Sunday, March 17, 2013

The Only Perfect Missionary

What follows is the talk I planned and prepared for my pre-mission talk (aka farewell). I have been struggling with a cold all week and prayed every day that despite my hoarse voice I would be able to speak with the Spirit. According to everyone that I talked to it was the most powerful talk I have ever given. I am grateful to the Lord for answering my prayer. It is just a personal witness to me that God uses the weak things of the world to bring forth the salvation of men. 


When Bishop assigned me the topic of missionary work the first thing that came to my mind was “Bishop, I want to write a talk, not a novel.” It was just such a broad topic. So I went home and thought long and hard about what I wanted to talk about specifically. I came to the conclusion that I wanted to discuss something that would change me as I studied it. Something that would help me become the person I want to be before I leave in a few weeks. I thought about what makes us good missionaries. Then I thought of the nine Christ like attributes found in Chapter 6 of Preach My Gospel: faith, hope, charity, patience, knowledge, obedience, diligence, humility and virtue. So I have decided to speak on how these attributes will make us better missionaries, both at home and abroad and ultimately help us come to be like our Father in Heaven. I have chosen to do this by presenting four scriptural examples of these attributes; that from their examples, we can perfect our own lives and become better missionaries and followers of our Savior, Jesus Christ.

President Thomas S. Monson said, “If we do not have a deep foundation of faith and a solid testimony of truth, we may have difficulty withstanding the harsh storms and icy winds of adversity which inevitably come to each of us.”

Scripturally speaking the individual that struck me as a great example of faith was that of Peter. When we think of Peter I’m sure many of us recall well the account found in Matthew 14. Jesus had admonished His disciples to go ahead of Him in the ship and He would meet up with them later. Late in the night Jesus went to them, literally walking upon the water. His disciples were troubled but Jesus beckoned to them and calmed their uneasiness. As we know Peter calls to Jesus saying “Lord if it be thou, bid me come unto thee on the water.” Oftentimes when we read the rest of the story we brush over one very important detail. Peter did it. He got out of the boat and, defying every worldly law that we know he walked towards our Savior on the Sea of Galilee. We instead focus on the fact that when Peter’s great faith, faith strong enough to allow him to stand above the waves of his reservations and, more than that, to walk over his own doubts and uncertainties, was overcome. Peter feared and then he fell. Yet again in his stumbling he demonstrated his great faith. He cried to the Lord saying “Lord, save me”

No matter where we are on our road to discipleship. No matter how well we think we are doing or how well we are actually doing we will fall. We will sink in our own seas of doubt, temptation, and sin. Yet we can find hope in the words of Elder Holland who encouraged, “Don’t you quit. You keep walking. You keep trying. There is help and happiness ahead. Some blessings come soon, some come late, and some don’t come until heaven. But for those who embrace the gospel of Jesus Christ, they come. It will be all right in the end. Trust God and believe in good things to come.” There is hope brothers and sisters. Hope in He who stands above the waves. Hope in He that walks on the waters, even Jesus Christ. Whether we are a missionary that can tract no further, or a young parent that feels overwhelmed with their new found responsibility; there is hope in He who calms our storms. All we have to do is cry out and He will “immediately stretch forth his hand and catch us” We as Latter Day Saints, as missionaries and members alike, must “press forward with a steadfastness in Christ having a perfect brightness of hope and a love of God and all men” (2 Nephi 31:20). Then we too can be like Peter who responded when the Lord asked if He would leave Him “Lord to whom shall we go? Thou hast the words of eternal life. And we believe and are sure that thou art that Christ, the Son of the living God.” And ultimately, ,we will be saved and glorified in the kingdom of God.

“Patience means active waiting and enduring. It means staying with something and doing all that we can working, hoping, and exercising faith; bearing hardship with fortitude, even when the desires of our hearts are delayed. Patience is not simply enduring; it is enduring well!”- President Dieter F. Uchtdorf

No other story of patience touches me quiet like the story of Leah. Leah isn’t someone we talk about much. We all know relatively well the love Jacob had for Rachel whom he met at the well. The woman that when he met her he wept at her beauty. Jacob seeks Rachel’s hand, working seven years for her. However, his clever father-in-law gives him Leah. When Jacob realized in the morning that it was Leah and not Rachel he was angry and Jacob confronted Judah. Yet we seem to forget about Leah from this point on. Jacob loved Rachel instantly that much was clear.
We see the depth of Leah’s anguish at her neglect in Genesis 29:32 right after she bears Rueben she declares “Surely the Lord hath looked upon my affliction; now therefore my husband will love me.”  We, as Jacob did, overlook Leah who eventually bore Levi, through which comes the line of the priesthood. Leah who bore Judah, through which came King David, then Solomon, and ultimately our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Henry B. Eyring said “The Lord is keeping His promise to you as you keep yours. As you serve others for Him, He lets you feel His love. And in time, feelings of charity become part of your very nature. And you will receive the assurance of Mormon in your heart as you persist in serving others in life that all will be well with you.” So it was with Leah, patient, charitable Leah. She was rewarded for her patience. She faithfully served and honored her husband until the end of her days. In Genesis 49 we find out that Jacob has buried his sweet Leah with his parents and grandparents, and that too is where he ultimately decides to be buried. Some blessings we will not see in this life. Yet if we press forward with patience and charity, with an eye single to the glory of God we will truly understand and live the words found in Isaiah 12:2 “Behold, God is my salvation; I will trust, and not be afraid: for the Lord Jehovah is my strength and my song; he also is become my salvation.” We must come to understand that everything is in the Lord’s time, not ours. And, just as charity never faileth, if we are found possessed of it, neither will we.

The Book of Mormon teaches us “To be learned is good if [we] hearken unto the counsels of God.”

When I thought of a good scripture story that presents the danger of knowledge when we do not use it righteously I thought of the story of Naaman found in 2 Kings 5. Naaman was a well-respected Syrian general but he was also afflicted with leprosy. Historically speaking this disease made him ritually unclean in the eyes of the Jews. In an attempt to be healed Naaman followed the advice of a faithful maid servant who encouraged him to go see the prophet Elisha. So he went, bearing gifts, with all the grandeur of the world. And what did Elisha do? He sent a messenger out to meet him which instructed him to go wash in the river Jordan seven times. We read in verse 11 “But Naaman was wroth and went away, and said, Behold I thought, He will surely come out to me, and stand, and call on the name of the Lord his God and strike his hand over the place and recover the leper.” Too often our own knowledge and perception blind us to the little tender mercies of God. We expect big extravagant miracles. Yet typically the blessings, the miracles that change our lives and strengthen our faith come in the small, almost imperceptible moments that often pass us by without being noticed. These are signs from God. They prove that God is not only aware of us but is going before us with His angels, preparing a way for us to accomplish the things that He has commanded us to do.

Elder D. Todd Christofferson has said “Obedience gives us greater control over our lives, greater capacity to come and go, to work and create.” Yet some times we are like Naaman and we scoff at this admonishment or that suggestion coming from a servant of God. Naaman was ready to walk away without even going near the Jordan. Claiming “Are not Abana and Pharpar, rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? May I not wash in them and be clean?” Then Naaman servants went forward and entreated him saying “If the prophet had bid thee, do some great thing, wouldest thou not have done it? How much rather then when he saith to thee, Wash, and be clean?” I can only imagine Naaman’s feelings at the gentle reprimand of those of whom which he had charge. For it is evident that their faith was greater than his. Not soon after he went and “dipped himself seven times in the Jordan… and his flesh came again like unto the flesh of a little child, and he was clean.” Just as the waters of Jordan cleansed Naaman of his physical disease when we are obedient to the laws and ordinance of the Gospel we are cleansed from spiritual disease through the atonement of Jesus Christ. We become clean and made whole, restored to righteousness through the blood of the Lamb. Then, like Nephi we can proclaim “O Lord, I will praise thee forever; yea, my soul will rejoice in thee my God and the rock of my salvation.” ( 2 Nephi 4:30). And we will indeed be saved by the blood of Him that we faithfully follow and obey.

“I am convinced that missionary work is not easy because salvation is not a cheap experience. Salvation never was easy… How could we believe it would be easy for us when it was never, ever easy for Him?” Jeffery R. Holland

My last example is the One and Great Example. The way, the truth, and the life. The Resurrection and the Light of the World. He has been called wonderful, counselor, the mighty God, the Prince of Peace and King of Kings. He is our Savior and Redeemer, Jesus Christ. His life is the epitome of all the attributes I have spoken of today and all the ones I have not. In humility he diligently sought the will of His Father. Filled with virtue and selflessness He was crucified for us that we might inherit all that the Father hath. As members and missionaries of His true Church we will be asked to spend at least a few moments in Gethsemane and take a few, cross-laden steps towards Calvary. That is not to take away from the Savior’s great sacrifice. That is not my intention. What I am saying is that weather we are a life-long member, recent convert, or searching investigator, we must, in order “to come to the truth, to come to salvation, to know something of this price that has been paid,  pay a token of that same price.” We will all wonder if there is an easier way. An easier road to salvation, to conversion, and to God. He knows and He understands. Because the Savior of us all asked this same question as He lay prostrate in a Garden so long ago. He plead for it as He hung on the cross wanting to know why His Father had forsaken Him. He knows how hard this experience is. He knows the cost of salvation because He has paid it. When we as members suffer and wade through the depths of affliction, take heart; for we are standing with the best life this world has ever known, the only pure and perfect life ever lived. We have reason to stand tall and be grateful that the Living Son of the Living God knows all about our sorrows and afflictions. The only way to salvation is through Gethsemane and on to Calvary. The only way to eternity is through Him… even the only perfect missionary.
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I am so grateful for the opportunity I have had to speak to all of you today. More than that I am grateful for the next 18 months I will spend in Panama, coming to know my Lord and my Savior Jesus Christ and helping others come to develop a covenantal relationship with Him.  In D&C 81:4-5 the Lord said in regards to callings “And in doing these things thou wilt do the greatest good unto they fellow beings, and wilt promote the glory of him who is your Lord. Wherefore be faithful; stand in the office which I have appointed unto you; succor the weak, lift up the hands which hang down, and strengthen the feeble knees.” I have spoken of a lot of different characteristics today. My challenge to each of you is to work on one, just one. Prayerfully pick the one that you feel you need to work on most an than pray for help in strengthening that attribute in yourself. Ether 12:27 tells us that God gave us weakness that, through Him, we might make them strengths. Through diligent effort we can develop the faith of Peter, the patience of Leah, and the understanding of Naamen. And in the end, in that last day, when we stand before God at that judgment day we will hear the words of our Savior saying “Father, behold the sufferings and death of Him who did no sin in whom thou wast well pleased; behold the blood of thy Son which was shed, the blood of Him whom thou gavest that thyself might be glorified. Wherfore, Father, spare these my brethren...” May we strive towards this goal with lifted eyes and cheerful hearts. May we do it in the name of Him who knows us better than we know ourselves. I leave these things with you in His Holy name, even the great Jehovah Jesus Christ, Amen. 


Following my talk my friend Molly offered a beautiful musical number called "Savior, Redeemer of My Soul" It is basically my testimony in the form of a song and I am so grateful that it worked out for her to come and do it for me. Enjoy and God bless you until you read again!

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