Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Becoming Instruments in the Hands of God (Farewell Talk)

When my mom told me that Brother Suprise had asked me to speak on anything given by Elder Holland I was pretty excited. There were so many great talks that immediately ran through my head. I could pick any one of them and I would be more than fine. There really was no wrong. Throughout this last week, but even more throughout my entire it, it became apparent what I was supposed to speak on. I thought it would be cool to talk about how I prepared myself to serve a mission, but learned it was better to speak about how we can all become instruments in the hands of God. I have chosen three talks from which to base my remarks this day. I have chosen three talks from which to base my remarks this day.
In Elder Holland’s most recent Conference talk he gives a great interpretation “of the Savior’s parable in which a householder ‘went out early in the morning to hire labourers.’ After employing the first group at 6:00 in the morning, he returned at 9:00 a.m., at 12:00 noon, and at 3:00 in the afternoon, hiring more workers as the urgency of the harvest increased. The scripture says he came back a final time, “about the eleventh hour” and hired a concluding number.” Just an hour later the workers gathered to receive their wages. There was much surprise for everyone for they were all paid the same. The workers who had been there one hour were no doubt stunned by the generosity of their employer while the laborers who had been working all day were indeed angry and complained “These last have wrought but one hour, and thou has made them equal unto us, which have borne the burden and heat of the day.”
The interpretation Elder Holland gives is extraordinary and one that I must keep in my heart at all times. Just as in all stories with Jesus if we look beneath the surface a whole new story develops. Elder Holland says that the laborers must have been gathered at one spot and picked from there to work for that day. They were entirely dependent on any work for that day to feed and take care of their family. With this in mind the blessings the first chosen of peace of mind knowing that their family would be able to live another day begins to come forth. As each group of laborers is picked the luck of the rest seems to be failing once again. Until they are given the hope as the Lord of the vineyard comes one last time. They had waited all day and would be happy for any amount of money given them. When they all are blessed so bounteously with their wage at the end of the day all prior feelings seem to go away. Elder Holland offers a paraphrase of what the lord might have said to those first chosen. “Why should you be jealous because I choose to be kind?” He goes on to say “We are not diminished when someone else is added upon. We are not in a race against each other…The race we are really in is the race against sin.”
I don’t know what laborer I am, but I do know the joy caused by being called of God. When I opened my mission call I was overwhelmed with feelings of love and gratitude. I wanted to serve so badly and was full of joy to be called anywhere the Lord had need of me. Just as so many of you I had always wanted to serve a mission, but the road hadn’t always been straight. I had to find out for myself if I truly wanted to become an instrument in the hands of God and how I was going to accomplish that. My life has been full of experiences that have led me here today and I would like to share a few of them with you.
            In Elder Holland’s most recent article in the August 2012 Ensign he talks about Latter-day Saints being Christians and how all Christians stand together. Being a Christian is at the center of becoming an instrument in the hands of God. Elder Holland teaches “Salvation and eternal life are free (see 2 Nephi 2:4); indeed, they are the greatest of all the gifts of God (see D&C 6:13; 14:7). Nevertheless, we teach that one must prepare to receive those gifts by declaring and demonstrating “faith in the Lord Jesus Christ” (Articles of Faith 1:4)—by trusting in and relying upon “the merits, and mercy, and grace of the Holy Messiah” (2 Nephi 2:8; see also 2 Nephi 31:19; Moroni 6:4). For us, the fruits of that faith include repentance, the receipt of gospel covenants and ordinances (including baptism), and a heart of gratitude that motivates us to deny ourselves of all ungodliness, to “take up [our] cross daily” (Luke 9:23), and to keep His commandments—all of His commandments (see John 14:15). We rejoice with the Apostle Paul: “Thanks be to God, [who] giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 15:57). In that spirit, as one Book of Mormon prophet wrote, “We talk of Christ, we rejoice in Christ, we preach of Christ, we prophesy of Christ … that our children may know to what source they may look for a remission of their sins … [and] may look forward unto that life which is in Christ” (2 Nephi 25:26, 27).”
            My first real encounter with this word “Christian” came on a long family trip. We were on the freeway traveling through Chicago enjoying the time together when all of a sudden our car came to a stop. I wasn’t sure what had happened and looked all around. Before I could figure it out our van door was being opened and a man told us where he needed to go. My dad told him to hop in and that’s when I noticed the broken down car on the side of the road. We took him to where he directed us and he said some of the most important words I have ever heard. “God bless you good Christian folks.” He walked away and I asked my dad full of amazement in my voice how he had known we were Christian. I didn’t remember saying anything about our religious views during the ride and was astounded. My parents told me that he had known because of the kindness we showed him. I have often reflected back on that moment and been so happy to know that I am a Christian.
            I was raised by goodly parents and trained in the way I should go. Despite this we all come to a point where we must learn truths for ourselves. I had been reading the Book of Mormon often as I was instructed, but I had never prayed about it. I was happy with the life I was living and a little fearful of what true knowledge might do. I wasn’t doing much wrong, but maybe I just didn’t want to have to do everything right all of the time. One night I got tired of being afraid and not knowing for myself. I knelt down and received my own witness that the Book of Mormon was true along with gaining a testimony of the Prophet Joseph Smith and the truthfulness of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. From that moment on I knew I must serve a mission.
            Throughout life I had struggles but was lifted up by the Atonement of Jesus Christ. I echo the words of Elder Holland that “however late you think you are, however many chances you think you have missed, however many mistakes you feel you have made or talents you think you don’t have, or however far from home and family and God you feel you have traveled, I testify that you have not traveled beyond the reach of divine love. It is not possible for you to sink lower than the infinite light of Christ’s Atonement shines.” The Atonement is what makes it possible for us to ever become instruments in the hands of God. I have received much comfort through the Atonement as I have prepared for my mission and desire to share that joy, peace, and comfort which comes from the Spirit with the people of Peru.
            Two years ago as I was looking to an answer to a question a wise friend told me Elder Holland has the answer. He did then and he does now to the most important part of me and all of us becoming instruments in the hands of God. He speaks of a “near-perfectly elderly sister who almost apologetically whispered recently. ‘I have never been a leader of anything in the Church. I guess I’ve only been a helper.’ I say, ‘dear sister, God bless you and all the “helpers” in the kingdom.’ Some of us who are leaders hope someday to have the standing before God that you have already attained.”
            I have been blessed with so many great examples in my life. From the immediate family I was born to with such an amazing extended family. I have learned countless lessons as I talked with cousins, aunts, uncles, grandparents, sisters, and parents. I have been strengthened and fortified by their testimonies and desires to be true Christians. No one could ask for better friends. Just when I feel I have met the strongest and most valiant souls another person comes into my life. I don’t deserve all of the blessings Heavenly Father has given to me through you but I am eternally grateful for them. For the great nights playing games, watching movies, or just talking as we looked up at the stars. For the days we went to the temple and the nights we shared scriptures with each other. For the long trips we shared and the fun times I cherish.

The most important part of becoming an instrument of God is surrounding yourself, or as been the case in my life, letting the Lord surround you with people who have already allowed themselves to become instruments in His hands.

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