Missionary Farewell Talk, 21 June 2015
Happy Father’s Day!
Every month there are more than 100 billion searches requested on Google. Google (and Siri) have become the sources of knowledge and the bestowers of answers to every question. Even when it comes to spiritual or life questions, it seems that many have stopped asking God for direction and instead turn to their devices. Is it possible that man’s trust is shifting more and more from God our Father to Google?
One of Google’s goals is to understand your mind better than you do so that when you search, the very first answer that pops up is exactly what you want to see. Google indexes
20 billion pages a day, resourcing every possible page on the internet into its system to make sure you get the information you desire.
I had an interesting experience two years ago this week, while in Toronto with my cousin Rick Turley. We were doing research on Theodore Turley, our 3rd ggpa. Here’s what I recorded on June 19th, 2013:
Our most exciting find today was a Sunday Plan, or schedule for the Methodist preachers in the Brampton Mission in Upper Canada in 1836. You’ll see Theodore Turley listed there, and where his preaching assignments are for October, November and December. We happened upon this document in an unexpected way. After several hours of cranking microfilms, looking at The Christian Guardian Newspapers, we were bug-eyed and tired and decided to take a walk from the Library, downtown to where Yonge and King Streets cross, about a mile from where we were. That’s where Theodore’s blacksmith shop was from about 1826 to about 1832. Today it’s in the heart of downtown Toronto, feeling much like NYC. We found the busy intersection there and stopped to eat PB&J sandwiches we packed this morning from the breakfast buffet at our hotel. We looked straight up at the towering skyscrapers around us and tried to imagine being there in the 1830s. We walked up and down each quadrant of the intersection, covering all of our bases (and Theodore’s) before heading back to the Library.
We were a bit discouraged about not finding anything earth-shattering this morning, so we sat and re-grouped for a few minutes, with our laptops and search engines purring. That’s when we discovered something interesting. When you do a common search, your computer reads where you are, and it searches items according to that location, as if it’s doing you a favor. It usually is. What we found today is that when you are in Canada, your search engines search Canadian sources that you may never see in America. All of a sudden, a whole new world opened up to us! We started finding things we’d never seen before when searching the same names, terms or phrases back home.
That’s how we happened onto this Preacher’s schedule. It was in a Canadian student’s thesis paper about women preachers in the 1830s in Upper Canada. One of the preachers listed is a woman. It was something about Petticoats at the Pulpit. Bingo! There was Theodore! You just never know what you may find around the next corner, or in the next search. Now I know one more reason to travel to the places you need to conduct your research. We spent the next 5 or 6 hours at our computers finding all sorts of information that will help us in our quest to know Theodore and his family better.
Depending on what you’re looking for, Google actually gives suggestions more than it gives answers. It determines where you are in the world and it thinks it knows you and your needs, but only as far as the coding will go.
But God, our Father, knows each of you from the inside out, from your past to your future. He’s got every answer you’re looking for, every solution to your problems, every comfort for your distress. And yet, we often bypass His counsel for search engine results, which are usually suggestions and opinions, by those less informed than He.
God’s answers are not always instantaneous. Often He uses time to teach lessons and reveal new things. God’s answers are personal and efficient. They are far-reaching, coming from His perspective, not our earthly view. They can be trusted, even when not understood because he knows us (not just as we are at the moment, but as we have been and will be in the future).
James, thought to be a brother of Jesus, recorded a verse we are quite familiar with:
If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God [our Father], that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.
It’s almost as if he was speaking to us, in our Google day and age.
Bruce R. McConkie said about this verse: (DNTC, 3:246-47)
“. . . this single verse of scripture has had a greater impact and a more far reaching effect upon mankind than any other single sentence ever recorded by any prophet in any age.
“It might well be said that the crowning act of the ministry of James was not his martyrdom for the testimony of Jesus, but his recitation, as guided by the Holy Ghost, of these simple words which led to the opening of the heavens in modern times.
“And it might well be added that every investigator of revealed truth stands, at some time in the course of his search, in the place where Joseph Smith stood. He must turn to the Almighty and gain wisdom from God by revelation if he is to gain a place on that strait and narrow path which leads to eternal life.”
One of my dear friends, now living with her family in Qatar, in the Persian Gulf, forwarded to me a letter this week from her son, Elder Jonathan Shumway. He returned home on Thursday from the Melbourne, Australia Mission where he spoke Vietnamese . He shared this testimony:
“I now know not only does God live, but He loves us in an incredible, beautiful way. He sees our potential and never gives up on us. I have seen this play out so many times in this mission. I have witnessed hundreds of people say their first prayers and hundreds more see their prayers answered. I have seen people come into contact with different missionaries several different times, [and] eventually, make that step and begin following Jesus Christ by being baptized. I have seen an investigator I taught be baptized after more than a year of meeting. God sees time differently. He is patient with us, quick to forgive on conditions of sincere repentance, and [He] constantly puts people in our lives that we learn from, so we can become more like Him.”
Many of you know I’ve been very involved the last 2 years with some big projects–some relating to family history, and some to Days for Girls, a humanitarian non-profit I work with pretty much full time. These are things that are not easy for me to walk away from. I’ve had many conversations with friends as I’ve tried to figure out God’s timing for us and where He would have us be. I am grateful for faithful friends who have cheered me on and have blessed my life when I’ve struggled to step away for awhile. One dear friend shared with me this thought from Elder Neal A. Maxwell:
“The same God that placed that star in a precise orbit millennia before it appeared over Bethlehem in celebration of the birth of the Babe has given at least equal attention to placement of each of us in precise human orbits so that we may, if we will, illuminate the landscape of our individual lives, so that our light may not only lead others but warm them as well.”
I have watched first hand, up close, the orchestration of a movement. Every day I’ve watched miracles unfold with thousands of women and young women here in Utah, and in countries far from us. I know God’s hand is in the details. And because I’ve seen His work unfold in my life, I trust Him with all my heart. And I trust He knows where we need to be next.
Trusting Him is what I choose to do. Not man. Not Google. Not my own perspective. I probably would have said, “Maybe next year, not now. I’m too busily engaged in good causes.” Perhaps I am too close to my own self to see His heavenly perspective.
“Can you imagine a more compelling motivation to worthwhile endeavor than the knowledge that you are a child of God, the Creator of the universe, our all-wise Heavenly Father who expects you to do something with your life and who will give help when help is sought for?”
“The Dimension of the Spirit,” Improvement Era, Dec. 1964, p.1092.
When I was on my mission many years ago in South Africa, I attended a Zone Conference at a time when I was feeling down, discouraged and unhappy. I wondered why. I loved my mission and the work we did. I loved the people. I was just feeling a bit confused because I felt a bit down. When we read these verses from King Benjamin in Mosiah chapter 4, my life changed. Whenever I am discouraged or lonely or sad, I recite these words and my heart changes:
9. Believe in God; believe that he is, and that he created all things, both in heaven and in earth; believe that he has all wisdom, and all power, both in heaven and in earth; believe that man doth not comprehend all the things which the Lord can comprehend.
10. And again, believe that ye must repent of your sins and forsake them, and humble yourselves before God; and ask in sincerity of heart that he would forgive you; and now, if you believe all these things see that ye do them.
11. And again I say unto you as I have said before, that as ye have come to the knowledge of the glory of God, or if ye have known of his goodness and have tasted of his love, and have received a remission of your sins, which causeth such exceedingly great joy in your souls, even so I would that ye should remember, and always retain in remembrance, the greatness of God, and your own nothingness, and his goodness and long-suffering towards you, unworthy creatures, and humble yourselves even in the depths of humility, calling on the name of the Lord daily, and standing steadfastly in the faith of that which is to come, which was spoken by the mouth of the angel.
12 And behold, I say unto you that if ye do this ye shall always rejoice, and be filled with the love of God, and always retain a remission of your sins; and ye shall grow in the knowledge of the glory of him that created you, or in the knowledge of that which is just and true.
It has become my quest to know and to listen to God, my Father, so that I might always rejoice and be filled with His love. I feel that love when I seek His wisdom and His guidance and His will.
I am grateful for an earthly father, who listened to a missionary when I was just a little girl. Recognizing God’s will in his life, changed my life too, and all of our family.
I testify, as President Eyring, that
“Logical thinking will not be enough to get answers to the questions that matter most in life. We need revelation from God.”
As we embark on this 3 year mission, away from you and our children, and our work, I trust that God is at the helm. He knows us, and where we need to be. And I have no doubt we will be filled with His love and always rejoice as we try to do His work.
The best part of our Farewell Sunday today was meeting 5 of our recently-called Elders and Sisters. Here are Sister Sandra Atkinson and Sister Madison Averett! Oh my, this is going to be fun! I wish I had photos of all of them. We will be reunited soon in Yakima!