Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Farewell Talk

As I was getting ready to write this talk, the words of a hymn came to mind:
When upon life’s billows you are tempest tossed
When you are discouraged thinking all is lost
Count your many blessings name them one by one
And it will surprise you what the Lord has done.

A few years ago in Seminary, we were asked to do something for the new year to help us remember the Savior every day. I decided that every day I would write down something the Lord had blessed me with that day. And every day for about 2 years now, I have.
I never thought much would come of it other than to keep me grateful, but I was proved wrong a few weeks ago. I was feeling alone. Many of my friends are already out on missions, and everyone else is at school or work, which has often left me home alone. I was struggling a lot right then, and I remember praying to my Heavenly Father for peace and strength as I continued to prepare for my mission. The thought came to me to read me gratitude journal. As I opened it and read, I got a glimpse of how much my Heavenly Father loved me, and how involved He is in my life.
 While reflecting on gratitude, a verse in Moses 1 came to mind, where we read that Moses “Knew that man is nothing, which thing I never had supposed.” Initially, it doesn’t seem to have much to do with gratitude. But if man really is really nothing, then we have a lot to be grateful for, because we have been given everything by a kind Heavenly Father.
In a session of April 1992 general conference, President Monson instructed us to ever have an attitude of gratitude. I came across that quote a few years ago, and it’s come to mean a lot to me, particularly as I’m getting ready to leave on my mission, and I realize how blessed I am in my life.
It’s been an enormous blessing in my life to have been raised in the church where, since primary, I’ve been taught that I’m a child of God. This actually got me into trouble a few months ago in Young Women’s. I don’t remember exactly what the lesson was on, but we’d gotten side-tracked on how so many women struggle with self-confidence and self worth. I’m listening to it, and all I can think is, “Why? I’m surrounded by beautiful, capable, intelligent women.” And, I’ll admit, I was a little frustrated, but I was trying to come up with some spiritual tie in, so I raised my hand. I’m sure the leaders were expecting some profound comment, but instead what came out of my mouth was, “I’m sorry, I think I’m awesome.”
And the laurels class just stared at me.
Not that I can blame them; I don’t think anyone was expecting to hear that at that moment. But, (at the risk of sounding cocky), I’ll still say it’s true. I am a daughter of our Heavenly Father, who loves me, and I love Him. We said that every week in Young Women’s. I think it’s important that it is the first thing we say, because it’s true, and too often we forget. Heavenly Father, the God of all loved each of us enough to send his Only Son to be sacrificed and atone for our sins so that one day we could live with Him again, because it’s His work and His glory “to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.”
I am far from perfect, and I’m going to be fighting my entire life to become perfect. I am one of the most flawed people I know. I mess up every day. But, despite that, my Heavenly Father still thinks there’s something worth saving in me. He sees something amazing in me. The scriptures teach that God is omnipotent, and D&C 18:10 says “The worth of souls is great in the sight of God.” One of my favorite quotes is by Marianne Williamson. “We ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?’ Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God!” He sees something amazing in each of us, and even if we can’t always see it, it will always be there, and He will always love us.
I’m reminded of that love every time I go to the temple. It is impossible to deny it, whether you are doing ordinances for the dead, doing ordinances for yourself, or watching someone else go through for themselves.
A few weeks ago, I was able to go through the temple as one my friends received her endowment. Afterwards, in the celestial room, I was waiting my turn to congratulate her, and was watching as other friends and family went to congratulate her and give her a hug. Everyone was beaming, I don’t remember seeing a single straight face, and it was clear how much they loved her, and how proud they were of her. It made me think what it will be like when we’re finally allowed to enter the Celestial Kingdom, and how overjoyed we’ll be to be with our loved ones forever. I remember thinking, “Heavenly Father, if this is what the Celestial Kingdom is like, then I want it.”
I’m so excited to be able to go out and tell others that the church has been restored and temples are on the earth again, and they can be sealed to their loved ones- their parents, siblings, children, and sweethearts- for time and eternity.
I love my family; I don’t know where I’d be without them.  My mom and sisters are my best friends, as are my dad and brother, who are amazing examples to me of strength and forgiveness. I can’t imagine eternity without them, and every day I pray that one day we’ll get there.
But, as we’ve already established, I’m not perfect, and I’m not going to be for quite a while, so the atonement and the idea of forgiveness are necessary. I was trying to come up with what to say about the atonement, and I couldn’t come up with a thing. Then, the other day as I was praying, a story from elementary school came to mind. When I was about 9, I had a friend at school that I would do almost everything with, but we fought A LOT. One day, I came home from school crying, and I was trying to tell my mom. She told me she’d heard it the day before, and to just let it go, which of course, made no sense to my 9-year-old brain, so I went to my room to keep grumbling to myself. And in the middle of grumbling, I suddenly found myself praying for this friend, that she would know that I loved her, and that our Heavenly Father loved her, and that even if it was hard at times, I wanted to keep being friends. And I was able to forgive her and completely move on at that point. We would still fight, but I learned that forgiveness is not a one time thing, but more a process. In the years since, I’ve had to apply that over and over again, to myself and others.
D&C 64 reads, “I, the Lord, will forgive whom I will forgive, but of you it is required to forgive all men.” Forgiveness can be hard; people will offend you accidentally or on purpose, they’ll hurt you repeatedly. It’s hard to forgive yourself when you’ve made a mistake. It’s not easy; many times, forgiveness is a day-by-day decision. But the atonement has made it possible to forgive as the Savior forgave. During his mortal ministry, he would forgive and heal those that most would never approach. In the atonement, he did the same thing. Each of us can be forgiven and made clean again. We can be made whole and our sins will be remembered no more.

I love the idea of being made clean. It’s part of why baptism and the sacrament are so beautiful. And of course we’ll make mistakes, but hopefully we learn from them, going forward with faith that our sins are remembered no more. To me that is a promise that you can be more than you were the day before, for this life is the time for men to prepare to meet God. Every day, we can grow and stretch ourselves. To me, it is a lot like practicing a musical instrument. I remember when I was little and just starting, that there were some things that were hard, and I’d like to thank my mother for not taking my violin back to the shop after every tantrum I had when I didn’t get something. But just because I didn’t understand something or didn’t quite have it right didn’t mean that I quit. Day by day, I kept working, and slowly, I became a better musician. Now, fourteen or fifteen years later, I can look back at all I worked through. It was hard, and there were definitely times I wanted to get back, but looking at the music I can play now and how much I love it, there is no way I would give it up, and I can see a similar pattern in my regular life, as I look at how I’ve grown in the gospel and how it has already made more of me than I could ever have been on my own.

And here's one last picture of me and some of the most amazing girls I know!

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