Yesterday was a BIG day! Lots of Farewell events. I gave my Farewell talk- the last talk you give before you are set apart as a missionary – and a huge thank you to all of you who came to support me. It meant so much to me and to my family. I just have the best family and friends!
Later that evening, I had an Open House/ Farewell Party to say goodbye to all my friends and family, again a HUGE thank you to ALL who came and supported me. I loved talking to each one of you, although I do wish I could’ve gotten to talk to everyone that came. So please forgive me, but know how grateful I am that you came! Last night was a BLAST! Thank you for all of the advice, good conversation and for all of your smiling faces.
Many of you asked for a copy of my Farewell talk, so I thought I would just attach a copy of it on here so that all who want it, can have it. Again, thank you so much for all of your love and support. See you all in 18!
“A Love of God and of All Men”
A couple weeks ago, prior to knowing my topic for this talk, I had an epiphany of what missionary work is all about and how to become a successful missionary and member of the church. It all boils down to one thing- LOVE. Now, that might be surprising to many of you because it is definitely not the first thing you expect someone to say. Or at least, I wouldn’t. I would expect something along the lines of, coming unto Christ, obeying the commandments and feasting upon the word of Christ. While those are all vital to becoming a great missionary and member of the church, I have found that love is the driving factor for everything else. In Preach My Gospel, it states
“When you are filled with charity, you obey God’s commandments and do all you can to serve others and help them receive the restored gospel.”
Love is that powerful. As the scripture says, If we love God, we will want to love his children, to serve His children, read the scriptures and we will want to obey all of God’s commandments because we love HIM. When you have LOVE, all the rest of the things that we primarily associate with missionary work, tend to fall into place where they should.
When I decided to serve a mission, I chose a scripture that I hoped would inspire me throughout my mission. The scripture that I chose has been my absolute favorite for years now although, the reason I love it changes literally every time I read it. It is 2 Nephi 31:20-21. It states,
“Wherefore, ye must press forward with a steadfastness in Christ, having a perfect brightness of hope and A LOVE OF GOD AND OF ALL MEN. Wherefore, if ye shall press forward, feasting upon the word of Christ, and endure to the end, behold, thus saith the Father: Ye shall have eternal life. And now, behold, my beloved brethren, this is the way; and there is none other way nor name given under heaven whereby man can be saved in the kingdom of God. And now, behold, this is the doctrine of Christ, and the only and true doctrine of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, which is one God, without end. Amen.”
Originally I fell in love with this scripture because of the step-by-step structure and how it tells us exactly what we have to do to gain eternal life. However, I never even focused on the words “and a love of God and of all men”. Instead, I focused on the fact that the ONLY way to be saved is to follow the doctrine of Christ. That is definitely a key point in the scripture but what I did not understand was the importance of those 9 words- “and a love of God and of all men.” That is what enables us to press forward, to have a perfect brightness of hope, to feast upon the word of Christ and to endure to the end. As it says in Moroni 7:46-47
“Wherefore, my beloved brethren, if ye have not charity, ye are nothing, for charity never faileth. Wherefore, cleave unto charity, which is the greatest of all, for all things must fail- But charity is the pure love of Christ, and it endureth forever; and whoso is found possessed of it at the last day, it shall be well with him”
No matter how many great characteristics we have, or how much faith we have, we are nothing if we do not have charity, just as Paul says in 1 Corinthians 13. It is essential.
After this realization, I felt kind of dumb because what was the first and great commandment??
“Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.” (Matthew 22:36-39)
Before any other commandments, Christ deems this as the absolute most important commandment. And the second like unto it. Just like in the scripture I chose for my mission, we are commanded to have a love of God and of all men.
But it’s not as easy as it seems. I’m sure we ALL know that. Love is much more than the love portrayed in the Nicholas Sparks movies, although I do enjoy those. It is much deeper than that. Love is showing patience, it is looking past differences, it is showing compassion, it is selflessly serving others, seeing each other through Christ’s eyes, and most importantly, love is loyalty.
The greatest example of love is our Savior Jesus Christ. He loved infinitely. He loved selflessly. And He loved loyally. He suffered for us in the Garden of Gethsemane and later gave His life for us. What Christ did is unfathomable. No human being has ever even come remotely close to the pain that Christ suffered. In the Book of Mormon, there is a prophet named Alma, who prophesies about Jesus Christ. He says,
“And he shall go forth, suffering pains and afflictions and temptations of every kind: and this that the word might be fulfilled which saith he will take upon him the pains and the sicknesses of his people. And he will take upon him death, that he may loose the bands of death, which bind his people; and he will take upon him their infirmities, that his bowels may be filled with mercy, according to the flesh, that he may know according to the flesh how to succor his people according to their infirmities.”
He suffered pains and afflictions and temptations of every kind. That is impossible for any human to complete, but Christ was not your ordinary human. I don’t think anything could explain Christ’s love for us better than the words of my favorite Mormon message that the church put out for Easter a couple years ago entitled Because of Him.
“It was unthinkable. Impossible. Unfathomable. Unprecedented. A single act that changed history. Possibility. Destiny. He was a carpenter, a teacher, an outcast, a leader. Yet, He did what no carpenter, teacher, outcast, leader had ever done. Like all who preceded Him, He lived and He died. But unlike all who preceded Him, He rose from the dead. He lived again. He lives! And because He lives you, you, you and you, and she, and he, and they, and we, all will live again because of Him. Death has no sting. The grave no victory. We can start again, and again, and again. Guilt becomes peace, regret becomes relief, despair becomes hope, because of Him. We have second chances, clean slates, new beginnings. There is no such thing as the end, because of Him. “
Christ is incredible. It still baffles me that someone so powerful and someone so perfect would give His life for me, someone so small and imperfect. He took upon himself death so that we could have the ability to start again and to be forgiven of our sins. Christ did not complete this for personal gain or attention or even respect. He did it because He loves us. He wants us to have the opportunity to change and become our best selves. He knew that it was not possible without an infinite sacrifice and HE was able and willing to give HIS life as that sacrifice in order to save the world.
Christ gave everything that He had just for us. He went around serving, teaching and healing people His entire life. Nothing was ever about Him. And that is why I decided to serve a mission. As I was reading about Christ in the scriptures about four years ago now, and preparing for a lesson, this question came to me very clearly, “If Christ can serve His entire life for you, suffer and die for you, why can’t you give up 18 short months of your life to serve Him?” And that is all it took. I want to do all that I can to repay Him for all that He has given me. It is nothing compared to what the Savior has done for me, and I know that I can NEVER fully repay Him but I cannot think of a better way to repay Him than by sharing His gospel with His children.
After Christ was crucified, Peter and some of the other apostles decided to leave their life as apostles and go back to what they knew best- fishing. Then Christ appears and asks Peter three times, “Peter, do you love me?” For someone who spent his whole life serving the Lord, after being asked for the third time, can you imagine how he is feeling? Fortunately, Peter still manages to respond “Yea, Lord. Thou knowest that I love thee.” And the Savior responds, as Elder Holland puts it,
“Then Peter, why are you here? Why are we back on this same shore, by these same nets, having this same conversation? Wasn’t it obvious then and isn’t it obvious now that if I want fish, I can get fish? What I need, Peter, are disciples—and I need them forever. I need someone to feed my sheep and save my lambs. I need someone to preach my gospel and defend my faith. I need someone who loves me, truly, truly loves me, and loves what our Father in Heaven has commissioned me to do. Ours is not a feeble message. It is not a fleeting task. It is not hapless; it is not hopeless; it is not to be consigned to the ash heap of history. It is the work of Almighty God, and it is to change the world.”
We are those disciples; every single one of us. We have been given the responsibility to feed His sheep and save His lambs. Christ needs us to serve His children in any way possible, to share His good word, to bring joy into this darkening world, and most importantly he needs loyal followers of Christ- those who truly love Him and are willing to do what He asks of them, no matter the circumstance. In short, we need to love one another as Christ has loved us. (John 15:12) and one way of doing that is sharing with OTHERS what CHRIST shared with US when He established His church on the earth and then re-established it through Joseph Smith.
So, As Elder Holland puts beautifully, “…we have neighbors to bless, children to protect, the poor to lift up, and the truth to defend. We have wrongs to make right, truths to share, and good to do. In short, we have a life of devoted discipleship to give in demonstrating our love of the Lord. We can’t quit and we can’t go back. Your Father in Heaven expects your loyalty and your love at every stage of your life.”
I know that this is true and I am forever grateful for all that Christ has done for me. I know that the only way to fully develop Christ-like love is follow Christ’s example and come unto Him. I know that Christ lives. I know that He is walking beside me every step of the way and will carry me through the hard times. He will NEVER leave us. I know that there will be hard times on the mission, but how can I expect to have an easy mission, and be a literal representative of Jesus Christ, when His mission was never easy? Because of Him, I am willing and prepared to not only endure the hard times, but to endure them well.
I know that God lives. I have been able to recognize His hand in my life AT LEAST every single day. I know that the Book of Mormon is the word of God and that man will come closer to God by abiding by its precepts. I know this because I did. I know that if we “[p]ray unto the Father with all the energy of heart that [we] may be filled with this love ”and that love, is the love of Christ. I am so grateful for this gospel that has brought me so much joy throughout my life. And just like the sons of Mosiah, I cannot bear that any soul should perish, not knowing the truth of the gospel, so I cannot wait to start sharing that joy with the people of Portugal. I love my Savior, Jesus Christ and am forever indebted to Him. I hope that each and every single day I will love loyally, just as Christ did. And most importantly, I hope that I can live up to my mission scripture and have a love of God and of all men, at all times, in all places and in all things throughout my entire mission and on throughout the rest of my life. And I say these things in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.