"Good afternoon, brothers and sisters. [BAH-REE OARHS BARON YEV TAKEEN. AYO, YES HASKANUM EM YEV HOSUM EM HAYREN ME KEETCH BITES VOTCH SHOT LAV. SHORDHAKALUTSOON YEV TSE-TEH-SOO-TYOON]. In English, good morning sirs and madams. Yes, I can understand and speak Armenian a little but not very well. Thank you and good-bye. It is a privilege and blessing to be speaking here today in front of family and friends. As was said, I have been called to serve in the California Arcadia Mission speaking Armenian.
I don’t know about everyone else but I had no idea there was even an Armenian population in California, let alone a mission.] [Nevertheless,] I am thrilled to be called to serve the Lord and the Armenian people in California.
Not only do I get to learn and be immersed in such an exotic language and culture, but I also get the luxuries of home such as Taco-Bell and hot showers. But I’m sure most of you, just like I did, are wondering how many Armenians could possibly be in California and how often I’d really be speaking the language. So let me read you some facts about Armenian Arcadia.
a. The 2010 American Community Survey estimates that there are a little less than 1.5 Million Armenian Americans here in the U.S. The highest concentration of Armenian descent in the Los Angeles area with estimates of 450,000 – 800,000.
b. Ironically, Glendale, California, [an area inside my mission] is widely known as the center of Armenian American life. With about 40% of the city's population of Armenian origin.
c. And approximately 53% of the ethnic Armenians living in the United States referred to the Armenian language as the 'Language Spoken at Home'.
I have to admit, this is my first talk in Church. I’m not sure how this happened seeing how I have been in this ward for about 12 years… but I guess I should get used to speaking seeing how I will be doing it everyday for the next two years.
Today I have been asked to speak about how being steadfast in Christ strengthens missionaries. To begin I’d like to discuss what it means to be a missionary, and why the church places such a strong emphasis on missionary work. Elder M. Russell Ballard wrote, “ We know the purpose of life. The rest of the world doesn’t. It rests on the shoulders of every young man to prepare himself to declare that message to the world.”
This is precisely the reason that young men in the church should want to serve a full time mission, to fulfill the commandment given in Doctrine and Covenants section 88 which reads, “Behold I sent you out to testify and warn the people, and it becometh every man who hath been warned to warn his neighbor.” We as members of the church have been given a great blessing by already receiving this Gospel, and because we have been given much, we too must give. It is for this reason that I have made the same choice to serve an honorable full time mission. I want to testify to the world about the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon and the comfort, and joy it brings to my life.
If the Book of Mormon is the keystone of our religion, then Christ is the foundation upon which the arch is built. His time on this earth provides an example of what it is to live a perfect life, and it is for our eternal benefit to follow his example. As missionaries work harder to gain Christ-like attributes, they will become more in tune with the spirit, and therefore better able to bring souls unto Christ. Doctrine and Covenants section 18 says, “Remember the worth of souls is great in the sight of God”.
Christ loves each and every individual, regardless of sin. What a great blessing this is to know that our Father in Heaven will love us no matter our mistakes. Missionaries must develop this Christ-like love in order to effectively serve and teach the people that they too can become worthy of all the blessings He has to give.
2) What makes a good missionary?
A good missionary is one who not only serves the people, but truly loves the people with the pure love of Christ. Preach My Gospel, a guide to missionary service, says that “Charity is a gift from God….your love for all people will increase, especially those among whom you labor. You will come to feel a sincere concern for the eternal welfare and happiness of other people. You will see them as children of God with the potential of becoming like our Heavenly Father, and you will labor in their behalf….You will develop charity as you look for opportunities to serve others and give of yourself.”
Christ was the perfect demonstrator of charity, as His mortal ministry was centered on love. He provided the ultimate example of love, when He sacrificed himself so that all mankind may be saved. By following Christ and His example, missionaries can truly become strengthened and be better qualified to teach His word. But in order to follow Christ, we must first have faith in Him.
Faith, as defined in Alma chapter 32 “is not to have a perfect knowledge of things, therefore if ye have faith ye hope for things which are not seen which are true”.
Faith is a cycle; in order to come to know for ourselves what things are true, we must first have faith in those things, and the Holy Spirit will then manifest to us of the truthfulness thereof. Missionaries who have faith in Christ will have their faith increased, just like the old Primary song: “Faith is like a little seed; if planted it will grow”. Proverbs 3, verses 5 and 6 advises to “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart, and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him and he shall direct thy paths”. If we have faith in the Lord, we find ourselves blessed.
I found this to be particularly true in the BYU Testing Center: During this last year at BYU, I got into the habit of praying before a test. So, sometimes when I would forget to pray before a test, I felt like I wasn’t as able to recall the information I had studied. But when I would pray for help and guidance, I found myself better able to recall information, and, as a result, did much better on those tests. And I know this principle will be true in the mission field. If missionaries will trust in the Lord and rely on His divine intellect to guide them by following Christ’s perfect example, then they will be blessed with being true Disciples of Christ.
According to Elder M. Russel Ballard, the most important knowledge you can acquire will be the assurance that you are a true disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ. “The word disciple comes from the Latin word discipulus, meaning “pupil”. Many people think that to be a disciple means simply to follow, with a connotation of following blindly. But becoming a true disciple is nothing of the sort.”
Being a disciple requires us to learn and to know of Jesus Christ, to study the principles of truth for ourselves and to receive answers; in other words, to receive knowledge. Once we have knowledge of the simple principles of the Restoration, combined with a deep and abiding faith in the truths we do not yet know, we become true disciples of Jesus Christ, and not simply followers.
The difference between being a disciple and a follower is like the difference between a ship’s anchor that is lodged solidly at the bottom of the sea, holding the ship fast, and an anchor that is merely suspended in water because the chain is too short. Such an anchor may appear to be doing its job when the seas are calm, but it serves no purpose when waves are high or during storms. Remember these words from the prophet Nephi:
“Wherefore, ye must press forward with a steadfastness in Christ, having a perfect brightness of hope, and a love of God and of all men. Wherefore, if ye shall press forward, feasting upon the word of Christ, and endure to the end, behold, thus saith the Father: Ye shall have eternal life.”
Every great prophet, including those in the Old Testament, the New Testament, and the Book of Mormon, has had to go through the process of becoming a true disciple by coming to an unshakable knowledge of Christ. Each one has had to ask himself, Is Jesus Christ the Son of God, our Eternal Father? Does He live and does He preside over His church today? As I strive to become the best missionary I can be, I will have the opportunity to testify of the knowledge that I have of these things, so I can touch the lives of others and bring them to the knowledge of the gospel.
The knowledge that Jesus Christ is the Savior and Redeemer of the world provided the courage for Meshach, Shadrach, and Abed-nego to enter a fiery furnace without fear. Abinadi’s knowledge of Christ gave him the power to testify of Christ while being burned to death by the wicked priests of King Noah. And the same knowledge that Christ lives gave Nephi the power to endure the incessant insults of his brothers and gave him the strength to suffer until his brothers broke the strong cords that held him bound during a storm at sea.
The scriptures are filled with righteous acts and testimonies of men and women who came to know for themselves that Jesus is the Christ. I know at times that the knowledge that Christ is the Savior has provided me courage and comfort when I have needed it most.
Two years ago this upcoming spring, one of my best friends mother passed away and left this Earthly life to join her Heavenly Father again after having fought the good fight against cancer. I was heartbroken to hear of the loss because she was like a second mother to me after having grown up with her always there to greet me at the door or to offer me breakfast after I’d let myself into the house on Saturday mornings. So as I attended the service the following week, my heart wept as I spoke with my friend, his two younger brothers’, and his father. I was upset because it seemed so unfair that this had to happen to such a dear family to me. Not only to me, but also to her three little boys whom I had grown up with. But as the service went on I noticed a smile on the family’s face. A smile that lifted up my spirits because they knew that their wife and mother was in a better place. That she was in the arms of her Father and knew they would see her again. Their smiles and my friends desire to continue on the path to serve a mission inspired and drove me to go on a mission. I knew this was the path I needed to follow so I could give others the knowledge and faith in Christ that I have and has kept me anchored in happiness, even when the times were dark. To give them the knowledge that even though they may have lost a loved one, that through Christ, they could see their families again. They say that every missionary is sent to a specific mission for one specific reason or family. I know that I have been called to serve in Arcadia because some family needs me to teach them that families can be together forever.
That same testimony of Christ can be yours, because the gospel has been restored in its fullness in these last days. So I challenge you to have a steadfast faith in Christ. My testimony and knowledge came as a result of my personal faith and prayers. I ask my Heavenly Father to bless me with faith and courage, and I know He will help you endure any challenges you may face if you simply ask it of Him. He will help you overcome loneliness, feelings of desperation and hopelessness, setbacks of a personal, emotional, financial, and even spiritual nature, or will strengthen you when you are simply feeling overwhelmed by all of the demands of daily life.
I know this church is true, and I am ready to go and proclaim these things and this gospel to the people of Arcadia. I can’t wait to enter the mission field just like my good friends and even better examples: Elder Hulbert, Porter, Barton, Newman, and soon to be Elder Bennet. They have provided such an excellent example to me of what it means to truly serve God and forget oneself. I hope to be able to achieve the same level of righteousness that they have while I serve the Lord. I have been truly blessed to have such great friends who have always been there to love, support and help me grow. I know that Jesus is the Christ: that He died not only for the sins of all mankind, but for my pains and afflictions. It brings me great comfort to know that Christ will always be able to comprehend the pain and affliction I have gone through in my life. I know that the prophet Joseph Smith restored the fullness of the Gospel to this Earth and that families can be together forever through our Heavenly Father’s plan. And I know that through the Savior’s atonement we can be made clean.
It is this message that I am to deliver to the people of Arcadia. I know that by following the example of Christ, I will be able to be lifted up and empowered with the Spirit as I go forth and serve. I thank my Heavenly Father every day for the opportunity that has been given me to grow up as a member of the church in a kind, loving family. I would like to take this opportunity and thank my wonderful parents for always being there for me. I appreciate all that you do for me, and I wish you and the rest of the family happiness and safety for the next two years. I love you all, and I say these things in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen. "
Tanner sounds like he is doing great. He requested I ask everyone to send him letters through dearelder.com (an online service which allows you to type an email to him but they print it and get it to him that day - also you can send treats and gifts to him through that website as well). I will add his email up later today or tomorrow!
Thanks everyone -