Hailey’s Homecoming Talk
Hello everyone. I am Hailey Brown. I just got back from serving in the Arizona Scottsdale mission. And it was really hot, but I loved it. My mission was an amazing experience. I am really nervous about being up here, but I am really happy that I get the chance to share some of the things I have learned with you. Every day on the mission, all the missionaries put on a name tag and even right now I feel weird not having my name tag on. I am so used to flipping my hair so that everyone can see it.We would wear that name tag and it would help us remember what our purpose was, what we were doing. It had our name on it, but more importantly it had the name the of the Savior on it, Jesus Christ. It was so important that we remember that we bore the name of our Savior and that we were an example of Jesus Christ. Everywhere we went, to the grocery store, if we were clothes shopping, if were just walking down the street, people knew who we were and they expected us to act in a certain way. That was really important to remember and there were a lot of missionaries that had to learn over time what was expected of us. I think this something that can apply to everyone, whether or not we are wearing a name tag, or whether other people know we are a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints or not. We are always an example in everything that we do.
In the New Testament, we all know that Jesus Christ said, “Come follow me”. So many people left what they were doing and followed Him. We live in a great time when don’t necessarily have to stop what we are doing to follow Jesus Christ, but we put following Jesus Christ first in our lives. In the last General Conference, President Thomas S. Monson gave a talk called “Ponder the Path of Thy Feet”. A quote from that talk that I would like to share is “Of paramount importance we have been provided with a perfect example to follow, even the example of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and we have been instructed to follow that example. Said the Savior Himself, ‘Come, follow me. The works that ye have seen me do, that shall ye also do.’ He posed the question, ‘What manner of men ought ye to be?’ Then He answered, ‘Verily I say unto you, even as I am’”. Part of following Jesus Christ, a big part of following Jesus Christ, is following His example. One of the biggest examples is that of being baptized. In 2 Nephi Chapter 31 we see a path that Jesus Christ laid for us. In verses 17-18 it says, “For the gate by which ye should enter is by baptism by water and then cometh the remission of your sins by fire and by the Holy Ghost. And then are ye on the strait and narrow path which leads to eternal life.”
On of the lessons that we would teach on the mission was the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Teaching that begins with teaching that we need to have faith in Jesus Christ and then we repent of our sins and as we repent we prepare ourselves to be baptized and follow that example of Jesus Christ. Once we are baptized we are able to be baptized by fire, to be given the gift of the Holy Ghost to lead us and guide us always. As we strive to follow Jesus Christ always we tell our Savior we are willing to follow him and endure to the end. To keep coming to church all of our lives, to keep repenting, to keep building our faith, to do the things that we know that we need to do. Someone that I taught on my mission, her name was Anne Marie, she was an older woman, probably in her sixties, and when I came into the area the missionaries had just started teaching her. She had a daughter who had just been baptized and a granddaughter who had just been baptized in the valley, the Phoenix Valley. I was three hours away in the mountains at this point, but her granddaughter had such an effect on her. I wasn’t there, but I heard the story that the granddaughter told her grandmother, Anne Marie, that next time it would be her that was getting baptized and Anne Marie laughed and laughed because she had a lifestyle that was in no way leading her in a way toward being baptized. As she saw her daughter and as she saw her granddaughter and as she met with the missionaries she saw the ways that people can change. She began to put forth the effort to build her faith in Jesus Christ. I was able to be there when Anne Marie was baptized. She was so excited. We talked to her about the main reasons she wanted to be baptized and she said that she had gone 60-65 years living a life that was hard. Each life has its good points, but a life without the Gospel of Jesus Christ is only so bright. With the light of Christ in our lives we can see so much more. She wanted to be clean. She wanted to feel the lightness that the Spirit brings. She was so excited. She was baptized and given the gift of the Holy Ghost and she just ready to keep on going forward. She was so excited! We taught her about the law of tithing and she said, “Oh good, now I have a place where I can put my money.” Now that was not something that we usually heard! She was excited to follow the commandments of God, to follow a living prophet. We watched General Conference with her last October. She called in sick to work on Sunday so that she could stay and watch the next session, she loved it so much. She was such a good example of someone who had a desire to follow Jesus Christ, to keep the commandments.
I know that we are strengthened when we choose the right and do what we are supposed to do. It’s not always easy to make the right decisions, you know, often times it’s not. It can be really, really hard. We are all somewhere on that path. We are always building our faith. Maybe we haven’t been baptized, maybe we have, maybe we haven’t been to the temple yet, but we are working on it. Maybe we’ve done all those ordinance, we’ve been baptized, we’ve been to the temple, but we are still working, to keep building our faith. We are always repenting. Every Sunday we come and we renew our covenants with God and we strive to be clean. Its hard work. Thomas S. Monson, in another quote from the same talk talks about agency. He says, “When we came to earth we brought with us that great gift from God, even our agency. In thousands of ways we are privileged to choose for ourselves. Here we learn from the hard task master of experience. We discern between good and evil. We differentiate as to the bitter and the sweet. We learn that decisions determine destiny.” I know that that’s true. I know that we each have trials that are hard. They come at us physically, mentally, spiritually, emotionally and they make us falter and we need somewhere to turn. I know that we can turn to our Heavenly Father and we can turn to our Savior Jesus Christ because He’s there for us. What is amazing is that He has been through these things. Something else that Thomas S. Monson talks about is that Jesus Christ walked this path before us. He gives examples: “Jesus Christ walked the path of disappointment.” Jesus had disappointment. People didn’t live up to what they said they were going to do. He had hard times. Jesus Christ walked the path of temptation. We know that after fasting for forty days, Satan came to Him and tempted Him. That can’t have been easy. But he withstood that temptation. He was strong. He walked the path of pain. We know how much pain…well we don’t know how much pain, but we know that it was a lot of pain that Jesus Christ had to suffer, we know that it was a lot. We know that we also have to walk these paths to help us grow. Like the prophet says, it is a “hard taskmaster” of experience, but that we learn from it. We are blessed when we power through our trials, when we turn to our Savior and learn. He gives us more examples of how we are blessed. He says “while we will find our path bitter sorrow, we can also find great happiness.” Some of the ways we find happiness is following the path of obedience, following the example of Jesus Christ. We can walk the path of service. Helping those around us, showing love to those around us, looking for a way to give of yourself. We can walk the path of prayer. Jesus taught us how to pray. It is though prayer that we can talk to Heavenly Father. We receive knowledge from Him through the Holy Ghost in answer to our prayers. When I was in Scottsdale, I went on exchanges with a sister a few times and taught the someone that they had been teaching. He often talked about his walk with Jesus. He would tell us that since he found Jesus Christ he was walking the path with Jesus. We sought to teach him about the Book of Mormon and more about Jesus Christ to add to his study. It really made me think about it. I had never really heard anyone say, “Hey, I’m walking with Jesus.” That is not something we usually say, but it is a great thing to think about. We walk side by side with Jesus. He will help us. He will hold us. He will carry us. But sometimes we think we can do it on our own or we want to take a different way and we can walk away from Him. But I know that we are blessed when we walk with Jesus, when we try to stay on His path when we follow His example. I had a really great experience when I was serving in Mesa to work with a 17 year old boy named Brandon. None of his family were members. He had talked some of the Elders in his area before and he wasn’t really interested, but then sisters came into the area and they kept meeting with him. He had been through a lot of hard things. He was at a point in his life where he wanted to know what was right. His mom was really gung-ho. She said, “Yeah, get him to do what’s right.” She didn’t want to deal with hard teenager things. She had been through that. She was ready for him to grow up and find Jesus and all that. Brandon was a great experience of someone searching for the truth. It was a long search, it was hard for him. He had a testimony and he grew. We were able to help him to be baptized even when the adversary threw every thing at us, when all these crazy things at him. His mom was in the ER and couldn’t be there, it was bad, but it still happened. He was baptized and he was strengthened. Soon after I left the area I found out that he was having a hard time. He hadn’t been to church in months. The new elders in the area were having a hard time. I was able to stay in contact with him to help him, to be an example, to keep encouraging him. I can see that he is waking the path and it is hard. It is hard when it is not something that you are used to. It is hard when you don’t have any support around you. What is great is that he is always trying. He remembers to read his scriptures. He remembers that when he can he goes to church. He trys to do what is right. He is an example to me to keep on trying even when the devil gets us down, even hard things happen. It's not too late to turn around, to come back to Jesus and to keep on trying.There are so many scriptures saying that His arms are always open all the day long. They will never be shut. He is not going to hold them open until midnight and then at midnight say no you're done. He is going to keep them open all through out the night, all though out the day for years on end waiting for you to come back. Waiting for anyone to come back. Thomas S. Monson, one sentence that he shares about the example of Jesus Christ, he said, “With the parable of the lost sheep He instructs us to go to the rescue of those who have left the path and have lost their way.” That is a huge part both of missionary work and of just being a member of the church. At baptism we covenant to follow the example of Jesus Christ and do what he does. One of things that Jesus Christ did was he focused on the individual and if someone was struggling, He reached out to them. That is something that all of us can do.
In another talk by Elder Neil L. Anderson he talks about the videos they show in the airplane where they talk about the safety features. Here are the exits, here’s where the lifejackets are, and here’s where the breathing things are. If you have ever flown in a plane, you know that they always share with you how to be safe. Elder Anderson reminds us of this. He says, “Part of the movie says ‘it is unlikely but if cabin pressure changes, panels above your seat will open revealing oxygen masks. If this happens, reach up and pull a mask toward you.Place the mask over your nose and mouth, lift the elastic strap over your head and adjust the mask as necessary. Then this caution: Be sure to adjust your own mask before helping others.’ Now is the time to adjust your own personal spiritual mask so that you are prepared to help others who are seeking the truth.” I love that, and not just because I love flying in planes a lot but because it such a great example. We are told we need to strengthen ourselves. Just like Jesus Christ says to remove the beam that is thine own eye before trying to help someone else with the mote that is in his eye. As we strengthen ourselves we are preparing ourselves to help those around us which is so important. I know and I saw so many examples of member missionary work in my mission. One amazing one I want to share with you is about the Kasson family. I was in an area in the mountains where we covered three wards that were huge. We traveled probably an hour back and forth. We would be in a pickup truck and we would be in the dirt in this little rural community where everyone was related and had been there for, you know, a hundred years. You had to go 45 minutes into town to buy milk or whatever. This family moved into a trailer. It was a mom and a dad and six children. It was a blended family. Right off the bat, people from the school, people who saw then around were friendly to them. They introduced themselves. They asked what they were about and why they were there. Just speaking to them, being friends with them, they invited them to come to church. The Kasson family was so excited. I have never seen little children so excited to sit down and listen to the missionaries. They would raise their hands and try to have the right answer. They were adorable. The mother, Sister Kasson, the first time we met with her, she was so touched by the spirit that she was emotional. She was telling us about her work experiences. She was telling us that she something like 3 pHD’s. We said,”Wow, how old are you?” because she looks really young. She told us how it all made so much sense to her even though she was so learned. She had had so many hard things in her life and she had learned so much secularly that she felt the spirit testify to her that these things were true. She hadn’t read the Book of Mormon. She barely knew what it was. She said she knew this was true just from the way that I feel I know that this is right. The whole family was able to enter the waters of baptism. The youngest was only seven and she will be baptized later this year when she turns eight. They are such a great example to me and they are such an example to the community that being friendly and reaching out to others…you know not everyone is going to shoot you down when you try to invite someone. There are those who have been prepared. There are those who are waiting. If I think if they had been seeking spiritual enlightenment in their lives and if no one had offered it to them, where would they be? They would be in a two room trailer in the mountains in the dead of winter probably without friends because everyone in their community is LDS. But people reached out them. They invited them and because of that they were encircled into the fold of God and have been strengthened and lifted. They are on the path toward eternal life.
I know that this church is true. I know that we strengthen our testimonies by coming to church and by reading from the Book of Mormon and the other standard works. I especially know that we can talk to our Heavenly Father as we pray. I especially know that since coming home from mission that it is not always easy to remember to do these things. Heavenly Father doesn’t expect us to be perfect, He expects us just to try. As we strive toward perfection we are blessed. I encourage everyone here to do as Thomas S. Monson says and to “Ponder the Path of Thy Feet.” Where are you at right now? If you are standing on the path, I always think about board games. If you are on your little path, you're on your little square, what’s ahead of you? Look around, see where other people are. This isn’t the game to see who can get there first. Who can you help to get where you are? Who is ahead of you that you might reach out to for help? Maybe you nee help, too. It’s OK, we all need help, we all need to be strengthened. I know that serving my mission was the absolute best thing I ever did even though it was absolutely the hardest thing I ever did. It was amazing. To everyone here, I encourage you to consider a mission, whether you are 12 or 62 just think about it. You will have so many great experiences. In a way I feel that my mission was selfish because I learned so much. I feel like it did so much for me. I remember that I tried to put myself if God’s hands to do His work. I know that through me He has done great work even though I didn’t see very much of it at all. I have faith that everything happens for a reason. I am thankful for the chance to speak to you today. I say this in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.
Pictures from Hailey's return to the airport on 12-31-2014
Welcome Home Hailey!!! A job well done!!!