Farewell Talk

My name is Alec Johnson and though I see some new faces having been gone at college for so long, many of you already know me from the many ways in which you have helped to shape me into the missionary I hope to be this June.

I was going to start my talk with a joke about sitting down after 2 minutes, right Erik? Instead let me say Happy Mother’s Day to the moms, grandmas, aunts and the many other female friends and examples in my life here today. I think that the greatest compliment and present that I can give my mom is my life as a righteous priesthood holder.

I found it somewhat befitting that Erik and I should speak today given the context of our similar situations. We finished high school together, both of us spent a year away at college, and we are both beginning to enter the world by ourselves. We are working with our life skills and our own testimonies and sooner than we think, we will be out on our own. We won’t have our mothers on our missions to hold our hands, but we will surely take our memories and the lessons our mothers have left us.

Now Erik and I have had different experiences and different mothers, so I can’t tell you exactly how Erik’s mom helped him prepare to serve a mission. However, I suspect that we have similar feelings towards our mothers. I certainly feel like my mom has been the best possible mom for me. I love her and I will tell you that she has done wonders to prepare me, temporally and spiritually to live in the world and more importantly to serve our Heavenly Father’s children in Seattle, Washington. She has prepared me to serve The Lord, teach His Gospel, and help my Brothers and Sisters to act on their desire to learn and accept the Great Gospel of Jesus Christ.

While I fully understand, even though I am young, that not every mother, father, and family, in the Church has the opportunity to, or even the capacity to make the choice to have a “stay at home mom”, I feel very blessed that my Mom was able to make that choice. However, I firmly believe that the power for good that my Mom has effected in my life has more to do with her CHOICE to serve Heaven than some “idealized” “perfect” and “imaginary” notion of the perfect “mom”.  My Mom, like most moms I suspect, has much too frequently been taken for granted, overlooked for praise, and been the recipient of too many eye rolls.  My “stay at home mom” has done the cooking and cleaning and correcting and care taking that most moms are left to do, but I want to emphasize that she has done so much more for me and so much more to get me ready for missionary work than simply feeding and cleaning and correcting. My Mother is one of the greatest role models in my life. I have been blessed because I had a mother who, as stated in The Family: A Proclamation to the World, fulfilled her “sacred duty to rear … children in love and righteousness, to provide for their physical and spiritual needs (1), and to teach them to love and serve one another (2), observe the commandments of God (3), and be law-abiding citizens wherever they live” as an equal partner to my father. She did this by making her choice to prioritize me, my brothers, and my sister.  In making this choice, she has taught by her words, example, and life what I need to do to care for the physical and spiritual needs of the people living in Seattle.

First, as an equal partner to my father, my mom has raised me in love and righteousness and has provided for my physical and spiritual needs. While my mom was baptized into the church by her dad when she was 8, she has not always had her parents with her when she attended church. As a youth she had to make the decision by herself to attend church actively. Later, when she was 18, my mom left her small home town in eastern Ohio, and moved all the way to Utah and through her hard work she was able to support herself as she lived on her own and attended school. My mom married my dad in the temple and together they are raising a family in the church.  My life has been greatly blessed because of these and other choices made by my mother and father.

In Joshua Chapter 24 Verse 15, it reads:

“And if it seem evil unto you to serve the Lord, choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”

This passage of scripture from Joshua reminds me a lot of the example that my mother has shown throughout my life. Because of my mother’s testimony, she chooses to follow the Saviour. In harmony this choice, my mother has cultivated a home centered in the gospel and gave me her own example of hard work and righteous living. Because of this choice, I have been able to learn hard work after the example of my mother, but more importantly, I have developed a testimony of the truthfulness of this Gospel. These blessings, of the ability to work hard and rely on my testimony, will serve me well as I enter the mission field.

Second, my mom has taught me to love and serve those around me. If you ask my mom, she will tell you that all of my friends like her because she is “hip” and “cool.” Now for my own safety I won’t comment on that, but I will say that I have been blessed to have a very kind person as my mother and I have quite a challenge ahead of me as I look to follow after that example. I have learned a lot about charity and service after the example of my mother, and I will be able to carry the desire to serve into the mission field, where I hope it will grow exponentially.

Third, my mom has raised me to keep the commandments of God. She has taught me the importance of being active in the church throughout my childhood as she regularly attended meetings with me. Through the example of my mother I have been able to see how a testimony and membership in this church has brought peace and joy into her life. I have always known that my mom has a strong testimony of Jesus Christ and the Atonement.

I say that I consider my mom to be a personal role model to me, and this is because more than anybody else that I have ever met in my life, my mom’s personal testimony has stood out to me. The example of my mother’s conviction and the way the gospel has dramatically changed her life and consequently my own, has impressed me from a very young age. Before I gained my own testimony of this Gospel, I relied on the testimony of my mother for strength. And because of the great conviction that I recognized in my own mother, I was able to grow a strong desire to know for myself that the Book of Mormon is true, and that we have a Heavenly Father who loves us and gave us His Son, Jesus Christ to Atone for our sins. I owe my ability to stand here today and testify of the truthfulness of these things to my desire to act on the example of my mother.

My Dad recently suggested that I read the book, The Great Divorce by C.S. Lewis.  The book is C.S. Lewis’ response to William Blake’s book, the Marriage of Heaven and Hell.  In it Lewis writes of the marriage discussed by Blake, “in some sense or other the attempt to make that marriage (the marriage of Heaven and Hell) is perennial.  The attempt is based on the belief that reality never presents us with an absolutely unavoidable ‘either-or’; that, granted skill and patience and (above all) time enough, some way of embracing both alternatives can always be found; that mere development or adjustment or refinement will somehow turn evil into good without our being called on for a final and total rejection of anything we would like to retain.”  Dr. Lewis continued, “This belief I take to be a disastrous error.”  This insistance on NOT being able keep just a little bit of Hell with us is NOT to suggest that we are doomed or that we need not have hope in Christ’s Atonement.  Rather, as Dr. Lewis wrote, “A wrong sum can be put right: but only by going back till you find the error and working it afresh from that point, never by simply going on.  Evil can be undone, but it cannot “develop” into good.  Time does not heal it… …If we insist on keeping Hell (or even earth) we shall not see Heaven: if we accept Heaven we shall not be able to retain even the smallest most intimate souvenirs of Hell.”  My Mother’s example has taught me this principle, eloquently stated by Dr. Lewis, that I take to essentially be an invitation to pursue a quest for obedience–that by Choosing to Obey, by Choosing Heaven or Heavenly Father, over Hell, I can be assured that my Heavenly Father will be there to watch over and protect me. Indeed, I have grown to identify with the Armies of Helamen as described in Alma Chapter 56, Versus 47 through 48:

“Now they never had fought, yet they did not fear death; and they did think more upon the liberty of their fathers than they did upon their lives; yea, they had been taught by their mothers, that if they did not doubt, God would deliver them. And they rehearsed unto me the words of their mothers, saying: we do not doubt our mothers knew it.”

            I am very grateful for the woman who I get to call “Mom.” She has been instrumental in shaping me in to the person I will be when I enter the Missionary Training  Center, and my entire life will be affected by her choices, her example, and her teachings; the ones she gave to me as a child, as a teen, and as a young adult. If I were to describe the perfect missionary I would use phrases like: strong testimony, powerful in faith, exact obedience, having the charity of Christ, willingness to serve, and willingness to do hard work. I know I have a lot of work to do to develop these traits better on my mission, but if I have anyone to thank for helping me grow in this way, it’s my Mom.

            I know that Heavenly Father did send His Son, Jesus Christ to Atone for our sins. I know that Jesus Christ, did leave the Comforter, The Holy Ghost to guide us in righteousness. I know that our Heavenly Father has given us Prophets and Apostles to teach and exhort. I know that these Prophets existed in the time of the Old Testament and New Testament. I know that these Prophets were established in ancient America and that their history and teachings are found in  the Book of Mormon. I know that the Book of Mormon is true, that it is the Word of God, and that it testifies of Jesus Christ. I know that Heavenly Father called Joseph Smith as the first Latter Day prophet, who restored the fullness of the Gospel, including the Book of Mormon. I know that Thomas S. Monson is the living Prophet today and that he receives revelation from God to lead this church. I know these things and I know that my mom knows these things, and therefore I do not doubt in the Lord. I am excited to carry this conviction with me to Seattle Washington where I will be able to teach my fellow brothers and sisters. I am excited to be an instrument in the Lord’s hand’s for encouraging others to “choose” Heaven and I am excited to help other’s come unto Christ, partake of His Atonement, and gain a similar testimony of Christ’s unending love for them.

In closing, I testify that we have a Saviour in our Lord Jesus Christ. He has an infinite love, infinite mercy, and infinite grace that He wants to bless us with. Through His Atonement is everything good is made possible. Our sins can be forgiven; our tribulations overcome; and our sorrows and wounds healed through the everlasting power that comes from this Atonement. I testify that these things are true in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.

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