Saturday, March 23, 2013

Farewell Talk

 For those of you who missed my talk and wanted to hear/read it, here it is! (I did my best to insert extra comments and my testimony as they happened)

I’m here to speak with you about missionary work. Conveniently, the first presidency message last month was a word to the hesitant missionary. This message really resonated with me, since I often feel that I’m the epitome of a hesitant missionary. As many of you know, I’m a shy person. I don’t go out of my way to talk to people. I’m a terrible small-talker. I’m not particularly bubbly or cheery. But I’m sure that many of you feel the same, especially when it comes to sharing the gospel with our friends and neighbors. President Uchdorf in his message gave a few pieces of advice to those who feel as I do – hesitant in sharing the Gospel. Because it was the first article in the ensign last month, featured on the homepage, AND probably the topic of everyone’s home teaching lesson, I won’t expand too much on it (though I do recommend you take the opportunity to read it, if you haven’t). But today I would like to share with you all a list that I have compiled and affectionately titled “A few more words to the hesitant missionary.” These are pieces of advice that I have collected from friends and family in the last few months as I’ve prepared for my mission.
Now I want you to all keep in mind that everything I say applies obviously to full time missionaries, but also to all of you as member missionaries, newly called by President Coombs at stake conference to seek out souls to share the gospel with.
As an insecure missionary, your first concern is that you won’t be able to answer difficult questions on doctrine. For me, this fear was met by the advice to treasure up the word. This is the first step in being a good missionary. We are promised that as we are consistent in reading our scriptures, listening to the words of the Prophets, and otherwise seeking out the words of the Lord that we will be given words when the times comes to share them. In D&C 11 we are told:
21 Seek not to declare my word, but first seek to obtain my word, and then shall your tongue be loosed; then, if you desire, you shall have my Spirit and my word, yea, the power of God unto the convincing of men.
 But as Harold B. Lee said, “How in the world is the Lord going to get over to you what he wants you to do if you are not there when he says it, and you do not take the time to read it after it has been said?” This is a call to actively seek out the Word of the Lord.
                Besides helping us to learn the doctrine and answer questions, studying the scriptures regularly and diligently can completely change our behavior and attitude. Pres. Spencer W. Kimball told us “there are blessings that come from immersing ourselves in the scriptures. The distance narrows between ourselves and our Father in Heaven. Our spirituality shines brighter. We love more intensely those whom we should love. It is much easier to follow counsel. The lessons of life are learned much more readily and surely.” Sometimes it doesn’t make sense how great a change occurs in our lives as we commit to studying the scriptures. That quote helps me to understand WHY this great change happens. It is because the distance between us and the Father narrows. We become more Christlike, not because we are learning more about Him, but because we are reading His words. They come from God, and they carry His power.
While we are on the topic of the Words of  God, I’d like to talk about the Book of Mormon. When a friend of mine heard that I was preparing to go on a mission, he had only one piece of advice for me. He said to use the Book of Mormon for everything. Going to an area that is largely Christian, and familiar with the scriptures, I originally thought one of my greatest tools as a missionary would be using the bible to prove points of LDS doctrine, and bringing to attention the prophesies in it of Joseph Smith and the restoration. Then I came across a comment that James E. Faust made concerning his mission. He and a few others were called as pioneer missionaries in Brazil in the 40’s. In one year, the converted 3 people. Obviously, times have changed. As of 2012, there are over 1 million members of the church in Brazil. President Faust testified that the difference since the time he served was made by the availability of the Book of Mormon to the people. He stated that “Only after the Book of Mormon was published in Portuguese did the great harvest of converts come.” I was convinced of this again as I read In Alma, as he was trying to reclaim the Zoramites
Alma 31:5
 And now, as the preaching of the word had a great tendency to lead the people to do that which was just—yea, it had had more powerful effect upon the minds of the people than the sword, or anything else, which had happened unto them—therefore Alma thought it was expedient that they should try the virtue of the word of God.
The Book of Mormon IS the word of God, and if people are given the opportunity to read it, they will realize the power and truths it holds. As Ezra Taft Benson said, “We do not need to prove the Book of Mormon is true. The book is its own proof.”
                Something I have found that is very important in missionary work is to be confident in your beliefs. I was recently at a friend’s house discussing my mission with a woman of another faith. She was excited at first, until she realized I was LDS. Then she said,“Oh, you’re just going to teach people to be Mormon!” “I guess…?” I wasn’t sure what else to say. Sensing my confusion, she explained her comment “well when our kids go on missions, they go to help people.” … How do you respond to that?? Since then, I’ve been insecure about talking about my mission. For a while, it was easier just to let people believe that I was going on service mission, and not clarifying that I was in fact, “teaching people to be Mormon.” I struggled with that for some time, until I remembered the famous words of Paul
 For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth
This was the reason I decided to serve a mission – I knew it was the power of God unto the salvation of His people. My desire to serve is similar to that of Alma the younger, whose entire life was changed when he came to know Christ. He said:
Yea, methought I saw, even as our father Lehi saw, God sitting upon his throne, surrounded with numberless concourses of angels, in the attitude of singing and praising their God; yea, and my soul did long to be there.
 23 But behold, my limbs did receive their strength again, and I stood upon my feet, and did manifest unto the people that I had been born of God.
 24 Yea, and from that time even until now, I have labored without ceasing, that I might bring souls unto repentance; that I might bring them to taste of the exceeding joy of which I did taste; that they might also be born of God, and be filled with the Holy Ghost.
 25 Yea, and now behold, O my son, the Lord doth give me exceedingly great joy in the fruit of my labors;

 That says it all. That is why I am going on a mission.
If we develop a desire to share the gospel with others, and we can remember the reasons why, then suddenly sharing the gospel will become easy to us, and the Lord will give us great joy in the fruit of our labors.
Lastly and above all, I think the most important lesson we must know as missionaries, is that the spirit makes all the difference. We are told time and time again that we do not convert people – the spirit converts people. Still, the spirit can speak through our faith and testimony. Sometimes we might be tempted to point out “facts” that prove our faith true. We are promised that in time, Joseph Smith will be proven a prophet by circumstancial evidence. While this is a comfort to saints, and can reaffirm our testimonies, it cannot create out testimonies. So-called facts change with day to day research and experiments, and if we base our faith off of them, we will never be firm in the gospel. M Russell Ballard said it best – “true conversion comes through the power of the spirit. When the spirit touches the heart, hearts are changed.”
I want to demonstrate this with a story told by Robert L Simpson of a farm boy from Wyoming:

What a comfort to those of us who feel insecure in our calling to share the gospel. This story reminds me of Aaron teaching the father of King Lamoni, who said to him “If now thou sayest there is a God, behold I will believe… I desire that ye should tell me concerning all these things, and I will believe thy words.” I want to be that kind of missionary - the kind that is completely trusted by investigators because he or she lives and teaches in such a way that his or her words can only be truth.
I am grateful to stand before all of you today and be able to bear my testimony. I grew up here. This ward raised me. You have all done so much for me.
Being honest, I have to say that I have struggled with every point of LDS doctrine. The only thing I have always known is that God exists. From there, He had to give me everything. But I’m grateful that I had to struggle through, because I can now say with a surety that Christ’s atonement is infinite. Joseph Smith is a Prophet. The Book of Mormon is true. This church is true. I know because my Father in heaven told me. And anything that I do not yet know, I can take to Him, and He will tell me whether it is true.
I used to think, “If this is the true church, why aren’t more people members of it?” Brothers and sisters, the Lord is hastening His work. The age change has resulted in an incredible increase in missionaries, and they will need your help. You might think you have no one to share with, but I promise. There is someone in your life right now that needs the Gospel. And there is no one in the world that should go without hearing about it.
I’d like to close with my favorite scripture, Jacob 6:12 which states “be wise; what can I say more?” The Gospel makes sense. It is easy to live, and if we do, we will be blessed beyond measure.