Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Tanner's Farewell Talk - Given 9/30/12

Thank you all for being here.  It's good to be back


Last general conference in the priesthood session, Pres. Uctdorf gave a talk entitled "The Why of Priesthood service."

This talk focuses a lot on "what" vs "why" and the power that can be had in realizing the "why" of the things that we are asked to do. 

President Uctdorf says, "We know that despite our best intentions, things do not always go according to plan. We make mistakes in life and in our priesthood service. Occasionally we stumble and fall short.
"When the Lord advises us to “continue in patience until [we] are perfected,”6 He is acknowledging that it takes time and perseverance. Understanding the why of the gospel and the why of the priesthood will help us to see the divine purpose of all of this. It will give us motivation and strength to do the right things, even when they are hard. Staying focused on the basic principles of gospel living will bless us with clarity, wisdom, and direction."
Let me repeat part of this, "Understanding the why of the gospel and the why of the priesthood will help us to see the divine purpose of all of this. It will give us motivation and strength to do the right things, even when they are hard."

So first, what is the gospel?  The 4th article of faith says, "the first principles and ordinances of the Gospel are: first, Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ; second, Repentance; third, Baptism by immersion for the remission of sins; fourth, Laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost."  And in addition to these things we must also endure to the end.  Whenever discussing enduring to the end, I always think of the vision of the Tree of Life.

In his vision, after Lehi and his family has partaken of the fruit of the tree of life, he sees numberless concourses of people pressing forward that they might partake of the fruit as well.  I have always interpreted this as people being baptized since baptism is the beginning of the path to eternal life.  Then as these groups of people continue down the path a mist of darkness comes upon them.  There are some that become lost, and others that grab onto the iron rod and continue on.  We read in the Book of Mormon that this mist of darkness represents temptation.  Bruce C. Hafen also interpreted it as uncertainty in this life. 
  • I think the vision of the tree of life is much more meaningful when we picture ourselves walking that straight and narrow path.  Picture yourself consumed in darkness.  The only things you know is that there is an iron rod for you to hold onto, the iron rod leads to the tree of life, and there is ground beneath your feet.  You can't see anything else.  You hear the people in the great and spacious building mocking you.  In that moment, I picture it being difficult to even move.  I can imagine feeling content to stay right where I am standing.  I know I'm safe in that one place and I'm unsure what the remainder of the journey holds.
  • In part of President Uctdorf's talk, he discusses being uncertain if he would be able to handle his new calling as stake president.   He said, "There are times when we have to step into the darkness in faith, confident that God will place solid ground beneath our feet once we do. And so I accepted gladly, knowing that God would provide. "
  • Even though we do not know what is in front of us, I know that is important for us to continuously move forward while holding onto the iron rod.  I have recently gained a testimony that God will set solid ground beneath our feet when we take that step into the unknown.

I think that this vision also demonstrates the "why" of the gospel.  We have been given the Gospel so that we may know what we must do to return to our Heavenly Father's presence.  Again imagine you are walking the strait and narrow path.  Picture the moment that you emerge from the darkness and you are standing at the foot of the Tree of Life.  You know that you have reached your destination at last.  All previous cares and worries melt away.  All of those moments that you felt like stopping or you felt like letting go of the rod diminish in importance.  As great as this sounds, I imagine entering our loving Heavenly Father's presence to be infinitely more satisfying.  This is why we have the Gospel of Jesus Christ and why it has been restored in the latter days.  It's most central purpose is letting us know what is necessary to do to be able to return to our home in heaven.

President Uctdorf said, "We need to be constantly reminded of the eternal reasons behind the things we are commanded to do. The basic gospel principles need to be part of our life’s fabric, even if it means learning them over and over again. That doesn’t mean that this process should be rote or boring. Rather, when we teach the foundational principles in our homes or in church, let the flame of enthusiasm for the gospel and the fire of testimony bring light, warmth, and joy to the hearts of those we teach."

I read this talk many times in preparation for today, and I never found a part of President Uchtdorf's talk that explicitly said what the "why" of priesthood service is.  I read it over and over again thinking that I had missed something, but I could never find the answer.  So I started to think about it for myself. 

My thoughts kept going back to a hike I went on with a group of friends.   As you all probably remember, this past winter was unusually warm and we didn't get much snow.  We all thought that we would take advantage of this, so we hiked Squaw Peak in the middle of February. 

The depth of snow varied from 6 inches near the bottom to about 3 feet on top.  The path had been walked enough that all the snow was completely packed.  With it being a little warm outside, the top layers of the snow would be melted in the daytime and then would refreeze overnight.  We started this hike early in the morning, so everything was still pretty slick.  All of us would lose our footing occasionally, but my friend Johnny was particularly having a difficult time.  His shoes had almost no traction.  There would be moments that it looked as though he was trying to keep his balance on pure ice.  He probably fell down more than the rest of us combined.  Every time we were at the base of one of the steeper hills, realizing he would need to tackle it, I'm sure he would think, "oh, shoot."   Another friend, Jacob, brought a piece of thick rope that was about 30 feet long.  I am not sure if he was just being a good scout - always trying to be prepared, or if he just thought it would be awesome.

There was one point in time that Johnny said that he was ready to turn back, but we convinced him to continue on.  We all started the hike together and we wanted to finish it together.  We were going to make it even if we had to drag Johnny to the top...which is where the rope comes in.  We all stood in a straight line heading up the trail, each of us holding the rope over our right shoulder, with Johnny at the back.  Every two minutes or so, I would feel the rope tug as Johnny was losing his balance, but he was almost always able to stay up with the support of the rope.  In fact, whenever any of us slipped, the support of the rope was usually enough to keep us standing.

We eventually reached the top, all of us in one piece.  Once on top, we thought it would only be appropriate to wrap all of the rope around Johnny and take a picture with everybody in the group holding Johnny up.

This experience ties nicely into one of President Uctdorf's suggestions for all of us, "Guided by the Holy Spirit, we will learn from our mistakes. If we stumble, we will rise. If we falter, we will go on. We will never waver; we will never give up. "

I think this story illustrates the "why" of priesthood service.  To put it words, I would say the "why" of priesthood service is, "To help lift and carry others throughout their journey in mortality."

I think that every single one of our priesthood duties, from home teaching to administering the sacrament ties back to this idea.  The idea is to help build up the kingdom and all those within the kingdom.

In Preach My Gospel it says, "God's whole purpose -- His work and His glory -- is to enable each of us to enjoy all His blessings."  The Gospel of Jesus Christ and the Plan of Salvation teaches us what is necessary to do to enjoy all of God's blessings.  For the next two years, it will be my work and my glory to share this message - a message that brings people to the path that leads to eternal life.

As I go out on my mission, I am sure I will have my moments where I feel like I'm stuck in a mist of darkness of uncertainty.  For those moments, and for any of you that may feel this way right now, President Uctdorf says, "If our hearts are pure—if we seek not our own glory but the glory of Almighty God, if we seek to do His will, if we desire to bless the lives of our family and fellowman—we will not be left to walk alone. As President Monson has often reminded us, “When we are on the Lord’s errand, we are entitled to the Lord’s help.”  While I'm out there in the world having this new experience, I'm sure I could use all the help from the Lord I can get.

My friend Johnny and I are the only members of that hiking group that are not yet on missions.  I am excited that I now have the chance to join them out in the mission field.  Throughout this last summer I feel like I have been the guy at the back of the rope that everybody is supporting.  I am grateful for the example of missionary service that has been set for me by all my friends and family.
For all my friends in that hiking group and those that were unable to come that day, I have shared a passage by Dr. Bob Moorehead and I would like to share it with you at this time:

I am a part of the fellowship of the Unashamed.
The die has been cast. I have stepped over the line. The decision has
been made. I am a disciple of Jesus Christ. I won't look back, let up, slow
down, back away, or be still. My past is redeemed, my present makes sense,
and my future is secure. I am finished and done with low living, sight
walking, small planning, smooth knees, colorless dreams, tame visions,
mundane talking, chintzy giving, and dwarfed goals.

I no longer need preeminence, prosperity, position, promotions, plaudits, or
popularity. I don't have to be right, first, tops, recognized, praised,
regarded, or rewarded. I now live by presence, learn by faith, love by
patience, lift by prayer, and labor by power.

My pace is set, my gait is fast, my goal is Heaven, my road is narrow, my
way is rough, my companions few, my Guide is reliable, my mission is clear.
I cannot be bought, compromised, deterred, lured away, turned back, diluted,
or delayed. I will not flinch in the face of sacrifice, hesitate in the
presence of adversity, negotiate at the table of the enemy, ponder at the
pool of popularity, or meander in the maze of mediocrity.

I won't give up, back up, or let up, until I've preached up, prayed
up, paid up, stored up, and stayed up for the cause of Christ. I am a
disciple of Jesus Christ. I must go until He returns, give until I drop,
preach until all know, and work until He comes.

And when He comes to get His own, He will have no problem recognizing me. My
colors will be clear for "I am not ashamed of the Gospel, because it is the
power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes..." (Romans 1:16)

(thank you to everybody)

I know that over the next two years, I will have hundreds if not thousands of opportunities to share my testimony, so I am grateful for this opportunity this morning.

Tengo agradecido por mi familia y todos que ellos hacen para mi.  Yo se que nuestro Padre Celestial nos ama.  Yo se que estamos aqui para una razon.  Este vida es una bendicion.  Estoy agradecido por la oportunidad servir Dios.  El Evangelio de Jesucristo es cierto.  Nuestros vidas son mejores cuando vivimos el Evangelio.

(English Testimony) 

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