Tuesday, February 25, 2014

I Will Not Fail Thee Nor Forsake Thee

Farewell Talk - Given on February 23, 2014

“I Will Not Fail Thee Nor Forsake Thee”

Hello Brothers and Sisters,

Going back to our first parents, Adam and Eve, we have all experienced adversity. Every day, we turn on the news and somewhere, something ugly happens.
President Thomas S Monson, in his October 2013 talk 'I Will Not Fail Thee Nor Forsake Thee' eloquently says:

“Brothers and sisters, it may be safely assumed that no person has ever lived entirely free of suffering and sorrow, nor has there ever been a period in human history that did not have its full share of turmoil and misery.”

“ When the pathway of life takes a cruel turn, there is the temptation to ask the question “Why me?” At the times there appears to be no light at the end of the tunnel, no sunrise to end the night's darkness. We feel encompassed by the disappointment of shattered dreams and the despair of vanished hopes. We join in uttering the biblical plea, “Is there no balm in Gilead?” We feel abandoned, heartbroken, alone. We are inclined to view our own personal misfortunes through the distorted prism of pessimism. We become impatient for a solution to our problems, forgetting that frequently the heavenly virtue of patience that is required.

Brothers and sisters ... even when it feels like we are the only ones alone in our trials, that there is no one to reach out to, there is someone. There is our Saviour, Jesus Christ.

Because he died on the cross, the Atonement can be used. We know that the Atonement can be used to repent of our sins, but I think that we forget that the Atonement is not only for this reason. Christ suffered for all the pains we would have in this life. To quote Preach My Gospel “ As we rely on the Atonement of Jesus Christ, He can help us endure our trials, sicknesses, and pain. We can be filled with joy, peace, and consolation. All that is unfair about life can be made right through the Atonement of Jesus Christ.”

President Monson shares in his talk this story about his old seminary teacher Brother Brems.
In 1968, Brother Brems lost his wife, Sadie. Two of his eight children also passed away as the years went by.
One day nearly 13 years ago, Brother Brems’s oldest granddaughter telephoned me. She explained that her grandfather had reached his 105th birthday. She said, “He lives in a small care center but meets with his entire family each Sunday, where he delivers a gospel lesson.” She continued, “This past Sunday, Grandpa announced to us, ‘My dears, I am going to die this week. Will you please call Tommy Monson. He will know what to do.’”
I visited Brother Brems the very next evening. I had not seen him for a while. I could not speak to him, for he had lost his hearing. I could not write a message for him to read, because he had lost his sight. I was told that the family communicated with him by taking the finger of his right hand and then tracing on the palm of his left hand the name of the person visiting. Any message had to be conveyed in this same way. I followed the procedure by taking his finger and spelling T-O-M-M-Y M-O-N-S-O-N, the name by which he had always known me. Brother Brems became excited and, taking my hands, placed them on his head. I knew his desire was to receive a priesthood blessing. The driver who had taken me to the care center joined me as we placed our hands on the head of Brother Brems and provided the desired blessing. Afterward, tears streamed from his sightless eyes. He grasped our hands in gratitude. Although he had not heard the blessing we had given him, the Spirit was strong, and I believe he was inspired to know we had provided the blessing which he needed. This sweet man could no longer see. He could no longer hear. He was confined night and day to a small room in a care center. And yet the smile on his face and the words he spoke touched my heart. “Thank you,” he said. “My Heavenly Father has been so good to me.”
Within a week, just as Brother Brems had predicted, he passed away. Never did he dwell on what he was lacking; rather, he was always deeply grateful for his many blessings.
In style of President Monson, I found a sweet little poem about this topic. Poem: A Lesson in Adversity

Travelling by bus
those around me slumbered
yet sleep eluded me
I thought how fortunate
my companions were
oblivious to the aches and pains
they missed the pouring rain
I envied them so -
until they missed the rainbow

I have an experience I'd like to share. I used to work at a restaurant for 10 months, primarily as a hostess. From being a complete newbie that first had no clue how busy and hectic the restaurant word could be to feeling more confident in my job and knowing my way around, I gained a lot of respect from the various people I worked with for trying to do the I could. There was one night where I felt that all the respect disappeared from a particular coworker. I was at the end of my shift, but in preparation for something I forget the details of, the manager at the time needed us to stay a bit longer and cover the tables, benches, and everything with a plastic lining. After everything was done, he offered some alcoholic beverages to the three of us who helped lining everything. I politely declined. I was asked why I didn't drink alcohol and I explained that I was a Mormon, and that we have a Word of Wisdom that we follow. Most times that I've explained this to people who ask this, they accept this belief. This one lady however, not so much. From that, she began this rant of how Mormons were not Christians and that I needed to educate myself. This hurt. It hurt hard. Not because I felt that she was attacking me, but she was also attacking this church. Because I was so taken aback, so unprepared of what to do or say, I simply told her that I had a testimony I knew this church was true. That's all I knew what to do. After being rescued from my mother and at home, it took a few hours to calm myself down. Never before in my life do I feel I'd been criticized so hard. But this I can tell you. As hard as it was, and as hurt as I felt, I'm grateful for that moment. It really affirmed to me the truthfulness in the church. It's prepared me for when there will be people who reject the gospel on my mission, and who knows what else it may have prepared me for.

Trials and adversity are not just there to get through and be over with. They have a purpose in our lives. Can you think of a trial that you went through and you were the exact same person as before. My guess ... probably not. I've been through many trials, as everyone has. They sure were really hard at times, but I've become a stronger person because of them. President Monson has said that our trials are there to rebuild ourselves and be bettered by them. Through trials we can become more understanding, empathetic, and to gain stronger testimonies.

Adversity has also taught me to have faith. Faith to trust God and know He has a purpose for everything, faith to know I can endure ... faith to know I will feel joy again. Faith to know that I will see that rainbow. We can think of Job. A righteous man who feared God and had many riches – money, a lot of property, a wife, children... something or rather He lost everything. When we read Job 1: 20-21 it says “ Then Job arose, and rent his mantle, and shaved his head, and fell down upon the ground and worshipped. 21- And said naked came I out of my mother's womb, and naked shall I return thee thither: the Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.” He receives boils, his friends eventually scorn him. Such a huge trial towards Job, but nothing shakes the faith and love that he has for the Lord. Because of all that he endured, the Lord blesses him and receives not only his former prosperity, but many more blessings.

We do not come out of trials the same. I think that strength, alone, is a blessing that Heavenly Father gives us in going through trials. The blessings we receive from our trials are not only in our earthly, mortal states. This life is eternal and He has blessings waiting upon us in heaven.

Without pain we cannot know joy.

Through the example of Job loving the Lord always, it reminds me of something said by President Monson. “My brothers and sisters, may we make a commitment to our Heavenly Father that does not ebb and flow with the years and the crises of our lives. We should not need to experience difficulties for us to remember him, and we should not be driven to humility before giving him our faith and trust.

There is a quote by Jeffrey R Holland that says “Don't give up. Don't you quit. You keep walking. You keep trying. There is help and happiness ahead. You keep your chin up. It will be alright in the end. Trust God and believe in good things to come.”

Why was I chosen to face the trials given to me?  I may have been given them because someone in Veracruz, Mexico specifically needs me for the particular trials I have faced and through that I can help them overcome their own. These are various guesses. However, I don't only have guesses as to why I have been faced with various trials. I've been faced with them because Heavenly Father knew I could conquer them and have joy.

I have been told time and again from returned missionaries that a mission is the hardest, yet one of the best times for their lives. I remember one of my uncles saying that because of the trials he had on his mission, the joys were even greater. I know that I will have many trials on my mission, but with my faith in the Lord, knowing that He will always be with me, I know He will help me to overcome them.

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