Monday, December 1, 2014

Sacrament Meeting/Farewell Talk

Ashley Sorensen
Missionary Farewell Talk
November 8, 2014

            When I was a freshman in high school my dad was the ward mission leader.  As part of this calling, the missionaries were over at our house for dinner quite often.  During this time, sister missionaries were transferred into the stake.  When they would come over to have dinner, they would always leave us with a spiritual message.  One of the things that they taught Jeremiah and I was how to remember the Ten Commandments with your fingers.  These sisters were always happy, encouraging and loving.  Not only did they teach me and my brother the Ten Commandments but they also brought a spirit of hope with them.  It was during this time that I knew that I wanted to bring this encouragement, this love, and this hope to others.  This is when I decided that I wanted to serve a mission.  It was just a few years later when President Monson changed the mission age and I knew that serving a mission was the right decision for me and that I had to go.  Sister Erwin was one of those sister missionaries that visited our home at that time and taught me the Ten Commandments.  She served her mission here and came back to live within our ward boundaries when her mission was over.  She fell in love with us as much as we did her.  Being a missionary not only brings hope to those who are nonmembers but also serves as a reminder to members of the love that our Savior has for all his brothers and sisters. 
            In President Boyd K. Packer’s recent conference talk, “The Reason For Our Hope,” he addressed this idea that a testimony of Jesus Christ and the atonement cannot be measured.  Had there not been an atonement there would have been no means of redemption and therefore there would have been no hope.  His mercy and promise of peace is extended to everyone.  He is the healer and the comforter.  If we are not aware of what the Savior can do for us, we may go through life carrying burdens and guilt that weigh us down and prevent us from reaching our full potential as children of God.  We should seek for opportunities to share the message that Jesus Christ is our source of hope.  You might think, “What can I do?” I am only one person.  President Packer gives the perfect answer to this question.  Joseph Smith was only one person.  Joseph Smith felt alone at times but he rose to greatness through faith and hope, learning line upon line and precept upon precept. 
            My fifth great grandmother, Susannah Lees was born in Lancastershire England in 1830.  As a young woman, she was well known in the area for having a beautiful soprano voice.  After she was baptized she would sing in the church choir and at Mormon street meetings sharing the gospel through her music.  When Susannah was singing at one of these Mormon street meetings, Brother John Taylor who was serving a mission in England at the time, said, “Sister Susannah, the voices of your offspring shall be heard in all corners of the Earth.”  Susannah’s grandchildren’s voices have been heard in China, Taiwan, Russia, Africa, Germany, France, England, Japan, and North and South America.  Through military service, mission service, business investments, and furthering education her posterity has served as examples of hope and faith in attempts to improve the lives of their brothers and sisters around the world.  I am sure that day in England Susannah had no idea of the far reaching affects her willingness to share her talents and gifts would have on her posterity and the generations of mankind coming after her.  I think on that day in England that Susannah probably thought how lovely, my grandchildren will have beautiful singing voices also.  For the majority of us, however, I can testify that beautiful singing voices were not inherited.  I am sure that Susannah had no idea that her posterity’s voices however would be used to fight for the freedoms of others, to teach the gospel, to build homes and schools in foreign lands and to bring hope to others.  My great grandmother was only one person but through faith and hope her posterity and countless others have been greatly blessed; me included.
            Our missionary force now exceeds 88,000 and church membership has reached 15 million.  These numbers stand as evidence of the reality of the hope that our Savior brings to his brothers and sisters.  In a world of over 7 billion people, the talents, the wisdom and insight of every member is needed to share the message of the atonement and the work of the Savior.  President Packer states, “No matter how large the organization of the Church becomes or how many millions of members join our ranks, no matter how many continents and countries our missionaries enter or how many different languages we speak, the true success of the gospel of Jesus Christ will be measured by the spiritual strength of its individual members.  We need the strength of conviction that is found in the heart of every loyal disciple of Christ.”  The Lord has declared that missionary work is the responsibility of all who follow Him (see Matthew 28:19–20; D&C 88:81). Members of the Lord's Church can, by the goodness of their lives and the strength of their testimonies, share the gospel message of hope and redemption.
            Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints come from all walks of life, and their journeys of faith are as varied as the places they come from. But despite the differences, Latter-day Saints all share one thing in common: a conviction to follow Christ and a joy that comes from living the fullness of the gospel.
At age 22, Mariama Kallon was hearing rumors of something dark in her country. “There are rebels,” the villagers would cry as they fled from their homes toward the cities. And as they carried their bundles of belongings, they also cried for what they left behind: “My daughter is killed; my child is killed; my family is killed.”  Eventually, Mariama would witness every member of her family being brutally killed.
Later, while staying with a friend, her neighbor told her, “Mariama, we know what you’ve gone through, and we all have gone through the same thing. We have nothing to give to you now . . . but the only thing we would ask is if you would like to come with us to our church. This is the place where we find peace. This is the place where we find courage. And this is the place that gives us the hope to live.”
Kallon went, and found exactly what was promised. “I was happy,” she says. “My heart was open.” Learning the doctrine of eternal families was the greatest thing she gained. Even though she was the only one of her family left living, she found hope in the truth she had been taught. “The greater joy is knowing through this gospel that I will see them again.”
“There are still hard times, there are still things I struggle with, but the thing that keeps me going, the thing that I’m holding onto most, is that hope that I have in my Heavenly Father and His son, my Savior. I know that as I turn to them, they are always there for me because they’ve always been there, and . . . they will always be there.”

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