Sunday, March 26, 2017

Homecoming Talk

  My heart is so full. One week ago today I was in Berkeley, California in sacrament meeting at my YSA ward as a full time missionary sitting next to my companion and I remember thinking, “Next Sunday I’m going to be standing in Pocatello, Idaho in front of my family,” and it didn’t feel real. It still doesn’t feel real, but I am so happy to be here.
I am Emma Brinton. Thank you so much for taking care of them while I was gone. I know the Lord blessed our family so much. Thank you for all of your love and support. I could feel it. I served as a missionary in the Oakland, California Mission. I also served at the Oakland Temple Visitors Center, which was a huge blessing to be on those beautiful temple grounds almost every day and feel the Spirit there and to meet people from all over the world. It was such a sacred place to me and I loved to see how diverse all the people are. I really came to see how God loves each one of His children no matter where they’re from. I hadn’t seen very much diversity. I grew up in Virginia and then moved here to Idaho so I was meeting people who I’d never imagined meeting before. I had companions from all around the world. It was a really really neat experience to see God’s love for each one of His children and the people that I taught on my mission.
I think one of the most beautiful things about serving a mission is seeing how the gospel changes peoples’ lives. And it changes yours as well as you help others change. One of the lessons that we teach people is titled, “The Gospel of Jesus Christ.” We hear this term all the time but as I served and taught, I came to really understand it for myself. It was one of my favorite lessons to teach because it’s so simple, but so beautiful, and it’s centered on the Savior. For my talk today, I wanted to talk about the gospel of Jesus Christ and share different experiences of people that I taught and how they applied that certain principle in their life and how they changed from it.
So the first principle of the gospel of Jesus Christ is faith. We have to start off with faith, no matter how big or how small. Faith in Jesus Christ, that He is the Son of God, that He died for us, and that He lives today. Faith that we can change through Him. Faith that He can lift us through our trials and He knows how we feel. I had an investigator named Albert. He was Vietnamese, but had lived in the United States for about four years. One of our members shared a video with him through Facebook and he said, “How did you know I was looking for God?” He had been searching for God and he began to meet with us and came to church. He had never heard of God, never heard of the word “prophet”, never heard of “scriptures”, never touched a Bible in his life. First we began to teach him who God was. We said, “He is your Father. He loves you. You are His child.” We taught him how to pray. We asked him the next week, “How are your prayers going?” He said, “Ugh I just feel uncomfortable. I feel like I’m talking to a stranger.” We said, “That’s okay! It’s new to you. Just keep it up and you’ll see the change and the blessings.” So the next week we asked him, “Albert, how are your prayers going?” He said, “I feel like He’s listening.” I could have ended my mission right there. Just to have someone know that there was a God and that He hears their prayers, that was enough for me. He had so much faith and he was so humble. We taught him the ten commandments and he was so happy to hear that there were commandments. He wanted to hear more of them. His faith in God strengthened mine.
The next principle of the gospel of Jesus Christ is repentance. We believe that we can change through Him. Our faith in Jesus Christ leads us to change our lives. It leads us to repent and come closer to Him. It helps us have a fresh view of ourselves and of God. The result of repentance is joy. We can feel peace. We can feel our burdens lifted. I would love to share about our investigator Oscar. He is from Hong Kong. He had been to church a few times so when I got to the ward, I kept hearing about this Oscar kid who had come a few times. I went up to his friends and asked, “Who is Oscar? Bring him to church again! I want to meet him!” So he came to church and we set up a lesson with him and we began to teach him. In one of our lessons he said, “Last night I prayed and told God that I was sorry for abandoning him for so many years.” We didn’t teach him to do that. He felt that. His faith led him to repent. He wanted to come closer to God so he said sorry, then he changed his life to show that he wasn’t going to abandon him anymore.
After we repent, we are baptized. Baptism is the first covenant that we make with God. It’s just the gate, the first step, it’s not the end. It is an outward manifestation of our desire to follow God, to keep His commandments, and to live a life dedicated to Jesus Christ. We had this awesome investigator named Daniel. He is from Taiwan. He is going to General Conference next week so I get to see him there and he can meet my family. Daniel was Christian before. He loved God and Jesus Christ. He had been baptized before, but we told him that he needed the Priesthood to be baptized, by someone holding Jesus Christ’s authority, because this is His church. When he found this out, he was dying to be baptized because he knew that is what counted. I would love to share a scripture that explains Daniel perfectly:

“All those who humble themselves before God, and desire to be baptized, and come forth with broken hearts and contrite spirits, and witness before the church that they have truly repented of all their sins, and are willing to take upon them the name of Jesus Christ, having a determination to serve him to the end, and truly manifest by their works that they have received of the Spirit of Christ unto the remission of their sins, shall be received by baptism into his church.” D&C 20:37

That was Daniel. He said, “I’m not stopping until I become Bishop.” He truly manifested it. He was all in. 100%.
After we are baptized, we receive the gift of the Holy Ghost, which is the most beautiful gift from our Father in Heaven. A constant companion. A friend. It can guide us, and comfort us, and teach us. I would love to share an experience that I had on my mission with the Holy Ghost testifying to me that something is true. The Holy Ghost is a witness of truth, so when we feel it, we can know that what we are experiencing is something from God, something true. In the Visitors’ Center, we have lots of different exhibits. We had this really sweet senior couple, the Nielsen’s. Elder Nielsen was just such a great guy. He is a cowboy from Roosevelt, Utah. He had a set tour that he liked to take people on. He would start with this family exhibit, then move to the Book of Mormon exhibit, etc. One day he said, “Sister Brinton, I want you to act like a guest and I will take you on the tour that I take people on.” So I was acting like a nonmember and he took me on the tour. We sat down in this exhibit about modern day prophets. It has a picture of Jesus Christ giving the Priesthood to His twelve apostles. Then it has a picture of the twelve modern day apostles. It is really powerful to see Jesus Christ had twelve apostles and we have twelve apostles today. I was sitting there and he gave a brief rundown of the Restoration of the Church and he recited the First Vision. Afterwards he bore his testimony that Joseph Smith was a prophet of God and that the Lord’s church was restored here on the earth. It was so simple. It wasn't even a big deal. I wasn't even expecting it to be so powerful. I was just sitting there and all of the sudden this wave of love and truth came over me and I knew that what he was saying was true. I knew that Jesus Christ and Heavenly Father appeared to Joseph Smith and restored His church. I knew it without a doubt and it was so powerful to me.
The last step is to endure to the end, which is hard and tiring, and sounds like a long time, but it’s beautiful and the Lord gives us so many tools to endure to the end. It includes continuing to live the commandments despite temptation, opposition, and trials. One of my best friends I met on my mission is Emily. She is still in high school. She investigated the church for about three years because her parents wouldn't let her get baptized. They hate the church. She decided to be baptized on her eighteenth birthday. Her parents kicked her out of the house and she was homeless for a while. She knew the gospel was true and she wasn't going to deny it. She is such an example to me. She would come up to the Visitors’ Center and we would just talk. She is also coming to General Conference. Her faith and her determination to endure to the end despite whatever she went through was inspiring. I have never faced that kind of opposition in my life. I admire her so much for her faith and her desire to follow Christ. There’s a scripture in 2 Nephi that describes her so well.

“Wherefore, ye must press forward with a steadfastness in Christ, having a perfect brightness of hope, and a love of God and of all men. Wherefore, if ye shall press forward, feasting upon the word of Christ, and endure to the end, behold, thus saith the Father: Ye shall have eternal life.” 2 Nephi 31:20

So as we live the gospel of Jesus Christ, we become converted, which is beautiful and it comes line upon line. It is not an overnight thing. Elder Bednar shared a beautiful insight about the parable of the ten virgins. He compared the lamps of the ten virgins to a testimony and the oil that goes in the lamps, the conversion. We know they are waiting for the bridegroom to come and they all have their lamps of testimony, but only five of them had their oil of conversion. When the bridegroom came and they were called to go in, only five of them were prepared. Only five of them had their oil. They didnt share, not because they were selfish or lazy. They didnt share because they couldnt! You cant share your conversion. You cant share going to the temple and reading your scriptures every day. You cant share praying or going to church. These are little tiny steps that you earn for yourself. You can have a testimony and share it. But to become converted, that is something that you do on your own little by little. I love that analogy. One great quote that I love from him is,

“Knowing that the gospel is true is the essence of a testimony. Consistently being true to the gospel is conversion.”

I experienced this. I experienced this on my mission. I became converted to Jesus Christ and to His gospel little by little. I had a testimony before and that’s great, but it’s consistently being true to that testimony where we become converted, where we have this desire within ourselves, “I want to keep the commandments. I want to endure to the end.” I felt that and I had never felt that before. I would just love to end with a scripture in Mosiah. This is King Benjamin and he teaches his people about the gospel. They say,

“Yea, we believe all the words which thou hast spoken unto us; and also, we know of their surety and truth, because of the Spirit of the Lord Omnipotent, which has wrought a mighty change in us, or in our hearts, that we have no more disposition to do evil, but to do good continually.” Mosiah 5:2

I bear my testimony of the Savior. He lives and He loves us. I bear my testimony of the Book of Mormon. It IS the word of God. It IS true. It will help you come to know the Savior and of the gospel. It will help you to become converted. I testify of the Restoration of the Priesthood and of Joseph Smith. I testify of eternal families. I am so grateful for all of you and for the chance I had to serve a mission but I am excited for this next phase of life. I say these things in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

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