A talk given by Daniel Theobald at a mission farewell. Daniel is a roboticist and entrepreneur in the Northeast.
Jason, I have some bad news and I have some good news. Let’s get the bad news out of the way first:
From Moses 1:
And the presence of God withdrew from Moses, that his glory was not upon Moses; and Moses was left unto himself. And as he was left unto himself, he fell unto the earth. And it came to pass that it was for the space of many hours before Moses did again receive his natural strength like unto man; and he said unto himself: Now for this cause I know that man is nothing, which thing I never had supposed.
We as human beings are nothing. God told Adam he is no more than dust. We are insignificant specs in an unfathomably large universe. If the earth were to pass away today–which could happen as God in the same chapter says that “there are many worlds that have passed away by the word of my power”–if the earth were to pass away today, the only lasting impact we would have had on the universe would be a couple of miniscule dead spacecraft floating outward from our solar system,
unlikely to ever encounter anything again, ever. Of course there would also be some radio waves bouncing around the vast void of space, like ghosts lamenting the futility of our attempts to matter to the universe at all. We don’t. We are insignificant specks in an unfathomably large universe. We are dust. We are nothing.
This is bad news, really bad news. We feel it gnawing at the pit of our souls. We are nothing, our existence is meaningless, our lives are pointless and pathetic, and there is absolutely nothing any one of us can do to change that. We don’t deal with this well, most try to ignore it, others are driven mad by it, some do terrible things. It gnaws away at our hope. This is the bad news, and it is really bad news.
But not all is lost; there is good news!
Again in Moses 1, God said:
For behold, this is my work and my glory–to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of mankind.
One of God’s works and at least part of his glory is to raise us up out of the dust, out of the depths of our triviality and despair, and give us the chance at eternal significance. Why? Why would God, the very instantiation of meaning and of power care about the meaningless, the worthless, the pointless? Why would God bother?
God exists. We are taught that the purpose of existence is joy. The purpose of God’s existence is joy. True joy thrives when shared through service to others. God gains joy, the purpose of existence, when we experience joy as a result of his efforts.
This is the good news: The most powerful being in the universe is our God, and we are the children of that God, and that God loves us, and through that God’s love, we are given a chance to find meaning and joy. We do this by emulating God’s example. Through banishing our selfishness, we overcome our impotence and we start to make a difference. Then we matter and find joy. Adam fell that mankind may be, and mankind exists in the hope that we will learn to have joy. As we do so, then we realize that we, God’s children, no matter how small, are what gives the entire universe meaning.
The word “gospel” is a modern version of the old engish for “good news.” Helping others was so important to our brother Jesus the Son of God, that he devoted his mortal life to our service. He allowed himself to be bruised and broken on our behalf. A sacrifice which brings him joy to the extent that we follow his teachings and take advantage of his atonement. This is the good news, this is the gospel. So the bad news is that we don’t matter, we barely exist, but the good news, the gospel, is that God is willing to help us matter, and find joy.
Proclaiming the gospel is the first of the four stated missions of the church, and Jason, you are about to devote the next year and a half of your life on this mission. Jason I want you to notice that the mission is stated to “proclaim the gospel” or in other words “proclaim the good news.” It does not say “to baptize a bunch of people.” Perhaps some through your service will feel the desire to be baptized into the Mormon church and try to align their lives more fully with the teachings of Christ, perhaps not.
What matters is that you proclaim the gospel with pure love and sincerity. The point is for you to follow the Savior who has told us that the fourth mission of the church, and hence the mission of all members of the church, is to care for the poor and needy. Not just the physically poor and needy, but the poor in spirit, and those in need of love and meaning in their lives.
Jason, serve others for this will bring you joy. Love them as Christ loves you, and this will bring Christ joy. Be an ensign to the world, be an angel of light. Be a shining beacon of hope. Be an example of all that is pure and good. Give meaning to your life, give meaning to us all through your charitable service.
Represent our God, our Savior, our church and our ward with honor. Let the world see that we, the Latter-day Saints, care more about doing right, care more about being saving angels and care more about serving others than we care about being theologically superior to those that are not of our faith. Let them see that we understand that Christ taught that doing right is far more important than being right. Then as they see and feel Christ’s pure love through you, a spark of interest will ignite in them, and a desire to understand will germinate.
I give this same challenge to each of us. Let us strive to be the people that our heavenly parents hope we can become by loving and serving others with purity of purpose. Serving and loving other Mormons is good, but like Jason, that isn’t all we are called to do. We are to serve and love those who are different from us. We are to sincerely serve and love even our enemies.
I would like to end by borrowing a bit of text from a great man who understood many of these principles. February, otherwise known as black history month, is coming to an end, and I think these words are fitting.
I have a dream this afternoon that the brother and sisterhood of mankind will become a reality in this day. And with this faith I, Jason, and each one of us must go out and carve a tunnel of hope through the mountain of despair. With this faith, we will go out and transform dark yesterdays into bright tomorrows. With this faith, we will be able to achieve this new day when all of God’s children, black and white, men and women, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the spiritual of old: Free at last! Free at last! Thank God almighty, we are free at last!