Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Farewell Talk--Recognizing the Spirit

Good morning brothers and sisters. My name is Tahlia Erickson. I just want to thank those who came out to support me today. I have been blessed with great friends, family, neighbors, and  leaders  who have shown me great examples of kindness, service and hard work. As probably most of you know I have been called to serve in the Brazil, Curitiba mission. I cannot express enough how excited I am for this opportunity to preach the gospel. I hope as I talk to you today, I can get my message across and I hope the spirit can touch your hearts.
How do we recognize and understand the spirit? That is probably one of the most important questions we can ask ourselves. It is also of great import when it comes to missionary work.
We all know that the spirit is important to us. David A Bednar states, “ The Spirit of the Lord can be our guide and will bless us with direction, instruction, and spiritual protection during our mortal journey. We invite the Holy Ghost into our lives through meaningful personal and family prayer, feasting upon the words of Christ, diligent and exacting obedience, faithfulness and honoring of covenants, and through virtue, humility, and service. And we steadfastly should avoid things that are immodest, coarse, crude, sinful, or evil that cause us to withdraw ourselves from the Holy Ghost.”
Since the spirit is so helpful, it is most important to recognize when the spirit is influencing us and when it is not.
According to Boyd K. Packer in preach my gospel , “The voice of the spirit is described in the scriptures as being neither loud nor harsh. It is not a voice of thunder neither voice of a great tumultuous noise. But rather a still voice of perfect mildness as if it had been a whisper and it can pierce even to the very soul and cause the heart to burn.” I loved this statement because it is so real. The spirit can be a soft whisper to our minds but more importantly, the spirit causes us to feel. We need to put ourselves in situations where we can hear that still small voice and be aware of what it is telling us. We need to separate ourselves from the chaos that is going on around us and allow ourselves the time to feel the presence of the Holy Ghost. We can find a quiet place in our homes, in the beautiful mountains and outdoors that surround us and in the temple. The holy ghost is always there if we allow it to be. If we are not careful we can drown out the righteous impressions and feelings we have that come through the Holy Spirit.
We don’t always receive the messages from the spirit in the same way every time. We learn from the prophet Joseph Smith in his history that the holy ghost adapts to our language and the ways we can understand. Those ways change from day to day and moment to moment according to our spiritual readiness and our intellectual abilities. Our Heavenly Father is always available to us. He adapts to our level of understanding.
We understand and recognize the spirit in many ways. It may be a feeling of peace, or a warm feeling in our chest, chills running up our bodies, or simply new ideas that pop into our minds. In others it’s a feeling of calmness. We need to really listen and pay attention to how our bodies respond to the presence of the spirit. This body that we anticipated for so long and that makes us more like our Heavenly Father is the key to recognizing the spirit. Bodies are meant to be receivers of the spirit much like radios and phones are receivers of music, text messages and emails. We must be aware and try to feel how the spirit touches each of us.
The great musician and teacher Dr. Suzuki said, “I must be fully present in every note I play.” That is a huge goal. Sometimes it is hard to be fully present, our minds race to other places and things. When we are fully there, we can truly feel the spirit and have a much better chance to understand what message our Father wants us to receive at that time.
We need to ask the question, “How does the spirit make me feel?” We can also ask,
“How am I feeling right now?”
When impressions come to me I always ask myself the question, “is it the Holy Ghost telling me something or is it just my own thoughts?
President Gordon B Hinckley said that we should ask, “does it persuade to do good, to rise, to stand tall, to do the right thing, to be kind, to be generous? Then it is of the spirit of god.”
Most of us have the gift of the Holy  Ghost as a constant companion. We  have grown so accustomed to having its presence in our lives that we can’t separate our own feelings and thoughts from those of the spirit. We may even believe that the spirit is not with us because it feels normal. That is because we have forgotten what it feels like to be without the spirit. Sadly, it can sometimes take mistakes and sins to know the emptiness that accompanies the loss of the spirit.
I love the scripture in D&C 8:2, which says, “ Yea, behold, I will tell you in your mind and in your heart, by the Holy Ghost, which shall come upon you and which shall dwell in your heart.”
Another way of recognizing the spirit is by having faith in our Heavenly Father and Jesus. For me this is not always easy to put my complete trust in them. But the spirit will never lead us astray and we need to have that complete faith to really understand what our Heavenly Father is trying to get across to us.
I am the type of person who has the hardest time deciding anything. When I received my patriarchal blessing I thought it was going to tell me the exact things I needed to do in life. My next steps. I thought this would be perfect. I was going to know what I would be doing with my life. Well to my surprise this was not the case. I found in many instances that the Lord was telling me I needed to decide for myself first. Like for example my mission, I got the impression that it was up to me to decide to serve a mission--that if I did that would be great but also if I didn’t it would also be just great. I thought to myself, “well what are you going to do?” I wanted direction and at the time I didn’t think I got much. I prayed and studied the scriptures trying to find an answer. I finally took a step in a direction and hoped for the best. The Lord really does trust our own righteous judgement. That is the point of the agency we are so lucky to have. I have learned that I needed to just take a step in a direction and have faith. I knew that if I did not make the correct choice Heavenly Father would let me know through the spirit that I was not on the right path.
Boyd K Packer stated, ‘You must learn to walk to the edge of the light, and then a few steps into the darkness; then the light will appear and show the way before you.’
Sometimes we just want to see what is going to happen from the beginning to the end but we cannot. We must take this initial step into the darkness to see the light.
That step into the darkness of the unknown requires faith. We must trust that our Father in Heaven knows us and that he will show us the way when we are confused.
D&C 11:12 says, “ And now, verily, verily I say unto thee put your trust in that spirit which leadeth to do good--yea to do justly, to walk humbly, to judge righteously; and this is my Spirit.”
The scripture I chose to be on my mission plaque is D&C 84:88. It gives me courage and strength. It says, “And whoso receiveth you, there I will be also, for I will go before your face. I will be on your right hand and your left, and my Spirit shall be in your hearts, and mine angels round about you, to bear you up.”     I trust that my Heavenly Father will guide and support me as I teach others about his son and the spirit.    
We need to rely on the spirit and remember that we cannot do things alone. We need to put our faith and confidence in Christ and be patient with his timing because he knows what we need.
This week has been a challenging week for me when it comes to patience and timing. As of Tuesday I still did not have travel plans to Brazil and I was to report in Sao Paolo on this coming Tuesday. I didn’t know if I would still be going to Curitiba, and if so when I should report. The news of my changed assignment finally came on Friday afternoon. Now I will be attending the Provo MTC in the beginning until my visa comes through. Much is still unknown, so I must trust.
The Lord wants us to exercise our own minds and figure things out for ourselves.
In the Doctrine & Covenants 58:26 it says, For behold, it is not meet that I should command in all things; for he that is compelled in all things. The same is a slothful and not a wise servant; wherefore he receiveth no reward.”
Dallin H. Oaks warns us that “[A person may have] a strong desire to be led by the Spirit of the Lord but … unwisely extends that desire to the point of wanting to be led in all things. A desire to be led by the Lord is a strength, but it needs to be accompanied by an understanding that our Heavenly Father leaves many decisions for our personal choices. Personal decision making is one of the sources of the growth we are meant to experience in mortality. Persons who try to shift all decision making to the Lord and plead for revelation in every choice will soon find circumstances in which they pray for guidance and don’t receive it. For example, this is likely to occur in those numerous circumstances in which the choices are trivial or either choice is acceptable.” End quote
There are things we can do to prepare our hearts and minds to receive the spirit. Here the basic Sunday School answer is correct, prayer, scripture study, service, temple attendance and recognizing our blessings.
Heavenly Father will help us recognize the spirit through our personal scripture study. We need to be faithful in our scripture reading because the scriptures are there to give us answers to our needs and we can be more receptive to the spirit through this.
When I went on the Origination tour this past summer I was able to read the book of Mormon. Everyday we were challenged to read our scriptures on the bus. This was a really hard thing for me. The first couple of days I struggled to even get through a couple of verses but by the end of the week it got easier and easier. I tried my absolute hardest to diligently read my scriptures. As we visited the church history sites I understood and felt the spirit so strongly and I know it was because of my faithfulness in reading the scriptures.
One way I understand and recognize the spirit is when I serve those around me like when I go to the temple, when I lend a helping hand to someone who needs it, or when I just simply spend time with those I love. I feel warm and good like I am making a difference for that person. The person who taught me this is my Dad. He is a perfect example of recognizing and understanding the spirit. He always looks for opportunities to serve and to help anyone in need. He is the happiest person and I know why
To feel the spirit we must have open hearts.
In Preach My Gospel it states, Quote “Tell the brethren and sisters to be humble and faithful and be sure to keep the Spirit of the Lord, that it will lead them aright. Be careful and not turn away the still, small voice; it will teach them what to do and where to go; it will yield the fruits of the kingdom. Tell the brethren and sisters to keep their heart open to conviction, so that when the Holy Ghost comes to them their hearts will be ready to receive it. They can tell the Spirit of the Lord from all other spirits—it will whisper peace and joy to their souls; it will take malice, hatred, strife and all evil from their hearts, and their whole desire will be to do good” endquote.
Think of that, the spirit of the Lord can remove all malice, hatred, strife and evil from our hearts. It can change us so that we only desire to do good. The world could use more of the spirit right now.
In Mosiah 2:9 the Lord asks that you should hearken unto me, and open your ears that ye may hear and your hearts that ye may understand and your minds that the mysteries of god may be unfolded to your view.”
When Jesus appeared to the Nephites after his resurrection he talks about the spirit in 3 Nephi 19:19 And it came to pass that Jesus departed out of the midst of them, and went a little way off from them and bowed himself to the earth, and he said: Father, I thank thee that thou hast given the Holy Ghost unto these whom I have chosen; and it is because of their belief in me that I have chosen them out of the world.
Father, I pray thee that thou wilt give the Holy Ghost unto all them that shall believe in their words.
Father, thou hast given them the Holy Ghost because they believe in me; and thou seest that they believe in me because thou hearest them, and they pray unto me; and they pray unto me because I am with them.
And in verse 33 it continues: and the multitude did hear and do bear record; and their hearts were open and they did understand in their hearts the words which he prayed. Nevertheless, so great and marvelous were the words which he prayed that they cannot be written, neither can they be uttered by man.
But these words can be understood because they had open hearts and received the Holy Ghost.
Only the spirit has the power to change hearts.
Elder M. Russell Ballard spoke of the power of the Spirit: “True conversion comes through the power of the Spirit. When the Spirit touches the heart, hearts are changed. When individuals … feel the Spirit working with them, or when they see the evidence of the Lord’s love and mercy in their lives, they are edified and strengthened spiritually and their faith in Him increases. These experiences with the Spirit follow naturally when a person is willing to experiment upon the word. This is how we come to feel the gospel is true” (“Now Is the Time,” Ensign, Nov. 2000, 75).
Elder Eyring suggests that we look for the Lord’s hand in our lives at the end of each day and record it in our journal. Elder Bednar invites us to look for his tender mercies each day. When I look for God’s influence in my life, it puts me into a different frame of mind. I see the world and all of its happenings with a different perspective. When I do this my entire attitude changes. I approach the world with a more grateful heart and I am prepared to feel the promptings of the spirit more easily.
“Count your many blessings, name them one by one, count your many blessings see what god hath done.” It is through the holy ghost that we recognize God’s influence in our lives.  We remember the many wonderful things we have been given in this world. Sometimes I know that I can take for granted the things I am given every-day. I am blessed with amazing friends, family, a beautiful home and a wonderful ward. I look over those tremendous blessings and I need to remember them. And the Holy Ghost can bring all things to our remembrance.
I remember I challenged myself to kneel down every day for a week and to only say a prayer of gratitude. This was hard for me to not ask for something I thought I needed at that moment. I started naming everything I was grateful for in my life and I realized it was endless. I was surprised by how many things I have been given in my life. He really does bless us so much.  
I would like to end by bearing my testimony, that I know this church is true. I know that Heavenly Father has a plan for each and everyone of us and He truly cares. I am excited and also very scared for my mission but I know it is what the Lord wants me to do at this point in time. I am grateful for latter-day prophets who guide and protect us. I also know that the gift of the Holy Ghost is such a blessing in my life. He does not leave us alone. We have that constant companionship of the spirit if we allow it to be there. I am so beyond grateful for my amazing mom who has been there for me this whole time as I have prepared. She has been there through all my tears this past week. She is such a christ like example to me in my life. I love my family and I love you all. Thank you for all the support you have shown me today and throughout my life. I say these things in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.

Week 1 at Provo MTC

Hey Everyone!! 

Oh man this week has been something! As soon as I arrived at the MTC we were given like a million books and then put straight into classes. As soon as I got to class they didn't speak a bit of English just straight Portuguese!!!!! I almost had a panic attack and was like what the heck did I get myself into? I'm just kidding-- it is great!! I am surprised I haven't had a mental breakdown yet. We taught our first lesson the third day we were here in Portuguese. Let me tell you it was really hard!! I feel bad for the investigator because we had no clue what we were talking about. We have taught twice now and tonight we teach again. I was scared out of my mind the first time but it is getting better everytime. This first week has been slow but the time goes by very fast. Our schedules are jammed packed. I feel like I only get 20 minutes of sleep a night. 

My companion is super cool. Her name is Sister Bown and she is from Wyoming. We have the same personality which is nice. We get along really well. I am still not used to being called sister. I think it is weird if I am being honest hahah. I see so many people I know here--it is crazy. Everyone in our zone is super cool. We have a small zone compared to everyone else here because technically we are not supposed to be here. 

I feel like I pray 50 times a day and Heavenly Father is probably sick of me lol! Everyone has said make it to Sunday, make it to Sunday. It is so true!! Sunday is the best. We get to have a rest from our studies which is really nice. Our Sacrament is surprise all in Portuguese. I understand like nothing. We also have to write a talk every week in Portuguese and then our branch president just picks 4 random missionaries to speak. It's scary, I am not gonna lie. I love the language!! 

We still haven't heard anything about my visa. My companions visa looks like it might be here. So she might be leaving me. Which is sad! I don't want her to go. I will get put in a trio if she leaves. 

This is hard work and I didn't expect any of this but I know that this is where I am suppose to be. I can give up 18 months of my life for the savior and progressing his work. I have learned and am still learning to put my trust in Heavenly Father. I need to lose myself in the work in order to find myself. I am so happy and I never thought I would be this happy!! I miss you all and I hope everything is Awesome in the Real World hahah!! My P-days are Monday just btw!! 

Eu sei que Jesus Cristo expiou por nossos pecados. Eu sei que o livro de Mormon e verdaderio. Eu sei que o templo e a casa de deus . Eu sei que Deus ouve nossas oracoes. O Pai Celestial preparou um plano para nos. Em nome de jesus cristo amen. 
( little part of my testimony in Portuguese) 
p.s. I'll try and send pictures next week!! I didnt take much this week!

Have an AWESOME week!!! 

Love, Sister Erickson