This is part of my homecoming talk. I wish I could share everything that I learned and the experiences that changed my life but I know I can't, so here's just a bit of my homecoming talk and (minus the on the spot testimonies and stories).
I think homecoming talks are funny because we expect returned missionaries to summarize the most eventful 18-24 months of their lives into a 10-15 minute sacrament meeting talk. Which, let me tell you is no easy task. But I think I’ve got it pretty well summarized into one sentence. “What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas.” (Drop the mic).
It doesn't matter how many people I taught and baptized, or the area’s I served in, or my companions, or the weirdest food I ate. What matters is the degree of conversion that occurred within myself and within others.
In Preach My Gospel page 104 it reads “The Book of Mormon, combined with the Spirit, is your most powerful resource conversion.” I can testify that this statement is true. In one of my area’s we had an investigator, named Steve... Eventually through the trials he endured, he became truly converted and he was baptized... I knew instantly it was because of Steve’s love for the Book of Mormon that he was able to become truly converted and understand the principles being taught. Every day Steve read the Book of Mormon and everyday his testimony grew stronger and everyday he progressed to true conversion...
Reading the Book of Mormon is one of the first things we invite people to do. Las Vegas is a 24hour city so people are on-the-go constantly! Which gives us missionaries extremely short amount of time to introduce ourselves and testify of doctrine before they go on their way. So we either (A.) learn how to talk really fast or (B.) learn how to provide a brief explanation and then expound upon it later when we come back to visit with them again. We usually chose plan (B.) because it doesn't take much for people to feel the spirit when missionaries talk about the restored gospel. Unless prompted to do otherwise, we generally invited these new investigators to start with the Introduction to the Book of Mormon. Because one of the first steps into gaining that steadfast testimony is understanding what’s inside.
The first paragraph of the introduction reads: “The Book of Mormon is a volume of holy scripture comparable to the Bible. It is a record of God’s dealings with ancient inhabitants of the Americas and contains the fulness of the everlasting gospel.”
Elder Russell M. Nelson said “Each book stands as evidence that God lives and speaks to His children by revelation to His prophets. Love for the Book of Mormon expands one’s love for the Bible and vice versa. Scriptures of the Restoration do not compete with the Bible; they compliment the Bible.”
To me, the Book of Mormon is proof that God loves all of His children. He wouldn't just speak to the people in the Holy Lands and ignore the rest of the world. But our Father in Heaven loves us so He guided the people of the Americas through prophets.
In the third paragraph in the Introduction it reads: The crowning event recorded in the Book of Mormon is the personal ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ among the Nephites soon after His resurrection. It puts forth the doctrines of the gospel, outlines the plan of salvation, and tells men what they must do to gain peace in this life and eternal salvation in the life to come.
Throughout the entire Book of Mormon we are taught about the Doctrine of Christ. Which is Faith, Repentance, Baptism, Receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost and Enduring to the end. There’s not a whole lot else that we need to know besides these fundamental principles. These teachings are simple enough for a child to understand, but yet complicated enough that we spend our whole lives, studying, pondering and perfecting these doctrines.
I also love how in this paragraph it says that it “outlines the plan of salvation”. We know that the Plan of Salvation is God’s plan for us to be happy. Before this life we lived with God. 2/3 of Heavenly Father’s spirit children chose to follow His plan while the others chose to follow Satan’s plan. We know that we came to Earth but we passes through a veil so we wouldn't remember our pre-earth life and we would walk by faith and not by sight. After we die our spirits go to the spirit world either a state of peace and rest call Spirit Paradise or a opportunity of learning and a state of misery called Spirit Prison. We are then Resurrected and Judged and placed into one of three Degrees of Glory. The first being the Celestial Kingdom where God and Jesus Christ live and where those who chose to follow the gospel of Jesus Christ will live is perfect peace. The second being Terrestrial Kingdom where good, honorable people who chose not to follow the doctrine of Christ will live. The third the Telestial Kingdom where those who chose to live in their sins and not repent with be placed in this Kingdom of Glory.
Similarly Lehi, a prophet in the Book of Mormon had 6 sons. 2/3 of them were good and faithful and followed the prophet, their father. While Lamen and Lemuel refused to be obedient. His family crossed the ocean, left behind their old life to go to the promised land. Much like how we came here to earth. Eventually his posterity divided into the Nephites who were righteous and lived in a state of peace and rest and the Lamenites who lived in a state of misery. Eventually Christ came to the America. We read in 4th Nephi that the first hundred years after Christ came the people lived in perfect peace, like we will in the Celestial Kingdom. The second hundred years, things became a little worse but the people were still happy, similar to the Terrestial Kingdom. By three hundred years after Christ had come both the Nephites and the Lamenites had waxed strong in iniquity. Just like the introduction states the Book of Mormon “outlines the plan of salvation and tells men what they must do to gain peace in this life and eternal salvation in the life to come.”
In the Sixth paragraph of the introduction it reads: “Concerning this record the Prophet Joseph Smith said: “I told the brethren that the Book of Mormon was the most correct of any book on earth, and the keystone of our religion, and a man would get nearer to God by abiding by its precepts, than by any other book.”
I have a testimony of Joseph Smith... He translated the Book of Mormon by the power of God. Johnny drew closer to God as he read the Book of Mormon and it saved his life...
Final two paragraph of the Book of Mormon reads: We invite all men everywhere to read the Book of Mormon, to ponder in their hearts the message it contains, and then to ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ if the book is true. Those who pursue this course and ask in faith will gain a testimony of its truth and divinity by the power of the Holy Ghost. (See Moroni 10:3–5.) Those who gain this divine witness from the Holy Spirit will also come to know by the same power that Jesus Christ is the Savior of the world, that Joseph Smith is His revelator and prophet in these last days, and that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the Lord’s kingdom once again established on the earth, preparatory to the Second Coming of the Messiah.
I’d like to end with this poem one of my companions shared with me. Its called "I’ll find you my friend."
I was thinking about our friendship, and these are my feelings:
In Heaven we were the best of friends.
We did everything together.
One day a grand council was called in Heaven.
We knew it was an important event.
Everyone was there.
Father presented a plan,
And we chose Christ to be our Savior.
After the council, we ran in line to receive our life packages.
In the bustle, we were separated.
I received my package and ran to you.
You were sitting under a tree,
We opened our packages.
Mine said I would be born at a time.
When the gospel was restored to the earth,
It said I would have good parents,
And the fullness of the Gospel in my home.
I jumped for joy and we hugged each other.
You were so happy for me.
Then you read yours.
I saw tears in your eyes and I asked what was wrong?
You said that you would also be born when the gospel was restored.
But you would be born in a different place.
And the gospel would not be in your home.
You looked me straight in the eye and said:
Friend, Find me!
No matter what it takes of the trials you have to endure,
Find Me and bring me the gospel of Jesus Christ.
In the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.
I'm grateful for all of the prayers and support I received throughout my mission. I could feel blessings constantly pour on me.