Good afternoon Brothers and Sisters,
I am glad that I have the opportunity to stand before you today and give a talk, for the last time for a few years. I hope that I can make this talk last for the fifteen minuets that I've been given. The topic I received centers on a verse and two questions that pertain to the verse and my calling as a missionary. The verse is found in Jacob chapter 5 verse 72. (READ THE VERSE) The questions that I was asked to talk on and that hopefully I can answer are; how does this verse apply to missionary work, and how do you get the Lord to labor with you in missionary work.
This verse is part of a parable that Jacob quotes throughout most of Chapter 5 that is taken from a Prophet named Zenos. The parable talks about a olive tree that is beginning to wither and die. The Lord of the Vineyard is grieved to lose the tree and so works to save it. He prunes it and digs about it and nourishes it in an attempt to make it grow and produce fruit. After this work parts of the tree begin to grow, but the main branches continue to die. So the Lord sends his servant to gather wild olive branches and graft them into the tree, and he has the dead branches removed and thrown into a fire. Then he took branches that were alive from the tree and placed them throughout his garden where ever he desired. After this had been done the Lord of the Vineyard had the tree pruned and dug about and nourished and then they left it to grow on its own.
After some time had passed the Master and his servant returned and found that the tree was growing and the fruit from the wild branches had brought forth good fruit. And the other parts that the Lord had taken off the tree and planted and nourished had also brought forth good fruit, and the Lord of the Vineyard had the fruit gathered and laid up in store. Then after a long time had passed and the end was near, the Master and his servant again checked the vineyard and found that all the trees were bringing forth evil fruit. And the Master worried that all his trees would have to be hewn down and cast into the fire. The servant and the Master worked again to re-graft the old natural branches into the first tree that it may bring forth good fruit, and they called on servants to help them do that. And so they started from the last to the first to care for the trees, that the good may over come the bad and the bad may be cast into the fire. And so the good over came the bad and at the end of the parable the Master promised the servants that they would have joy with him because of the fruit they had gathered.
In this parable the Children of Israel were likened unto the Olive tree. The Master of the Vineyard is Jesus Christ. The vineyard is the Earth and the servants are missionaries. The parts of the tree that were cut off and planted elsewhere are the scattered children of Israel who before the end have to be gathered. And the fruit I think are the people, the ones who need to be found and taught the gospel and of Christ.
All throughout the scriptures the Lord calls for and instructs people to be missionaries. In Jeremiah 16:16 the Lord says “Behold I will send for many fishers, Saith the Lord, and they shall fish them and after will I send for many hunters and they shall hunt them from every mountain and from every hill and out of the holes of the rocks.” The Savior in his Earthly ministry told his Apostles Peter, Andrew, James and John that he would make them Fishers of Men. We also find this in Doctrine and Covenants 4 where we are told “the field is white, already to harvest.” and in John 21 when the Savior meets his Apostles on the shore of the Sea of Tiberias and asks Peter three times “Peter lovest thou me?” Each time Peter answers yes to the question and the Lord responds “Feed my sheep.” My mission call didn't say a thing about sheep but the statement “feed my sheep” is simply put a call to missionary service.
My verse says that “The servants did go and labor with their mights.” Mights is often used in scriptures to mean talents. Talents can be abilities that a person has or simply things they are good at. So essentially the Servants did go and labor with all their mights or talents, means that they served and gave all that they had to their service. Doctrine and Covenants 4 says that if ye embark in the service of God “See that ye serve him with all your heart, might, mind and strength” or with all that you have. My aunts, and uncles and my leaders and friends who have served on missions say that it is one of the hardest things that you can do, and that it will take all that you have and more, but that it is worth it.
I also like how the verse says “Servants” as in plural. We are told in Doctrine and Covenants 42: 6 that we shall “go forth two by two preaching the gospel because in doctrine and covenants 6: 28 we are told that “in the mouth of two or three witnesses shall every word be established.” As I was finding scriptures and thinking about my topic my mom and I were talking about it and she noticed that we even see this when the Father and the Son appeared to Joseph in the Sacred Grove in JSH 1: 17 when it says “and one of them spake unto me calling me by name and said pointing to the other This is My Beloved Son. Hear Him.” Even when the Father and Son appeared they came together so that one could support the other in all things.
The verse also emphasizes the importance of Obedience. It says “and they did obey the commandments of the Lord of the Vineyard in all things.” we're taught that the commandments are there to help us and to keep us safe. When you're on a mission they do more then that however. They open you to the spirit of the Lord. I've been counseled by missionaries who served both past and present to pay strict obedience to the mission rules, and to look upon them as though they had come straight from the Lord to me. In a way I suppose they have. I've read stories in the Ensign about how when missionaries begin to have trouble in an area that one of the first things they do is look at how they treat each other and how well they follow the mission rules. I've been told that not all of the mission rules will make sense to me at the time I receive them, but that they are important and are there for a reason.
I think that this verse really lays out the basics of missionary service: You work hard for and with the Lord and you obey the Lord, and you let the results come in the Lords own time. And you remember how important the work is to the Lord, as we are told in Doctrine and Covenants 18: 10 “Remember the worth of souls is great is in the sight of God.”
Now for that second question; how do you get the Lord to labor with you. I think this is the big one. In the past four years I've gone to camp Helaman they taught us that we are only there to convert one person: Ourselfs. We can't convert others, that isn't our job. Our job is to find those who are ready to listen and learn and teach them. We need the Spirit to do the job of converting people. And so while at the camp they have all these great speakers come and talk to us about inviting the Spirit and recognizing the Spirit and and trusting the Spirits promptings.
But you still have to get the Spirit to be there with you. I think that the Spirit is always there, ready and waiting to help you in any way that it can. You just need to trust it. In 1st Nephi 3: 7 we see a great example of just that. Nephi shows his courage and trust in the Lord declaring “ I know that the Lord giveth no commandments unto the children of men save He shall prepare a way that they may accomplish that which he has commanded them.” For Nephi he had to “Go and Do” with faith, trusting in the Lord before the Miracles could happen. Faith always precedes the Miracles.
In Doctrine and Covenants 130: 20-21 we are promised that as we obey the Lord and his laws we will receive blessings for that obedience. But first we have to be willing to obey him. A perfect example of that is Abraham. He was told to sacrifice his only son Jacob to the Lord. Abraham even though it must have been difficult for him, was willing to obey this commandment as was Jacob. Even though the Lord didn't make Abraham sacrifice his son, because of his Faith and willingness to obey Abraham and his descendants were blessed.
I think the first step in having the spirit there to help you is to pray for it and to trust it in what ever it tells you to do. This, I think, will open you to the spirit and bring you closer to it.
I think aside from being willing to obey the Lord the best way to have the Lord serve with you is to simply do the work. In the first four books of the New Testament we are told that “he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it.” So we simply must lose ourselfs in the work, forget about what is happening at home, what college we were going to go to. Whither or not The University of Utah is going to beat BYU again and forget about what ever may be worrying us. We are told that when we go on a mission we are on the Lord's time, and we need to use that time, cause two years can go really fast. I think a great example of this is President Hinckly. He had been called to serve in England, and after some time in the field he was feeling frustrated. He felt he was having little if any success in his mission. He wrote home to his dad and expressed his feelings of worry and frustration. He even went so far as to tell his dad “I feel I am waisting my time and your money.” his father wrote back to him and told him simply “Gordon, forget yourself and go to work.”
That was just what the young elder needed to hear. He followed his father's advice and went to work. When his mission concluded he had had a very successful mission. He had forgotten himself and went to work as his father had advised.
I think it is important to remember the reason that we serve on missions, to be humble, and that we have the faith to trust the Lord and his plan. I think those are the best ways we have to get the Lord to labor with us.
This past weekend I had a rough time. Last Saturday my family went to my cousin's funeral. It was a somber occasion, and often I wondered what the plan could have been, and what the reasons were behind the sudden death of my cousin. Later that night I had a religious talk with my brother Kenji which consisted of his telling me why my faith was stupid and me trying not to let it turn into a shouting match in the middle of Red Robins. Latter that evening when we had gotten home my mom and dad talked with me about it. We talked about faith and about how we may not have all the answers but that it's okay. Because God has all the answers and is looking out for us. I hope that when I get into the mission field I will be able to have faith in the Lord and his plan and be able to find those that are ready to be taught. I hope that I will be able to serve the Master and that he will serve with me over the next two years of my mission.
I say these things in the name of Jesus Christ...