Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Farewell Talk

 {It is tradition that before a missionary leaves for the MTC they give a farewell talk in their ward the Sunday or two before they go.  This was mine}

What is a missionary?  I mean, we toss that term around a lot, and we had two young men stand up today to announce that they will become a missionary soon.  So what does that mean? Well in Preach My Gospel it says that a missionary is someone who “Invites others to come unto Christ by helping them receive the restored gospel through faith in Jesus Chrsit and His Atonement, repentance, baptism, receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost, and enduring to the end.”  Or in other words, someone who leaves their family for two years, or 18 months, so others can spend eternity with theirs.
That’s awesome, but before we can be Missionaries we have to be missionaries.  Let me say that again because some of you have befuddled looks, before we can be Missionaries we have to be missionaries. 
In 1959  President David O. McKay proclaimed  “Every member a missionary.”  But what does that mean exactly?  As members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints we are not given a full time call to serve with suites and skirts.  We are however, called to be friends and neighbors to those around us. 
In Mosiah 18: 7-10 it reads:   Yea, all were gathered together that believed on his{Alma’s} word, to hear him. And he did teach them, and did preach unto them repentance, and redemption, and faith on the Lord.
 8 And it came to pass that he said unto them: Behold, here are the waters of Mormon (for thus were they called) and now, as ye are desirous to come into the fold of God, and to be called his people, and are willing to bear one another’s burdens, that they may be light;
 9 Yea, and are willing to mourn with those that mourn; yea, and comfort those that stand in need of comfort, and to stand as witnesses of God at all times and in all things, and in all places that ye may be in, even until death, that ye may be redeemed of God, and be numbered with those of the first resurrection, that ye may have eternal life—
 10 Now I say unto you, if this be the desire of your hearts, what have you against being baptized in the name of the Lord, as a witness before him that ye have entered into a covenant with him, that ye will serve him and keep his commandments, that he may pour out his Spirit more abundantly upon you?
Basically, when we are baptized we promised to follow the two great commandments Christ stated in the New Testament.  Love God, and love thy neighbor as thyself.
President Hinckley stressed this principle in most of his addresses.  In one in particular he said “I plead with you … that you will put your arms around those who come into the Church and be friends to them and make them feel welcome and comfort them and we will see wonderful results. The Lord will bless you to aid in this great process of retention of converts.”

Now some of us may have disregarded that wonderful statement because of one simple word: converts.  As we live in Utah, some may have the attitude that all of us have all been born into the gospel and there is no need to fellowship those around us as we are not “converts.”  I would like to propose, however, that in fact, we are all converts.  Each of us have had experiences where our hearts have been softened and we have come closer to God.  And, at times, we have had experiences where we have hardened our hearts and have edged a little farther from God.  We never know who around is struggling, or who we can help.  We are blessed to have a ward goal that encourages us to get to know one another.  You never know who’s life you will touch.

Another simple way we can be every day missionaries is temple attendance.   We are blessed to have 13 temples in Utah, most of which we can drive to within two hours. We are even more blessed to have a temple that is less than ten minutes away, and one that is being built just as close. How awesome is that?
 I have heard some of those who are not endowed say, “I can only do baptisms.”  However, baptisms for the dead is an amazing opportunity for missionary work.  It is not “only a” baptism, for that person you are representing, that is their baptism.  That is their first step towards the Kingdom of God, it is their ordinance.  So whether you are endowed or not, the temple is the temple, and attendance is a great act of missionary work and will invite the Spirit into your life.

Speaking of the Spirit, why is it so important to have the Holy Ghost in our lives?  Why would we, as members, especially as every day missionaries, want to have the Holy Ghost’s influence?
There are many reasons that we want to have the Holy Ghost as our constant companion but here are just a few. 
He brings us comfort and joy.   Elder Henry B. Eyring once said “The Holy Ghost is the Spirit of Truth. You feel peace, hope, and joy when He speaks to your heart and mind that something is true. Almost always I have also felt a sensation of light. Any feeling I may have had of darkness is dispelled, and my desire to do right grows.”
In Doctrine and Covenants 11:13 it states “Verily, verily, I say unto you, I will impart unto you of my Spirit, which shall enlighten your mind, which shall fill your soul with joy”
Peace, hope, and joy?  I might be a little brash in saying this, but I think all of us could use more peace, hope, and joy in our lives.
Another reason we would want the companionship of the Holy Ghost is that the Holy Ghost testifies of truth.  When we are in tune with the Holy Ghost He will give us the witness that the things we are taught are true, or if they are false.  We can gain personal testimonies of the principles that are taught by ancient and modern prophets by asking the Lord, in faith, if these things are true.  The Holy Ghost will give you that testimony of correct principles.  However, once that testimony is obtained we have to continue in faith with that principle.  Think of gaining a testimony, whether it be of Jesus Christ is our Savior or of your own personal worth or a testimony of prayer, as riding a bike up a steep mountain.  You are either progressing up that mountain or you are slowly rolling backwards.  There are no breathers, if you start to take a break, Satan will gladly hand you a glass of water and slowly start to drag you down the mountain.  That is why it is so important to gain a testimony now, while you are an every day missionary.  Because if you wait until you are a set apart full time missionary, Satan will have a hayday pulling you down with him. Why?  Because missions are hard and Satan will work his hardest on you so you can’t help others up to that mountain’s summit, where our Heavenly Father and Christ are waiting for you, you specifically, so they can throw their arms around you and say “Welcome home.”

Sometimes it can be hard to get up that mountain, alright let’s be honest, most of the time it’s really hard to get up the mountain.  But the Holy Ghost is always there for us as we press onward. 
Sometimes this upward battle is made harder when we don’t understand why we are doing certain things other than the Lord has asked us to do it.  However, if we keep pushing through with faith we are greatly blessed. 
Take for example, Adam.  He has been recently cast out of the Garden of Eden and is given a commandment in Moses 5:5-6. 
And he {God} gave unto them commandments, that they should worship the Lord their God, and should offer the firstlings of their flocks, for an offering unto the Lord. And Adam was obedient unto the commandments of the Lord.
 6 And after many days an angel of the Lord appeared unto Adam, saying: Why dost thou offer sacrifices unto the Lord? And Adam said unto him: I know not, save the Lord commanded me.
We don’t know how Adam reacted when he was first given the Law of Sacrifice. Whether he doubted or had a discussion about it with Eve after it was given.  All we know is that he pushed up the mountain and was obedient to the Lord.  And for this he was rewarded with the angel giving him the understanding that the sacrifices were a shadow of Christ and through Him we can repent. 
“I know not, save the Lord commanded me.”  This very simple statement from Adam resonates very strongly in me, because I am making the very same statement.  I was not happy when I started to get the impression I should go on a full time mission.  In fact I was very distraught.  I was happy with were my life seemed to be headed.  I was actually coming to terms with the very real, and very immanent, opportunity to marry.  So when that very first prompting came I ignored it, then the second prompting, and the third, and the fourth, and so on.  When I proved to be as stubborn as a mule, the Holy Ghost took a very different approach, he went through my boyfriend.  We broke up, and I started to talk to those of my close friends that had previously served missions.  It wasn’t long before I was talking with my Bishop to start the process.  So, here I stand before you, saying “I don’t know why I’m serving a mission, except that the Lord commanded me.”  I know that there are eternal blessings waiting for me because I am choosing to follow the Lord, for me and for my future family. President Hinckley has given us a glimpse of what those blessings could potentially be when he stated “Many young women are serving missions, many are preparing to serve, not because they aren’t married or have nothing else to do, but because they have a desire to serve and therefore are being called to the work.  The reason so many are going is because in the next generation Heavenly Father will be sending His priesthood army to the earth and wants to send them to mothers who have been properly trained and taught the gospel.  What better training can a young woman have than that of serving a mission” I know that when we choose to follow the Lord’s commandments, especially when we might not know the full reasons why, we are blessed both temporally and spiritually, and we will be taught the reasons why.
{Here I bore my testimony so I don’t really remember what I said so I’ll just leave it at this piece of advice: Go on a mission for whatever reason, stay for the right one.}

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