Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Talk in Sacrament Meeting

March 22, 2015 Quartzsite Talk:
(I didn't read word for word, but here are my notes.)

I would like to open my remarks with a quote from Elder Uchtdorf:

"I have searched for a story that would illustrate what I want to say.I looked for a story about farming. I looked for a story about animals.In honor of Elder Scott, I looked for a story about nuclear engineering,and in honor of President Monson, one about raising pigeons.

In the end, one story kept coming back to me—a story that has been imprinted on my memory for many, many years.It isn’t about farming, animals, nuclear engineering, or pigeons.
It is as you might have guessed—about aviation."

So as I have personally prepared for my own talk many things have crossed my mind, cheese from Wisconsin, Casinos in Vegas, The young folk of Quartzsite, maybe even a story on aviation in honor
of Elder Uchtdorf slipped in, but what I want to speak on this day is the most important event in all the history of the world, far greater than the comings and happenings in my simple life. Far more beautiful than the desert sunsets, or blooming cacti. Far more significant then the Quartzsite Chatter, or the latest news on the terrorist band ISIS.

I wish to speak about our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and the suffering and events that led to his infinite atonement and the intercession he made for us with the Father. I wish to speak about the hope and light we can find through him. I pray that we can learn more about the redeeming power of Christ. For He truly is mighty to save! And I would like to share a poem that really sets the tone for how amazing his grace is:

’Twas battered and scarred, and the auctioneer
Thought it scarcely worth his while
To waste much time on the old violin,
But held it up with a smile:
“What am I bidden, good folks,” he cried,
“Who’ll start the bidding for me?”
“A dollar, a dollar”; then, “Two!” “Only two?
Two dollars, and who’ll make it three?
Three dollars, once; three dollars, twice;
Going for three—” But no,
From the room, far back, a gray-haired man
Came forward and picked up the bow;
Then, wiping the dust from the old violin,
And tightening the loose strings,
He played a melody pure and sweet
As a caroling angel sings.
The music ceased, and the auctioneer,
With a voice that was quiet and low,
Said, “What am I bid for the old violin?”
And he held it up with the bow.
“A thousand dollars, and who’ll make it two?
Two thousand! And who’ll make it three?
Three thousand, once, three thousand, twice,
And going, and gone!” said he.
The people cheered, but some of them cried,
“We do not quite understand
What changed its worth.” Swift came the reply:
“The touch of a master’s hand.”
And many a man with life out of tune,
And battered and scarred with sin,
Is auctioned cheap to the thoughtless crowd,
Much like the old violin.
A “mess of pottage,” a glass of wine,
A game—and he travels on.
He’s “going” once, and “going” twice,
He’s “going” and almost “gone.”
But the Master comes, and the foolish crowd
Never can quite understand
The worth of a soul and the change that’s wrought
By the touch of the Master’s hand.

This poem has always deeply touched my heart. As I read this poem my heart is warmed with the knowledge that there is someone out there that loves me deeply. More than I can comprehend. It
brings me closer to my savior and leaves me with a desire to give it all to him. In his hands we are saved. He will shape us as the potter masterfully shapes clay. If we allow ourselves access to his atonement we can reach our true potential.

But how can we feel the touch of the masters hand in our own lives? How can we gain access to its redeeming power individually?

I hope today that as I speak the spirit will touch your hearts and mind and help you answer these questions. Which questions have led me to the conclusion that we can feel this power more abundantly in our own lives as we share this enabling message with others. But first we need
to 'seek' Christ's atonement, before we can declare it. We need to let it begin to grow inside us and then as we share this message it will never leave us. We will never forget his atoning sacrifice as
we bear testimony of him.

So to begin I would like to focus on a few parts of Christ’s life and atonement that have touched me in my own life. And then with a better understanding of this sacrifice we will discover the importance of sharing Christ's love with those around us.

Foreordained, Christ was chosen as our Savior, to come to earth and take upon himself the sins of the world. He has paid the price in full for all that we have done, are doing, and will do that is contrary to the will of the Father. He took upon himself all of our fear, grief, guilt, pain, sorrow, and sin. Through him we can find "rest". He has said that he is the "Light of the world" and that there is no way back to the father, but through him. There is hope even in the most blackest, darkest moments because of him.

In 1st Tim 2:6 Paul wrote with an understanding of the debt that has been paid saying: "[Christ] Who gave himself a ransom for all..."

He has ransomed for our lives, our salvation, our souls, with his every waking moment. In the song "How deep the father's love for us" the last stanza rings true in my heart. The words clearly depict the feelings I have toward my savior. It reads:

"Why should I gain from His reward?
I cannot give an answer
But this I know with all my heart
His wounds have paid my ransom"

He suffered for each and every one of us. We cannot comprehend the power and extent of this ransom. Of this eternal payment. Jacob, a prophet of the Book of Mormon,  further explaining the suffering of Christ, said "it must needs be an infinite atonement" The definition of Infinite is "limitless or endless in space, extent, or size; impossible to measure or calculate"

Truly Christ's atonement is limitless in space, extent or size, and we cannot measure the fullness of such a sacrifice. We simply cannot comprehend it. Just as our brain doesn’t understand the vastness of the universe. But we know it’s real. And we know that Christ understands us perfectly. That he suffered for us. That he experienced the hardships of life, for everyone that has walked the earth and will walk it! I also believe that he knows each of our happiest and joyous moments just as well. He knows us better then we know ourselves.

And in order to become our Redeemer, in order to be our savior Christ had to be alone, had to  experience all rejection and loneliness that we have to experience in our own lives. He had to experience that, for each and every one of us.

Isaiah speaking of the Messiah Says: “I have trodden the wine press alone; and of the people there was none with me. … I looked, and there was none to help; and I wondered that there was none to uphold me."

He had to do it alone, there was no other way. He had to show us that he could do it, and that even when we would fall short. His arms would be outstretched to catch us.

In this task of the highest demand, he was left to his own faith and will to obey the Father. And in the very place where he was to suffer for all our sins, he was left alone. In the Garden of Gethsemane he was utterly alone. With heaviness of heart, he prepared himself for what lay ahead, knowing that His three chosen leaders, apostles, and greatest disciples would be close by. With a simple plea to Peter, James, and John he spake and said "tarry ye here and watch."

As he walked just a little ways away, I imagine him with determination and gritted teeth, ready to face what he knew needed to be done. His expression calm and loving. With those he loved nearby in body and in heart. He could continue. And Falling on the ground he cried to the Father. "Take away this cup from me, nevertheless not what I will, but what thou wilt." And in these intense moments, he prayed more fervently and the pain grew to be excruciating. He was holding the weight of the world on his back. The suffering was so immense that he bled from every pore. Each drop for one of us.

And then returning to his beloved followers he encountered them sleeping. A moment that must have cut him deeply, even with the pain he was already suffering. In "Jesus the Christ" Elder James E. Talmage depicts this moment writing:

'Returning to them in an agony of soul Jesus found them sleeping; and addressing Peter, who so short a time before had loudly proclaimed his readiness to follow the Lord even to prison and death, Jesus exclaimed: “What, could ye not watch with me one hour? Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation”; but in tenderness added, “the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” '

The lord had left a simple commandment to watch, but in the hour of his greatest turmoil those that professed to never forsake him did. They couldn’t even stay awake as their brother, savior, lord, redeemer, master was suffering infinitely. But the savior in one of the greatest displays of love recognized our weakness and said: “the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” 'Even then Christ was telling us that we couldn’t do it on our own. That we may desire to follow him with all our heart, mind, might, and strength, but our flesh is weak. That we cannot overcome the natural man without him.

I can't even imagine falling asleep at a moment like that. It seemed to me there could be no way they could have slept at that moment of greatest importance. But an experience in my own life brings this scene to a reality.

As a family we were traveling with some of my other relatives to an Airshow put on by the Blue Angles. The Elite force of Naval Aviators chosen to display the power of the United States Navy. I don’t recall all the details (Quartzsite is rubbing off on me) But I do remember the excitement and
anticipation I felt to watch them fly! Ever since I was a little kid I have been captivated by aviation, my head always glancing towards the heavens, waving as the pilots I wished to be, flew by. And my family sharing a similar passion, we wanted to make the air show no matter what the cost. We wouldn’t miss it for anything! Running out of time, we drove through the night to make the show the next morning. I remember as the show began the excitement that boiled up inside of me. How much I loved watching those beautifully painted Blue and Gold F-18 Hornets tear up the sky, imagining
the pilot saying: "ready smoke". It just couldn’t possibly get any better then this. But my flesh is weak and as the show continued sleep began to overtake me. I fell fast asleep on a camping chair with my head tilted back for the rest show!! I had missed it! The very thing that I had been so excited
for, that I had admired so much. It was over just like that, I had let myself down!

Okay! so I was tired and young and you may say "Elder Clark it was just an airshow! What’s the big deal" But if my parents would have asked me the night before the show if we just wanted to skip it and find a hotel. I would have defiantly shouted "No! Air show or bust!" I wanted to go so bad that
at that moment I would have given anything to go. But when my loyalty to the pilots was put to the test, I crumbled. In the moment of exhaustion my previous determination of the night before was gone. All thoughts of unwavering devotion were lost in the temptations of sleep. Now sleeping through an Air show is nothing like sleeping through Christ's suffering in Gethsemane, but it has given me a glimpse of how easy it is to lose our fervent desires to serve. And I can imagine Peter saying to Christ "Though all men shall be offended because of thee, yet will I never be offended" and furthermore he said "Though I should die with thee, yet will I not deny thee." Peter was willing
to die for his lord and savior! He professed his loyalty in the most fervent sense. But as the darkness of night came on, His determination faded. He too had fallen asleep, just like me, through the very thing, leaving the very person who only a short while before he was willing to die for. How do we not succumb to this same folly?

We have to let the testimony of Christ reverberate inside ourselves. Let his love change the very fibers of our nature. We need to be able to say with fervent conviction: "We talk of Christ, we rejoice in Christ, we preach of Christ". He needs to be at the very forefront of our minds. He needs to be important.

In the instance of my story of the airshow, my dad had driven through the night, and on hardly any sleep he had stayed awake. Where as in my case, I had sleep in the car the night before and I still fell asleep. My father had made the airshow important to him, more important then the nagging of his body telling him to sleep, he didn’t succumb to temptation. Even in the moment of his trial he didn't lose his conviction. He understood what the event meant to him and his family. He drove through the night, sacrificing sleep, for me. His passion for flying and enjoying time spent with his family motivated him to be strong. And me being young and tired didn’t understand this. 

And just like my father, we can in our own lives resist the urge to give up, to quit. We do this by sharing the light that has changed our lives. By experiencing the atonement of Christ together with those we love. Sharing the atonement will us give the strength we need to keep our determination to serve the lord. As we make the atonement of Jesus Christ the priority of our lives we will be able to share it with those around us with greater power and conviction.

Do we make the atonement this important in our lives? So important "That when the devil shall send forth his mighty winds, yea, his shafts in the whirlwind, yea, when all his hail and his mighty storm shall beat upon [us]," do we remember who the "rock" is? Do we remember the very foundation that holds us up?

Or brothers and sisters are we sleeping through the atonement? Are we missing the very thing that will bring us the greatest joy in this life? Are we succumbing to exhaustion in the very moment we need to be putting our trust in the lord? In the very moment we need to show our unwavering faith and dedication, do we give in?

As we obey the words of Christ and see the blessings of obedience in the lives of those around us, then we will find the necessary strength to keep going. To go the extra mile. To walk the walk that our savior did for us. And just as Christ told his apostles to watch in Gethsemane. He has exhorted us to act in a similar manner. He asks us to watch over his sheep. To watch over our loved ones, our neighbors, our enemies, and those we don’t even know.

He exclaimed to Simon Peter, If ye love me then "Feed my Sheep" If ye understand my atonement then "feed my sheep" If ye feel my atonement then "feed my sheep"

President Howard W. Hunter said: “What does the Atonement have to do with missionary work? Any time we experience the blessings of the Atonement in our lives, we cannot help but have a concern for the welfare of others. … A great indicator of one’s personal conversion is the desire to share the gospel with others.”

The atonement is what drives us to share this message of the restoration to all the world. It is the reason why I am standing here before you in Quartzsite, AZ at 18! The atonement is everything. And we all are bearers of this great responsibility. To accept his atoning gift and share it with all mankind.

I recently loved hearing the talk by Elder Bednar "Come and See" that he gave in the Oct. 2014 Conference. His talk was addressed to those that were not members of the church. He shared a story about his young boys and an accident they had had. And how the older brother helped heal an injury on his little brothers arm with a copious amount of ointment and bandages. Once the little boy was all bandaged up, and taken care of he ran out the door to share with his friends the very thing that made him happy. the very thing he understood had healed his wounds. Elder Bednar says:

"Why did that little boy do what he did? Please note that he immediately and intuitively wanted to give to his friends the very thing that had helped him when he was hurt. That little boy did not have to be urged, challenged, prompted, or goaded to act. His desire to share was the natural consequence
of a most helpful and beneficial personal experience."

If the atonement truly heals us we will want to share it with all those around us.We will be full of Christ's love and we will be a light to the world.

In my own life I had an experience as a young boy that has shown me how when we are blessed, we share that feeling. My family had just gotten a new car, a Buick (an old person car)! I was so excited about this new car that I ran to my best friend’s house, who lived just a block away to tell him and his dad that we had just gotten a new car. And in between deep and excited breaths I exclaimed; We got a Buck!! A buck? they responded. Like your dad shot a deer? No, no, no I said. it’s a car and it’s called a Buck. And they said are you sure it’s not a Buick, and I said no it says buck! And so I took them back to my house to prove to them that we had gotten a buck but to my surprise it was a Buick!

In this little story I may have shared the wrong information with my friend But I was still so excited to share! And in my young little mind this was one of the greatest things that could have happened to me! a new car! I would have stood on rooftops, mountains, or trailers to show off our new car. That’s how deep and rich my excitement was. That is how joyous I felt.

Brothers and sisters do we have this excitement within us as we feel the touch of the masters hand? Are our minds turned to our savior and his atonement each and every day? Do we desire to share this
most wonderful of all gifts with those around us? Does it take all our power not to stand up in McDonalds, or Silly Als, or the Family Dollar and shout I know my redeemer lives! I know that his speaks to me today! and I know you will benefit from this gift also!

I hope this leaves you today with a better understanding and deeper testimony of what this infinite sacrifice truly is and what it means to us. As we go about our day to day activities, let us turn our thoughts to the savior let us ponder all that he has done for us. And be constantly giving thanks
and praise to him. Let us cry out to him wherever we may be. And as we feel his loving touch in our lives, let us share that with those around us. Let us not slumber as the lord is hastening his work. Let us stand firm in the day of tribulation and in the darkest moments of the night. And how blessed will our lives be if we take part of this great and marvelous latter-day work!

I can promise you that as you share what you know of the atonement and how it has blessed and changed your life you will feel and increase of our saviors love. I feel that love as a missionary each and everyday and I am forever grateful for that. As I look back on my short life and the short time I have been a missionary I see my savior at every turn in my life. He has made me who I am today, and I pray I can continue to progress to become who he wants me to be.

Isaiah knew the blessing we would receive as we share this gospel when he said: "how beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings."

We can all share the gospel. It doesn’t matter how much we know now, but as we honestly search diligently every day to feelof this enabling power we will grow. We will want to share it with those around us. And we can do it in so many ways. We can all be personal representatives of the Lord Jesus Christ, In thought, word, and action. Let us "by small and simple means" bring topass great things.

Bear testimony...In the name of Jesus Christ amen.

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