Gpa requested my talk: here you go (with pictures)
Hello, my name is EO. My husband, JC, and I moved into the ward just over a month ago. We’re friendly, so if you want to get to know us come talk to us. We don’t bite. Except for Hulk, he’ll draw blood if you let him.
Almost 200 years ago a young boy went into the woods to ask God, in humble prayer, for knowledge. He prayed with the full intent and purpose to act upon what he received. In response to his prayer, that boy of 14 years received what is known today as the first vision. And I quote, “I saw two Personages whose brightness and glory defy all description, standing above me in the air. One of them spake unto me, calling me by name and said, pointing to the other – This is My Beloved Son, Hear Him!”
The church we so joyfully participate in today is a direct response to that vision. That boy was the prophet Joseph Smith. He later faced many difficulties throughout his life – even in giving that prayer he was enveloped by darkness before he was delivered. Despite everything he faced, Joseph Smith gave his life to the enhancement of this, God’s church. He declared, “after all that has been said, the greatest and most important duty is to preach the gospel.”
We learn, from the plan of salvation that we are all spirit sons and daughters of a loving Heavenly Father who sent us here to learn and become like him. He gave us agency to choose good from evil. Like in Lehi’s dream of the Tree of Life, when we find things of value in this life we often desire to share it with others.
The gospel has been preached even from the beginning from Adam to his posterity. In the October 2012 General Conference President Monson said, “Missionary work is an identifying feature of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Always has it been; ever shall it be.” Christ’s last words to his apostles before He ascended into Heaven can be found in Matthew 28:19-20 Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.
Today we carry that sacred obligation as Disciples of Christ. President Joseph Fielding Smith said, “We are all set apart, not by the laying on of hands; we have not had a special calling; we have not been singled out to do missionary labor, but as members of the Church, having pledged ourselves to the advancement of the gospel of Jesus Christ we become missionaries. That is part of the responsibility of every member of the Church.”
When we partake of the sacrament we are renewing sacred covenants and witnessing that we are “willing to take upon [us] the name of [Jesus Christ] and always remember him and keep his commandment which he has given [us]; that [we] may always have his Spirit to be with [us].” This covenant we make with God is a promise, a promise from God, that as we always remember him we may have his Spirit to be with us. How neat is that? Knowing we have the Lord with us, always, as we strive to do our best. We show our remembrance in keeping his commandments in how we interact with others.
Matthew 22:37 states that the first and great commandment is to “love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.” When we decide to follow the Lord, all other decisions in life are made more clear and we can find joy. I know for me, and I suspect many of you, when I am excited about something I want to share it. When it comes to my immediate family, I openly desire for them to be active, worthy members so we may be an eternal family. I love them and I know the gospel will bring them joy. But why should it end there?
There is a story that my Grandmother told me some years ago that I have been given permission to share with you today. When she was younger and all her children were still at home she went cross-country skiing on an old forest road with a friend while their husbands tended the children. Their discussion turned serious and the friend confided in my grandmother that she did not believe that there is anything after this life. My grandmother responded, well then how can you be happy? Well I’m not replied her friend.
Here was a perfect opportunity to share the gospel. However my grandmother did not take it. That friend later divorced her husband and moved away. This has troubled my grandmother and she knows that in the next life this friend will find her and say, Why did you not tell me? How many people do we have, like this friend, in our lives? I don’t know what stopped my grandmother from sharing the gospel that day but I know the biggest road block for me is fear.
In the October 2013 General Conference Elder Ballard addresses this issue by enticing us to demonstrate our faith and be positive. I quote, “It is impossible for us to fail when we do our best when we are on the Lord’s errand. While the outcome is a result of the exercise of one’s agency, sharing the gospel is our responsibility.” Quoting President Kimball in that same talk Ballard said, “Perhaps the greatest reason for missionary work is to give the world its chance to hear and accept the gospel.” Not everyone will join the church; they have been given agency to choose for themselves. However, it is our responsibility to provide them opportunities and to share the gospel.
If we feel like we do not have a good enough knowledge of the gospel to share it we can take courage in the fact that many of the best missionaries are recent converts. There is no way every one of them could have as complete an understanding of the gospel as someone who has lived the gospel for their entire life. Brigham Young, the second prophet of the church in this dispensation investigated the church for two years before he joined. He said of his conversion,
“If all the talent, tact, wisdom, and refinement of the world had been sent to me with the Book of Mormon, and had declared, in the most exalted of earthly eloquence, the truth of it, undertaking to prove it by learning and worldly wisdom, they would have been to me like the smoke which arises only to vanish away. But when I saw a man without eloquence, or talents for public speaking, who could only say, 'I know, by the power of the Holy Ghost, that the Book of Mormon is true, that Joseph Smith is a Prophet of the Lord,' the Holy Ghost proceeding from that individual illuminated my understanding, and light, glory, and immortality were before me. I was encircled by them, filled with them, and I knew for myself that the testimony of the man was true.... My own judgment, natural endowments, and education bowed to this simple, but mighty testimony.”
We need to remember that the Spirit is the converter. We are the vessel from which the Spirit can touch the heart of the investigator.
When we think of missionaries, often an image of young men and women smartly dressed going from door to door, meeting people in the streets, or like in my grandparents' time standing on a soap box on a street corner may come to mind. This is called tracting. Tracting is a very ineffective way for missionaries to find investigators. It is our duty to become engaged in sharing the Restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Get to know the missionaries! Invite them into your homes, get to know them and pray for them by name – you need to be able to trust them to teach your friends. My sister is currently serving in Virginia. She says that it is frustrating having to talk members into coming to discussions – we should be volunteering! Elder Ballard says that sharing the gospel is a privilege. “There is no greater joy in life than being anxiously engaged in the service of the Lord.”
It is not only important for us to know and trust the missionaries; we need to show God that He can trust us with those people He has prepared to hear the gospel. We do that by being faithful to our covenants, prayer, fasting, reading the scriptures. Personally, I find spiritual uplifting in my daily scripture study. My dad enjoys running and will download General Conference Talks and Devotionals to his iPod to listen to while on long runs. JC and I also try to attend the temple every month. We are so blessed to have a temple so close to us. There we can be reminded of our covenants and draw closer to God. Strive to be in tune with the Lord. The spirit is always talking to us; we’re just not always listening.
Our greatest converts will be our children and what greater way to teach them about the gospel and missionary work than by being missionaries ourselves. While on his mission, JC had a companion whose family on every FHE night they did door approaches. The family lessons would also come from Preach My Gospel. I think that is the coolest thing and this is something JC and I plan on doing with Hulk. It’s never too early to start. I want Hulk to know this church is true and be so filled with the joy that knowledge brings he can’t wait to tell everyone else.
My family owes a lot to a member missionary. My mom is a convert to the church. Someone asked her younger sister to Primary. That one invitation introduced my mom, her brother and sister, and my grandma to the gospel. My mom and aunt went on to serve missions in South America, and along with my uncle were married and sealed in the temple. And now their children are serving missions and starting their own families; all from an invitation to Primary. Sometimes we will not see that kind of success. Sometimes our role is simply to plant the seeds that in time will bloom. Joseph Fielding Smith said, “[our] responsibility … is to be living witnesses of the truth and divinity of the work.”
When Joseph Smith went into the grove of trees, he was unsure what would happen and he certainly didn’t expect to be called upon to restore the true church. He simply expected to be told which church to join. Similarly, when we share the gospel, we don’t know what is going to happen. We do know that it is a responsibility that has been given us and despite the outcome it provides opportunities for others to know the truth and to know joy.
And then I bore my testimony. The end.