August 17, 2014
Good afternoon brothers and sisters, friends and family. I am really excited to speak to you today! So on Wednesday I will report to the Mexico City Missionary Training Center. I will be there for 6 weeks to learn Spanish then I will report to the Arizona Tucson Mission. On my mission I will be teaching others through lessons, personal testimony, and by the power and companionship of the Spirit to “Invite others to come unto Christ by helping them receive the restored gospel through faith in Jesus Christ and His Atonement, repentance, baptism, receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost, and enduring to the end” (PMG 1).
Today I will be focusing on the topic of prayer. I prefer to know the meaning of a word before using it and upon further investigation of the word prayer, I found that in various modern-day definitions, as well as Latin definitions, that prayer is understood to be a plea or entreaty.
I would like to give prayer a business-like definition with this experience. This past year in school I was a Teacher’s Aide or Assistant to the Teacher. Every week I would fill out a report of my duties and completed tasks, then receive a signature from my supervising teacher to authorize said report. Some believe prayer to be like this report. Prayer is not our task log to God. Prayer is not a one-way communication. I stand before you today [to tell you] that prayer is not just our way of telling our Heavenly Father what we have done but it is our way of conversing with him. The Bible Dictionary defines prayer as, “Prayer is the act by which the will of the Father and the will of the child are brought into correspondence with each other. The object of prayer is not to change the will of God but to secure for ourselves and for others blessings that God is already willing to grant but that are made conditional on our asking for them” (BD 752). Prayer is our way of asking God for guidance, asking for truth, answers to questions, giving our thanks, and asking for blessings.
As we are asked to read the Book of Mormon we are challenged to fulfill Moroni’s Promise. This promise can be found in Chapter 10 of the Book of Moroni in the Book of Mormon. Verses 4 and 5 read, “And when ye shall receive these things, I would exhort you that ye would ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true; and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost. And by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things” (Book of Mormon 529).
When we pray we will feel the promptings of the Holy Spirit. This is how prayer becomes a two-way sacred conversation with our Heavenly Father. The important part of this communication is understanding how the Spirit speaks to us. Sometimes, for me, I feel that is my own voice in my mind, or my conscience. I had a special experience recently through prayer, in Priest Quorum, Decker Smith challenged us to go home and pray to ask God if we are truly sons of Him. After a couple days of procrastination I prayed. After I prayed I had this feeling of comfort and peace as I thought these words, “I know I am a Son of God, I have know this for a long time.” I invite you all to look at the apostle Elder David A. Bednar’s explanation on the subject of the Spirit titled “Patterns of Light.” Listening to that helped me understand how the Holy Ghost speaks to me. I know that as we continuously search to understand the Holy Ghost, we can better understand what God's plan is for us.
Now back to the basis of prayer, specifically to answer the question of why we pray. In the New Testament, in Matthew we read in chapter 7 verses 7 and 8: “Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you: For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.” We pray to find answers and receive guidance. In the Book of Mormon we find more reason to pray in chapter 32 verse 8 of 2 Nephi. In this chapter Nephi is speaking to his people before he dies, but Nephi’s message and explanation of doctrine applies to us. He says, “And now, my beloved brethren, I perceive that ye ponder still in your hearts; and it grieveth me that I must speak concerning this thing. For if ye would hearken unto the Spirit which teacheth a man to pray, ye would know that ye must pray; for the evil spirit teacheth not a man to pray, but teacheth him that he must not pray.” Nephi teaches that we must pray to resist temptation. This is further explained by Alma as he speaks to wicked Zeezrom and the many people around him. Alma says this concerning not procrastinating the day of your repentance, “But that ye would humble yourselves before the Lord, and call on his holy name, and watch and pray continually, that ye may not be tempted above that which ye can bear, and thus be led by the Holy Spirit, becoming humble, meek, submissive, patient, full of love and all long-suffering.”
Prayer comes in many forms. Many times for those my age, it is in the form of a desperate plea before a test. For some, it is the silent prayer in one's mind before a dangerous or scary event, planned or not. Other times it is a constant prayer in our heart for truth or hope. It can also be in a time of despair.
Years ago, the Hillam boys, my brothers, Josh Jensen, and I were in the
woods near the Hillam's home. We were exploring! We set out to find a place to build a cool little forest shelter. As we searched for the prime location we became separated. It was time for us to leave, it was almost dinner time. We grew scared
and started searching and yelling to find the others. Carson, Austin, and I became worried that we would not find them. I knelt and prayed asking that we would be able to find the others. Upon amen, we took a minute to gain our composure and be at peace. We then started in a different direction that we felt was right. Moments later we were reunited with our young, distressed companions. As we shared our search experiences we found that common actions were taken: we looked around, we yelled and listened, but most importantly, we both prayed. We had faith that we would find each other and we were blessed and our prayers were answered.
Another experience happened this year at school. One Friday, a friend and I were on our way to get snacks from QuikTrip before getting ready for marching band for the first home game. We saw our friend Mackenzie and her sister Sophia standing at their car looking somewhat worried. We then found that her car was dead. We were able to open the door but the electronic key was not starting the car. Her mom soon arrived and we all came to the naive conclusion that the battery in her key had died. They left to replace it at Home Depot and my friend and I went to get our snacks. When we returned we found Mackenzie and her family around her car still puzzled. The car still would not start. We then decided to jump the car. So as a good friend and Eagle Scout, I pulled the heavy-duty, extra-long jumper cables out of my trunk and we went to work. We popped the hood only to find that for this Mercedes, the battery was not under the hood but in a compartment in the trunk. We then started trying to open the trunk. The key just wasn't working because the trunk lock was broken. We spent probably half an hour trying before it finally opened. We jumped for joy as we found the battery! Our joy, however, was soon halted by the fact that the car did not start immediately. We spent probably another half an hour revving my car's engine, trying to start her car, and baking in the hot Friday sun. When we started losing hope and as it became closer to our call time to get ready, I had the thought to pray. I just want to say that it is very alarming to some when you stop, stand still, fold your arms, close your eyes, and bow your head after being out in the sun and heat for a long period of time. It may appear that you are about to pass out and fall. But I was not about to pass out, I was praying that we would be able to start the car. I prayed that after we did all that we could, we would be blessed with the car being able to start. After I said "amen", I was asked if I was about to pass out, and after saying no, I asked if I could try starting the car again. As I turned the key, we were blessed by the sweet and consoling roar of the vehicle's engine. We all then found new energy as we ran around the parking lot merrily screaming. I stopped to offer a prayer of gratitude, thanking my Heavenly Father for this blessing that my friends would be able to return home with their vehicle. We were all truly grateful for that blessing.
I know that as we pray with real intent we will receive answers. I bear testimony that prayer works and it blesses the lives of everyone!
As I transition into the farewell portion of my talk, I want to preface by saying that in middle school I was bullied. It was a very tough time for me. I know that my mom and dad prayed that it would end and that I would find happiness and safety. Those prayers were answered with some friends at school but I feel that it was not until I left middle school that those prayers were fully answered. These past 4 years have meant so much to me! I have been influenced by so many great people in the ward and in school. I now know the true meaning of the phrase “It takes a village.” This ward family has raised me in ways that my parents could not. I would now like to follow the counsel of finding heroes. There have been many heroes in this ward, besides my parents, who are my role models, Brother Michael Gavin, who is an example of a true follower of Christ, a man that I want to become; Del, Marci, Jon, and Courtney Tanner, a family that knows how to serve all and lift others up; the Klomps, who never cease to teach me something new about the gospel or about myself; the whole Greenburg family and the whole Ernst family, who show me that we must serve the other members of our family to be happy, and for that they are true examples of loving families; Decker Smith and Andrew Jensen, who taught me so much about the Priesthood and about serving a mission; Brenda Yates for my freshman year of Seminary and Jeri Colton for the other 3 amazing years. These women have shown me that someone does not have to be your child for you to love them as such. Every day as I left my loving parents to go off to school, I would enter the sacred ground of the Yates and Colton home to put on the spiritual armor necessary to survive the world.
And probably most of all Marlie Hillam. She is my second cousin but she is basically my sister. She is amazing, beautiful, smart, independent, kind, and supportive. She has taught me many things and helped me make wise informed decisions. She has been there for me when I needed someone to talk to. I am truly grateful for the friendship that we have and I will cherish it forever. I also wish to thank my friends from school for shaping me into the person that stands here before you today. I thank you all for your friendship, support, compliments, encouragement, laughs, and memories. And last, but certainly not least, I want to thank my parents and brothers for all that they do because I would not be who I am today without them. I love them so much and will miss them while I am away.
Before I close with my testimony I want to share a meaningful quote with you all, I do not know the source but I still like it, "A Missionary is someone who leaves their family for a short time, so that others may be with their families for eternity."