December 11, 2016

This morning at 7 am I reported my mission to the Stake Presidency and High Council. My parents came with me to do this. There were 3 other Missionaries who also reported. Later in the morning I reported my mission to the Manila 1st Ward of The Pleasant Grove Manila Stake. It was nice to see all the familiar faces. The Ballingham family, Curtis and Mandy and their family and Aunt Linda Slater came to support me. It was a fun day!

Homecoming Talk:

Good Morning brothers and sisters. It is so good to see familiar faces here. I am grateful for all of y’all who have driven a far ways to support me. It feels good to be back, but I sure miss Texas and New Mexico. I just finished serving my mission for 18 months in the Texas Lubbock Mission.

I served a year in New Mexico and 6 months in Texas. When I got my call I didn’t think I would serve a long time in a different state than Texas, but I am forever grateful for the people I met and the places that I was able to serve in.

Over these past 18 months I have learned how to be a missionary. So how can you and I be a missionary? That is the topic that I am going to speak on today. There are many ways to be a missionary and something that I have learned is that one of the best ways to be a missionary is to live the gospel and be that example to everyone around you. Here in Utah missionary work is a little bit different, but living the gospel is what will best help all of us to be a member missionary and look for opportunities to serve.

What is the gospel of Jesus Christ? There are five key components to living the gospel and you will find that it is quite simple. The first one is faith. When you have faith in Christ, you believe in Jesus Christ and you accept him as your Savior and Redeemer and follow His teachings. When we have faith in Christ, we accept and apply His atonement and His teachings. There was a family in my last area named the Carters. This family changed my life. Sister Carter was a woman of faith as well as her boys and I am going to tell their story throughout my talk. We first met Sister Carter via texting. She randomly texted my companions and I and asked if we could come and visit their family. Their family are all converts. She and her two sons joined the church back in 2011, but with family circumstances their lives changed and they fell away for awhile. So now fast forward 5 years and we get this random text. She had a come to Jesus moment and realized that she needed the gospel back into her life. We were able to go and meet their family and we started teaching them the lessons over again. Sister Carter was determined and had the faith that once she started going to church her life would get better, and guess what? It did!

My companion and I had an amazing lesson with them one night. We had planned to teach them the lesson on church attendance, prayer, and reading the scriptures. When we walked through their door we knew immediately that the lesson we had planned to teach was not the lesson we were going to have that night. The spirit told us that we needed to listen and discern their needs. Not an easy thing to do. We talked and found out that their day was not going so well. Kayden her oldest was having bad thoughts and was really down on himself. Multiple people throughout his day were asking him if he was okay. He was getting random texts from people asking him if he was okay. He wasn’t. We were asking Kayden some questions and my companion and I both had the thought to watch the Hope of Gods Light with their family. We watched it and the whole entire time that we were watching it Kayden was crying. Kayden is a 17 year old boy who doesn’t show emotion. At the end of the movie Kayden looks at my companion and I and says “Follow me to my truck.” We were a little confused but followed him anyways. He opened his truck and pulled out a can of tobacco. He looks right into our eyes and says: “This is my drug. I can”t do this anymore” then he chucks it as far as he can into the cotton fields.  He told us that he was exactly like that guy in the movie. He was lost and felt like ending his life, but he was grateful for all the friends that were texting him through out the day. At this point we are all crying. We walk back inside and read some scriptures with him. I asked Kayden one specific question. I said: “So now what are you going to do?” He answered and said “I am going to give the gospel of Jesus Christ a second chance. I have to make some changes. I am going to move forward in with faith and see where it takes me.” That boy had a lot of faith. Elder Neil L. Andersen once said “The future of your faith is not by chance, but by choice.” Kayden made the goal that day to start over and begin a fresh start.

Faith leads to action and that action is Repentance. In Preach My Gospel it says “Our faith in Christ and our love for Hm lead us to repent, or to change our thoughts, beliefs, and behaviors that are not in harmony with His will. As we repent, our view of ourselves and the world changes. A recent convert in our last area was battling pretty hard with a past sin that she had made a couple years back. She wouldn’t and couldn’t forgive herself of what she had done, but that was because she didn’t know how to repent or to change and start new. We were able to teach her about repentance, how to do it and how it helps us everyday to become who Heavenly Father wants us to become. Because of this serious sin in order for her to get baptized she had to meet with my mission President, President Heap. As she came out of the interview she looked at my companions and I and said: “Repentance is real and I feel so good! Prayer works!” She understood the atonement and she could feel that weight be lifted off of her shoulders. She was baptized a week later and has since been to the temple to do baptisms and is living the gospel of Jesus Christ. She is looking forward to going to the temple to do baptisms with her husband and then in a year be sealed to her family forever. Repentance is motivated by love for God and the sincere desire to obey the commandments. Tina loves God and wants to do what is right so that she can live with her Heavenly Father again. She told us that she can’t go a day without saying her prayers and applying the atonement in her life. She understood and felt the love of our Savior Jesus Christ.

The next step after repentance is baptism. I had the privilege to watch many people enter the waters of baptism. Watching people and the journey they take to become members of this church is what brought me so much joy because I was able to see the change in them and how the gospel really does help all of us. There was another recent convert named Vanessa. Before I got to the area she had been taught by the missionaries for over a year, but she wasn’t progressing. Her husband was less active and something wasn’t clicking for her. She was dropped multiple times, but there was always something about her that missionaries kept on going back to, to try and teach her. Before I got to the area my companion picked her up again. We decided to teach her the lessons over again. We knew this time around had to be a little different because she basically had the lessons memorized. So we decided to teach the lessons out of the gospel principles book and true to the faith. We were on the gospel of Jesus Christ lesson and we decided to emphasize covenants. We read out of true to the faith under covenants and this section stuck out to her. It said: “Always remember and honor the covenants you make with the Lord. Then you will not need to be commanded in everything you do. You will be inspired by the Holy Ghost, and Christlike conduct will be part of your nature. As the Lord has promised, you will receive revelation upon revelation, knowledge upon knowledge, that thou mayest know the mysteries and peaceable things—that which bright joy, that which bright life eternal.” Vanessa thought that you needed to know everything before you were baptized. But that is not the case. I asked her that night: “What is the Holy Ghost teaching you?” She said: “I have been doing it backwards all along. I don’t need to know everything before I get baptized because the gospel will continue to teach me as I go to church and read my scriptures. I need to be baptized.” The is like the dream statement every missionary wants to hear, but in that moment the spirit was very strong and we knew that Vanessa wanted and needed to make changes in her life. She was baptized a couple weeks later and after her baptism she told us: “Why didn’t I do this a year ago?” God works in mysterious ways, but it is through baptism and that ordinance and the covenants we make that are the building blocks we use to construct our lives upon the foundation the Christ and His atonement.

Once we are baptized we have the opportunity each week to partake of the sacrament and renew our covenants with our Father in Heaven. As a missionary the sacrament came something more to me. As members of the church we sometimes forget the importance of the sacrament and why we are partaking of it. In my mission it was so hard to get people to come to church. In Texas and New Mexico there is a different church on every corner and people love God. The church though in Lubbock is really strong. The members are so supportive and love going out with the missionaries. They have the missionary spirit about them. I love the baptismal promise in Mosiah 18 where it says (read Mosiah 18: 8-9) Before baptism we show our willingness to enter a covenant to keep all the commandments for the rest of our lives. After baptism we show our faith by keeping our covenants, and one of the covenants we make is helping those around us-missionary work. The sacrament is what will help and remind us of that covenant. The sacrament is what helps us remain worthy to have the spirit with us always. And as a missionary you need to have the spirit with you always.

And that is the next step. Receive the Gift of the Holy Ghost. As a missionary you have to have the spirit with you or you cannot teach. Elder M. Russell Ballard spoke of the power of the Spirit: “True conversion comes through the power of the Spirit. When the spirit touches the heart, hearts are changed. When individuals feel the Spirit working with them, or when they see the evidence of the Lord’s love and mercy in their lives, they are edified and strengthened spiritually and their faith in Him increases. These experiences with the Spirit follow naturally when a person is willing to experiment upon the word. This is how we come to feel the gospel is true.” We had an investigator who loved learning about the gospel. She was soaking it all in. And I remember a distinct lesson we had with her. We had just finished teaching her all the lessons and she had a baptismal date set for August 20th. She was on the right track. A golden investigator. My companions and I had a specific impression to watch the Restoration video with her after a lesson. We watched it and the spirit was very strong. As the lesson ended we knelt down in prayer and our investigator offered it. I will never forget the prayer she gave. “In it she said Heavenly Father I have ended my search, I know this gospel is true, thank you.” The spirit was so strong and I know that if she hadn’t had watched the Restoration video all the “puzzle pieces” of this gospel would’t have come together for her. She felt the spirit through out the lessons that she received and the spirit confirmed to her over and over again that what she was doing was good. She knew about the church for 15 years, because of her husband, but she never wanted to make any changes in her life. Once she did  and opened her heart to the gospel she never looked back. The spirit is the teacher. A missionaries best tool.

(If I have time) There was another experience we had one night as we were riding our bikes. We had bike day once a week on Thursday. This bike day was cold and rainy. We had just left a members home for dinner and we had to get back in order to get home on time. We really wanted to talk to one more person that day so my companions and I said a prayer that we would feel prompted to talk to one person as we rode home. We were riding through an apartment complex and we actually rode past this guy but all three of us got the distinct impression to turn around and talk to him. So we did. It turned out that this guy had a rough day. He just got kicked out of his house, he was jobless and he was walking the streets. We invited him to church and gave him a book of mormon. He told us that 10 minutes before we talked to him he said a prayer to God asking him to send some angels to him to give him comfort and peace. We were no angels, but we were able to give him that comfort and peace that he needed. God answers our prayers through the spirit and it can change lives. We never saw that guy again because of his situation, but I know that he walked away from that conversation knowing that God truly did know him.

As you can see the gospel changes lives, and as member missionaries we can be a apart of that.

Being a missionary isn’t that complicated. It isn’t a program. It is all based on your attitude. We all have to endure to the end which is the last main part of the gospel. I am going to go back to the Carter family. After the experience of Kayden chucking his tobacco and having a really spiritual night with them they all began to change. They started coming to church again. Every week. Some weeks were a drag but they came. Kayden made simple changes in his life. He knew he couldn’t stop his addiction cold turkey, but he set the goal to only chew one can a week. We would follow up with him. Some weeks were better than others, but he kept trying. The weekend before my mission was done I asked Kayden how he had been doing and he told me that he had made his goal and he had gone two weeks with only chewing one can a week. His faith is getting stronger and stronger everyday. He is gaining a testimony of the atonement Jesus Christ everyday and he is actually allowing himself to change. I love the quote and this applied to Kayden: “God doesn’t so much care where we are, but where we are going.” A quote from the Oct. 2016 General Conference. His mom Sister Carter has had a rough road. Single mom, nurse and trying to provide her family. But she has endured and she has seen the gospel bless her family. She recently started doing family history and went to the temple for the first time to do baptisms for the dead and on the last sunday of my mission she was able to receive her patriarchal blessing. I had the privilege to sit in on that blessing. Heavenly Father has a lot in store for her and her family. She is planning on going through the temple in January to receive her endowment. This family has changed my life. The gospel is an up hill climb and it is worth the climb. I know that if we live the gospel with a good attitude, be that example to those around us we can all endure to the end and be the missionaries we want to be. We just have to live the gospel by having faith, repenting every day, going to church and partaking of the sacrament, living worthy of the constant companionship of the Holy Ghost and enduring to the end. The gospel is simple and missionary work is simple. Preach My Gospel says: “As your understanding of the Atonement of Jesus Christ grows, your desire to share the gospel will increase. You will feel, as Lehi did, the “great…importance to make these things known unto the inhabitants of the earth.”

Serving a mission was one of the best decisions I have made so far in my life. I am forever changed. I know that the Texas Lubbock Mission was the mission that I needed to go to. There is a story that I think is so true it says:

Testimony of a Missionary:

“Brothers and Sisters, as you know, the past two weeks I’ve been waiting for my mission call. During the time I was waiting I had a dream. I knew it was not an ordinary dream. I dreamed I was in the pre-existence and awaiting my call to come to earth. I was filled with the same anticipation and excitement that I had before I received my mission call. In my dream I was talking to a friend, and I felt a special closeness to him, even though I’ve never met him in this life. As we talked a messenger came and gave me a letter. I knew it was my call to go to earth. In great excitement my friend and I opened the letter. I gave it to him and asked him to read it aloud. It said:

“You’ve been called to earth in a special time and to a special land. You will be born to the true church and you will have the priesthood of God in your home. You will be born into a land of plenty, in a land of freedom. You will go to earth in the United States of America.”

My friend and I rejoiced as we read my call, and while we were rejoicing the messenger returned. This time he had a letter for my friend. We knew it was his call to earth. My friend gave me the letter to read out loud. His letter said:

“You’ve been called to go to the earth in circumstances of poverty and strife. You will not be raised in the true church. Many hardships will attend your life. Your land will be fraught with political and social difficulties-which will hinder the work of the Lord. You will be born in Costa Rica.”

We wept, my friend and I, as we read his call. And my friend looked at me wit tears in his eyes, and said, “When we are down on earth, you in your choice land and me in Costa Rica, my friend, please come and find me.”

Then this young missionary, with tears in his eyes, said, “Brothers and SIsters, I have received my mission call. I am going to Costa Rica.”

There is a sequel to the story. About a year after the sacrament meeting, the bishop received a letter from the missionary in Costa Rica. The letter had one sheet of paper in it and on that sheet written in  capital letters were four words:

I FOUND MY FRIEND.

I shall pass through this world but once. If there be any kindness I can show, or any good thing   can say it would be now, let me not defer it or neglect it, for I shall not pass this way again.

I found my friends! All the people I met and the companions I had were for a reason. I was called to the Texas Lubbock Mission for a reason. The phrase my companions and I would say before we went out was: Let’s go and find our friends! We are all brothers and sisters and we are engaged in a glorious work. Missions aren’t just for the people, but they are for you to. We all have different missions here on earth.

Heavenly Father knows what he is doing. He is shaping us into what he knows we can become and missionary work helps us do that.

I know this gospel is true. I know it can bring true happiness because over the past 18 months I have never been so happy in my life.

Testimony

In the name of Jesus Christ. Amen

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Luncheon at our home afterwards:

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