20 June 2011

Farewell

Brothers and sisters, I’m not one for long introductions. Suffice it to say, the last time I was a member of this congregation, it was the Rising Sun branch and I was a teenager.

I love this place. I received my testimony of the restored Church here. I was baptized here. This ground is holy ground for me, and I pray that it will always be to every heart and soul who enters this sacred place.

I’ll be leaving shortly on a mission to the Brazil São Paulo Interlagos mission, and I’m here today to deliver a farewell message to you. I pray that the Lord will help me to have the courage to deliver this powerful message, and that we all might have the Spirit to be lifted and edified together on the subject of talents.

The talents we’ve been given are gifts from the Lord to increase our spirituality. They make up our unique identity as a child of God. If you wonder what makes you different from everyone else that Heavenly Father has created and brought into His fold, look to your talents. If you think the purpose of the gospel is to make you into something you’re not, look to your spiritual gifts. Your talents were given to you in the preexistence, and developing them is not forcing you to become someone you’re not. They’re hidden treasures of your soul that will help you to more fully become the person you were then—the amazing, beautiful son or daughter of God you already are.

Our talents have been customized and given to us based on our personalities. Heavenly Father gave us specific talents and capacities we need to be happy, and to make our contribution to His kingdom. It was true of our first parents, Father Adam and Mother Eve, and it’s true for us today.

Look at Mother Eve. Of all the things Lucifer could have used to persuade her, he chose knowledge and wisdom. He compelled her with the assurance that she would become like God. Out of all the ways he could have chosen, why did Lucifer choose those particular ways?

12 And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it became pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make her wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and also gave unto her husband with her, and he did eat.
Moses 4

If she had not yet fallen, and could not yet know good from evil, how could she understand knowledge and wisdom enough to desire them? Even in her innocence, she felt desires for wisdom—to use those talents which God had given her. They would show through regardless of whether or not she knew about them. They drove her towards her roles and responsibilities in the gospel, towards her motherhood and her greatest happiness. If Eve had never fallen, she would have remained a stranger to herself, to her great power and potential as a divine daughter of exalted parents.

Adam’s motivation was different because his talents were different. In 2 Nephi 2: 25, Lehi teaches us that:

“Adam fell that man might be, and men are that they might have joy.”

I always understood that to mean that the Fall was imposed upon Adam because it was necessary. He needed to stay with Eve, and everyone who has ever lived on the earth needed to be born and receive the gospel. Until very recently, I thought that because of God and because of Lucifer, Adam fell.

But Adam fell willingly and deliberately. He took a bold and fearless step into the unknown, Adam FELL, caused himself to fall, that man might be. To him, transgressing the law was a real act of faith because everything in him desires so much to be obedient. I personally don’t believe the commandment to multiply and replenish the earth and the law not to partake of the fruit are contradictory. They work together to accomplish the same one purpose of the Lord—to allow us all to come to mortality. But to Adam, they would have been a test to see if He could distinguish which law was more important to obey. If he was going to be the father of all living, he needed to be able to choose his children before his own security, his own blessing. To say that Adam fell that man might be is a statement that tells us why Adam chose to Fall, and what we all mean to him.

Adam and Eve’s talents were essential to the Fall. They came to earth, and discovered talents and capacities they never dreamed they could have. Adam begins by doing much of what he did in Eden, caring for the grounds and the animals. Eve labored with him, and they learned to appreciate hard work. Then the Lord begins to institute and organize his priesthood among them, and they begin to grown in their spiritual talents.

Adam and Eve needed to learn how to live separated from God, and the Lord teaches them what He expects of them so they can return to Him. The truths that Adam and Eve learn from the Lord at this time are simple and complete. They focus on repentance and the redemption Adam and Eve will find in Jesus Christ. The truths, doctrines, and power they received were never more simple and unified than they were in Adam and Eve’s hands at that time.

In Moses 5: 5, we see that Adam and Eve first learn to sacrifice. The angel teaches them:

…This thing is a similitude of the sacrifice of the Only Begotten of the Father, which is full of grace and truth.
8 Wherefore, thou shalt do all that thou doest in the name of the Son, and thou shalt repent and call upon God in the name of the Son forevermore.
Moses 5

Adam and Eve both have their eyes opened, and the voice of the Lord tells them of their redemption from the Fall.

…I am the Only Begotten of the Father from the beginning, henceforth and forever, that as thou hast fallen thou mayest be redeemed, and all mankind, even as many as will.
Moses 5: 9

Nothing could’ve been a greater comfort to them than to realize and remember that they and their generations were not lost forever in their mortal state. What Adam and Eve say then are two of the most beautiful statements in all of scripture.

Adam says, “Blessed be the name of God, for because of my transgression my eyes are opened, and in this life I shall have joy, and again in the flesh I shall see God.”

Brethren, do you live in the joy of knowing you will see God again? Does being strictly obedient bring you joy? If not, how can you use your talents to make obedience a more pleasant experience for yourself, your families, and for others?

Eve says, “Were it not for our transgression we never should have had seed, and never should have known good and evil, and the joy of our redemption, and the eternal life which God giveth unto all the obedient.”

Sisters, do you treasure your children and grandchildren, even if you are not yet married? Do you actively grow in your understanding of good and evil, and share your wisdom with your children? Have you used your talents to become a better gospel teacher? Do you exercise your talents through visiting teaching to help other sisters grow?

Adam and Eve progress in their covenants for the rest of their lives, and every time they do so, it’s because they grew sufficiently in their individual talents. But how is that accomplished? What do our talents do to bring us closer to the Lord and His Spirit?

Developing our talents is a crucial part of genuine repentance. If we are not including our talents in that repentance, we are not giving the Lord all of ourselves, and our repentance is being frustrated. We may learn the wrongness of our actions, and we may even feel remorse for what we’ve done. But we need to change our behavior and our hearts. This happens as we make powerful personal sacrifices, and I know of no better way to do this than by consecrating talents and abilities to the Lord.

When that is the kind of repentance we live by, a greater capacity to be obedient comes into our lives. That obedience allows us to progress towards the work of our day. Just as Adam and Eve had great purposes of the Lord attached to their talents, we too have a work to perform which depends on us growing in our talents.

After Adam blesses Enoch, he began to build the holy city of Zion. It’s a city built entirely of consecrated talents, where the inhabitants “had all things common,” (4 Nephi 1: 3) and were “of one heart and one mind.” (Moses 7: 18) I bring him up because Enoch’s work in his Zion is inseparable from our work today in this dispensation. The Lord told Enoch of our great work when He said:

…As I live, even so will I come in the last days, in the days of wickedness and vengeance, to fulfil the oath which I have made unto you concerning the children of Noah;
61 And the day shall come that the earth shall rest, but before that day the heavens shall be darkened, and a veil of darkness shall cover the earth; and the heavens shall shake, and also the earth; and great tribulations shall be among the children of men, but my people will I preserve;
62 And righteousness will I send down out of heaven; and truth will I send forth out of the earth, to bear testimony of mine Only Begotten; his resurrection from the dead; yea, and also the resurrection of all men; and righteousness and truth will I cause to sweep the earth as with a flood, to gather out mine elect from the four quarters of the earth, unto a place which I shall prepare, an Holy City, that my people may gird up their loins, and be looking forth for the time of my coming; for there shall be my tabernacle, and it shall be called Zion, a New Jerusalem.
Moses 7

We have each been given talents which will help us to stand in our place in our day—to build Zion to our God. We are progressing as individuals and families in positions to which every previous dispensation has looked and eagerly anticipated, hoped and waited. They knew the talents that would be extended to us specific to our positions, and they wanted to be a part of our day. (Alma 29: 1-2)

Do we have talents specific to our work in Zion? Absolutely! Read any prophecy about the latter days, and you will read about the righteous and the power they will possess.

…I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions:
29 And also upon the servants and upon the handmaids in those days will I pour out my spirit.
30 And I will shew wonders in the heavens and in the earth, blood, and fire, and pillars of smoke.
31 The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and the terrible day of the Lord come.
32 And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be delivered: for in mount Zion and in Jerusalem shall be deliverance, as the Lord hath said, and in the remnant whom the Lord shall call.
Joel 2

That description is powerful because the potential of our talents is a marvelous sight to behold. Visions, prophecies, miracles—these experiences do not belong solely to prophets, apostles, or general authorities. You can have them too if you prepare yourself in righteousness, as they have; and if you have real need of them, as they do. And I promise you and warn you this day, you will never have greater need for inspiration than you will as you strengthen and bless your families, and build the kingdom of God.

Visions, prophecies, and miracles attend those who have the gift of the Holy Ghost. Use your talents as the Lord directs, and you will magnify the gift of the Holy Ghost in your life.

If you ponder, in all honesty, what it means to have the Spirit to be with you—to have a member of the Godhead under binding covenant to dwell with you and guide you—it is exciting, and daunting, and humbling all at once. It awakens us to a sense of our greatness in the sight of God. But it is only a precursor to the talent and defining blessing of Zion and her inhabitants.

What is the talent which all men and women in Zion possess—the thing that makes Zion different from any other place on earth—so difficult to build, but worth hoping and sacrificing for, even unto death?

What is Zion?

And Enoch and all his people walked with God, and he dwelt in the midst of Zion;
Moses 7: 69

To walk with God means to see Jesus Christ exactly as He is, and to be able to speak with Him, “even as a man talketh one with another, face to face.” (Moses 7: 4) It is the talent which is extended to the inhabitants of Zion who have earned it through sufficient repentance, honoring their covenants, and consecrating their talents. As we discover, explore, and develop our individual talents, that great talent of Zion will become a clearer and more attainable reality.

Adam-ondi-Ahman in Daviess County, Missouri
There is a reason I’ve spent so much time talking about Adam and Eve this morning as a precursor to talking about Zion and our latter-day work. It’s because our return to Zion and their return home to Eden is the same journey.

Everything we need to build Zion was originally extended as a blessing to Adam and Eve, which they handed down to their generations. Those blessings were changed, lost, taken away, restored, lost again, and fragmented many times throughout the history of this earth. A restoration, not a reformation, is the only thing which has ever reinstated those blessings. A restoration of truth, of priesthood, of the gospel of Jesus Christ is exactly what we claim to have here today.

But sometimes we think of that Restoration as something that happened once in 1820 and ended after the First Vision. That is when the Restoration began. The Restoration continued on as the offices of the Priesthood were restored, the temples built, and the keys restored. It continues today, and will continue until Adam returns to Adam-ondi-Ahman “the place where Adam shall come to visit his people, or the Ancient of Days shall sit, as spoken of by Daniel the prophet.” (D&C 116)

Joseph Smith never intended to hide that fact, which is why we find it clearly stated in the Articles of Faith:

10 We believe in the literal gathering of Israel and in the restoration of the Ten Tribes; that Zion (the New Jerusalem) will be built upon the American continent; that Christ will reign personally upon the earth; and, that the earth will be renewed and receive its paradisiacal glory.

When the Prophet Joseph Smith entered Jackson County, Missouri in July of 1831, I have no doubt that he understood where he was standing was a deeply significant place. It’s the place where Eden once stood, and the Lord revealed that to him and to us in D&C 57:

“This is the land of promise, and the place for the city of Zion.”
D&C 57: 2

About two weeks later, the Saints who were gathering wanted to know what the significance was of Missouri. The Lord reveals it to them, which we read about in D&C 58:

6 Behold, verily I say unto you, for this cause I have sent you—that you might be obedient, and that your hearts might be prepared to bear testimony of the things which are to come;
7 And also that you might be honored in laying the foundation, and in bearing record of the land upon which the Zion of God shall stand;
8 And also that a feast of fat things might be prepared for the poor; yea, a feast of fat things, of wine on the lees well refined, that the earth may know that the mouths of the prophets shall not fail;
9 Yea, a supper of the house of the Lord, well prepared, unto which all nations shall be invited.
10 First, the rich and the learned, the wise and the noble;
11 And after that cometh the day of my power; then shall the poor, the lame, and the blind, and the deaf, come in unto the marriage of the Lamb, and partake of the supper of the Lord, prepared for the great day to come.

The marriage of the Lamb is the feast of the faithful—the Sacrament Meeting to end all Sacrament Meetings. The righteous in attendance will return to Eden, to the New Jerusalem, in preparation for the Savior to begin His reign on the earth. Those who have received their celestial inheritances will be gathered there with Adam and Eve into the rest and service of the Lord forever. Among the rich symbolism behind the Sacrament we partook of this morning, one of the most important layers of meaning points to that feast. By partaking of the Sacrament, we promised to be at that feast of the faithful—having given all we possess, talents included, to be there.

Brothers and sisters, I hope we meet again in that holy place. I hope we all are counted worthy to stand in the presence of God. I pray we will all seek that redemption and live in that hope. As hard as things may become for you, as much as you may be tried, be strong. Know that God loves you, and He is leading you to that good place.

I know that God lives, and I know that Jesus is the Christ. He is the reason for everything we do here today. We love Him. We worship Him. We believe that He atoned for our sins in Gethsemane, died for us on Calvary’s cross, and rose on the third day that we might rise, conquerors over death. He bids us to follow Him, and by making and keeping covenants with Him, we are saved.

I bear you my witness that this Church is true, that the gospel is real, that Joseph Smith was a prophet and a good man. I am so happy and excited to serve a mission wherever the Lord will send me in addition to Brazil, and I bear you my witness in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.

1 comment:

  1. Author's Note:

    Jackson County will be the site of the New Jerusalem, and is the ancient site of the garden of Eden. For more information see:

    http://www.fairwiki.org/Joseph_Smith/Garden_of_Eden_in_Missouri

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Map_of_Missouri_highlighting_Jackson_County.svg


    Daviess County is the location of Adam-ondi-Ahman, where the feast of the faithful of described above will take place. For more information see:

    http://josephsmithpapers.org/place/adam-ondi-ahman-missouri

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Map_of_Missouri_highlighting_Daviess_County.svg

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