Monday, July 21, 2014

Farewell Talk

In ancient times, Heavenly Father commanded his covenant people to offer sacrifices. This was to symbolize the sacrifice of the Savior and showed their faith and devotion to God. The Savior’s Atonement, which was an infinite and eternal sacrifice, was the end to all animal sacrifice. Christ introduced the new sacrifice when he visited the Nephites after His resurrection. 3 Nephi 9:19-20 says, “19 And ye shall offer up unto me no more the shedding of blood; yea, your sacrifices and your burnt offerings shall be done away, for I will accept none of your sacrifices and your burnt offerings. 20 And ye shall offer for a sacrifice unto me a broken heart and a contrite spirit. And whoso cometh unto me with a broken heart and a contrite spirit, him will I baptize with fire and with the Holy Ghost, even as the Lamanites, because of their faith in me at the time of their conversion, were baptized with fire and with the Holy Ghost, and they knew it not.” It may sound very simple to come unto Christ with a broken heart and a contrite spirit and live the gospel. But we, as members of the church, know that this is sometimes easier said than done. It can be challenging to live the gospel, but that’s why it’s a sacrifice. It’s not supposed to be easy. But because of the Savior’s sacrifice, we have the opportunity to gain eternal life and exaltation. This is obtained through our faithfulness and obedience in living the gospel. And I can promise you that the blessings of eternal life and exaltation are definitely worth the hard work that we put forth in this life.
To have a broken heart and a contrite spirit means to be humble and receptive to the will of God and His counsel. To do this we must sacrifice our pride, our wants and our desires. The greatest example of this kind of sacrifice is of our Savior. Christ had the power to save himself from suffering during the Atonement. He even asked His Father in Heaven to make it stop. In Luke 22:42 he said, “Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me.” But Christ knew what Heavenly Father’s plan was for him, and for all of us. He knew that without His Atoning sacrifice, none of us could attain eternal life and exaltation. And then Christ said, “Nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done.” Christ showed us that the will of God is always greater than our will. It may be difficult or not what we wanted to do. But He is our Eternal Father, and He knows what is best for all of us. We just need to trust in His plan and follow with faith and obedience.
I decided to serve a mission when the mission age was lowered. My testimony grew very weak in the months leading up to General Conference. I was also trying to make big life decisions, like where to go to college, what to major in, and what to do with my life. I tried figuring this out all on my own, but I was unsuccessful. After a few months of my failed efforts I realized that I couldn’t do it without Heavenly Father’s help and I had to trust in His plan. I decided that I needed to humble myself and ask Him for help. I prayed and asked Heavenly Father to help me. I said that I would do whatever He needed me to do, but I needed Him to tell me. My answer was to serve a mission and I knew that it was the right thing to do. 
At that point in my life, I had no desire to serve a mission. I thought why would Heavenly Father ask someone with basically no testimony to go and preach the gospel? I still don’t exactly know why Heavenly Father needs me to serve a mission. I just know that I need to, and that is enough for me. Throughout the past almost two years since the age change, I have gained a strong testimony as I’ve been preparing to serve a mission. But there were a few times during that time where I started to let my fear overpower my faith. I started thinking about how difficult a mission would be, whether or not I would be a good missionary, and all the worldly things I would have to sacrifice when I left. I was most worried that I wasn’t qualified to serve a mission because of my lack of testimony. As I started to doubt, a quote kept running through my head, and it was “God doesn’t call the qualified, He qualifies the called.” This brought so much peace to me. Anytime I started to doubt I remembered Heavenly Father’s love for me and the things he had blessed me with, especially the answer to my prayer. I thought that the least I could do to show my love for and devotion to Heavenly Father was to do His will and serve a mission. I knew that as long as I was faithful and obedient, Heavenly Father would magnify my efforts and make me an instrument in His hands. Elder Neal A. Maxwell said it perfectly, “God does not begin by asking us about our ability, but only about our availability, and if we prove our dependability, he will increase our capability.” As we sacrifice our time to the building up of the kingdom of God, He will improve our abilities and bestow the blessings of Heaven upon us. I have recognized the Lord’s hand in my life as I have prepared to serve. I have gained a strong testimony, the desire to serve, and a love for the people I will be teaching and serving with. Heavenly Father has blessed my family and me so much and I know that this is only a preview for things to come.
I can’t speak from experience, yet, but I know that serving a mission will be one of the hardest things I’ve ever done, and that it will also be one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. President Gordon B. Hinckley said, “You will come to know that what appears today to be a sacrifice will prove instead to be the greatest investment that you will ever make.” I had the opportunity to spend the day with the sister missionaries this past week. Most of the day was very hard and frustrating. Almost all of the people we visited weren’t home and it we were super hot and tired. But we had an appointment at the end of the day with someone who was very seriously investigating the church. We taught the first missionary discussion, which is The Restoration. This was my first time teaching so I was really nervous. But the Spirit was so strong that night. Our investigator prayed for the very first time to ask Heavenly Father if The Book of Mormon was true. It was such a powerful and heartfelt prayer. I realized that that one lesson made the whole day worth it. We were able to bring someone closer to Christ, and it was such a great feeling. I felt the joy that’s spoken of in D&C 18:15: “And if it so be that you should labor all your days in crying repentance unto this people, and bring, save it be one soul unto me, how great shall be your joy with him in the kingdom of my Father!” I was able to glimpse at how difficult and wonderful missionary work is. Elder Jeffrey R. Holland said, “I am convinced that missionary work is not easy, because salvation is not a cheap experience.” As missionaries, we sacrifice lots of our time, energy, wants and other worldly things, because The Gospel of Jesus Christ is the most important thing that there is.
Brothers and sisters, I realize that not all of you have or will serve full-time missions. But there are simple sacrifices that we can make to help build up the kingdom of God, like paying tithing, serving in callings, going to the temple, etc. When I was younger, all of these things seemed like big sacrifices. President Spencer W. Kimball said, “As we give, we find that ‘sacrifice brings forth the blessings of Heaven.’ And in the end we learn it was no sacrifice at all.” As I’ve done these things over the past few years, I have learned to find joy in them. And as President Kimball said, they don’t feel like sacrifices anymore, because I know that what I’m doing is for a greater purpose. I know that as we make sacrifices towards building up the kingdom of God, our efforts will be magnified and they will truly bring forth the blessings of Heaven.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

The Gospel of Jesus Christ

This last semester at BYU I took a New Testament class that was focused on the four gospels. We learned a lot about the life of the Savior and his teachings. Romans 1:16 defines the gospel as “the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believeth.” The gospel of Jesus Christ in its simplest form, I believe, is what we need to do and how we need to act so we can return to live with our Heavenly Father and gain eternal life.
My purpose as a missionary will be to “invite others to come unto Christ by helping them receive the restored gospel through faith in Jesus Christ and His Atonement, repentance, baptism, receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost, and enduring to the end.” These principles and ordinances are the foundation of the gospel. Everything builds upon these things to help bless our lives and achieve perfection. Going to the temple and partaking of the ordinances and blessings there is required for exaltation. But to go to the temple we must first have been baptized and received the gift of the Holy Ghost. And in order to get baptized we must have faith and repent of all our sins. Everything builds on our faith and it is up to us to endure to the end.
            During Christ’s mortal ministry, he showed us the way of how to live the gospel, both in word and deed. He was baptized, he had faith in Heavenly Father’s plan, and he endured to the end while accomplishing the Atonement. Christ served others, was merciful, compassionate, and humble. We need to follow His example and continue in faithfulness so that we can receive all of the blessings our Heavenly Father has in store for us.
            Exaltation is possible through obedience and faithfully living the gospel. Living the gospel is simple, but it is not always easy. I know that Heavenly Father will grant unto us a portion of His power so that we can be successful as we exercise our faith. Faith is truly powerful and it can lead us to eternal life and exaltation.