Sunday, June 21, 2015

Father's Day and Farewell!

Happy Father's Day!
Because it is Father's Day, I need to give a shout out to my dad.
My dad is fantastic. He is one of the hardest working people I know. He loves to serve others. He has taught me to give. While I was at BYU this past year, I took Spanish classes, and in one of them I had to report a certain number of conversation hours outside of class each testing period. Each time I was coming up on a test, I would call my dad and talk with him in Spanish for a while, and he was always willing to help me with that. And since I found out that I will be spending 12 days in the MTC instead of 6 weeks, he's been entirely more willing to practice Spanish with me than I have been to practice Spanish with him. So thanks dad.

But I don't only have my awesome dad, Richard. I also have a perfect, loving Heavenly Father. We all do.
In preparation for my mission, I've been studying Preach My Gospel, the manual missionaries use to teach, quite a bit.
Something I found to be interesting and profound is that the first principle taught in the missionary lessons is that God is our loving Heavenly Father, and we are His children. Explaining our relationship with our Father in Heaven, Preach My Gospel says "He loves us. He weeps with us when we suffer and rejoices when we do what is right. He wants to communicate with us..."
I know that this is true- that our Heavenly Father loves us. The evidence of His love for us is all around if we look for it. But right now, I want to talk about 3 main pieces of evidence that show that our Heavenly Father loves us.

First, that He sends prophets.
Second, that He sent His son, Jesus Christ.
And Third, that He has given us the Book of Mormon to reaffirm the first two pieces of evidence.

God shows His perfect love for us by sending prophets to teach His word. He doesn't come to us Himself all the time, because if He were always physically here, we would not have to exercise faith, and therefore wouldn't grow.
He doesn't leave us alone to try and figure life out though. He gives us commandments and instruction so that we can best grow and one day return to Him. One way He gives us commandments and instruction is through His prophets. Instances of God sending prophets to teach His commandments to His children are found throughout the scriptures. Men such as Adam, Noah, Abraham, and Moses in the Old Testament, and Lehi, Nephi, Abinadi, and the Brother of Jared in the Book of Mormon are just a few examples of prophets sent to guide God's children by teaching His words.
God didn't just send prophets back then, and decide to leave us to fend for ourselves. He sends prophets in our day. Joseph Smith was a prophet sent to restore the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the Earth after the God had taken His priesthood authority from the Earth following the death of Christ and His apostles. President Thomas S. Monson is God's living prophet on the Earth today. He and the other general authorities of the church speak the word of God to us twice a year in general conference.
The fact that God guides prophets to do His work and help us know what we should be doing demonstrates that He cares about our success. He wants us to do what is right so that we can return to Him, so He provides us with the instruction we need to do so.

The second piece of evidence is explained well in a commonly quoted scripture.
"16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
17 For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved."
Our loving Father in Heaven sent His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ, to teach us the way home to our Father in Heaven, and then provide us with the greatest gift that would allow us to make it home.
During His mortal ministry, Christ taught us to love one another, and to love Him and our Father in Heaven. Then, when His mortal ministry was finished, He took upon Himself the sins and pains of all mankind. 

In Alma 7:11-13 we read:
"11 And he shall go forth, suffering pains and afflictions and temptations of every kind; and this that the word might be fulfilled which saith he will take upon him the pains and the sicknesses of his people.
12 And he will take upon him death, that he may loose the bands of death which bind his people; and he will take upon him their infirmities, that his bowels may be filled with mercy, according to the flesh, that he may know according to the flesh how to succor his people according to their infirmities.
13 Now the Spirit knoweth all things; nevertheless the Son of God suffereth according to the flesh that he might take upon him the sins of his people, that he might blot out their transgressions according to the power of his deliverance; and now behold, this is the testimony which is in me."

Our Heavenly Father sent His Son Jesus Christ to feel every pain we would ever experience. The pains caused by our own sins, the pains we feel as a result of other people's sins, and the pains we feel as the results of our mortal conditions- He felt them all. He felt each pain, so that He would know perfectly how to bear us up through them and heal us from them. And once He felt all of our pains, He gave His life on the cross and overcame death, so that we could each one day overcome death and be resurrected as He was.
This gift is the ultimate sign of our Father's love. That He would provide us with a Savior to deliver us from all that which would keep us from returning home to Him.

The last piece of evidence I wanted to address is the gift of the Book of Mormon.
On the Title Page of the Book of Mormon, we read that the book was "written by way of commandment, and also by the spirit of prophecy and show unto the remnant of the House of Israel what great things the Lord hath done for their fathers...and also to the convincing of the Jew and Gentile that Jesus is the Christ, the Eternal God manifesting Himself unto all nations." The Book of Mormon is a record of ancient people who lived in the Americas. The record holds several accounts of God sending prophets to teach us the way back to Him through Christ. Aside from testifying that God sends prophets, it testifies of our Savior. The Book of Mormon provides a second witness of Christ's mortal ministry and of His great atoning sacrifice. Additionally, it gives us an account of His ministry, as a resurrected being, to God's children who lived on the American continent at the time of His death. Because of his love for us, our Heavenly Father guided the hands that provided us with this record, so that we could know the way back to Him.

So our Heavenly Father loves us. Therefore, what?
What do we do with this information?
Here's what I think. If we stop to think about just how much our Heavenly Father loves us, and we realize how incomprehensible His great love is, we should feel immense gratitude. We should give all our love to Him.

Matthew 22:37-38 says:
"37 Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.
38 This is the first and great commandment."

So how do we do that? How, in our mortal capacities do we show Father in Heaven, who loves us perfectly, the love He deserves in return?

In preparing this talk, I thought of several scriptures I wanted to share. But there just wasn't a way to make that all fit, so I think something Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles said gives us a good idea of where to start.
“'If ye love me, keep my commandments,' Jesus said. So we have neighbors to bless, children to protect, the poor to lift up, and the truth to defend. We have wrongs to make right, truths to share, and good to do. In short, we have a life of devoted discipleship to give in demonstrating our love of the Lord."

Brothers and Sisters, I don't make the choice to serve a mission lightly. I'm not leaving my family for 18 months and going to Mexico to have a cool cultural experience or to better learn the Spanish language. I'm not serving a mission to impress anyone or to meet some other person's expectations. I am serving a mission because I love the Lord. I recognize that I am incredibly blessed to live in the circumstances I do. I have been blessed with a loving earthly family and a great understanding of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ. Through trials I've faced in my life I have been blessed to see the Lord's hand bearing me up, and I am grateful for those trials, because through them I have come to know my Father in Heaven better.
There have been a few times since receiving my mission call that I've thought about the people I'm going to serve and wondered what in the world I have to offer them. The trials I have faced in my life don't compare to the trials many of the people in my mission will have experienced. But I've realized that they don't need me because of my knowledge or my abilities to help them and heal them. If all I have to offer them is a testimony of their Father's love for them, and of their Savior's atonement, that is enough. Because that is all they need. To feel their Father's love.
I know that our Heavenly Father loves us. I know that our Savior Jesus Christ truly performed that absolutely selfless act of the atonement so that we could become clean from our sins and be healed from our pains. I know that we can communicate with our Father in Heaven through prayer, and that He will answer us. I know that the Book of Mormon is the word of God, and if we will study it out and live its teachings, we will grow nearer to our Father in Heaven than we can any other way.
I say these things in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

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