Monday, June 16, 2014


*My farewell was on Sunday, and as a few people have requested a copy of my talk, I decided it might be a good idea to post it here. Enjoy, eh?*

In writing this talk, I tried to closely follow advice from one of my favorite movies, "A Midnight in Paris". In this movie, Ernest Hemingway, upon meeting one of his fans, says something along the lines of “You liked my book? Well, it’s a good book because it is an honest book.” Hopefully the honesty that I attempted to achieve in this talk can effectively bring the Spirit and convey the message that needs to be conveyed.
The other day, while reading in 1 Nephi and I came across chapter 17, which was a chapter that had never stuck out to me before. As I read it and pondered over the things that I learned from it, I was floored. Nephi and his family decide to take a one-way journey from their home of Jerusalem into the wilderness, a place completely without the civilized life that they are used to. Their lives have been 100% turned upside-down. Not only have they left their home, but surely they left their entire lives behind- people that they loved, things they liked to do, and everything that had defined who they were up until that point. They only have each other, and as they enter what is simply referred to as the “wilderness”, the fruits of their faith aren’t immediately apparent. They’re struggling, to put it simply. Nephi expresses their complex and lonely situation in the first three verses of the chapter.
And it came to pass that we did again take our journey in the wilderness; and we did travel nearly eastward from that time forth. And we did travel and wade through much affliction in the wilderness; and our women did bear children in the wilderness.
And so great were the blessings of the Lord upon us, that while we did live upon raw meat in the wilderness, our women did give plenty of suck for their children, and were strong, yea, even like unto the men; and they began to bear their journeyings without murmurings.
And thus we see that the commandments of God must be fulfilled. And if it so be that the children of men keep the commandments of God he doth nourish them, and strengthen them, and provide means whereby they can accomplish the thing which he has commanded them; wherefore, he did provide means for us while we did sojourn in the wilderness.”
The gratitude that Nephi powerfully conveys is immense. They had much affliction- nothing was really going easily for them. They had left every material thing behind. They were literally wading through a wilderness that was harshly unforgiving. Their wives gave birth in the wilderness, and they had nothing but raw meat to eat. This wasn’t a fun camping trip or even stake-sponsored trek. They were struggling for their lives. And yet, through it all, Nephi choose to see the good. He acknowledges that God is strengthening them and nourishing them, not by making their circumstances easier, but by making them stronger and more adept people. He didn’t take away their struggles, but he provided means whereby they could accomplish the things that He commanded them. Nephi had mastered the art of being grateful in any circumstance, and the Lord blessed Him through that. This gratitude, faith, and trust in the Lord eventually lead him and his family to the Promised Land.
            In Dieter F. Uctdorf’s April 2014 General Conference address entitled “Grateful in any Circumstances”, he defines gratitude not as something that we must have only when things are going well, but as something that we must have always- an attitude of gratitude. “Instead of being grateful for things, we focus on being grateful in our circumstances- whatever they may be”. We can learn to be like Nephi- when everything seems to be falling apart, we can choose to be grateful to the Lord in spite of it. “This type of gratitude transcends whatever is happening around us. It surpasses disappointment, discouragement, and despair. It blooms just as beautifully in the icy landscape of winter as it does in the pleasant warmth of summer. When we are grateful to God in our circumstances, we can experience gentle peace in the midst of tribulation. In grief, we can still lift up our hearts in praise. In pain, we can glory in Christ’s Atonement. In the cold of bitter sorrow, we can experience the closeness and warmth of heaven’s embrace.” Gratitude is an essential commandment of God. God’s glory is the immortality and eternal life of man- essentially; His great work is for His children to be happy. And what will never fail to bring us peace and happiness? The choice to be grateful.
In Moroni 7:42-44, we find a recipe for being a true disciple of Jesus Christ- “Wherefore, if a man have faith he must needs have hope; for without faith there cannot be any hope.
"43 And again, behold I say unto you that he cannot have faith and hope, save he shall be meek, and lowly of heart.
44 If so, his faith and hope is vain, for none is acceptable before God, save the meek and lowly in heart; and if a man be meek and lowly in heart, and confesses by the power of the Holy Ghost that Jesus is the Christ, he must needs have charity; for if he have not charity he is nothing; wherefore he must needs have charity.”
These are the three basic ingredients for developing and living a Christ-like life- faith, hope, and charity. These qualities are not things that come automatically or overnight- in fact, it’s really hard to live these things day in and day out. Like anything good in life, it takes time and dedication to develop these qualities.  In my study of the subject of gratitude, however, I’ve come to see how having gratitude in all our circumstances gives each of us a firm foundation for being able to develop faith, hope, and charity. I’ve come to understand that gratitude is not just a nice quality that makes us happier, but something essential that truly draws us closer to our Savior, Jesus Christ.
Gratitude leads us to faith. We cannot be faithful when we are fearful, doubtful, or ungrateful in our circumstances. When we lack gratitude, we lack faith, and when we lack faith, we lack the very quality that allows us to fully live and progress closer to Christ in our lives.  In Alma 32:21, we learn that faith is not a perfect knowledge of things, but if you have faith, you hope for things that are not seen, but which are true. Faith is the action of defying fear. In order to truly allow our testimonies of Jesus Christ to grow, flourish, and develop, we must employ faith in His Gospel.  Preach My Gospel simply states “Faith in Him means that you trust Him and are confident that He loves you”. When we are grateful, no matter what circumstances we are in and no matter what our current struggle is in life, we are taking action by putting our trust and faith in the Lord. Faith that He knows what is at work in our lives, faith that He is strengthening us through our trials, and faith that He will lead us to better days ahead.
            When I think of great gratitude and faith, especially in regards to missionary work, the person that first comes to mind is my Grandma Bonnie. When I was ten years old, my Grandma decided that she wanted to serve a mission. It was a huge decision for her to make, but she decided it was the right thing for her to do, so she moved forward in faith like nobody I had ever seen before. She moved out of her house, put all her belongings in storage, and turned in her mission papers. She had requested to serve stateside, maybe in a visitor’s center or a service mission, so when she got her call to serve a proselyting mission in Edinburgh, Scotland, it was a major change of plans, to say the least. Still, my faithful grandma wasn’t fazed. She expressed gratitude for her call several times before she left, and in the years since she has served her mission, the way that it changed her life is apparent to everyone that knows her. She chose to be grateful for what the Lord had asked her to do and faithful in her actions of doing it, and it blessed her life tremendously. My grandma’s example of gratitude and faithful missionary work will ring loudly for years to come- I can say that because it’s been more than true with me. It was really the first experience I had ever had with watching somebody that I was close to prepare and serve a mission, and as it’s been my turn to prepare to serve, I don’t think I could have done it without the example that my grandma set for me. Her gratitude led to faith, through which she was able to honorably serve the Lord and tremendously bless the people of Scotland.
            Gratitude also leads to hope. In Preach My Gospel, hope is defined as “an abiding trust that the Lord will fulfill His promises to you. It is manifest in confidence, optimism, enthusiasm, and patient perseverance. It is believing and expecting that something will occur.” Having hope is a beautiful way of expressing, again, our faith and trust in Heavenly Father. The qualities that were listed in Preach My Gospel- confidence, optimism, enthusiasm, and patient perseverance- these are things that express hope, but they are also things that come as a result of gratitude. The author Albert Camus once said, “In the midst of winter, I found there was within me an invincible summer.” Gratitude and hope can and will fuel the summers that exist within us. Being grateful and thankful for what the Lord has given us can lead us to find hope for better days ahead, and what could be more comforting and reassuring than the idea of hope?
            My dad is one of the greatest examples of hope that I’ve ever had. I’m not just saying that because it’s Father’s Day, either. Whenever times get tough and things aren’t really going too smoothly, my dad is always the person that has a smile on his face and complete confidence that tomorrow will be a better day. When my mom and dad were first getting started at the whole parenting gig, my dad had few business ventures that went south. The stress that this turbulent time provided was enormous for both my parents and others involved in these businesses, but according to my mom, my dad always kept a smile and a confident and optimistic attitude. He braved the storms of uncertainty and doubt and was able to have gratitude for all the Lord had blessed him with, hope for a better tomorrow and faith the Lord would take care of him and his family. This hope provided reassurance that every little thing was going to be all right, even in the darkest of days, and I’ll always be grateful to my dad for sticking with his optimism and courage. Gratitude leads to hope.
            Gratitude leads to faith, and gratitude leads to hope, and finally, gratitude leads to  charity. The Bible Dictionary definition of charity is so beautiful to me- it says that charity is “the highest, noblest, strongest kind of love, not merely affection; the pure love of Christ.” In Moroni 7:47 it reads “charity suffereth long, and is kind, and envieth not, and is not puffed up, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil, and rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth, beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things”. Charity is our goal at the beginning of the day and our reassurance throughout it- while we all strive to have charity, Christ has the greatest form of charity in His love for us, which never ceases. When we are grateful, truly grateful, to the point where we can clearly see our sorrows and afflictions as “but a moment” and rejoice, thoroughly and without end in the Atonement of Jesus Christ and the peace and comfort that He brings-that is when our gratitude will lead to charity. Gratitude is a form of love for our Heavenly Father and trust in His love for us, so naturally it takes the purest sort of gratitude to bring about the purest form of love, that being charity. Gratitude is the key and opportunity that the Lord has given us to unlocking the ingredients for a truly Christ-like life- faith, hope, and charity.

I have been told several times that the ultimate reason for going on a mission should be love. There are hundreds of reasons to go on a mission, and believe me, I’ve considered each one of them while making my decision to serve. It’s not an easy choice, but when I was able to focus on the true reason for serving, it became a whole lot easier. It is the love that we have for our Heavenly Father and the people that we will be serving that should ultimately be our reason for choosing to go on a mission. I can’t say that I have followed this principle even close to perfectly in my journey to become a full-time missionary in this church. There have been times when I have doubted my very decision to serve because I forgot the very central aspect of love. I have often overlooked the reason that I am actually choosing to serve a mission in the swirl of shopping for clothes and talk-writing and incessantly Googling “Madrid Spain” whenever I get bored. All good things, I suppose, but when the distractions come, good or bad, they take away from the core of missionary work, that being love. But what I have to remember in choosing to serve a mission, and what we must always remember in all facets of our life, is that the love of Heavenly Father for His children never goes away. It doesn’t matter who we are, what decisions we have made, what our weaknesses or strengths are- He loves us. He sent His son to die for us so that we may return to live with Him again. His love is eternal and unchanging and the very purest, noblest, strongest form of charity. We are children of a most-high God, and for that, I am eternally grateful.