I have the worlds greatest friends.
This is my farewell talk I gave in church on February 9, 2014.
Now I’m sorry I’m not as skilled as my brother Steve who wrote his whole farewell talk on his hand, I actually had to use paper. I am standing in front of you today because I have been called by God to serve a mission in Piura, Peru. I am sure most of you, like me, have never heard of Piura so I will try to tell you the little I know. Piura is 360 miles from the equator, so it is hot! The daily highs this week range from 91-97 degrees Fahrenheit. I’ll be walking in sand and facing wind gusts for the next eighteen months, but I can’t wait.
Today I am speaking on Hastening the Work which in essence means to OPEN YOUR MOUTH. I think this is a challenge all of us face. In the Doctrine and Covenants the Lord tells us specifically five times to open our mouths. In the 60th section of the Doctrine and Covenants the Lord says, I’m not well pleased for those who do not open their mouth. For they hide their talent because of the fear of men. And if they are not more faithful this gift will be taken away. As members of the church we have covenanted to share the gospel. It is a responsibility not a calling.
A talk that has been meaningful to me is Elder Wirthlin’s talk called Journey To Higher Ground. He begins his talk by telling of the earthquake that struck Indonesia in 2004 causing a deadly tsunami that killed more than 200,000 people. There was one group of people whose village was completely destroyed by the tsunami. However not a single life was lost because they moved to higher ground. They recognized the signs and took action. In our day we are faced with a similar choice. Whether or not we listen and obey our prophet. We see many signs of the second coming today. It is evident that the waters are receding. However, many of us are not moving to higher ground. We are getting caught in the sand with the rest of the world.
The people of Enoch were very wicked so the Lord commanded Enoch to open his mouth and warn them of their own destruction unless they repented. Enoch, though he was afraid, traveled and cried mightily to the people warning them of destruction because of their wickedness. There were many who didn’t listen to Enoch, but the few that were humble followed him and abandoned all their sins. The people were saved because they listened to the words of their prophet and moved to higher ground.
This past June President Thomas S. Monson boldly stated: “Now is the time for members and missionaries to come together…and labor in the Lord’s vineyard to bring souls unto Him. He has prepared the means for us to share the gospel in a multitude of ways, and He will assist us in our labors if we will act in faith to fulfill His work.”
As members have we obeyed the words of President Monson when he pronounced that NOW is the time for everyone to be engaged in missionary work? Have we recognized that President Monson’s announcement is another sign of Christ’s coming? I hope we have.
President Brigham Young said, “We believe, as the time draws near, the Lord will hasten His work, and nations will soon be gathered into the fold for Christ.”
Brigham Young’s prophecy has come to pass. The Lord is relying on us to spread his gospel to every nation, kindred, and tongue. He cannot come again until His work has been done. You know we’ll all be doing missionary work in the millennium so why not get a head start? Lets not put this off. There are three steps to becoming a better member or full time missionary. They are having a testimony, a love for others, and faith.
Sharing the gospel with others requires a testimony. I believe as we share the gospel more our own testimony grows stronger. My testimony came step by step. I have been blessed to be raised in the gospel and I have always had tremendous faith and belief in the church. But there have been little experiences that have made my testimony grow stronger.
Some of you may wonder why I chose to serve a mission as a girl. Well it is because of my testimony. I’ve always had a deep desire to serve a mission, but I wasn’t too sure it would happen at age 21. I’m going to read President Monson’s direct words when he announced the age change for girls because it gives me the chills. I quote, “Today I am pleased to announce that able, worthy young women who have the desire to serve may be recommended for missionary service beginning at age 19, instead of age 21.” I about had a heart attack when he made that announcement. In exactly one year from the time the announcement was made I could potentially have my mission call. I knew the moment President Monson made the announcement that I would go, but I had to pray and make sure it was the right thing to do. Now I never get answers to my prayers quickly or loudly, but this time it was different. Two days after I had prayed to know if I should go on a mission I was working at a Tagge’s Fruit Stand all by myself. An older man came into my stand to buy some apples. He looked at me and said, “You look like a church girl.” I don’t know if that was a compliment or not but I said “yeah you’re right I am a churchy girl I guess.” We got on the topic of general conference and of course the mission age change. I told him I wanted to serve a mission. The man left and I went back to work. I sat down for five minutes when I heard a car drive up. The same guy was back. He rolled down his window so I got up to see what he needed. I looked into eyes they were filled with tears and he said, "I forgot something." He reached out the window to give me a five dollar tip and said, "I just wanted to thank you for your willingness to serve a mission. If it weren't for young people like you spreading the gospel I wouldn't be in the church today, I would be lost." He explained that he had grown up in the Lutheran church and was a minister for most of his life. At that point he was weeping, and could say no more. I was completely taken back and a little shocked at his emotion. I walked back to the little fruit stand and my chest was burning soooo strong, it was evident to me that God was saying to me, “Sarah you must go.” I have never felt the spirit so strong. Right then and there I knew my prayers had been answered and I committed myself to go on a mission. I saw how missionary work can change lives. There are people like that sweet old man who are living in darkness and I can’t wait to bring that into their lives. I am grateful for my testimony that has developed through small experiences over the years. First seek to gain your own testimony, then you can share it with others.
In order to hasten the work you need to first be a true friend to those you love. Elder Russell M. Nelson said, “Until you know a person’s name and face, the Lord cannot help you know his or her heart.” This year I have been praying to see others as Christ would see them and feel Christ’s love for them. It has helped me a lot. I am less quick to judge and am more open to others. The easiest way to learn to love someone is to serve. Seek to serve rather than to be served.
I recently completed my first semester of college at BYU. I went into college feeling incapable of even being at BYU and I often felt like I didn’t measure up. At first sight everyone in “happy valley” seemed to be literally the happiest and most well rounded people I have ever met. But I soon discovered that even at BYU most everyone there felt inadequate and discouraged just like me. Everyone was just as scared as I was to take a final. In fact most students had a lot more on their plate than I did. And there I was sitting in the library stressing over my little life with very few problems. That’s when I decided that I could and needed to be a better friend. As a missionary and member hastening the work is not just about baptizing people into the church it’s about bringing people a step closer to God in whatever way you can. This is hastening the work. Learn to have a Christ like love for everyone you meet, and remember that everyone, member or not, needs to be uplifted daily.
Faith=work. When we share the gospel we are exercising our faith. We’ve all heard talks on hastening the work; usually we don’t want to listen to those talks because hastening the work requires actual work. I will be completely honest I haven’t done much in my life to really hasten the work. When I’m on an airplane I’m selfish. I just put in my earphones, close my eyes, and have my mom pass me peanut m&ns. But I’d like to share an experience I had last week in attempt to hasten the work. As I was trying to prepare this talk I was feeling kind of guilty and not sure what to say because I have not been a good member missionary better yet I haven’t even tried! Here I am telling you all to open your mouths and be a good Mormon, but I can probably count on one hand the number of times that I have tried to talk to someone about our church. So I thought I would put my words into action.
My dad came home all excited one day with two stacks of pass-along- cards. And said, “Sarah, lets go to work.” I kind of laughed about it and said are you serious dad? I was so reluctant give out pass-along-cards, and yet I just signed myself up for it for 18 months! We said a prayer and I asked in faith for God’s strength to do something our of my own comfort. We drove up to Park City to find some people. On our drive up I started getting really nervous and wondered what in the world I had gotten myself into. But then I remembered that we had both committed in prayer to Heavenly Father that we would try and share the gospel even when it was out of our comfort. We role played in the car over and over trying to prepare. My dad dropped me off at one end of a random shopping center and said, “good luck.” I was all alone in Park City about to go bombard these humans with my heavy duty pass-along-cards. I was surprised to find that sharing the gospel is not that scary! All you need is to be bold. My dad even got into it. A group of kids were smoking by a dumpster and he went straight up to them and gave them all pass-along-cards. I was pretty proud of him.
The last guy I came across was by far the most successful out of all my attempts. I was standing outside of Smith’s feeling a little awkward trying to give out my pass-along-cards in Utah, when I noticed a man close by. I walked up to him and asked, would you like some cards?! Before he could say no I hurried and explained to him what they were and told him I was a Mormon. He wasn’t familiar with our church because he wasn’t from here. He was from Novo Scotia. When he said Nova Scotia my mind immediately went to one of my best friends, Grace Gochnour. I got excited and told him about Grace who is serving a mission in Halifax. It turned out that that’s was where he was from! He said to me, “I don’t know what missionaries really need, but if she ever needs something I can help her out.” I asked if it would be okay if she came over sometime and he said sure. He gave me his name and number like it was nothing. I couldn’t believe it was that easy. I sent his contact information to Grace right away and she is going to give his number to the missionaries who are serving in that area. I don’t know what will come from meeting Doug, but I do know that God knows his children and I was led to that man because of faith and prayer.
I know that if we would all be more attentive to the Spirit and open our mouths more to our friends or strangers we would see success. God does not and will not let us fail. This is His work and He will never leave us alone.
The time is NOW. We have been counseled and told by our prophet many times that we must all, members and missionaries, spread the word. I hope something that I have said has prompted all of you today to seek out someone you know who maybe just needs a friend. Remember we can hasten the work by first being a friend, then when the time is right have a discussion about the gospel. In D&C 100:5-6 “therefore, verily I say unto you, lift up your voices unto this people; speak the thoughts that I shall put into your hearts, and you shall not be confounded before men; For it shall be given you in the very hour, yea, in the very moment, what ye shall say.” The Lord never gives us a challenge without a promise. He promises to be with us in the very moment we need him. All we need to do is open our mouths. God will guide us with the rest. We all have a call from the prophet so let’s not ignore it.
The waters are rising and we must run to higher ground before it’s too late. We have been told that we are in the last days. The Tsunami is right around the corner. We must save the village and hasten the work of salvation by bringing all we can to higher ground. The Prophet Joseph Smith declared that “after all that has been said, the greatest and most important duty is to preach the Gospel.”
If what you want in the future is different from where you are now, then you have to change what you are doing now. I know this to be true.