Farewell talk notes…
As part of a missionary’s preparation they are asked to study their family history before they enter the field. I have a rich family heritage; many of my ancestors were numbered among the pioneers that we honor at this time of year.
The Prince family was sent to colonize Africa. Missionaries taught them of the gospel, they sold their plantation and made the journey from Africa to join with the saints. Another family, the Jepson’s heard the Lord’s message and also crossed the Atlantic from England to join with the saints.
There is another family I love that embarked on a similar journey. They were asked to leave all their riches and worldly treasures behind. They crossed an ocean, buried loved ones and through their faith saw many miracles. This man’s name was Lehi and I am sure that you are all familiar with his family’s story.
As I read the BOM preparatory to leaving on my mission, I was struck with the many examples of people who mirror our own latter day Pioneers: Ammon’s journey into the treacherous land of Nephi, the Jaredites as they fled the tower, King Lamoni as he lead his people into the land of Jershon where they covenanted to leave their weapons and join the people of the Lord.
All of these individuals were touched by the Spirit, received a change of heart and left their past lives and comfortable circumstances to enter into the wilderness to establish Zion.
What is Zion?
D&C 101:22 Behold, it is my will, that all they who call on my name, and worship me according to mine everlasting gospel, should gather together, and stand in holy places;
In his talk, Come to Zion, Elder Christofferson said “Zion is both a place and a people…, for this is Zion — the pure in heart… Zion is Zion because of the character, attributes, and faithfulness of her citizens. Remember, “The Lord called his people Zion because they were of one heart and one mind, and dewlt in righteousness, and there was no poor among them. If we would establish Zion in our homes, branches, wards, and stakes, we must rise to this standard. It will be necessary to become unified in one heart and one mind; to become, individually and collectively a holy people; and to care for the poor and needy… We cannot wait until Zion comes for these things to happen—Zion will come only as they happen.”
As members it is our responsibility not only to establish Zion where we are planted but to help gather our brothers and sisters to Zion.
Israel, Israel, God is speaking. Hear your great Deliv’rer’s voice! Now a glorious morn is breaking, For the people of his choice. Come to Zion, come to Zion, And within her walls rejoice. Come to Zion, come to Zion, And within her walls rejoice.
We have all been called to journey into the wilderness and establish Zion. Are we prepared and worthy to make the journey and prepare the way for the Lord?
The Ancient Israelites and Jaredites in the Old and New worlds were not exactly spiritually prepared for their wildernesses, causing many to fall away from the truth and prolonging their journey to the promised land.
The Willie and Martin Handcart Companies were not exactly physically prepared to meet the harshness of winter, and many faithful members were forced to bury loved ones on their trek to the Salt Lake Valley.
Though the journey seemed impossible at times, none of these travelers were ever abandoned. So great was the Lords hand in each of these treks that the results were miraculous. Mannah fell from the heavens, stones shone from the literal touch of the master’s hand, and rescuers were sent to the aid of the weary saints.
Sometimes we are not prepared or strong enough to face the wildernesses that we have been called to journey through, and yet, we are never alone. If we trust in the Lord and remain true to Zion’s cause, we will not be able to count the miracles that will unfold in our behalf as we build up the Lord’s Kingdom.
Though hard to you this journey may appear, grace shall be, as your day.
In 1 Nephi 17:3 the Lord promises us— I will also be your light in the wilderness; and I will prepare the way before you… inasmuch as ye shall keep my commandments ye shall be led towards the Promised Land; and ye shall know that it is by me that ye are led.
In the OT Joshua counsels — sanctify yourselves [and] the Lord will do wonders among you.
1 Nephi 1:20 —the tender mercies of the Lord are over all those whom he hath chosen, because of their faith, to make them mighty even unto the power of deliverance.
Though the Lord is with us, giving us strength for every step we take leading us deeper into the wildernesses of life, it is up to us whether or not Zion will be established be it in our homes, our wards, our communities, our families and our hearts.
In order to have the strength to Establish Zion we must have faith in the Lord and trust in his will.
One of my favorite examples of such faith is that of King Lamoni’s father in the Book of Mormon. After hearing the call to come to Christ bowed “down before the Lord upon his knees; yea, even he did prostrate himself upon the earth and cried mightily saying… if there is a God and if thou art God… I will give away all my sins to know thee” Alma 22:17-18 Do we have such faith?
Journeying through the wilderness, whether it be in Ancient or modern times, is never easy. Often we may feel discouraged and our faith may shake. We might wander for fourty years, or travel around in circles, but we can never give up. It is in these moments of weakness where we must turn to the Lord for strength.
My favorite literary character, a man by the name of Sazed said, “Belief isn’t simply a thing for fair times and bright days… What is belief—what is faith— if you don’t continue in it after failure.”
D&C 101:16-18 Therefore, let your hearts be comforted concerning Zion; for all flesh is in mine hands; be still and know that I am God.
Why should we mourn or think our lot is hard? Tis not so; all is right. Why should we think to earn a great reward if we now shun the fight? Gird up your loins; fresh courage take. Our god will never us forsake; And soon we’ll have this tale to tell—all is well! All is well!
In order to Establish Zion we must make Zion our utmost priority. We are told that where our treasure is that there will our heart be also. Do we treasure Zion?
One of my ancestors James Jepson treasured Zion. After a long life of faithful service and dedication to serving in the early days of the church he became very sick. One night before he passed away, he had a dream where he was taken to a beautiful place filled with many people. He came across President Garfield (who had been assassinated a week prior) who tried to compel him to stay and enjoy their beautiful surroundings. But James said, “No, I am not going to stay here, I have the Priesthood”. He went a little farther and “came to a place of such beauty and happiness and pleasure that no mortal tongue could describe it.”
We live in a crazy world filled with distractions telling us that “this is a good place” and that there is little to worry about except your Pinterest quality home, your expensive brand shoes and the thousands of friends you must have on Facebook. Do we recognize the blessings of the gospel and sacred covenants we have made with the Lord and make the decision every day to go on a little farther?
If we strengthen our faith, put the Lord first in our hearts and endure with a sure hope in Christ, we can establish Zion in whatever wilderness we are in whether it be in our homes, our families, our wards, or El Salvador.
Anyone who knows me at all knows that I am the biggest nerd on the planet. I love all things “epic” and love to study stories of famous heroes, mighty battles, and glorious victories and adventures. My dream has always been… now don’t judge me… to join ranks with these heroes, to be burdened with glorious purpose and go on an epic adventure of epicenes. I have often found it hard to face the non-epicenes of every day. As I have prepared to serve a mission, I cannot help my excitement to go on an adventure!
Joseph Smith said, “The Standard of Truth has been erected; no unhallowed hand can stop the work from progressing; persecutions may rage, mobs may combine, armies may assemble, calumny may defame, but the truth of God will go forth boldly, nobly, and independent, till it has penetrated every continent, visited every clime, swept every country, and sounded in every ear, till the purposes of God shall be accomplished, and the Great Jehovah shall say the work is done.”
That is epic.
I may never don shining chain mail or lead troops onto a literal battlefield to save Middle earth. I will never deliver an evil ring to a fiery volcano, or fight a dragon; I am a part of something even more glorious and epic. We all are. What could be more amazing than to all be enlisted in the battle for the souls of men? We all have a part to play, a role to fill, a wilderness to conquer and Zion to build.
Testimony. I am so excited to serve in El Salvador. I hope that I can do all that I can to do my part to build Zion.
Alma 26: 12 Yea, I know that I am nothing; as to my strength I am weak; therefore I will not boast of myself, but I will boast of my God, for in his strength I can do all things;
3 Nephi 5:13 Behold, I am a disciple of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. I have been called of him to declare his word among his people, that they might have everlasting life.
Alma 26:16 …Behold, who can glory too much in the Lord? Yea, who can say too much of his great power, and of his mercy, and of his long-suffering towards the children of men? Behold, I say unto you, I cannot say the smallest part which I feel.
In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.