Sunday, September 8, 2013
You Are a Child of God (My Farewell :))
When the Bishop told me I could pick my own topic for my farewell, I was really happy, because I had been thinking about it ever since I got my mission call. Why am I going on a mission? Missionaries change their reasons all the time, and mine probably will, too. “I want everyone to know about Christ,” “I want to become a better wife and mother,” “I want to become a mature adult,” “My parents would be disappointed if I didn’t” (that’s a stupid reason, by the way, though I know a few kids who are that way, unfortunately). Mine hasn’t changed since I decided to go on a mission, and it all goes back to the most basic belief we have—the first thing in the first lesson of Preach My Gospel, the first primary song you ever learn, the first line of the Young Women’s Theme: We are children of a loving Heavenly Father. It’s a pretty basic principle, right? Well, for about 15 years of my life, I didn’t know that. I didn’t know who God was, if He was there, or why people were so devoted to Him. I didn’t know why people were so obsessed with this Jesus fellow who apparently “died for their sins.” I didn’t understand why somebody had to die for my sins because I didn’t know what was happening after this life. I thought I could just go on living life, doing whatever I wanted because after this life, I was just going to die and maybe go somewhere else, maybe not. Worst of all, I didn’t understand my purpose on earth. I didn’t know why I was here, or that I was important individually. I thought it was kind of hard to be important as an individual when there are so many people on this earth and my life is simply a dot on the eternal spectrum. So many people in this world are exactly like how I was. It wasn’t until I found this glorious gospel that I was able to understand my individual importance. God’s love for us is infinite and perfect, though it may not always seem so. Sometimes things happen that make us think “is there really someone out there who loves me?” “How can God be so loving if He lets bad things happen?” So often on the news we see stories about natural disasters, war, poverty, disease—terrible things. Some people respond to this by saying “well, obviously then God doesn’t exist because a loving God wouldn’t let stuff like that happen.” Let me ask you this then, do you believe in dentists? I sure don’t. If there were such things as dentists, why would people have broken and messed up teeth? Okay, of course dentists exist. However, it’s not the dentist’s fault that people have messed up teeth, but when someone does chip a tooth, that person has to make the effort to go to the dentist to get it fixed. It’s the same thing as God. He can’t fix something unless someone comes to Him, but it isn’t His fault that some people choose to live their own way and that results in the bad things that happen in this world. Some people just won’t go to the dentist and that’s why they have bad teeth. My boyfriend’s roommate had to get 6 teeth pulled last year simply because he refused to brush his teeth or go to the dentist. Is it the dentist’s fault that he neglects his teeth? Obviously not. In fact, if Boniface did go to the dentist, his teeth probably would have been so much healthier. God doesn’t force us to go to Him, but if we do, our lives would be so much better. We have agency, and though God could intervene if He wanted, and He has before, He nonetheless will allow us to create our own paths even if they end in sorrow. We have to learn from our mistakes so we don’t make them anymore. God is our father. Every father wants what is best for his children and loves them, even when those children make some bad choices. A father can be disappointed or angry at times, and I’m sure sometimes God is that way too, but not because He is selfish and wants His way, but because He loves us and knows that when we live His commandments and His way, we will be happy both in this life and throughout eternity. That is the only way to be truly happy. He gave us this amazing plan of salvation so that we could live with Him once more. Along with that, however, comes agency, and the ability to make right and wrong choices. Nonetheless, God loves everyone, no matter what mistakes they have made. He loves you so much, in fact, that He sent His Son to die for you. He sent His Son to die for the people who cursed, spat on, beat, scourged, and crucified Him. He sent His Son to die for the people who curse His name and say that He’s fake and terrible. He sent His Son to die for the antichrists who spread false teachings so that people would be led away from Him. He did this because He loves everyone even if they don’t love Him. Lehi saw the Love of God when he saw the Tree of Life. The Tree of Life also symbolizes Jesus Christ, so Jesus Christ is God’s love, personified. That is why He died for you. He died for you because He is love. He wants you to live with Him again. He wants you to come to Him with a broken heart, feeling sorry for your sins, so that He can help you and make you happy again, because He is the only way to happiness. So many people go to worldly things to find “happiness.” Drugs, alcohol, promiscuity, expensive cars and clothing, these are things that will not bring you happiness. I can guarantee it. They simply put a band-aid over your sadness. And when that band-aid falls off: when your high goes away, when you run out of money, when the buzz wears off, what is left? A very sad person. The dictionary defines sadness as “affected or characterized by sorrow or unhappiness.” What is the first step of repentance? Feel godly SORROW for your sins. The way to become happy is to humble yourself before Christ, repent of your sins, be baptized, and live a righteous life. My definition of sadness is “the absence of God.” When you have God in your life, and you go to Him when you are unhappy, he will help you find happiness. The purpose of a missionary is to invite others to come unto Christ by helping them receive the restored gospel through faith in Jesus Christ and His atonement, repentance, baptism, receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost and enduring to the end. To me, they could easily shorten that whole thing and simply make it “help people be happy.” I know that what I’m saying is true because I have been there. I have tried to find worldly things to make me happy. Eventually I had so many worldly band-aids on that when they fell off, I felt like I was in a dark pit, unable to get out no matter how hard I tried. But then I found Jesus Christ. It was as though He threw a ladder into the pit and all I had to do was climb up. Of course, repentance isn’t easy. The climb was hard, but here I am. Repentance isn’t supposed to be easy. But sometimes, things need to get worse before they get better. Sometimes you need to take the band-aid off and put some alcohol on the wound. It will sting at first, but it will heal so much faster than just having a band-aid. In order to feel the atonement working in your life, you have to feel a speck of what Jesus Christ felt. You need to feel godly sorrow and guilt for what you have done. Alma put it very nicely: And it came to pass that as I was thus racked with torment, while I was harrowed up by the memory of my many sins, behold, I remembered also to have heard my father prophesy unto the people concerning the coming of one Jesus Christ, a Son of God, to atone for the sins of the world. Now, as my mind caught hold upon this thought, I cried within my heart: O Jesus, thou Son of God, have mercy on me, who am in the gall of bitterness, and am encircled about by the everlasting chains of death. And now, behold, when I thought this, I could remember my pains no more; yea, I was harrowed up by the memory of my sins no more. And oh, what joy, and what marvelous light I did behold; yea, my soul was filled with joy as exceeding as was my pain! Yea, I say unto you, my son, that there could be nothing so exquisite and as bitter as were my pains. Yea, and again I say unto you, my son, that on the other hand, there can be nothing so exquisite and sweet as was my joy. If you are in the gall of bitterness, if you have been looking for peace, happiness, and joy in your life, I have one piece of advice for you: repent in the name of Jesus Christ with a sincere heart and faith that He will bring you out of the pit that you are in. I guarantee that you will be able to find joy, because He loves you and because He wants you to be happy. God’s purpose is to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man, and eternal life is the greatest of all the gifts of God. The purpose of life, therefore, is to find happiness, because the purpose of life is to live in such a way that we will be worthy to gain eternal life and live with God again. No matter what you have done, you can be worthy to live with God if you repent. But just like a dentist can’t fix your tooth unless you go to him, Jesus Christ can’t fix your soul unless you go to Him. My favorite apostle, President Uchtdorf, talked about God’s love for His children in a talk entitled “The Love of God” (aptly named, right?) in the October 2009 General Conference. I think no one could possibly say anything more perfectly than he did in this talk. He said: Think of the purest, most all-consuming love you can imagine. Now multiply that love by an infinite amount—that is the measure of God’s love for you. God does not look on the outward appearance. I believe that He doesn’t care one bit if we live in a castle or a cottage, if we are handsome or homely, if we are famous or forgotten. Though we are incomplete, God loves us completely. Though we are imperfect, He loves us perfectly. Though we may feel lost and without compass, God’s love encompasses us completely. He loves us because He is filled with an infinite measure of holy, pure, and indescribable love. We are important to God not because of our résumé but because we are His children. He loves every one of us, even those who are flawed, rejected, awkward, sorrowful, or broken. God’s love is so great that He loves even the proud, the selfish, the arrogant, and the wicked. What this means is that, regardless of our current state, there is hope for us. No matter our distress, no matter our sorrow, no matter our mistakes, our infinitely compassionate Heavenly Father desires that we draw near to Him so that He can draw near to us. So why am I going on a mission? Because I believe that everyone deserves to know that they are loved, no matter what their past is like. Everyone deserves to be happy. The world tells you that unless you are rich and beautiful, you are not happy, but the world is wrong. Even if you come from the most humble of circumstances, even if you are not a supermodel, even if you have disabilities—as long as you are a human being, you can be happy. All you have to do is look to Jesus Christ. The purpose of a missionary is to invite others to come unto Christ. I want everyone to be happy. In the words of Alma (can you tell he’s my favorite?), “ Yea, I know that I am nothing; as to my strength I am weak; therefore I will not boast of myself, but I will boast of my God, for in his strength I can do all things; yea, behold, many mighty miracles we have wrought in this land, for which we will praise his name forever. Behold, how many thousands of our brethren has he loosed from the pains of hell; and they are brought to sing redeeming love, and this because of the power of his word which is in us, therefore have we not great reason to rejoice? Yea, we have reason to praise him forever, for he is the Most High God, and has loosed our brethren from the chains of hell. Yea, they were encircled about with everlasting darkness and destruction; but behold, he has brought them into his everlasting blight, yea, into everlasting salvation; and they are encircled about with the matchless bounty of his love; yea, and we have been instruments in his hands of doing this great and marvelous work.” Words can’t even begin to describe how excited I am to be an instrument in His hands of doing this great and marvelous work! I can’t wait to get out to California and share my experiences and help people find the joy that they so desperately desire. I can’t wait to see the happiness on the faces of people I serve when they finally realize that God is there and He loves them infinitely and eternally. I know that the trials I’ve had have prepared me for this mission. Heavenly Father planned them for me so that I would be able to connect to the people I will be serving. I never even contemplated going on a mission before the age change, and even then I was skeptical, but now I understand how God has been likely been preparing me since before this life for this mission. And now it is time. “O that I were an angel, and could have the wish of mine heart, that I might go forth and speak with the trump of God, with a voice to shake the earth and cry repentance unto every people! Yea, I would declare unto every soul, as with the voice of thunder, repentance and the plan of redemption that they should repent and come unto our God, that there might not be more sorrow upon all the face of the earth. I know that which the Lord hath commanded me and I glory in it. I do not glory of myself, but I glory in that which the Lord hath commanded me; yea, and this is my glory, that perhaps I may be an instrument in the hands of God to bring some soul to repentance; and this is my joy. And behold, when I see many of my brethren truly penitent, and coming to the Lord their God, then is my soul filled with joy; then do I remember what the Lord has done for me, yea, even that he hath heard my prayer; yea, then do I remember his merciful arm which he extended towards me.” I have never been happier than when I have been with the missionaries teaching people about Jesus Christ, and I testify to you that the greatest way to feel God’s love is to love and help His children. I was not converted by some missionaries knocking on my door. I was converted through a friend casually inviting me to church. Anyone can be an instrument in God’s hands even without the nametag. Who knows, you could really change a life! Brothers and Sisters, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is Jesus Christ’s church restored back to the earth through a prophet, Joseph Smith. We have a living prophet today, Thomas S. Monson, who will lead you onto the right path if you follow his words. The Book of Mormon is the true word of God and I know that it can answer any question you have. I know that the Book of Mormon and Bible contain the fullness of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. You have a Father in Heaven who loves you more than words can possibly begin to describe. You have a Savior who died so that you could live with your Heavenly Father again. I testify to you that no matter how far you have fallen, no matter what mistakes you have made, you are never alone. Jesus Christ is always, always there to pick you back up and help lead you to happiness. All you have to do is ask. I promise He will give it to you. These words I leave with you in the name of our loving Savior, Jesus Christ, amen.