Homecoming talk, December 27, 2015
Protecting our Testimonies
Testify about how you can explain better, using your own experiences.
Testimony verses conversion.
One of the biggest things I noticed about the French people, and something I admired from them was their sure testimony of the principles of the gospel. It was something I learned from them. Every Sunday, they were completely dedicated to understanding the principles, before they let little things get in the way.
I think far too often we let the little things get in the way of our faith and inhibit us from growing our testimonies. Over the last 18 months I was able to teach principles of the gospel every single day, something that at first seemed mundane, and frankly repetitive. I wanted more that, I wanted to understand more of the doctrine, we were missionaries, shouldn’t we study these things?
So in my endeavors to do this I read the book Jesus the Christ. I realized very fast, you couldn’t have a testimony of the little things until you have a sure foundation of the principles of this gospel. I started asking more questions to myself, “Who is my savior?” “What is my relationship with him?” I kept doing this until finally I found myself begin to apply what we were teaching of the principles of this gospel.
I believe protecting your testimony means more than making sure you don’t let something tear it down, but fighting to grow it. That is our purpose on this earth, to learn and GROW.
Once you have a testimony of this gospel, well that’s amazing, but keep going. There is something else I learned. Once, you have started to apply these principles into your life, you have started on the road of conversion. That’s a life long road, of learning, and growing.
During a harder part of my mission my President gave a training at a conference for the missionaries, he talked a lot about missions and their hardships, the choices that others make, and more importantly our choices. He shared a talk by Elder Neil L. Anderson it says,
“Nearly 40 years ago as I contemplated the challenge of a mission, I felt very inadequate and unprepared. I remember praying, “Heavenly Father, how can I serve a mission when I know so little?” I believed in the Church, but I felt my spiritual knowledge was very limited. As I prayed, the feeling came: “You don’t know everything, but you know enough!” That reassurance gave me the courage to take the next step into the mission field.
Our spiritual journey is the process of a lifetime. We do not know everything in the beginning or even along the way. Our conversion comes step-by-step, line upon line. We first build a foundation of faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. We treasure the principles and ordinances of repentance, baptism, and receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost. We include a continuing commitment to prayer, a willingness to be obedient, and an ongoing witness of the Book of Mormon.”
We need to build our foundations upon the principles of the gospel, like Anderson states, and that starts with Christ. I have asked these rhetorical questions hundreds of times to members and investigators, and myself, now I would ask you,
Who is Christ to you?
What can He do for you?
What are some goals you’d like to have for that relationship?
What kind of relationship do you think you have now with him?
As we ponder over the principles of the gospel and gain “enough” of an understanding of the principles of this gospel, God has promised us hope, and happiness ahead as we protect our testimonies.
Anderson ends his talk with this quote,
“Challenges, difficulties, questions, doubts—these are part of our mortality. But we are not alone. As disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ, we have enormous spiritual reservoirs of light and truth available to us. Fear and faith cannot coexist in our hearts at the same time. In our days of difficulty, we choose the road of faith. Jesus said, “Be not afraid, only believe.” 4
I pray that in our trials we may continue to protect our testimony, by choosing the road of faith. Having a sure foundation and testimony and staying on the path of conversion is the key to happiness.
I would like to testify of something I learned these last 18 months. There was a point in my mission where I had never felt so depressed and sad in my life. I prayed a lot, and asked God, why? This doesn’t make sense. I’m supposed to be spreading eternal happiness how can I be so sad? Why is nobody accepting this message? I was trying my hardest, but I just never felt quite adequate for the situation. Over time I have realized why this had to happen, why the Lord had done this. He did not abandon me, instead, He loved me enough to break me down. As I was in my most vulnerable point trying to rebuild my foundation, and my faith, He was able to work with me, and I was finally humble enough to actually listen to what he wanted. Its like a clay mold that he breaks down enough to finally be able to work with, That is when I realized how happy missions can be. When you are humble enough to give all you have to the Lord, you start seeing more and more of the good in people. You want everyone around you to succeed, and see this happiness that you have found. I will testify, sometimes without the bitter sorrows we pass through, we cannot know the pure joy that comes from the gospel, and a testimony of Christ, and his atonement.
I learned that to protect our testimonies we must be fully committed to daily prayer.
One of the prayers that changed my life, and my faith was said when I was in Paris. I had read the scripture that morning Mark 11:24,
24 Therefore I say unto you, What things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them.
I read that as a promise from the Lord. I knew that miracles existed, id seen many, and I was so frustrated with not being able to find any, I put all my faith on the line, and in that very sacred prayer, I told Heavenly Father I will do my absolute best to find someone today, and with that you have promised me I will. It was a miracle what happened that day. We went out, all morning, and late into the afternoon. We had contacted everyone, and nobody was interested, I looked at my companion, she was trying so hard as well. We sat down for a couple minutes, and talked about, well what if we cant find anyone. We had only a half hour left, I began to silently pray, I had put all of my belief and faith into this prayer, why was God not answering? A couple minutes went by and we got up and turned around headed to the bus stop that would take us back home. As we were about to cross the street to the stop, the bus pulled ahead of it. We waited, and then crossed, and as the bus pulled away there sitting on the bench was a woman. It hit me like lighting, that was Gods answer. She was who we were supposed to find that day. We ended up teaching her and she became our new investigator. Now, the story might not seem super cool, or exciting. But to me that day, I realized, God listens, when we ask in complete faith, he will answer. I was able to take this faith promoting experience and build on it the rest of my mission. Through this experiences I was able to recognize countless other miracles the Lord gave us.
The only way I could have said this prayer with so much conviction was because of the scripture I had read. I have a firm belief that daily scripture study can keep you on the path of conversion. Before my mission one of my trials would be to read the scriptures for an entire hour everyday! Haha but, as I began to study the scriptures everyday little by little, I realized and hour was not long enough! Haha There was so much to learn. The Book of Mormon became more of a history book, with heros, and villians, and faith building examples. The New Testament was the story of Christ and his life, with amazing miracles that we can still see today. I promise you that the scriptures can be fascinating, and intriguing, if we allow them to be.
We had this one investigator who was really struggling with daily scripture study, we taught about praying before and after to have the spirit as she read by herself, but whatever we tried, it was still a trial for her. So every Sunday we would go and read with her a scripture story. Step by step she began to see the good in reading, and apply what we had read. One day after reading the story about Joseph and Potiphar’s wife, we asked if we could do some service by helping her set up her new dinning table, and as we were lifting the heavy top in place, she yells out, “Use the strength of Joseph!” haha But she listened and understood! Daily scripture study can be used in everyday life if we just apply it. Sincere study, can lead to a lasting change of which I saw in myself, companions, members, and investigators.
The last thing I want to talk to you about is action. In the end we are the only ones responsible for our own faith, testimony, and conversion. We need to make our own choices to grow our testimonies. Gods greatest gifts to man were agency, and his Son Jesus Christ. They are completely free, and its our choice if we want to use his Atonement.
I’d like to read one last scripture Heleman 5:12
12 And now, my sons, remember, remember that it is upon the rock of our Redeemer, who is Christ, the Son of God, that ye must build your foundation; that when the devil shall send forth his mighty winds, yea, his shafts in the whirlwind, yea, when all his hail and his mighty storm shall beat upon you, it shall have no power over you to drag you down to the gulf of misery and endless wo, because of the rock upon which ye are built, which is a sure foundation, a foundation whereon if men build they cannot fall.
I pray and hope we all will continue to choose to protect our testimonies and stay on the path of conversion so like how it says in Heleman 5:12, when trials are placed before us, they will have no power over us, but instead we can be prepared and overcome whatever is thrown in our paths.
Testify in French.