Thursday, June 28, 2012

Cameron's Farewell Talk (For those who were unable to attend)

Who We are Missionaries to
Hello brothers and sisters, my name is Cameron Benson and this, is a farewell talk. It will largely be the last time I have an open floor to share any gospel insight with you in person. Granted I have only given one other short talk since I have been here in the last two years so that’s probably not saying much. But none the less I am about to go serve a full time mission for my Savior Jesus Christ and the people of the North Adriatic. Now for those of you who don’t know your European geography like I don’t know my European geography, this means the countries of Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia & Herzegovina, and Serbia, across the Adriatic Sea from Italy.

And so in danger of being boring and stereotypical today, I’m giving my farewell talk about missionary work. Now I’m not thinking of the generic missionary work talk about how we all need to do it, and that everyone is a missionary based on their example, which is all true, don’t get me wrong. But instead I would like to talk about who we are missionaries to. You see, we are always missionaries every second of our lives. It’s not just the moments when you start talking to a stranger about your faith, but also the moments when you simply walk by a homeless man, or are laughing with your friends, or reflecting on what you should do with your day. We do not ever stop being missionaries influencing the people around us. Missionary work is not even something limited to church goers but to every living person regardless of faith, or lack thereof of faith. We as people naturally spread our ideals and beliefs to the many different people we encounter on a daily basis. This is what I would like to talk about today. I would suggest that there are three groups of people we are missionaries to and how we can be better missionaries of Jesus Christ to them.

The first group is fairly straightforward and well understood. The stranger, the stranger we meet at class, or the cashier at the grocery store are all people we have the potential to have an influence on. Likewise, Christ’s last commandment to his apostles before he ascended into heaven was to go and teach all nations, “teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you.” (Matt. 28:20) In modern day society we have both the blessing and the curse of influencing complete strangers whether we want to or not. The primary means of this influence are the small everyday interactions we have with strangers daily. Do not underestimate even the smallest actions; whether active or passive, for we know from the prophet Alma that it is, “by small and simple things are great things brought to pass.” (Alma 37:6) Even a simple passive act of a smile or of friendly light conversation can change someone’s day and leave a good impact on them.

Likewise, do not underestimate the potential of every stranger you meet. Every day you have the chance to meet a new best friend. Also, do not underestimate the value of the complete stranger you walk past or that sits next to you. They are incredibly valuable, for “remember the worth of souls is great in the sight of God.” (D&C 18:10) Likewise, we cannot fully understand a person based on their outward appearance or first impressions for they are so much more complex, but we should endeavor to instead see them as the Lord sees them: on their heart. (1 Samuel 16:7) Mother Theresa, the famous Catholic service nun was once quoted, “If you judge people, you have no time to love them.” We should seek the time to love people. As we do this, even if the time we are given is no more than a fleeting second, an impression of who we are, which is informed by our faith, will be left with them.

On the topic of conversations, we live in a world society which has largely grown to reject any mention of faith in conversation. The omission of faith has grown to be the prevalent type of missionary work people do. I know I have been largely guilty of this. How many times have I omitted any mention of my faith, the large part which defines who I am today and let myself avoid any conversations of the church for paranoid fears of saying something inappropriate or being perceived as someone I don’t want to be known as to complete strangers?

Regardless however, do not let your zeal and love of the gospel actually hurt someone by pressuring them into a situation they are not yet ready for. Not all people are yet equally prepared to receive the gospel. Recall the eleventh article of faith, “We claim the privilege of worshiping Almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience, and allow all men the same privilege, let them worship how, where, or what they may”. Sometimes the best missionary work they are willing to accept is simply a good impression of a faithful person, or a discussion on the strengthening of faith. Opportunities for receiving further light and joy through progression in the gospel can and will present itself later. We are commanded to reach out to people, and we should do it with love and openness.

Friends and Family
The people we are around the most, our friends and family, also have a huge impact on who we are and likewise we have a huge impact on who they are. It was the invitation of a friend two years ago who lived and loved her faith that literally flipped my life on its head to lead me to become a significantly happier and better person. Because we spend a large portion of our time with our friends, they leave a much greater impact on us than strangers. I don’t know if any of you had this around when you were a teenager, but my mom loved something called the Teen Creed. One of the sentences from it read “Choose companions with care, you become what they are.”

Friends have the amazing power to pull people up or to slowly tear them down, the power of missionary work. The secret to the building of strong relationships however is no secret to the gospel, yet you cannot have the gospel without it. Look no further than our baptismal covenant, that we “are willing to bear one another’s burdens, that they may be light; Yea, and are willing to mourn with those that mourn; yea, and comfort those that stand in need of comfort, and to stand as witnesses of God at all times and in all things, and in all places that ye may be in”. (Mosiah 18:8-9) These conditions characterize whether we are doing good missionary work with our friends. This gospel relationship is contradictory and set apart from worldly, superficial friendships based on mutual personal pleasure and pride.

Friends living gospel standards together will build strong friendships because they are founded on this mutual care and comfort for one another. Christ taught to the brother of Jared that “whatsoever thing persuadeth men to do good is of me; for good cometh of none save it be of me” (Ether 4:12) As friends do good one to the other and comfort, mourn, and rejoice together, they are being strong missionaries of Jesus Christ to each other. 

None the less, the last component of the baptismal covenant brings us to an even deeper and closer relationship to one another not known by many today. As we live our personal lives as witnesses of God regardless of situation, upholding His statutes and commandments we naturally testify to each other. No greater missionary work can be performed for one another. Elder Jeffery R. Holland once wrote, “Real friends share the gospel – both the living of it and the loving of it.” (New Era, June 1998)

Lastly, I speak of the most important person we are missionaries to: ourselves. Our personal salvation is an issue not possible to ignore and as such is most vital form of missionary work we can do. Ultimately, after all the others have gone we are left only with ourselves. Do not allow yourself to grow complacent with your faith and cease seeking greater truth. Our personal actions and thoughts have led us to who we are and who we serve for salvation. Christ has taught that “No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other.”(Matt. 6:24) Likewise we can only live one gospel.

Do missionary work to yourself for Jesus Christ: fulfill your duty to God and love. One of my favorite scriptures is the two great commandments, specifically the ones found in Mark. In it, the Savior teaches that love of God and your neighbor is the most important commandment of all. To first yourself, “love the Lord thy God with all they heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength.” (Mark 12:30) Christ and God have given us commandments that are to protect us and lead us away from harm. As such, commandments will bring greater joy and happiness than we could not otherwise have.

This is the sort of gospel we should be preaching to ourselves. Live the gospel life and feel the love and grace of the Savior in your life. He is “the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6) and is always reaching out to us to perpetually draw us closer to Him. As we do this we will begin to have a greater knowledge and understanding of who we are. Living the gospel teaches you of Jesus Christ. Knowing of Jesus Christ will teach you of God. Once you know of God, you can begin to know and understand yourself and your eternal and divine destiny. This is the sort of missionary work we should be doing for ourselves.
I encourage everyone reading this to take to heart the last council of the Prophet Joshua to the ancient Israelites, and “Choose you this day whom ye will serve… but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” (Joshua 24:15)

I know that missionary work is a vital, real, and true component of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The gospel would not be possible without it, and the joy of the gospel could not be spread. I know that the Bible and the Book of Mormon are the inspired, translated words of God from ancient prophets for our benefit today. I know this because I have read them, and have received divine revelation from them, such as the inspiration to serve this mission. I am eternally grateful for how my Heavenly Father constantly pursues me and is eternal and unchanging in restoring a modern day prophet to the world for us as another medium to receive revelation. I know that Joseph Smith was a prophet, and all the men who have held his prophetic mantle to today, specifically Thomas S. Monson, have been and are as well. I know this because I have listened to their counsel, have prayed and applied it to my life, and received the testimony of the Holy Ghost and reaped the good fruits of such obedience to God.

Lastly, I am proud to be a part of Christ’s work to spread His gospel, love, and grace to all the world, specifically southern, central Europe. I know that He is my personal and universal Savior and I am eternally thankful for His love and specifically His sacrifice, known as the Atonement, that I may become clean and greater than I could have possibly ever imagined. I know that no matter what you are going through, or what you have gone through in your life, it is not so much that He cannot help you. You are never too far gone. He knows you and has experienced precisely what you have. Reach out to Him and He will fill your weakness that you may have joy beyond anything you have experienced before. I know this because I have experienced it, and I leave this with you in His holy name, even Jesus Christ. Amen

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