Sunday, June 24, 2012

Farewell Talk

To those of you who don’t know me, my name is Jack Casdorph, and I will be leaving on July 5th to serve a Spanish-speaking mission in Santa Cruz, Bolivia. 

Before giving me my topic for this talk, Bishop Shaver asked me what my favorite part of the scriptures was.  Caught somewhat off-guard by the question, I answered, “1st Nephi because at this point all of the stories and experiences are on a personal or family level.”  As I thought about this more, I came to realize that this is not the main reason that I like 1st Nephi.  I like 1st Nephi because I can really relate to Nephi, not because of his unwavering faith when he broke his bow, and certainly not because he was large in stature.  I relate to Nephi because although he became a great prophet and leader, he starts out as a boy who is simply following his parents and the prophet (who in his case, happen to be the same people).  He follows his father’s example on many occasions.  One specific case of him following his father’s example is after his father, Lehi, has his vision of the tree of life.  After Lehi told his family about his vision, Nephi decides that he would like to have a vision too, just like dad, so he prays to have the same vision as his father and receives an answer.  

In his writing in the book of Mormon, the very first thing that Nephi writes is, “I, Nephi, having been born of goodly parents, therefore I was taught somewhat in all the learning of my father.”  Nephi’s parents’ examples and leadership were so important to him that they were the very first thing that he wrote about.  Like Nephi, I too have been born of goodly parents and have been taught somewhat by my parents and church leaders, and I am very grateful that I have had so many people in my life that I can look up to.  While not all of us may have had the good fortune of being born to goodly parents, we all have great people in our lives that we can look up to.

(Positive Example Not Shown)
Anybody can be an example, whether they are parents, church leaders, friends, siblings, or even fictional movie characters.  It is good to have examples to look up to in our lives.  As the youngest in my family and having 3 older sisters, I have been able to use portions of my sisters’ lives as examples of both what to do and what not to do.

While family members are very large examples in most people’s lives, an equally large source of examples is your friends.  It has been said that, “you can’t choose your family, but you can choose your friends.”  Because friends are huge examples in our lives and we can choose our friends, it is very important that we choose good friends.  This doesn’t mean that we have to choose friends who are perfect members of the church or even church members at all.  A good friend is simply someone who encourages you to be a better person and helps you in your time of need.  The For the Strength of Youth pamphlet says, “Choose friends who share your values so you can strengthen and encourage each other in living high standards.  A true friend will encourage you to be your best self.”  An important friend requirement that I believe the For Strength of Youth overlooks is that a friend should be fun.  There is nothing wrong with having fun with your friends, in fact, that’s what friends are for.  Just make sure that while you are having fun with your friends that they are encouraging you to better yourself.

Just as important as following good examples is being a good example.  Just as the people around us can affect our actions and decisions, our examples affect those around us.  While in Indiana for school this past year, I was around many people who had little or no experience with members of the church, so I was in a position to greatly alter their perception of Mormons.  I knew that based on my actions, people might decide that Mormons were a bunch were a bunch of hypocritical, self-righteous people who thought that they were better than everyone else, or that Mormons are kind, loving people devoted to service and helping others.  I’d like to think that I conveyed the latter.  On one occasion, right after one guy found out that I was Mormon, he immediately asked, “do you go to church every Sunday?” I answered with a confident, “Yes,” to which he replied, “alright, good man.”  I am thankful that I had been living my life in such a way that I could answer that question with a yes rather than saying, “not since my parents stopped making me go,” or, “only on Christmas and Easter.”  I hope that in the future whenever I am asked questions like that, I will be able to answer yes.  As members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, we are examples of our church and our actions determine whether we are good examples or bad ones.

I think that it is especially important to be good example to the children around us.  One of the songs from the musical Into the Woods entitled Children Will Listen says:

Careful the things you say
Children will listen
Careful the things you do
Children will see and learn
Children may not obey, but children will listen
Children will look to you for which way to turn
To learn what to be
Careful before you say "Listen to me"
Children will listen
I challenge all of you to take special care to be good examples around your children, younger siblings, and any other kids that you come in contact with.  Although children may seem to ignore you or not care about what you have to say, they still take notice of just about everything that you do.

I am about to serve a mission which will be the biggest thing that I have done in my life so far.  It is also one of the greatest ways that I can be a positive example.  I hope that my example may encourage some of the members of this ward to serve a mission.  I also really hope that when it is time for my three little nephews to decide whether or not to go on a mission that they will remember that their super-cool Uncle Jack went on a mission.

I would like to say that I am glad that I was called on a mission even though I was told that I was supposed to grow a foot or two first.  I am so excited for this opportunity, and while I am truly excited, I would be lying if I didn’t say that I am also a little bit terrified.  I will be going from a white kid from Utah who has never left the country to a resident of Bolivia who is expected to know Spanish.  Yo sé un poco de español, y quiero aprender mucho más.  I just said that I know a tiny bit of Spanish and I am happy for the opportunity to leard a whole lot more.  In fact, it took just about all of my Spanish knowledge just to say that, and I had to use google translate to make sure that I wasn’t saying something ridiculous like Elder Groberg in The Other Side of Heaven who says that he was called to serve as one of the Lord’s outhouses instead of one of the Lord’s missionaries.  On top of learning a whole new language, I am entrusted with the intimidating task of teaching people the gospel and inviting them to come unto Christ.  To be honest, I don’t think that I would be able to do this alone.  I take comfort in the fact of knowing that I will not be alone.  I am confident that I will have great companions to help me along the way, and I know that I will have the Holy Ghost to be my guide. Proverbs chapter 3 vs. 5 and 6 say:
5 Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.
6 In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.
While I will be doing what I can to increase my own knowledge and understanding of the gospel, I know that in the end, I must trust in the lord with all my heart and that he will direct my paths. I also know that with Christ, all things are possible. One of my favorite scriptures is Helaman chapter 5 vs. 12. It says:
12 And now, my sons, remember, remember that it is upon the rock of our Redeemer, who is Christ, the Son of God, that ye must build your foundation; that when the devil shall send forth his mighty winds, yea, his shafts in the whirlwind, yea, when all his hail and his mighty storm shall beat upon you, it shall have no power over you to drag you down to the gulf of misery and endless wo, because of the rock upon which ye are built, which is a sure foundation, a foundation whereon if men build they cannot fall. 
This scripture has always been a great comfort to me. Whenever I feel like I have, “hail and a mighty storm beating upon me” I read this scripture and remember that we have Christ on our side, we cannot fall.  I also love how this scripture doesn’t say that He will stop the mighty winds.  We will always have trials in our lives and sometimes these trials may seem too great for us to bear, but if we truly build our foundation on Christ, we cannot fall.

I would like to bear my testimony that I truly do know that this church is true.  I believe in his true and living prophets that are on the Earth today.  I know that the Lord has called me to serve a mission in Bolivia and I cannot wait to answer the call.  I believe in Jesus Christ and am grateful for His atonement. I say these things in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.