Sunday, May 26, 2013

Jordan's Mission Farewell Address

Jordan's Mission Farewell Talk
Tanglewood Ward Sacrament Meeting
May 26, 2013

At school this past year, my friends and I would try to come up with interesting games to do at night.  One of my favorites was called Fugitive.  We would get around 20 to 30 kids together and then split them into teams.  About a quarter of the kids would become “police” and were given a car for every two or three of them. The rest of the kids were “fugitives” and were given nothing but cell phones to help them if they got lost. We would then set a home base that was about 2 miles away from the point where we started.  The objective was for the fugitives to hop fences, run through peoples back yards, and even cross the Provo River without getting caught by the police.  Sometimes the people of Provo were not too happy with us running through their back yards at midnight or later, so we tried not to get caught by the Provo Police either.  It was very easy to get lost if you didn’t have a phone with GPS or a friend close by who did.  I personally liked this game because of my cross-country running background but even I could not have made it to most of the locations with slowing down to check my phone to see where I was.  Sometimes I would find myself way off course when I hadn’t checked my phone and then getting back to the location was even more difficult than before.

I think that our lives are very much like this game of fugitive.  We all have come to Earth as fugitives with the same goal of making it back to our heavenly father.  Luckily, Heavenly Father has a special plan for each of us. He has laid out a path for us to follow that will undoubtedly lead back to his presence.  It is difficult, there will be fences to climb and rivers to cross, but I know that he loves us all very much and wants us to succeed.  For this reason, he has given us “GPS” devices that we can look to for guidance. 

The scriptures are full of doctrine and stories given to us by ancient prophets that can lead us when things become confusing.  Joseph Smith said in the introduction of the Book Mormon that “It was the most correct 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.”  This is a strong promise to us that reading the Book of Mormon along with the Bible will never lead us in the wrong direction because everything in it is correct and will lead to happiness. 

The stories of the Book of Mormon also teach us about how to the live in order to stay on that path to happiness and to our heavenly father.  Enos is very short, but it is one of my favorite books.

Behold, it came to pass that I, aEnos, knowing my father thatbhe was a just man—for he ctaught me in his language, and also in the dnurture and admonition of the Lord—and blessed be the name of my God for it—

 And I will tell you of the awrestle which I had before God, before I received a bremission of my sins.

 Behold, I went to hunt beasts in the forests; and the words which I had often heard my father speak concerning eternal life, and the ajoy of the saints, bsunk deep into my heart.

 And my soul ahungered; and I bkneeled down before my Maker, and I ccried unto him in mighty dprayer and supplication for mine own soul; and all the day long did I cry unto him; yea, and when the night came I did still raise my voice high that it reached the heavens.

 And there came a avoice unto me, saying: Enos, thy sins arebforgiven thee, and thou shalt be blessed.

 And I, Enos, knew that God acould not lie; wherefore, my guilt was swept away.

Enos had probably sinned just like any of us have.  He realized that what he was doing and where he was headed was probably not what heavenly father wanted for him. To correct the mistakes he had made he knelt in sincere prayer and asked for forgiveness and I’m sure direction as well. 

Prayer is another guide in our life.  We can receive revelation that is just for us when we ask for help in prayer.  The apostle James E. Faust said,

This morning I bear witness of the importance of prayer. Access to our Creator through our Savior is surely one of the great privileges and blessings of our lives. I have learned from countless personal experiences that great is the power of prayer. No earthly authority can separate us from direct access to our Creator. There can never be a mechanical or electronic failure when we pray. There is no limit on the number of times or how long we can pray each day. There is no quota of how many needs we wish to pray for in each prayer. We do not need to go through secretaries or make an appointment to reach the throne of grace. He is reachable at any time and any place.”

I love this promise that at any time we can look to our Heavenly Father for revelation specifically for us.

Another important guide in our lives is the words of a modern day prophet.  Modern day prophets are particularly important for us because they know the challenges that are specifically faced by us right now.  This past October, the missionary age was changed to 18 for men and 19 for women.  Being at BYU, I got to see first hand the impact this decision had on future missionaries, especially, the women.  Many of the women at BYU did not even have to think about serving a mission before the age change.  When the age change came, it was easy to see that these young women were ready to serve; they answered the call with faith and confidence in the lord.  I know that the age change was direct revelation to our prophet.

This past general conference, President Monson told a story that can help us learn how to better stay on the path towards our Heavenly Father.

One morning Danny and I decided we wanted to have a campfire that evening with all our canyon friends. We just needed to clear an area in a nearby field where we could all gather. The June grass which covered the field had become dry and prickly, making the field unsuitable for our purposes. We began to pull at the tall grass, planning to clear a large, circular area. We tugged and yanked with all our might, but all we could get were small handfuls of the stubborn weeds. We knew this task would take the entire day, and already our energy and enthusiasm were waning.

And then what I thought was the perfect solution came into my eight-year-old mind. I said to Danny, “All we need is to set these weeds on fire. We’ll just burn a circle in the weeds!” He readily agreed, and I ran to our cabin to get a few matches.

Lest any of you think that at the tender age of eight we were permitted to use matches, I want to make it clear that both Danny and I were forbidden to use them without adult supervision. Both of us had been warned repeatedly of the dangers of fire. However, I knew where my family kept the matches, and we needed to clear that field. Without so much as a second thought, I ran to our cabin and grabbed a few matchsticks, making certain no one was watching. I hid them quickly in one of my pockets.

Back to Danny I ran, excited that in my pocket I had the solution to our problem. I recall thinking that the fire would burn only as far as we wanted and then would somehow magically extinguish itself.

I struck a match on a rock and set the parched June grass ablaze. It ignited as though it had been drenched in gasoline. At first Danny and I were thrilled as we watched the weeds disappear, but it soon became apparent that the fire was not about to go out on its own. We panicked as we realized there was nothing we could do to stop it. The menacing flames began to follow the wild grass up the mountainside, endangering the pine trees and everything else in their path.

Finally we had no option but to run for help. Soon all available men and women at Vivian Park were dashing back and forth with wet burlap bags, beating at the flames in an attempt to extinguish them. After several hours the last remaining embers were smothered. The ages-old pine trees had been saved, as were the homes the flames would eventually have reached.
*******Danny and I learned several difficult but important lessons that day—not the least of which was the importance of obedience.

There are rules and laws to help ensure our physical safety. Likewise, the Lord has provided guidelines and commandments to help ensure our spiritual safety so that we might successfully navigate this often-treacherous mortal existence and return eventually to our Heavenly Father.

I know that obedience is key to living this gospel.  The laws given to us are given not to constrain us but to guide us in the right direction.  

            So we have this guidance in our lives, but this can’t prevent us completely from making mistakes.  We will come to points where we have to make choices for ourselves. My favorite quote comes from Prophet Boyd K. Packer,

“We want our children and their children to know that the choice of life is not between fame and obscurity, nor is the choice between wealth and poverty. The choice is between good and evil, and that is a very different matter indeed.”

I love how simple he puts it. There always seems like there are so many factors going into a decision. I bet every bank robber in prison wishes they had heard this quote before they chose to do evil in return for wealth rather than choosing to do good. When we make a decision, we need only to think about wither or not what we are choosing good or evil.

Regardless of who we are, we will inevitably make mistakes, straying from the path.  The best doctrinal advice I got at BYU came from my intermediate tennis coach.  He was talking about how, in tennis, there are two kinds of errors: forced and unforced.  Unforced errors are errors are when you make a mistake like hitting the ball into the net or out of bounds.  Forced errors are when you lose the point because the opponent has a great shot on you and you just can’t return it.  The coach then said that, really, there are no such things as forced errors.  Even if your opponent just has a great shot, you could have done a better job not setting them up.  In life there are no such things as forced errors. We are accountable for every mistake that we make.

            We are accountable for all our mistakes, but we can be forgiven through the atonement of Christ. In Helaman:

11 And he hath power given unto him from the Father to redeem them from their sins because of repentance; therefore he hathasent his angels to declare the tidings of the conditions of repentance, which bringeth unto the power of the Redeemer, unto the salvation of their souls.

            Christ has the power to cleanse us of our sins.  I have felt this power.  When we make mistakes and have guilt weighing down on us, Christ has the power to take it away.  We recently watched a video during family home evening….Elder Shayne M. Bowen

I have lived in Idaho Falls nearly my whole life. I have contributed a lot of garbage to those landfills over the course of more than 50 years.

What would the city fathers think if on a given day I showed up on one of the runways of the Idaho Falls airport or the middle of one of the grassy fields in Freeman Park with a backhoe and started digging large holes? When they asked me what I was doing, I would respond that I wanted to dig up the old garbage that I had made over the years.

I suspect they would tell me that there was no way to identify my personal garbage, that it had been reclaimed and buried long ago. I’m sure that they would tell me that I had no right to dig up the garbage and that I was destroying something very beautiful and useful that they had made out of my garbage. In short, I don’t think they would be very pleased with me. I suppose that they would wonder why anyone would want to destroy something so beautiful and useful in an attempt to dig up old garbage.

My favorite part about this is that the city fathers would not be able to identify which garbage was his personally.  If Christ has forgotten which sin is ours, we can too.  We should be free to go through our lives remembering that Christ has forgiven us but forgetting the guilt we felt before.

There are many pivotal points in our lives where decisions can have lasting effects.  I feel like me going on a mission is one of these decisions.  I have always known that I would eventually serve a mission.  I had my dad and uncles and grandpas and cousins who all set the example for me.  So for a while I thought I was serving a mission for them because I knew that is what they wanted from me and I wanted to be like them.  Then later my testimony began to grow and I felt like I actually wanted to serve a mission, but I didn’t know why, I just knew it was the right thing to do.  Then this past January, my friends and I went to the Mount Timpanogas Temple to do baptisms for the dead. It was the first time I had been to the temple the whole school year.  I remember sitting in the waiting area already dressed reading in the Book of Mormon, and I just started crying.  I don’t usually cry but I just couldn’t stop it, and I looked around at my friends I was with and they all looked so happy and peaceful, like they just knew exactly what they were doing and where they were headed.

            I knew then that I wanted to serve a mission for the people of Brazil.  I could feel that there are people in Brazil who need something more. They need to hear the gospel.  In Mosiah 27: 36 it talks about Alma the younger and the sons of Mosiah while they served their missions:

And thus they were instruments in the hands of God in bringing many to the knowledge of the truth, yea, to the knowledge of their Redeemer.

I hope that through the spirit I can help people come unto to Christ and feel his love.  I want to be a valuable servant to the lord and an instrument in his hand so that he can reach those in need. I want to take full advantage of my time there with the people.

This may be the first time someone has ever quoted “The Office” in sacrament meeting, but in the series finale episode last week, one of the characters said something that I thought was very good, he said, “I wish there was a way to know you’re in the good ole days before you actually left them.” 

            When I hear people talk about their missions, it is some of the best times of their lives.  I want to be able to take advantage of the time I have in Brazil so that I don’t look back with regrets thinking, “Where did the time go?”

In preach my gospel it says,

“When you have done your very best, you may still experience disappointments, but you will not be disappointed in yourself. You can feel certain that the Lord is pleased when you feel the Spirit working through you.”

This morning my mom told me something that I thought would fit very well in this talk.  She said, “No one said it would be easy, they just said it would be worth it.”

I know that, at times, my mission will be very hard, but I know that what I will be doing will be the lords work and that it will, with out a doubt, be worth it.

I know that we have a loving Heavenly Father who has a plan for us to return to live with him and be happy.  I know that Christ has atoned for our sins and has the power to take away the guilt that otherwise can weigh us down.  I know that we have modern day prophet to guide us in these latter days that I truly love because I know that he really cares about each of us.  I know that the scriptures were given back to us as a tool for when things get hard.  And I know that serving a mission is what I need to do for the next two years. 

In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.