Monday, October 28, 2013

Farewell Talk

For those who were unable to come to my missionary farewell, here's a copy of my talk.

Back when I was still living in Stockton, I had the opportunity to perform in my high school’s musical, “The Music Man” where I got to experience the Iowan accent. I was placed in the 1st soprano section of the ensemble and considering the closest thing I had to vocal training was church choir, I didn’t exactly know I was doing other than follow the lead of others. The more and more I tried to hit a high D in an assortment of songs, the more and more strained my voice became to the point where it hurt to breathe. To top it all off, I twisted my ankle not once, but twice before our opening night. Considering my Dad was living here in Morgan Hill during my junior year to provide for our family, I turned to my Uncle Gary for a priesthood blessing. I was so afraid that the show would not go on for me, as the understudy was replacing another cast member. I knew that if I had faith, the priesthood blessing that I received would help me perform to the best of my ability. After I got the blessing, I drove towards the theater to get ready for the show and wrap my ankle. I said a silent prayer backstage before the opening number considering my throat and ankle hurt more than ever. The curtains opened for me, and as I ran on stage the pain vanished immediately. I was able to sing and dance with ease just as I practiced for months beforehand. As each musical number was over and I was off stage, the pain returned just as bad as it was before. I knew that the pain vanishing and returning wasn’t just a coincidence, but a small miracle in my life that could not have been made possible if I didn’t have faith.

Faith, what is faith? The Bible Dictionary states that, “Faith is to hope for things which are not seen, but which are true. To have faith is to have confidence in something or someone. […] Miracles do not produce faith, but strong faith is developed by obedience to the gospel of Jesus Christ; in other words, faith comes by righteousness, although miracles often confirm one’s faith. Faith is a principle of action and of power, and by it one can command the elements, heal the sick, and influence any number of circumstances when occasion warrants. [...] All true faith must be based upon correct knowledge or it cannot produce the desired results. [...] A lack of faith leads one to despair, which comes because of iniquity.”

In an April 2013 General Conference talk titled “This Is My Work and Glory” by M. Russell Ballard, he talks about a 7 year old granddaughter telling her grandfather how she was so excited to plant just one tomato seed. She knew that the seed would become a plant, and if the plant were cared for, it would grow into millions of tomatoes that would each have many seeds. But the granddaughter almost killed her plant because she left it in a dark room and forgot to water it. When she remembered the plant, it was all wilted and dead looking. She cried because she thought about all of the millions of the tomatoes that would never grow. Her Mom reassured her that the plant wasn’t dead; all that it needed was some water and light to bring it back to life. “Her small tomato plant, so full of potential but so weakened and wilted from unintentional neglect, was strengthened and revived through the simple ministration of water and light by the little girl’s loving and caring hands.” The tomato plant is like our faith, it needs constant attention, or it begins to weaken. Such as the plant, “we have unlimited, divine potential. But if we are not careful, we can become like the wilted tomato plant. If any of us feels like our faith is less than we know it should be, we should turn more fully to the Savior. We should let His light and His living water do for us and our family what little water and light did in bringing life back to the weakened tomato plant.”

Proverbs 3:5-6 says, “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.” A famous quote by Martin Luther King Jr. reads, “Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.” Faith is having courage to let God have control, he sees the whole picture unlike we do. He knows what obstacles we must face to become our greatest self. One of my favorite quotes about faith which I may or may not have gotten from Pinterest is, “There isn’t room in your mind for both worry and faith. You must decide which one will live there.” This quote really makes me think because if you have fear about what will happen in the future, I feel like that means you doubt God’s capabilities. 2nd Corinthians 5:7, says, “For we walk by faith, not by sight.”

Everyone has faith; faith that they’ll wake up in the morning, faith that the sun will rise the next day, and faith that their car will start. But how strong one’s faith varies on what they do to strengthen it. Although faith is a gift, it must be cultured and sought after until it grows from a tiny seed to a great tree. Luke 1:37 is a great scripture since it gives me faith in following Him. “For with God nothing shall be impossible.” It doesn’t mean that faith will make things easy, but it will make all things possible if it is God’s Will. We should trust in God’s Will, He knows us and what is best in all areas of our life and it will help us understand His plan for us. Having faith in God includes faith in His timing. “As your faith is strengthened you will find that you no longer the need to have a sense of control, that things will flow as they will, and that you will flow with them, to your great delight and benefit.” When God solves your problems, you have faith in his abilities. But when God doesn’t solve your problems, he has faith in your abilities. In the most recent General Conference, Bonnie L Oscarson talked about how one can gain and strengthen their testimony of tithing. It doesn’t come by praying that one will receive a testimony of tithing, but by testing one’s faith by paying it. Once one pays it, one will gain blessings and have their faith strengthened.

My decision to go on a mission was a trial itself, but it helped me strengthen my faith greatly. I didn’t want to go with the crowd and put in my papers just because everyone was doing it, just like my two closest cousins Chelsie and Stacie. Sure, I thought it would be cool that the ‘Three Musketeers’ would all be out on missions at the same time. Not to mention I hated the thought that I would be the only cousin my age that wasn’t out on a mission, but I wanted to go on a mission for myself. In all honesty, when the age change occurred, I didn’t think about going on a mission because I never thought it was for me. Yet a few months later when I was going to all of my friend’s missionary farewells, that’s when it hit me. Except a few things were holding me back; the majority of guys start saving up for their mission ever since they were at a young age, how am I going to save up for a mission in just a few mere months? I had barely ended my second semester at BYU-I with barely $100 to my name. My Dad was told in December of 2012 that he was going to lose his job at the end of June, and he had been searching for a job since with no luck. I had started my job in the beginning of May, but my work told me that because of company policy, I wouldn’t get promoted to full time if I was going to leave not a few short months after. Financial troubles were really getting me down. How could I possibly raise enough money if my Dad doesn’t have a job, and I’m only working 20 hours a week?

Chelsie Faulk’s farewell talk stood out to me more than anyone else’s- probably because hers was on prayer. She mentioned on how she was reluctant to get an answer on whether she should go on a mission, and that’s exactly how I was feeling. I was praying and asking on whether I should go on a mission, but I never bothered to wait for an answer because I was too scared on what that answer may be. But I decided that I was done wondering, so I prayed in my room for an answer I was ready to hear. While I was waiting for my answer, my Mom came in and wanted to tell me something that my Uncle Daniel mentioned to her, “Emily should not worry about the money if she’s supposed to go on a mission. Finances will not be an issue because everything will work out in the end.” Right when those words were spoken, the spirit overcame me as strong as I’ve ever felt in my life. I started to bawl like a baby, and I exaggerate not when I say I continued to cry for a good twenty minutes. I realized I got my answer- I was going on a mission. After I composed myself, I walked out of my bedroom and into the kitchen announcing to my parents, “I’m, going on a mission?” It was more of a question than a statement, because I was still in unbelief. That was where I had to put my life into God’s Hands, and trust that He knew what He was doing with my life, because I had a much different path in my mind. A way to strengthen one’s faith is going through a trial that you know that you cannot do without God. My journey on preparing for my mission has been a trial indeed, but I know that God has called me to do His work, and everything will work out. If you know me at all, then you know that I like to plan my life. I did the calculations and I had absolutely no idea on how I was going to be able to make enough money with just 20 hours of work on top of taxes and tithing. But with the help of immediate and extended family members, odd jobs here and there, and a lot of willpower to save my money, I succeeded in what I thought was the impossible in the last five months of preparing for my mission. There were a lot of times when I was doubtful that everything was going to happen, but “Faith without works is dead.” I knew that I had to do my part for the Lord to do his. D&C 82:10 reads, “I, the Lord, am bound when ye do what I say; but when ye do not what I say, ye have no promise.” We need to keep our faith in God no matter how dark it gets. All of the darkness in the world cannot extinguish light. Thomas S Monson said, “Your future is as bright as your faith.”

When it comes to gaining blessings from faith, I think that obedience and faith go hand in hand. “There is no faith where there is no obedience. There is true obedience only where there is faith…” I went to a Preach my Gospel class for missionary preparation in the Young Single Adult ward, and my teacher Brother Black told us a story about him and his companion went through during his mission. Brother Black went to a really dangerous mission; so dangerous that his mission president gave him and his companion a blessing before they went out into the mission field. The blessing promised that if they were exactly obedient that they would not face death on their mission. All of the missionaries in that area were warned that when they drove alongside the highway to be conscientious of their surroundings. The reason being was that drivers were known to scare missionaries by pretending or attempting to run them off the highway. One day as Brother Black was leading his companion alongside the highway, he noticed in his mirror that a semi-truck was getting faster and closer to his companion. He shouts and warns to his companion about the upcoming semi-truck, while stopping safely off the road. But it was too late for his companion. As Brother Black looked behind him, he sees his companion along with his bike being crushed by the semi-truck, with the bike shattering to bits and pieces. His companion rolls to a stop, and Brother Black rushes over to his companion, praying that he’s okay. He crouches down and sees that his eyes are closed, not moving a muscle. Suddenly, his companion opens his eyes, and stands right up, asking what just happened. Brother Black declares to him that he just got ran over by a semi-truck. Yet his companion was in disbelief, considering that there wasn’t a broken bone in his body. Brother Black turns his companion around, and shows him that he has a tire truck mark running across his back dirtying his white shirt. In remembrance, his companion framed the tire track marked shirt to always remember that being exactly obedient saved his life on his mission.

One can earn many blessings when it comes through faith. D&C 27:17 says “Taking the shield of faith wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked.” Satan is stronger than all of us, but if we have God on our side, we will be able to overcome all. Jeffrey R Holland, states, “If you have faith, nothing will be impossible to you. Don’t let questions get in the way of your faith. You have more faith than you think. Be not afraid, just believe.” Everyone should doubt their doubts, not their faith. Mosiah 3:17 proclaims, “And moreover, I say unto you, that there shall be no other name given nor any other way nor means whereby salvation can come unto the children of men, only in and through the name of Christ, the Lord Omnipotent.” If we have faith and do what God says by keeping his commandments, we will obtain salvation and be able to live with Him again. The hymn ‘The Spirit of God’ in the 3rd verse reads, “That we through our faith may begin to inherit the visions and blessings and glories of God.”

Although I did not obtain my family from faith, I consider them one of the blessings from God. I wouldn't be standing here today if it wasn't for my family. They put up with me in these last few stressful months. I would go out shopping trying to find the PERFECT sales, and I would be wasting more gas than gaining successes. Words cannot express how much you mean to me, and I loved going to the temple as a family. Brothers and sisters, faith is and will always be an essential part of our daily lives. I also would not be standing here today if I did not have faith in God that He would make everything work out. For those who are waiting for a sign on whether you should go on a mission or not, this is it. If you’ve thought to yourself, “I don’t know if Heavenly Father wants me to go on a mission,” don’t. Why wouldn’t He want you to serve and hasten the work He has bestowed to the People of the Last Days? Even if you feel like that you shouldn’t go on a mission, you should still prepare yourself. You will benefit from having your testimony, and your faith grow from the result of it. If you feel like you are inadequate, God doesn’t call the qualified, He qualifies the called. I know that this church is true, and I would not be the person who I am today without it. I have a testimony of faith, and that God knows what He’s doing with each of our lives. God knows each and everyone one of us by name, and He loves us so much that He sent His only Begotten Son to die and atone for our sins. Joseph Smith is a true prophet of God, who re-established His church on Earth today. The Book of Mormon is the word of God, and I say these things in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

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