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Monday, November 17, 2014

A Farewell to Remember

We are down to 2 days. As time has flown since I've gotten my call, I've gone through stages of boredom, excitement, and now absolute terror. I'm going to a foreign country with foreign traditions for the next six weeks. I have to spend my first Christmas away from home. Needless to say, I am absolutely petrified. I'll grow accustomed to it, though, by working hard and relying on my Heavenly Father.

It is a tradition in the LDS culture that a missionary who is leaving will give a "farewell speech" on their last Sunday in church. November 16th, yesterday, was the day I gave my farewell speech. Here's what I said:

Good morning brothers and sisters. For those of you who don’t know me, my name is Anna Kennedy. I’ve been called to serve in the Washington Kennewick mission, Spanish speaking, and I report to the Mexico Missionary Training Center on Wednesday.
I was asked to speak on how living the gospel brings peace to our lives. And I’d like to pray that the Spirit will be with me to carry my words to your hearts. At first I thought this was going to be an easy topic, but as I started to really ponder it, it became a lot more difficult for me because I had no idea what “living the gospel” meant or what “peace” was. So, let me begin by defining peace.
According to Webster’s dictionary, peace is a state of tranquility or quiet; freedom from disquieting or oppressive thoughts or emotions; and harmony in personal relations. In the scriptures, peace can mean either freedom from conflict and turmoil or the inner calm and comfort born of the Spirit that God gives to his faithful Saints. The peace we gain from living the gospel is the latter definition.
So, one of my problems was solved. As for living the gospel, here’s what I came up with. When I searched this phrase in my gospel library, it came up with a few results—some scriptures, some general conference talks, even some pamphlets. Do you know what they said? “So-and-so lived the gospel.” Or “By reading this pamphlet you will able to live the gospel.” It really wasn’t helpful. But I didn’t lose hope and after reading 324 general conference talks, 9 scriptures, 5 pamphlets, 65 teachings of the presidents of the church, and 33 lessons for the youth, I finally got to the children’s section. It had one result—a song called “I want to live the gospel.” Every other line of this song says “I want to live the gospel.” Helpful, right? Actually, it kind of was because the lines in between every other line actually gave me a pretty good idea of how one can live the gospel. So, thanks to my extensive research, I was able to compile the steps to help you on your path to living the gospel. You can thank me later.
1.     Find out the truth of these words for yourself. If you want to live the gospel, you first have to know if its teachings are true, otherwise why would you want to live it? You can find out if the teachings of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints are true by asking the missionaries, praying, studying the scriptures, attending church, and pondering the things that you have been taught.
2.     Follow the plan of the Savior. The Savior gave us a plan of happiness that we can easily follow by gaining experience and learning to make the right choices. Because of this plan, we are able to discern good from evil and learn from our experiences what brings us lasting happiness. When we make the right choices, we become more like the Savior and are able to partake of the eternal blessings that come from following His plan.
3.     Keep the commandments. Have no other gods before our Heavenly Father. Don’t worship idols. Don’t take the Lord’s name in vain. Keep the Sabbath day holy. Honor your parents. Don’t kill, commit adultery, steal, bear false witness, or covet. Love the Lord your God. Love everyone, for that matter, regardless of who they are, where they come from, or what they did to you. Be humble and grateful. Don’t be a hypocrite. Pray, read your scriptures, go to church, attend the temple, repent! The list goes on and on. Take Nike’s word for it and just do it. I promise that your life will be changed.
4.     Learn to obey. President Jorge Beccera will tell you that the first law of heaven is obedience. There are four levels of obedience: compliance, conformity, subjection, and finally, submission. I’ll let you determine where you are on that scale, but when we submit our will to the Lord willingly, and are obedient to Him under all circumstances, He will bless us by taking care of our worldly needs, giving us eternal blessings, extending more commandments and divine direction toward us, and finally providing us with divine revelations so that we may know what the Lord wants us to do. Eventually, what we want will become what the Lord wants for us, and our interests will converge.
5.     Have Christ. “We talk of Christ, we rejoice in Christ, we preach of Christ, we prophesy of Christ” and we do these things so that we know where to turn for peace. One of the Savior’s many names is “The Prince of Peace”. When we have Christ in our lives and when we have access to His Atonement, we are able to feel true peace—that inner calm and comfort born of the Spirit of God. In the book of John, chapter 14, verse 26, Christ says “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you; not as the world giveth, give I unto you.” Christ overcame the world so that we could know what peace truly was. When we focus our lives on Christ, we’re able to feel the calm of the spirit—the calm I imagine Christ felt when he was betrayed, tortured, and eventually crucified.
President Joseph F. Smith, a former president of the Church, lived in a time of world wars. In response to finding peace in such a difficult time, he said the following: “The Lord loveth peace. The doctrine of the Savior of men was “Peace on earth, good will to men,”... The greatest of all the commandments that was ever given to the children of men is: ‘Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.’ [Matthew 22:37–40.] If in the central nations of the earth this spirit of love had existed, this principle of the gospel of Jesus Christ; if this glorious admonition had been taken to heart by the rulers of those nations, there never would have been any war, there never would have been any bloodshed, there never would have been the devastation and ruin and evil conditions that exist today. It is because the people of the world have not the gospel. It is because they do not obey the truth. It is because they have not Christ, and therefore they are left to themselves, and the results that we see are the consequences of their own misbehavior and of their own wicked deeds.
6.     This leads me to the final step of living the gospel. Love. I know I sound like a cheesy hippie preaching about love and peace, but it works. When you are able to love somebody so much that you don’t care who they are, what they say, or how they act towards you, you get pretty well rounded. And while your life may suck, you’ll be at peace.
I’d like to share a very personal experience about how I was able to feel peace by living the gospel. In the beginning of October, the Supreme Court announced that gay marriage would be legalized in Utah and some other states. I made a mistake by posting my thoughts and opinions about this statement on Facebook. (Sometimes, I’m so happy that I’ll be forsaking social media for eighteen months….It causes way too many problems.) As many of you know, the Church’s official stance on gay marriage is that we believe marriage to be between one man and one woman. We don’t support gay marriage, but that doesn't mean that we hate homosexual people. It just means that we don’t agree with their lifestyle because we believe differently.
When I posted my thoughts on Facebook, I wasn't prepared for the overwhelmingly negative and bigoted response that I received from two of my acquaintances from high school. After being insulted, slandered, and deeply offended, I decided to do what Jesus would do and turn the other cheek, accepting what came and loving them anyway. It was so hard. It got even harder when they started insulting and slandering my friends and family, my government and freedoms, my religion, and even my God. Needless to say, I was not a happy nor a calm person. I was deeply hurt and surprised that somebody who claimed they were so open-minded could be so hypocritical and close-minded. But, I decided it was probably easier (and from a lazy perspective, less work) to love them anyway. So, I did. And I felt calm I felt comforted. I felt that I had done my part as a disciple of Jesus Christ. And even though it was a terrible situation, I was at peace. Living the gospel truly does bring each one of us peace. I've felt it, and I’m sure many of you have felt it also.
In conclusion, we can find peace by living the gospel. We can live the gospel by finding out the truth, following Christ’s plan, keeping the commandments, learning to obey, having Christ, and loving others.
God is not the author of confusion. He’s the author of peace. He’s given us a great example in His Only Begotten Son, Jesus Christ. I know that when we strive to follow the Savior’s example by doing the previously listed steps, God will grant us His peace, and we will be more able to live in such a troubled word.
I know God lives and loves each of us. I know Jesus Christ is the Son of God, the Savior and Redeemer of mankind, and the Prince of Peace. I know and testify that he atoned for our sins so that we would be able to feel lasting, eternal peace. I know that Joseph Smith was a prophet, and that he did see our Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ. I know that he restored the fullness of the gospel to these latter-days. I know that he translated the Book of Mormon by the power of God, and that the Book of Mormon is the word of God. I know that we have a living prophet today, Thomas S. Monson, and I know he speaks for God. I know that he is able to show us how to live the gospel so that we can have peace.
I’m very excited to preach this gospel of peace to the people of Washington for the next eighteen months. I know that I will be able to make a difference in at least one person’s life with my message. I’m grateful for this opportunity to serve my God and my fellow brothers and sisters. I pray that we’ll all be able to feel the peace of God in the coming days, weeks, months, and years, and that we will continuously rely on the Lord for that peace.
I say these things in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

I'd like to thank everyone who supported me at my farewell. It meant more to me than you will ever know. I'll miss all of you while I'm gone, but you can always pray for me, and I'll remember you. ;) Wish me luck as I start this new adventure! #noregrets

Hermana Kennedy, signing off.

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