Sunday, January 13, 2013

Farewell Sunday :)

Farwell Talk on God’s Great Plan of Happiness

God loves us; He truly loves us.  The Almighty Creator and king of this universe love us as His very own children.  It is because of that knowledge and testimony I have that I stand before you today, prepared to leave my blessed life here behind to serve God, our Heavenly Father for 18 months in the Georgia Atlanta Mission. 

Today I’d like to talk about that eternal Love and what that Love means to me.  God’s plan for us is beautiful and simple. He wants you to (1) have joy and (2) become more like Him.  In our church we often call this plan “God’s great plan of happiness.” With the knowledge of this plan, I’m so thankful to confidently know where I came from, what my responsibilities I have here on earth, and what is to come after this life. 
We believe that our lives didn’t begin at birth and it won’t end at death. Before we came to earth, our spirit lived with our Heavenly Father who created us. We knew Him, and He knew and loved us. It was a happy time during which we were taught God’s plan of happiness and the path to true joy. But just as most of us leave our home and parents when we grow up, God knew you needed to do the same. He knew we couldn’t progress unless we left for a while and proved our loyalty and obedience to Him. So he allowed us to come to earth to experience the joy—as well as pain—of a physical, mortal body.
One thing that makes this life so hard sometimes is that we’re out of God’s physical presence. Not only that, but we can’t remember our pre-earth life which means we have to operate by faith rather than sight. God didn’t say it would be easy, but He promised His spirit would be there when we needed Him. Even though it feels like it sometimes, we’re not alone in our journey.
At the beginning of mankind, Adam and Eve partook of the fruit and became mortal—just as we are—subject to sin, disease, all types of suffering, and ultimately death. But it wasn’t all bad because they were now able to feel great joy.

2 Nephi 2:25 says “Adam Fell that men might be; and men are, that they might have joy.”  The joys that come when we grow nearer to our Maker are endless.  The blessings and wonder that awaits us, as long as we live worthily to receive them, are beyond our comprehension of wonderful.  If we live righteously, continually trying to be more like Him, I can promise you, God does bless us, His children, for all our efforts. True happiness comes from following Christ’s example and developing Godlike attributes such as goodness, love, justice and mercy. It comes from serving others and helping them to follow the example and teachings of Jesus Christ. It comes from overcoming the desires of our human bodies and instead following the promptings of the Spirit. It comes from working hard and having a healthy lifestyle, friends, family, and personal achievements. Regardless of what we do or don’t have in this life, I believe that our deepest, most lasting happiness will come from knowing God’s plan and following it. 

Because of Adam and Eve, we were granted mortality.  So what are we going go with this gift of mortality, this gift of life on earth? Are we going to progress or digress? If there one thing I’ve really learned is that if we aren’t consciously putting forth effort to be a little more righteous, obedient, kind, a little more Christ like and teachable than we are actually digressing.  There are no middle grounds. God also granted us agency to make decisions and choose for our own.  So it is totally up to us to live our lives either progressing or digressing with our relationship with our Father in Heaven and to choose for ourselves the moral standards we will keep.  So what will we do with our lives here on earth? We need to become more like Him.

The lyrics of one of my favorite primary songs growing up says,
I’m trying to be like Jesus;
I’m following in his ways.
I’m trying to love as he did, in all that I do and say.
At times I am tempted to make a wrong choice,
But I try to listen as the still small voice whispers,
Love one another as Jesus loves you.
Try to show kindness in all that you do.
Be gentle and loving in deed and in thought,
For these are the things Jesus taught

Dieter Uchtdorf of the quorum of the twelve apostles taught that, “We improve our relationship with our Heavenly Father by learning of Him, by communing with Him, by repenting of our sins, and by actively following Jesus Christ, John 14:6 says that for “no man cometh unto the Father, but by Christ.”  To strengthen our relationship with God, we need some meaningful time alone with Him. Through prayer, scripture study and peaceful time to ponder, I know that we create a real, tangible relationship with our Father.  Although is he only with us in Spirit, I can testify that the presence of God’s Spirit with us allows miracles to happens.
I’d like to talk for a little bit about my Savior, Jesus Christ and what the atonement means to me.  Yet, it is impossible to put into words the full meaning of the Atonement, which is the most important and most divine event in the history of the world. Through His suffering in the Garden of Gethsemane and on the cross, the Savior atoned for our sins. This is the good news for all people! We know that in the Garden of Gethsemane, the weight of our sins caused Him to feel such agony that He bled from every pore. Doctrine and Covenants says,  
16 For behold, I, God, have asuffered these things for all, that they might not bsuffer if they would crepent;
 17 But if they would not repent they must asuffer even as I;
 18 Which asuffering caused myself, even God, the greatest of all, to tremble because of pain, and to bleed at every pore, and to suffer both body and spirit—and would that I might bnot drink the bitter cup, and shrink—
The part that stood out to me the most was that if we don’t repent, we must suffer even as Christ did.  We are on this earth as humans and we make mistakes, all the time.  To make His Atonement fully effective in our individual lives, we must have faith in Christ, repent of our sins, be baptized and confirmed by one having authority, receive the gift of the Holy Ghost, obey God’s commandments, receive sacred ordinances, and strive to become like Him. As we do these things through His Atonement, we can return to live with Him and our Heavenly Father forever. We have been sent to earth to be tested, to make mistakes, repent and grow from them.
So what happens when we die? Our physical death isn’t the end, but rather is a step forward in Heavenly Father’s great plan of happiness and a time of indescribable joy for the person making the transition. On the third day after Christ’s Crucifixion, Jesus Christ became the first person to be resurrected. His spirit was reunited with His glorified, perfected body and He could no longer die. When Christ’s friends went to visit His tomb, angels said in Matthew 28:6, "He is not here: for he is risen, as he said.”  We will be resurrected, risen, even as Christ was. After we are resurrected we will be judged and rewarded for the things we have done in this life. God will judge all men fairly and reward them appropriately with a place within His kingdom. In John 14 Jesus Christ taught His Apostles that in His Father’s house are “many mansions.” Our loving Heavenly Father is anxious to reward all of His children according to their obedience to His commandments and their willingness to follow the Savior. We believe that if we live worthy here on earth, we will live eternally with our families in the celestial kingdom in heaven.
Something that separates us from other religions is our belief of eternal families. The family is central to God’s plan for His children. It is also the central unit of society and the means for bringing children into the world where they can be loved, provided for, and taught truth and righteousness.
Family members who accept the Atonement of Jesus Christ and follow His example can be together forever through sacred ordinances performed in God’s holy temples. Jesus gave to Peter the power to have things sealed on earth and sealed in heaven (Matthew 16:19). This same sealing power was restored to Joseph Smith. We believe that families can be “sealed” or bound together through His power, enabling them to live together in eternity. So, when we are married in the Lord’s temples, we are sealed to our spouses for time and all of eternity, not just “till death do us part.”
I love our belief that death does not need to be the end of our relationships with the ones we love. The Lord revealed to the Prophet Joseph Smith in Doctrine and Covenants 130 that the “same sociality which exists among us here will exist among us there [in eternity], only it will be coupled with eternal glory. 
To me, this is the greatest blessing that I could ever be granted…eternal life of pure happiness dwelling with my Father in Heaven, with my earthly family and dearest friends.  However, to attain these blessings we must be repent and be baptized and live our life worthily to enter the temple and one day enter the kingdom of God. I will leave my family for a short period of time to go be an instrument in the Lord’s hands to bring families together forever through the gospel of Jesus Christ of latter day saints.
I am serving a mission because I love my Savior and because I have chosen to follow Him and because I want nothing more than to be an instrument in bringing others to follow Him too.

Since graduation, moving out on my own, traveling this past summer, and actively trying to be my best self, I believe that God prepared me for this calling without me knowing it would be given to me until October 6th when the Church announced the age of sister missionaries would be reduced to 19 years old.  Over the past year pposses today.

 John 14:18 says, I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you.  Brothers and Sisters, I testify that He does not leave us comfortless.  He is our biggest cheerleader, our number 1 fan, and He is there, just waiting for us to come unto Him, but we should all be running to Him and find peace and comfort in His embrace.

 I can promise you that there is no greater joy than the joys that come from following in His ways. The blessings that God wants to grant us are beyond our comprehension, we just need to commit to Him and then the miracles and blessings will be poured out to us. 

·      I am a divine daughter of God
·      I know that our Father in Heaven who created the worlds and loves me as His child
·      Jesus Christ atoned for my sins and the sins of the world so we can return home one day.  Jesus Christ is my best friend
·      The Holy Ghost is literally our constant companion and guides us to righteousness.
·      I know that through God, Jesus Christ and the Holy Ghost, the impossible can be made possible. I know that the mission is going to be the hardest thing I have ever done, but with great sacrifice comes great reward and the reward will be bringing others to the truthfulness of this gospel.
·      I know that Joseph Smith restored the fullness of Christ’s church today and that the world will hear his story.
·      I do believe that the Book of Mormon is the truest book on the planet.  That it is the completing piece of doctrine today.  That with a study and a testimony of the book, it will bring you closer to Christ than you could ever imagine.
·      I believe that when I was 8 years old I was baptized by the right authority and I took upon Christ’s name.  And that since then I have been blessed with the gift of the Holy Ghost who has guided me in my life.
·      I believe in the power of prayer.  Heavenly Father really wants to hear from us.  Comparable to our earthly parents, our Heavenly Father longs to hear from His children.  When times are hard, pray. When times are happy, pray. Pray always and I can guarantee you life will be blessed.
·      I believe in the atonement.  That through Jesus Christ, we can be forgiven of our sins. That God will remember them no more and we can move forward with faith at any point in our lives.  I know that the atonement is for every feeling, transgression or sin. The atonement encompasses even my sadness and insecurities, and gives me strength in every situation.
·      I believe in missionary work and that men and women with nametags will reach every corner of the earth to share the greatest message to the entire world declaring the truthfulness. If this church weren’t true that it would be literally impossible to spread such message.  The Spirit coverts people and I believe that with this age change we are about to see the greatest conversion cycle in the history of the world.

I cant put into words the love I have for all you here today; for my parents, for my incredible family, for my inspiring and influential friends, for this loving and supportive ward family but the most important love I am overwhelmed with today is the unshakable love I have for my Savior.  It is His love that has changed me and it will be His love that will change the people of Atlanta and that can change you.  I am humbled and beyond thrilled be a representative of Him as a Missionary of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter day saints. I am so very thankful for all you here today and know that I will be praying for you everyday. 

In closing I want to quote my most favorite hymn
I believe in Christ-- my Lord, my God!
My feet He plants on gospel sod.
I'll worship him with all my might;
He is the source of truth and light.

I believe in Christ; he ransoms me.
From Satan's grasp he sets me free,
And I shall live with joy and love
In his eternal courts above

I say these things in the sacred name of Jesus Christ, Amen. 

Thank you friends for all your love and support
it truly was one on the happiest days of my life.  

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