Monday, March 25, 2013

My Farewell Talk

I feel humbled to be able to follow that song. As part of my internship at BYU Idaho I was planning a program that involved hundreds of people and that song was a central part of that program. It holds a special place in my heart. I am grateful for whoever followed the spirit in choosing that song today. I am also grateful to speak with some of my favorite people. I love each of them and return the compliment back to my Marissa; she has always been one of my heroes, as is my sister Madison.

It’s always difficult when you aren't assigned a topic to speak about because you have to study it out and follow the spirit to know what to speak about. I am not going to speak about the topic that I wanted to speak about today. As I was preparing this talk I felt the spirit tell me that I need to tell each of you, of the saviors love for you. I kind of pushed it aside and felt that I needed a topic that is new and exciting, something that has never been heard before. But the spirit said no; speak of my love for them and the way they can return to me. I hope that you each know of the love that God and Jesus Christ have for you. I can feel it as I stand before you today and hope you can feel it in my message.

His message is for you to come to him. He said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” Elder Corbridge, one of my favorite members of the seventy said this, “One of the most popular and attractive philosophies of men is to live life your own way, do your own thing, be yourself, don’t let others tell you what to do. But the Lord said, “I am the way.”  He said, “Follow me.”  He said, “What manner of men ought ye to be? Verily I say unto you, even as I am.”  Don’t think you can’t. We might think we can’t really follow Him because the standard of His life is so astonishingly high as to seem unreachable. We might think it is too hard, too high, too much, beyond our capacity, at least for now. Don’t ever believe that. While the standard of the Lord is the highest, don’t ever think it is only reachable by a select few who are most able.

 In this singular instance life’s experience misleads us. In life we learn that the highest achievements in any human endeavor are always the most difficult and, therefore, achievable only by a select few who are most able. The higher the standard, the fewer can reach it. But that is not the case here because, unlike every other experience in this life, this is not a human endeavor. It is, rather, the work of God. It is God’s work and it is His “glory … to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.” There is nothing else like it. Not anywhere. Not ever. 

No institution, plan, program, or system ever conceived by men has access to the redeeming and transforming power of the Atonement of Jesus Christ and the gift of the Holy Ghost. Therefore, while the Lord’s invitation to follow Him is the highest of all, it is also achievable by everyone, not because we are able, but because He is, and because He can make us able too. “We believe that through the Atonement of Christ, all mankind [everyone, living and dead] may be saved, by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the Gospel.” 

Because I want this message to be clear I want to be sure that everyone knows what I mean when I talk about the gospel of Jesus Christ. The gospel of Jesus Christ is our Heavenly Father’s plan for the happiness and salvation of His children. It is called the gospel of Jesus Christ because the Atonement of Jesus Christ is central to this plan. According to His plan, our Heavenly Father sent His Son, Jesus Christ, into the world to show us how to live meaningful and happy lives and experience eternal joy after this life. Through the grace and mercy of Jesus Christ, you can become clean from sin and enjoy peace of conscience. You can become worthy to live in our Heavenly Father’s presence after this life. To receive this peace and strength, you must learn and follow the principles and ordinances of the gospel. A principle is a truth that can be applied in life; an ordinance is a sacred, formal act performed by the authority of the priesthood and is often a means of entering into a covenant with our Heavenly Father. The first principles of the gospel are faith in Jesus Christ and repentance. The first ordinances of the gospel are baptism and receiving the Holy Ghost.  After you learn and follow the first principles and ordinances of the gospel, you seek to follow Christ’s example throughout the remainder of your life. This continued faithfulness is called “enduring to the end.” This is what I mean when I talk about the gospel of Jesus Christ. I know that it is true.

Anyone who knows me well knows that this is one of my favorite quotes and that I would surely find a way to sneak it into my talk, it is also by Elder Corbridge, “The Lord’s way is not hard. Life is hard, not the gospel. “There is an opposition in all things,” everywhere, for everyone. Life is hard for all of us, but life is also simple. We have only two choices. We can either follow the Lord and be endowed with His power and have peace, light, strength, knowledge, confidence, love, and joy, or we can go some other way, any other way, whatever other way, and go it alone—without His support, without His power, without guidance, in darkness, turmoil, doubt, grief, and despair. And I ask, which way is easier?” I know if we do follow him we can be blessed with all of those things, peace, light, strength, knowledge, confidence, love and joy. I know because I have experienced each of those things in my own life. 

I would like to share with you a story that touched me as a young girl. I share it because I think that it summarizes my message well. There was a boy by the name of Steve who was attending Seminary in Utah. In this Seminary classes are held during school hours. Brother Christianson taught Seminary at this particular school. He had an open-door policy and would take in any student that had been thrown out of another class as long as they would abide by his rules. Steve had been kicked out of his sixth period and no other teacher wanted him, so he went into Brother Christianson’s Seminary class.

 Steve was told that he could not be late, so he arrived just seconds before the bell rang and he would sit in the very back of the room. He would also be the first to leave after the class was over. One day, Brother Christianson asked Steve to stay after class so he could talk with him. After class, Bro. Christianson pulled Steve aside and said, ‘You think you’re pretty tough, don’t you?’ Steve’s answer was, ‘Yeah, I do.’  Then Brother Christianson asked, ‘How many push-ups can you do?’ Steve said, ‘I do about 200 every night.’ ’200? That’s pretty good, Steve,’ Brother Christianson said. ‘Do you think you could do 300?’ Steve replied, ‘I don’t know… I've never done 300 at a time.’ ’Do you think you could?’ ’Well, I can try,’ said Steve. ‘Can you do 300 in sets of 10? I need you to do 300 in sets of ten for this to work. Can you do it? I need you to tell me you can do it,’ Brother Christianson said. Steve said, ‘Well… I think I can… yeah, I can do it.’ Brother Christianson said, ‘Good! I need you to do this on Friday.’Friday came and Steve got to class early and sat in the front of the room. When class started, Brother Christianson pulled out a big box of donuts. Now these weren't the normal kinds of donuts, they were the extra fancy BIG kind, with cream centers and frosting swirls. Everyone was pretty excited-it was Friday, the last class of the day, and they were going to get an early start on the weekend.

 Bro. Christianson went to the first girl in the first row and asked, ‘Cynthia, do you want a donut? ’Cynthia said, ‘Yes. ’Bro. Christianson then turned to Steve and asked, ‘Steve, would you do ten push-ups so that Cynthia can have a donut? ’Steve said, ‘Sure,’ and jumped down from his desk to do a quick ten. Then Steve again sat in his desk. Bro. Christianson put a donut on Cynthia’s desk. Bro. Christianson then went to Joe, the next person, and asked, ‘Joe do you want a donut?’ Joe said, ‘Yes.’ Bro. Christianson asked, ‘Steve would you do ten push- ups so Joe can have a donut?’ Steve did ten push-ups, Joe got a donut.

 And so it went, down the first aisle, Steve did ten push-ups for every person before they got their donut. And down the second aisle, till Bro. Christianson came to Scott. Scott was captain of the football team and center of the basketball team. Then Bro. Christianson asked, ‘Scott do you want a donut?’
 Scott’s reply was, ‘Well, can I do my own push-ups  ’Bro. Christianson said, ‘No, Steve has to do them.’ Then Scott said, ‘Well, I don’t want one then. ’Bro. Christianson then turned to Steve and asked, ‘Steve, would you do ten push-ups so Scott can have a donut he doesn't want?’ Steve started to do ten push-ups  Scott said, ‘HEY! I said I didn't want one!’ Bro. Christianson said, ‘Look, this is my classroom, my class, my desks, and my donuts. Just leave it on the desk if you don’t want it.’ And he put a donut on Scott’s desk.

 Now by this time, Steve had begun to slow down a little. He just stayed on the floor between sets because it took too much effort to be getting up and down. You could start to see a little perspiration coming out around his brow. Bro. Christianson started down the third row. Now the students were beginning to get a little angry.

 Bro. Christianson asked Jenny, ‘Jenny, do you want a donut?’ Jenny said, ‘No.’ Then Bro. Christianson asked Steve, ‘Steve, would you do ten push-ups so Jenny can have a donut that she doesn't want?’ Steve did ten, Jenny got a donut. By now, the students were beginning to say ‘No’ and there were all these uneaten donuts on the desks. Steve was also having to really put forth a lot of effort to get these push-ups done for each donut. There began to be a small pool of sweat on the floor beneath his face, his arms and brow were beginning to get red because of the physical effort involved.  Bro. Christianson asked Robert to watch Steve to make sure he did ten push-ups in a set because he couldn't bear to watch all of Steve’s work for all of those uneaten donuts. So Robert began to watch Steve closely. Bro. Christianson started down the fourth row.

 During his class, however, some students had wandered in and sat along the heaters along the sides of the room. When Bro. Christianson realized this; he did a quick count and saw 34 students in the room. He started to worry if Steve would be able to make it. Bro. Christianson went on to the next person and the next and the next. Near the end of that row, Steve was really having a rough time. He was taking a lot more time to complete each set. A few moments later, Jason came to the room and was about to come in when all the students yelled, ‘NO! Don’t come in! Stay out!’

 Jason didn't know what was going on. Steve picked up his head and said, ‘No, let him come.’ Bro. Christianson said, ‘You realize that if Jason comes in you will have to do ten push-ups for him.’ Steve said, ‘Yes, let him come in.’ Bro. Christianson said, ‘Okay, I’ll let you get Jason’s out of the way right now. Jason, do you want a donut?’ ’Yes.’  ’Steve, will you do ten push-ups so that Jason can have a donut?’ Steve did ten push-ups very slowly and with great effort. Jason, bewildered, was handed a donut and sat down.

 Bro. Christianson finished the fourth row, and then started on those seated on the heaters. Steve’s arms were now shaking with each push-up in a struggle to lift himself up against the force of gravity. Sweat was dropping off of his face and, by this time, there was not a dry eye in the room. There were now only two girls left in the room. Bro. Christianson went to Linda, the second to last, and asked, ‘Linda, do you want a doughnut?  Linda said, very sadly, ‘No, thank you.’ Bro. Christianson asked Steve, ‘Steve, would you do ten push-ups so that Linda can have a donut she doesn't want?’ Grunting from the effort, Steve did ten very slow push-ups for Linda. Then Bro. Christianson turned to the last girl, Susan. ‘Susan, do you want a donut?’ Susan, with tears flowing down her face, asked, ‘Bro. Christianson, can I help him?’

 Bro. Christianson, with tears of his own, said, ‘No, he has to do it alone, Steve, would you do ten push-ups so Susan can have a donut?’ As Steve very slowly finished his last push-up  with the understanding that he had accomplished all that was required of him, having done 350 push-ups  his arms buckled beneath him and he fell to the floor.

 Brother Christianson turned to the room and said. ‘And so it was, that our Savior, Jesus Christ, plead to the Father, ‘Into thy hands I commend my spirit.’ With the understanding that He had done everything that was required of Him, he collapsed on the cross and died. And like some of those in this room, many of us leave the gift on the desk, uneaten.’ Brothers and Sisters, please let us not leave our donuts uneaten. It is a wonderful gift that our Savior has given to us. 

Elder Holland of the quorum of the twelve apostles said, “to those of you who have been blessed by the gospel for many years because you were fortunate enough to find it early, to those of you who have come to the gospel by stages and phases later, and to those of you—members and not yet members—who may still be hanging back, to each of you, one and all, I testify of the renewing power of God’s love and the miracle of His grace. His concern is for the faith at which you finally arrive, not the hour of the day in which you got there.

So if you have made covenants, keep them. If you haven’t made them, make them. If you have made them and broken them, repent and repair them. It is never too late so long as the Master of the vineyard says there is time. Please listen to the prompting of the Holy Spirit telling you right now, this very moment, that you should accept the atoning gift of the Lord Jesus Christ and enjoy the fellowship of His labor. 

I second that invitation of Elder Holland and hope that you take his words to heart. I know that if you follow the Lord you can be endowed with His power and have peace, light, strength, knowledge, confidence, love, and joy. It is a wonderful gift. Don’t leave that gift unopened, that donut uneaten. There is only one way to happiness and fulfillment. Jesus Christ is the Way. 

As I have been preparing to leave to Perú I have had a reoccurring thought pass through my mind that I feel that I should share with you. In this I think back to when God presented a plan to come to earth and gave us the choice to leave our home, family friends and everything that was familiar to us at that time to be given the opportunity to learn and grow. He told us that we would be given his son Jesus Christ to help us overcome our sins and make it through every trial in life. At this time God knew that Christ would be enough. Now as I look forward to the girl standing here, getting ready to go on a mission I am again getting ready to leave behind my home, family friends and everything that is familiar to me to go to a strange place and speak a strange language. I don’t get to take much with me, but I am able to take the knowledge I have of the gospel and my firm testimony of Jesus Christ. And again I know that is enough. I have been asked if I am nervous to go. And yes I am a little but I also have confidence that this knowledge and relationship will help me through every obstacle that I will come across on my mission. Because the Savior is enough. 

I want each of you to know that I know Jesus Christ lives. He is my Messiah and my Savior. I know that the Book of Mormon is the Word of God. I stand with Elder Holland and his grandfather who said “No wicked man could write such a book as this; and no good man would write it, unless it were true and he were commanded of God to do so.” I know that the book of Mormon is true, and it came forth the way Joseph said it came forth because I have read it and prayed to know that it was true. I know Joseph Smith was a prophet of God and that Thomas S. Monson is a prophet today. I know that families can be together forever. I love all of my family and hope that we can do our best to receive this blessing.

I know that god lives. And as I said earlier that he loves each of you. I am excited to be given the chance to share this knowledge that I have with the people of Perú because know that the things I teach them will bring them as much joy as it has given me. I love this gospel. I leave these things with you in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.

1 comment:

  1. I read the doughnut story for my relief society lesson today. Miranda, gracias por lo que estas haciendo. Me alegro tanto que te conoci antes de que fueras a tu mision!