Thursday, October 16, 2014

so long, Farewell

Farewell Talk
October 13, 2014

Madi Riley, soon-to-be Motra Riley ;)

According to the late president David O. Mckay, “true Christianity is love in action. There is no better way to manifest love for God than to show an unselfish love for your fellow men. This is the spirit of missionary work.”

Although President Mckay testified of this sixty years ago, every word remains true to this day.

President Heber J. Grant continued this thought when he taught that, “the best way in the world to show love for our neighbor is to go forth and proclaim the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ, of which he has given us an absolute knowledge concerning his divinity.”

I loved Elder David A. Bednar’s recent emphasis on the sincere reasons behind our efforts as missionaries, whether we wear a nametag or not. In his General Conference address, Proclaim the everlasting gospel, Elder Bednar narrowed it down to two main points. He explains that as members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, we not only recognize missionary work as a sacred responsibility and a serious calling; but in most cases we genuinely feel the desire to share with others, something that makes us truly happy.

I have had experiences with the latter in my own life, and whether or not my friends are as receptive as would be ideal, I really love worthwhile discussions concerning beliefs. I am sure I am not alone when I say that I find it intimidating and difficult to share something so close to my heart when I am aware of the rejection and mockery that is likely to follow. But I have come to realize that if I am able to but represent my religion well and help others gain a respect for and understanding of this gospel that I love, a little humiliation on my part is a small price to pay. As Albanian proverb goes, “if you fear God, you won’t fear humans”.

While spending a semester in Voronezh, Russia, this past spring, I was volunteering as an English teacher, with a teaching visa that strictly prohibited religious proselyting of any sort. I loved attending the local branch in my city, and I was continuously impressed with the strength and selflessness of the members there. I lived with a kind and generous host family, and while leaving stray Book of Mormons around the house would have gotten me in trouble with the school I taught at, or even the government, I like to think that I got to “practice what I preach” in more ways than one by simply being an example of charity and compassion in everyday life. I hope to return to Voronezh one of these years and bring my Russian family to church with me, if the local missionaries don’t beat me to it.

As an International Studies major at Brigham Young University-Idaho, it is no surprise that I love anything to with travel and different countries and cultures and the people thereof. I attribute some of this appreciation to my military-brat upbringing. A favorite aspect of globe-trotting is experiencing this gospel all over the place. It is nothing short of amazing to see “the gospel roll forth unto the ends of the earth”, as Doctrine and Covenants section 65 prophesies. When I went to primary in England, my branch met in a local high school because we didn’t have our own meetinghouse, but the Spirit I felt there was the same spirit I felt in Young Women’s, in my affluent ward in Austin, Texas. Tokyo is a huge, bustling city but the temple there was just as holy as the quaint Stockholm temple, nestled in the Swedish countryside. My Sunday school lessons in Guam taught the same doctrines as those taught in my Young Single Adult ward in Idaho, although there was less emphasis on the importance of temple marriage back in Guam.

I don’t know why there is such disparity among God’s children. I cannot understand why some people are given so much, while others have close to nothing, be it physiological or, higher up on the hierarchy of needs, spiritual. I like to think that if I had not been taught the Gospel since I was very young, missionaries or friends would seek me out and share this message of light and hope with me.

I would like to share a few lyrics from an applicable hymn, Because I have been given much:

Because I have been given much I too must give

Because of thy great bounty, Lord, each day I live
I shall divide my gifts from thee
With ev’ry brother that I see
Who has the need of help from me.

Because I have been sheltered, fed by thy good care
I cannot see another’s lack and I not share
My glowing fire, my loaf of bread
My roof’s safe shelter overhead
That he too may be comforted.

Because I have been blessed by thy great love, dear Lord,

I’ll share thy love again according to thy word.
I shall give love to those in need;
I’ll show that love in word and deed;
Thus shall my thanks be thanks indeed.

I do not mean to come across as superior or condescending, I simply want to express the profound gratitude I feel at how much I really have been given, and for this incredible opportunity I have to share a message of love and truth with brothers and sisters around the world.

Howard W. Hunter confirms my thoughts; “Surely taking the gospel to every kindred, tongue, and people is the single greatest responsibility we have in mortality…we have been privileged to be born in these last days, as opposed to some earlier dispensation, to help take the gospel to all the earth.”

I feel so privileged that I will get to serve the people of Albania, Kosovo, and Macedonia.  This part of the world has been subject to conflict time and time again, and with a rough communist past, religion in any form was banned for years. I cannot wait to meet these people of Southeastern Europe.

I will not be measuring my success by the number of baptisms I have, but by the number of hearts I hope to be able to touch.

As a representative of Christ, I can only hope to do justice to the name I will be wearing alongside my own for a year and a half.

Referring to Elder Neil L. Andersen’s talk, It’s a Miracle, given in May of 2013, “If you’re not a full-time missionary with a badge pinned on your coat, now is the time to paint one on your heart~ painted, as Paul said, ‘not with ink, but with the Spirit of the Living God’”.

Let us all ‘paint the name of Christ on our hearts’, so to speak.

Let us all commit here and now to be Christlike as we go about our daily lives.
Helping those in need; becoming lost in the service of others; learning and teaching; focusing on what matters most.

In closing, I would like to talk about Moses 1:39.

“For behold, this is my work and my glory, to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.” This sounds like quite a great and daunting task; to assist in the salvation of one of God’s children, but that’s because it is a great task. Luckily, from Alma we know that, “by small and simple things are great things come to pass”, and so it is in this case.

Through seemingly smaller daily actions, such as being a friend to all and treating those around us with respect and kindness, we can essentially help to bring about such a great task as the Salvation of Man. And this is the heart of Missionary Work.

As our dear President, Gordon B. Hinckley urged, “let there be cultivated an awareness in every member’s heart of his own potential for bringing others to a knowledge of the truth… work at it… pray with great earnestness about it.”

I know that, as the prophet Joseph Smith taught, “After all that has been said, the greatest and most important duty is to preach the gospel.”

I am so very humbled and excited at the chance I have, to participate in this ‘great and important duty’. I also know that whether or not we are set apart as full-time missionaries, we can and are called, to be missionaries at all moments of our lives, through our words and our deeds. After all, the best sermons are those taught with our lives, not merely our lips.

I really enjoy teaching, and I especially loved my CTR 5 class I got to be with in this ward last summer. I love going out with the sister missionaries here and learning from them while helping young Jamie prepare for her upcoming baptism.

I really love this gospel, and the answers and hope and peace of mind it offers to me. I shudder to think where I would be without this guidance in my life. I love my family, and really appreciate their support. I love my savior, and I know that thanks to his selfless suffering, my many mistakes can be forgiven so that one day I can return to live with my Heavenly Father again.

Unë ndihem shumë mirënjohës.

I feel very grateful.
With a full heart, I say these things in the name of my loving savior, Jesus Christ, Amen.

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