Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Pre-Mission "Farewell Talk"

            So this is going to be the first post in my missionary blog. Last Sunday (02/17/13), though I'm still leaving on March 27th for the MTC, I gave my "farewell" talk in Sacrament meeting, along with my older brother Andrew who gave his "coming home" talk (he just returned from the mission field in Quito, Ecuador). I was told my talk was a very good talk by all who heard it, and so I felt it was appropriate that such a well-recieved, spiritual talk be put online for all of you to see. That way, if you missed it or if you heard it and want to read it, you can do so. Bishop Bradley asked me to speak on service and how I will be serving by going on a mission. This is the "meat" of my talk (I took out the various notes that I had made in order for it to sound more conversational). Enjoy!

"The mission is all about service; service to the Lord, service to the Lord’s children, and in a way, it is a service to the missionary who is “called to serve”.  Choosing to serve a mission was not something I did lightly; two years, while less than a blink of an eye on the eternal spectrum, is perceived to be a decent amount of time in this mortal life. Every missionary that I know of, in my own experience, has had to find their own reason to go on a mission. Some missionaries go because the girl they want to marry won’t accept anything less than a return missionary. Others go because they feel as though their very salvation hinges on it. As the time neared for me to go on my mission, I started asking myself that very question; why am I going on a mission?

            "After I did some self-evaluating, I came to a conclusion; I felt as though it was expected of me to serve a mission. I felt as though if I did not serve a mission, my friends and family within the church would frown upon me, or judge me in a harsh or assuming manner. This was, of course, not a valid reason for serving a mission. I still had my mind set to serve a mission though; it was not a question, I was going to do it one way or another. It may have had something to do with Brother Longshore’s foreboding message of “I’ll hunt you down if you don’t go on a mission” that we all received while we were barely 16 that made me want to go on a mission, or maybe it was that I had committed, while still young in the Priest’s Quorum, to my fellow Priests and leaders that I would serve a mission. Being a man of my word, I wasn’t going to back out and consequently let my leaders and friends down.

            "The time neared when I would be readying and sending in my mission papers, and I found myself praying earnestly for a reason to serve, a reason that was better than “Because it’s expected”. I found plenty of reason in the Options program at Lewis Palmer High School. Talk about a “rough on the edges” group of people. My first few weeks were nothing but torture for me; the people in there smoked, inserted colorful expletives into every sentence, would get high on weekends, and had no sense of what was and was not socially acceptable. I told my mother that “Those were not my kind of people”. Being the amazing mother that she is, my mom said, “Those are exactly your kind of people” and she went on to reason that those kids were struggling in high school the same as I was; those kids didn’t really fit in, the same way I didn’t quite fit in; yes, they were my kind of people.

            "Now don’t get any false ideas; I never joined them at the hooka bars on Saturdays or went to any of the Friday parties; a politely worded refusal was never taken sourly by my classmates. They all knew I was cut from a similar but not so similar cloth, and it wasn’t long before everyone in Options knew I was Mormon. They showed tremendous respect for my beliefs, would refrain from cursing when I entered a room (most times), and even changed their regular party invites to invites that included the words “We won’t make you drink or smoke anything, we’ve got your back, Jeff”… still never went to any parties, but it was the thought that counted. My first day, I was offered a cigarette; didn’t take it, but at least they were trying to welcome me into their troop.

            "Now, you might be wondering what any of this has to do with serving missions or finding reasons to serve missions. I am getting to that, bear with me. As I was saying, the people in there were very rough around the edges, but as I came to know them more, I came to care for them, to actually like them (which was difficult for me, in more my arrogant years). These were good people, despite their flaws, and they accepted me for who I was. I’m reminded of President Uchtdorf’s bumper sticker “Don’t judge me because I sin differently than you do”. I’ve never been able to apply that like I was able to in Options.

            "It was then that I had one reason (there is more than one). I received it only after I graduated high school, only after I had come to love the people in that program; they were imperfect, they were flamboyant in body language, their adjectives were very colorful, and yes, I did come out of there smelling like cigarette smoke every single day, but I had come to have a genuine care for them. Many, if not all, came from extremely broken homes; many had either no father or no mother; many of them did not receive any love from their family members; many of them had been hurt and abused in any of the forms possible; many were suffering from drug addictions that came about through impulsive actions that they thought would allow them to fit in. I thought back to my family; I could relate to some of these individuals in my own, personal ways; I empathized with a handful of them… but my family had the gospel. My family had progressed into a loving, nurturing family with love in the home and proper structure. My family had Christ, and had been direct receivers of his Atonement.

            "It was like a slap in the face; I had known the answer to my question all along, but I was too close to the situation to realize it. Christ’s Atonement could only be shared through preaching the Gospel; obtaining an eternal family was only possible through Christ, the great Mediator. To keep this to myself would be selfish; I had to share this Gospel, so that other people might experience the same joy that I had in my life, the same peace of mind, the same tranquility that was only obtainable through the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

"That was one reason that I found for going on a mission… but one reason wasn’t enough for me. The others were easier to come by; as I began to devote my life to living the model, Christian lifestyle (and I’m not talking just going through the motions but actually applying and testing gospel truths), I developed my relationship with Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ. I felt a more dutiful sense for going on a mission. After being given so much; a loving family, the Atonement, a chance for eternal life, who was I to not give back, in whatever capacity I could. Christ came to Earth to share this Gospel with his brothers and sisters, children of our Heavenly Father… us. Was it not expedient that I continue to spread his message?

"Now I had two reasons to serve; I owed it to the Lord to spread his Gospel, and I owed it to Heavenly Father’s children, my distant relatives, brothers and sisters, to preach his Gospel, to bring them back into His fold. But I wanted another reason; I figured two years of service was enough to constitute at least three reasons. Now there’s that word again; service (trust me, Bishop, I am going to tie this in… I hope). As I thought about what I was going to say during my last talk, concerning service, it dawned on me; the mission is nothing but service. Service to the Lord, service to His children, and as I mentioned earlier, service to the missionary. I came to the conclusion during some prayer that I wasn’t just going to be serving the Lord and His children, but going on this mission was going to serve me as well. Going on this mission is going to prepare me for life outside of the protection of my parents’ home; going on this mission is going to prepare me for being a faithful and loyal husband; going on this mission is going to prepare me for being a patient, loving father; going on this mission is going to strengthen my relationship with my Heavenly Father, and help me to become the man he needs me to be. In some ways, I feel like going on this mission is going to be of more service to me than to those that I will teach and bring back into the fold.

            "The Lord has said, in D&C 50:13-14, 'Wherefore, I the Lord ask you this question- unto what were ye ordained? To preach my gospel by the Spirit, even the Comforter which was sent forth to teach the truth.' To follow that up, the first paragraph of “Preach My Gospel” says, 'You are surrounded by people. You pass them on the street, visit them in their homes, and travel among them. All of them are children of God, your brothers and sisters. God loves them just as He loves you. Many of these people are searching for purpose in life. They are concerned for their families. They need the sense of belonging that comes from the knowledge that they are children of God, members of His eternal family. They want to feel secure in a world of changing values. They want “peace in this world, and eternal life in the world to come” (D&C 59:23), but they are “kept from the truth because they know not where to find it” (D&C 123:12).'

            There is more to the mission than just service though; it’s about making and keeping commitments (hm, that sounds familiar). Brothers and sisters, somewhere in the Australia Adelaide Mission, someone needs the Gospel. Somewhere in the Australia Adelaide Mission, someone has been prepared to receive the Gospel, and is ready to let Christ and his Atonement into their life. Somewhere, in the Australia Adelaide Mission, someone is ready and waiting for me to guide them back to our Heavenly Father. Brothers and sisters, I have committed to the Lord that I will not let him down during the two years that I have consecrated to him, and I commit to you today that I will not let you down as you support me and help me through this journey."
            I know this church, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, is the true church. That is a bold statement, but the simplicity in finding the truth is incredible; all one must do to know of its truthfulness is to ask, to pray to the Lord in Jesus Christ's sacred name and ask if this church is the true church. Furthermore, the same can be done concerning the Book of Mormon. If asked with true, pure intent, the Holy Ghost will manifest the truth of these things to you. It is just that simple. I know this church is headed by the living Jesus Christ, who gives modern revelation unto the children of men through his current prophet, Thomas S. Monson, and the Quorom of the Twelve Apostles. These things I testify of in the name of our Savior, Jesus Christ, amen.
           On a less spiritual note, I still have about a month and a half before shipping out, so these blog posts are not going to be a regular thing until then; this blog is for my mission, and things concerning my mission, and maybe (depending on how I feel about it after my mission), life after the mission. Until then ('then' being the next time I post something, which is at an indefinate time), goodbye from Monument, Colorado!
-Elder Schomburg II