Sawyer had his farewell on June 9, in the Eastview Ward. It was awesome because the whole meeting was dedicated to missionary work. He did a great job on his talk! After sacrament meeting, we came back with family and friends and had lunch at our house.
Good morning Brothers and Sisters! I can’t believe I am giving my farewell talk! This always seemed like something I would never give because it was so far in the future but now that it is actually here it doesn’t even seem real! I’d just like to thank all of my family, friends, and ward members for turning me into the missionary I am going to be very soon!
I am giving my talk on the miracle of missionary work. But I guess I should change that and call it the miracles of missionary work because there are multiple ways that missionary work is miraculous! I am going to be directing my talk more to the people who have yet to go on full time missions. The first miracle I am going to be talking about is the expansion of the Gospel through missionary work. Now you are probably all thinking well duh Sawyer… that is what missionary work is for- of course it’s a miracle. But if you really break it down you can see how much of a miracle it actually is. Neil L. Anderson compares the expansion of the gospel in ancient times as well as in the Latter Days in his talk during the last general conference. Let’s start with ancient times. When the Savior was resurrected he commanded the apostles to “Go ye into all the world, and preach the Gospel to every creature.” Now the apostles were probably a little doubtful considering how small the church was at the time compared to how big the world was, but the apostles’ faith was still strong and they went out and preached the word. In the day that they began preaching, 3,000 people were baptized into the church! 3,000! I don’t think any of us even have that many friends on Facebook! If missionaries were that successful these days I could just picture the First Presidency and the Apostles dancing for joy!
Now in Latter Days Jesus Christ gave that same commandment about 183 years ago. The Church was a tiny little tight knit group of Saints and they were told to expand the Gospel to the entire world! With all the persecution the Church was receiving I’m sure most of the Saints thought that the task would be impossible! But still Faith was strong and diligent missionaries went out to do the work! Thousands were baptized into the Church once more! Elder Wilford Woodruff went to England on his mission and baptized several hundred people as well as 45 preachers of different churches in the first month of his mission! And now look at the Church today! It is thriving! Elder Anderson says that when he was on his mission there were 562 stakes around the world, now there are over 3,000! When he was on his mission the church was in 59 countries. It is now in 189 out of the 224 countries in the world. When Elder Anderson was on his mission there were 16,000 missionaries, which is a pretty good amount, but compared with the number we have today it is just a sliver. We now have 65,000 missionaries out in the field! That is what I call a miracle!
The next miracle of missionary work that I am going to talk about is the fact that it actually gets teenagers to work! D&C chapter 4 is THE missionary chapter in the scriptures and the very first verse says, “Now behold, a marvelous work is about to come forth among the children of men.” Now for most people my age marvelous is not the word they would use to describe work. But work actually is a marvelous thing. Gordon B. Hinckley describes work like this: “Work, work, work is the key to getting things done, the key to success in life. There is no substitute for work, for getting up in the morning and getting at it and staying with it to get the job done. I don’t know of a greater asset for whatever lies ahead in life than the capacity to discipline oneself to work.” Missionary work is the best work of all because it is the Lord’s work. The Lord even says, “For behold this is my work and my glory to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.” The only way to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man is by teaching people of the great truths this gospel brings! There is no better way to prepare for the greatest work you will ever do than by learning to work beforehand. I love the messages of EFY speakers and I have a book dedicated to missionary work written by a whole bunch of them. My favorite is Hank Smith and he talks about work in his chapter of the book. He says, “Do you have people in your life who love to make you work? If so, find them, hug them, and thank them- then get back to work.” Now if you don’t have people in your life that love to make you work, go find your own work! There is plenty of work out there to be done! The Lord wants us to work so he makes plenty of things for us to work on! If you don’t believe me believe President Thomas S. Monson. He said, “God left the world unfinished for man to work his skill upon. He left the electricity in the cloud, the oil in the earth. He left the rivers unbridged and the forests unfelled and the cities unbuilt. God gives to man the challenge of raw materials, not the ease of finished things. He leaves the pictures unpainted and the music unsung and the problems unsolved, that man might know the joys and glories of creation.” Working beforehand can have a great influence on the way you react to life in the mission field because it is HARD work!
If thinking of just working nonstop for two years intimidates you as it did me think of it this way. I am a big fan of superheroes, not to mention the fact that I am Batman, so I like to think of the missionaries in the field as superheroes because what are they doing? They are saving people! And it takes work to save people! Superheroes don’t just sit back and relax while the world is saved. They have to do something about it! Like Spider-Man’s wise Uncle Ben said, “With great power, comes great responsibility.” Missionaries have the great power to bring people back to the presence of God, and they have the responsibility to use that power on the people they teach! You can’t just have the responsibility and not use it! “It’s not who you are underneath, it’s what you do that defines you.” Sorry I had to throw a Batman quote in here somewhere but it is true! You can be a great Gospel filled ball of a missionary, but if you don’t do anything with it then you aren’t any better than the missionaries who don’t even want to be out there in the first place. It’s what you do that defines you. We’ve all seen the heroes save the people in the movies, but in this story we are the heroes, and in this story it is for real.
If that strategy doesn’t work for you then think of the good that is going to come from the work. Especially when the going gets tough thinking about something good that will come from it is always a way to help. Just look at these three missionaries in the book I mentioned earlier. This is the first letter sent home by a sister missionary after entering the field. “The MTC is soooooooooo hard. I really didn’t believe it when people said it would be hard, but oh, man… it is difficult. I feel really overwhelmed. They keep us so busy here its nuts! Yesterday we studied for twelve hours. I know in a usual WEEK at home I didn’t study that much, so this has been really eye opening.” Here is an excerpt from a letter from an Elder in the Ukraine. “On Wednesday we met with Tamara. Now, I love the lady, but she can’t expect to receive an answer if she won’t listen. It’s like trying to catch a bumblebee with chopsticks. The lesson didn’t really go anywhere, and she ended with, ‘You haven’t answered any of my questions.’ I love her, but she needs to listen. We won’t give up on her.” And finally this third missionary serving in California. “We were dropped twice this week. It was rough. This family came to church last week and loved it and asked to meet with us on Saturday. On Friday morning we had a message that said, ‘Thanks so much for everything, but we are going to continue on our path. No further instruction is required and our meeting is canceled.” Now hearing all of these missionaries talking about their experiences probably doesn’t make missionary work sound very inviting, but just hold your horses! I’m not done yet! A few months down the road the sister missionary who thought the MTC was so hard sent this letter. “We are teaching a woman named Lupe and she is so elect! Perfectly prepared to hear the gospel. We met with her last week and taught her the Restoration and how much God loves her and how she can trust Him. I about cried when I saw her walk into the chapel. After sacrament meeting she stood up right in front of us and said, ‘I want to prepare myself for baptism.’ WHAT?!?! Oh man! Revelation through church attendance. It’s legit. We were so taken aback. My companion even said, ‘Wait… for what church?’ Lupe laughed and said ‘This one! It’s so true!’ Wow. What an amazing experience!” Now that sounds very inviting to me personally and I hope I meet someone just as ready to hear the gospel as Lupe when I am on my mission! The second Elder in the Ukraine said this a little while after his other letter. “Honestly, the week was super quiet, and we didn’t see too much success, but Saturday was great. We met with Lera. Now, we started out by asking her about the chapter we had her read (Alma 34). She said something interesting. ‘I want to believe this is all true.’ I would’ve normally said ‘Cool. We want you to believe it too.’ But something else came out of my mouth. ‘Why do you want top believe it, Lera?’ I had no idea why I just said that and I hoped it made sense. Then she put her Book of Mormon in front of her face. I was confused. After like fifteen seconds, she put the book down, and she was crying. Then she said, ‘Because if this is true I can be with my family forever. I don’t know why I’m crying, but I feel strongly about this book.’ We told her it was the Holy Ghost confirming it to her. I’m getting way excited!” I would feel excited too! I can’t think of anything better than bringing light and happiness into someone’s life! And finally the third missionary in California. “As we were driving out of the parking lot someone started honking at me. I was a little caught off guard and looked back to see a family I had baptized waving me down. I was so pumped! I pulled the car over and talked to them for about thirty minutes. They are getting ready to be sealed. I love them so much! It reminded me that it is all worth it. No matter how much you have gone through or how many times someone tells you no. The one yes is worth it.” That last statement that missionary said is something that keeps me, and should keep any other missionary motivated. If I am feeling scared about leaving home, or dreading being trained to go and awkwardly tell people I don’t even know about religion, or getting a door slammed in my face, or having to eat cow intestines, or having cockroaches crawl over me while I’m in bed, I always think about that one yes that will make it all worth it! That is a miracle! And also notice how each of those missionaries said how much they love the people they are teaching! That is a key of missionary work! As the old saying goes, “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” Love is a big miracle!
As I conclude my talk I want to just say how much missionary work has been a blessing in my life already. It has changed me so much for the better just preparing to go on it so I can’t wait to see what it does to me while I am actually on it. I also want to say how much each of you wonderful people have been miracles in my life as well. My family for raising me in the Gospel, which wouldn’t have happened without the help of my Mom’s friend when she was in high school. That was a big miracle. All of my church leaders over the years for teaching me so much and helping me gain a basic understanding of everything the gospel teaches. My seminary teachers for helping me gain a more in depth understanding of the gospel and doing it in a way that I enjoyed every minute of it! And my friends for keeping me on the right path over all these years and always being there when I needed them even when it was something stupid. I have the best friends in the world and wouldn’t ask for any others. I know without a single doubt that this gospel is true and it has brought a light into my life that nothing else possibly could and I am so excited to go and bring that happiness to the people of Texas. I am so grateful for missionary work and the miracles it holds. The last thing I will leave you with is a verse of a hymn. “God be with you till we meet again; keep love’s banner floating o’er you; smite death’s threatening wave before you. God be with you till we meet again.” I say these things in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.