Monday, July 20, 2009

My Farewell Talk

For those of you who were not able to attend, we missed you! Here's Sammi's talk. She did an AMAZING job!! We're so proud of you, Sammi!!!!! We know you'll do amazing things in Florida and will truly bless lives as you have done ours.

Good afternoon brothers and sisters. For those of you who don’t know me, my name is Sammi Denson and I have been called to serve in the Florida, Ft. Lauderdale mission. Now, many of you may be thinking, as I have heard it plenty of times, “That’s not a mission, that’s a vacation!” I just want to share with you some of the statistics of how much missionary work is being done in South Florida. In May 2008 there were a total of 24 baptisms for the month. In May 2009 there were a total of 56 baptisms. That’s an increase of 137%! So I really will be working while I'm there!!

President Spencer W. Kimball said of The Vision of the South, “Make no small plans: They have no magic to stir the man’s soul. This is the vision I have for the South. I believe that one day the South will baptize more people in the church than all other English speaking missions in the world together. There are great hosts of marvelous Baptists, and members of the Church of Christ, Methodists and Catholics who are honorable people and have faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and love him. As they see their church veering off to the right or to the left of those basic teachings, they will begin to search for the truth. And as pivotal teachers come into the church and have influence, we will see the time when we will baptize hundreds and thousands, tens of thousands in your day you will see a million members of the church in the South. There will be Temples plural in the Southern States. What a great call you have to serve with these marvelous people.” I am so grateful and feel so blessed to have the opportunity to serve in the Florida South.

When I received my topic of President Monson’s talk from the Priesthood session, I was a little confused. I’m clearly not a Priesthood holder, but after reading the talk it became clear to me why our inspired bishopric chose this topic for me.

President Monson focuses on three specific suggestions that will lead us to safety. I’d like to reiterate those three suggestions, but from a missionary point of view.

The first suggestion President Monson gives is to study diligently. He states that crash courses are not as effective as day-to-day reading and application in our lives. We need to become acquainted with the lessons that are taught and learn the backgrounds and settings of the Master’s parables. President Monson states that Nephi said to his disbelieving brothers, “And I said unto them that [the rod] was the word of God; and whoso would harken unto the word of God, and would hold fast unto it, they would never perish; neither could the temptations and the fiery darts of the adversary overpower them unto blindness, to lead them away to destruction. Wherefore, I, Nephi, did exhort them to give heed unto the word of the Lord; yea, I did exhort them with all the energies of my soul, and with all the faculty which I possessed, that they would give heed to the word of God and remember to keep his commandments always in all things.” President Monson promises that if you will study the scriptures diligently, your power to avoid temptation and to receive direction of the Holy Ghost in all you do will be increased.

In Lesson 2 of Preach My Gospel it has study ideas and suggestions such as: always begin with prayer; be alert. Exercise, shower and pray before you study; study at a desk or table where you can write, organize your materials, and remain alert; pray and ask for understanding; study by topic; write in your study journal questions you have, and use the scriptures, words of latter-day prophets, and other study resources to find answers; and mark your scriptures and make notes in them. In the margins write scripture references that clarify the passages you are studying.

President Monson’s second suggestion is to pray fervently. With God, all things are possible. Remember the prayer of the Prophet Joseph in the Sacred Grove. Look at how that prayer has been answered. President Monson wants us to remember the promise found in James 1:5, “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given unto him.” Anyone, with any size of a challenge or difficulty needs to know that prayer is the provider of spiritual strength; it is the passport to peace. Miracles are wrought through prayer.

In his talk, President Monson shares a story of a woman who needed her prayers answered. It couldn’t be said in more perfect words, so I want to share that story with you today.
Sister Daisy Ogando lives in New York City, home to more than eight million people. Some years ago Sister Ogando met with the missionaries and was taught the gospel. Gradually, she and the missionaries lost contact. Time passed. Then, in 2007, the principles of the gospel she had been taught by the missionaries stirred within her heart.

One day while getting into a taxi, Daisy saw the missionaries at a distance, but she was unable to make contact with them before they disappeared from view. She prayed fervently to our Heavenly Father and promised Him that if He would somehow direct the missionaries to her once again, she would open her door to them. She returned home that day with faith in her heart that God would hear and answer her prayer.

In the meantime, two young missionaries who had been sincerely praying and working to find people to teach were one day examining the tracting records of missionaries who had previously served in the area. As they did so, they came across the name of Daisy Ogando. When they approached her apartment the very afternoon that Sister Ogando offered that simple but fervent prayer, she opened the door and said those words that are music to every missionary who has ever heard them: “Elders, come in. I’ve been waiting for you!”

Two fervent prayers were answered, contact was reestablished, missionary lessons were taught, and arrangements were made for Daisy and her son Eddy to be baptized. I can only hope and pray that I will be able to have a situation as beautiful as that while serving in Florida.
In Preach My Gospel, Lesson 3 it advises us to pray often. It says: “God commands us to pray to Him. You can pray at any time in any setting. The Lord has taught us to kneel and pray in the morning and in the evening, as individuals and with our families. Our Heavenly Father hears and answers our prayers. Through daily prayer we receive divine guidance and blessings. We should always pray sincerely. We should also pray with ‘real intent,’ which means we are committed to act on the answer that we receive.

We pray with faith to our Father in Heaven in the name of Jesus Christ. Because He is our Father in Heaven and we are His children, He will answer our prayers. We begin our prayers by addressing our Father in Heaven. We end our prayers by saying, “In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.”

In prayer we speak openly and honestly with our loving Father in Heaven. We express gratitude and thanksgiving for our blessings. We may acknowledge our love for Him. We also ask for help, protection, and direction according to our needs.

As we pray with faith, sincerity, and real intent, we will see God’s influence in our lives. He will guide us in our daily lives and help us make good decisions. He will bless us with feelings of comfort and peace. He will warn us of danger and strengthen us to resist temptation. He will forgive our sins. We will feel closer to him we must learn to recognize His influence in our lives. We must learn to listen to the still, small voice of the Spirit.

We can recognize when the Holy Ghost is teaching us the truth. Our minds will be filled with inspiring and uplifting thoughts. We will be enlightened, or given new knowledge. Our hearts will have feelings of peace, joy, and love. We will want to do good and be helpful to others. These feelings are hard to describe but can be recognized as we experience them.

President Monson’s third and final suggestion is to live righteously. Isaiah teaches in chapter 52, “Touch no unclean thing…Be ye clean, that bear no vessels of the Lord.”

In the August 2008 Ensign, Elder Marcus B. Nash states, “We are commanded to ‘seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness.’ Nephi saw our day and prophesied that the covenant people of the Lord would prevail because “they were armed with righteousness and with the power of God in great glory.” This description of our day indicates a connection between righteousness and the manifestation of God’s power in our lives. Because the righteous are favored of God and are nourished, strengthened and given means by Him to accomplish His will, we should earnestly strive to cultivate righteousness.” Elder Nash goes on to say that, “As we live righteously and walk humbly, the love of God will refresh our souls and increase our ability to endure to the end.”

President Monson states, Holders of the priesthood may not necessarily be eloquent in their speech. They may not hold advanced degrees in difficult fields of study. They may very well be men of humble means. But God is no respecter of persons, and He will sustain His servants in righteousness as they avoid the evils of our day and live lives of virtue and purity.” He then shares a story of two young men that were living righteously, and I’d like to share it with you today.

Some 900 miles north of Salt Lake City is the beautiful city of Calgary, Alberta, Canada, home of the famous Calgary Stampede, one of Canada’s largest annual events and the world’s largest outdoor rodeo. The 10-day event features a rodeo competition, exhibits, agricultural competitions, and chuck wagon races. The Stampede Parade, which occurs on opening day, is one of the festival’s oldest and largest traditions. The parade follows a nearly three-mile route in downtown Calgary, with attendance reaching 350,000 spectators, many dressed in western attire.

Several years ago, a marching band from a large high school in Utah had auditioned for and received one of the coveted entries to march in the Calgary Stampede Parade. Months of fund-raising, early-morning practices up and down the streets, and other preparations were undertaken in order for the band to travel to Calgary and participate in the parade, where one band would be selected to receive the first-place honor.

Finally the day for departure arrived, with the eager students and their leaders boarding the buses and heading north for the long journey to Calgary. While en route, the caravan stopped in Cardston, Alberta, Canada, where the group remained for an overnight stay. The local Relief Society sisters there prepared sack lunches for the band members to enjoy before departing again. Brad, one of the band members, who was a priest in the Aaronic Priesthood, was not hungry and decided to keep his lunch until later. Brad liked to sit in the back of the bus. As he took his usual seat there in preparation for the remainder of the journey to Calgary, he tossed his sack lunch on the shelf behind the last row of seats. There the lunch sat by the rear window as the July afternoon sun shone through. Unfortunately, the sack lunch contained egg salad sandwich. For those of you who don’t understand the significance of this, may I just say that egg salad must be refrigerated. If it is not, and if it is subjected to high heat such as that which would be produced by the sun beating through a bus window on a sunny day, it becomes a rather efficient incubator for various strains of bacteria that can result in what may commonly be referred to as food poisoning. Sometime before arriving in Calgary, Brad grew hungry. Remembering the sack lunch, he gulped down the egg salad sandwich. As the busses arrived in Calgary and drove around the city, the members of the band grew excited—all except for Brad. Unfortunately, all that grew within him were severe stomach pains and other discomforts associated with food poisoning. You know what they are. Brad, however, did not. Although he knew his fellow band members were counting on him to play his drum in the parade the following morning, Brad was doubled over in pain and was too sick to leave the bus. Providentially for him, two of his friends, Steve and Mike, who had recently graduated from high school and who had also recently been ordained to the office of elder in the Melchizedek Priesthood, found that Brad was missing and decided to look for him. Finding Brad in the rear of the bus and learning what the problem was, Steve and Mike felt helpless. Finally it occurred to them that they were elders and held the power of the Melchizedek Priesthood to bless the sick. Despite their total lack of experience in giving a priesthood blessing, these two new elders had faith in the power they held. They laid their hands on Brad’s head and, invoking the authority of the Melchizedek Priesthood, in the name of Jesus Christ utter the simple words to bless Brad to be made well. From that moment, Brad’s symptoms were completely gone. The next morning he took his place with the rest of the band members and proudly marched down the streets of Calgary. The band received first-place honors and the coveted blue ribbon. Far more important, however, was that two young, inexperienced but worthy priesthood holders had answered the call to represent the Lord in serving their fellow man. When it was necessary for them to exercise their priesthood in behalf of one who was desperately in need of their help, they were able to respond because they lived their lives righteously.

If we study diligently, pray fervently, and live righteously we will be prepared for life’s journey, no matter how difficult.

I want to testify that when I study diligently, pray fervently and live righteously I too feel prepared for any difficult challenge. I cannot wait until I am able to get to South Florida and start sharing this amazing Gospel. It is such a blessing in my life and I want others to know how it can bless their lives too. I want to thank my family for all of their support. For standing behind me 110% on this choice I’ve made. We all knew it was coming, but who knew it would be here this fast! I appreciate so much, the chance that I was able to serve in the Primary. I learned so much more from each class than I ever taught them. They softened my heart and taught me how to share the gospel on simpler terms. I love each and every one of you. Your support means more to me than I could ever tell you. I say these things in the name of thy Son, Jesus Christ, Amen.

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