Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Farewell Talk

           I’m so grateful for the opportunity to speak this morning on Loving your neighbor. I love this topic because it is so completely central to this beautiful Gospel. The Gospel of Jesus Christ.  I’m going to try and outline my thoughts on Why it’s important to love your neighbor, How we can learn to love others with the pure love of Christ, and how it all fits in with missionary work!

I would like to start my talk by sharing with you a scripture…. A scripture that you are probably all familiar with.  …..John 13: 34-35 ….. it reads…..
“A new commandment I give unto you, that ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.  By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.
What a simple yet beautiful scripture! We know that the two greatest commandments are to love the Lord our God and to Love one another.  I think this commandment, as simple as it may sound, can be quite overwhelming at times! Are we really supposed to love everyone?  As Christ loves us? That’s a lot of pressure right?  How in the world are we supposed to do that? Luckily, our Heavenly Father didn’t leave us alone to figure it out for ourselves.  He sent us a whole set of instructions for us to study and better yet….. He sent His son, Jesus Christ who is a perfect example of Love, to show us the way!
As we study Christ’s life we can see countless examples of his perfect, unconditional love for each of us….. for EVERYONE! Even those who crucified him. Can you even imagine? What a perfect and pure love! That love, the pure love of Christ, is Charity. 
I have always been fascinated by the word Charity.  Growing up I always thought it was a place where we gave all of our clothes that were too small.  I thought charity was just putting your change in Santa’s red bell outside of Walmart.  But I have since then learned that Charity is soooo much more! ……”And charity suffereth long, and is kind, and envieth not, and is not puffed up, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil, and rejoiceth not in iniquity but rejoiceth in the truth, beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.I would encourage you all to study this scripture, Moroni 7:45, often. 

But Why? Why is it really so important that we love one another.  Love one another with the pure love of Christ? Wouldn’t it be so much easier to let the natural man take over? Sometimes it takes a lot of time and energy to go out of your way to love others.  Where’s the motivation?  I think  Moroni 10:18 gives us a little bit of motivation.  And except ye have charity ye can in nowise be saved in the kingdom of God” If that’s not motivation, I don’t know what is! Loving others with the pure Love of Christ isn’t optional… it’s a commandment! But luckily we know that our Heavenly Father gives us commandments to make us happy.  He knows that even though sometimes it’s hard for us to see, we will truly be happiest when we love everyone! I have seen this in my own life and I know it’s true!  The more you love, the happier you will be!
I think there is a tremendous amount of power in this commandment….the  commandment to love. The following quote from Mary Ellen Edmunds teaches us why…… it says…..“If we could really figure out how to love, we wouldn’t need a whole lot of other commandments.”  How true! Think about it…… if we truly loved our Savior, we would have a deep burning desire to do what he has asked of us.  We would WANT to read our scriptures and learn more of his life.  We would strive to diligently serve Him in our callings.  We wouldn’t need to be commanded to pay our tithing or to go to the temple.  If we genuinely loved all of those around us, we wouldn’t need to be told to stop gossiping and judging.  We wouldn’t need commandments like “Thou shalt not steal” or “Thou shalt not covet”. And serving others would come naturally. Once we learn to love, everything else falls into place.

            Like with anything else in life, the best place to start is prayer.  Once we truly desire to love others with the pure love of Christ we can turn to our Heavenly Father in prayer.  I think one of the best things we can pray for in regards to Charity is that we will be able to see others through the Lord’s eyes.  That we will be able to see all of those around us as Children of God.  Children of God that may not be perfect, but individuals that have divine potential, each with unique strengths and talents.  Moroni 7:48 teaches us…… “Wherefore, my beloved brethren, pray unto the Father with all the energy of heart, that ye may be filled with this love.” I love this.  We must pray with “ALL THE ENERGY of HEART” it can’t be just a fleeting thought.  It can’t just be….. Eh… Heavenly Father….I guess I could use some help with charity, if you feel like it.  We have to truly desire and show Heavenly Father that if he blesses us with Charity we will be willing to do our part. 
            So what is “Our Part”? Well I think first we need to be willing to not judge.  We need to be willing to look for the good in others and not the bad.  As human beings our natural instinct is to find the bad, because then we can justify ourselves right? And sometimes it’s just easier to pick out.  But it is so much harder to truly love someone when we are picking out everything they do wrong. Look past the flaws.  We all have flaws! We are human beings! I think Mother Theresa said it best when she said……“If you judge people, you have no time to love them.”
How true! I had an experience about a month or so ago that really taught me this concept.  We were working on building a classroom for a school in the Philippines and as part of the project we had to paint every single inch of these long metal beams so they wouldn’t rust in the rain storms and humidity.  It was pretty tedious work because they had these little lips on the inside that were really hard to paint.  After about an hour or two of this, class got out and one by one students would come offer to sacrifice their free time and help us paint.  We excitedly handed these willing students paint brushes and a can of paint and off they went.  As they started working across from me, I started to get really uptight because from my angle I could clearly see that they were missing tons of spots under the metal lip.  My perfectionist brain started forming plans on how to fix their sloppy paint jobs without offending them.  I started trying to think of other things for them to do so I could fix their paint job.  I’m ashamed to say that I was relieved as they finished that row of beams and moved on.  I quickly replaced them in the spot across from where I was previously standing so that I could re-do what they had done. To my astonishment I noticed that from this new angle…. This new point of view….I could clearly see that I had missed even more spots than they had.  I had done an even sloppier job but hadn’t noticed because I was too busy judging them.  I was immediately humbled and felt awful.  I realized that not only had I judged them but I hadn’t taken the opportunity to talk to them.  To take time to learn about their lives and to show that I cared about them.  I had been too busy judging them and consequently had no time or energy to Love them.  From that point forward I was able to see them as the generous, loving, selfless, beautiful students that they were.  And I loved them.  Please learn from my mistake! Don’t judge!
            In one of my all time favorite books called Love is A Verb, the author starts out with this simple yet profound thought.  “ Love, without service, like faith without works, is dead.” This makes so much sense! I know this concept is true! As I have reflected back on my life.  I have realized that when I have served those I love, small as it may be, my love for them is awakened and strengthened.  You love those you serve, and you serve those you love. It’s a never-ending cycle of Charity. 
We have been told that the best way to provide service and show our love for other is to follow this simple formula…… “Observe, then Serve.”  I think there is so much truth to this! If we truly love someone and want to help them, not just “get some service hours” ….we will observe and find what they truly need and how we can help.  We will serve out of love.  There is a quote that states “The major components of Love are an awareness, and a willingness to act.” To me this means be involved! Be aware of what is going on in the lives of others and be willing to help! Not just when it’s convenient for you or when it fits neatly into your schedule but ALWAYS! And especially when you can tell it is needed. It doesn’t have to be big! One of my favorite quotes of all time teaches us about this.  Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around.”(Leo Buscaglia) I think that if we really knew….. if we really understood what kind of a difference some of these tiny seemingly insignificant acts of kindness can make in someone’s life we would never turn down or miss an opportunity to love.  We would do more of these “small things with great love.” And not only would others feel loved, but we would be significantly happier.
A while back I went on a trip to South East Asia with my sister.  We spent two weeks doing Humanitarian work in Cambodia then went to Thailand for another two weeks to be beach bums.  While I loved my time in both countries, the people of Cambodia are so much closer to my heart.  When I hear the word Cambodia, my heart races and my soul is flooded with the love I have for those people.  I can’t necessarily say the same thing about Thailand. I think they are wonderful people, but I don’t have the same deep love for them. I think the difference is how I spent my time.  Because I served and labored with the people of Cambodia I have a special place in my heart for them.  I can promise you that if you go out of your way to serve someone….anyone…. with the pure love of Christ, your love for them will increase.  You will begin to see them as Christ sees them. 

            I have also learned a lot about loving others as I have studied the Book of Mormon lately.  I don’t know if it’s just because I’m quickly approaching the day I will enter the MTC or if it’s just the part of the Book of Mormon I have been reading, but it seems like that book is chuck full of Missionary work.  Alma, Amulek and the Sons of Mosiah have taught me so much over the past week or so.  And the biggest thing they have taught me is the importance of Love in missionary work.  There are countless examples of this.  These missionaries were able to bring thousands of hardened and wicked Lamanites to the Gospel through the power of Love.  Ammon asks to be a servant to King Lamoni and Miracles happen.  Alma and Amulek love and forgive Zeezrom, an Anti-Christ who caused them so much grief, and once again miracles happen. But perhaps my favorite example of the power of Love in missionary work is that of Ammon and King Lamoni’s Father.  After Lamoni is converted, he and Ammon are on their way to rescue Aaron and the others in Middoni but they run into Lamoni’s father – the Lamanite king.  And he is not happy, in fact he’s pretty angry.  Angry enough that he commands his son Lamoni to kill Ammon, then when, of course, Lamoni refuses, the King tries to kill his own son and later Ammon as well.  Well, when the tables have turned, and the King’s life is in Ammon’s hands, what happens is incredible.  The king offers half of the kingdom to Ammon…. and Ammon only requests that the King let Aaron and his brethren out of Prison and that he let Lamoni rule how he wishes and not be displeased with him.  Alma 20:26 says…… “And when he saw that Ammon had no desire to destroy him, and when he also saw the great love he had for his son Lamoni, he was astonished exceedingly.”  This Love caused a tremendous change of heart.  Not only had this ferocious Lamanite King spared their lives and granted religious freedom to his son, he was desirous to learn more! Later, when Aaron tracts into him, the king greets him with “for I have been somewhat troubled in mind because of the generosity and the greatness of the words of thy brother Ammon…..” He goes on to be taught and converted unto the Lord, which opens up the way for successful missionary work throughout all the Lamanites.  These Lamanites later become the Anti-Nephi-Lehies and then the Army of Helaman. What a miracle! All because of one act of great love.
I have learned that perhaps Love is the greatest missionary tool of all.  Because as we truly begin to love and care about someone, hard work, sacrifice, patience and all of those other essential ingredients for successful missionary work come naturally.  We are willing to look past the discouraging times and endure to the end.  I think Ammon says this best when he says “And we have suffered all manner of affliction, and all this, that perhaps we might be the means of saving some soul; and we supposed that our joy would be full if perhaps we could be the means of saving some.” This is after they have been starved and beaten and despised and cast in prison. Do you think they would be willing to suffer all of this for some soul? Notice that doesn’t say some souls, That’s singular. One person.  Do you think they would sacrifice 15 years of their lives and suffer like that If they didn’t have a tremendous amount of love for them? I think they knew the secret to successful missionary work.  I think they truly understood that Pure, Christlike Love is the key to the work. 
The Lord understands this as well.  And he does something tricky.  When he calls his missionaries to serve, he almost immediately blesses them with an overwhelming, undeniable, and tangible love for the people they have been called to teach.  I know this is true for me.  Almost the moment I opened my mission call I felt a huge rush of Love for the people of Fiji.  It’s like Heavenly Father was saying.  “Aimee, you are my precious daughter and because I love you so much, I have called you to Love and serve my precious children in Fiji.  I have let you feel just a sliver of the Love I have for them so that you can testify of my Love and bring them unto me.” Our Heavenly Father knows what he is doing.  This is truly HIS work.
I love the story of Lehi’s dream because it teaches us that when we discover something wonderful (whether it be a new treat, a great deal, a delicious piece of fruit, or the Beautiful, life-changing Gospel of Jesus Christ) our first reaction is a desire to share it with those we love! We want those we love to be happy!
This is truly the key to successful missionary work. Love, Love, and more pure Christlike LOVE! I can promise you that as you strive to love one another with this same love, you will become happier.  I testify that our Father in Heaven lives and loves each of us. He wants us to be happy! He wants us to love one another! He wants us to share his glorious Gospel.  I testify that he knows us individually and has a plan for us.  I know without a doubt that serving a mission in Fiji is exactly what I need to be doing right now. I am so grateful for the incredible support system of family and friends that I have. And I am so thankful for the book of Mormon and the power that it brings to my life.  I’m thankful for the Prophet Joseph Smith and for a living prophet on the earth today to lead and guide us.  I know that my Savior lived and died for me.  I know that this gospel is true and that it truly changes and blesses lives and I am so excited to share it with the beautiful people of Fiji.  I say these things in the name of Jesus Christ Amen.

I'm a lucky girl to have such a fabulous support system of family, friends, and leaders. I only got pictures with a few, but Thank You to everyone who came to support me! You are all wonderful!

The Fam.

We're best friends.

These girls are the best! 

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