Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Farewell talk

My topic comes from a talk Elder D. Todd Christofferson gave this last april general conference titled the Ressurrection of Jesus Christ. I know that we usually bear our testimonies at the end of a talk, but I want to begin by bearing you my testimony that I know that Jesus Christ lives.  I would not be standing here this afternoon giving my farewell talk and heading to Argentina in 2 ½ weeks if I did not know this most important fact. I have had too many personal experiences of the lord’s hand in the individual details of my life to deny his existence. One of them being what led me to my decision to serve a mission.

 “Many years ago … a writer for a newspaper was asked an important question, ‘What would be the most important news the world could receive?’ ”   “[The writer] thought and thought about the question, he talked to many people, and read all he could in an effort to find an answer for himself. And finally, he printed his answer, ‘To know that Jesus Christ lives today would be the most important news the world could receive. In fact, if He lives today, then we too will live eternally as He said’ ” 

Brothers and sisters, we are SO blessed to already have this knowledge and testimony that Jesus Christ lives! The Resurrection of Jesus Christ brings a message of hope.  If everyone knew that the crucified Christ actually rose on the third day what benign peace would come to souls now troubled with doubt and uncertainty!
 No words mean more to me than when an angel said to the weeping Mary Magdalene  when she came to the tomb to care for the body of their Lord, “Why seek ye the living among the dead? He is not here, but is risen.”
Elder D. Todd Christofferson said “As bidden by the angels, Mary Magdalene looked into the tomb, but it seems that all that registered in her mind was that the body of the Lord was gone. She hurried to report to the Apostles and, finding Peter and John, said to them, “They have taken away the lord out of the sepulcher and we know not where they have laid him.” Peter and John ran to the place and verified that indeed the tomb was empty. In John chapter 20 vs. 8 it seems to indicate that John apparently was the first to comprehend the magnificent message of resurrection. He writes that “he saw and believed.” Whereas the others to that point “’knew not the scripture, that Jesus must rise again from the dead.”
I found it really interesting as I studied more on the topic of the resurrection, that despite what the Savior had repeatedly said of his death and rising again, they had not understood. In the book of Luke we read about how those who saw the resurrected Lord came to tell the apostles. Luke probably heard the account from eye-witnesses, perhaps even from the mother of Jesus. He records that the women returned from the sepulcher and told all these things to the apostles and others. But their testimony was too fantastic and seemed to the apostles in luke 24:11 “as idle tales and they believed them not.”
I wondered why the women were not believed. Would we, in the supposedly enlightened 21st century, have responded any differently? Would we have had the simple faith to believe that the Savior had indeed risen from the dead, as He, Himself, had said he would? Or would we have demanded proof; would we have concluded that the women were hysterical or mistaken or driven from rationality by their overwhelming grief? We can ask ourselves these very questions today because we must find out for ourselves if Jesus Christ truly does live and was resurrected.
I was really intrigued by the story of Mary Magdalene in John chapter 20. Mary is a favored woman in the scriptures. She had the privilege of coming to know and love the Savior. We do not know much about Mary, but we do know that she was the first person to see the risen Lord. I began to wonder why.
 Was her faith the most sufficient?
Was she the most prepared to receive the Savior?
 Did Christ know she would recognize Him when He called her name because she had before?
For whatever reason she was favored, she went to the tomb that morning and here an important lesson was learned. She went seeking the Savior. In her hour of greatest need, in deep despair and longing for answers, she did what she had learned to do- she turned to Christ.  When she looked again into the empty tomb, she saw two angels in white and they said to her “woman, why weepest thou?” she replied, “Because they have taken away my lord, and I know not where they have laid him.”
At this point, she only thought in terms of human grave robbers, or others who had defiled the tomb of her Master, not of God’s miracle. At that point, it was beyond her comprehension. It was then she turned herself back and saw Jesus standing but knew not that it was Jesus. He also asked her, Woman why weepest thou?  Whom seekest thou?” It wasn’t until He spoke her name that she recognized the resurrected Lord.
Mary was a woman who had a great level of knowledge of the teachings of Christ. She lived on the earth and really knew the Savior during his ministry. Yet still, she did not recognize him at first! Mary’s level of understanding was that Christ was dead. Weeping in frustration and sorrow, she sought to find him. She did not recognize His voice at first because in her mind it was not possible. But then- it was! Mary’s testimony of Christ increased. She reached a new level of understanding.
 How often do we come to a point in our lives when we are comfortable and confident in our relationship with Christ? Trials provide an opportunity for us to seek the Savior just as Mary did. And as we do so, our understanding and knowledge will increase. Mary did not recognize the Savior until He called her name. Then, suddenly, light and understanding came.  Christ was risen; he lives; there is life after death. The savior stood by her in her moment of learning. He waited patiently until she was ready, and then he taught. I have come to know that through every trial our faith is tested. Sometimes faith precedes the miracle, but other times we must have faith to trust in God’s will.  He died for us, but the true miracle is that he was resurrected and now, LIVES for us. We can and should have 100% faith in him because of that.
But, as Elder Christofferson said “Given the reality of the Resurrection of Christ, doubts about the omnipotence, omniscience, and benevolence of God the Father- who gave His only begotten son for the redemption of the world- are groundless. Doubts about the meaning and purpose of life are unfounded. Jesus Christ is in fact the only name or way by which salvation can come to mankind. Faith truly is more than imagination or psychological invention. There is ultimate and universal truth, and there are objective and unchanging moral standards, as taught by Him. The saviors miracles were real, as is His promise to His disciples that they might do the same and even greater works.”
But even Knowing what the resurrection means to us, and the miracles that come from it, how often do we act as Thomas did in John 20:25 when he said “Except I shall see in his hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and thrust my hand into his side, I will not believe.?  I take caution in my judgment towards Thomas, because I realize that I am probably more like him than I would like to admit.  I imagine he didn’t want to just live off of the other disciples testimonies of the resurrection of the Lord, he wanted to know for himself.  A week later, Jesus came and stood in the midst of the disciples and said unto them “Peace be unto you. Then saith he to Thomas, Reach hither thy finger, and behold my hands; and reach hither thy hand, and thrust it into my side; and be not faithless, but believing.” And Thomas answered and said unto him, My lord and my God. Jesus saith unto him, Thomas, because thou has seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed.” Jesus’ response to Thomas serves to remind him-and all of us- that belief based on faith is more admirable than belief based on experience. Those who expect all religious truth to be proven experientially before they will believe ask for too much. It is more blessed to walk by faith through life, secure in the knowledge that god will reveal what we need to know, line upon line and precept upon precept.
Elder christofferson goes on to say “consider for a moment the significance of the Resurrection in resolving once and for all the true identity of Jesus and the great philosophical contests and questions of life. If jesus was in fact literally resurrected, it necessarily follows that He is a divine being. No mere mortal has the power in himself to come to come to life again after dying. Because He was resurrected, Jesus cannot have been only a carpenter, a teacher, a rabbi, or a prophet. Because he was resurrected, jesus had to have been a God, even the only Begotten Son of the Father.”
As I have been studying the book of Mormon this past week, I noticed that as the prophesied birth of Jesus drew near, there were those among the ancient nephite and lamanite peoples who believed, though most doubted. In due course, the sign of his birth arrived and all knew. Even so today, some believe in the literal Resurrection of Christ, and many doubt or disbelieve. But some know. In due course, all will see and all will know as it says in Mosiah 27:31 indeed every knee shall bow and every tongue confess before him.
Until that day, I want you all to know that I believe the many witnesses of the Saviors resurrection. I believe the testimonies found in the book of Mormon. And I believe the testimony of Joseph Smith who proclaimed “and now, after the many testimonies which have been given of him, this is the testimony, last of all, which we give of him: that he lives!”

He's Been There Before by Elder Whittle
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 arise?
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 start 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 to wards 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!

Brothers and sisters, I know that Christ lived, atoned, and was resurrected for each of us. He took my place, so that he could truly understand me and my unique trials and circumstances. I have a testimony that the savior makes all things right. That no injustice in mortality is permanent, even death, because he restores life again. No injury, disability, betrayal or abuse goes uncompensated in the end because of his ultimate justice and mercy.  Because of this we are all accountable to him for our lives, our choices, and our action, even our thoughts. Because he redeemed us from the fall, our lives are in reality His.
I feel so blessed to have been called to be one of his messengers and that he trusts me to preach his gospel. I know that as I go forward with faith in my Heavenly Father, I will see his miracles in my life as well as the lives of those I am going to meet in Argentina.  These past few weeks, I’ve been so worried about all the “changes” that are going to happen while I’m gone. I’ve been threatening all my friends that they can’t get married or have babies while I’m gone. I guess I can’t put everyone elses lives on hold while I’m gone, but if there is one thing that I am hoping and praying for is that I come home to find all of you with stronger testimonies of the Savior. I know this church is true and am so grateful to have this great news of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. 

No comments:

Post a Comment