Elder Cooper Siebers has been called to serve a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. He will serve for 24 months in the Brazil, Rio de Janeiro mission. He enters the Provo, Utah Missionary Training Center on 10 July 2013.

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Elder Siebers' "Farewell" Talk - Sunday 16 June 2013

Good morning brothers and sisters.  As most of you know, I received my mission call to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil and I leave on July 9th.

Brother W. gave me the assignment for my mission farewell talk, and one of the things he wanted me to focus on was how I made the decision to go on a mission.  As I started thinking about it, it quickly came to my attention that I didn't really have to make a decision to go.  Even as I was filling out the application I never once thought about NOT going on a mission.  After some further thought, I realized it was because I had made a much more important decision a long time ago, and that was to always make the right choices.  I thought to myself, "Can it really be that simple?"  By making one good choice, do all the next choices become much easier?

I came across a story told by Richard G. Scott from a General Conference [talk].

My parents gave me a beautiful watch for high school graduation. I looked at it frequently because of the love it communicated. Each night I carefully cleaned and wound it. As years passed, I often neglected to wind the watch. Consequently, it stopped being useful, often when I most needed it.

Today I use an automatic watch. It is consistent and always gives me the correct time. It is totally dependable. I never need to worry whether I can count on it or not.

I realize that as with watches, there are differences in youth. Some need to be wound up, while others are automatic because of important decisions already made.

I commend you who are automatic, who have committed to be true to the Lord and to live by faith when you cannot see the end from the beginning. When faced with choices, you select the path consistent with the teachings of the Savior. I know you are sometimes criticized by those who call you fanatical, who cannot understand why you don’t do what the crowd does. Hold fast to your principles.
 [Making the Right Decisions- Richard G. Scott]

To go even deeper, I then had to think about how I acquired an automatic watch for myself. I can only attribute this to the influences that helped me stay on the straight and narrow throughout my life.  The list of individuals is endless, but I thought I'd point out a few to help us understand the role and the influence we can have on others' lives.
To begin, my family played a huge role.  My parents made sure I made it to church every Sunday as a kid even when I didn't want to.  When my siblings and I would misbehave, which still happens from time to time, she quickly gets us to get our acts together and listen during Sacrament Meeting.  Speaking of my siblings, although they didn't often come out and say that they expected me to go on a mission, I knew in their hearts, they wanted me to go.  Then there was my dad, who set an example by going on a mission of his own, not to mention all the uncles and cousins that have also gone.  My dad has only said wonderful things about his mission to me and has loved telling me stories when I apt to listen to them.
We read straight from "The Family: A Proclamation to the World" ways that parents can build a successful family.
Happiness in family life is most likely to be achieved when founded upon the teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ. Successful marriages and families are established and maintained on principles of faith, prayer, repentance, forgiveness, respect, love, compassion, work, and wholesome recreational activities. By divine design, fathers are to preside over their families in love and righteousness and are responsible to provide the necessities of life and protection for their families. Mothers are primarily responsible for the nurture of their children.

I know my parents did their very best in trying to keep to the principles taught in the Proclamation. Coming from a son's perspective, I can testify to you that striving to raise your families through the teachings of our Savior and from our leaders; your children will also strive to follow the commandments and teachings of the Lord. It truly makes all the difference, and makes staying on the straight and narrow path all the easier.

Aside from my family, I spent most of my time around my friends. Although there weren't many of us back during the Winsted Branch days, they continued to appear even up until my senior year. I am so thankful for my friends that have been fantastic examples to me. I am grateful that they too, sought to follow the Lord. It would have been easier to stray away from the path of righteousness had my friends tempted me to do so, but they never did. Instead they made it easier to come to the church on Wednesday nights, and made it ten times easier to wake up for seminary in the early morning. I hope I can be an example to them as much as they have been an example to me.

I also think a lot of my leaders have been my friends as well, but my teachers and leaders have also played an important role in keeping me faithful and teaching me about the principles and teachings of the Lord. I had my first experience being a Sunday School teacher at BYUI this semester, and I understand how hard that can be. I think a lot of times we finish a lesson and feel inadequate, what could we have done to teach our lesson better? (Well, at least I do.) My friends would reassure me when we left church about how well I taught, and it always made me feel much better. What I am trying to say is that I didn't always listen or participate as much as I should have, but I know the teachers and leaders who patiently and diligently fulfilled their callings have had an everlasting effect on me.

President Thomas S. Monson describes and ideal Priesthood leader when he said in a Priesthood session [of General Conference], "The leaders who have the most influence are usually those who set hearts afire with devotion to the truth, who make obedience to duty seem the essence of manhood, who transform some ordinary routine occurrence so that it becomes a vista where we see the person we aspire to be." [Examples of Righteousness- Thomas S. Monson] I know my teachers and leaders have performed in such a way and their influence helped me make better choices on a daily basis.
Lastly, I know the Lord has been on my side every step of the way.  By keeping his commandments I have been infinitely blessed, which made it much easier to continue to make the right choices.  President Monson also said in that same Priesthood session talk, "Not to be overlooked—and in fact our primary example—is our Savior, Jesus Christ. His birth was foretold by prophets; angels heralded the announcement of His earthly ministry. He “grew, and waxed strong in spirit, filled with wisdom: and the grace of God was upon him. Baptized of John in the river known as Jordan, He commenced His official ministry to men. To the sophistry of Satan, Jesus turned His back. To the duty designated by His Father, He turned His face, pledged His heart, and gave His life. And what a sinless, selfless, noble, and divine life it was. Jesus labored. Jesus loved. Jesus served. Jesus testified. What finer example could we strive to emulate?"
As the people around us set good examples for us, and teach us about the Lord's plan for us, the choice to do what is right is made easier and easier each and every day.  As we strive to be faithful and sincerely dedicate ourselves to making the best choices we possibly can, we can live the blessed life our Savior so dearly wishes us to live.
The power of righteous and loving examples cannot be understated.  The Lord uses diligent leaders to set the most wonderful examples for us.  They become a powerful tool in teaching and spreading the gospel.  
We read in Alma 17:11
And the Lord said unto them also: Go forth among the Lamanites, thy brethren, and establish my word; yet ye shall be patient in long-suffering and afflictions, that ye may show forth good examples unto them in me, and I will make an instrument of thee in my hands unto the salvation of many souls.

I would like to close with another quote from Richard G. Scott's talk on making righteous choices. I would encourage everyone to read it if you haven't already.  There is an abundance of tips and methods to help us do what is right.

He says, "You cannot today remotely imagine what that decision to be unwaveringly obedient to the Lord will allow you to accomplish in life. Your quiet, uncompromising determination to live a righteous life will couple you to inspiration and power beyond your capacity now to understand. To others, if an honest evaluation of your life reveals a continuing dependency on individuals or things that are not good, please listen. I sincerely want to help you. If you understand and use the principles we now review, they will bring you great reward."

My testimony [outline]
  • The Church is true
  • Prophets
  • Caring and Loving Savior
  • The Lord wants us to return to Him, by making the right choices placed before us
  • Power of a mission