Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Farewell Talk

(There are parts of my talk that I didn't write down, I just kinda said things that I thought of. But here is all I had written.)

Good afternoon everyone. I hope everyone is doing good today. Thank you all for coming, this is very emotionally overwhelming seeing you all here.
Brother Astill gave me a talk by L. Whitney Clayton of the Presidency of the Seventy entitled The Time Shall Come given in the October General conference of last year, and told me to kinda base my talk off his talk.
Throughout this talk he talks about the growth of the Church and Missions around the world beginning with this story:
I served as a young missionary for several months in the central areas of Lima, Peru. As a result, I crossed Lima’s Plaza de Armas many times. The Government Palace, the official residence and office of Peru’s president, faces the plaza. My companions and I invited people in the plaza to hear the restored gospel. I often wondered then what it would be like to enter the palace, but the thought of ever doing so seemed wildly remote.
Last year, Elder D. Todd Christofferson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, a few others, and I met with Alan García, then the president of Peru, in the Government Palace. We were shown its beautiful rooms and cordially received by President García. My young missionary wonderings about the palace were fulfilled in a way that I would never have dreamed possible in 1970.
Things have changed in Peru since I was a missionary, especially for the Church. There were about 11,000 members of the Church there then and just one stake. Today there are more than 500,000 members and almost 100 stakes. In towns where there were just little groups of members, vibrant stakes and attractive meetinghouses now grace the land. The same thing has happened in many other countries around the world. Close Quote
In 1898, President Wilford Woodruff recounted an experience he had as a new member in 1834 at a priesthood meeting in Kirtland. He related:
“The Prophet called on all who held the Priesthood to gather into the little log school house they had there. It was a small house, perhaps 14 feet [4.3 m] square. … When we got together the Prophet called upon the Elders of Israel … to bear testimony of this work. … When they got through the Prophet said, ‘Brethren I have been very much edified and instructed in your testimonies here tonight, but I want to say to you before the Lord, that you know no more concerning the destinies of this Church and kingdom than a babe upon its mother’s lap. You don’t comprehend it. … It is only a little handfull of Priesthood you see here tonight, but this Church will fill North and South America—it will fill the world.’ Close Quote
This Prophecy that the Church would fill the Americas and fill the world might have seemed laughable 170 years ago. The little band of believers, eking out a living on the American frontier and moving to escape persecution, didn’t look like the foundation of a faith that would cross international borders and penetrate hearts everywhere.
But that is just what has happened. Let me give an example.
On Christmas Day 1925 in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Elder Melvin J. Ballard dedicated the entire continent of South America for the preaching of the gospel. By August 1926 a handful of converts had been baptized. They were the first members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints baptized in all of South America. That was 85 years ago, within the life span of many who are listening to conference today.
There are 23 stakes of Zion in Buenos Aires today, with dozens of stakes and tens of thousands of Church members in cities and towns across Argentina. Now there are well over 600 stakes and several million Church members throughout South America. While we watch, the kingdom of God is filling the continent, and the name of Joseph Smith is being published both by us and by his detractors in countries he may never even have heard of during his lifetime.
There are nearly 3,000 stakes in the worldwide Church today, from Boston to Bangkok and from Mexico City to Moscow. We are approaching 29,000 wards and branches. In many countries there are mature stakes, with members whose ancestors were converts. In others, small groups of new members meet as tiny Church branches in rented houses. Every year the Church spreads farther and farther across the globe.
These prophecies about filling the world and being known world over: Preposterous? Perhaps, But it is happening before our eyes.
President Gordon B. Hinckley observed:
“It was said that at one time the sun never set on the British Empire. That empire has now been diminished. But it is true that the sun never sets on this work of the Lord as it is touching the lives of people across the earth.
“And this is only the beginning. We have scarcely scratched the surface. … Our work knows no boundaries. … Those nations now closed to us will someday be open.”
Today we can see that the fulfillment of a Book of Mormon prophecy draws close:
“And … it shall come to pass that kings shall shut their mouths; for that which had not been told them shall they see; and that which they had not heard shall they consider.
“For in that day, for my sake shall the Father work a work, which shall be a great and a marvelous work among them.” Close Quote
This work of the Lord is indeed great and marvelous, but it moves forward essentially unnoticed by many of mankind’s political, cultural, and academic leaders. It progresses one heart and one family at a time, silently and unobtrusively, its sacred message blessing people everywhere.
Now after reading all of these stories about the progress of the church it can be a little overwhelming. When you’re teaching people about the church it’s a pretty big deal. If they have a question about the church you should be able to answer their questions so that they will be able to learn more about the church.
And I haven’t always been the best at that.
I’ve had many different situations where I’ve been asked things about my religion and I had to really sit down and think and I still couldn’t receive the answer.
One memory that comes to mind was with my roommate from when I was up at the University of Utah.
I’m pretty sure I’ve told a lot of you about him, including a couple of funny stories, and one that wasn’t very funny to me, but all-in-all I loved having him as a roommate.
He was an international student from Hong Kong.
Throughout the semester we didn’t do a lot together we just exchanged a couple of words here and there and we talked a couple of times about the church.
When I got my call I explained to him that I would not be living there for spring semester and I told him that I was going on a mission.
And, ofcourse, he had no idea about what a mission was and I tried my best to explain it, but the thing with me and Johnny was there was a pretty big language barrier, so towards the end of the discussion I think he was more confused than anything.
And I never realized how much slang that we use when we talked until I lived with Johnny, and I’m pretty sure that I messed up his English pretty good but anyways that's not the point.
So after I told him about that we kinda dropped the discussion and never really talked about the mission again.
Soon, the end of the semester came and I was getting ready to move out. I said goodbye and we talked about seeing each other once I got back, and that was it.
Looking back I felt bad that I had not learned more about him or that I had not told him more about myself.
But I actually got a call from Johnny two days ago.
He told me that he remembered me telling him that I would be giving my “farewell” on the 29th, looking back again I didn’t really explain what a farewell was either so I think that he just thought it was the day I was leaving.
He said that he missed me as a roommate and his new roommate was as he said “Not nice guy at all”. He said he was excited for me, and that since I had left he had tried to find out more about what I was doing as a missionary and searched Mormon Missionary on his computer.
So he found the LDS website and an advertisement for the University of Utah’s Institute, and he told me that he was going there the next day to find out more about it.
I thought to myself that, you know even though I wasn’t able to teach basically anything, I got him curious, and I didn’t do anything that would offend him away from the church.
And now, maybe he’ll meet someone there that will be able to teach him what he has questions about. And even though it wasn't me, I did what I could, I made a new friend and he’s trying to learn more about the church because of it.
I have a quote from Bother Yamashita of the Seventy who also spoke this last conference, he said:
Your attitudes and the love that you show toward others are very significant messages. Even though I didn’t immediately grasp all the doctrines that the missionaries taught me, I felt of their great love, and their many acts of kindness taught me important lessons. Your message is a message of love, a message of hope, and a message of faith. Your attitude and your actions invite the Spirit, and the Spirit enables us to understand the things that are important. What I want to convey to you is that through your love, you are imparting the love of god. You are a treasure of this Church. I am so very thankful to all of you for your sacrifice and your dedication. Close Quote.
Throughout the world an army of faithful young men and women are helping fulfill the words of the Prophet Joseph Smith, who foresaw a day when “the truth of God will go forth boldly, nobly, and independent, till it has penetrated every continent, visited every clime, swept every country.” Prospective missionaries need to prepare themselves emotionally, as well as spiritually and physically, to fulfill their part in this great work. Then, as they share the gospel of Jesus Christ with their brothers and sisters throughout the world, they will have some of the sweetest, most richly rewarding experiences of their lives.

A verse in the Book of Mormon provides a key to the miraculous growth of the Church today: “And moreover, I say unto you, that the time shall come when the knowledge of a Savior shall spread throughout every nation, kindred, tongue, and people.”
This verse is sums up everything that a missionary wants to be able to do. To teach all they know to whomever they meet about the Savior.
Just with my friends alone who have recently received their calls I have friends going to the U.S., friends going to Mexico, Paraguay, Costa Rica, and a Brother and Cousin in Chile. I have friends going to Europe, covering the countries of London, France, and Norway. I have friends in South Africa and New Zealand and friends going to Asia with me. Between us all we will be speaking 6 different languages from Spanish to Korean.

I know that we have been called of god to teach others about this church.
As Missionaries, Our most important message, which we are both divinely commissioned and commanded to take everywhere in the world, is that there is a Savior. He lived in the meridian of time. He atoned for our sins, was crucified, and was resurrected. That matchless message, which we proclaim with authority from God, is the real reason this Church grows as it does.
I testify that He appeared with His Father to Joseph Smith. Under the direction of the Father, He established His gospel anew upon the earth. He sent apostles, prophets, and priesthood keys to the earth again. He leads His Church through a living prophet, President Thomas S. Monson. His Church is that stone cut out of the mountain without hands that rolls forward across the globe.
We are grateful for Joseph Smith and watch with wonder as his name is revered and, yes, even reviled ever more widely across the earth. But we recognize that this mighty latter-day work is not about him. It is the work of Almighty God and His Son, the Prince of Peace.
It’s crazy feeling that the mission is here and I am able to go do these things. I’m excited to be able to meet new people in Japan and teach them the best I can.
So in conclusion I have a letter that I want to read.
It’s from my brother Jamie, and originally my dad was going to read it but I really wanted to be the one to read it. I’m sad that he’s not here and that our family will not fully be together again for another two years, but I know that we will always be close.
So here is the letter.
Dear Everyone, but especially Sam. So here you are.  You`re on your way out after 19 years, Long time.  Hopefully you`re prepared but even if you aren`t it doesn`t really matter.  I don`t think that anyone is really prepared for the two years away from home with a completely different people (and this applies even between different states so imagine what Japan`s going to be like :-D). Craziness. However, you can be prepared with some personal things. Prayer and study habits.  A desire to go to work.  A desire to help a people who you don`t know but are nonetheless family :-D A good optimistic attitude and a charismatic personality.  These things you can take and if you`re missing some, they can be adquired very easily. Don`t worry if you are afraid.  You should be afraid.  This is a really big deal :-D  This is the biggest thing that you are going to do in your life, but you can do it.  I know you can do it.  I know that you will do it.  You`re Sam J McConnell the First and soon you`re going to be ELDER Sam J McConnell the First :-D Thats a title that only the 15 leading men of the church and Missionaries have so it`s pretty cool :-D Remember that its ok to be afraid.  Thats something natural that people feel when they are about to do great things. However, NEVER let your fears be more important than your faith.  You KNOW that God lives and you KNOW that he wants you to be happy and that he wants you to help others get to know him better.  If God wants you to do that, he will help you out :-D God is bigger  than your fears.

There are some things that I want tell you before you head out because I’m not there and if you never doubt them or forget them, your mission and life will be awesome.

1 God lives.  This is the first thing

2 He is our Father who loves us with a perfect love.  This may be more important to remember.

3 Everything that God does is for us, to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man. To help us to have true and unending happiness.

4 God has spoken to prophets throughout the history of the world and continues to do so in our day. This is true.

5 Joseph Smith was a Prophet of God and the Book of Mormon is true and contains the fullness of the gospel or in other words all that we need to know to get back to live with God.  If anyone EVER tells you otherwise, stand up and testify with every fiber of your soul that they are wrong.  I know that this is true.

6  If we keep the promises we make with God, we will live with our families forever.  FOREVER. There is no other way to achieve eternal life but this.

I think that everything important you need to know branches off of these things :-D If you aren`t sure, ask God.  He will let you know and you will feel it, just like the people you will teach.  Love the people.  You have to to help them.  Teach with POWER and AUTHORITY. You have the Priesthood of GOD and are therefore entitled to have that power when you are worthy of it.  Always live worthily. Be Obedient. There is no reason to not follow mission rules, your life will be a lot less than what it could have been if you break the rules.  and finally Work.  If you do these things, then you will be happy :-) I promise.

Sam, I am so proud of you and to be able to call you my best friendand brother.  Whenever I can I tell the people ``My brother is goingto be doing what I`m doing but in Japan!`` :-D I can`t wait to see you soon with our nametags where we can be the ELDERS McCONNELL.  Be yourself and don`t forget who you really are.  A child of the most powerful being in the universe, even God the Eternal Father.

I love you Sam.  Stay cool and BE HappY!!
Sincerely as always
Elder Jamie McConnell.

In conclusion, I testify that Jesus Christ is the Savior, and with you all, I stand in awe as this work moves forward miraculously, marvelously, and irresistibly. Indeed, “the time [has] come when the knowledge of a Savior … spread[s] throughout every nation, kindred, tongue, and people.” I bear testimony of Him, the Savior of all mankind, and of this work in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

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