Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Farewell Talk

Instead of a teary post about how much I will miss everyone (although I will) and about how excited I am to serve a mission for the Lord (although I am), I figured I would just post my farewell talk for you all so that you can be a part of my mission experience from beginning to end. Farewell, all, I will see you on the other side with a heart fuller than I ever could have imagined.

Good morning Brothers and Sisters. I am so happy to be here again with you and to be able to share my thoughts and testimony with you today.  As many of you know, I have chosen to serve a mission for the Lord for 18 months. I have been called to serve in Anaheim, California teaching in American Sign Language.  I am thrilled for the opportunity to serve the Lord and learn and grow through the experiences that I will have.
On my mission I will be able to spend all my time emulating the Savior and His life on earth.  Christ spent all of His time serving those around Him, caring for them and their needs.  He has asked us very clearly to be shining examples of Himself:
            “What manner of men aught ye to be?... Even as I am.” (3 Nephi 27:27)
            “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” (Matthew 4:19)
            “I have given you an example, that ye should do even as I have done.” (John 13:15)
Elder Russell M Nelson, at a devotional on August 18, 1998, reminded us of five aspects of our Savior’s life that we can emulate in our lives. The first aspect is Love. If you were to go to any primary class and ask the children there what they know about the Savior, they would all tell you, “He loves me.” This is so true. He loves each and every one of us.  “Jesus loved His Father and His mother. He loved His family and the Saints. He loved the sinner without excusing the sin. And He taught us how we can show our love for Him.” 
His attribute of love includes “His compassion, kindness, charity, devotion, forgiveness, mercy, justice, and more.” I would like to focus on His charity. My favorite scripture concerning charity is in Moroni, chapter 7. Verse 45 lists several attributes of charity, “And charity suffereth long, and is kind, and envieth not, and is not puffed up, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil, and rejoiceth not in iniquity but rejoiceth in the truth, beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.” Now, in verse 47 we read, “But charity is the pure love of Christ, and it endureth forever.” So, charity is the pure love of Christ, and as we know, Christ only ever exhibited charity to all he met.  He IS the embodiment of charity. Knowing this, if we go back to verse 45 and insert Christ’s name in the scripture, we read, “ And [Christ] suffereth long, and is kind, and envieth not, and is not puffed up, seeketh not [His] own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil, and rejoiceth not in iniquity but rejoiceth in truth, beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.” For me this is the best description I have of my Savior in one verse.
An example of His love for us was His service. “He served His Father, and He served the people with whom He lived and labored.” Service is the majority of what missionaries do. They serve the people they meet, whether they meet the people on the street briefly, they have lessons with them, or if they are members of the ward. In this regard, our Savior is the best missionary. He served by healing, by feeding His disciples, by teaching, and giving His disciples ordinances.
The Savior’s emphasis on Ordinances is the second aspect Elder Nelson reminds us of.  Christ demonstrated the importance of baptism when He was baptized by John in the Jordan River. When questioned on why He was being baptized, he explained, “For thus it becometh us to fulfil all righteousness.” (Matthew 3:15) “Later the Lord instituted the ordinance of the sacrament. He explained the symbolism and administered its sacred emblems to His disciples.” He explained the importance of the partaking of these ordinances in Moses, chapter 6, verse 59, “Ye must be born again into the kingdom of heaven, of water, and of the Spirit, and be cleansed by blood, even the blood of mine Only Begotten; that ye might be sanctified from all sin, and enjoy the words of eternal life in this world, and eternal life in the world to come, even immortal glory.”
The greatest example of the third aspect Elder Nelson gives us is recorded in John, chapter 17. This is where our Savior gives the great Intercessory Prayer. In it, the Lord teaches us how to Pray.  He communicates with His Father on our behalf, and demonstrates His eternal love for us.  It is a wonderful model of prayer that we are given. There are many other accounts of His prayers throughout his mortal ministry that demonstrate to us how to pray, and much more, how much He loves us.
Elder Nelson next describes the fourth aspect of the Savior’s life that we can learn from: Knowledge. Why was He the greatest teacher? “Was He a skilled instructor of engineering, mathematics, or science? As Creator of this and other worlds, He surely could have been. Or, as the Author of scripture, He could have taught literary composition very well.” What made His teaching above all else was that He taught truths of eternal significance. “Only through Him could we learn of our premortal existence and of our postmortal potential.”
It is at this point I would like to take a small tangent, yet still related, to Elder Nelson’s talk.  For me, while I have found that I can find the knowledge my Savior gives me in the scriptures, through prayer, through church attendance, and going to the temple, I have found that my greatest source of knowledge and comfort comes through my patriarchal blessing.  I have learned so much more about faith, obedience, and eternal happiness from my blessing than I have through anything else. Sure it is much, much shorter than the scriptures, and it is nothing like receiving revelation while spending time in the temple, but for me, my blessing never fails to teach me something new every time I read it.  More times than I can count I have gone to my patriarchal blessing for comfort and for guidance on how to go about a particular problem in my life.  Though it has been a few years since I received it, and though I have read it innumerable times, I still feel that very same Spirit and sweet peace when I read through that wonderful blessing.  Through studying my blessing, I have come closer to my Heavenly Father and His magnificent plan for me.  It brings me more relief than I can ever describe reading about who I was before coming to Earth and the blessings I may have should I remain faithful and obedient.  In our patriarchal blessings, we learn our lineage.  As a part of the line of Ephraim, I have the responsibility and call to bring the children of the lost tribes of Israel back into the fold.  I am so glad to know that I will have the blessings of this lineage, to know that I will have some extra blessings on my side as I go out into the mission to bring people to the gospel. Some peoples’ spiritual anchor (besides the Savior) is the scriptures. For others it may be temple ordinances. But for me, I feel closest to my Heavenly Father and loving Brother, Jesus Christ, when I am reading my patriarchal blessing.
My patriarchal blessing helps teach me Endurance, which is Elder Nelson’s final aspect of Jesus Christ’s life. He suffered through so much in His life. He suffered so much mocking and persecution. He grew up amongst the people who were supposed to be His people. But His people persecuted and crucified Him. Despite this, He endured to the end. He finished His assignment. He atoned for the sins of all humankind. For me, that is the greatest example of love he could give. He atoned for all the sins of the world, taking upon Him the sadness, burden, and heartache of every human being even if they would not thank Him. He endured to the end, and what a wonderful blessing for all of us that He did. I know that if he can make it through all of that, I can make it through anything.
How can we emulate these five aspects of Jesus Christ in our own lives? I will quote Elder Nelson on this because he sums it up so well.
Love for family and friends, great as it may be, is much more profound when anchored in the love of Jesus Christ. Parental love for children has more meaning here and hereafter because of Him. All loving relationships are elevated in Him. Love of our Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ provides the illumination, inspiration, and motivation to love others in a loftier way.
Ordinances provide a focus for service of eternal worth. Parents should consider which ordinance is needed next by each child. Home teachers should think of an appropriate ordinance needed next in each family they serve.
The Savior’s example of prayer reminds us that personal prayer, family prayer, and prayerful pursuit of our assignments in the Church should become part of our lives. To know and to do the will of the Father provides great spiritual strength and confidence. On the Lord’s side is where we want to be.
Knowledge “of things as they really are, and of things as they really will be” allows us to act upon true principles and doctrine. That knowledge will lift our level of behavior. Acts that otherwise might be driven by appetite and emotion will be superseded by deeds shaped by reason and right.
A commitment to endure to the end means that we will not ask for a release from a call to serve. It means that we will persevere in pursuit of a worthy goal. It means that we will never give up on a loved one who has strayed. And it means that we will always cherish our eternal family relationships, even through difficult days of disease, disability, or death.”
Brothers and sisters, it is my testimony that Christ lives. He lives for us, and that through Him we can come to live with our Heavenly Father once again. Through temple ordinances we can gain exaltation and be with our families for eternity. I know that Christ is at the head of this wonderful church we are a part of. He guides His church through a modern day prophet, who is called of God to lead and direct this church. I know that Joseph Smith truly was a prophet and that he helped restore the gospel of Jesus Christ to this dispensation. I know that if we study and ponder the scriptures we can gain more knowledge than we ever thought we could. I love my Heavenly Father and my Savior so very much and I am grateful for the opportunity they have given me to serve my fellow men. These things I leave with you in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

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