Elder Steele's Farewell Talk given 6/14/15
Good Morning. For those of you who don’t really recognize me, I understand because I’ve spent 2 semesters at BYU Provo and have only been home for a few weeks. My freshman year was amazing and very memorable. I had countless life lessons, especially some that have helped me prepare to leave this week for the MTC before eventually flying down to Buenos Aires, Argentina. But more on that later.
I was asked to give this talk today referencing Elder David A. Bednar’s October 2014 conference address titled “Come and See.” The main focus of this talk is aimed at answering the question of why Latter-Day Saints are eager to tell about what they believe and why they invite others to learn more. In the beginning of this talk Elder Bednar explains that “The Church of Jesus Christ always has been and always will be a missionary church” Sounds pretty good right? But what is a Missionary? That too is answered by Elder Bednar “A missionary is a follower of Christ who testifies of Him as the Redeemer and proclaims the truths of His gospel.” Notice how he didn’t say “Someone who leaves for 18 months or 2 years, wears a name tag, and rides bikes all over” It is important to remember that we all need to do our part. I haven’t always been as diligent as I probably should have but there was one time around Christmas where I got it. In our student ward we were challenged to use social media to share the gospel and more specifically the He is The Gift video. Now something about me is that I use Twitter. A lot. So I felt as if the teacher was speaking right to me. I had some reservations at first because I didn’t want to offend or annoy anyone but the thought “A CUTE girl just challenged you to do something you’re totally capable of doing AND she promised Christmas treats to the dorms who did it” So the first few hours I did it for the cute girl and the treats but as the day went on I realized that sharing the gospel online is very easy and it was a good testimony builder for me. So never be afraid to share a quick thought because you never know who might need it.
Elder Bednar then addresses those who are not Latter-Day Saints “When we invite you to attend church with us or to learn with the full-time missionaries, we are not trying to sell you a product” which I think is very important to note. He continues by saying “We are not attempting to coerce you to believe as we do” I think that this is cause for us to be hesitant to share our beliefs with others because we do not want to seem like we are forcing anything upon them. I mean I’ve felt that way before. All we can do is invite them to learn more and have them find out for themselves.
As Elder Bednar continues he explains that being a missionary is more than a spiritual duty but “our desire to share the restored gospel of Jesus Christ with you is a reflection of how important these truths are to us” This makes sense because we tend to talk about things we like or feel important to us. I had to ask myself “Because the gospel is such a fundamental part of my life, why don’t I talk about it more?” These days I spend most of my time talking about The Bachelorette, The NBA playoffs, and Formula 1 racing even though they are not even close to as important in my life as the gospel. That is something I have been trying to improve especially because the next 2 years I will be focusing on sharing the gospel.
Speaking of improving and preparing, while I was writing this talk, I kept thinking about an experience I had during one of my first days in Provo. I moved in on a Sunday and because orientation didn’t start until Thursday, I had some time. Luckily, I had made some friends online beforehand so we had agreed to hangout Monday. A meeting up for lunch quickly led to a 4am drive to draper and then sleeping out on the basketball courts next to our dorm. We didn’t have much sleep and all day Tuesday we helped others move into their dorms. I don't remember how the idea came about, but that afternoon we decided we were going to hike the Y the next morning to see the sunrise. Now if you’re like me you’re thinking “oh that’s cool” but if you’re from Utah or remember geography, the suns rises in the East. The Y faces the West. See the problem? This was not something that crossed our minds. Again we didn’t sleep enough and at 4:30am. Wednesday morning we were at the base of the mountain. I would not recommend doing that hike while very tired, very hungry, dehydrated and not used to the altitude. But we eventually made it and that’s when we decided to check the sunrise time; 7:49. It was about 5:20. Luckily we brought blankets and did the best we could to nap until the sun rose. It was 8:00 and that’s when we realized the direction we were facing. I mean it was still a gorgeous view, but not what we wanted. Why do I share this embarrassing story? That’s what preparing for a mission is like. Just because you have the goal to do it, doesn’t mean it’s going to happen. I’ve realized that being excited and setting the goal is only part of it. You need to take every step to prepare.
For those of you thinking about going on missions, you need to start now. Wherever you are, start. You can be like Drake; starting from the bottom. Start reading the scriptures. Just read them and enjoy them and that's when you can start to really learn from them. Familiarize yourself with Preach My Gospel. I was fortunate enough to be called to teach Mission Prep (which at first thought was weird because I haven't gone on a mission) for my student ward and feel that was a tremendous blessing because I had to really learn Preach My Gospel in order to teach others how to use and teach from it. Everyone says this, and it’s true, pay attention in seminary. Try every day to learn something. This is not an easy thing, but it's doable. There were a lot of days where I just went in with the mindset “How can I relate this to cars and how would I teach this?” and it helped so much. Take every chance you can to learn and share. But this is not a 0-100 real quick thing either, but instead you need Kanye’s “All Day” mentality. And oh boy do you have to fight procrastination and distractions. It seems easy enough to prepare with your free time (before but it also seemed simple enough for the Seahawks to run it at the 1.) but unlike the Seahawks, I know I can be successful with the lord on my side. Like I said being excited is only part of it, but it is still important to look forward to wherever you are called to serve. Given my family history and constant reassurance from my Grandpa, I figured I was going to Europe. But I always said “I’ll go wherever I’m called because that’s where I’ll be needed.” An hour before I was supposed to open my call, I was at a friend’s dorm and they asked where I hoped the call was to. I said “I don’t really care…… as long as it’s really not South America. I just don’t really want to go there.” 63 minutes later of course I found out I'd be going to Argentina. I was still excited but at the same time just kind of like oh. Oh because all I could think about Argentina was: I had made fun of their World Cup loss, The Top Gear disaster, and Bishop Christiansen. That night I did some research and felt a little better. Hanging up an Argentina flag in my dorm helped me feel more excited.
Then one night a few weeks later listening to Big Sean’s New Album for whatever reason helped. The song Deep opens with “I look up to God, I wonder if I fell from the sky” which made me realize there are people who have big questions like where they came from and that the Gospel answers questions like that. The song Blessings helped me realize my blessings and how I want others to also feel just as blessed. And there was another line in the song that got me thinking. “I’m here for a good time, not a long time” which applies to a mission. 2 years is not a long time but it’s what you do with those 2 years that make it a good time in the sense that you serve and teach to the best of your abilities. This leads to the song One Man Can Change the World. I can change the world, well at least down in Argentina I can change someone’s world. I was talking with a friend sometime after and she really got me thinking about the impact I can have as a missionary and we decided that “One Man Can Change The World” would be my mission anthem and that’s when I realized it doesn’t matter where I’m going. But now I'm so extremely excited to be going to such a wonderful place. What matters is I go with the intent to serve and love the people. And once you feel that, all you want to do is prepare. Now why do all of this preparation to share the Gospel? Because, as Elder Bednar put it “Absolute truth exists. Jesus the Christ absolutely is the Only Begotten Son of the Eternal Father.”
I want to echo those absolute truths. Joseph Smith absolutely saw Jesus Christ and Heavenly Father. The Book of Mormon is absolutely another testament of Christ. And this gospel is absolutely true, everlasting, and life changing.
I say these things in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen