Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Farewell Talk

In the For Strength of Youth it says we need “good and true friends”. It says that a good and true friend is someone who is a great strength and blessing to you. They influence how you think and act and even help determine the person you will become. They are someone who encourages you to live high standards. They are someone who helps you to be a better person and live the gospel of Jesus Christ.

I am so grateful for the opportunity I have to speak to you today about someone that is very dear to my heart, someone I call a dear friend. He is the reason for why I stand before you today. He is the reason for why I am who I am and why believe what I believe. He influences me to think and act differently from the world, who helps me live high standards. He is the reason I am leaving the country for 18 months. He is the reason I already love the people in Puebla. He is the reason I experience real, true happiness everyday. He helps me to be the best person I can be. He is my best friend, my Savior Jesus Christ. I can’t tell you how amazing and wonderful He is in just one talk, but I hope that the spirit can guide my words as I attempt to tell you a little bit about Him and why you should want Him as a best friend too. 

So Why Jesus Christ, why is he so important, why do we need Him in our lives?

In John 3:16 we read: For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

To help compliment the bible, In the Book of Mormon 2 Nephi 31:21 we also read: And now, behold, my beloved brethren, this is the way; and there is none other way nor name given under heaven whereby man can be saved in the kingdom of God. And now, behold, this is the doctrine of Christ, and the only and true doctrine of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, which is one God, without end. Amen.

Because God loves us and he wants us to become like Him, He came up with a plan, a plan that included his children (all of us) coming down to earth to obtain a body and to learn good from evil. Of course he knew that we would make mistakes and that we might not know what is good and what is evil, so as part of His plan He sent a perfect example, His son Jesus Christ, that we could look up to to know what was good and what wasn’t. He sent us a best friend. Following Jesus Christ and believing Him is the only way to be saved into the kingdom of God. It makes sense, right? Just as when we go to school the teacher gives us examples and a study guide to practice with before giving us the test, Heavenly Father sent us Jesus Christ so that we may know how to return to Him.

So we know we can’t make it back to Heaven without Jesus Christ and that he is the study guide, but what exactly did he do, what makes Him a good friend, has he done anything that even makes him someone special?

We know that during His earthly ministry He “went about doing good” (Acts 10:38), yet was despised for it. His gospel was a message of peace and goodwill. He walked the roads of Palestine, healing the sick, causing the blind to see, and raising the dead. He taught the truths of eternity, the reality of our premortal existence, the purpose of our life on earth, and the potential for the sons and daughters of God in the life to come.

We know that Though He was sinless, He was baptized to fulfill all righteousness and that He entreated all to follow His example.

He instituted the sacrament as a reminder of His great atoning sacrifice. He was arrested and condemned on spurious charges, convicted to satisfy a mob, and sentenced to die on Calvary’s cross. He gave His life to atone for the sins of all mankind. His was a great vicarious gift in behalf of all who would ever live upon the earth.

If that isn’t a perfect friend, I don’t know what is.

We know that He rose from the grave to “become the firstfruits of them that slept” (1 Corinthians 15:20) and As Risen Lord, He visited among those He had loved in life and He also ministered among His “other sheep” (John 10:16) in ancient America before ascending into Heaven. After that the world fell into the Great Apostasy and His power, the priesthood, was taken from the earth.
In the modern world, He and His Father appeared to the 14 year old boy Joseph Smith, ushering in the long-promised “dispensation of the fulness of times” (Ephesians 1:10) so that the world could be taken out of apostasy and that His church and priesthood that he had established while He was on the earth could be restored.

Of the Living Christ, the Prophet Joseph wrote: “His eyes were as a flame of fire; the hair of his head was white like the pure snow; his countenance shone above the brightness of the sun; and his voice was as the sound of the rushing of great waters, even the voice of Jehovah, saying:
“I am the first and the last; I am he who liveth, I am he who was slain; I am your advocate with the Father” (D&C 110:3–4).

An advocate is someone who supports you and pleads for you in your cause. An advocate is a friend. Jesus Christ is our support and our friend and will plead for us to be saved. However, just like in court if we are guilty of something, he can only defend so much. Yes, we are saved by His grace, but we must also put in effort and show good works, believe Him when He says he can deliver, in other words show faith. That is why He was sent to be an example, so He could be the best friend we could follow, so we could be the best we could be and then by his grace we can be saved.

Ok, so Christ is pretty awesome, not only does he completely and totally understand everything we have ever gone through and ever will go through, but he is the key to heaven and pure happiness. Now, how do I show faith in Him, show Him that I believe Him, and how can I be a good friend to Him?

As the missionaries here can tell you in the Missionary Training Center they memorize a section of the Doctrine and Covenants, a book containing revelations given to Joseph Smith to help organize the church when it was being reestablished in the latter days. In part of the section that we memorize it reads “Remember faith, virtue, knowledge, temperance, patience, brotherly kindness, godliness, charity, humility, diligence” Also, as the missionaries here can tell you, we are better prepared to be missionaries by learning and teaching from Preach My Gospel. In PMG there is a section titled “Christlike Attributes”. In this section the attributes they describe Christ as having are “faith, hope, charity, love, virtue, knowledge, patience, humility, diligence, and obedience” Sound familiar? Think it’s a coincidence that the attributes missionaries recite every day and the attributes we are all asked to remember are the same attributes Christ has? I don’t think so. In the scriptures we are constantly reminded to REMEMBER Jesus Christ. That is the purpose of our lives, to follow his example that we might be saved. That is the purpose of missionary work, to bring others unto Jesus Christ and to help them gain a testimony of Him through faith, repentance, baptism, receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost, and enduring to the end so that they may experience his saving grace as well. “Verily, Verily, I say unto you, this is my gospel; and ye know the things that ye must do in my church; for the works which ye have seen me do that shall ye also do; for that which ye have seen me do even that shall ye do;” (3 nephi 27:21)

The best way we can be a good friend to Christ and show Him that we love Him is to become like Him (Sunday school answers). That’s why He did all those things for you, so you could learn that and do as He did. Obviously becoming like Christ is a little easier said than done. We have to make some mistakes in order to progress, and that’s why the Father had to send His son to redeem us from those sins. We have to experience the good and the bad, and that’s why the Father had to send His son to redeem us from our heartaches and sorrows. The reason the scriptures constantly remind us to REMEMBER Christ is because times will most certainly not always be sunshine. We need Christ in our lives so we can access his Atonement, that He can carry us when it is dark. We need to be Christlike so during the times we are in the light we can help carry others out of the dark.

The President of the Church, our prophet today Thomas S Monson said:

“When the pathway of life takes a cruel turn, there is the temptation to ask the question “Why me?” At times there appears to be no light at the end of the tunnel, no sunrise to end the night’s darkness. We feel encompassed by the disappointment of shattered dreams and the despair of vanished hopes. We join in uttering the biblical plea, “Is there no balm in Gilead?”1 We feel abandoned, heartbroken, alone. We are inclined to view our own personal misfortunes through the distorted prism of pessimism. We become impatient for a solution to our problems, forgetting that frequently the heavenly virtue of patience is required. The difficulties which come to us present us with the real test of our ability to endure. A fundamental question remains to be answered by each of us: Shall I falter, or shall I finish?”

As we remember Christ and remember to live like Him our problems won’t disappear, but we will be better able to endure them and we can answer WE WILL FINISH.

 “From the bed of pain, from the pillow wet with tears, we are lifted heavenward by that divine assurance and precious promise: “I will not fail thee, nor forsake thee.” Such comfort is priceless”
“Our Heavenly Father, who gives us so much to delight in, also knows that we learn and grow and become stronger as we face and survive the trials through which we must pass. We know that there are times when we will experience heartbreaking sorrow, when we will grieve, and when we may be tested to our limits. However, such difficulties allow us to change for the better, to rebuild our lives in the way our Heavenly Father teaches us, and to become something different from what we were—better than we were, more understanding than we were, more empathetic than we were, with stronger testimonies than we had before.”

That is why Jesus Christ is my best friend. He helps me to become better than I ever thought I could be. We must remember Him and become like Him, be a friend to Him, so that we may become our best selves and return to live with Him again one day. We must become like Him so we can help others become their best selves so they can return to live with him. Remember when he asked Peter “Do you love me” what he said next? “Then feed my sheep”. That is the mission of a missionary. That is our mission as members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. We all might not wear name tags, but we are all still missionaries and we have the responsibility to bring ourselves unto Christ, learning his attributes and becoming like Him, so that we may fulfill the mission to bring others unto Him. We even read that in 2 Corinthians: “Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort; who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God”. If we really want to show Christ that we love him we will remember his words “feed my sheep”. Love should be our motivation for doing missionary work. We read in Mosiah that when we are in the service of our fellow beings we are only in the service of our God.

Now, I know becoming like Christ is hard. Turning to Him for help is hard. Changing is hard. Missionary work is hard. It is uncomfortable. It requires us to sometimes step into the dark and do things we wouldn’t normally do.

As I was preparing to start my papers these concerns came up but most of all I struggled knowing that I would be sharing something so precious and so sacred and true and people would turn away from it. I stumbled across a talk given by Jeffery R Holland entitled “Missionary Work and the Atonement” that I encourage everyone to read, but I would like to share his words with you now, because it addresses these concerns that I had and may address the concerns and fears you have as well.

“Anyone who does any kind of missionary work [which is all of us, so don’t tune out] will have occasion to ask, Why is this so hard? Why doesn’t it go better? Why can’t our success be more rapid? Why aren’t there more people joining the Church? It is the truth. We believe in angels. We trust in miracles. Why don’t people just flock to the font? Why isn’t the only risk in missionary work that of pneumonia from being soaking wet all day and all night in the baptismal font?

You will have occasion to ask those questions. I have thought about this a great deal. I offer this as my personal feeling. I am convinced that missionary work is not easy because salvation is not a cheap experience. Salvation never was easy. We are The Church of Jesus Christ, this is the truth, and He is our Great Eternal Head. How could we believe it would be easy for us when it was never, ever easy for Him? It seems to me that missionaries and mission leaders have to spend at least a few moments in Gethsemane. Missionaries and mission leaders (and all of us) have to take at least a step or two toward the summit of Calvary.

Now, please don’t misunderstand. I’m not talking about anything anywhere near what Christ experienced. That would be presumptuous and sacrilegious. But I believe that missionaries and investigators, to come to the truth, to come to salvation, to know something of this price that has been paid, will have to pay a token of that same price.

For that reason I don’t believe missionary work has ever been easy, nor that conversion is, nor that retention is, nor that continued faithfulness is. I believe it is supposed to require some effort, something from the depths of our soul.

If He could come forward in the night, kneel down, fall on His face, bleed from every pore, and cry, “Abba, Father (Papa), if this cup can pass, let it pass,” 16 then little wonder that salvation is not a whimsical or easy thing for us. This is the living son of the living God saying isn’t there some other way. If you wonder if there isn’t an easier way, you should remember you are not the first one to ask that. Someone a lot greater and a lot grander asked a long time ago if there wasn’t an easier way.

When you struggle, when you are rejected, when you are spit upon and cast out, you are standing with the best life this world has ever known, the only pure and perfect life ever lived. You have reason to stand tall and be grateful that the Living Son of the Living God knows all about your sorrows and afflictions. The only way to salvation is through Gethsemane and on to Calvary. The only way to eternity is through Him—the Way, the Truth, and the Life.”

As we are all aware, Heavenly Father is hastening His work, we are running out of time. The adversary is also hastening his work. These past 4 ½ months of having my call and waiting to go have been really interesting because God and Satan are playing tug o war with me. I set goals and schedules for myself and then things try to distract me. At times I feel totally confident and then I feel totally unqualified. I have huge spiritual highs and then disappointments come. I do everything I feel like I am supposed to and sometimes things still happen. For those of you who don’t know, I had my wisdom tooth surgery and ended up with some nerve damage. It’s been a month and I still don’t have normal feeling on parts of my face and mouth. If my feeling doesn’t come back in a couple more I will have to come home and have surgery. I started getting some feeling back and then this week I got an infection and my face started to blow up again. There was a moment or two were I wasn’t sure if I wasn’t going to be able to go on time or be able to serve full time, But despite the trials and challenges that have come and gone or stayed I KNOW I AM ON THE WINNING TEAM. I KNOW THAT THE BOOK OF MORMON IS TRUE. I KNOW THAT HEAVENLY FATHER HAS A PLAN AND THAT EVERYTHING WILL WORK OUT HOW IT IS SUPPOSED TO, WHETHER OR NOT IT IS WHAT I WANT.

God wouldn’t give me anything I couldn’t handle. I take comfort in Nephi’s account “and thus we see that the commandments of God must be fulfilled and if it so be that the children of men keep the commandments of God he doth nourish them, and strengthen them, and provide means whereby they can accomplish the thing which he has commanded them; wherefore, he did provide means for us while we did sojourn in the wilderness”. That’s how I can keep my head high and how I can smile through this and anything that may and most certainly will come my way because I love and know my Savior and I know He loves and knows me. He is my superhero, my creator, my redeemer, MY BEST FRIEND.

I don’t know what the future holds for me. I don’t know what people or situations God is going to throw at me. I don’t know if my body will cooperate or heal how I want it to. But I know that God will take care of me and that His plan is a lot greater and grander than mine. He is throwing me and you through different fires because he is taking the little lump of coal that we are and forming it into a diamond, and He can only do that with a little heat and a little pressure. No one promised that salvation was going to be easy, but there is a promise that it is going to be so worth it. I’m grateful for the plan of salvation, which tells me that I was with God before all this, that I sat down with Him and He asked me “are you sure you want to go to Earth? You are going to face this and this and this, are you up to it?” It gives me comfort to know that I said “Yes, I know what I’m signing up for” and that he said “im so pleased with your decision. It will be hard, but don’t worry, I’ll send you a best friend to hold your hand and to help you through it all so you can return and live with me again” That helps me get through the fire, knowing that there was a beginning and that there is a glorious end.

I pray that the spirit was here so that it could say something through me that could touch you and bring you closer to Jesus Christ and change your hearts about missionary work. If not, I have one more poem I’d like to share. It is called “He’s Been There Before” and was written by a missionary.

 “The Alarm bell rings at 6:30, I stumble to my feet
I grab my companions bedding and pull off his sheets
A groan fills the room, is it already time to rise?
It seems like just a second ago I was able to shut my eyes.

The morning activities follow- study, prayer and such
When it’s time to leave the apartment, you feel you haven’t accomplished much

“We have a super day planned,”
My comp. says with a grin
I lowly utter a faithless breath,
“Yeah, if anyone lets us in.”

With the word of God and my faithful Schwinn, we ride off in the street
Prepared to face another day of humidity and heat
It’s 9:30 in the evening, the day is almost through
My champion and I are riding home not accomplishing what we thought to do

We ride up to the mailbox, hoping to receive a lot
Only to look inside and hear my echo reverberate “air Box”
We go up to our apartment, the day is now complete
The only thing to show for our work is a case of blistery feet

It’s past 10:30 p.m. My companion is fast asleep,
Silence engulfs me all about and I begin to weep
In the midst of sadness, I kneel down to pray
I need to talk to Father, but I’m not sure what to say

“Oh, Father” I begin, “What happened to us today?
I thought we’d teach somebody, but everyone was away
My hands, my aching hands- worn, hurt and beat;
If our area was any smaller, we’d have knocked every street”

“Why on missions are the days so much alike?
The only difference about today was the flat tire on my bike
Will you send some cooler weather? The heat is killing me
I sweat so bad, it gets in my eyes, it’s very hard to see”

“Why do I have to wear a helmet, isn’t your protection enough?
People always laugh at me, and call me silly stuff
Please send us investigators so I may give them what they lack
I want to give them Books of Mormon, the weight of them hurts my back”

“And what about my family: They don’t have much to say
I’m sick of not hearing from home day after day after day
Oh Father, Why am I here am I just wasting time?
Sometimes I just want to go home, I’m sorry but that’s on my mind”

“My companion, Heavenly Father, what are you giving me?”
The way he rides his bicycle, I don’t think he can see
Now you have it, I can’t go on, I don’t know what to do
That, my Father in Heaven, is the prayer I have for you”

My prayer now finished, I stand up, then jump right into bed
I need my rest for tomorrow, we have another long day ahead
Sleep starts to overtake me, I seem to drift away
Then it seems a vision takes me to another time in another day

I’m standing alone on the hill. The view is very nice
A man walks towards me and says, “My name is Jesus Christ”
Tears of joy well up inside, I fall down to His feet
“Arise,” He states, “Follow me to the shade. You and I need to speak”

My attention’s towards my Savior, total and complete
He says, “Your mission is similar of what happened to me
I understand how you feel, I know what you’re going through
In fact, it would be fair to say I’ve felt the same as you”

“I even know how you felt when no one listened to you
At times I felt not quite sure what else I could do
I know you don’t like to ride a bicycle, for you a car would be sweet
Just remember the donkey I rode wasn’t equipped with 21 speeds”

“I understand you don’t like sweating, in fact it’s something you hate
I remember when I sweat blood from ev’ry pore, oh the agony was great!
I see you don’t like your companion - you’d rather have someone else-
I once had a companion named Judas who sold my life for wealth”

“It’s hard to wear a helmet and have people make fun of you
I remember when they put thorns on my head and called me King of the Jews
So you feel burdened down by the weight of your pack
I recall how heavy the cross was when they slammed it on my back”

“Your hands hurt from tracting and knocking on doors all day
I guess when they pounded nails into mine, I ached in a similar way
It’s hard not to hear from home when your family’s not there to see
I lost communication on the cross and cried, “Father, why hast Thou forsaken me?”

“We have a lot in common, but there’s a difference between us you see
I endured to the end and finished my mission, so follow and do like me”
He embraced me with His arms and His light filled me with His love
With tears in my eyes I watched as He went back to the Father above

I stood with awe and wonder when a beep rang in my head
I listened and heard the alarm, then realized I was in my bed
My companion let out a groan, “6:30 already, no way!”
I sat up and said, “Come on, I’ll even carry your scriptures today!”

No matter what we go through,
when we feel we can’t take more
Just stop and think about Jesus Christ,
He’s been there before."

I love my Heavenly Father and Savior Jesus Christ so much. That is why I have to go. That’s why no matter how hard it gets, I will continue to feed his sheep. The Book of Mormon is another testament of His love. Joseph Smith did see both the Father and the Son and did, though their power, translate the plates. I am grateful for the outpouring of blessings and support I have gotten from both sides of the veil as I have been preparing my whole life for this time where I can be an instrument in His hands. It was never about me and will never be about me, always about serving Him. I testify that as we come to know Jesus Christ and as we accept Him as our best friend missionary work will become more natural because we will be doing it out of love. My best friend and yours LIVES and he wants to make your dreams a reality, but He can only do that if you believe. I say these things in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

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