This past Sunday, October 18th I gave my farewell talk in church. Lots of people who weren’t able to be there to hear it have been asking me to send them a copy of it, so I figured I would just post it on my mission blog. I can’t believe my farewell is already over and done with, everything is feeling so real. I leave two weeks from today, it is so crazy. But I am SO excited!!
Good afternoon brothers and sisters, my name is Alex Martinez for those of you who don’t know me, but if you don’t know me, there’s only about two weeks left for us to be able to get to know each other, at least for the next year and a half. In 17 days I will begin my service as a full time missionary. I never thought I would go on a mission, but about a year ago to do the date I called my family while I was at school at BYU Hawaii, and told them that I had decided I was going to serve a mission. They showed almost no surprise and told me that they had already figured that out a long time ago, apparently way before I ever did. I didn’t start to think about serving a mission until the summer before my senior year of high school. We had just gotten sister missionaries in our ward and they started to come over weekly, which continued all throughout that year, and even until now. Being with the sisters each week was opening my eyes to the idea, I had never even considered this as an option. It was the strength of the spirit that I felt each time I was around the sisters that made me rethink. With the age change, and the majority of sister missionaries being 19 at that time, it made it so much easier for me to relate to them. I realized that these girls were only a year or two older than I was, and I would constantly put myself in their shoes, and imagine myself as a missionary. And every time I thought about it, the idea sounded better and better. When I got to college, what had initially just been a thought was quickly becoming an actual plan. Last October I was at one of my friend’s mission call openings and while he was reading his letter, I realized this was something I needed to do. I just knew. And I know that it was heavenly father answering my prayers through the Holy Ghost.
Today, I will be speaking about living worthily in order to have the Holy Ghost in our lives. The Holy Ghost is a gift one receives at the time of baptism and confirmation, making baptism the most important step to receiving the Holy Ghost. In our confirmation following our baptism, it is simply stated that we will “receive the holy ghost”. Of course once we have been confirmed a member of the church and given this gift, it gives us the ability to have the holy ghost in our lives, but as with most things in life, actually having it in our lives will take some work. We must live worthily in order to actually have it. It is important that we invite the Holy Ghost into our lives through meaningful prayer, scripture study, obedience, faithfulness and honoring of covenants, and through virtue, humility, and service. Doing all of that sounds like a lot. But if you truly have the desire to have the Holy Ghost in your life, these things will become much more simple. I have had so many times in my life where I was not actively extending an invitation to the Holy Ghost. And it is so easy to tell the difference between the times when you feel the spirit, and the times that you don’t. When I sent my papers in and got my mission call, I was under the impression that now that I had a call to serve, I would automatically always feel the spirit, be perfectly obedient, and read the scriptures 24/7. This could not be more false. Feeling the spirit takes work. It’s taken me a little while to realize that, but now that I have, I have made a much more conscientious effort to invite the Holy Ghost into my life. And one of the biggest reasons I am serving a mission is because I want people everywhere to know what the spirit feels like. Each week as we take the sacrament we are reminded of our Heavenly Father’s promise to us, “that they may always have his spirit to be with them.” It can often be easy to forget that the spirit is not only felt during church, in the temple, or at other church-related activities. The spirit can be felt anywhere at any time as long as you invite it.
Unfortunately, there can often be times where even when we are being as faithful and obedient as we can, we do not always recognize the spirit. In general conference in April of 2006, Elder Bednar gave a talk titled, “That We May Always Have His Spirit to be With Us.” He brought up something I hadn’t really thought about. He said, “As we gain experience with the Holy Ghost, we learn that the intensity with which we feel the spirit’s influence is not always the same. Strong, dramatic, spiritual impressions do not come to us frequently. Even as we strive to be faithful and obedient, there simply are times when the direction, assurance, and peace of the Spirit are not readily recognizable in our lives. The influence of the Holy Ghost is described in the scriptures as ‘a still small voice’ and a ‘voice of perfect mildness’. Thus, the Spirit of the Lord usually communicates with us in ways that are quiet, delicate, and subtle.” This really stood out to me. In all the hustle and bustle of our crazy and busy lives, it can be really hard to tell when the Holy Ghost is communicating with us. I have found that it is nearly impossible to feel the spirit when I am in situations where it may be very loud, something may be making me uncomfortable, or I can simply just recognize that I am not standing in a holy place. I had never really thought about this before. Sometimes in my life, even when I have been as obedient and faithful as possible, I have still had a hard time recognizing when I was feeling the spirit. It is important that we learn how to discern from what makes us feel the spirit and what does not. In Bednar’s talk, he said, “The standard is clear. If something we think, see, hear, or do distances us from the Holy Ghost then we should stop thinking, seeing, hearing, or doing that thing.” This sounded quite blunt to me, but it could not be truer. If we are in situations where we can so clearly recognize that the spirit is not present, and we have the desire to feel that spirit, we should simply just withdraw ourselves. I can think back on so many times in my life, even recently, where I knew that the spirit was not present, but I did not make the effort to withdraw myself from the situation, and then was still upset and uncomfortable with the fact that I could not feel the spirit. The solution for this is so simple. Just stop. Walk out of the room, turn off the TV, turn off the song, ask someone around you to be more respectful, do something that will invite the Holy Ghost back into your life. It is so much happier to live a life where you have the constant companionship of the Holy Ghost, the comforter. In times of trial or even in very good times, having that companionship is vital in building up the Kingdom of God.
The Book of Mormon is almost a modern day guidebook that we can turn to, to learn about how we can invite the constant companionship of the Holy Ghost into our lives. In the Book of Mormon, we learn about the Liahona, which was given to Lehi and his family by our Heavenly Father as a guide and compass on their journey to find the Promised Land. They had many obstacles along the way that would cause the Liahona not to work. These things, which caused the Liahona not to work, are the same things that cause us to withdraw ourselves from the Holy Ghost today. The spirit will operate in our lives almost exactly the same way that the Liahona did for Lehi and his family, which as Nephi said in 1 Nephi 16:28, “I beheld the pointers which were in the ball, that they did work according to the faith and diligence and heed which we did give unto them.” The Liahona led Lehi and his family to the Promised Land, and I know that the Holy Ghost can act as a Liahona in ours, and can also lead us to the Promised Land. In the scriptures we learn that the Liahona also provided a way for Lehi and his family to obtain greater understanding concerning the ways of the Lord. This means that the main purpose of the Liahona was to provide both direction and instruction during a long and demanding journey. This life is more often than not very demanding and sometimes it feels like the tough times will never end. But I am grateful that through those hard times and through all of that which is so demanding, Heavenly Father has given us this gift of the Holy Ghost to direct and instruct us in this life, in order for us to come back to Him. In John 14:15-17, Christ tells us, “ If ye love me, keep my commandments. And I will pray the Father and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever; Even the spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you.” I am so grateful for the complex simplicity of the gospel. It is so simple for Jesus to tell us to keep His commandments so that we can have the Holy Ghost. But it is also so difficult to make the effort to accept that gift from him sometimes. To echo President Henry B. Eyring’s talk from this past general conference, “The companionship of the Holy Ghost makes what is good more attractive and temptation less compelling. That alone should be enough to make us determined to qualify for the Spirit to be with us always.” Once we have that companionship, will most likely always desire to keep it.
Often, we get caught up in the idea of the spirit always being the same, and everyone having it administered in the same way. The spirit will guide each of us differently according to our needs, and what Heavenly Father knows is best for us. When I was younger and in primary, I would always be very confused when people would talk in church about the “still, small voice”. I had never heard the spirit literally speak to me before and because of that I wondered if I had ever actually received promptings from the Holy Ghost. A few years ago in general conference, the late apostle Boyd K. Packer told us about something he learned from the Book of Mormon, “Perhaps the single greatest thing I learned from reading the Book of Mormon is that the voice of the Spirit comes as a feeling rather than a sound. You will learn, as I have learned, to ‘listen’ for that voice that is felt rather than heard.” He later went on to say, “It is not expected that you go through life without making mistakes, but you will not make a major mistake without first being warned by the promptings of the Spirit. This promise applies to all members of the Church.” This brought me comfort for two reasons, number one it is promised that all members of the church will not make a major mistake without a warning from the spirit, number two, the voice of the spirit is felt rather than heard. I am so grateful to now be able to recognize when I do feel the spirit and receive promptings from the Holy Ghost, because I was baptized and confirmed a member of the church, and therefore promised those blessings. Without the spirit in my life, I think I would feel very lost. The Holy Ghost has certainly been a guide for me and has kept me away from many harmful things, and led me to many good things, and I know it will continue to lead me towards eternal life.
I can only hope that on my mission, I will be able to teach people through the spirit and be able to lead them to the Promised Land, as the Liahona did for Lehi and his family. And I pray that we will all live in a way that will invite the spirit into our lives. I am so excited and so grateful for this opportunity that I have been given to serve the people of Anaheim. The road to my mission has not been an easy one, from the time that I received my call until now, I have had a lot of time to wonder about whether or not this is the right decision for me. I have also had a lot of time to spend wondering why God is making me wait for what has seemed like forever to finally leave. I have prayed and prayed asking for a confirmation that this is still what I am supposed to do and also that I will be arriving in my mission at the correct time. I have had strong impressions from the Holy Ghost that there are people in Anaheim being prepared right in this very moment to hear the teachings of the gospel of Jesus Christ. I cannot wait to lead those people onto the path back to live with our Heavenly Father once again. I am so happy that 18 months away from my family is hardly comparable to the eternity that I will get to spend with them. I am so grateful for this gospel and for the comfort of the Holy Ghost in my life. I say these things humbly in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.