Sunday, November 13, 2011

My Homecoming Talk

I am grateful to be back with my home ward. There is nothing like being home. Well, I am Zachary Athans. I am the bishop’s son than many probably don’t know I just returned home from a two year full-time mission in the Brazil Vitória Mission. Today, I will speak of my experiences and blessings as a full-time missionary. I will use a talk about the blessings of missionary service by President Gordon B. Hinckley, Former President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. As I do this I pray that the spirit of the Lord will be here to touch us as I share the words I felt impressed to say. President Hinckley said.

I throw out a challenge to every young man within this vast congregation tonight. Prepare yourself now to be worthy to serve the Lord as a full-time missionary. Of course your time is precious, and you may feel you cannot afford two years. But I promise you that the time you spend in the mission field, if those years are spent in dedicated service, will yield a greater return on investment than any other two years of your lives.

I testify that that is true. I can feel a change in me, a change that could not have happened so quickly had I not served a full-time mission.
You will come to know what dedication and consecration mean. You will develop powers of persuasion which will bless your entire life.
As a missionary, your purpose is to “Invite others to come unto Christ by helping them receive the restored gospel thru faith in Jesus Christ and his atonement, repentance, baptism, receiving the gift of the holy ghost and enduring to the end.” I never entered a house wanting to force any to my beliefs on them. I simply shared what I knew to be true and tried to show them how they in turn could have that same happiness that I have. The people that really read the Book of Mormon and prayed received an answer. I invite one and all who have not received this witness about the Book of Mormon and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints to read and pray. Heavenly Father will answer prayers; Of this I have no doubt.
Your timidity, your fears, your shyness will gradually disappear as you go forth with boldness and conviction. You will learn to work with others, to develop a spirit of teamwork.
One of the greatest challenges of missionary work is team work. It’s funny before I served; I thought as many people who are not familiar to this work think that all missionaries are the best of friends and never have problems. It’s funny because it’s a lot like a marriage two imperfect people forced to work together. That can really make a difference in your life as a missionary. I am very grateful for the companions which I had, the easy one and the not so easy ones. Each one has had a profound influence on my life. I thank each one for what they did for me.
The cankering evil of selfishness will be supplanted by a sense of service to others.
As a missionary, you are focused everyday for two years on other people. It’s interesting how your personal needs become less important and the needs of others are more important. My mission president, Scott Pickett once told me, “There is another irony - the more you focus on the salvation of others, the more secure your own salvation becomes. … I go even further. It is impossible to be saved unless you are saving others. The natural man focuses on himself; the spiritual man focuses on others. Good luck!!.” That is one thing I have gained is a sure knowledge that this is true. I never was happier when than I stopped thinking about me.
You will draw nearer to the Lord than you likely will in any other set of circumstances. You will come to know that without His help you are indeed weak and simple, but that with His help you can accomplish miracles.
Anyone who knows missionary work knows that it is not easy. It is my personal belief that the Lord will give his missionaries more trials during the mission than any other time in his life to that point to strengthen and fortify them into the people he wants them to become. I say trials and these trials are different ranging from problems with companions, girlfriends, family, depression, obedience, discouragement etc. My belief and actually my knowledge is this. The Lord gives us these trials to test us and to fortify us. The Saviour said “And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them.” Ether 12:27
I use an example…a rock when put in river is usually rough, but after a lot of time in that rushing water…its is smoothened and becomes something very beautiful. The same is true of us. Heavenly Father will put us in the river so that we can be smoothened. The Natural or unrefined man is an enemy to God. Verily the refined man or the saint is the friend and child of God. We need to be careful to not reject the very things which Father gives us to make us smooth or refined. I know that trials in the moment are difficult but you are humbled and come closer to your father in heaven. I can say with confidence that I am GRATEFUL for every trial which I have had including before during and after my fulltime missionary service.]
You will establish habits of industry. You will develop a talent for the establishment of goals of effort. You will learn to work with singleness of purpose. What a tremendous foundation all of this will become for you in your later educational efforts and your life’s work. Two years will not be time lost. It will be skills gained.
You will bless the lives of those you teach, and their posterity after them. You will bless your own life.
I had the opportunity to teach many, many great and wonderful people. I had the privilege to help some enter the waters of baptism. I would like to talk about two people that had affected my life and both I was blessed and so were they.
1st, Gilda was a middle aged women. She had two children who were baptized one served a mission and after that they had both chosen inactivity. Gilda had known the church for over ten years when I met her but for some reason or another she never decided to be baptized. When I met her she was bedridden due to a foot injury worsened by diabetes. We were led to her by our Heavenly Father of this I have no doubt. As we began to teach her, her trials truly had humbled her and she was prepared to receive the word. We invited to read the Book of Mormon and pray about its divinity. She did and the answer came from our Father. Miracles were witnessed as Father prepared a way for her to be baptized despite physical hardships. She is a great example to me.
2nd Thayná, Thayná was a young woman that also heard the Masters call. She taught herself english and had real intent. She had lots of doubts at first but when she recieved her difinative answer and moved forward with Faith. The hardest thing for us was to get the approval from her mom to allow her be baptized. She attended for 3 months without consent to be baptized. My companion and I decided to fast one day for her. We thought that finally with extra blessings of the fast certainly something would happen. It took about a month which tried our patience and faith. Finally Father gave us the blessing and she was allowed to be baptized. I was taught patience. I believe all of us were taught that Heavenly Father does answer prayers but indeed in his own time.
You will bless the lives of your family, who will sustain you and pray for you.
I can say all the feelings of my heart. I felt and saw the blessings that came to my family while I was a missionary. Leaving I had many reservations about leaving my family. Our families are important to us. I had to leave with the faith that Heavenly would take care of them. I was often reminded on the mission that they would be taken care of and they were. If anyone has reservation because of family move forward with faith heavenly Father will take care of them. If you don’t believe me look at my family.
And above and beyond all of this will come that sweet peace in your heart that you have served your Lord faithfully and well. Your service will become an expression of gratitude to your Heavenly Father.
You will come to know your Redeemer as your greatest friend in time or eternity. You will realize that through His atoning sacrifice He has opened the way for eternal life and an exaltation above and beyond your greatest dreams.
This one was one of the most important to me personally. I wanted to know my savior. And I did get to know him. I had the privilege of walking along side my Saviour. I know I am nothing. I know that he did something we and I could not do for ourselves. I felt his love for me and the people of brazil. He is my best friend.
If you serve a mission faithfully and well, you will be a better husband, you will be a better father; you will be a better student, a better worker in your chosen vocation. Love is of the essence of this missionary work. Selflessness is of its very nature. Self-discipline is its requirement. Prayer opens its reservoir of power.
And so, my dear young brethren, resolve within your hearts today to include in the program of your lives service in the harvest field of the Lord as a missionary of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

I suppose I could go on for years. Suffice to say that Heavenly Father needed me to serve this mission to not only help me but to bless his great Brazilian children.

I will close now with my testimony. I choose to do this in my mission language. I know most of you will not understand but I know that the spirit will bear witness of this because it is truth.

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