Monday, June 3, 2013

Farewell Talk

I am Emily Mather. I have heard it said that we as individuals are the sum total of what we have seen, heard, said, and done in our lives. Thanks to many teachers, leaders, and family members, I have seen so many people serve me and my family, and I have heard countless testimonies that make me who I am today.  I am so grateful for the family, friends, and leaders that have taught me high standards and pointed me in the right direction so many times as I have grown up.

As many of you may know, I attended Brigham Young University in Provo this past year (2012-2013) studying nursing, and I have been home for about a month now. In October, when the announcement was made that girls could now serve missions at age 19 instead of 21, I didn’t think much of it as far as I was concerned. But eventually, everything in my life seemed to point me towards a mission as I felt like something was missing in  my life; I knew school was where I needed to be at that time, but I also  felt like the Lord had more in store for me. I wanted to make sure that I was choosing this for the right reasons.

My mind began to open up to the idea that I was needed elsewhere; Heavenly Father needed me to join the work of spreading the happiness that the gospel brings to those that have been prepared for me personally. Eventually, I finally made the decision to serve after many prayers. I asked the Lord what He would have me do at this time. When I received the answer that I should serve a mission, it was then that I realized how scary that could be! Away from my family, anywhere around the world, spending 24/7 with a companion that I know nothing about, learning a new language, where my goal is to talk to everyone and teach about our church. But I received this answer in my heart, and I knew the importance of obedience. I love what our prophet President Monson said about obedience in this past April General Conference:

            There is no need for you or for me, in this enlightened age when the fullness of the gospel has been restored, to sail uncharted seas or to travel unmarked roads in search of truth. A loving Heavenly Father has plotted our course and provided an unfailing guide – even obedience

At first I felt that I was taking a step into the dark, asking the Lord to lead me where He would have me go. Actually, I still feel that way sometimes! But I do know that as I, like any of us, choose to trust the Lord and trust that He will give me more light and knowledge as I obey, I am blessed with more light and direction in my life. Initially, I found myself thinking of all of the reasons that I should not serve a mission. It was such a long time away from my family, I would graduate later, and so on.

BUT as soon as I decided to open up to the idea and turn my will over to the Lord, my prayers become more sincere, and I felt guided.  I realized that my Savior has experienced my confusion and sadness, and He constantly asks me to simply obey, and as I do, I am changed for the better as I follow the course he has plotted for me. The trials and decisions in my life are not random or coincidental – they have been designed for me to grow and learn how to make the right choices.

With this time at home without assignments due and tests to take, has given me more time to think about the call I have received to serve a mission and how obedience will play a role. I have many questions, concerns, and exciting thoughts running through my mind at any given time! It is hard to know how to feel emotionally as I prepare to dedicate 1 ½ years of my life in service of the Lord. The question that constantly comes to my mind is: What kind of missionary do I want to be? Growing up, I have seen so many missionaries come home more mature, and humble – they glowed as they spoke.  I loved hearing stories about the impact they’d had on people’s lives as they taught he gospel and brought families closer together. I thought that missionaries simply came home like this – that everyone did. But I am realizing how wrong I was!

I have come to realize that I will get out of my mission what I put into it. I have the choice what kind of missionary I want to be, and in turn the person I want to become after my mission and from then on in my life. I read an incredible talk from a mission president to his missionaries called “The Fourth Missionary” and it goes into depth about the characteristics and consequences of different types of missionaries. This article takes the concept of obedience one step further, comparing the two missionaries, both of which strive to become better, are obedient, and serve faithfully, but one of the missionaries does something that makes all the difference in his mission. He fully surrenders his will to the Lord.

As someone set apart to represent the Lord, it is my goal to strive to be obedient to God’s commandments and to obey the mission rules, but I want to make it a goal to take that one step further. I will not simply do what the Lord wants me to do because he wants me to do it, although that is a commendable thing to do, I want to be obedient so that my nature and character will be changed. When we slowly strive the change our nature in increments, we will not have any desire to do anything contrary to what Heavenly Father would have us do.

I love what the author of this letter wrote, he says: “ The purpose and central blessing of this life is change. It is to be changed to become more like Jesus Christ. It is to incorporate into your character, the qualities of His character. This process of change, this process of becoming, is the object of the gospel.”

This quote has powerful meaning that I had never thought about before. As I strive to obey with full purpose of heart, I will change. As a missionary, I will be teaching others the importance of coming unto Christ and letting him mold them. I cannot teach others the concept of changing, becoming, and evolving unless I am willing to do the same.  I need to constantly come unto Christ myself, and seek his will in my life. This way, I can testify to others of the change it can make in their lives.

This applies to so many areas in our lives! It does not just apply to me while I am preparing to preach the gospel. This is the “object of the gospel”. So, I challenge you to make a conscious effort to be obedient, but do not stop there. You may change your behavior to live the way the Lord would have you live, but do not stop there either.  Focus on BECOMING and CHANGING. Take the attributes of Christ for your own, and illuminate your life and the lives of others as you align your will with God’s will. Your light of Christ will become brighter and brighter as you obey because you will discard some of your old characteristics and take on Christ’s. I challenge you to do this with me.

This concept of changing goes hand in hand with the single greatest expression of love that the world has ever witnessed. This is the Atonement of Jesus Christ. Because he came and suffered for our personal sins and weaknesses, there is nothing in this life that he has not experienced firsthand. He has seen and experienced it all, and He knows that as we obey the Lord, life will be easier in the end. But we cannot do this by ourselves.  Rather than taking “be the best you can be” as a motto for our lives, we should listen to Christ when he says “Let me make you all that you can be”. Christ can only do this when we come to Him with real intent to do what he asks with full purpose of heart. By letting Christ change us, we are showing our love and acceptance of His sacrifice for us.

The scripture that I chose for the theme of my mission is Romans 8:38-39. This scripture has helped me understand how the atonement applies to my life. It says “For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord

I believe that God has given us the gift of obedience because he loves us.  I believe that God gave us Christ so that we could be saved from our sins, and so that you and I could draw upon his strength in difficult times. Nothing out of our power can separate us from this love found through the Atonement of Christ. As long as we are obedient, and come to the Lord with whole purpose of heart, we can find this love in our lives. What an incredible blessing. The Lord is always ready and willing to show us His path, but we need to LET Him change our nature. We must be willing. We need our hearts, minds, and actions to be one in purpose – all aligned so that the Lord can sense our sincerity and change us.

There have been times in my life that I have prayed to seek the Lord’s direction, but I was not ready to fully surrender my will. I think that we have all possibly reached a point in our lives when our prayers consist of all the things we want to the Lord to bless us with and we speedily close with “thy will be done.” But I testify to you that as we do the simple tasks the Lord has asked of us: praying sincerely, reading scriptures, serving others – that we will feel the spirit work within us to align our will more with the Lord’s. I saw this as I prayed about going on the mission. I was holding back at first as if saying “Lord, I don’t really want to do this, but I will if you REALLY want me to, I can” And once I found myself more exactly obedient and sincere, my prayers consisted more of “Lord, what would you have me do? Where would you have me go?”

I love this last quote from the article I read. It says: “surrender your will to Him unconditionally. Withhold nothing. Turn it all over to Him, all of your desires, wishes, and hopes” This is the missionary I want to be and the person I hope to continue developing for the rest of my life! I am only beginning to realize how important the desires of my heart are. I am committing to myself now that I will strive to align my will with the Lord’s will. I will completely surrender my wishes, hopes, dreams, time, talents, thoughts, and actions to Him that I might be able to touch those that the Lord puts into my path. I know that none of my days will be perfect, but I do know that as long as I do my best and strive to keep my heart in the right place, I will be able to have success in bringing others the happiness of this gospel and I will be changed as I learn to change others. 

I want to extend another challenge to you, to do this same thing with me. Think of some way in your life that you can maybe think less of what you want to do or what you think you should do, and think more about what the Lord would have you do. Pray about it! Pray for strength and acceptance for the answers you might receive. We have been promised that if we choose to obey and constantly direct the desires of our hearts toward Christ, that we will in turn receive His attributes. By obedience and real intent, life in the long run is easier and we will be able to live with our Heavenly Father and our families for eternity.

It is my testimony that God loves us. Because he loves us he has provided a guide that we may return to Him. He has given us His son. I know that I am not perfect, and I know that I am nothing by myself – I am weak. But with God’s strength I can become the woman that He intended me to be.  I know that Christ’s atonement is real, and that He knows me. He has felt my sorrow, guilt, pain, happiness, and he can certainly make me a better person.  All he requires of me is my heart. I will always make mistakes, but as I continue to build a relationship with Christ, I will trust His will and I can be changed. I can testify that obedience is a door that opens SO many other doors! When we obey, we are following the Lord’s path, and find a source of POWER. The Lord is on our side when we faithfully obey, and we will discover the blessings he has in store for us. We can partake of the blessings of the atonement as we show the Lord our willingness to repent and obey. I know that happiness comes in this gospel as we obey, because the Lord can bless us when we do so.  I cannot WAIT to share this happiness with the people in Madrid, Spain!

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