Sunday, March 30, 2014

An Instrument in the Hands of the Lord

Today was my farewell. I would like to thank everyone who came out to support me, as well as those that couldn't attend that had the intent to. Thanks for all your prayers for me. Here is the talk I gave today.

I don’t usually write out my talks, but I feel like if I don’t write out this one that I’ll just ramble and not make cohesive sense.
I’m so grateful for the topic of today, faith, because putting your trust in the Lord is one of the defining attributes of a “missionary.” I don’t know if any of you have felt a little something in the air, a little bit more of a push for missionary work, a bit more of a push to spread the gospel. It’s been pretty subtle, I mean it’s not like the mission age lowered or anything. And there’s only gonna be nine missionaries out in the mission field from our ward pretty soon after the elder after me leaves. Isn’t that crazy!?
So, missionary work and temples have been talked about over and over and over in the past year, especially with the new temple, and so of course, there’s that danger of ‘hearing’ the same thing over and over and over again. “Oh the church is great. Oh temples are important. Oh missionary work is what we should be doing.” I hope that I can offer... not necessarily a ‘new’ perspective on missionary work, but a refreshing one.
I remember giving a talk ‘awhiile’ ago when I was young women’s about developing Christ like attributes. I picked like, five, Charity, patience, etc, and one of them was faith, and I remember how much I struggled being able, to explain it. It’s just so... amorphous, I feel like faith is intangible, like trying to grab smoke, it just slips right through my fingers when I try to explain it. I think it’s because it’s centered on belief, which is so subjective. You can choose to believe, or you can choose not to believe. And faith has such a religious connotation. So I would like to use a different word, that just seems to be easier to understand and explain.
Trust. If you really trust somebody, you know they’ll come through for you. You know you can count on them, and if something bad happens, you know they didn’t mean to. Because you trust them and you know they wouldn’t do something stupid or hurtful on purpose. When you trust someone, you don’t have to worry as much. You don’t feel that weight on your shoulders wondering if they’ll pull through. If we trust that Jesus is our savior, and that Heavenly Father loves us, it opens a lot of doors. If we find that trust and hold onto it, not letting little things ‘and’ big things crush it, we can be more at peace of mind, just knowing that the Lord has a plan for us, and that is a good plan that will benefit everyone in the end as much as they wish. It’s just finding that trust and keeping it that’s so hard a lot of times.
In school, whenever I heard something tragic like one of my classmate’s parents dying, I was, and still am, reminded of how grateful I am for the gospel. Because, I just wonder, how are they feeling right now? They’re probably sad, and angry, that is, if they don’t have any faith, any trust that things will work out in the end, that we will see our loved ones again. And that makes me so sad for them. Hm, one of the reasons I’ve felt that I’m going on a mission I suppose, to bring those people a renewed hope. To teach them. Because, in order to trust the Lord, and how wonderful his plan is, you have to learn about him. And if you learn about him, you care about him. You come to really care about this beautiful plan, and all its components. And that love is so important! Loving the gospel makes sharing it enjoyable instead of a burden! Because you’re excited about it! If you want to get better at sharing the gospel, just learn more about it and share it because you just want to, because you love it so much!
I always hate it when people talk about missionary work like it’s a campaign. Refer those people to the missionaries! Get those baptisms! Get the church spread through all the Earth! It’s our duty! I mean, it is. And we are in fact advertising the gospel. But see the thing is, it’s not about the baptisms like so many people think it is. I think sometimes we get caught up in thinking that converts are what make missionaries successful, or what make ‘us’ feel successful, and that’s not the case at all. Missionary work isn’t about knocking on doors. It isn’t about just letting people know that there’s another good church out there. There’s plenty of people who are perfectly content with their own church, solid in their faith, and that is great! Cuutos to all of you good people out there who are just good people. We aren’t looking to tell them they’re wrong, only that there might be something more.
See, Missionary work is about loving the people, serving the people, and we share the gospel with them just because it is what we believe to be one of the highest ways to love and serve because of what the gospel message is. It is that we have a father, a father of our spirits, who created us, and that we can live with him again, we can see his face again, the father that we so loved before we came here to Earth and had our memories separated from us. And while we’re here on this Earth we can have. His. Help. He ‘loves’ us, and this is a strange a temporary existence full of trials that are sooo hard, but that shape us, and he is there looking over us, just as we would be looking out for anyone that we loved.
I always loved the metaphor of the Lord as a silver smith, us being the silver. The silver smith poises over the hot molten silver, not taking his eyes off it, but the heat is absolutely searing! He has to heat it to extreme temperatures before it becomes pure silver, before all the imperfection is purged, and he watches the transformation. But, he can’t let the silver sit in that heat for too long because otherwise it will be ruined, it will be destroyed. So how does he know when to take the silver out? How does he know when it’s ready? ....He knows it’s ready when he can look at the silver and it reflects his own image back at him.
The Lord will never leave us. Even though he is a fierce and mighty being which we should fear, he is also a God of love and acceptance, in as much as we repent. You see, the scriptures tell us to look upon God with fear and trembling before him, but that is only because we will bring about our own destruction by his hand if we can’t see that he is a God to be feared. But if God is on your side? If you keep his commandments so he ‘can’ be on your side? Then what is there to fear? Satan? Haha, no! He can be dismissed at any time by sending him away in the name of God! I promise you that!
So you see? This gospel message is one of power, and great comfort. And I know I’ve used some metaphors, and some examples that are extreme. I realize that the reality of life is a lot more subtle. People sometimes talk about the holy ghost speaking to them, inspiration coming at the time of need, the Lord completely leading them in a specific direction. ..To be honest, I’m not sure if I can say I have ever felt like I’ve been led specifically by the Lord. I felt like the thoughts were my own. I felt like myself.
And then... I figured it out... I felt like myself, because I ‘was’ being myself. You see the Lord works through ‘us,’ through our already existing tendencies and talents. We are the instruments God works with. We so so often don’t even know that ‘God is working through us,’ because we were doing something that we would totally do anyway. And that’s something that makes inspiration and faith so tricky, because, we feel we would do it anyway. It takes a lot of perception and skill to be able to pick up the subtle directing spirit of the holy ghost because it feels so normal; it’s not a novel feeling.
Scripture study and spiritual growth is like adding on accessories to ourselves, so that God can use us better to do good. But the beauty of it is, we still have our agency! As Satan’s tools, he manipulates us and binds us to do his work. But in the hands of the Lord, we go about doing what we feel is good and right and we are so blessed in the end for it. He uses us. We are tools. But I can say with the utmost trust, full faith, that we are tools that are used for good. I pray, I pray! That I can be an instrument in his hands that is good, works efficiently, is easy to use, and does what it’s supposed to do.
To any of you out there who ‘play’ an instrument, you know how nice it is to have a nice instrument that you can have full control over, to have an instrument that doesn’t hold your ability back. I remember up at college when I was playing for my trombone instructor and he was always commenting on how my trombone was, well... not very good. It was kind of a dinky trombone, but somehow I still made it sound good. It was such a compliment really. But he always said I should get a new trombone because my sound would be that much better. As a missionary, I know God will be able to get me to do good things. But I don’t want to be a dinky trombone that holds him back. I want to be an instrument that’s clean, responds when you want it too, and works in harmony with the many other instruments across the world to play my small but crucial part in the Lord’s symphony.
I would like to thank my mother who with me today a beautiful duet, “Behold thy handmaiden.” As I think of the words to this song, they are so powerful to me and completely explain the significance of how I feel, giving a year and a half to the Lord to serve the people in the Dakotas. Hand maid in times of old really translates to women slave, which is so... horrible, but within the context of what I’ve just been talking about, it’s... an oddly comforting notion. Because of this song and the mission and how the two fit together so well, I chose for my mission plaque this scripture, which is the last thing Mary said to the angel that told her she would give birth to the son of God:
“And Mary said, Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word.”
I would like to write the lyrics of the song my mother and I sang today. They are truly beautiful and inspired and I really don’t know if anything else can better explain my feelings about serving a mission.
Behold thy hand maiden Lord. Ready now am I to live thy word, to teach thy word, to praise thy name on high. Behold my hands, O Lord, consecrated to thee, to serve thy daughters, O Lord, to serve thy sons, to comfort each one tenderly with love, to comfort tenderly. Behold mine eyes, O Lord; windows to my soul, to see thy light, to love thy light, to know and shape my role.
"Behold the handmaiden of the Lord; Be it unto me according to thy word."
As Mary spoke, so speak I; Heavenly Father, I will try to do thy will, Thy laws fulfill, in service magnify thee, In humility to seek thee, Always to speak of thee and thine as mine. Behold thy handmaiden Lord. Behold thy handmaiden Lord!
Behold my heart, O Lord, waiting patiently for thee, to feel thy love and share thy love. Ever thy child I will be! Ever thy Child I will be. Hear thou my words! O hear my words, O Lord.
Ever thy child I will be. Thy child I will be.

To reiterate:
Behold my hands, O Lord, consecrated to thee, to serve thy daughters, O Lord, to serve thy sons, to comfort each one tenderly with love, to comfort tenderly.
This, is what missionary work means to me.
I say these heartfelt words in the name of our savior Jesus Christ, Amen.

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