It is customary when young men and women are ready to leave on their missions that they give a 10-15 minute talk during our church services. He had a few friends and many family members come listen to him. Most of his friends have left on their missions or gone away to school. Finley gave a wonderful talk. He was given the topic of "Following a Living Prophet." He incorporated his decision of going on a mission into that topic. You may read it below:
In the past, all of my favorite missionary farewell talks have started with jokes. I only know two jokes, and they’re both kind of dirty, so I went to my dad for help, and now lets just say I know 3 dirty jokes.
A couple years ago, in the summer before my junior year of high school, a few friends and I went to BYU for a week at EFY. The morning before everybody left to go home, our counselors gathered us together for one last time so that they could say goodbye, and bear their testimonies to us. The one and only thing I remember from that meeting, is my female counselor telling us boys that we should serve missions, because first and foremost, it’s our Priesthood duty. That stuck with me, and I guess it stuck with everybody else, because every single guy in that company is either on a mission, or getting ready to go out. So as much as my mom would love to say that I’m serving a mission because of her, it was the testimony of that sister that really compelled me to go serve.
Before that, I had never thought seriously about serving a mission. It had always been far off in my future, not really something I focused on. Sure, I knew that I’d most likely serve one, seeing as my dad and all of my uncles had, and I wasn’t about to break that chain. Even after my week at EFY, a mission wasn’t something that I thought about often. It wasn’t until the “Age Change” a couple years back that it struck me how soon I would have to go on a mission. I initially decided that I would do a year at college, and then leave on a mission. After looking at schools and figuring out which ones interested me, I realized that there was no way I could stop after a year and take two years off.
I had a difficult decision to make. It was a mission, and then college, or no mission at all. I really can’t remember how long it took me to decide. At some point while I was weighing the pros and cons of each situation, I remembered what my counselor said. Right then and there, I decided that I needed to serve a mission. A few weeks later I was flipping through my scriptures at seminary, and I found a verse in the Doctrine and Covenants that stood out to me. Its D&C 60, verses one and two. It reads Behold, thus saith the Lord unto the elders of his church, who are to return speedily to the land from whence they came: Behold, it pleaseth me, that you have come up hither;
But with some I am not well pleased, for they will not open their mouths, but they hide the talent which I have given unto them, because of the fear of man. Wo unto such, for mine anger is kindled against them.” That scared me a bit, but it just reinforced my recent decision to serve.
My counselor was just repeating what prophets have been saying since the formation of the church: That missionaries are absolutely necessary in the world, and that it is important to be able to serve a mission. In the April conference of 1974, President Ezra Taft Benson said, “This is our first interest as a Church—to save and exalt the souls of the children of men.” The Lord’s church has always been a missionary church; it isn’t anything new. When the savior was on the earth, he ordained apostles and seventies and gave them the authority and responsibility to preach the gospel. Eventually, all of those whom Christ ordained died off, and the authority to preach was lost. That authority was restored to the earth through the prophet Joseph Smith. Today, the chief responsibility of apostles and seventies is to preach the gospel and see that it is preached throughout the world. The first modern missionary left home to serve in June of 1830. Since then, over a million missionaries have been called and sent forth to preach the gospel. Missionaries preach that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and our Savior. They testify that the gospel has been restored to the earth through a prophet of God. The missionaries are given the responsibility to preach the gospel to all people, to baptize them, and to teach them to do all things that the Lord has commanded.
Prophets have commanded us to serve missions, but they do much more than just that. Prophets offer guidance and direction for those willing to listen. They receive revelation for the members of the church. Prophets receive revelation that is immediately relevant: and it is constant. President John Taylor taught that Adam’s revelation did not tell Noah to build the ark, nor did Noah’s revelation tell Lot to leave Sodom. And neither of these men spoke of the exodus of the children of Israel from Egypt. They received revelation for themselves.
Heavenly revelation has been a necessity in the past, and is a necessity in modern times. In the time before world war two, President Hugh B Brown of the first presidency was speaking to a member of the British parliament, who was not a member of the church, about the need for a living prophet and the revelation that he receives. President Brown said to the man, ‘I am submitting to you in all seriousness that it was standard procedure in Bible times for God to talk to men.’
“[He responded,] ‘I think I will admit that, but it stopped shortly after the first century of the Christian era.’
“‘Why do you think it stopped?’
“‘I can’t say.’
“‘You think that God hasn’t spoken since then?’
“‘Not to my knowledge.’
“‘May I suggest some possible reasons why he has not spoken. Perhaps it is because he cannot. He has lost the power.’
“The man said, ‘Of course that would be blasphemous.’
“‘Well, then, if you don’t accept that, perhaps he doesn’t speak to men because he doesn’t love us anymore. He is no longer interested in the affairs of men.’
“‘No,’ he said, ‘God loves all men, and he is no respecter of persons.’
“‘Well, . . . then the only other possible answer as I see it is that we don’t need him. We have made such rapid strides in education and science that we don’t need God anymore.’
“The man then said, and his voice trembled as he thought of impending war, ‘Mr. Brown, there never was a time in the history of the world when the voice of God was needed as it is needed now.
Through prophets, we are taught the will of the lord. We receive commandments that the lord wishes us to follow. One that stands out to me is the Word of Wisdom. Given to the prophet Joseph Smith in 1833, it contains revelation that has guided members of the church ever since. A basic health plan given to members, it encourages the consumption of grains and fruits, and warns against the use of alcohol and tobacco. The word of wisdom was ahead of its time, as modern science did not realize the dangers of tobacco and alcohol until much later. We are told that if we follow the word of wisdom, we will run and not be weary, and walk and not faint. I think that that is a pretty fantastic promise.
The Lord regularly communicates with his prophets. Amos 3:7 reads, “surely the Lord god will do nothing, but he revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets.” One of the few songs that I actually remember from primary is “Follow the Prophet”. In case you don’t know the song, or have forgotten the words, the last verse, and the chorus go: “ Now we have a world where people are confused// if you don’t believe it, go and watch the news// we can get direction all along our way// if we heed the prophets- follow what they say,
Follow the prophet, follow the prophet, follow the prophet, don’t go astray// follow the prophet, follow the prophet, follow the prophet, he knows the way.”
In 1980, President Ezra Taft Benson gave a devotional to BYU students. It was titled “Fourteen fundamentals in following the prophet.” He outlined key points that will help us as saints realize the value of a living prophet and the importance of following his counsel. I don’t want to take up too much time, so I’ll only list a few. The first point he made was that the prophet is the only man who speaks for the lord in everything. D&C 21, verses 4-6 tell us that if we follow the prophet and obey his words, the gates of hell shall not prevail against us. He also says that a living prophet is more important to us than a dead one. Like I said earlier, God’s revelations to Adam didn’t tell Noah to build the ark. The prophet gives us revelation for what is happening today. The prophet tells us what we need to know, but not always what we want to know. President Harold B Lee said, “You may not like what comes from the authority of the Church. It may contradict your political views. It may contradict your social views. It may interfere with some of your social life. . . . Your safety and ours depends upon whether or not we follow. . . . Let’s keep our eye on the President of the Church.” Another point- the prophet will not always be popular with the world or the worldly. This isn’t new at all. Nobody likes to be called out for his or her misdeeds. When a prophet of God points out the sins of the world, people will either change their ways, or ignore the prophet altogether. The final point, we will be blessed if we follow the prophet, and we will suffer if we don’t. In the early days of the church, some members in high callings tried to figure out how they could get rid of the Prophet Joseph Smith’s leadership. Somebody made the mistake of inviting Brigham Young to one such gathering, and when he figured out the purpose of the meeting, he stood up and rebuked the brethren, saying, ‘You cannot destroy the appointment of a prophet of God, but you can cut the thread that binds you to the prophet of God and sink yourselves to hell.”
I’m now going to go back to where I started this talk; Missionary work. The Lord told Joseph Smith to send missionaries to “proclaim my gospel from land to land, and from city to city… bear testimony in every place, unto every people.” Missionaries seek to teach and baptize because the savior taught that “Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.” We know from this that baptism is absolutely necessary to return and live with our heavenly father again. That is why missionary work is so important, because we know that the Lord wants all of his children to return to him. We know that the Lord said to Moses “For behold, this is my work and my glory, to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.” Our primary desire as a church is that as many of the children of men that can, will be saved and exalted.
A phrase that is often heard in the church, is “every member a missionary.” Not only full-time missionaries can share the gospel. Being a missionary doesn’t necessarily mean waking up at 6:30 every morning, riding a bike around, and passing out Book of Mormons to anybody who will take one. Members can be missionaries just by the way they live their lives and the examples that they are to the people around them. The most convincing testimony is the good and happy life of someone who lives according to the Lord’s teachings, but its also good to verbally share your experiences with those around you and invite them to come unto Christ.
I definitely realize that sharing the gospel isn’t always easy. For pretty much my entire life, I would never go out of my way to share the gospel. I would be completely fine if somebody wanted to ask me a question about the church, but I would rarely be the one to start the conversation. Hopefully that changes pretty quickly. This past year, when people asked me what my future plans were, and what college I would be attending, I would tell them that I was going to leave home and serve a two-year mission for my church. Explaining to them what it meant to me and why I was doing it made it easier for me to share the gospel with those around me.
Serving a mission isn’t easy. No matter how ready you are, it still has its challenges. Adjusting to the missionary lifestyle will probably be fairly challenging for me in these coming weeks. Those close to me know that I love to be connected to my friends, and I am rarely caught without my phone. When I was explaining my plans for after high school, one of my school teachers asked how often I would get to use my phone while I was away. When I told her that I wouldn’t be able to, she asked me how I would be able to function. I think she was joking, but I’m not one hundred percent sure. I’m leaving behind a lot of people and things that are important to me to serve in Guatemala, but I know that it will be completely worth it. I know that serving a mission is the right choice for me, and that I will be able to bless the lives of the people I encounter, as they in turn bless my life. I am excited to serve the people of Guatemala, and I’m looking forward to bringing them unto Christ. I know that if we follow the teachings of the prophets, our lives will be blessed. I know that this church is true. There’s absolutely no way I’d do this if it weren’t. I know that Christ is our savior, and that through Him we can return and live with our Heavenly Father again. I say these things in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.