Sunday, June 28, 2009

Farewell Talk 06/28/09

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Hey everyone! Here is my farewell talk for those of you who asked for it. Enjoy!

Growing up in my family, we lived as faithful members of another Christian faith. I would gain a testimony, I would bear record of its comfort and knowledge, and I would more importantly testify of our Savior Jesus Christ. Our family went to church each week for many years to listen to the counsel that the church leaders had to offer the congregation that particular week. I even thought that someday I would enter the full-time ministry in my church and there was no question in our minds that we could define ourselves as devout Christians. However, becoming acquainted with the members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints it gave me a new perspective, more comfort and knowledge that I had never heard of before and after learning of the restoration I studied and prayed with a reverent hear and received my answer from our Heavenly Father. When I was first introduced to the First Vision experienced by the Prophet Joseph Smith it opened my eyes to see and to understand the true nature of God the Eternal Father and His only Begotten Son. Joseph Smith declared, “I saw two personages, whose brightness and glory defy all description, standing above me in the air. One of them spake unto me, calling me by name and said, pointing to the other—This is my Beloved Son, Hear Him!” This divine vision gave us knowledge; it gave us comfort, and most of all it gave us all the answer, as it did for me, to know that the teachings of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are true.

Brothers and Sisters, I’m so humbled on this wonderful Sabbath day to speak to you on something that has been marked on my mind for some time now. It feels like it was just yesterday that I came up to this very stand for the very first time, but instead of introducing myself I have been asked to give my farewell talk for my mission to serve our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. For my talk today I felt compelled to speak on the Atonement that our Savior has given us and how we can be cleansed from sin “ seventy times seven” as it states in Matthew 18:22.

President Ezra Taft Benson once said, “Just as a man does not really desire food until he is hungry, so he does not desire the salvation of Christ until he knows why he needs Christ. No one adequately and properly knows why he needs Christ until he understands and accepts the doctrine of the fall and its effects upon all mankind.” Some misguidedly think that God planned for this earth to be a Garden of Eden for everyone, that Adam and Eve could have managed to have children despite their state of ignorance, and that for humanity was to live forever picking flowers. Those who hold this belief see Satan as the one who ruined God’s plan by tempting Adam and Eve. According to some, that is when God decided to send Jesus to make the best of a bad situation. As it states in 2 Nephi 2:25, “Adam fell that men might be; and men are, that they might have joy.” The fall was made—complete with all the accompanying misery and pain—to ultimately bring us freedom and happiness. God knew the problems that would occur with this mortal probation, but He also knew that Jesus would be the solution to these problems because He knew Jesus would be our redeemer.

The scriptures contain many parables and stories pertaining to the Atonement of the Savior because of the great importance it holds on our eternal salvation. In the Book of Luke, chapter 10 it gives a parable of how we may gain this salvation, it reads:

“And, behold, a certain lawyer stood up, and tempted him, saying Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life? He said unto him, What is written in the law? How readest thou? And he answering said, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and love thy neighbor as thyself. And he said unto him, Thou has answered right: this do, and thou shalt live. But he, willing to justify himself, said unto Jesus, And who is my neighbor? And Jesus answering said, A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho and fell among thieves, which stripped him of his raiment, and wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead. And by chance there came down a certain priest that way: and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. And likewise a Leivite, when he was at the place, came and looked on him, and passed by on the other side. But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was: and when he saw him, he had compassion on him, And went to him, and bound up his wounds, pouring in oil and wine, and set him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn, and took care of him. And on the morrow when he departed, he took out two pence, and gave them to the host, and said unto him, Take care of him; and whatsoever thou spendest more, when I come again, I will repay thee. Which now of these three, thinkest thou, was neighbor unto him that feel among the thieves? And he said, He that shewed mercy. Then said Jesus unto him, Go, and do thou likewise.”

Christ’s requirements for eternal salvation are not so that we can make the best of the Atonement, but so that the Atonement can make the best of us. Everyone knows that Lucifer’s plan guaranteed a way back to our Heavenly Father, but the key element that was missing was eternal growth. So perhaps one of the reasons he was successful in convincing so many to follow him was by putting doubt in God’s plan. Brad Wilcox said in his book The Continuous Atonement, “I imagine Satan saying, ‘I know my plan doesn’t offer you much, but at least it is a sure thing. God’s plan offers more, but it comes with a risk. Are you really willing to take the risk? Are you really willing to have faith in Christ when it’s all just words and promises from someone who has never completed an Atonement before?’” The whole purpose of the Atonement was not just to save but to also improve; otherwise as Wilcox said, “…Satan’s plan could have worked [because] he [also] offered to get us back safely.” Therefore the message of the Atonement is intended for everyone, but it is directed in a special way to those who feel alone or feel alone or feel abandoned and this is because we took the risk, we took the risk to become better than what we were before in the previous life and for that our Heavenly Father sent His only Begotten Son, Jesus Christ, to give us His never ending love and care no matter what we have done.

In the book The Continuous Atonement, Brad Wilcox gave a story that I would like to share with you, it read:

“The sixteen-year-old looked nice in his new suit purchased for this special occasion—his first time blessing the sacrament…The organist played the introduction to the hymn, and the chorister led the congregation in singing. Four priests stood at the sacrament table and carefully folded back the lace cloth to reveal the trays containing the bread. Silently, the young men began to break the bread, with the new priest looking nervously from his own hands to the hands of the experienced boys, who were moving more quickly. When the hymn ended, the organist played a reverent interlude in order to give the new priest time to finish. The others were finished with the bread in their trays and had even completed a few additional ones. The boy felt the eyes of the whole congregation were on him as he tried to hurry. Finally he dropped to his knees to read the prayer, “O God, the Eternal Father,” he began. His voice sounded shaky and unsure. “We ask thee in the name of Jesus Christ—“ Silence. Although few members of the congregation could recite the sacrament prayers from memory, most were familiar enough with them that they could recognize when something didn’t sound quite right. So could the young priest. So could his companions. So could the bishop—to whom the boy now looked for direction. The bishop made eye contact and nodded gently, indicating that the young man should begin again. He said. “O God, the Eternal Father, we ask thee in the name of thy Son, Jesus Christ, to bless and sanctify this water—“ Silence. He was blessing the bread…Again, the boy looked to the bishop, who indicated he needed to start once more. After yet another flawed attempt, the new priest made it through the entire prayer. He stood and began passing trays to the deacons who offered the sacred emblems to the waiting members.”

Even though some may have grown impatient and disturbed by the mistakes of the young priest, many can still remember to this day when they had made similar mistakes. This experience can show us much about the atoning sacrifice that our Savior did for us. Through modern day revelation, we have been asked that the sacrament prayers be offered word for word. The Bishop has the duty to verify that the prayer be given correctly without any exceptions. But in the case of the young priest what do you think happened? “Was he replaced, ridiculed, or rejected? No, that’s not the Savior’s way. But did the Bishop just overlook the problem? No, he couldn’t because of the laws that have been set in place. If the law of justice were to be the only law set in place, then one slip up would disqualify us from eternal life. But luckily we also have the law of mercy. In the case of the young priest, he was give a second, third, fourth—as many chances as he needed to obtain perfection.” The Atonement of Jesus Christ works just like that. Elder Tad R. Callister once said, “The Atonement was designed to do more than restore us to the ‘starting line’—more than just wipe the slate clean. [Its] crowing purpose [is] to endow us with power so that we might overcome each of our weaknesses and acquire the divine traits that would make us like God.” As long as we have faith in the Lord Jesus Christ we remain having hope because we know “…it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do.” A friend once told me that if it were up to him that verse would say, “…it is by grace that we are saved, [in spite of] all we can do.” With this new way of looking at the 25thverse in 2 Nephi 25 I stopped asking, “Am I saved by faith or works?” Rather, I ask, “What motivates each of them in my life?” Many of us have heard the analogy from Sunday school lessons: There is a man in a hot desert who sees a fountain at the top of a hill. With great effort, he climbs the hill and receives the life giving water. What saved him? Was it the climb, which represents his works? Or was it the water that represents grace? The answer, of course, is that they are both essential.” For faith without works is dead. But there is one main thing missing to this analogy and that is what the Savior did. He would not only guide us to the fountain of living water, but he would also climb the hill himself, only to give us that water to save us, and that is what he has already done for us. He would climb the hill when we couldn’t and even when we wouldn’t, he would climb for the prideful, not to take their agency, but to give everyone else motivation to endure to the end. And the greatest part is, all we have to do is give him what we have done, which is our best, nothing more.

Brothers and Sisters, I am so grateful that it is never too late to change, to make things right and to leave old habits behind.

“[I remember] the person that I used to be.

The person that no longer exists in me.

Wandering aimless, with out direction,

Just hoping to find his way.

Back to the Bible he was led,

As he remembered what he had read.

Become as a child, come unto me.

Jesus my Savior who died for me.

Then he kneeled, and he began to pray.

Father help me find my way.

Please forgive me of my sin.

Please Lord, just let me in.

Please dear Lord, enter my heart.

Help me, give me a brand new start.

Father I beg you, won’t you please,

Show me the way, I’m on my knees.

Then that still small voice within,

Whispered you’re forgiven, all your sin.

They’re forgiven, like they’ve never been.

My dear son where have you been?

I have watched you every day,

As you ran, and jumped and played.

I smiled when your goodness shone.

When you sinned, my hear would groan.

In everything that you’ve been through,

I have never stopped loving you.

You are my child, can’t you see.

You mean so very much to me.

The person that you used to be,

That person no longer exists in me.

That day you got down on your knees,

You were reborn, a brand new being.

A being of love, of truth, of light.

A brand new being in my sight.

Be ever faithful strong and fervent.

Always’ be my faithful servant.

Pray to me, one to one,

Pour out your heart my loving son.

Pray to me, morning and night,

And I will aide your earthly fight.

Father, he said, I will be your faithful son.

I’ll keep the commandments, every one.

I’ll crawl upon your lap, and pray,

For your guidance, every day.

I love you father, and your Son.

For everything that you [both] have done.

Thank you for this life so dear,

Now that you’re so very near.

I’ll keep you in my heart each day.

Thank you Lord. On thy path I’ll stay.”

Because of the Atonement of Jesus Christ we have the ability to do such things and that gives a new meaning to life. I am grateful that “The great mediator asks for our repentance NOT because we must ‘repay’ him in exchange for his paying our debt to injustice, but because repentance initiates a developmental process, that with the Savior’s help, leads us along the path to a saintly character” as Elder Bruce C. Hafen once said. With the atonement we can become better, we can gain hope and knowledge to do such tings, but more importantly we can be cleansed with this gift to become baptized into His church and to receive the Holy Ghost by the laying of hand, for there is no greater gift than the gift of eternal life.

As missionaries of the Lord, “We invite all men and women everywhere to read the Book of Mormon, to ponder in their hearts the message it contains, and then ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Jesus 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.” It’s also our duty to profess the hope and comfort that our Savior wants to bestow upon us. C.S. Lewis once said, “There are two kinds of people: those who say to God, ‘Thy will be done,’ and those to whom God says ‘All right, then, have it your way.’” As missionaries of the Savior we are sent to change the nature of man into one that our Savior and Heavenly Father approve of, which is the one where everybody professes Jesus is the Christ and when everyone humbly says, “Thy will be done.” With the nature of man changed, we can re-teach the gospel to the children of our Heavenly Father and teach them to trust in the Lord “with all thine heart; and [not lean] onto thine own understanding” as it boldly says in Proverbs because “This is a gospel of grand expectations, [but we know that] God’s grace is sufficient for each of us [as long as we] remember that there are no instant Christians.”

I want my parents to know that I love them so very much and that nothing in the world can change that. Despite our differences I know that we have endured, we have sought through the trials that our adversary has thrown at us. I know that the Lord will bless you for your sacrifice, for your humility to allow your son to serve our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

I would like to leave you with my testimony that I know the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the church of our Savior Jesus Christ, I know that the prophet Joseph Smith asked the Lord in a grove for guidance on which church of the many to join, I know that he saw Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ and I know that Jesus Christ told him to restore His church and the Book of Mormon. And most of all I know that the atoning sacrifice that our loving savior made gave us hope and purpose in life to strive to become better than what we were before. I know that Christ doesn’t just make up the difference, He makes all the difference in our lives and for that I’m truly thankful. And I say all these things humbly in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

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