Friday, October 19, 2012

The Un-Spoken Talk

When I first got my mission call, I was told that they would not give me a topic to speak on since my Single's ward likely would. My single's ward never said anything about speaking in church so I started to write a talk on "whatever I want". Eventually my single's ward asked me to speak (which the talk is already posted on here) and my home ward has given me a new topic- so I have a talk I haven't given. 
Mind you, it's a "super-rough-draft" because I never finished it. But, I still think it has a place somewhere- so I'm posting it here:

So here is that talk I never gave:


"Today I’m going to speak about something we’ve all hear a million times. Even outside of this church, we’ve heard it time and time again. Apparently we don’t really get it, or we wouldn’t have to be reminded over 40,000 times. Literally- there are over 40,000 talks, scriptures and LDS references about Love and Service, yet we’re still not doing being reminded.
Love encircles everything we should be doing here in life. When a lawyer once tried to tempt Jesus and catch him off guard by asking In Mark 22:35 “Master, which is the great commandment in the law?” but Jesus had no trouble responding and said “Thou shalt love thy God with all thy heart and with all thy should and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment and the Second is like unto it. Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.”
It sounds pretty simple. It should be really easy. Yet, we’re still being told we’re not fulfilling those commandments. Even just this conference, we were reminded by President Uchtorf in a talk, not actually, but which could affectionately be titles “STOP IT” when he said “It’s that simple. We simply have to stop judging others and replace judgmental thoughts and feelings with a heart full of love for God and his children. God is our Father. We are His children. We are all brothers and sisters”. https://www.lds.org/general-conference/2012/04/the-merciful-obtain-mercy?lang=eng
But even President Uchtdorf’s straightforward speaking- we still haven’t gotten it. Maybe we just don’t know how to do it. How do we show love? How do we prove that we have Love for God and for his children, and if we don’t how do we get it? If you listen close, I’ll tell you the secret.
First I’ll start with some eloquent, eye opening lyrics.

“I’m trying to be like Jesus, I’m following in his ways.
I’m trying to love as he did, in all that I do and say.
At times I am tempted to make a wrong choice.
But I try to listen as the still small voice whispers,
Love one another as Jesus loves you.
Try to show kindness in all that you do.
Be gentle and loving in deed and in thought,
For these are the things Jesus taught”

So the first Key to solving the problem of loving other is: Follow Jesus, be like Jesus. At least try to be like Jesus.
            I want to take a quick moment and clarify something. 1. I hope you don’t think I’m making light of this principle, because although simple it is incredibly critical. And 2. I am incredibly humbled by this topic- it’s one of those that’s equally for the speaker as it for the audience. Because of that, and with so many friends and family here- I want to take 2 seconds to apologize for any time that I have not represented Jesus Christ and shown how much I love you. I do, as does He.
As I prepared for my mission, I realized that sure- I grew up in the church- sure I showed up to seminary 99% of the time- sure I went to primary and young women’s and relief society- sure I attended BYU and got good grades in all of my Religion classes, but the more I studied the more I realized how much I didn’t know. I felt (and still feel) pretty overwhelmed in my limited knowledge. I feel a little like Nephi when he was asked about the condescension of God and replied much like I think I would have “um… I know that God loves his children, but I don’t know everything”. He said it much more articulately than that, but I imagine him feeling very humbled by what he was being taught.
Even thought I don’t know everything, and sometimes the more I learn then less I feel I know- I’ve realized that God has slowly but concretely taught me the most fundamentally important aspect of the gospel- which is how he feels about his children.
I could give a thousand examples of ways he has taught me this, but that would put us way over time, so I’ll try to quickly get through just a few.
The first time I remember recognizing the love of God for his children, and I mean really feeling and recognizing it- was when I volunteered at a Special Needs camp. I worked with several children, but one of the children I specifically helped throughout was named Tristen. I don’t know the details of Tristen’s special needs other than he was blind. He was very young, but full of life. The memory of him laughing and playing with us, with such immense joy through his trails has stuck very strongly with me. I remember, almost as if the beautiful day paused for a moment, thinking about what an example of Love Tristen was, and through that- I felt incredibly amounts of love for him from our Savior.
Another time that I remember recognizing the Savior’s love for his children was in Fiji. I went there with almost prideful service expectations. Yes, I was going to help these people by building them septic tanks, they needed me. But I did not expect the profound, yet simple lessons I would learn there. One particular lesson was taught very directly to me and my friend from an elderly man named Toma. Toma let my friend borrow his hammer, and while using the hammer- her broke the handle. My friend was terrified to tell Toma about it, because he knew that this was pretty much the only tool Toma owned. But in honesty, he brought the broken hammer to Toma and apologized immensely, telling him he would pay for it. We didn’t expect Toma to be angry, but we also didn’t expect the incredibly kind and wise words that followed. He said something along the lines of “This? This is nothing. Hammer is nothing. Only life is something. When you leave, I will miss you. That’s in the heart. It is love. That is something. But this? This is nothing, only life is something.” It was such a profound lesson of love and forgiveness. Nothing else matters but life- and in life the way we treat each and show our love for each other by following the example of Christ.
President Uchtorf also taught a similar lesson in his talk entitled the Love of God when he said “Because love is the great commandment, it ought to be at the center of all and everything we do… Love is the healing balm that repairs rifts in personal and family relationships. It is the bond that unites families, communities and nations…. Love should be our walk and our talk. When we truly understand what it meant to love as Jesus Christ loves us, the confusion clears and our priorities align. Our walk as disciples of Christ becomes more joyful. Our lives take a new meaning. Our relationship with our Heavenly Father becomes more profound. Obedience becomes a joy rather than a burden” http://www.lds.org/ensign/2009/11/the-love-of-god (Uchtdorf)
I want to point something out about these expereines that taught me so much. Did you notice that they all have a common theme? That theme is Service. I saw through service, a Christ given light in every person. God loves his children.
God loves us so much that he gave his only begotten son- is there a sacrifice or a service more than that? No. There is not. The time I truly came to recognize the meaning and depth of that example of love, came when I heard Elder Holland’s talk “None were with him”. When I heard Elder Holland read the cries of the Savior in his final moment, a way that I had never heard before “My God, my God, why has THOU forsaken me?” I can not imagine not only the sacrifice of letter His son go through all that he had to endure, but then having to withdraw briefly so that Christ could truly, fully, and ultimately know what- as Elder Holland put it “This perfect son who had never spoken ill nor done wrong nor touched an unclean thing had to know how the rest of humankind- us, all of us- would feel when we did commit such sins…. But Jesus held on. He pressed on.” And then because of this, because “Jesus walked such a long, lonely path utterly alone, we do not have to do so” http://www.lds.org/ensign/2009/05/none-were-with-him (None were with Him). There is no greater love.
            So if Christ  and our Father love us that much, so indescribably much, how can we return that love. We love him don’t we? We can never return fullfold, but we can show that we love him. How so? President Monson explained how when he said: In reality, you can never love the Lord until you serve him by serving his people” https://www.lds.org/new-era/1977/09/faces-and-attitudes?lang=eng&query="you+can+never+love+the+lord+until+you+serve+him+by+serving+his+people"
            No, we can not Love 100% as he did, but we can do much- much- much better than we are doing now. I remember learning this in a fun, yet profound way, at a BYU Devotional only a year or so ago when President Monson quoted The Lion King. He used this reference to explain to us that we need to remember who we are so that we can act our part. He Referened the exchange between Simba and his departed father, Mufasa, when Mufasa told Simba to “Look inside yourself, you are more than what you have become. Remember who you are. Remember. Remember” and President Monson extended that by reminding us that we are “a son or daughter of our Heavenly Father. You came from His presence to live on this earth for a season, and to live in such a way that you are an example of the believers and a true light to the world” and later he pointed out that this light we can have, when encountered by others “radiates the Love of the Savior and helps us feel his love for us”. https://www.lds.org/prophets-and-apostles/unto-all-the-world/become-a-light-for-all-to-see?lang=eng&query="lion+king"
            When I think of people who radiate the light and love of the Savior, I can not help but think of my niece Hailey. She has taught me a lot about love and kindness and forgiveness. One such lesson came in a simple and profound way when her and I were having a sleep over. She had just turned 3 years old.  As I was putting her to bed, I asked her if she had said her prayers. She responded with something like “Yeah, I talk to Jesus”.  I thought that was a great, yet interesting way to put it, so I asked her “Oh yeah? Well what does Jesus say?”.  And then she replied, in the most profound, in depth, perfect, honest, true statement I may have ever heard- she said “He Love Me”.
            I almost didn’t know how to reply, so I just continued to pry and asked her “… what else does he say?”
            She responded in an almost DUH kind of way “Just He love Us!” and then she turned to me and said sincerely- “I love you!” and gave me a hug and a kiss.
            He loves us.
            The simplicity and innocence of that conversation with my niece, reminds me of another Primary song that has profound and personal meaning.

            “I feel my Savior’s love,
In all the world around me
His Spirit warms my soul
Through everything I see.
Give all my life to Him
I feel my Savior's love
The love He freely gives me.
By serving others freely,
In serving I am blessed,
In giving I receive.
Give all my life to Him
I feel my Savior’s love,
The love He freely gives me.”


He knows I will follow Him,
...
I’ll share my Savior’s love
He knows I will follow Him,
I love that line “Ill share my Saviors love, by Serving others freely”. It’s that freely part that gets my attention. It reminds me of the Talk my Cousin- currently Elder Curtin- gave before leaving on his mission. He pointed out that in order to obey the great law, you much have Charity, which his the pure love of Christ. But that charity is not simply a set of actions that one merely performs, such as donating money- not that that is bad, it’s not- but as he stated “actions alone are not what constitutes charity. Charity is doing what is right for the right reasons- it is not an act but a condition or state of being”. Serving others in whatever means is great, it will help others feel the love of Christ, but until you serve FREELY- or in other words, until serving becomes a natural way of life rather than a forced action- you cannot have pure Charity.
            We all have opportunities to serve every day and I doubt we take even 10% of those opportunities. I have taken a lot of time today and in preparation for this talk on a seemingly simple topic and I’m so humbled in my short-comings.  I hope that we can all become more charitable.  We can pray for opportunities to grow and learn and act in Love and Service. I’m grateful for the opportunity my Father in Heaven has given me to serve a mission and in so doing, hopefully be able to bring his loving message to his Children in Hungary- because although I don’t fully know it yet. He loves them as much as you and I. It reminds me of the conversation repeated 3 times in John 21:15-17 to Simon Peter- Lovest thou me? The Savior asks. Simon Peter responds- Yeah Lord, thou knowest  I Love thee. And the Savior replies with a call to service and love when he tells Simon Peter “then Feed my Sheep”.  Testimony….


Wednesday, October 17, 2012

The Will to Win


So today, I went to BYU to quickly see my friend "Hermana Simpson" before she went to the MTC TODAY! I'm super excited for her. (My roommate ShanShan took some pictures, so if I get those before I head out, I'll post them here).

Anyway, on the way there I passed a sign on a little marathon-shoe store. This is what it said (well in general, I'm not sure if I'm quoting it right, I had to keep my eyes on the road while driving..):

"The Will to Win is Nothing
If there is no Will to Prepare"
 
Love it! Also.. I only have 2 weeks to finish prepping. I've had almost half of a year to prepare but I still feel so unprepared. Guess I better get running.
Love Always,
Michelle

Monday, October 15, 2012

Farewell to the Singles Ward Talk

My last time in my Single's Ward before I leave on my mission was yesterday. So of course I spoke in church. My topic was based on 2 of my favorite conference talks from last weekend (Youtube Highlight Clips from the talks are at the bottom).

This isn't exactly written the way I gave it, but it's what I wrote to get my thoughts out:
My topic for today was to pick one conference talk that had the greatest impact on me. I’m going to kind of stretch that, because I’m too indecisive. Instead I’m going to blend together a couple of them. Mainly Elder Scott’s talk on redeeming the dead and Elder Holland’s talk on the greatest commandment which is love. All of the conference talks had impact on me, especially considering you could find the topic of missionary work in almost all of them and I leave this month but today I want to focus more on a topic that impacted me that involves a different kind of love, service and sacrifice- which is that of Family History and Temple work.
I don’t know how this topic came to be considered so boring, we tend to tune it out and assume someone else will do it- I know, I used to all the time. So before I move on, I want to briefly remind us of a conference talk that was given some time ago given by Marvin J. Ashton.
He Said pointed out that:
Self-examination is most difficult. Surveys have shown that most people take credit for success to themselves, but blame their failures on external forces or other people. It would be well, when confronted with problems (and I’ll add- confronted with our slow response to family history and temple work), to be able to ask the same questions the Twelve Apostles asked during the Last Supper.

“Now when the even was come, he sat down with the twelve.

“And as they did eat, he said, Verily I say unto you, that one of you shall betray me.

“And they were exceeding sorrowful, and began every one of them to say unto him, Lord, is it I?” (Matt. 26:20–22.)
When our progress seems to be at a standstill, it is well for us to ask who is at fault. Is it I? Am I sufficiently committed to righteous goals?

This work is not for someone else. Just as Elder Scott himself asked in his talk: “But what about you? Have you prayed about your ancestor’s work?” For young adults like most of us, that answer is too often no. I didn’t realize before how critical this work is. To quote a couple describing phrases from our apostles and prophets: Temple work is “Vital Vicarious work” and if we don’t do the work, it is “Peril to our own Salvation” they said it is imperative, it’s not a suggestion- it’s a need. Kind of a big deal.

If caution about our salvation is not enough to convince us to sacrifice time to this work, but a promised blessing is. Elder Scott told us that if we “immerse ourselves in our own family history and temple work, we will have a sure way to eliminate the influence of the adversary” in our live. I don’t know anyone who wouldn’t want that. And I can personally testify of that to some extent. Since I got my mission call, my mom and I have tried to go to as many temples as we can. So far I think I’ve been at least 13 times and all but 3-4 of those times I have been able to take a family name through. I have had almost half a year since I got my call- that’s a lot of time to make mistakes. Obviously I have, I am far from perfect but each time I’ve done that work, I’ve seen simple miracles and felt immense protection from any strong temptations. If you can make it to the temple for your own ancestors, you can make it through life.

However, after all the reasons I’ve given so far- warnings on our salvation and promised blessings- should not, in my opinion, be the highest motivating factor. The real motivation should be love. Which is where I will finally tie in Elder Holland’s talk.

3 times the savior asked peter “Lovest Thou Me?” after a 3rd yes, the Savior, according to Elder Holland’s personalization then asked “then why are we here? Why are we back having the same conversation…I need someone to feed my sheep and save my lambs. I need disciples. Ours is not a feeble message. It is not hapless, it is not hopeless”

Yes, we do need to serve those who live in our same time- we need to feed those sheep and bring them to Christ. I would not be going on a mission if I did not believe that. But our ancestors are just as real and just as in need of our help. We need to help save those lambs too.

I know this type of work requires a lot more faith then most. Without the faith and knowledge that those who’ve died are still real and still there though unseen, it would seem a very empty work. But it’s not an empty work. These people are our family. They need our service. One of my favorite quotes is from President Monson who said “You can not love the Lord until you serve him by serving his people”. I used to think that only applied to life here on earth, but we can’t love the Lord if we don’t serve our family in the Temple. Isn’t that a huge part of his plan- his plan of salvation and happiness?

The first time I went through the temple, I learned these lessons in a very simple yet profound way. There was a lot on my mind that day, but when I got into the celestial room, while I was sitting with my family I realized I had a song stuck in my head. The song is a primary song.

I feel my Savior’s love,
In all the world around me
His Spirit warms my soul
Through everything I see.

He knows I will follow Him,
Give all my life to Him
I feel my Savior's love
The love He freely gives me.
...
I’ll share my Savior’s love
By serving others freely,
In serving I am blessed,
In giving I receive.

He knows I will follow Him,
Give all my life to Him
I feel my Savior’s love,
The love He freely gives me.”

I knew that by serving a mission, I would have the chance to serve others. But I’m grateful that I’ve also the opportunity to serve my family in preparation to serving a mission.
       
Just as Elder Holland imagines for himself that once we pass on, Christ may very well ask the same question he asked Peter: “Didn’t you love me?” I would also not be surprised if we met our family- our relatives and ancestors who will also ask “Didn’t you love me?”
If we don’t prioritize this eternal requirement I wonder how we will feel when asked those questions.
Quickly I want to tell a brief story about a simple yet profound lesson that I learned when I was serving in Fiji. There was an old man who lived in the village named Toma. While we were working on his family’s outhouse, my friend Connor accidently broke the hammer that Toma had let him barrow. Connor was terrified to tell Toma about it, knowing that it was likely the only tool he owned. But knowing he needed to, he showed the broken hammer to Toma and apologized profusely.
Toma’s response was unexpected. He smiled humbly and said “This? This broken hammer is nothing. Only life is something. When you leave it will hurt, it’s in the heart. It’s life. But this? This is nothing.” Genealogy and temple work is something. There are real people waiting on us. So I hope you and I can stop focusing on what we think we are sacrificing- on what we think is important- stop focusing on the broken hammers- the worldly thing- they are not worth our time. But people are life, relationships are life- so they are something. We need to focus on life and we can not be redeemed to the life our loving savior desires for us without loving our ancestors and family enough to serve them. I am grateful for the stern yet loving reminders general conference gives us and I hope we’ll renew what we learned by re-reading then acting. This gospel is real.

 

 

Conference Highlights

 


Conference was awesome (my little brother said that word is overused because it should only be used in awe-inspiring situations, but I think it applies here). Since I was out of town, I watched the Sunday morning in our friends basement, Sunday afternoon on my aunt's porch, and Saturday morning and afternoon in sections at my uncle's home.

Something I'm sure you're all curious to know about is- what did I think about the announcement? (That young men now can serve a mission at 18 instead of 19 and young women can serve at 19 instead of 21). Well,  my first thought was "Cool... except that now makes me an old sister missionary". But then the more I thought about it, the more inspired it felt. People have asked me things along the line of  "Are you jealous that you couldn't go at 19?" I can honestly answer that with a definite no.
There are several reasons behind that. First, I don't think I would have gone at 19 because it wasn't even on my mind at that time. Second, there are a lot of experiences that I would have missed out on if I would have left that early (such as meeting new family in Iceland or making life-long friends my sophomore year at BYU).
For me, it's inspired that I'm going now rather than earlier and rather than later. Yes, I no longer feel young :) but I'm grateful to know that the work I'm about to do is important to the Lord. As Elder Holland said last conference "it's getting late" and God needs our help.

I loved all of the rest of conference too. As soon as I got back from California, I gave a talk in my singles ward on the conference talks that impacted me the most. I will try to get that typed up and post it here later today or tomorrow.

I'm grateful for apostles and prophets, for the renewing inspiration that conference has and for modern day revelation.
Love Always,
Michelle

Temples Elven and Twelve: Road Trip and a Primary Confirmation

It's been a while, but I've been out of town. Which brings me to my next 2 temples.

Temple 11 was to the Columbia River, Washington Temple. I had driven that road several times, but I have to admit- I had no idea there was a temple in the tri-city area. But after some research and help from my old roommate, we found it. My mom, grandma and aunt Danelle and I drove to Washington and on our way we made a stop at this quaint temple.
The road-trip crew (my Mom, Danelle, me, and Grandma)
My roommate (soon-to-be Sister Simpson because she leaves for her mission to DC south THIS week) came with her mom. The temple is so small that you have to make an appointment, but it worked out and we really enjoyed going. The stained glass on this temple was really cool, they had some on every wall of the Celestrial room that had the phases of the moon. I love how every temple is unique to the area, but supplies the same direction, meaning and purpose.
I also loved that my mom could go with her mom and one of her sisters and I loved that Jessica (aka Sister Simpson) and I could go together before we both left on our missions.
"Sister Simpson" and I
Just in case anyone wants to check up on her: here is her blog link- http://hermanasimpson.blogspot.com/

Everyone Together

On our way out, one of the men who had been inside stopped and talked to us. He talked to Jessica and I about our missions (and he said that he had been to Hungary and it's the only country him and his wife would want to go back to visit again).
Sadly, I forgot the family names that I still have left so hopefully I will get those done before I go, but I loved spending time in such a sacred place with both friends and family.

--
Temple 12 was to the Seattle, Washington Temple. This is actually the first temple I ever went to when I turned 12 (I just realized the coincidence in numbers there). We had just moved to Washington after my 12th birthday, so I went to do baptisms at that temple. It was wonderful to see the rest of the temple and see how regularly it was used. I also just love the feel of Washington- it's natural, diverse and beautiful.

The Seattle Temple- me, my mom and Laure
Right before we were going to go into the temple, I got a call from my grandpa telling me that my uncle wanted to fly me out to California to help him with Kai (my cousin who has autism). I wanted to see them, but I wasn't sure I could- I felt overwhelmed with everything I need to do to prepare for my mission and I was supposed to take my little brother on campus tours the days my uncle wanted me to go to California. So, since I was going to the temple I decided to just think about it while there. My mom and her best friend Laure (my friend Josh's mom) and I went to the Seattle temple. It was a great experience. I decided while there that I should go to California. Now that I'm back, I'm grateful that I went (plus everything worked out for my parents to take my brother to the campus tours). I love my family and I'm glad I got to see some of my extended family and spend time helping Kai before I left. I'm grateful that attending the temple helps make decisions easier and more peaceful for me.

Hanging out with my cute cousin Kai. Love this kid.

Now I want to go a little off-topic and back up just a tad. Right before I left for this road-trip, I also went with my ward again to the Timpanogas temple. Before going I realized I needed my own confirmation that the Book of Mormon is true. I had a testimony of it, but I need to be able to preach of it- so I needed something to confirm to me that it was. I went through the temple and didn't really notice anything apart from the ordinary peace and knowledge that the temple provides. Even sitting in the celestial room I didn't notice anything. But that's because I wasn't paying attention to the song that was stuck in my head. When I finally realized what was rotating around in my mind, I realize a couple of things. 1) God answers prayers in simple, yet profound ways and 2) The scriptures are true.

These lyrics to a primary song (which I hadn't listened to or thought about for a long time) are what, for me, was an answer to my prayers:

"The spirit will guide, and deep inside I know the scriptures are true"

It wasn't until later when I got home and googled the lyrics and figured out how the rest of the song went (apparently I need to know my primary songs better), but God's love and guidance is simple and I'm incredibly grateful for that little confirmation.

This was the best I could come up with from youtube, but hey- it is a primary song after all :)



1. I love to read the holy scriptures,
And, ev’ry time I do,
I feel the Spirit start to grow within my heart—
A testimony that they’re true.

2. So, prayerfully I’ll read the scriptures
Each day my whole life through.
I’ll come to understand.
I’ll heed the Lord’s command
And live as he would have me do.

Chorus
Search, ponder, and pray
Are the things that I must do.
The Spirit will guide, and, deep inside,
I’ll know the scriptures are true

I know the Scriptures are true.
Love Always,
Michelle