January 19, 2014

The Farewell Talk

I gave my farewell talk in church today! There were so many friends there to support me, and the Spirit was strong! I got to speak with one of my good friends who is starting her mission this week. This is my talk in its entirety! There were many tears shed during it, most of them my own. Hope you enjoy it.

The last few months I’ve really learned how to prioritize better.  I have been so busy for so long, and I’ve had to prioritize to survive, in a manner of speaking. After a graduation that seems so long ago, I went to college to do a summer term and there quickly learned to manage my time, as there was so little of it to do things. I finished that and came back for what I thought would be a nice, easy break between semesters to let my brain rest from the stress and just relax. But the Lord had other plans for me. I had a schedule for myself for completing my missionary papers, and was soon made aware that I was already behind that schedule. I realized that I could actually start my mission papers and turn them in over that quick break. And I wanted to have them done as soon as I possibly could, so I completed all of the paperwork, went to all the various medical appointments, and had the interviews done in that week and a half. It was extremely stressful, but with the Lord’s help it all got done and I went away to college again, already eagerly awaiting the end of the semester.

Now don’t get me wrong, college is great. But there are some days where it seems like you’ll never be able to make it. I put up a calendar on the first day of school. I looked at the one day that was crossed off and the rest of the days that were blank and empty and thought I would never make it. School was going to last forever.

But it didn’t, and now I’m here. And I suddenly find myself a week and a half away from a year and a half journey. Looking back, the time flew by so fast, with long days and short weeks. In a talk given by President Uchtdorf in October 2012 Conference, he talked about the same thing, how time flies faster than we realize. He said “we think there is a limitless supply of sunrises waiting just beyond the horizon, and the future looks to us like an unbroken road stretching endlessly before us; however, the older we get, the more we tend to look back and marvel at how short that road really is.”

I marvel that I made it through that semester. I marvel that my one break is already coming to a close. I marvel that I’m already giving my farewell talk. I marvel that I’m so close to wearing a badge that puts my name next to Christ’s.

President Uchtdorf goes on to talk about people in a hospital who were on their deathbeds and were asked the question do you have any regrets. The three most common replies were 1) I wish I had spent more time with the people I love, 2) I wish I had lived up to my potential, and 3) I wish I had let myself be happier. And that’s what I’m going to show you today, that “the deepest regrets of tomorrow are prevented by following the Savior today.”

The first thing President Uchtdorf mentions is spending time with the people you love. That’s one of the things that I’ve been doing a lot lately, in these last few weeks before I leave. I’ve spent many a nights laughing with my friends, and many days just sitting and talking with my family. But this isn’t some foreign concept to my family and I. Have you ever wondered how my family has managed to visit 49 states and not have killed each other yet? We spend the majority of that time doing things together, as a family, and doing things that bring us closer together. Driving in the car is so much more fun when you have a good book on tape to listen to. And even if everyone is all plugged into their music and movies, you can still make faces at each other.

But that’s vacation. And vacations, as I’ve learned, don’t happen often and are very, very short. But if, once a week, you started to make the effort to have dinner together, you’re progressing. If you’ve already found the time to eat together once a week, make it more challenging and up the anti to twice a week. Make it a priority to eat dinner together. Besides the vacations, some of the most fun memories I have with my family are sitting around the table eating dinner together, sitting down to watch a good movie together, and playing way-to-intense board games together.

Don’t use the excuse that you’re too busy to make time to do something together. President Uchtdorf in his talk said “I think of our Lord and Exemplar, Jesus Christ, and His short life among the people of Galilee and Jerusalem. I have tried to imagine Him bustling between meetings or multitasking to get a list of urgent things accomplished. I can’t see it.” Instead, Christ made sure that every single person He met felt loved and important. He took the time to visit with the children, to stop and heal the sick, to listen to the cries of the suffering. “He gave them the precious gift of His time.”

We have been learning since we were in primary that we need to “live like His Son” and “try to be like Jesus.” We read in the scriptures, “Therefore I say unto you, what manner of men ought ye to be? Verily I say unto you even as I am.” Christ devoted all of His time to those people that He loved, and we need to do the same. And if that’s not reason enough, then remember that not only does it make you feel warm and fuzzy inside, but it also make those you are spending time with feel all warm and fuzzy, too.

The second thing President Uchtdorf talks about is living up to your potential. About our potentials, though, he says, “I am not speaking of climbing the ladder of success in our various professions. That ladder, no matter how lofty it may appear on this earth, barely amounts to a single step in the great eternal journey awaiting us. Rather, I am speaking of becoming the person God our Heavenly Father intended us to be.” Here, Uchtdorf is telling us that the worldly things don’t matter; they won’t help us reach our full potential. Instead, we become the person our Heavenly Father intended us to be “by following the example of our Savior, by incorporating His teachings in our daily lives, by truly loving God and our fellowman.” That is living up to your potential. But that’s the thing about living up to your potential: you can’t just say “Yup, I’m doing everything I’m supposed to.” You have to actually do those things.

One of my all-time favorite conference talks is by Elder Lynn G. Robbins, which is all about how being and doing are inseparably connected. He said “Be without do [or motives without action] isn’t really being—it is self-deception, believing oneself to be good merely because you have good intentions. Do without be, [or] hypocrisy, portrays a false image to others [of being good].” This is just a fancy way of saying you can’t have good intentions without acting on them. And you can’t just do good things without having righteous motives. When you have good intentions and you act on them, when you be and do, you live up to your full potential. President Uchtdorf further describes this by telling us that “declaring our testimony is good, but being a living example of the restored gospel is better. Announcing that we will dedicate more time for family prayer, scripture study, and wholesome family activities is good, but actually doing all these things steadily will bring heavenly blessings to our lives.”

So the formula, in a sense, for reaching your full potential is acting on good intentions, following the promptings of the Spirit, living according to the Savior’s example, and working diligently. Let us all do a little more, to be a little better.

The third thing President Uchtdorf discusses is letting yourself be happier. Oftentimes, we get caught up in the “if only I could do this,” or “if only I had this,” or “if only this will happen, then I will be happy.” But happiness does not use the “if-then” statement that is used in science. Happiness is determined by you, in every second, with every reaction, with every thought, in every choice. It’s not a finish line or a checkpoint, but the journey that takes you to those checkpoints and that finish line. As President Uchtdorf asks it, “Do we listen to beautiful music waiting for the final note to fade before we allow ourselves to truly enjoy it? Do we say our prayers with only the ‘amen’ in mind?” No! We enjoy the magnificence of the music as we listen, and we embrace that sweet spirit and turn our hearts to heaven when it feels closer as we pray.

But there are trials and hardships, sadness and heartache, loneliness and anguish. The opposition in all things makes it hard, sometimes, to really be happy. But even though there are good days and bad days, each day has something sweet in it that can make you happy, if you let it. It’s the smile of a baby, the nice text you got, the way the sun warms your face, the front row parking spot at Walmart. Remember that “by small and simple things are great things brought to pass."

But those small things don’t always make those long-lasting trials easier. So how can we solve that? We need to adopt Joseph B. Worthlin’s attitude of “come what may and love it.” What does that mean, exactly? According to Elder Worthlin it is learning to laugh, having an eternal perspective, knowing that you will see joy and blessings as the Lord compensates your faithfulness through it all, and most importantly, trusting in our Father and His Son, our Elder Brother.

I have always strived to have this attitude, but even more now as a soon-to-be-missionary it is so much more important to me! There will be doors, hearts, and ears closed to what I have to say, closed to the gospel of Jesus Christ, and closed to eternal salvation. And that’s going to be really hard for me to see. But I know that as I do all these things that Elder Worthlin suggests, I will have triumph in my trials. And I will be looking for the little miracles that happen every day, because I know that I will not be alone. In Doctrine and Covenants 84:88 it says "And whoso receieveth you, there I will be also, for I will go before your face. I will be on your right hand and on your left, and my Spirit shall be in your hearts, and mine angels round about you, to bear you up." Whether I can see those angels or not, I know that I will be supported in my trials, both on my mission and throughout my life, and so will you. So let yourself be happy! Don’t promise yourself that you’ll be happy only if that something happens, because you may end up waiting one moment too long. Let yourself be happy now.

Our time is precious. Our time is now. We cannot and need not be afraid of how much or how little time we have left; instead, we should be concerning ourselves with the time we have now. So please, spend a little more time with those you love. Read scriptures together, pray together, eat dinner together, do something together. Live up to your potential by living the gospel principles daily, by acting as Christ would, with the right intentions. And let yourself be happy now, and understand that you can be happy while enduring trials.

Please, don’t waste your time. I can testify that it is short, and goes by so fast. My time back here now seems like a blur, and I know this next week and a half will go by so fast. But I could not be more excited for my year and a half journey—a journey that I will not make alone, for I will have Christ’s sacred name under my own, a testimony that He will be supporting me as I devote my time to Him.

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