Saturday, January 5, 2013

Mission Farewell Talk

December 16, 2012

Elder Johnson spoke in his ward on December 16, 2012, and gave his mission farewell talk.  If you missed it, here is his talk.

Hope Ya Know I Had a Hard Time

The bishop asked me to speak on any general conference talk I wanted to.  This wasn't a hard decision. I immediately thought of my all time favorite conference talk by Elder Quentin L. Cook's "Hope Ya Know, I Had a Hard Time."

He starts off talking about a time he and his children were caught in a blizzard.

"Last winter my daughter had a white-knuckle experience driving in a severe snowstorm.  She reminded me of a similar situation I had with my two sons many years ago.  My youngest son, Joe, was three years old, and my son Larry was six.  We were traveling by car form San Francisco to Utah in June.  The weather had been very good.

As we started our ascent to the Donner Pass summit in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, suddenly and without warning an enormous snowstorm hit us.  None of the drivers were prepared.  A semi-truck in front of us had jackknifed and was spread across two lanes.  Other trucks and cars had slid off the freeway.  One lane was open, and many vehicles, including ours, were desperately trying to gain traction to avoid the other vehicles.  All traffic then came to a halt.

We were not prepared for this blizzard in June.  We had no warm clothes, and our fuel was relatively low.  I huddled with the two boys in an effort to keep us warm.  After many hours, safety vehicles, snowplows, and two trucks began to clear up the massive log jam of vehicles.

Eventually, a tow truck hauled us to a service station on the other side of the pass.  I called my wife, knowing she would be worried because she had expected a call the prior evening.  She asked if she could speak to the two boys.  When it was the three-year-old's turn, with a quivering voice, he said, "Hope ya know, we had a hard time!"

I could tell, as our three-year-old talked to his mother and told her of the hard time, he gained comfort and then reassurance.  Our prayers are that way when we go to our Father in Heaven.  We know He cares for us in our time of need.

Each of Us Will Face Trials and Hardships in This Life

The incident I just recounted, while a difficult travel situation, was brief, and there were no lasting consequences.  However, many of the trials and hardships we encounter in life are severe and appear to have lasting consequences.  Each of us will experience some of these during the vicissitudes of life.  Many listening are experiencing situations of a most serious nature at this very moment."

Trials and tribulations are a part of our life here on earth.  We were sent here for two reasons.  First, we were sent here to receive a mortal body, and second, so we can gain experience.  If life was nothing but easy, we wouldn't learn anything.  In order to be like our Father in Heaven we have to be tested and have a few difficult times along the way.

I personally love the story of Joseph Smith in D&C 121:1,2,7,8

A little background to this chapter - Joseph Smith had been imprisoned in the Liberty Jail for quite some time and was grieving for the trials and difficulties the early saints were having.  He says in verses 1&2...

1.  O God, where art thou? And where is the pavilion that covereth thy hiding place?

2.  How long shall they hand be stayed, and thine eye, yea thy pure eye, behold from the eternal heavens the wrongs of thy people and of they servants, and thine ear be penetrated with their cries?

He is then comforted by the loving message of the Lord, saying in verses 7&8...

7.  My son, peace be unto thy soul; thine adversity and thine afflictions shall be but a small moment;

8.  And then, if thou endure it well, God shall exalt thee on high; thou shalt triumph over all thy foes.

Elder Cook goes on to tell the story of sister Ellen Yates.

"Ellen Yates is from Grantsville, Utah.  Early in October, 10 years ago, she kissed her husband, Leon goodbye as he left to go to work in Salt Lake City.  This would be the last time she would see Leon alive.  He had a collision with a young man 20 years of age who was late for his first job and had tried to pass a slower vehicle, resulting in a head on collision that killed them both instantly.  Sister Yates said that after two compassionate highway patrolmen told her the news, she plunged into shock and grief.

She records, "As i tried to look ahead in life, all I could see was darkness and pain."  It turned out that her husband's best friend was the bishop of the young man's ward.  The bishop called Sister Yates and told her that the young man's mother, Jolayne Willmore, wanted to talk with her.  She remembers "being shocked because I was so centered on my grief and pain that I had not even thought about the young man and his family.  I suddenly realized that here was another who was in as much or more pain that I was.  I quickly gave my permission for a visit."

When Brother and Sister Willmore arrived, they expressed their great sorrow that their son was responsible for Leon's death and presented her with a picture of the Savior holding a little girl in His arms.  Sister Yates says, "When times become too hard to bear, I look at this picture and remember that Christ knows me personally.  He knows my loneliness and my trials."  One scripture that comforts Sister Yates is "Wherefore be of good cheer, and do not fear, for I the Lord am with you, and will stand by you."

Each October Sister Yates and Sister Willmore go to the temple together and offer thanks for the Atonement of Jesus Christ, for the plan of salvation, for eternal families, and for the covenants that bind together husbands and wives and families on both sides of the veil.  Sister Yates concludes,

"Through this trial, I have felt the love of my Father in Heaven and my Savior in greater abundance that I had ever felt before."  She testifies that "there is no grief, no pain, no sickness so great that the Atonement of Christ and the love of Christ cannot heal."  What a wonderful example of love and forgiveness these two sisters have demonstrated.  It has allowed the Atonement of Jesus Christ to be in their lives.

Our foremost gratitude should be for the Savior and His Atonement.  We are aware that many who are listening to this conference are experiencing trials and hardships of such intensity that they underlying feeling in there hears as they approach our Father in Heaven in prayer is "Hope ya know, I'm having a hard time."

Think of the Savior in the Garden of Gethsemane during the Atonement process, suffering agony so great that He bled form every pore.  His cry to His Father included the word Abba.  This might be interpreted as the cry of a son who is in distress to his father: "O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt."

Now this is one of my favorite stories of Christ.  I think it truly shows the love both our Heavenly Father and Christ have for each one of us.  Christ didn't want to go through with the atonement, he was afraid of the pain he would feel and he wanted there to be another way.  But he loved us so much, that he went through the pain and sorrow of the Atonement.  He bled from every pore and experienced the transgressions and sorrows of everyone who has lived, and who has yet to live.

John 3:16-17 says:
16. For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

17.  For God sent not his Son into the world not to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.

Now I'm going to stray away from Elder cook and go to the words of Elder Uchtdorf in his talk "Forget  Me Not."

He says, "You are not forgotten.  Wherever you are, whatever your circumstances may be, you are not forgotten.  No matter how dark your days may seem, no matter how insignificant you may feel, no matter how overshadowed you think you may be, your Heavenly Father has not forgotten you.  In fact, He loves you with an infinite love.  Just think of it: You are known and remembered by the most majestic, powerful, and glorious Being in the universe!  You are loved by the King of infinite space and everlasting time!"

Elder Cook goes on to say - "I testify that the Atonement of Jesus Christ covers all of the trials and hardships that any of us will encounter in this life.  At times when we may feel like saying, "Hope you know, I had a hard time," we can be assured that He is there and we are safe in His loving arms.  When our beloved prophet, President Thomas S. Monson, was asked on his birthday this past August what would be the ideal gift that members worldwide could give him, he said without a moment's hesitation, "Find someone who is having a hard time...and do something for them."

One of the reasons I decided to go on a mission was to show others the beauty of the gospel.  To let them know that they are loved by their Heavenly Father and that life doesn't need to be filled with just pain and hardship.  That through the Atonement of Jesus Christ they can be with their Father again.  I want to find those people who are having a hard time and let them know that I am here for them.

This last week, my friend and I, went to the temple to do some baptisms while he anxiously waited to open his mission call.  While we were at the temple I saw this guy there and I felt like I should go talk to him.  We ended up talking to him for a long time and I have never met a persona who radiated the spirit as much as he did.  His smile never left his face and he told us about how he had to delay his mission because of a back injury he had to get fixed.  It wasn't until later, while watching online the series "Mormon Message," that I learned his whole story.

On Christmas Eve his family was driving home from a Christmas party when they were hit by a car.  The next day when he woke up in the hospital his dad was in the room with him and he asked how his mom was.  His dad told him that his mom had died and so had his brother and sister.  And with a smile on his face and one tear rolling down his face he said to his dad, "It's okay dad, we're still a family."

It was amazing to see this soul who had endured so much pain and sorrow, and to see him at the temple, smiling from ear to ear knowing that through the gospel and through the love of his Heavenly Father and the Savior he would be with his family again.

That is the message I want to give to the people of Brazil.  I pray Heavenly Father will direct me to those who are seeing this love and knowledge.  I would now like to bear my testimony.

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