Tuesday, March 18, 2014
Jame This is my farewell talk that I gave last Sunday:
James E. Faust said in the 2003 October General Conference: “In many ways each of us is the sum total of what our ancestors were. The virtues they had may be our virtues, their strengths our strengths, and in a way their challenges could be our challenges.” As we make these connections we are motivated to participate in the process of tying them to the rest of the family.
I have many ancestors that came from areas inside the England Manchester mission before immigrating to
to follow the prophet, Joseph Smith Jr. I am humbled to have been called to
serve in the same country where many of my ancestors lived. From the census
records and from the Lancashire Parish records, we know that at least 6
generations of my grandmother’s family worked as weavers in Leyland and Preston. For youth conference last year we searched out
family names connected to this family. One of the important records we have is
the death certificate of James Sumner who was christened in 1783, 230 years
ago. We know that at the time of his death he was living in Preston
with his son William. James, a cotton weaver was the father of 10 children.
James and his wife Jane raised their family in Longton, Lancashire,
England which is close to Preston. James and Jane Sumner are approximately the same
ages as Joseph Smith, Sr. and Lucy Mack Smith. Both of these couples had a lot
in common and both would significantly affect me and my family. The Sumners and
the Smiths both had equally large families, including six boys and several
girls. Both raised their families in a fairly rural part of the world. Both
worked in menial labor. Both couples were god fearing.
These couples also had many differences. The Sumners were not literate. They lived in the same township for many generations. They knew little about the religious fervor that was sweeping
But the paths of these two couples would cross indirectly. In the spring of
1820, Joseph, the 14 year old son of the Smith’s, sought to receive Heavenly
Guidance. He read in James 1:5 that if a man lacked wisdom, he should ask God.
So Joseph planned a place in a grove of trees behind the family farmhouse where
he could be alone and pour out his heart to God. In response to his humble
prayer, God the Father and Jesus Christ appeared to Joseph and instructed him.
The Son of God told Joseph that Joseph would be an instrument in restoring the
true gospel of Jesus Christ. Joseph told his mother that morning that he had
learned for himself that Presbyterianism was not true.
About 15 months after Joseph saw Heavenly father and His Son, Jane Sumner gave birth to her youngest son, Thomas, in
Over the next sixteen years, the was
restored through Joseph Smith, Oliver Cowdery and others. Seven years after
founding the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Joseph Smith Senior
took the Book of Mormon and started for church
of Jesus Christ New
York to visit his mother and brothers. Joseph Sr.
preached the restored gospel to his family. Asahel, John and Silas and their
families joyfully received the word. They made preparations to join the saints
in Kirtland. Their mother, though in her 90s also traveled with them. She too
expressed her belief that the words of Joseph were true. Joseph Smith Jr.
received his family with great joy.
In the following year, Joseph Smith called apostles Orson Hyde and Heber C. Kimball to go with others to open missionary work in
England. These missionaries went to
just a few miles from the home of James and Jane Sumner. Within three months of
their arrival in England,
the Sumner’s 21 year old daughter, Margery, heard them preach. She was baptized
on November 8, 1837 and introduced her family to the missionaries. A week
later, her mother Jane Sumner was baptized by Heber C. Kimball. Three months
later her father James and brother William were baptized. The youngest son, Thomas,
married Elizabeth Arnett, a member of the Preston Branch. They had three sons
became ill and died. Thomas remarried another church member and immigrated with
her to . One by one his children followed. Provo, Utah
Not only were the Sumners blessed through the restoration of the gospel from the Smith family, but the two families would also come together a hundred years later to form a common heritage for me, my cousins and my second cousins. Eva Smith, the great grand daughter of Silas Smith, and Cecil Sumner, the great grandson of Thomas Sumner, married in the 1930s and had my grandmother Lois Smith Sumner. As I go to
Manchester England, I trace not only the early routes of
the first missionaries in a foreign country, but also the early roots of my
family who joined the church in this area before immigrating to Utah. Many in this family
did not join the church and likely live within my mission boundaries. In a way
I will have the opportunity to take the gospel to those who may be from my own
When we connect with our ancestors and learn more about our own heritage, we become more aware of what was important to them. This exercise may help us to redefine our own view of what is truly important to us. We are able to identify with them and feel that we are more significant in our own roles to family and to friends. Though we are but a small number among billions of children of God, we are part of a chain. We connect the past to the future. What we do now will influence generations to come. We consider the sacrifices of our ancestors as we look for clues about when, where, and how they lived. We expand our view from our own specific challenges to see our lives from a broader perspective.
Likewise, when we as missionaries learn about our fellow men and view them as God’s children, we feel a connection to them and desire to share with them the glorious revealed truths of the gospel. It is a natural human instinct to want to be a member of a group, or to belong to something. That is why the family unit is so important to our religion. That is why we call our ward our ward “family”. When we invite others to be a part of our “family” we are inviting them to feel of God’s love for them.
As I learn more about my family, I understand better what they have given and sacrificed for the gospel. I have been called to leave family and friends for a short time while my ancestors left family and friends, likely never to meet again, in order to follow the prophet.
Faith of our Fathers (Hymn #84) teaches us different ways to follow the faith of our fathers: For example, endure through trials, look to God for guidance and joy, preach the gospel to the world, be an example by living a virtuous life, speaking kind words, and be a friend to everyone.
Each of these suggestions shows different ways for us to honor our fathers.
First, I want to understand the will of God for His children and how I can help in His work. I will best understand His will if I seek to learn from the scriptures and the prophets and obey his commandments. When we read our scriptures, pray daily, and go to our weekly meetings, we are preparing to do the Lord’s will.
It is important for every person to build their testimony with a strong foundation in Christ. In order to build this foundation, we first need to have faith. We can obtain faith by reading the Book of Mormon, and pray about its truthfulness.
As excited as I am to go to
to be a missionary, I know that I will need faith and diligence to find and
teach others the gospel. Enduring through trials and disappointments might be
the hardest part.
I have been working out with my friend at the gym occasionally over the past couple of months and at the beginning it was not horrible. Initially I was really sore but it was okay. I had a harder and harder time getting up at 4:30 in the morning and willing myself to finish all the exercises. I was tired and it was hard. I’d rather sleep in. But when I finished, I felt stronger and went about my day actually less tired. Just like if we continually live the gospel, we can feel our spiritual bodies become more and more healthy just like our physical bodies when we continually exercise, even if it seems impossible. We read in the Doctrine and Covenants “And again, verily thus saith the Lord: Let the works which I have appointed unto you, be continued on and not cease; and let your diligence, and your perseverance, and patience, and your works be redoubled, and you shall in nowise lose your reward, saith the Lord of Hosts. And if they persecute you, so persecuted they the prophets and righteous men that were before you. For all this there is a reward in heaven.” D&C 127:4
When I go to church, read my scriptures or take part in a service activity, I feel really happy or at peace. Being apart of this church makes me feel like nothing else can. I celebrated a birthday last month and I loved getting presents, cake and people acknowledging me and making me feel important. But when the day was over, everything just went back to normal. When I read my scriptures or go to the temple especially, the good feeling I have there stays with me. It builds me up when I’m sad, alone, scared, or confused. It is more lasting, not as fleeting.
Though we may be tempted to give up during hard times, blessings will follow if we endure. We must have faith, repent, be baptized, and be worthy of the Holy Ghost among other things if we want to have Eternal Life. All of these are not just a one time thing but are meant to be a continual part of our lives. We must always have faith. We must repent when we have gone outside the lines the Lord has set for us. We are all baptized once for ourselves but should strive to be worthy to partake of the sacrament every week. We should always want the companionship of the Holy Ghost to guide us in our lives. I testify that the gospel will bring happiness to those who accept it, just as it has brought me happiness in my life and I look forward to serving the people in England. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.