Sunday, February 15, 2015

Sunday, February 15, 2015 Missionary Farewell Talk

Missionary Farewell Talk

Good morning brothers and sisters.

I’ve been asked to share with you some of the things that I know to be true, that have been ever-present throughout my life. And by coming to an understanding of them in relation to my earthly progression, they have brought peace and strength to me.

If there's one constant in our lives, it is change. It's our natural thought to make this statement apply to the big, forever life-altering events, but we can also recognize that there is always an ebb and flow of things shaping and adjusting our course in life.

Change is healthy and good, and it's something we should be happy to accept. The ability to choose what aspects of yourself you want to keep, and the things that you should do differently, is a blessing. Without change, there could be no progression. We would be stuck in our naive, imperfect state for time and eternity, and there would be no reason, nor ability, to become like God. God Himself could not exist as He does now without change, as He would not have been able to have a change of heart and develop His godly attributes as we must do to be like Him.

One of those "big changes" we can easily point out was becoming mortal, after living as a spirit with our Father for so long. Making that choice to follow God’s plan led to a whole slew of choices we now have the opportunity and responsibility to make while on earth.

And while we are here, as spirit children physically separated from our Heavenly Father, life is difficult. This type of experience is a test, to see how willing we really are to follow the directions we are given, even though we often don’t know all what lies ahead of us. When I go through a harder period of time in my life, I sometimes don’t remember that I am always able to talk to my Father in Heaven and tell Him about my struggles and my confusion and frustration, but that is one of the most important things to remember during those times. We have to build our relationship with Him, and it begins with open communication. When we ask the Lord for something, sometimes we receive an answer that we weren’t expecting, or we might have hoped for a different instruction. However, as Elder Richard G. Scott explains,

“When He answers yes, it is to give us confidence. When He answers no, it is to prevent error. When He withholds an answer, it is to have us grow through faith in Him, obedience to His commandments, and a willingness to act on truth. We are expected to assume accountability by acting on a decision that is consistent with His teachings without prior confirmation. We are not to sit passively waiting or to murmur because the Lord has not spoken. We are to act.”

I had the opportunity to attend institute the past few weeks, and during one of the lessons, the question was asked of what we, individually, would do when we were told what we needed to hear, not necessarily what we wanted to hear. That is an interesting point to sit down and ask of ourselves, and I think it requires some amount of humility and faith to be obedient to the counsel of God, and to be able to realize that it is given to us with as much overwhelming love and desire for our betterment as only our Heavenly Father can have for us.

We must learn to trust in the Lord, and for all our imperfections and shortcomings, He will forever love us and help us on our way towards Him. I’ve recently discovered that one of my favorite books of scripture in the Old Testament is that of Psalms. Over summer semester at BYU I had the opportunity to teach our Gospel Doctrine class, and I was able to become better acquainted with this wonderful book while preparing our lessons. A psalm, I learned, was a Hebrew poem, originally sung as praise or a petition to God, to demonstrate faith in the Lord and an earnest desire to live righteously. I also found that one of the most common admonitions in Psalms was to “trust in the Lord”.

In the 25th Psalm, King David gives the plea, “Shew me thy ways, O Lord; teach me thy paths. Lead me in thy truth, and teach me; for thou art the God of my salvation; on thee do I wait all the day.” And later in the 84th, it is stated, “For the Lord God is a sun and a shield: the Lord will give grace and glory: no good thing will he withhold from them that walk uprightly.” Psalms 25:4-5, 84:11

I love the nature of the promise the Lord gives to His children who are earnestly trying to learn His ways and to cast off the natural man and be perfected in Christ. The scriptures are a blessing that I don’t always appreciate, but moments like this help me to recognize how incredibly amazing it is that we have a record of God speaking to us, and it helps comfort me to know that He is watching over me and will give me all the tools and preparation to be successful in this life and the life to come.

And I know that this God, who is my eternal Father in Heaven, the organizer of my spirit, the founder of my salvation, truly exists. I have come to know of myself that the Gospel is true and testifies of Christ. By the Plan of Salvation I know that I have heavenly parents who want me to return to them, and be made perfect, and dwell in joy and glory forever.

With this knowledge I am able to stand as a witness of Jesus Christ and His restored Gospel, and have no doubt in my mind of its reality.

And yet, even when we have gained a solid testimony of something, as humans we are still prone to having self-doubt. Somehow we can still convince ourselves that we aren’t good enough for our perfect, glorified, almighty Father in Heaven. How can we possibly be able to share such pure and simple things as the gospel when we are so flawed, so incapable of doing the easiest of things that God asks of us?

Sometimes it takes the mouth of more than one witness for us to feel secure in our abilities. Undoubtedly we will always love and respect God, but sometimes we fail in something and start to think that He couldn’t have really meant what He’s said in the past about forgiveness and not holding us to our stupidly repeated mistakes. Sometimes we get discouraged and stuck in a mental rut, unable to move forward or backward, remaining hung up on our seemingly too-frequent inadequacies and pitfalls.

It takes another person whom we trust and value the opinion of to help us see ourselves with a different perspective, and to recognize just how amazing we are and that the sacrifices we make are not in vain. This person comes in many different forms, and from many different places, be it neighbors, church leaders, home and visiting teachers, friends, grandparents, scriptures, conference talks, spiritual revelation, and sometimes even a kind post-it note will do it.

I have often needed to draw on the support of family and friends to pull me out of my muddy rut and set me back on my path. I get discouraged by my inability to always be doing what I know to be the best choice, and it’s exhausting to think that way. That’s why our loved ones “support” us and “lift our spirits.” We can rely on those around us to lend us their strength and love when we feel down-trodden and weary. The amazing hero inside each of us always needs a sidekick to back them up.

Applying all this to my preparation to serve a mission so far away from my home and family, I am happily reminded of a time when a missionary experienced this sort of self-doubting, and the uncertainty he had that he was doing the right thing. I love how Elder John H. Groberg’s sweetly sincere, quick-witted companion Feki is able to help Elder Groberg realize that’s he’s actually doing quite well in his service to God:

“Feki, why do you have such faith in me?”
“Why shouldn’t I? You traveled so far to teach us, what you say must be true.”
“Yeah, but what if I lied to you?”
“You wouldn’t lie, Kolipoki.”
“But what if I did?”
“Then you’ve come a long way just to tell a lie.”

I feel that I will be having that conversation many times in the future, whether between myself and a dear sister companion, or between me and the Lord, but the result will be the same: renewed strength and hope in oneself, and the knowledge that what is being done is right.

The Gospel is not complicated. Indeed, it is “beautifully simple, and simply beautiful.” We need to realize that even in the midst of constant change in our lives, offering prayer to our Father in Heaven and seeking in the scriptures for guidance will help us come to know the will of God for us individually, and build our own self-worth and testimonies.

I would like to close with a scripture in 2  Nephi that has reminded and reassured me of why I will go serve a mission and present the Lord’s Gospel to the beautiful people of Honduras:

“And the words which I have written in weakness will become strong unto them; for it persuadeth them to do good; it maketh known unto them of their fathers; and it speaketh of Jesus, and persuadeth them to believe in him, and to endure to the end, which is life eternal.” 2 Nephi 33:4

I say these things in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

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