Sunday, November 2, 2014

So Long,

When I contacted the bishopric to find out when my farewell was going to be, they told me they had me scheduled for November 9.  I thought that was great, considering I leave on November 5.  I have been waiting a long time for this day to finally arrive but I’m as excited today as the day I received my call.
I have been given the topic of Honoring the Priesthood to speak on today.
Elder Russel M. Nelson said “Now to young men who bear the Aaronic (or preparatory) Priesthood: If you honor it, and prepare for and are worthy of a call to be a missionary, I promise: You will then “speak in the name of God the Lord” and bring His light to searching souls. To them you will be as a ministering angel, remembered with love forever.” 
I love this quote and I believe it can be applied to sister missionaries as well as Elders.  I believe that as I honor the priesthood in every way I can, that I too will be blessed with the ability to “speak in the name of God the Lord and bring his light to searching souls”.  While on my mission I know that I can be a tool in the Lord’s hands, helping others to receive the light and truth of His gospel.  The priesthood plays a major role in the gospel.  Elder Nelson went on to say “Remarkable!  He chose to honor us with His priesthood.  So we honor Him by honoring His priesthood-both its power and those who bear it.  By so doing, men, women, and children throughout the world will be blessed.  A living linkage has been formed between heaven and earth in our day.”  The priesthood is this living linkage; it is through the priesthood and priesthood ordinances that we are able to return to live with our Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ in the highest degree of glory. 
One of these saving ordinances is Baptism.  Mathew 28 verses 19-20 read “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:  Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you:  and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.”  In preach my gospel it explains that our purpose as missionaries is 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.” 
Baptism is a central part of missionary work. Elder Dallin H. Oaks said “We do not preach and teach in order to ‘bring people into the Church’ or to increase the membership of the Church.  We do not preach and teach just to persuade people to live better lives…We invite all to come unto Christ by repentance and baptism and confirmation in order to open the doors of the celestial kingdom to the sons and daughter of God.  No one else can do this.”  Baptism opens the doors to the celestial kingdom and gives you the chance to have eternal life in the highest degree of glory.
When we are baptized we covenant to take upon us the name of Christ, always remember him, keep his commandments, and serve him to the end so that we can always have his spirit with us.  I am going to relate each of these to missionary work.
         The first part of the covenant is to take upon us the name of Christ.  This has a very literal meaning to me as I approach my mission.  I will be wearing a nametag with his name on it.  For the next 18 months of my life I want to serve and represent Jesus Christ in England the best I can.  Elder Bednar said to be a “preach my gospel missionary” we must make, “His purpose our purposes.  His interests should be our interests.  His work should be our work.  His ways should be our ways.  His will increasingly should become our will.”
To make his purpose my purpose and his will my will, I have to make my life like his life. To be able to do this, I have to apply the Christlike attributes in my everyday life.  The Christ like attributes that myself and all of us should apply in our lives are Faith, Hope, Charity, Virtue, Knowledge, Patience, Humility, Diligence, and Obedience.  President Uchtdorf said, “Christlike attributes are gifts from God. They cannot be developed without His help. The one help we all need is given to us freely through the Atonement of Jesus Christ.  Christlike attributes come into our lives as we exercise our agency righteously.  In seeking to become more like the Savior, we need to reevaluate our lives regularly and rely, through the path of true repentance, upon the merits of Jesus Christ and the blessings of His Atonement.”  I know that I will not be able to become the best missionary I can be and develop all of the characteristics of Christ without the atonement and help from Jesus Christ.  As I exercise my agency righteously and show Christ that I am willing to do everything he has asked of me, I will be able to become more Christlike, but that will only come through complete trust and faith in him.  As we take upon us his name we will become as He is, and that is the way to eternal life.     
         The next part of the baptism covenant is to always remember him. 
  Dallin H. Oaks said “We should always remember Jesus Christ:  He is our Creator, our Redeemer, and our Teacher.” He goes one to say “And so we see that He whom we should always remember is He who gave us mortal life, He who showed us the way to a happy life, and He who redeems us so we can have immortality and eternal life.”  As we always remember Christ we will be able to stay on the straight and narrow path on the journey to eternal life, but if we don’t always remember him, it may become very easy to slip into the habits of the world.  Elder Bednar said “Please remember him in all that you think, in all that you do, and in all that you strive to become, and represent him appropriately to all of Heavenly Father’s children with whom you interact now and always.”  If we always remember him we will be able to always be a representative of Christ and show others the light of Christ.  We will be able to “cheerfully do all things that lie in our power, confident that his power and love for us will see us through” as Elder Christoferson said.  Always remembering him will guide us in the way we should live.  The words to the once popular song Try to Remember says, “try to remember, and if you remember, then follow.”  That is what we have to do, remember him and follow him. 
          The next part of the covenant is to keep his commandments.  There are a lot rules for missionaries and some may seem more important than others.  But these rules are there for a reason, just like we have the commandments for a reason.  President Uchtdorf said “Faith in Jesus Christ leads to action. When we have faith in Christ, we trust the Lord enough to follow His commandments—even when we do not completely understand the reasons for them.”  Heavenly Father knows how we have to live in order to return to live with him again, so he has given us the commandments as guidelines for how we should live our lives. 
While going to school up at BYU-Idaho I had to agree to always follow what they call the Honor Code.  For those of you who don’t know, the Honor code includes things like no wearing flip flops, shorts or capris on campus, having a curfew, going to church a certain amount of times each semester, and obeying what has been nicknamed the “chastity line” which is that the opposite gender can’t go to the back part of your apartment, if they have to use the bathroom they have to go down to the lounge or back to their apartment.  You get the point, lots of rules that to others may see as pointless.  Many people ask me how I survived up there with all of the rules, but what I learned is that these rules were set for a reason and to protect us.  Yes we have our agency, but we still need guidelines to help us use our agency wisely.  I absolutely loved BYU-Idaho and didn’t have a problem with all of the rules.  I went in with the attitude that some were pointless (like no wearing flip flops) but soon realized that the Honor Code was given to us for a reason and for our safety, so I was going to obey them, just like the commandments are given to us for a reason.  Sometimes we may not know why we have to follow certain commandments, but I know that if we do follow them that we will see the blessings and reason for it later in our life. 
President Uchtdorf said “The Savior invites us to learn His gospel by living His teachings. To follow Him is to apply correct principles and then witness for ourselves the blessings that follow. This process is very complex and very simple at the same time. Ancient and modern prophets described it with three words: “Keep the commandments”—nothing more, nothing less.” Blessings will come as we keep the commandments.  If you have a positive attitude about following the commandments and know we have them for us to become the best person we can be, then it won’t be hard to follow them. The song keep the commandments says “Keep the commandments, keep the commandments, in this there is safety, in this there is peace.  He will send blessings, he will send blessings, words of the prophets, keep the commandments, in this there is safety and peace.” I know that as we keep the commandments, and as I keep every mission rule that blessings will come.  They were given to us for a reason, and I know that the reason is to help us become the best person we can be.
Lastly is to serve Him to the end.  D&C 4 verses 2 and 3 says: “Therefore, O ye that embark in the service of God, see that ye serve him with all your heart, might, mind, and strength, that ye may stand blameless before God at the last day.  Therefore, if ye have desires to serve God ye are called to the work.”

I had a desire to serve God, but it recently escalated to a desire to serve a mission.  My decision to serve a mission didn’t come easily; I tried and tried to push the prompting that I was supposed to serve out of my mind.  But it wouldn’t leave.  It all started back in April when my parents and I went on a Humanitarian trip to Honduras with a group called Smiles for Central America.  Looking back now, I can see the Lords hand throughout the past year getting me ready to serve a mission. I had prayed about it over the year and some days I thought ‘ya that is what I’m going to do’, but I would never stick with the decision. Over Christmas break my dad received an email from this group saying that they still needed a few more people to join their trip in April.  You were supposed to be signed up a couple months before, but they just happened to have enough spots left that me and my parents could go.  We acted fast and decided we would go, because I want to go into Dental Hygiene and needed hours of experience to apply for school.  Never did I think that it would affect my life the way it did. 
What this group does is they travel to different countries in Central America and set up dental clinics in a church to do all the dental work that the youth need to go on missions.  They also do their physicals, haircuts, help them with their papers.  Basically they get everything done in one day that they may need to go on a mission.  I was put in the X-Ray station, so I got to interact with every kid that went through the clinic.  While there we also had the local missionaries helping us.  One day I remember looking over and seeing the missionaries talking and joking with the young men waiting to get their x-rays, and it was then that I realized that missionary work is so much more than just walking the streets all day and knocking on doors.  You really do get to know the people you are around and you develop relationships with those you come in contact with. It is then that I realized it isn’t about where you serve but who you serve on your mission.  You can change people’s lives when you serve missions, wherever you are called to serve.  Seeing the missionaries and the influence they had on these kids sparked an interest in missionary work for me, it made me want to serve a mission so I could get to know people and influence others lives for good.  I prayed that night to know if I was supposed to serve a mission, thinking that I already knew the answer because I had prayed about it before. 
The next day was Sunday.  About half way through Sacrament Meeting, I realized that every speaker had spoken about missions and the blessings of missionary work.  Then that night we had a fireside with 2 of the members of the Presidency of the Seventy for all the kids we were helping throughout the week.  They had told us previously that they weren’t going to go easy on these kids, they were going to lay it out how it is, and that is that they needed to go on a mission.  So of course, all of their talks were about missionary work as well, but I felt like they were talking to me.  During one of the talks, the speaker was listing all the excuses people may use as to why they can’t go on a mission.  One of the excuses was that they couldn’t read or didn’t like to read.  Now if you know me, you know reading is something that I really do not enjoy, I haven’t read a book in I don’t know how long.  It was then that I realized he was speaking directly at me, and that I have no excuse to not serve a mission.  I was freaking out because I didn’t want to serve a mission, I didn’t feel capable or qualified too.
         The speaker suggested that we start by reading Preach my Gospel if we don’t like to read.  And I did just that.  I started reading it every night before I went to bed, and there was something about it.  I didn’t care to sit and watch Netflix before bed anymore, I wanted to study preach my gospel.  I wanted to become a better person, and it was through preach my gospel that I was learning how to be more Christlike.
         Before going on this trip I had been accepted to BYU.  This has been a goal of mine for most of my life.  When I didn’t get in my freshman year I was devastated.  I had been trying to decide if I should stay at BYU-Idaho where I knew what I was doing and had friends, or transfer to BYU, somewhere I had always wanted to go.  I prayed and prayed about what I should do, but I never got an answer.  I didn’t feel strongly about going to either school, and I was so confused.  It all makes sense now.  I wasn’t supposed to go to either school right now, I am supposed to serve a mission.  This is not what I had planned for my life right now, I was going to be done with school in 3 years, married, and travel the world, but Gods plans are always better than my plans and I am so excited that my life has taken this path.  I know that serving missions is not always easy, and that there will be times when I wish I would have stayed at school and ignored the promptings I had to serve a mission.  But I also know the joy and blessings that will come from serving a mission with far out weigh the hard times.  This is the only time in my life that I have to fully devote all of my time and effort into serving the Lord and I couldn’t think of anything more rewarding or better to do with my life right now.
         As we take upon us his name, always remember him, keep the commandments, and serve him to the end we will always have his spirit to be with us.  I will not be able to be a successful missionary if I do not always have his spirit with me.  D&C 84 verse 88 says “And whoso receiveth you, there I will be also, for I will go before your face, I will be on your right hand and on your left, and my spirit shall be in your hearts, and mine angels round about you, to bear you up.”  How great is that?  To have his spirit surrounding you in all that you do.  This scripture gives me so much peace as I begin my mission.  I know that I will need the help of the Spirit every second of every day on my mission, so I am going to do everything I can to keep it with me at all times.
         I know the importance of the covenants we make at baptism, and I know that as we honor them and honor the other priesthood ordinances that we will be blessed.  The priesthood is a gift to us on this earth.  As Elder Nelson said it is “a living linkage between heaven and earth” so we need to do all we can to honor it.
         Testimony and Thank You's 

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