Tuesday, September 17, 2013

farewell: the value of one

Note: I do best when I give talks off of bullet points, so here's what I remembered saying based on those bullet points. While it may not be exact, the general points are still there.

I want to start off today reading one of my favorite scripture mastery verses. 
In Doctrine & Covenants 18:10, we read, “Remember the worth of souls is great in the sight of God.”
We read this verse fairly often, but I think the full impact of that statement is often lost on us. “The worth of souls is great in the sight of God.”

What exactly is a soul? The scriptures teach us that a soul is the spirit and the body untied together. Each of you sitting here today is a soul.

So why would souls be so important in the sight of God? 
In the first lesson of Preach My Gospel, the manual used by missionaries to be effective teachers, the first doctrine we are instructed to teach is that “God is our loving Heavenly Father. We are His children... He loves us. He weeps with us when we suffer and rejoices when we do what is right... He has given us this experience on the earth so we can learn and grow.”

 We are of worth because we are literally sons and daughters of God. 
Think about the power of that statement.

There is a great talk by Elder M. Russell Ballard called “The Atonement and the Value of One Soul.” In the talk, Elder Ballard says, “We are part of His family. He is not a father in some allegorical or poetic sense. He is literally the Father of our spirits. He cares for each one of us. Though this world has a way of diminishing and demeaning men and women, the reality is we are all of royal, divine lineage... He knows our names and yearns for us to become worthy to return to live with Him.”

One of my favorite primary songs is “I Am a Child of God” and I'd like to share a few of the lyrics with you.
I am a child of God and he has sent me here, has given me an earthly home with parents kind and dear. I am a child of God and so my needs are great, help me to understand his words before it grows too late. Lead me, guide me, walk beside me, help me find the way. Teach me all that I must do to live with Him someday.

Our Heavenly Father loves each one of us. He wants us to return to live with Him, and He has put in place a plan that allows that to happen. We call that plan the Plan of Salvation, the Plan of Redemption, or my personal favorite, the Plan of Happiness.

In order for us to return to live with Him, though, someone had to give himself as a sinless sacrifice. Jesus Christ chose to suffer for each of us through what is called the Atonement.

In Alma 7:11-12, Alma teaches, “And he shall go forth, suffering pains and afflictions and temptations of every kind; and this that the word might be fulfilled which saith he will take upon him the pains and the sicknesses of his people. And he will take upon him death, that he may loose the bands of death which bind his people; and he will take upon him their infirmities, that his bowels may be filled with mercy, according to the flesh, that he may know according to the flesh how to succor his people according to their infirmities.”

I love that second verse – “He will take upon him their infirmities that he may know how to succor his people.”
No matter what we face, Christ is right there with us, and He understands. He understands our greatest sorrows as well as our greatest joys. And He chose to go through those pains for each of us individually so that He would be able to understand and lift us up in those dark times. What a great gift of love!

Christ is our Savior, and just like our Heavenly Father, He loves each one of us.
There is a great quote by C.S. Lewis that I love: “When Christ died, He died for you individually just as much as if you had been the only person in the world.”

The worth of souls is indeed great in the sight of God. But even more powerful is your worth as one individual. Spencer W. Kimball said, “Let there be no question in your mind about your value as an individual. The whole intent of the gospel plan is to provide an opportunity for each of you to reach your fullest potential, which is eternal progression and the possibility of godhood.”

In Moses 1:39 we learn that God’s work and glory is to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man. How does He do that? He cannot do it alone here on earth; He needs us.

As members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we have the responsibility and opportunity to share the gospel and bring other to Christ.

In Alma 31:35, Alma prays, “Behold O Lord, their souls are precious, and many of them are our brethren; therefore, give unto us, O Lord, power and wisdom that we may bring these, our brethren, again unto thee.”
Like Alma, once we recognize just how important one soul is to our Heavenly Father, we will be filled with a desire to share the gospel and bring them unto Christ.

About a month ago, I received this wonderful paper in the mail. When people open their mission calls, it’s a great and exciting thing to be with your family and friends, but I think we all get too caught up in the where are you going, when are you leaving, and what language will you be speaking. I know I did. But there are four more paragraphs in the mission call, and they are powerful. I want to read just part of it to you.

“Your purpose will be 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... Greater blessings and more happiness than you have yet experienced await you as you humbly and prayerfully serve the Lord in this labor of love among His children.”

My sole purpose for the next eighteen months will be to invite others to come unto Christ. 
But I’m not the only one who has been called as a missionary; President David O. McKay said “Every member a missionary!” Each of us has that call and that purpose: to invite others to come unto Christ. 
Why is that so important? Because our Heavenly Father wants each of His children to return to live with Him, and they will not be able to fully partake of those blessings if we don’t share our testimonies and help them to take full advantage of the Atonement.

Doctrine & Covenants 18:15-16 reads, “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 will be your joy if you should bring many souls unto me!”

I love how clearly this highlights the importance of one soul. Your friends from school, your next door neighbor, the old man walking down the street; each of them needs the Savior, and each of them is loved by their Heavenly Father. We have the responsibility to open our mouths and share our testimonies with them!

I have a lot of people ask me why I am serving a mission. And it really comes down to recognizing the worth of one soul. I love my Savior, and I love my brothers and sisters. More than anything, I want them to be able to feel the peace, love, and joy I have experienced from coming closer to my Savior and being a member of this Church.

In closing, I just want to share two of my favorite scriptures.
Romans 8:38-39 says, “For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

That is so incredibly powerful. No matter what mistakes we make, if we’re a member of His Church, if we are spiritually lost, our Heavenly Father and Savior love us. Perfectly. And they will always be there for us. We simply need to choose to turn to them.

In 1 Nephi 11:17, Nephi explains the significance of the tree of life that his father saw in a vision: “I know that [God] loveth his children; nevertheless, I do not know the meaning of all things.”

No matter what trials we may be facing, our Heavenly Father loves us. That knowledge can get you through just about any hard or happy time.

I love my Savior and my Heavenly Father. I know this is the true Church on the earth today. I know Joseph Smith restored this, the true gospel of Jesus Christ, back to the earth. I know the Book of Mormon is true. I love this Church, and I cannot wait to help bring others to Christ. I know our Heavenly Father loves each and every one of us. I know that as we seek out opportunities to invite our friends, neighbors, and others we meet to come closer to Christ, those opportunities will present themselves.

I say this in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

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