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Sunday, March 19, 2017

The One With The Farewell

      Last Sunday, March 12th, I gave my farewell talk in church. I cried a lot and now everyone knows I have a ~WeAkNeSs~ but it was a very spiritual meeting and I'm glad to get it over with. For those of you who were unable to attend here it is. It's a little different and there's less crying but you get the point. And if it sounds similar to my other posts that's because it is.

      Good morning brothers and sisters. As you may know, I have been called to the Louisiana Baton Rouge mission and I will be reporting to the mtc on March 22nd. I've never given a farewell talk so bare with me here.
     First, I'd like to talk a little about the reasons why I want to serve a mission. Growing up I never thought about a mission, especially because the age was 21. Until the day after I turned 17, Bishop Taft brought me into his office and asked if I was thinking about a mission. Once I got passed the internal screaming I started to contemplate the idea of going on one. Although, I still had a lot of time to think about it. The next day after that I walked into seminary and it was missionary week. I’d be lying if I said God doesn’t have a sense of humor. We had the missionaries over a lot during that summer also. They would always joke with me about missions. They’d say, “are your papers in yet?” Or “How ‘bout that mish?” But one day they came to teach my sister, who wasn't there. Instead of leaving they taught gave me the lesson. They decided to show me a video. Jesus Christ was walking up and down a street, administering unto the poor. It was such a simple video, but I found myself sobbing. Like full on ugly crying. I was so filled with the spirit. I realized I was thinking about everything all wrong. The only thing I was thinking about was myself. I was being extremely selfish with my reasons for not going on a mission. I was leaving my family and friends for 18 months, I will be walking for miles and getting doors slammed in my face when I could be going to college or be on social media. But I was wrong. For some reason I never thought about the word serve in the phrase serve a mission. You’re helping other people find the Gospel that has brought joy to so many others. There are people who are waiting for me. Whether it's a future companion or an investigator. It’s about changing lives and bringing people unto the Lord. Losing yourself in the work is much more than working hard, it’s forgetting about yourself and your problems and serving the Lord. That was the day I decided to serve a mission. That was when everything clicked for me. The only problem was I still had a year and a half until I was 19. I started preparing for a mission. I had started feeling the blessings that came from my decision. Along with it came trials, but I knew it was the right choice. My advice to everyone is to start preparing for a mission. Even if you aren’t going to go on a mission, even if you are already married. The blessings that come from it not only would help you on a mission, but also in parenthood and in church callings.   After graduating high school I went on a trip. A church history trip. We left for 14 days the day after graduation. We started in Vegas and flew to New York. The next two weeks we visited 22 different states, discovering about the history of the church and American history. It was the most amazing experience of my life. There was one thing that changed my life and strengthened my faith. I knew that I needed to serve. I was walking in Harmony, Pennsylvania to the grave of the young Alvin Smith. I was walking with a sister missionary. I don't know why but my friends had gone ahead and a sister missionary joined me. We were just having a light conversation, just enjoying a little small talk. I hadn't even said anything about my desire to serve. She stopped and turned to me. It was dark and I could hardly see except for a lamp light on the log home behind me. She had tears in her eyes and said, "You're going to make a great missionary." I felt that ugly crying come back on. The Lord knew what I was feeling and he sent me exactly what I needed. I felt recharged and ready to take on the world...or the bus ride home. Back on Thanksgiving I was talking to my uncle. He had served in the Louisiana Baton Rouge mission, I looked him in the eye and said, “I think I’m going to your mission.” Somehow I knew. The Lord testifies to us. Sometimes we can recognize it and it's obvious and others it's more subtle. He has testified to me so much in this journey to wanting to serve a mission I could never deny it.
     A mission is the only path for me right now. It makes sense. Every Time I have thought about the future, it was just too blurry. When I was applying to colleges, I went back and forth so much. I have changed my mind about a career choice more times than I can count. It is still unclear what choices to make. All my plans fell through and I never got a feeling that they were right. The Lord has had a guiding hand in my life, and he has led me to where I am now.
      I’ve thought a lot about what I should talk about. I prayed a lot about it too. Then the other day I got a fortune cookie. The fortune read, “Say it Simply and with Passion.” Too often we over think, we over-complicate when in reality it should just be simple. Mormons love to use metaphors to help us understand. Metaphors surround us. But we should strip it down to the basics, to what we know. President Matthew Cowley said, “The gospel of Jesus Christ is beautifully simple and simply beautiful.”
     One of the scariest things about serving a mission is that you’re in situations where people come to you for answers which you may not have. We think we have to know everything. I, for one, do NOT know everything. I’m far from it. 2 Corinthians 1:12 says, “For our rejoicing is this, the testimony of our conscience, that in simplicity and godly sincerity, not with fleshly wisdom, but by the grace of God, we have had our conversation in the world, and more abundantly you-ward.” If we have sincerity in what we believe, even though we do not have all the facts, we can make a huge impact.  I have a testimony that Joseph Smith was a true prophet. That he had a vision in the Sacred Grove and translated the gold plates. I have a testimony that Thomas S. Monson is a prophet of the Lord and he guides us in these latter days. I have a testimony of the Book of Mormon, that it is the word of God. There are a lot of things that I have a hard time with. I couldn’t tell you the timeline of events in the Church’s history and I couldn’t tell you the names either. The only scripture mastery I can tell you is John 14:15. Its “If ye love me, keep my commandments” by the way. ;) I’m an expert by absolutely no means. But I KNOW that I can be a missionary. I can touch lives and I can plant the seeds of the gospel. 1 Nephi 4:6 says, “And I was led by the Spirit, not knowing beforehand the things which I should do.” The amazing thing about this scripture is that I don’t have to know everything. If I am diligent in my studies the Lord will meet me halfway. The Spirit will guide me and help me to know what I should say. Leading with the Spirit is 100% effective. Oftentimes, it is too easy to feel inadequate. That we are not good enough. That is the Devil speaking. He does not want us to succeed. He does not want us to further the work of the Lord. When we start feeling these feelings, it is hard not to believe them. You see other missionaries who have stronger testimonies and you compare yourself. But comparison is the thief of joy.
      Having the basic truths that we gain testimonies of as young children in primary can help us be effective missionaries. The Lord puts us in situations that He knows we can handle. “And said, Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 18:3. That can mean a lot of things. But that to me, means to become simple. To stop over complicating things and to take it back to how we were as children. Children don’t compare and they have simple yet powerful testimonies. They, like the fortune, “Say it simply, and with passion.” Being a teacher in Primary has been such a huge blessing in my life. Those kids have taught me more than I have ever taught them. Many of them bore their testimonies last week and something stuck out to me. Their testimonies consist of saying that they know the church is true. That’s a testament to me. That they KNOW that the church is true. They get baptized because they have this testimony. The only missionary tool that we need is to know that this church is the true church. Everything gets so complicated sometimes that we just need to bring it back to that. Gandhi once said, “In a gentle way, you can shake the world.” Missionaries set out to baptize the nations. To turn hundreds to the Lord. But helping just one person can help change the world. Planting that seed in one person can grow to their posterity. Even if that one person you help is yourself. You can set off a beautiful chain reaction. Children often lead by their example and they don’t even know it. In the October of 2000 Ensign, there was a story called “And a Child Led Me.” It talks of a young college student visiting a friend for Christmas break. It read, “Early Sunday afternoon following church, I found myself sitting on the living room sofa, waiting to leave and reading the comics from the morning paper. Karla’s eight-year-old brother came in, sat down across from me, and opened his Book of Mormon.“Hi,” he said simply, and started to read.“What are you reading?” I looked up and asked.“Nephi,” he replied. “I’m reading it myself.”“Good for you.” I tried to think if I had ever attempted to read scripture when I was so young. “How many times have you read the Book of Mormon?” I asked, half joking. His answer put me in my place.“Twice,” he responded, “with my family.” Then he turned the tables. “How many times have you read it?” I felt foolish. I hadn’t ever read it. “Well, I’ve started it a few times,” I mumbled. Karla was sitting next to me. Her mother was close by as well. I knew they wouldn’t judge me, but that didn’t lessen my uneasiness. Here I was, three months away from being 19 years old, and I had yet to read a book that I had testified to be true. This eight-year-old child was on his third round. I knew nobody was keeping score, but I was very humbled. If I was going to go on a mission, what kind of missionary would I be if I hadn’t even read the Book of Mormon? That night, back at the dorm and in bed, I opened the book and began to read. I literally could not put it down. Moroni’s introduction, the testimonies of the witnesses, Joseph Smith’s testimony, First Nephi, and on and on. Each word called to me, strengthened me. I could feel a great spiritual power begin to flow into my life. I knew it was true, I had felt it before, and now the feeling grew stronger. Not quite two weeks later I read the parting words of Moroni and closed the book. I had done it! Tears of joy filled my eyes. I knelt down and thanked my Heavenly Father.” This 8 year old boy, the same age as my primary kids, had influenced one person to read the Book of Mormon without even knowing it. He helped change so many lives with the simple act of reading in front of someone else.
     in closing I would like to talk a little about Wayne County. Wayne county has been the biggest blessing in my life. (Which hasn't always been my opinion) but ever since I've moved here I've met people who have influenced me greatly. I had the great opportunity to grow up with some wonderful youth. Many of which are serving missions across the globe right now. It's so amazing to see them doing the Lord’s work. They are all amazing examples to me. I'm so excited to join them out in the field. To join them in spreading joy. Moving here was apart of God’s plan. God’s plan for me to serve a mission. Everything that has happened here has led me to this decision to go on a mission. And I couldn't be more grateful. I owe it all to the lovely people here. The scripture I chose to go on my plaque is Alma 29:9 “I know that which the Lord hath commanded me, and I glory in it. I do not glory myself, but I glory in that which the Lord hath commanded me; yea, and this is my glory, that perhaps I may be an instrument in the hands of God to bring some soul to repentance; and this is my joy.” I chose this particular scripture because it had a specific phrase that stuck out to me. “That perhaps I may be an instrument in the hands of God.” My patriarchal blessing had that exact sentence also. That helps me to know that serving a mission is what the Lord had planned for me.
Vaughn J. Featherstone once said, “President Spencer W. Kimball stated-’ make no plans: They have no magic to stir man’s souls.’ This is the vision I have for the South. I believe that one day the South will baptize more people into the church than all other English speaking missions on the world together. There are great hosts of marvelous Baptists, members of the Church of Christ, Methodists, and Catholics who are honorable people, and have faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and love him, As they see (their) church veering off to the right or to the left of those basic teachings, they will begin to search for truth. And as pivotal teachers come into the church and have influence, we will see the time when we will baptize hundreds and thousands, tens of thousands. In your day you will see a million members of the church in the South. There will be Temples Plural in the South states. What a Great call you have to serve with these marvelous people” I am so beyond honored to be able to be serving in the South. And to explore the deeper meaning to this quote. I know that Louisiana is where the Lord wanted me to go.


The Lord doesn't testify to us by opening the heavens he testifies to us through the Spirit. Through the feelings we have. That's thee most gentle and simple testament to us. It's not big nor flashy but it is passionate. Yet millions feel it and they know it's real. I look forward to the people I'll meet and the experiences I'll have serving a mission. I hope to help others gain a testimony as well. And I pray that all of you will have the opportunity to have missionary experiences as well. I say these things in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.







     

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