So long, farewell..

Brothers and Sisters, aloha!

Bishop Cox has given me this wonderful opportunity to speak to my ward family one last time. The topic he has given me is “Be Converted Unto the Lord”. This topic could have gone in many directions and paths, but only one has touched my heart as much as it did.

I’d like to share a story that I’ve never really told anyone of before, to introduce this topic:

I realized that many of you don’t know how my decision to serve came about. It was kind of random and sudden, but hey, that’s life right? When I made the decision to serve a mission it was in a time where life was full of excitement and adventure. I had a job, great grades, and amazing roommates- but deep in my heart I knew I felt empty- I thought to myself “something is missing.” It was a feeling I couldn’t shake and one I couldn’t ignore. I felt small. I took this feeling and prayed sincerely to our loving Heavenly Father.

There were many messages sent from God, showing me that a mission is on my straight and narrow path. A dear friend of mine came home from her mission: The Japan Nagoya Mission. While I was living in Utah she decided to come down and visit her sisters and I. On this visit she had the opportunity to go to her mission reunion and had decided to take me along with her. The spirit was so strong at this gathering. At the conclusion of the reunion all the Elders and Sisters stood tall and sang “Called to Serve” in the Japanese language. The spirit was firm in it’s prompting in the moment, I hear it say “YOU need to go to Japan.”

A few weeks later, still having the thought fresh in my mind, I woke up and decided to watch some mission call openings on YouTube. That day all I could think about was “what if”. What if that was me opening that call? Then the very next day, I felt something starting to fill that piece missing. I knew what it was and I was scared. Was this something I really wanted to do? But as I pondered, I knew it was something I NEEDED to do. In that instance I picked up myself up and made the decision to achieve my next large goal: To be a full-time missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Whether it be Idaho or actually Japan, I told myself that I will go and do the things the Lord commands of me.

I slept with the prompting for a good week before telling anyone. Finally I texted my mom about the decision I made. Both of us were extremely shocked. I was never one to think about a mission constantly. In fact a couple weeks earlier I was telling my mom that I didn’t even want to serve a mission. But obviously Heavenly Father had a much better plan for me than the one I made.

On July 30th, I had finally received my call in the mail. It read “Dear Sister Sasaki, you are hereby called to serve as a missionary of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. You are assigned to labor in the Japan Sapporo Mission.”

I share this because I want to ask a question for everyone to ponder: “When was it that YOU came to learn the importance of conversion, and understanding that it is an everlasting achievement?”

For me? It was during the time i had decided to serve, as well as the time i had while preparing to submit my mission papers, and even to this day I am taught this important principle. During this process of me preparing to serve a mission I have been given trials to show me what being Converted unto the Lord sincerely means. It gave me the opportunity to offer up my weaknesses and be a partaker in the Atonement of Christ.

Elder Bednar gives a wonderful talk on Being Converted unto the Lord, in the Oct 2012 General Conference. In this talk he gives 5 steps that show us the pattern that leads to conversion.

The first step is:

Believing in the teachings and prophecies of Prophets and Scriptures

The scriptures are the Word of God. It is doctrine from heaven, straight into the palm of our hands. This is NOT something that wikipedia or sparknotes can summarize for our short attention spans. There is a reason why conversion is an ongoing process through our lives.  It is never something we can summarize or have a complete perfect knowledge of because we are an imperfect people. God knew this as He created us, and sent Holy Prophets and scriptures to ease that burden each and everyone of us live with.

In Jacob 4:4 it says

For, for this intent have we written these things, that they may know that we knew of Christ, and we had a hope of his glory many hundred years before his coming; and not only we ourselves had a hope of his glory, but also all the holy prophets which were before us.  

This scripture is AMAZING!! It was written sometime between 544 and 421 b.c. The prophet, Jacob, explains the reason for writing the holy scriptures. He and his people knew of Christ, and had hope even thousands of years before this dispensation, of His coming. He wrote these things for us to see that even they understood Heavenly Father’s plan for us and the purpose of our Savior. For seekers it is important to have testimonies of these scriptures, to be a living modern witness, in word and in deed. As we do, we open our hearts to the spirit of truth and let it burn inside of ourselves- that is the beginning of conversion.

Exercising Faith in the Lord, Jesus Christ

It is an action part of conversion. As we build up this knowledge from the scriptures we need to apply it to our lives, to begin to surface the understanding of conversion towards our Savior. A wonderful story about faith is one about Moroni. This story is found in Ether chapter 12. Many of us are familiar with the scripture, Ether 12:27, which is apart of this story of Moroni. It says:

And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them.

This scripture is apart of a powerful story. Christ is speaking to Moroni, because even HE felt inadequate amongst the Gentiles. He told Christ how He made them “mighty in word by faith” but had made them weak in their writings and felt ashamed. But Christ quickly reminded him that His “grace is sufficient for the meek.” Soon after, Moroni repented, and put a foot forward-  Ether 12:41 , he said

And now, I would commend you to seek this Jesus of whom the prophets and apostles have written, that the grace of God the father, and also the Lord Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost, which beareth record of them, may be and abide in you forever.

Isn’t it wonderful to have that potential shown to us? When we become humble, we have powerful blessings ready to be bestowed upon us, as we seek our Savior, Jesus Christ.

In the process of mission preparation, I had many moments that opened my eyes. I realized that I let my anxieties and fears get the best of me, instead of having faith, like how Moroni explains, I was letting my fears of being not-good-enough overwhelm me. Recently I have been working in the temple as an ordinance worker the past five weeks. It’s truly been a spiritual experience like no other. The first couple weeks are quite overwhelming, as you do need to memorize ordinances so we can help the patrons to the best of our abilities. There was one ordinance that I had been struggling with, it gave me quite a bit of anxiety and stress, and they kept putting me on that specific place one shift. I had it memorized, but the moment I was ready to do it, I drew a blank. I was embarrassed and very frustrated. I cried home that day ready to quit. But the next week I decided that there is no quitting at the temple, and I need to change something. It is the house of learning, and I must find the opportunity to learn. I changed my attitude and perspective on what I was called to do in the temple. I needed to be humbled. I got to the temple a little earlier and studied what I needed before my next friday shift began. Throughout my study before my shift, I had a quote pop up in my brain, “faith conquers fear, as faith and fear do not coexist.”

I had no faith in myself, or faith that the spirit would prompt me to guide me in the ordinance. But more importantly: I forgot to have faith in Christ. So I put my worldly fears aside, and chose to abide by my newly discovered faith. As I did so my worries were left alone. I walked in, ready to do what I had been called to do.

That day I was able to do the ordinance with exactness. On my way home from that shift, I cried again. I cried because I knew my faith in Christ gave me the ability to hear the spirit speak to me- to comfort me as I performed these very sacred ordinances.

With this faith in Christ’s abilities it leads to the next step:

Repentance

Often we look at repentance with a thorn in our foot. Making it just another thing on our checklist to make sure we can be worthy to stand in God’s presence again. It shouldn’t be or feel this way. We were given repentance as a way of life. My mom often likes to quote her father on this that “no one is immune from sin,” And my grandfather is right. We are sinners. But as we are following those first two steps of understanding scriptures and prophets teachings and having faith in Christ, it leads us to wanting to become like our Savior. The only way to this? The path of repentance.

In a talk by Neal A. Maxwell he gives this wonderful insight:

“Repentance is a rescuing, not a dour doctrine. It is available to the gross sinner as well as to the already-good individual striving for incremental improvement.”

Elder Maxwell explains this perfectly. Repentance is there for everyone, anyone, and at anytime. There is no perfect time to repent, but now.

When we repent we become familiarized with the purpose of our Savior. What HIS mission was for this earth. And growing a love for the Lord like nothing else could ever do.

Be repentant. Don’t procrastinate. Repentance is free of charge. The only cost? To try.

The last two steps of this conversion process is to

Experience a mighty change of heart and to become “firm and steadfast in the faith”

Understanding that we NEED God and God needs us is what changes our hearts. We can try and find something better as much as we want, but nothing will ever make us more converted than the understanding of the love of our God and Savior, Jesus Christ has for us. We’ve been given this plan of salvation for a reason. For knowledge and growth. We did not come to this earth to be idle. If we were, we would be in the garden of Eden with Adam and Eve, never progressing. Conversion is a verb and we have to choose whether or not we want to be a part of that action.

Take what we have learned, seek the scriptures and promptings from our holy prophet’s, exercise your faith IN the Savior, be humble and repent, then the mighty change of heart will start to turn forward. We will be more and more familiar with it each day. A mighty change of heart is not a large spontaneous experience, but many little ones throughout our lives that will continue us to be firm in the faith.

In Helaman 15:7-8 says:

7 And behold, ye do know of yourselves, for ye have witnessed it, that as many of them as are brought to the knowledge of the truth, and to know of the wicked and abominable traditions of their fathers, and are led to believe the holy scriptures, yea, the prophecies of the holy prophets, which are written, which leadeth them to faith on the Lord, and unto repentance, which faith and repentance bringeth a change of heart unto them—

8 Therefore, as many as have come to this, ye know of yourselves are firm and steadfast in the faith, and in the thing wherewith they have been made free.

This scripture is a witness to Elder Bednar’s talk. It reiterates the importance of faith and repentance.

We MUST understand that knowledge is a gift. Applying and taking action is power. Together? That IS conversion brothers and sisters. That is what faith in Christ and what the power of the Atonement can bless our lives into. It is never an easy process to be Converted unto the Lord. That is why it is a task given for our lifetime. To be defenders of truth.

I testify that as we follow closely to this pattern of conversion, we will be worthy vessels of the Lord

I know that we were given purpose on this earth and each and everyday we have, we have it to repent, and find our purpose. All of which are only available to us through our Savior, Jesus Christ. I testify that if you do no know of the joy the gospel of Jesus Christ can bring to your life, than I invite you to truly search for it. We cannot know truth without being a seeker. I know with every inch in my body that this gospel is true. And lastly:

I know that it isn’t about what I do as a missionary,  it’s about what I do as a missionary for God.

And I say these things, in the sacred name, of our Savior Jesus Christ, Amen.

Sayonara,

Sasaki Shimai