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The long wait from opening the mission call to departure is quickly coming to an end. Emily's farewell was today. We enjoyed seeing family and friends and appreciate the support that was shown for Emily. We missed those of you that couldn't make it. A few of you that weren't able to come asked that we share Emily's talk. You can find it after the pictures.

Nathan, Dad, Mom, Luke and Emily
with Grammy Baker
Emily and Danielle
Where did we come from? Why are we here? And where are we going? These are three important questions that we, as members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, have the answers to. We find these answers as we come to understand the Plan of Salvation, which our Heavenly Father has created for us so that we may find true happiness. Today I want to focus on four parts of the Plan of Happiness that I feel are important for each of us to understand: 1. The Purpose of the Plan, 2. Our Mortal existence, 3. The Atonement and 4. The Spirit world and the final judgment.

In his talk entitled The Plan of Happiness, President Boyd K. Packer shared a key principle of God’s plan for us. He said, “the end of all activity in the Church is to see that a man and a woman with their children are happy at home, sealed together for time and for all eternity.” This is Gods purpose for us which we find in the scriptures in Moses 1:39 which reads, “For behold, this is my work and my glory—to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.”

As I prepare to serve a mission I have had the most amazing opportunity to be and ordinance worker in the Newport Beach Temple. I have met one on one with each member of the temple presidency on separate occasions and in each meeting I have been asked what I believe my purpose is as a missionary. As I have met with them, it has become clear that my purpose is the same as God's purpose. It is to get people to the temple where they can be sealed to their families for time and for all eternity.  That is the end goal that we want every person on the earth to reach, but it is not that simple.

In transitioning from our pre-earth life to our life on the earth we passed through a veil of forgetfulness. We have been sent to earth to be tested and as we go through our mortal lives we are given trials and obstacles that test our spiritual strength. In the Book of Mormon, in Alma, chapter 12 we learn that this earth life is “a time to prepare to meet God.” Each person will experience his or her own unique set of trials and the Lord will never place a burden upon us that we are incapable of overcoming. He knows us and He gives us hardships that will help us to grow if we have the faith to work through them. When placed on the earth we were given agency, or the ability to choose. And when we encounter hardships we must use that agency to decide if we will let our trials take over or if we are going to turn to the Lord in our time of need so that we may understand the purpose of the trial we have been given.

While I was attending school at BYU-Idaho I was given an assignment in one of my classes to interview someone about trials that they had experienced and how they were able to overcome those trials. My thoughts immediately turned to a family that I knew had experienced many hardships and who I have always looked up to for their faith. I asked them questions and got some great answers back, but my favorite part was the testimony that they shared with me at the end. I am not going to attempt to paraphrase it, but instead would like to share this amazing testimony with you in their own words. It reads: “We grew SO MUCH through these hardships. My testimony was strong before but after our experiences, we have been so humbled and our testimonies are rock solid!  We see this world so much clearer. We know what's important in this life. It's not about social status. It's not about wearing the most expensive, trendy pair of jeans. It's not driving the nicest car, or living in a big beautiful home. NONE OF THOSE THINGS MATTER!!! It's about LOVE. It's about your family, your friends, your relationships. About how you can serve and help others grow and lighten their burdens. And those are the things that bring TRUE HAPPINESS. And those are things we can all do, anytime, all the time! I know that that is how we felt such joy and peace during our dark storm. I am extremely grateful for that huge lesson we have learned from our trials. It truly has been a GIFT!”

This family obviously turned to the Lord as they encountered trial after trial and because they were faithful they could see that there was a purpose for the obstacles that had been put in their path. I would like to point out that this did not make their hardships easy, but it did make them bearable. And now that they have passed what they referred to as their “dark storm” they can see what eternal happiness will come from the trials that they have faced.

That is the purpose of our life on earth. We will come face to face with so many different obstacles and struggles, some much bigger than others. But we cannot let those things tear us down, we need to remember that behind each trial or struggle is a lesson to be taught if we are willing to trust in the Lord and His will for us.

As much as I would love to believe that every time a decision is placed before me, I make the correct one, I know that is definitely not true. No one is perfect, each of us will make wrong decisions or maybe walk down the wrong path for a little while, but that does not mean that we cannot return to our Father in Heaven one day. Because of His perfect plan and because of the Atonement of Jesus Christ, His son we are able to repent of our sins and be forgiven of our mistakes.

In our pre-mortal life, Jesus Christ volunteered to come down to the earth and atone for our sins so that we may all one day return to our Heavenly Fathers presence, “He was the only one capable of making a perfect Atonement for all mankind.” And because of His atonement we have been given the gift of repentance. President Packer said; “Nowhere is the generosity and mercy of God more manifest than in repentance.” This is so true! If there was no repentance, then we would all be expected to be perfect, to never make mistakes. And if we did make mistakes, we would not be able to enter our Heavenly Fathers presence. The atonement and repentance play such a vital role in the Plan of Salvation.

There is a story that I heard once during a lesson that I had about the atonement and I would like to share it with you today:

In that place between wakefulness and dreams, I found myself in the room. There were no distinguishing features save for the one wall covered with small index card files. They were like the ones in libraries that list titles by author or subject in alphabetical order. But these files, which stretched from floor to ceiling and seemingly endlessly in either direction, had very different headings. As I drew near the wall of files, the first to catch my attention was one that read "Girls I Have Liked". I opened it and began flipping through the cards. I quickly shut it, shocked to realize that I recognized the names written on each one.

And then without being told, I knew exactly where I was. This lifeless room with its small files was a crude catalog system for my life. Here were written the actions of my every moment, big and small, in a detail my memory couldn't match. A sense of wonder and curiosity, coupled with horror, stirred within me as I began randomly opening files and exploring their content. Some brought joy and sweet memories; others a sense of shame and regret so intense that I would look over my shoulder to see if anyone was watching.

A file named "Friends" was next to one marked "Friends I Have Betrayed". The titles ranged from the mundane to the outright weird. "Books I Have Read", "Lies I Have Told", "Comfort I Have Given", "Jokes I Have Laughed At". Some were almost hilarious in their exactness: "Things I've Yelled at My Brothers." Others I couldn't laugh at: "Things I Have Done in My Anger", "Things I Have muttered Under My Breath at My Parents". I never ceased to be surprised by the contents. Often there were many more cards than I expected. Sometimes fewer than I

I was overwhelmed by the sheer volume of the life I had lived. Could it be possible that I had the time in my 16 years to write each of these thousands or even millions of cards? But each card confirmed this truth. Each was written in my own handwriting. Each signed with my signature. When I pulled out the file marked "Songs I Have Listened To", I realized the files grew to contain their contents. The cards were packed tightly, and yet after two or three yards, I hadn't found the end of the file. I shut it, shamed, not so much by the quality of music, but more by the vast amount of time I knew that file represented.

When I came to a file marked "Lustful Thoughts", I felt a chill run through my body. I pulled the file out only an inch, not willing to test its size, and drew out a card. I shuddered at its detailed content. I felt sick to think that such a moment had been recorded.

An almost animal rage broke on me. One thought dominated my mind: "No one must ever see these cards! No one must ever see this room! I have to destroy them!" In an insane frenzy I yanked the file out. Its size didn't matter now. I had to empty it and burn the cards. But as I took it at one end and began pounding it on the floor, I could not dislodge a single card. I became desperate and pulled out a card, only to find it as strong as steel when I tried to tear it.

Defeated and utterly helpless, I returned the file to its slot. Leaning my forehead against the wall, I let out a long, self- pitying sigh. And then I saw it. The title bore "People I Have Shared the Gospel With".

The handle was brighter than those around it, newer, almost unused. I pulled on its handle and a small box not more than three inches long fell into my hands. I could
count the cards it contained on one hand.

And then the tears came. I began to weep. Sobs so deep that the hurt started in my stomach and shook through me. I fell on my knees and cried. I cried out of shame, from the overwhelming shame of it all. The rows of file shelves swirled in my tear-filled eyes. No one must ever, ever know of this room. I must lock it up and hide the key.

But then as I pushed away the tears, I saw Him. No, please not Him. Not here. Oh, anyone but Jesus. I watched helplessly as He began to open the files and read the cards. I couldn't bear to watch His response. And in the moments I could bring myself to look at His face, I saw a sorrow deeper than my own. He seemed to intuitively go to the worst boxes. Why did He have to read every one?

Finally, He turned and looked at me from across the room. He looked at me with pity in His eyes. But this was a pity that didn't anger me. I dropped my head, covered my face with my hands and began to cry again.

He walked over and put His arm around me. He could have said so many things. But He didn't say a word. He just cried with me.

Then He got up and walked back to the wall of files. Starting at one end of the room, He took out a file and, one by one, began to sign His name over mine on each card. "No!" I shouted rushing to Him. All I could find to say was "No, no," as I pulled the card from Him. His name shouldn't be on these cards. But there it was, written in red so rich, so dark, so alive. The name of Jesus covered mine. It was written with His blood. He gently took the card back. He smiled a sad smile and began to sign the cards. I don't think I'll ever understand how He did it so quickly, but the next instant it seemed I heard Him close the last file and walk back to my side. He placed His hand on my shoulder and said, "It is finished." I stood up, and He led me out of the room. There was no lock on its door. There were still cards to be written.”

I love this story because it shows the love that Jesus Christ has for each and every one of us. No matter what mistakes we make, we can always find our way back to Him and he will welcome us with open arms. His love is unconditional and because of his atonement we are able to be forgiven for our mistakes and return to our Father in Heaven.

Once we have finished our time on the earth we enter the spirit world where we will “live either in a state of misery or a state of peace and rest, depending on how we lived in this life.” As we read in the Bible, in 1 Peter 4:6, those who are in a state of misery still have a chance to be taught the gospel in the SpiritWorld. God is a merciful being and He wants nothing more than for all of His children to be with Him forever. He has done everything in His power to create a plan that will allow His children to accept the gospel and its messages so that they may reach the Celestial Kingdom.

In order to reach the Celestial Kingdom, we must first be resurrected. Resurrection is when our spirits and our bodies will be reunited. Resurrection is a free gift made possible by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. After this, we face judgment. The definition of Judgment in Preach my Gospel states: “God, through Jesus Christ, will judge us individually to determine the eternal glory we will receive. This judgment will be based on our obedience to God’s commandments, including our acceptance of the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ. We will receive our eternal reward based on whether our works and desires have been good or evil.” This judgement will determine where we spend the eternities.  I hope that each of us is doing all that we can to keep the commandments and to repent of our wrongs so that we can be found worthy to live with our Heavenly Father again.

The Lord is forgiving. He wants to be reunited with each of His children. He wants them to be faithful and true to His gospel. Because of this, He created a plan, a perfect plan, that we call the Plan of Salvation or Plan of Happiness. Through this plan, each of us were given the ability to choose, but we were also given the ability to repent after choosing poorly. The Lord made it possible for us to return to Him through the Plan of Happiness as long as we are willing to do our part. I am so grateful that He loved us enough to prepare a way for us to return to Him someday.

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