Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Baylor's Farewell and Talk

Good morning brothers and sisters, I’m Baylor Harper and I have been called to serve in the Peru Chiclayo Mission.  I have been waiting for this day for as long as I can remember.  Way back in my primary days my favorite primary song was, “I hope they call me on a mission, when I have grown a foot or two”.  I think I loved that song for two reasons, I really looked up to missionaries and always being small for my age, I was excited about growing a foot or two.  Well, I decided I can’t wait any longer for the foot or two, I’m going anyways.  

For two years I will carry the title of Elder, a full time missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.  In life we have many titles, some of these titles define who we are.  I am a son, a brother, and a friend. I have been a student, an employee, and an athlete.  In this congregation we have many moms and dads, teachers, musicians, doctors, lawyers, C.E.O.’s an exterminator, and so on.  

In the last general conference President Uchtdorf gave a powerful talk outlining  “4 Titles”.   The first title is Son or Daughter of Heavenly Father. This title defines us all whether we are members of this faith or not.  As a missionary the first concept I will teach is that God is our loving Heavenly Father and we are his children.  I am excited to take this message to the people of Peru, to help them understand that God loves them and knows them personally by name and that he has a plan for them. 

To members of this church and to many other Christians, recognizing God as our Heavenly Father is a basic concept and one that has been taught to us since we were little.  But do we fully understand who we are?  Do we understand the significance of our royal heritage?  This knowledge can change the way we look at ourselves, the way we see and treat fellow human beings and the way we define our purpose in this life. 

Growing up I have struggled with self confidence.  I have often been one to doubt my own abilities.  Rather than see how it was very possible that I could achieve a goal I was working for, I would often focus on how it was more likely that I would not be able to achieve it.  I would sometimes count the many obstacles there were, rather then how I could overcome those obstacles.  In high school I was a runner.  Cross Country and Track were a big part of my life.  Running competitively requires you to be mentally and physically strong to succeed in competition.  There were races in my high school career where I felt physically stronger then ever before but would fall far short of my goal or potential because I would let doubt seep in and erode my confidence.  I would doubt my capability.  I have learned and changed a lot in the past year or so as I have gained a strong testimony of the love Heavenly Father has for me.  I love Him and I know that He loves me more than I can comprehend. This knowledge has given me an increase in confidence. It truly has changed how I look at myself and how I look at other people.  I know that I am important to God and as I humble myself and ask him for guidance and strength I can become a tool in the hands of the lord and an affective missionary. Some of us may feel inadequate because we don’t feel we live up to such a divine title as child of our Heavenly Father.  In Romans 3:23 it reads, “For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.”  This is because we are in a fallen state.  All of us have and will sin; none of us are perfect and will never reach perfection in this lifetime. 

These past few months I have had the opportunity to be an ordinance worker in the temple. It has been a great experience where I have gained a better knowledge of the plan of salvation and the covenants I have made with God. I believe it has been a huge benefit in preparing me for my mission.  To be a temple worker there is a lot you have to learn, and administering ordinances with exactness is very important.  With such little knowledge of the temple, and the realization of the magnitude of the position I held, I was at first overwhelmed.  A fellow worker shared something that impacted me, he said ‘If the lord needed perfection Heaven would have sent perfect people” and then he said something like, "but he has to work with us knuckle heads instead.”  The way he said it made me laugh and it also helped me focus on the work and less on my own inadequacies.   Heavenly father sent us to earth so we could progress as we learn from our mistakes.  As we overcome our weaknesses and trials and strive to follow Jesus Christ,  He will bless and strengthen us.

The second title is Disciple of Jesus Christ, which includes all who strive earnestly to follow Christ.  On our path of discipleship we ought not to let our imperfection be an excuse that will hold us back from reaching our divine potential.  But with the understanding that we are children of God we should let our flaws be a motivation  to become better as we take one imperfect step at a time towards Christ. One of my favorite musicians, Marcus Mumford, once said “Lead me to the truth and I will follow you with my whole life.” I like this profound declaration of faith.  What does it mean to show this kind of faith?  I believe that great blessings and happiness can come from making life changing sacrifices.  I think of a story of a young man who was living in a small town in England in the year 1851.  There were two missionaries from the United States teaching in this small town and had planned a meeting in the town square where they could teach many at once the pure message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and his plan of happiness.  A crowd was gathered to listen.  On the other side of town there was a small mob of teenage boys forming.  They had heard that “the Mormons” had entered their town and these boys were not going to tolerate it.  Gathering up as many rotten eggs as they could collect, they set out to egg these young missionaries and drive them out of their town.  When they arrived in the vicinity of the town square, the two young missionaries were singing to the gathering crowd.  The leader of the small mob brought the group to a halt to wait for the most climactic moment before unleashing their assault.  As they waited, they heard the missionaries and felt the spirit so much so that they could no longer do the thing they came to do, so they slunk away home.

The leader of the small mob was Thomas Harper, my great, great, great, grandfather and the man my dad was named after.  Thomas was deeply effected by the spirit that day.  He later accounts that he could not get it out of his mind and was determined to hear more of what these missionaries had to say.  After that day, he would stop by to see the missionaries on his way home from work.  He told his family about the things he was learning and how these truths spoke to his sole.  In Thomas’s words; “they heard this with horror and commanded that I stay away from those wicked Mormons! I found this impossible to obey.  I felt drawn to them as a magnet I soon asked to be baptized.”  Thomas was baptized by Elder Curtis E Bolton.  Thomas later emigrated from England to the United States.  I am thankful to my great, great, great, Grandfather Thomas Harper for having the courage to follow with his whole life when he was lead to the truth.  I am thankful for his desire to take on the title of disciple and follow the savior.  He sacrificed it all by leaving his homeland, his family, his friends and his work.

Brothers and Sisters, as we worship in this congregation today the majority of us have all been lead to the truth.  Do we have the faith to follow him with our whole life?  But what does it meant to follow the Savior with our whole life?  While thinking and pondering about this question I came across a few scriptures. One is John, Chapter 21 verse 15. It tells of the account where Jesus comes to the apostles for the third time after he was resurrected and converses with Peter, it reads, “ So when they had dined, Jesus saith to Simon Peter, Simon son of Jonas, Lovest though me more than these? He saith unto him, yeah Lord; though knowest that  I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my sheep, ” What does this mean to us? In order to follow the savior  with our whole life, we need to show our love for him and We need to love the savior more than these. These meaning the things of this world. We need the courage and faith to separate ourselves from the world, to live in the world but not of the world. 

When deciding to serve a mission some of the things I had to ask myself were, do I love the Savior more than California? Do  I love Him more than surfing?  Do I love him more than running? Do I love him more than the comfort of my family and friends and the safety of my home?  We may ask, do we love him more than our beautiful houses? Our nice cars? Our jobs? and our comfortable lifestyle?  Even though just the thought of flying to Peru Wednesday morning frightens me and makes me real nervous I can say that I love the Lord with my whole heart and though I am weak and imperfect I am striving to follow him with my whole life. We must be willing to give up the things of this world to follow Christ, whether it be to serve a mission, to fulfill a church calling or to help someone in need. With perfect love there is no sacrifice.  The savior has asked us to feed his sheep. As we have been led to the truth we need to lead others. “Many seek for the truth but don’t know where to find it”.  Everyone needs to know that they have a Father In Heaven who loves them.  Imagine if everyone knew this and realized the potential they have, and of the blessings they will receive and the peace, joy and happiness they will feel by living a Christ centered life. 

The next title is Healer of Souls.  As Priesthood holders and as members of this church it is our duty to follow the example of Jesus Christ and strengthen those in need. In the book of Mosiah, chapter 18 verse 9 it reads, “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, even until death, that ye may be redeemed of God, and be numbered with those of the first resurrection, that ye may have eternal life.”  We can become a healer of souls as we arise and shine forth. How do we arise and shine forth? Elder David A Bednar said “To Arise is to come alive, to awaken to things of righteousness through individual conversion and preparation- all of which proceed making a distinct difference in the lives of others. We shine forth after arising and as we reflect and emulate the light of the world, as we serve and teach and strengthen and warn those around us”.  We need to  continue to be converted and prepare in order to bless the life of another. Conversion is a continuos process that we need, to strengthen and grow daily. This past year I felt that my testimony and conversion of this restored gospel has been the strongest it has ever been.  A strong desire to serve others and be a tool in the hands of the lord grew inside of me.  I prayed daily to have spiritual experiences, missionary moments and service opportunities. Each night as I knelt back down to pray I wondered why I wasn’t having these experiences I was asking for.  As the quote says, I felt that I had arose, but I was not shining forth. I soon realized that the problem was me. I was asking for these things but I was not constantly seeking these things through my actions.  I was a hearer of the word but not a doer. As I changed my attitude and began to search for these experiences I learned that living the gospel starts in the home. I began to strengthen my relationships with my sisters, my brother and my parents. I began to serve them and made efforts to be aware of their needs. I know I’m nowhere close to being the perfect brother or son but this experience has helped me to learn how to live the gospel. I don’t believe I have healed any souls these past 18 years but I feel mine has been healed as I’ve strived to do so, and I know the Lord will help me as I reach out to serve and heal the souls of the people of Peru.  President Uchtdorf said The restored gospel of Jesus Christ blesses lives not just when we believe it—but much more when we live it.

In Conclusion, the last title is Heir of Eternal Life. In Romans chapter 8 verse 16 and 17 it reads. “The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: “And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together.” We are literal children of our Heavenly Father, he loves us and wants us to have what he has and more. 

I will miss this ward family of mine.  I am thankful to you for helping raise me in the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  In Peru, I will represent the savior, my family and you all.  I ask for your prayers.  I am nervous but excited to serve.  I fear the language but I am stoked to learn it.  My family has always teased me about my lack of ability to speak English.  The running joke in my house is, I hope Spanish turns out to be your first language because English sure isn’t.  This is my hope as well.  

I testify that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of a living God.  I testify that this is Christ’s true church, restored in all of its fulness and authority from His church anciently.  We have a prophet of God on the earth today, Thomas S. Monson……