Monday, April 25, 2011

Missionary Farewell - April 24, 2011

I've only been home for three days from BYU, and yesterday I gave my missionary farewell talk.  Since it was Easter, I had the opportunity to speak about the atonement and resurrection, so it was just everything I could have ever asked for!

Here it is:

How Teaching about the Resurrection of Christ can, as a missionary, bring hope to the people of the world.

            I have had some great experiences in college such as living in independence, meeting a lot of fun and awesome new friends, and staying up until the crack of dawn every day of the week just because I could.  But none of the blessings I have received from attending such a great University compare to how much I have come to know both the church and my Savior, Jesus Christ. 

            It feels like I am a completely different person now from when I left, and trust me, it’s mostly for the better.  I love every opportunity that I get to attend Church service and partake of the sacrament.  I loved going to the Conference Center for every session of General Conference to hear our prophet’s voice and the voices of all other leaders of our church regarding their love for the Savior and devout testimonies to the truth of the gospel.  I had the opportunity of taking Missionary Preparation with the best teacher I have ever had, and I even got college credit for taking a class on the Book of Mormon!

            My second semester at BYU has come to an end, but I come home with more knowledge from the past 8 ½ months than I have ever gained in my life. 

            For those of you who haven’t heard yet, I have been called as a missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  My initial assignment is the Mexico, Cuernavaca mission (Spanish speaking) and I report to the MTC on May 11th

            Speaking of terrible segues, our Heavenly Father gave us the plan of salvation for one wonderful purpose, to allow us all to become like Him and dwell in His presence for time and all eternity.

Moses 6:57 states, “Wherefore teach it unto your children, that all men, everywhere, must repent, or they can in nowise inherit the kingdom of God, for no unclean thing can dwell there, or dwell in his presence.”

            It makes a lot of sense that no unclean thing, or anybody that does not live by Celestial Law can dwell in his presence.  But as it is written in the start of the verse, we are given the solution to the problem of being imperfect, mortal beings.  That is, we must repent and be saved through the sacrificial atonement of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.  From before the beginning of the Earth, Jesus has been our one and only hope for “peace in this world, and eternal life in the world to come.”  Only He had the power to lay down His life and take it up again, the power of the atonement and resurrection bestowed on Him by God, the Father.

            As humans, we obviously all make mistakes.  Nobody is perfect, and yet we still cannot dwell in the presence of God unless we are perfect.  The Savior is the bridge between us and perfection, a bridge we can only cross if we repent and endure to the end.

            In mission prep, I was taught about making decisions that will chart the rest of my life that I make once and never have to make again.  Brother Bott called these “Kindergarten Decisions” and taught me that if I, for example, will make the decision to always be worthy to hold a current temple recommend, there will be no choice to do wrong in a situation that may have been difficult otherwise. 

            In our past life, we, the two-thirds part of the host of heaven, made the Kindergarten Decision to always be obedient to the commandments of God and live our lives worthily to inherit His kingdom.  The choice that we made in the pre-mortal life is the choice that has coursed the rest the purpose of our existence.  We are all meant to become like our Father in heaven and to become as perfect as our Brother always has been and will be.  Through the Atonement of Christ, we can repent for our sins and be saved.

Isaiah 1:18 assures, “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool.”

            Repent for your sins and don’t look back.  Become a new creature in Christ and always strive to achieve the ultimate goal of eternal salvation.  We all have an equal opportunity, and don’t ever think that you will never be good enough to reside in the Celestial Kingdom.

One of my favorite short stories, “The Master’s Hand” illustrates the beauty of doing our best and making the most out of a situation by relying on our Heavenly Father.

“The Master’s Hand” – Author Unknown:

Wishing to encourage her young son’s progress on the piano, a mother took her boy to a Paderewski concert.  After they were seated, the mother spotted a friend in the audience and walked down the aisle to greet her.

Seizing the opportunity to explore the wonders of the concert hall, the little boy rose and eventually explored his way through a door marked “NO ADMITTANCE.”  When the house lights dimmed and the concert was about to being, the mother returned to her seat and discovered that the child was missing.

Suddenly, the curtains parted and spotlights focused on the impressive Steinway on stage.  In horror, the mother saw her little boy sitting at the keyboard, innocently picking out “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star.”

At that moment, the great piano master made his entrance, quickly moved to the piano, and whispered in the boy’s ear, “Don’t quit, keep playing.”

Then leaning over, Paderewski reached down with his left hand and began filling in a bass part.  Soon his right arm reached around to the other side of the child and he added a running obbligato.  Together, the old master and the young novice transformed a frightening situation into a wonderfully creative experience. 

That’s the way it is in life.  What we can accomplish on our own is hardly noteworthy.  We try our best, but the results aren’t always beautiful, flowing music.  But when we trust in the hands of a Greater Power, our life’s work is truly a masterpiece. 

            As I prepare to head out on my mission, I feel incredibly blessed to be able to have the opportunity to do the Lord’s work for the next two years.  Through the spirit, I hope to convince many people to remember the decision they have already made to always strive to make it back to their Father in Heaven.  I will give hope to the world in bringing them to repentance and becoming new creatures in Christ.  Called to serve Him, I will go forth and bring hope to the people of Cuernavaca teaching of the Atonement: the key to gaining eternal life. 

I am very grateful to all of you for always providing a great spirit in the ward that I have grown up in and I will miss you when I leave again, but know that when I am gone, I am in good hands.