Sunday, January 29, 2017

Farewell Talk

January 29, 2017
One by One
The Living Christ in Our Lives

Good morning brothers and sisters. I am excited, well excited and scared to speak to you today. I can’t believe this day has finally arrived. I leave in just 10 days to serve the people of Minnesota and I am honored for this amazing opportunity. I am grateful to all of you here today and for the immense support from friends and family. I feel and appreciate your love.

One of my favorite scriptures is found in 1 Samuel, Chapter 25—the story of Abigail. Abigail is described in verse 3 as “a woman of good understanding and of a beautiful countenance.” Her husband Nabal, while wealthy, was a “rough and evil” man. When Nabal fails to offer provisions and hospitality to King David and his men, who are fleeing from Saul, David comes to seek vengeance by taking the lives of all those in Nabal’s household. Abigail learns what has happened, and goes ahead to meet David and his men, offering food and supplies to satisfy her husband’s debts. She falls at David’s feet and says, in verses 24 and 28, “Upon me, my lord, upon me let this iniquity be…I pray thee, forgive the trespass of thine handmaid.” Her sacrifice softens David’s heart and he leaves them in peace, grateful he was saved from himself and his desire for vengeance. Abigail was willing to sacrifice herself to save her husband and his household. She was willing to pay a price she did not owe for a sin that she did not commit. Abigail is not the only person in the scriptures who will ever make a declaration such as this one. The phrase “Upon me, my lord, upon me let this iniquity be,” does not only tell us the story of Abigail, but tells us the story of Christ.

Today I have been asked to speak about the document entitled “The Living Christ” which is a 13-paragraph declaration about Jesus Christ’s ministry signed by the First Presidency and Council of the Twelve Apostles on January 1, 2000, as well as how this document can strengthen our testimonies and help prepare youth for missions. The bishop announced on Christmas day that our ward goal this year is for all of us to memorize “The Living Christ.” I was thrilled when this was announced because my experience with the Living Christ over the past few years has been such an important part of my life, and played a huge role in my decision and preparation to serve a mission.

When I was in 9th grade, the Young Women, as some of you may remember, took the challenge to memorize The Living Christ and seek to better understand it’s importance in our lives. We weren’t quite as confident in our abilities, so each class was assigned one third of the Living Christ to memorize, then we all recited our respective parts at that year’s Evening of Excellence. We also bore our testimonies through spoken word and music to bear further witness of Jesus Christ. Our Mia Maid class had some trouble eagerly approaching the task that year. I think we had almost an entire year to memorize our portion, and we waited until the last few months to start to think about it. Our advisors Sister Green and Sister Eggett may have also had to bribe us with food on several occasions to finally commit it to memory. But we got past the wailing and gnashing of teeth, and came together to get it done. The night of the program, many girls were busy and had to carefully arrange their schedules to be there. Sarah and I had been working on a musical number for voice and violin, Savior Redeemer of my Soul, but she woke up that day to find that she had lost her voice due to the cold she was suffering from. We decided to leave it on the program and see if she could somehow recover by that night. She still could not speak until a few hours before the event, or even try sing until it time to warm up right before we started. I witnessed many small but powerful miracles as we all recited the testimony of the apostles without any large mistakes, and Sarah sang beautifully. When we got home that night, her voice was still gone and she wasn’t able to speak until a few days after. Our family and our young women leaders had been praying for her that day, and we could feel that our prayers had been answered. It was a testament to us of the power of a testimony borne through song that can touch some people in ways words cannot alone. Sarah shared that “she knew she was healed to open up her heart in order to have the witness of the power of the Savior brought unto the hearts of men through song.” I know that angels stood with us that night as we stood to bear testimony of Jesus Christ.

This past August, I was working on my mission papers and getting ready to submit them to the Bishop, and I started thinking about all there was to do before I left. I decided to ponder and pray about some spiritual goals I should accomplish before I leave on my mission. The one thing that I felt the most strongly I needed to do was commit myself to memorizing all of the paragraphs of the Living Christ. It has been such an amazing journey, and a huge blessing in my life. I don’t know how often I’ll need to be able to recall the specific information line by line on my mission, but it has guided my preparation. When I was at college I would be running through it in my head and practicing it out loud in my dorm room whenever I had a free moment, and it made me think about Christ all the time. Studying and focusing on the Living Christ document can help you prepare for a mission in a unique way. The document is built on a foundation of scripture that you’ll be able to recall through your studies, and throughout your life.

My recent study of the Living Christ has helped me better recognize the tender mercies in my life, and as President Stewart challenged us at Stake Conference, better helped me see how Christ blesses my life every day. As I began to make Christ a priority in my life, I have been able to see infinitely more blessings that have helped me as I’ve been preparing for my mission. A few months ago, I had my call, and it was beginning to dawn on me that I would be leaving home for 18 months to live in a place I’d never been to and speak a language I had never studied. I prayed many times for comfort and peace, and a few days later, I got an email from my cousin who served a mission in Brazil twelve years ago, sharing many spiritual and miraculous experiences from his mission that he had felt prompted to share with me. I knew it was an answer to my prayers.

In institute choir at the University of Utah, we had the opportunity to sing a song, with words written by Elder Bednar. The title was ‘One by One’ because Christ ministers to and redeems us one by one. The last verse has been stuck in my mind as I’ve been preparing, and I’d like to share it with you now:

One by one, one by one
Christ looked around Him and saw their tears.
One by one, one by one. In his compassion, He calmed their fears.
Jesus Christ healed each one brought forth unto Him.
Then He blessed each precious child and prayed for them.
The Angels descended from heaven above,
Encircling those little ones’ each felt His love. One by one, one by one
He intercedes for each daughter and son.
One by one, one by one.
Strength from His grace gives us power to become, One by one.

I love this because it’s not only talking about little children, it’s talking about all of us, because we are all God’s children. Christ didn’t just atone for all of our sins, he atoned for each of our sins, one by one. He helped and blessed people one by one. He stands with each of us saying like Abigail of old, “Upon me, my lord, upon me let this iniquity be,” one by one. Jesus Christ “went about doing good, yet was despised for it.”  And the Living Christ document explains “His gospel was a message of peace and goodwill. He entreated all to follow his example.” He went about doing good for all of us, yet he was doing it for individuals. The actions of Christ in the New Testament give us the perfect example that we’re supposed to follow. We may get caught up in the idea that we can’t do enough and feel like we can’t help people in the world. As Charles Dickens said “No one is useless in this world who lightens the burdens of another.” Christ, whose life was “central to all human history,” changed the world and set the ultimate example by helping people and saving people ---- one by one.

An estimated 5.5 million people live in the state of Minnesota. There are 32,000 members, 76 congregations, and there is 1 mission. For those in the audience keeping score, that’s at least 5 million, 468 thousand people who don’t have the restored gospel of Jesus Christ. My purpose as a missionary is not to save any of these people, for is not in our power as missionaries. My purpose is to invite as many of them as I can, one by one, to come unto Christ, that they may be redeemed through Him.

The Living Christ document declares Joseph Smith’s testimony of the reality of the fact that Christ lives. “Of Him the prophet also declared, ‘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! For we saw him, even on the right hand of God; and we heard the voice bearing record that he is the Only Begotten of the Father.” In an Ensign article in May 2007, President Monson shared of this line, “This is the knowledge that sustains. This is the truth that comforts. This is the assurance that guides those who are bowed down with grief—out of the shadows and into the light. Because our Savior died at Calvary, death has not hold upon any one of us.” “Oh, sweet the joy this sentence gives: ‘I know that my Redeemer lives.’”

In an article in the June 2001 Ensign, Elder Christofferson reminded us that Christ’s life “was a great vicarious gift in behalf of all who would ever live upon the earth.” He then shares the thought that “It is not that we earn these gifts, but rather that we choose to seek and accept justification and sanctification. Since the Savior paid for our sins and satisfied justice for us, we have become debtors to Him rather than to justice.” As the Living Christ states, “Each of us will stand to be judged of Him according to the works and desires of our hearts.” We will face judgement. That we cannot escape, but our faith and good works will be our shibboleth when we are judged by Christ after accepting His Atonement.

Growing closer to Christ and seeking to better understand his life and his atonement leads us towards exaltation. To be lifted up, to become infinitely glorious, and to receive a fullness of joy. Joseph Smith declared that the four truths of human nature are that “Man is eternally existent, inherently innocent, boundlessly free, and infinitely perfectible.” Each of these declarations are brought to pass through the atonement of Jesus Christ.

Henri Matisse was a French impressionist and fauvist painter in the twentieth century who lived through the horrors of World War II. At age 73, a near-death experience after an operation brought him close to a Catholic sister who served as his nurse. He moved to Vence, France and through his connections with this nun, at age 81, he designed and painted the French Chapel, Chapelle du Rosaire de Vence. He was bedridden through most of the work, and would paint the images of Christ for the walls of the chapel using a long bamboo stick from his bed. It took three years to complete, and was physically taxing for the artist, but he was determined to finish this final expression of art. Matisse was not overtly religious, but he created a profoundly sacred space. When asked about his beliefs he said “Do I believe in God? Yes, when I am working. When I am submissive and modest, I feel greatly assisted by someone who causes me to do things which exceed my capabilities.” He was willing to commit this time to search for something spiritual and something that could bring the witness of the work closer to God. In a world that had been ravaged by war and by death, and in a country where Christianity was becoming increasingly irrelevant, Matisse was looking for something beyond what he had. He was reaching for a higher plane of living, and he drew close to religion in the way he knew how, through his art, and used it to try to bring that feeling of the sacred to himself and to others. Approaching Christ is an individual pursuit, and is done on ones’ own terms --- one by one.

The purpose of missionary work is not only to invite others unto Christ so they may be saved, but so they may be exalted. In the Living Christ, we find the line “[Christ] is the light, the life, and the hope of the world. His way is the path that leads to happiness in this life and eternal life in the world to come.” It is through Christ we are saved, and it is through Christ that missionaries leave their families and worldly cares 18 or 24 months, and invite others come unto the Christ and be exalted through him. This is an exciting opportunity to serve and love. “God be thanked for the matchless gift of His Divine Son.”

I would like to close with one last scripture, Alma 30:44, in which Alma shares “All things denote there is a God; yea, even the earth, and all things that are upon the face of it, yea, and its motion, yea, and also all the planets which move in their regular form do witness that there is a Supreme Creator.” All that there is, even our existence, confirms that Christ lives.  I know that if you take the challenge to memorize the Living Christ and make it part of your life you will be blessed and be better able to see the infinite love and blessings that Christ has already extended to all of us.

I leave you my testimony that Christ redeems, exalts, and that He lives! I am grateful for the opportunity to represent Him and love and serve the people of Minnesota.  I am grateful for the wonderful examples in my life who have gotten me to this point, my parents, my leaders, many of my friends who are out in the field right now. I know that this is the true and restored gospel of Jesus Christ, and that through the atonement of Christ, all mankind may be saved.