Sunday, January 5, 2014

First Post - Luke's talk at church at mission 'farewell'

How missionary work brings us closer to the Savior and makes us happy

 I thought I would start my talk today on missionary work with an explanation of why  I want to be a missionary. We live in a first world society. When it comes to blessings, we're abundantly blessed. There are many people who would love to switch places with us and have the life we have. Despite the goodness in our lives, we still have trials. Sometimes life is hard. Sometimes it feels like all the forces of the world are combining against us.
I am not excluded from this. Half way through high school, I was at a great time in my life. I felt invincible. I was at the height of my gymnastics career. I was beginning to reap the benefits from devoting my life to the sport. I felt that this is what defined me. I was Luke the Gymnast.
 Then I began to have chronic back problems and I lost all of those abilities. It was life shattering for me. Everything I had worked for, everything I thought I was, was gone. Now I was just Luke. I remember being furious with God, thinking; How could you let this happen to me? Why didn't you respect the time and the effort I devoted to the sport? I could have been somebody.
 I lost sight of my individual worth and placed my value on something that would have decayed eventually. People everywhere will have trials that they feel are life shattering.      
When trials happen, we as members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints have something we can turn to. We have restored truths and added strength available to us that enable us to grasp peace amongst our trials. We have the knowledge of the plan of salvation. We know that there was life before this one and that there will be life after this one.
 Several general authorities have referred to life as a three act play. We are in the second act of the play. Never in the second act of the play are the words "happily ever after" found. Those words are reserved for the end of the story or the third act. The second act is filled with trials and hardship. What does this knowledge give us? It gives us an eternal perspective. That our trials will be but a small moment.
The plan of salvation also teaches us that God loves and is the father of our spirits. Isn't that a great piece of knowledge to have? God loves us. What does that mean for us? It means that he desires our happiness. It means he does things for our sake or for our benefit.
Knowing that trials are small in the eternal scope and that God loves us, gives us spiritual, physical, and mental reserve of strength. There are people who have trials much more severe than mine. These people are missing that reserve of strength because they do not know what I know and they do not know where to look. I know that God loves all his children and he wants all his children to know that he loves them and has a plan for each of them. I want people to know where to look when they find hardship.
There is a great quote attributed to Saint Francis of Assisi that says, "Preach the gospel at all times and if necessary use words."  We need to let others see that there is something different about us. After I read the quote about being an example, some people may have relaxed in their seat, and thought, "Well, I'm not doing anything bad. Therefore I'm a good missionary."
There is another quote I enjoy, that says: "The church is here to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable".
I would like to tell you the story of a man who conversed with God. This man lived his life making sure he was not out actively doing evil and often pondered on the sad state of the world. When the man died he went straight to God. The man asked God, "Do you know what is going on down on earth? There is starvation, there is famine, there are wars and genocides. There is depression, recessions, violence, racism, hatred and sadness. Why didn't you send help?"
God looked at him for a moment and said "I did, I sent you". It was at that moment that the man realized that while he had not done evil, he had missed many opportunities to do good.    
I would say that all of us are the same way. Perhaps we are comfortably missing the opportunities to be doing good.
We have promised to God our time, talents, and strength to help one another and to help others. We have promised this by taking his name upon us, and now that we share his name it has become our duty to act as Christ would. But duty does not require perfection it requires diligence.
As we work to serve the Lord, we will see something marvelous happen to us. We will see our memory enlarged, our bodies strengthened, and our spirit fortified. We will find our mental, physical, and spiritual stamina increased, enabling us a greater capacity to do the Lord's work. A faithful servant of the lord will recognize that there is more to do.
Growing is never easy. If we wish to increase our strength, we must do so through exercise--tearing the muscle fibers that we have, enabling our body to grow back stronger. If we wish to grow our mind we must study. If growing our mind and our body take vigor, why should we expect anything less for growing our spirit or our testimony?
Increasing our capacity to serve and becoming better tools for our Father in Heaven takes work, time, and effort. But why would we expect anything less? The question is not whether or not it will take effort. The question is whether or not we will push ourselves to grow or pass up our opportunities to others.    
Brothers and sisters, when you promise to give your time and your talents, your strength and your love; you are promising to do hard things. I have come to a new understand about a well known scripture: "The natural man is an enemy to God." (Mosiah 3:7)  
The common interpretation of this scripture is that the natural man is prideful and selfish. When we are proud, we place ourselves above God and thereby place ourselves at odds with him. But I would like to offer another interpretation.
This interpretation comes from the law of entropy which states that things go from a high energy state to a low energy state. This means that when nature acts, it uses the least amount of energy possible. When water moves, it flows downhill. When lightning strikes, it takes the path of least resistance. My interpretation of the natural man is that he is a lazy man. He expends as little energy as possible to act takes the path of least resistance.
We represent Christ. We are his followers. To be a follower of Christ means to follow his example and be like him. Was Christ the kind of person who expended as little energy as possible and who took the path of least resistance? This is Christ's church and as members of his church it is our duty to follow him. Remember that duty does not require perfection it requires diligence.    
    In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen

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