I was overwhelmed with the support and love I received from everyone. It was such a special day and I am so grateful for everyone who was there in person and in spirit. Thanks guys.
So the topic for my farewell talk was Alma 32 and the role of faith in conversion. Here's a bit of what I learned:
Elder M. Russell Ballard said, "True conversion comes through the power of the Spirit. When the Spirit touches the heart, hearts are changed. When individuals…feel the Spirit working with them, or when they see the evidence of the Lord's love and mercy in their lives, they are edified and strengthened spiritually and their faith in Him increases. These experiences with the Spirit follow naturally when a person is willing to experiment upon the word. This is how we come to feel the gospel is true."
The process of gaining a testimony is like a spiritual science experiment. This is actually sort of the perfect topic because back in my good old 9th grade biology class, I did a science fair project about seeds and nourishing them with different types of fertilizer (including things like eggshells, which actually work, by the way). So basically I'm an expert in this area, right? Okay, no, not really. Anyway, as my science fair partner and I were doing our experiment, we first had to pick the type of seed, then plant it, then we used a bunch of different types of fertilizer, made sure to water them the same amount every day, and let them soak in the sun. We then monitored and recorded their progress.
Step 1: have a desire
Step 2: give place to plant the seed in your heart
Step 3: actually plant the seed (in good soil, aka with pure and honest intentions)
Step 4: nurture the seed (and you can do that through prayer, reading the scriptures, fasting, going to the temple, coming to church, living what you have learned, testing it out to see if it is true, etc.) and as you nurture the seed it will begin to
- swell in breast
- enlarge soul
- enlighten understanding
- become delicious
Step 5: "Then, my brethren, ye shall reap the rewards of your faith, and your diligence, and patience, and long-suffering, waiting for the tree to bring forth fruit unto you." (Alma 32:43)
So we know that this process works in our secular life. The little seeds in my science experiment grew and we "reaped the rewards of our faith" by getting a good grade. But does it work spiritually?
When I was about 11 probably, at the end of primary, before going into young woman’s I decided that I wanted to conduct one of these "spiritual experiments" and find out if the Book of Mormon was true. So I started reading the Book of Mormon, and the whole time, I had Moroni's Promise in my mind. Moroni's Promise is in Moroni 10:4-5 and it says:
4 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.
5 And by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things.
I anxiously anticipated praying and finding out that the Book of Mormon was true. I remember the night I got to the end of page 531, read "the end," closed my Book of Mormon, took a deep breathe, got down on my knees, and said The Prayer. The one where I was supposed to get a big manifestation. And I didn't really feel all that different than I had felt any other time I prayed or read my scriptures. Needless to say, it wasn't a manifestation by any means.
My little 11-year-old self was really worried that I hadn’t had a big manifestation of the Spirit. And so I decided that I would just have to try again. I started re-reading the Book of Mormon and I remembered Alma 32, particularly verse 27 which says:
27 But behold, if ye will awake and arouse your faculties, even to an experiment upon my words, and exercise a particle of faith, yea, even if ye can no more than desire to believe, let this desire work in you, even until ye believe in a manner that ye can give place for a portion of my words.
I knew that I had the desire. And if nothing else that was a good starting point.
Anyway, as I read and have continued to read the Book of Mormon and search earnestly and prayed with a sincere heart, I have gained a testimony. But it has never a great manifestation when I got to page 531. I realized as I looked back at all the red verses I've marked and all the notes in the margins that each one of those was a little manifestation to me that the Book of Mormon is true. And that it is personal and applicable to me. And I love it and know that it is true. But it is so important to remember that it is a process. It is in the process that you gain your testimony.
So I'm going on a mission. And I'm sort of in the same position I was in when I was 11. I'm about to begin a great conversion process for myself, and hopefully others. There are parts of going on a mission that terrify me. But mostly, I AM SO EXCITED.
Doctrine and Covenants section 4 verse 3 says:
3 Therefore, if ye have desires to serve God ye are called to the work
I have the desire to serve God. And I have a long way to go in knowing how to do that, but I can at least start there. Just like the process of growing faith and gaining a testimony, I'm in the process of "becoming a disciple of Jesus Christ."
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. (3 Nephi 5:13)
I am so excited to begin my mission and dedicate this time of my life to Him. I know that this Church is true and I love it.
See ya in 1 & 1/2 years.