Zachary Harris Farewell Talk
December 28, 2014
Beaver 1st Ward Sacrament Meeting
Good morning brothers and sisters. You are kind of a scary bunch right now. For those of you who don’t know me I’m Zach Harris and I’ve been called to serve in the Fiji Suva Mission and I couldn’t be more excited. I’ve come to learn the people of Fiji and I can’t wait to serve them.
The Bishop asked me to talk on preparing for a mission and I’m not the best at speaking in public so I hope you bear with me. But I pray that the spirit will help me convey my message today.
When preparing for a mission I think there needs to be two questions that you ask yourself. First of all. Do I want to go on a mission? And I think for me the answer to that has always been - Yes. I don’t know if I’ve ever seriously doubted whether I wanted to go on a mission. I come from a great heritage of missionary work. When I was little my brother and I, we, loved to talk to my dad about his mission and hear the stories about that and talk to my uncles, I just loved that. And I just remember missionary work a lot. My first experiences with prayer that I can remember, I remember praying for my uncle Doug in Chile and asking the Lord to bless him and when I was a little bit older I had the opportunity to take my uncle Shawn to the MTC with my grandparents and that was really a powerful thing. And I’ve had a lot of friends go on missions, a lot of great friends, and I’ve learned a lot from their stories and my cousins that have been on missions, my cousin that’s on a mission right now. So I’ve always wanted to follow in their footsteps and go on a mission.
The second question I think you need to ask is - Why am I going on a mission? This is a hard question and it changes over time. It’s definitely changed a lot as I’ve prepared for a mission. So I’m going to go over the things that I’ve done to prepare for a mission and how I’ve come to answer that question.
First of all I think one of the most important things that you need to do to prepare for a mission is to surround yourself with good examples. First and foremost the best examples to me have been my family. I think of my mom and all she’s done for me; taught me how to love and how to serve, and my brother and sisters and grandparents, all my family. I’ve been blessed with great friends throughout my life and they’ve always helped me stay on the strait and narrow and I’m so grateful for them. All my leaders, my young men’s leaders, my bishops, everyone that’s helped me stay on the path. And for those of you who are preparing to go on a mission, surround yourself with these people so that you can stay on the path, and so that you can get where you need to go. And, then obviously the best example of all, the Savior. Even when you have no one else you always have the Savior and his example. Read of him, learn about his life learn about his teachings, and you’ll never be alone.
The next thing about preparing for a mission that I think is important is learning the power of prayer. In Enos 1:4 it says, “And my soul hungered; and I kneeled down before my Maker, and I cried unto him in mighty prayer and supplication for mine own soul; and all the day long did I cry unto him.” And I think it’s important that we learn to pray like that, we learn to pray with all our might, with all our strength so that we can receive the guidance that we can know our Heavenly Father. Kneel down and talk to him, every night and every morning, tell him about your problems, ask him for forgiveness, and it’s probably one of the most important things I’ve done preparing for a mission.
Another thing is scripture study. I think this is very important to prepare for a mission. I didn’t really study my scriptures very well until I got to seminary in ninth grade. And then I just started studying and it changed my life completely. I noticed that when I studied my scriptures my days went better. I learned how to be more Christ-like. I learned how to love others and I stayed away from temptation. When I didn’t read my scriptures I had problems. And so I encourage all of you who are preparing to serve a mission to study your scriptures so you can stay on the strait and narrow. Your prayers are the way to talk to God, but the scriptures are definitely the way God talks to me and there are so many times when I’m reading the scriptures, something I swear, it’s written just for me for that moment in time that I needed it.
The next thing that’s helped me prepare for a mission is learning to serve in the priesthood. The priesthood is all about service and it’s the power of God when you are in the service of your fellow beings you are only in the service of your God. So it’s very important to use every chance you have to use your priesthood. Preparing the sacrament and passing and blessing has definitely blessed me. It’s held be to higher standard, made me better and then as I’ve gotten the Melchizedek priesthood I’ve been able to give blessings and also able to baptize and confirm in the temple and it’s so humbling to be an instrument in the hands of God and I think the more we use that power the more we realize its potential and its importance.
Another thing that’s helped me prepare for a mission is the scouting program. And I think the most important thing that it’s done is helped me learn that I can do hard things. I remember when I was probably 12 or 13 we hiked Mt. Baldy and it was hard. It was a rough hike. I remember going up and it was steep as can be, and take two steps forward, one step back with all the rock and it was hard and we got to the top and it was great and then I realized that I had to hike all the way back. So we kind of started sliding down the mountain and I think I ripped a hole in the back of my pants and sometimes I didn’t have control and I was about half way through on the way home I was just blubbering like a little baby, I was so scared. I thought I was going to fall down the mountain or something and I think what I learned from that was that we can always get through trials, we can always solve our problems, we just have to keep going. As I got older I realized that through the scouting program. I’m so grateful for that.
Another thing that has helped me prepare for a mission is learning how to work. I had the opportunity to have a lot of different jobs, able to earn money and save towards my mission. I think it’s very important to anyone who’s preparing to serve a mission. I think this is a great opportunity to learn how to work and also to earn money for your mission.
But I think it’s also important that you make it to your sacrament meetings on Sunday. Without the sacrament I don’t know where I’d be, because I need that, a weekly chance to think about what I’ve done and try to fix it. So I’m grateful that I’ve been able to make it to my sacrament meetings and also to have the opportunity to work. Also to work hard in school, work to get good grades, your mission isn’t all about physical work. A lot of it’s mental, you have to study a lot of scriptures and working hard in school can only help you in the end. I think working will definitely prepare you for a mission.
The next thing that’s helped me prepare for a mission is learning how to talk to people. I’m not very social by nature, I’m kind of shy, but I’ve been able to overcome that simply by talking to people and trying to be out-going. When you think about it we have the most important message on earth as members of the church and our example says a lot. But if we don’t say anything, if we keep our mouths closed all the time we lose so many opportunities to share the gospel. And I think it’s important that we talk to people, that we let our light so shine and not hide it under a bushel. So I think it’s important for anybody that’s preparing for a mission to open your mouth, and talk to people and be out-going and just learn to let your light shine.
Another thing that you need to do to prepare for a mission is learn to sacrifice. A mission is a big sacrifice, its 2 years of your time, it’s not a vacation either, you’ve got to wake up at 6:30 every morning and work all day for God. And I think it’s important that you learn to sacrifice your time, your talents, and anything that you have while you're still here so that you can prepare for a mission. And you’ll definitely be blessed for all the sacrifice that you do.
The temple has definitely prepared me for a mission. I have always loved to do baptisms when I was younger and I still love to do them. And then the last couple of months I’ve been able to go through and get my endowment and go through for some of my ancestors. I love it so much. I love the things that we learn in there and I love learning about the mysteries of God. I encourage all of you to get there no matter what. It’s the most important thing you’ll ever do. What’s really cool about the temple is that we get to do work for our ancestors and that’s missionary work. And it’s really cool that we can participate in the saving of souls so easily. It’s a really neat thing.
The most important thing I’ve done in preparing for a mission is learning to use the Atonement of Jesus Christ. We’re all in a dilemma here on earth we all come short of the glory of God because we’re sinners. We’ve all sinned and if you're like me you’ve probably never had a perfect day in your life. But the Atonement of Jesus Christ covers everything. All we need to do is have faith in Jesus Christ and come unto Him. He’ll forgive us and we can become better. I kind of like to think of the Atonement as a pencil, sure it’s got an eraser on it but I don’t think that’s the most important part of the Atonement. The Atonement can clear our sins away but I think it’s mainly there to transform us to make us a better person. Just like a pencil’s main purpose is to create something. And so I encourage all of you to use the atonement, to use the gift that God has given us to be able to change our hearts and become better and become perfected in Him.
So I think all of those have taught me the real reason why I’m going on a mission. I’m not going on a mission because it’s what I’m expected to do. I’m not going on a mission because I have a lot of friends that are going on missions, and I’ve had a lot of family that’s gone on missions. I’m going on a mission because it’s my duty to God and I love Him for everything he’s given me. And because I have been given much I too must give. I’m going on a mission because I love God and I know that if I love Him I must love others and serve them. And I’m so grateful for the blessings that I have and I want others to have those same blessings.
I’d like to bear my testimony that I know this church is true. I know that God lives and I know that He loves every single one of us and He knows us better than we know ourselves. He gives us trials so that we can be better and He wants to help us. He wants us to reach out to Him. I know that Jesus is the Christ and that He suffered, bled, and died for each and every one of us so that we can come to live with our Heavenly Father again. I know that the book of Mormon is true. I love reading the Book of Mormon. I encourage all of you to read it or reread it. It’s so good. It’s the most correct book on earth. It will teach us what we need to know to stay on the straight and narrow. I know that Joseph Smith translated the Book of Mormon and I know that he was called of God to restore the gospel on the earth. I know that the prophet Thomas S. Monson is our prophet today and all the rest of the apostles. We need to strictly heed their counsel and listen to them because they are God’s mouthpiece. I love this gospel and I love all of you. Thank you for all you’ve done for me and I say this in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.