February 2011-August 2012

13 February 2011

My Farewell Talk

Well, the Lord works by mysterious ways, and I didn't actually end up giving the talk I prepared. But I felt like I should have it posted on my blog, so I guess someone out there needs to read something in it. That person just might be you... I'm just sayin... :) I normally don't write out my talks word for word, but maybe I did with most of this one because it was meant to be read here rather than heard in church.

Sister Dana Blackburn
13 February 2011
Mission Farewell

My life has changed because I gained a testimony.


My life has changed because I gained a testimony of…
Prayer: I can’t even remember a time when I didn’t know what prayer was, how to pray, or that God really does answer my prayers. Because my parents were so diligent in teaching and showing me how to pray, I never doubted the importance of praying to my Heavenly Father. And now, many years and adventures later, I still know where I can always go for answers, guidance, love, comfort, and hope. Through prayer I have built a relationship with my Heavenly Father and I have come to know Him, but maybe more importantly I have learned just how well He knows me.

o I remember very few specific prayers that I’ve said throughout my life, but the feeling of my prayers being answered is something that will always stick with me.
o When I was about 4, my family was enduring one of our infamous cross-country road trips, and my parents decided to make this one a Church History road trip. One of the places we stopped at was the John Jonson farm in Hiram, Ohio. Since most of you probably aren’t quite as nerdy and obsessed with Church History as I am, I’ll remind you that this is where Joseph Smith received many revelations, including Doctrine & Covenants 76. Part of the tour includes the account of Joseph and Sidney Rigdon receiving this vision and their testimonies.
And now, after the many testimonies which have been given of Him, this is the testimony, last of all, which we give of Him: that He lives! For we saw Him, even on the right hand of God, and we heard the voice bearing record that He is the Only Begotten of the Father—That by Him, and through Him, and of Him the worlds are and were created and the inhabitants thereof are begotten sons and daughters unto God. (D&C 76:22-24)
As a 4 yr. old, this testimony pierced my heart, and I had the greatest desire to see what Joseph and Sidney saw. I asked my mom how I could see the Savior and my Heavenly Father, and she told me to pray and ask if I could see them. Because I had gained a testimony of prayer early on, I had no doubt that what she told me to do was correct. So I decided that if that room was good enough for Joseph to see the Savior in, that it would work for me, too, and I waited for everyone in the tour to move to the next room. I knelt down and I prayed with all the faith and hope of a child to ask Heavenly Father if I could see Him and His Son, so that I, too, could bear a testimony that would help bring others unto Christ.
Now, I’m going to stop here and confess that God did not show Himself unto me that day, nor did His Son, or any angels. I must admit some initial dismay at this, though in jest I’ll blame it on my mom who decided to sneak back in the room with her video camera. There’s nothing like a home video to prevent a heavenly manifestation. But in all seriousness, why did this experience not ruin my testimony of prayer forever? It was because my parents made the effort to teach me about God and His ways.
God didn’t answer my prayer in the way that I was expecting, but through my parents He was able to teach me what I needed to know. I learned that day, and I continue to learn even now, that if I will live my life in accordance with the Gospel and always strive to do God’s will, that not only will I be able to see Him and His Son, but I’ll be able to live with them again one day. I’ve also been able to learn that by doing these things, God can use us to help His children no matter who we are. Now I know that I don’t have to see my Savior in order to testify that He lives, and He does live.
o A few years ago while my father was very ill, I spent a lot of time on my knees with the Lord. I found prayer to be a strength and comfort to me, and I found that the more I talked with God, the more He would talk with me. My father was undergoing a very risky lung surgery to remove the cancer, and I was so worried about what would happen that I was frozen in fear. I felt humbled by circumstance and I turned to my Heavenly Father in prayer. As I pleaded with Him that night for my dad’s life to be preserved and for the surgery to go smoothly, I heard myself say “if it be Thy will.” And as I finished my prayer, I felt the love of my Heavenly Father envelop me and the Spirit whispered “Dana, I know it will be hard, but I need him here now. I have a work for him to do, which no other can. It will be a short time, and then you will be with him forever.” I cannot deny that this answer came from God, because though it was exactly what I didn’t want to hear, I felt at peace and knew that the Lord would be with me to help me through.

Imagine my surprise then, when I got a call early the next morning from my mother telling me that the operation had gone better than expected and my father was doing great. I thought that maybe I had made up the experience the night before, but of course a few months later when we learned that the doctors had missed some of the cancer and that my father would not be with us much longer I knew why the Lord had told me when he did that he needed my father to serve a mission on the other side. This testimony borne to me by the Spirit in answer to my prayers is one that offers continuous comfort to me, and strengthens my testimony that Christ rose from the grave and lives again.

My life has changed because I gained a testimony that…
Christ lives: If Christ lives, then He has overcome death, sin, pain, sickness, and all manner of afflictions. If Christ lives, then I can have faith in His Gospel. If Christ lives, then He can restore His church to the earth. If Christ lives, then I can repent and be made clean. If Christ lives, then I will see my father again. If Christ lives, then I can have an eternal family. So you can see just how much of my life depends upon my testimony that Christ does live. Christ is the cornerstone of our religion, and the foundation on which we are all invited to build.
o Helaman 5:12
And now, my sons, remember, remember that it is upon the rock of our Redeemer, who is Christ, the Son of God, that ye must build your foundation; that when the devil shall send forth his mighty winds, yea, his shafts in the whirlwind, yea when all his hail and his mighty storm shall beat upon you, it shall have no power over you to drag you down to the gulf of misery and endless wo, because of the rock upon which ye are built, which is a sure foundation, a foundation whereon if men build they cannot fall.

o When Joseph Smith was asked what the fundamental principles of our religion are, he responded:
The fundamental principles of our religion are the testimony of the Apostles and Prophets, concerning Jesus Christ, that He died, was buried, and rose again the third day, and ascended into heaven; and all other things which pertain to our religion are only appendages to it. But in connection with these, we believe in the gift of the Holy Ghost, the power of faith, the enjoyment of the spiritual gifts according to the will of God, the restoration of the house of Israel, and the final triumph of truth.”–TPJS, 121

Suffice it to say that without this testimony, my life would be completely unrecognizable to myself and those who now know me.

My life has changed because I gained a testimony that…
Joseph Smith was a Prophet of God called to restore the fullness of Christ’s Gospel to the earth: I have always had a deep love and reverence for the Prophet Joseph, and there were many times growing up that I felt strongly that what I was learning about the Restoration and Joseph Smith were true, and I never had any cause to doubt those impressions. But as I grew older, I desired a witness from the Spirit that I would not be able to explain or think away. I firmly believed, but I lacked confidence that I knew Joseph to be a Prophet of God. This witness came on Christmas Eve when I was 14 years old. I was feeling pressures in all aspects of my life, and I felt too weak to succeed in anything. I turned to God in prayer, and I waited for an answer. Well, as I shared earlier, sometimes God doesn’t answer immediately, and this was one of those occasions. My sister had recently sent me a musical program about Joseph and the events of the Restoration, so I turned that on and lay on my bed to listen. While listening to this, the Spirit filled my room, and I felt the distinct impression that I had always known Joseph was a Prophet of God, and now I know that I know, in a witness so powerful that I can never deny it.

While in Carthage yesterday, one of the missionaries said, “If you want to know if God and Jesus Christ really appeared to Joseph Smith that day in 1820, just ask God. He was there.” The glorious thing about the Gospel is that God invites each of us to know for ourselves. “Ask, and ye shall receive. Seek, and ye shall find. Knock and it shall be opened unto you.” This is the scriptural injunction most often repeated in the scriptures. God wants each of us to know for ourselves that He loves His children on the earth today just as much as those who lived in Ancient Israel.
o Amos 3:7
Surely the Lord God will do nothing, but he revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets.
If He blessed His children in former times with prophets, then He will do the same for us today, and He has. From Joseph Smith to Thomas S. Monson, God has called and will continue to call prophets to lead His Church in this final dispensation. Christ showed us The Way, and He has given us the scriptures to help us stay on this straight and narrow path to tell us of permanent features in the landscape along the way. However, in His infinite wisdom and mercy, He also has given us Prophets as Watchmen along the way, to give more immediate guidance for the times in which we live, warning of unique dangers that we may encounter along the path.

Because I know that Joseph Smith saw what he said he saw and that he was a Prophet of God, I know that He really did restore the fullness of Christ’s gospel to the earth. And, if Joseph Smith was a Prophet of God, then the Book of Mormon is true.

My life has changed because I gained a testimony of…
The Book of Mormon: To gain a testimony of the Book of Mormon, you have to read it, and then pray about it. Just hoping to one day know if it is true just isn’t going to cut it. If the Book of Mormon is true, then Joseph Smith really is a Prophet of God. If the Book of Mormon is true, then Christ really does live. If the Book of Mormon is true, then Christ’s Gospel really is for all of God’s children at all times and in all places throughout the earth’s history. It is another testament of Christ, a companion to the Bible, and evidence of the Restoration. My life changed because I read the Book of Mormon on my own, cover to cover, and then prayed to know if it is true. The warmest feeling of peace came over me, and my heart burned with the Spirit testifying of its truthfulness. I was 12 years old when I finished reading it on my own for the first time, and because I gained a testimony early on, it has shaped the last 12 years of my life. I have continued to read it cover to cover many times in those last 12 years, and still I just can’t get enough. For me, reading from the Book of Mormon feels like I’m drinking from the Fountain of Living Waters, always changing, and yet joy and nourishment I receive is always the same. Because I know that the Book of Mormon is true, I know that I must share it, for after its role as second witness to Christ’s Atonement, the Book of Mormon teaches us to share the Gospel with all of God’s children.

Because I’ve gained a testimony of prayer, Christ, Joseph Smith, and the Book of Mormon, my life has changed, and now I must share it.
o Luke 8:39
Return to thine own house, and shew how great things God hath done unto thee. And he went his way, and published throughout the whole city how great things Jesus had done unto him.
o Luke 22:31-32
And the Lord said, Simon, Simon, behold, Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift the children of the kingdom as wheat: But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not: and when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren.
o John 21 The Savior asks that if we really love Him that we feed His sheep.
o My family has helped prepare my brothers and I to serve missions because we have been a missionary family, and that we owe all to our parents. There are lots of things that we can do in our families to encourage one another to just open our mouths and let our lights shine. These are some of the things that have blessed our family and encouraged us to be more generous with who we share the gospel with.
• Praying for and writing missionaries
• Giving missionaries referrals
• Teaching investigators in our home
• Saving early for missions
• Parents both serving missions
• 3 brothers serving missions
• Dad now serving another mission
• Home Teaching & Visiting Teaching
• Preach My Gospel classes
o As a full-time missionary, our call is to teach. Your call as members is to invite people to be taught by us.
o What kind of effort is the Lord going to require from the Westfield Ward before he’ll bless you with full-time missionaries again?
• The Indexing efforts of the Indianapolis North Stake directly resulted in a temple being announced in Indianapolis. Missionary efforts in our stake and in the Westfield Ward will directly result in the miracles needed to accomplish the building of that temple in a timely manner.


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