Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Farewell Talk

Hi brothers and sisters!  I’m Morgan Yates and I have been called to serve my Savior as a missionary of the church.  I’ll be serving in the Guatemala Cobán mission for the next 18 months and I am so grateful for that opportunity.  If someone asked me this time last year if I could see myself in this place today I probably would have brushed it off and said, eh, maybe.  Even if you had asked me 6 months ago, I would have been unsure.  But I’m here today, and that is a huge testament to me that prayers are answered.  My Father in Heaven is aware of me, He guides me, and has a plan for every one of us.  It has kind of been a joke in my family for a while that I’m not much of a “nature person.”  Maybe Heavenly Father just wants a little entertainment watching me try to live in the hot, humid, jungle in Guatemala.. all while trying to speak Spanish.  Now that I think about it, I think giving this talk is scaring me more than living in the jungle.  So bear with me because I’m not too great at this.  I’m not very knowledgeable.  I don’t necessarily feel like I have much to offer at this time.  I’m young and I still have a lot to learn.  But I have so much hope because of the most selfless, loving sacrifice anyone could make for us.  Christ’s atonement is the thing that will help us become the people we all have the potential to become.

D&C 76:69  says:  These are they who are just men made perfect through Jesus the mediator of the new covenant, who wrought out this perfect atonement through the shedding of his own blood.

I spent a lot of time pondering on the part that says we can be made perfect through Jesus Christ. 
For four thousand years prophets had preached and prophesied that the final week of the Saviors mortal ministry would come.  Every event in history, as memorable as they may have been or may yet be, don’t even come close to comparing to this moment.
He who had created worlds without number was about to enter a quiet, secluded garden, a humble little spot of ground in his very own vast universe. There was no celebration and there were no pressing crowds to witness the most significant event ever.  This was a moment that was so sacred, so indescribable, that no one could fully comprehend its importance.  Only three other people—Peter, James and John—would be near, and even their witness would be shadowed by the twilight and their sleepiness.
The Son of God was completely alone against everything that Satan could throw at him.  In that moment, we saw the most divine love, expressed in the most amazing way, against the most cruel of evils.
There are at least three principal purposes of the Atonement:

The first purpose is to restore everything that was lost due to the fall of Adam.  This was done by bringing about the resurrection for all of us, which helps us overcome physical death and bring us back to the presence of God for the purpose of being judged, which means we will overcome what the scriptures call a “first spiritual death.”  Both of these deaths were introduced upon us because of Adam; both of these deaths were overcome for all men because of Christ.

The second purpose of the Atonement is to provide for the opportunity to repent so that we can be cleansed from our sins and overcome a second spiritual death.

The third purpose of the Atonement is to provide the power necessary to help us become like God.
Elder James E. Talmage said, “Even the structure of the word atonement help us understand its true meaning; it is literally at-one-ment, which means reconciliation, or bringing agreement between of those who have been disconnected.”  Stephen Robinson also said,  “Atonement means taking two things that have become separated, estranged, or incompatible, like a perfect God and an imperfect me or you, and bringing them together again, thus making the two be ‘at one.’”

As I was about to prepare my talk, Bishop Hobby recommended an amazing book and I think everyone should read it.  It’s called Believing Christ, by Stephen E. Robinson.  One of the most insightful, uplifting messages in the book is given in a parable called the parable of the bicycle. 
Stephen’s daughter Sarah was very young when she decided she wanted a new bicycle.  He made a deal with her and said that if she worked hard, made sacrifices, and saved up all of her pennies for the next little while, he would go with her to buy the bike.  After some time, he forgot about what he had said, but little Sarah never did.  When he noticed she had been saving all of her money for some time, he took her to the bike store and let her pick out her favorite one.  She looked at the price tag, which read over $100, and sadly said, “Oh daddy, I’ll never have enough for a bicycle.”  He asked her how much money she had, to which she responded, “61 cents.”  He then said, “I’ll tell you what, dear.  Let’s try a different arrangement.  You give me everything you’ve got, the whole sixty-one cents, and a hug and a kiss, and this bike is yours.”
Sarah’s father to her, is like the Savior is to us, but what we desire is a little more meaningful than a bike.  We desire eternal life and exaltation.  But even if we do all we can do, we are going to need someone to make up the difference.  And how amazing is it to know that it is our Brother, Jesus Christ who was the one willing to pay the price so we could attain all that we desire? 

It is possible because of His atoning sacrifice.  I think it is in our nature to not seek heaven’s help because we feel unworthy of receiving it or maybe it just feels like Heaven isn’t listening.  It is in those moments, where we feel inadequate, where we need Christ the most.  He has already atoned for our sins; we just need to turn to Him with humble hearts and trust Him.  Jeffery R. Holland said, “However late you think you are, however many chances you think you have missed, however many mistakes you feel you have made or talents you think you don’t have, or however far from home and family and God you feel you have traveled, I testify that you have not traveled beyond the reach of divine love.  It is not possible for you to sink lower than the infinite light of Christ’s atonement shines.” 

Last summer I went on a humanitarian trip to Belize to serve the people there.  I didn’t feel like I had much to offer then either.  I went because I had heard it was a fun experience.  As I lost myself in service I learned to love the people I was serving and those I was serving with.  What I didn’t know at the time, was that that humanitarian trip was Christ’s way of filling in the gap for me.  My experience there is a huge part of why I am going on a mission.  Sure, I helped build them a school.  But they taught me a new way to love.  I saw how accepting they were, and so badly I wanted to share with them what I know.  Many of them were seeking something more in their lives, but didn’t know what.  Being there gave me a desire to share with people how they can find true happiness!  Once again, Heavenly Father blessed me with so much more than I gave to the people in Belize.

John 3:16 says:  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.
We need to not only believe in Christ- that he lives and blesses lives- but we also need to believe that his atonement can truly save.

We also need to believe that his atonement can truly bring us peace.  One of my favorite hymns expresses my most sincere feelings about what the atonement does for me:
I stand all amazed at the love Jesus offers me,
Confused at the grace that so fully he proffers me.
I tremble to know that for me he was crucified,
That for me, a sinner, he suffered, he bled and died.

I marvel that he would descend from His throne divine,
To rescue a soul so rebellious and proud as mine,
That he should extend his great love unto such as I,
Sufficient to own, to redeem, and to justify.

I think of his hands pierced and bleeding to pay the debt!
Such mercy, such love and devotion can I forget?
No, no, I will praise and adore at the mercy seat,
Until at the glorified throne I kneel at His feet.

Oh it is wonderful that he should care for me
Enough to die for me!
Oh, it is wonderful, wonderful to me!
Moroni 10:32-33 says:  Yea, come unto Christ, and be perfected in him, and deny yourselves of all ungodliness; and if ye shall deny yourselves of all ungodliness, and love God with all your might, mind and strength, then is his grace sufficient for you, that by his grace ye may be perfect in Christ; and if by the grace of God ye are perfect in Christ, ye can in nowise deny the power of God.
33 And again, if ye by the grace of God are perfect in Christ, and deny not his power, then are ye sanctified in Christ by the grace of God, through the shedding of the blood of Christ, which is in the covenant of the Father unto the remission of your sins, that ye become holy, without spot.

Again, I am not very knowledgeable.  I don’t necessarily feel like I have much to offer.  I’m young and I still have a lot to learn.  But what I do know is so precious to me and I know that if I can share that with others in Guatemala, their lives will be blessed.  I know that any success I have will be because I am guided by my Father in Heaven.  I pray that I can be a tool in the hands of my Savior.  I am going to give my 61 cents and I know that Christ will fill in the gap that I can’t alone.

I am so grateful for this chance I have to serve a mission!  I am so excited to be a part of something so much greater than me.  I am so grateful for everyone here who has blessed my life and helped me get to this point in my life.  Family, friends, ward members, teachers.  You are all so amazing and I know you were put in my life to bless me in ways that no one else could.

I know my Savior lives.  I know that He guides me and loves me.  I love this gospel and I am excited to share it with the people in Guatemala! 

I say these things in the name of my Savior, Jesus Christ, Amen.

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