Sunday, March 16, 2014

My Farewell Talk

Tuscany Ward Farewell Talk: “The Role of The Book of Mormon” PMG

            Hello Brothers and Sisters! I am so excited to be speaking to you all today! This afternoon I will be set apart as a full time missionary for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints! Such exciting times ahead!! I’ll be living in poverty, talking to complete strangers, and speaking a language I don’t yet know… but, the thing that scares me the most about all of this is that I have to box up my gorgeous stilettos and put away the sparkly hairspray for 18 months. That’s what scares me! But, it will be totally worth it J I can’t imagine anything better than working to save souls.
            Heavenly Father is truly hastening His work- I’ve discovered that He will hasten it with OR without us- we just need to choose if we’ll help Him or not!
I like this page on Facebook called “Many are called… but, few are sisters”, It’s a page with about 12,000 girls are preparing to go on missions- One girl posted this message: She said:
“Listen up people. MIRACLES ARE HAPPENING!!! Can you BELIEVE THIS?!? One of the missionaries I taught in the MTC just emailed me today and said this:
"Sister Donaldson, I am sorry you haven't gotten my first month's worth of emails. I added you, but I wrote your email out wrong. So, my weekly emails were being sent to the wrong Becca Donaldson. She wrote me back this email: 'I don't know who you are and I believe you have the email wrong but just know your emails changed my life and I am talking with the missionaries.' Sister Donaldson, YOU ARE A MIRACLE WORKER!!!!"
Don't tell me that it was an accident that this Sister I taught in the MTC typed out my email wrong (or I wrote my email illegibly). I love missionary work! The gospel is TRUE!”
This quote by President Hinckley really impacted me. He says “Many young women are serving missions, many are preparing to serve, not because they aren’t married or have nothing else to do; but because they have a desire to serve, therefore are being called to the work. The reason so many are going is because in the next generation, Heavenly Father will be sending His Priesthood Army to the earth and wants to send them to mothers who have been properly trained and taught in the Gospel. What better training can a young woman have than that of serving a mission?” I always have the motto “Do something today that your future self will thank you for”… Well, I believe my future self will thank me for this- especially if it helps my children.
Today I have been asked to speak on “The Role of the Book of Mormon” from Preach my Gospel. Joseph Smith taught that “The Book of Mormon is the most correct book of any book on earth, and the keystone of our religion, and a man would get nearer to God by abiding by its precepts, than by any other book.”
I believe this. I’ve read the Book of Mormon four times now on my own- and I truly believe that The Book of Mormon is the word of God. I believe that The Book of Mormon is another Testament of Jesus Christ, and that together, The Book of Mormon and the Bible create the fullness of the Gospel.
In Ezekiel Chapter 37 verses 15 through 17 it reads:
15 The word of the Lord came again unto me, saying,
16 Moreover, thou son of man, take thee one stick and write upon it, For Judah, and for the children of Israel his companions: then take another stick, and write upon it, for Joseph, the stick of Ephraim, and for all the house of Israel his companions:
17 And join them one to another into one stick; and they shall become one in thine hand
This refers to the Bible (The stick of Judah), and The Book of Mormon (The stick of Joseph)
Imagine there was this infectious disease that was eliminating people by making them really sick. Imagine that you have the antidote. The antidote will not do you any good if you don’t use it. The same goes for The Book of Mormon. We have the answers (or the antidote) to life. Many people are spiritually hungry. We need to feed them.
You know, I’m going on a mission for many reasons- but, four of those reasons I hold near and dear to my heart.
1.      I KNOW that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints is true. I ask Heavenly Father frequently- and every time I ask- He tells me “Natalie! You know it’s true!”

2.      I’ve experienced the change of heart that comes from the Atonement and I can’t wait to share the Savior’s love with the people of Guatemala. They may feel like no one feels the same pain they do- but, Jesus Christ knows exactly how we feel. There is this poem that I absolutely love called “He’s been there before”

“The Alarm bell rings at 6:30, I stumble to my feet
I grab my companions bedding and pull off his sheets
A groan fills the room, is it already time to rise?
It seems like just a second ago I was able to shut my eyes.

The morning activities follow- study, prayer and such
When it’s time to leave the apartment, you feel you haven’t accomplished much

“We have a super day planned,”
My comp. says with a grin
I lowly utter a faithless breath,
“Yeah, if anyone lets us in.”

With the word of God and my faithful Schwinn, we ride off in the street
Prepared to face another day of humidity and heat
It’s 9:30 in the evening, the day is almost through
My companion and I are riding home not accomplishing what we thought to do

We ride up to the mailbox, hoping to receive a lot
Only to look inside and hear my echo reverberate “air Box”
We go up to our apartment, the day is now complete
The only thing to show for our work is a case of blistery feet

It’s past 10:30 p.m. My companion is fast asleep,
Silence engulfs me all about and I begin to weep
In the midst of sadness, I kneel down to pray
I need to talk to Father, but I’m not sure what to say

“Oh, Father” I begin, “What happened to us today?
I thought we’d teach somebody, but everyone was away
My hands, my aching hands- worn, hurt and beat;
If our area was any smaller, we’d have knocked every street”

“Why on missions are the days so much alike?
The only difference about today was the flat tire on my bike
Will you send some cooler weather? The heat is killing me
I sweat so bad, it gets in my eyes, it’s very hard to see”

“Why do I have to wear a helmet, isn’t your protection enough?
People always laugh at me, and call me stupid stuff
Please send us investigators so I may give them what they lack
I want to give them Books of Mormon, the weight of them hurts my back”

“And what about my family: They don’t have much to say
I’m sick of not hearing from home day after day after day
Oh Father, Why am I here am I just wasting time?
Sometimes I just want to go home, I’m sorry but that’s on my mind”

“My companion, Heavenly Father, what are you giving me?”
The way he rides his bicycle, I don’t think he can see
Now you have it, I can’t go on, I don’t know what to do
That, my Father in Heaven, is the prayer I have for you”

My prayer now finished, I stand up, then jump right into bed
I need my rest for tomorrow, we have another long day ahead
Sleep starts to overtake me, I seem to drift away
Then it seems a vision takes me to another time in another day

I’m standing alone on the hill. The view is very nice
A man walks towards me and says, “My name is Jesus Christ”
Tears of joy well up inside, I fall down to His feet
“Arise,” He states, “Follow me to the shade. You and I need to speak”

My attention’s towards my Savior, total and complete
He says, “Your mission is similar of what happened to me
I understand how you feel, I know what you’re going through
In fact, it would be fair to say I’ve felt the same as you”

“I even know how you felt when no one listened to you
At times I felt not quite sure what else I could do
I know you don’t like to ride a bicycle, for you a car would be sweet
Just remember the donkey I rode wasn’t equipped with 21 speeds”

“I understand you don’t like sweating, in fact it’s something you hate
I remember when I sweat blood from ev’ry pore, oh the agony was great!
I see you don’t like your companion - you’d rather have someone else-
I once had a companion named Judas who sold my life for wealth”

“It’s hard to wear a helmet and have people make fun of you
I remember when they put thorns on my head and called me King of the Jews
So you feel burdened down by the weight of your pack
I recall how heavy the cross was when they slammed it on my back”

“Your hands hurt from tracting and knocking on doors all day
I guess when they pounded nails into mine, I ached in a similar way
It’s hard not to hear from home when your family’s not there to see
I lost communication on the cross and cried, “Father, why hast Thou forsaken me?”

“We have a lot in common, but there’s a difference between us you see
I endured to the end and finished my mission, so follow and do like me”
He embraced me with His arms and His light filled me with His love
With tears in my eyes I watched as He went back to the Father above

I stood with awe and wonder when a beep rang in my head
I listened and heard the alarm, then realized I was in my bed
My companion let out a groan, “6:30 already, no way!”
I sat up and said, “Come on, I’ll even carry your scriptures today!”

No matter what we go through,
when we feel we can’t take more
Just stop and think about Jesus Christ,
He’s been there before."

Elder Troy Whittle
Texas Houston Mission

3.      Heavenly Father wants me to serve a mission.

This one believe it or not came to me after I received my mission call! I have always WANTED to serve a mission, but I didn’t ever really know that Heavenly Father wanted me to serve a mission. Before I got my mission call and about a week after- people were always asking me “Natalie! When did you know that Heavenly Father wanted YOU to serve a mission?” My response was always “I love the gospel and I love sharing it with other people! I might as well do it full time!” Plus, the scriptures say that if ye have a desire to serve- you are called to the work. And I, my friends, had a desire. A burning desire! But, I had never gotten a crazy confirmation that Heavenly Father wanted ME to serve a mission. On Tuesday, November 12th, just six days after I had received my mission call, I was in my choir class. I was sitting next to this girl who had served her mission in Brazil. She was telling me a bunch about what to expect going into a foreign mission and she was giving me a ton of advice too! The last thing she said to me before we left that day was “Natalie, there are going to be some really tough days on your mission. On those days when you want to give up and quit- you need to think back to your confirmation that Heavenly Father wanted you to serve a mission.” When she said that- I was thinking to myself, “Oh no! On those hard days when I want to give up- I’m just going to give up because I have nothing to think back to!”

That night we had some guys over and one of my roommates was there too. The guys were saying some of the rudest things (and thinking back- I realize it was satan trying to discourage me from going on a mission). They were saying things like: “Guatemala is a really scary place!” “You’re in for a rude awakening!” “Guatemala has worse drug problems than Mexico!” and “You’re going to the ghetto!” After one of those guys said that- I said “Good! Those people need the Gospel too!” Well, that was a mistake- because one of my roommates lives in a really ghetto place and she started yelling at me “Natalie! You shouldn’t be excited! You should be scared! The ghetto is not a good or fun place!”

Everything that these people were telling me scared me! After my roommate flipped out- I left the room! I went into my bedroom and tears were flowing from my eyes. I couldn’t help but add what the girl in choir said to all of these comments. I was being set up for failure. My immediate roommate was in our room. I was hiding my tears from her- I just knew that I needed to go pray. I grabbed my scriptures and left the room. The only unoccupied place in our apartment was the bathroom. It’s the most pathetic place I’ve ever prayed before. I kneeled down on the floor and began weeping and praying to Heavenly Father. I said “Heavenly Father, I’m scared. Am I supposed to serve a mission?” That was the prayer that I offered to my Father in Heaven. I then flipped my scriptures open to a random page. I opened them up to Doctrine and Covenants section 99. I read the whole chapter- but, the first verse says “ Behold, thus saith the Lord unto my servant, John Murdock—thou art called into the eastern countries from house to house, from village to village, and from city to city, to proclaim mine everlasting Gospel unto the inhabitants thereof, in the midst of persecution and wickedness.” I began to cry harder. I said “Heavenly Father? Is this a coincidence? Even so- this isn’t my call to serve this is John Murdocks call to serve. Am I supposed to serve a mission?” Once again I opened up my scriptures to a random page. This time I opened up to Doctrine and Covenants 4 vs 4 and I read the first sentence “The field is white and already to harvest.” This is my confirmation! Heavenly Father wants me to serve a mission! And even though I may be terrified- Heavenly Father will protect me!

4.    I love my Heavenly Father and Savior, Jesus Christ. So much.

There is this movie I absolutely love called “The Saratov Approach”. It is about two missionaries who were kidnapped in Russia. They were beaten and held for ransom. There is a scene where one of the missionaries is talking about how he really didn’t want to serve a mission and he wasn’t going to. But, he had gone to an institute class one day where they were talking about how Jesus Christ did NOT want to perform the Atonement- He even asked Heavenly Father to remove the cup. But, He also said “Not my will, thine be done” Jesus Christ took upon him the sins of the universe for you and for me. He did it because He loves Heavenly Father and He loves us. Infinitely.

This is why I WANT to serve a mission! I know that Heavenly Father is preparing people in Guatemala for ME. I need to find them. A young man just before leaving on his mission stood in sacrament meeting and bore the following testimony: “Brothers and Sisters, as you know during the past few weeks I have been awaiting 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 was waiting my call to come to Earth. I was filled with the same excitement and anticipation that I had before I received my Mission call. In my dream, I was talking to a friend, he was a dear 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. The letter said; ‘You have been called to Earth in a special time and a special land. You will be born into the true church and you will have the Priesthood of God in your home. You will be raised with many advantages and blessings. You will be born in the land of plenty- 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 rejoiced, 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 have been called to 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 raught 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 find me.’
Then this young missionary with tears in his own eyes said, ‘Brothers and Sisters, I have received my Mission call, I am going to Costa Rica.
There is a sequel to this story. About a year after the sacrament meeting, the bishop of this ward received a letter from the missionary in Costa Rica. The letter had one sheet of paper in it with just four words written. Those words were ‘I FOUND MY FRIEND’.”

I know that there are people in the world who are spiritually hungry. We need to feed them. They don’t know the truth- and WE HAVE IT! We need to find our friends!

One of my favorite scriptures is found in 2 Nephi 32:3 “Feast upon the words of Christ; for behold, the words of Christ will tell you all things what ye should do”

Robert D. Hales says that if we are to feast upon the words of Christ, we must study the scriptures and absorb His words through pondering them and making them part of our everyday thought and action.

I promise (because the Lord promises you) that if you will do these things- Then He will qualify you to share the Gospel! The gospel is the greatest gift ever! We need to share it with everyone every chance we get!

In Doctrine and Covenants 88:62-63 it says “Draw near unto me and I will draw near unto you; seek me diligently and ye shall find me; ask, and ye shall receive; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.”

If we will just come unto Him and follow His commandments- He will draw close to us! We will be stronger because of it and we will be able to listen to the Spirit easier!

In The Book of Mormon, in Moroni 10:3-5 it reads:

“Behold, I would exhort you that when ye shall read these things, if it be wisdom in God that ye should read them, that ye would remember how merciful the Lord hath been unto the children of men, from the creation of Adam even down until the time that ye shall receive these things, and ponder it in your hearts.

And when ye shall receive these things, I would exhort you that ye would ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true; and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost.

And by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things.”

Heavenly Father promises us that if we will just try to know- that He will let us know. If you don’t know- go try!

Jeffrey R. Holland said “For 179 years this book has been examined and attacked, denied and deconstructed, targeted and torn apart like perhaps no other book in modern religious history—perhaps like no other book in any religious history. And still it stands. Failed theories about its origins have been born and parroted and have died—from Ethan Smith to Solomon Spaulding to deranged paranoid to cunning genius. None of these frankly pathetic answers for this book has ever withstood examination because there is no other answer than the one Joseph gave as its young unlearned translator. In this I stand with my own great-grandfather, who said simply enough, “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.” 10

There is a quote I love by Jeffrey R. Holland that says this “You only get one chance to serve a mission; it is your responsibility, your duty, to use it to its fullest; to give every last ounce of energy until you collapse in exhaustion at the end of it. All the hardships, all the tears, all the hard work will be looked back upon as the best thing you’ve ever done, not because you enjoyed it, not because you baptized everyone, but because you gave it everything you had, even when you didn’t think you could, and especially when you didn’t want to. Live your mission to your fullest, work harder than you’ve ever worked before. Let people know that this is the most important thing in the world to you… run until you have nothing left to give, and then keep on going anyway; cry and pray and work and sweat and plead until you are so drained that all you can do is turn to the Lord; if you don’t do this, then these people will not come to this joy because of you—their failure to come to Christ will be partially upon your head. Come out of your mission proud of what you’ve done, and this experience will bless the rest of your life.”
This is the kind of missionary I want to be. I don’t want to miss any opportunity to save a human soul. We are ALL missionaries! We don’t want to miss any opportunity to share the Gospel.

I am going to work this hard- because it is that important!!! How great will be my joy if I bring just one soul unto this Gospel!!
There is a story I absolutely love where there is this man on the shores of the ocean. He is walking along picking up starfish and throwing them back into the ocean. Another man joins him and says “What are you doing?” The other man looks at him and smiles “I’m saving the star fish!” The other man looks at him like he is ridiculous! He says “You know, there are thousands of beaches and billions of starfish! You won’t make a difference!” The man then kneels down picks up a starfish and throws it into the ocean. He says “I did for that one!”

I can apply this to missionary work and the Atonement. We are all missionaries. We need to make a constant effort to bring souls unto Him. Even if it is one person- we have made a difference.

The Lord is our ultimate caregiver. We must surrender ourselves to the Lord. When we do this- we will draw nearer to thee and be happier.

“Hearken unto these words and believe in Christ; and if ye believe not in these words believe in Christ. And if ye shall believe in Christ ye will believe in these words, for they are the words of Christ, … and they teach all men that they should do good.”

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