Elder Zwahlen’s Farewell Talk

Farewell Talk 6/22/14

Good morning, brothers and sisters, the days before I leave are winding down. Two short weeks and my mother will finally be rid of me. Soon, my room might actually be clean, my leaking truck will finally be out of the driveway, and I suspect my family’s food bill will greatly decrease, (assuming my friends don’t continue to raid my fridge even after I’m gone.) And for me, I might actually be out of bed before noon.

And most of all, I will be spending all of my mind and strength serving others and serving God.

But to do that effectively over the next two years, I will need to look towards the perfect example of selfless service and sacrifice, even our Savior, Jesus Christ.

Today, I would like to focus on His purpose for coming down to earth, which can be categorized into three main purposes: 1) His miracles 2) His message 3) His mission.

During Christ’s mortal ministry, he performed many miracles both in Jerusalem and in the Americas. In “The Living Christ,” it says “He walked the roads of Palestine, healing the sick, causing the blind to see, and raising the dead.” As Christians we see his miracles as an outward expression of his love and compassion for each of us, but they also teach us important lessons. From them we learn of both sin and its cure, the necessity of faith, the need for repentance, and most importantly of love. It is also imperative that we understand that no miracles are wrought without faith. Many today believe that miracles ended when Christ was crucified, but I know that Christ’s miracles happen all around us.

One such miracle came to an Elder who is serving in Texas, named Brock. Here is one of his experiences, taken from one of his letters, in which he testifies that miracles do happen. He says:

“I titled this F2TF (which stands for “Fight To The Finish”) because of Tyler Smith, a close friend who passed away 2 years ago tomorrow after a courageous fight with cancer. But more than that, he was able to help me teach an amazing lesson this week, maybe one of the best of my mission.”

“We’re working with Lily, a 15 year old girl who is awesome! Her sister was baptized about a year ago, but Lily had wanted nothing to do with missionaries up until the last month or two. We’ve been teaching her the last little bit, and her biggest struggle has been believing that Joseph

Smith saw what he saw. She’s even told us she wants to believe it, it’s just such a big doubt. She was about 65% believing she told us.

“Lily has also been studying with [teachers from another church,] which have made her believe that miracles don’t exist. For some reason, I keyed up on this and
asked her, “Lily, do you believe in miracles?” to which she replied, “No, because the [missionaries from the other church] teach me that they don’t exist.”

“At the beginning of the transfer, I knew it would be Tyler’s 2 year mark since he passed away, so I made my agenda to kind of honor the example that he was to me.
“To me, it was an amazing Miracle that Tyler lived as long as he did, when the Doctors told him he would only have a few months from the time that he was diagnosed. I pulled out my agenda, showed Lily the picture of Tyler, and testified that Miracles do exist, and this little, sick boy was a miracle that blessed so many lives with his example. I told her that it was made possible because of the many Priesthood blessings which he received thanks to that power being restored upon the earth by the Prophet Joseph Smith.

“As I was going for a few minutes, Lily began to cry, and I could feel the Spirit telling her that this is true. We left after a prayer, and invited her to take advantage of the Spirit that was present, and use 20 minutes or so to kneel down and ask God these things.

“When we came back the next day, she told us, “Guys, I’m ready to get
baptized. I know this is true, and I know if I don’t do it now, I’ll never
do it.”
Brock continues: “I know Tyler was preserved for the year of cancer so that each and every person who had contact with him was blessed in one way or another! Tyler taught me a valuable lesson of Enduring to the End, or Fighting To The Finish, and I’m so very grateful for the friendship we had together. Even though he passed away 2 years ago, I know he is still working those miracles, just like this one with Lily.”

Brothers and Sisters, Christ’s miracles are all around us, if we only take the time to look for them.

Christ’s second purpose in fulfilling his mortal ministry is his message. We know from the testimony of the apostles that Christ’s “gospel was a message of peace and goodwill. He entreated all to follow His example.” Henry B. Eyring taught that “The message of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ is that we can and must expect to become better as long as we live.” Specifically, this means becoming more like our Savior. Moroni echo’s this in chapter 7 when he exhorts us to “pray unto the Father with all the energy of heart, that ye may be filled with this love, which he hath bestowed upon all who are true followers of his Son, Jesus Christ; that ye may become the sons of God; that when he shall appear we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is; that we may have this hope; that we may be purified even as he is pure.”

That statement is both humbling and optimistic. We believe that by following the Savior example we can become like him. When Christ came to the Americas he entreated all to “be perfect even I or your Father who is in heaven is perfect.” Alone we cannot ourselves become perfect, but through Him, we can be perfected in Him.

Christ’s message reminds me of a dear primary song, that many of you will find familiar. It teaches of His love and divinity and His call to follow Him. I would sing it, but I think after the two special music numbers you’ve heard today, it could only go downhill from there. So, it begins:

I’m trying to be like Jesus; I’m following in his ways.

I’m trying to love as he did, in all that I do and say.

At times I am tempted to make a wrong choice,

But I try to listen as the still small voice whispers,

“Love one another as Jesus loves you.

Try to show kindness in all that you do.

Be gentle and loving in deed and in thought,

For these are the things Jesus taught.”

In John chapter 10, Jesus tells a parable to his disciples. In this parable, He explains that he is the “good shepherd” who giveth his life for the sheep. He also tells them that he is the door by which if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and find pasture.

“1 Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that entereth not by the door into the sheepfold, but climbeth up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber.

2 But he that entereth in by the door is the shepherd of the sheep.

3 To him the porter openeth; and the sheep hear his voice: and he calleth his own sheep by name, and leadeth them out.

4 And when he putteth forth his own sheep, he goeth before them, and the sheep follow him: for they know his voice.

5 And a stranger will they not follow, but will flee from him: for they know not the voice of strangers.

6 This parable spake Jesus unto them: but they understood not what things they were which he spake unto them.

9 I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture.

11 I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep.

From this we learn that Jesus Christ is both a way and a means to Salvation. Interestingly, because he is both the shepherd and the door, he can be with us every step of the way if we but follow his message.

I reserved the last portion of my talk for Christ’s third and final purpose, known as his Mission. This purpose is distinct from the other two in that it was essential that Christ physically came down to earth. His miracles, for instance, were performed by many of the Old Testament prophets hundreds of years before Christ was born: Moses parting the red sea; Elijah and the woman who’s oil and meal never wasted away; Daniel being protected from the lions, Joshua leveling the walls of Jericho. Christ’s power can be seen in countless instances throughout the scriptures. Similarly, his message, that we must look to Christ for Salvation, has been taught since the time of Adam and Eve. But his Mission had to be performed by one who was perfect, and was willing to atone for all mankind.

Elder Holland taught that “The Atonement was the foreordained but voluntary act of the Only Begotten Son of God in which He offered His life and spiritual anguish as a redeeming ransom for the effect of the Fall of Adam upon all mankind and for the personal sins of all who repent.”

We learn more insight to the atonement from the missionary Aaron in the Book of Mormon, when he is teaching Lamoni’s father.

“And since man had fallen he could not merit anything of himself; but the sufferings and death of Christ atone for their sins, through faith and repentance, and so forth; and that he breaketh the bands of death, that the grave shall have no victory, and that the sting of death should be swallowed up in the hopes of glory…”

Christ’s atonement extends far beyond just our sins, but he has also born our griefs and our sorrows. Part of his mission was to experience all of our pains—spiritual, mental, physical, and emotional—so that he would know how to help us overcome them. Who better to go to for assistance than the only one who knows us perfectly and understands everything we’re going through?  Many times we say to ourselves, “nobody understands me,” or “why is this happening to me?” But Savior knows our weaknesses. In fact, he goes as far as to say “I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me…” But WHY would Christ, who loves us, want to give us weakness?

Because “… for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them.”

How comforting it is to know that it is our biggest insecurities and largest shortcomings can become our greatest improvements?

In April of 2009, Elder Jeffery R. Holland spoke poignantly of Christ’s Mission. He says:

“Brothers and sisters, one of the great consolations of this Easter season is that because Jesus walked such a long, lonely path utterly alone, we do not have to do so. His solitary journey brought great company for our little version of that path. Trumpeted from the summit of Calvary is the truth that we will never be left alone nor unaided, even if sometimes we may feel that we are. Truly the Redeemer of us all said: “I will not leave you comfortless: [My Father and] I will come to you [and abide with you].”

At this time I’d also like to share some thoughts about serving my OWN mission for the Savior.

I always thought that if serving a mission was like selling things door-to-door I would probably make a terrible missionary. First of all, how could I try and get people to pay money for something that I wouldn’t even buy myself. (No offense to people that sell door-to-door). But luckily, as a missionary I won’t be selling a product I wouldn’t buy; I won’t be selling anything at all. I will going out in in the strength of the Lord to share His message of hope with all who are willing to listen.

If you don’t remember anything else from my talk, I would like each of you to know that I know this is Christ’s church, and what I will be doing for the next two years is His work.

I am eternally grateful for my Savior and what he did for me. I know that without him, the first 3 principals of the gospel: Faith in Him, repentance, and baptism would be in vain. But his message is not in vain because He lives, because He loves us.

I’m so grateful for all of your love and support and for helping to prepare me to serve a mission. I know it is where the Lord needs me.

In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.Cory and Elders2Be


About Elder Zwahlen

Elder Cory Zwahlen is serving a 2-year proselyting mission in the Lisbon, Portugal area, for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. He entered the Provo MTC on July 9, 2014. One of Elder Zwahlen's favorite scriptures is Alma 29:1-2 "O that I were an angel, and could have the wish of mine heart, that I might go forth and speak with the trump of God, with a voice to shake the earth, and cry repentance unto every people! Yea, I would declare unto every soul, as with the voice of thunder, repentance and the plan of redemption, that they should repent and come unto our God, that there might not be more sorrow upon all the face of the earth."
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