farewell // 28 june 2009
The night before opening my call, I dreamt I stopped in at the BYU Bookstore to pick up a class-required Mission Prep manual. It's a slim volume, only a few dollars and all of sixty pages, yet by the time I arrived home the book was the size of a small elephant. This development, however, didn't seem to phase my dream-self until I opened the package and evaluated its contents, stunned. The thing was packed. I began pulling out skirts, shirts, dresses and shoes as well as books binders, notes and charts until things began to get even more metaphorical and I was reaching at slamming doors and absent investigators, difficult companions and alarm clocks set to six a.m. Panicked, I shoved everything back into the box and raced back to the bookstore.
The girl at the register listened politely to my predicament, but then informed me that a return was impossible. "But this wasn't what I asked for!" I explained frantically. "This isn't what I expected!" She smiled apologetically but simply pointed behind me to the box which, while now the size of a 4-door sedan, was also completely transparent.
Turns out my subconscious isn't all that subtle---I awoke to the sheer terror of it all: what on earth have I gotten myself into? The question was heightened that morning by the uncertainty of a future outlined in a white envelope, but I think quite a lot of us field the same panic every day, forgetting the counsel in Doctrine and Covenants 38:30: if ye are prepared ye shall not fear.
And still this scripture might only bring about more questions. What does it mean, to be prepared? To be ready, to be strong? And what, in the end, are we preparing for? There are marriages and missions, temptations and trials, any number of spiritual surprises that strive to shake us. Yet these great things are made up of the small and simple, and the preparation I would like to talk about this morning is in the day to day baby steps of living; the steps that daily bring us closer to God and prepare us to become as followers of Christ.
In my very limited experience, I have found that this preparation is in knowing, doing, and being.
First, we must seek to KNOW. This could easily be a list of the usual: go to church, read your scriptures, say your prayers. We know these constants and strive to live by them---and yet by knowing these foundational principles, we are held to a higher task. To truly be prepared, we must actively search out truth, or as prophet Joseph Smith said,
"[thy mind] must stretch as high as the utmost heavens, and search into and contemplate the darkest abyss, and the broad expanse of eternity---thou must commune with God."
To know is to commit to a lifetime's quest for the light and truth of the Gospel. This might entail studying longer and more thoroughly the scriptures. It might require a closer study of your sacrament meetings, applying Sunday School lessons more personally, or a more dedicated and fervent approach to prayer. Whatever the case, it requires us to make learning a more major part of our lives---it requires us to be teachable. We must open our hearts, become again as a little child awake to the word and eager to know it.
Elder Richard G. Scott told us in his October 1993 address that this process "takes faith and diligent effort. Precious truth comes a small piece at a time through faith, with great exertion, and at times wrenching struggles" but President Joseph F. Smith reminds us of the great blessings that accompany such effort:
"Now the Lord would give us gifts," he said. "He will quicken our minds. He will give us a knowledge that will be so deeply rooted in our souls that it can never be rooted out, if we will just seek the light."
And by knowing, it seems we must DO. Again, an overwhelming verb; and once more the usual answers resurface: church. scriptures. prayer. But I love the more immediate and valiant imagery of Ephesians, where we are told to put on the whole armour of God, and it is here that we are able to put our knowledge to action.
In your quest for knowledge, your feet have been "shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace"---preparation President Harold B. Lee tells us "represents our own goals or objectives in life" and is "the way to victory." You have discovered Truth with which to girt your loins, and Righteousness as your breastplate. In your scripture study you have found the word of God and now wield the sword of the Spirit, and wear the helmet of salvation. Taking with you the shield of faith, you are now able "to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand."
But then where do we stand? I am grateful for my years in Young Womens, where we remembered the answer to this question every new week: that we are to stand as witnesses of God at all times and in all things and in all places. We are to "go about doing good" as our Savior did, that our actions may testify of his truth and bring others to his light---the light they can see in you as you keep his commandments and follow his word.
This principle is illustrated in one of my most favorite books, The Great Divorce. In this work, author and main character C.S. Lewis describes Heaven as a more solid and real realm than our Earth, where daisies are as hard as diamonds and the smallest leaf is the weight of a sack of coal to a group of travelers who arrive there from Hell. The visitors are transparent and ghostly, weak in a world they are unprepared for, but are greeted by friends or family that shine like the sun and navigate their so-solid world with ease. One of these angels motions them forward, saying "Will you come with me to the mountains? It will hurt at first, until your feet are hardened. Reality is harsh to the feet of shadows. But will you come?"
Many refuse, a few struggle a pace or two and then turn back as well. But C.S. Lewis walks on, noticing that his own shadowfeet grow brighter and more solid as he seeks to understand more of this Heaven and how he fits into it.
So it is in our own dedication to preparation. Forging further up and further in to Deep Heaven, we too become more bright and more solid; we become a light and a strength. Amplified by Christ's love and teaching, we not only improve ourselves but we become leaders and examples to others as they also seek to prepare.
It is still overwhelming, isn't it? On bad days, I think about escape. Only three days left, I calculate. Still enough time to hightail it to Canada. But these are also the days I forget the most important component to our call to prepare: we are never alone. The great Atonement of our Savior Jesus Christ ensures our safety and urges us to live, to press forward in faith. I hear him saying (as one of Lewis' angels says in The Great Divorce) "It's back there---to the mountains---you need to go. You can lean on me all the way. I can't absolutely carry you, but you need have almost no weight on your own feet: and it will hurt less at every step."
I testify of this truth, of the Savior's constant companionship in our every endeavor. It is his strength that keeps me standing and his light that brings me hope. In the panic that is most often preparation, I have felt the comfort of his promise in Exodus 14: The Lord shall fight for you, and ye shall hold your peace.
In this faith, I commit myself to the future. I am grateful for the family and friends, each face I see here today, for their light and example that has prepared me for this day. I am grateful for the opportunity to serve the people of Indonesia, to teach to them the joy I see in each of you every day. This Gospel is True and I feel blessed to be able to know and to live it; to talk of Christ, to preach of Christ, to prophesy of Christ and, above all, rejoice in Christ.