Sunday, March 24, 2013

Farewell Talk

Hello brothers and sisters, I have been called to serve in Stockholm Sweden! Sweden, according to President Monson, “is a picturesque garden of beauty, but also a choice people. It is where you find members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter day Saints who are willing to serve god and keep His commandments.” He also said, “Every time I return to Sweden, it is like receiving a charge to my spiritual batteries.” I can’t wait to experience that. 

When I was a Junior in high school, I went through a crisis over knowing who I was. I felt like I had quit everything I had started and I couldn’t break in to new clubs or positions that might offer my life some structure and purpose. I felt like I had no talents. I quit piano when I was younger to start dancing; I quit dance to do cheer and then I quit cheer after my sophomore year. My Junior year left me with nothing to do outside of work and school, so I decided to try out for dance company; I didn’t make it. I was sad but knew that being sad wouldn’t lead me anywhere so almost immediately I decided to run for Student Body Senate, failing to make it past the primaries. In another split-second decision I decided, okay I guess I will try out for cheer again! I was shocked when I opened that letter to discover that I didn’t make cheer either, even though I had made it as a sophomore. My pride was hurt and it was confirmed to me: I was not good at anything.

After we are knocked down so many times, it is hard to remember who loves us and who will always love us and be there for us. It is hard to pick ourselves back up and seek for new ways to find happiness.

For Christmas two years ago my dad made me and my siblings beautiful wooden full-length mirrors for our bedrooms. In the letter he wrote to me, he said: “Mirrors are sometimes thought of in relationship to vanity. Another word for vanity is meaninglessness. If you look in your mirror only to see what you look like, you may find that your life lacks depth. But if you look in the mirror because you like who you are on the inside and you like the direction of your life, it will never be in vain. Always remember to take others into account when you see yourself looking back from that mirror at who you are.” As I stood in my room looking in the mirror, I saw my mom standing next to me. I saw my young woman leaders, I saw my dear friend Amy Cox who lost her dad a couple of years ago, in fact I saw so many of my close friends. I saw Julie Ethington, Diane Adair, my aunt Kristin and many other strong women who have known struggle, loss and disappointment – women who have been strengthened by their trials, who, when they could have given up, kept moving forward with trust in the Lord. These women know they are daughters of God. They truly walk in the Lord’s footsteps.

I don’t know who wrote this quote but I absolutely love how fitting it is for each of these women. It says; “There is an inner beauty about a woman who believes in herself, who knows she is capable of anything she puts her mind to. There is a beauty in the strength and determination of a woman who follows her own path, who isn’t thrown off by obstacles along the way. There is beauty about a woman whose confidence comes from experiences, who knows she can fall, pick herself back up, and move on.”

In a class I was taking, I heard the story of a girl named Rachel who has advanced Muscular Dystrophy; she is wheelchair bound with only a short time to live. One day she was in a Young Women’s class sitting next to her mother and they were learning about trials and how each of us will go through trials and some of us will go through significant trials in our lives. Rachel turned to her mother and sincerely asked, “mom, what is our trial?” 
Because Rachel focused so much on what she was grateful for, she overlooked challenges that would interfere with the average person’s happiness. 

I received a 2004 General Conference talk written by Elder Dennis E Simmons from Julie Ethington when I did not make cheer that said: “Men accomplish marvelous things by trusting in the Lord and keeping his commandments, by exercising faith even when they don’t know how the Lord is shaping them.” In 2 Corinthians 12:9 it says “My grace is sufficient for thee for my strength is made perfect in weakness.” Simmons goes on to say; “Our god will deliver us from ridicule and persecution, but if not, our god will deliver us from sickness and disease, but if not, he will deliver us from loneliness, depression, or fear, but if not, our God will deliver us from threats, accusations, and insecurity, but if not, he will deliver us from death or impairment of loved ones, but if not, we will trust in the Lord.” “Our God will see that we receive justice and fairness, but if not, he will make sure that we are loved and recognized, but if not, we will receive a perfect companion and righteous and obedient children, but if not, we will have faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, knowing that if we do all we can do, we will, in his time and in his way be delivered and receive all that he has.” 

After falling so many times, I decided to pick myself back up and run Cross Country. Here, I struggled too. I had an ongoing hip injury that made it hard for me to run, but I will never forget the happiness I felt from finishing a race and the lessons that I had learned from trying again and again. I will never forget the friendships I made in that group that I wouldn’t have made otherwise, and the opportunity to run with my brother as we cheered each other, Henry always pushing me to keep going.  

Two summers ago our whole family hiked into Henry’s Fork Lake. From there my dad took me and Henry and Hannah and my friend Scuba on an expedition to climb King’s peak, but we got a late start and by the time we made it to Gunsite Pass, it was too late in the day to make the peak. So this last summer, with a little better planning, we made a second attempt. When we got to Anderson’s (which is the pass right before you make the long scramble to the top), I was not doing well. I was tired, I felt sick from the elevation and I had no energy, but felt too sick to my stomach to eat or drink. I remember looking up and seeing my dad and brother way ahead of me, which frustrated me so I yelled to my dad, “how many more miles?” I also hoped he would notice how far behind I was and wait for me. He responded, “It only gets harder from here.” This was not encouraging. But I put my head down and kept moving my legs slowly and when I looked up again, my dad had walked down to me and he was smiling. He hugged me and said, “the view at the top will make it all worth it.” At that moment I turned around and saw how far we had come and I was overwhelmed with the beauty of the place and distance we had travelled. I have since thought a lot about how true these words are in relation to our journey of life. Sometimes it feels like a very long haul. It is exhausting and often very discouraging and easy to lose hope. If we let this discouragement cloud our judgment, if we lose hope, we may fail to notice the beauty around us, we miss the silver lining around the edges of difficulty in our lives. If we take a step back from the trials in our lives and look at how far we have come, if we consider how much we have been given, we can see how truly beautiful life is. When Joseph Smith writes about his miserable experience in Liberty Jail, in sections 121 and 122 in the Doctrine and Covenants, the Lord tells him to be patient and endure well and the suffering will seem like a small moment in the eternal scheme of things. He then gives Joseph a list of “ifs”: If you are called to pass through tribulation, if you are accused of all manner of false accusations, if your enemies fall upon you, if you are torn from the side of your wife and children, if you are cast into a pit, or if the hands of murderers and sentence of death pass upon you, if you are cast into the deep, if the billowing surge conspire against thee, if fierce winds become your enemy, if the heavens gather blackness and all the elements combine to hedge up the way and above all if the very jaws of hell shall gape open the mouth wide after thee, know thou my son that all these things shall give thee experience and be for thy good. The Son of Man had descended below them all. Art thou greater than he? He then gives this simple but profound advice: “Therefore hold on.” 

When hiking back to our car the next day after our successful assent, I was moving even slower than the day before, with blisters all over my feet and a heavy pack on my back. Everyone was far ahead of me. I was trying to notice the beauty around me and to appreciate this time with my family, but I became discouraged again. About a mile from the car, I was at the end of my rope and then I looked up to see Henry running towards me with no pack on his back, he lifted mine from my shoulders and not only walked with me the rest of the way to the car but he talked to me and told me he was proud of me, and that I was close – I could make it! 

Sometimes we cannot do it alone and we don’t need to do it alone. Sometimes when we are struggling, we need a guy like Henry to lift the weight off of our back. And when we have extra strength like Henry, we need to look to others to see what they might need instead of cooling our feet in the river while we wait for them to catch up. Thank you Henry for always teaching me how to be more like our Savior. 

In President Uchtdorf’s conference talk, “The Merciful Obtain Mercy,” he says: “When our hearts are filled with the love of God, we become kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving each other, even as God for Christ’s sake forgave us. The pure love of Christ can remove the scales of resentment and wrath from our eyes, allowing us to see others the way our Heavenly Father sees us: as flawed and imperfect mortals who have potential and worth far beyond our capacity to imagine. Because God loves us so much, we too must love and forgive each other.” 

Christ came to this earth and suffered for our sins so that we don’t have to do it alone. When we are sad and lonely, when we feel like there is no way that we can endure through the trials of our individual lives, let us remember that Christ descended below it all. He knows our pain. He paid the price for our sins and all we have to do in return is turn to him, turn away from the things that separate us from his love, no matter where we are or what we have done, Christ and Heavenly Father love us; they want to help us see the world from their perspective, they want us to see ourselves through their eyes.

May we remember the story of Rachel and look past our trials as she looks past hers, too grateful for what she has to notice her own predicament. May we be kind and serve those around us like Henry. And may we realize our potential and worth and be strong through the trials we face.

There is nothing else that I would rather be doing than to leave to serve my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ by serving the people of Sweden. I want people to feel the comfort that I have felt in my struggles, I want families to know that they can be together forever, and that there is a plan for us, a plan made up of simple truths centered in love. I know that my mission will be a wonderful experience. I also know it will be hard. But like anything hard in life, I will always be able to choose how to endure. I get to decide to learn patience and endure well or to feel sorry for myself and wish I was someone else somewhere else. I know that I will return home strengthened physically, emotionally, intellectually and spiritually.

I am grateful to be a part of a family with 5 cousins serving missions at the same time. Their letters have been the greatest preparation for a mission that I could ask for. My cousin Meisha, who is serving in the Phillipines, shared a story that touched my heart as I felt the true joy of missionary work. She said: “We were sitting outside their small bamboo home on a fallen tree log and I was talking to the 17 year old, Jezrell. There are always kids running around in their area and I was asking if there were kids his age. We talked for a while and then he got up to go somewhere. It was starting to get dark and sister Abarabar sat talking in the twilight when a group of teenage boys started walking towards us…. Jezrell had rounded up all his pals to come listen to us. We both looked at each other and tried to stifle our laughs as 5 teenage boys sat down to hear the message of the restored gospel. We taught, they listened and I don’t know if they will be receptive but as I listened to our young investigator bare a simple and plain testimony of the gospel to his friends, I was filled with joy.” 

I have received a lot of attention because I am serving in the land of my forefathers, the land where my father and grandfather served. I am so excited to seal this bond with my dad as I learn the customs and traditions of the lovely Swedish people, just as he did. But I would be ungrateful if I didn’t recognize the tradition of my mother’s faithful missionary service. I am named after a beautiful Portuguese woman that my mother loved into the church 25 years ago. This woman, Adelide Morera joined the church with her husband Alvaro. While my mother was teaching her, she had a daughter who she named Sara (no h) after my mother. I know that my mother helped Adelide and Alvaro change their lives. They are still active in the church today. I have been so blessed to grow up with this story of my mother’s missionary success as part of my identity. She has loved me and served me selflessly my whole life. Lillie you are so full of joy and I love that about you. Hannah, you have always shown me love and support in all that I do. I especially love how forgiving you are to me when I do wrong.

I believe with all of my heart that this is what I should be doing. I love this gospel and I am so grateful for it and for each of you. I say these things in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

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