Sunday, September 27, 2009

My Farewell Talk

This is for all of Those who weren't able to make my farewell, Thanks again for all of your support- ( ignore errors in the type)

Good after noon brothers and sister’s So, Tanner and I have been talking about this moment for weeks and it’s hard to believe it’s here, I honestly felt it never would. He and I were up all night baking cookies and if you’d like help us eat them, you can come by the Hemphill’s tonight maybe around 7. Oh how lovely was the morning. Radiant beamed the sun above, Bees were humming sweat birds singing. Music ringing through the grove. When within the shady woodland Joseph Sought the god of love. I truly feel privileged to be standing here before you this day to speak to you on a subject that I hold very dear, the importance of the first vision. I pray that the spirit will be upon each us as to bear witness of the truthfulness of our topics.
Following the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, apostasy gradually became widespread. The Savior’s Apostles were rejected and slain, His teachings were corrupted, and the priesthood of God was taken from the earth. The ancient prophet Amos had foretold a time of apostasy and spiritual darkness:
(Amos 8:11–12). “Behold, the days come, saith the Lord God, that I will send a famine in the land, not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the Lord: and they shall wander from sea to sea, and from the north even to the east, they shall run to and fro to seek the word of the Lord, and shall not find it”
One of those seeking the word of the Lord that had been lost from the earth was Joseph Smith, a young man living in Palmyra, New York, in 1820. Joseph was a hard working young man. He had little education beyond the basics of reading, writing and arithmetic. Young Joseph was only 14 years old during a time of great religious excitement.
I have searched for words to describe the event but no words bear greater validity than the testimony of Joseph himself. Joseph Smith history reads.
“There was in the place where we lived an unusual excitement on the subject of religion. It commenced with the Methodists, but soon became general among all the sects. Indeed great multitudes united themselves to the different religious parties, which created no small stir and division amongst the people, some crying, ‘Lo, here!’ and others, ‘Lo, there!’ Some were contending for the Methodist faith, some for the Presbyterian, and some for the Baptist. …
10 In the midst of this war of words and tumult of opinions, I often said to myself: What is to be done? Who of all these parties are right; or, are they all wrong together? If any one of them be aright, which is it, and how shall I know it?
11 While I was laboring under the extreme difficulties caused by the contests of these parties of religionists, I was one day reading the Epistle of aJames, first chapter and fifth verse, which reads: If any of you lack bwisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him. I reflected on it again and again, knowing that if any person needed bwisdom from God, I did; for how to act I did not know, and unless I could get more wisdom than I then had, I would never know;
15 After I had retired to the place where I had previously designed to go, having looked around me, and finding myself alone, I kneeled down and began to offer up the desires of my heart to God. I had scarcely done so, when immediately I was aseized upon by some power which entirely overcame me, and had such an astonishing influence over me as to bind my tongue so that I could not speak. Thick bdarkness gathered around me, and it seemed to me for a time as if I were doomed to sudden destruction.
16 But, exerting all my powers to acall upon God to deliver me out of the power of this enemy which had seized upon me, and at the very moment when I was ready to sink into bdespair and abandon myself to destruction—not to an imaginary ruin, but to the power of some actual being from the unseen world, who had such marvelous power as I had never before felt in any being—just at this moment of great alarm, I saw a pillar of clight exactly over my head, above the brightness of the dsun, which descended gradually until it fell upon me.
17 It no sooner appeared than I found myself adelivered from the enemy which held me bound. When the light rested upon me I bsaw two cPersonages, whose brightness and dglory defy all description, estanding above me in the air. One of them spake unto me, calling me by name and said, pointing to the other—This is My fBeloved gSon. Hear Him!
18 My object in going to ainquire of the Lord was to know which of all the sects was right, that I might know which to join. No sooner, therefore, did I get possession of myself, so as to be able to speak, than I asked the Personages who stood above me in the light, which of all the sects was right and which I should join.
19 I was answered that I must join none of them, for they were all awrong;
20 He again forbade me to join with any of them; and many other things did he say unto me. It seems as though the cadversary was aware, at a very early period of my life, that I was destined to prove a disturber and an annoyer of his kingdom; else why should the powers of darkness combine against me?
Young Joseph Smith’s search for truth led him into a grove of trees to ask God for the wisdom he needed. In answer to his prayer, Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ appeared to him, opening the way for the restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ in the latter days.
Elder Ezra Taft Benson said, “The appearance of God the Father and his Son Jesus Christ to the boy prophet is the greatest event that has occurred in this world since the resurrection of the Master”
Although there are countless importance’s of the first vision today I would like to bring to light four specific things to express to you the importance of the first vision to me.
First, That this, The church of Jesus Christ of latter-day saints, is the only true church on the face of the earth for it is the restoration of Christ’s church and Christ himself is at the head of it. Second, that god lives, and Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ are two separate beings with body of flesh and bone. Third That Satan is real and is aware of this great work which is rolling forth and fourth that God still in fact talks to his prophets and he hears and answers our personal prayers.
From the beginning prophets as prophesied of a great apostasy to come upon the world. When the apostles were killed the truth and priesthood of god was taken from the earth. Only through Jesus Christ would these keys and truths be restored to this earth. When Jesus Christ was on the earth, He established His Church among His followers. After His Crucifixion and the deaths of His Apostles, the fulness of the gospel was taken from the earth because of widespread apostasy. Through the Prophet Joseph Smith, our Father in Heaven and His Son Jesus Christ restored the fulness of the gospel. The first vision was the beginning of the stone which would be cut from the mountain with out hands and would roll forth until it filled all the earth. Through the Prophet Joseph Smith Jesus Christ himself has restored his church and he continues today to lead it through his living prophets. What greater leader can we have than Christ himself, the creator of all, our brother, our mediator, and the Savior to each one of us. When the boy Joseph inquired of the Lord, he was told by Christ to Join no church, but he was instructed by the Lord to restore his perfect gospel in its fullness.
Second that God the father and his son are two separate beings and that they have bodies of flesh and bone and that we were made in the likeness God. There has been much deliberation among many different sects of religion as to the oneness of Christ and our Heavenly father. From the Prophet's account of the First Vision and from his other teachings; we know that the members of the Godhead are three separate beings. The Father and the Son have tangible bodies of flesh and bones, and the Holy Ghost is a personage of spirit. The first vision leaves no room for question for Joseph SAW god and his son Jesus Christ as two distinct and separate personages. Although they are two separate beings they are forever one in purpose and gospel.
In Genesis 1: 27 it reads So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him. We were created from the beginning in the image of God our heavenly father. When Christ suffered the atonement he then gave his life on the cross at Calvary. He was laid in the tomb and three days later he arose, breaking the bands of death, rejoining his body and spirit once more. Joseph vision affirms that stories of the bible that tell of his glorious resurrection and that he lives, he lives.
Third that Satan is real. When Christ fasted for 40 days Satan appeared to him and tried to tempt him with temporal thirst and hunger. When Joseph First began his prayer in the Grove he too was faced with Satan who overcame him with a dark force which bound his tongue. Satan is very aware of us when we are striving to do what is right for we prove destroyers of his plan of wickedness. I personally can testify of this truthfulness. No, I was not taken over by a dark force or did Satan tempt me with temporal things but I have felt Satan’s negative influence have an effect on in my preparations to serve my mission.
I have been told by many people that Satan would try to do anything in his power to keep me from going on a mission. I heard their words but I didn’t really understand them until recently. I very recently felt Satan trying to find ways to discourage me. On Monday night everything kind of hit the fan for me and I felt overwhelmed with discouragement, discontent, contention, and heart felt sorrow. Not being at school when classes began threw me out of sorts. I felt out of place and longed for the life I am putting on hold for 18 months. I was upset with something someone had said at work and the feelings of self doubt and sadness it had brought were heart breaking, and I had felt sorrow and contention towards some other personal events in my life. Together they seemed too hard to handle and was scared confused and lost. I wasn’t questioning whether I should serve a mission or not but I was discouraged about my currently predicament and just wanted to leave it all behind and serve the lord.
I tried to hold it in but by the end of the day I sat in tears trying to figure out what to do and how to over come it. I couldn’t literally see it but there is no doubt I could feel Satan trying to manipulate my heart to fill it with darkness and despair. According to a talk given in last April’s General conference Satan’s most powerful tools along with temptation are doubt, discouragement, distraction, lack of diligence, disobedience, and disbelief. I am sure we have all felt moments in our lives where Satan has tried to work upon or hearts using one or even many of these tools, but I know that sometimes the greatest trials precede the greatest blessings. As Joseph knelt in the grove Satan knew the significant and tried to stop it but despite his dark power the power of our lord and savior is far greater. If and when we turn to Christ we all can be delivered from the darkness we face for Christ has the power to help us overcome and break Satan’s darkening hold upon is.
The final importance I want to mention today is that God still hears and answers prayers today. We are told in the bible James 1:5 if any of you lack wisdom let him ask of god who giveth to all men… and it shall be given him” Why would god say something and it still not be true today. For isn’t god the same yesterday today and forever? Hebrews 13:8 "Jesus Christ [is] the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever." Many feel that with the death of the apostles’ revelation had ceased. I know that the verse in the bible which prompted young Joseph to pray nearly 200 years ago is still true, that is we humbly go before God and ask in prayer not only will he hear us but he will also answer our prayers. Today we have a living President Thomas S Monson who is the only man who can receive revelation for god in behalf of the church as a while. Prophets are the only people who can receive revelation for the Church, but they are not the only ones who can receive revelation
We each can receive personal revelation and answers to prayers. We cannot expect to see visions but if we open our hearts we can feel of the witness of the holy Ghost and let it bare witness of truth, Brothers and sisters I would like to share with you a quick story as to why I personally decided to serve a mission. It was late January of this year when I found my mind troubled with many things and I decided to take my concerns to the lord. Two of my dear cousins had recently become engaged and I found my self feeling concerned as to what I should do with my life, is I should find someone to marry? Was it even the right time? Where I should apply to grad school? And many other questions plagued my mind. On Saturday morning I thought no better place to inquire of the lord than in his holy house the temple. What I thought was going to be a quick trip turned into a 4 hour wait and a long needed answer to a prayer. Let me read you an excerpt from my journal that day.
“ Since I soon realized I had a long time ahead of me I thought I should read, I picked up a Book of Mormon and said a silent prayer and opened the book, I feel open to D&c6 and I felt a feeling of peace overcome me. It talked about how Christ hears me and knows what is going on, I felt as though he was speaking to me personally, that the scripture was written for me, the peace I was seeking for was found and now all I needed was the answers to my questions. I picked up an old New Era magazine; it was a special issue about preparing serving a mission. I turn 21 this year and I read and read and soon a warm confirming impression came “ I am to serve a mission. I knew it is not required of but I feel strongly that this is where the lord wants me to take my life.”
I didn’t see god but my prayers were answered that day. I will admit I have moments since where I would second guess the answers I was given but each time I inquire of the lord I again felt the conformation that this is where the lord has need of me right now.
Going on a mission for me was an answer to pray that will change my life for the good. Joseph Smith’s answer not only changed his life but would forever change the world for the best. Adam prayed, Jesus Prayed, we all know the outcome of their prayers. He who notes the fall of the sparrow surely hears the pleading of our hearts. God hears your prayers. God answered prayers then and I promise you he answers prayers now.
President Gordon B. Hinckley once said
“I read this morning a part of Joseph Smith’s testimony of the First Vision. You are all familiar with it. His going into a grove, pleading with the Lord, a light shining above him, and then the appearance of the Father and the Son. I read that testimony and thought of it. I said to myself, ‘If every one of us knew in our hearts that that statement is true, then we would know that all else which follows it, which came through the restoration of the gospel, is true also.’ And we would walk and live with greater faithfulness.
“Tithing would not be a problem with us. Temple service would not be a problem with us. Keeping the Sabbath day holy would not be a problem with us. … Missionary service would be no problem with us.
“All else that follows would be true. We would know it in our hearts if we had a solid, firm, immovable conviction of the truth and validity of that great vision wherein God the Eternal Father and the risen Lord Jesus Christ appeared to the boy Joseph Smith and the Father said, ‘This is My Beloved Son. Hear Him!’”2
As Joseph faced much persecution and trial for proclaiming he saw a vision he said he felt as Paul and his account of seeing a vision and hearing a voice. but still there were but few who believed him; some said he was dishonest, others said he was mad.. But all this did not destroy the reality of his vision. He had seen a vision, he knew he had, and all the cpersecution under heaven could not make it otherwise, Joseph Said: So it was with me. I had actually seen a light, and in the midst of that light I saw two aPersonages, and they did in reality speak to me; and though I was bhated and cpersecuted for saying that I had seen a vision, yet it was true; Why persecute me for telling the truth? I have actually seen a vision; and who am I that I can withstand God, or why does the world think to make me deny what I have actually seen? For I had seen a vision; I knew it, and I knew that God knew it, and I could not edeny it,
Brothers and sisters I challenge each of you if you haven’t already done so to read of Jospeh’s account of the first vision and to humbly get down on your knees and ask heavenly father if this is true. And I promise if you listen you will reveice a confirmation of it’s validity, Mathew 7:7 reads, Ask and it shall be given you, Seek and ye shall find, Knock and it shall be open to you.
I too know that Joseph Smith saw God the father and his Son Jesus Christ. I look forward to the time soon at hand where I will be able to labor among the people of the England Manchester Mission and proclaim the truthfulness of this vision and of the restoration of the Gospel of Jesus Christ in it’s fullness. I have a testimony of the atonement of Christ, and that when we turn to him and repent we can receive peace and know that we have been forgiven. There is no greater peace than that which comes from Christ. I am so grateful for the knowledge that I have an eternal family. This is the only true church, and Christ himself leads it, the book of Mormon in addition to the bible is another testament of Jesus Christ- In the name of Jesus Christ Amen.


Scott and Kristine said...

Thanks so much for sharing this. I loved it and thanks for your testimony on Joseph Smith and Christ. Isn't it all wonderful! Sure love ya

Da Bergs said...

You are going to be one awesome missionary!!! AND, I am going to miss you!!!