Sunday April 27th, 2014, Canandaigua NY
I was not prepared to sing that song for the Sacrament (I Stand All Amazed). I was hoping after the last couple days of listening to really spiritually uplifting speeches and crying my eyes out for 3 days, I wouldn’t have to worry about it today, but I think after that song I have control of myself, but that actually lead really well into some things I want to cover today.
I was challenged a couple of days ago even though I’ve known about this talk for a while, it’s just been not knowing what to say, but I was challenged a couple of days ago to use more stories so I want to tell you a little story.
A story of someone I once knew who, as a young man, let a little seed of anger get planted and steer, well I shouldn’t say steer, more or less forced him away from the church. His family had no idea how to combat this, as much as they tried and as many spiritual experiences that were thrown into his life, his life had taken a turn for the worst with getting controlled with addictions, and fear and loneliness which was really all self inflicted his life environment was not such that any of these things should of ever happened, but they did.
Through those experiences he let his life nearly be destroyed several times and only through what I would definitely deem as an act from God himself, was he ever able to be brought back. It took a long 10 years but now standing before you today is that kid, I once knew, that has been changed. I say once knew because I don’t know who that kid is anymore because I have literally let the gospel change my life. It happened in an instant and it was not what I was prepared for.
Last year at The Hill Cumorah Pageant it was a very spiritual moment for me that just let me know that this gospel was true. I’ve known it to be true for a long time but with the life I had been living I built walls that were not allowing the gospel to penetrate at all. For a brief moment I allowed my wall to come down and that’s all it took. I just needed to know that I had always believed the gospel was true but I didn’t want to believe. I was scared at the changes that I would need to make, to turn my life around to where The Lord would want it. For those exact reasons though, is why I am so grateful that I get the opportunity to serve a mission.
I know that this gospel literally changes lives. I know that I am going out to let people know that this gospel changes lives. I want to be able to go out and share the love that I currently feel in my life with the people of my mission as I have been called to the Kennewick Washington Mission. I report May 21st, I know that this ward in particular and the people who I’m standing in front have dramatically improved my life in ways you wouldn’t even imagine, you have saved my life.
One of the bases for this farewell talk was, I wanted to share some of the reasons why I’m going on a mission.
First I found a scripture, it’s related several times in the scriptures but I found it in Doctrine and Covenants 59:5 and part of 6
“Wherefore, I give unto them a commandment saying thus: Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, with all thy might, mind, and strength; and in the name of Jesus Christ thou shalt serve him.
Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.”
When I read that, I know that serving him is what I want to do. I know that for me, the long 10 years that I spent away from the church are never going to be made up in my mind. I do know that through the atonement, the things that I have done have been washed away, but I know the only way that I can give back to Jesus Christ who was able to give me that atonement, that was able to wash away what I had done, was to give back and serve him. For me, that is going on a fulltime mission, and that's just the beginning. My mission won’t end after the two year fulltime service ends I will continue to be a missionary throughout my life. As the end of the scripture says love thy neighbor as thyself. So throughout my mission and life I’m going out and loving my neighbor as myself so that I can show them love and maybe if at all possible, touch them with the amount of love that I’ve been able to experience in my life.
The atonement gives great power. Through the atonement, he’s taken on the infirmities, he’s taken on the pains, he’s taken on the sufferings, in fact in a scripture in Alma 7 :12
“And he will take upon him death, that he may loose the bands of death which bind his people; and he will take upon him their infirmities, that his bowels may be filled with mercy, according to the flesh, that he may know according to the flesh how to succor his people according to their infirmities.”
Now when you take the word infirmities that includes everything, that’s even that one miserable moment I felt in middle school when someone poked fun at me. He knows all of that pain and sorrow of that single moment and He felt that pain at His end so that He may know how to succor his people according to their infirmities, He was able to take upon all of that so He could make the atonement personal for everyone. For my personal trials He knows and He has gone through exactly the same pains and suffering I’ve gone through so that He would know to exactness, how to personalize the atonement to my life. He is not someone who is just a confidant who has traveled down the same road you have, may have had the same experiences, even a parent cannot relate to exactness what I’ve gone through personally, but He can. That’s what spoke volumes to me when I knew the atonement had worked in my life. That I was struggling, the gospel was true, I knew that but I didn’t know how I was able to move forward and move forward with the knowledge of the things that I had done and what he was going to, I guess, forgive me for. It was really interesting to me to know that as soon as I came to realize it was so personal to me and that the atonement was able to cover everything that happened in my life, I knew right away that He had already forgiven me and I needed to forgive myself and that’s sometimes the hardest part.
But it was really easy after that. I mean, that was a miserable month for me. To know the gospel was true, but okay, now what are you going to do about it? As soon as the atonement took root and I could see that, it was almost instantaneous. Similar to reading the experience of Alma the Younger that as soon as he grabbed hold of the thought of what his father had taught him about Jesus Christ and that he forgives all sins, it talks about how in that very moment he felt relief in that same moment. My testimony has just been getting strong from then.
I know this gospel is the true gospel on the earth today. I did not want to see that for a long time but I know that it’s true. I know the atonement is personal for everybody. I know there’s nothing the atonement can’t cover and with that knowledge I’m going to be able to go out and serve a mission and talk to anyone and everyone and know that there’s no one I can’t talk to that this gospel is not going to be able to help.
My purpose in going out on a mission is so that I can share the love of Christ with everyone and that’s my goal, that will be my goal throughout my mission in every ward, in every stake, in every branch and for every person that I meet to share that love. If I can show them that their Heavenly Father loves them a little bit more than they thought, I have been successful.
Whether that be for someone who has never heard the gospel before, or whether it be for someone who is fully active and faithful in the church, if I can let them realize the love that their Heavenly Father has for them is infinite and never ending and that there’s nothing they will be able to do that their Heavenly Father is not going to look past and want to forgive them for, as long as they completely devote their life to him, that’s where I will find my own success.
I’m challenging myself now to that, it’s a pretty high bar that I’ve set for myself but I know that my mission will be a success as long as I keep that focus, that my challenge to myself is to show the love of Christ to everybody.
I’m glad that for one moment I was able to take down my walls and realize this gospel is true. I’m so happy I get to serve a mission, that I get to share that with everybody. There’s probably nothing I have wanted more in my entire life and I leave this with you in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.