Sunday, June 30, 2013

The Farewell: Come Unto Christ

Good morning Brothers and Sisters! I haven’t given a talk for quite some time so I’m pretty nervous. But I was reading in my scriptures and I came across this one: “My (Daughter), peace be unto thy soul; thine adversity and afflictions shall be but a small moment." Yep, about 20 minutes. I can do this. I am so grateful for the opportunity I have to speak to you today. I asked a couple of my friends what I could do to get everyone’s attention and they told me I should do a backflip off the stand. So here goes… (Pretend like I’m gonna do a backflip) Just kidding, I can’t do a backflip. But what I can do is promise that if you stay awake during my talk Isaac will do something really cool when he gets up.

Okay so I was asked to speak on President Eyring’s talk from this past general conference. It is titled “Come Unto Me.” I love President Eyring and I love this talk but I had a really hard time choosing what direction I wanted to go with this so I hope that the spirit helps me out here.

So what does it mean to come unto Christ? The words “come unto Christ” are an invitation. This is the invitation I get to extend to our brothers and sisters in the Philippines. It is the most important invitation that anyone could ever offer to another person. It is the most important invitation anyone could ever accept. Just like any other invitation, it is our choice to accept it or reject it. There are multiple instances in the scriptures where Christ asks us to come unto him. One of my favorites is in D&C 88:63. It says “Draw near unto me and I will draw near unto you; seek me diligently and ye shall find me; ask, and ye shall receive; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.” I love this scripture because of the promise it contains. Christ promises that if we will come unto him he will draw nearer to us. President Eyring tells us of a time that he felt the Savior drawing near unto Him.

 The memory of one day more than 65 years ago, when I kept the commandment to gather with my family and with the Saints, still draws me closer to the Savior. It was dark and cold outside. I remember feeling light and warmth in the chapel that evening with my parents. We partook of the sacrament, administered by Aaronic Priesthood holders, covenanting with our Heavenly Father to always remember His Son and keep His commandments. At the end of the meeting we sang the hymn “Abide with Me; ’Tis Eventide,” with the words in it “O Savior, stay this night with me.” I felt the Savior’s love and closeness that evening.”

I have felt this way too and I’m sure many of you have as well. One of the first times I remember feeling this way was when I was 12 years old. It was my very first year at girls’ camp, which meant my very first girls camp testimony meeting. Those of you have attended one of those can testify of just how amazing they are. Almost every single girl got up and bore her testimony of her Savior and His love for her. I imagine it was cold and dark, but I just remember the warmth and the light. As I got up and shared my testimony for the very first time it was as if He was standing right there in our little circle. I felt Him near that night.

While I was preparing for this talk, the word “come” really caught my attention. Whenever Christ invites us to draw near to him it is always “come.” It doesn’t ever say, “Go find Him.” You know why I think that is? Because He is ALWAYS there. He is already walking right beside you, just waiting for you to come, to realize that He’s there. President Eyring tells a story from the book of Luke that illustrates this.
Two of the disciples walked from Jerusalem on the road to Emmaus after the resurrection of Christ. The resurrected Christ appeared on the road and walked with them. The Lord had come to them. The book of Luke allows us to walk with them:
 “And it came to pass, that, while they communed together and reasoned, Jesus himself drew near, and went with them.
“But their eyes were holden that they should not know him.
“And he said unto them, What manner of communications are these that ye have one to another, as ye walk, and are sad?
“And the one of them, whose name was Cleopas, answering said unto him, Art thou only a stranger in Jerusalem, and hast not known the things which are come to pass there in these days?”
They told Him of their sadness that Jesus had died when they had trusted He would be the Redeemer of Israel.
There must have been affection in the risen Lord’s voice as He spoke to these two sorrowful and mourning disciples:
“Then he said unto them, O fools, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken:
“Ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and to enter into his glory?
“And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself.”
Then came a moment that has warmed my heart since I was a little boy:
“And they drew nigh unto the village, whither they went: and he made as though he would have gone further.
“But they constrained him, saying, Abide with us: for it is toward evening, and the day is far spent. And he went in to tarry with them.”
The Savior accepted that night the invitation to enter the house of His disciples near the village of Emmaus.

How cool would it be to have the Savior accept an invitation into your home? The word “come” also implies action. Christ could not have accepted the invitation if it was not first extended. In order for Him to come unto us, we have to do something first. Any time there is a miracle in the scriptures, there is first someone coming unto him. The ten lepers came to him asking to be healed, the woman with an issue of blood just had to come close enough to Him to touch His cloak, many times a parent with a sick or dying child brought that child unto Christ to be healed.

These are examples of coming to him physically, but how can we come unto Him spiritually? Probably the simplest and most important way is obedience, simple acts of obedience to the commandments. Things like studying scriptures, attending church, saying daily prayers, and paying tithing. President Eyring’s story of attending sacrament when he was a little boy is an example of how he was able to feel Christ near by being obedient.

This past year in college I got to experience how simple acts of obedience bring you closer to Christ more than I ever have before. Even though I lived about 10 minutes away from the beautiful SLC temple, I might have gone once the entire Fall semester. I read my scriptures late at night and I would only make it through a couple of verses before I fell asleep. Life wasn’t terrible by any means, but sometimes I would feel alone and when I prayed I felt like I was just talking to the wall. When Spring semester came around, I got new wonderful roommates and we started going to the temple every week. I started to study my scriptures earlier in the day. As I did these things, I was able to better focus on school and I just felt happier. As I became more obedient, I felt closer to Christ and I never felt alone.

Another way we can draw closer to Christ is to serve Him and our fellow men. This reminds me of the baptismal covenants many of us have made which include bearing one another’s burdens, mourning with those that mourn, and standing as a witness of God at all times and in all things and in all places. We are under covenant both to lift up those in need and to be witnesses of the Savior as long as we live.
This ward is an amazing example of that. As many of you know, my mom is a single mother and a few weeks ago she lost her job. When she told me that, I was angry. Aren’t the families of missionaries supposed to be blessed? How were we supposed to get everything I still needed for my mission? Why would Heavenly Father let this happen? There is a scripture, D&C 84:88 that says “And whoso receiveth you, there I will be also, for I will go before your face. I will be on your right hand and on your left, and my spirit shall be in our hearts, and mine angels round about you to bear you up.” This experience has strengthened my testimony of angels on earth. As soon as the ward found out, there were angels showing up on my doorstep with money or supplies that I still needed. We got letters in the mail with no return address full of money. I have truly been humbled by the outpouring of love and support that was so freely given and hope that those people were able to feel Christ come closer to them through their service to me and I would just like to say thank you for all that you’ve done.
Right now, my way of standing as a witness is serving a full time mission. However, there are a lot of other ways you can stand as a witness. For example, you can be a missionary through your example and your actions. I have a lot of friends who are great examples of this but my friend Avery is a really great one. She is always giving Books of Mormon to people she feels would benefit from it and letting people know what she believes. When I think about being a sharing the gospel with someone, I think of how scary it would be. A few months ago a missionary shared a quote with me that has really helped me with that. It’s from the movie We Bought a Zoo. It goes like this: “Sometimes all you need is just 20 seconds of insane courage. Just, literally 20 seconds of embarrassing bravery. And I promise you something great will come of it.”
As we do our best to invite others to come unto Christ President Eyring gives us this promise, “We will be able to do it without fail only as we feel love for the Savior and His love for us. As we are faithful to the promises we have made, we will feel our love for Him. It will increase because we will feel His power and His drawing near to us in His service.” I know this is true. There is no way that I am going to learn a language I’d never heard of before without some help. I know that as I come unto Him by serving the people of the Philippines, He will help me and I will be able to do it.
President Eyring goes on to talk about another blessing of coming unto Christ, “As we give devoted service to Him, He draws closer to those we love in our families. Many of you have loved ones who are wandering off the path to eternal life. You wonder what more you can do to bring them back. You can depend on the Lord to draw closer to them as you serve Him in faith.” The first time I heard this talk, this really stuck out to me. As I’ve been preparing for the mission for the past 6 months, I’ve been feeling something that I hadn’t really felt a whole lot before. I didn’t know how to describe it really until I found this scripture, “Now they were desirous that salvation should be declared to every creature, for they could not bear that any human soul should perish; yea, even the very thought that any soul should endure endless torment did cause them to quake and tremble.” It is really hard for me to see people that I love trying to endure life’s trials alone, not knowing that their Savior is right there waiting for them to come unto him. The gospel makes me SO happy and all I want is for them to be happy too. In Mosiah 27, the angel is speaking to Alma the Younger, “And again, the angel said: Behold, the Lord hath heard the prayers of his people, and also the prayers of his servant, Alma, who is thy father; for he has prayed with much faith concerning thee that thou mightest be brought to the knowledge of the truth; therefore, for this purpose have I come to convince thee of the power and authority of God, that the prayers of his servants might be answered according to their faith.”
That feeling is what helped me decide that I wanted to serve a mission. I couldn’t bear the thought of anyone not having the opportunity to have what I have and know what I know. How could I have something that makes me so happy and not share it with others? I am grateful and humbled that I might be able to be the answer to someone’s prayers by bringing their loved ones unto Christ and I am thankful for the promise that as I serve Christ will draw near unto those I love.
I know that my family will be watched over and protected as I serve that Lord and that not only will Christ draw near unto me, He will draw near unto my family. I know that Christ lives and that He is always there. He knows and loves each of us individually. Despite the fact that the first two things I heard after opening my call were “They eat baby ducks,” and “My teacher went there, he got shot,” I as so excited to serve the Lord and the people of the Philippines! I know it’s going to be hard but I know that I am not going to have to do it alone. He will come to us when we need Him most. I am so thankful for my family, especially my mom and all she’s done to help me get ready and build my testimony. I am especially thankful for all of my young women’s leaders and the young women. My testimony would not be what it is today without them.
In closing I want to share with you the words of a song:
I've never been the kind to testify, I don't have the words his truth deserves. But it's a simple thing he asks,
 a worthy heart and willing hands. 
He says if I'll make the choice,
 He'll help me find my voice.
 He calls me to serve and I cannot fail him, the one who has given me all that I have. I place my trust in him alone,
 He knows the yearnings of my soul.
 Because he believes in me, 
I will go willingly. How can I keep this gift to my self
, when I can lift somebody else? 
I am a witness of his miracles and his mercy, 
I put my future in his hands, 
knowing he's made me all I am. I put my faith in him, the truth begins to
 His power is real, it moves me until, I will not be
In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

Monday, June 24, 2013

It's Okay To Be Scared

For some reason, it seems that people, including soon-to-be missionaries, tend to believe that missionaries shouldn't be scared. The day after I got my call to the Philippines I was telling a co-worker that although I was definitely excited, I was also scared. She gave me this really funny look, as if being scared was an absolutely ridiculous thing to be feeling and said, "Why are you scared? No one's making you do it, right? You signed up for it." 

Her comment really bothered me and I started to think maybe she was right. Maybe I shouldn't be scared. I mean, I was the one who made the decision and filled out all the paperwork. But I soon realized that yes, I did sign up for it. But there was no where on those papers that said I wasn't allowed to be scared. When I read the words, "You are assigned to labor in the Philippines San Pablo Mission, I was excited, don't get me wrong. But I was also terrified! A mission is a big deal. I was about to leave my family and friends and everything I knew for 18 months. I'd never been on an airplane and now I was about to fly half way around the world alone. I was going to be living in the Philippines. I didn't even know where that was! I was going to have to not only try to teach the gospel to complete strangers, I was going to have to do it in a language I had never even heard of before. I was going to have to eat baby duck and live with spiders the size of my head! It was a big deal. And after a lot of thought, here's the conclusion I came to: It's okay to be scared. 

We as human beings are naturally apprehensive of the unknown and the decision to serve a full-time mission means walking on a whole lot of unknown territory. I was reading Wisdom ala Carte and it said fear itself can basically be defined as being the end result of a lack of experience. In other words, fear means that we don't trust ourselves to deal with the situation the fear connects to. So we have to teach ourselves that we can handle every situation. This made me think of Philippians 4:13 which says, "I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me." It's okay to be a little scared as long as we remember that we are not alone. What may be unknown to us, is not unknown to God. He knows what is best for us and as long as we put our full trust in Him, it's gonna be okay. 

So don't worry, if you're scared that's completely normal. In fact, if you aren't a little bit afraid at some point between the time you receive your call and the time you report to the MTC I'd be a little worried. It is NOT a requirement for pre-missionaries to be super stoked every minute of every day until they leave. I promise. But on the days you are feeling down and afraid, remember whose hands you are in. Remember Proverbs 3:5-6, "Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths." Then eat some ice cream and watch a good movie.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Good Always Triumphs

Every fairytale is a fight between good and evil. And always, good triumphs. But it is never an easy path. Prince Phillip had to overcome obstacle after obstacle before he could slay the dragon and save Sleeping Beauty. Snow White went through trial after trial before her Prince Charming saved her and she finally escaped the evil queen. And Cinderella's path to happily ever after definitely wasn't a piece of cake thanks to her evil stepsisters and stepmother. But in the end, it was always good that won.
True to all fairytales, there is a villain in mine. His name is Satan and he is doing everything he possibly can to stop me from reaching the next step in my happily ever after: A mission. The moment you decide to serve a mission, he steps it up a notch. When you get your call, he tries a little harder. And when it gets close to you actually going, he comes at you full force. At first it was simply by putting doubts and fear into my mind. "I don't know if I really want to do this. I'll be so behind in school and I'll miss too many things at home." And then it got worse. "What if I chose wrong and this isn't what I'm supposed to do? I definitely can't learn Tagalog, I couldn't even learn Spanish! I don't know anything, I'm not ready for something like this. What if I don't even make it through the MTC?" And the big one, "Why the Philippines? I'm not supposed to go there. What if my prosthesis has problems over there? And I wanted to learn Spanish like everyone else is. This is all wrong." DO NOT DOUBT YOUR MISSION CALL. That is the worst thing you could do because then you doubt everything. You are called where you are needed. It is inspired by God, I know that surely now. After talking to a San Pablo RM and the mission president the doubts went away and I was nothing but excited! Haha Satan! It's over, I won! Or so I thought.

When my villain couldn't get into my thoughts anymore, his attempts became more visible. Just smaller things at first, my sister's glasses broke, the lawn mower died, we found out I needed an extra vaccination, there was a pretty minor car accident, and I started having problems with a cyst on my leg that hadn't made a comeback for 3 years. But then there was this. My single mother who is raising 3 expensive teenagers lost her job. And I was angry. How could Heavenly Father let this happen? I'm trying to do His will! "Why?" I wanted to scream at Satan, "Why are you attacking my family?! It's me you want, not them! Just leave them out of this! Don't you realize what this will do to my family?" He knew. He knew that in order to get to me he had to use the people I loved the most.

That night I had a dream. Every time I went downstairs to my room there was this darkness that would overcome me and I would feel so afraid and alone and run back upstairs to the light and my family. One of those times, it didn't let go and it was threatening to overcome me completely and I was just about to give up when I realized that I had a choice here. I was stronger than Satan because I had a sidekick. My Savior, Jesus Christ, was on my side. I was not going to let Satan win. Good always wins. And the darkness receded, not completely but enough that I could carry the burden. I realized that Satan isn't going to give up, he's still going to be there. But with the help of my family and most importantly, my Savior, the temptation will be less and my strength will be enough. I want nothing more than to fight this battle alone. I wish that he would leave my family out of it. But villains never fight fair. They always use the people you love the most against you.

But you know what, there is always someone with a kind heart willing to help. Cinderella had her Fairy Godmother, Snow White had the 7 dwarves, and Ariel had Flounder and Sebastian. I have angels. Not all of my angels have wings. In fact, most of my angels are just regular people. From the time I was trying to decide if I should serve a mission until now angels have been helping me. Before I had even decided I was going, I knew money would be an issue. But a couple of angels made it possible not only to go, but to go a lot sooner than I could have otherwise. When I had doubts, the angels I called roommates eased my fears. Then when my ward found out that my mom had lost her job and that I still needed so much for my mission, they immediately and silently stepped in. I have had angel after angel show up on my doorstep with a check. People who hardly had anything themselves were sending envelopes full of cash. One pregnant sister even showed up with a bag of feminine products because she'd heard I was going to need 18 months worth in the Philippines and she wasn't currently in need of them. I was amazed and touched by the outpouring of love and service these people, my angels, so freely gave. And that's when I realized you can't put out a light with darkness. Darkness doesn't even exist. Darkness is simply the absence of light. But light, light banishes darkness instantly. It doesn't even stand a chance. So take that Satan. You will NEVER win. Because good ALWAYS triumphs.