May Christ Teach You What is Yours to Do
My missionary farewell talk.
Francis of Assisi lay dying at age 44, blind, his body sick and emaciated from a lifetime of fasting, poor nutrition and leprosy contracted from many years of giving aid to lepers. Assisi chose not to consider his own health in his decisions to succor others. I have thought a lot about Assisi’s deathbed last words to his longtime friends Bernard and Giles. He said, “I have done what is mine. May Christ teach you what is yours to do.” (Reluctant Saint by Donald Spoto, p. 215)
I believe Assisi’s followers eventually changed the Catholic Church and maybe Christianity as a whole as they emphasized serving Christ through helping others. Assisi was committed to a cheery upbeat ministry. He never preached the popular gospel of fear. He believed in being an example of joy, peace, love and happiness, despite his poverty and suffering. He was a troubadour of happy songs, of faith and a preacher of good will. Is there any more powerful way to influence for good than love? I have done what is mine. May Christ teach you what is yours to do.
But how do we come to a point where we know what is ours “to do?” Do we really believe we can be guided in this way? In 2 Nephi 32:5 it says, “For behold, again I say unto you that if ye will enter in by the way, and receive the Holy Ghost, it will show unto you all things what ye should do.” I believe that this means God will show us “all things” that we can do to express love and do Christ like service.
I did a lot of indexing last year. There is something about it that grabs you as you become a part of making all those names available for research. I learned of someone who indexes 10,000 names a month. I was impressed…I did about 10,000 names last year. This man has chosen what he would “do” to build the kingdom. Indexing in one of those sweet little choices that can be done by teens on up in a little as 15 minutes a day, but after a while you want to do more.
More than 20 years ago I committed to go to the temple weekly. It is something I have time to do and I rarely miss. For me making a commitment makes a difference, until the spirit takes over and moves me forward. But what has impressed me in this choice is the workers I have seen, every week, over the years. I have talked to some of these wonderful women. They have chosen what they would “do” for Christ, working two 5 hour shifts a week for the entire 17 years the Bountiful Temple has been open. Recently there was a story in Mormon Times about Arthur Jensen of Rigby Idaho. He turned 100 on May 10. For 31 years he has been in the temple 5 days a week doing two endowments each day. He has completed more than 9000 endowments in these 31 years. I am also impressed with the many teens who have committed to regularly doing baptisms for the dead at a young age. This will certainly set them on a lifelong love of temple work. A woman sat by me in the 12:00 PM temple session recently and told me that she had come at 6:00 AM and this was her third session. These people always humble me. I do think that as we make our choices to serve that we get addicted to the spirit it brings to our souls and we want to do more.
My friend and our Ward member, Jolene Alphin took her love of the Handcart Pioneers and began collecting their stories and writing them in a form to inspire us in her book “Tell My Story Too.” She is definitely the most knowledgeable source anywhere for accurate information. She was the main adviser for the stories in the movie the “13 Miracles.” I have had a little peek at her dedication to these stories, but perhaps no one but her husband knows the full extent of her sacrifice to do them right. She doesn’t get a lot of sleep at times.
I am impressed with those that decide genealogy is their thing to “do.” I want to get there sometime. My sister-in-law Jacquie inspires me and Kate Danials in our Ward. Kate is not only a person who does the work but she is always willing to come and help you do yours.
I know that many of the young parents in our Ward have decided that they would take seriously the call to teach their children the gospel. I know this because I have heard wise talks and sweet testimonies given by some of your children. I believe the greatest regrets of life are letting the world pull us into misguided endeavors as young parents. Taking children to church is not enough anymore. Nothing we choose to do will be as important as helping our families know Christ. Young parents, I know you don’t believe it now but there will be plenty of time later for your personal indulgences. And whatever you do, don’t teach the gospel of fear, or be too serious, be a happy troubadour of love, like Francis of Assisi.
My thing “to do” for Christ, the last few years, has been to encourage others to write their family stories. But in the process my students have motivated me to produce and keep writing and I am always inspired by their stories. I do believe that writing our stories, spiritual experiences and testimonies may be the most important thing we will leave to influence future generations to carry on in building the kingdom. Writing for our families is more than a worthy choice “to do.”
Soon, I will be a full time missionary with my husband. This will be our second mission. We served 2 years as intercity missionaries in Ogden. It was a joy beyond my ability to express. This time we will spend 18 months in the Canary Islands working with Young Adults.
Because we have many senior friends we know how lots of them are serving. A Dr. and his wife from our old Ward have spent 8 years, going to third world countries 5 times a year to teach local Drs. how to resuscitate newborns. My good friend, and her still working husband, told the missionary department that they had six months that they could devote to a mission. They had a choice experience serving in a small branch in Mississippi working as mentors and reactivation to a struggling branch. We have missionary companions from our Ogden experience who wanted to go to Africa and are now in Kenya. I know people who are serving their second mission in Russia because they loved it the first time. We have good friends that taught Institute at the University of Samoa as a mission call. There is an infinite number of things that we can do, as we are led by Christ, as we seek to build the kingdom and serve others. The Holy Ghost will be our guide. As our seasons of life change so will our options. I believe that Christ will “show us all things that we should do.” And with our last breath we can say as Francis of Assisi, “I have done what is mine.”
When I was 10 years old my mother was inactive. She had a beautiful soprano voice and when the ward in Wellington, Utah discovered her talent they began inviting her to sing at various functions. She often sang a popular song of that day called, “The Bridge Builder.” These singing experiences brought my mother back to church. This song was always her favorite and mine. I have known every word from the years of hearing her sing it. We are all Bridge Builders. It is part of doing “what is mine.” (This song was sung)
THE BRIDGE BUILDER
An old man going a lone highway.
Came at even' tide cold and gray.
To a cavern vast and wide and steep.
With waters rolling cold and deep.
The old man crossed in the twilight dim.
The sullen stream held no fear for him.
But he turned when safe on the other side.
And build a bridge to span the tide.
"Good friend", said a fellow pilgrimed near.
"You are wasting your strength with building here.
Your journey will end at the close of day.
You never again shall pass this way.
You've crossed the ravine deep and dark and wide,
Why, build this bridge at even' tide?"
The builder lifted his old gray head,
"Good friend, in the path I have come", he said.
"There followeth after me this day,
A youth whose feet must pass this way.
The chasm that was naught to me.
To that fair-haired youth may a pitfall be.
He too must cross in the twilight dim.
Good friend I'm building this bridge for him."