Monday, September 22, 2008

So long farewell...my farewell talk

Yesterday (9/21/08) I gave my farewell talk, and I appreciated the lots of support I received. I decided to post my talk for those who didn't hear it.

The Fifth Principle and Ordinance of the Gospel

Good afternoon Brothers and Sisters. I’d first like to thank those who have come to support me and hear me bear my last testimony of the Savior and His gospel before I serve my mission in Uruguay.

The very first time I was asked to speak in my life was actually in this same ward and at this same pulpit and I can remember it pretty clearly. I was eight years old and had just been baptized and my Dad and I were asked to speak on Mother’s Day. My dad wrote me a simple Mother’s Day appreciation poem like M is mother and O is for etc, etc. And then I was to say how much I loved my mom and my testimony of the church and then I was done. However, as I sat with my Dad on the stand through the music and the Sacrament I was feeling scared to death and my Dad asked me if I was okay and he could tell I wasn’t okay and then he asked me if I didn’t want to give my talk and I could just go sit down by my Mom. So I didn’t give the talk and went down to my mom crying and just kind of hid behind her shoulder for the rest of the meeting. My dad spoke and excused me using my shyness. I remember feeling pretty disappointed in myself for not giving the talk. But I was able to move on and grow up and since then I’ve spoken many times here and in other wards and even at a stake conference with perhaps a little of the same nervousness but mostly with faith that Heavenly Father will always help me and support me when I try.

That’s mostly how every big change or hard thing in my life has been like, pretty rocky at first and hard…I cried when I started Kindergarten and I cried when I started BYU. But it has always turned out right. My parents have given me the tagline “Everything always works out.” because I need to be reminded of it many times in my life. The scripture that I asked the Bishop to put on my missionary plaque was Proverbs 3:5-6. It’s along the same lines as everything works out if you try your best and as long as I’ve remembered those words then I’ve been fine.

I decided to call my talk, “The Fifth Principle and Ordinance of the Gospel” which is not frequently talked about under this description, but we all know it. The first four principles mentioned in the fourth article of faith are; Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, Repentance, Baptism my immersion for the remission of sins, and fourth the laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost. In 2nd Nephi 31:15, 20 another step is added. Elder Russell M. Nelson in his talk, “Salvation and Exaltation” puts it another way,”

“Eternal life, or celestial glory or exaltation, is a conditional gift. Conditions of this gift have been established by the Lord who said, “If you keep my commandments and endure to the end you shall have eternal life, which gift is the greatest of all the gifts of God. Those qualifying conditions include faith in the Lord, repentance, baptism, receiving the Holy Ghost, and remaining faithful to the ordinances and covenants of the temple.”

The fifth principle and ordinance summed up and used more frequently in the scriptures is enduring to the end and I like even better what Elder Uchtdorf said in his talk two conferences ago about “joyfully enduring to the end.”

What does it mean to endure? Elder Uchtdorf in that same talk gave an excellent description,

“Enduring to the end implies “patient continuance in well doing” (Romans 2:7), striving to keep the commandments (see 2 Nephi 31:10), and doing the works of righteousness (see D&C 59:23). It requires sacrifice and hard work. To endure to the end, we need to trust our Father in Heaven and make wise choices, including paying our tithes and offerings, honoring our temple covenants, and serving the Lord and one another willingly and faithfully in our Church callings and responsibilities. It means strength of character, selflessness, and humility; it means integrity and honesty to the Lord and our fellowmen. It means making our homes strong places of defense and a refuge against worldly evils…”

Elder Uchtdorf gave quite a list and sometimes the weight of these choices can make it quite difficult to endure, let alone joyfully. But I love that the gospel means “good news” and that to live the gospel means to live the good tidings from our Savior, Jesus Christ. We know that He just wants our happiness, our happiness in living the gospel to its fullness and then finally our eternal happiness in receiving the gift of exaltation. It is His way that we can be happiest. The rocky parts, the challenges, the trials of our faith, all will make us happy one day if we continue to follow and put our trust in Him, our Savior, who went through the roughest rocky parts, the most difficult challenges, and the greatest trials.

One of my favorite books about enduring trials is a missionary story that happened in the former Czechoslovakia. A young woman name Olga Kovarova Campora. While growing up in a communist country she had hardly any personal freedoms, from what she wanted to be when she grew up, to where she could go, to what she believe in and worship. She fortunately discovered the gospel in her early twenties through a yoga instructor who introduced her to the knowledge of a loving Heavenly Father. She chose to get baptized and had her baptism in the middle of the night, because if she and the others were caught they would go to prison. She wanted to make a difference and bring people to the light, so she decided to become a yoga instructor and lecturer like the man who taught her and she began teaching about basic moral principles which were completely foreign to these people oppressed in the communist regime. She taught about honesty, caring for others, caring for yourself, compassion, service, and how these things make you healthier and happier. In these lectures, she never once bad mouthed the communist party and she even mixed in quotes from famous communists and interpreted them in the way that fit her moral based lessons, which shocked the communist police who would come and spy. Because of the little bit of light shared, the people who wanted to learn more were then secretly taught the gospel. She worked hard for seven years and suffered many things but she brought light to so many people that even if they weren’t taught the full gospel she planted many seeds. And then because of her faith and the member’s faith and the faith a many others around the world, the wall came down and the communist party fell. This extremely difficult trial turned into a great blessing. She not only had lived through it she conquered it and many people still reap the blessings of her work. My favorite part of this story wasn’t mentioned in the book but happened about 7 years ago, a missionary came to Payson from the Czech Republic and told us that his father had been converted to gospel through Olga’s yoga lessons.

She said about her story when looking back during these very challenging communist times,

“The most essential lesson I learned during my early membership was that I didn’t have time to flirt with the gospel; I needed to live it as fully as I possibly could. I discovered that living the true gospel means doing good despite the pressure I might feel. I came to understand and appreciate the simplicity of the gospel. Starting to obey God’s commandments has brought me on a journey of joy and has taught me the real meaning of freedom.” (234)

Her real freedom came not only from enduring, but joyfully enduring by taking an active stance because she loved the Lord and His gospel. The real freedom from heartache, trials, and challenges in all aspects of life is following the Savior and leaving your burden with him. Read Matthew 11:28-30.

A major encouragement that can help us joyfully endure the trials of our faith is remembering who we are and who we represent. Growing up for me was little bit different because of my name, it always made people watch me even though it’s not spelled the same as the church it still held me accountable especially when people knew I was a member a church. The name though that holds us the most accountable is the name we take when baptized, Jesus Christ’s name and not only that, but we were baptized because we believed that were children of our Heavenly Father and therefore we automatically have His name. By remembering the atonement of our Savior, Jesus Christ and the great sacrifice He made for us, we can be given strength and knowledge of the divinity within each of us. There’s a parable that I really like about a eagle and a chicken that I think helps illustrate this.

A farmer and his son were out hunting in the mountains and came across a young eagle. Since the eagle’s nest was so high up, they decided to keep it. They brought it home and put it in the chicken coop and fed it chicken feed. Five years later a naturalist came to see the farmer and after passing through the garden he said to the farmer, “That bird is an eagle, not a chicken.” “Yes,” said the farmer. “But I have trained it to be a chicken. It is no longer an eagle, it is a chicken,” “No,” said the naturalist. “It is an eagle still; it has the heart of an eagle, and I will make it soar up to the heavens.” “No,” said the farmer. “It is a chicken and it will never fly.” They agreed to test it the next morning. The naturalist picked up the eagle and said to it, “Eagle, thou art an Eagle, stretch for thy wings and fly.” The eagle turned this way and that and then, looking down, saw the chickens eating their food, and down he jumped. The farmer said, “I told you it was a chicken,” “No,” said the naturalist. “It is an eagle, give it another chance tomorrow.” So the next day he took it to the top of the barn and said, “Eagle thou art an eagle; stretch forth thy wings and fly.” But again the eagle seeing the chickens feeding, floated down and fed with them. The farmer then said again, “I told you it was a chicken.” “No,” asserted the naturalist. “It is an eagle and still has the heart of an eagle. Only give it one more chance, and I will make it fly tomorrow.” The next morning they arose early and took the eagle outside of town, to the top of the high mountain. The naturalist picked up the eagle and said, “Eagle thou art an eagle, stretch forth thy wings and fly.” But the eagle just shivered. He then pointed the eagle directly towards the newly rising sun and added these words to it. “Eagle thou art an eagle. Thou dost belong to the sky and not to this earth. Stretch forth they wings and fly.” The eagle looked around and trembled as if new life were coming to it and suddenly it stretched out its wings and, with the screech of an eagle, it flew.

Sometimes we all forget who we really are and why we’re here and we need to be reminded to help us endure those hard things that happen. We need to be focused on the sun or the Son of God and follow Him. He points us back to His Father and our Father in Heaven. When we do remember who we are and what we represent we can soar and make a difference in this life. Much like the phrase, “Eagle thou art an eagle…” we can substitute our own names and say, “Tiffani, thou art a child of God. Thou dost belong to Heaven and not to this earth. Open thy heart and serve.”

We are all children of our Heavenly Father and our elder brother Jesus Christ gave us path to go back to him. Enduring to the end sometimes sounds like a very difficult task yet when we know that if we trust Him, he will direct our paths and things will always work out. Heavenly Father is always there and always looking after us. I’ve had so many witnesses of the love He has for me as one of his many many children. Through the trials and challenges that I’ve had, I know Heavenly Father loves me as he loves all his children. And I’m really excited to share that knowledge of the love He has for His children with the people in Uruguay.

3 comments:

baseball said...

You did an excellent job...if it was the olympics...you would receive the Gold! Thank you for sharing these thoughts...Love you my daughter!

Kim said...

I am glad you posted your talk...it was EXCELLENT!

Mary Brown said...

My son, Elder Thomas Brown, will be joining the group in Dallas for the Argentina MTC. I was googleing for info on that MTC and found your blog. What an exciting time for you guys! He is packing, as I am writing this! His talk is this Sunday at church with 2 of his friends also leaving for missions. Well, I wish you all the best...and I think the Uruguay, Montevideo Mission will be the best! My daughter has a blog at alyssaandalexa@blogspot.com and there is an entry about his call back when it came.