Amanda’s Mission Farewell
September 21, 2014~Jamaica Kingston Mission
Good afternoon my dear brothers and sisters. My name is Amanda Garrett, soon to be Sister Garrett. If you would have asked me in the beginning of 2014 what my plans were for this year, I never would have said that I would be serving a mission. I never would have guessed that I would be standing before you as an endowed sister. For those of you who may not know, on June 21, 2014 I was called to serve a mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I have the amazing opportunity to be called to serve in the beautiful Jamaica Kingston Mission. Yea, I know, I am going to Jamaica!
I remember the day that I walked out to check the mail, as I did on a daily basis since I submitted my papers, and the big white envelope was waiting for me. I literally scram with excitement. I was overwhelmed with so many emotions. Inside this envelope was the place where I was assigned to live for the next eighteen months of my life. Where am I going? Would I be disappointed with my call? Am I really old enough to be a missionary? Is this really what I am supposed to be doing with my life?
Ever since the missionary age changed in October of 2012 I have been trying to decide if serving a full time mission was the right thing to do. I had the opinions of so many people from family members to multiple bishops to friends, it was all overwhelming. So it took me two whole years’ of my papers being “open” to decide to serve and actually finish my paperwork. So as you can imagine the day I got my mission call was an exciting moment that I had been preparing for, for two years. The problem was, I had to wait till my mom got home from girl’s camp the next day to open it. Let me tell you, that was an extremely long wait. The white envelope almost never left my side.
I was so excited to finally know where I would be going. The time finally came for me to open my call and read the well known line, “Dear Sister Garrett”. I knew that this was a call from God. I started crying immediately and I knew that without a doubt, wherever I was assigned to I would love it. I then read “You have been assigned to labor in the Jamaica Kingston Mission”… Pause… I was shocked! I am still in shock. To be honest, I was not expecting that at all. I didn’t even really realize that Jamaica was an actual country, let alone a country with a mission. I thought that it was just a tourist trap. But I am beyond excited to serve in Jamaica. Now who could be disappointed with that call? It is the perfect mission for me.
There are moments as I go through my day to day life that it hits me, I am going to serve a mission for this wonderful church. I am actually going on a mission. This is real life. I am so grateful and blessed to have been proven worthy to serve my Lord and Savior. I am so delighted that the Lord has assigned me to such a beautiful place.
President Gordon B. Hinckley said, “The happiness of the Latter-day Saints, the peace of the Latter-day Saints, the progress of the Latter-day Saints, the prosperity of the Latter-day Saints, and the eternal salvation and exaltation of this people lie in walking in obedience to the counsels of … God.” There is one way to return to live with God again and that is through obedience. Obedience is the first law of Heaven. When we obey God’s direction we will be baptized by water and then by fire, making an everlasting covenant. By being baptized we are showing God that we are willing to keep his commandments. After baptism we continue to show God that we are willing to keep his commandments by repenting whenever we make mistakes. Through repentance we are able to be free of the mistakes we have made and continue onto the path of righteousness. “If ye love me, keep my commandments”.
At different times in our lives we all, to some degree, stray from keeping the commandments. According to Elder Robert D. Hales we fall into one of two categories. The first is “natural man’s obedience”. When we disregard God’s commandments and decide to follow our own wisdom, our own desires and our own popularity we are showing disrespect for God. When we follow the ways of the world we are breaking the sacred commandments that God has given us. “If ye love me, keep my commandments”. The second is, “selective obedience”. This is when we “claim” to love God and revere him but we pick and choose the commandments that we follow. Some may not understand the full reason behind the commandment, much like a child does not understand all of their parent’s rules. As we continue to keep the commandments and not pick and choose which ones to follow we will gain a greater understanding and knowledge about why we keep the commandments. Knowledge comes through obedience. “If ye love me, keep my commandments”.
An example of being obedient without knowing why is when Adam and Eve were cast out of the Garden of Eden. Adam was commanded by God to offer all the firstlings of his flocks as a sacrifice. An angel appeared to him and asked, “Why dost thou offer sacrifices unto the Lord? And Adam said unto him: I know not, save the Lord commanded me”. The angel then taught him the purpose of the sacrifice. Sometimes we do not know the reasoning behind a commandment, but through faith and obedience we will be blessed. Just like Adam was commanded to sacrifice without knowing why, there are some commandments in our day that we may not understand reason behind the commandment. Doctrine & Covenants 89:8 says, “And again, tobacco is not for the body, neither for the belly, and is not good for man”. Back in 1833 when the Word of Wisdom was published, it was not known that smoking or chewing tobacco was harmful; that it could lead to death. But through revelation given to Joseph Smith, we avoided smoking even when the world became more accepting of it. Now we know that smoking can bring cancer and so many other health problems into our lives. Obeying the commandments, even when we do not understand why, will bring so many blessing into our lives.
Elder L. Tom Perry said, “In my judgment, four of the Ten Commandments are taken as seriously today as ever. As a culture, we disdain and condemn murder, stealing, and lying, and we still believe in the responsibility of children to their parents.
But as a larger society, we routinely dismiss the other six commandments:
- If worldly priorities are any indication, we certainly have “other gods” we put before the true God.
- We make idols of celebrities, of lifestyles, of wealth, and yes, sometimes of graven images or objects.
- We use the name of God in all kinds of profane ways, including our exclamations and our swearing.
- We use the Sabbath day for our biggest games, our most serious recreation, our heaviest shopping, and virtually everything else but worship.
- We treat sexual relations outside marriage as recreation and entertainment.
- And coveting has become a far too common way of life”
Elder L. Tom Perry is spot on. As I look around at my work place, on social media, on the news, the world is consistently breaking more than half the commandments. We must maintain our high standards and not fall to the worldly ways. As we are obedient to the commandments we will live a happier and more joyful life.
God has blessed us with the beautiful gift of agency. As the wonderful hymn states, “Do what is right; be faithful and fearless. Onward, press onward, the goal is in sight. Eyes that are wet now, ere long will be tearless. Blessings await you in doing what’s right! Do what is right; let the consequence follow. Battle for freedom in spirit and might; And with stout hearts look ye forth till tomorrow. God will protect you; then do what is right”. Because of Agency we have the choice to either choose good or evil, salvation or damnation. Obedience is full of trial and error. It takes patience and self control but as we are obedient to the word of God we will have joy and a willingness to follow Christ in whatever and wherever he leads us.
There are many modern day examples of obedience to the Lord, no matter how hard it seems. I have a dear friend named Laina Walker who has an amazing singing voice. Laina is part of an a capella group called Delilah. For those of you who do not know a capella singing is singing without the use of instruments. Laina and her group were on the Sing Off, an a capella TV show competition. While on the show she had to work hard in order to maintain her modesty standards. As women in the church we are commanded to wear modest clothing. In the For Strength of Youth it says, “Young women should avoid short shorts and short skirts, shirts that do not cover the stomach, and clothing that does not cover the shoulders or is low-cut in the front or the back”. This is the commandment of modesty. While on the Sing-Off, Laina had an extremely difficult time maintaining her modesty because the stylists would try to get her to wear immodest clothes. But, as she stayed strong to her testimony and to her obedience to the Lord she was able to always be dressed modestly. Without knowing it, she became an example to many young women across the world.
There are many blessings from obeying the commandments. One such blessing is very prominent in my life right now as I prepare to serve in Jamaica. On June 8, 2014 Elder Holland went to Jamaica and organized the first stake of Zion in my beautiful mission. After 173 years of missionaries coming and going, of the church growing, there is finally a stake in Jamaica! According to Deseret News, “The creation of Jamaica’s first stake represents the culminating reward for decades of labor. The first missionaries from the Church arrived on the island in 1841, but due to persecution that followed, they were reassigned to other locations. In 1970, the first chapel was built in Mandeville. A few years later, Victor Nugent, his wife, Verna, and his son, Peter, were baptized, becoming the first LDS Jamaican family on the island. In 1978, Elder M. Russell Ballard dedicated the land of Jamaica for the preaching of the gospel, planting the seeds that would flourish in the decades that followed. Currently, the Church has more than 5,000 members and 17 meetinghouses in Jamaica.” The Jamaican people who have been converted to the Lord and to this Gospel have been blessed to have their own stake. It is through the hard work of Priesthood leaders and the dedication to remain worthy has this blessing come about.
In Preach my Gospel it quotes Elder L. Tom Perry, “The discipline contained in daily obedience and clean living and wholesome lives builds an armor around you of protection and safety from the temptations that beset you as you proceed through mortality”. Obedience will help protect us from temptations and from physical and spiritual harm.
To the beautiful youth of this ward, I love you. Because I love you, I cannot stress enough the importance of obeying the commandments. I know how hard it is to be in the world but not of the world. I was in your shoes not that long ago, I know what goes on in high school and the troubles that you are struggling with. It may seem that the “popular kids” are having so much fun when they drink, swear, breaking the Law of Chastity or watch R rated movies, that on the outside they have such a better life than you. But that thinking is false. When we are obedient to all the commandments you will have more freedom then them, you will be protected from danger and so much more. Elder Boyd K. Packer said, “Obedience to God can be the very highest expression of independence. Just think of giving to Him the one thing, the one gift that He would never take… Obedience- that which God will never take by force-He will accept when freely given. And he will then return to you freedom that you can hardly dream of- the freedom to feel and to know, the freedom to do, and freedom to BE at least a thousand fold more than we offer Him. Strange enough, the key to freedom is Obedience”. We will have more freedom than we can imagine, when we are obedient to the laws that God has placed for us. We will be blessed beyond our comprehension when we follow those laws with exactness.
Doctrine & Covenants 14:7 says, “And if you keep my commandments and endure to the end you shall have eternal life, which gift is the greatest of all the gifts of God.” Eternal life is our goal, that is what we need to aim for. Eternal happiness, not worldly happiness. I know that when we obey the commandments not only are we showing our love for our Lord and Savior, but we will also receive the blessings of eternal life. Thomas S. Monson said, “There is no need for you to sail uncharted seas or to travel unmarked roads in search of truth. A loving Heavenly Father has plotted our course and provided an unfailing guide- even obedience”. Being a teenager in this day is a hard thing. But I promise, God promises, that as long as you obey the commandments you will be blessed. Young men, prepare to serve missions now. Do what you have to do to get on your missions. It doesn’t matter if your 21 years old, 18 years old or 8 years old. Start preparing now. It is a commandment that all worthy men should go on missions. Start preparing now. Girls, there is no reason why you shouldn’t prepare as well. Whether you eventually decide to serve a full time mission or you are a member missionary the preparation will help you to remain obedient to the Lord throughout your life. So girls, start preparing now. The preparation for a mission will help you gain a greater testimony of the Book of Mormon and of this church.
As the October 8 Provo MTC entrance date comes nearer, I have been thinking of all the many people who have helped me get to where I am today. Thank you Rocklin 4th ward for being such a wonderful family and helping me grow spiritually these past six years. Thank you Bishop Matthews, Brother Haas and Brother Ohler for being an amazing bishopric. I know that these men have been called by God to be the Bishopric of the Rocklin 4th ward in this time. There is no doubt about that. As I have been preparing to serve a mission I have seen a different side of these men and all I have felt while being interviewed by them is support, love and peace. I am so grateful for them, we are truly lucky to have them lead this ward. And thank you to my family. Who knows where I would be without them.
I love this gospel. This gospel is the true gospel on the Earth. It is true in Rocklin, Ca, it is true in Jamaica, it is true in China, it is true in Tonga it is true in the Bahamas. It is so true. I know that we have a Heavenly Father who loves us more than we can comprehend. He loves us so much that he sent his son to die for us. I am so grateful for the Atonement. I love my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.