Sunday, December 27, 2015

Farewell party

Keatz with Lu and Cam

Great times with supportive friends and family.
We even have video of those who shared their fun memories of Keaton.

Elder LaMont's Farewell Address

Prayer and Personal Revelation

Preface: Open up and address topic

Ever since I was a little boy, I loved learning phonetics: the study of speech sound. Being well-able to learn audibly, I excelled in my English classes all throughout school. Months ago, I opened a letter that informed me where I was to go on my mission. So focused on the enunciation of what all my friends and family were waiting for, the destination, I read I was called to Wi-Chee-Tah, thinking I was being called to a foreign country I had never before heard. The split second to follow I realized I made a grave error when I said, “Kansas.” In a room full of intellectuals, I was immediately corrected, and the embarrassment has followed me to this very pulpit. They are never going to let me live it down, and it is a running joke in my household, friends and extended family. If you hear Wi-Chee-Tah, they’re not saying it wrong on accident. They are doing it completely intentionally and they do know better.

On May 19th 1900, a children’s novel was published in America. In the many years to follow, this story has become one of the most well-known American stories throughout history. It was so successful, broadway shows chronicled the words through live-action, and a musical comedy-drama fantasy film in 1939 was released. The story is of a midwestern young woman being thrust into a mystical world she does not understand and must undergo a grand adventure to return home. If you have not yet discovered what this story is, I will tell you now it is the Wonderful Wizard of Oz. Anyone could easily parallel my situation with that of Dorothy’s. It is difficult to become part of a new world, in my case a new culture. By the way, I’ve heard it all. Yes my slippers are red, no they are not glittery. Yes I have a small adorable dog, no his name is not Toto. It’s Toby.  

Now I would like to speak to you about something of a more pensive nature.

In this mortal world given to us, communication is direct. There are various fashions to speak to those we intend to contact:

  • Telephones, devices allowing a conversation to be heard from any two, or perhaps even more individuals in the world.
  • Countless social media applications and websites in which we can near instantaneously write a message to whomever we please.
  • Text messaging to send a quick simple message to another phone so small it can fit in your pocket.

Such astounding advances in methods of communication are devastating to our expectations of the time it should take to communicate one to another. For example, a long-awaited letter in the mail, now an endurance of the distant past, is taxing on our patience similar to a long-awaited answer in response to our prayers.

Today, I will address you concerning prayer and personal revelation. I know well what I speak of today is all much easier said than done. It is difficult to wait long for an answer to an eager prayer, but it was never intended to be easy. It is my testimony that a prolonged wait will bring a clear and more powerful answer. Do not be discouraged. Let us not be so ready to assume what we ask will not be given to us. Allow yourself to be patient and have faith bolstered by the Spirit of the Lord and surround yourselves with things pleasing to him. It is my prayer you will believe, have faith, and understand through the spirit as I continue.

Introduction: Reel the audience

A long time ago, I had a seminar concerning effective communication. In this class, we recorded how much each one of us ordinarily communicates in as many mechanisms as we could list. At the end of the experiment, we concluded our demographics can and would be speaking, writing, or listening nearly constantly every day throughout our lives. We were posed the rhetorical question by the instructor after the completion of the project, “What would you do if you could not communicate to anyone or anything for one week?” This would be a very serious challenge to anybody, even destructive to some.

I pose to you this question, slightly different than that asked of me in this experience, albeit of much greater magnitude: “What would you do if you could not communicate to Heavenly Father for one week?” Unfortunately for some of us, this happens quite often. How? It is when we neglect to pray and when we forget to study our scriptures.

I believe most, too many in fact, believe they do not receive personal revelation often. This is not so. I believe we receive far more revelation that we realize. Simple things we take for granted. I implore you to realize we can receive personal revelation every time we open the scriptures. Here I have a greatly outdated telephone to illustrate the principle of the importance of prayer and scripture study in the role of personal revelation. The microphone is prayer. The speaker through which we hear is the scriptures. An open book of scriptures is the open mouth of Heavenly Father. I promise to you as sure as I stand before you now, if you study the scriptures, you will either hear Heavenly Father’s words in your head as your own voice, or feel a prompting He wants you to accomplish that will bring you and others closer to God, building his kingdom.

We are told so repetitively to pray and read the scriptures. This is because it is the recipe to communicate with God, the creator of you, the world, the universe, everything. He wants so much to build a relationship with us. It must be so very difficult for him to have so many of his children go through the veil. For the children you love so dearly to forget everything about you. That is why prayer and scripture study is so important to our Father and it is why we are so greatly rewarded when we establish a good habit of study and prayer.

Body 1: Lecture

In simplest of terms, prayer is the way we, as children of Heavenly Father, speak to Him. Personal Revelation is the means our Father communicates to us.

Revelation may come in many different ways. It may come through our thoughts, it may enter our hearts, or it may be delivered to us by an individual Heavenly Father sends our way. Sometimes, maybe most times, the words and actions of someone dear to us, perhaps even complete strangers are answers to our prayers. We must keep our faith adamant if we do not receive answers to our prayers in ways we can foresee. The Lord knows us and he will answer our prayers in the most profound ways unique to our personalities as he is able. Our Heavenly father will never let a righteous prayer go unanswered for me, for you, for anyone.

Observing revelation is a process.
  1. Recognize revelation
  2. Ponder for complete understanding
  3. Act

It is important to take the first step in this compliance cycle: recognize revelation when it arrives; however, if we stop here, we will not receive blessings such as enriching another’s life through a service we are compelled to perform. The second step is to ponder until a complete understanding of what must be done is reached. The third, final, and often most difficult step of the cycle is to act.

I had the pleasure of having a wonderful seminary teacher my senior year. He talked about compliance to the words of the Lord as I am today. My class was taught two military terms this teacher had learned from a military veteran: “Roger” and “Roger Wilco”. He created the following analogy:

“Roger” is a one-word response implying the speaker understands a command. In the cycle of compliance, this is the second step. The “Wilco” in “Roger Wilco” is an abbreviation for “Will Comply”. The entire phrase “Roger Wilco” thus means “I understand, and I will act.” This should be our goal in the final step of the compliance cycle. 

Body 2: A personal experience

Since young primary days, or perhaps earliest lessons, it is taught to always pray and read scriptures. Pray before meals, pray in the morning, pray in the night. Pray when you need help, pray when you need strength, pray when you’re sad, pray when you’re grateful, pray when you are hurt. Read your scriptures every day, study the scriptures, mark the verses that are important to you, listen to what the verses say. When I was young, I thought all this to be a burden. Remembering to be consistently saying my prayers, to always remind myself to read the scriptures. I remember this awful, crushing feeling of hopelessness and thinking, “How could I ever to remember to accomplish all this? Day after day and night after night?”

It took me a very long while to understand this principle, this eternal truth: prayer is how we speak to God, and revelation is the way He will respond. This realization was still not enough for me to be free of doubt. I had thought only prophets in the scriptures were recipients of the Lord’s powerful messages, how was it to be the Lord would speak to someone as faithless as I? It took me a great deal longer to perceive this: through prayer, one talks to Heavenly Father. Through scripture, we listen to Heavenly Father. Listen through the scriptures, doubt your doubts before you ever doubt your faith. But don’t just listen with your eyes or with your ears. We are not taught best this way. The Lord taught Oliver Cowdery, “Of whatsoever things you shall ask in faith… I will tell you in your mind and in your heart, by the Holy Ghost.” As I read, I have impressions of thought, inspirations of encouragement, and impetuses to act. Such things that come to my mind is Heavenly Father speaking to me as I diligently listen with an open heart and clear mind. As I read, the Lord fulfills the same promise he made to Oliver Cowdery to me as well.

Revelation of the utmost gravity I constantly seek is that of forgiveness. I am always in search for redemption of my faults and shortcomings. The atonement is for me as it is for you, a focal point of my life and the most important revelation I can receive. When we have that amazing, cleansing, beautiful, white feeling of being made whole again, we are receiving revelation. We are made known by the Holy Ghost in our minds and in our hearts a feeling of a burning in our bosoms and clarity in our minds. I will never forget the first time I felt this full power of the atonement. I testify to you the atonement is not a grim prospect. It is a powerful ordinance. If you do not have a testimony of the atonement, strive for it through experience. There is no better way.

Conclusion: Wrap it up

I’d like to talk about why I decided to go on a mission. Quite some time ago, I had a really good friend named Paxton. In elementary school, he was a good kid. But soon enough, the ways of the world entered his heart and he made terrible choices in the following years. Because he was not of any faith, I earnestly tried to bring him along with me to church. I never quite got him excited enough about it to come. Years later, I had dreams of him approaching me in the next life saying with tears in his eyes, “You knew this gospel was true. Why did you not make more of an effort to bring it into my life?” This dream has haunted me for some time. Maybe my time to bring Paxton the gospel has past for now, but I have a new opportunity through this mission to bring other souls to Christ. I have a solemn responsibility to meet these few people in the life ahead, to be joyful with them and not to mourn with them because of my failure to bring the gospel in their lives. The worth of souls is great in the sight of God. I will not suffer the consequences of the immense guilt of letting myself forsake this responsibility. I am going for the souls I will bring to Christ, and their children, and their children’s children. Generations of souls are at stake here, and that is why I must go.

I will not lie. I most often relate to the trio of friends Dorothy makes following the yellow brick road. Sometimes I feel like I’m the scarecrow who desperately wants a brain. There are days I think maybe I do not know what I must teach well enough to be an effective missionary. Some days, I feel like the tin man. All he could ever want is a heart. The doubts I have in myself sometimes arise, corroding my determination, and my confidence of being worthy for a mission. There are even times I feel that I am the lion, afraid and yearning for courage. Although I wear a Cantonese charm of courage on my neck 24/7, there are moments I am scared to leave my home, my family and my friends. But I have faith in the man behind the curtain at the end of my journey who will bring me and the others I take with me home. I believe he will make up the difference.

In this moment, I would like to thank those supporting me at this very difficult but exciting time. Particularly friends and family who have believed in me through tumultuous years and always knew me better than I ever have. You have been such a wonderful inspiration to me.

I would very much like to convey to you my testimony of what I have spoken. Prayer and revelation work hand in hand. Revelation comes to you and to me much more than we realize. Heavenly Father is always there for us, walking with us side by side as long as we continue to do what pleases Him. When we stumble, when we fall, we should be joyful in knowing there is a way to stand up once again. We are in but one phase in God’s plan: the great and eternal plan of deliverance from death. Have joy, stay believing, endure to the end.

I say these things…

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Many called, few chosen

Dear Elder LaMont,
You are hereby called to serve as a missionary of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. You are assigned to labor in the Kansas Wichita Mission.