For those who were not able to attend Elizabeth's Farewell, I thought I would include her talk. She did embellish parts a bit, but not much. It was so powerful.
I have been called to labor in the Germany Frankfurt mission. I leave for the Missionary Training Center in Provo, Utah tomorrow. This is my farewell.
I was asked to speak on why I decided to serve a mission, but, while my older sister has an excellent story of her decision, I honestly cannot pinpoint when I started wanting to serve. For most of my life, it wasn’t a choice; it was a foregone conclusion. I was going to serve a mission, as soon as I was old enough. The only uncertainty was where. And now, there is no uncertainty.
I have a non-member friend, and I’ve known her since we were kids. She doesn’t understand why I’m doing this. She doesn’t get why I would leave school for what amounts to two years to work for 18 months without pay, and without the freedom to talk to my family and my friends whenever I want. I’ve tried to explain it to her, but I guess I didn’t have my head together, because I think she still doesn’t understand.
My mission is a symbol of my devotion to God. It is the opportunity to “have the wish of mine heart… [to] go forth and speak with the trump of God, with a voice to shake the earth, and cry repentance unto every people… as with a voice of thunder”.
Alma was one of the greatest missionaries and prophets in the Book of Mormon. He converted an entire nation, and yet he still had moments where he wanted to scream to the whole world, moments where he is so very human and relatable in a way that some of the other prophets aren’t. And his wish rings true with me. Sometimes, I want to shake the world with my hands and voice. The Gospel of Jesus Christ makes me so happy. But I see the world, and it's dark and violent and so sad, and I just want everyone to know what I know, to feel what I feel… I feel awkward saying it sometimes, but I want to be a missionary because I want everyone to be as happy as I am.
And now that I’ve made my point, I need to fill another 8 minutes.
I have two hands. They can write, they can draw, and they can feed me. I use them every day, and they are strong. They are useful. But I look at them, and they are not perfect. They have scars, and they get tired and ink-stained, and there are things that they cannot do. My hands are not perfect, but I can use them to do God’s will. I can use my imperfect hands to do perfect, inspired things.
The next 18 months will not be easy, but that’s okay. We are not here because life is easy! I did not come down to this earth to watch cartoons and eat popcorn! I was given into the care of my parents because they were the ones that would make me strongest.
The Gospel has saved my life in so many ways. There are places I would’ve gone, a person I would’ve been, that would have put me in danger. But the Savior, and His Atonement, and His love, kept me from straying into dark pathways.
One thing that I feel like some people overlook is that Christ was not only taking our sins; He took our pains, too, so that a perfect being could understand the imperfect people he was saving.
“I lied, and I feel bad.” “I feel sick with grief over my loved one.” “I am afraid of spiders.” “I am afraid to go home.” “I am afraid to die.” “I want to die.”
Imagine His grief when He began to experience guilt, grief and pain, knowing that these were feelings that his brothers and sisters were going to feel, even with his sacrifice. Imagine the fear that might’ve come upon Him when He knew that some would act on their feelings of guilt, fear, loneliness and self-loathing in ways that were not a part of the Father’s plan.
And then, remember that He pressed on. He believes in us, even when we don’t believe in ourselves. He obeyed the will of the Father, out of love for God and love for us. Maybe your parents don’t understand you, maybe your “friends” don’t care about you, but He does. I cannot fully express to you in words, brothers and sisters, the absolute power and purity of His love for you and for me. He loves you so much that He doesn’t care what you’ve done, because no matter what has happened to you, you are still His sibling. If my brother broke his arm, I would be at his bedside. If my sister killed a man, I would still love her with an unchanged fierceness of feeling, because my siblings, my family, my friends mean more to me than anything in this world. That is who I am. That is who He is… though I’m sure He’s better at it than I am.
As a sister, even if it means suffering pain or death, I would put myself through anything to protect my siblings, because they are mine. And this is the love of an imperfect child for three people; imagine, then, the love of a perfect big brother for His billions upon billions of siblings.
One of my most powerful spiritual experiences was at my last EFY. As I knelt in prayer, I found myself wondering what I was even doing. I didn’t doubt that God exists, and that he lives. I never have. My doubts revolved around why God, with all the wonderful things He’s created and the wonderful things He does, would care about me and my little problems. So I prayed to know whether or not He was listening. Before I had even finished my prayer the second verse of a well-known Primary song came into my mind: “Pray; He is there. Speak; He is listening. You are His child. His love now surrounds you.” And I was so comforted that my pleas for knowledge became tears of gratitude.
The Atonement and the Plan of Happiness mean that I always have someone there, ready to listen to me, to teach me, to comfort me, and to forgive me, and that means everything to me. And it kills me that there are people out there who don’t know about it, or don’t believe it.
That, my brothers and sisters, is why I am going to Germany. That is why I am leaving school to work every day for 18 months without pay, and without the freedom to talk to my family and friends whenever I want. If, over the course of my mission, I can bring only one person to the knowledge of the truth, every heartbreak, every slammed door, every promising lead that doesn’t pan out, will be completely worth it, because I’m not going out there for the 99 who say no. I’m going out there to bring in the one person who says, “Yes. Yes, this is the place for me.”
I would like to close with two quotes, my testimony and a song.
I’m sure you’re all familiar with Doctrine and Covenants, Section 18, verse 9. “Remember the worth of souls is great in the sight of God.” The whole section is chock-full of wonderful missionary scriptures, but I think my favorite part is the end: verse 44 to the end.
“44 And by your hands I will work a marvelous work among the children of men, unto the convincing of many of their sins, that they may come unto repentance, and that they may come unto the kingdom of my Father.
45 Wherefore, the blessings which I give unto you are above all things.
46 And after that you have received this, if you keep not my commandments you cannot be saved in the kingdom of my Father.
47 Behold, I, Jesus Christ, your Lord and your God, and your Redeemer, by the power of my Spirit have spoken it. Amen.”
The second is one that I picked up in my first semester of college, and I’m not sure if anyone else knows it. “Truth, in spite of the transient success of prejudices, and the support they receive from the corruption of governments or of the people, must in the end obtain a durable triumph.”—The Marquis de Condorcet
Testify as it feels right. (This was so powerful and heartfelt. I couldn't even begin to summarize it.)
Now, for the song. (Here are the words to the song. I'm not sure how she got through it, but it was beautiful.)
Whose mighty hand hath made me whole,
Whose wondrous pow'r hath raised me up
And filled with sweet my bitter cup!
What tongue my gratitude can tell,
O gracious God of Israel.
But I can love Thee. Thy pure word,
Hath it not been my one delight,
My joy by day, my dream by night?
Then let my lips proclaim it still,
And all my life reflect Thy will.
Change frowning foes to smiling friends.
In perfect harmony with Thee.
Make me more worthy of Thy love,
And fit me for the life above.