Elder Maddox's Farewell
"In the book specifically designed for missionaries, Preach my gospel, the forth chapter titled Recognize the Spirit, asks five questions of the reader, but I would like to focus on just three. Number one being who is the Holy Ghost? The second, What is his, the holy ghost’s, role in missionary work and third, how can I recognize the promptings of the spirit?
In the 2002 October Priesthood Session, M. Russell Nelson gave a talk entitled "The Greatest Generation of Missionaries.” In this talk, Elder Nelson pleaded with all young men worldwide to be worthy to serve as full time missionaries for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter day Saints stating that “What we need now is the greatest generation of missionaries in the history of the church. We need worthy, qualified, and spiritually energized missionaries.” He concluded his heart felt address by letting everyone know that “the bar that is the standard for missionary service is being raised.” As a young boy of 10years old, having discovered the need for missionaries, through elder nelson 'stalk, I quickly made a promise to myself and to the lord, to live in a manner that is worthy of serving a mission, and not only being worthy, but to have desire to go, rather than do it because I was commanded to serve. As the years progressed, my desire to go only grew stronger as people close to me began to receive their calls to serve in the lord’s name. From cousins, to ward members, I watched as many of my peers put their lives on hold to go and serve, and knew that when my name was called, I would be ready. So when six months ago Bishop Carter and I started to meet in order to get the mission papers started, I was ecstatic. And as time went on and my papers were submitted, and my call was issued, my enthusiasm only grew. But when the Wednesday came, and I was holding the big white envelope in my hand, I suddenly realized how long two years is. I realized that, no matter how right I know the mission is, it is truly a sacrifice. So with feelings of doubt, and insecurity, mixed with the same feeling of happiness shared by a child on Christmas morning accepted my call to serve, knowing that the lord would have to compensate extra for my short comings as a missionary. But as the weeks progressed and the call became more and more real, I started to notice a change in my negative demeanor, and a change in my outlooks it pertained to the mission. Suddenly feelings of comfort covered those of doubt, feelings of hesitation, were quickly replaced with those of confidence, and assurance that what I was preparing to do, was what the lord would have me do. Although I wish I could say I recognized the companionship of the Holy Ghost instantly, I did not. I did not notice the quite peace associated with my daily endeavors, and overlooked the power of the spirit. I had forgotten the gift I had received at baptism, the gift that entitled me to the constant companionship of the Holy Ghost. But over the past few weeks, with the Holy Ghost at my side, as often ashy attitude would allow, I have come to a new understanding of who the Holy Ghost is. Never before did I understand that the Holy Ghost could be specific to all people, meaning that he knows how-to help each and every one of us as it pertains to our daily needs. He knows our struggles, and can, should our behavior allow him too, comfort us no matter the situation, no matter the circumstance, no matter the trial.
Soon after realizing the value and importance of having the Holy Ghost as a regular companion, I became curious as to how investigators of the church would know that what missionaries were teaching was true. Because of baptism, I like many of you here, have been given the gift of the Holy Ghost by the laying on of hands by a worthy Melchezidek priesthood holder. So how is it that someone who has not been baptized could feel the power of the spirit? My question was answered in Moroni 7:16. 16 For behold, the spirit of Christ is given to every man, that he may know good from evil; wherefore, I show unto you the way to judge; for everything which inviteth to do good, and to persuade to believe in Christ, is sent forth by the power and gift of Christ; wherefore ye may know with a perfect knowledge it is of God.” After reading this remarkable scripture, I discovered that the challenge for me as a missionary would not be in talking to people or using every word I know to try to convince them that what I am saying has to be true, rather my challenge would be to create an environment in which the spirit could dwell with myself, as well as those I teach. In a mission presidents conference in April of 1985 we are taught that “when conversion takes place, it is through the power of the Spirit.” Elder Ballard reemphasized this with an article he wrote for the Ensign, Called Now is the time. In the article Elder Ballard teaches that “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 lords love and mercy in their lives, they are edified and strengthened spiritually and the faith in him increases.”
So how do we as missionaries, and yes, we are all missionaries, teach in the ways that the lord would have us? In D&C42 we read that “the spirit shall be given unto you by the power of faith, and if ye receive not the spirit ye shall not teach.” Just like before when I said our lives need to be lived in a manner that allows for the spirit to comfort us, if we wish to have any success in teaching, and impacting the lives of those around us, then we must strive to be better, to live more worthily, and to be an example to all those around us. Only then can the spirit of teaching be present with us.
With a better understanding of who the Holy Ghost is, and his role in conversion, the third question becomes the most important, How can I recognize the promptings of the spirit? In a world where everyone, and everything is in a constant battle for their voice to be heard, how is it possible for us to hear what is described in 3rdnephi as “not a harsh voice, neither is it a loud voice?” When this question was asked of President Gordon B. Hinckley he responded saying “ If it invites to do good, it is of God. If it inviteth to do evil, it is of the devil…And if you are doing the right thing, and if you are living the right way, you will know in your heart what the spirit is saying to you.” But more than just being able to recognize the spirit, we must act on what the spirit instructs us to do. While this can be difficult to do at times, I am reassured by the scripture D&C 68:4 And whatsoever they shall speak when moved upon by the holy ghost shall be scripture, shall be the will of the lord, shall be the mind of the lord shall be the word of the lord, shall be the voice of the lord, and the power of god unto salvation.”
Brothers and sisters I am thankful for the opportunity I have to serve a mission. I am thankful for the Holy Ghost and the comfort that he has given me in my preparation to serve. To those of you here today preparing to serve, or are thinking about serving, go. I think back to President Jeffery R. Holland’s talk in April of last year's priesthood session, titled we are all enlisted. Elder Holland “My young friends, we need tens of thousands of more missionaries in the months and years that lie ahead. They must come from an increased percentage of the Aaronic Priesthood who will be ordained, active, clean, and worthy to serve.” But when you do make the decision to serve, and I hope you will, know that Satan will throw everything he has at you. You have chosen sides, once you have chosen to serve the Lord, and he will not hold back. He is a very real influence, who is opposed to everything in which we as Latter Day Saints stand for. But, through the Holy Ghost, and the love or our savior, we can combat anything he throws at us. Remember the story of Joseph Smith, when he entered the Sacred Grove for the first time “I kneeled down and began to offer up the desires of my heart to God. I had scarcely done so, when immediately I was seized upon by some power which entirely overcame me, and had such an astonishing influence over me as to bind my tongue so that could not speak. Thick darkness gathered around me, and it seemed to me for time as if I were doomed to sudden destruction. But, exerting all my powers to call upon God to deliver me out of the power of this enemy which had seized upon me, and at the very moment when I was ready to sink into despair and abandon myself to destruction — not to an imaginary ruin, but to the power of some actual being from the unseen world, who had such marvelous power as I had never before felting any being — just at this moment of great alarm, I saw a pillar of light exactly over my head, above the brightness of the sun, which descended gradually until it fell upon me. Find the savior, and his love in all that you do, and you will never be alone." ~ Elder Maddox