Bonjour! My name is Abby Eyre and I have been called to serve in the French West Indies, and I will be leaving for the Provo MTC this Wednesday. I am so grateful for that song and the spirit it has brought to this meeting. It perfectly introduces the topic of my talk today, and I will reference it throughout. It said everything I would like to say today. I do ask for your faith and prayers tonight, that the Spirit of the Lord will be unrestrained and with us in great abundance. I know that without the spirit my words have little value.
It is amazing to me to think about how much my life as well as the entire scope of missionary work has changed since President Monson announced the age requirement change just over one year ago. I feel so blessed to be apart of this great exodus young people out into the mission field. I was fortunate enough to be in the Conference Center at the time of the announcement, so my family of 5 sisters largely contributed to that audible gasp you heard watching from home. This change came as a shock to me, just the day before I had been discussing potential living arrangements with my cousin and roommate for the next year. But as soon as I processed the Prophet’s words, I knew that it just meant the decision I had already made to go on a mission if possible at 21, had simply been moved up. With every mission call opened each Wednesday night at Helaman Halls this last year, worldly worries seemed to matter less and less. Each time some one would open their perfectly inspired call, it occurred to me that the most important thing I needed to be working on was going on a mission. It honestly seemed like nothing else mattered. My reasons for serving a mission have changed over the years of coming to this decision. At first, I thought it would be a good experience for myself, it would help strengthen my own testimony, and I would gain maturity. However, over the past year, I have realized that although these are all excellent blessings that come of serving, the real reason I am going is because I love the Gospel of Jesus Christ and I want to invite the people of the west indies. I am going so that these people will have access to the blessings I enjoy every day. By coming unto Christ and the truth of the gospel, we become free from unnecessary uneasiness and we feel at home, rather than lost.
I spent a few months in London this summer on Study abroad, and it was the first time I left home to live without anyone from my family by my side. I lived with my best friend and cousin when I went off to BYU, so the change was, in my eyes, a little easier. I remember the first few days in London thinking, oh my gosh what have I gotten myself into, I don’t know anybody here no one does things the way I do at my own home, they like store bought jam, and what if they think my music is weird and I had all this uneasiness. It even made me feel like “how can I serve a mission when I can’t even make it through the first few days of study abroad, where I have full access to my email, cell phone and many other comforts that I wont have there!” But I remember the first time I went to church, it was the London YSA ward, and feeling at home. The people I met there were trying to follow Christ’s example. They were kind and the lessons they taught were true. It gives me great strength and peace to think of the love I feel when I cling to the gospel of Jesus Christ. It calms my fears to know that I will be surrounded by Christ’s teachings on my mission. We are at home when we follow Christ and search for his guidance.
I will speak today on the very thing these Londoners did that made me feel welcome, loved, and at home; following Christ, I love this topic because it applies to whoever you are and wherever you find yourself. Elder Holland said, “I offer you, as it says in John 14:6, the way..and the life” Come unto him as your first step wherever you are going in life and in finding your individual happiness, strength, and success.”
Come unto Me
How can we actively come unto Christ? Following Christ can be a vague concept if we don’t make a conscious effort to strengthen our relationship with Him on the reg. Technically, we are all following Christ simply by showing up here today. But we must have continual prayer and scripture study and look for ways to feel the spirit. I was once in a Sunday school class where the teacher challenged us to write down every time we felt the spirit for a week, in an effort to recognize how we feel the spirit and how often. It helped me realize that we don’t just feel the spirit while we are praying or studying our scriptures, we can feel it all the time! One thing that helps me feel the spirit even when things seem less than perfect is thinking of all the amazing blessings we see around the world. It is easy to get lost in darkness when we fail to recognize the beauty around us. We have uplifting music (not even just motab!) people giving everything to help others, people who love us, yummy food, and most importantly, a loving Heavenly Father. Anne Frank, a young girl whose world was ripped apart by the Nazi invasions of World War II said in her infamous diary “Think of all the good that is left in the world and be happy.” I believe that one way we can feel the spirit all the time, and thus come unto Christ is simply by having a good attitude. It is impossible not to feel God’s love for us when we think of all the good around us. I got an email this week from a friend serving a mission in New Zealand. “HAVE FUN, its taken almost three months for me to get that idea and now that I’m having fun the work is going SO much smoother. When you’re having fun, you’re showing Christ that you’re doing the work out of love, and he will bless you more than you could even know” It is fun to follow Christ and I know that we can feel closer to Christ when we have love in our hearts rather than frustration or worry.
Sometimes it is difficult to see all the good things in the world when it seems everything in our lives is off or not going our way.
Repentance will help us come unto Christ. In Matthew 11:28-30 it says , “Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me, for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest in your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light. We must learn to leave our shortcomings and weaknesses with the Lord, we must let Him lift the load and give peace to our souls. Elder Holland said “To anyone struggling with the burden of sin…God has a forgiving disposition. You can change. You can be helped. You can be made whole, whatever the problem. All He asks is that you walk away from darkness and come into the light, His light, with meekness and lowliness of heart. That is the heart of the gospel. That is the very center of our message. That is the beauty of redemption. Christ has “borne our griefs, carried our sorrows” Isaiah declared “with His stripes we are healed” if we want to be.” Christ has carried our burden, whether it be the burden we feel when we say something dumb and wish we could take it back, or the burden we feel with loss. How beautiful it is to know that every time I say or do something I wish I could take back, Christ empathizes and wants me to repent. As Elder Holland said, “That is the very center of our message.” I cannot wait to share this message of hope and freedom to my friends in the West Indies.
Developing Christlike Attributes
When we come unto Christ we will strive to develop Christlike attributes. In Preach My Gospel, it says, “Christlike attributes are gifts from God. They come as you use your agency righteously. Ask your Heavenly Father to bless you with these attributes, you cannot develop them without His help. In Matthew 22:36-39 A man asks Jesus “What is the great commandment in the law? He replied “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. And the second it like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.” We can show our love for Heavenly Father and the Savior by treating others with charity and love. As a mission prep teacher once told me, “true conversion to Christ is shown in how one treats others.”
In President Monson’s talk “See others as they may become” He relays the story of a young missionary who had an unusual amount of success tracting. In the story, the mission president asked the missionary how he had so much success. The young man said that he attempted to baptize every person whom he met. He said that if he knocked on the door and saw a man smoking a cigar and dressed in old clothes and seemingly uninterested in anything—particularly religion—the missionary would picture in his own mind what that man would look like under a different set of circumstances. In his mind he would look at him as clean-shaven and wearing a white shirt and white trousers. And the missionary could see himself leading that man into the waters of baptism. He said, “When I look at someone that way, I have the capacity to bear my testimony to him in a way that can touch his heart.” We must look at others and treat them the way Christ does. When we see others as the Savior does, we become more like Him. We love others more, and work harder to help our fellow man. We have a harder time becoming angry with one another and have a greater desire to serve. We become followers of Christ.
Once we decide to become followers of Christ, we must be vigilant. I am reminded of the story of Peter, who had faith enough to walk on water towards Christ, but fell into the sea when he lost focus on the Savior. He fell because he looked to the wind instead of to the Savior, he was afraid. If we look to the world instead of the Savior, of course we would fear! We must keep our eyes and hearts alert and focused on the gospel of Jesus Christ in order to stay afloat. In Matthew 14 :30 Peter cried out saying “Lord, save me and immediately Jesus stretched forth his hand and caught him. May we also look to the Lord in our trials, for he will always catch us when we ask. In the words of elder Oaks, “Following Christ is not a casual or occasional practice but a continuous commitment and way of life that applies at all times and in all places.” This means that following Christ must be our highest priority, above all “traditions of men.” It means when things are hard, we must take the council of the Lord, which will not always be easy. I remember once I had to make a decision to treat someone better than the natural man inside of me wanted to treat this person. I think we all know someone who has offended or hurt us in a way we think it too hard to forgive. They hurt me and more importantly, a loved one. I had to make a choice to treat this person with love, which did not come easy to me, and I am still not close to perfect at this. In talking to my parents about the situation, I remember my dad stating, “Christ has never abandoned us.” That hit me so hard. Christ has never abandoned us, and we must never abandon him, even when we feel we have been mistreated, we must turn the other cheek at times. However, when these difficult and trying times happen, we always have the Lord to lean on, for He has never abandoned us. We must look to Him at all times and in all things and in all places. We are reminded each week with the blessing of the sacrament, an opportunity to think on ways we can come closer to Him and take upon ourselves His name. When we forget to follow Christ, when we deviate from his way, we forget who we are and how much we are loved. He died for us, and rose again on the third day. He suffered for our sins, that we may return. He knows the way back. When we realize all that Jesus went through, it makes it easier for us to put difficulty into perspective. It is comforting to know that Christ knows exactly how we feel about anything and everything.
My favorite tradition of Christmas is after our Christmas eve meal and family talent show, the closing act is always my aunt Janine singing O Holy Night. (fun fact, this is an original French hymn) One of the lyrics says, “He knows our needs, to our weakness he is no stranger.” I cling to that knowledge that he knows our needs and our weaknesses in times of trial. I think of His great atoning sacrifice with joy in the knowledge that He understands me and each of us personally. He knows how difficult it is for me to treat someone who has hurt me with love, but invites me to do as He would. He knows exactly what I need to do, but is no stranger to my weakness.
May I close with a few words from one of my favorite church publications, the Living Christ: We bear testimony, as His duly ordained Apostles—that Jesus is the Living Christ, the immortal Son of God. He is the great King Immanuel, who stands today on the right hand of His Father. He is the light, the life, and the hope of the world. His way is the path that leads to happiness in this life and eternal life in the world to come. God be thanked for the matchless gift of His divine Son.
I am so grateful for the opportunity I have to serve and bring what brings the most joy to me to the people of Guadeloupe, Martanique, St Martin, St Barths, and other islands that I will come to know.
In the words of Bruce R McConkie, “I am called of God. My authority is above Kings of the Earth. By revelation I have been selected as a personal representative of the Lord Jesus Christ. He is my master and He has chosen me to represent Him. To stand in His place, to say and do what He himself would say and do if He personally were ministering to the very people whom He has sent me. My voice is His voice, and my acts are His acts; my words are His words, and my doctrine is His doctrine. My commission is to do what He wants done; to say what He wants said; and to be a living modern witness in word and in deed of the divinity of His great and marvelous Latter-day work. How great is my calling.
I could not be more excited to find the people in the West Indies that I promised I would bring the gospel. I know this is Heavenly Father’s work and that He wouldn’t have me doing anything else at this time.
I’m nervous, but the fact is, that the first step in coming to Christ, and may I add, bringing others to Christ, is this leap of faith. Often, the best thing for us is scary, whether it be baptism, a mission call, marriage, or any other commitment or commandment, but these are the very things that will bless us and soothe us.
Let me go forward with a prayer in my heart and steadfastness in Christ. For my greatest desire is to learn to love my Savior, and be my brother’s keeper.