Good morning Brothers and Sisters.
For those of you who don’t know me, my name is Craig Jones and I have been called to serve in the Italy Rome mission. I am scheduled to report this Wednesday, June 12th. Before I opened my call my friend Ben Barrow asked me where I wanted to go on my mission. I told him Italy would be cool I guess. After I said that he was like, “Nah, you don’t want to go there. It smells like wet dogs and urine.” About 15 minutes later I opened my call and read where I was going. It turns out now he’s going to the exact same mission as me.
Before I received my call, the only thing that had me worried is that I would go somewhere where the food was strange. It was such a relief to me when I opened my call and read Italy Rome, since I love Italian food!
This past couple of weeks has been a whirlwind of activity. I was ordained an elder, graduated from Timpview, received my patriarchal blessing, went through the temple for the first time, helped give two priesthood blessings, prepared today’s musical number, and am now giving my farewell talk. My Dad said life would greatly accelerate after graduating from high school, but I had no idea it would be like this!
It is my privilege today to speak about developing Christlike attributes. Preach My Gospel is an excellent resource to use while studying Christlike attributes, as there is a whole chapter devoted solely to the topic. As I was searching that particular chapter, the introduction had an important statement related to better understanding them. It says, “Christlike attributes are gifts from God. They come as you use your agency righteously. Ask your Heavenly Father to bless you with these attributes; you cannot develop them without His help. With a desire to please God, recognize your weaknesses and be willing and anxious to improve.”
This first part of that statement really struck me and set the tone for my study, as I came to realize the great importance of asking God for help in developing these attributes. The second part of the quote got me thinking about a scripture that sounded very familiar, all the way back from freshman year early morning seminary in California when we studied the Book of Mormon. This scripture was Ether 12:27 which says, “And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them.”
I noticed that both the scripture and Preach My Gospel emphasized being humble, and recognizing our weaknesses. This is an important step in our path to developing Christlike attributes. Being humble as a missionary will allow me to be more receptive to the promptings of the Holy Spirit, and consequently be a much more effective missionary. Also, Doctrine and Covenants 112:10 reads “Be thou humble; and the Lord thy God shall lead thee by the hand, and give thee answer to thy prayers.”
With that in mind, I read the list of attributes included in the chapter, which I won’t go into all of them for the sake of time. Preach My Gospel lists the attributes as hope, charity and love, virtue, knowledge, patience, humility, diligence, and obedience.
The first one I’d like to focus on is patience. Anyone who has driven with me probably knows I struggle with patience quite a bit, but my parents are pretty good at it. I have pretty random, scattered memories of my childhood, but one in particular that I still recall is when I was about 5 years old and we went on a family vacation to Hawaii and we were at a luau. I kind of remember being a generally unhappy and annoying little stinker that night. Anyways, I remember being in line for cake near the end of the night, and it was the slipperiest cake I’d ever seen. When I picked up the first piece, it almost immediately hit the floor after sliding off the end of my plate. I remember being super embarrassed and expecting my parents to be furious with me. On the contrary, I remember promptly being handed a second piece of cake. Now, I know I made it at least a few steps the second time, but the result was the same, ending with a messy pile of cake on the cobblestones. I thought that for sure this time I was gonna get it from my parents, especially after being a stinker all night, but they still gave me another piece of cake. Luckily, that time I made it.
So whether it is dropping cake on the ground, locking my mom and sister out of the house, dropping a carton of eggs in the kitchen, escaping out the doggy door and across the street when I was a baby, or ruining a new microwave oven by cooking a tiny cinnamon roll for over a minute when I was five, lucky for me my parents are among the most patient people I know.
The next attribute I’d like to focus on is charity and love, because I think it will be extremely important and make a huge difference while serving my mission. I’m sure there is a clear difference between missionaries who show a sincere concern for the eternal welfare and happiness of others, and those who don’t. Preach My Gospel urges missionaries to have sincere concern for others because it tells us as we strive to serve and exhibit charity, we will avoid negative feelings such as anger, envy, lust, or covetousness, and we will understand their point of view.
One of the greatest acts of charity I’ve ever been able to see was when Grandpa Jones was still living in Arkansas, before we moved him out here. My dad flew out there to bring him back here so that we could keep a closer eye on him and make sure he was still doing well. While my Grandpa lived out there, rather than selling his house, he instead gave it away with no strings attached to a single mother who was struggling to support her family. He had one of the biggest hearts I have ever seen, and I respected him greatly for such a gracious act.
Obedience was a concept constantly drilled into me during President Perriton’s mission prep class. He always brought it back to this attribute. He taught us how obedience is an act of faith, and that even though we may not completely understand why; obedience will bring us an increase in faith, knowledge, wisdom, testimony, protection, and freedom. It is important for me as a missionary to be like Nephi, who says, “I will go and do the things which the Lord hath commanded, for I know that he Lord giveth no commandments unto the children of men, save he shall prepare a way for them that they may accomplish the thing which he commandeth them.”
A disobedient missionary is a liability to both a mission president and the Lord. If I only had one of the attributes listed in Preach My Gospel, obedience would probably be the most important. Doctrine and Covenants 130:20-21 reads “There is a law, irrevocably decreed in heaven before the foundations of this world, upon which all blessings are predicated – And when we obtain any blessing from God, it is by obedience to that law upon which it is predicated.” There is an important relationship to our obedience and the blessings we receive.
Being obedient gives to us the confidence and self-assurance that by doing our very best, we will be in position to receive fully of Heavenly Father’s guidance and direction. Obedience is a part of life. When we obey, we can stay away from choices that may lead us astray. We get freedom, privileges that are extra special. President James E. Faust said this about obedience, “Recently a nationally broadcast program talked about wild horses that are being tamed by prisoners. As the prisoners formed friendships with the horses, they learned about patience, controlling tempers, respect for others, and the value of working within a system. As they watched the horses learn to be obedient to their commands, they realized how they could have avoided the terrible mistakes that had put them in prison. I add that obedience to righteous principles would have offered them freedom from social diseases, shame, degradation, and feelings of guilt. Like the horses, they could still learn, progress, and achieve.”
Being obedient isn’t something we should just do when it is convenient. That is called situational obedience, and those who choose that path will eventually find themselves in difficult circumstances. It is important to remember that obedience and integrity are inseparably linked and it is critical that the youth of the Church learn early that a life of obedience and integrity is the only road to true happiness.
Along with obedience, I think that continuously determining the Lord’s will for me and then following it is the most important thing I can do throughout my mission. Elder Neal A. Maxwell once said: “If we can achieve a significant milestone in discipleship, we will find that ‘he that asketh in the Spirit asketh according to the will of God; wherefore it is done even as he asketh.’ (D&C 46:30.) In that stage of advanced allegiance, Jesus’ disciples prayed not only ‘without ceasing’ but ‘they did not multiply many words, for it was given unto them what they should pray, and they were filled with desire.’ (3 Nephi 19:24.)
“Some of us seem to ‘multiply words’ even in brief pro-forma prayers; the above insights serve as sobering reminders as to how far that milestone—which marks pure motivation—is down the straight and narrow path; yet what exquisite ecstasy awaits those of us who will press forward and so purify ourselves so that our behavior is based on Christ-like motives.”
Jesus Christ’s mission has always been to do the will of his Father. He volunteered in the pre-mortal life to be our Savior, as quoted in Moses 4:2 – But, behold, my Beloved Son, which was my Beloved and Chosen from the beginning, said unto me—Father, thy will be done, and the glory be thine forever. And then he willingly atoned for all of our sins as it says in Matthew 26:39 – And he went a little further, and fell on his face, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt. That is what the Savior is all about; doing the Father’s will and that is what I need to do as I serve the people of Italy.
The last attribute I would like to talk about is diligence, because I would like to thank all of my friends, leaders and everyone who has been so diligent and sacrificed so much time to prepare me for my mission. Without them, there’s no way I’d be standing here today. I probably have some of the greatest friends, and am so grateful to my best friend Joey for being there for me the past almost two years. I’d like to thank Bishop Smith. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a man apart from immediate family that loves those he serves as much as he does, and I am so grateful to him for that. I’d also like to thank Brother Boots for being such an incredible and inspiring spiritual advisor and friend. He is such a kind and friendly person and I was so fortunate to have worked so closely with him as a Priest.
Brother Sagers was the Young Men’s president for the majority of the time that I was a Priest, and I’m so grateful to him for being able to sit with him every week in Priest’s quorum and just talk about fun things we had done the previous week and things we were planning to do. The Scout Master I probably went on the most adventures with was probably Brother Raymond, and I’m so grateful to him for all the time he’s invested in me, not only as a Scout Master but also as a football coach, and because of him I have some of my favorite memories as a Scout. I am so grateful to all of them and everyone else from the Meadow Wood Ward who’s helped me along the way.
I’ve saved my family for last, because they are so special to me. I love my two sisters, Ashley and Makayla, and we had some great times growing up together. They are two of my closest friends and always will be.
Ever since I was a new infant, my mom and I have had a special relationship and, for a long time, she was the only one I would allow to hold me. She is one of the best cooks around, and she got up every day of the school year to make me breakfast all throughout high school. She has done so much for me these past 18 years, and I’ll never be able to thank her enough for that. I love you Mom.
My dad has always been my hero. He has sacrificed so much for me and my happiness, and is one of the most selfless people I know. We always were BYU football and basketball buddies and went to dozens of games together over the years. He is the greatest example to me of how to be a righteous father and priesthood holder. I love you Dad.