Farewell Talk

8:47 AM

                  Good morning brothers and sisters, I would like to thank everyone who has come to support me today, it truly means a lot. I have been called to serve in the Canada, Montréal mission. I will be speaking Spanish and French, and I enter the MTC this coming Wednesday, February 3rd.   
                  Today, I have the amazing opportunity to speak with you on the topic of missionary work. Our dear prophet president Monson once said, “Missionary work is an identifying feature of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Always has it been; ever shall it be. As the Prophet Joseph Smith declared, 'After all that has been said, the greatest and most important duty is to preach the Gospel.”
                  As a missionary, it will be my full time duty to share the gospel of Jesus Christ with everyone I encounter. In preach my gospel, there is a purpose statement that every missionary is required to learn. In there it states, the purpose of every missionary is to, “invite others to come unto Christ”. However, as members, proclaiming the gospel should not be an activity in which we occasionally and temporarily engage. Neil L. Anderson said, “If you’re not a full-time missionary with a missionary badge pinned on your coat, now is the time to paint one on your heart.” Brothers and sisters, we should not confine missionary work to the 18 or 24 months that many of us serve in our youth. Rather, we should eagerly accept our responsibility as members to constantly declare the restored gospel of Jesus Christ.
                  Mark 16:15 states, “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.” One of the most unique things about a mission is that the person does not have the ability to choose where they will be serving. I remember when I received my call, there was an immense amount of anticipation leading up to the opening. Everyone would approach me and ask me where I thought I would be serving, or where I wanted to serve. I would always respond with, “I would love to learn a new language that’s not Spanish, but of course I’ll go where I am needed.” In my heart, I knew I was going Spanish speaking, and that there was absolutely no way that I would be able to avoid it.  When I finally opened it, I was so nervous. I could not believe that my time had finally come, and that one piece of paper was going to determine my future. For those of you who weren’t able to attend, I will recap how it went.
 “Dear Sister Garcia…” 
Wow that’s me.
“You are hereby called to serve as a missionary of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter- Day Saints.”
Okay, where where?
“You are assigned to labor in the Canada, Montréal mission!” 
Wait. What? Canada? Is this the right call?
“You will prepare to preach the gospel in the Spanish language” 
Haha, saw that coming.
But what?
“You will learn French at the MTC” 
Huh? Can they do that?
Whether a missionary is called to serve in Canada, Tokyo, or even Salt Lake City, their purpose will never change, and as members, our purpose should be unwavering.
                  Elder Oaks stressed two essential things that every missionary understand. However, I would like to apply this to every member. The first is you must come to know who you are. It is important that we recognize that we are sons and daughters of God! Everything else you and I are is subordinate to that. The second is, to comprehend the work that missionaries are called to do. He states, “you are not called to preach what is politically correct or personally comfortable. You are not called to invite people to join a social club whose rules are made by its members. You are called to testify of Jesus Christ and to invite people to do what He has required to come unto Him and walk the path He has defined by His doctrine to reach exaltation in the celestial kingdom.”
                  As a missionary, and as a member, we will often have opinions and views that are not popular with the world. It is our duty to stand firmly in our faith and defend it to the end. Do as president Uchtdorf advised and “doubt your doubts before you doubt your faith”
                  The atonement of Jesus Christ is a gift that offers redeeming and enabling power to all mankind to overcome all trials and obstacles in this life. The atonement allows our pain to transition to joy, anguish to become peace, and captivity to become freedom. Although, for us to fully receive the blessings of the atonement we must do our part. Elder Holland asked several missionaries what they wanted their investigators to do as a result of discussions with them. Clearly everyone in the room chimed in that baptism was the ultimate goal. However, prior to baptism, there are two fundamental things that investigators must do. They must have faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, and repent of their sins.
                  A convert’s new life is should be built upon faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and His redeeming sacrifice—a belief that He really is the Son of God, that He lives, that He alone holds the key to our salvation and exaltation. Once they have that conviction, it must be followed by true repentance. This shows that they have the desire to be clean and renewed and whole, repentance is the only way to fully claim the blessings of the atonement.
                  Missionary work is not easy because salvation is not a cheap experience. Salvation never was easy. It was never easy for our savior; it will not be easy for us.
                  The decision to serve a mission was a very difficult one for me. In my mind, sister missionaries were always the ones who loved going to church, read their scriptures daily, never forgot a prayer, and certainly never had to be dragged out of bed to attend seminary. I was nowhere near this idea of perfection that I had always associated with the sisters. I made mistakes, and was very lazy with the gospel. However, as time went on, I found myself attending church and church activities because I wanted to. I was saying my prayers on a daily basis, and I would read my scriptures. I was progressing, but still certainly not to the point of wanting to serve a mission. When the age changed, the idea definitely came into my head but then shortly fizzled out. A couple years ago, my family moved to Utah and that was quite the culture change. In other places where I lived we were lucky to have one missionary serving at a time. However, here there would be wards that had over 10 missionaries serving at one time. Never before had I lived in a place where it was automatically expected that if you were a boy, LDS, and graduating from high school that you would be serving a mission. However, what really blew my mind was that it was starting to become the cultural norm for sisters to go. I remember senior year people constantly approached me asking me if I was going to serve. Me? Have you met me? No. Stop asking.
                  And then college came around. College is amazing because you have so much freedom. You no longer have to do things just because your parents expect it of you. It was up to me to go to church, and to attend institute and FHE. As the year went on, I made several friends who were going on a mission. I watched as they all prepared and anxiously received their calls. Then the thought of a mission came back into my mind. I thought, maybe I do want to do this. However, I wanted to do it for the right reasons. I didn’t want to go just because everyone else was going or because as a 19-year-old LDS female it was what I should be doing. No, I wanted to go knowing that it was the right decision for me, and that the Lord needed me on a mission. At that point I turned to every reference I could. I took mission prep, read my scriptures, prayed, looked to my patriarchal blessing, and even spoke with my bishop. I so badly wanted Heavenly Father to give me a confirmation saying, “Yes, Ivonne a mission is for you!”. But sadly, time passed on and nothing. Things were not working out for me to leave, and little by little I started to become comfortable with the idea of staying. I thought to myself, “perhaps I’m meant to stay, progress in school, do an internship, maybe study abroad,”. Then one day I was reading one of my favorite blogs and the title of her post was, “You know.” And in that post, she discussed missionary work and said everything that I needed to hear. She literally wrote, “We need not be commanded in all things, so go, stop doubting, start trusting, you know your answer.” And as bizarre as it may seem to have gotten my answer from a blog post, that was exactly what I needed. It was so straightforward and so simple. Frequently, we are delaying our eternity waiting around for a big spiritual revelation. However, we often forget that Heavenly Father trusts us to make the decision for ourselves.
                  I know that a mission will not be easy. One of my favorite talks of all time is ‘The Miracle of a Mission’ by elder Jeffery R. Holland. In there he share this about missionary work, “This is hard work. It is the hardest work you will ever do. That’s why I say this is the most important work you will ever do. I think those two go together. It’s hard work, but every day, in every way, it will get better, and you will feel the Spirit of the Lord. You’ll know He loves you, and the language will come, and baptisms will come, and you will make new friendships, both with your companions and with investigators and with ward members and branch members and people with whom you serve”
Let us not forget that this is the work of eternity.
                  I would like to end by saying thank you to everyone who has gotten me to where I am today. Without the support and love that I have received, I would not be in this position.  I am so grateful to be a member of this church, and I am so excited for the opportunity that has been given unto me to be able to wear the name of my beloved savior and to share this gospel with the people of Montreal. I am thankful for the trials that have been given to me in this life, because without them I wouldn’t be able to fully appreciate all of the blessings I have been given. I do not have a perfect knowledge of all things, but I know enough. I know that my Heavenly Father loves me. I know that Jesus Christ is my redeemer, the only begotten son of God. I know that this gospel has the power to heal and the power to save. I know that I will be an instrument in the hands of the Lord. I trust Heavenly Father knows me better than I know myself. I am allowing my faith to be bigger than my fears as I begin this new adventure. I know without a doubt that this is what I need to be doing, and that I will be blessed as a result. I pray that all of you will come to know of the Love the savior has for you, and to have the strength to trust in him, and yourselves.  In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.             

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