LAUREL'S MISSIONARY FAREWELL TALK
MARCH 9, 2014
Good morning, brothers and sisters. My name is Laurel Wells and I am speaking today because I am going on a mission and I've been called to the Mexico Puebla North Mission. I am really, really excited to be going there.
As the theme of today's sacrament meeting is missionary work, I've been asked to speak about Elder Ballard's October 2013 Conference address entitled, "Put Your Trust in the Lord."
As I was reading Elder Ballard's talk, I really fell in love with his approach to the topic of missionary work built upon the basis of "trust in the Lord." And so I have decided to speak about trusting in the Lord while doing missionary work among our fellow ward members. This idea never came to me as missionary work until I realized you cannot build up a church upon a weak foundation. We as members are the groundwork of that foundation and I truly believe every now and then, each of us are in need of some uplifting and strengthening.
And so with that I want to share a story and an experience. Most of you know just a few months ago I returned from going to school at BYU-Hawaii. And although most people don't believe me, I really did learn quite a lot there. I came back with knowledge from academic requirements, such as anatomy and statistics, but what I came to really learn were three distinct things: 1) the gospel, 2) the art of surfing, and 3) how they both miraculously fit together to bring about life lessons.
My story revolves around an event everyone from Hawaii loves to talk about - surf competitions. Every year on the North Shore of Hawaii, huge swells come rolling in during the winter time causing generally calm waves to reach massive heights up to 30, 40, and sometimes 50 feet. With these huge wave sets dominating the entire North Shore, an influx of pro surfers, as well as locals who have mastered the sport, all come out to compete and push the limits of big wave surfing. Now, it's important to note that competitions are held all along North Shore except for one spot known as "Alligators." It's named, not because there are alligators there, but because this location boasts the largest mass of underwater caves, which attract scuba divers during the calm summer season, but are hazardous to surfers in the winter because of strong undertows and unpredictable and dangerous waves, all caused by shallow caves surrounded by sharp reef. While surfing at Alligators is a risk, it is not uncommon to see people surfing there, as long as they have a few protective devices.
A few weeks before Christmas break, a young man who I went to school with, Kirk Passmore, went out to surf Alligators, along with a few pro surfers who had flown in for the season. Kirk was not a stranger to big wave surfing, having grown up with the ocean and clearly possessing the form and technique needed to surf massive waves. What seemed like a normal beach day, however, soon turned deadly as Kirk attempted to surf an unsurfable wave. At around 35 feet, Kirk made the drop over the wave, but as he was surfing down it, the momentum became too much for the back of his board, causing him to flip over the surf board. This resulted in Kirk being pushed down to the caves by the weight of the wave. Now, this is a really sad story because Kirk was never seen again. When investigating the scene of the accident, reporters interviewed other surfers who had witnessed the casualty. What they found was that all the surfers had something in common that kept them safe from the dangerous waves and caves when they wiped out. Each surfer wore a life jacket specially designed for surfing. Everyone except for Kirk. When the news reach us students, we grieved over the loss of our friend. I relate this incident today, to teach a gospel lesson.
I think all of us "spiritually speaking," have known a Kirk or have been a Kirk. Now let me explain. I have grown up in the gospel my entire life and until the first big wave set of trials and tribulations fell upon me, I had never sought to actively strengthen my testimony. With those waves, I learned to swim and pray harder, and with the Savior's help, I got through them. Thinking I survived those waves, I wasn't too worried about my testimony. I didn't let it fade away, but I wasn't doing all the things -- like scripture reading and praying -- with as much vigor and heart as I should have. It wasn't until my little sister was diagnosed with cancer a month ago, that I realized I was surfing in the waves of Alligator beach and before I knew it, I was caught up in those waves of 30 to 40 feet. I felt myself drowning and being pushed into Satan's dominion of hopelessness and despair -- those underwater caves. It was then I realized I did not have a life jacket on and if I didn't find one fast, my outcome would be much like Kirk's.
I'm pretty sure you are all aware of the symbolic aspects of Kirk's story. Kirk is each one of us; the waves are our trials, and the caves represent Satan's hold on us. Most important, the life jacket is our testimony. What was scary about this latest set of 40 foot waves, was that they happened a month before I was supposed to leave on a mission. I can honestly say that the trial of my sister's cancer left me broken to the point where I questioned God's love for me and His purposes and I almost didn't go on a mission. As Kirk had surfed his whole life, I had been a member of the Church my entire life, but we were both drowning.
Part of the sadness and tragedy of Kirk's story is that his surfer friends did not notice or reach out in helping him find a life jacket. My story ends quite differently, however. I was once told that missionary work is a pattern of behavior and that behavior must stem from trust in the Lord. In Elder Ballard's talk he gave three points about the connection between trust and missionary work: 1) trust that your example is being watched, 2) trust that God will guide and inspire you what to say and do, and 3) trust that you will feel God's love for you in helping those that need spiritual nourishment. In Timothy 3:12 it says, "But be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity."
The coolest thing about missionary work among members is that most of the time you hardly ever know you are being a missionary, just by being an example. But I promise, people are watching. I cannot begin to tell you the many ways I have been affected by your examples. Whether it was the men who helped my brother, or worked on our yard, or the meals made by the Relief Society, or the wonderful Church lessons taught by faithful members -- all are examples of missionary work through example. I may not remember all your names, or every meal, or every word from a lesson, but I definitely remember how each act made me feel. Missionary work isn't always about eloquent lessons or preaching, but it is profoundly about the way you make someone feel, and I can testify that I felt God's love and concern for me through the examples of members.
Elder Ballard then goes on to say that missionary work consists of trusting in God as to what to say and how to talk to people. "Talk with as many people as you can. Pray for strength to be bold in opening your mouth. Trust in the Lord. He is the Good Shepherd. He knows His sheep and what they need to know. If we are not engaged, many who need to hear His voice will be passed by."
I will forever be grateful to those, who I know for a fact, were inspired to talk to me. We are told that through others God helps His children and that is true as we learn to listen and trust in what He wants us to say. D&C 100: 5-6 states, "And it shall be given you in the very moment what ye shall say." I often think people don't realize the impact they can have on another person, just by listening to a prompting, and talking to another person, even if they have no idea why they are saying the things they are saying. I had a roommate in college who was baptized but didn't really consider herself a Mormon, and was actually so hard on the Church that most of us roommates were intimidated in sharing the gospel with her. The worldly doctrine and philosophies of man she would spout back to us made us feel inadequate in our gospel knowledge. But one day, I just had this impression that she needed to know someone loved her, and so even as scared as I was, and feeling like an idiot, I went into her room and blatantly asked her what she thought about God and His love for her. It was so amazing because as the conversation started to flow more easily and the spirit came into the room, I saw this hardened roommate begin to thaw and feel that she was cared about and loved. It was only after a few days, when she brought up our talk, that I learned that what I had to say, she needed to hear that day. That was the first time I realized God had truly spoken through me and because I listened, I was able to bless someone else's life. Words have power. And just like my roommate's experience, there have been so many people in this ward that have followed promptings and talked to me or messaged me on Facebook. I cannot even begin to tell you the difference these missionary acts have made in my life. God truly does show He is mindful and aware through the service of others.
Elder Ballard's last point was that missionary work among members not only makes the receiver feel loved, but helps the giver feel loved as well. He says, "Each time you take someone figuratively by the hand and introduce him or her to Jesus Christ, you will feel how deeply our Savior loves you ad the person whose hand is in yours." I think that is so beautifully said. I cannot imagine any better blessing coming from missionary work than feeling Christ's unwavering love towards you and toward the person you are helping.
Missionary work among members has a power in and of itself. I never thought I would need members to be missionaries to me and save me, but I am sure grateful they did. Because of that, I am going to teach families who will accept the Gospel, and that will have everlasting consequences. We all have heard that missionary work blesses generations and that is so true. Missionary work among members also blesses generations, and you can see that through me. Because of you, through me, we will be spreading the gospel to the people of Mexico and great things are going to happen!
I am so thankful for the power of missionary work among members in my life. I want to conclude with my testimony:
I know that God lives and that He is mindful of each and every one of us and love us so completely and entirely that He sent His Son to atone for our sins. I know that the atonement is real. I know that Joseph Smith was truly called of God and translated the plates into The Book of Mormon. I know there is power in reading that Book. I know President Monson is the prophet on the earth today and that He is the mouthpiece of the Lord. I know this Gospel is true and I am humbled and grateful for this opportunity to serve a mission.