Sunday, November 17, 2013

Sister Smith's Farewell Talk

This is the copy of the farewell talk I gave today. I didn't say it word for word, but this was the basic outline of it. Thank you to all of my friends and family that came today! It was a fantastic day!

The Parable of the 10 Virgins

“Then shall the kingdom of heaven be likened unto ten virgins, which took their lamps, and went forth to meet the bridegroom
And five of them were wise, and five were foolish
They that were foolish took their lamps, and took no oil with them;
But the wise took oil in their vessels with their lamps.
While the bridegroom tarried, they all slumbered and slept
And at midnight there was a cry made, Behold, the bridegroom cometh; go ye out to meet him.
Then all those virgins arose, and trimmed their lamps.
And the foolish said unto the wise, Give us of your oil; for our lamps are gone out.
But the wise answered, saying, not so; lest there be not enough for us and you: but go ye rather to them that sell, and buy for yourselves.
And while they went to buy, the bridegroom came; and they that were ready went in with him to the marriage; and the door was shut.
Afterward came also the other virgins, saying, Lord, Lord, open to us.
But he answered and said, Verily I say unto you, I know you not.
Watch therefore, for ye know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of man cometh.”

The parable of the 10 virgins was given by Jesus Christ, and is recorded in Matthew 25:1-13. There are multiple interpretations of this parable, which is understandable because everyone understands parables differently. However, it is known that the bridegroom spoken of represents our Savior, Jesus Christ, and that the time of His coming indicates the Second Coming. Today, I would like to talk about the lamps and the oil that the 10 virgins possessed, what it means to me, and how you and I can apply this parable into our lives, so that we can be prepared to meet the Lord again. I am hoping that the Spirit can be with me as I speak to you today, and that your hearts will be touched.

All ten virgins in this parable were ready to meet the bridegroom, or thought as much. They knew who he was, and they were patiently waiting for His coming. They had their lamps, ready to light their way. However, as the parable indicates, half of the virgins were wise, and half were foolish. What separated these two groups? The amount of oil that was in each of their possession. As I have pondered on this parable, I have found that I relate the lamps that the virgins had to a basic testimony, a knowledge that each of us here have, or hope to gain, and the oil to  true conversion.

A testimony is available to all of God’s children, through the power of the Holy Ghost. It requires exercising a small seed of faith, sincerely seeking, knocking, and asking for the truth. And it brings happiness, increased accountability, and the knowledge of our purpose in this life. Testimonies are a beautiful blessing from our Heavenly Father, and they spark the start of our journey towards eternal life.

But they are not enough. So why is conversion so important to being prepared for the Second Coming and living with God again? We cannot stand on a testimony alone. If we try to, we will not be able to resist the storm of temptation or withstand the forces of evil that is already here, and increasing every day. True conversion however will give us the endurance we need to stand up to wickedness and to avoid it. True conversion leads us to becoming more like our Heavenly Father

In the scriptures, we are told that we must become even as He is, to be “spiritually-minded” and to put off the “natural man”. In Mosiah 3:19, it says, “For the natural man is an enemy to God, and has been from the fall of Adam, and will be forever and ever, unless he yields to the enticings of the Holy Spirit, and putteth off the natural man and becometh a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord, and becometh as a child, submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, willing to submit all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon him, even as a child doth submit to his father.”

In True to the Faith, it says this concerning conversion: “Conversion includes a change in behavior, but it goes beyond behavior; it is a change in our very nature. It is such a significant change that the Lord and His prophets refer to it as a rebirth, a change of heart, and a baptism of fire.”  Elder David A. Bednar puts it this way. “True conversion brings a change in one’s beliefs, heart, and life to accept and conform to the will of God and includes a conscious commitment to become a disciple of Christ... Conversion is an offering of self, of love, and of loyalty we give to God in gratitude for the gift of testimony…. Knowing that the gospel is true is the essence of a testimony. Consistently being true to the gospel is the essence of conversion.”  Conversion is personal. When the 5 foolish virgins asked the 5 wise virgins for their oil, I don’t believe the wise ones were just being selfish. The oil, oil of conversion, cannot be shared, it cannot be taught. It must be “bought for ourselves”. It also cannot be purchased at the last moment, not in time for the coming of the Bridegroom. The wise virgins with the extra oil were invited into the wedding with the bridegroom, but when the foolish women came back, the door had been closed to them. It is something that we have to be preparing for our entire lives, and can’t be left for the final hours before the Savior comes.

So how can we become converted unto the Lord? How do we obtain that extra oils to fuel our lamps? Again, as Elder Bednar said, consistently being true to the gospel is the essence of conversion.  So what is the Gospel? It is the plan of salvation, made possible through the Atonement of Jesus Christ. It is following the principles and ordinances set forth in the scriptures: faith, repentance, baptism, the reception of the Gift of the Holy Ghost and enduring to the end. When I was younger, I used to think that these first principles and ordinances of the Gospel were just a one time deal, applicable before I was eight, then once I was baptized and confirmed, all I had to do was “endure to the end”. Except, my little 8 year old mind didn’t understand that phrase. I didn’t know what that meant.  To me, the word “endure” meant that I had to withstand suffering and trials, which we do in this life. But the word “endure” can be more simple than that. It can mean “to continue” or “to remain”. And to me, that means to continue to apply the principles of faith, repentance, baptism and living in a way so we can keep the Spirit with us always. We have to continually “seek for the things of a better”. We must be constantly trying to become more like the Savior. Conversion truly requires our whole heart, might, mind and strength. We need to fuel that fire with daily prayer, scripture study, service, weekly attendance at church, sharing the Gospel with others and regularly attending the temple, being true to the sacred covenants we make there.

None of us are perfect, and we will make mistakes. I know that I have. But through the Atonement, we can and will become clean again, if we put our faith and trust in the Savior. I know that the Atonement is real. I know that with my whole heart, for I can see how it has changed me and blessed my life, and continues to bless my life every day. The sacrament that we take each week cleanses us so we can start on a clean slate again, just like baptism. It gives us the opportunity  to prayerfully contemplate what we need to change in our lives, and gives us the chance to do so.

We can not be converted by ourselves - it requires the grace and power of God. It requires humility and faith. In 3 Nephi 9:20, it says, “Ye shall offer for a sacrifice unto me a broken heart and a contrite spirit. And whoso cometh unto me with a broken heart and a contrite spirit, him will I baptize with fire and with the Holy Ghost.”  

One of my favorite examples of conversion comes from the Book of Mormon. The Anti-Nephi-Lehies are amazing examples to me on what it means to be truly converted. In Alma 23:5-7 it says, “And thousands were brought to the knowledge of the Lord, yea, thousands were brought to believe in the traditions of the Nephites; and they were taught the records and prophecies which were handed down even to the present time. And as sure as the Lord liveth, so sure as many as believed, or as many as were brought to the knowledge of the truth, through the preaching of Ammon and his brethren, according to the spirit of revelation and of prophecy, and the power of God working miracles in them - yea, I say unto you, as the Lord liveth, as many of the Lamanites as believed in their preaching, and were converted unto the Lord, never did fall away. For they became a righteous people; they did lay down the weapons of their rebellion, that they did not fight against God any more, neither against any of their brethren.” The Anti-Nephi-Lehies had testimonies of the Gospel, just like you and me. And through belief, personal revelation and “the power of God working miracles in them”, they became converted and they never fell away. I love what they teach us in the next chapter even more. When their brethren came to destroy them, they stayed true to the covenant they made with God to never fight against any of their brethren. They buried their weapons as a testimony of their faith, as a witness of their conversion. In verse 19 (Chapter 24) it says, “And thus we see that, when these Lamanites were brought to believe and to know the truth, they were firm, and would suffer even unto death rather than commit sin; and thus we see that they buried their weapons of peace, or they buried the weapons of war, for peace.” Brothers and sisters, that is conversion. Being firm in your faith, never wavering. Burying our own weapons of war that we have inside us, to become more like our Savior and Heavenly Father. As we put off the natural man and hold true to the covenants and promises we’ve made with the Lord, a mighty change will come into our hearts. When we do this, oil will be added to our vessels, day by day, drop by drop.

It is important to remember that conversion never ends. We will never reach a point, at least not in this life, where we can stop and say, “I have reached my max level of conversion. I don’t need to work on it anymore.” Conversion is an ongoing, daily process. Once we have become “converted”, we must continue to strive for “greater conversion” and so on and so forth.

We have been blessed with the knowledge of the gospel on the earth today, and Christ’s church has been restored through the Prophet Joseph Smith. We are all like the ten virgins, knowing that Christ will come again, and we are waiting for that day. But are we preparing as we wait? Are we foolish, or are we wise? Are we continually seeking to become truly converted to the Gospel of Jesus Christ or are we relying only on the testimonies that we presently have, no matter how large or small they may be? Do we have an abundance of oil to fill our lamps, or are they about to run dry?

I would like to end with one last scripture, found in D&C 33:17. “Wherefore, be faithful, praying always, having your lamps trimmed and burning, and oil with you, that you may be ready at the coming of the Bridegroom.” I invite all of you today to think of one thing you can do to become more converted to the Gospel. I know that if you do this, and strive for it with all of your heart, might, mind and strength, you will feel of God’s love for you, and your testimony will grow. In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

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