Good afternoon Brothers and Sisters
It’s so great to be back at this ward, even if it is for a day. Many of you may not know me, or may have forgotten who I am, my name is Hayden Ellis and I have been called to serve in the California Santa Rosa Mission. I moved here from Kansas a couple of months ago and I was attending this ward for about 5 weeks before I moved to Alpine and went to church there, which was a good experience for me, but I’ve really missed this ward……. especially priest quorum. The young men in this ward are really incredible guys. They welcomed me with open arms and treated me like I’d been there just as long as they had. And Bishop Roy is such a wonderful Bishop. He has such an uplifting and infectious spirit that makes it impossible to be in a bad mood around him. So priest quorum was always something I looked forward to. Something I thought was really special about the priest quorum here is after the concluding prayer, there is a standing tradition that Bishop Roy goes around and gives everyone a hug before they leave. Which I think is really cool; it shows that our Bishop really loves the people of this ward, and that we’re just one big family. I only wish I had remembered after moving to Alpine that Bishop Roy’s tradition was unique to this ward. First day of church, after we finished the prayer, I was closing in on the Alpine bishop for a hug and one of the priest asked me what I was doing, and I said “…. Stretching… its good to stretch and loosen up after a large spiritual intake….” And then I quickly fled the room.
It’s hard to believe that I’ll be leaving for my mission on Wednesday. I’ve always wanted to serve a mission, but I planned to go to college for a year first and then put in my papers. That all changed a year ago when I was watching General Conference and President Monson announced that they were lowering the age for missionary service to 18 for young men and 19 for young women. All of a sudden, my plans became a little more complicated. On one hand it was exciting that the Church had made this change and the ranks of missionaries would swell, but on the other hand, I wasn’t sure if I was ready to go as soon as I graduated from high school. It took several months of contemplation and prayer for me to decide that I wanted to serve a mission after I turned 18. It was difficult to not be affected by the enthusiasm of my Young Men’s leaders and the other priests in my ward as we discussed the prospects of serving a mission at an earlier ago. I finally decided that I wanted to be part of the wave of youth who responded to the Prophet’s announcement a year ago, and I made the commitment to put my mission papers in shortly after I turned 18.
The Bishop asked me to speak today about how the Lord prepared me to serve a mission. Actually, the Lord started preparing me long before I was born. It was missionary work that was the most important factor in preparing me to serve a mission.
My grandfather was the oldest of five children, born to a chronically sick mother and an alcoholic father. Grandpa Larsen’s family was very poor and lived in modest motels in Bountiful and the West side of Salt Lake City. My great grandparents, LoRen and Phyllis Larsen, were not big fans of the Mormon Church, but they did permit their children to attend church activities with their LDS friends. My grandpa was fortunate enough to become really good friends with six boys, five of them were from strong LDS families. Grandpa played sports with the boys and spent time with their families. When Grandpa was 17 years old, his mother died. It was shortly after her death that grandpa and three of his younger siblings were baptized into the Church. The youngest was later baptized when he turned 8 years old. It was the influence of good friends and the fellowshipping of ward members that were instrumental in the conversion of the five Larsen children. The legacy of their conversion is impressive:
· 2 of the 5 children served fulltime missions
· 3 couples’ mission were served
· All 5 Larsen children were sealed in the temple
· 13 grandchildren served fulltime missions
· 19 grandchildren were sealed in the temple
· There are currently 66 great grandchildren of Phyllis and LoRen Larsen
· I am the fourth great grandchild to serve a mission…and there are many, many more to come
My grandmother was also a convert to the church. Granny was the oldest of three girls born to a Methodist family in Red Bank, New Jersey. Gran’s best friend was LDS and she often attended church activities. Around that time, my grandpa was stationed at Fort Monmouth in New Jersey and he attended the same branch that my grandmother was attending. My grandpa, along with other ward members, were key in helping to influence and fellowship my grandmother and when she was 17 she and her younger sisters were baptized into the Church.
Brothers and Sisters, it was missionary work done by members many decades ago that is the reason I am standing here today. President David O McKay once proclaimed “Every member a missionary” and it has never been truer than it is today. In the last Conference President Monson said, “Now is the time for members and missionaries to come together, to work together to labor in the Lord’s vineyard to bring souls unto Him. He has prepared the means for us to share the gospel in a multitude of ways, and He will assist us in our labors if we will act in faith to fulfill His work.”
As President Monson stated, the Lord has prepared a multitude of ways to share the Gospel. This point was clearly illustrated in a letter I received from my mission president a month ago. President Alba wrote: “Much has changed very quickly in missionary work and our mission is no exception. The California Santa Rosa Mission has been chosen to be the very first mission in the world to receive the new “Hastening “ devices. We call them the 88:73s; as in D&C 88:73 which says: “For behold, I will hasten my work in its time.” President Alba continues, “The time is now…..the hastening has begun and you will be a big part of it. We are the first mission in the world to go global. We are the first mission in the world without boundaries. We are spreading the Gospel to the four corners of the earth. We are fulfilling prophecy.”
It’s very exciting to imagine all the possibilities that technology can bring to missionary work and I am looking forward to be a part of this work. You don’t need to have a nametag to do missionary work. Most of us already have hastening devices and we can all be part of the world wide missionary effort.
Elder S. Gifford Nielson also gave some advice on how members can participate in missionary work. His game plan consisted of three points. First, specifically pray for someone to be brought closer to the savior. Second, pray for the missionaries serving in your area and their investigators by name every day. To do this you must greet the missionaries, learn their names, and ask them whom they are teaching. And thirdly invite a friend to an activity in or out of your home, which I believe is the best way for youth to extend a hand of fellowship to others. Invite them to a camping trip or mutual. If there are two things a young man can’t resist its basketball and free food.
Brothers and Sisters, it is my hope and prayer that as I am serving my mission, that each of you will consider how you can do missionary work. Whether it be inviting less active members over for dinner, or even something as simple as posting a church video or a scripture on Facebook, because your actions might touch somebody, and could result in someone like me coming into the world… now don’t let that scare you, I know a world with a bunch of Haydens running around is a frightening thought and a sure sign of the second coming, but don’t let it dissuade you from missionary work.
Brothers and sisters, I want to bare my testimony that I know this church is the true church of the Lord, and I know that President Thomas S Monson is the mouthpiece of Heavenly Father. I know the lowering of the missionary age is the Lord hastening his work upon the Earth. There are a multitude of people on this earth that are ready to receive the gospel, but the missionaries cant cover all of them, so we need everyone to be a missionary so no ear with go untaught and no eye will be unopened. And this I say in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.