Sunday, May 10, 2015

Farewell Talk

Some of you have asked for a copy of my farewell talk, and I thought it would be easiest if I posted it.

The Freedom We Receive by Following the Commandments of 
Jesus Christ and through His Atonement

Good afternoon and Happy Mother’s Day... I am thrilled to say that on Wednesday I will be reporting to the Nevada Las Vegas mission where I will spend a year and a half inviting others to come unto Christ by helping them receive the restored gospel through faith in Jesus Christ and His Atonement.

Normally I’m able to write talks pretty quickly and have words flow easily to my mind. However, this talk was a little different. I kept getting distracted and wanted to spend time with people this week instead of preparing to speak. When my mom sent me to my room to work on this talk, instead of allowing me to go to a friend’s house this weekend, I responded “Well Dad says that my farewell talk should be really bad so that my homecoming talk will seem really good in comparison and everyone will think that I’ve matured on my mission. And Dad says that the best talks are inspired by the Spirit so everything will workout if I just bare my testimony”. And this, brothers and sisters, is why we are celebrating mothers today. 

Since I’ve received my mission call, every once and a while I think about things I’ll be missing out on and what I’m leaving behind. Now there is one thing in particular that I’ve been thinking about a lot lately. Whenever I’m away from home or I’m stressed or I’m having a bad day and just need that little bit of comfort… I think about the beach. My family has gone to the same beach in Florida every year since I was 10 and I’ve had quiet a few memories from those family adventures. I’m pretty sure this beach is the best place in the world to fly a kite. It’s a wide beach with soft sand, no trees to get in the way and a strong breeze that comes off the ocean. As I prepared for this talk I remembered a story, that some of you may have heard, about a boy who went to the park to fly a kite with his father.

“The boy was very young. It was his first experience with kite flying. His father helped him, and after several attempts the kite was in the air. The boy ran as he let out more string, and soon the kite was flying high. The little boy was so excited; the kite flew beautifully in the sky. Eventually there was no more string left to allow the kite to go any higher. The boy said to his father, “Daddy, let’s cut the string and let the kite go; I want to see it go higher and higher."
His father said, “Son, the kite won’t go higher if we cut the string."
“Yes, it will,” responded the little boy. “The string is holding the kite down; I can feel it.” The father handed a pocketknife to his son. The boy cut the string. In a matter of seconds the kite was out of control. It darted here and there and finally landed in a broken heap. It was difficult for the boy to understand. He felt certain the string was holding the kite down.” 

Now as cheesy as that story is, in life we are all sometimes as na├»ve as that young boy. It’s easy to read the scriptures and feel completely overwhelmed by the seemingly unceasing list of commandments given to us. However, the commandments aren’t holding us back. They are the string that helps us fly and reach our full potential as the winds of wickedness and temptation toss us around. Although the world leads us to believe that we are missing out on life because of our obedience to our Heavenly Father; we are not missing out on anything. But instead, God promises us that we are made free by following the commandments of Jesus Christ and through His atonement. Doctrine and Covenants section 98 verse 8 reads “I, the Lord God, make you free, therefore ye are free indeed; and the law also maketh you free."

There are rules and guidelines that are imposed to help protect and direct us. Since my older sister, Amanda, couldn’t make it here today I’m going to share a story about her. When she was probably around 5 years old, for whatever reason, she become upset and decided to run away from home. They say the grass is greener on the other side. Well it must have looked really green in our front lawn that day, because she only got so far as the mailbox. However, after awhile she realized that there was no food for her to eat besides the plants in flowerbeds. Thankfully she was smart enough not to eat them. But instead, had me, her innocent younger sister, try them first to see if any shrubbery would make me sick and fall to the ground dead.

Now, we can learn a few things from this story. First, never eat your greens, unless your parents gave them to you. Second, that we aren’t as wise as we believe ourselves to be. And God is the one who actually knows what’s best for us; while we can only think we know what is best for us. Life might seem better in the front yard but in the long run hunger will catch up to you and you’ll realize that it’s better to have near strayed from the guidance and direction that has been given. 1 Nephi 21:10 reads “They shall not hunger nor thirst, neither shall the heat nor the sun smite them; for he that hath mercy on them shall lead them, even by the springs of water shall he guide them."

We have been blessed with instruction and guidance and we have to freedom to choose for ourselves liberty and eternal life. In the April 1978 General Conference, N. Eldon Tanner said,  “Freedom is based on truth, and no man is completely free as long as any part of his belief is based on error, for the chains of error bind his mind. This is why it is so important for us to learn all the truth we can from all the sources we can. We need particularly to search the scriptures, for in them are the words which, if accepted and lived, will lead us to eternal life.”

By having the good news of the gospel and knowing that we can be saved by the atonement of Jesus Christ, it gives us hope and purpose to our lives. True to the Faith teaches, “As descendants of Adam and Eve, all people inherit the effects of the Fall. In our fallen state, we are subject to opposition and temptation. When we give into temptation, we distance ourselves from God and come short of His glory. The only way for us to be saved is for someone else to rescue us. We need someone who can satisfy the demands of justice –standing in our place to assume the burden of the Fall and to pay the price for our sins. Jesus Chirst has always been the only one capable of making such a sacrifice.”

In Mosiah chapter 5 King Benjamin addresses the people and teaches them about Christ. In verse 8 he taught “And under this head ye are made free, and there is no other head whereby ye can be made free. There is no other name given whereby salvation cometh; therefore, I would that ye should take upon you the name of Christ, all you that have entered into the covenant with God that ye should be obedient unto the end of your lives.”

The week after I got my mission call, three different guys asked me out on dates. It was insane, but that’s BYU for you! On one of the dates we decided we were going to hike the Y and have a picnic on top. For those of you who don’t know, Y Mountain stands directly above the BYU campus and overlooks the Utah Valley. The trail is about a mile long, with a clear path, but by no means is it an easy hike. It has about 10 switchbacks that are incredibly steep and goes right up the side of the mountain.

When my date and I came to the trailhead we got out of the car and stared at what stood before us. I didn’t know the guy very well but I knew he was an RM, which meant he was older than me and had probably hiked the trail more times than I had. So when he turned to me and said, “You know my friends and I used to go straight up the mountain and not take the trail… We don’t have to do it, but if you want to we can”. I didn’t want to seem lame and my competitive spirit kicked in a little so I said, “sure! Sounds like fun!”  It was not fun. I was literally climbing on my hands and knees up the side of a mountain just trying to get to the top so we could eat lunch. We finally made it to the top but it was a lot harder and took a lot longer than if we would have stuck to the original trail. 

So in your life, choose the best possible path. God has given us clear direction. It may not be easy but it’s better that trying to make our own path. I’m not saying that just because you follow the commandments that your life will be a breeze and everything will be perfect. At least, maybe not in this earthly life, but when we follow Christ, I know, everything will work out in the end.

Mosiah 16:7-9 reads “And if Christ had not risen from the dead, or have broken the bands of death that the grave should have no victory, and that death should have no sting, there could have been no resurrection. But there is a resurrection, therefore the grave hath no victory, and the sting of death is swallowed up in Christ. He is the light and the life of the world; yea, a light that is endless, that can never be darkened; yea, and also a life which is endless, that there can be no more death.”

I know that Jesus Christ loves us all very much. And we need to strive to have a more personal relationship with Him. In the October 2014 General Conference President Boyd K. Paker taught, “The Savior wrought the Atonement, which provides a way for us to become clean. Jesus Christ is the resurrected Christ. We worship and recognize Him for the pain He suffered for us collectively and for the pain He endured for each of us individually, both in the Garden of Gethsemane and on the cross. He bore all with great humility and with an eternal understanding of His divine role and purpose. Those who will repent and forsake sin will find that His merciful arm is outstretched still. Those who listen to and heed His words and the words of His chosen servants will find peace and understanding even in the midst of great heartache and sorrow. The result of His sacrifice is to free us from the effects of sin, that all may have guilt erased and feel hope.”

We all make mistakes. We all fall down and hit rock bottom. But the best part is that the rock we hit when we’re at our lowest of lows is our Savior Jesus Christ and through Him we can be built up again. Through Him we can walk over to the kite that has fallen to the ground and tie the string once again. In Psalms 71:3-5 David praises God and says, “Be thou my strong habitation, whereunto I may continually resort: thou hast given commandment to save me; for thou art my rock and my fortress. Deliver me, O my God, out of the hand of the wicked, out of the hand of the unrighteous and cruel man. For thou art my hope, O Lord God: thou art my trust from my youth.”

I’m thankful that I have grown up with the gospel in my life. My dad compared raising children and teaching them the gospel of Jesus Christ like going bowling with the gutter guards up. No matter how many times that ball bounces of the sides, as long as we stay within the standards given by the church, we will continue down the lane and are bound to hit something good. Without the standards, there’s no question, I would be a gutter ball. I’m thankful for the great examples in my life who have helped me continue on my way and down the bowling lane. And I’m thankful for the opportunity to serve my Heavenly Father. Growing up as the middle child, in between two sisters, I’ll admit, I was really selfish and hated sharing things. But I can’t wait to learn how to forget about myself and have my focus turned outward and I share the gospel of Jesus Christ and help build the kingdom of God. I have such a strong love for the people in Las Vegas. 

I know that this is the true church. I know that Joseph Smith was a prophet called by God to restore the fullness of the gospel of Jesus Christ back on the earth in these Latter-days. I know Thomas S. Monson is our prophet called by God on our earth today. I know that the Book of Mormon is true and that it’s the word of God and it helps lead and guide us through our lives. I know that Jesus Christ is our Savior and Redeemer who loved us so greatly that He was willing to atoned for all of our sins and only through the atonement can we be saved and live with Him again. I can't imagine how excited I was, in the pre mortal world, when I found out that I would be sent to such an incredible family. I love my family so dearly and I will miss them greatly but I know there will be amazing things that lie ahead. I say these things in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.

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