Sunday, July 31, 2011

Epic Farewell Epistle.

Magandang umaga! Ang pangalan ko ay Elder Powell. Ako ay un misyonero ng Ang Simbahan ni JesuCristo ng mga Banal ng mga Huling Araw.

That was Tagalog for: Good morning! My name is Elder Powell. I am a missionary of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Pretty intense, eh? Umm I think my sister is uhh keeping track uhh of how many uhh times I say umm and uhh so I think I’ll just throw her off now. For those of you that don’t know me my favorite animal is Perry THE Platypus, I’ve been attending school at BYU this last year, and my toothbrush is blue. Sorry if it sounds like I’m stalling, this is the longest talk I’ve ever been asked to give. I’ve been asked to speak on serving others through our talents as preparation for my mission to the Philippines.

In a talk in General Conference this April entitled 'Waiting on the Road to Damascus', President Uchtdorf spoke of the importance of serving others. Now, I wish I had an awesome accent like he does but sadly, I don't. Hopefully you can still feel the power of his words. He said,

"Brothers and sisters, we each have a covenant responsibility to be sensitive to the needs of others and serve as the Savior did—to reach out, bless, and uplift those around us. President Spencer W. Kimball taught this concept when he said: 'God does notice us, and he watches over us. But it is usually through another person that he meets our needs. Therefore, it is vital that we serve each other.'"

I really like the quote that he mentioned from President Kimball. We have all often been taught that God sends us blessings through our brothers and sisters on this earth. The part of the quote that I had not heard before and that really stuck out to me was that this should motivate us to serve others. In James chapter 2 it says, "Even so faith, if it have not works is dead, being alone." Blessings through service are the same way. We cannot expect to receive blessings and to be served by others if all we plan to do is sit on the couch and wait to be blessed and served. If every one of us was sitting around waiting to be served, there would be no one to dish out the blessings. And President Thomas S. Monson has counseled: “The needs of others are ever present, and each of us can do something to help someone. Unless we lose ourselves in service to others, there is little purpose to our own lives”

By serving others we often receive blessings ourselves. One of my favorite opportunities I've had to serve was as a buddy in the Special Needs Mutual program. Special Needs people between ages 12 and 40 from Highland to Orem would gather each Thursday and participate in activities like scouting. The great thing about serving Special Needs people is that you always feel like you are the one being served. They are so kind, non-judgmental, and loving to everyone they come in contact with. Even if they have never met you they will greet you like an old friend. Once a month we would visit a ward's sacrament meeting where a Special Needs person, their buddy, and one of their parents would give a talk while the rest of us sat on the stand. After the talks we would sing a song called in this very room. It talked about how there was enough love, hope, and joy in the room because Jesus was in the room with us. When we sang that song I knew that Christ loves us and is watching over us. Because I was serving in this program I was able to have some of the strongest spiritual moments I have ever felt. And it didn't require much talent to serve them on my part. All I did was be patient and returned love and kindness, talents that each of us have and can use daily.

Now many of you may say, “How am I supposed to serve others with my talents? Surely no one has any use for my talent.” I feel the same way sometimes. I mean, who would have any use for a Tuba player? I have found that we judge ourselves more harshly when it comes to our talents than others do. Although I felt my talent may be useless, I found that as a member of the BYU marching band I was able to make others happy. Your talents can also bring joy to other people, but only as you are willing to share them.

My favorite story of missionary work and service in The Book of Mormon is when Ammon converts a large portion of the Lamanite kingdom. His story was one of my favorites in Primary as well because Ammon is so cool right? He had grown a foot or two, is going out on missions, chopping bad guys’ arms off, protecting kings… What an adventure! As I have grown older and prepare to serve my mission I have begun to love Ammon’s story for different reasons and it is a great example of serving people through our talents.

When Ammon first arrived in the land of Ishmael they didn’t have a welcoming party with a big banner that said “Welcome Elder Ammon!” Instead of throwing a party, “The Lamanites took him and bound him, and carried him before the king, and thus it was left to the pleasure of the king to slay him, or retain him in captivity, or to cast him into prison, or to cast him out. When the king asked Ammon if he wished to dwell among his people Ammon replied that he did, perhaps until the day he died. That’s just a bit longer than two years! He loved the Lamanites enough to spend not only two years, but his entire life serving and teaching them. When Lamoni offered him one of his daughters to wife Ammon said, “Nay, but I will be thy servant.” And so he was sent to watch the King’s sheep with the other servants. Then comes the part we all loved in primary where the servants and their sheep are attacked by bandits and Ammon stands bravely and chops off the arm of each Lamanite that attacks him. After Ammon saves the flocks the servants take all of the arms to their king to stand as a testimony of the things which had been done. After the servants had told Lamoni all that had happened “he was astonished exceedingly, and said: Surely this is more than a man.” He was so astonished that he began to believe that Ammon was the Great Spirit. “And it came to pass that king Lamoni inquired of his servants, saying: Where is this man that has such great power? And they said unto him: Behold he is feeding thy horses. Now when king Lamoni heard that Ammon was preparing his horses and his chariots he was more astonished, because of the faithfulness of Ammon, saying: Surely there has not been any servant among all my servants that has been so faithful as this man.”

Through his willingness to serve and his seemingly meaningless talents of sheepherding and taking care of horses, Ammon was able to open the gate to converting the Lamanites. Even though Ammon was only a lowly sheepherder or servant to Lamoni, he magnified his calling so well that Lamoni was convinced that he was “The Great Spirit”. Ammon was not a Counselor, not a General, he didn’t use any great amazing talents in his service; yet he magnified his calling so well that he opened the entire Lamanite Nation to a knowledge of the Gospel. In Alma 37:6-7 it says, “By small and simple things are great things brought to pass; and by very small means the Lord bringeth about the salvation of many souls.”

Not only did Ammon play a large part in the conversion of the Lamanites, he knew where the credit for such a great deed belonged. As Ammon and the other missionaries were returning to the land of the Nephites, he began rejoicing for the amazing deed they had done. His brother Aaron rebuked him, saying: Ammon, I fear that thy joy doth carry thee away unto boasting. But Ammon said, “I boast not in my own strength, yeah I know that I am nothing. Therefore, I will not boast of myself, but I will boast of my God, for in his strength I can do all things.”

So Ammon used his little seemingly useless talents to open the Lamanites to the Gospel and after they had finished, he acknowledged God’s hand in his accomplishments. Elder Ronald A. Rasband said in an address to students at BYU Idaho,

Acknowledge God’s hand in your success. We must never forget or stop acknowledging that all talents and abilities come from God. Some were given to us before our birth, while others have been acquired as we have developed. However, in both cases, they are gifts from a benevolent Heavenly Father, whose gracious blessings are also the means for improving our talents and obtaining others.”

If we do not underestimate the power of our talents and remember to always acknowledge God’s hand in our success as Ammon did, great things can be brought to pass.

Many people don’t share their talents with other people because they feel they aren’t good enough at what they do. They hide their talents like the man in the parable of the talents and eventually lose them. We shouldn’t hide our talent even if we feel our level of talent is lacking. Henry Van Dyke, a poet and the author of the popular Christmas story “The Other Wise Man”, said, “Use what talents you possess. The woods would be very silent if no birds sang there except those that sang the best.” If no one shared their talents because they felt inadequate I’m sure ward choirs would be much smaller. Luckily, we have people that are brave enough to share their talents despite their fears, and we are blessed when they bring a strong and beautiful spirit into our meetings.

In Developmental Psychology there are 3 stages of moral development: Pre-Conventional, Conventional, and Post-Conventional. These stages describe what motivates a person to do what they do. In the Pre-Conventional stage, the individual makes decisions in order to avoid punishment or to get gain. They follow laws to avoid jail or ask, what’s in it for me? When faced with a decision. In the Conventional stage they make decisions in order to conform to social norms. In the Post-Conventional stage people are motivated by a conscience or a set of values. People in the Post-Conventional stage are often motivated by love. When we serve this is the stage that we should be motivated through. I have often done service asking what’s in it for me, and there have been many times when I have done service to keep my parents happy and avoid punishment. But I have found that I receive the most blessings from service if I serve ungrudgingly and with love. Elder Dallin H. Oaks said,

“A familiar example of losing ourselves in the service of others—this one not unique to Latter-day Saints—is the sacrifice parents make for their children. Mothers suffer pain and loss of personal priorities and comforts to bear and rear each child. Fathers adjust their lives and priorities to support a family. The gap between those who are and those who are not willing to do this is widening in today’s world. One of our family members recently overheard a young couple on an airline flight explaining that they chose to have a dog instead of children. “Dogs are less trouble,” they declared. “Dogs don’t talk back, and we never have to ground them.”

I know that my parents have put up with a lot from me and my siblings and I can feel their love for me as they serve us each day and I want them to know that I’m very grateful for that.

Elder M. Russell Ballard said, It is only when we love God and Christ with all of our hearts, souls, and minds that we are able to share this love with our neighbors through acts of kindness and service—the way that the Savior would love and serve all of us if He were among us today. When this pure love of Christ—or charity—envelops us, we think, feel, and act more like Heavenly Father and Jesus would think, feel, and act. Our motivation and heartfelt desire are like unto that of the Savior.”As I prepared my talk, I found that the talents that serve others with most are actually Christ like attributes. We serve with love, patience; kindness, diligence, and submissiveness are all talents that we use to make the lives of those around us brighter and better. President Thomas S. Monson said,“An attitude of love characterized the mission of the Master, He gave sight to the blind, legs to the lame, and life to the dead. Perhaps when we [face] our Maker, we will not be asked, ‘How many positions did you hold?’ but rather, ‘How many people did you help?’ In reality, you can never love the Lord until you serve Him by serving His people.” 4 The greatest service that ever has been or ever will be done on this Earth is that of our Savior’s Atonement. Through him we can escape the bonds of sin and return to live with our Heavenly Father again. My favorite story of repentance is that of Alma the Younger. In Alma 36:21 it says, “Yea, I say unto you, my son, that there could be nothing so exquisite and so bitter as were my pains. Yea, and again I say unto you, my son, that on the other hand, there can be nothing so exquisite and sweet as was my joy.” In verse 24 it says, “Yea, and from that time even until now, I have labored without ceasing, that I might bring souls unto repentance; that I might bring them to taste of the exceeding joy of which I did taste; that they might also be born of God, and be filled with the Holy Ghost.”

I know that by serving others and sharing our talents we can bring others to Christ so that they too can be filled with the exquisite joy that Alma speaks of.


Ok. this is Chelsey now. Just for the record. 12 Uh's, 12 Um's, and 5Ands. K im done.

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