Thursday, January 9, 2014

Preparing To Leave

If the holidays weren't busy enough, I also have the unique and amazing experience to prepare to leave for my mission in Perú. However, all this craziness was a blessing in disguise because I had family from all over come to my neck of California that I wouldn't have been able to see otherwise.

On December 28th I had the opportunity to go through the Redlands temple for the first time. I had my brother, mother and grandmother all with me!

Scott, Me & Grandma Earlene at the Redlands Temple

This was an especially special experience for me because the Redlands temple has always been close to my heart. This was the first temple where I was able to do baptisms for the dead, and have always often wondered what lay behind the walls. Finally, after long last I was able to experience the Redlands temple to the fullest and I couldn’t have been happier. It was again amazing to be able to go through the temple with my loving family—and truly have the truth of the eternal nature of families driven home. Also hurray hurray—I wasn’t sick this time around so I could finally try and soak in everything the temple has to offer without the wonderful coughing and mucus.
My beautiful mother and I after going through the Redlands Temple

After the temple came finally sitting down to write my (non)farewell talk. While I don’t leave until the 15th of January, since I had family down that would be leaving after the New Year, I gave my talk a little early. I’ll admit it was a very daunting task and I didn’t know what exactly I should say. For starters this is the final impression you get to give your ward before you’re off for 18 or 24 months. There is so much you want to say—and say it in the right way as to not sound stupid or corny. In addition, on the 28th (the Saturday before my talk) I had gotten two more additional immunizations. Unfortunately my body wasn’t reacting so well, and pretty much all of Sunday and most of Monday I had a fever and was admittedly a buzz kill.

Nevertheless, despite my procrastination and lacking social charm, my amazing and supportive family came out to hear my talk. Special shout out to Aunt Dina, Uncle Ken, Cousin Jenny, Grandma Lee, Sister Sarah and Brother-in-law-ish Kody for driving out to Riverside to be there for my talk. Afterwards we had a lovely lunch (Thanks Mom!) to celebrate.

My amazing mother whipping up amazing cuisine for the family
Grandma Earlene (left) and Grandma Lee (right) being classy as always
The youngster table at the luncheon

Again I’d like to express my gratitude to my lovely family. Despite our different faiths they still came out to be there for me—and I am so grateful for everything that they do. Church isn’t really everyone’s “thing” but it was nothing but smiles as far as I could see.

Below is a copy of my talk:

Alright team, it’s the bottom of the 3rd and we’re down by 16 points. Things aren’t looking good—but I know that if we pull together and stick to our game plan victory will be ours. Left wing, I want you to cut off their receivers and double back at a 4.2 angle— middle you keep doing what you’re doing but with a little more gutso. Right wing, it’s your job to fake a pass but then barrel down the middle, back rows will guard your flanks giving you a clear shot to pass the ball back off to our left wing.



HIKE—or not.

If you have no idea what I’m talking about – that’s just fine, because thankfully we’re at church, not players in football game.

However—happy day all is well. Unlike my theoretical football scenario with some sloppy faked plan to get the 1st down, Heavenly Father has a game plan for us, but it’s a plan of how to successfully navigate “game” of life. The best part of it all — Brothers and Sisters—is that we already know who wins. By the end of this talk I hope you will understand the importance of hastening the Lord’s work, and incorporate three new ways we can better align ourselves with the Lords game plan.

It is such a blessing to see so many familiar faces and be able to address you from this pulpit one last time before I leave on my mission. While I know many of you, I see some faces that I don’t recognize and I am so glad you are here in our little La Sierra Heights Family.

As a way of introduction my name is Heather Bowers and I am the youngest child of Terry and Jaylene Bowers. I was born and raised in Riverside California and have been attending church in this building for the majority of my life. Walking down these halls is very nostalgic and to be quite honest, I never realized how absolutely green this building is! Anyway, when I graduated high school in 2011 I moved up to Provo Utah and attended BYU. I’ve currently put finishing my major in public relations with a minor in business management on hold for 18 months to serve the people in the Peru Lima North Mission. I leave January 15th and couldn’t be more excited.

Elder S. Gifford Nielsen of the seventy’s talk titled, “Hastening the Lord’s Game Plan!” is what I will be basing my talk on this morning. This talk was given in our church’s recent general conference where we have the prophet and other leaders of the church address members around the world. If I think I’m nervous right now giving a talk to people I’ve known my entire life, I can’t imagine what it must be like for them to give a talk in front of millions!

Because of the awesome nature of general conference and the opportunity it creates for people to hear directly from our prophets and apostles, when I’m watching, I try and write notes or impressions I receive. When I looked up what I wrote for this specific talk in my trusty little notebook, I saw that jotted down a few notes, and then had obnoxiously scrawled the phrase “EXCLAMATION POINT”. For those who have heard this talk before, I’m sure this sounds familiar, and for those of you who haven’t heard this talk before, well you’ll figure it out soon enough.

My first impression I get from this talk is that golly-gee-whiz Elder Nielsen is one enthusiastic guy. His talk is covered in exclamation points—and he made the specific point to say exclamation point after many of his sentences—just in case the congregation might have missed his earlier enthusiasm. Nielsen points out that this enthusiasm is spreading throughout the church more than ever.

Elder Nielsen describes that at a new mission president seminar held in June, a record of 173 new presidents and their wives received instructions before beginning their service. Elder L. Tom Perry, one of the twelve apostles, added to the concluding comments:

“This is the most remarkable era in the history of the Church. This is something that ranks with the great events that have happened in past history, like the First Vision, like the gift of the Book of Mormon, like the Restoration of the gospel, like all the things that build that foundation for us to go forward and teach in our Father in Heaven’s kingdom”.

Now more than ever the Lord is calling us to action to be “engaged as never before” in missionary work. In Doctrine and Covenants 18:15-16 it states:

“And if it so be that you should labor all your days in crying repentance unto this people, and bring, save it be one soul unto me, how great shall be your joy with him in the kingdom of my father! And now, if your joy will be great with one soul that you have brought unto me into the kingdom of my Father, how great shall be your joy if you should bring many souls unto me!”

The beautiful thing about this brothers and sisters is that while we strive to bring happiness to others through teaching the gospel, ultimately the greatest happiness is ours.

The second impression I got from this talk was my lacking of enthusiasm for sports. To explain many of his points, Nielsen, a former BYU quarterback, uses various football analogies.

Now I’ll admit that my first impression of football was that it was semi-mindless sport that just gave burly men an excuse to smash into one another. However after participating in power puff my senior year of high school, my perspective has changed. I never realized the intricacies of the plays- the level of cooperation needed from both defense and offense to successfully conquer an opponent- and finally the mental focus needed to not get on that field and make a complete and utter fool of yourself.

In addition, as a sports writer for BYU’s newspaper, I have had many occasions to interview BYU athletes and delve into some of the deeper dynamics of the game. Especially in the sport of tennis, it is almost as much of a mental battle as it is physical to beat your opponent.

Now can you imagine going into a game already knowing who is going to win? In seminary my teachers would always compare this life to a game (I can’t remember if it was football or not) and while it may seem that “Team Satan” is winning or pulling ahead now—in the end we know that Heavenly Fathers team is going to win. And it is up to you to decide which jersey you are going to wear.

Brother and sisters, the lord is hastening his work NOW. And which game plan do you plan on following?

Doctrine and Covenants section 4 states that:

“Now behold, a marvelous work is about to come forth among the children of men. Therefore o ye that embark in the service of God, see that ye serve him with all your heart, might, mind and strength, that ye may stand blameless before God at the last day. Therefore if ye have desires to serve God ye are called to the work…”

Elder Nielsen suggested three different ways we can better align our personal game plan with the Lords call to action.

First, pray to bring someone closer to the Savior and His gospel every day. Elder Nielsen suggests trying to remember to see all people as sons and daughters of God helping each other on their way home to our Heavenly Father.

Second pray for the missionaries serving in your area and their investigators by name every day. I encourage you to take a second, look at the badges these fine brothers and sisters wear and try to remember their names for your prayers.

Third and lastly, invite a friend to an activity in or out of your home. It’s understandable that people can be reluctant to change their entire perspective on the great beyond, God, and the very meaning of life. You have to admit too that us Mormons can seem a bit eccentric to others with some of our more peculiar habits. However, we don’t have to sit down and have a discussion with a non-member to be considered missionaries. By simply living the gospel we are an example of Christ and his love—and this love will touch the lives of others when they come in close proximity with it.

President Thomas S. Monson has said:

“Every worthy, able young man should prepare to serve a mission. Missionary service is a priesthood duty—an obligation the Lord expects of us who have been given so very much. Young men, I admonish you to prepare for service as a missionary”

Young men, I can tell you that the Lord wants you to serve a mission. There is no if and or buts around it. Now there are varying circumstances in life that can and will prevent young men from serving missions. However, make that decision now to serve a mission, and your life will be blessed in ways you can’t imagine.

Now young women, we’re a bit different from the young men. Service is not mandatory for us. It is an opportunity rather than an obligation. By no means should any young women feel guilty or peer pressured into serving. Please make it a personal decision that you have counseled with your parents and priesthood leaders about. Sometimes it requires a different kind of strength to recognize the plan that the Lord has for you and stay put despite what the crowds are doing.

My stake president back in my student ward in Utah reminded me that if met Mr. Right and decided to postpone my mission that it was OK! My opportunity to serve a mission is not wasted—just postponed till later in life when I get to choose my companion rather than be assigned to one. Well, despite the hopes of my mother here I am about to be shipped off to Peru.

The choice wasn’t easy however. I’ll admit openly to you all that some days I am so gung-ho and ready to serve a mission, and then others I’m wondering what I’ve gotten myself into. However, I put my faith in the Lord—started my papers and told the Lord to stop me if this wasn't the right thing for me to do.

Often I question my resolve and my faith. I would wonder how in the world I was supposed to be able to complete a mission when I doubted myself at every turn. However after reading Alma chapter 32 I realized that I couldn’t expect my seed of faith to start off as some solid oak tree. I know it sounds kinda silly, but I have to have faith that my faith will grow.

Young women, if you struggling with trying to decide on whether or not you should serve mission I counsel you to prepare as if you were. Read preach my gospel, go on splits with the missionaries and see how it feels. And most importantly gain that faith that will allow you to accept the Lords answers either way.

If you are keeping the commandments and living your life right, the Lord will not lead you astray. It is a sign of trust and love when we don’t immediately receive answers to our prayers. The lord trusts us to choose our path and if it is wrong—trust me he won’t let you go astray.

After bearing my testimony I wanted to end with a scripture:

Its found in 2 Nephi 30: 19-20.

“And now, my beloved brethren, after ye have gotten into this strait and narrow path, I would ask if all is done? Behold, I say unto you, Nay; for ye have not come thus far save it were by the word of Christ with unshaken faith in him, relying wholly upon the merits of him who is mighty to save.

Wherefore, ye must press forward with a steadfastness in Christ, having a perfect brightness of hope, and a love of God unto all men. Wherefore, if ye shall press forward, feasting upon the word of Christ, and endure to the end, behold, thus saith the Father: Ye shall have eternal life”

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