Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Jessica's Farewell Talk

Jessica’s Farewell Talk
March 23, 2014

My dad is quite the jokester and whenever we give talks in church he always makes sure we open with a joke to warm up the congregation. So here’s my missionary joke really for his satisfaction, you don’t have to laugh.
What do you call an alligator in a vest? An investigator.
I was trying to figure out the best topic for a future missionary to speak on. Since I will be spending the next 18 months sharing my testimony, I thought, what a better way to not only for myself really dissect what I believe but to also share what I know with all of you before I leave.

For those who don’t know I have been called to serve in the Argentina Salta mission. I opened my call at the beginning of November.  During these 5 months I have learned a lot about myself and why I am actually serving a mission. To make a long story short I decided to put in my papers sooner than I originally planned which resulted in a long wait. I had a lot of time to let my mind wander. I either felt motivated and ready or scared and unprepared. There were about 2 weeks where I thought, “What have I gotten myself into. No one is pressuring me to serve a mission. This was my decision. Why am I putting myself through this?” Fear got the better of me but looking back I needed to experience the temptation of staying to gain the motivation to go. Let me explain.   

Never before in my life have I felt the power of the adversary so strong. Satan knows my fears and weaknesses. But let me add, never before in my life have I felt more close to my Heavenly Father. I had just made a choice to follow Christ and Satan was going to do everything in his power to stop me. But the light ALWAYS overcomes darkness.

That is the first part of my testimony. I know Satan is real. I know he has the power to tempt us. Satan has been around a long time. He knows what he’s doing. He knows what makes us scared. But I also know Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ have power over Satan. Their love is infinite. And when we turn towards them we will overcome his influence.

But, we were put on this earth to be tested and Satan wasn’t going to give up that easy.

There was a time when I thought serving a mission wasn’t for me. Maybe I should stay home and start nursing school. Maybe I should wait and serve a mission with my husband. But then I realized something, this isn’t about me. Serving a mission isn’t for me. There is no selfish part about being a missionary. After realizing this I thought well then, who is it for?

1.     I think it’s needless to say I am also going for the people I will serve. Elder Holland said, “ The missionary opportunity you want is already being prepared in the heart of someone who longs for what you have.” For some reason I have been anxious to get out and serve ever since I felt the prompting to go in the first place. I know the hearts in Argentina are changing. This church is rapidly growing all over the world. It’s truly remarkable.   
2.     Another person I am serving a mission for is my future husband and family. Elder Russell M. Nelson said “The decision to serve a mission will shape the spiritual destiny of the missionary, his or her spouse, and their posterity for generations to come.”
3.     As I started naming off people in my head the list kept growing. I’m going for my siblings and cousins to be an example to them. I’m going for my parents to make them proud.
4.     Lastly, I am going because of my love for my Heavenly Father. He loves each and every one of His children. I know that to be true. He wants us to return to Him. The purpose of a missionary is to invite others to come unto Christ by helping them receive the restored gospel through faith in Jesus Christ and the atonement, repentance, baptism, receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost, and enduring to the end. 

For the past 3 weeks I have had the opportunity to teach the CTR 4 class in the ward. Being back in primary has taught me the simplicity of this gospel. I find myself repeating to them.
Heavenly Father loves you.
He has a plan for you.
He hears your prayers.
He sent Jesus to die for you so you can return to Him.
We sing the articles of faith, teaching that we believe that the first principles and ordinances of the gospel are first faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, then repentance, baptism by emersion and receiving the Holy Ghost.
That is how the foundation of my testimony began; by repeatedly learning the simple truths of this gospel.
Heavenly Father loves you. He has a plan. He hears your prayers. He sent His son. We are His children. How great is it to know that. And really know it! Spencer W. Kimball reminds us that, “Each of us is responsible to bear witness of the gospel truths that we have been given.”

Whether it is on a mission, to a family member, a less active member, or an investigator we need to be representatives of Christ. Even more now than ever. There is a reason the church is being pushed to invite others to church. Even if they have been asked multiple times before. Goals are set for the stake regarding missionary lessons. We can’t be afraid to ask again. What a better time than now to invite others to follow Jesus Christ. Not only is it missionary month but General Conference is approaching. It is there where investigators can feel the power of the spirit by listening to the prophet and apostles bear witness of the Savior.

As we lose ourselves in the service of others we discover our own lives and our own happiness.
I can’t stand before you today and say that I am completely fearless. To be honest I am scared out of my mind. Excited, but definitely scared. What seemed like 5 long months away is now 3 days away. One of my fears is being homesick while another is that my mission will go by too quickly. Weird right?
Another result in a long wait to leave is I get a lot of advice. I was in Deseret Book with my grandma Toni and she said I want you to look at that quote over there. I read, “Anything is possible if you have enough faith.” Then she said to me I want you to know that that is not true. A little caught off guard I started to understand what she meant. If something doesn’t happen in the way that we hoped it would, it is not because we didn’t have enough faith. We learned this lesson personally as a family when we lost my 3 year old cousin to brain cancer. Madi didn’t die because we didn’t have enough faith. There couldn’t have been more faith pulling for a miracle. But Heavenly Father had a plan for her. She had a mission on this earth and she accomplished it. It may have not gone our way but that’s the beauty of the plan. Heavenly Father is in charge and he sent His son to die so that we may pass through sorrow.
She then compared it to a missionary. If someone rejects the gospel, plans fall through, converts fall away, baptisms don’t happen; it is not because we don’t have enough faith. I don’t want this to be confused with giving up. There is a difference between enduring to the end and giving up. Giving up is letting yourself feel down enduring to the end is building yourself up. So things didn’t go as you planned. Heavenly Father has the plan all ready made. He knows you and knows what you will go through. I love to listen to President Uchtdorf his words have a way of touching my heart and inspiring me. This is one of his quotes. He says.

“God is fully aware that you and I are not perfect. Let me add, God is also fully aware that the people you think are perfect, are not. And yet, we spend so much time & energy comparing ourselves to others-- usually comparing our weaknesses to their strengths. As a result, we never celebrate our good efforts because they seem to be less that what someone else does.”

Elder Holland says, “Don’t you give up. Don’t you quit. You keep walking. You keep trying. There is help and happiness ahead. It will be all right in the end. Trust God and believe in good things to come.”

The power of your testimony can change lives. Those you come in contact with and even yourself. President Uchtdorf gave a talk in general conference many years ago called The Power of a Personal Testimony. He explains,

Our motives and thoughts ultimately influence our actions. The testimony of the truthfulness of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ is the most powerful motivating force in our lives. Jesus repeatedly emphasized the power of good thoughts and proper motives: “Look unto me in every thought; doubt not, fear not” (D&C 6:36).
The testimony of Jesus Christ and the restored gospel will help us in our lives to learn of God’s specific plan for us and then to act accordingly. It gives us assurance of the reality, truth, and goodness of God, of the teachings and Atonement of Jesus Christ, and of the divine calling of latter-day prophets. Our testimony motivates us to live righteously, and righteous living will cause our testimony to grow stronger.

For members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the term testimony is a warm and familiar word in our religious expressions. It is tender and sweet. It has always had certain sacredness about it. When we talk about testimony, we refer to feelings of our heart and mind rather than an accumulation of logical, sterile facts. It is a gift of the Spirit, a witness from the Holy Ghost that certain concepts are true.
A testimony is the sure knowledge or assurance from the Holy Ghost of the truth and divinity of the Lord’s work in these latter days. A testimony is the “abiding, living, [and] moving conviction of the truths revealed in the gospel of Jesus Christ” 

In President Uchtdorf’s talk he again states the importance of the simple truths of this gospel.
God lives. He is our loving Father in Heaven, and we are His children.
Jesus Christ is the Son of the living God and the Savior of the world.
Joseph Smith is the prophet of God through whom the gospel of Jesus Christ was restored in the latter days.
The Book of Mormon is the word of God.
President Thomas S. Monson, his counselors, and the members of the Quarm of the Twelve Apostles are the prophets, seers, and revelators in our day.

As we acquire a deeper knowledge of these truths and of the plan of salvation by the power and the gift of the Holy Ghost, we can come to “know the truth of all things.”

So how do we gain a testimony? We are instructed to share what we know but how do we know what to know? In Galatians 6:7 it says, “For whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.” No good thing comes without effort and sacrifice. If we have to work to gain a testimony it will make us and our testimony even stronger. And if we share our testimony, it will grow.

A testimony is a most precious possession because it is not acquired by logic or reason alone, it cannot be purchased, and it cannot be given as a present or inherited from our ancestors. We cannot depend on the testimonies of other people. We need to know for ourselves. President Gordon B. Hinckley said, “Every Latter-day Saint has the responsibility to know for himself or herself with a certainty beyond doubt that Jesus is the resurrected, living Son of the living God” 

We receive this testimony when the Holy Spirit speaks to the spirit within us. We will receive a calm and unwavering certainty that will be the source of our testimony.

The core of this testimony will always be the faith in and the knowledge of Jesus Christ and His divine mission, who in the scriptures says of Himself, “I am the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6).
So how do we receive a personal testimony rooted in the witness of the Holy Ghost? The pattern is outlined in the scriptures:

First: Desire to believe- In Alma 32 it says “If [you] will awake and arouse your faculties, even to an experiment upon my words, and exercise a particle of faith, … even if [you] can no more than desire to believe” 

Second: Search the scriptures- Have questions and study them out.

Third: Do the will of God; keep the commandments

And Forth: Ponder, fast, and pray- To receive knowledge form the Holy Ghost we must ask Heavenly Father for it. We must trust that God loves us and that He will help us to recognize the promptings of the Holy Ghost.

So after we have gained this testimony. What is it good for?

President Uchtdorf puts it this way,
A testimony provides proper perspective, motivation, and a solid foundation on which to build a life of purpose and personal growth. It is a constant source of confidence, a true and faithful companion during good times and bad. A testimony provides us with a reason for hope and gladness. It helps us cultivate a spirit of optimism and happiness and enables us to rejoice in the beauties of nature. A testimony motivates us to choose the right at all times and in all circumstances. It motivates us to draw nearer to God, allowing Him to draw nearer to us.

Our personal testimony is a protective shield, and like an iron rod it is guiding us safely through darkness and confusion.

Though I have fears I have a strong testimony of this gospel.

I know God lives. I know Jesus is the Christ. I know Joseph Smith is the prophet of God and restored this gospel. I know the Book of Mormon is the word of God. I know Thomas S. Monson along with his counselors and the members of the 12 are called of God to lead and guide this church. I know these things to be true and I urge all of you to not only gain a solid testimony for yourself, but to then share it with those around you.

In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

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