Sunday, August 12, 2012

Mission Farewell Talk

Dallin spoke in church today, along with "youth speaker" Stetson Reed, and newly returned missionary Berkeley Ward.  Each of these young men gave EXCELLENT talks!!  It was a great meeting.  And the youth sang The Army of Helaman medley.  It sounded really good, as usual!

Here is Dallin's talk:

I know that most of you are here to listen to Elder Ward report, but if you could just pretend to be here for me it’d make me feel a lot better.

It’s a little weird being here today, because it seems like we just barely were sending Berkeley off on his mission.  And now he’s home.  Suddenly it's my turn to leave.   I’m excited to have the opportunity to go out and serve the Lord for these next two years.

When I opened my mission call, and saw that I would be serving in the Canada-Halifax mission, my mom and I both kinda looked at each other and freaked out because she served in the exact same mission.   I was really excited about my call, but that was before I started thinking about how I’ve lived in sunny St. George my entire life, and how my thin blood is gonna freeze real quick during the cold winters my mom’s told me about..  I already know the cold will be interesting for me to deal with.. and without even leaving for Canada yet, I’ve already acquired the nickname “Elder Hoser”.  So I guess I’ve got a couple things to look forward to.

It seems like just barely that I was back in middle school and would see older guys going on missions and I would think that it was forever away for me… It wasn’t.  And  little did I know 8th grade was where I would begin to learn a lesson that would help me with my farewell talk.

During that time, I was in a class where we were having a big discussion/argument about whose lives are harder…boys, or girls. Regardless of what I wanted to argue, I knew that if I wanted to live I should side with the girls. One of my buddies however decided to side with the boys and have a standoff with Jaycee Jolley. It got pretty heated in the class and finally the bell rang. But as me and that particular buddy were walking down the hallway right after, out of his frustration about some of Jaycee’s arguments, he said “Jaycee is just a stuck up, superficial Barbie..” Now, naturally I didn’t want her to hear that he said that, so I decided to be brilliant and turn around to check if she was behind us… After a very massive slap to the face, I found out she was. She thought it was me who had said that about her and decided a slap would make us even.

I learned two things that day… One, don’t call girls superficial, no matter how you feel… and two, be quick to forgive.   It took me a little time to forgive Jaycee for leaving a red handprint on my cheek for the rest of the school day, especially since I wasn’t the one who had said the rude things!   But I realized no good would come from holding onto the anger, so I let it go. .. Now, we’re able to look back on that as a good memory rather than a hardening grudge.

Now, fast forward a bit. I learned a lot of lessons dealing with forgiveness throughout high school, but nothing could compare to this past year.

In particular, the last few months have been a complete roller coaster of emotions for me. I’ve had extreme highs, such as receiving my mission call to Canada, and extreme lows as when my brother passed away.

When Denzel died, It was the hardest thing I’ve ever been through. I was so frustrated and hurt for the longest time at so many different things. I was caught up in all of the “I should’ve done this” or “why didn’t they do that” and found myself blaming many people including myself. In his 2012 General Conference talk, President Uchtdorf points out  that we know it is wrong to blame others for things. I knew in my heart I shouldn’t be judging and blaming other people, but I still did it anyway.

President Uchtdorf continued by talking about Christ and how he forgives us of our sins, and that we must also forgive others if we are to be forgiven. He then went on to say “ Of course, these words seem perfectly reasonable—when applied to someone else. We can so clearly and easily see the harmful results that come when others judge and hold grudges. And we certainly don’t like it when people judge us. But when it comes to our own prejudices and grievances, we too often justify our anger as righteous, and our judgment as reliable and only appropriate. Though we cannot look into another’s heart, we assume that we know a bad motive or even a bad person when we see one. We make exceptions when it comes to our own bitterness because we feel that, in our case, we have all the information we need to hold someone else in contempt.”

That quote pretty much describes everything I was feeling.

I was trying to justify it in myself that it was ok for me to be feeling these things since my brother had just died. I was angry and frustrated with Denzel himself, with others around me, and even with Heavenly Father.  Having grown up in the Gospel, I understood the plan of salvation, and I understood that I shouldn’t have these feelings toward Heavenly father or anyone else, but for some reason, I still did. While going through these feelings and trying to sort them out, I hated the feeling I had in my heart because I was frustrated with Heavenly Father.

So after a little time, I finally faced myself and it just clicked in my brain, like “it’s not worth it to feel like this.” So after taking time to forgive everyone around me, It came time for me to forgive myself. And that was probably the hardest part.

I blamed myself for something in every little memory or experience that I could remember with Denzel.  Thinking, that somehow, If I had done something different, he might still be alive. But, as I continued to read the scriptures and pray, I came to realize that I couldn’t have done anything different, and that everything does happen for a reason. Once I was able to realize that, and forgive myself, I felt the spirit flow back into my life, and saw the blessings that accompany it.

I don’t ever want to forget Denzel, and thankfully I don’t have to because of the Plan of Salvation, which is made possible through the mercy and forgiveness that the Lord gives to each of us. Forgiving doesn’t mean we forget, or that things don’t still hurt us…but it does allow us to be freed from the grip of anger and resentment, and we are able to have the spirit with us to comfort and protect us.

There’s a quote I really like from Nelson Mandela, that says, “Forgiveness liberates the soul. It removes fear. That is why it is such a powerful weapon.”  If we remember to forgive others and ourselves, we will become stronger in the Gospel because Satan won’t be able to use those dark feelings against us anymore.  Satan will try to convince us that we have not been forgiven of our sins because we can remember them.
That’s  a lie.

He tries to steer us away from repentance and forgiveness. The memory of our sins will be softened over time, and as we stay faithful, remembering them will help us to avoid making those same mistakes again.

A short memory was brought back to me when I read a part of President Uchtdorf’s talk, where he said “Let us, as disciples of Jesus Christ, return good for evil. Let us not seek revenge or allow our wrath to overcome us.”

One time I was helping a friend on a workbench where he was working with wood and cutting it into all shapes and sizes. My job was to place the wood on the workbench, and use a vice to secure it. If you don’t know what a vice is, it’s a tool that pushes on both the top and bottom of something, and you can tighten it so that whatever is in between doesn’t move. So, I tightened the vice and didn’t think much of it. But, on one of the pieces of wood, I tightened the vice too much and the piece of wood split, and broke.

Reading that quote by President Uchtdorf reminded me of this experience because it all finally made sense. We are like the pieces of wood, and Satan is the vice. We go throughout life and things happen to us, but it is up to us to choose whether to forgive or not. If we choose not to forgive, that vice has more power over us and continues to be tightened. If we continue to hold grudges and not forgive others, as well as ourselves, that vice can be tightened to the point where our wrath overcomes us, and we break. But, if we make that conscious decision to forgive, then that vice must be loosened to the proper pressure that we can deal with.
Forgiveness has been a huge part of my life. I have an amazing example in my parents who constantly remind, and show me how important it is to forgive, no matter how small, or how big, the issue might be.

Now, as I am faced with leaving on my mission in a few days, I think about serving as a missionary for the next two years and what I will be teaching people about the gospel.  Probably one of the bigger gospel principles missionaries teach is the importance of repentance, and thus forgiveness.  Everyone makes mistakes.  Everyone.  Everyone has sinned at one time or another.  Everyone.  (Except for our Savior, of course.)  The most crucial point of gospel doctrine is THE ATONEMENT OF JESUS CHRIST.  Jesus Christ is the literal Son of God.  He came to Earth as an infant son of a mortal mother and an immortal Father, even God, the Eternal Father.  As such, Jesus Christ was and is the ONLY being to ever live on the Earth and have the capability to ATONE, pay the price, for our sins and our mistakes.  He DID atone for them. 

It is up to each of us to decide whether we will accept this, the greatest of ALL gifts, by repenting, and by forgiving.  If we do not forgive ourselves of our sins AND our mistakes, and forgive others as well , we cannot make much spiritual progress.   We MUST learn how to forgive.

I'm excited to be called to serve as a missionary for the next two years.  I bear testimony that the gospel of Jesus Christ has been restored to the Earth.  Because of that, we can each learn to repent and to forgive. I know this is important to our being able to return to live with our families, our Savior and our Heavenly Father for eternity.  In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen. 

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