Missionary Farewell – Prophets
October 13, 2013
About a year ago, I went to a church meeting that I didn’t want to attend. I don’t remember which, but I was either forced out the door, or dragged by my leg to the relief society room on the west side of the building. I don’t remember the exact name of the speaker but he called himself Abie, which was a nickname given to him as a kid. Abie was a well dressed man that told us he was a member of the LDS church, from Africa.
His story began with a neighbor of his speaking to the Mormon missionaries. His father informed Abie, who was about 19, and the rest of the family that if any of the family were to talk to the Missionaries, they wouldn’t be welcome back into their home. A few days passed and Abie was approached by the missionaries. Abie let them know that it wasn’t a good idea to be talking to him at that time, but he was curious and wanted to know what they had to say. It was decided that they would meet with Abie in the forest deep behind his home. He learned of the first vision and the restoration of the church and continued to set up meetings behind his father’s back. Abie made the decision that he wanted to be baptized but knew what would happen if anyone found out. As anyone would be, Abie was terrified to tell his father and his family who he loved so much. Abie decided that not only would he be baptized, but he would also serve a mission. The preparations were made and papers were filed and he was given a call. I don’t remember where exactly he was called but it wasn’t any further than days trip from his home. At this point he still hadn’t told his father about the things he had been doing or the choices he had been making. It was within weeks of him leaving on his mission and he finally worked up the courage to tell his father. What happened was exactly what Abie feared most. His father told him he wasn’t welcome in their home. Abie packed his things and wasn’t given anything from his family other than a ride out of town.
When he got to this part of the story he kept reminding us of how much he loved his family and father despite of everything going on. He told us that when he entered the MTC he had nothing other than one pair of dress pants and one white shirt which had been a gift. Not because he grew up in poverty, but because his father literally left him with nothing. He served his mission, writing only a few letters to friends back home. When he returned from his mission he didn’t immediately go back to his home. I think he told us he waited many months before working up the courage to go back home. I’m pretty sure when he went home that he crawled through the window of his brother’s bedroom late one night. Now I can’t remember how hostile the reunion was when this happened but I think he was reminded that he wasn’t welcome at home.
This story isn’t nearly as cool or powerful without the ending he gave us. He told us that the Lord softened the heart of his father. Not only enough to allow Abie back home but enough for the entire family to become members of the church. That alone I thought was awesome but Abie told us that at the time he was speaking to us, his father was in the bishopric of his home ward.
I tell this story for a few reasons but the main one being that at the time Abie had spoken to us, I myself was debating whether going on a mission would be a good idea or the right fit for me. I had a ton of good examples and people that would support me if I chose to go but because of some selfish reasons I was still on the fence. I had a million and one excuses of why I didn’t need to go. They could have brought in a few hundred other guys that day to speak to us and it probably wouldn’t have made that much of a difference in my decision to go on a mission. Abie’s message . . . on this specific day . . . to speak to us . . . and tell us his story . . . WAS FOR ME PERSONALLY. I know Abie benefited the testimonies and lives of other people who had heard it . . . but I’ve never been so blessed by a single meeting. The entire time he was talking I was just going through the excuses in my head of why I couldn’t go on a mission. I didn’t know enough doctrine or scripture to go . . . Abie had only been taught for a few months and knew very little. I had to sacrifice time away from the people I loved . . . Abie had to give up those people and thought he would never see them again. He had nearly nothing that would allow him to go on a mission, but he decided to go. All of my excuses didn’t even come close to what he had to go through to serve a mission. If Abie could do it . . . with all of these sacrifices, I wouldn’t feel okay choosing NOT to serve a mission. I had been given so much more than Abie . . . and I was just going to take advantage of those blessings and not give anything back to Heavenly Father. There are so many other great meetings and examples that helped me make my decision to go on a mission, but I feel like that specific meeting made everything clear. At that moment, I decided to serve a mission.
I wish everyone could see the faces of my parents and Bishop Wadley when I told them. When I stood at the pulpit and announced that I would serve a mission in Romania/Moldova I watched one lady’s jaw bust off her face and hit the floor. Not because of the place, but because it was Keegan Brown standing at the pulpit.
To the topic at hand . . . I’ve been asked to speak on Following the Prophets.
Listening and following the teachings of the Prophet. I broke it down it down individually into first listening, then following and finally partaking of the blessings that come from living the council of the Prophets.
First . . . listening to the teachings of the Prophets. This could be the easiest, or perhaps the most difficult of the three. Easiest, because we all know where to go or where to look to find the teachings of the Prophets. It’s sometimes as simple as turning on your television conference weekend and having the Prophet speak to you while you sit in your living room. Difficult, because most of the time we think we have other things to do or things that we would rather be doing during that time. But just like I was forced into that meeting a year ago, any single church meeting or talk could make a huge difference. Why do we have to listen to the modern Prophet if we already have teachings and commandments from past Prophets? I always asked myself . . . “What if Christ were to be giving a talk tomorrow, would you go? I was asked.” Ya I would go, I totally set myself up by saying that because they came back with “The Lord continues to speak through his Prophets today.”
In Amos chapter 3: verse 7 “. . . surely the Lord God will do nothing, but he revealeth his secret unto his servants the Prophets.”
In D&C chapter 1: verse 4 “. . . and the voice of warning shall be unto all people, by the mouths of my disciples, whom I have chosen in the last days.”
In a talk given by Sister Virginia Jensen, she said. “Prophets ancient and modern were and are giants of the Lord, chosen and ordained before they came to this earth. Our Prophets are men whom the Lord has raised up specifically to preside over the church for the particular time in which they have served. The Lord is working through the leaders of his church today, just as he has always done in the past.”
With the change of the mission age announced by President Monson . . . our modern day Prophet . . . I am able to leave for my mission one month before I turn 19. How exciting! But it really was exciting, to watch as the kids my age, attend seminary and church more often. How almost every Wednesday, over several months, meant someone you knew well would be called to serve a mission. One of my close friends, left the week after graduation. I know there’s a reason behind me leaving so late . . . maybe so my mom got to spend time with her baby-boy for just a few more months.
Second . . . following the teachings of the Prophets. Isn’t it true that this step is only possible by doing the first step? It may be the toughest one for my age group because we are always being taught doctrine in church and seminary but to actually follow some of the commandments given us, may require the sacrifice of other things we find more enjoyable.
The Teachers manual gives a lesson about following a Prophet today and says, “Some people believe in following in everything they think is right. However, when they think something isn’t right or it doesn’t appeal to them, they become their own Prophet. They decide what the Lord wants and what the Lord doesn’t want. When we decide that we will not keep or follow some commandments, we are taking the law of the Lord into our own hands and becoming our own Prophets. We will be led astray. Those who follow the living Prophet only when it is convenient become false Prophets unto themselves”
I know I’ve shrugged-off things, thinking that some commandments aren’t as important as others and I can get away with ignoring certain things. I just think about how appealing that looks to the Adversary. A member of the church who begins to make their own decisions, the Adversary could easily tempt these people and they would begin to listen to him thinking “I think that is really what the Lord meant when he gave me that commandment.” It’s a trap!
There’s a talk given by President Ezra Taft Benson. Titled: Fourteen Fundamentals in following the Prophet. I’ve selected a few to share . . .
Number two on his list reads: “The living Prophet is more vital to us than the Standard Works.” Sweet! All I need to do is watch conference and I’m good! Of course President Benson still wants us to read and follow the standard works but is just emphasizing the importance of listening and following the Prophet’s teachings.
The fourth: “ the Prophet will never lead the church astray” this one is by far the simplest of the fourteen but I feel it’s the most powerful.
The fifth: “the Prophet is not required to have any particular earthly training or diplomas to speak on any subject or act on any matter at any time.” Dad - I’ve been meaning to tell you that I don’t need to go to college when I get home . . . and I know he will tell me, “oh well, the world needs ditch diggers too!” Back to President Benson . . . This one just reminds us that the teachings of the Prophets are the Lords voice and He is using each Prophet as His voice.
Ninth: “the Prophet can receive revelation on any matter, temporal or spiritual”
Twelfth: “the Prophet will not necessarily be popular with the world or the wordly.” I think this is something we deal with every day. People just don’t understand why we do the things we do in the church, but they won’t take the time to learn it for themselves. A woman I met on vacation talked with me about the church and at the end told me she couldn’t believe that I could go all this time without living a certain way that she was more familiar with. However, another woman . . . a newlywed kinder-garden teacher from Boston . . . whom we’d only met days earlier . . . when we said good-bye . . . hugged me and told me how proud of me she was. Brothers and Sisters, I didn’t do this myself . . . it wasn’t just me . . . I’m no different from any other missionary . . . no different than you . . . or the young men and women who will stand here next month or year . . . the Lords hand was guiding me . . . the Lords hand was guiding her.
Fourteenth: “ the Prophet and the Presidency, the living Prophet and the First presidency, follow them and be blessed, reject them and suffer.” It wasn’t until I began to live this last one did I find it to be true
The third step is receiving the blessings that come from listening and following the teachings of the Prophets. I have many blessings in my life that I was given even before I was old enough to understand many of them.
The greatest blessing . . . I’ve been given . . . is my family.
Brothers and Sisters, I know the council of our Prophets, both ancient and modern, is true. We just have to listen, follow, and reap the blessings and rewards promised to us by doing so.