Here is my talk...
Good Morning my amazing ward family and anyone who is visiting. I have waited 158 days to give this talk, but I am not counting. I am sure you were waiting for me to say that I didn’t want to give this talk, that I had no idea what to say and some of that may be true but I am so excited to give this talk today. Brother Brown asked that I talk about the blessings of sacrifice. So I thought I was start with a story.
I could start this talk by talking about our ancestors the pioneers and their journey from the Missouri to Salt Lake City, or I could talk about Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon, or even Christ and his ultimate sacrifice for each and every one of us. These are all unremarkable times in history that have placed a significant part in our Church’s history.
One of my favorite stories in the Book of Mormon is in Alma. The people of Anti-Nephi-Lehi, who buried their swords because they had a testimony of the Gospel and sacrificed their lives. We can read about this in Alma 24:18, where it reads:
And this they did, it being in their view a testimony to God, and also to men, that they never would use weapons again for the shedding of man’s blood; and this they did , vouching and coventing with the Go, that rather than shed the blood of their brethren they would give up their own lives.
Then when the Laminates later came to destroy them, in verse 21, we read: “prostrated themselves before the earth, and began to call on the name of the Lord; and thus they were in this attitude when the Lamanites began to fall upon them, and began to slay them with sword. (Alma 24:21)
On that day 1,005 of the people of Ammon, as they came to be known, allowed themselves to be killed. Their powerful testimony and sacrifice helped change the hearts of many of the Lamanites, who in turn were brought to repentance. In verse 26 it says, “And it came to pass that the people of God were jointed that day by more than the number who had been slain; and those who were slain were rightegous people, therefore we have not reason to doubt that they were saved.” (Alma 24:26).
The sacrifice made that day by the people of Anti-Nephi-Lehi blessed the lives of the Lamanites and brought forth the Kingdom of God.
Today we are not asked to make the same sacrifices as our ancestors or the people of Anti-Nephi-Lehi but we are asked to make other sacrifices.
First, I would like to define both the word sacrifice and blessings.
Sacrifice by definition means giving the Lord whatever he requires of our time, our earthly possessions, and our energies to further his work. It is a demonstration of our pure love.
To be blessed is to confer divine favor upon someone. Anytime contributing to true happiness, well-being, or prosperity is a blessing. All blessing are based on eternal laws. Because God wants his children to find joy in life, he grants blessings to them as a result of their obedience, or through his grace.
The Lord’s people have always sacrificed greatly and in many different ways. Some have suffered hardship and ridicule for the gospel. Some new converts to the Church have been cut off from their families or lose friendships. Some members have lost their jobs, some have lost their lives. Latter-day Saints make a covenant with the Lord to sacrifice. By doing so, we surrender our will to His and dedicate our lives to building up His kingdom and serving His children. I would like to focus my talk on four ways that the Lord has asked that we sacrifice in our day: include paying tithing, fasting, and missionary service.
One way that Latter-day Saints have been asked to sacrifice in our time, is to pay an honest tithe. We have been asked by our Heavenly Father to give one-tenth of what we earn to the Church for tithing. The Lord has promised that "...He will open you the windows of Heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it."(Malachi 3:10)
I personally have seen this in my life as I have faithfully paid my tithing. This past summer, I was at home with my mother, when I heard glass breaking, and metal crunch. The front door was open as it was a nice night and I remember telling my mom to shut the door, something was wrong. After a few minutes, I went outside to see what happened and I saw my car parked on the street with the windows crushed and metal crunched. I immediately called the Police and later found out that my car had been hit when a person got hit by a car. The police came and took pictures and the next day I filled out an accident report and took my car to the repair people to get evaluated. At the time, I didn’t have much in my savings account, and only had about $800 dollars in my checking account for bills. The repair guy told me the cost to repair the damage was going to be about $350 dollars. After I paid my tithing and my bills I would have no money pay for the repairs. I was left with a choice to pay my tithing or pay for my car to be repaired. After some thought I decided to pay my tithing, which meant that I wouldn’t have a car for work, while my car waited to be repaired. The next day was Monday and while I was at work I got a call from the repair guys and they told me the repairs were mostly covered by insurance and instead of $350 dollars I know only owed $50. It was such a blessing to have the Lord watch out for me that day and my car was able to get fixed. What a blessing and I am glad that I was also able to practice patience.
Along with tithing, the Lord asks us to set aside a Sunday a month to fast, where we do not eat for two meals. We are then invited to contribute the money we saved to the Fast and Offering fund. This fund does such amazing things for those in need here and around the world. I saw this first had a few weeks ago when I visited Temple Square and also had the opportunity to visit Welfare Square. These two amazing sister missionaries told us about all the great things that the fast and offering funds go to. Which includes the Bishop's Storehouse, a bakery, a cannery, a dairy processing facility, a thrift store, and an employment center. The whole purpose of this square and many of these facilities through the world is to provide care for the poor, foster self - reliance, and provide amazing opportunities to serve and work. While I was at Welfare Square I was able to witness the true value of pennies or dollars contributed. I got to learn about a horrible famine in Ethopia and how 48 cents can literally save a life with a pourage that the Church now makes and sends so that people do not starve. The Church can do so many amazing things with the money that we donate, even if all we can afford is a few dollars. It was a humbling experience and something that I now think about each and every fast and testimony Sunday.
We as a Church have so many opportunities to serve others, we are the hands of the Lord and we have the responsibility as members to show our love. As we provide service to others our testimonies grow, as my own testimony has grown on the principles of tithing and fasting. As we strengthen ourselves spiritually we want to make greater sacrifices for the Lord. A place in our Heavenly Father’s kingdom is worth any sacrifices we have to make of our time, talents, energy, money, and lives. The last sacrifice I would like to talk today about is Missionary Work.
This is the part of the talk I am most excited about, let me just start with that. :) 10 months ago, my home teacher Brother Nelson, asked me what my plans were with life? Thinking back over my life, all I could think, was I have no idea. In my life I have made so many decisions that were wrong (pretty much all through High School)! :( But in the last five years I have totally changed my life around, I am an active member of the Church, I had been to the Temple for my endowment in February 2012, but in March last year, my father passed away from a short battle with cancer. 2012 was the fastest year of my life. Everything moved at such a fast pace that I felt like I was on "a ride that I couldn't get off" and I love rides at the Fair, but this was for sure the one that always makes you sick and you swear you won't get on again. Things were happening at such a rapid rate that I felt lost and confused on what I should do next with my life. I had planned on attending graduate school in late 2011 or early 2012 but I chose to spend time with my father and family instead. With the start of 2013, my goal was to continue my educational pursuits in some way by learning a new skill and also increase my understanding of the Gospel. I would have never imagined, that I would consider going on a MISSION to be the way that I increased my knowledge of the Gospel.
So I answered with my generic answer that I was still thinking about Graduate School or a new job. After talking more, he suggested that I also just "think" about going on a mission. I just smiled and said, I'll think about it but I am way to old and don't have money for that. He just smiled and said pray about it. I didn't pray about it just then but I did think about it, and after making a list of what I thought I was going to do over the next year, out of everything listed, a mission made the list of possibilities as the last option. Above that was, learning the Piano, doing Family History, going back to school, getting a new job, and increasing my knowledge of the Gospel. All things which sounded a lot easier than going on a mission. The next day, I got a call that the Bishop would like to see me. I went into his office, and one of the first questions was, have you thought about going on a mission? I told him I would pray about it too and then jokingly asked him if Brother Nelson had put him up to it. I also quickly responded with ever reason why I could not go on a mission. Fear was coming over me. My test of fait, at that point was that I owed money for not only school but also credit card debt that amounted to more than what I would need to save for a mission. I owed $8,000 in debt plus school loans and I needed $8,000 if I even wanted to go on a mission. So I prayed for days to know what was the right thing for me to do. A week later after many prayers my heart was full with joy as I had come to my decision. This part is from my journal...I wrote...I prayed last night and asked the Lord to guide me in all that I do as I prepare for my mission. I prayed that he would help me make the necessary sacrifices to pay off my debt and prepare spiritually. I thanked him for the overwhelming sense of PEACE and JOY as I prayed. My only regret is not making the decision sooner. I am at peace with my decision to go on a mission so now it's all about becoming prepared! I am no longer afraid or worried as I know this is what I want to do! So that all happened over the month of January this year.
After many doctors appointments, my papers made their way to Salt Lake in April after conference and within two weeks I found out where I was going. I have been assigned to the Ecuador Guayaquil West Mission and report to the Mexico City MTC this Wednesday.
I have had to personally make my own sacrifices to be where I am today. Five years ago I would have never imagined that I would be giving my own farewell talk. Even 8 months ago this wouldn't have been a reality. once the Lord let me know that a mission was right for me, I personally sacrificed doing things I loved so that I could pay off my debt. That was my first priority. I stopped eating out, starting packing lunches for work, and really watched where and how I spent my money. I made payments every week and was able to pay off my debt in five months. I sold my car and things that I had purchased and had not used yet. I sold clothes online along with makeup and made money that way. I even sold my iPhone which was by far one of the harder things to give up. I loved my iPhone but I have been iPhone free for almost 3 weeks and I am thankful that I am getting that out of my system now. I know that as I continue on this journey and leave on my mission that some may see it as a sacrifice as I am leaving everything behind but I see it as a blessing. The Lord is blessing me with the opportunity to serve others and I am indeed thankful for that. I am not saying that it will be easy in any way. I know it will be hard but I have the Lord on my side and I know that when I am down or depressed because someone rejected our message again, that I am only one of 74, 900 other missionaries who are most likely feeling the same way and I just have to remind myself that I am finding my lost brothers and sisters.
I know that this is what I am supposed to be doing right now. I know that we our children of God and that he loves each and every one of us. He provided a way for each and every one us to get back to him. The Savior made the ultimate sacrifice so that we could overcome death and repent for our sins to become clean again. We have the ability and privilege to use the gift of the Atonement. I am so thankful for that gift as that is the reason I am able to say "I'm going on a mission"! I know that the Book of Mormon is true and that we have prophets on Earth today that help guide his Church. I am so thankful for the sacrifices that we all make, so that others can be helped in their time of need. We can all make a difference by making sacrifices. You can give up some of your free time to help others. You can work hard to do well in school and reach your goals. You can pay tithing to help temples be built and pay a fast offering to help poor people have food to eat. The sacrifices we make also make a difference.
I say these things in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.