Sacrament talk I gave 8/8/10 Lindon 22nd Ward-Please tell me your thoughts!
How Have My Standards Strengthened My Testimony:
One of the missionaries that found me went home after two weeks; this was even before I had had my first lesson. I remember making him a goodbye card saying. “if I don’t get baptized, I’m going to marry a mormon.”
The life they led was unheard of to me. It wasn’t that it seemed unattainable, but non existant. Me, like every non member, asked many questions on the standard living of their life and was hung up on the fact people actually live this way. But my missionaries glowed every time I saw them. I craved their presence so that whatever they had, I could have too.
They became my role models before I even knew what their message was because of their obvious obedience and diligence, that just by looking at them I felt safe. I didn’t know I was missing anything in my life, but meeting these 2 boys, just by glance, I knew they had something I didn’t. Something greater…something real.
But I didn’t want to learn, I just wanted to see them and hope it would rub off on me somehow.
Well, it did. But it wasn’t until someone else pointed it out to me did I notice. I saw my friend Gilly for the first time in a month-I wasn’t baptized yet, and the idea of getting baptized wasn’t even close to being an option. He said to me, “Wow…Al…you look good”
I replied, “Thanks…I’m wearing a new shirt?”
He said, “That’s not what I mean…whatever you’re doing, DO NOT STOP…”
It wasn’t that I started to change because I knew I had to, but once the spirit enters your life, your souls can never be the same. I made changes without even realizing I did, I made changes before the thought of the church being true entered into my mind.
The happiness was obvious and undeniable. Then I started to consciously make changes in my life just to feel that happiness more and more.
It was noticeable to others what was happening to me, and I felt like I was the last person to know.
According to my missionaries, I was a prime investigator making progress. According to my friends and my family, I was in the process of being brainwashed. And According to me, I was simply following that happiness that kept getting stronger and stronger.
That’s what happens when Christ becomes a reality in your life. You change-not because you’re told to, but because then, you want to.
Living these ‘standards’ that the missionaries had and taught allowed me to then receive my testimony. My standards are my testimony.
My greatest blessing from living those standards; the commandments, is one of the greatest of all-being worthy of baptism. To me, being baptized was a new commitment, to a new way of living with the eternal promise of happiness-that happiness that has yet to stop growing. The blessing of receiving the Holy Ghost-that when I did, I physically felt it. I physically felt my whole body receiving nothing but a sacred, personalized, gift from God that is mine to have, mine to use, and mine to maintain.
And OH the immediate and drastic change that was! How great that felt! And the happiness I had attained then, still growing beyond what I thought was possible.
And I knew if I wanted to feel this way again, I must continue to do the only thing I knew how to do-continue to work hard, push forward with a brightness of hope, keep the commandments and maintain living the Gospel standards.
Brothers and sisters, as members of the church we do not have to figure out what our standards are. When we were baptized we agreed to follow the standards of God, to follow Christ and do what he has done-to come unto to him and hearken unto all his teachings, his guidelines and commandments, that which make up this true church that we are all a part of.
Our standards are our testimony, but it is sticking to them in all circumstances is what strengthens it.
With all the talking I have done in the ward already, I don’t think I need to bring up what happened after baptism, but needless to say with my new life and happiness, it seemed as though I was enjoying it by myself.
President Hinkley once said, “It is not always easy to live in a world, and not be a part of it.”
But I had to remember that when you stand alone, you’re standing with our Lord and Savior. I already received my answer that the church was true, and I already knew that following these standards, my now new promises, that that is when I am the happiest. I could not deny, ignore, or turn back.
I made the decision to put God first. I chose who I wanted to follow. That through those sacrifices and holding on to what I knew to be true, and living those standards that Christ personally gave to us to follow, makes enduring to the end not only possible, but enjoyable.
Now that my standards have changed and New York didn’t, I ended up becoming close with several sets of missionaries. I seemed to be free a lot of the time now and was able to go and help teach investigators and OH! what a blessing that was. The knowledge I gained, the miracles I witnessed, and that happiness that is still growing even stronger.
I started hanging out with a boy named Andrew. We grew up together but were never friends outside of the classroom. It was the first time I saw him since High School, four years ago, and the first time I saw him I told him about the church, and how awkward that must have been for him to listen to. He invited me to play with him and his brother on an indoor soccer league. I told him I would only play if I could teach him a lesson about the church before each game. I remember giving them a Book of Mormon, and their reaction was unforgettable and uncomfortable. But Andrew started taking lessons shortly after by the missionaries and quickly attained this glow, and glow that got brighter and brighter each time I saw him.
It was obvious to me and the missionaries what was happening-a prime investigator making great progress. According to his friends and family, he was in the process of being brainwashed, and, I’m sure, according to him, he was simply following that happiness that kept getting stronger and stronger.
He got baptized this past December, and being two 21 year old converts in New York was quite an interesting combination. We lived only a few blocks away from each other right in the heart of the city bar scene, where bars were connected in all 4 directions all the way down the streets. Friday and Saturday nights we would spend in my apartment putting together church talks for fun. When the streets were extra noisy we would call each other and read the Ensign on the phone, and we would text each other scriptures throughout the day, every day, even until now, to get us through.
We didn’t know what else to do except follow that now familiar, still growing happiness we were introduced to when we first met the missionaries.
We became strong by doing that, and confident, and every day by living those standards we had built up, what we felt, were finally ourselves-who we were meant to be all along. And OH! What a feeling that is! To know what you are doing is right. To know that your efforts are that of the Lord. To know that this is how the Savior wants it to be.
That when I would cry when things were hard and close my eyes in prayer, I could picture Him standing behind me, smiling. I just want to make him proud. I often think of the question, “When I see him, will he smile?” and to remember why I am here, why we are here, and to not lose sight of that.
In 2 Tim 1:18 it says, “Be thou not ashamed of the testimony of our Lord.” Do not let others alter the truth to what we should be doing. That this is our own salvation we need to work through and we need to remember what we have and that it is real. All of this is real! And all of this is so great!
Mosiah 2:41 says, “And moreover, I would desire that ye should consider on the blessed and happy state of those that keep the commandments of God. For behold, they are blessed in all things, both temporal and spiritual; and if they hold out faithful to the end they are received into heaven, that thereby they may dwell with God in a state of never-ending happiness. O remember, remember that these things are true; for the Lord God hath spoken it.”
Brothers and sisters, figure out who want to be, but more importantly figure out who your Heavenly Father wants you to be. Ask him. He will tell you. We are all children of God and we must act like it! Follow through with the covenants and standards of Him that we agreed to when we got baptized. That the more you understand Him, the more you will understand yourself-the closer you bring yourself to Him, the closer he is to you. And we must follow through with the promise I made to my friend Gilly, to DO NOT STOP.