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Farewell Talk

Good afternoon everyone, I am so grateful that you all could be here today.  I want to let you all know that there will be a celebration at my house after church, and you all are invited.

Part of the reason why I went to school for a year before putting in my papers to go on a mission is so that I would have another whole year to prepare to give you this talk.  The preparation went poorly.

I want to thank my friends and family who came to support me, as well as those who aren’t even here who have impacted my life.  I could not do this without all the love that you have offered me.  Each and every one of you are and have been incredible examples to me, and I will continue to look up to you.
I want to thank all my teachers and scout leaders for giving me a love of learning and for helping me understand important things.
I want to thank all my friends who came here to support me, despite my church not having a good pokemon go stop.
I want to thank my loving parents who have always been the most supportive of me, and for pushing me to do great things.
I want to thank my wonderful sister who stopped giving me frequent noogies after 6th grade and who is an amazing example of living the gospel.
I want to thank Sophie for giving me this sweet tie and for not crying during this talk and for smiling always.

Today I want to talk about Living the Gospel Happily and why I want to serve a mission.

Now it has been a year and though I have not spent the entire past year writing this talk, I did gain a lot of experiences that I didn’t know I needed to go through before leaving to serve a mission.  When I was applying for college, I was not sure if I would put in my papers directly after finishing high school, or if I would go to a year of college first.  Even though I was so sick of spending time taking tests, I decided that it would be best if I got my foot in the door at a University.  I also had my own doubts.  Even though I had a testimony, I was not sure going on a mission was for me.  Although going on a mission is so common here in Utah, it is entirely unique in my family.  My grandfather’s family converted in mormonism shortly before WWII.  Although he DID serve in the War, he did not serve a mission.  Nor did any of his siblings, or any of my cousins.  I will be the first person in my family to serve a mission, and this is a little daunting.

I have never been the most knowledgeable when it comes to important religious information.  When I was a little boy, I was never the first one to answer questions in primary.  When asked what Bible stories I knew, I usually just referred back to my extensive knowledge of Veggie Tales.  I would always see recently returned missionaries able to offer memorized scriptures at the drop of the hat, and I truly believed I would never be able to do that, which is probably an essential skill for a mission.  However, as I learned more this past year, I have realized what is most important for me.  When I was first starting my mission papers, my good friend from high school, Kyle Evans, had just received his mission call to Sierra Leone.  I expressed this concern to him, that I felt like I did not have a strong scriptural knowledge, and he expressed the same concern about his own lack of knowledge .  This initially was strange to me because Kyle is one of the most spiritual people I know.  All throughout High School, and even beyond, I have always looked up to Kyle because he is always an example of Christlike behavior, and although Kyle is a perfect example of humility, he told me that he too felt like he did not have enough scriptural knowledge, but he asked me a question that changed my viewpoint.  Kyle asked me, “well, do you have a testimony that what you feel is true, because that is the most important part.”  Well I do have a testimony that I have felt the love of Christ, and because I know what I have felt, I am just as able to teach what I know to be true.

This past year I have been studying at the University of Southern California, and I learned that waiting until I was truly ready to go on a mission was the best thing for me to do.   I gained so many friends who helped me learn about myself.  Before I even knew I was going to USC my dad had already contacted the LDS institute there to make sure that I would feel at home.  The Ward at USC is the greatest and everyone is so kind and loving.  I was the only active LDS kid in my class, but there were many older members for me too look up to.  As I grew to know everyone in the ward, I realized how different every member was.  I remember thinking that if not for this common gospel, some kids would have literally nothing in common.  I realized that the thing that ties every member together in the ward is that everyone in the ward is so imperfect, and they realize that they could not do it without our Heavenly Father.  Everyone had their strengths, but everyone certainly had their weaknesses as well. What weaknesses someone had, were the strengths of another person, and just like that I realized how important each and every person on this planet is to Heavenly Father’s plan.  We all have strengths and weaknesses, and we need each other in order to make something great.  But the string that ties us all together is what we are fighting for, the common ground is love.  

This lesson applies to all of us, no matter our religion.  Earlier this summer, I had the opportunity to hear a speech from an activist in the Sikh community.  Sikhism is a religion where the men wear turbans in a similar style and fashion to Muslim.  This activist, Simran Singh, told us that since 9/11, so many have been quick to assume that any person wearing a turban is related to 9/11 or other terrorist attacks and is Muslim.  But this is an unfair assumption to make about a Sikh person because their religion is completely different than Islamism.  He told us that he and his loved ones have been wrongly accused of being Muslim, and have received hate because of this wrong assumption.  He told us that even though he could easily say “hey, you’ve got the wrong guy, I’m not Muslim,” that he wouldn’t because this phrase assumes that there is a right guy--someone who deserves the hate.  This stuck out to me because even though Sikhism is completely different than Islamism, members of the Sikh community still offer their support to Muslims even though that means actively receiving hate not even intended for the Sikh community.  This example of love stuck out to me, and it is something that I wish to take into practice because we are all members of the same Earth, and even if someone believes differently than us, they are still our brothers and sisters as fellow inhabitants of planet earth.  We all know what it feels like to receive criticism and hate, and if we all know how miserable and awful it feels, why would we wish that criticism and hate upon anyone else?

In Alma 26:31 through 33 it says

31 Now behold, we can look forth and see the fruits of our labors; and are they few? I say unto you, Nay, they are many; yea, and we can witness of their sincerity, because of their love towards their brethren and also towards us.

32 For behold, they had rather sacrifice their lives than even to take the life of their enemy; and they have buried their weapons of war deep in the earth, because of their love towards their brethren.

33 And now behold I say unto you, has there been so great love in all the land? Behold, I say unto you, Nay, there has not, even among the Nephites.

This goes to show how important love is for all of us amongst war and hatred.  In a talk called How to Live Well amid Increasing Evil by Richard G. Scott, he says

“Now the brighter side [of life]. Despite pockets of evil, the world overall is majestically beautiful, filled with many good and sincere people. God has provided a way to live in this world and not be contaminated by the degrading pressures evil agents spread throughout it. You can live a virtuous, productive, righteous life by following the plan of protection created by your Father in Heaven: His plan of happiness”

I want to talk about what I learned from my friends at USC.
Within the first week of school I found my three best friends, Jacob Fishman, Macgee Warshofsky, and Cameron Lindsay.  Jacob lives 15 minutes away from here and I never met him until we were both in California.  All four of us are different, but we are connected in what we believe about the world.  We all have strengths and weaknesses, and it is from these three friends that I learned so much about myself.  They care about me, and for the first time in my life, I’ve felt that I’ve met a group of friends that I can tell anything to, because of the support we offer each other.  I don’t think they realize it but they were always there for me when I needed them, and they taught me that 4 people are always greater than just 1.  

Now, as I indicated, at the beginning that this talk was about “Living the Gospel Happily” and in order to give you this talk, I have to tell you a story that involves my friend Cam, who is, coincidentally, the happiest person I know.

He’s a smart kid, but more than anything else he’s a really good friend.   Now Cam is a ray of sunshine, he’s literally always smiling, and laughing and whenever he enters a room, he’s always at the center of attention.  Cam makes everyone feel good about themselves, and no matter what kind of day you’re having, as soon as you see Cam, you can’t help but have the biggest smile on your face.  That's part of the reason we get along so well, and although we sometimes have different beliefs,  we both believe in the power of a smile and a good attitude.  Aftering knowing Cam for a few months, and never once seeing him frown, he asked ME a question that took me off guard.  Cam asked me how I was able to be so happy all the time.  How could I do it.  This question was initially so bizarre to me, why would Cam Lindsay, the go-to king of happiness, be asking me how I could be so happy all the time.  

I don’t feel happy all the time.  In fact, sometimes I actually feel like if I can fit one smile in a day, then I feel ok with myself.  Then I feel like I’m making it despite the odds.  Sometimes I feel like as long as I can keep putting one foot in front of the other, I can stall long enough for everything to go well.  

As a matter of fact, this past year of my life has been easily the hardest and most sad year of my entire life. This year, I felt a pain in my chest that I never even knew existed, and I never wanted to feel that feeling again. But I don’t want to dwell on these sad times because this talk is not about sad things.  This talk is about the happy things.   I don’t think my friends realize how much of a lift they gave me, Jacob included, when THEY offered to get dinner or go for a bike ride when I sometimes felt so miserable.

Despite every moment where it felt like my insides wanted to be on the opposite side of the planet, I just kept putting one foot in front of the other, and somehow, with the help of love, I’ve stayed afloat.

When my friend Cam asked why I am able to be happy all the time, the answer I initially told him what I told you all, that I actually feel like I'm happy a relatively small amount of my time.

We live in a world where so much pain and suffering happens every day, and that there are so many people living within a 5 square mile radius that are living broken lives because of broken homes and lost loved ones.  But so many people within a 5 square mile radius are exactly the same as I am. They have dreams, they have siblings, they have interests and people they care about AND PEOPLE WHO CARE ABOUT THEM.  They have goals they want to accomplish, and they have people that they look up to who inspire them.  We aren’t so different at all, we all have the same loving Heavenly Father.

I told Cam that it is very easy for me to be happy, but I told him that the primary reason that I am able to be happy all the time comes from my religion.  I am able to be happy because no matter what happens, I know my Heavenly Father is there for me.  I have so little to be sad about because even though there are so many people who live in a 5 mile radius who need WAY more help than me, sometimes it feels like I need all the help in the world, that I still need so much help that I couldn’t walk without Heavenly Father or His love.  I know He blesses the homes of those in despair too.  But even though there are all those people with broken homes and broken families who need more help, He still helps me out too.  Even though I should be the last thing on God’s priority list, because He has already blessed me so much,  Heavenly Father still finds the time to put me at the top of his priority list.  And I am eternally grateful. And that is the reason why I can be so happy all the time.  And I know you all are at the top of His priority list as well, and that’s why you all should be happy all the time too!

I was asked to speak today on living the gospel happily, which is tremendously redundant because I truly believe it is impossible to live this gospel without a profound happiness instilled upon our hearts.  

I am not saying there won't be sadness.  Actually, I believe that offering up love will include feeling tremendously sad and broken at times.  Even more broken then you would’ve felt if you didn’t offer your love at all.
But you also understand that all the pain and suffering is not done alone.  And you understand how tremendously blessed you all are.  Despite all the pain and suffering in the world, we all still have every reason to offer our love.  He wants us to be eternally happy, and He helps us by offering His endless love.  

Because He offers me so much love, I try to do the same.  I love you all.

What I learned this year, and what I learned from Cam’s question, is that even though this year has been the toughest, saddest, most heartbreaking year I’ve ever been through, this year has also been easily the happiest year of my life and I owe it to the gospel.  I don’t know what I’d do without Heavenly Father’s love or the love of you all.

Now although at the beginning of this talk I told you it was going to be about living the Gospel Happily, what I learned this past year, is that the key to living happily is love - Both Heavenly Father’s love for us and our love for one another, they are essential.  

I’d like to bear my testimony that I know this church is true, and I know the reality of the love of Christ.

I pray with you all, and I look forward to speaking back here in two years.

I say these things in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.