Sunday, August 16, 2015

Farewell Talk

When I first heard I would be speaking on the same day as Tanner’s homecoming, I was pretty excited.  At least that was until I realized I would have to sit through the shame of watching the podium raise… and raise… and raise.  That's just another lucky thing about being tall.  You get like an extra 5 minutes to prepare for your talk while you wait.

I’ve kinda been mentally preparing for my farewell for a long time, but I’m going to be completely honest with you.  My top priority today was to make this the funniest talk I’ve ever given.  One of the first things I did when I got my call was look up Polish jokes.  I respect the people of Poland, and I don’t want to be insensitive, but I’d be uncomfortable if I didn’t share at least one.  Most of the stuff I found was pretty lame but there was one I liked.  It went, “Why do so many Polish last names end with ‘ski’?  Because they can’t spell ‘snowboard’”.  I won’t be sharing that with any investigators.

Don’t worry, there’ll be a lot of spiritual and doctrinal teaching involved in this talk too… probably.  My mom warned me that this wasn’t meant to be an LDS stand-up comedy routine, but come on, that would be way cooler than a talk.  Even though I was thinking about all the jokes I would use at least a month ago, I really didn't sit down and finish writing this til like 1 last night.  High schoolers, senioritis is real and it is powerful.  I thought I would recover once I graduated but I'm still afflicted.  Stay strong.

Nazywam sie starzy Haskett.  That’s how I’m going to be introducing myself for the next 2 years in Warsaw, Poland.  I thought I might tell you a bit of what I know about the area.  It’s about the size of Oregon, but 40 million people live there.  They’re like 95% Roman Catholic, so it’s a good thing I’ve read the Bible, or I’d be in trouble. It’s cold.  One of the missionaries in the area described it as “so cold even the snowmen shiver.”  Apparently it’s gotten down to -40 degrees there, so yeah, shivering snowmen doesn’t seem like an exaggeration. -40?!  Why would anyone choose to live there?  And one of the only things my mission president told me was to buy a lot of short sleeve shirts.  What?  I don’t know if he’s living underground or…  I can use the cold to my advantage though.  When I teach about the Plan of Salvation I'll be like, "Trust me you'll want to go to the Celestial Kingdom, it's warmer". 

The language is commonly regarded as one of the most difficult to master in the world.  I read a study that said even kids born and raised in Poland don’t have full mastery over the language until they’re 16.  But hey, I can already count to 10, so we’re off to a good start. They eat a LOT of sausage.  Personally I’m more of a bacon guy myself.  Out of the 40 million people that live there, there's less than 2 thousand Mormons, which means it's gonna be a tough mission. The day I got my call, my whole family was immediately researching the country, and one of my aunts called me, and she started with, “Well, you probably won’t have any baptisms… but Poland is beautiful.” Like alright... sweet.  Good pep talk. 

Apparently people in Poland want to hear about the States. They like to see pictures of the missionary’s families, what home looks like, stuff like that.  I'm really going to over hype living in California.  Yeah I like right by Hollywood.  I've been in several episodes of Keeping up with the Kardashians.  Robert Downey, Jr. is one of my closest friends.  I'm actually set to be in the next Avengers movie. I'll be playing Black Widow's little brother. Before we really get into things, I invited a lot of non member friends, and I wanted to make sure they know how we do things around here.  Booing will not be acceptable, no matter how badly I’m doing. Sorry to disappoint you.

I’ve been asked to share a message from Chapter 3 of Preach My Gospel.  For those of you who aren’t familiar with the book, chapter 3 contains every single doctrine, lesson, and discussion used by the missionaries to teach investigators.  All of it.  It’s 60 pages.
And I have 12 minutes… time me.

There are 4 discussions missionaries have with investigators before baptism, and then 1 new one after.  The lessons are: The Message of the Restoration of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, The Plan of Salvation, The Gospel of Jesus Christ, The Commandments, and Laws and Ordinances.  The lessons are organized similarly; first they start with some baptismal interview questions to prepare your discussion around.  But according to my family, I won’t be baptizing anybody.  I looked for where it said, “Polish serving missionaries can skip this section” in the Preach My Gospel, but I didn’t find it.  After the questions, it lists some suggestions for commitments you can make with your investigators.  Then finally, the doctrine used to teach the lesson is explained.

Each doctrine contains key information the prophets and apostles have directed missionaries to share.  We’re asked to study and learn all that we can, but as missionaries, we aren’t meant to be robots.  We don’t memorize and recite anything word for word.  We try to listen to impressions from the Lord and use our own words to explain things. Brigham Young himself describes his own conversion story like this: “If all the talent, tact, wisdom, and refinement of the world had been sent to me with the Book of Mormon… undertaking to prove it by learning and worldly wisdom, they would have been to me like the smoke which arises only to vanish away. But when I saw a man without eloquence, or talents for public speaking, who could only say, 'I know, by the power of the Holy Ghost, that the Book of Mormon is true, that Joseph Smith is a Prophet of the Lord,' the Holy Ghost proceeding from that individual illuminated my understanding… I knew for myself that the testimony of the man was true.”  He uses a lot of big words here, but essentially he’s saying that no matter how talented of a speaker he encountered, any worldly wisdom meant nothing to him.  It was the honest, humble testimony of a servant of the Lord that converted a man who would later become a prophet.

It’s nice to hear that eloquence and wisdom don’t matter when you’ve been asked to prepare a talk.  I can stutter and stumble up here for 10 minutes and hope the Holy Ghost gets the message across.  I’m really glad the same thing goes for when I’m speaking Polish.

Because so many of the people of Poland are Christians who already believe in the Savior, I thought, I’d share a bit from the first discussion on the Restoration of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  

Since the Fall of Adam, Heavenly Father has always given commandments to his children through his servants, the prophets. From Adam, to Noah, to Isaiah and the like, prophets have led the Church. These prophets have the power from God to direct his church.  We’re blessed for listening to the prophets and keeping the commandments. 

But it’s impossible to keep all of the commandments all the time. It is inevitable that we make mistakes, or sin in this life.  When we sin, we separate ourselves from God.  This is called spiritual death. Unclean spirits are not able to dwell in the presence of God. Somehow we need to be cleansed of our sins.  This is why God’s plan required a Savior. Heavenly Father’s only begotten son, Jesus Christ, was sent down to Earth.  He was the only person to ever live a perfect life. 

During his earthly ministry, he established a quorum of 12 apostles and taught, healed, and converted many people.  Then he took our sins upon himself and then died for us, which completed his atoning sacrifice. Then, 3 days after his crucifixion, he broke the bands of death and was resurrected.  Because of this, we will all be saved from physical death and be resurrected with perfect bodies one day.  We can also be forgiven of our sins if we have faith in Christ and repent.

After Christ left the Earth and returned to Heaven, the 12 apostles who held the keys to the priesthood were killed.  This meant that the power of God was no longer on the Earth.  The world fell into a state of apostasy, which means the full truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ, along with prophets called of God, are no longer on the Earth.  There were still righteous men and women living at the time, but without the proper authority to perform saving ordinances such as baptism and confirmation, there was no way for people to prepare themselves to enter into God’s kingdom.  The power of God had to be restored to the Earth. 

Then a boy named Joseph Smith was born in 1805.  From here, we all know this story.  At 14 years old his family lived in an area going through an unusual excitement on the subject of religion.  Every sect, was telling him something different.  Being the stud he was, Joseph turned to the scriptures to answer his questions.  He took the advice given in James 1:5, “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not, and it shall be given him.”  He asked his Father in Heaven to know which of the churches were true, and in an answer to prayer, saw a vision.  He wrote, “I saw a pillar of light exactly over my head, above the brightness of the sun, which descended gradually until it fell upon me…  When the light rested upon me I saw two Personages, whose brightness and glory defy all description, standing above me in the air.  One of them spake unto me, calling me by name and said, pointing to the other—This is My Beloved Son. Hear Him!” Joseph Smith saw Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ. 

With the help of angels, he started the Church and restored the priesthood to the Earth.  I’m serving a mission because I know that Joseph Smith was a prophet, that he saw God and Jesus Christ, and that he restored the gospel of Jesus Christ to the Earth.  I want to share that with as many people as I can. 

Last week my dad, Val, and I went to climb Mt. Whitney. This was the second time we did this, the first was when I was 12.  I got to the top that time, so I was pretty confident this time.  We got some good training in, like 3 days worth.  That’s 1 more day than the first time I did it.  We were gonna take this new route for mountaineers, which was a lot steeper, but shorter, but last minute we changed our plans and took the regular trail at 2 in the morning. Right away we saw a bear, which was pretty cool.  All the way up the mountain, I was feeling good. We got to the top no problemo, and started coming down, and I hit a WALL. Every step hurt, it felt like forever.  Maybe only getting 2 hours of sleep before the hike didn’t help?  Maybe only training for 3 days didn’t help?  Maybe walking for 15 hours straight, which is like many hours longer than normal didn’t help?  Either way, I wasn’t prepared as I should have been.

Sometimes a mission is going to feel like climbing a mountain.  Nothing's easy, but you've just gotta DO IT.  You’ve gotta train. Hopefully I did a little better with my mission than with Whitney. 

There’s a path you have to stick to.  It’s going to be amazing, but it’s going to be hard.  I’m going to be tired.  At times, it’s going to feel long.  My feet are going to hurt when I’m learning those winter boots in the snow.  I’m going to feel unprepared.  That’s when I have to look outside of myself and rely on the Lord’s help, because without him, I can’t do this.  But with him, I can do anything.  I know that.

I know I'm gonna miss a lot of things when I leave.  I'm gonna miss this ward so much.  I'm gonna miss all my friends who came to visit today.  I'm gonna miss my boys in the priests quorum a lot.  I'm gonna miss doing the lip syncs, and church ball, and Wednesday night activities.  I've made a lot of memories here.  You guys have been my family for the last 8 years.  I'm so thankful for my family, for everybody that came to visit.  I'm gonna miss them all so much.  I know I'm going to be sad when I leave but I'm ready to go. 

I’m so glad I’ve been given the opportunity to serve.  I can’t wait to share the message of Christ with the people of Poland.  I know it’s going to be really hard, but I’m ready to go to work.  Last testimony meeting, Brother Lewellin said that the harder you work on your mission, the more beautiful your wife will be. A+, 10/10, best advice you could give to a new missionary. I looked for where it said that in the scriptures so I could put it on my mission plaque. I know that this church is true.  I know that my Savior lives, and because of him, we can be with our families forever. I can't wait to share this news with the people of Poland. And I say these things in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

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