Hi. It's great. From up here I can see the whole congregation. I invited quite a few people to come, and now looking down at all of you, I immediately regret that decision. There are way too many people here for me to be speaking.
I have been called to serve a mission in Little Rock Arkansas. I was asked to speak a little about how following some of the commandments brought me to the point where I made the decision to go on a mission. The first thought that came to my head after being told this was “How did not killing anyone help me decide to go on a mission”. While I'm sure it helped, I don't think this was the deciding factor for me to go on a mission.
This made me start thinking a lot about commandments we have received, but aren't apart of the 10 commandments. For example, Reading your scriptures, Serving others, Obeying the word of wisdom, Paying your tithing, Attending seminary, Listening to good music, Avoiding drugs, Avoiding alcohol, Being grateful, Being responsible, Making good friends, Getting an education, Supporting your family, Being modest in dress and attitude, Repenting, Being Trustworthy, Loyal, Helpful, Friendly, Courteous, Kind, Obedient, Cheerful, Thrifty, Brave, Clean, Reverent, Chaste, Benevolent, Virtuous, and in doing good to all man. I appreciate such a narrow topic for me to speak on.
So I decided to narrow it down to a few commandments that I think have made the biggest impact on me, to help me make my decision to serve the lord. The first of these is a habit and a love of reading the scriptures. The first day of my freshman year in seminary, my teacher gave us a challenge and made us a promise. He challenged us to read our scriptures every day for at least ten minutes a day for the rest of the year. He promised us that each and every day that we fulfilled the challenge our lives would be blessed by the lord, and that we would have revelation of our own to further our understanding of the gospel. I took that challenge and made sure that every day, just before bed, I read my scriptures. I did this for the next 4 years, without missing a day. I can tell you that he was right. I have felt the lord in everything I do. That year in seminary gave me a long term habit of reading my scriptures.
Reading them also helped me to further my faith in god and his love for us. One specific experience that stands out to me occurred at a Boy Scout camp I worked at over the summer during these years. Every night that we spent at the camp, myself and several of the other counselors got together to read the scriptures together. We had a traditional method that we followed to determine what scripture would be read and discussed that night. If it was your turn to read that night, you took the scriptures, closed your eyes, opened them to a random page, and pointed to a random scripture on the opened page.
I can remember one night in particular. The girl whose turn it was had had a very tough day, and was feeling under appreciated and over worked. She was beginning to doubt if she was capable of fulfilling her obligations at the camp. She had spoken to us just before about how she was considering leaving camp for the summer and not coming back. None of us knew what to say. We were all silent at the news. However, the lord was not. As she took the scriptures that night, she opened up to Isaiah 41:10 which says,
“Do not fear, for I am with you; do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, surely I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”
After hearing the verse you could see the change in the girl. She was short of breathe and soon burst into tears. Many of us were soon to follow. No other words needed to be spoken that night. We all sat in the comfort of the lord, knowing that what had happened was no accident. It was the voice of god.
She went on to finish the year at the camp, and make a big difference in the lives of many younger boys. This experience gave me a strong testimony that the lord wants us to read our scriptures daily, and that they always have the answers to our questions. That night, at the point when she most needed comfort, and none her of friends knew what to do or say to help, the lord was there to comfort her with exactly what she needed to hear at that moment.
Reading my scriptures has been a very large part of my life. It has helped me to make many difficult decisions, and although it helped, it isn't the deciding factor of why I chose to serve a mission.
Another commandment that helped me to make my decision to serve was to honor thy father and mother. My parents have always been there to help me and to keep me on the right path. They bring me to church, taught me right from wrong, and even though I have made quite a few mistakes, they are always there to forgive me and help me make them right. Everything they tell me to do is to help me and keep me righteous. But it wouldn't mean anything if I don't obey and listen to them.
I would like to share a story that President Monson gave about this subject in General Conference earlier this year.
When I was growing up, each summer from early July until early September, my family stayed at our cabin at Vivian Park in Provo Canyon in Utah. One of my best friends during those carefree days in the canyon was Danny Larsen, whose family also owned a cabin at Vivian Park. Each day he and I roamed this boy’s paradise, fishing in the stream and the river, collecting rocks and other treasures, hiking, climbing, and simply enjoying each minute of each hour of each day.
One morning Danny and I decided we wanted to have a campfire that evening with all our canyon friends. We just needed to clear an area in a nearby field where we could all gather. The June grass which covered the field had become dry and prickly, making the field unsuitable for our purposes. We began to pull at the tall grass, planning to clear a large, circular area. We tugged and yanked with all our might, but all we could get were small handfuls of the stubborn weeds. We knew this task would take the entire day, and already our energy and enthusiasm were waning.
And then what I thought was the perfect solution came into my eight-year-old mind. I said to Danny, “All we need is to set these weeds on fire. We’ll just burn a circle in the weeds!” He readily agreed, and I ran to our cabin to get a few matches.
Lest any of you think that at the tender age of eight we were permitted to use matches, I want to make it clear that both Danny and I were forbidden to use them without adult supervision. Both of us had been warned repeatedly of the dangers of fire. However, I knew where my family kept the matches, and we needed to clear that field. Without so much as a second thought, I ran to our cabin and grabbed a few matchsticks, making certain no one was watching. I hid them quickly in one of my pockets.
Back to Danny I ran, excited that in my pocket I had the solution to our problem. I recall thinking that the fire would burn only as far as we wanted and then would somehow magically extinguish itself.
I struck a match on a rock and set the parched June grass ablaze. It ignited as though it had been drenched in gasoline. At first Danny and I were thrilled as we watched the weeds disappear, but it soon became apparent that the fire was not about to go out on its own. We panicked as we realized there was nothing we could do to stop it. The menacing flames began to follow the wild grass up the mountainside, endangering the pine trees and everything else in their path.
Finally we had no option but to run for help. Soon all available men and women at Vivian Park were dashing back and forth with wet burlap bags, beating at the flames in an attempt to extinguish them. After several hours the last remaining embers were smothered. The ages-old pine trees had been saved, as were the homes the flames would eventually have reached.
Danny and I learned several difficult but important lessons that day—not the least of which was the importance of obedience.
If President Monson had heeded to his parents council, he would have had never had to deal with the emergency situation that the fire caused. I hope that when the time comes that I am faced with a similar situation, that I choose correctly and follow my parents’ teachings and example. My parents are a large part of my life and an extremely large factor in me going on a mission, but they are also not the reason why I am going.
My reason for going is to help fulfill my lifelong goal as an individual. I decided a long time ago that I want to spend my life making other people smile and be happy. This is also the same motivation that made me become a performer throughout school and choose to study Animation as a career path in college. There is an undeniable joy that comes from bringing others joy in any way. Throughout my life this has been my goal.
Elder Scott said in a conference talk “Sadness, disappointment, and severe challenge are events in life, not life itself. I do not minimize how hard some of these events are. They can extend over a long period of time, but they should not be allowed to become the confining center of everything you do. The Lord inspired Lehi to declare the fundamental truth, “Men are, that they might have joy.” That is a conditional statement: “they might have joy.” It is not conditional for the Lord. His intent is that each of us finds joy. It will not be conditional for you as you obey the commandments, have faith in the Master, and do the things that are necessary to have joy here on earth. “
I have obtained this joy in my life, and now I want to help other people to obtain this join throughout their lives. This is my personal reason for going on a mission. I will have the opportunity to share my love and joy in the gospel not only with the people that I meet, teach, and convert, but also help put it into the lives of their children and the lives of their grandchildren. It is a goal I set a long time ago, and hope to continue to pursue into my adult years.
I say these things in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.