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Sunday, 17 April 2016

Farewell Talk

Today I gave my farewell talk in church. It was so good to have so many family members and friends there to support me.

Here is a copy of my talk.

Obtain and Retain a Testimony Through the Sacrament
Good morning Brothers and Sisters,
To a Latter-day Saint a testimony of the truthfulness of the restored gospel is the most precious possession he can have. It cannot be purchased. No one can give it to him. It can only be secured by prayer, by study, by repentance, by righteous living, by listening to others bear their testimonies, and through the manifestation of the Spirit.
If we have a testimony of the gospel, we know that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God, and our Redeemer. We know that Joseph Smith was and is a prophet of God. We know that the Book of Mormon is true, that it is indeed a second witness for our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ. A testimony of the truthfulness of the gospel is the motivating force that helps us live the commandments and carry out our responsibilities.
                                                                       
Admittedly, it is easier to talk about a testimony than to obtain one. The Lord intended that we should work hard to obtain a testimony for that will make our testimonies stronger and they will be more apt to remain with us. Always remember that no good thing comes without effort and sacrifice. When we are required to work for these blessings, we gain knowledge, we develop our skills and our characters, and we learn to overcome evil—all of which are significant parts of our purpose in life.

To obtain and retain a testimony of the gospel, a person must live the gospel; and to live it, he must know it; and to know it, he must study it. We cannot have a testimony of a subject about which we do not have some understanding or knowledge. When we have prepared ourselves, the Holy Ghost, who is also known as the Spirit of Truth, will manifest the truth of all things to us.

One way we can retain a testimony is through the Sacrament. When we enter into the waters of baptism we enter into covenant with the Lord that we will keep the commandments that he has given us. When we partake of the sacrament we renew that covenant; we partake of these emblems in remembrance of the atoning sacrifice of our Lord and Saviour; we express a willingness to take upon us His name, the name of our Lord and Master, our Saviour, Jesus Christ; and we covenant that we will always remember him, that we will keep the commandments which he has given us.

In the Nov 1995 Ensign, Elder Jeffrey R Holland said:
“With so very much at stake, this ordinance commemorating our escape from the angel of darkness should be taken more seriously than it sometimes is. It should be a powerful, reverent, reflective moment. It should encourage spiritual feelings and impressions. As such it should not be rushed. It is not something to “get over” so that the real purpose of a sacrament meeting can be pursued. This is the real purpose of the meeting. And everything that is said or sung or prayed in those services should be consistent with the grandeur of this sacred ordinance.”
I know that because I have grown up in the church I haven’t always understood, or really appreciated the Sacrament or the reason for it. But as I learnt about the Atonement, and the Saviour’s sacrifice more, I was able to come to understand the importance of partaking of the Sacrament. I know that it is so important that we remember what the Saviour has done for us. This reminds me of a story I found.
“Some time ago there was an interesting article about a man named Czenkusch who runs a climbing school. Czencusch was describing to the interviewer the belay system in mountain climbing. This is the system from which climbers protect themselves from falls. One climber gets in a safe position and secures the rope for the other climber, usually around his or her own body. When they say, you’re on belay, it means I've got you. If something happens, I will stop you from falling. It is an important part of mountain climbing. Now note what followed next in the article: Belaying has brought Czenkusch his best and worst moments in climbing. Czenkusch once fell from a high precipice, yanking out three mechanical supports and pulling his belayer off a ledge. He was stopped, upside down, 10 feet from the ground when his spread-eagled belayer [Don] arrested the fall with the strength of his outstretched arms. “Don saved my life says Czenkusch. How do you respond to a guy like that? Give him a used climbing rope for a Christmas present? No, you remember him. You always remember him.’
It was so important to Czenkusch that he remember Don and how he saved his life. You would never forget someone who saved you. I feel though, that sometimes we forget the Saviour, or we take for granted what he did for us. That is why the Sacrament is so important; it gives us the opportunity to remember Him. However, that doesn't mean this is the only time we should remember Him, we always should.

As the Sacrament is being passed, I focus my mind to the Saviour. At times I will think of the atonement, the crucifixion, and His resurrection.
I found the following story which explains the importance and significance of the sacrament.
I remember sacrament meetings years ago when our five children were small. It was a challenge to stay focused and to feel the Spirit as they wriggled and poked each other, too-loudly asking, "When will the snackerment come?"
Some Sundays I felt sufficiently righteous just getting them ready enough to show up. For several of those years I was the task master while my bishopric husband sat on the stand, smiling encouragement from afar. Now I see young mothers and fathers doing the same thing — trying their best. I have learned that "their best" — or close to it — is good enough for those challenging years.
How glad I am that we didn't let the difficulty of it keep us away. There were moments scattered here and there throughout those years that made it all worthwhile.
Those children understand it now as they experience the same with their little
ones. And I've also discovered that finding the sacrament to be an anticipated delicious "snack" isn't too far off base. Gradually the deliciousness takes on new meaning, with feelings of joy and renewal.
We can experience this joy of having his Spirit with us in a variety of ways. In sharing her sacrament experience, a friend told me, "One Sunday as the priests tore the bread I pondered, 'Why do they tear the bread?' At that moment the hymn rang out in my mind: bruised, broken, torn for us — and a picture came to me of Jesus with his arms outstretched, the spikes being driven through his hands and His flesh tearing. At that moment the Spirit enveloped me, and I knew of his love for me.
How I’ve come to appreciate the Sacrament.
In our most recent General Conference, Bishop Waddell spoke about Lehi’s dream and the difference between those who partook of the fruit and those who continued to partake of the fruit. The first group lingered at the tree, tasted it, but allowed the taunting from the great and spacious building to affect them because they did not continue to partake of the fruit.

However, those who continually partook of the fruit ignored those who mocked them from the building. They were able to enjoy the safety and peace that came from continuously partaking of the fruit.

Similarly, we don’t retain a testimony unless we nurture it, like the second group did when they continuously partook of the fruit. There are many ways that we can retain our testimonies, including when we partake of the sacrament, as I've previously been speaking about.

The Saviour and His Atonement is central to our testimony and our faith in Him and our efforts to be faithful are strengthened as we partake of the Sacrament and are reminded of our promises to Him and of the Saviour’s promises to us.


Elder O. Leslie Stone of the First Quorum of the Seventy has said:
“We must not forget, however, that a testimony does not, in and of itself, guarantee that we will inherit the celestial kingdom. We might know the gospel is true, but unless we live righteous lives and work to build the kingdom here on earth, we will not gain the blessings we seek.”
For me, at this point in my life, I am working to build the kingdom here on earth by serving a mission.
Growing up I hadn’t had the desire to serve a mission. It wasn't that I didn't want to go, I just hadn’t thought about it. The first time I had the desire to serve was when Josh Saunders left. I remember we were at the airport seeing him off, and it wasn't until he was walking down to get onto the plane that I had this feeling that I had to do what he was doing, that I had to serve a mission as well. After this moment serving a mission was all I could think about, and so I decided to do it. I think my family was a bit shocked the first time I said I would.
I first started to prepare by going to mission prep. I remember that I was so nervous to start going because I had heard about the role plays and they just scared me. But I was talking to my friend James about it and he eventually convinced me to go. Turns out his last mission prep lesson before he left was the first one I went to, which was really nice. I am so grateful that he was able to help me to go because mission prep has been a great help in my preparation to serve. It has helped me with situations that I will come across when I serve.
I have also prepared by studying the Book of Mormon and Preach my Gospel together. This has not only helped me with my mission preparation, but it has just helped me in general with strengthening my testimony.
Seeing friends leave prepare and leave on missions, and now being able to prepare with others, has been a great strength and motivation to me.
I just want to close by sharing a story that I love, and that you may have heard previously, and then share my testimony.
The following event took place in a ward in Salt Lake City in 1974. It occurred during a sacrament meeting and was told to me by a Regional Representative of the Twelve who was in the meeting. A young man, just before leaving on his mission stood in sacrament meeting and bore in essence the following testimony:
Brothers and Sisters, as you know, the past two weeks I've been waiting for my mission call. During the time I was waiting I had a dream. I knew it was not an ordinary dream. I dreamed I was in the pre-existence and awaiting my call to come to earth. I was filled with the same anticipation and excitement that I had before I received my mission call. In my dream I was talking to a friend, and I felt a special closeness to him, even though I've never met him in this life. As we talked a messenger came and gave me a letter. I knew it was my call to go to earth. In great excitement my friend and I opened the letter. I gave it to him and asked him to read it aloud. It said: "You've been called to earth in a special time and to a special land. You will be born to the true church and you will have the priesthood of God in your home. You will born into a land of plenty, in a land of freedom. You will go to earth in the United States of America."
My friend and I rejoiced as we read my call, and while we were rejoicing the messenger returned. This time he had a letter for my friend. We knew it was his call to earth. My friend gave me the letter to read aloud. His letter said: "You've been called to go to the earth in circumstances of poverty and strife. You will not be raised in the true church. Many hardships will attend your life. Your land will be fraught with political and social difficulties - which will hinder the work of the Lord. You will be born in Costa Rica."
We wept, my friend and I, as we read his call. And my friend looked at me with tears in his eyes, and said, "When we are down on earth, you in your choice land and me in Costa Rica, my friend, please come and find me."
Then this young missionary, with tears in his eyes, said, "Brothers and Sisters, I have received my mission call. I am going to Costa Rica."
There is a sequel to the story. About a year after the sacrament meeting, the bishop received a letter from the missionary in Costa Rica. The letter had one sheet of paper in it and on that sheet written in capital letters were four words:

I FOUND MY FRIEND

I have been blessed with the opportunity to come to earth and be born in a great country where I have grown up in the gospel. I have now been called to serve in the Philippines. I have not had the same experience as this missionary, but I know that there are still people waiting there for me to share the gospel, and who have not had the same opportunity to grow up in the gospel like I have. And that’s why I want to go, to find these people, and help bring them to path that leads back to our Father in Heaven.


Testimony

In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

Some photos taken after my farewell talk




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