Sunday, June 8, 2014

Farewell Talk

Before missionaries leave on their missions, they are given the opportunity to give a talk in church. I was asked to speak on Elder Ballard's talk, "The Essential Role of Member Missionary Work." Since many of my friends and family weren't able to attend, I thought I'd post a copy here! Thanks again for the love and support! 

 Recently, a quote by Neil L. Anderson has caught my attention. He said, “Have you ever thought about why you were sent to earth at this specific time? You were not born during the time of Adam and Eve or while pharaohs ruled Egypt or during the Ming Dynasty. You have come to earth at this time, 20 centuries after the first coming of Christ. The priesthood of God has been restored to the earth, and the Lord has set His hand to prepare the world for His glorious return. These are days of great opportunity and important responsibilities…[and] one of your important responsibilities is to help prepare the world for the Second Coming of the Savior.”

Growing up, I never thought a mission was for me. It was never in my thoughts, plans, or desires…. And yet, here I stand today giving my farewell talk. So, what changed? Believe it or not, it wasn’t the missionary age for me. Rather, it was a long process of coming to understand a part of my divine purpose on this earth. Through specific experiences in my life and through much prayer, fasting and scripture study, I’ve come to know that serving a mission is part of God’s plan for me.

Although there were several experiences that led to my decision to serve, the following experience caused me to actually start my mission papers:

I was at BYU and had been praying about a mission for a while. One night as I was reading my scriptures, thinking about a mission (again), one of my sweet roommates knocked on my bedroom door with a birthday package from my sister, who is currently serving in the Tallahassee, Florida Mission.

My birthday wasn't until another week and I really wanted to have something to open on my special day. Everyone knows the un-written rules about presents: You can’t open them…. until it’s time to open them. But for some reason, I felt like I shouldn't wait. The thought to open the package right then came with such clarity to my mind that I knew the thought wasn’t coming from me.

So, I caved. I surrendered. And thank goodness I did.

That small, little package changed my life. Inside was a book, written by Melissa Dymock, entitled “SISTERS: A Modern Girl’s Guide to Serving a Mission.”

From that moment, I knew.

The answer to my prayer, “YES! Go on a mission!” came so strongly that I couldn’t deny it.  I’m so excited to announce that I've been called to serve in the Denver Colorado North Mission and will report to the Provo MTC on July 9th. 

In John 21, the Savior asks a question to Peter three times:

“Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord: thou knowest that I love thee. [Jesus] saith unto him, Feed my sheep.”

Because He was deeply concerned with the welfare of our Heavenly Father’s Children, the Lord gave Peter the special charge of feeding the sheep. He did this again in modern times through a revelation given to Joseph Smith: “Now I say unto you, and what I say unto you, I say unto all the Twelve: Arise and gird up your loins, take up your cross, follow me, and feed my sheep.”

Throughout the scriptures, the Savior ministered to people according to their specific needs. One of my favorite examples of this was when Jesus was near Capernaum, and Jairus fell down at Jesus’s feet, begging the Lord to come to his house and bless his daughter, who was dying. On their way there, a messenger comes to tell Jairus his daughter is already dead. In this moment of grief, however, he still had faith in the Lord, who comforted him, saying:

“Fear not: believe only, and she shall be made whole. And when he came into the house, he suffered no man go in, save Peter, and James, and John, and the father and the mother of the maiden. And all wept and bewailed her: but he said, “Weep not; she is not dead, but sleepeth…And he took her by the hand, and called, saying, Maid, arise. And her spirit came again, and she arose straightway: and he commanded to give her meat” (Mark 5:36-43). 

I love how this story illustrates Jesus’s patience and love to all who come to Him seeking relief from their physical, emotional, or spiritual illnesses. 
To follow the Savior’s example, we must also look around and reach out to the sheep facing these same circumstances. 

Elder Soares, of the 70, stated, “This need today is as great or perhaps even greater than when the Savior walked on this earth. As shepherds we must understand that we should nurture each one of our sheep to bring them to Christ…”

This is the same purpose as a missionary—to invite others to come unto Christ! The gospel of Jesus Christ is true. It is the greatest joy--the only pure joy-- we have in this life. 

When I was in third grade, I found another form of joy in one of my favorite snacks: Nutty Bars. The snack consisted of four wafers sandwiched together in a peanut butter mixture and covered in chocolate. In my little third grade eyes, that snack was crafted with perfection. Every day during lunch, two of my friends and I would purchase our Nutty Bars in the cafeteria and then head to recess where we would enjoy our luxurious guilt-free indulgence.

A couple weeks later, a new girl named Lauren moved into our class.  The teacher assigned her seat next to me and we quickly became friends. I was eager to show her around the school, introduce her to my friends and teach her how to play some of our make-believe recess games. When it was time for lunch, I asked Lauren if she liked Nutty Bars. Her forehead crinkled in confusion. “What is a Nutty Bar?” she asked. Her question made my third grade heart stop. I couldn’t believe she had never heard of the snack that brought 310 calories of chocolate-y goodness to my day—every day. “I’ll show you,” I told her. We hurried in the cafeteria together as I mentally prepared Lauren for her life to change by the crackling hazelnuts, soon to be underneath her teeth.

Little did I know, Lauren should have been mentally preparing me for the worst day of my third grade year! We got to the front of the line, only to be informed that the Nutty Bars had been discontinued. They were no longer being sold in our Cafeteria.

I was speechless. “Lauren,” I wailed, “you don’t know what you’re missing out on!” My heart ached for her as I thought what my life would be like without ever experiencing a Nutty Bar. So being the determined third grader I was, I went home that day and made a petition on my computer that I brought to recess the next day. My friends signed, who got their other friends to sign, who got their friends to sign, and on and on until eventually—we had the entire third grade’s scribbled signatures on my sparkled pink clipboard, petitioning for Nutty Bars. It was then, with much anticipation, that I gave our petition to the lunch ladies and hoped for the best.

For the next several weeks, I went to the lunch line every day to see if our petition actually made a difference. The first week, there were no nutty bars. And the second week, there were no nutty bars. The third week, I started to wonder if my petition was a waste of time and effort…but then the fourth week came. On the fourth week, my Nutty Bars were back!

Being absolutely thrilled, I bought one for Lauren and me and then hurried over to her screaming, “LAUREN! IT WORKED! THEY’RE HERE!” Lauren was finally able to try the Nutty Bars, and she ended up being just as obsessed as I was about them!

Seeing something that I love bring joy to someone else, even as a third-grader, was powerful to me.

If something as silly as sharing a snack, that brings only momentary joy, with a friend brings us that much happiness, imagine how much happiness we would feel sharing something that brings everlasting joy!

But we can’t do it alone. Just as I couldn’t make a powerful difference in Lauren’s life without the help of my friends signing that petition, the missionaries need you to help make a difference in their investigators' lives!

In Luke 10:2, Christ tells His Disciples, "The harvest truly is great, but the labourers are few: pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he would send forth labourers into his harvest."

There are currently 83,000 missionaries across the world. However, even with this large number, in order to reach everyone on the planet, they would have to teach 10 people an hour every day for their entire mission. That is a total of 100,000 people per missionary.

However, if every member of the Church reached out and shared the gospel, it would only be 524 people per each member. If you live to be 75 years old, that is only 6 people a year!

This a not a change in numbers. It’s a change in lives.

Elder Ballard said, “Remember…we’re not marketing a product. We’re not selling anything. We’re not trying to impress anyone with our numbers or our growth. We are members of the restored Church of Jesus Christ, empowered and sent forth by the Lord himself to find, nourish, and bring safely into His Church those who are seeking to know the truth....Viewed from that eternal perspective, what we are to do seems so simple and clear, but I know [it] can be challenging and sometimes frightening.”

He goes on to suggest three simple things that we can do to assist in this divine responsibility.

“First, we should exercise our faith and pray individually and as families, asking for help in finding ways to share the restored gospel of Jesus Christ.”

In 2012, I self-published a short book that included many personal experiences, favorite scriptures, and quotes that have personally impacted me from General Conference. I wrote it with a prayer in my heart, hoping it would touch someone in a meaningful way. I’m pretty sure only my close friends and family bought it, but a couple months later I received a message on Facebook that read: “Hi, Brianna. I am a friend of your Aunt Amy. I met her at a Clinique seminar in Virginia, just because we were seated next to each other! We started chatting on Facebook. I was in Utah in June on vacation and had a chance to see her. We had a nice evening together and she gave me a copy of your book…I just want to let you know that I read the book a couple times and you made a real impact on me! Between talking to Amy, reading your book and attending services with another woman I met by chance here in Virginia (who has also become a friend!) and talking to missionaries, I have made the decision to join the LDS church!”

She ended up visiting BYU last fall semester, and I was able to meet her and some of the missionaries who helped convert her. Words can’t express how grateful and blessed I felt to play a small part in her conversion story.

As we pray for ways to share the gospel, the Lord will place people in our paths who are seeking the truth. "As long as we are willing to “be the pencil,” the “Lord will do the writing.” This is His work and we are the instruments" (Elder Holland). 

“Second, leaders must lead by example.”

I’ve always loved the quote, “Preach the gospel at all times and if necessary, use words.”

If we live according to our beliefs, people will notice. My sister once had a seminary teacher who, at the start of every class, would have all the students stand and recite this short poem: “Someone is watching and this is a fact. Someone will copy the way that you act. So make this your motto and put it to use. Be someone’s example and not their excuse.”

In high school, I was friends with a non-member, who quickly became friends with all of my other Mormon friends. She noticed that we were honest, used good language, dressed modestly, went to seminary every morning, kept the Sabbath Day holy, but most importantly that we were happy people!

She eventually started asking us questions about the Church. For Christmas, all my friends and I wrote our testimonies in a Book of Mormon and gave it to her.

She later told me that she read the book, knew the church was true and wanted to be baptized! We were all so happy for her. She took the missionary discussions, watched General Conference with us, came with us to church and seminary, and was eventually baptized. We all thought we were being good examples to her, but in reality—her faith and testimony was an example to us!

"Third, member missionary work requires faith and genuine love. So let the power of love guide us in sharing the gospel with family members, friends, neighbors, business associates, and any other people we encounter as we go through life. Most everyone wants to enjoy peace and happiness." That is what this gospel is all about. 

Elder Neil L. Anderson teaches, “If you’re not a full-time missionary with a missionary badge pinned on your coat, now is the time to paint one on your heart—painted, as Paul said, ‘not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God.'"

I pray that we can be all be missionaries. I know that as we do, we will discover that God can make more out of our lives than we can. Our faith will increase, our testimonies will grow, and "our joy shall be great in the Kingdom of our Father" (D&C 18:15).

I know that no matter what happens, I can always rely on my Savior. I know that Heavenly Father hears and answers our every single prayer. I testify that He knows us personally. He knows our strengths, our weaknesses, our wants, our needs--He knows exactly what we are going through. I know Christ suffered and died on the cross for us, that we might live with Him again. To Him, we were worth the price He paid. You alone were--and still are--worth that price. Brothers and sisters, God loves you. He wants you to know that.

I know the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints is true. I know it is God's church on the earth today. Joseph Smith is a prophet of God and Thomas S. Monson, the prophet and president of the church today, is his successor. The Book of Mormon is true. I know that we can receive personal revelation and direction as we apply it to our lives. I testify that because of Him, families can be together forever. Death has no sting and the grave has no victory. 

If you do not know these things for yourself, turn to the scriptures. Kneel in prayer. Ask in faith. Listen to the Holy Ghost. Live the gospel with patience and persistence. I make the same promise to you as Nephi did to all of us, that "If ye will...ask [Heavenly Father] in faith, believing that ye shall receive with diligence in keeping [the Lord's] commandments, surely these things shall be made known unto you" (1 Nephi 15:11). 

In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen. 

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