Tuesday, May 26, 2015

My first talk as a missionary

Note: As this is posted, Erinn is minutes away from arriving in Madrid, where she will spend 6 weeks in training before arriving in Malaga. Sunday, she was set apart as a missionary, then moments later stood before our ward (congregation) and gave a "farewell" talk: 
Traveling companions waiting in the SLC
airport for the first leg of the journey to begin

I am grateful for the opportunity that I have to speak to all of you today, I hope the spirit will be here to help my words be impactful for each of you.

My assignment is to speak of something from this last general conference that was meaningful and important to me. Out of many impactful talks I chose the beautiful talk by Elder L. Whitney Clayton, about choosing to believe, as a basis for my talk today.
The simple message of our individual choice to believe is profound. Each of us must choose every day to believe in ourselves, in each other, and most of all, to believe in our God.
During this past year at BYU, while at one of the devotionals I attended on campus, I heard a story that deeply touched me. It so happened that this was during the time I was seeking heaven’s help to make a decision about serving a mission. The speaker at this devotional was a BYU professor by the name of Mark Calister. It was through this story that I received the personal revelation I was seeking. I am going to substitute the story Elder Clayton used for brother Calister’s, and use Elder Clayton’s talk to analyze it from three different perspectives about missionary work and the responsibility we all have to choose to believe:
Its the circle of missionary life, as the newbies
meet some missionaries returning home
There was a young boy on a scouting expedition who while exploring with some older scouts was separated from the others and became lost in a desert near Arizona. You can imagine the severe climate and landscape that surrounded him. When the search started, this boy had already spent one long hot day alone in the desert and was about to spend a long cold night there.
Brother Calister was awakened by a call in the night from his bishop to join the search early the next morning. He pondered the pain and worry that the parents must be feeling for their child. He thought about what it would be like to lose one of his own children, and felt he must join the search for the boy.
The next morning Brother Calister went out with the volunteers and was met with this scene:
Very early the next morning, before the sun rose, a large group of us gathered at the bishop’s home and quickly set out in vans to the search site. As we drove into the foothills and neared the campground, I saw cars leaving, carrying volunteers who had already spent a long day and a night searching the desert. The boy’s father, I later learned, was not aware that replacement volunteers were on the way, and with many volunteers returning home to eat and to sleep, he was wondering if there would be enough people to cover the expanding search area that at that point extended for miles in all directions. But when he saw our large caravan filled with volunteers pull into the parking lot, he was overcome with emotion. I remember seeing him cover his face in his hands and cry at the sight of so many people coming to search for his son.”
Putting on smiles for a last good bye at home
He was then assigned to a group to go begin searching by a burly search leader, they were told that the situation was critical, this boy had been lost in the desert for 24 hours and the search area was vast and rugged. As Brother Calister received his assignment he observed the father to say it in his words, I watched the boy’s father. I saw his anguish. I could only imagine the overwhelming pain and concern he was feeling. I listened as he expressed gratitude to the departing teams as they set out into the desert. I couldn’t help but feel a love for this good father and his lost son.
As they were about to leave a radio message came through that they had found the boy and the leader who had thus far been emotionless jumped for joy and began to cry. Brother Calister then described the most beautiful scene unfold, Across the desert floor and over the hills came the search parties, which had been largely hidden from view up until that point. They were numerous. I watched them materialize from the hills, the gullies, the canyons, and the valley below. Some volunteers looked very tired and worn—having searched since the beginning—but full of joy at the news.
Father and son were reunited and inseparable as the search party returned home.
From here I would like to address the first perspective, that of the child. He went out to exploring with some older boys thinking he was safe, but after wandering, he was left completely alone in formidable terrain. Imagine the intense fear and hopelessness that must have been felt by this child when he realized he was alone. Not knowing exactly the circumstances that left him there, but knowing that he was hopelessly lost. So many of God’s children are alone on a spiritually hostile and darkening landscape.
I would take some liberty here to tie in Elder Clayton’s talk, perhaps the boy did see, very far in the distance the glimmer of a flashlight or hear the call of a searcher. In which case he would need to trust in that light and move toward it. HE would need to choose to take action to change his circumstances.
Is it not similar for each of us searching for greater light and understanding? Elder Clayton said, “Every day each of us faces a test of our lifetimes, “will we choose to believe in him and allow the light of the Gospel to grow within us, or will we refuse to believe and insist on traveling in the dark?” The young boy had to make a choice to move towards those searchers to change his situation. Or according to Elder Clayton, “Choose another way” other than growing colder and more hopeless. We must choose to believe every day, just as an investigator must choose to believe, and then put that belief into action, and never give up in moving towards that glorious light that will take us home.
The next perspective is that of the searcher. Those who go, never knowing if they will find those children, but doing all that they can to help. They must each choose to believe, in themselves, in their God, and in their companions. At times those searchers might have also felt alone and hopeless when taking in the vast terrain. However they were never alone, the Father, the team leader and their companions were just out of sight hoping for the same outcome as they were. This is easily related to a mission president, families, and God the father constantly looking out for his missionaries as they search.

The final perspective, and the one most dear to me is that of the Father, this good father who was in anguish at the loss of his son.  This father chose to believe in those searchers that they would do all in their power to find his son. I have never thought before of the anguish that the father must feel, for each of his children who are lost. How he must worry if there will be enough searchers to go and find all of them. And on that joyous occasion when his children are found, the happiness he must feel is unimaginable.
This point can be illustrated in the story of Enoch, when Enoch was shown the wickedness of the world and observed that God himself wept, he asked this question in Moses 7: And Enoch said unto the Lord: How is it that thou canst weep, seeing thou art holy, and from all eternity to all eternity?
He then goes on and says, your creations are without number, there are so many? Why do you weep for the few who are led astray?

God’s reply was:  The Lord said unto Enoch: Behold these thy brethren; they are the workmanship of mine own hands.
God made us with his own hands, he loves each of us individually and is in the details of our lives, just as he was in the details of our creation.
God, who is perfect in all respects, is also perfect in love and compassion, each of his children here on this earth are the workmanship of his hands, he loves each of them perfectly. The pain he must feel for them is too much to describe, it brings God himself to weep. We can do much to ease this pain for him by going and finding those who are lost creating that joyous reunion between father and child.
However I do not think that this joy is limited to missionary work. Wouldn’t it be very similar for our father when a beloved child’s name is found and their ordinances are performed and they are able to return to his presence? For the next 18 months I will be searching in Malaga, but each of you can be searching here for both the living, and for our ancestors who long to be able to join us. Each of us can be instrumental in decreasing our Father’s pain and increasing his joy.

I am so lucky (or should I say blessed), that Heavenly father has allowed me the opportunity to go search in Malaga, trusting me to do my best. I would do anything to ease his pain and bring him joy. He took the time to come find me, my life is forever changed, now it is my turn to go out and find others. I hope that those that I teach choose to believe in my words, and in Christ. I must choose to believe in him too, because there is no way I can do this alone. This is the struggle each of us face every day. Choose to believe in him, and watch your seeming dark, and empty terrain fill with the light of Christ and God’s love and see the swarms of people looking to help guide you home.