I said ‘United States’ my mom said, ‘No, you are not going.’”
Despite Mon’s mother’s concerns, she said, “My mom was very supportive [and] very encouraging,” so Mon proceeded to prepare for her mission.
Mon attributed how she got through the familial tension to her mom’s loyalty to her during conflict.
“Half of my relatives are really strong Catholics, and half of them are really strong Baptist. My uncle wouldn’t allow me in his house. [Preparing] was difficult in a way and it was easy in a way. It was like a Cold War inside the family.”
Mon recalled how miraculous it was she got her visa. “At that time, politics were not great. I had a friend waiting six months to get a visa. It seemed very impossible. The miracle was that I just walked into the embassy, and [after a] really good half hour interview … having [laid out] the first lesson of Joseph Smith’s vision … I got my visa! Something was working in [the Lord’s] mind. Nobody believed it.”
During her mission in 2014 and 2015, the church allowed the first young missionaries to serve in Myanmar. She explained since then the church has been growing in Myanmar and there has been more missionaries, even sisters, from her country. “Once they saw that I could do it with my disability, they said, ‘If she can do it, I can do it too.’”
Mon said she was able to preach the gospel and help people with mental issues, depression and homelessness on her mission.
“I knew I wasn’t going to save the whole world because I can’t do that, but I was going to change one life and that is going to help more change.”
Mon moved to Singapore after her mission with her Young Women’s president. There, her bishop encouraged her to attend BYUH. “It was a hard process because I didn’t grow up in a rich family and everything I earn is with my own effort, but I’m really glad I did it.”
One of the lines she thinks of when she is discouraged is something one of her professors, Dr. Andre Hippolite, said. “She said to us, ‘I don’t know why you chose social work or why you’re doing it, but you’re in the business of selling hope.’”
Mon said, “I push myself every day and say ‘Okay, I’m going to be the one who helps people restore their hope.’ I need to have hope for my future.”
Mary Deyro, a junior from the Philippines studying psychology, is friends with Mon, and said, “She knows what she wants and she’ll work for it until she gets it. Even though she has a very big workload, she still gives time to serve in the temple six hours a week.”
Mon talked about the effect serving a mission had on the people closest to her. “My baby sister joined the church when I was on a mission and my middle sister joined [last] March. My sister would always say, ‘You’re my role model. You’re the reason I want to serve a mission!’”
Zanna Dehiwaththage, an alumna from Malaysia who also know Mon, said, “Her kindness, charity, and love makes others feel very comfortable. Through her example, her sister served a mission.”
Jaeleen Ozu, Mon’s first roommate at BYUH and a sophomore majoring in accounting from American Samoa, agreed that Mon is a role model. “Olive was one of the people who inspired me to serve a mission.”
After graduating, Mon said she wants to go to graduate school at BYU and study marriage and family relations “because it has been a big problem in my country for many years. They don’t speak about it, but there’s a lot of abusive behavior, lots of drug addicts or other forms of addiction. Children drink alcohol starting at 3 or 4 years old.”
She said she wants to be an advocate for the youth. “They don’t know where or how to get jobs, but they’re very smart and intelligent people. I want to help my people get the higher education they deserve.
“I know I will not become rich, but I will become rich with blessings and seeing other people’s lives change and their generations change. That is my goal.”
Mon has struggled with scoliosis her whole life, but didn’t let it keep her from serving a mission. Peterson said of Mon, “She is a gospel powerhouse. She is strong and has a strong testimony of Christ and the gospel of Jesus Christ. As one of the first members in Myanmar, she has been an example of a pioneer.
“I remember when she was getting ready to go on a mission. She had so much faith [that] she would serve regardless of her physical problems. She served with commitment.”
Mon concluded, “I’d like to encourage anyone who is thinking of serving a mission, that despite their disabilities-physically, mentally, spiritually, emotionally, even financially- that everything will be helped if they commit to serve others.
“A mission ... has changed my perspective on life. I have so many blessings that I have lost count, all because I served a mission.”