Many of you think you know me. For those of you who do not….my name is Heidi Robertson. I have lived in Wanship and attended this congregation for half of my life. The first half of my life was spent as a child in the LDS mission field of San Antonio, Texas. This is where I learned what missionary work is. This is where I learned to love it. I have become an adult here in this beautiful mountain valley. Now I approach middle age. I thank God daily that my days are happily spent surrounded by children, as I am a school teacher at our local elementary school. I have a wonderful family both at home and at school. I am grateful for a full and happy life. I have no complaints.
I would like to speak for a few moments about gratitude and missionary work.
I have heard people say that the two fold mission of the Church is to build the Church (through missionary work) and to redeem the dead (through geneology and temple work). I have also read and heard that the greatest Commandment is to Love God with all your heart, might, mind and strength, and the second greatest Commandment…to Love your neighbor as yourself. At school we live by “The Golden Rule.” In religious terms, this is at the crux of what missionaries do: to love, to serve, to bring about a new spiritual life, to invite relief from pain and suffering in the world as Christ did. To direct children to Baptism Street. Donavon sent us an intersting photo of this thing.
This happy scene is quite a contrast to what happened some 150 plus years ago, not long after the Joseph Smith’s first vision and restoration of the church. There was a great, and horrific civil war in our country. No one should have to suffer the evils of war. And yet the human family does…..again and again. It seems we do not learn our lessons. Learning lessons is not always easy. Not even for teachers.
In light of the recent 150 year Anniversary of President Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address I have been reminded of a couple of choice words and phases in the famous delivery. These words are “unfinished work.” Lincoln’s wise words, less than 300 words were likely given in about the same amount of time as my short talk will require and yet they were as powerful as our country’s Declaration of Independence, I think. The speaker before him that day at the Soldier’s Cemetary in Gettysburg drolled on for more than two hours. I will not do this.
The sight of the fallen men and dead and rotting horses, the acrid stench of death that surrounded and permeated the scene, reminding those still standing, the living, of the evils of war. These things haunted and prevaded the mind of one of our greatest leaders as he dedicated and consecrated a new cemetary. Lincoln honored the fallen dead and fallen living in his words. He reminded them of the “unfinished work” in front of them and in front of us. That is the fight for freedom and the human right to the pursuit of happiness. Men are that they might have joy. Lincoln’s wise words have blessed our lives in the remembering and in our commitment to living these words. They are meant to be healing words. They remind me of the greatest words of all: Christ’s. Oh ye who are heavy laden….Come unto me and I will give thee rest. These and more found in the Sermon of the Mount in the Bible. I am also reminded of another Testament of Jesus Christ: The Book of Mormon. I am grateful for this life changing book.
As parents today, we gratefully offer a brief message. We choose not to dwell on the loss of our sons and daughters, but rather to remember our missionary sons and daughters in what they have found and in what they are finding in Christ and in the service.
We are reminded that the single most important thing we can do in this life is to learn to love and to be loved. To teach these things to our children. Gratitude is the key. We must fill our minds continually with this Thanksgiving and with positivity, not with the false, conterfit things of the world.
Celebrations of Thanksgiving this week are the outward manifestation of things of the heart. I am grateful that there are still God loving and grateful people in this great country and throughout the world, whether they observe the holiday or not.
Our son Donavon is a missionary in Italy. He is in the southern parts of the country. He spent the first six months on the island of Sicily learning the language and witnessing extreme poverty and a debilitated economy of raging unemployment. He has struggled and grown in learning the language. In his humbling he has felt a burning in his bossom in the love and power of Christ and a loving God.
Here is something funny….and then something not so funny. My first thought of Sicilians is this: The Siciian hostage taker- the one who took Princess Buttercup in a favorite movie, The Princess Bride.” Some of you know this. The criminal is famous for his one liner, “INCONCEIVABLE!” He says this repeatedly and laughs a ridiculous laugh. He does this even in his death. Kind of funny, if death can be funny. I sometimes think this one liner, and try to laugh when I realize my son is gone from me. At times I feel he is closer to me than ever. This is comforting.
Sicilians are monitarily poor and often poorer in spirit as well, given their lot in the world’s economy, and yet they are generally happy in many ways knowing what is really important. It is a struggle to find people who are willing to listen to good tidings of great joy from young men and women who are perceived as selling “an American” Savior in Jesus Christ. It is often difficult for Italians to hear of a restoration of the fullness of the gospel in a land of staunch Catholics. In a place of much depravation it is tough. Also present: the Vatican, the headquarters of Catholism. It is not all that different from what Baptists, or Jehovah Witnesses must experience in proseliting in SLC, the Mecca of Mormonism, I think.
In Italy, our missionaries have found the best contacting tools to be the members who are few but strong, the missionary taught English classes, and the long bus trips. The Italian youth are most interested in hearing the message. I think they want to escape their life realities. Many move away from home or out of the country to seek opportunity in a better life.
For the last couple of months Donavon has been on the mainland in Crotone. This is on the Soul of the boot. He has recently been humbled to be called as a District leader. He is probably 8 to 10 hours away from Rome where the mission home is. He may or may not ever meet the Pope, much less teach or convert him, which is the ongoing joke of some wry smiling people I speak with. Donavon is happy and grateful for the opportunity to serve the Lord in any way he can. This has always been our son’s way as he abides quiet, deep waters.
And so we are thankful for Donavon. Yes, we miss him, but Donavon is engaged in a good cause, in a great work. He is forwarding the gospel of Jesus Christ and bringing love and happiness to many lives. He is actively working at the “unfinished work” spoken of by President Lincoln. That work to bring freedom to souls. Freedom from sin, and joy in coming to Christ as we look forward to His second coming.
Our family has been blessed by a missionary legacy. Donavon is fortunate to follow in the footsteps of his grandfather Bishop Don Robertson who served a mission in the Southern states of Florida, and Alabama, Donavon’s father Mark who served in Ireland, his brother Jason (who is with us today/ this week) from Manhatten New York, and who served the lord in Dusseldorf Germany, as well as another brother Justin (who lives in Phoenix) and who also served a foreign mission in Sweden. Devon is preparing also to serve a mission once she graduates from North Summit High School in 2015. I can’t wait to see what great blessings come her way. So the decission to serve as a missionary in our family comes as no surprise, I think.
This kind of legacy is both unique and not unique to many LDS families. Not everyone chooses this path. That is not ours to choose or to judge. The important thing is not that you travel far away and have a grand adventure. The important thing is that WHEREVER YOU ARE…you journey in your heart and in doing so come closer to God and Christ. The important thing about heart journeys is that in doing so you bring others to God and Christ in love, nonjudgement, and in forgiveness.
In closing, I would like to remind you of this “unfinished work.” You can call it what you want. You can call it Missionary work. You can call it geneology, or temple work. You can call it being the Young Women President. You can call it being a 4th grade teacher. Call it what you want. Many of our members and non members choose these and other good works with open arms. We are all better blessed for choosing and living it. Others are intimidated by it. No matter what you choose to call it. It is the Christian way. It is Love.
May we all fill our thoughts and hearts with the things of love as we outreach in the coming holiday time. May love spill forth in the words we say and in the routines of our days. May we be a force of good in the world in continueing this “unfinished work” of love and freedom as we free ourselves from sin, and as we help and lift others. I am grateful for a loving Heavenly Father, and for his Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior. I say these things in His name. Amen.