Monday, August 18, 2014

Farewell Talk

To all my lovely blog followers, I will be set apart as a missionary tonight at 6 PM.  Yesterday I had the incredible opportunity to speak in sacrament meeting.  I wish this was  truly what I had said when I spoke, but unfortunately I am not a "write it down and read it straight off the page" kind of girl. So bear with me, and I hope you get a gist of what I spoke on :)
Love to you all

Good morning brothers and sisters.

SO first off.  I would like to apologize.  Sister Christensen asked me to choose the opening and closing hymns.   For our closing hymn we are singing God Be With You Til We Meet Again.  Now in my mind when I chose this song, I was thinking of the movie the other side of heaven when he is leaving Tonga and all of the people are singing the song to him as he rows back to the boat that will take him back to America.  So I was like OH YEAH. I ROCK. These songs are PERF. And when I went to brag to my mom about my perfect hymn choices she enlightened me with the fact that this is hymn is sung at just about every LDS funeral.  So I promise I was not trying to somehow lead to the idea that I was dying or something… so I apologize, and when we sing this hymn I would appreciate it if you all pictured cute Tongans waving goodbye to an incredible missionary rather than picture yourself at a funeral. Hahaha
Anyways… WOW. I can honestly say that I never thought this day would ever come.  Although I have always wanted to serve a mission, it always seemed like it would be miles down the road, and now here I am. J  I wish I could express to you the amount of crazy emotions I have running through me right now...  nerves, excitement, stress, joy, and mostly… GRATITUDE. If it wasn’t for this ward, I most certainly would not be here right now.  It was from you that I was taught primary songs, it was you who sent me home on Sundays with colored pictures of Jesus to give to my mom to hang on the fridge, and you who taught me that I am truly a daughter of God who is destined to be a queen.  It was also this ward that showed me incredible examples of service, Christ Like love, and of course, missionary work.  My heart truly is SO full as I stand before you today, and I have all of you to thank for that. 
I would like to echo the words Sahara and I just sang by repeating one of the last lines, “If by the still, small voice he calls me to a path I do not know, I will place my hands in His hand, going where he’d have me go”.  These words are so incredibly true. Every aspect of missionary work lies on faith in our Savior, and in obedience to him.  Brothers and Sisters, this is what I would like to talk to you about today; the principle of Obedience.  I have a story to share with you; and although lengthy, it is an incredible testimony of obedience.
            “A certain LDS couple wanted to go on a mission to someplace warm, so they put in their papers and mentioned that they wanted to go someplace warm.  The call came back: Mongolia.  After some discussion, they decided to decline the call and did so.  A few months later, they felt like they really needed to serve a mission so they put in new papers and this time wrote that because of medical conditions, they needed to go someplace warm.  The second call came back: Mongolia.  This time, as they talked about it, they decided the Lord must really want them in Mongolia to call them there twice and felt, maybe, they could handle it for a little while. If it got to be too much, they would come home.  So they went to Mongolia and were assigned to serve in the Mongolia Federal Prison.  He taught the inmates and she cleaned the kitchen for eight hours every day, doing the dishes, scrubbing pots, mopping floors, etc.  She didn’t understand a word of Mongolian and didn’t know what anyone was saying to her.  All she knew was that she did not come clear across the world to wash dishes in Mongolia for her mission.  One day, in Sheer Frustration and close to tears after cleaning for hours and not understanding a single word, she went out into the prison courtyard and screamed at the top of her lungs, “Does anybody here speak English?” No one replied.  Louder the second time, she yelled it again, desperate for some English response “Does anybody here speak English at all?” From the upper corner of the prison, a voice called back, “I do.  I speak English!”  That night she told her husband about the prisoner who answered back and they wondered about him.  For days they tried to get him out of their mind and couldn’t. Eventually, they went to the warden and mentioned the prisoner who spoke English. The warden asked where he had called from.  When she told him, he said, “Oh. We can’t go there. That is maximum security. It is too dangerous.  I have not even been there.” They asked to see the man’s records and were told the prisoners kept in maximum security have no records. Only the most vile criminals were there and they were sent there to die.  There was no parole for them, no chance of a second life- therefore the prison needed no information on them.  Still the prisoner’s response haunted them and they persisted in their desire to meet this man and promised the warden they would be safe.  Finally, after several more days, the warden relented and agreed to let them trust the Lord.  He took them there.  As they walked into the maximum security unit, all the cells were dark.  But from one cell they heard a voice they had not heard in 18 years, saying, “Mom.  I knew you’d come for me”. It was their own son.  They had not seen him in 18 years when he got caught up in a life of crime and left home.  Twelve years ago, they had been told he had been killed during a crime.  He had actually fled the country and, over the course of several years, made his way to Mongolia, where another run-in had caused him to be sentenced for life.  He had been in prison for years, unable to contact anyone.  No one knew he was there. Yet God did.  Through his fervent and lonely prayers, this prisoner knew he would be reunited with his mother one day- that someday , she would find him buried in a prison cell in Mongolia, and would come to help him.”
The man who told this story had served with this couple in Mongolia and after he told the story, he continued by saying that “the amazing story does not end.  The couple is still serving in Mongolia, but when they return home from their mission in five more months, because of the work of the church there, the Mongolian government had agreed to release their son.  They will be able to bring their son home with them. “
Soooo, chances are I won’t be serving in a prison in DC and I definitely won’t find my long-lost son, but this story should remind each of us that everything truly happens for a reason.  Heavenly Father is preparing all of us for great things if we can but obey his will and let him in.
I love the picture of Christ knocking on the door without a door knob.  Christ is RIGHT THERE fully and completely willing to help us out with every aspect of our life if we can but let him in.  Our obedience to his will can strengthen us and bless our lives more than we will ever know.  How merciful and great is our God to bless us so immensely for doing the simple task of following his commandments.  I use the adjective simple for a reason… because let’s be real… sometimes staying chaste, sober, and modest is the farthest thing from easy.  But if we try our best and let Christ in, We. Can. Not. Fail. 
Elder Henry D. Taylor, who was an Assistant to the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, said: “I like the beautiful lesson taught and the impressive example set by our first parent, Father Adam. He was commanded by the Lord to offer the firstlings of his flocks as a sacrifice. He did not know the reason for the request, but without hesitation he was obedient to the commandment: ‘And after many days an angel of the Lord appeared unto Adam, saying: Why dost thou offer sacrifices unto the Lord?’ Adam responded with this magnificent, trusting reply: ‘I know not, save the Lord commanded me.’ (Moses 5:5–6.) To Adam it was not a matter of blind obedience, but rather it displayed his complete and unwavering confidence and faith in the word and instruction from the Lord” (“Faith,” Improvement Era, Dec. 1970, 44).
The scripture I chose for my missionary plaque is D&C 6:36. It simply states “Look unto me in every thought; Doubt not, Fear not.”  The Lord is truly standing before us with a merciful heart and open arms just waiting for us to heed his counsel.  If we can truly look unto him in every thought, and are obedient of his will I know we have no need to fear.
Now I have one more story to share with you guys… as a lot of you know, my cousin Weston was recently in a very bad car accident in Pensacola Florida.  This accident left him blind in one eye, with a collapsed lung, a crushed spleen, shattered facial bones, internal bleeding, significant brain swelling, and he was put into a medically-induced coma. They were able to get the internal bleeding under control after a couple of days, and they removed both his spleen and appendix. After a few short weeks he was responsive, squeezing his mom’s hand, opening his eyes, and even writing.  He just went upward, upward, and upward. Now before all of this, he served a mission in Mexico City and was absolutely incredible.  He was known as the missionary that was “100% Obedient”.  He was and is such a good example to everyone of obedience. Eventually he was transferred to a hospital in St. George and my family and I were able to go see him.  Because he was still in an unstable condition, only one person was allowed in at a time.  When it was my turn I walked in, we talked, and he told me how much he loved me.  Now hearing this from the mouth of my cousin that I wasn’t sure would ever be the same person was incredible.  He went on to tell me stories of his mission and about how important it is to heed every bit of counsel perfectly.  And before I left the room he patted my leg and said “elli, the amount of love and prayers I feel here in this hospital is the same amount of love and prayers you will feel on your mission.  And I will pray for you every single day because I am so proud and so excited for you” I looked at my angel of a cousin with tears in my eyes thinking, this perfect 22 year-old boy has every reason in the world not to be praying for anyone else and yet here he is, reminding me that I will be in his prayers.  He is an incredible example to me of obedience and selfless love. I only hope that I can be half the missionary he was. 
I am so so so excited to be serving a mission in Washington DC and I have a very strong testimony that if I can be 100% obedient I will be blessed beyond comprehension. Once again I would like to remind us all of the words from the beloved hymn I Will Go Where He Wants Me To Go by saying, “If by the still, small voice he calls me to a path I do not know, I will place my hands in His hand, going where he’d have me go.”  Let us all walk by faith, not by sight and have strong testimonies in the power of obedience.  Sending all my love, prayers, and hope your way over these next 18 months. I love you all.
In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen. 

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