Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Farewell Talk

January 18th, 2014

Hello Brothers and Sisters, I am so grateful for this opportunity to speak to you today.  I am overwhelmed with the amount of love and support I feel from everyone that is here and I am so grateful.  I have been called as a missionary to serve in the Quezon City Philippines mission and I am so excited!  Just a few fun facts about the Philippines: there are currently 688,177 members of the church, 21 missions, and 2 temples. The gospel is truly booming over there and the people are ready to hear the word. The temperatures range from 65-95 degrees, plus humidity. From about June to November is considered “Typhoon” season and it rains quite a bit.  I will probably experience a few floods throughout my time there.  For this reason, I get to wear these cute shoes called “Crocs” with my skirts and dresses, if you could not tell by my expression...I am really excited!

The food consists of rice, fish, rice, tropical fruits, rice, noodles, roasted pig, and rice. Although I am a bit nervous for all I will experience in these next 18 months, I could not be more excited to be a part of this great work and teach my brothers and sisters in the Philippines.

We read in John 13:15 “For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you.”  Heavenly Father gave us the most precious gift of all, by sending us his only begotten son, our Savior, Jesus Christ.  Christ is the greatest example who ever walked the earth and He has invited us to follow His perfect example. 

At the beginning of Christ’s mortal ministry he instructed His apostles, clearly and directly, “Come, follow me, and I will make you fishers of men”(Matt. 4:19).  It is our individual goal to first “follow Him,” and as we do so the Savior will bless us beyond what we can imagine to become, as He wants us to be. The scriptures describe a number of Christlike attributes we need to develop throughout the course of our lives.  They include knowledge and humility, charity and love, obedience and diligence, faith and hope.  All of us each have our own personal strengths and weaknesses.  We are not expected to be perfect; however, we should strive to develop these attributes as much as we can throughout our lives and if we do so we will be blessed.  There are weaknesses of mine that I hope to overcome or at least improve on while being an instrument in the Lord’s hand for the next 18 months.  I would like to talk about a few of them today.

First-knowledge.  The Lord commanded,”seek learning, even by study and also by faith.”(D&C 88:118) We must seek knowledge, specifically spiritual knowledge.  We can do this by studying the scriptures and the words of prophets, and praying for guidance or answers to specific questions.  As you study diligently and prayerfully, with pure intent, the Holy Ghost will enlighten your mind, teach you, and help you. We learn about the Sons of Mosiah in the book of Alma that “they were men of a sound understanding and they had searched the scriptures diligently, that they might know the word of God.  But this is not all, they had given themselves, to much prayer, and fasting; therefore they had the spirit of prophecy, and the spirit of revelation, and when they taught, they taught with power and authority of God.”  If we seek for knowledge and understanding, we will be blessed with so much, as is shown by the example of the Sons of Mosiah.  I was talking to my friend who is serving a mission right now and she said that she has learned more in the first few months of her mission than she has compared to her entire life.   Personally, I know the basic principles of the gospel pretty well…that is in English, not Tagalog, but I hope to gain more knowledge about the scriptures and the teachings while on my mission.   I know that if I study diligently and prayerfully, I will be blessed with the spiritual knowledge and the power to teach my brothers and sisters in the Philippines the gospel of Jesus Christ in the Tagalog language.   As for learning how to cope with the rats, lizards, geckos, cockroaches, spiders, and insects of all kinds, let’s just say I hope my companion will take care of those.  A mission is not the only place where this learning can take place.  You all can receive this knowledge now, not only can we, but we should.  Gordon B Hinckley once said “Do your best, your very best and do it now.”  Now is the time.   We should strive daily to learn of our Savior and become more like him. 

The second and most important christlike attribute I would like to talk about is faith.  In general conference last year Elder Richard G. Scott asked a simple question.  “How can each of us become a significant influence.”  My first thought was to lead by example.  To have my actions show who I am, what I believe, my morals.  I then pondered about what is it that drives me to do good, to keep the commandments, to follow the teachings of Jesus Christ.  It came down to a simple, yet life changing, belief of mine, that is Faith in a father in Heaven who loves me perfectly, who loves you perfectly. When you have faith in Christ, you believe in Him as the Son of God, the only Begotten of the Father in Flesh.  You accept Him as your Savior and Redeemer and follow his teachings.  Faith in him means you trust Him and are confident that He loves you.  Faith leads to action, including repentance, obedience, and dedicated service.  Dieter F. Uchtdorf stated, “Faith is such a principle of power.  We need this source of power in our lives.  God works by power, but this power is usually exercised in response to our faith.” A common scripture that most of you have probably heard found in James 2:20 is “Faith without works is dead.” Our faith is what drives our actions.  It is because of my faith in my Heavenly Father and Savior Jesus Christ that I am who I am, that I do what I do.  Yes, I know that this church is true with all my heart, but I am not going to stand before you and tell you that I have not had doubts or questioned things about this gospel, but through sincere study and prayer they have been resolved.  I was flying home this past thanksgiving and was able to have a wonderful conversation with this guy my age.  He was a member, but was not active. He had gotten himself into a lot of trouble with drinking, selling drugs, and lived out of his car.  He truly lived a hard life, but was on the path toward turning his life around after getting back from a rehab center.  I decided that I should share my testimony with him about trials and how if we turn to Jesus Christ he will be there to help us overcome those trials.  I also talked to him about how much hope, happiness, and love the gospel of Jesus Christ provides and how I know that this is the true church. 

His response was, “There are things that I believe are true, but there are things that I have doubts about.”  My response to him was that it was completely normal to have doubts; however, we cannot let our doubts get in the way of the FAITH that we DO have.  We cannot let our doubts overcome what we know to be true, instead we need to let our faith overpower our doubts.  It reminded me of a story President Monson shared that most of you have probably already heard, but it doesn’t hurt to share again. A 14-year-old boy recently said to me a little hesitantly, “Brother Holland, I can’t say yet that I know the Church is true, but I believe it is.” I hugged that boy until his eyes bulged out. I told him with all the fervor of my soul that belief is a precious word, an even more precious act, and he need never apologize for “only believing.” I told him that Christ Himself said, “Be not afraid, only believe,”12 a phrase which, by the way, carried young Gordon B. Hinckley into the mission field.13 I told this boy that belief was always the first step toward conviction and that the definitive articles of our collective faith forcefully reiterate the phrase “We believe.”14 

Even when we experience some doubts, or we just believe, it is okay.  Faith is an ongoing process and can continue to grow if we want it to.  As stated before, faith with out works is dead.  Simply, ACT.    Christ taught the principle of faith using the parable of the seed.  If we want it to grow we must give it the nutrients to grow, we must harvest it.  It is the same with our faith; we must work and work and work to keep it growing so that we can get to the point where we know it to be true.  That should be our goal.   I believe that all of the Christlike attributes I stated before, knowledge and humility, charity and love, obedience, diligence and hope all rely on our faith in our Heavenly Father and Savior Jesus Christ. 

For knowledge-Christ taught us to seek learning. 

Humility-Christ said, “he that shall humble himself shall be exalted.”

Charity and love-“faith, hope and charity bringeth unto me-the fountain of all righteousness.”

Obedience and diligence-In Alma we read about Helaman’s army and their obedience, “yea and they did obey and observe to perform every word of command with exactness; yea, and even according to their faith it was done unto them.”  I loved Sister Alston’s testimony a few weeks ago about exact obedience and the great blessings that will come from doing so.  We are taught to be obedient at all times, so we should strive to do so.

Hope-President James E. Faust taught: “Hope is trust in God’s promises, faith that if we act now, the desired blessings will be fulfilled in the future.” 

Brothers and Sisters, our faith in Jesus Christ will guide our actions.  Last testimony meeting Amy Callaway said something along the lines of that her faith, knowledge, and love for her Heavenly Father and Savior Jesus Christ drive every decision that she makes.  I can testify of that because it is the same for me.    I have chosen to serve a mission because I love my Heavenly Father and my Savior,  I know without a doubt in my mind that this is the true church of Jesus Christ on the earth today.  I would not be leaving my family, friends, and education for 18 months of my life if I did not KNOW that this was true.  I have a testimony that God has a plan for each and every one of us and if we are willing to turn to him and ask for guidance he will help us down the right path.  If you asked me a year ago about a mission, I would’ve told you NO WAY.  Sister Close brought up last testimony as well about that one time a group of YW were in her hot tub and she asked us what our plans were in the next 5 or so years.  I can tell you my exact response cause I had my life planned out since I was probably 6.  Graduate, go to BYU-Idaho, get into the nursing nursing program, get married, and start my own family.  I had it set and had no plans or interest in changing it.  She went on to say in her testimony that we should go back often and revise our story, to make an edit.  In my story there was a big edit.  I did graduate, then one day a mission popped into my head, I quickly ignored it, it came again, I became frustrated and even told my parents “I am not going on a mission”, next day I couldn’t get it out of my head, that continued for the next few days, I decided to finally pray about it (something I should have done on the first day), realized I had to go, cried in my room for a good hour or so cause I did not want to go but knew I needed to go, told my parents, and then began my mission papers.  On move in day at BYU-Idaho surrounded by my family and friends I was called to serve as a missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter day saints in the Quezon, City Philippines Mission, to report to the MTC on February 4th, and to be prepared to teach the gospel in Tagalog. I will report in just a few short weeks.  I will leave behind my parents, brothers and sisters, my niece Lyla, and my friends.  March 19th I will fly from Salt Lake City to Manila, Philippines and begin to teach my brothers and sisters.  I will come to love and serve the people there. I know that this journey I’m about to head into will be one of the hardest things I have ever done.  There will be times where I will feel like giving up, where I will ask why me?  Why does it have to be so hard?  When we look at the life of our Savior Jesus Christ, his life was by no means easy.   He was spit upon, cast out and persecuted.  Why would we believe that it would be easy for us when it was never easy for him? As followers of Jesus Christ we cannot expect it to be easy.  Although, through Jesus Christ our burdens can be lightened.  Through the atonement we can find peace and comfort, we can get through hard times, and we can change for the better. All we have to do is let him into our lives, then follow Him. 

In my favorite hymn we sing the lyrics.

2. I believe in Christ; oh blessed name!
As Mary’s Son he came to reign
‘Mid mortal men, his earthly kin,
To save them from the woes of sin.
I believe in Christ, who marked the path,
Who did gain all his Father hath,
Who said to men: “Come, follow me,
That ye, my friends, with God may be.”

Who said to men: “Come, follow me, That ye, my friends, with God may be.” 

Brothers and Sisters, that is my testimony.  That we come unto our Savior Jesus Christ and give all of our efforts to become like him.  If we do so we will be blessed to return to live with Him and our Heavenly Father again. I am so grateful that I have this opportunity to serve a mission and be a part of His work on the earth today.  The reason why I want to serve a mission is a simple one- I want to share with my brothers and sisters in the Philippines that they have a Father in heaven who cares for them, blesses them, and loves them no matter what.  I am there to teach people that in hopes that they will turn to Him and follow Christ's example that he set.  I personally would like to take something that Bruce R. McConkie wrote on his mission, and apply it to my call.

I am called of God. 
My authority is above that of kings of the earth. 
By revelation I have been selected as a personal representative of the Lord Jesus Christ. 
He is my master and He has chosen me to represent Him--to stand in His place, to say and do what He Himself would say and do if He personally were ministering to the very people to whom He has sent me. 
My voice is His voice, and my acts are His acts; my doctrine is His doctrine. 
My Commission is to do what He wants done; To say what He wants said; to be a living modern witness in word and in deed of the divinity of his great and marvelous Latter-day work.
How great is my calling!