Monday, March 16, 2015

Farewell Talk

Well, hello everyone! For any of you who don’t know who I am, my name is Natalie Pugmire. This Wednesday I will board a plane to Utah and go to the MTC, then a short 12 days later I will be headed to Nauvoo to serve in the visitors center! So that’s me, but before I get into my talk, let me give you a little background about my decision to serve.

About 3 years ago I had someone very special to me tell me that she had a strong impression to tell me I needed to think about serving a mission. I almost cried, not because I was happy, but because when I thought about serving a mission all I thought was that it sounded like the worst thing that could ever happen to me. And I also knew that if I thought too much about a mission, and I prayed to God to know if I should serve or not, then I was giving God a chance to say yes. And of course, I didn’t really want yes to be an option. So, I pushed that thought aside I continued on with my life.

About a year and a half ago, I was dating a boy, and this boy decided to serve a mission. And this was right around the age change, so he ended up leaving a year earlier than I thought he would. At this point, I thought missions were cool, I guess, and I thought that boys were supposed to go and that was cool, but I mostly just thought missions were things that took your boyfriend away from you for a very annoyingly long period of time. And I definitely still thought I would never serve one.

Fast forward another six months, and my best friend, Aubrey Allen, also decides to leave me to serve a mission. And so I thought okay, well that’s cool I guess. She opened her call in my apartment at BYU Idaho, and it was all very exciting and it was super cool that she got to go Australia, but still, I thought serving a mission was something I would never do in a million years.

Then, a couple months later, my other best friend, Courtney Edwards, left on her mission as well. At this point things were getting out of hand. Weeks after Courtney left, another boy I gave the pleasure of dating me decided that he would leave me all alone to serve a mission as well. Which, by this time, wasn’t really cool anymore but had become more of something that I found to be quite irritating.

That spring, as I started babysitting for the Hillyard family, Julie kept bringing up a mission. And instead of saying “if you decide to go on a mission” she would always say “when you decide to go on a mission.” It seemed that God was trying to answer my question even though I had been desperately avoiding asking it.

So with the thought of serving a mission still being suffocated in my mind by other thoughts I chose to focus on, I headed to BYU-Idaho for a third semester, this time friendless and boyfriendless.

This past semester ended up being my favorite, and because I had a little more time to myself, I was able to really think about what direction I wanted my life to go into. I knew a mission would direct my life, I knew a mission would allow me to help and serve others, and I knew it was a decision I would never regret. I also knew that missions aren’t easy, and that things like waking up at 6:30 am and talking to strangers isn’t easy for me. And I knew that a mission was a sacrifice, a sacrifice I had avoided seriously considering for a very long time. But I figured, I’m 20, I’m getting old, and it’s time to start making some serious choices. So, I prayed and I waited.

I’m not exactly sure what I thought I was waiting for, I knew what the Holy Ghost felt like, but I guess I thought I deserved some kind of vision because serving a mission was a pretty big choice to make. Unfortunately, no such vision came. As I was emailing Aubrey Allen, I asked her how in the world she knew she was supposed to serve a mission. Her answer caught me off guard. She said she didn’t know, she said she felt it was right, and that she wanted to, but that she never got an overwhelming answer that she needed to go. And I guess that was really when it hit me, I was at a point in my life where nothing was holding me back and I was at a point in my life that I realized things needed to change.

When I called my parents, I think they thought I was kidding. Previously my parents had told me if I decided to serve a mission they would pay for it. But I guess they had such a lack of faith in me that it turned out I was going to help fund my mission, which I thought was pretty funny.

A lot of my friends thought I was kidding as well, or that I wouldn’t really follow through. I’m not quite sure what kind of a person people think I am, but I guess most people don’t think a girl that likes music that includes screaming and a girl that likes to go to rock concerts and a girl that enjoys the color black more than she probably should would serve a mission. So I guess I’m standing here as living prove that you don’t have to fit a certain stereotype to serve a mission, or even just be a member of the church.

In high school, I wasn’t sure staying a member of the church sounded like a fun idea. I’ve always just had this desire to be different, and I thought in order to be different you needed to do the things people didn’t want you to do, or the things people didn’t expect you to do. So, along my way I made some mistakes. Some on accident, and to be quite honest some on purpose. And I guess that brings me to my assigned topic for today, repentance.

If I could ask you to wake up, and stop spacing off for one minute of my talk, it would be so you could walk away with one thing. And that thing is that you are not good enough. But before you become defensive, or before you tell me that your mom tells you that you’re good enough and that I’m a big fat liar, just let me say that yes, you’re not good enough, but either am I. Neither is president Monson, neither is the person next to you, and neither is the person in front of you. None of us are good enough, and that is the whole point.

If we were good enough, we wouldn’t be here. Jesus was the only one who was good enough, and that’s the reason he died for us. If we were good enough, we wouldn’t need the atonement. So, when you make mistakes and you have one of those days where you seem to mess everything up, and the thoughts of “man, I’m just never good enough.” Come rushing into your head  Instead of letting that thought bring you down, recognize that yes, you’re not good enough, but that is okay. It is because of the atonement and it is because of Jesus Christ that we do not have to be good enough by ourselves.

Recently, there has been a huge self esteem movement. This movement includes ideas such as You ARE good enough, you don’t need to change anything about yourself ever for any reason, and that you were born this way, so of course you can’t progress or try to become better, because you don’t need to change a dang thing.

And while I am all for complimenting others and helping people feel better, I think we have to realize that none of us are good enough, and that we will have to continue to change and mold ourselves for the rest of our life. We will never reach a point where we can stop and say, yep I think I’ve progressed enough for this lifetime.  We need to stop having being “good enough” as a goal. We need to let go of that idea. Instead, we need to accept the fact that we aren’t good enough, but that with the atonement, we can be.

The key word in that sentence is can, with the atonement we CAN be good enough. The atonement isn’t some magic thing that works on it’s own. We make mistakes on our own, we don’t even have to put effort into that part, but using the atonement is something we need to consciously do.

One kind of cool, yet kind of weird, thing about the BYU schools is that we talk about religion in class all the time. Doesn’t matter if you’re in a Book of Mormon , or Math. This year I took a psychology class that didn’t only open my eyes to the many personality philosophies out there, but also opened my eyes to a lot of aspects of the religion I have been practicing my entire life.

One thing I learned is that Jesus does not lead us to the truth, but He is the truth. When we are on the right path, we are on His path. When we are making righteous choices, we are letting Him make our choices. That does not mean we are giving up our agency, it means we are CHOOSING to give our life to someone who knows more than we do. And when we repent, we are giving our sins to Him. We are supposed to let Jesus act through us, we are supposed to let Him use the good parts of us, and give Him the bad parts. And one thing I realized is that we are not expected to have no bad parts. We are born with as much light as we are dark, and the more we learn about the dark parts of us, the more we know how to deal with them. The more we ignore them, the better they are at catching us by surprise. And maybe talking about the things we are really good at feels better, but I think it’s important to realize that Jesus wants us to give Him both parts of us, the light and the dark. He wants to use our light and He want to take away our dark, if we let Him. But, if we’re stuck thinking that we’re good enough, and that we don’t need to change, we don’t give Jesus the chance to work in us, because we don’t give Him our dark parts. And just because we pretend that they’re not there, it doesn’t mean they’re actually gone.

Giving up those darker parts of us can be hard, even once we have acknowledged them. Sometimes we have adjusted to the dark, and we think we can see just fine. Sometimes the dark is comfortable, and sometimes the light doesn’t seem to be all that appealing. But, I guess we weren’t born into a mortal world to be comfortable. We weren’t given commandments that go against the natural man so that we could feel comfortable. The commandants were given to us so that we would be comfortable in the presence of God, not so that we would be comfortable in the presence of man. We often view God as the great vending machine. We think that because we follow a commandant we need to be blessed, and when we teach the commandments we often give the reason for following them the blessings that we will receive. Of course we were given these commandments because they lead us to live a life that brings us more happiness than the alternative, and of course God only gives the best case scenario, but that shouldn’t be our reason for being obedient.

When my parents tell me they will give me 5 dollars if I clean my room, do you think it’s because they really want me to have 5 dollars, or because they want my room to be clean? God gives us commandments because he wants us to follow them. Of course He delights in blessing His children, but that isn’t the reason for the commandments. So yes, following the commandments can feel difficult, yes giving up the dark parts of us is a hard thing to do, and yes realizing we need to repent is hard. There are going to be many times where you will feel weird, or out of place, because of the way God has asked you to live your life. But I have to constantly remind myself that I would much rather feel uncomfortable on this short mortal existence than feel uncomfortable in front of the Lord.

A saying that I love is: All sin begins with a pause.

The first time I heard this, it rang so strongly as true, when we sin we are doing something we know to be wrong, or even, we are choosing not to do something we are obligated to do. We see someone drop their books, we pause and we think about whether we should help them or not. We don’t know the answers to a test, and we know the girl next to us always aces her tests, so we think about whether or not we should glance over at her paper. Even if we make the right choice in these situations, should it really have to be a choice? If someone needs help and you are there, should it be something we have to think about, or should it be something we do without hesitation? I’ve always considered sin to be when we make a wrong choice, but it’s become clear to me that hesitation to make the right choice can be a sin as well. And though it’s still better to make the right choice, I am striving to be in a state where making righteous choices no longer feels like a choice. And the only way to attain that is to let loose of our own desires, and give the Lord room for Him to fill us with His. Because if we hold on to ours, we aren’t truly allowing our lives to be handed over to the Lord. 

·       Before I realized this, I thought I was doing pretty well, and I thought the atonement really only applied to the sins I considered to be big sins. But, this is not true. I’ve come to find that thinking you’re doing pretty well is a pretty big red flag. The atonement not only applies to mistakes, but really any imperfection in ourselves. When I began to think about how many times in life I have had to pause, how many times I didn’t follow a prompting, How many times I was late, how many tests I have failed, how many times I’ve tried to play a sport and failed miserably, all the times I wasn’t good enough, it was then that I really found myself becoming grateful for the atonement. There is a difference between being guilty and being responsible, and I think the atonement covers them both. We are guilty for making unrighteous choices, but we are also responsible for making the righteous ones. Ultimately, we are responsible for being perfect. I used to always dislike hearing the scriptures like Matthew 5:48, which reads: Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.

 These scriptures made me confused, and discouraged because I knew I could never be perfect. But, while we are responsible for being perfect, the atonement takes care of what we lack. And with Jesus, we can be.

Another thing I learned in my psychology course is something I haven’t been able to forget. On this particular day, we were talking specifically about repentance. We have learned that when we repent, our sins are remembered not. But, what is the difference between forgetting something and remembering something not? I didn’t ever think there was one until my teacher put things into perspective with the following example. Say you are walking down a street, and you see someone who looks familiar but you forgot their name. You notice them, but you can’t exactly place why they look familiar to you. That’s what happens when you forget something. But what would it be like if you remembered that person not? In that same scenario you would walk right by that person, you wouldn’t even notice them. You would have no idea who they were. When we repent, when we give our darkness to the Lord, He remembers it not. He walks by our sin and has no idea who’s sin it is, in fact He doesn’t even care who’s sin it is. It’s not that He forgives us, and moves on. He forgives us, and our sin is erased. What was once scarlet is now white as snow.

Now, another point I want to make is that just because we have darkness in us does not mean we are dark, or that we are bad people. One mistake or issue that we have does not define our morality. Does that mean that just because we are considered to be a good person that we can overlook the bad things? No. But it also means that we do not need to be discouraged by the things that hold us back, or think that because we have flaws that we are as a bad person as a whole.

Jesus died for us because the plan involved us not being good enough, us not being able to reach perfection on our own. This is a comfort, but also a wake up call. If we think that we do not need the atonement, we are wrong. My favorite scripture is one I came across during an episode of self loathing, your basic laying in bed feeling sorry for yourself tantrum. It is 2Nephi 1:23 and it reads, “Awake, my sons; put on the armor of righteousness. Shake off the chains with which ye are bound, and come forth out of obscurity, and arise from the dust.” This really struck me. We are going to have times of sadness in our lives, and as members of the church, I feel that we have a pretty big pressure to be happy all the time. And that just isn’t a possible reality in this mortal state, but once we realize that there will be sadness and heartache and that we will make mistakes, we can at least begin to hand it over to the Lord. Jesus went through an immense amount of pain so that we could have the chance to be perfect, but it’s up to us to shake of our chains, rise up, and use the atonement to become better. It is up to us to repent.

We need to not be afraid to apologize to people we have wronged, and we need to not be afraid to talk to our bishop if we need to. We need to be honest not only with others, but we need to be self-aware. We cannot repent if we ignore our sins, and we cannot become perfect through Jesus if we do not repent. So, remember you are not good enough, but you are not expected to be good enough on your own. We are only alone if we choose to be, and we only stop changing when we choose to remain the same. If you allow the Lord to work within you, if you allow Him to use your light and if you allow Him to take your dark, then you will let Him mold you into someone who will be comfortable in the Celestial Kingdom.

As I mentioned earlier in my talk, I enjoy songs with screaming. And while this may be off putting to some of you, when I got my topic for this talk, one of my favorite songs came into my head, called No Ordinary Love by Memphis Mayfire. To me, this song is awesome. It’s basically a conversation between God and one of His children. You guys may not think this is cool, but most of the parts that are the child talking to God are screaming parts, which is showing desperation, but while God is responding to the child, he is singing, and showing peace and love. Anyways! Some of the lyrics of this song are as follows:

Here I stand,
Nothing more than a broken man
Starring death in the face,
All my mistakes have got a hold on me again.

Here we go,
Another day, another fork in the road,
I never know who to trust,
Will someone just tell me which way to go?

I need a sign, I need a miracle,
I need to know that this is possible.
I've just failed so many times,
Is there any way that I could make it right?
God, if you're there I need to hear you now!

Come back to me love, I forgive you,
Oh how I've missed you (I missed you),
Just know every time you run I'll be right here waiting
Come back to me love,
I hope you know I'm always with you,
 I forgive you.
We lose faith in things unseen, unsure of what to believe,
Just dying to be loved when love's right in front of us.
We give up on our hopes and dreams, and let doubt take everything.
The door will open when we realize we don't hold the key!

I tried to save myself but I failed!

My favorite part of this song is when it says “The door will open when we realize we don’t hold the key.” To me, this means that we will be what Heavenly Father wants us to be, when we realize that we can’t get there by ourselves and that we need repentance and the atonement.

I have a testimony of this gospel, I have a testimony of repentance. I know that each time someone tells me God does not exist that He doesn’t just suddenly disappear. I know that while nothing can make you happy at all times, that this gospel has the easiest path carved out for us. And I’m excited to help others find that path.

I say these things in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

1 comment: