Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Farewell by Joan

Note: This is my farewell talk given on May 24 in the Mesa AZ Lehi Stake Hillside Ward.

When I tell people we are going to Thailand on our mission, the most common response is, “Aren’t you scared?” The second is “I bet it is hard to leave your grandchildren.”

Yes, it is hard to leave the grandchildren, but I am hoping Skype might soften the ache there. Also, I want to leave my grandchildren a legacy of missionary work as did my ancestors leave me. I am grateful to be a 5th generation missionary. And that makes my children 6th generation. A great legacy to carry on.

But all bragging aside, I am happy and looking forward to serving a mission for my Savior. Am I scared? If I were going alone, I might be, but I know who my companion will be, and I kinda like him. Together we will be fine. Plus I know the Lord wants us to serve him right now.

The Spirit has worked for over a year prompting us to prepare for a mission. We knew it was soon, but were surprised at how soon. At the October conference when the changes were announced, we both knew it was time to get serious about going, but I still felt uneasy. I prayed for a definite confirmation that now was the time. I went to the temple and prayed, but didn’t receive a confirmation, I asked in personal prayer, pleading for a strong assurance that our decision was right—with no real confirmation.

The day after the temple, I went to a funeral of a good friend and prayed through the service that the Spirit would assure me. The last speaker read Luke 12:27, “Consider the lilies how they grow: they toil not, they spin not.”

I thought it was a strange scripture to use in a funeral discourse, but as the Spirit overwhelmingly filled me, I knew it was my answer and that my uneasiness had been worry about “after the mission—then what?” I knew we should go on a mission and the Lord would take care of us afterward—just as he cares for the lilies of the field. Things would work out.

I know this is the true church of Jesus Christ. I have had too many confirmations of the Spirit to deny it. I know the Book of Mormon is true for I have been moved by the spirit while reading, been uplifted by its words, put Moroni’s promise to the test and received an overwhelming confirmation. I have often wondered how anyone can read its pages and not feel of the spirit.

I know we have living prophets today, the first being Joseph Smith, Jr. I have specifically prayed for a confirmation that he was/is a prophet, and even after hearing negative stories or chancing upon anti-literature, the Spirit has confirmed that God wants me to continue in the faith.

I had a precious experience years ago that taught me to believe in and follow our prophets. As a young girl, I heard a discussion between adults about Ezra Taft Benson’s policies on farming (he being the Secretary of Agriculture under President Dwight D Eisenhower) and his other political views, and if he was ever made President of the Church, many people would leave the church. The day came that he was sustained as our president and prophet. I waited, but saw no one leaving. Later the Relief Society lesson was on gaining a personal testimony of the gospel—including a testimony of our prophets. After the lesson, and even though I had no doubt that President Benson was a true prophet called of God, I prayed that I would receive a personal testimony of it.

I had arrived at the church early for the general RS broadcast and stood visiting with a few sisters from the ward before the broadcast began. My back was turned to the picture on the pull-down screen at the front of the chapel that was a live shot of the podium of the Salt Lake tabernacle. After a few minutes of chatting, an incredible warm feeling came over me. I looked around. “What is happening?” I wondered. I turned around and saw on the screen that Ezra Taft Benson had entered. The wonderful feeling increased and then I remembered my prayer. I then knew without a doubt that he was called by God. I knew Heavenly Father loves me and answers my prayers.

I am willing to go to Thailand and share my testimony of the restored gospel and living prophets with the people there. As the prophet Daniel of old saw in his vision recorded in Daniel 2:31-45, The gospel shall be as the stone cut out of the mountain without hands which would roll forth and fill the whole earth… And what a great opportunity to be part of that prophecy.

Elder Jeffery R Holland shared some great insights in his October General Conference address. He reminds us that the apostles had only been members of Christ’s church for three year’s before the crucifixion.

Three years! How many converts could take leadership of the church in three years? So many of us hit a bump in the road, and have to re-evaluate our testimony, only to find it lacking in the strength it takes to carry on.

Perhaps these apostles did not know what to do with the church after Christ died, and assumed it was all over--ended. Just days afterward, six of the apostles went back together to their old life of fishing. They caught no fish all night, and in the morning a man appeared on the shore and called to them to cast their nets on the other side. They did, and pulled in 153 fish. They rejoiced, both in the catch and recognizing the man as the resurrected Jesus Christ.
Later, on shore and after a supper of fried fish, the Lord asks Peter three times, Peter, do you love me?” and each time Peter answer, “Lord, thou knowest that I love thee.”

This was the Lord’s way of telling Peter he still needed them to serve Him. He needed him to love his sheep, his lambs. I have heard it taught that the first time Christ answered “Feed my sheep,” he spoke of the adult members of his flock—or church. The second time he asked the question, it refers to the teenagers, and the last, “Feed my lambs,” he is referring to the children.
That pretty-well covers whatever our calling is, doesn’t it?
The first and greatest commandment of them all—“Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind.” And if we can stammer out, “Yea, Lord, thou knowest that I love thee,” then He may remind us that the crowning characteristic of love is always loyalty.

A friend of ours, Virginia, came to our ward as a non-member, moving here from Iowa with her inactive Mormon husband Paul. Her whole family had always been strong members of another Christian denomination, so when she and Paul arrived here, she naturally wanted to attend church. She looked around, and waalaa! Here was the church of her husband’s childhood right in their own neighborhood, they came here.

In a few months, Virginia was baptized and a year later, she and Paul were sealed in the temple. Shortly thereafter, Paul died. Virginia moved back to Iowa to help care for her aging parents and be near her own children.

Knowing how devoted she had been to her previous church, and knowing how strong her family was in that church, I thought she would return to her old ways, leaving her membership and the LDS church in Arizona. But how wrong I was. She has stayed active in her ward, plays the organ every Sunday, takes stray members into her home, is active in the singles program, and even attends the addiction recovery program (even though she has no real addictions herself) to give support to those who might show up. On top of all this, she deals with MS. What a great example of "Feed my sheep."

I told her how amazing she was to stay active in the church even when she had to stand alone to do it, and she answered, “The gospel and the church means everything to me.”

So when we meet the Lord in that great and last day and he asks us “Do you love me?” I pray we can answer with honor and our souls, “Yea, Lord, I do love thee.” And as Elder Holland put it, “Having set our hand to the plough, we will never look back until this work is finished, and love of God and neighbor rules the world.”
Here's the picture Rex took for our mission application. We really aren't as old as we look here. Who are those white haired people anyway? Alas, everyone ages, but we are still young at heart.

We enter the Provo MTC on April 1st. No foolin'! Dennis served his mission in his youth to Thailand, and now we are blessed to return.