Monday, June 24, 2013

June 16, 2013
I want to post my farewell talk because I wrote it sincerely hoping and praying that it might make a difference in the life of maybe one friend. I was truly guided and blessed as I wrote this talk. I hope maybe something in it can be a blessing to a friend or stranger. I hope someone gains something by reading this. 
As I look out into the audience, I see many people that have in some way helped make me who I am today. Each of your lives has taught me something. You have helped make me a happier and better person. I hope that the spirit can be with us and maybe through something I say it can help one of you to be happier as well.
Life didn’t start at birth. And it doesn’t end at death. Before we were born we lived with  God. More than anything else we wanted to become like him and be as happy as he is. We came to earth to gain a body and learn to choose between good and evil. Choosing good is called obedience and it brings us Joy and peace. Choosing evil is called sin and it brings us unhappiness and guilt. If we have chosen Good, when we die we can live with God and become like him forever.
            But there is a problem. In Romans 3:23 it says, “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.” We are all stuck short of the Glory of God. There is a gap between where we are and where we want to be.
God sent his Son Jesus Christ to bridge that gap, by paying the price of our sins so that, if we choose to, we can be clean once again.
            In the Old Testament it speaks of what Christ suffered for us. Pay attention to some of the ways he suffered for me and for you.
Isaiah said,
1 Who hath abelieved our report? and to whom is the arm of the Lord revealed?
 2 For he shall grow up before him as a tender aplant, and as a broot out of a cdry ground: he hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see him, there is no dbeauty that we should desire him.
 3 He is adespised and rejected of men; a man of bsorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we cesteemed him not.
 4 ¶Surely he hath aborne our bgriefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.
 5 But he was awounded for our btransgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his cstripes we are dhealed.
 6 All we like asheep have gone bastray; we have turned every one to his cown way; and the Lord hath laid on him the diniquity of us all.
 7 He was aoppressed, and he was bafflicted, yet he copened not his mouth: he is brought as a dlamb to the eslaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth.
 8 He was taken from prison and from judgment: and who shall declare his ageneration? for he was cut off out of the land of the living: for the btransgression of my people was he stricken.
 9 And he made his grave with the awicked, and with the rich in his bdeath; cbecause he had done no dviolence, neither was any edeceit in his mouth.
 10 ¶Yet it pleased the Lord to abruise him; he hath put him to grief: when thou shalt make his soul an boffering for sin, he shall see his cseed, he shall prolong his days, and the dpleasure of the Lord shall prosper in his hand.
 11 He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied: by his aknowledge shall my righteous bservant cjustify many; for he shall dbear their iniquities.
 12 Therefore will I divide him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong; because he hath poured out his soul unto adeath: and he was numbered with the btransgressors; and he bare the sin of many, and made cintercession for the transgressors.
In section 19 of the Doctrine and Covenants it says, “15 Therefore I command you to repent—repent, lest I asmite you by the rod of my mouth, and by my wrath, and by my anger, and your bsufferings be sore—how sore you know not, how exquisite you know not, yea, how hard to bear you know not.
 16 For behold, I, God, have asuffered these things for all, that they bmight not suffer if they would crepent;
 17 But if they would not repent they must asuffer even as I;
 18 Which asuffering caused myself, even God, the greatest of all, to tremble because of pain, and to bleed at every pore, and to suffer both body and spirit—and would that I might bnot drink the bitter cup, and shrink—
 19 Nevertheless, glory be to the Father, and I partook and afinished my preparations unto the children of men.”
Because Jesus walked such a lonely path so utterly alone, WE DO NOT HAVE TO! He has bought our lives with his blood and you will never have to question if the Lord is there for you. We are written on his heart. He has felt all of our pain and suffering and knows us perfectly and He will not abandon us. But sometimes we think that “We know best” and decide to try and make it on our own.
Here is what I mean:
One day I decided to ride my skateboard to a friend’s apartment down by the spectrum. In order to get there I had to ride down the big hill in front of Romney Stadium. I thought about whether it was a good idea for maybe a few seconds and then decided, “I’ll be alright”.
            As I went to grab my skateboard and head out the door I thought, “maybe I should grab my helmet…” but once again I figured, “I’ll be ok.” Then as I picked up my skateboard I noticed the hardware, keeping the trucks or “axles” attached to the board, was loose. “Maybe I should tighten them…” I thought. But, once again so confident in myself I thought, “I’ll be fine”. So away I rode. For the first few blocks I rode smoothly only noticing a slight wobble every once in a while. As I came to the hill I rehearsed my game plan in my head, This is what went through my head. “Ok, I don’t want to go too fast, so as long as I take wide swooping turns across the hill that shouldn’t happen. I’ll just wait until there are no cars and use both lanes of the road.” I looked around and waited for a few cars too pass. “Alright no cars, ok here we go”. I started out slow and tentative. But was encouraged by how relatively slow my speed was after the first few turns.
            However, with each new turn I noticed a little more speed going into the turn than on the previous one and my path was less and less across the hill and more and more pointing down the hill. Probably a little less than half way down the hill I realized things were getting a little out of hand. I figured in my head, “I can jump now or I’ll have to ride the hill out” At the speed I was going, neither seemed to be a safe option. However I quickly decided that I wanted to see how good of a skateboarder I was. So I pressed on. Not two or three turns later my board was pointed almost straight down hill and I was rapidly picking up speed. Skateboard wheels aren’t really made for these kinds of speeds. They are hard and small. Longboards, which are skateboards made for going down hill, have bigger and softer wheels made to grip the pavement and absorb the vibration of small bumps and rocks. So now I was flying down this hill and the vibrations were so strong I felt more like I was riding on ice or floating a few Centimeters off the ground. At this point what went through my head was,  “OOh no… HEAVENLY FATHER PLEASE HELP ME.” I was walking on a tight rope between  turning too sharp and losing traction or going to fast and getting the speed wobbles or in other words my wheels vibrating so quickly that I wouldn’t be able to control where the board would go. I walked across this tight rope as best as I could, but it wasn’t good enough.
            My board began to wobble violently until it stuck abruptly into my small urethane wheels. I shot forward past my board gliding inches above the rocky pavement below.  Then time slowed down just long enough for me to get that sick, nervous feeling that you get in your stomach as you await your apparent doom. I said to myself, “Ok, here we go.” And then I mentally braced myself for impact.
PAUSE, Let it sink in.
            When I was deciding to go to my friend’s apartment I didn’t think, “Well should I stay home or go kill myself on my skateboard?” I never specifically made that choice. But I made many smaller choices that led me to the point when my only option was “killing myself on my skateboard.”
            I decided I wanted to play with fire…without protection…in less than ideal circumstances…and when I had a chance to cut and run, I stayed. I think, “gee Joe you aren’t the brightest kid in the world” but I do the exact same thing every day. We make stupid, small decisions that seem insignificant now, that can build upon one another until we end up crashing and burning. We call these stupid decisions, “sins”.
            Each sin takes us a little farther from the loving arms of our savior. They dull our minds until we cannot discern between good and evil, light and dark, and unhappiness and joy. We are all like photographers in this life. Trying to capture beauty and joy throughout our existence. Each time we sin we get a little dirt on our lens. If it isn’t cleaned off we wont be able to capture the beauty and joy around us or even be able to discern danger until it is upon us.
In the Miracle of Forgiveness it gives a very realistic list of sins that put a little bit of dirt on our lens. This list of sins is only what is specifically listed in the scriptures. There are now more perverted ways people try to satisfy the temporary desires of their bodies than ever before. Just because it isn’t explicitly listed in the scriptures doesn’t make it “ok”. Here’s the dirt:
Murder, adultery, theft, cursing, unholiness in masters, disobedience in servants, unfaithfulness, improvidence, hatred of God, disobedience to husbands, lack of natural affection, high-mindedness, flattery, lustfulness, infidelity, indiscretion, backbiting, whispering, lack of truth, striking, brawling, quarrelsomeness, unthankfulness, inhospitality, deceitfulness, irreverence, boasting, arrogance, pride, double-tongued talk, profanity, slander, corruptness, thievery, embezzlement, despoiling, covenant-breaking, incontinence, filthiness, ignobleness, filthy communications, impurity, foolishness, slothfulness, impatience, lack of understanding, unmercifulness, idolatry, blasphemy, denial of the Holy Ghost, Sabbath breaking, envy, jealousy, malice, maligning, vengefulness, implacability, bitterness, clamor, spite, defiling, reviling, evil speaking, provoking, greediness for filthy lucre, disobedience to parents, anger, hate, covetousness, bearing false witness, inventing evil things, fleshliness, heresy, presumptuousness, abomination, insatiable appetite, instability, ignorance, self-will, speaking evil of dignitaries, becoming a stumbling block; and in our modern language, masturbation, petting, fornication, adultery, homosexuality; and every sex perversion, every hidden and secret sin and all unholy and impure practices.
            All of these things bring us feelings of guilt and discontent in the end. They put dirt onto our lenses and lower the quality of our life now and in the future. When we sin we have the choice to either: attempt to ignore the feelings of guilt that will visit and revisit us or choose to try to mend what has been broken and be forgiven through the grace of Jesus Christ.
A good example of this is when I was probably 8 or 9. My dad owned a business selling products to RV manufacturers. Sometimes he would ask my brothers and I to come down to the warehouse and help unload shipments or do odd jobs. At the time I didn’t really grasp the idea of a time card so I never punched in and never got paid… But I did have another motivation for working at my dad’s warehouse. Each time we went to work we would bring our scooters and skateboards so that when we were done working we could explore around the warehouse riding on perfectly smooth concrete. It seemed like with one push you could almost go forever. I loved each time we got to go explore through all the giant racks and pallets full of products.
One particular time, my older brother and I were on our scooters playing, “chase the younger brother around the warehouse”. I pushed as hard and as fast as I could to get away, but I couldn’t shake my brother. I turned a corner and ahead of me on the right were these clothes washers my dad’s company made. They were actually a washer and a dryer in one to save up space in an RV. Just to the left was a small gap with a wooden board lying on the ground. I sped forward planning to step off my scooter and jump over the wooden board and continue on. But as I stepped off my scooter the bottom swung around towards the front of a washer dryer. With a big bang I left a dent in the plastic window that allowed you to see the clothes as they were being washed. 
My brother and I surveyed the damage. I knew I was dead, but my brother said it would be ok and that it wasn’t a big deal. On the drive home all I could think about was the big dent in the plastic of that machine. I felt so guilty for what had happened but I didn’t have the courage to tell my parents. On the drive home the oddest thing happened. It began to snow. Being in Washington state and living where we were, snow was a big deal. It was dumping! It was SO much snow you couldn’t even see the blades of grass mixed in!
My siblings put on their snow clothes and started making their way outside to play, but I knew I wouldn’t have any fun in the snow with all of this guilt. So I went and told my mom what had happened and then she told my dad to come over and I repeated the story to him. My dad was mad, but because I was young and innocent my brother got in more trouble than I did. Soon I was outside enjoying the snow with the rest of my family without the guilt weighing on my conscience.
Now this wasn’t a serious sin but before I told my parents what I had done, all I could feel was guilt. It consumed me. In that state I couldn’t enjoy the beauty of the snow outside! But once I felt forgiven for what I had done, I was again able to be happy and make memories with the rest of my brothers and sisters. My lens was once again clean. I am so grateful for the peace that came with being forgiven. Without it my life would be miserable.
Back to the skateboard story. When my wheel stuck into my board my body began falling forward. First my right ankle hit the rugged pavement, then it started to work its way up my body. Next was my knee then my hip then my hand then my shoulder and last of all my head. Then I was flip onto  my back with my feet leading down the hill and slid for another ten feet or so. I quickly sat up and grabbed my head to see how bad I was bleeding. There was blood all up the right side of my body but nothing happened to my head. I stood up grabbed my skateboard and threw it to the side of the road in disgust with what I had done. Hours later I realized how lucky I was. If my head had fallen two to three inches lower it could’ve changed my life. But I was spared. I was given a second chance.
Suddenly I could see clearer than ever before. I could truly appreciate the beauty around me. I was grateful for every bit of my life.
This is what Jesus Christ can do for us. He makes up those two to three inches we need more than anything. He gives us a second chance, a clean lens. The opportunity to start over and be happy again even after the all the bad choices we’ve made. This is when we are the happiest. When we are rescued and truly forgiven.
Without repentance we cannot enjoy today and we will not enjoy tomorrow to the degree of joy that was intended for us. 2 Nephi 2:25 says, “Men are that they might have joy”.
During the time of our Savior’s mortal ministry, many followed after Him, including scribes and Pharisees “out of every town of Galilee, … Judaea, and Jerusalem.”1 A bedridden, paralyzed man desiring to be healed was brought to a large gathering, but unable to get him close to the Savior, his friends took him to the roof of the house where the Savior was and lowered him down. Seeing this demonstration of faith, with a great purpose not yet known to His listeners, the Savior declared, “Man, thy sins are forgiven thee.”2
The Savior knew that many people followed Him because of His mighty miracles. Already He had turned water to wine,3 cast out unclean spirits,4 and healed the nobleman’s son,5 a leper,6 Peter’s mother-in-law,7 and many others.8
But with this paralyzed man, the Lord chose to give evidence to both disciple and detractor of His unique role as Savior of the world. Hearing the Savior’s words, the scribes and Pharisees had begun to reason among themselves, ignorantly speaking of blasphemy while concluding that only God can forgive sin. Perceiving their thoughts, the Savior addressed them, saying:
“What reason ye in your hearts?
“Whether is easier, to say, Thy sins be forgiven thee; or to say, Rise up and walk?”9
Not waiting for their response, the Savior continued, “But that ye may know that the Son of man hath power upon earth to forgive sins, [He then turned to the paralyzed man] I say unto thee, Arise, and take up thy couch, and go into thine house.”10 And he did!
By this miraculous physical healing, the Savior confirmed to all of us this infinitely more powerful spiritual truth: the Son of Man forgives sins!
While this truth is readily accepted by all believers, not so easily acknowledged is the essential companion truth: the Savior forgives sins “upon earth” and not just at the Final Judgment. He does not excuse us in our sins.11 He does not condone our return to past sins.12 But when we repent and obey His gospel, He forgives us.13
I know Christ wants us to be happy and is eager to forgive us of our sins. As we turn to him and repent we can find the most Joy and Peace possible.
Many people die with their music still inside them. Why is this so? Too often it is because they are always getting ready to live. Before they know it, time runs out.
-Oliver Wendell Holmes-
I urge you all! If there is anything unsettled in your life, seek forgiveness. Always seek forgiveness. Repent today! Repentance is the key to forgiveness. It opens the door to peace and joy. Don’t wait. Change now. Be happy now.  In the name of Jesus 

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