Sunday, July 21, 2013

Mission Farewell

The time has come and gone. I gave my mission farewell! It was on "The Hope of God's Light" by President Dieter F. Uchtdorf from the April 2013 conference. I don't know how many times I listened to that talk when I was preparing, but I worked on it for quite a few hours. It went really well! I had the butterflies the hour before I spoke, but we sang "Put Your Shoulder to the Wheel" and "In Humility, Our Savior" before I gave it. A line from the latter hymn goes "Let me not forget, O Savior, Thou didst bleed and die for me." That line brought me a lot of comfort, as this is what I'll be teaching people about these next 18 months. It made me really excited for my mission, and made the butterflies go away (for the most part).
The harshest critics I know (aka my brothers) told me it was a great talk, except for the 70+ "um's" I said during the 15 minutes I spoke. Whoops! Oh well. I'm grateful for my friends and family who were able to come listen to it! Here's the outline. It's not as good as the real thing, but it will give you an idea of what I spoke about. Enjoy!:

·         Leave on August 7th to report to the Mexico Missionary Training Center
·         Learning Spanish for mission in Bakersfield, California
·         As a missionary, I’m going to :
o   Provide service
o   My purpose as a missionary is: “to invite others to come unto Christ”
·         Why would I want to do this?:
o   To serve my God and my Savior
§  ATONEMENT and have shaped my life in unexpected ways to make me a better person
o   Because of Them, I have received light during dark times in life

Darkness & Light
·         President Uchtdorf, April 2013 Conference talk stated: “It is part of our condition as mortal beings to sometimes feel as though we are surrounded by darkness.”
·         Darkness can come from: losing a loved one, children or friends straying off the right path, medical diagnosis, employment problems, DOUBTS and FEARS
·         Just like when we flip on a light switch in a dark room, the darkness disappears
·         What is the light? The LIGHT OF CHRIST

The Light of Christ
·         The power that is an influence of good in all people, testifies of truth
·         Also called the Spirit of the Lord, the Spirit of God, the Spirit of Christ, or the Light of Life.
·         Conscience is an example of Light of Christ. Moroni 7:16 (For behold, the Spirit of Christ is given to every man, that he may know good from evil; wherefore, I show unto you the way to judge; for everything which inviteth to do good, and to persuade to believe in Christ, is sent forth by the power and gift of Christ; wherefore ye may know with a perfect knowledge it is of God… And now, my brethren, seeing that ye know the light by which ye may judge, which light is the light of Christ, see that ye do not judge wrongfully; for with that same judgment which ye judge ye shall also be judged.”
·         Gut feelings: “bad feeling about this”
·         Uchtdorf says: “It is available to all! It gives life to all things. It has the power to soften the sting of the deepest wound. It can be a healing balm for the loneliness and sickness of our souls. In the furrows of despair, it can plant the seeds of a brighter hope. It can enlighten the deepest valleys of sorrow. It can illuminate the path before us and lead us through the darkest night into the promise of a new dawn.”

How do we increase this light in our lives?
·         Need to work!
·         Uchtdorf says: “Spiritual light rarely comes to those who merely sit in darkness waiting for someone to flip a switch. It takes an act of faith to open our eyes to the Light of Christ… For “the natural man reciveth not the things of the Spirit of God.”
o   Difference in “quality” of life at the end of semester (when studying scriptures daily) to when vacationing.
·         If we want as much light as we can, need to do some work

1.        Start where you are
o   Uchtdorf says: “The perfect place to begin is exactly where you are right now. It doesn’t matter how unqualified you may think you are or how far behind others you may feel. The very moment you begin to seek your Heavenly Father, in that moment, the hope of His light will begin to awaken, enliven, and ennoble your soul.”
§  Preparation for a mission: seeing many friends go on missions and reading their letters: am I ready to be a missionary? “It doesn’t matter where you start, it only matters where you finish.”
·         Just like trying out for a sport team or in a race, it doesn’t matter if you’ve been doing the sport for 6 years or 6 months. The end result is what counts
·         The Lord has a similar mindset. He doesn’t look at how long you’ve had the gospel or have been relying on Him for months or years. He only cares that you are striving to have His light in your life and are continuing to improve.
o   He also says: “The darkness may not dissipate all at once, but as surely as night always gives way to dawn, the light will come.”
§  Just like training for a marathon. Can’t just run a marathon without training. Each time you do the things you need to do to prepare, the farther you can run (just like the more light you can have)

2.       Turn your heart toward the Lord
o   Uchtdorf: “Lift up your soul in prayer and explain to your Heavenly Father what you are feeling. Acknowledge your shortcomings. Pour out your heart and express your gratitude. Let Him know of the trials you are facing. Plead with Him in Christ’s name for strength and support. Ask that your ears may be opened, that you may hear His voice. Ask that your eyes may be opened, that you may see His light.”
§  Drawing near to the Lord takes humility and faith that the Lord loves each of us. We don’t need to do everything ourselves. As we have faith and rely on the Lord more, we can grow closer to him

3.       Walk in the light
o   Uchtdorf: “Your Heavenly Father knows that you will make mistakes. He knows that you will stumble—perhaps many times. This saddens Him, but He loves you. He does not wish to break your spirit. On the contrary, He desires that you rise up and become the person you were designed to be.”
o   How do we become the person we are designed to be?
§  Like a great teacher, “He sent His Son to this earth to illuminate the way and show us how to safely cross the stumbling blocks placed in our path. He has given us the gospel, which teaches the way of the disciple. It teaches us the things we must know, do, and be to walk in His light, following in the footsteps of His Beloved Son, our Savior.” (Uchtdorf)
§  Summer job: working with children. Set up challenges and make them do uncomfortable things to get better. We are like children on this earth—sent here to learn. We need Heavenly Father’s help through challenges he gives us, just like children need help from their parents.

Light Always Overcomes Darkness
·         As we strive to overcome the darkness in our lives, we will mistakes (we’re human).
·         We increase our love for God and strive to love our neighbor (everyone around us), the light of the gospel and of Christ will lift us up out of the darkness. James 4:8 “Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you.”
·         Uchtdorf’s invitation: “To rely on this certain promise spoken by the Savior of mankind: ‘I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.’”
·         When we feel we are surrounded by darkness, we need to focus on the light we have and let it radiate from us
o   “You choose to be happy”—fall vs. winter semester
o   People in the congregation. They have horrible medical challenges. They have employment problems. But they serve. They smile. They draw near to God and light radiates from them. Never guess they have such large problems.

Promises to Come to the Light
·         Uchtdorf: “I testify that with Christ, darkness cannot succeed. Darkness will not gain victory over the light of Christ… I invite each of you to open your heart to Him. Seek Him through study and prayer. Come to His Church, even The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Learn of Him and of His gospel, participate actively, help each other, and joyfully serve our God… As you walk toward the hope of God’s light, you will discover the compassion, love, and goodness of a loving Heavenly Father, “in [whom there] is no darkness at all.””

·         TESTIMONY: Light of Christ and others

Sunday, July 7, 2013

A month away...

Even though there is still a month until I become a full time missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, I thought I would begin my mission blog now. I want to talk about what I will be doing, why I'm doing it, and how I'm preparing to teach the Gospel to the people in Bakersfield, California.
Let me address the basic questions. What will I be doing? My purpose as a missionary is to invite all to come unto Christ. Through my life, I have felt His love for me. My faith in Him as helped me through challenges and difficulties that I have. I'm so grateful for this knowledge; I want to share it with others. Christ died for each of us so we may be free from our sins. He went through and felt the pain we feel during each of our trials. We are not alone when hard things happen to us. I want to share this message with others.
Another thing missionaries do is help people, which I want to do. There is a great devotional/talk/speech that Elder Russell M. Nelson of the quorum of the twelve apostles gave in October 2012. It talks about how missionaries can help everyone. I encourage you to watch it! Here's the link: It's a fantastic video and really describes what Mormon missionaries are all about.
Why do I want to go on a mission? Besides teaching others about Christ, I want to serve God. When given the opportunity to serve a mission when I turned 19, I prayed to God to know if I should. I pondered the question in my mind, made a list of the reasons why I should and shouldn't go, and then decided that there weren't many reasons why I shouldn't serve an 18 month mission. But I wanted to know if that was God's plan for me. I prayed to Him, asking the question whether I should serve a mission. One day, I was reading the scriptures, and I let them fall randomly open. It opened to Doctrine and Covenants, section 4, which reads "...O ye that embark in the service of God, see that ye serve him with all your heart, might, mind and strength... Therefore, if ye have desires to serve God ye are called to the work." The decision to serve a mission for our Lord has always felt right to me. I made sure that through the entire application process that I was doing the right thing by asking God. Each time I asked, I felt at peace. So I continued to move forward. Here I am now, exactly one month before I become a full time missionary, and I still feel that peace today. I know I am doing the right thing.
From now on, each week I will post things about what I am doing to prepare for my 18 month mission. I hope you enjoy following my travels and do everything you can to help the Mormon missionaries in your area. Invite them into your homes. All they will do is be of good to you. They just want to show you how Christ can help you in your life.
One month left. 31 days. The adventure begins now!