Sunday, August 25, 2013

My Mission Farewell

This morning I gave my farewell in the Mountain Vista ward. This is more of less what I said. I'm so glad that I was able to give this talk in my ward, it explains why I'm going on my mission and how I feel about the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.

Good morning brothers and sisters. For those of you who don’t know me, my name is Diana Judd, I’ve been a member of this ward for the past nine years, but for the last year I’ve been attending the single’s ward, which is why we may not have met. I’m now preparing to leave and serve a mission in the Utah Salt Lake City South Mission, and I am incredibly grateful for the opportunity I have to get up today and address you on a topic that means a great deal to me. I hope that what I say today can in some way touch you, or help you.

In the Church’s guidebook for missionaries, Preach My Gospel, are the lessons missionaries are to teach their investigators. Each lesson is made up of a list of key doctrines the First Presidency of the Church has determined to be necessary for all to learn. The first bullet point of the first lesson is “God is our loving Heavenly Father.”  It is this simple bullet point that has changed my life more than anything else. It is this knowledge that is the reason I am a member of this church and it is this basic doctrine, that so many overlook or take for granted or forget, that is the reason I am standing here today preparing to leave my family and everything that I have previously known, to go and serve the people of Utah, to let them know how much our Heavenly Father loves them. This is what I’m going to talk to you about today.

This topic is really important to me now, because my junior year of high school, I didn’t believe it. I forgot to look for God’s hand in my life, so I stopped seeing it. I began to believe that I was alone, and unloved and forgotten. It was the hardest and darkest period of my life that I have ever gone through. I was blessed enough to have loving parents who talked to me, and shared their testimonies with me and never gave up on me, even when I had. Over time and through a number of experiences, I came to realize how foolish and blind I was and have since, never for a second doubted Heavenly Father’s love for me as His child. But I know how hard it is when we forget this, or if we just never learn this. I never want a single person to ever have to feel as alone and hopeless as I felt, and that is why I am here today, and that is why I am serving a mission.

“God is our loving Heavenly Father.” This means a number of things. First, He is our Father. He is literally the father, the creator of our spirits. To begin this talk I addressed you as “brothers and sisters” because that is what you are, you are my brothers and my sisters. We are part of an eternal spirit family led by our Father and Mother in Heaven. They want us back. They love us, we are their children.

We are connected together in a way that so many overlook, or just don’t understand. We are not random people somehow thrown together, trying to make our way through life. We are a family. And families are meant to be together.

 I have been blessed to be part of a wonderful family here on this earth that has helped me to understand better my place in the spirit family of our Father. My family loves each other very much.
Not once have I thought, “I hope Rachel fails” or “I hope Samuel is miserable” or “I hope I never have to see Nathan again.” If I, as a wholly imperfect sister, could never wish for these things for my family members, how could we ever think for even a second, that our Perfect, all-knowing, ever-loving Father in Heaven would want these things for us, His children?  He wants to see us succeed, and He wants to see us happy. Though we may not always see it, everything is evidence of this.

A scripture used all the time in the Church is Moses 1:39-
“For this is my work and my glory to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.”, the Church’s official website says that immortality is “to live forever as a resurrected being” and that eternal life is “to live in God’s presence and to continue as families.” So, to simplify this scripture in Moses, God’s purpose is to have His children return to Him as families, and live forever. If this is His work and His glory, then surely everything He has done, and everything He does now is to accomplish this goal. Out of His love for each of us, Heavenly Father has designed a plan for us to return to Him and to be happy.  This plan goes by many names in the Church, The Plan of Salvation, the Great Plan of Happiness, the Plan of Mercy. This plan is centered around the atonement of Jesus Christ.

Heavenly Father loves each of us so much that He sent His son, our brother, here to take upon himself the sins and the pains of the world. Christ loves each of us so much that He lived a perfect life, He experienced every pain every heartache every sorrow, that you will ever experience. Out of His love for us, Jesus Christ died, and for us, Christ has risen and lives again. Heavenly Father let this happen because He knew it was the only way that we could all live again and return to Him.

We can only be in our Father’s presence if we are clean and pure, and through the atonement of Jesus Christ we have the opportunity to repent and become clean and pure again. I am so grateful every day that my Father in Heaven loves me enough to let me repent, to let me change and become better.

None of us are perfect, we all make mistakes every day, whether willfully or due to a lack of understanding. It is amazing and wonderful to me that we don’t have to stay in that broken and confused and sad state that we’re in when we sin. We can ALWAYS decide to turn to God and live for Him. We can always acknowledge that He loves us and show that we love Him, because that is what we are doing when we repent. We are showing that we love our Heavenly Father, and we love Jesus Christ enough to take and use their gift of opportunity. 

I am so grateful for that opportunity, not only for me but also for the people I love who I see stumble and doubt, as I have. I testify that people can change. I have seen people changed, I have been changed. I am not the same person I was two years ago, and I’m not the same person I was two days ago. I am so glad that every day I have an opportunity to become a better disciple of Christ. I am so grateful for the Plan of Salvation which allows me to do so.

While the Plan of Salvation is for every person who has ever lived, and who will ever live, I am grateful that this is not all. Heavenly Father has a personal plan for each of His children. He knows exactly what we need at all times. He knows exactly what we need, who we need, where we need to be, and when we need it, and He will always provide. This has become so apparent in my life over the past year and a half. Sometimes learning this has been hard and painful, but I wouldn’t exchange my experiences for anything. They have been what has taught me of God’s love for me, of His presence in my life every day. My life has been so different than what I had planned, and I am so grateful for that. I am grateful Heavenly Father knows what I need better than I do, and that He makes sure I am in the places that I need to be.

A year and a half ago, I had plans to attend a different college than I now attend, with a different major, and no thought of going on a mission. And most of all, I had planned on being healthy. Now, because my parents like to overshare, many of you have probably heard some part, if not all, of my medical issues. In the past two years, I have gone to countless doctors and specialists, done labs and tests I had never even heard of, had surgeries and so forth so that I have been in some sort of medical office at least once a month for the past two years, sometimes three or four times a week. This has been incredibly stressful and incredibly inconvenient, and at times I have felt that it would never end. But, not once have I ever felt alone. It has been during these times of stress and pain that I have felt overwhelmingly loved, to the point that sometimes I just have to stop and cry because I can literally not handle how much love I feel from my Father in Heaven. It is in these moments when I feel my body is weak to the point of collapsing that I know most surely that my Father in Heaven is watching me, and mindful of me and giving me the strength to go on. I know that He will always give me that strength. I know that He will never fail me.

I know that He has specifically given me these trials because He knows that, with His help, I am strong enough to get through them. And I know that these trials will make me the disciple and the daughter, and the missionary that Heavenly Father and His children need me to be. I know that I am loved, no one will ever convince me otherwise. And I know that being loved does not mean that life is easy. We are meant to be like Jesus Christ, and His life was definitely not easy. So when we have trials and heartache, we can know that we are not forgotten, we are not unloved, we are standing shoulder to shoulder with the most perfect person who has ever lived. If we are hurt, or feel weak or downtrodden, do not feel discouraged. You are not alone, you are not forgotten. Heavenly Father has a plan for you, He can see better than you can and He knows better what needs to happen. This isn’t always easy, but it is always true.

Alma 26: 35-37 says…

That to me, is amazing. We have a loving Father in Heaven who wants all of us to be happy, who has a plan to get all of us back to Him. I testify that God is real and that His plan for your life is real. None of you are here on accident. God knows what He is doing in every moment of every day of every one of your lives. He will continue to do so. Because he is your Father in Heaven and He loves you.

I know that His love is both all encompassing and personal. I know He loves His people as a group, but I know that He loves every one of His children individually as well. I know that He sent His son to pay for the sins of the world. I know He spoke to Joseph Smith face to face, and commanded Joseph to restore His church for the world. I know that He has called President Thomas S. Monson to lead the world in righteousness today. But I also know that even if I was the only person on Earth who would choose to return to Heavenly Father, He still would have done it all, He would have made that possible. I know that Heavenly Father feels joy for every small, seemingly insignificant good choice every one of His children will ever make. If you are doing the right thing, God is with you, you are teammates working toward the same end. Not one of His children is ever too small, too insignificant, or too far gone for Heavenly Father to want them back. He wants you back. He loves you, there is a way to change, there is a way to find joy. That way is through Jesus Christ. I know He performed the atonement for you. I know He performed it for me.

I am so grateful that I have this knowledge. I am grateful that I grew up in an environment where I could learn the things of God. I am grateful for my siblings, who have gone on missions and gotten married in the temple and been good examples to me all my life. I am grateful for my dad who showed me the way back when I lost all faith in God, who has never failed to show me he loves me. I am grateful for my mom who has taught me that you don’t have to feel strong to be strong, and to change someone’s life. I’m grateful for my family who has shown me what unconditional love means.

 I know this church is true, Heavenly Father designed it to bring His children back home to Him. I can’t wait to share this message with my brothers and sisters in Utah. I am so grateful and humbled that Heavenly Father has given me the chance to leave in two weeks and to be an instrument in His hands to bring to pass His work and His glory. I say these things in the name of Jesus Christ amen.